Last week I hosted a Dine with Amex dinner at a participating Dine Out Vancouver restaurant, inviting five friends to experience the festival with me. As a proud supporter of Canada’s dining industry, Amex loves bringing unique dining experiences to cardmembers and they are the premier sponsor of Dine Out Vancouver this year.
The reservation for dinner at L’Abattoir was a late one although it gave everyone time to get home from the office and work up an appetite. John and I entered to find Marc at the bar and Keira was already at our table upstairs so we promptly ascended to our seats and ordered one of Head Barman Shaun Layton’s cocktail creations and awaited the rest of our party.
The soft lighting in the bustling restaurant was complimented by the shine of the Gastown street lamps outside that glistened through the rain-soaked floor-to-ceiling front windows. John ordered a Don Draper (Buffalo Trace, Pineau De Charentes, Abricot de Rouillson, Peychauds bitters, Absinthe), I had a Brown Derby (Bourbon, fresh grapefruit juice, honey syrup), and Keira went for the Alfonso (sparkling wine, Dubonnet, sugar, Angostura bitters, citrus oils). Marc brought his drink up from the bar while John Biehler and Kelli arrived, completing our group for the evening.
Kelli placed an order for a non-alcoholic beverage however the server turned back and offered her a different option — a Passionfruit Fizz. When it arrived she was blown away by the flavour. To quote what she posted on Twitter: “Oh my YUM!!!! BEST VIRGIN MOCKTAIL EVER!!!” Now that everyone had a drink in-hand, menus were perused while iPhones snapped photos and prepared for each wave of the 3-course ($38) Dine Out Vancouver menu.
I went with the confit of Albacore tuna (with lettuce, crispy bits) which was a very nice size for an appetizer while still being a very light way to start my meal. Marc had the steak tartare (slow cooked egg yolk, sourdough, horseradish cream cheese) since he said he’ll always order it if it’s on a menu. The rest of the table went with the marinated beetroot salad (with tallegio custard, pickled pears, pumpkin seed condiment) and couldn’t stop raving. Keira would dig in and comment to John who looked at John Biehler who turned to Kelli as they all raved, discovering a new layer of flavour in their bowl with each bite.
Keira and Kelli chose the roast fillet of steelhead (with warm potato salad, radish, dill) for dinner and again, they delighted at how flavourful and crisp the dish was as they pinpointed spices and ingredients. Keira is also gluten-free and there was no issue finding the right menu combination for her dietary needs.
I was the only one who selected the homemade cavatelli pasta (with Italian bacon, poached egg, winter squash, brown butter with sage). Again the dish was light but there was plenty of it to be devoured. It wasn’t overpowering and heavy as pasta can be and the sauce was tangy, sweet, and almost sour – playing beautifully with the squash, brown butter, and the poached egg that added a creaminess.
The gentlemen all went with the pan fried pork schnitzel (cabbage, swiss cheese, mushroom gravy) and I think they raced to see who could clean their plate the quickest — really it was almost at the point where they were about to pick up the plates and lick them clean. It was another simple presentation packed with flavour and fresh ingredients.
Even though our heads were down enjoying each course, the conversation flowed and caught up on happenings in each others’ lives. Marc met Keira for the first time (then they both followed each other on Twitter), John Biehler showed us how he uses his Lytro camera, we congratulated Keira once again on her recent engagement, and we all took brief pauses to share notes on our dishes with Instagram.
On top of documenting and reeling comments about how tasty our meal must have been there was a purpose to all the posting. Until the end of Dine Out Vancouver on February 3, 2013, festival-goers can enter the American Express Canada #DineWithAmex contest on Facebook for the chance to win one of ten $100 American Express Gift Cards. Simply Instagram your Dine Out meals and upload them with the hashtag #DineWithAmex like we were doing. Then visit DineWithAmex.ca to find the URL of your Instagram photo and submit your food photo entry. You can enter up to three times between January 18th and February 3rd for a chance to win.
Having enjoyed the recommended wine pairings with our meals, we weren’t up for the suggested dessert cocktails however dessert itself was highly anticipated. Marc selected the banana poundcake (with passionfruit, caramelized white chocolate) and had to dodge my camera’s lens when he tried to dig in. Keira and John Biehler had the fizzy raspberry lemonade (raspberry frozen yogurt, meyer lemon, basil granite) that almost resembled a bubble tea, bursting with citrus. John, Kelli and I had the chestnut mousse (with apples, dark chocolate) because really, when there is chocolate on the menu it will always be my top choice. Light and airy, the apples cutting through the richness of the mousse and complimenting the dark chocolate, it was the perfect way to end the meal.
Finishing off what was left of the wine pairings in our glasses we sat around, deep in conversation, as tables around us emptied out. The six of us have never enjoyed a meal like that together as our usual gatherings take place at special events, at a pub, or in passing. This Dine Out Vancouver dinner gave us the opportunity to have a meal at a relaxed pace and allowed for conversation (between our feverish postings to social networks). I’m very thankful for times like these with my friends and I’m beginning to think they need to happen more often. Leaving the table and heading out into the night John and I couldn’t help but smile and say, “now that was really fun.”
For more information about American Express Canada and Dine Out Vancouver, follow @AmexCanada and @DineOutVan on Twitter.
Our meals were compliments of American Express Canada in partnership with their Dine Out Vancouver sponsorship.