Chefs Across The Water at Hastings House in Salt Spring Island (August 2011)
Chefs Across The Water is an amazing series of dinners where a guest chef comes and cooks at the absolutely gorgeous Hastings House in Salt Spring Island. I have always been invited but I never manage to attend simply because Chefs Across The Water is on a Monday and I *always* teach on Mondays in the fall term. But this year I was privileged to be invited to the August 2011 dinner and I promptly said BUT OF COURSE!.
The first thing I do when I attend an event with a media invite is to check out what other guests are saying about the event. That way, I can not only relay my experience to my readers but I can also share what other guests think. For the August 2011 Chefs Across The Water dinner, I talked to a number of guests, but the ones who struck me the most were a couple from Houston, Texas who have come for dinner at Hastings House15 years in a row. You read right. Fifteen years. In a row. From the Chefs Across The Water site:
Hastings House Country House Hotel and Dining Room on Salt Spring Island is pleased to announce our guest chef program is returning for 2011—top BC chefs have been invited to prepare multiple-course dinners in the Hastings House kitchen, incorporating Salt Spring Island’s produce, seafood, and meats. Wine pairings featuring BC wines will be offered to complement the extraordinary menus.
Salt Spring Island is a food-lover’s paradise, blessed with a mild Mediterranean-like climate and devoted growers and producers renowned for their organic fruits and vegetables, meats, and cheeses. Fresh-caught, wild seafood rounds out nature’s local pantry. In recent years, island wineries have further added to the diversity of the local harvest. Diners can look forward to amazing experiences as the celebrated guest chefs each put their own personal spin on Salt Spring Island flavours.
These events will also raise awareness of the health and economic benefits of using local, organic and sustainable ingredients and bring into focus how local farming is being challenged by changing regulations that favour large
agri-businesses. A portion of the proceeds of the Guest Chef dinners will go to Island Natural Growers to benefit the Salt Spring Abattoir Project.
I flew into Salt Spring Island‘s Ganges with the lovely folks of Salt Spring Air (I’ve flown Salt Spring Air many times, and I love their service). I arrived to my lovely accommodations at Hastings House always welcome by the great Kelly McAree who is the general manager of Hastings House.
I changed quickly and headed to the Dining Room to see what Chef Ernst Dorfler of the Five Sails Restaurant had prepared. Chef Dorfler has an extremely solid reputation, and what I did not realize was that I was in for a series of full-mini-meals in a row, with extraordinary wine pairings.
We started with an appetizer of Local Dungeness Crab Salad, Hastings House Garden Greens, Citrus Vinaigrette, paired with Road 13 Old Vines Chenin Blanc 2009. I love Road 13 wines, in general, and the Chenin Blanc was just the perfect compliment to the citrus vinaigrette. Fresh, quick in digestion and paired to perfection.
From the first course onwards, it was all a feast of mini meals. Chef Dorfler doesn’t pull any punches with his interest in satisfying the palate with miniature full meals. The first course, Caramelized Qualicum Bay Scallops, Cauliflower Purée, Carrot Reduction, Mirin Glaze, Capers & Crispy Shallots was paired with Joie Farm A Noble Blend 2009, which is a blend of Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Pinot Auxerois, and Riesling. I found the Joie Farm Noble Blend quite apt for the scallops, which despite being caramelized, had a very powerful flavour punch. I also love strong flavours so the capers gave the scallops a much needed counterbalance. The wine pairing was perfect in this case too.
For the second course, Pancetta Wrapped Roasted Breast Of Fraser Valley Quail, Shiitake Mushrooms, Natural Jus, Austrian-Style Ravioli, I was a bit worried. I’ve never been a fan of quail, no matter how much pancetta you add on top. But this quail was really tasty. I think the texture helped (I like my quail well cooked), as well as the natural jus and the ravioli. A perfect compliment was the Garry Oaks Pinot Noir 2008. Here is where I think I made a mistake because I know that, while the pinot noir was to compliment with its tannings and strong flavour the gamey texture of the quail, I can’t really combine red wine and white wine. Not a fan. I would have preferred in any case a white wine, perhaps a Sauvignon Blanc.
I would have been completely happy with just this much food, but we weren’t even yet in the main course. For me, I chose the Pan Seared Pacific Halibut Brushed With Fine Herbs and Citrus & Brown Butter Emulsion, paired with the Mission Hill Perpetua Chardonnay 2008. I absolutely love the Mission Hill wines, and I’m in general a fan of their Chardonnay. The halibut was cooked to perfection and the citrus and brown butter combined with the brushed fine herbs made the dish quite strong (remember, I love strong flavours — delicate flavours almost never do it for me). Sadly, it was really dark at the time and my camera wouldn’t respond as I wanted it to, so I’m not happy with my photo of the halibut nor the dessert.
I was ready to not eat more, but I couldn’t say no to the dessert, Luxe Lemon Mille-Feuilles, and Fresh Summer Berries. Absolutely nice with the Hester Creek Late Harvest Pinot Blanc 2009, which is appropriate as a dessert-accompanying wine (note, it’s NOT a dessert wine though).
Overall, I think Chef Dorfler really hit the spot not only with me and my palate, but with that of the fully packed room. More than 60 people were seating and the service was outstanding. I was particularly impressed with my server, whom I bombarded with questions about the meal and the wine pairings. She was extremely knowledgeable. All in all, I’m so glad this year I finally made it to Chefs Across The Water. I really think more people need to know about this wonderful event.
There might be some spaces for the September 12th Chefs Across The Water with Chef Michael Jacob and possibly for the October 3rd with famous Japanese Chef Tojo, so I would strongly recommend you to contact Hastings House for your tickets. At $100 per person with $40 pairings, this is an amazing deal. AND Hastings House is lovely in and of itself.
Disclosure: I was invited as a guest of Chefs Across The Water. I flew into and from Salt Spring Island compliments of Salt Spring Air. This review was neither paid for nor expected, but I do think that Chefs Across The Water is an excellent event and so do the numerous people I interviewed while on site. As always, all views are mine, and I retain editorial control on anything I publish on my site.