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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

THE ECSTASY OF FOOD



When I was given the generous offer of a night’s stay at a heritage guest house and a dinner for two with wine and beer pairings at the Spinnaker’s Gastro Brew Pub and Guest House in Victoria, I knew who I’d invite to go along with me. As I don’t have a partner, I decided to ask my long-time pal and party buddy, Cheryl, a single parent who doesn’t have many opportunities to spend a ‘romantic’ weekend away.

We set off early on Saturday morning aboard B.C. Ferries and enjoyed a leisurely cruise, then drove from Swartz Bay to Victoria. It was still early morning so we parked and walked all around the shore-front trail, stopping for photo ops and a visit to the Ross Bay Cemetery. By noon we were hungry and headed across the Johnson St. bridge to West Victoria where Spinnakers is located. It was still too early to check into the guest house, so we sat out on the deck enjoying the harbor view and ordered a delicious lunch which included Cortez Island oysters on the shell. Little did we realize as we munched away at our burgers and chips that the dinner we were about to indulge in would far surpass any dining experience we could imagine.

By mid afternoon we checked into the lovely heritage guest house. Guests can stay at either the 1884 restored heritage house or the contemporary Garden Suites. Our Victorian style room with it’s large bathroom (that had likely once served as a sun porch), was graciously endowed with antique furniture and decor. A little card “Welcome Ruth and Cheryl” was set on the table along with truffles and two bottles of Spinnaker’s own
artesian mineral water.



Never having indulged in a wine and beer pairing dinner, we had no idea of what to expect. In fact, when we first arrived at the reception we were mistakenly ushered upstairs to the pub area. Then, someone came to inform us they were ‘waiting for us downstairs’ where we were seated by a window overlooking the Inner Harbor and a view of the Provincial Parliament Buildings across the bay. All our questions were soon answered though, when we were introduced to Brian Storen, Spinnaker’s award-winning sommelier. Congenial and gracious, Brian led us through the entire experience with stories and anecdotes and explanations of each beer and wine and the dishes that were presented, prepared by chefs Alison Ryan and Nigel Taylor

Dinner started with demi point whaletown oysters sprinkled with house brewed malt vinegar and yellow beet mignonette, paired with a glass of classic Wassail Mead, sweet as nectar. A taste of Spinnaker’s handcrafted India Pale Ale followed while we dined on a delicious salad composed of tomatoes and feta cushioned in a bed of organic field greens. This was accompanied by wine from Giordano Venturi wineries in Cobble Hill, locally harvested grapes , refreshing to the taste. Then there was Spinnaker’s Iceberg Ale, specially brewed during the Royal B.C. Museum Titanic Exhibition. This went well with the fresh Sablefish swimming in a stew of tomato and olive oil.

The artistically decorated plates kept coming, and so did the little glasses of beer and tastes of wine. All the ingredients are harvested locally including the 2006 Pinot Gris crafted from grapes of Naramata’s Kettle Valley Winery. The Cowichan Bay Farm duck accompanied by chef Alison’s special Dragon Fly Farms Spinach, Port Alberni pecorino cheese and Saanich Organics squash gnocchi.breast went down well with Spinnaker’s Belgian style Saison. All Spinnakers beers and ales are hand crafted and brewed with the finest imported hops and grain, and local ingredients in season such as farm fresh raspberries.


Were our appetites sated yet? Still several more courses to go, and our taste buds were dancing with excitement over all these savory and delicious delicacies. Averill Creek Vineyards 2006 Pino Noir was a perfect compliment to the braised pork tenderloin resting on fingerling potatoes and apples with rinds of Salt Spring Island Boerenkaas cheese along with cherry jus.

There was one more entree to go but we were stalled, and concluded our feast with a heavenly selection of dark chocolate truffles paired with camembert, along with Spinnakers’s Belgian Dubble, a mildly hopped, malty beer with a spicy dark fruit aroma. There were four selections on the dessert tray. A ‘hop scotch’ truffle was accompanied by Comox Wasabi Verdelait and a satiny Scottish ale; ‘just a little stout’ dark chocolate went well with the Titanic stout. And for the grand finale a nugget of Blossom’s blue cheese accompanied by a desert wine. Venturi Schulze’s beautiful Brandenburg #3 sent our palates into ecstasy with it’s nugatine, fig and citrus viscosity.

We didn’t need to have romantic partners for this memorable evening. Thanks to our attentive librettist, Brian Storen, and the creations of Spinnaker’s talented chefs, this was about as exotic and romantic as it gets. Never before (and perhaps we never will again) had we experienced such a lavish, exotic dining experience. Thank you, Spinnakers’ Publican, Paul Hadfield, for offering this opportunity for a truly memorable weekend!

Learn more about Spinnakers Gastro Brew Pub and Guest House at
www.spinnakers.com
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1 comment:

Barbara Martin said...

Weren't you the lucky duck! Sumptuous food in a wonderful setting.