Have you heard of this cafe in the Downtown Eastside called H.A.V.E., which only opens for breakfast and lunch, Monday to Friday?
H.A.V.E. Cafe is the store front of a culinary training program that is designed to provide the community with skills training and opportunities for employment. The acronym stands for Hope, Action, Values and Ethics.
Through work, I had the pleasure to attend its very first fundraising dinner last week. This year they’ve kicked off a fundraising initiative called “Project 374” to raise fund for renovations and the upkeep for the school. The cafe will also be renamed to Cafe 374 soon. Why 374? The cafe/culinary school is located at 374 Powell Street, Vancouver.
Chef Alex Chen, who will be representing Canada in Bocuse d’Or in Lyon in 2013, put together the menu for the evening. Chef Alex’s dishes were basically a new take on the classics.
Our dinner consisted of Amuse + 5 courses. Here are some pictures:
Amuse: Very clean flavour. Of course, it was extra enjoyable since I got two, thanks to my boss who doesn’t like oysters!
Course One: Who would’ve thought that the beets could be sliced so thinly then stacked like this? The goat cheese balls had a semi-crispy exterior that added a bit of texture to the creaminess of it, along with the crunchy hazelnut streusel. One of my favourites of the evening.
Course Two: Very interesting soup course. When the dish was first served, I was surprised to see the “soup” jiggle! The veloute was in jello form, with all ingredients sitting right on top. A deconstructed bouillabaisse. I ate it by scooping, then stirring in the jello with some cream; very flavourful broth. The clear jello kind of threw me off though, would almost consider this as a shellfish consomme rather than a bouillabaisse.
Course Three: I liked that it’s duck three-ways. There was poached duck breast, with duck confit croquette and seared foie gras. This was my other favourite. Each preparation was cooked nicely with different flavour profiles. The foie gras had this dense texture that I rarely found in other foie gras that I’ve had in the past, which made it less creamy, but meaty and rich. The poached piece was very moist and just melted in your mouth.
Course Four: Another meat dish. The beef tenderloin had a nice sear and was done medium rare. Very nicely cooked. I would’ve liked it without the sea salt. However, I liked that Chef Alex added a few cubes of ox tongue to give us an even meatier bite.
Course Five: We thought all we got was sauces as dessert! What’s hidden underneath the napkin were little donut balls.
Petit Fours: And when you thought our dinner ended with the donuts, we were served with mango jellies and almond cookies. A nice finish to our meal.
It was a very enjoyable dinner. It was an honour to have Chef Alex Chen cook for us, as it was his last public appearance of this kind. He is now focused on preparing for the Bocuse d’Or competition next year. In addition to some great food, we also heard touching stories of how the H.A.V.E. program is making a difference in the community and directly changing some of the students’ lives.
To learn more about H.A.V.E. and its culinary program, visit have-cafe.ca.
I would like to close this post with a picture of this saying that was hung on the cafe wall the evening we went to this fundraising dinner, despite we didn’t have any croutons that night. And more event photos follow.