At 5:00pm this afternoon (Wed), the Cactus Club will open its new 500 seat Coal Harbour monster, complete with 200 seat patio and 40 seat private room. Sadly, there is no truth to the rumour that this location (the 23rd) also includes a secret 55 seat pre-shift beauty/tanning salon underneath the dining room (built for the exclusive use of the staff). I know this because I invented that rumour. Just now. To celebrate the opening and Cactus Club’s 25th anniversary, the Olympic Cauldron will apparently be lit from 6pm to 10pm tonight. What the….why? Because stop asking questions and sing the anthem, traitor.
The GOODS from Okanagan Crush Pad
Kelowna, BC | BC’s own Chef Rob Feenie, food concept architect for Cactus Restaurants Ltd., won silver at the national Gold Medal Plates competition. Chef Feenie selected Haywire Winery’s Pinot Noir to pair with his dish at the Canadian Culinary Championship’s grand finale. Feenie captured a national silver medal when he and his team created a Fraser Valley rabbit duo – a rabbit bacon presse, with foie gras boudin, brown butter carrot puree and black truffle jus, accompanied by Haywire’s Pinot Noir at the Canadian Culinary Championships grand finale event for the Gold Medal Plates national competition. As the only competing chef from BC and paired with a BC winery, Chef Feenie took home the silver medal in front of the home crowd on Saturday night. The team from Haywire is especially proud: Chef Feenie also chose Haywire’s Pinot Gris for his dish at the Vancouver Gold Medal Plates competition last fall, where he captured the gold medal.
After nine competitions across the country, the winning chef from each of the nine cities met at the national competition. The winner of the gold and the Canadian Culinary Champion was chef Marc Lepine of Atelier Restaurant in Ottawa.
Winery owner Christine Coletta was “so proud to see Rob Feenie win the silver.” She notes, “it was great to see culinary talent from across Canada in the Okanagan, and to have our Okanagan wine be part of the silver medal win at home was priceless.” Read more
World class sommelier Sebastien Le Goff (interview) has returned home to Vancouver after a stint working in Singapore. He is now overseeing the wine and beverage programs for the Cactus Club chain and will run the new English Bay location when it opens this Fall. Full press release after the jump. Read more
A couple of days ago we broke the news that the Cactus Club was the winning bid being recommended to the Parks Board to operate their new restaurant space and concession at English Bay. It was pending approval, but now it’s official. Construction begins in September, with the opening day slated for June 2011. Check after the jump for the details… Read more
From the little known Department of You Knew It Was Going To Happen comes news that the Cactus Club has been recommended to the Parks Board as the best overall bidder aiming to operate the upcoming, brand-new super-spanking English Bay beachfront restaurant and concession in Vancouver’s West End. The project still needs final approval, mind, but it reads like a good fit.
It’s been a good and interesting month. It began with my friend Nathan, notorious dog gobbler and sous chef at Lumiere, inviting my wife and I to dine at the Relais Gourmand restaurant. Not since a lunch with the CCC folks at West a couple of months ago had I done a fine dining, multi-course affair with paired wines and petit fours or felt compelled to don a jacket while in a restaurant, so this was something of a special occasion. For certain, I’d been on a tear reviewing inexpensive restaurants for the newspaper, and felt like I’d paid enough dues in poutine, ramen, and burgers to warrant a little foray back into the world of refined excess. I don’t mean to say that I had deserved or earned it, but rather that I supped and drank heartily and naturally in good conscience. Read more
If you’ve been looking for Cactus Club food concept architect Rob Feenie around the test kitchen at the Ash and Broadway location this week, you likely didn’t find him. He’s been in West Vancouver, at the Village Taphouse, helping to develop a new pub menu.
Formerly a Steamworks, the place was bought late last year by the CC chain, and the plan has always been to turn it into – according to manager Trevor St. James – a pub that’s fun and very different from Cactus Club with great food and a killer beer program. This past Monday it closed for renos, and the ambitious plan is for a soft re-opening tomorrow (Friday).
Right now, it’s a worksite, with plenty of noise and sawdust, but there’s no hiding the excitement on the part of St. James, Feenie and the rest of the team who are in there, pulling all-night shifts to get it ready.
Twenty local beers (seasonal ales, lagers, wheat ales, IPAs, brown and cream ales from all over the province) will flow through a Perlick Century beer system and out of taps mounted on the brick wall behind the bar. The focus for the 20 bottled brews is on unusual imports from global beermakers in places like Singapore, the Czech Republic and Brooklyn.
Beer lovers can opt for a Salt Tasting Room-like sampler, featuring three drafts, served with a big old homemade pretzel.
The rest of the menu is still undecided but at a CC media event on Tuesday the Food Concept Architect himself said it’s possible that some of the dishes from Feenie’s may find their way onto the Taphouse menu: that decadent burger, Feenie’s Weenie, and my favourite, his shepherd’s pie made with duck confit.
That’s good news for me. For years, I pestered Feenie about bringing his food to the North Shore. Even in print I may have whined about his disinclination to open in the community where I make a living as a food and restaurant writer. (The mandate where I work is local, local, local. So while I am able to slip in a Vancouver story once a month or so, it’s a lottery win for me whenever a restaurant opens on the Shore. Especially a good one.)
Well, from my keyboard to God’s ears, my friends. Or maybe it was to Cactus Club owner Richard Jaffray’s ears. Whatever. Semantics.
Of course, the strangest part of the tale is that the Village Taphouse is just steps away from a very busy Cactus Club, and it might seem odd to pit them against each other. Truth is, the pre-reno Taphouse has been doing fine, picking up the overflow from the often sardine-squeezed restaurant across the street.
So maybe it will work in reverse for a while. Which is nothing to cry in your tasty local microbrew over anyway: the new dishes created by Feenie for Cactus Club are exceptional, especially at the price point. Not all of them are at every location, but look for tuna tataki in a yuzu vinaigrette for $13.50; a generous plate of beef carpaccio for the same; airy butternut squash and mascarpone ravioli for $18; and a huge serving of braised Angus beef shortrib — that at the touch of a fork falls apart like Britney Spears off her meds — served with celeriac puree, baby carrots, sweet green beans, nugget potatoes and shaved pecorino, for $30.
Three things about your neighbourhood that make you want to live there: Our neighbourhood near UBC combines the best Vancouver has to offer. The neighbourhood is full of kids for my kids to play with, it’s close to the UBC Endowment Lands for trail rides on the bike and it’s close to the beach for walks with the dog.
The thing that you eat that is bad for you that you will never stop eating: I often tell young chefs to add ‘love’ to their cooking and many times that means add more butter. Having trained in France, you can never get enough butter.
Default drink: As a young chef, I spent time working and learning in Alsace and while I was there I learned to love their wine. So my default wine is Alsatian, especially the Gewurztraminers and Rieslings.
Favourite Vancouver bridge: Burrard, hands down. I love driving out of downtown after a long day and looking to the West and seeing an amazing sunset over English Bay. It reminds me why I love Vancouver.
Last place traveled: The entire executive group from Cactus Restaurants just went to Los Angeles, aside from meetings, we spent four full days visiting great restaurants and gathering new ideas and inspirations for Cactus’ menu.
Your ancestry: My family is Irish and I think I am pretty lucky for that.
What are you proud of: During my career I have had the opportunity to travel the world representing Vancouver and Canada and I have been really proud to show people the amazing food that comes from this region and is being made here.
Saddest thing about Vancouver: We live in one of the best places on earth and I find it really sad that sometimes we forget how lucky we are and take it for granted.
Food your mom makes better than anyone: Every Sunday night when I was growing up my mom made a roast, it was always the best meal of the week and I still love it when she makes roasts to this day.
The game you’re best at: Hockey – I’m not saying I’m ready to join the NHL or anything but our rec team does pretty well.
Mac or PC: PC
Favourite sports team: Being born in Burnaby, there is only one possible answer – The Vancouver Canucks!
Local person you admire most: Michel Jacob from Le Crocodile has been a friend and mentor to me for many years, he is even godfather to one of my kids.
The dish you’re proud of: I truly love what I do, so am very proud every time I hear someone enjoy a dish that I have made. Having said that, I was extremely proud of the crab ravioli that we made for Iron Chef America, it was a new take on a classic dish that helped us win the battle.
Town you were born in: I was born and raised in Burnaby and went to high school at Burnaby Central.
Album that first made you love music: Back in Black, AC/DC is my favourite.
The first three things you do every morning: Coffee is the first priority for me in the morning, then checking in with my wife and three kids and then a run or bike ride with the dog. Our house is pretty busy in the morning.
Luckiest moment of your life: As cheesy as it sounds, when I met my wife Michelle, she has changed my life is so many different ways – I am a very lucky guy!
IIce cream flavour: I love the combination of cream and caramel so I would say Haagen-Dazs’ Dulce de Leche.
Musical instrument you long to play: I am the best in the office at air guitar, so I think my musical calling is as a rock star.
Robert Feenie is one of Canada’s most recognized and acclaimed independent chefs. Feenie’s interest in cuisine started during a high school exchange program in Europe and at 20, he attended the Dubrulle Culinary Institute in Vancouver. Following graduation he became a Sous-chef in some of this region’s top restaurants, notably Le Crocodile and the Cheery Stone Cove in Vancouver and The Rim Rock Café in Whistler. While at Le Crocodile he began a series of work and educational travels, or stages, throughout Europe and North America, starting in Alsace with Chef Emile Jung at Au Crocodile and Antoine Westermann at Le Buerehiesel, both Michelin three-star rated restaurants. In North America he worked with America’s top chef, Charlie Trotter, at Trotter’s Restaurant in Chicago, with Daniel Boulud at Restaurant Daniel and Jean-Georges Vongerichten at Jean-Georges in New York.
In 1995 Feenie opened Lumiere Restaurant in Vancouver to accolades from notable food critics around the world. Under Feenie, Lumière was named Vancouver’s Best Restaurant and Best French Restaurant an unprecedented six years in a row. In November 2000, Lumière became the first freestanding restaurant in Canada to receive the Relais Gourmand designation and in late 2003 Lumière became the first restaurant in Canada to be awarded the Traditions et Qualitè, the restaurant was also recognized with by Mobil Travel Guide with four-stars and the AAA Five Diamond Award. Also in 2003 Chef Feenie opened the Lumière Tasting Bar at the entrance to Lumière, immediately sweeping the various restaurant awards for best new restaurant. In the summer of 2003 he opened Feenie’s, a more casual Canadian Bistro right next door to Lumière.
In addition Feenie has published three cookbooks: Rob Feenie Cooks at Lumiere, Lumiere Light, and Feenie’s. He also starred on New Classics with Chef Rob Feenie on Food Network Canada for five seasons. In 2005 Feenie became the first Canadian to win on the popular television show Iron Chef America by defeating Chef Masaharu Morimoto.