By Niilo Edwards, CSW
In Vancouver, BC
Being relatively new to the Vancouver food scene, my wife and I decided to act on a long standing New Year’s resolution to try a different restaurant in a different sector of the city each month. To steal a line from famous Vancouver foodie Jürgen Gothe, how else is one going to enjoy “Vancouver’s flavours?”
Last night was Valentine’s Day. It is not a tradition in our house to venture out and celebrate with the masses, but last night we made an exception by taking a table at Kit’s Daily Kitchen. This was my second visit to the restaurant and a first for my wife.
I was introduced to Kits Daily by friends of ours about two years ago while on a business trip to Vancouver. What sets Chef Fowke’s establishment apart from the rest is that their menu is sourced daily (hence the name) from local vendors. I particularly enjoy this concept as I like to know where my food comes from, and I’m a big believer in supporting small businesses as they are the backbone to a robust and unique food service industry. But enough with the background information, I’ll move on to the wine-forward review of this culinary adventure.
We arrived for an on time 7PM reservation and were promptly seated. Our server, a tall lanky guy with a soft spoken Aussie accent, provided us with attentive service throughout the evening. His subtle sense of humour was also appreciated and unexpected.
We were presented with a fixed menu with wine parings. I promptly added to the evening’s libations by ordering two glasses of Blue Mountain Rose Brut to start. The wine arrived promptly, but the flutes were strangely ½ full. Our waiter explained that the sommelier did this to keep the pours even throughout the evening. Whatever… I was not about to make a fuss over two missing ounces of fizz.
Blue Mountain Vineyards Sparkling Rose Brut NV http://www.bluemountainwinery.com
The wine danced a brilliant salmon colour in the glass with notes of cranberry, rhubarb and brioche. The palate was wrapped in notes of red currants, cranberry, lime held together by bursting acid that led to a crisp mineral finish. Like the rest of Blue Mountain’s bubbly line up, this was yet another well executed wine.
Volcanic Hills Gewurztraminer 2012 http://www.volcanichillswinery.com
I’m not generally a fan of Gewurztraminer. I find most variations of this grape are overdone. Too much lychee, too much residual sugar and not enough acid, too floral, and too cloying to enjoy more than one glass. Volcanic Hills has none of the above. The wine is pleasantly subtle on the typical Gewurz characteristics with lemon-lime and honey showing through on the secondary notes. On the palate the wine was quite clean and crisp with a light to medium body. I can’t find the residual sugar stats on the winery’s web page, but I’d say this wine was nearly dry, and I found the sweetness to be more perceived than actual.
The wine cut through the richness of the roasted cauliflower soup that accompanied it. The soup was presented with wild white pacific prawns and trout roe in the centre, topped with a truffle oil sprits and green shoots. The soup was a very nice way to start the gastronomic portion of the evening.
Quail’s Gate Chenin Blanc 2011 http://www.quailsgate.com
This wine from one of the premium producers of the Okanagan Valley was accompanied by a butter poached lobster tail atop risotto with cucumber salad. The wine preformed as a very pleasing, dry Chenin with typical notes of citrus and light green herbs. The acidity of the wine, much like in the first course, cut through the richness of the buttered crustacean and creamy risotto. Interestingly, the green flavours of the herbed cucumber salad, played a very strong supporting role in making the herbed nuances in the wine (a little coriander and anise) shine. A well-executed dish by both chef and sommelier
The night moved on to the two main courses (yes two) which were designed to be shared. Before I continue, I must mention that the courses and wine pairings were timed by the service just perfectly as to not leave you with extended awkward moments with no food and drink present at the table.
Stag’s Hollow ‘Simply Noir’ 2012 http://www.stagshollowwinery.com
Volcanic Hills ‘Eruption’ 2009
Simply Noir pushes the boundaries of conventional winemaking with a composition of mainly Gamay, backed up by Merlot and Pinot Noir. The resulting wine presents a nose that is big on almost ripe red fruits with subtle violet notes. The palate is juicy with red cherries, cranberries, currants, vanilla, cinnamon and other baking spices. This wine was paired with a rare-seared breast of duck accompanied with cranberry compote. My wife enjoyed this dish albeit with one exception. The cranberry compote was much sweeter than the wine, and therefore made for an offensively sour mouthful when paired together. Stand-alone without the compote, the duck breast and wine went hand and glove together.
I enjoyed the Bordeaux blend offered by Eruption with the beef cheek nestled beside mashed potato that was done right – still a little chunky and not whipped beyond recognition as so many restaurant potatoes can be. The wine was your standard red blend representing good winemaking techniques of blending richness with backbone to produce a wine that will complement any red meats; braised bbq’d or roasted.
Dessert was also two different dishes to share between the two of us.
Stag’s Hollow Port Hart 2011
Volcanic Hills Chardonnay Ice Wine 2011
The Port Hart was accompanied by a classic French chocolate tart which my wife was presented with. The filling was well executed but the pastry was clearly undercooked. The ‘Port’ played a strong supporting role, and was very ruby and light in style. But enough on the tort; I must move on to the best dish of the night.
The Californian Meyer Lemon tart was simply divine. A creamy and well balanced Meyer lemon filling sat atop a classic graham crust. I have had few desserts that balanced the flavour nuances of sweet and sour with the textures of creamy and rich so well. But what really sent this dessert to the moon was the perfect pairing of the Chardonnay Ice Wine. This wine exemplified every positive characteristic that one looks for in a dessert wine. It had more than enough residual sugar to pair with the tart, it’s acidity cut through the richness of the dessert like a knife, and the wine’s flavour profile of honeycomb drenched citrus fruits took the whole experience to the next level. My hat’s off to both the chef and sommelier on this one.
Our evening could have ended perfectly here had we been given the chance to place an order for the digestifs that we were contemplating during our conversations over dessert. No sooner had our dessert plates been cleared by the service than our bill lands with a thud on the table. Such an act is restaurateur code for “you’re done, now leave so I can fill your spot with my next guests” (Who, at 9:10PM, were standing 16 deep at the back of the restaurant waiting on tables). (I’ll also note that these folks were clutching what appeared to be full flutes of Blue Mountain Brut Rose, much like I had implied, but did not receive in my first order of the evening).
The shabby act of rushing us out the door I do not blame so much on our kind hearted Aussie waiter than I do on his floor manager; thus abruptly ending our evening of great food, wine, and soulful conversation. The feeling of being a completely satisfied customer left with our premature exit.
I can’t help but think that it is likely more financially sensible for a restaurant to create a non-rushed atmosphere that fosters repeat customers, rather than squeezing another seating at the expense of another’s enjoyment.
Will I be back? Possibly, but it will take time for this bitter mouth-feel to fade.
Check it out for yourself at 1809 W1st Avenue or online at http://www.kitsdaily.com