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Andy Prest: Vancouver Cheese and Meat Festival does two things very well

An adorable little charcuterie board with a cutout notch for a wine glass was clue No. 1 this was going to be a fun night
A vendor shares their delicious wares at the Cheese and Meat Festival held Nov. 4 at the Pipe Shop Venue in North Vancouver.

Is that a pepperoni stick in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

In this particular instance it was, in fact, a pepperoni stick. Dozens of them, in fact. This was but one of the delights discovered at a North Vancouver event over the weekend. Let me explain.

When I heard that a Cheese and Meat Festival was coming to the Pipe Shop, and that I could get tickets through work, I was hungry for more information. And meat. And cheese.

It’s actually hard to think of a more iconic duo than cheese and meat – what festival could possibly top that artery-clogging combo? A Massage and Video Game Festival maybe? Baseball and Doughnut Days? A Waterslide and Puppy Party? Those all sound good, but they all have flaws, unlike a Cheese and Meat Festival. Well, I guess it could be flawed for vegans maybe, or vegetarians, or the lactose intolerant, or cows … but we don’t need to talk about that right now. 

The point is a Cheese and Meat Festival sounded like greasy heaven, but as the day was approaching I found I still had so many questions. Questions like: what do you wear to a Cheese and Meat Festival? Because my first inclination was to put on my stretchiest sweatpants to make sure I had plenty of room to grow over the course of the evening, in both wisdom and width.

Luckily there was a handy FAQ page on the festival website that had answers to many questions, including “Is there a dress code for this event?”

The answer was yes, and the dress code was not “stretchy.”

It was, in fact, “business casual,” which set the bar at “nice jeans” and went up from there. I tearfully said goodbye to my dear sweatpants and headed for the festival in some (still pretty stretchy!) dress pants, accompanied by a small group of equally excited cheeseheads. I still, however, was not entirely sure what I had signed us all up for.

Frankly I was a little worried about what kind of crowd would be drawn to a party that so brazenly put such fatty goodness right there in the name of the event.

Would it be, you know, a sausage party?

That is to say, I was worried that when we walked in it would just be a big bunch of dudes filling their maws with all manner of high-cal comestibles while battling the meat sweats. Guys like me, basically.

My fears were dispelled instantly upon entering the festival when I was handed three things: a delicious ginger and whisky cocktail in a can, a wine glass, and an adorable little wooden board with a notch cut in one side meant to hold the aforementioned wine glass.

So what you’re telling me is go ahead and get two drinks going, fill up your private charcuterie board with whatever deliciousness crosses your path, walk around for two hours and have yourself a good time? 

OK, I can do that. And that’s what we did, alongside a hundred or more fellow fashionable foodies in their nicest jeans.

Now, I’ve been to several events at the fantastic Pipe Shop Venue in North Vancouver’s Shipyards District, but none have quite matched the magnificence of this “wander around and nibble all the bits of deliciousness you can handle” party.

There were guys cooking thick chunks of bacon, another dude frying up endless bits of halloumi. If you don’t know what halloumi is, feel free to ask me anything, because I ate it approximately once every 12 minutes for two straight hours and now have a PhD in halloumi. 

And did I mention the drinks? That wine glass notch in the charcuterie board, instantly a top-10 human invention, came in very handy as we passed vendors eager to share their wines, beers, ciders, cocktails and Scotcheseses (that’s how I pronounced it at the end of the night).

And speaking of the end of the night, that’s when a meaty miracle happened. As we were saying goodbye to all of our new best friends in the meat and cheese industries, they all started loading us down with extra inventory that they hadn’t used that night. I swear we could have nearly paid for the (admittedly quite expensive) festival tickets with all of the extra pepperoni sticks and old cheddar that was thrust upon us as the vendors lightened their loads on the way out. Our Uber driver seemed a little surprised (pleasantly?) to be tipped in Hungarian sausage.

That’s it though, I’m in the Cheese and Meat cult. The smaller the charcuterie board, the bigger the possibilities.

Andy Prest is the editor of the North Shore News. His lifestyle/humour column runs biweekly.