By Lauren Mote

Once again I found myself at Voya Restaurant a few nights ago. Vancouver’s top bartenders congregated in front of Voya’s bar to sample some of bar manager Jay Jones’ new creations, and then sit down to a three-course meal, where each dish was spiked with either Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge, or Navan Vanilla cognac. This was a dinner to qualify a top bartender for the Grand Marnier Summit in Vail, Colorado, …by invitation only. Amongst the smiling faces that evening, Chambar’s Wendy McGuinness, Cin-Cin’s Colin Turner, George’s Shaun Layton, Boneta’s Simon Kaulback, Hamilton Street Grill’s Ryan Cheverie, Granville Room’s Trevor Kallies, and The Fairmont Hotel’s Marco Pelliccia, and of course, I was representing Chow Restaurant, and had a smile big and bright like the Cherish cat.

Although this was a “bartender appreciation dinner”, what would come next really peaked everyone’s curiosity and competitive side. Emily Patterson, representative to the Grand Marnier brand in Vancouver, explained why we were rubbing elbows together, followed by the rules and regulations surrounding an exciting event in the very near future.

“GRAND MARNIER and NAVAN are looking to hire the nation’s best bartenders as consultants to participate in the third GRAND MARNIER and NAVAN Mixology Summit in Vail, Colorado (Sunday, April 5 –Tuesday, April 7, 2009). If selected, GRAND MARNIER and NAVAN will use your skills to help build their great brands.  In addition to learning from your mixology expertise, we will have fun in Vail — skiing, snow tubing, seminars, dining and parties.” (http:/www.mixologysummit.com/Event.aspx)

Winners across North America will be selected using a points system. Each will receive points for attending the dinner at Voya for starters, followed by significant points given for original recipes submitted by the mixologist for the “Grand Marnier Encyclopedia of Cocktails” (each participant will receive one), and concluded by the cocktails’ addition to the bartender’s cocktail program at their home restaurant.

Voya Restaurant’s Sous Chef Tret Jordan prepared a delicious three course accompaniment to match Marnier – Lapostolle owned Chateau de Sancerre (Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc) and Chile’s Casa Lapostolle (Bordeaux black grape varieties) and Jay Jones’ original cocktails that seemed to continuously emerge from the bar throughout the evening.

Grand Marnier would send us home today with a 750mL bottle of their signature Cordon Rouge, and their Navan Vanilla Cognac to peak the taste-buds and creative brain-waves. On their official website for the Grand Marnier summit in Vail, it states that each mixologist must submit 5 original recipes; 4 made from the signature Cordon Rouge orange-infused cognac, and 1 from the natural Navan Vanilla Cognac – after tonight’s incredible display of creativity, Jay Jones already has a significant head-start.

Be on the lookout, and support your local bartenders as they strive towards Vail, and have a chance at becoming the next Iron “Bar” Chef. Other participating restaurants/bartenders include DB Bistro Moderne and Brown’s Social Room.

For more information on the Vail, Colorado event please visit

http:/www.mixologysummit.com/Event.aspx

For more brand specific information, please visit

http://grandmarnier.com

http://navanworld.com

Editor’s Note:  Please visit Lauren Mote’s fantastic food blog and give her a shout out at www.poivremedia.ca

The Hawk

March 3, 2009

In a hip, food-lovers paradise just north of the US border, there only exists a small handful of “born and bred” Vancouver chefs that get catastrophic amounts of attention. After chef Rob Feenie, of acclaimed restaurants Lumiere and Feenie’s, was publicly ousted last fall, all focus has rolled back to the charismatic man who quietly changed the Vancouver restaurant scene over a seven year period. One can only imagine how difficult it is to be this all-star chef with the need for tenancy… if you haven’t already, please meet chef David Hawksworth, the Vancouver-born superstar behind the wheel of Top Table’s West Restaurant.

Since his departure from West in late 2007, David now finds himself in between dwellings – his baby, “Hawksworth” set to eventually open at the Hotel Georgia, at Howe & Georgia Sts in late 2009, still has a lengthy construction period ahead of them. Don’t let the circulating rumours fool you, this is one of the only Vancouver restaurants in the city that will push through on schedule, despite the crumbling global economy. Vancouverites were surprised to learn that other plans have caved unexpectedly; we couldn’t help but become anxious when all the promotional signs and John Deere trucks disappeared from a neighbouring site, once housing the framework for the Ritz Carleton back in October. A new trend seems to be forming in Vancouver’s restaurant scene, but is there really a connection between the global economic status and the downfall of west coast staples, Cafe di Medici and Aurora Bistro? Or were these restauranteurs trailing behind the edible trends for a while? Be as it may, if restaurants can survive until the 2010 Olympics, we will see the arrival of tens of thousands of people, including athletes and spectators; then the world will discover exactly what we’ve been hiding all along, the food.

David has been keeping extremely busy since his departure from West Restaurant almost a year ago. He has a private catering company, “Hawksworth Catering”. David’s services are acquired mostly by way of word-of-mouth, although the Globe and Mail recently published a Q&A with David regarding his current activities.  More often then not, David’s catering clients are previous West diners or “in-the-know” Vancouver food enthusiasts, but some readers will be pleasantly surprised to learn that David travels well – doing an event here and there on Vancouver Island; perhaps the short trek to Seattle will become an option?

I have been privy to working with “Hawksworth Catering” since April. Generally, the parties that we have done together have been good – no twisted clients, and no disastrous kitchen facilities. However, I did have to build a BBQ at one event; but imagine all you had was a toaster oven and a blow-torch, now that’s frightening. With the help of Vancouver experts in certain genres of cuisine and fare, David has some valuable assistance in creating a themed dinner – an authentic all-Indian food and decor themed birthday party for 9 within a multi-million dollar compound? Yes this did happen. Even the simplest 5 course lunch for 8 with thoughtful wine pairings and a limitless budget, David offers something that not many others can – the presence of a celebrity chef cooking in your home – but he’s still “humble pie”. Speaking of humility, I especially remember working a catering event in a “staged home” in West Vancouver; the owner was looking to sell quickly. It was decked out top to bottom, and we weren’t allowed to wear our shoes. So there we were, a bunch of shoeless joes, David and his assistant working in the open kitchen with rather attractive socks, and myself and another server doing the same. It was funny watching David and his socks talk about each dish from behind the peninsula bar looking onto the dining-room crowd.


Going back farther, I recall the first party that I worked with David on. It  was a 50th birthday party for a previous guest at West Restaurant, George Macintosh. An über successful lawyer, Mr. Macintosh had just moved into a beautiful house in Vancouver’s prestigious Shaunessey area. His new home was thoughtfully landscaped, inside and out. Although it was somewhat distracting with the repeat button jammed on some London Beat song, I still couldn’t lose focus on David and his assistant, Mark Perrier (sous chef at Cibo Trattoria), recreate some old classics from the West Restaurant days, like beet and goat cheese salad; roasted tomato and basil soup; some new innovations like a dungeness crab quenelle with red peppers; tarlets and mini quiche. Dessert never fails either, birthday cakes especially tailored by chocolatier Thomas Haas in West Vancouver; rich for the rich.

The catering events we do with David are high profile, fun and we get that craved social aspect – reconnecting with people we used to work with – back in the days of West and the original Lumiere; it made the conversation over Pisco Sours much more enjoyable afterwards. While eyeballing his book collection 3 weeks ago, I was mid-sentence asking about chef Marco Pierre White (former mentor), when out from the kitchen comes flying a container… low and behold, inside, lies an enormous white truffle; it stares back at me. The truffle would be the star ingredient for David’s 3rd course at the most recent event that we did together, where carnoli rice, golden chantrelles and Chablis Grand Cru welcome the white truffle with open arms. I call this the “industry’s risotto”; others call it expensive. Hogwash. There was a bit of struggle to get the truffle back from me, but boy was it worth it when I had my own bowl later that afternoon.

One secret to share in David’s ongoing success in Vancouver’s food scene is his dedication to teaching younger cooks to follow instruction and instinct. We would be hard-pressed to find a cook amongst a kitchen brigade in the higher quality restaurants in Vancouver today, that didn’t have a connection to David’s mentorship – whether on the line at West Restaurant, or in the audience at Barbara-Jo’s Books to Cooks watching a demonstration on “sous vide cooking”, or pulling up a bar stool next to him at the Irish Heather in Gastown for a pint, the guy has presence.

Friends and hungry people alike, we’re awaiting David’s return to the kitchen so we too may ask the chef to cook for us.

For info and any catering inquiries, please visit www.hawksworthcatering.com or visit www.davidhawksworth.ca


Voya: An Art Deco Breakfast

February 26, 2009

By Lauren Mote, Poivre Media

An interesting thought crossed Poivre Media’s breakfast writer Jessica and I the other day. I had mentioned that in the interest of doing yet another riveting review of a brunch spot, and a Christmas brainstorming session for two writers, we decided doing a conversational review would be an interesting way to distinguish our respective reviewing styles.

“Wow, Voya’s grand wooden doors open on their own as we walk towards them! Suddenly I feel underdressed!” Jessica laughs. “We should be running home right now to trade in our jeans and salt-stained boots for little black dresses, impractical heels, satin gloves and long cigarette holders. Is it too late to do a re-take of our entrance? This is definitely one of the nicest restaurants I’ve been to for breakfast. Lauren, I know you’ve experienced Voya in an evening soiree setting, but how do you feel about it in the sunshine?”

“I like that Voya aspires to recreate certain dimples from 1920s-40s decor. It honestly reminds me of a modern supper club. I always expect to hear powerful piano tunes amongst a thick layer of cigar smoke and dim lights, at any time of day. Voya’s manifestation of art deco brings the charisma from over three decades into the dining room, with contemporary appeal; ‘era specific’ details hang from the walls, dangle from the ceiling and sit on the floors – the periwinkle and dark wood chairs with silver stud lining, the clean lines of the banquets and white tables, the crystal chandeliers and mirrors (both constructed with circles at the forefront – geometric focal points are extremely prominent for this artistic style). Umm… history lesson?”

Not a moment too soon we are saved by the bell – Manager Carole Morton interjects graciously to show us to our table and we continue our interview.

“Periwinkle… one of my favourite colours, and words! Now, on with the show. As we discussed, you and I are more keen on the savoury rather than the sweet for breakfast,” Jessica asserts as she inspects the menu. “I usually like going against the grain but this sounds fabulous – the Voya Omelet: cave-aged Gruyère, organic cultivated and wild mushrooms, and a tomato salad. Just out of curiosity, how does aging in a cave improve the taste of cheese? And where are these so-called cheese caves? Sounds like a neat day trip.”

“Okay, let’s discuss,” I laugh. “The French word ‘cave’ actually means ‘cellar’. The French translation of the label ‘cave aged’ in French is ‘caverne âgée’, which literally takes us underground into a cavern. Traditionally gruyère cheese comes from the Swiss town of Gruyères. This cheese has moderate fat, is made from cow’s milk, and is simple and nutty in flavour. By law, it must be firm and without holes, while the French version of the cheese has holes. The Swiss one is usually aged for 10-12 months before it’s released. Either way, the cheese wheels rest in a cold, dark ‘holding area’, like a cave, for a minimum period. This gives the cheese a golden rind, and softer yellow interior.”

“Hmm, sounds delicious! Perhaps a trip to Gruyères is in order, but for more than a day of course,” she laughs. “I love how the menu is divided into four sections: Small, Sinful, Large and Sweet. The Sweet section offers choices to make any savoury lover convert. Next time, I’m going to try the Voya Smoothie (apparently I’m into the Voya brand), which is a blend of coconut milk, peanut butter, orange blossom honey, banana, and vanilla sorbet. Lauren, are there any sweet items that call out to you?”

“Jess, you need to know something sad about me: not only do I have a twisted love for savoury food, but early in the morning, I never look at the sweet section for long enough to create memories. Can I just have a plate of meat?”

And with that, we decide to start with the all-natural charcuterie plate, which is something Jessica wouldn’t normally opt for in a breakfast situation, as she is a pescetarian (a vegetarian who eats sea-animals and wears leather boots).

“Looking at this lovely assortment makes me long for my meat-eating days,” Jessica remarks while biting her top lip. “I’ll try to do my part on the cheese and pickles though. The fact that Voya has their own smoker in the back is impressive.”

To my delight, my big ol’ plate of meat arrives in a timely fashion. “These house-made meats are on par with Oyama at Granville Island. The Serrano ham is light, and succulent, the chorizo spicy and chewy. Sous Chef Tret Jordan overloaded the plate with meat, and I really appreciate that. Hopefully I’ll have some leftovers to snack on later; lord knows I love meat in the afternoon.”

“I have to be honest here,” says Jessica. “I don’t often have appetizers with breakfast but I could definitely start now. I really like the chewy toasted sourdough, the cheeses (cream brie and percorino) and the tangy cornichons. There just isn’t enough pickle service at breakfast in my opinion.”

“Jess, you’re only saying that ’cause you don’t eat meat…”

“I’m serious! I love pickles! I thought the eggs baked in brioche with smoked bacon and olive oil béarnaise might make me get back on the baconwagon for a second. That one puts a whole new spin on the old school toast-dipping practice. Sounds delicious.”

“Personally, I get excited when I see a menu that uses local and well known ingredients in unexpected ways,” I say. “Discerning palates knew all along that lobster during the wee hours of the morning was a hit, however, to see a lobster terrine with crab on the brunch menu is surprising, but for all the right reasons.”

“Okay, now let’s talk about my Voya Omelet. I love the creamy, oozing gruyère and the tender texture of the mushrooms. The frisée and tomatoes and simple vinaigrette are a nice counterbalance to the richness of the omelet. How are your eggs, Lauren?”

“Anytime candied salmon is used for a different application than eating pieces by the handful out of a paper bag will win me over quickly. I once made candied salmon and scrambled eggs for my mum when she was visiting from Toronto, and she was impressed. This is the first time I have seen it served in a restaurant, and believe it or not Jessica, Marc-Andre’s is better than mine! He paired it with a thin crêpe, filled with goat cheese, spinach and spicy paprika. I appreciate this spicy marriage of “working” flavours so much. It becomes a more enjoyable experience to have something mindful, rather than bacon and eggs all the time.”

Our bottomless coffee cups find their way back to the server’s tray, and we decide it’s time for a cocktail. “I was originally in the mood for a mimosa but this 12 Days of Christmas cocktail feature menu is just too tempting,” says Jessica. “I couldn’t very well let such magnificent sounding drinks remain unsampled in favour of the traditional breakfast beverage! So, for my dessert, I’m having Simon Ogden’s ‘Ralphie’s Red Ryder’ mostly due to the inclusion of green chartreuse and rosemary – two of my favourite ingredients.” We witness Bar Manager Jay Jones lighting the rosemary on fire for Jessica’s drink.

“I was leaning towards the cocktail with Advocaat egg liqueur, because this creamy cocktail addition is old-school, but bourbon wins my heart every time. The ‘Loretta Snow’ cocktail developed by Jay Jones, is a delicately balanced blend of bourbon, Lillet, white chocolate and egg white. Where you, Jessica, are a firm believer that you can never have enough pickles, I counter your argument for bourbon – I think there’s never enough time in the day to savour all the splendors this southern spirit can offer me.”

“You know this is such a proud environment to work and dine in; the service is excellent, everyone is super attentive and nice. We’re early birds, so we’re getting some extra special doting from everyone,” Jessica concludes.

We head back to the kitchen to chat with the masterminds behind our wonderful breakfasts. Line cooks Bryan Satterford and Owen Lightly happily pose in some action shots, and we thank Sous Chef Tret before getting a glimpse though the window at the Voya smoker out back. We have a quick visit with Saba (maintenance man extraordinaire and ex-Lumiere legend). I take some last-minute mug shots of Jay Jones, the dining room and the elegant bar/lounge, and Jessica grills Jay on the glassware, “What’s with the Santa cups?”

“Traditional glasses for mint juleps…” Jay says with a smile.

As the Breakfast blogger for Poivre Media, Jessica will always have a soft spot for the classic ‘greasy spoon’ breakfast joint, but thanks to Voya, her appreciation is growing for breakfast in finer packages. I know it’s not hard to find great breakfast that doesn’t break the bank in this city, but I think I’m closer to getting Jessica to check out places reserved for “special occasions” a little more often. Granted, it’s a bit pricey if you’re expecting Elbow-Room Cafe caliber billfolds, but in my world, the pursuit of food and happiness becomes worth it… this is why I’m always broke!

…cheque please!

By Lauren Mote, Poivre Media

I was mid-bite; savouring a piece of sablefish the other night at Boneta. I started to wonder… As the Ocean Wise Dine Out program comes to a close in Vancouver, I wanted to write a riveting, and compelling story about this sea-life conservation program.

The Vancouver Aquarium, arguably one of the most beautiful homegrown aquatic facilities in North America behind the Mote Marine Laboratory in Florida, is at the forefront of this modern conservation project to preserve marine life from the fork… well to be perfectly honest, the Vancouver Aquarium put out a statistic that the world’s seafood consumers eat close to 130 million tons a year of these delicious and beautiful creatures. In another staggering study, 90% of all large predatory fish are already gone from the waters… and if we do not change now, a recent study predicted a world-wide fishery collapse by 2048. So the attempt is not to delete consumption, more so make it efficient for water life to continue to reproduce and spawn, without the fears of extinction or floor raking – the way Mr. Burns bounced back in the Simpsons cartoon with “L’il Lisa’s Seafood Slurry” factory; Burns raked the sea floor for everything, including whales, to create an “all natural” sludge – it was perfect for animal eats, and engine coolant.

Once you read through the documentation on Ocean Wise, you start to think of all the places you have possibly encountered seafood evil – ignorant to the world around them, some chefs or individuals continue to practice a non-sustainable approach to their seafood offerings. On a fairly recent Restaurant Makeover on the Food Network, Chef Brad Long was in the kitchen of Grappa Restaurant on College St. in Toronto. The restaurant chef was offering up some of the dishes from their existing menu, and actually made a dish with Chilean seabass (which is on the endangered species list, and has been for many years). This just has to be plain ignorance. Needless to say, Chef Long freaked out.

Vancouver is really, really good at practicing sustainable fishing; and it is stated on most menus, and as I mentioned above, there is a “Dine Out” program, creating awareness for restaurant go-ers to learn more about the program, and learn more about participating restaurants. One of the programs’ biggest supporters, chefs from Goldfish Pacific Kitchen in Yaletown, cooked about 400 Thai and sake marinated sablefish, with an edamame bean and tomato ragout at the Vancouver Aquarium. Executive Chef William Tse and Sous Chef Tom Lee were happy to participate in the event, “Toast to the Coast” and educate the aquatic attendees. The local food movement in Vancouver (started by John Bishop of Bishop’s many years ago) just became second nature for chefs, restaurants, and diners, and now the same is occurring within local aquaculture. So, getting into the gritty, I had to look up some of these terms to be able to better understand how past generations were actually fishing. As of now, the most danger we see for fish and sea-life, are the missing shelters, damaged or missing spawning areas, and of course the fishing type or practice.

What are the key points to Ocean Wise, and what makes something a sustainable source? “Abundant and resilient to fishing pressures; well managed with a comprehensive management plan based on current research; harvested in a method that ensures limited bycatch on non-target and endangered species; harvested in ways that limit damage to marine or aquatic habitats and negative interactions with other species.”

Where I once thought “longlining” didn’t sound so bad, it actually is, and is especially associated with “high bycatch” – the high percentage of seafood captured, killed, and discarded. Basically, the longlining method looks like this: a line anchored to a base, many feet below the surface, with many smaller lines and bait hooks attached to the entire length. This is a safer, more acceptable method when fishing for shellfish on the seabed, rather then dredging (raking) the same spot over and over again, which prohibits re-growth over time. In terms of unsustainable longlining, that refers to palegic longlining, which skims the surface, and directly affects larger species like mahi-mahi, tuna and swordfish. Ocean Wise is suggesting that the only sustainable fishing techniques to decrease bycatch include trolling, which is a method of attaching a baited line behind a boat, hook and line, and using pot and traps.

The positive things that aquaculture can have in a wild environment, also provides negative impact. The destruction of wetlands and habitats moves marine life closer to land, and in turn closer to pollution, disease and cause deadly outbreaks amongst animal and mammal. Gradually this affects the marine ecosystem and the food chain, where humans and sea birds, as well as larger predatory fish that rely on seafood for strength and vitality, find themselves growing weak. Sustainable farming in enclosed areas provides increased amounts of available “guilt-free” seafood, like arctic char, tilapia, sturgeon, channel catfish and rainbow trout. However sometimes, if the wrong farming choices are made, such as manmade ponds that have replaced wetlands and mangroves (trees that grow in muddy, swampy areas), this can promote growth of parasites and organisms (especially in wild areas where aquaculture is used as a primary source to provide protein to otherwise scarce areas).

Sea Choice
, another Canadian based company, works hand in hand with retail outlets to promote sustainable seafood choices, from canned tuna to farmed clams. Sea Choice provides business guidelines, as well as a chart with the best, some concern, and avoid for seafood choices. But Canada isn’t the only participant in this race to save the oceans’ livelihood. Sea Watch at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, California, is holding an event called “Cooking for Solutions” hosted by Food Network scientist & Educator of the Year, Alton Brown, and Chef of the Year and owner of The French Laundry, Thomas Keller. The event celebrates leadership and the promotion of cuisine that protects the health of the oceans and its inhabitants. Ocean Wise Australia is also in its funding and development stage which is encouraging news. Lastly, Cayman Sea Sense in the Cayman Islands aims to educate the general public about fisheries and aquaculture issues facing our oceans.

Where do we go from here? Well, this is all about awareness. As we have all learned in different situations, the only thing holding anyone back is plain old ignorance. Each person has the ability to adjust thinking, learning, and conceptualize the right things to do going forward. Support those who support Ocean Wise, and other conservation projects, and continue to educate those around you.

Imagine the world without fish.
A pretty scary thought.
Even “Jaws” is in danger.

Dan-na…dan-na.

Lauren Mote can be reached at poivremedia@gmail.com