All Hail the Underdog!

Blue Water Cafe's Frank Pabst begins his celebration of the sea's character actors in the 14th annual Unsung Heroes dining series.

February 1, 2018

By Amanda Ross / Photo: Areta Wong

As far as excellent hotdogs go, our city isn’t rife with abundance. There’s foodcart bulwark Japadog and Hastings’ What’s Up? Hot Dog!, but scant few others make the cut. So when chef Frank Pabst of Blue Water Cafe and Raw Bar offers up a hot dog—or, rather, underdog—as part of this year’s Unsung Heroes Festival, we sit up and take note. But leave the ketchup at home.

Sea urchin hot dogs.

Blue-blood pedigree aside (Blue Water took home top honours for Best Seafood in this magazine’s 2008 to 2017 Restaurant Awards), this hotdog comes with some serious high jinks. For starters, it’s made of sea urchin. Second, it’s topped with Asian pear and sweet pepper relish and uni miso mustard. Third, it’s delicately placed on a nori bun for a trifecta of sustainable, savoury punch. At $15.50, this little dish has a shot at star billing in the month-long festival (running February 1 through February 27). The sea urchin is local, sustainable and in-season until March. Which is precisely the point of the Unsung Heroes Festival, now in its 14th season. Cemented in the city’s culinary firmament, this much-loved event celebrates lesser known and often overlooked fin and seafood to educate diners on alternative sustainable Ocean Wise choices. Pabst initially created the month-long event to bring awareness to local and unique seafoods and to avoid species that are over-fished or harvested in ways that can damage ocean beds. Each year becomes an aggressive exercise in sourcing ingredients that have previously not been available.

Octopus “Bolognese”
Welks Au Gratin

“We’re up for the challenge of bringing a spotlight on new Ocean Wise products and to share the importance of dining sustainably with our guests,” says Chef Frank. Plus, 10 percent of proceeds are donated to Ocean Wise, the Vancouver Aquarium’s conservation program—of which Blue Water is a founding member. Other unsung, sustainable offerings include Crayfish “Cappuccino” (made from invasive crayfish, warm vichyssoise foam, $13.50), Octopus “Bolognese” (ragu à la Bolognese with octopus, pork belly and squid ink fettuccine, $15.50) and Sturgeon Liver “Pate” (with pickled vegetables, marinated mushrooms, mustard seeds and grilled bread, $14.50). Says Pabst, “My goal is to make it all a little more approachable and a little more fun.”

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