Summertime has arrived, and the eating is easy. Almost every outdoor music and arts event comes with its own food stalls, and there’s something about fresh air and sunshine that makes even a hot dog a treat. At some festivals, even if they’re not billed as culinary events, the food is one of the main draws. Many of these are community events, where the food is prepared by volunteers who use homespun recipes and put in that extra bit of love. Here are six not to miss.
A month of Hellenic celebrations culminates in a street party this Sunday from noon to 9 p.m. Greek associations hawk gyros, spanakopita, Greek salad, chicken and pork souvlaki, and more. Restaurateurs and grandmothers share recipes from the cooking stage, which this year offers tented, shaded seating. Why not try mastic, a sappy resin that was the chewing gum of the ancient Greeks; free samples at the Hellenic Experience tent. Save room for loukoumades, deep-fried pastry balls drenched in a honey syrup and dusted with cinnamon and sesame seeds.
When: June 24
Where: West Broadway between MacDonald and Blenheim streets
Info: www.greekday.com , 604-738-7126
Steveston Salmon Festival
Over 545 kilograms of wild-salmon fillets hit the grill at the 62nd annual Canada Day event, which is expected to draw more than 75,000 people. The alder-wood, open-pit fires create a flavour you just can’t duplicate on your gas barbecue. Booths run by nonprofit community organizations add multicultural dining options. Why not try the popular chow mein made by the Steveston Community Society. Save room for cheesecake proffered by the Chabad of Richmond.
When: July 1
Where: Steveston Community Centre grounds (4111 Moncton Street, Richmond)
Info: www.stevestonsalmonfest.ca , 604-718-8094
Caribbean Days Festival
The Trinidad and Tobago Cultural Society of B.C. brings together the region’s island vibes and tastes. Lineups point to attendees’ eagerness to savour the fantastic offerings, including roti, goat curry, salt-cod fish cakes, and jerk chicken. Why not try Bajan cou-cou, a mixture of cornmeal and okra served up by the Barbados Cultural Association of B.C. Save room for cassava pone, a heavy pudding made from grated cassava, coconut, eggs, and spices.
When: July 28 and 29
Where: Waterfront Park, North Vancouver
Info: www.caribbeandaysfestival.com , 604-515-2400
Powell Street Festival
The Powell Street Festival Society’s 31st annual event offers an array of reasonably priced, authentic Japanese dishes made by community groups. Most items are typical of a summer festival in Japan. Why not try barbecued squid leg from the Sumo Aiko Kai booth, or the hugely popular takoyaki (octopus fritters) from the Nishikawa-Ryu dance group booth. Save room for mitarashi dango, skewers of soft sticky-rice balls dipped in a thick, sweet soy-sauce mixture, from the Vancouver Japanese Language School booth.
When: August 4 and 5
Where: Oppenheimer Park, 400 Powell Street (at Dunlevy Avenue)
Info: www.powellstreetfestival.com , 604-739-9388
The Fair at the PNE
Sure, there’s lots of entertainment at the PNE, but nothing beats watching that machine squeeze out Those Little Donuts, flip them into hot oil, and float them down the line into a waiting bag of cinnamon sugar. Nostalgia fuels PNE eating, from Jimmy’s Lunch burgers loaded with onions to corn dogs to candy apples to whale’s tails, depending on what generation you’re from. Then there are the samples given out by the travelling salespeople. Get in there and score a little cup of berry ice cream that was whipped right in front of your eyes. Why not try something new in addition to those old favourites you must have every year. Save room for an original Fair scone oozing with raspberry jam.
When: August 18 to September 3
Where: Pacific National Exhibition Fairgrounds, Hastings and Renfrew streets
Info: www.pne.ca , 604-253-2311
Taiwanese Cultural Festival
Taiwan’s cuisine is influenced not only by Chinese culture but by a history of colonization by the Netherlands, Spain, Japan, and others. These unique flavours come together at the festival’s food booths, where you can graze like you’re at a Taiwanese night market. This year the festival will focus on Hakka culture, as well as noodles. Champion chefs from the 2006 Taipei Beef Noodle Festival will showcase their talents. Pork will be featured in honour of the Year of the Pig. Why not try rich, hearty Taiwanese beef noodle soup, or Hakka pork knuckle. Save room for papaya, mango, and other Taiwanese tropical fruit.
When: September 1 to 3
Where: The Plaza of Nations
Info: www.taiwanfest.ca , 604-263-9311