Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Heirloom Tomato Tasting at Rain City Grill

I first encountered the term "Heirloom Tomatoes" in a recipe I made recently, blending the oddly coloured tomatoes (I found at Vancouver's only Whole Foods, conveniently located accross from my parents' place in West Van) with Burrata cheese and some basil from my garden. When I saw Rain City Grill advertising its 100 Mile Menu Heirloom Tomato Tasting, I knew where Terry and I would be dining this past Sunday night. I had eaten there once before and remember it more for the price than the food. This meal would be different.
The ever-informative server informed us that everything on the menu was from within 100 miles of the restaurant, except the salt and the wheat in the dilled flatbread. Terry explained that he grew organic wheat but his farm was 700 miles away, in case they're looking for another source. Terry had the price fixe early meal while I indulged in tomato heaven, beginning with tomato chips and herbed "Little Qualicum Cheeseworks" fromage frais, paired with a glass of Chalet Estates Bacchus. I was expecting something like potato chips. Instead, the chips were dried tomato slices. Each tasted different, and all were magnificently magnified with the herbed cheese, as was the dilled flat bread. A forest of herbs to feast on.

Next up for me was heirloom "carpaccio" with pepper cress and pickled Agassiz garlic but NOT the begonia vinaigrette on menu. Instead, rose honey, its sweetness nicely moderated by a glass of Gary Oaks Pinot Gris. The server described the luscious tomatoes as Yellow Taxis (big and small), Cascades (red) and Sun Golds (which look like cherry tomatoes). The crisp garlic chips also complemented the tomatoes perfectly. I told the server the first Cascade tasted like bread. Ok, very good bread but still bread. She said no one had ever made that comparison to her before. The Pinot Gris had a strong aftertaste of grapefruit. It was so good I had another glass with the tomatoes. I had one of the sun golds on top of a section of the large taxi and was another amazing combination.

Terry's Yellow Beet Soup with arugula, smoked paprika and creme fraiche had an earthiness, in the spoonfull I tried, that was intriguing. Unlike anything Terry had tasted before. Not at all like borscht, one of my favourite kinds of soup. I had a yellow beet soup from Les Amis de Fromage recently that wasn't nearly as good as this.

Terry's seared Pacific wild salmon, wheatberry, eggplant and kale saute.
Whole roasted Cascade tomato, California bay leaf confit, Vancouver Island scallops, Walla Walla onion, charred eggplant, tomato epazote glaze, with a glass of Alderlea Pinot Gris. The scallop works when eaten with the tomato, a bit difficult to cut, and then swirled around in the glaze.
The onion was the best onion I've ever tasted, when mixed with the other things. By itself, not so much. The scallop seems to liquefy in my mouth when properly mixed with tomato and onion.

Grilled Polderside chicken, tomato and bread salad, crispy "Oyama" pancetta, sweet corn puree and tomato jus, along with a glass of Gary Oaks Pinot Noir. The red wine worked superbly with the grilled chicken, I think because of the chicken's slightly burnt flavour. The pancetta's crispness contributed to that winning mix. There was a tiny piece of tomato, not what you'd expect in a tomato tasting event. Whoever Polderside is, their chicken is better than Nu's (or is it the same chicken, just cooked so very differently from the Ballantine I had a few days before?). As I ate a big piece of chicken with a small piece of tomato, it felt like I was rising into the air, like a balloon, but instead of helium, I'm filled with the goodness of the meal. The bread "salad," on the other hand, is just a piece of garlic bread with some green stuff on it and was wasted with the chicken. The tomato also didn't taste like the heirloom wonders I'd been feasting on. It tasted so ordinary.

Milan's sungold and apricot granita, candied tomatoes and mascarpone with a glass of Venturi-Scholze Brandenburg No. 3 desert wine. Tasted too much like ice cream, which I generally loathe. Are those supposed to be apricots? Didn't taste like them to me. The candied tomato had no tomatoness whatsoever. The grapes were good, but so what? That's what the wine is for. Maybe the worst desert I've had in a "good' restaurant in Vancouver. It would have been unedible without the wine.

Terry was much luckier with his bittersweet chocolate and cherry cake.


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