Through work I was among one of the lucky ~300 guests who attended the Fairmont Apprentice Dinner. This is a culinary debut of cook apprentices from seven Fairmont properties: Waterfront, Pacific Rim, Hotel Vancouver, Vancouver Airport, Chateau Whistler, Empress in Victoria and Olympic in Seattle.
The event was at the beautiful Fairmont Hotel Vancouver. We arrived to the champagne reception, only to disappointingly report to you that I didn’t get to try any of the canapes prepared by Fairmont Pacific Rim. There were way too many people and I only saw two banquet servers passing around the canapes. I didn’t mind, though, saved room for the actual dinner.
Emceed by Coleen Christie of CTV, it’s a six-course dinner with wine pairing. Each of the other six Fairmont Hotels was responsible for one dish. Here they were:
Fairmont Style “Cobb Salad” by Fairmont Vancouver Airport
Pascual Toso Sauvignon Blanc
Tomato & basil terrine was wonderful. It’s colourful, juicy, light and refreshing. The bits of house-made bacon was smokey and blended well with the lightly flavoured quail egg and tomato terrine. The pressed chicken confit was just right, not salty and it had a nice crispy skin. The only thing I didn’t enjoy was the thin slice of bacon fat. It was quite greasy for my taste. Oh and the blue cheese.
Pressed Quail Terrine by Fairmont Chateau Whistler
Mission Hill Pinot Noir
Initially I thought the terrine would be very rich, but I was wrong. The meat was lightly seasoned, with the added crunch of pistachio. I appreciate the choice of using apricot chutney to pair with the meat. The sweetness of apricot and the dash of S&P, along with the walnut crisp was an excellent combo. There were some pepper sprinkled on the crisps, though, which made my lips tinkled as I bit through them. A weird sensation.
Lemon Sorbetto by Fairmont Olympic
Frankly I think this is the easiest dish of the evening, but I also realized this may not be part of the apprentice dinner as there was no apprentice listed for Fairmont Olympic (so it’s there simply for cleansing palate and not to show off talent?) Anyway, it may be an easy dish, but the sorbetto was excellent. Sorbet with a splash (and a generous splash) of vodka, what’s not to like there? The addition of cassis, or black currants, made it rather tart, but overall a very refreshing palate cleanser.
A Taste of Canada – Coast to Coast by Fairmont Hotel Vancouver
Smoking Loon Syrah (Lamb)
Smoking Loon Viognier (Lobster)
Fairmont Hotel Vacouver’s interpretation of Surf n’ Turf, and a luxurious version of it. I like how the presentation was like yin and yang, one was light colours (orange and white0 while the other was of darker tone (pink and brown). Nice contrast. The lamb tenderloin just melted in your mouth, the quince (or pear, we can’t quite tell) puree brought hints of sweetness to the meat. The lobster meat was done just right and it worked very well with the turnip puree. The nice touch was the crepe stuffed with goat cheese. It’s rich but they only gave you a small piece of it. This was by far our favourite dish up to this point of dinner.
Salt Spring Island “Juliette” Semifreddo by Fairmont Waterfront
Sumac Ridge Sparkling Wine
So we thought the last course was a tough act to follow, the fifth course came as a nice surprise. This was a cheese course with a modern twist. The cheese souffle was nice and fluffy (though collapsed). The sabayon was fragrant, infused with truffle flavour. I was looking for the semifreddo, searching for something like a half-frozen ice cream. Turns out it was the slice of brie cheese. Well, it wasn’t brie, but the camembert-like “Juliette” cheese from the Salt Spring Island Cheese Company. We believe the cheese was removed from the rind, sweetened then re-stuffed into the rind. Not sure if that’s how it’s done but it was very good. Nice and creamy, and the fancy fruit loop balanced the entire dish with a hint of tartness.
Thyme Infused Roasted Peach Bavarois by Fairmont Empress
Lastly the dessert course was a work of art. It looked so beautiful that we didn’t know where to begin. It had a layer of peach cream, a layer of cake, and the whole log was covered in torched marshmallows. The dish was adorned with white chocolate art and glittery cream and edible flower petals. Drops of aged balsamic & blackberry reduction combined with raspberry pieces balanced the sweetness of the log.
Of all the wines we tried, I particularly like Smoking Loon Viognier and Fetzer Gewurztraminer. Sumac Ridge Sparkling Wine was pretty good too.
Frankly I have been disappointed by Fairmont properties in the past. But if the quality of this dinner represents the quality of dishes we’ll be getting at these Fairmont properties, I might have just been convinced to go back for another visit. This dinner was amazing, and it truly showcased the talent of our young chefs. There was a standing ovation at the end of dinner to recognize all participating culinary apprentices. Bravo to all the apprentices and kudos to their mentors.
More event photos here: