A Night At Raincity Grill
Nothing gives me greater pleasure at the dinner table than to appreciate local bounty with the very people responsible for its harvest. It was therefore my privilege to dine alongside Anna Helmer of Helmers Organic farm with a small group of food lovers, gathered to discuss eating and growing local and to sample the new, Pemberton-focused “100 mile” tasting menu at Raincity Grill.
Helmers Organic is a family-run, 76-acre property, which Anna Helmer described as “small by Pemberton standards”. They use biodynamic methods and yearly crop rotations to grow the 16 varieties of potato for which the farm is renowned. In Raincity’s 100 mile lineup, Helmers potatoes graced our plates in 2 of 5 courses: as a bed of Chieftains and Russian Blues with Coho salmon and as a pavé of Chieftains served with braised beef.
Other Pemberton players were profiled on the new 100 mile menu. Pemberton Meadows Beef was wrapped tenderly in verdant savoy cabbage. The produce of North Arm Farm was featured in nearly every course, including a delicate dessert of carrot sorbet, yogurt snow, and fireweed honey meringue.
The efforts of Chef Peter Robertson to showcase these local producers were commendable: every plate was visually stunning, causing conversation to tangent into an inspection of the unique presentations as each course arrived. Shallots encased in a salt crust were of particular interest, triggering one diner to play with her food.
Sensory delights continued as each course hit. The grilled pork belly from Sloping Hills melted on the tongue in a caramel dissolve, and the accompanying Baynes Sound scallop was perfect in its doneness.
For me, the highlight of the menu was the North Arm Farm beetroot snow. Hills of crimson crystals were set out in front of us as waitstaff poured on a stream of zingy horseradish cream. The candy cane contrast set a festive tone for the rest of the evening, and the ephemeral taste of the dish paired well with the accompanying Bianco di Collina from Duncan vintner Venturi-Schulze.
Other guests seemed to have clear favourites. Anna Helmer was speechless in her enjoyment of the Sloping Hills pork. Chef’s Table Society head Sid Cross surreptitiously drained every drop of the broth that encircled the Coho salmon.
Throughout the tasting menu, general manager and sommelier Brent Hayman introduced the table to a breadth of 100 mile wine, most from Vancouver Island regions in or around Duncan.
Dinner drew to a close with a special tasting of walnut wine from Langley wine newcomer Vista D’oro. It was presented with another unexpected treat: an experimental tarte tatin from Chef Robertson that was nearly a 100 mile diet achievement. Although the table was nearing its saturation point in good food and drink, little was left of this delicious tarte after the slices were portioned out.
After this delightful dinner preview, Raincity Grill passed on their finalized tasting menu (listed below) that will run from now until the end of Dine Out Vancouver 2009. Don’t miss this chance to partake in the bounty of the year’s Pemberton harvest.
100 MILE TASTING MENU
PEMBERTON FALL HARVEST
“NORTH ARM FARM” BEETROOT SNOW
Garry Oaks, Pinot Gris
GRILLED “SLOPING HILLS” PORK
bayne sound scallop, wild mushroom, celery root, chervil beurre blanc
Venturi-Schulze, Bianco di Collina
SEARED “ORGANIC OCEANS” SALMON
braised “north arm farm” artichoke, grilled salt spring island mussel, garlic
“helmers” seig linde potato
Averill Creek, Pinot Noir
BRAISED “PEMBERTON MEADOWS” BEEF
“helmers” potato pave, grilled shallot
“north arm farm” parsley root, marrow jus
A selection of local cheese (add$8.50 per cheese)
“north arm farm” beetroot jelly, honey caramel, merridale cider sorbet
Merridale winter apple cider
With wine accompaniment $89.00
Karen Hamilton is a writer, photographer, and maker of websites. Her exploration of all things edible in the Lower Mainland is diarized at tinybites.ca.