Before Butter on the Endive moves on to our next project (stay tuned people!), I want to thank everyone who collaborated on the Chef in Residence I & II dinners last month. The response for tickets exceeded our expectations and left us very excited to keep planning fun, food-focused events around town. None of it would have been possible without my partner in crime, Naomi Horii. She’s always pushing us to do a better job and I feel lucky to be in business with her.
The idea for the events was simple: find some like-minded chef and artist friends to collaborate on unique dining experiences in unexpected locations. For the first series of dinners, we were beyond lucky to find the beautiful space above Le Marché St. George. Not quite sure how they would react to us proposing to open a restaurant above their shop for 3 days, they were actually really excited about the idea. Janaki, Pascal and the rest of the Marché staff made us feel right at home the whole time and kept us fuelled up on coffee and croissants when we needed a boost. What an inspiration it is to see what they have done with their shop and the real sense of community they have developed around 28th and St. George.
Adam Chandler of BETA 5 Chocolates was the first collaborator. Having worked with him before, I knew firsthand how creative and talented he was – it’s great to see him and the business really taking off. Though his specialty is chocolate and pastry, he has a great sense for the savory side as well, which made the menu writing process fun and easy. The first dinner at Marché worked out so well, we reconnected at Chef in Residence II for another one. A highlight from our menus was a rhubarb risotto with fennel, tarragon and white chocolate. Though somewhat divisive with the crowd (a couple people didn’t like it), we were very happy with the way it straddled the sweet and savory world. We made a basic risotto base with some onion and fennel, deglazed with dry sherry, and then cooked it with a vegetable stock with some rhubarb trim thrown in. Near the end of the cooking process, we folded in roasted rhubarb, and then finished with tarragon, fennel, butter and parmesan. Finally, we grated some white chocolate tableside to tame the acidity, which I think worked well.
For the second dinner, we teamed up with Jane Cornborough, former chef de cuisine of Refuel restaurant. Having both grown up on the coast, we chose to focus the menu on B.C. seafood, with plenty of the emerging spring ingredients thrown in for good measure. Sawmill Bay oysters, pacific octopus, scallops and halibut all made an appearance. The oyster was a fun little amuse bouche. We served them raw on the half-shell, with a sorrel mignonette, which was made by blending sorrel from Hannah Brook Farm with a bit of water, straining it and adding minced shallots, cucumber, cracked black pepper and a touch of lemon vinegar. It was a really interesting combination, with the briny, ocean flavor being offset by the tart, herbaceous sorrel. It was a pleasure to create the menu with Jane and hopefully we can do another one soon.
The final collaborator at the Marché dinners was Alvaro Musso, of Market at the Shangri-La. I first met Alvaro while working at West years ago and he was the first person we nailed down to work with us on this event. Alvaro grew up in Peru, and we had talked for a while about doing a dinner with the food of his homeland. We tried to take classic dishes and stay pretty true to their roots, throwing in a few modern twists here and there. Anyone who knows Alvaro knows he is a machine, possessing some of the best pure cooking skill in the city. My favorite dish was the causa, which is traditionally a made up of seasoned mashed potatoes, layered with fish, meat or vegetables (like a terrine). Our version had a base of yukon gold potato seasoned with chili and lime. On top of that was braised octopus, with a salsa of hard-cooked eggs, tomatoes, olives and parsley to finish. Lots of cool textures and flavors.
A big thanks to the artists who contributed pieces to hang on the walls of the Marché apartment! Photographers Hana Pesut, David Zilber and KIN Chan, along with visual artist Nathan Grimson, added a rich element to the room. We are also very grateful to out friend Michael Sider, who was on hand each day to document everything from prep to plate.
Not long after the event, Luis Valdizon (a very talented designer whose work can be found at narumi.ca) approached us with an opportunity to revisit the Chef in Residence format with a client of his. Amanda Michas, owner of Blue Owl Home Boutique in Kitsilano, thought one of the apartments above her store would be a great venue to showcase our food and her thoughtfully curated antiques. We quickly found two chef collaborators and a week and a half later, we were cooking.
In addition to another collaboration with Adam Chandler, we also did a menu with James Town, a sales rep with Mikuni Wild Harvest. James was a chef back in the day, working at some of the best restaurants of the time and even competing in the culinary olympics in Germany. We used a lot of products from Mikuni, which specializes in wild and cultivated mushrooms, wild edibles, beautiful vegetables and specialty food products from all over the world. One of the standout dishes was a simple bruschetta of fresh garbanzo beans with pecorino romano and arugula. We blanched the beans and made a puree not unlike hummus (seasoned with garlic, lemon, cumin etc.) It was the simplest dish of the night, but it was the one that got the most response from people. Though they’re a pain to prep, it’s definitely worth the effort. Here’s to James making some more cameos in kitchens around town.
I already thanked Tonio Creanza in a separate post for the special tasting of his family’s olive oil, but once more won’t hurt. Thank you.
Finally, we have to give Luis Valdizon all the credit for bringing Chef In Residence II together. Without his thoughtful intervention, the whole thing never would have happened.
And a big thanks to these folks for helping cook: Jeff, Ryo, Matt and Kari. You rock.