Confession, I’m a huge Food Network fan. When I heard there were several well-known chefs scheduled to be in attendance at this years’ Eat! Harvest, I knew it would be an opportunity to taste some epic food.
Some of the Food Network Players
The evening was held at the Pinnacle Hotel and included 28 dishes (plus 3 desserts) from acclaimed chefs from across North America. Mark Singson was this past season’s runner up on Top Chef Canada. He made Albacore tuna with ginger jam, charred cucumber and nori. Dustin Gallagher, also of Top Chef Canada fame, made brioche with paté and wild muchrooms with hazelnut gremolata. And Neal Fraser, who came all the way from LA, made chicken fried sweetbreads with caviar ranch dressing. Neal was a Top Chef Master contestant a few years ago and appeared on Iron Chef America, he actually WON his battle against chef Cat Cora. So yes, this guy is a BIG DEAL.
The big names drew me in and their food left me seeing stars. But there were a handful of other chefs who managed to transform the room into a fireworks display of gastronomic finesse.
Eat! Harvest Highlights
Mandel Hitzer from deer + almond in Winnipeg had me floored right off the bat. It was the first table we visited and remained a highlight through the evening. His smoked salmon on flax cracker was deceivingly simple. Gorgeous presentation and astounding vibrancy from the smoked salmon.
Antonio Park had us in stitches trying to figure out how to eat his matsutake dashi, uni nori chipps and yuzu cream. Turns out, you shoot it like a shot and hope it all comes out of the glass. I failed the first time by not tilting my head far back enough, so he made me do another one. I later learned he’s Montreal’s most well-known restauranteur and has a partnership with Drake. Yes, THE Drake. No biggie.
Another favourite was the roasted sunchokes filled with porcini gill mousse from Brian Luptak of The Acorn. The sunchoke itself was divine; I could have eaten those by the handful. It was the layers of porcini flavour that took this bite to the next level.
Mitch Bates from Grey Gardens in Toronto stole the show for me with his roasted beet stacker. It included a sunflower seed purée, candied seeds, amaranth, rice and sunflower shoots. Every single component had insanely saturated flavour, each piquing at different times in the mouth.
Let’s not forget the wine!
All 8 wineries at Eat! Harvest were from Oregon and Washington, some of which I had actually tasted recently during my visit to Walla Walla. Basel Cellars Sauvignon Blanc Semillon was a clean and refreshing sip to start us off. We then moved onto a lighter style Chardonnay from Stoller Family Estate. It was the perfect transition wine, a little more body to help with the copious amounts of flavours we were tasting. It was elegant, without heavy oak, thoroughly enjoyable.
Later, we tried 2 Pinot Noir’s, also from Stoller. Side by side comparisons are always interesting, same grape, same region, same vintage. The reserve (right) had 12 months of aging in 35% new oak. It has darker fruit flavours of blackberry and dark cherry, with some baking spice on the finish. Their regular Pinot Noir only uses 20% new oak, aged for 9 months, and has some lighter red berry flavours such as cranberry and a touch of floral.
There’s no doubt I’ll put this event in my calendar again for next year. I also hope to incorporate a couple dinners in the Eat! Dinner Series. The dinner series is a week of culinary collaborations between award-winning local chefs and special guest chefs from across Canada and the United State, hosted in the city’s most highly regarded restaurants.
Keep Eat! Vancouver in mind for your plans in Fall 2019. Until then, I’m going to start Googling how to make flax crackers and try to incorporate roast beets into my winter veg rotation.