Go West, Young Man

Some say Vancouver is overtaking Toronto as the ultimate Canadian foodie town. I don’t travel much, so I can’t vouch for that personally, but love of my city forces me to say, “Is NOT!!” However, Vancouver is definitely attracting some spectacular talent, and I was lucky enough to attend a luncheon recently featuring the dishes of West: The Cookbook. West is a Vancouver restaurant owed by TopTable Group, who recently put out a cookbook of recipes from their executive chef Warren Geraghty.

While Geraghty is a UK boy, with training in some of Europe’s Michelin-starred restaurants, West features all the culinary delights of what is local in British Columbia. This, of course, means plenty of fish and shellfish, BC-raised beef, and local fruits and vegetables as well as local foraged delicacies such as chanterelle mushrooms.

Geraghty and his team, as well as a contingent from Top Table and Tourism Vancouver, flew across the country last week, ingredients in tow, to offer some of Toronto’s food writers a west coast treat. Five courses plus canapes were also paired with BC wines.

BC Mushroom Arancini
Vancouver Island Octopus with Pemberton Beets
Ballotine of Foie Gras and Salt Spring Island Goats Cheese
Galantine of Theissen Farm Quail and Jasmine Poached Raisins
paired with Sumac Ridge “Stellar Jay” 04, Okanagan Valley

I didn’t get a chance to photograph the canapes, but they were all wonderful. I particularly like the octopus.

Tian of Dungeness Crab and Saffron Couscous with Smoked Tomato Gazpacho.

This was a really fun starter – the smoked tomato gazpacho worked really nicely with the crab. Gorgeous presentation.
Paired with Blackwood Lane Reisling 07, Okanagan Valley

Seared Qualicum Bay Scallops with Butternut Squash

There is nothing more amazing than a perfectly cooked scallop – with just enough caramelization in the outside, these were sweet and tender, and went wonderfully with the buttery flavour of the squash.
Paired with Sandhill Small Lots Osprey Ridge Vineyard” Viogner 07, Okanagan Valley

Supreme of Sockeye Salmon with Sesame Scented White Cabbage, Smoked Salmon Gnocchi and Raisin Puree

This was probably my favourite dish of the meal. The salmon was a brilliant orange: seared on the outside but just barely cooked in the centre, and if I attempt nothing else in the West cookbook, it will be these incredible salmon gnocchi. I would happily eat a whole platter of these.
Paired with Quail’s Gate “Family Reserve” Pinot Noir 06, Okanagan Valley

Loin of Dry-Aged Pemberton Meadows Beef, Oxtail and Foie Gras Cromesquis Confit Portobello and Roasted Red Onion

This was a beautiful melt-in-your-mouth cut of beef, but the real interest on the plate here was the foie gras and oxtail “cromesquis”. The foie melted from the cooking heat and surrounded the oxtail meat with this intense buttery texture.
Paired with Mission Hill “Oculus” 05, Okanagan Valley

Saffron Spiced Pumpkin Panna Cotta with Ginger Cake and Orange Saffron Syrup

What a beautiful way to end a meal, with the seasonal flavours of pumpkin, and ginger. This was actually quite light but also a comforting dish.
Paired with Gehringer Bros. Reisling Ice Wine 07, Okanagan Valley

I don’t know when I’m going to get to Vancouver next, and I’ll defend my hometown and our local offerings until there’s no life left in me, but it’s good to know they can do it up in style on the casual coast. West, under Geraghty’s guidance takes quality BC ingredients and turns them into works of art.

Photo of Chef Warren Geraghty from the West Restaurant website.