Vancouver’s cocktail scene is alive and well, and this past week we were invited to a cocktail dinner at The Blackbird Public House to celebrate the culinary talents of some of Canada’s finest chefs and cocktail experts. This dinner was part of Visa’s Infinite Dining Series, which is a perk that’s exclusively available to Visa Infinite card holders. The dining series takes place in restaurants in four different Canadian cities (Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Ottawa).
The event was the second of two dinners in a two-city collaboration between chefs and bartenders from Vancouver and Calgary. On this occasion, The Blackbird teamed up with Calgary’s Yellow Door Bistro to treat diners to a tour de force of creative cuisine and drink pairings. This dinner included a 6-course set menu collaboration between The Blackbird’s Chef Alvin Pillay and Executive Bartender, Jay Jones and Calgary’s Yellow Door Bistro’s Chef Duncan Ly and Head Bartender Christina Mah. (shown below)
Each pair alternated and took turns presenting their dishes and cocktail combinations. Just a week prior, a similar event was held at Yellow Door Bistro, where the roles were reversed. If you might recall, Dennis recently checked out the new lunch menu preview (click here) at The Blackbird and had nothing but good things to say about it, so we were both really excited for this dinner.
As we arrived, we were greeted with a couple of delicious welcome cocktails to help prepare us for the evening. The Aviation Cocktail, made with Long Table Distillery gin, lemon, maraschino, and violet liqueur, was a great way to start the evening. This drink paired perfectly with the fresh oysters served with Northern Divine caviar. The second cocktail was a Hemingway Daiquiri, which was a sweeter mixed drink made with white rum, lime, grapefruit, and maraschino. It was paired with the couscous-crusted sweetbreads with preserved lemon and harissa, and pork belly with green apple and mascarpone. As we enjoyed our dinner, we were reminded that cocktail food pairings are just the same as wine food pairings, where textures, taste, and presentation all shape our experience with the food.
1st Course (above): Asparagus and Black Truffle, with slow cooked egg, brioche, fleur de sel (Alvin Pillay)
Accompaniment (Jay Jones): “Farmer’s Market”: Long Table Distillery cucumber gin (below left), Le Vieux Pin Sauvignon Blanc, local honey, Bittered Sling Cascade Celery bitters, Phillips ‘Sparkmouth’ Ginger Soda, grapefruit and cucumber. With such local ingredients, it’s no wonder it bears this name. Made with 7 ingredients, it is delightfully simple, yet wonderfully complex.
2nd Course (Right): Cured Albacore Tuna, cucumber and mint emulsion, compressed melons, and trout caviar (Duncan Ly)
Accompaniment (Christine Mah) (above on the right): “Melon Sake Soda”: Carbonated sake and Cocchi Americano, vermouth, melon juice, mint, citrus zest, Bittered Sling Lem-Marrakech bitters, and coconut foam. This was a unique sake cocktail which was nice and creamy, but not at all overwhelming.
3rd Course (above): BC Spot Prawn Curry, spicy chole, mustard greens, black garlic (Alvin Pillay). Chef Pillay borrows his mother’s curry recipe in this delightful dish. The prawns were delicately prepared and were allowed to shine, as the curry was not overpowering at all.
Accompaniment (Jay Jones): “Crown & Crocus”: Saffron-steeped Long Table Distillery London dry gin, mango oleo-saccharrum, Granville Island Brewing ‘Brockton’ India Pale Ale, Bittered Sling Lem-Marrakech bitters
4th Course (above): Juniper-Crusted Bison Brisket and Tenderloin, fondant potato, savoy cabbage puree, porcini mushroom (Duncan Ly). The tenderloin was my absolute favourite, and pairing it with a cognac cocktail fully enhanced the flavours of the dish.
Accompaniment (Christine Mah): “King of Cognac”: Cognac, cream soda syrup, apple juice, fresh sage, lemon, Scrappy’s Cardamom Bitters
Dessert (above): Hazelnut Chocolate Delice, cocoa nibs, orange, gold leaf (Alvin Pillay)
Accompaniment (Jay Jones): “The Kurgan”: The Macallan ‘Gold’ single malt scotch whisky, Averna Amaro, Laphroaig 18 single malt scotch whisky mist, orange peel. Everything about this combo hit the spot, yet the dessert and cocktail could’ve been enjoyed on their own as well.
This was a gathering and showcase of some very talented chefs and bartenders, and we left this dinner stuffed and fully satisfied. We also managed to finish all our cocktails by the end of the night. As we had enjoyed beer and wine paired dinners before, this was really our first time enjoying a cocktail paired dinner. As such, we now have a much fonder appreciation of cocktails, and may even try making some at home. Or, I suppose we could always just keep going to visit Jay Jones at The Blackbird.
Do you have any favourite cocktails or dish pairings? What are some of your favourite cocktail bars in Vancouver? Let us know in the comments below. Cheers!
Disclaimer: Although our meals were complimentary, all thoughts and opinions are own own and we were not paid for this review.