Dinner At Home…Vancouver Style


When fellow blogger Jer had a huge Atlantic lobster party a few weeks ago, I took what was left of the four critters I got, and made stock from them. So I’d been wanting to make lobster risotto for weeks. And I finally got the audience for it a few nights ago, when Mark and Andrea, and our new food friends from Boston, Helen and Jason Rennie, came on over for dinner. Helen and Jason had been eating in restaurants since their arrival, and were craving the more workaday fare Vancouverites eat all the time. So, we did what we could. Marlin, lobster and dungeness crab risotto, Saltspring Island lamb, local berry and lemon custard parfait….we all eat this stuff every day, right?

marlin_tomato_colins.jpgEveryone brought a course. Helen and Jason, only 5,228 kilometers away from home, picked up some marlin at Granville Island market, marinated it with rosemary, then seared it up in the kitchen and served it with a fresh cherry tomato ragout and Dr. Loosen riesling. The slight sweetness of the riesling harmonized well with the sweetness of the cherry tomatoes, and its minerally intensity went through the marlin like an Hattori Hanzo sword.

crab_risotto_colins.jpgThe lobster risotto turned out to not entirely be about lobster. I wanted Helen and Jason to have something local as well, so the rice was done with the stock, but we topped it with some Vancouver Island dungeness crab, tomato concasse and chives that were tossed with beurre blanc. A relatively humble southern French viognier was the wine pairing here – rich in texture, but with fresh pit fruit and floral flavours offering a seriously heady contrast to the risotto.

lamb_popsicles_colins.jpgA few rapid emails during the day to decide what to make for dinner and Mark, while at work, mind you, came up with an amazing lamb dish born both of necessity and his creative genius. What do you do when you’ve got to make meat, and you don’t have white wine for the marinade? Use vodka, of course! Got nothing else on hand for flavour? That bowl of cherries sitting on the counter will do the trick. Just add some fresh rosemary from the shrub outside the entrance to your office, and you’re good. And so was the lamb. Mark trimmed it into “popsicles,” seared it off and served it up with watercress puree and black olive and roasted red pepper crushed potatoes. Yum. We wanted Helen and Jason to try some local wine, and the Quail’s Gate Limited Release Pinot Noir 2003 went well enough with the lamb, offering a slightly rough and tumble cedary note to the mix. But the star with the lamb was a 2002 Spanish Campo di Borja Crianza red from the producer Borsao that Mark picked up at Marquis Wine Cellars on the way over. Earthy and smoky notes loved the lamb, and a rich plummy flavour picked up on the cherries in the marinade and ran a fruit-filled marathon all the way to its spice-filled first-place finish. Amazing.

tart_crust_colins.jpgAnd then there was the tart. I was going to make a lemon tart with fresh local blueberries and Okanagan cherries for dessert, but my intentions were thwarted by the fact I’d never made pastry dough before. How hard could it be? Well, as I found out after the fact, I should have both floured the board much more thoroughly and more often, and also laid down some parchment paper to prevent the dough from sticking to the work surface. It fell to pieces when transferred to the tart pan, and my attempts to patch it all together again resulted, when baked, in what looked like a tasty golden-brown Gondwanaland of a tart shell, with seas of non-stick pan where pastry terra firma should have been. Oh well. It was Helen who suggested we just take it all apart and do parfaits instead, thus making what should have been an abject failure into a beautiful and many-layered blueberry/custard/crispy tart bits triumph. Andrea brought a Late Harvest Botrytis Affected Optima from Quail’s Gate that she bought on a recent trip to the Okanagan, and its peachy sweet flavours were great with the parfait too!

So that was the food. And if you were to say that it was what this night was all about, you’d be right. Right? Wrong!

I know, I’ve spent almost this entire entry talking about what we had for dinner, but here’s the kicker. What meals like this are really about is the people who make them happen. Helen had met Mark through the food blog, and when they came to Vancouver on vacation, they talked at length about which places they should hit for breakfast lunch and dinner. And then they hit them, which is how I met Helen and Jason at West last Monday night when I took care of them at dinner. They were clearly like-minded individuals, and we talked about where else to go for dinner, and then about cooking and then it was just obvious that we should all of us get together and just do it. At home. Our mutual love for the table brought us together, but it’s that “togetherness”, so to speak, that feeling so hard to define, that I will always remember, and it’s what cooking, for me, is really about. Dunno. “Happiness“? It sounds maudlin, but I’m a sentimental guy, so cut me some slack, okay? Mark and Andrea, we’ll see you soon. Next week, perhaps? Helen and Jason, it may take a while, but Kristil and I look forward to meeting up with you in Boston some day, and doing this once again for the second time. We’ll start with some bluefish…


5 Responses to “Dinner At Home…Vancouver Style”

  1. Posted on August 7th, 2006

    After hours of being on the plane and fighting the big dig traffic we finally made it home — happy to be back, but sad to leave the gorgeous Vancouver. Once I got through the never-ending e-mail, I thought I’ll go check what you guys have been up to. Your post made us relive that awesome dinner all over again. It was the most memorable meal of our vacation, not only because the food was amazing, but because we got to meet you guys and share it with you. I don’t know how to thank you enough for your hospitality. It’s the kind of experience you just can’t get in a restaurant because as Colin said, it’s not all just about the food. It’s about the people.

    Hope we get to do this again soon. This time on the east coast.


  2. Posted on August 9th, 2006

    Hi Colin,

    I just wrote about the dinner at your place on my blog, and the readers are asking for your risotto recipe. Everyone is drooling over it :) Would you mind posting it sometimes?


  3. Posted on August 19th, 2006

    Hi Helen. Sorry it’s taken so long to post the recipe. Been swamped, but at last it’s up. Enjoy!!!

  4. Posted on September 1st, 2006

    The risotto sounds good! I love lamb & your rendition with vodka & cherries is something I must try. Cheers!

  5. Posted on January 5th, 2007

    There are only 2 things that can smell fear: dogs, and pastry. Do not be afraid. Follow recipe using “light hand”. Make flattened round. Chill (you and pastry) at least an hour (pastry in fridge). Roll out (cold surfaces or marble rolling pins can help). Floured parchment paper/wax paper or a flexible plastic placemat/cutting board underneath means easy spinning for optimal roundness (why twist the pin?), plus easy to place pie plate atop of, then flip upside down, removing paper and causing less trauma to pastry. Ta da! Magic. Now can I get the secret to the lemon meringue pie?

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