Instead of singing for their supper, Vancouverites are invited to “pit” fruit for two hours in exchange for a free meal and beer.
Sean Heather, the owner of the Irish Heather, says his Gastown restaurant’s second annual Pit for Your Supper series has been so popular it’s already full until the end of September. At an Aug. 1 event, 50 people gathered around the restaurant’s long table and pitted cherries elbow-to-elbow from 7 to 9 p.m. before being served lightly smoked, spiced pork tenderloin, potato salad, coleslaw and a pint of Driftwood Brewery IPA.
Budding company Earnest Ice Cream will transform the fruits of their labour into a cool, sweet treat and the local R&B Brewing Co. will use the cherries to brew a special beer.
Heather suspected the popularity of the event would quickly grow because Vancouverites are interested in knowing where food comes from and goes.
“You can go and have a pint of R&B cherry ale next month and say that you actually had a hand in making it,” he said.
“A lot of people are interested in participating in things now,” Heather added. “They want more out of the dining experience.”
For many pit crew participants, the event harkens back to their childhood.
“We hear a lot of people say I grew up on Vancouver Island and I used to do this with my grandparents every year and I haven’t done this since they died and wow it’s a real throwback for me, that kind of stuff,” Heather said.
The 9,000 pounds of cherries to be pitted hail from a Naramata orchard called the Picker Shack, which is owned by Heather’s business partner Scott Hawthorn.
Heather said one of the two proprietors of Earnest Ice Cream used to work at his Salt restaurant and he passes the savings of having diners pit the fruit on to the fledgling enterprise.
Pit for Your Supper patrons will core apricots, peaches, apples and pears later in the season.
“We will be pitting every Wednesday, fruit permitting,” Heather said.
Preserved and puréed fruit will be served and sold across Heather’s nine food establishments, including the Penn Bakeshop, which runs in the base of the Pennsylvania Hotel and subleases to Cartems Donuterie, and the new Rainier Provisions, a 100-seat full-service delicatessen that’s slated to open on the ground floor of the Rainier Hotel on Carrall Street and West Cordova, mid September.
“Some people have come to the cherry pitting and found it a little less glamorous than maybe they thought it was going to be,” Heather said. “Last week we had six people drop out.”