Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Pop-Up Restaurant and a Vegetarian Feast

A fantastic meal by White Birch Catering Dinner Club at Fruition Orchards

Going out for dinner is fun, but it’s even more fun when the meal is served on a farm with four-day-old sheep, a crowd of hungry chicken, and some scatterbrained goats.

White Birch Catering Dinner Club, under the direction of Chef Moe Mathieu, hosts a dinner approximately once a month. The theme and the location are constantly changing, but the quality of the food remains the same – outstanding.

This month’s dinner was a vegetarian banquet planned by Chef Moe’s apprentice, Lindsay Adams. I had met Lindsay and knew that she was a strong advocate for good vegetarian cuisine, so I was eager to see what she would come up with.

Fruition Orchards
The dinner was held at Fruition Orchards and Family Farm, the home of Carmen and Keith Dyck. The farm is just outside of Aberdeen, and they have 90 sheep, 10-15 goats, and approximately 300 chicken, in addition to 6-7,000 young fruit trees and 10 beehives.

The property originally belonged to Carmen’s grandparents, and they are living in the former Aberdeen United Church, which is approximately 104 years old.

We had a chance to tour the property before supper, which was great fun as it was feeding time, so the goats were trying to eat the chicken feed, and the sheep were up to their eye balls in huge piles of hay.

After dinner, Keith explained that the animals graze on the grass and weeds in the orchard, fertilize the fruit trees, and eat the insects and other pests. They offer tours of their property and provide opportunities for people to help out.

The Menu
About 20 of us gathered in the renovated church to enjoy a five-course meal. It was such a treat to enjoy a fully vegetarian meal of such high calibre. There was such a range of flavours and textures, and the quantities were just right – enough to satisfy but not so much that we left feeling uncomfortable.

The summer vegetable gazpacho was so refreshing. And a number of us, who absolutely loathe cilantro, were surprised to find that it didn’t even slightly spoil our enjoyment of the soup. Was it a different variety of cilantro?

The second course was a soybean, fennel and barley salad flavoured with white wine and tarragon. The combination of soybean and barley made it a protein-rich addition to the meal. I enjoyed the varied textures with crunchy soybeans and chewy barley.

Next up was a cauliflower cheddar tart garnished with walnut pâté. The walnuts provided a rich, flavourful accompaniment as well as protein.

I was so impressed with the variety of fresh vegetables. The next course included a tomato relleno and a zucchini feta pancake garnished with a very zippy jabañero sauce.

Dessert was a lemon-honey mousse with chocolate mint ganache topped with red currants, cherries and Saskatoon berries picked on the Fruition Farms property. I particularly enjoyed the contrast between the tart, frothy mousse and the rich chocolate ganache.

Fruit Wines
Fruit wines from Living Sky Winery were an excellent accompaniment to the vegetarian feast. I had a glass of their currant wine and was pleasantly surprised to discover that it was relatively dry and with enough complexity to give it character.

We finished the meal with a taste of Keith Dyck’s sour cherry vodka. This is fruit with a punch, and I’m delighted that he shared his recipe and I’m hoping that my sister in law will prepare and share a batch.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with vegetarian dishes and meals. The variety of flavours and textures should satisfy even the most diehard carnivore.

Do support local farmers. Wobbly baby sheep and strutting chickens with fancy headgear enrich our lives.

Do enjoy a dinner organized by the White Birch Catering Dinner Club. You’ll have a fabulous time.

1 comment:

Renee said...

Sounds like a lovely feast!