This weekend we were at our very first “Cornucopia”, Whistler’s fall food and drink festival, which includes a variety of events to partake in. In order to get the most out of our experience we signed up for a little of everything, like a live cooking class where you get to eat the fruits of your chef/instructor’s labour. This is that recap.
Attendees were gathered at the grand foyer of the Whistler’s Conference Centre. You choose yours seat between several tables clustered around the “Sub Zero & Wolf Culinary Stage”. It was a formal sit down event, which included the visibility of two televised screens. They were helpful in allowing you to follow along with this instructional tasting.
Our instructor was Daniel Crane, Executive Chef at “Tyax Lodge”, and this would be his first foray in teaching on a public stage, in front of a live audience. In order to see him in action, check out my latest drinking vlog, where I recapped this, and a few of the other events I participated in.
Chef Daniel used the following 3 courses to highlight his background. He prides himself on working with farmers, sourcing his ingredients from them as much as possible. And this was well reflected in the meal to come, 3 courses inspired by flavours from the land and sea.
As a workshop, it was great to be able to take in his tips and trips. And/or sit back and simply watch things unfold like a cooking show; with the added pleasure of eating it after. I personally really enjoy seeing how my food is put together, to be able to appreciate the workmanship of each dish so much more.
And as he prepared our multi-course meal, we would enjoy wine from “Fort Berens Estate Winery” in Lillooet, BC. Their handcrafted wines reflect the unique qualities of Lillooet’s terroir; and has won them several regional, national, and international awards. The winery is located two hours north, over the coast mountains. This is a small valley, the same size of Burgundy, France. There, it is very dry and arid, with very little snow and rain. The land’s pour soil is great for grapes, the energy to grow them all goes to the fruit and not its leaves.
Our first “Fort Berens” wine was their 2018 Chardonnay, a wine that won in the category of top white at “Cornucopia 2019”
Our second glass was their 2016 Pinot noir made from five different types of grapes, clones of varietals originating from France to California. The result, an deep red with earthy layers and the fruity notes of raspberry.
The last glass was the “Fort Berens’ Late Harvest Muscat”. A sweet wine, that paralleled our dessert to come. Made with a late harvest grape it has exotic notes of ginger, lemon grass, and apricot. A nice cool wine with light acidic tones.
As for the food that went with each, the following will be a notable recap of the demonstration, followed by my honest review of the food. I will not be offering step by step instructions on how to replicate each dish, instead, you will have to attend next year’s “Cornucopia” yourself.
Our first course was an “Albacore Tuna Tataki”. Seared rare tuna served with a cherry tomato ratatouille, warm olives and caper berries. Seasoned with chilli, olive oil, a parmesan crisp, and saffron aioli.
We learned that you start by making sure the pan is nice and hot, so that the albacore tuna cooks up with a lovely crust. You also want to lay the fish away from you, to avoid the oil from splashing on to you. You then season your tuna with olive oil paprika, salt and pepper. Your don’t want to sear it for too long, though do want to get all four sides, and allow the fish to sit.
Next you prepare the ratatouille which involves adding together your vegetables and finishing it with parsley and salt.
For your aioli you blend your mayonnaise in a blender at a lower setting. You then slowly add in oil and turn up the speed: “really high, really quick, and then kill it”. If you blend it too slowly it comes out too thin. You know you have done it right when your finished product is a nice yellow colour.
We then got an inside look at the intricacies of plating. Slicing the tuna thin, dotting your plate with mayonnaise, lining your ratatouille on the side, and finishing the plate off with some deep fried rice paper for added crispiness.
The result, a tasty and light start. Fresh and tangy with tomato, and familiar with the tuna and creamy mayo combination. The white wine’s citrus notes really complimented the seafood here.
The second course was “Pan Seared Brome Lake Duck”, served with a parmesan and sage gnocchi, cherry jus, and quark cheese mousse.
Chef Daniel first began with the gnocchi. He and his team had already pre-boiled the potatoes needed for 35 minutes, just so that they are soft enough to pierce with knife. Once they are peeled, they are pressed down to small bits using a potato ricer, (A new and soothing sight for me). The collection of potato granules are the mixed together with one egg, and one and a half cups of flour, then repeatedly folded in to build gluten. The dough is then rolled into a line a cut down to small pieces. It is then ready to be boiled in water for 1-2 minutes. When they start to float, you remove then from the water. And once they cool down you can sauté it with the asparagus.
Making the chutney involved sautéing chopped red onion, gooseberries, a little bit of sugar, and red wine vinegar. Then letting it cook down with all its liquids cooked off.
The duck breast was prepared in a sous vide bag, seasoned with salt and pepper. It is then seared and plated with its demi glaze and cherries, alongside the chutney and gnocchi.
The meaty piece of duck was perfection, with all its sides balancing out the plate. Fresh and crispy asparagus, sweet and sour chutney, and a rich caramelization from the cooked cherries.
Our third and final course was a “Berries and Cream” dessert, made with fresh berries, a coconut foam, cardamom crumble, and chamomile syrup.
First came the making of the granola based crumble featuring pumpkin seeds, ground ginger, cinnamon, and cardamon. To it Chef Daniel added in a good amount honey, and a little bit of sugar with canola oil. The goal is for it to be sticky before popping it in oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
The berry compote was mix of blackberry, cherry, and strawberries. More sugar is added to make it a proper dessert. It is finished with lemon juice, and cook down at a low heat for 20 minutes. And lastly a splash of vanilla extract goes into the mix, after the temperature is turned off.
In order to get the camomile syrup, you start by steeping tea bags into water and cooking it.
And for the meringue you remove yolk from egg whites. And the whites get whipped in a blender so they won’t fluff up. More sugar is added again, as well as cream of tartar, to help keep things nice and stiff; so that your meringue does not flop out in the oven. It is baked in the oven at 200 degrees, until it is nice and crispy.
The coconut foam uses a higher fat concentration of coconut milk, mixed with icing sugar. It is piped on to the plate using a foam gun.
Surprisingly the dessert wasn’t too sweet, I found our dessert wine sweeter. The cardomon notes gave the plate a fall feel, the camomile a nice floral essence, and the juicy berries offered a nice contrast to the crispy and chewy meringue curl it was scooped out over.
In conclusion, a great event and a fun way to add a little flare to dinner. I learned a few kitchen tricks and was fully entertained throughout the entire meal. And I honestly think it all tasted better because I witnessed its journey to completion, and respected the time and effort that it took to get it on my plate. For all the food enthusiasts, I highly recommend looking into attending another such class next year. Start planning now by visit the link below. https://whistlercornucopia.com/