Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Beer flights go big at MicroBrasserie Saint Arnould Mont-Tremblant

Quebec has some great beer and on a recent trip to Mont-Tremblant  we visited  MicroBrasserie Saint Arnould, named after the patron saint of brewers and I think they do him proud with their offerings.

Beer Selection

I love to try flights of beer and they have flights of 6, 8 or 10.  We tried 8 and I particularly liked the refreshing Blanche Anges, a Belgian white with orange and coriander.

The staff were friendly and informative and they had plenty of information sheets on the bar with tasting notes, alcohol content, IBUs and even the temperatures they should be served at.  In fact a lot of the beer bottles in Quebec seem to have this information on the labels.  I like it a lot.

The bar at Microbrasserie Saint Arnould

Thursday, June 11, 2015

4 Yums Up for Lobster Poutine and Patrick Bermand Restaurant, Mont-Tremblant

At a recent conference in Mont-Tremblant we snuck away to have a quiet French dinner in the countryside.  We chose Patrick Bermand for the menu and good reviews.

Sunday night in early June is a slow time in the Laurentians and we were the only people in the restaurant at 6:30.  Perhaps it was just too early for the mainly French clientele.  I was a little worried we may have chosen badly but our friendly waiter had plenty of time for us and gave us very good advice and service without trying to become our new best friend.  When he learned that we intended to have the lobster poutine for 2 as a main course  he recommended 3 starters to balance out the meal.  We shared escargots, salmon gravlax and chevre chaud.  It came beautifully presented on a large sharing platter.  The escargots were served in individual tiny cups with mushroom duxelles and a toast top, entirely decadent and delicious.  The salmon gravlax was cured in house with citrus and gin and was a real winner.  The salad was a good mix of greens with a traditional chevre grilled on toast.
Escargots, salmon gravlax and chevre chaud platter for 2

The lobster poutine was great.  Crisp fried perfect french fries with plenty of lobster and a fish and shellfish reduction with a touch of vermouth and cream topped with cheese and grilled.  We did not say a word until it was finished.
Lobster Poutine

I'm often out of my league with a wine list outside of BC but once again our waiter was helpful.  I had a half bottle of white Bordeaux.  (I love half bottles)  David started with a local beer and tried a recommended Portuguese red to finish.

1 Yum up for the beautiful presentation, especially the large sharing platter
1 Yum up for the beautiful aromas, nothing fishy even with a lobster tank
1 Yum up for the great balance of flavours
1 Yum up for something special, our server very young but confident enough to make thoughtful recommendations

I can't give a Yum up for atmosphere.  No matter how charming the restaurant, it's hard to make up for an empty room.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

I give Wolf in the Fog 5 Yums up with the large sharing plates providing "something special". Do not leave the restaurant without trying the oysters.

I love the drive to Tofino and Wolf In The Fog has been beckoning since it made Enroute's Best New Restaurant List.  It's a good  addition to the already excellent local food scene.  We had dinner and lunch and both were good.  Dinner was very busy but there were no mistakes. Chef Nicholas Nutting is a commanding presence in the kitchen that was open enough for gawkers like me to watch the action.  I liked the big upstairs dining room complete with a large comfortable and happening bar and a cosy couch corner.  The food  was excellent.  Super sharing plates with possibly the best scallops I've ever eaten in The French Bombshell.  A full patisserie in house produced excellent banquettes.

The oysters are addictive.  Wrapped in shoestring potatoes, they are among the best I've had.

Roasted Winter Vegetable Salad with wild mushrooms and truffle dressing.  We cleaned the plate.

Charred Humboldt Squid with grapefruit, sprouts, cilantro and basil.  Not my favourite dish, it was a bit too tart for my taste.
French Bombshell - scallops, mussels, clams, black cod, baquette and frisee salad. WOW!!!
 Surf and Turf - braised shortrib, spicy grilled octopus, sweet potato and bok choy.  i wish I'd never discovered octopus.  It was delicious.
Tofino Blackout - flourless chocolate cake and mild chocolate gelato.  I'm not a dessert fan but my sister said it was great.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Is Willows Inn the best dining experience in North America today?

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A full 5 Yums Up for me and a spot on my most memorable meal list. From the moment we pulled into the parking lot and were greeted by a fire in the grill and aromatic smoke chugging out of the smokehouse I was engaged in the experience of dining at Willows Inn. A good walk on the beach across the street set our appetites on fire. As the sun set, the chefs visited the grill and smokehouse more and the kitchen and dining room started to glow with light and activity. I was drawn away from the smokehouse to make a quick change before moving to the lobby bar for a drink, a snack and some excellent entertainment from a young man with a guitar, a violin, a ukulele and a great song list. Regular trips to the glass French doors to the kitchen built even more anticipation as I watched the chefs with calm and precision work magic as 6:30 approached. Soon we were all seated in the casually elegant dining room, drinks were poured and a parade of servers and chefs presented each of us with a small lidded cedar box.
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Samish Bay Smoked Mussel
Lift the lid and smoke escaped and we were all in; appearance, aroma and taste. By far the best mussel I have ever eaten and I wanted more, right then. I was soon distracted by tiny crispy crepes rolled around char roe.
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Crispy Crepe with Char Roe
The 1st two bites had the whole room humming. Things moved along pretty quickly but with plenty of time to savour the aromas, appearance and taste of each dish.

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Crispy kale with Black Truffles
 Next up was my favourite of the evening; crispy halibut skin stuffed with halibut emulsion and bits of razor clams dusted with seaweed dust. This had everything going for it; incredible presentation, crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside and flavour that made you long for more.
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Crispy Halibut Skins
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Spot Prawn poached in it's Roe

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Grilled Shitake Mushrooms

The lightly smoked oysters were so good, they delivered another order to our table.  Don't they look amazing?

Shigoku Oysters

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Black Cod wrapped in Caraflex Cabbage
The Black cod wasn't the most beautiful presentation of the evening but one of the tastiest.  I happen to know from hanging around the smokehouse that the cod was lightly smoked and there was a sliver of very crisp cod skin along the top of the fish before it was wrapped in cabbage.  My second favourite dish of the night.

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Pears Cooked in Embers
Pears cooked in embers was the pescatarian swap for tartare of venison and wild lettuces.

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Parsnip with razor clam sauce

I've eaten and cooked a lot of salmon and this is quite possibly the best smoked salmon I've ever eaten.

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Smoked Sockeye Salmon

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Slices of Persimmon

Things were starting to get a little foggy about now.  We'd chosen the wine pairing option and the pours were generous.  I don't know what the persimmons were in but it was refreshing and lively.
Only one other dish needed to be swapped out for our pescatarian request.  It was pine mushrooms instead of pork chop in juniper with turnips buried in embers. Once again I loved the taste of the fire on the turnip and the mushrooms and juniper were earthy, deep and dark.

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Pine mushroom and juniper with turnip from the embers

There was also roasted sunflower root, caramelized squid and charred radicchio, felicata squash and pine-flavoured cream, flax seed squares and bread from local grains with butter and onion drippings but my final favourite was goat's milk with grasses.  The grasses were in a broth and I was actually reluctant to taste it fearing it might be a bad end to the meal but it was amazing.  So bright it almost sang to me.
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Goat Cheese with Grasses

In all there were 11 courses and 9 snacks or surprises paired with 5 wines and 1 beer.  I made a mistake and ordered a bottle of Capitello Oregon Brut before dinner and also chose the wine pairing option with dinner.  I was drinking bubbly between courses instead of water and it may have had an effect on my judgement toward the end of the meal.  I wasn't the last person in the dining room as I'd intended to be and I regret it immensely.  

I've eaten at a couple of Michelin starred restaurants this year and some of Vancouver's best.  I've had farm to table meals in Spain, Vancouver, Palm Springs and Montreal and this meal is definitely my favourite of the year.

I've booked it for same time next year.

Wine Pairing:
Capitellp Methode Champenoise Oregon Brut
2013 Big Table Farm "Wirtz Vineyard" Edelzqicker, Willamette, Oregon
2011 Maison Bleue "Upland Vineyard" Grenache, Snipes Mountain, Washington
Longsdon Straffe Drieling Tripel, Hood River, Oregon
2011 Gramercy Cellars "Inifo Montoya" Tempranillo, Walla Walla, Washington
2012 Brook "Tehys" Riesling, Eola-Amith Hills, Oregon

I highly recommend Willows Inn.  Book early so you can stay right on property.

Eat on friends.  Cathy Moore