Bite of Nanaimo Review

What a tremendous surprise this festival was! It was great to finally enjoy some interesting quality culture from Nanaimo. This has been one of the first times I’ve really felt like people have taken care, which means a lot to me.

There were so many choices of what to eat and drink, so I had to be picky. I’m sure I ate more than I should have, but I’m glad I know a bit more about which restaurants to try and which not to try. Basically, you buy tickets at the door, worth $1 apiece, and each menu item is between 1 and 4 tickets. Here are the things I tried:

Appetizers

Clam & Scallop Chowder (Landlubber Pub)

Brilliant flavour. Not too salty and no old-fish taste. And it was free, to boot. (7/10)

Bruschetta (Landlubber Pub)

Nice prerequisite drizzle of balsamic reduction. Great presentation and generous portion, but had this odd eggy taste to it. (3/10)

Entrées

Tuna Tataki (Cactus Club Cafe)

You’ve all had it, and you all love it. Not much more to say. Crisp greens and citrus glaze as good as ever, and presentation was impressive, considering the disposable dishes. One of the best dishes of the night. (9/10)

Sesame-Crusted Halibut with Shiitake Vinaigrette (Lighthouse Bistro)

Excellently done. Nice presentation, perfect texture, brilliant sesame flavour, and served on an Asian noodle slaw. Mushrooms and vinaigrette worked well to balance out the sesame. The surprise hit of the night for me. (8/10)

Coconut Panko Prawns with Blackberry Artisan Salad (Millstone Eatery)

I really liked the coconut in the prawn batter. They could’ve easily overdone the coconut flavour but didn’t; it was very subtle. Made to order, too, which I appreciated. My only suggestion would be to add some sort of glaze or crema to the prawns because they were fairly dry. Salad was average. (6/10)

Crab Dog (Corner Bistro)

I have to give these guys props for sourcing locally and for inventing such an interesting combination of ingredients! However, this dish didn’t quite work. The bun was terrific, as it had just been baked, and the julienned beet was a nice touch, but the crab itself was in a mayonnaise-type dressing that overwhelmed the taste of the crab for me. I think with a few tweaks this recipe could be sensational. (5/10)

Desserts

Hazelnut Profiterole, Pistachio Macaron, and Pain au Chocolat (VIU Baking Students)

Their booth was set up like a French pâtisserie, with baskets of breads all over and a fantastic line painting of a French boulangerie in the background. The students didn’t seem to know much about what the desserts they were serving, but they were fundraising for a trip to Paris for pastry classes, so I’m sure they’ll figure out soon enough! The macaron was the hit of the night. The pain au chocolat could have used a little less “pain” and a bit more “chocolat”, but was still good, and flaky without being dry. The profiterole was delicious, though I usually prefer more of a whip filling to a pudding like they had. Picky point, though. (7/10)

Pumpkin Spice Tiramisu with Dulce de Leche Drizzle (Millstone Eatery)

It was a little too fresh, as the coffee in the middle made it a bit watery. However, the flavour was fantastic (and ingenious) and they were generous with their caramel. (7/10)

Drinks

Open 2007 Cabernet Merlot (TheatreOne)

I don’t usually like reds, as you know, but both the whites they had were wines I knew I hated, so I tried the Cab Merlot. It was pretty good for a red! Most reds are far too dry for me, or have too many tannins or are too bitter. This wasn’t, which probably means it’s a terrible wine to the connoisseur. But I thought it wasn’t bad. Since it’s so hard to make me like a red, I’m rating this one highly. (8/10)

Goji Açai Green Tea (Winston’s Tea Co.)

Delicious. I expected high acidity and was surprised at how delicate it was. Flavourful but not overwhelmingly. A great way to finish the evening. (8/10)

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