Sunday, July 22, 2012

Tofino's top place, The POINTE at Wickaninnish Inn, Relais et Chateau par excellence in BC

We were very happy to head south to the land where the sun sets and be
on our own for a week in British Columbia. Our first two nights were
at the remote Wickaninnish Inn(, a Relais et Chateaux
property at the westernmost end of the road on Vancouver Island (3
hours from the ferry) literally at the beginning of the wilderness
(the Clayaquot Wilderness that is).
We arrived late and ended up eating later than we had hoped, but as
soon as we sat down in the dining room with its floor to ceiling
windows overlooking Long Beach and the remote Pacific Rim National
Park we knew it would be a glorious evening. Samuel spotted a bald
eagle swooping down for dinner and it stayed perched on a tree just
above our table for almost half an hour. One of the servers saw how
excited he was and brought over a printout on bald eagles and their
habits! We ordered our first bottle of wine from our superior server
Jorge who knew all the wines on the list intimately. He offered us a
taste of JOIE, "A Noble Blend" 2011 from BC (everything is served in
Riedel here, so I felt very much more at home), which was a little too
sweet for our buds. We went to the MISSION HILL VIOGNIER "Reserve"
from Kelowna in BC's Okanagan Valley which had lots of mineral acidity
and a creamy finish.
A Tuna Tartare amuse came with nori wrap, red onion, radish and
mushroom. Samuel surprised us all and ate it all save the mushroom.
The breads arrived and they were apricot spelt (slightly sweet),
hazelnut white (never did get to taste this, despite our asking for
more several times--the bread lady seemed to keep skipping our table,
and then said she ran out) and a tasty cornbread.

Will & I split a 1/2 dozen of the "Outlandish" (that's the purveyor)
OYSTERS which are actually local Blakc Pearl Oysters from Vancouver
Island with a salad of organic beets and fresh horseradish with
caraway croutons on the side; they were petite yet full of flavor.
Samuel started with a salad which included many things, but would not
eat the watercress, orange or frisee (well, I can't blame him for the
latter). He did taste Will's SHORT RIB & SPOT PRAWN PANZANELLA which
had very had house made focaccia croutons, divine ribs, tasty prawns
and pile of local arugula (with a long hair in it--OOPS!) and a
Shellfish Emuslion. We got the plate replaced quickly with an
explanation from the kitchen that it had to come from the farm pickers
as it was so entangled with the greens! As I was saying, Sam loved the
dish so much, he ordered it for his starter the next night when we
returned, but then made a miny fuss about not liking the shorter end
of the shrimp. Who knows??
My SPICY PACIFIC OCTIOUS with Chili Glaze, Sesame, Seaweed Salad and
Crisp Sushi Rice had a Sracha sauce that was sublime and the huge
portions of sliced octopus could not have been more tender.
A Raspberry Sorbet with Fresh Thyme came served over cocoa nibs for
crunch and support.
We moved on to a QUAIL'S GATE "Stewart Family Reserve" 2008 Chardonnay
also from Kelowna that was medium bodied and perfect with the two main
TOFINO SALMAN TANDOORI is made with apricot, a divine burnt eggplant
puree, red lentil crisps, caramelized onion, scallion and cilantro.
The fish was sublime and the preparation a nice change from the
simplicity we had had for several weeks.
Slow Baked HALIBUT was another perfect fish with English Peas,
Lettuce, Braised Pork Hocks in a Mustard Beurre Blanc which truly
respected the fish.

For his main course Samuel chose the House Made HOT DOG which would
truly be a non-event, but this was a Relais et Chateaux dining room
and it was on a home made brioche roll and was a sausage like dog with
gorgeous fries.

I asked Jorge how often the menu changes and he said that if guests
stay three nights or more, the chef will call them to ask specifically
what they wish to eat so that repetition isn't a problem. We had two
nights and we already looked forward to number two. Other than the
hair, the only thing I would eliminate (and another server said they
were going soon) was the woven mats on the tables that constantly
slide around the gorgeous wood and are really unnecessary. Also, the
rest rooms should have tissues.

For dessert Will chose the RHUBARB with Rhubarb Walnut Buttermilk
Mousse, Rhubarb Sorbet and Confit Rhubarb Ribbon, Walnut & Nougatine
Wafer. It sounded better that it was overall, but all was redeemed
with the superb cheeses and dessert wine.
Jorge suggested the QUAIL's GATE (same winery) OPTIMA, a sweet rich
late harvest. I loved it with my 4 cheeses:
PAILLOT de CHEVRE an earthy goat from Quebec
RIOPELLE de L'Isle, a divine raw cow triple creme also from Quebec
HERCULES de Charlevoix another raw cow from Quebec, but less exciting
BLUE BENEDICTINE a super, yet mild pasteurized blue

Well, we knew we would be back the next night and headed up to the
room very late only to return earlier on the next day so as to get
some more sleep for a change.

As we sat down, Jorge brought over two glasses of complimentary crisp
fresh BLUE MOUNTAIN Okanagan Brut sparkling and a glass of local
Ginger Beer for Samuel; we were happy to be back. The amuse was an
Asian slaw of jicama, cashew, and soy glaze that was nice, but the
tuna from night one was still in our minds.
We ordered a 1/2 litre of FAIRVIEW CELLARS 2011 Sauvignon Blanc
(sustainable) and it is nice that many restaurants out here have not
only half bottles and glasses, but 1/2 litres! We had planned for meat
tonight and wanted to splurge on a bottle of BLACK HILLS "NOTA BENE"
and The Pointe had 2007 which was 46%Cab/39%Merlot/15%Cab Franc). A
gentleman sitting next to me on the plane to Vancouver weeks earlier
mentioned this as well as the Quail Ridge Winery from which we had
wines the night before. It was a treat and Jorge said it was one of
his favorite "top 3" wines from BC. It's my favorite red with
intensity, but needs to breathe, and he knew that.

Samuel did start with the hairless version of the PANZANELLA and a
Shirley Mojito...a Shirley Temple with lots of mint leaves, that is
his new drink of choice. Will started with the Albacore TUNA TARTARE
with Cucumber Sorbet and while he said it was delicious, he still
insisted mine at home is better. YAY! I had the most superb POTATO
CRUSTED CORTEZ ISLAND OYSTERS which comes with Sweet Corn Nage, Wild
Mushrooms, Summer Truffle and Creme Fraiche and is rightfully a
signature dish here. The mushrooms were local and totally dreamy and
the oysters come wrapped in shoestring potatoes first and then deep
fried. OMG! Samuel loved the look of the potatoes and I explained,
they came with a slice of oyster if he wanted a taste. He was game and
said it was okay; good try.
The breads were Rye, honey hazelnut and bacon cheddar rye and we took
all three to start so we were sure not have a bread lady issue. They
were okay, but get no raves. Samuel loved the rye and kept mopping up
the seafood emulsion on his starter.

Tonight's sorbet on cocoa nibs was yuzu-mint with micro arugula and
was quite refreshing.
Samuel had a Artisan Vegetarian Pasta entree which was farfalle with
locally grown and foraged vegetables in and organic roasted heirloom
tomato sauce topped. The veggie turned out to be cippolini onion and
he didn't really care for them, but he loved the sauce, pasta and
mahon cheese on top.
Unlike the previous evening where Will and I split entree's halfway
through tonight he wanted all his Boneless SHORTRIB AAA Heritage ANGUS
BEEF with Bone Marrow, Summer Beans, Potato & Truffle- I don't blame
him, it was great, and oh so perfect with our divine red wine.
My Rustic Peace Country LAMB was cooked sous-vide and served with
oregano, aubergine, olive honey(like a sweet jammy dip on the side),
caramelized yoghurt and endive. I am not a sous-vide fan, but this
worked well and came cooked perfectly. The best part was between the
ribs! Small battered deep fried garlic confit balls were a treat to
pop in the mouth and while I am not an eggplant fan, these were three
local heirloom varieties that could not fail to impress anyone.
We were getting full and decided to split one dessert to finish with
our remaining dessert wine from the previous night:
CHERRIES/GUINESS was a fun dish that really was a change from the
RHUBARB the night before. It came with Black Pepper Meringues, Sour
Black Cherries and Ranier (they come from the Okanagan Valley)
Cherries, Cherry Sorbet & Guiness Sorbet Dome, cocoa nibs and a super
fun Cherry Soda with Guiness Foam Shot which Samuel adored he asked
Jorge for a second one. Since it had Guiness, Jorge brought Samuel a
small Cherry Soda Float with Vanilla Ice Cream and we each of us
gobbled the Chocolate Macaroons with Chocolate & Black Pepper Ganache
that he brought as a farewell.

It was sad to leave, but Jorge gave us some ideas for Vancouver dining
this week and I'll report later on how that goes!