Sunday, April 28, 2013

Perfect Meal

Sunchoke foam with crispy bacon
A perfect meal is a combination of great company, environment, food and wine. Last night dinner with our fabulous friends Peter and Rosanna at the Pear Tree Restaurant in Burnaby delivered a perfect meal, rare and appreciated.

This was a five course tasting menu, and three of us had the well chosen wine pairings with the menu. The fourth person was our driver for the evening, and when we asked  for a suggestion for the one glass he could have, the server let us know they offered half glasses so he could pair one half glass of the whites from our pairings with the first two courses, and do the same for the red with the next two courses and skip the dessert wine. What a refreshing change from the super-size offerings and upselling we see at most restaurants - this restaurant has been smart enough to respond to the strict drinking and driving laws found here (and in other global destinations) by providing a solution that allows enjoyment without guilt or danger. The service across the board was attentive but not intrusive, warm but not overt, which when you are changing glasses and cutlery with every course is a feat in itself.  The food was without reproach, each bite of every course offering pleasure, and the wines truly well matched.  I also appreciated their use of seasonal and local offerings, and the way the Chef had thoughtfully garnished every dish. This restaurant is tucked away on Hastings Street in Burnaby, certainly worth the short drive and highly recommended.

This truly amazing meal had me thinking about the other fantastic places I have had the opportunity to eat, and here is my short list, in no particular order of best bites in great environments where excellent service is also the norm.  

  1. The Irish Table, Cannon Beach Oregon. Tucked away behind the also excellent Sleepy Monk Coffee shop, a small well crafted menu in a very cute location.
  2. Lula Cafe, Chicago. When Susan Cope asked the Chef she works with in Arizona to recommend a restaurant in Chicago he texted back with our reservation! They grow their own greens and herbs in the basement and on an empty lot next door - delicious and incredibly flexible, even when we picked our own favorite components from the dessert menu, they just whipped us up amazing plates.
  3. Bluewater Cafe, Vancouver and CinCin, Vancouver. Always delicious.
  4. Araxi Restaurant, Whistler. Forget they were a prize on Hell's Kitchen - another restaurant where it always is fantastic. Love the truffle oil popcorn at the bar too.
  5. Province, Chicago. Enjoyed with a small group during GMIC, the LEED Gold restaurant also delivered on flavour with excellent, local products.
  6. Rick Moonen's RM Seafood at the Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas. Excellent meal enjoyed with amazing people from the IMEX show floor - truly a great experience.
  7. Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill, Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas. Any restaurant that can make brussels sprouts taste this good, and the beef stew, and being in Vegas with my two sisters-in-law and 21 year old niece... all good.
  8. Glowbal, Vancouver. I can still taste the halibut and Italian Couscous.
  9. Boneta, Vancouver. Everything about this restaurant is great. Funky location in Gastown, Neil the sommelier is perfection at pairing and has a great energy, and the food - fantastic. The company, also excellent.
  10. Pure Lotus, Beijing. Savvy monks run this restaurant where every bite - short rib or shark fin - is created from vegetables and tastes like something else. Food magic.
This is just my list - I would love to hear from you as well about places you have loved.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Food - Fresh IS Best

For some, food is plentiful, for others shockingly scarce.  For some food is fuel, for others gluttony, for most, it is a way to share – share the food, the growing or sourcing, the preparation, the conversations around it.  Eating in, eating out, in our cars (the worst) and in groups (the best), the money and time spent around food is enormous.  The energy spent on growing and processing; transporting and marketing; choosing and cooking is immense, and yet in all of this we have lost, certainly in North America, the soul of food.

When I was a child, I lived in the Queen Charlotte Islands (now Haida Gwaii) and my dad was a commercial fisherman.  What I have recently realized is that my entire life has been about eating what we could fish, forage, hunt, bake or grow as this is how it all began.  When we moved to larger centres, we always had gardens, and we often had game, farm raised chickens and the like. We rarely ate food from cans, unless we had canned it ourselves.  When I moved out on my own, the majority of my shopping was and is still down around the outside of the grocery store and at local bakeries, fishmongers and markets, and it has always made sense to me.  When I had children I planted berries and a small garden – enough for them to know that food comes from the ground and not a bag, box or can.  It is not to say we never eat fast food, or dried pasta, or things that are “easy”, but it is certainly the norm for them to grab a fruit over a processed snack item. 

While I appreciate the sentiment of the 100 mile diet, which was done locally in Mission, I would miss all the world offers.  If we didn’t have a global food market, we would miss out on so much from flavours and spices to styles of preparation and sauces, and from ingredients.  Rice and olive oil, saffron and shrimp, coconuts and mangoes, carrots and quinoa – all began in one region of the world and now are ubiquitous in many, and that is part of the magic of food.  When we plan menus for meetings and events, I believe seeking a balance of local and global, regional and seasonal, delicious and inspiring, it is all important.

There is nothing better to me than this “foodie” movement – I say bring it on and open up the palates and let's get exploring! 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Karma of KPI

I have just returned from participating in the 2013 Green Meetings Industry Council Sustainable Meetings Conference in Chicago; a meeting of like-minded cross-sector industry partners who all believe that we can do meetings in a more sustainable fashion.  Following this, the inimitable Paul Salinger wrote this blog post on his perspective and how Oracle  approaches sustainable responsibility. Shared on PYM - Plan Your Meetings, linked here

I agree with Paul that it is possible to save money and make choices that positively impact the bottom line and the guest experience. For many of the clients - both agency and end client - there are published sustainability practices and philosophies on their websites and I have always believed that when planning meetings, special events and incentive programs it is incumbent upon us to be responsible and respectful of these when planning. When we are able to share gorgeous natural spaces with guests in unique destinations, it is always special. If these spaces become full of litter, inaccessible due to natural disaster or man-made issues due to lack of care for the land and water, and can no longer be enjoyed that would be (and in some cases is) a shame.  

When we strategically plan for our organizations we are always looking for KPI - Key Performance Indicators and evaluating against these for success.  When it comes to sustainable meetings, what if our KPI was our Karma Protection / Karma Performance Indicator? This would mean building in enough "good" - through choosing destinations that can  support and benefit from us meeting there, responsible (fresh, local, delicious, seasonal) food and beverage choices, using and not abusing water including no bottled water, selecting gifts that support local artisans and manufacturing, in venues that are managing their waste streams and including a CSR or give-back activity that supports those in need wherever we are, we can definitely increase the karma factor, the leave-behind that keeps on giving and is returned to us later. 

I believe that one meeting at a time we can change the world - do you agree?