New dishes, new people at Dishcrawl Vancouver

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      Forty-five minutes into Vancouver’s inaugural Dishcrawl event, organizer Jacqui Janzen instructs 28 strangers to put down their forks and put on their coats. It’s time to move onto the second restaurant of the evening, but it’s a tough proposition—leaving Vancouver chef Nicolas Hipperson’s cozy, Gastown apartment, where I’m warming up over a glass of wine and enjoying succulent slices of duck and rabbit.

      Dishcrawl, a California startup with chapters across the U.S. and now Canada, recently arrived in Vancouver. The idea behind the food-minded company is that for $49, diners stop in at four restaurants (all within walking distance), which are kept secret until the event. Each restaurant prepares a dish (with options for diners with dietary restrictions), which add up to a four-course dinner over two and a half hours. If you’ve never experienced group dining with strangers before, the idea of Dishcrawl can feel a bit unsettling, but for those looking to shake up their dinnertime routine, the event, which is organized ever few months, is a fun way to try new dishes while meeting new people.

      The beetroot salad at underground restaurant Farm-2-Fork.

      On November 14, diners gathered at Farm-2-Fork, an underground restaurant co-founded by Hipperson, who is executive chef at Raincity Grill, and Nooshin Rasouli, who previously worked at Hawksworth. Hipperson and Rasouli met at cooking school, and came together recently to work with small local producers and host private dining parties in Hipperson’s gorgeous Gastown pad. On the menu that evening was three dishes served buffet-style on Hipperson’s kitchen island—an earthy but refreshing beetroot salad, followed by duck and rabbit dishes perfect for winter and difficult to part with.

      Once Janzen wrangled half of us onto Gastown’s streets, we wandered over to Blood Alley’s Judas Goat Taberna while the other Dishcrawlers headed to Peckinpah. At Judas Goat, we had half an hour to sample a generous quartet of menu items, including the salt cod brandade potato chip, a twig of banderilla (anchovy with pickles), a wedge of the housemade morcilla and spinach tortilla, and a meatball with carrot sauce and parsley. With just enough time to guzzle back a glass of Sangria (drinks cost extra), Janzen signaled for the group to put on their coats and head back outside to the restaurant around the corner, Peckinpah. A quick swap—the other group out, us taking their seats—and oversize ramekins filled with hefty portions of pulled pork and baked beans were placed before us. If you needed something to wash down the dense cornbread, Peckinpah, which specializes in southern barbeque, has plenty of beers and an impressive list of whiskey too.

      Apple bacon cake topped with caramel sauce and served with vanilla ice-cream.

      With bellies near-bursting, both groups—all 27 of us—collided at Lily Mae’s, Gastown’s newest rustic French café. Dessert, which everyone miraculously found room for, was both a slice of chocolate Guinness cake and apple bacon cake. All of this topped with caramel sauce and a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. A decadent way to end an indulgent night? Definitely. But isn’t that what most crawls—whether pub or dish ones—tend to be about?

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      Lois Janzen

      Nov 16, 2012 at 4:31pm

      Wow Jacqui! This concept suits your personality to a T! Me being your day's sister, and having tagged along on many an outing with you guys, just reminds me of the good times we had....drinking lightly, eating appies, & moving on to another place! Your dad, being a social animal, would talk to anyone nearby, & before long they were laughing, & enjoying each other's company! Tapas bars were one of our favourites! Small amounts of food, so we could leave room for more @ the next location. This is a GREAT idea, especially with an organizer like you behind the wheel! Some day,when I come for a visit, I'ld like to join in on one of your group events. The food shown on your site looks unique & tempting!
      Enjoy your new venture...Good Luck! Auntie Loey ( Lois Janzen)

      Colleen Pentecost

      Nov 20, 2012 at 3:13am

      Sounds like a wonderful evening! Great job Jacqui!