Nine trophies, dozens of delectable dishes and plenty of good company will kick off this weekend with culinary zest at the 22nd annual Bite of Nanaimo.
The event happens Friday (Oct. 17) at the Beban Park social centre, where hundreds of people will set their tastebuds a-tingling with offerings by 20 participating eateries, culinary institutes, brewers and distillers turning out for Theatre One’s biggest annual fundraiser.
Look for some long-standing supporters, such as Acme Food Co. and the Vancouver Island University baking program to be there for sure, but this year’s event has attracted new arrivals to take tasters into new territory. Arbutus Distillery, Oh Sugar, Wolf Brewing Company and V.I. Brewery have nibbled their ways into the Bite of Nanaimo.
“There are two Victoria participant, Oh Sugar and V.I. Brewery,” said Nadine Wiepning, Theatre One spokeswoman.
Both breweries called asking to get in on the Bite, which is a change, Wiepning said, from prior years when organizers had to make the invitations.
New for this year also are the Mahle House restaurant – with its herbal garden, the Mahle House will likely be shooting for the best use of local ingredients award – and Cassidy Country Kitchen, which burned down shortly after opening this year, but phoenixed with a food trailer at the Cassidy site until the restaurant is rebuilt. One taste of the kitchen’s pulled pork poutine is guaranteed to set a chorus of angels ringing in your ears.
Rewsters, new to downtown Nanaimo, will also make its debut a the Bite, along with Noodlebox, the Buzz Coffee House and Arbutus Distillery.
The Culinary Institute of Vancouver Island is another newbie bringing its world-renowned culinary expertise to the Bite. Its menu for the evening: pistachio-crusted salmon popsicle as its local seafood appetizer, chanterelle mushroom gnocchi and wild greens with roasted squash salad roll – all gluten-free.
Participants will be contending for trophies in nine award categories, including best refreshments, best sweet meat and poultry, best seafood, best appetizer, best booth design, best hospitality and best use of local ingredients and more.
“We recommend $20 a person in food and drink tickets,” Wiepning said. “Some people will spend two, three times that much, depending on the size of your appetite, but for the average person $20 and you can have your appie, main, dessert, coffee, tea, drinks. Some people actually take some things home.”
Organizers are hoping for a sellout to help raise an anticipated $17,000.
“This is our biggest fundraiser of the year. [It] helps a lot,” Wiepning said.