The “Godfather” is a very special friend of mine. I’ve blogged about him on numerous occasions and he is a key player in my continual dining adventures. He has a voracious appetite for delicious foods and all things culinary. Seven and a half years ago, I inherited him as a “cowboy” brunch cook. When we first met, he was a full time UBC economics student, working part time as a cook and part time at a bank. Over the years, I’ve watched his passion for food grow, I’ve watched him develop into a confident, highly skilled, knowledgeable and determined cook that I trust implicitly. I frequently call him into service, when I have demonstrations, competitions or special events to execute. I need only make eye contact with him and he knows what I need, when I need it and how I would like it. In fact, sometimes he knows what I need before even I do and he does a great job supporting me and keeping me focussed on the task at hand. Today, he is one of my best friends, I think of him as a brother, he’s godfather to my daughter “Jazzy” (hence the nickname, no he is not a gangster) and I’m honoured to be his best man at his upcoming wedding.
These days, the “Godfather” doesn’t cook professionally though he does teach classes at a high end gourmet/speciality/kitchen supply store. He is an industry leader in the treasury management field and spends much of his time in NYC servicing his roster of international clients. He has the soul of a cook, but is trapped in a banker’s body and lifestyle, but he knows as well as I do, that we all have to make our own choices. So what do you do for a guy who’s getting married, doesn’t really party and pretty much has everything that he needs or wants? I thought about meeting up with him in NYC or Chicago or Montreal and hitting up all the IT restaurants and thus eating up a storm, but eventually decided on a special event a little closer to home. Vancouver has grown into a amazing dining city and with so much local talent, I decided to organize a luxurious, city wide tasting menu, featuring the “Godfather’s” favourite luxury ingredients, accompanied by his favourite kitchen compatriots. With the “Great Wall,” “Boomer,” “Remington Ho,” and “Squirmy Hermie” in tow, we prepared for a very special night out on the town.
Our first stop was the Rosewood Georgia Hotel [801 West Georgia St., Vancouver, 604-682-5566]. Northern Divine caviar, Bollinger Champagne and the amazing setting of the Lobby Bar kicked off our evening of extravagance. I tasked Chef Ken Nakano to make a dish for the “Godfather” that would showcase the magnificence of the sustainable caviar in a generous and delicious manner. Chef Ken over-delivered and presented us with a trio of caviar. The first preparation and my favourite was simply caviar on a fresh blini with crème fraiche. There was also a raw oyster preparation as well as a lobster chawanmushi, both accentuated with massive quenelles of the sturgeon roe. Delicious, gorgeous and perfectly paired with Bollinger bubbles. We all felt a little “James Bond-ish,” if only our credit cards could sustain another few ounces of caviar per person.
Our second stop of the evening was at Espana Restaurant [1118 Denman Street, Vancouver, 604-558-4040]. “Boomer” is Chef Neil Taylor’s second in command and they are doing an amazing job as Vancouver’s best Spanish restaurant. Chef started us off with some Jamon Serrano and a few tapas favourites off the regular menu. Paired with a delicious ’04 Tagonius Crianza, we were just blown away with the deliciousness and the overly hospitable service that we were spoiled with. Chef Neil was tasked with showcasing many ounces of amazing fresh Burgundy truffles and prepared a duo showcasing tuber aestivum in its best light. There was a perfectly grilled San Simon cheese and truffle sandwich that absolutely blew my mind and a truffle and cheese soufflé which was ethereal. Paired with an ’02 Premier Cru Burgundy, we were in heaven. Between taking bites of the food and sipping the Nicolas Potel Pommard Premier Cru Les Epenots 2002, I was happy, happy. Old Burgundy + Burgundy truffles = Yowza!!!
After a quick cab ride to Kitsilano, our third stop was at Maenam [1938 West 4th Avenue, Vancouver, 604-730-5579]. The “Great Wall” is currently Chef Angus An’s right hand and is the head chef at Longtail Kitchen [116-810 Quayside Drive, New Westminster, 604-553-3855]. We started off with a sampling of the Maenam cocktail program, before settling into the main event. Chef Angus was tasked with preparing a foie gras dish and absolutely blew us away with his creation. Foie gras torchon sandwiched between tamarind tuiles, popcorn, kalamansi gel, long pepper salt and a crumbled hazelnut praline. Delicious, gorgeous and such well balanced flavours. Paired with a ’07 Chateau Guiraud Sauternes, the foie gras and the wine worked in perfect harmony. Chef Angus continued to send more food and I was blown away by the bright flavours of every dish. Longtail and Maenam are easily my favourite Thai restaurants in the city; the food is consistently executed at such a high level and the flavours are so vibrant, yet perfectly harmonious.
Our fourth stop of the evening was Secret Location Tasting Room [One Water Street, Vancouver, 604-685-0090]. My most recent sous chef, “Remington Ho” currently works in the pastry section at Secret Location. He has chosen to put aside the savoury kitchen to pursue his passion as a pastry chef. I think he’s chosen a great place to expand his skill set because under Pastry Chef Kira Desmond and Chef Jefferson Alvarez, I feel that they are offering the best restaurant desserts in the city. Chef Jefferson was tasked with showcasing one of the “Godfather’s” favorite ingredients, sea urchin. He did so in two courses. The first dish featured uni with cucumber and sunchoke. Paired with Pierre Paillard Champagne, it was a magnificent start. The second dish featured uni and one of my new favourite ingredients, local gooseneck barnacles. Chef Jefferson prepared for us a soulful gooseneck barnacle conserva; the delicate essence of the barnacles, combined with authentic Spanish spices and flavours, accompanied with freshly toasted bread and the freshest sea urchin. Ridiculously delicious. After the savoury, came the sweet. Multiple courses of beautiful, flavourful and technical desserts. Great textures, bold flavours and smart concepts. Maybe because I am not a classically trained pastry chef, I’m always so blown away by Chef Kira’s work. I couldn’t possibly remember all the different components, but the pine mushroom ice cream was a big hit, she made me love rice pudding and these sweet courses were the highlight of the evening for me. Amidst a plethora of caviar, truffles, foie gras and uni, I was most wowed most by a little chocolate, flour, cream and eggs.
What made the night uber-special for me was we got to celebrate the “Godfather’s” upcoming wedding with amazing food and wine, but we did so with a group of people that have all made me so very proud. We rarely have an opportunity to get together as a group, so it was a real treat for all of us to dine together so extravagantly and to “recycle” stories of yesteryear. Yes, they’ve all use to work for me, but I’m so proud to see them all doing so well and thriving in Vancouver’s wonderful culinary scene. The “Great Wall” and “Boomer” are running fantastic kitchens and have found balance with full family lives, “Remington Ho” is pursuing his love of the sweet side and “Squirmy Hermie” (my ex-award winning apprentice) has matured into the confident and highly skilled cook he is today. To see them grow, to see them prosper in a business we all love, makes me as their Chef, exceptionally proud. And of course the “Godfather,” who this night was all about, I’m so proud of his accomplishments, I hope he finds fulfilment and balance in his career and I wish him the very best in the future. Congratulations to you and “The Girl” and I look forward to the big day.
BTW, after all that eating and drinking, we capped off the evening by swinging over to the Pourhouse [162 Water Street, Vancouver, 604-568-7022] for some scotch eggs and a night cap. What a bunch of savages we were. Much thanks to Chef Ken Nakano, Chef Neil Taylor, Chef Angus An, Chef Jefferson Alvarez and Chef Kira Desmond. Thank you to your staff and thank you for your generosity; it was an exceptionally memorable evening for all of us and you played a huge role in making it so. Cheers.