Last week, to the delight of Vancouver’s thrill-seeking diners, Araxi Restaurant (along with their four fellow Top Table restaurants) hosted their first-ever longtable dinner at Vanier Park, overlooking the sparkling Pacific Ocean.
The $175 tickets to this particular al fresco dinner sold out weeks in advance.
A trio of edible delights greeted giddy guests, confirming the seat they’d snatched up was well worth the effort: a delicious Mission Hill Riesling chosen by Sommelier Sam Rahn, a chilled berry cocktail shaken by Blue Water’s skilled bar manager Evelyn Chick and a mouthwatering poached calamari squid ink crisp canape by West’s Executive Chef Quang Dang. The remaining four-courses, lapped up under the hot sun, followed in similar fashion and flavour.
Two Araxi Longtable Dinners remain in this summer’s series.
The Whistler event is sold out, but a few tickets remain for their Pemberton feast (Saturday, August 16th) at North Arm Farm. To purchase, email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone 604-932-4540.
After the lavish meal, which truly was memorable, I spoke to the Top Table chef for their take on eating local.
Q: Why do you personally feel it’s so important to eat local food?
Chef James Walt of Araxi: It just makes absolute sense. As a culture in North America, we haven’t really done this for some time, so now we’re getting back to Europe where everyone cooks and eats locally. It drives everything. You cook what’s readily available and it makes perfect sense.
Pastry Chef Thierry Busset of Thierry: I like to work with all the products here in BC and teach the young Canadians [that work with me] that you don’t have to go far to get the best to make something nice. You can work with what’s around you.
Chef Frank Pabst of Blue Water Cafe: To support the local economy and the local farmers. Why would we want to buy anything that comes down from the South? It’s just so fun to deal with the farmers here and having those guys coming in with their produce. They’re proud of what they’re doing. They pick their produce at the peak of the moment and we get to enjoy it right then and there instead of having to wait four days to eat an underripe peach that was picked when it was rock hard.
Chef Quang Dang of West: The fact that our terroir is so rich and pretty much anything we grow out here is amazing. It’s a great building block of cuisine to start with the right ingredients.
Chef Andrew Richardson of CinCin: Being a big restaurant in the city means we have a lot of buying power so we should support the local economy and the local farmers who are trying to make a living. At this time of year especially, we have fantastic food.
Q: What is your favourite local ingredient to cook with at home?
Chef Frank Pabst of Blue Water Cafe: Northern Divine Caviar. My girls and I had a tin last night. We like it on an English muffin, slightly warm, toasted, with butter and then you spread your caviar on top.
Pastry Chef Thierry Busset of Thierry: Butter (laughs). I do try to find local butter. There’s a farm called Farm House Natural Cheese but they don’t produce enough for us to use. I have it at home though and I use it on everything. It doesn’t look like it, but…
Chef James Walt of Araxi: I have two young kids. We eat tons and tons of produce and fish. The produce we grow in our own backyard and the fish we get through restaurant from companies like Sawmill Bay and Pacific Providers.
Chef Quang Dang of West: Heirloom tomatoes or figs at this time of year. I have a fig tree on my patio, so I get a couple hundred of them every summer. I make jams or just grill them on the BBQ to eat with cheese. The ingredients are so clean and pure you don’t want to do much with them.
Chef Andrew Richardson of CinCin: Sungold tomatoes. At the restaurant we throw them in the forno which brings out the sweetness. At home, I love my bread and I get it from Terra Breads…always.