April 18, 2009

Dîner Amical – Chef’s Table, The Kensington Inn

April 18, 2009

Mel Miners, Vice-Chargé de Presse

 Menu (pdf)

The evening started with the reception held on the outdoor patio – a welcome touch for a group of Calgarians who have suffered from an overlong dose of winter.  As we entered the Restaurant, we were offered a glass of Prosecco (Vino Spumunte Extra Dry from Fantinel).  As we gathered on the patio in enthusiastic conversation, servers passed around the hors d’oeuvres.  It was such a lovely evening that the patio heaters became too warm and so were turned off.  This is the first time that the Chef’s Table has hosted a Chaine function, so we had an interesting mixture of loyal members and a few new faces.  The establishment is slightly smaller than our usual venues and so, according to our Vice-Conseiller Gastronomique, we reached our attendance limit rather quickly after the invitation was sent out.

The tables were set very simply – a single place setting of table-ware, a water glass and one wine glass.  In the centre of the table a square bowl held two orchids and was framed by two candles.  The dining tables were arranged in two rooms.  One was normally the lounge area, while the other was the usual dining room.  Those in the latter room were treated to a view of the chef and crew in the open kitchen.  Chef Duncan Ly presided over what was described by one attendee as a “well-orchestrated ballet” in the kitchen.

The meal started with an Amuse Bouche of Quebec fois gras Torchon topped with a verjus gelée served on a brioche. The fois gras is cured with sugar, salt, and brandy for 24 hours. It is then cooked sous-vide and rolled and let hung to dry. The gelée is made from verjus (unripened grape juice) and sugar.  Accompanying the Amuse Bouche was a sauternes-style sipper.  The actual ingredients and proportions are a well-kept secret of the Wine Director, Jennifer Walden.

Our first course was the Roasted Sunchoke Veloute. At the base of the bowl was a little garlic puree, shimijii mushrooms, and a soft poached quail egg. The Veloute was then poured over the bowl mixing up the puree.  This was accompanied by a 2006 Chardonnay from the See Ya Later Ranch in the Okanagan.

Our fish course was a classic favourite at the restaurant (to quote Ich – “if we can have classics after such a short time!”).   It was pan roasted BC sablefish on a bed of braised cabbage infused with speck (a type of smoked and salt-cured ham). The sauce on this dish was a grainy mustard beurre blanc. The fish was done at perfection – light, flakey and mild.  The cabbage, speck and mustard added just a bit of a nip to delight the tastebuds.  An Alsatian Pinot Gris from Weinbach Ste Catherine matched this dish beautifully.

The Intermezzo consisted of fresh berries in an orange sauce, served on a brilliant white triangular plate to show off the berry colours.

Then the piece de resistance – Sous Vide Cervena Venison.  It was served with a 2005 Alvaro Palacios Les Terrasses from Priorat in Tarragona, southern Spain.  This is a wine with superb aging potential, incredible concentration, and real personality.  The wine industry is raving about this beauty.

The cheese selection followed.  On the left was a whipped gorgonzola moulded into the shape of a sea shell and surrounded with a few greens.  On the right was a delicate pool of pear butter.  Finally, in the centre was the star – a rectangle of Manchego.  To assist the consumption of these treats was a glass of 2003 Tokaji Late Harvest Classic Cuvée from Tokaj Classic winery in Hungary.

The finale was a Vairhona Chocolate and Chili Parfait.  This was one of the most interesting desserts that we have been served in many events.  Although the idea of presenting chili with chocolate may seem strange, it was done to perfection.  There was just that hint of the chili without the heat that made the dessert a wonder to enjoy.  Of course, having a drop of Dashe Cellar’s 2006 Late Harvest Zinfandel from the Dry Creek Valley area certainly did not hurt.

The meal ended with hot towels being passed around for the guests to wipe the bits from their fingers and freshen up for the accolade which was presented by our Bailli.  Receiving the Chaine plates were Chef Duncan Ly and Matre d’Hotel Ich Diocee.  On a closing note, it should be mentioned that the food and beverage profession is an important part of our daily lives and no person is too young to join – and so it is with great pleasure that I would like to welcome Mark Wilson’s son Adam who worked as one of the members of the kitchen brigade.

The petit fours ended the evening and I leave you with a picture of hard-working Duncan with Wanda who gets to enjoy his cooking but not his company at our functions.

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