Communal Dining Thrives in Vancouver

Araxi Longtable at North Arm Farm. Photo Credit: Toshi Kawano Photography

Dining out trends have been evolving constantly since the invention of the restaurant, which made an appearance in France around 1770. Today, the questions of what we eat and why have taken on great weight.

Is the food on offer local? Is it organic? Is it wild? Is it seasonal? Is it healthy? Is it authentic? Is it reinterpreted technologically – i.e. molecular gastronomy? Choosing a restaurant is sometimes akin to displaying your moral values.

In Vancouver, a culinary hotbed of sorts, the question has moved beyond what/why we eat certain things. Diners are paying increasing attention to how they eat. The answer is more and more frequently communal dining. And there are so many different ways to group dine.

Remy covered the popular Social Feed group dinners. What other group dinners await your scintillating conversational skills?  From secret supper clubs, to Araxi’s Longtable Series and pop-up restaurants, here’s an updated look at the communal dining scene.

Araxi Longtable at North Arm Farm. Photo credit: Toshi Kawano Photography

Supper clubs and underground dining

Swallow Tail Tours and Supper Club (covertly) pioneered Vancouver’s underground dining scene with their secret club dinners (members only) and Culinary Circus events, like the upcoming Church of the Senses May 27. A $79 ticket will give you access to the secret Vancouver church location and wine pairing dinner with Le Vieux Pin and La Stella Winery. The dress code is “dazzling whites.”

Swallow Tail’s talent for curating creative, group, gourmet food experiences just earned them a spot on Food Network’s World’s Weirdest Restaurants.

Summer long table events

Araxi launched their inaugural Longtable event last summer at North Arm Farm. And the gourmands went wild. Set outdoors, the communal dining experience took place in the picturesque Pemberton Valley, where diners savored four courses from Chef James Walt’s outdoor kitchen. Naturally, the sumptuous feast featured the valley’s local produce, beef from nearby pastures, day-boat catches from coastal fisheries and wines from the leading local producers.

There are two Araxi Longtable events scheduled for summer 2012: July 21 and August 18 in Rainbow Valley, Whistler Park. Tickets are $175.

Restaurant-hosted communal dinner events

Wild Rice on Pender, perched at the edge of Chinatown, has always served their modern Chinese fare family style. In April, they took it up a notch with their Social Dinner series. The restaurant banquette tables are re-arranged to create two 10-person tables and dishes are served on large platters passed for all to share.

The next event, May 30, is $25 per head for assorted Chinese snacks, tea eggs, peanuts and pickled vegetables, crispy pork belly with zong bao, and tapioca and pear pudding.

Pop-up restaurants

Vancouverites like Butter on the Endive’s Owen Lightly and Ludzu & Xie Xie regularly surprise Vancouverites with pop-up restaurants including a the recent hawker stand (Fei Bing Express in Main St.’s Gene Cafe) slinging steamed pancake wraps with fillings like pork belly & apple jelly, sesame shitake and smoked tofu.

These events are tweeted and Facebooked. Diners click to attend, sign up or just appear out of the woodwork to scarf treats by the hip, young culinary masters.

Group dining via social network

Check out Remy’s post on Social Feed. And also take a look at the Vancouver-based Social Bites to find out how to sign up for group meals in Vancouver restaurants and local homes.

Accidentally sitting side by side at a shared restaurant table

A number of Vancouver restaurants like Kitsilano’s Oakwood Canadian Bistro, Salt Tasting Room, The Irish Heather and more feature a long group table, perfect for starting  a conversation with a stranger.

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