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Old Bourbon, Modern Cuisine, VCW2024

Old Bourbon, Modern Cuisine: Four-Course Dinner and Cocktail Pairings with Old Forester.

Tonight I was at Glowbal, celebrating Bourbon with Old Forester. This was my first and only Vancouver cocktail week dinner, and honestly one of the best sit down drink paired meals I have had to date.

As ticket holders walked in past the eye catching facade of Glowbal, past the patio garden and its iconic flower mirror, we were welcomed at the door and offered to have our jackets taken off our backs.

The dinner would be in a private area, set with a stunning pyramid of Old Forester bourbon bottles on display. The meal was hosted in conjunction with their Brown-Forman Reserve Spirits & Scotch Specialist, Joel Virginillo, who would be guiding us through our drink courses. Not only would we have the advertised Old Forester cocktails with each course, but a shot of the bourbon as well, and that alone already elevated my expectations of dinner.

Tonight we would be enjoying North American cuisine prepared with Old Forester and bourbon cocktails featuring Old Forester. The are America’s first bottled bourbon, and the only bourbon continuously sold by the same company before, during, and after Prohibition. And they have a variety of expressions that have been beloved by whiskey enthusiasts for over 150 years.

As guests were seated we started with the Kentucky Sorbet, which was more like a dessert to start. Served in a delicate, tall coupe, at mouth level, for an awe giving presentation. Lemon and Peach Sorbet, Old Forester Signature 86 Proof, Prosecco, and Lemon Zest. The Mionetto sparkling wine topper was served table side for a little theatre, and it was recommended that we allow the sorbet to melt down to best enjoy what is essentially an adult slurpee. And for those who finished, we were given top ups of the Prosecco, because you can’t cork sparkling back up.

Our Glowbal Culinary Dinner began with the best spring roll I have ever had. An amuse-bouche of Confit Duck Spring Roll with Hoisin Sauce, and Sriracha Aioli. Another stunning presentation and what looked like 1.5 spring rolls all together. Perfectly crispy shell, juicy duck meat centre, with plenty of sauce to dip into. Familiar flavours given and air of sophistication by the talented kitchen.

The cherry on the top was the head chef himself bringing out each dish and walking us through what we would be having course by course.

The other choice was the Chickpea Panisse, but no one at the table went with that.

We took a pause to appreciate Old Forester’s 1870 and would follow it with their other elevated brands. Here, we a quick crash course on their history. Old Forester were the first sealed bottle of bourbon, obtaining their medical licence through prohibition. They were able to serve and distribute their wares, whilst ensuring that their bourbon had no tainting or adulterations.

The 1870 is 90 proof at 40% ABV. It had a buttery butterscotch finish. After the first sip, it was recommended that we added in a couple drops of water to help open up its flavour on the second.

Here, there are no age statements, the years correspond to the processes used to make bourbon at that time and how they are mimicked for this collection today. So more modern years represent better practices and improvements to their bourbon.

As little bonus treat, our chef brought us each a two bite morsel which he called a surprise. King salmon from Tofino, glazed with Old Forester Bourbon and soy, served on a crispy potato with poached prawn, also glazed in bourbon and soy. You don’t get double surf on potatoes often, but if it is anything like this you should. Everything was so juicy and tender, with the bourbon cooked down to sugars that caramelized the seafood. I would have loved this as a main, very comforting.

For appetizers we had a choice between Burrata with compressed pair or a pâté with Foie Gras, majority of the table chose the latter, myself included.

Truffle Foie Gras Pâté with Candied Hazelnut and a Porcini Charcoal Crumb, served with Brioche. This was rich and creamy with a well prepared savoury pâté spread. Sweet with the hazelnut and given an air of finery from the generous shavings of truffle. You honestly get so much here that it borders on obscene. I was happy to be able to share with my table mates who may have felt a little regret ordering the burrata. They felt bad to take from my plate, but I insisted and reassured them that the serving is so luxe and having this much pâté is overkill. Two mouthfuls were plenty for me. This was definitely one of the many top highlights of this night.

Here, the cocktail pairing felt much, not complimentary to the lushness of the course, but something to have on its own. Instead, the table thought an ounce of Old Forester was a better bed mate, as it did much to cut into decadent meat and truffle with its nutty acidity.

Old Forester 1897 tells the history and story of bourbon. Pre-prohibition you can tell the difference in barrel bourbon had with higher proofs and more woodsy and spicy notes from oak.

Then the Bottle in Bond act came into play, which had American-produced spirits being aged and bottled according to a set of legal regulations. A couple such acts included having to be made by one maker’s hands and that it must be bottled at 100 proof. The result is a softer spirit with a lower percentage.

The intended cocktail pairing with our appetizer course was the Baby Beast. A mix of Old Forester Signature 86 Proof, Red Star Er Guo Tou Baijiu, Junmai Taru Sake, Dragon Fruit Infusion, Yuzu, and Lychee Liquor. Another show stopping presentation, done table side. Served in a special plastic cup set with jetchill dry ice filtered at the bottom. This caused smoke to plume and the pink cocktail to percolate. As for the way it tasted I found it too medicinal to pair with food and yet too sweet for my taste. Also I found the yuzu aggressive and in your face, to dominating to enjoy with anything else. This was more like a party favour than a cocktail with a paired course. This would have been nice cut with some sparkling wine to mellow thing out, and to help blend all the ingredients together, better.

Our next food course had us choosing between steak or a Mushroom Truffle Risotto, once again the table had unanimously ordered the Angus Prime Striploin. And to our delight, what came before us looked to be two servings worth of meat. 4-5 slices of perfectly pink at the centre, charred striploin over Pomme Puree with King Oyster Mushroom, a Cippolini Onion, and a Bourbon Peppercorn Jus. At this point I love how many times the kitchen featured the spirit of the night, and in each way, so different.

The steak was tender and saltier, which is how I like in my red meat to be seasoned. The bold char crisp was contrasted by the buttery potatoes. The firm woodsy mushroom offered a nice neutral break, whereas the onion a sweet palate cleaner. And the jus tied it all together. This was a well conceived and harmonious plate.

Here, the intended drink pairing was an Old Fashioned and this was a great match. Described on menu as a “Glowbal surprise creation”. Each person was presented with their own carafe of wood smoke engulfing their cocktail within. The lid would be removed and the smoke allowed to waft up into your face, to be breathed in before you took a sip.

And once the smoke cleared we were all in awe of how stunning the glass was. A heavy square shaped tumbler that looked like an ice cube sliced. The bold flavour of this classic matched the heft of its vessel, and the cut of the steak. This felt like the most cohesive course of them all.

Our last Old Forester pour was the 1910 Fine Whisky, which was never released in Vancouver, so to be able to get a taste of it now was an absolute treat. Named after the 1910 fire on their bottling line that halted production. In order to find a solution for the matured whisky, ready to be bottled, they thought to store it in a secondary barrel. And to their delight, the end result was an entirely new expression which they promptly named “Old Fine Whisky”.

Today’s bottle mimics that historic happenstance. And what we had in our tasting glass was a smoother and sweeter whisky, that ended clean and crisp on the finish. This is the fourth and final expression of the Whiskey Row Series, presented at 93 proof.

And for dessert we had the best cheesecake I can recall ever having. I am not a big sweets person, but I did go a stint where I was hunting for good cheesecake, and had I found this, this would have taken the cake. Like a softer New York style Cheesecake with Banana Bourbon Caramel, Pecans, and Yogurt Chantilly. The individual elements are great on their own and together they make for a fantastic mix and match of bites. Crunchy, sweet, and salty bits with the starchy and fluffy cheesecake as the base.

The paired cocktail here was another Yuzu forward one, and I wish they made it ruby grapefruit instead. To be able to offer something different, as we found the profile of this similar to the “Baby Beast” above. I recommend mixing the foam in to sweeten the tart Japanese citrus and get more of the red fruit wine to parallel the warmth of the whisky. Old Forester 1920 Whiskey Row Series. St-Germain, Honey Syrup. Yuzu, Egg White, and bordeaux foam.

In conclusion, this was one of the best meals I have every had. All the ticket holders agreed that they got their monies worth. The food was amazing, the drinks mind blowing, and Old Forester certainly stole the show. I can whole heartedly recommend next year’s Vancouver Cocktail Week dinner if Glowbal hosts at this caliber again.

590 W Georgia St, Vancouver, BC V6E 1A3
(604) 602-0835

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