The Lettuce Heads:
Earlier this spring I joined a biker gang. Actually, I guess it was more like a few of my friends and I would ride around Vancouver on bicycles, call ourselves the lettuce heads and give each other bad-ass nicknames like Road Hat and Bone Crusher. Usually we ended up somewhere they serve food and drink. My nickname was The Judge, because apparently I’m “kind of judge-y”. At first I thought it was a stupid nickname. Because I’m totally not judgmental. Discerning perhaps, but not judgmental.
But last week at the Fraser Valley Street Food Festival while I was having a small meltdown trying find a place to lock my bike and ranting about how ridiculous it was that there wasn’t a bike valet or at the very least a proper bike rack, I realized that sometimes I might be a little judgmental. Sometimes.
In my defense I was hungry. I’d prepared myself for the 30 food trucks that were scheduled to be there by eating a big breakfast and riding my bike over. My hunger very quickly escalated to h-anger when I realized I’d have to carry my pannier around all day. How I would be able to fully experience a street food festival with one hand. One hand!
Seriously! How could they not have planned for this?
One good thing about being discerning is that you end up with really great friends. The kind that laugh at you while you overact to a situation and totally dismiss all their ideas to remedy it. Those kinds of friends are keepers. And I had two of them with me that day as we spent the afternoon eating our way back and forth along a semi-circle of food trucks. The Lettuce Heads are a conscientious tribe when it comes food. We aren’t food nazi’s but we all make some effort to make mindful food choices based on our own values. As with any Lettuce Head outing, our visit to the Fraser Valley Street Food Festival heralded a story or two.
A Tale of Two Tacos: Feastro vs Tacofino
I fancy myself a taco connoisseur, with fish as the filling by which the awesomeness of an establishment can be measured. If I hadn’t come to False Creek with the idea of writing about the sustainable food options I would have happily gone around sampling only fish tacos. But as far as I know ling cod is a relatively benign food option so I had to limit myself to two.
Tacofino: It was the biggest of tacos.
The generous portion of fish was hidden under a mountain of coleslaw, atop of which a sprinkle of fresh salsa sat. Let me tell you about that fish. It was everything you could ever want from the fish in your fish taco. The batter was light and crispy and there was a big portion of flaky white ling cod encased in it. Now let me tell you about that coleslaw. There was too much of it and too much mayo mixed in with it. Also, I would not be sad if there was more fresh salsa on it next time. Still, people don’t stand in that long line up for no reason… I’d come back again just for that fish.
Feastro: It was the best of tacos.
The fish is cooked in a lemon pepper chickpea batter and while it is very tasty I do not know if I loved the texture of it. I found it a little mushy. But I do know that I loved the dish as a whole. It was complex, complimentary and bold. I think it was the robustness of the charred scallion jalapeno cilantro dressing that married the fresh pico de gallo with the thick, seasoned batter. The lime wedge probably helped, too. If I had to choose one to have again, this is the one. Bonus: they serve only organic, locally sourced meat and produce. I will definitely be back to sample the rest of their taco family.
The Secret: The Bannock Wagon’s BBQ Smoked Salmon burger.
It may not look like perfection at first glance, but I promise you, it is. This unassuming, humble sandwich was the highlight of my eating experience. For those who don’t know, bannock is a type of unleavened bread that is a dietary staple in North American Aboriginal culture. It is a modified version of a traditional Scottish style of bread similar to the scone that was introduced by fur traders. You could call this feasting sensation North America’s first fusion food.
The Bannock Wagon makes bread that is sweet and soft and almost gooey and at $5 is a treat unto itself. I recommend spending an extra $4 for a healthy serving of bbq smoked salmon and just enough coleslaw to separate the sweet bread goodness from the sticky, sweet, smoked salmon goodness.
The part that literally blows my mind is that the salmon is wild pacific chum. Wild Salmon! Kind of a big deal.
The Belle of the Ball: C’est Si bon
Even though the adorable bite-sized brioche slider is made with organic, free range, medication free beef, it’s not the reason why this was the cutest dish of the day. It was the pomme dauphine that surrounded it. At the risk of sounding totally cliché… the pomme dauphine were a little taste of heaven. Creamy, seasoned, cheesy mashed potatoes deep fried into hershey’s kisses sized bites of nirvana. They paired nicely with either ketchup or mayo but were every bit as enjoyable plain. Being served by a very polite Frenchman did not hurt their cause.
I didn’t even scratch the surface of available options for vegetarians, vegans or otherwise environmentally conscious foodies and unfortunately for me, that was the last time this season when all these food trucks will congregate. Happily though you can still find them scattered around the city. I can’t wait to see what 2017 will bring. Hopefully a bike valet. 🙂