Chef Stewart arrived on the island from Kelowna to prepare a five course dinner to match wine selections which were decided upon before the menu, which is the opposite of the usual procedure for pairing dinners. In this case it worked splendidly as we began with crisp summer sips and ended the night with a bold Hastings House wine cellar gem, all complimented with Chef Stewart’s fresh and seasonal creations.
Chefs Across the Water with Executive Chef Chris Stewart of Mission Hill Winery
As Executive Winery Chef, Chef Stewart oversees Mission Hill‘s entire culinary program; including mentorship for the brigade at the Terrace Restaurant, hosting fine dining events, and designing the curriculum for Mission Hill’s culinary education program. He works hand in hand with local farmers and purveyors who grow organic produce and fruit specifically for the winery kitchens, all of which are complemented by herbs and vegetables from the winery’s organic varietal gardens.
A plump scallop with fresh peas to add a crisp and creamy element were perfectly paired with the Reserve Riesling, adding aromatic depth to the dish.
I am always a fan of halibut and this portion was baked to perfection, it was succulent as it slipped apart, ready to pair its buttery notes with glossy roasted carrots.
A versatile pork loin can be led in various directions and with this dish it was gently dipped into a pool of rich, earthy flavours with the truffled lentil.
The dessert looked deconstructed but the cake, cream, and chocolate made a single statement. I didn’t get as much of the blackberry gel on my palette but I was too preoccupied with the chocolate and the wine pairing to notice at the time. The Oculus could have been enjoyed on its own, with its opening being its own special occasion, but it was a very classy and luxurious way to cap off the evening.
Following the meal Chef Stewart came out to greet guests and he told us a bit more about his suppliers, including Wise Earth Farm in Kelowna. Generally on Salt Spring Island the answer to “where did you get this ingredient” is usually “just out back in our garden” but it was nice to see Chef Stewart not only use island produce but also introduce us to his favourites around his home base.
It’s always a treat to get away to Salt Spring Island, if even for a quick 24-hour period. The last time I soaked up a Ganges Harbour sunrise was last December at Hastings House. In the winter I took delight in piling wood on the fire in our room as we looked out at twisting arbutus trees pointing the way to the harbour. Now that it’s summer, morning walks on the dew-soaked lawn and photographing fuzzy honeybees loading themselves up in the multicoloured garden blossoms were keys to unwinding.
The next Chefs Across the Water 5-course dinner will be on Monday, September 15, 2014 with Chef Angun An of Maenam Restaurant in Vancouver at Hastings House. You can get to Salt Spring Island via BC Ferries or by taking a quick 35 minute float plane ride. Be sure to make your reservations as soon as possible (call 1-800-661-9255) and plan your dinner getaway to Salt Spring Island.