No such thing as a free lunch? The residents of Vancouver would disagree. At the Irish Heather gastropub in Gastown you can roll up your sleeves, help pit fruit and be rewarded for your hard work with a comunal dining experience. Pit For Your Supper runs between July and September; last year 50 volunteers helped pit 2,000 pounds of cherries around a 40-foot communal dining table. Locally-grown peaches, apricots, apples and pears are also on the menu for diners willing to work for their dinner.
Sean Heather, hailed as the ‘King of Gastown’ due to his collection of restaurants in the recently gentrified area, is the mastermind behind the project. He dreamt it up as a fun way for diners to help prepare fruit for his venues: "When large quantities of fruit began to arrive from my business partner Scott Hawthorn's Picker Shack Orchard on the bench in Naramata (BC), we thought this would be a fun way to get the fruit ready to serve at our various venues while offering a unique dining experience,” says Sean.
“The Long Table Series at the Irish Heather brings together groups of strangers at the long table for a communal dinner. Pit for Your Supper is a variation of the Long Table Series, where guests can volunteer to participate, gather with friends and roll up their sleeves to pit some fruit. Essentially, they earn their supper - after the pitting is done, we serve a tasty meal paired with beer and everyone goes home with a bag of fruit. It’s a fun and social experience with people sitting elbow to elbow - so guests always end up making new friends and chatting with their neighbours.
“We use the fruit in a number of house-made dishes at our various venues - sun-dried cherries as a feature condiment at Salt Tasting Room, apricot chutney for roast suckling pig at The Irish Heather’s Long Table Series, fresh fruit filling for pastries made at Penn Bakeshop; we even used the fruit to make an exclusive beer by R&B Brewing Co. which we serve at Bitter Tasting Room."
If you don’t mind paying for your dinner, Vancouver has plenty of communal long table experiences to enjoy. Wild Rice has Chinese family-style dining around a communal dining table, the cosy Two Chefs and a Table offers a chef’s table and you’ll also find communal dining at the upscale Oakwood Canadian Bistro and YEW restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel. Wine lovers can try food pairings around the long tables at Vancouver Urban Winery and Salt Tasting Room, or taste local gin at Long Table Distillery. Underground supper clubs like Social Bites and Endless Supper Club also run summer communal table events aimed at foodies who want to make friends. Outside the city Araxi Restaurant run their summer Long Table Series amongst the beautiful lakes and fields of Whistler.
Whether you pay in dollars or cherries, Vancouver’s communal dining scene is a perfect way to get a taste of local life.
Virgin Atlantic's seasonal service to Vancouver restarts Tuesday 14 May 2013, so get ready for a summer filled with staggering natural scenery, amazing bird's eye views and some seriously good drinking. Book your flight to Vancouver from London Heathrow today!
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About the author: AmyWatkinsAmy Watkins
Amy Watkins (www.amywatkins.com) is an award-winning British travel journalist who has lived in Vancouver since May 2012. Whilst on assignment for UK newspapers and magazines she has eaten thousand-year-old eggs in Hong Kong, swam with crocodiles in Australia and braved a week in the Caribbean with a celebrity chef.