Notes: Supper club hosting farm to table feasts
This post is going to be a little different than most - first because of the format of the food, secondly because I know the owners & thirdly because in this case my food was free (although in exchange for some social media training, not for blogging). So: full disclosure!
Oliver & Brooke are the couple behind Wild Mountain. Partners in life and partners in business, the two have deliberately chosen to work together to deliver farm to table food without opening a brick and mortar, permanent business. Instead, they partner up temporarily with existing spaces, following the trend of "pop up" dinners that are just starting to hit the island.
The first pop up dinner I attended was at Ulla in downtown Victoria. Oliver works at Ulla, and was able to open for the special pop up event on a Sunday night when the restaurant is usually closed. The menu is set ahead of time, although last minute changes were reflected as Chef Oliver perfected the meal in final stages. The food is expertly paired with your choice of juice or wine by Brooke, who is a trained sommelier. I'm still raving about this meal, and am salivating in anticipation of the next one!
What I loved about hearing Oliver & Brooke talk about what they do outside of the meal was just how completely purpose driven and humble they are about what they're doing. They really do just love what they do, right down to every last thoughtful squirt of gastrique, and they're building their business so they can maintain that passion, attention to detail and absolute devotion to serving what is local and sustainable.
April 28, 2013
asparagus soup with pickled asparagus, crab, pancetta, sweet cicely creme fraiche
Cobble Hill asparagus, Sooke Dungeness crab, our sweet cicely
I was hooked the second I took a bite of this soup. The balance, texture and flavours were so exquisite that I am not exaggerating when I say that the entire table broke out in unanimous guttural expressions of enjoyment.
halibut, sea asparagus, stinging nettle, radish, smoked tuna & nodding onion vinaigrette
Hecate Straight halibut, wild sea asaparagus & stining nettle, ALM radish, SSI smoked tuna, our nodding onion
The halibut arrived next. Sometimes I find halibut a bit boring, but this was flavourful, flaky and savoury right down to every last bite. Once again the table was unanimous in complimenting the dish. The sides served as delicious compliments to a bite of halibut, but also stood out with flavours of their own.
cured duck breast, walnut, turnip, ash camembert & apple
Theissen Farm Peking duck, Ragley Farm turnip, Rancho Vignola walnuts, Moonstruck ash ripened camembert
The visual comparison of this to a charcuterie plate doesn't really do the actual experience justice. I suppose it essentially could be served that way, but the richness of the duck and the surprising flavours of the apple and turnip helped it feel like a full dish of the multi-course meal. The walnuts were the surprising standout on the plate - I have to admit that I don't always pay attention to where my nuts come from, usually scrambling at the last minute to find some in the bulk bins at the grocery store to satisfy a recipe. This made me think twice about that; the freshness was almost shocking.
porl loin & tail with morels, spinach, chick peas and gribiche
Sea Bluff pork loin, Sloping Hill pork tail, wild morels, Erik Whitehead morels, ALM spinach & Firehall Farm eggs
My partner-in-food-and-life did look at me with a nervous face after reading the pork tail on the menu. One bite in and all that changed - the tail was succulent and rich, and reminded us a little bit of pork belly. After a quick google the table educated ourselves about gribiche, although when it arrived it was more like a fancy egg salad than what we were expecting from the technical description. The loin and sides ended up taking the back stage flavour wise, although they were by no means slouching, but by this point my tastebuds were hitting sensory overload, and I am left regretting I didn't take notes.
greens, flowers, verjus, honey
ALM greens & flowers, Venturi-Shulze verjus, my mom's crabapple & ollie's mom's honey
A palate cleansing salad wound down the main portion of the meal. The addition of edible flowers seemed to be a nice homage to the former workplace of both Brooke and Oliver, Sooke Harbour House.
rhubarb, almonds, angelica ice cream
ours and ALM's rhubarb, Wild Mountain almond milk, Sooke Harbour Farm angelica, Rancho Vignola almonds
We were intrigued by the flavour of the angelica in the ice cream! It was quite fresh tasting, reminding us of the liqueurs that it often helps to flavour, but in a way that we couldn't quite put our finger on. I have to say, by this point I had reached full sensory overload, and I'm left with just a memory of delicious bites of sweet ice cream and tart rhubarb.
brandy gingersnap with sweet cicely cream, dark chocolate & flowerAlthough we were feeling well satisfied, a final sweet arrived with our coffee or dessert wine. Sous chef Elspeth Finlay took the reigns on this one, and the result rounded off a delightful meal by hitting just the right note of sweetness and spice.
I know this post has been over the top in effusive descriptions of nearly cliched decadence, but it really was one of those perfect meals that defied description without digging deep into my thesaurus. It's hard to explain a truly great meal with words, and even harder to capture the overall experience.
April 28, 2013
Brooke runs the "front of house" team and her own attention to detail also shows in how smoothly the evening was executed. In a rare behind the scenes glimpse while helping her with social media she talked about their vision for the pop ups, and why they limit them to such a small number of people in order to make sure their capacity does not exceed the number of people seated. Their strategy certainly worked - service ran like clockwork; wine arrived just before meals, which were delivered carefully and consciously. It's hard to write too much more about the service when it was so flawless... especially this far after the fact, but it certainly speaks to the importance of good service allowing the highlight to be on the food and drink — not fumbles in service. The little details, like hand written, individually addressed envelopes with our bills, really helped to pull the package of community and welcome together.