Okanagablog: La Chaîne
Did you know there was a fancy French club with an international membership devoted to celebrating fine dining? Up until recently, I didn’t. Welcome to La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, and leave your jeans at home, thank you very much.
I had the very good fortune to attend a Chaîne induction dinner in the Chagall Room at Mission Hill Family Estate on Saturday night. Hosted by MH executive chef (and Chaîne member) Michael Allemeier and his killer kitchen team, the event welcomed five new Kelowna members including representation from Mission Hill, Cabana Grille, Fresco, Tantalus Vineyards and Quail’s Gate Winery.
“The Chaîne des Rôtisseurs is an international gastronomic society devoted to promoting fine dining and preserving the camaraderie and pleasures of the table. Although the modern day Chaîne began in 1950, the traditions and practices are based on those of the old French guild of roasters, whose written history dates to 1248.” (linkage – Chaine Canada)
It was posh indeed, and Mission Hill is stunning (duh). But really really stunning when you’re alone at night. The group of about 45 had the winery all to itself.
The evening began with the induction ceremonies. The head of Chaîne Canada, David Tetrault, had flown into Kelowna from Calgary to conduct the ceremony which involved swords and sashes, oaths and medals. It felt a bit DaVinci Code but things around these parts, Vancouver included, could use a little formality now and then. It was fun and novel to rub shoulders with people who take their food and drink seriously.
The ceremony concluded with a reception that included MH’s first vintage of rosé and some swish canapés including a delicious pork belly spoon. Then chef Allemeier rallied the group out into the MH courtyard. The bell rang continuously from its commanding tower during the short walk to the Chagall Room where the new inductees were to be honoured. Totally cool and pretty surreal.
I had the best seat in the house, next to the fireplace with a prime view of the famed Chagall tapestry hung above a black baby grand piano. The six-course dinner was exquisite. Michael Allemeier rocks. The crowd favourite seemed to be the ballontine of Guinea Hen, recognized by the experts in attendance for its nod to history and technique. My favourite course was the Maple Lake rainbow trout and sugar pumpkin croquette paired with the ’04 Select Lot Collection Merlot.
It was a blast. Though I’d seen the tapestry before, I was wowed by the giant Chagall all night long and MH assistant winemaker Wade Stark displayed several hidden talents to the crowd, among them stand up comedy, mad piano-playing skills, and a group serenade. It was fantastic, though I’d expected a stuffy evening.
I did, however, poke some fun at the Chaîne. It seems the “1248 to 1950″ emblazoned on their crest represents the 702 years that the group was not active. Umm…ok. Sure. I guess I could list the number of years I have not been a doctor, a gold-medalist, or an astronaut, though some might think it a bit odd.
In all, it turned out to be a very enjoyable evening of unexpected talent, engaging conversation with tablemates Jane Hatch and Warwick Shaw of Tantalus Vineyards, and a truly superb meal.