Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Culinaire, a woman's view

Not too long ago Bernard and I attended Culinaire. For those of you who have never heard of it, Culinaire is, well, Bernard called it “speed dating for foodies and restaurants”, basically a bunch of restaurants put together small plates and you get to exchange a ticket per item.

We missed last years inaugural event because we didn't get a ticket in the week before we sold out. This year they had two servings, one at 5 and a second at 7:30. I sold out in a month. No surprise, at $28, this is one on the most affordable foodie events in Victoria.

On entering, we each got our commemorative wine glass with 10 tickets tucked inside. We headed onto the loud, deliciously scented floor. I will mention that a map of the booths and a list of food served would be an excellent addition to my wine glass next year.

Starting upstairs, I had a moment of concern, beer and pulled pork sliders served on a multi-grain rolls that I have gotten on airplanes. Our first taste didn't reassure me. The advertising was promising – a handmade ravioli filled with braised oxtail and a red wine demi - but the actual food was uninspiring. I got a bland filling in tough pasta.

Highlights, in order tasted. Haro's, two fancifully shaped baguette crisps, one with tuna tartare and the other with a sage-y chicken rillette. The Copper Fire Grill, a polenta cake topped with a panko breaded, deep-fried braised meat ball skewered together with some sort of dry noodly thing were the presentation winners. Pablo's smoky-spicy tuna tartar was another winner. Vic's Steakhouse, braised beef on a bed of cardamom red lentils, a very more-ish flavour. Pig, a slider featuring hot sauce dipped schnitzel, bleu cheese mayonnaise and pickled vegetable on a soft white bun. In a fateful piece of placement, I moved one booth further to FOO and had a delightful green mango salad that was the perfect acidic chaser to Pig's slider.

Lowlights? I only had a few. I mentioned the ravioli, definitely a sad start. Pink Sugar Cupcakery looked great, with macaroons, the flat, smooth ones that I have never had, on a cake plate right up front. I reached for one and verbally had my hand slapped as I was informed they were for display only. WHAT! The actual choice were either chocolate with strawberry icing or lemon with lemon icing cupcakes. I chose the lemon, expecting a tart treat. The cupcake was dry and bland. No lemon flavour. Blah. Needing to use more of the extra tickets we had bought, ($1/ticket) I tried a pulled pork slider, after all I had about 8 to choose from, bad plan. The meat was gluey, bland and dry

Bernard tried several others, including another pulled pork slider he had me try. By sharing the tequila cocktail served up by the Oak Bay Marina restaurant he restored beauty to my palate though, so I forgave him the slider.

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