On this, our latest La Chaine meet up, we were at The Vancouver Club for Intronisations.
La Chaine des Rotisseurs is the international gourmand club that I am part of. And on this night we were gathered together to celebrate 2022’s newest members, with myself included. This was a black-tie affair that involved a formal ceremony, followed by a light reception and a multiple-course dinner within one of The Vancouver Club’s illustrious ballrooms.
But before the festivities could begin, we were given the history of the organization, and the explanation as to why the above takes place. Our guest and president for Canada’s chapter spoke to what it means to be a member of today.
The organization has older roots that go back to 1248, over 750 years ago, where King Louis in France gave rights for individuals to specialize in specific trades. This focus allowed people to get better in their craft, and for the food world, cuisine improved, which led to more charters being designated and professionals earning more rights to cook more foods. This would eventually lead to the official granting of the name “Chaine des Rotisseurs” and the arms in the organization’s logo.
Five hundred years later with the Revolution in the 1700’s, these guilds in Europe were disbanded, and they ceased to exist in the new Republic. It was not until the 1950’s when La Chaine was reborn once again in France. Whereas the organization was once exclusive to just chefs and industry professionals, it has now opened to include non-professional as well, and has allow them to wear the same ribbons.
And today La Chaine hosts chefs, sommeliers, restaurant and hotel owners, as well as anyone who has a heightened interest in fine dining and fellowship. This is not a syndicate or union of professionals, there is no rank or hierarchy. The ribbons we dawn explain what we do, for front of house, kitchen, and finance. La Chaine does not rank its members, the focus in on quality and not sophistication. We all come together to appreciate food, those who prepare it for us, and those who serve it to us.
And to continue progression in this field, the organization sponsors young chef and sommeliers, granting scholarships to them in various culinary programs all across the country.
Tonight, our intronisation ceremony began with new members standing in front of their peers to make a pledge, where we swore to oblige by the rules of the club. This was followed by us crossing the stage to take a formal vow, where our new ribbons were placed around our necks. Which is an empty collar/sash, sans the medals at the bottom. The goal is to travel all around the world, visiting other La Chaine chapters, dining with their members, and collecting pins to place on your ribbon in remembrance of the occasion.
Next, with sabre in right hand, while the officiant places the ceremonial sword on our left shoulder, we were sworn in and knighted. This ceremony is also typically accompanied by a diploma that is signed, but it did not arrive on time for this evening.
After all the photos and rounds of congratulations, the night began ramping up with the traditional La Chaine champagne reception, where guests varied from their seating arrangements to mix and mingle.
There were bites of Fois Gras ganache with cassis gel and pistachio that melted lush in your mouth.
Whereas the Garden salad roll with jicama, daikon, carrot, lettuce, and hoisin was dry and had you picking chunks out from between your teeth.
The Mushroom quiche with caramelized onion, Gruyère, and balsamic reduction was a nice flavourful mouthful.
I especially liked the sweet and creamy Baby shrimp Louie with avocado, cucumbers, and tarragon aioli.
This was all accompanied by free-flowing champagne that was served in glass, with The Vancouver Club’s servers navigating the ballroom with refills. Charles de Cazanove Premier Cru Brut Champagne
When time, dinner began with our customary “vive la chaine” toast across 7 tables and the first course was served. The wait staff presented themselves in uniform lines, 2 plates in each white gloved hand, they counted down and placed plates in front of diners in unison, 4 at a time, then the other 4. Truly impeccable service befitting of a black-tie affair.
The first course was a Tahini scented vichyssoise with cured lemon, smoked salmon, and dill. Paired with 2013 Guetave Lorentz Riesling Reserve, Alsace. The chilled soup of leek and potato was bold with sesame and fresh will citrus and dill. It read more like a sauce to compliment the thick slices of smoked salmon and as dip for the fresh spongy bread roll.
The Terrine of venison and chestnut with apple butter, maple gastrique, and pickled fennel was classically prepared in a mold. A single slice speaks to the labour of love that went into preparing it, which includes the resting of the meat, within this 86 hour process. As for how it tasted it was so well-balanced with fragments covering all the textures and flavour profiles: meaty and buttery with side salad for freshness and the cheesy crumbles for an extra punch of saltiness. This was paired with the honey golden 2008 Domaine du Vieux Lazaret Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc.
I loved the sophisticated up-play on the Shrimp and grits. Anson Mills heritage corn grits, lobster veloute, and country ham. Warm and hearty, this was filling in a comforting and satisfying way, with rich gravy and plenty of sweet buttery lobster. This was paired with the deep acidity of the 2005 Thibault Liger-Belair ‘Les Grands Chaillots’ Bourgogne for balance.
As a palate refresher, our meal was punctuated with the scoop of Pear and cardamon sorbet, sprinkled over with gold leaf for an additional layer of opulence. It had a perfect seesaw between the chilled and sweet nuance of the fruit, and the heat and pungent zest of the spice. This was also a very elegant way to feature this more under-utilized seasoning.
For our main, it was a rich and sumptuous Porcini Ash Crusted lamb loin with celeriac with a carrot and harissa condiment, alongside mushroom cannelloni and a Merlot jus. This was such a generous portion that you felt spoiled. I have never had lamb so tender that it melts in your mouth. The harissa was well utilized as a rice, offering a nice base to the rich gravy coating of the red meat. I enjoyed the earthy mushroom in the cannelloni, but found that it wasn’t necessarily complimentary to the lamb. It would have been better served as a separate dish all together. I was just left wishing that there was a fresh component to this, something raw and crisp for a built-in break.
This was perfectly paired with the buttery Chateau Brown, Pessac-Leognan, Bordeaux.
And for dessert our meal ended on a mild note with the Honey and vanilla chiboust with banana tuile, gain de gene, cherries, and rosemary caramel. The drunken cherries were the highlight, a literally cherry on top of the buttery crust. I was enamored with the flashes of childhood from the banana gelato, reminding me of the dehydrated banana chips my mother use to make for us as children. As a whole the dessert was not too sweet, and was a nice subtlety to end on.
Enjoyed alongside the peppery and juicy tannins of 2001 Chateau Roumieu Sauternes.
And thus I was now a knight and full fledge member of the historical La Chaine des Rotisseurs . Already looking forward to the next monthly meet up at the famous French restaurant La Crocadille for Christmas celebrations.