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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Muse of Travel par 2

I recently returned from a trip to the great northwest, well Canada’s south west to be specific.  Myself and 34 other caterers and friends traveled all over the beautiful city of Vancouver; eating, drinking, and laughing the whole way. 

Debra Lykkemark, or Culinary Capers, was our guide through this Canadian Culinary Carnival with the help of a few brave souls at Edible Canada.  These chefs at Edible offer tours focused solely on promoting local food and highlighting Canadian cuisine.  With a main headquarters located in the heart of the historic Granville Island they enchant and delight guests with innovative and beautiful flavors of new and old Canadian Cuisine. 

Our first dinner was a partnership dinner at the Edible restaurant where chef and president Eric Pateman, paired with Culinary Capers Executive Chef Margaret Chisholm, set the gustorial bar to new heights with a multi-course dining experience.  Our palates were tickled with chef Margarets appetizers that included Seared Scallop BLTs, and Granville Island Sake Cured Salmon with ginger, pink peppercorns and fennel. 

As we took our seats, ChefEric explained the philosophy behind Edible and all the wonderful products his local artisans were producing.  We were treated to chef demonstrations between courses that showcased the talent and care the local chefs put into every one of their dishes.  This care shined through our very first course, a beautiful lump of poached Dungenous crab meat garnished with a leaf   Servers then descended upon us and poured a small amount chilled dark orange colored watermelon soup around the delicate crab.  Strong herbal and spice notes jumped out at your taste buds as our crew almost took the shine off the bottom of the bowl trying to capture every last drop. 
of the most micro-thai basil.

Along with the soup, some other perfect offerings that night included Kasu and Birch syrup glazed sablefish with sea asparagus and wild mushrooms in an XO broth brought new converts to the birch syrup cult.  Rich and fruity but dark and deep like molasses, this magic elixir glazed the top of our succulent sablefish creating a dark but sweet combination perfectly complimented by the meaty wild lobster and white chanterelle mushrooms. 

The stage had been set, previous expectations exceeded, and we were off and running to our next adventure.

For a taste of the best Canada had to offer from both land and sea we dined at Miku for a 7 course tasting menu paired with local and traditional Japanese sakes.

Opening amuses included Water Melon Gazpacho and Nova Scotia Lobster Bruschetta all finished with fresh garden tomatoes and avocado puree.  A sashimi offering of succulent fatty tuna, flounder and kampachi paired with house-curedhorse mackerel and fresh lemon.  From surf to turf with house-cured wild boar prosciutto and wild boar-duck terrine, followed by a Japanese Suzuki wrapped dashi infused jumbo prawn and asparagus.  We finished the meal off with some beautifully crafted premium sushi including seared wagu ribeye, kampachi, seared fatty tuna and house-crafted smoked salmon.

Each course was a work of art without a single wasted motion or flare.  Miku perfectly captured the zen of traditional Japanese cuisine with the flavor and style that is purely Canadian.

The next day we braved chilly waters and schools of jellyfish with our First Nations guide to experience a traditional smoked salmon barbeque cooked over an open Alder wood fire.  Our guide entertained us with stories of her people from creation, legends about nature and wildlife, to the introduction of European settlers and cultural assimilation.  She sang traditional songs that rippled over the water surface to the edge of the mountains which seemed to answer back like echoes from an earlier age.

When we arrived at the historical springtime fishing village of her people, a large fire was crackling away almost as if it anticipated our arrival.  Our feast of wild rice studded with foraged mushrooms and green onions paired seamlessly with the tranquil serenity of the cold water lapping at the base of mountains made for an unforgettable experience.

Some of the best meals I have ever eaten were only fifty percent about the food.  The rest of the formula was filled with the people I was dining with, the environment and the reason for the celebration.  On a farm in the Pemberton Valley, we dined in a flat clearing surrounded by giant mountains still tipped with white traces of snow.  We dined al fresco on home-style salads, beautifully cooked pork shoulder and loin, grilled flank steak, local artisan breads, and roasted farm fresh vegetables.  With the sun warm on our faces, the wind at our backs and our bellies full we departed the farm for the last stage of our adventure.

Our journey ended with different adventures in the shadow of Whistler Mountain. Some of our group found an adventure at a zip-line course while others relaxed at a spa. I opted for the classic shop, drink and people-watch. While I walked the streets of Whistler I looked for good, local beer and took a tour of the Olympic sites. 

The last meal we shared together was provided by Araxi, which is considered the best restaurant on the mountain.  The menu was engaging and eclectic featuring fried
zucchini blossoms stuffed with crab and cheese with a roasted pepper and pine nut relish followed by the most delicate lemon and roasted garlic crusted halibut with local chanterelle mushrooms and mustard greens.  The dessert was an amazing treat of raspberry sorbet on a stick encased in white chocolate and rolled in pistachios then dusted with gold flakes paired with a decadently smooth black forest cake re-imagined with brandied cherries and chocolate mousse.

As we finished our meal one of my table companions chimed in, “Did you guys realize this was the final meal for the trip?”  I had not realized that this was the last of so many gastronomic experiences we shared together. It was the seamless melding of food, fun and conversation that let our minds wander and disappear into this adventure. It was that heady combination that made it seem like this trip could last forever so that we never had to stop asking, “what’s next?”  But, as with all great experiences, this one must come to a close.  We bid our farewells and see you soons, followed by a few tears and laughs over the antics of the journey. 

Now it is time to head back, and take the knowledge gleaned from our travels and incorporate them into our businesses and lives.  Stay tuned for some new worldly culinary delights from Lon Lanes Inspired Occasions here on Culinary R and D!