Wednesday, May 16, 2012

good, clean, fair, and absolutely delicious

According to their website: "Slow Food was founded in 1989 to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people's dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the world around us. We believe everyone must have access to good, clean and fair food. Slow Food Nova Scotia exists to honour the tradition of experiencing the taste of local food in a social and convivial atmosphere through excursions to farms, special dinners, tastings and public projects."

This is exactly how I feel about food and, with mad love for local food here in NS, it's easy to see how the slow food movement is gaining momentum. So much so that many local restaurants have become members, teaming up to help spread the slow food mantra through events such as the Slow Food NS Spring Supper. This dinner, featuring 11 local chefs creating 7 courses of locally-sourced food each paired with NS wine or beer plus a whole slew of amazing volunteers, was, in my eyes, the food event of the year. And I had to be there. A big thank you to Lia Rinaldo for making it happen.

To start the evening off right, there was a cash bar manned by none other than George Christakos from Brooklyn Warehouse and Zane Kelsall from TIBS. All star cast. Four our drinking pleasure there was a variety of Garrison beers and a cocktail made by Jenner Cormier, the cocktail genius behind the Middle Spoon. I can't recall what was in it-some bourbon and vanilla maybe-but regardless it was awesome.  And thank you Tara and Zane for those brown bags full of TIBS bits on the table because we arrived absolutely starved.

After some info on Slow Food NS and a round of introductions for the most amazing culinary team evah, the beer was poured and the first course served. Created by The Tempest's Michael Howell, our first course was a cream of fiddlehead soup with lemon creme fraiche and crispy celeriac strings. Paired with Garrison Tall Ship Amber, it was creamy and delicious and not at all what I remembered of fiddleheads. See this was only my second time eating fiddleheads (sad I know) after having some years ago very poorly prepared. Now I can finally see what all this fiddlehead hype is all about. But the real star was the crispy celeriac. Almost like hickory sticks (in texture not flavor), I could easily eat a whole bag!

The second course a la Renée Lavallée, the Feisty Chef (my long awaited first time enjoying her cookin') was crostini with Outlon's pork rillette, pickled fiddleheads, pickled onions, a dab of whole grain mustard, and a pickled cherry. This was easily some of the best rillette I've ever had. Give me a whole plate of this and I'd be a happy diner. No wonder those TIBS dinners are so popular. I also loved creating each tangy bite alternating between mustard, fiddleheads, and onions. Paired with the crisp and refreshing Benjamin Bridge Nova 7, this was easily one of my favorite courses.

A collaboration between Dennis Johnson from Fid and Roland Glauser from Charlotte Lane, the third course consisted of a Sledding Hill lavender pepper seared scallop on a warm salad of red cabbage, double smoked bacon, tsunomata seaweed, and a Sugar Moon maple lime vinaigrette. But what you may ask is that orange thing? Well, this dish started quite the conversation about what the orange thing was on the plate. Low and behold, scallop roe. While this dish was tasty (let's be real, scallops are always delish!), I didn't detect much lavender, most likely so subtle next to the pepper, nor the bacon. And double smoked bacon is not something I want to miss!  Wine pairings for the scallop included three Tidal Bays: Avondale Sky, Jost, and Blomidon. If I remember correctly, I think we enjoyed the Avondale Sky the most although we may have been influenced by the winemaker from Avondale sitting across from us!

Fourth course, brought to you by Earlene Busch and Bryan Picard from Chanterelle Country Inn, was a salad of dandelion greens, roasted beets, blueberries, and citrus rind. Aptly paired with some bubbly, L'Acadie Vintage Cuvee and Blomidon Cremant, the salad was bitter and earthy and fruity and refreshing all at the same time. And I always love me some beets.

Now here's where I get caught up in the conversation and wine (I'm on my fifth course here people!) and completely forget all about taking pics! It's rather funny because this next course happened to be my favorite of the night. And, not surprisingly, it was from Craig Flinn and the awesome folks at Chives (one of whom is from my hometown. Pictou representin!).  Consisting of wild boar and elk sausage, a crispy cheddar potato cake, and a caramel onion and wild NB mushroom jus, this dish did everything right. The potato cake was crispy on the outside yet perfectly gooey and creamy inside, the sausage was tender and savory and absolutely delicious, and the sauce, well, let's just say I almost licked my plate. And I'm pretty sure others would have followed suit. That freakin' good. The plate was accented perfectly by our first reds of the night, Gaspereau Lucie Kohlmann and Luckett Phone Box Red. Again, perhaps it was Gaspereau's winemaker sitting next to us, but I thoroughly enjoyed the Gaspereau over the Luckett and would strongly recommend.

Paired with Grand Pré Moulin Rouge, the sixth course included slow roasted leg of lamb, Spring pea and Old Growler risotto, and a Ran-Cher Acres yogurt tzatziki. Despite my distaste for lamb, I actually ate some! It was melt in your mouth tender. The rest of the plate was similarly delish; the risotto was rich and creamy, and the tzatziki, tangy and minty, the perfect complement to the lamb.

To finish things off, the Garrison Sugar Moon Maple beer was poured and dessert served. Created by Luis Cleval from Seasons, dessert was a brown butter cake with smoked cinnamon ice cream, -210 degrees Terra Beata cranberry melting crystals, and Acadian maple espuma. Sounds space age doesn't it! After recently seeing Clavel do a liquid nitrogen demo at the Apex Food Show, I wasn't surprised to be delivered just that. Powder and foam and ice cream and cake. Pretty damn cool. The ice cream was crazy good but the strong smokiness was a bit overpowering on the plate. And when I hear brown butter, I generally lose my shit so I was stoked for the cake. It was tasty, especially when combined with the other flavors and textures on the plate, but unfortunately not as brown buttery as I had hoped. Still, quite the experience.

And I can't forget the french press TIBS coffee served as the perfect finish to a perfect evening.  So thank you to all the incredible chefs and volunteers for making my first Slow Food NS event awesome and to everyone whom attended for the incredible sense of community. And in case I missed anyone...

One thing I neglected to mention, part of the proceeds from the dinner went not only to Slow Food NS, but also Slow Food International's 1000 Gardens in Africa project and the Canadian Chef's Congress. Can this dinner get any cooler!? For more information on Slow Food NS events and membership details, please visit their site. All I wanna know is, when's the next dinner!