Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Meal to Remember

I wrote this post last Saturday, before we got the call that Bronwen and Adam had a home birth planned, before we went to the opera, and, especially, before our new little granddaughter was born. The sumptuous meal I describe below seems so long ago now, from a time period we'll call B.N. -- Before Nola. Still, it was such a special meal, I think you might be interested in reading about it. Here you go . . .

As we enjoyed our Grilled Calamari at Taki's on Davie last Thursday and talked over plans for the weekend, I told Pater I thought it was time we had dinner at The Raincity Grill, where our daughter's been working again for several months. It's long been a favourite spot of ours, especially when Meg worked there a few years back. But then she left for a year in Montreal, was only back here for a few months before taking off to the snowy interior of BC and then to Toronto. Meanwhile, Raincity's somehow dropped off our radar, and I missed it. I like the casual intimacy of its room, a low-light embracing space that lets you focus on each other and on what's outside the windows -- on the west side of Denman, Raincity's the last building before the beach, and it does gorgeous sunsets as a complement to its great wine list. I was ready to check it out again; Pater agreed, and we texted Megan to ask for reservations.

I love living in the West End, walking distance from everything, it seems. Even in heels, the walk was a pleasant way to sharpen the appetite -- 1-2 kilometres. The light rain was also welcome; it made stepping inside and surrendering our coats the start of an evening of pampering. The friendly wait staff convinced us that Megan's a valued co-worker -- they fussed over us and commented on the family resemblance while taking us over to a window table. Pater, as usual, generously gave me the seat I consider better--I always like to be able to people-watch (my father's daughter, truly!). As he seated us, our server explained that Megan had designed a special menu for us and he handed us the sheet she's written out descriptions of the seven (!) courses. Apparently, these would be accompanied by three wine pairings, designed to straddle dishes: the Poplar Valley Pinot Gris chosen to accompany the first course would also work with the second.

And what were those two courses? Well, the first was a beautiful small mound of Dungeness crab, sweet and succulent, nestled atop a base of butter-braised radish, the whole thing capped by a fine weave of crisply-fried potato threads, a thyme emulsion alongside for dipping or dredging. I've never had braised radish, but the texture was a brilliant complement to the crab as was the delicate pepperiness -- in fact, with the added counterpoint of the potato's crispiness, texture was almost as satisfying here as taste, if one could, or should, separate the two.

At this rate, I'll never finish describing the whole meal, will I? Another sip of my Pinot Gris, and I'll move along to the Duck confit pastilla, and try not to rave too much about how effective and subtle that move was from the sweet white succulence of the crabmeat to the darker, spicier richness of the duck, accompanied by a concord grape jelly, alongisde glazed carrots. MMMmmm.

Time to switch glasses for the Golden Mile Pinot Noir -- all these wines, by the way, are BC wines. Brent Hayman, the sommelier at Raincity, is well-known for having built an award-winning wine list at the restaurant, and while it's by no means confined to BC wines, BC is well represented there. This nicely complements the restaurant's focus on market foods, sourced locally and in season. We were proud to note the quality in our own BC wines -- we're far from considering ourselves experts on wine, but we've been drinking and learning for a few years, and loved this pinot noir from the nose -- a surprising coffee -- and even more as we sipped it. As we did, the pearl onion/fresh chevre raviolis appeared with mixed mushrooms (don't you love shitakes? such a distinct flavour colours a whole dish) and the best kale I've had -- done in brown butter.

After that, a salad appeared -- lovely greens, hazelnuts, courgettes -- as prelude to our Steak frites. Don't worry, these were all small portions, and they arrived at a very civilized pace, so that surprisingly, we never felt overwhelmed. The steak occasioned a switch to a glass of the Cab Merlot Petales from Osoyoos LaRose Winery -- merlot's often accused of being an indifferent wine (remember the movie Sideways?), but we've been told that it's a wine well-suited to the Okanagan and this seemed to be a good argument for drinking Okanagan merlot. Certainly, we enjoyed sipping ours with the main part of our meal behind us, feeling the week's stresses fade away and re-connecting with each other. We caught up on each other's work, talked about friends and family, and got to practice our French with one of the staff members, a charming young woman Megan insisted speak French to her parents. She brought over the green grape sorbet and hazelnut shortbread, so we were happy to speak to her. Even more so when she brought the dessert plate -- Chocolate Delice with Apricot puree and smoked milk ice cream as well as Pear Cake with milk jam and Prune & Poire William Ice Cream. I'd have to get Meg to explain the smoked-milk ice cream and the milk jam for you, but suffice it to say all tasted wonderful. Even more so when we were treated to a complementary glass each of the wonderful dessert wine, a favourite of mine, the Venturi-Schulze Brandenburg No. 3.

At some point, things slowed down enough in the kitchen for Megan to come out and chat with us. You'll have to indulge me for feeling a bit like a celebrity -- not only had we been receiving a few dishes that were not on the menu, but now the sous-chef was paying us a visit at our table. As well, of course, I was very proud of this stunning young woman, my daughter, who was creative and talented and competent enough to put together this beautifully-balanced progression of plates. Really, except that I hadn't thought to bring my camera so I could snap some photos for you, it was a perfect evening. If you decide to check out The Raincity next time you're in Vancouver, tell Megan I sent you ;-) In fact, if I have my way, I might even be there -- I'm certainly going back soon!


  1. Wow, that sounds fabulous, especially the ambiance and the wine pairings. I hope we'll get to visit Vancouver sometime in the next year; when we do we'll be sure to plan to enjoy a meal there.

  2. What a wonderful weekend you had! You speak with such love and pride of all your children, but those 2 days must have made you and Pater extraordinarily proud and happy. Patricia

  3. Pseu: I'm crossing my fingers you'll manage the trip, and we'll see if we can coordinate dinner at The Raincity Grill.
    Patricia: Yes, I must admit, it's extraordinarily gratifying to watch one's grown children do things well. Something for you to look forward to as you negotiate the onset of the teen years!

  4. Deep sigh, I was going to say how lucky you are, but it is not luck but excellent parenting skills that you are reaping the benefit of. I hope not to reap from my parenting skills as Daisy wants to be a pathologist!

  5. Sublime: the meal, her talent and your vivid description!

  6. Thanks Duchesse.
    And Indigo, too funny about Daisy practising her future skills on you -- not desirable at all!
    I think anything to do with parenting does always involve a big dollop of luck, but I hope we might have made a difference and can take a tiny bit of credit.


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