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Can you think of any activity essential to human survival that provides as much dependable pleasure as eating and drinking? (Well, okay, but besides that.) The combination of enjoyment and biological duty perhaps explains our deep fascination with dining, a fascination that comes into clear focus each time our Restaurant Awards roll around. This is generally our bestselling issue of the year on newsstands; most visitors to Vanmag.com come looking for food and drink advice; and our Twitter followers go nuts when the awards are handed out at the Sheraton Wall Centre each spring.
The city’s culinary scene is constantly evolving, which is why we sometimes tweak our Restaurant Awards categories. The awards are meant to reflect current dining trends, and to that end the judges this year rethought the name of one of the major categories. The whole notion of “formal” has basically evaporated from Vancouver dining, so our 19 judges felt Best Upscale Restaurant—based on price—was a better descriptor than Best Formal Restaurant, with its hint of stuffiness and starched linens.
We’ve added two new categories—Best Noodle House and Best Pizzeria—to recognize the steady proliferation and popularity of these casual rooms. And we’ve done away with three others. Best Other European/Middle Eastern was a slightly awkward catchall for restaurants that didn’t fit into other categories. Best Small Plates was useful when it denoted a distinctive food program; today, most “small plates” rooms also offer full entrées, and vice versa. And Best Bar/Lounge was unwieldy because of the huge variety in bar/lounge concepts. How do you compare a cozy hotel bar to a raucous spot in Gastown?
Speaking of bars and those who tend them, we’ve adopted a new process for selecting Bartender of the Year. We now partner with the Canadian Professional Bartenders’ Association to select the winner. A panel of CPBA directors nominated candidates and developed a shortlist. After a round-table discussion, the directors submitted secret ballots to our accountant, PricewaterhouseCoopers. Our aim was to bring the same rigour and objectivity to this category that we bring to the dining awards.