Today I was invited as the plus one of @pickydiner, tagging along with his invitation to a spring long table dinner at “Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co”. The visit left me wondering why I have never visited any of their locations until today.
This dinner was created to showcase wild foraged foods and their natural health benefits. Vegetation found in BC’s wild that you can collect yourself and prepare yourself. A great bit of knowledge to have in survival situations. But why worry about what you can eat and how to prepare it, when you can simply head down to “Rocky Mountain” and take advantage of Chef Oliver Zaulauf’s expertise. Continue reading to see how he makes these foraged “weeds” more that just palette-able.
Course by course we were given a course on the following foraged foods by Carla Budd, Holistic Registered Nutritionist. Her explanation of the health benefits of the following wild foraged foods, was followed by a feast, showing how you can add them to everyday meals. This was a tasting “Rocky Mountain” pizzas, pastas, salads and cocktails featuring wild greens. Wild greens like catails, wood sorrel, fiddleheads, mustard greens, knotweed, green garlic, wild fennel, wild onion, miners lettuce, onion flowers, and spruce tips.
Carla and her husband own “West Coast Wild Foods”. A local home brewed company “providing quality fresh wild mushrooms, dried wild mushrooms, fresh wild greens, handcrafted BC maple syrup, morels, truffles and other foraged wild foods”. Dinner would feature their wild mushrooms and we would each walk away with a zip lock bag of their dried mushrooms to take home and prepare for ourselves.
Before we get any further: the disclaimer. When it comes to a media tasting, plating and portion size may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and hello the setting, as how I interpret it. But as always, these are my opinions and you need not take them as fact. Unless you have my exact background, have lived my exact experiences, and we possess the same tongue; no one can truly taste and appreciate as you do.
I liked the aesthetic of the restaurant. Like the offerings below, it all felt very natural and clean. Wooden tables, stone walls; and living plants providing the ideal backdrop for our long table, given our the theme of our dinner. A feature of luscious moss settled with boxes of dangling and feathered plants. Although there are many ways to dine with them, from their spacious patio up front, equipped with woolen blankets should the temperature turn cold to their family table, adjacent to their carpeted kid’s play area.
Our time was christened with some specialty cocktails. The pink sangria was refreshing and light, like a lemonade, this was easy to drink. This is a great one to have on their patio, out in the sun.
The second cocktail featured spruce tips simmered and strained into a syrup, and then mixed with gin and earl grey. This cocktail was a lot more herbaceous, almost medicinal by comparison. A warming glass, ideal for sipping on with a good book.
Our first course featured a mix of the above mentioned wild mushrooms found within BC, courtesy of “West Coast Wild Foods”. The “Wild mushroom bruschetta” was hearty and filling. Stacked with plenty of ‘shrooms to chew through. Although I could have used something pickled to offset the otherwise one tone flavour. Carla explained how mushrooms are not a plant or an animal, yet they fall into a zone in between. Their presence in cooking helps to fulfill a void in the healthy foods catagory. They provide a great deal of vitamin D and serve as a stand out substitute for those who want more protein in their diet, but don’t want to get it from eating either meat or dairy.
The next course was an un-named salad, set to be released to their summer menu, mid June. Instead of the traditional loose leaves, this one featured mustard greens. According to Carla, mustard greens provide a great source of vitamin K, helpful in building bones. One cup provides 994% of your ideal daily intake, and it gives you more leafy greens goodness than kale. On top of the greens the salad included diced boiled eggs, cheddar cheese shards, cherry tomatoes cut in halves, carrot slices, cucumber chunks, and an edible garnish of wild flowers. The salad had a great mix of textures, all evenly coated in a tangy, orangey vinaigrette. It cools you down as you ate it in, and you felt good about eating it too. My only critique would be more tomatoes or some oranges or apple chunks to brighten up the plate.
By far, the pasta was my favourite dish of the night. Admittedly I don’t like eating greens, but with this dish I didn’t feel like I was getting my necessary, healthy dose. The pesto sauce was made from a grounded mix of knotweed, nettle, fennel fronds, and cattails. It evenly coated each perfectly cooked spiral of noodle and all the roasted vegatable seasoned in salt and pepper. The dish was saucy with a tangy mustardy quality. I couldn’t make out each individual green, but did note the flavours of lemon, mustard, dill, and licorice; and bit into a stem that had the texture of asparagus.
We learned that knotweed is one of the most evasive plants, similar to rhubarb. It grows, shooting up from 1 inch to 10. Consuming it helps to lower cholesterol, and it aids in fighting inflammation. Eating wild fennel gives you plenty of calcium. In appearance, it resembles the very bones and joints of the body that it helps to strengthen. I didn’t know until today that you can safely eat the entire cattail. There is an incredible about starch per acre of cattail. Its pollen is popularly used in pancake batter, offering up anti septic properties. Wood sorrels are known for their lemony flavour. Native tribes used it to make lemonade. Drinking this sour mix helped to tone the stomach, thus strengthening it. It also helps reduce ulcers, while building up your appetite.
The pesto sauce base in this pizza was similar to the pasta above. The herby spread with whole fiddleheads was furthered by the sharp and creamy goat cheese smeared atop. Overall, each slice was salty and herbaceous, with a hint of sweetness from the yellow peppers. A vegetarian offering made heartier with the use of wild mushrooms.
This was a retelling of one of their most popular pizza flavours. The “Reinvented Fig and Brie” featured locally sourced, fresh, cured ham. Its saltiness paired well with the sweetness of the figs, the pepperiness of the wild greens, and the richness of melty brie. We were the firsts to try this new creation, over hearing that their might be a quail egg added on, when it hits the menu mid summer. The dough for both pizzas was crispy and firm, its stiffness reminded me of a stone wheat thin.
Fiddleheads are a type of fern, they are only available in nature for a limited time out of the year. You have an 8 week window to harvest and eat them. Eating them gives you double the antioxidants of blueberries. Green garlic is good as an anti fungal and bacteria agent. And miners lettuce helps to spring clean the body by detoxifying it with vitamins A and B.
Since we have been eating so healthy up to this point, we all thought we deserved to indulge in one of “Rocky Mountain’s” popular chocolate brownies with in-house made vanilla ice cream. The above is only a half serving. This was a chocolate lover’s dream with the sweetness of the chocolate offset by a bit of bitterness. The vanilla bean ice cream was just as rich as the brownie itself. It was a nice cream that was more milky than sugary, as to not overwhelm the diner. Many come in just for this dessert.
We started with mushrooms, so it came full circle when we ended our feast with them. Here we rounded off our meal with some soothing mushroom tea. Offered up as a caffeine alternative using changa mushrooms that grow on birch trees. Apparently when you harvest them, they stiffens up, feeling as heavy as a rock. Many believe that the changa is the king of all mushrooms. Here it is brewed together with dandelion, chicory root, orange peel, and cinnamon. It smelled like apple cider with the use of cinnamon, but drank like black coffee in it herbal and dominating taste.
For those interested in tasting and learning more about wild foraged foods, I highly suggest stopping by any of the “Rocky Mountain” locations soon. This series of seasonal menu items does have a limited run.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
This was a fun way to learn about a new restaurant. A lecture with information that you can apply, with demos that you can sample. So impressed by their brand concept and restaurant culture that I made plans to revisit them again. Next time, bringing a large group of friends to attend one of their make your own pizza workshops. Don’t deny your cravings.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN FLATBREAD
1876 W 1st Avenue, Vancouver BC, V6J 1G5