A couple months back, I had a truly dream-come-true experience.
I’m a huge fan of Top Chef. I’ve seen every episode of every American and Canadian Top Chef, and I’ve watched a bunch of the spinoffs, too (the Canadian version, sadly, has been cancelled, but Top Chef Chicago started last night). I’ve had the opportunity to interview and eat the food of former contestants like Trevor Bird, Curtis Luk, and S3 winner, Matthew Stowe.
But in August, I got to attend a fundraiser put on by Les Dames d’Escoffier, and it was hosted at Earl’s Yaletown location, in The Loft. The food that night was prepared by the women of the last season of Top Chef: Dawn Doucette, Lauren Marshall, Karin Moulin, Gabriela Neda, and Shelley Robinson. The food was wonderful, but was was more amazing was getting to chat with these awesome women chefs.
Two of the gals are locals–Shelley is the Executive Chef for Coast Hotels, and Dawn is the Product Development Chef for Earls.
Last week, I got invited back to the scene of the crime, along with some of Vancouver’s Food Bloggerati, to preview Earls Fall Menu.
First off, let’s start with cocktails. There were three, including a twist on a Moscow Mule, called Cabin Fever (garnished with a pine cone! Adorbs!), the Bee’s Knees, served in a bear-shaped glass (this one went down very easy) and Clover Club #4, which comes with a stencilled message of fabulousness.
The starter was a Salmon Salad: twice-glazed with a Szechuan lime glaze, alongside a slaw made with soba noodles, zucchini, carrots, and red pearl onions, dressed with a tamarind-sesame dressing. It came nestled in a swirl of cilantro-yogurt sauce. I was most impressed with how juicy and perfectly cooked the salmon was. It’s tough to serve 45 perfectly-cooked portions at once.
Next up: Spatchcock Chicken. This was my favourite (other than dessert, natch!) course of the night. It included what was, again, an incredibly juicy half chicken, with a bit of a spicy glaze. It also came paired with a slaw. I was less crazy about the miso sauce–it was a little intense all on its own.
There was another meat course, as well, served family-style: steak with asparagus, salad and truffled fries. Fantastic in its simplicity, and I could have eaten the fries all night.
We also got a preview of two new burgers on the menu. The first was a two-handed, hard-core, meat-lover’s dream, with two patties, mushroom jam, bacon, and then draped in layers of Earl’s own, house-made, smoked beer cheddar. There’s something for vegheads, though, as well: a Mediterranean falafel burger, garnished with baba ganoush, homemade hummus, and feta.
Finally, the crowning glory: dessert. This was simply called a Hazlenut Chocolate bar, but oh, glory be–it was so much more. I was super full by this point, but yet I still managed to eat the entire thing. The Hazlenut Bar was a thin slice of a rich chocolate ganache, but it had a crispy, light crust, which added a welcome and fantastic textural element. It sat on a pool of caramel sauce, and alongside was a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. My favourite part of the dish, however, were the dehydrated mandarins. I’ve never had anything like them before–packing the sweet citrus punch of an orange, but with the crispy texture of a chip.
Earls is a locally-owned joint who are doing their utmost to source local ingredients, and to create simple, delicious comfort food that makes you feel good. And their fall menu did just that.