Edible British Columbia brings chefs and gourmands together at Best Market Dinner
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Situated inside the Granville Island Public Market, a long table is set up near EBC’s retail store where diners are encouraged to interact with each other and the chefs. The “kitchen” is a makeshift one, located inside the store with a hot-plate, a small electric oven, and the usual gadgets and utensils. The confined space is a testament to the caliber of the chefs. They waltz through with casual confidence and produce a world-class meal without any of the conventional equipment of a restaurant kitchen.
Upon arrival (note: arrive on time, not early or late, especially in bad weather), our group was greeted by EBC’s proprietor, Chef Eric Pateman. He informed us that this night would be a little different as the tourism board was filming the evening’s activities. Despite bright film set lights, a crew on the premises and tight quarters, both teams managed fluidly with no visible awkwardness. The guests, a diverse crowd of foodies, professionals, chefs, local food producers and the media, were gathered at the table and introduced themselves in a wonderfully casual manner, indicative of the intimate atmosphere created and encouraged by EBC.
Chef Bernard Casavant possesses an intimidating list of accolades, from the rare honour of being one of the first chefs in Canada to become a Certified Chef De Cuisine in 1986, to serving rock stars, royalty and politicians. Some might assume his ego would be as big as his talent. Fortunately, this couldn't be further from the truth. Not only is Casavant a genuinely nice guy, his food is exquisite enough to deserve culinary groupies.
Our knowledgeable co-host was Kath Reuben. She is EBC’s sales and marketing manager, and acted as this evening’s purveyor of fine cocktails. She presented us with her latest concoction, a tart, lightly sweet vodka libation made from Pemberton Distillery Schramm Vodka and Sea Cider Rum Runner cider. Reuben's drink paired with the Chef's first dish: a tartare of beet-cured wild Okanagan salmon placed on a hot smoked salmon cracker, and topped with parsley oil.
Beautifully presented as a one spoon bite, Chef Casavant explained his inspiration behind the dish: local flavours, a commitment to food education, and sustainable practices. Casavant is anything but full of hot air on this topic. He serves as a charter member of Farm Folk/City Folk and director of the BC Culinary Tourism Society. He passionately promotes the idea of bringing sustainable business practices, education, and local food to the public.
My co-diners, who are producers of local fare and culinary enthusiasts themselves, had been to “at least ten EBC market dinners,” and proclaimed this to be the best yet. Following the amuse-bouche, or bite-size appetizer, Chef Casavant and his team encouraged us to gather around the cooking station and participate.
We watched as culinary wizards stirred a preserved quince butter sauce to pour over pan-seared Queen Charlotte sablefish. Meanwhile Casavant provided us recipe instructions and hassled his team chefs, brothers Brock and Brandon Bowes, and answered random questions about Top Chef Canada. The staff poured our second beverage, a Gray Monk Odyssey Brut 2008, carefully selected by EBC’s sommelier Treve Ring.
Throughout the courses, the team dispensed all sorts of fantastic tidbits of knowledge and insight. They taught us the proper technique to create creamy, mountain-preserved morel risotto served with incredibly tender Harkers Farm organic plum-infused lamb shank. We learned that a deliciously warm chocolate cake with Black Raven Farm taye berry compote can be made in a tiny electric oven. We were enormously impressed by what can be created with a small kitchen and a lot of local inspiration.
The EBC team was incredibly professional and friendly, not once revealing a moment of uncertainty or stress. With space constraints and camera cords strewn about, I commend them for having fun and keeping their cool, while magically refilling beverage glasses and clearing away empty plates throughout the meal.
By the meal’s finale, everyone at the table was laughing and discussing food, euphoric from luscious fare and perfectly paired libations. The fifth course, Festers Farm chili-spiced, hazelnut truffles with a wee tipple of Okanagan Spirits Raspberry Eau de Vie, was a powerful and yummy antidote to motor functions.
Born, raised and trained in British Columbia and taught to cook by his grandmother at a very young age, Casavant has an intense sensibility about him. His cooking comes from a fiery passion for keeping tradition alive, while simultaneously embracing innovation in everything he does.
You can visit Chef Casavant and his incredible team at Wild Apple Restaurant at the Monteo Resort in Kelowna.
Edible British Columbia will soon be re-launching as an off-site restaurant and store. Go to http://www.edible-britishcolumbia.com/ to stay updated on all events and to check out the Market Dinners schedule. Recipes from the dinners are emailed to each guest and following the meal, everyone is welcome to browse the EBC shop at a 10% discount. This particular dinner was $90.00 (CAD), a bargain for five courses and drinks.