Monday, February 4, 2013

Hot Babe, Sharp Knife, Brilliant Food

It was a pearl dropped from heaven. The best food day I ever had started with a cooking lesson from Dana Hauser, Fairmont’s first female executive chef, who wields a sharp knife and is one hot babe.

We were lined up, aprons on, at a wooden counter in the kitchen of the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel in Vancouver. “We’re going to make cured salmon three ways,” Hauser said. An array of ingredients including endives, vodka, molasses, beets and cayenne pepper were sliced, diced and purĂ©ed. She coated a trio of wild-salmon slabs and set them to cure for 24 to 48 hours. Magically, Hauser bought out finished salmon and served thin slices with salad and bannock. Great appearance, even better taste!

With barely a pause, we rushed to Granville Island for lunch at Edible Canada, which specializes in sustainable food and is one of the hottest restaurants on the rich Vancouver cuisine scene. I got down to business with a wild albacore tuna, the middle red and the outside curry-crusted. Nice! My foodie compatriots ordered Quebec split pea soup, duck poutine topped with a fried egg and seafood soup with lobster and coconut broth.

“No time to waste,” said our guide, leading us into the sprawling Granville Island Market, arguably Canada’s best source for fresh food. At Oyama Sausage we sampled prosciutto and salami. At ChocolaTAS I munched on a sculpted praline chocolate. At Zara’s Italian Deli we tasted black and green olives. And so it went from one stand to another, our pace gradually slowing from a brisk walk to a contented waddle. We finished at Artisan Sake Maker, where we learned about the fermentation of rice wine and, of course, sampled sake.

Darkness had fallen as we headed back to the Fairmont Waterfront. After a short respite, we gathered at Heron’s the hotel’s upscale restaurant. First, we quaffed a wheat and honey beer, brewed with honey from Fairmont’s own bees. Then we moved to the dining table and soon were nibbling a seared Alaskan scallop as Executive Chef Hauser described the menu she created for us. With good company, great vintages and so much delightful food throughout the entire day, I drifted into a semi-coma of gratification. I remember a poached pear & endive salad suffused with blue cheese and candied walnuts. A delightfully tender sablefish, pan-seared and brioche-crusted floated past. It seems a tasty brulĂ©ed lemon tart was involved at the end.

I rolled to my room, let out a happy burp and fell asleep rubbing my tummy, which felt much more rotund than in the morning.