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Canada’s biggest restaurant fest is just around the corner.  The Dine Out Vancouver Festival returns Jan. 17-Feb. 2 for 17 straight days of bargain eating at the city’s best restaurants.  Hundreds of eateries around the city will be offering discounted three-course, prix fixe menus at $18, $28 and $38 price points.

The official list of restaurants and their special menus won’t be disclosed until Jan. 6 (or Jan. 3 if you’re an American Express cardholder).  In the meantime, a lineup ofdozens of special food-themed events has been announced to whet diners’ appetites. Options range from guided foodie tours of Vancouver’s neighbourhoods to gala dinners and culinary seminars.

Here are five can’t-miss events at the 2014 Dine Out Vancouver Festival:

East Van Craft Brew and Culinary TourEast Vancouver is home to some of the city’s best new craft breweries.  This unique tour takes visitors inside two of them to learn about the brewing process and – more importantly – sample some suds.  Then, groups hit the gritty streets of East Van in search of some beer-friendly fare, including locally made sausages, traditional Roman pizza and even stout-infused cake. January 18, 23, 24, 25, 30, 31, Feb 1; 3pm, 3 hours. $65

Food-tography: A Culinary Photography TourLet’s face it: We all take pictures of our food and most of them are . . . well, not very appetizing.  Learn how the pros take those mouthwatering food porn shots on this unique tour of Vancouver’s Railtown neighbourhood.  Groups stop in four local eateries to sip and sample the delicacies. Meanwhile, seasoned photographers offer instruction on how to capture memorable food moments. January 21, 22, 23, 24, 28, 29, 30, 31; Tues & Wed: 3.30pm, 2.5 hours; Thurs & Fri: 1:30pm, 2.5 hours. $65. 

West End Brunch CrawlGet ready for the mother-of-all-brunches in a neighbourhood that knows how to do lazy Sunday mornings. As part of this self-guided crawl, guests stop into no fewer than eight of the West End’s top breakfast establishments.  One special “passport” is your ticket to everything from fresh juices and smoothies to eggs benny and omelettes, pulled pork and bacon, pancakes, deserts and more.  A sister version of this crawl also explores brunch options on the East Side. Jan. 19; 10am, 4 hours. $40.  

Street Food City IIIIt wouldn’t be Dine Out without Street Food City.  This year, 15 of Vancouver’s best food trucks come together in a “mega-pod” outside the Vancouver Art Gallery. Live music and tables and tents are sure to lend a festive feel to this five-day long outdoor street eat fest. January 22, 23, 24, 25, 26; 11am – 3pm Wednesday through Friday; 11am – 5pm Saturday and Sunday. Free entry. 

Dinner at the BirdcageThis may well be the only culinary drag show in Vancouver, if not all of Canada. Downtown’s FanClub, a new New Orleans-style music hall on Granville Street, is the venue for this cabaret featuring some of the city’s legendary drag queens. Over a three-course meal and drinks, take in 11 over-the-top performance numbers by Joan-E, Carlotta Gurl and Coco. Expect an envelope-pushing, anything-but-ordinary evening. January 23; Doors open 6:00pm; 7:00pm Dinner, 8:30pm Show. $50 with dinner, $25 without dinner. 

Photo sourced from Tourism Vancouver

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