A Root Awakening: Celebrating Ingredients from North Arm Farm at C Restaurant
A dinner with the Mayor of Pemberton, his organic root vegetables, and the introduction of the new Chef de Cuisine Lee Humphries.
I attended the media dinner at Vancouver’s award winning, fine dining seafood restaurant, C Restaurant. The multi course dinner was made specially to celebrate the use of organic root vegetables from North Arm Farm being used at C Restaurant. North Arm Farm supplies to Vancouver’s high end restaurants and they also offer some exotic vegetables that were new to my palate. Along with the root awakening was the welcoming of the new Chef de Cuisine at C Restaurant, Lee Humphries.
Since the menu was special for the event, I feel it would be inappropriate to make recommendations. However I do want to focus on the ingredients of the dishes and of course give you an idea of what to expect. It’s hard to say whether or not I liked some of the exotic root vegetables since I didn’t even know what the ingredient was supposed to taste like in its purest form. On the other hand I was quite impressed with Chef Humphries interpretation of the overall root vegetables, which was still very much along the lines of what C Restaurant represents.
The dinner was of course in honour of North Arm Farm and we were joined by the owner, who is also the mayor of Pemberton, Mayor Jordan Sturdy. The 5 plates featured some of his current organic vegetables offered during this season: parsley root, beets, salsify, sunchokes and carrots, as well as a few other exotic ones used as garnish. Chef had a tricky task ahead of him because it’s not easy showcasing the milder tasting root vegetables (parsley root, salsify, and sunchokes) I find they need a lot of help to shine. Now I feel like I’m talking about hair…
Anyways the dishes were intricate, creative and beautifully presented and showcased the many uses of one ingredient. I really appreciated the experimentation of one vegetable being used in various ways and I was brought back to Chef Robert Clark’s pea shoots in 3 ways, and Chef Alex Tung’s eggplant in 3 ways. But did his the creations make me fall in love with the ingredient, or was the ingredient showcased to its best potential? Well I guess you have to keep on reading… but each dish was executed in a competition like manner and I felt like I was on an episode of Iron Chef where the feature ingredient was ROOOOOOOOOOOOT VEGETABLES (I say that with open arms).
Nonetheless, Chef Humphries is one of the best culinary talents in Vancouver and he’s under the wing of Executive Chef Robert Clark. The dinner did give me an idea of what customers could be in store for and I am curious as to how they will decide to offer up these root vegetables on C Restaurant’s regular menu, when they don’t have to be the star of the show either.
Added note: The professional photos are thanks to Cassandra from Good Life Vancouver. Since it was a media dinner my comments may not apply to C Restaurant’s regular menu on a regular night.
On the table:
- I will always comment on the bread and butter, and it was great here. There was a lot of love in it, like the one from Wolfgang Puck Pizzeria & Cucina, which is equally as memorable as this.
- The darker rye like bread tasted like it had a hint of licorice from perhaps Star Anise. There was also mint leaves and it had a wonderfully earthy flavour.
- The one at the end was my favourite. It was a buttery sweet seaweed bread with walnut pieces and it was almost dessert like but with savoury bits of seaweed throughout. It was almost like cornbread too and extra fantastic with the creamy whipped sea salt butter, but not even necessary.
In regards to how the first course was served, I was brought back to my soup I had at Ebo Restaurant. However I don’t think the thick texture of this soup worked as well with this method.
- House candied salmon
- Until now the best soups I’ve had in my life was the Roasted Chestnut & Apple Soup from Redd and the Caramelized Onion & Apple Bisque from Hastings House Country House Hotel. There’s just something extremely satisfying about rich and creamy soups that are good enough to be the entree. Was I excited after this dish? Extremely.
- ;sjebf;alskdbnf;lk I’m so excited about this soup I can barely write about it! I don’t know which impressed me more, the texture of it or the flavour? Incredible!
- A veloute is pretty much a traditional French sauce so it was unexpected to see it being served as a soup. It tastes like bechamel and is almost made the same way.
- This was the definition of a luxurious soup.
- It was an ultra creamy and smooth, rich, thick and indulgent cream soup and I could smell the intense truffle oil and the shaved white truffle even before the dish hit the table.
- The texture of the soup was a creamy foamy mousse, and as rich as it was it was also very whipped and light. I felt like I was eating buttery liquid silk and it was sweet and almost potato/turnip like in texture with a nutty parsnip flavour.
- The candied salmon was sweet and the juicy salmon caviar enhanced the natural salmon flavours and acted as the salt in the dish. It was a great contrast with the soup and it gave it the savoury flavours it needed.
- There was also a slice of fresh water chestnut, which actually could have been fresh parsley root, but regardless, that gave the perfect refreshing crunch to this rich soup. I think it would be unique if they caramelized it and used it as a “candied parsley root crouton”.
- It was actually the parsley root rather than the green stems and leaves that was used for the base of the soup, so it really didn’t taste much like parsley.
- It was infused with garlic and onions which gave it the aromatic savoury flavours and there was a parsley emulsion and fresh parsley on top which brought the familiar parsley flavours one would expect.
- I can’t say I was a huge fan of the bigger parsley leaves and found them a bit distracting. I would have actually preferred the delicate smaller baby parsley leaves or perhaps parsley oil to incorporate that parsley taste.
- Overall a beautiful dish in presentation and taste and definitely one of the best soups I’ve had to date.
- White Sturgeon caviar, purple beet pearls, shaved candy cane beets
- “Just beat it, just beat it”… long live the king of pop! Or we could “turn the beat around, love to hear percussion” … okay no really, turn the beat around… to the real beet of the night!
- This plate was a celebration of 3 kinds of beets executed in 3 ways.
- From the name, I was actually expecting a martini glass with the beets made into some sort of savoury sweet slushy topped with beet gelatin pearls and caviar, and finished with shaved frozen crystallized candy cane beets… yeah my imagination travels far sometimes
- I love any kind of beet! Ironically enough, I actually found the beet flavours really masked in this dish.
- When I think beets I think sweet flavours, and this dish wasn’t really. I don’t find the cooking techniques did anything to develop the beet flavours and although they tried to compensate with stronger flavours of salty caviar, Scotch and rich creme fraiche, I felt the overall dish under seasoned and unbalanced.
- The first beet was the golden beet which was made into a buttermilk pancake.
- It looked like pan fried polenta and tasted like a sweet semi creamy, but doughy corn pancake. It wasn’t like corn bread either but I found it much more pancake than it was beet and the few pieces of actual beet I bit into came off tasting like sweet corn. It was also pan fried, but not crispy.
- I just didn’t really understand the pancake connection to the salad. I think golden beet croutons would have been nice.
- Next was the purple beet pearls. It tasted like gelatin with the beet colour used as the dye, but I got none of the beet flavour. It was actually tossed in a bit of Scotch and that was very apparent, but I found it was too strong and sharp of a flavour for the delicate beet, especially since they were so small already. I think it would be interesting to toss them in the Fred Loimer Lenz wine they paired it with.
- The candy cane beets were the most “beet” looking, but the flavour of them were also mild. It tasted like crunchy turnips, but they’re pretty as always and remind me of Japanese Kamaboko (that pink and white swirl made of fish paste that they serve with ramen).
- Overall I found it a rather bland salad and I didn’t taste the celebration of beets. It really needed the salty White Sturgeon caviar to be enjoyed because that acted as the salt for the whole dish. Together with the purple beet pearls it was better, but not great.
- The salad was rather light and crunchy so I appreciated the creme fraiche which added a nice tangy richness to the dish, it was also different than the typical goat’s cheese. On the other hand it didn’t help to enhance any sweetness of the beet.
- Chinese Artichoke – the plate was garnished with these mini seashell looking “Chinese Artichokes” and it was actually my first time trying them.
- For some reason I kept thinking to myself that it looked like Shrek’s ear wax… maybe because in the movie he uses it as a candle, and this looked wax like.
- I’ve never seen them used in Chinese cuisine and although it is grown in China, it was used more often and made more popular in France.
- It’s actually not an artichoke, but a root and it tastes nothing like an artichoke, although I’m not sure what it tastes like in its purest form.
- It was super sour and crunchy like a pickle, but also sweet. It turned into a mealy texture and I can’t say I enjoyed it. I would imagine it would taste like a turnip or some unsweetened neutral root vegetable if it hadn’t been pickled. Besides bringing out more tang, it didn’t really do anything for the beet dish.
This was my favourite wine pairing of the night. Someliers Kim Cry and Adam Rennick are masters at this art and this pairing for the next course showcased their talent best for me. It really brought out the sweetness in the dish that wasn’t really supposed to be sweet at all. It intensified the caramel in the lemon sauce. It also added a spiciness that came after, but it wasn’t too overpowering although still strong.
- Crisp oysters, champagne foam
- This was such a coincidence! I had tweeted earlier in the day that Food Network had named “Salsify” as one of the top 5 ingredients of 2011 to try. I didn’t even know what it was, so I was pleasantly surprised and excited to see it on the menu.
- The components of the dish were well thought out. From right to left (salad first) the flavours got gradually richer and each one had its own flavour yet they all matched and balanced each other. The final terrine incorporated flavours of the other 2 dishes and the continuity flowed fantastically.
- I loved the buttery rich well seasoned deep fried baby oyster under the tangy citrus like champagne foam bubbles which added a lightness to the puffy yet crispy tempura batter. How they made something so rich seem so airy and light was something to admire.
- The champagne foam brought out the juiciness of the oysters and its natural salty brine flavour. I prefer raw oysters 99% of the time, but this one was pretty spectacular and reminded me of the pan-fried oyster I had at Shore Club – see here.
- The dungeness crab terrine had an oyster like flavour as well so perhaps there was some oyster use in its assembly. I could bite into chucks of flaky moist crab and potato scallop like pieces of what I think was salsify. Throughout the terrine was also bubble like buttery bits of silky rich foie gras that gave it a punch of meaty flavour and added smoothness in texture, yet it didn’t overwhelm the seafood.
- The layers of terrine melted in your mouth and I could taste some lemon zest which kept it fresh and balanced. The lemon zest was used to match the roasted caramelized lemon sauce that was served with the salsify salad.
- This salsify was a peeled Black Salsify and there is also a White variety. Again I’m not sure what the flavour is like in its raw form, but I don’t think chef ventured too far from its natural qualities.
- The salsify was like a fennel bulb in texture but it had the neutral flavour of a turnip or jicama root. As new of an ingredient it was to my palate, I didn’t feel that inspired by it, although I did like it.
- It’s definitely a root vegetable that needs help so I really appreciated the sweet and tangy roasted caramelized lemon sauce that chef added to it. I think this would work much better than say an infused oil.
- It was rather simple with some parsley and marinated cucumber slices, but I find it was there to balance out the richness of the terrine more so than being a stand alone component. For me, this would be delicious with a confit pork belly along side.
I found this to be a summer wine that was suitable for the winter because it was so much richer than most rosés I’m used to. It had a significant amount of spice and it was pretty fruity and I actually prefer it with perhaps an even meatier seafood dish.
- Sunchokes, soft quail egg, sunflower seed gremolata
- This was my second favourite plate of the night. It’s a bit unusual for me to be so impressed by the main, but I was.
- This dish showcased the sunflower plant cooked in 3 ways.
- After the soup I was most infatuated by the flavours of this dish because it was a seafood dish, yet the flavour was incredibly meaty.
- I think that’s why they chose such a strong rosé to go with it. For me it was still a bit overpowering, but I’m also not one for wines with lots of chili spice.
- There was a sunchoke puree made with cream, garlic and goat’s cheese and it brought me back to the first dish, the soup. I’m not sure if chef intended to bring me back to where we started, but his master plan worked!
- I find root ingredients work best with rich flavours and ingredients since they tend to be so heavy and dense in texture but rather bland in flavour, so I really liked the interpretation of this sunchoke puree. I know it’s simple, but simple does work.
- The seared sunchokes not only resembled, but also had the texture of dried pears. They had a hint of sweetness, but they were incredibly meaty and I could taste bacon. It was salty and almost cured and fishy, but they executed it in a way that made it taste like crispy bacon. I loved the flavour, but in a way it was so far from a sunchoke.
- The scallops were pretty weak for me, but the flavour of the overall dish compensated. The scallops were baby scallops and they were seared on one side (my pet peeve) and a bit overcooked.
- Overall it was a creamy sauce with a creamy quail’s egg, matched with bacon like sunchokes, and a nutty crunch of toasted sunflower seeds. The flavours were familiar yet the ingredients weren’t and everything worked very well.
- I appreciated the celebration of the sunchoke in 3 ways more so than the beets in 3 ways. The bright yellow orange yolk of the quail’s egg also reminded me of sunflowers… just a random thought.
- Left to right: Yellow Carrot Cupcake, Purple Carrot Vanilla Float, Carrot Creme Brulee
- I love dessert as you already know (or if you don’t and it’s your first time visiting, then welcome!). I love creativity as much as I love dessert, so the idea of vegetables for dessert worked for me.
- I was incredibly excited about this carrot in 3 ways because I have a thing for using typically nontraditional savoury ingredients in desserts.
- This isn’t exactly what I expected from C Restaurant since it seemed more “Society” like – see the Society Junk Food Platter here.
- The flavours were great, but they weren’t exactly sophisticated desserts and the techniques and presentation weren’t there. For an award winning fine dining restaurant like C, I know they’re capable of better.
- The Carbonated spritzer should have came separate or should have been poured at the table because it had completely deflated by the time it arrived.
- It tasted like a sweet vegetable carrot juice with a tiny scoop of vanilla ice cream.
- As good as it was, I didn’t feel comfortable enjoying it since I was so nervous to get to the bottom and suddenly hear that slurping sound through my straw when I realized there was nothing left. It happened to more than a few of us that night, but at least I wasn’t first to do it!
- I loved this! Despite the custard being a bit curdled, I actually thought that bubbly texture was intended. It was an unconventional dish and I didn’t know what to expect.
- It reminded me of a yam souffle and it tasted like a pumpkin and carrot mousse like custard. It was frothy, creamy and sweet and they did a good job achieving the crust although a bit uneven.
- I won’t lie though, I ate my neighbours as well (it was offered!)… so the texture really didn’t bother me since the flavour was so delicious.
- The hazelnut biscotti was crispy and salty and sweet and I think a pecan or walnut variation would have been nicer with the carrot flavour.
- Having hosted Vancouver’s 1st Cupcake Challenge, I was pretty disappointed with the presentation of this cupcake.
- It was pretty much a carrot cake with lots of raisins, but it was dense in texture and a bit over baked and tough.
- The only thing that made it “non-bake sale” like was the tangy and sweet creamy goat’s cheese frosting which was a great and original idea.
- I have to give a shout out to these teapots. They’re gorgeous pieces of art work and I wanted to take them home… I’ll bring a bigger purse next time.