Vegetarians, avert your gaze.
Vancouver's seventh annual Brewery and the Beast took place yesterday (July 28) and with it came a smorgasbord of opportunities for the region's hardcore carnivores (and omnivores) to chow down on some of the meatiest, juiciest, most out-there dishes that this writer has seen.
Founded with the intention of promoting locally and ethically sourced meats, the event invites more than 70 chefs and restaurants from the Lower Mainland to craft barbecued, appy-style bites that can, ideally, be enjoyed with one hand while attendees balance beers, a rack of ribs and root-beer ice-cream floats in the other. The event apparently sold out in 10 minutes when tickets, which give you unlimited access to food and drink, went online in May, so there were hundreds of people at Concord Pacific Place for the festivities—all of whom no doubt left fuller and a lot sweatier. (The meat sweats were real, y'all, as was the nearly 30-degree temp yesterday.)
Here are some of the memorable eats from this year's event, as determined by me, a writer who essentially spent the afternoon stretching the limits of her stomach as a first-time Brewery and the Beast attendee.
I'm kicking this list off with one of the most seemingly simple but delicious bites at yesterday's event: deep-fried chicken wings by Downlow Chicken Shack. What made these ridiculously crispy, crunchy wings so damn good? According to the signage on display, Brewery and the Beast spice dust and "DL sauce"—very specific, I know!! Is the spice dust available locally? Can I hop on over to Downlow's Commercial Drive shop to grill the employees on what's in this top-secret condiment? BRB as I investigate and attempt to recreate these on my own. (I also managed to take a few extra home in a makeshift Tupperware container for, uh, research purposes.)
Rule one of all-you-can-eat food fests and buffets? DON'T GO FOR THE CARBS. Or, if you must, leave them until last. (Only fools fill up precious stomach space with starchy pastas, rice and breads.) But I made an exception for this beef brisket hando (a mini sandwich that you can handily hold with one hand!) with pickles and "spissy" (spicy?) sauce from Big Day BBQ. Not all carbs are bad.
One does not go to Brewery and the Beast expecting to feast on anything besides, well, meat, but this charred octopus—served with Mediterranean salsa and a cilantro emulsion atop a crispy beet chip—by Hook Seabar offered a welcome break from the day's main event.
Okay, I may not have expected the seafood but I fully expected ice cream given the day's high temps and the culinary mash-up possibilities between savoury meat and dessert. This vanilla soft serve with maple, smoked bacon and walnut granola by the Hawksworth Young Chef Scholarship Foundation delivered.
I call this a heart attack on a platter: jalapeno queso, pickles, lettuce and "fancy sauce" sandwiched between two hulking crisps of deep-fried chicken skin, dreamed up by the gluttonous peeps at Juke Fried Chicken. No surprise that this ran out well before Brewery and the Beast's end.
I'm not the biggest fan of corn—plus, I didn't come to a BBQ meat fest to chow down on good-for-you vegetables, thank you very much—but this Japanese-inspired grilled corn-on-the-cob that the chefs at Kissa Tanto and Bao Bei whipped up with white miso umeboshi, honey butter, furikake and puffed rice may have turned me into a believer... I'm hopping on the farm wagon.
The folks manning Homer St. Cafe and Bar's booth had to do some gentle coaxing ("Don't be scared!") to get attendees' hands on these honey-harissa chicken hearts, but I, a person who grew up eating pig intestines, beef heart and god knows what else, needed no convincing. Topped with a sharp black pepper ranch sauce and served on easy-to-grab skewers, this was pretty much a perfect bite.
I wrote about these fried-chicken ice-cream sandwiches—a collab between Downlow Chicken Shack and Mister Artisan Ice Cream—when they dropped earlier this month, and they did not disappoint. Pro tip: for minimal messiness, consume like the deep-fried chicken skin is a chip and dip repeatedly into the jalepeno-honey ice cream. Once you've gobbled up the skin, find a spoon so you can enjoy the remaining ice cream. (Rumour has it that these babies will be available just one more time this summer at a to-be-announced date at Mister, where you can put these tips to use.)