Picture this: it’s a super low key Friday evening at home with Russ. I pick up my phone, click over to Instagram, and see a post from Chef Paul Moran. It reads: 10 spots left for a Phil Scarfone-Paul Moran collab. I sit up, say, “No way!” and see that the date is set for next Friday.
Chef Paul Moran, Head Chef of 1909 in Tofino and Chef Phil Scarfone Head Chef at Nightingale in Downtown Vancouver.
I blurt out to Russ: “Are you in for a tasting menu next Friday night?? It’s Chef Paul and Chef Phil– OMG, I am so excited!!”
Russ doesn’t totally understand what I’m saying, but that’s par for the course when I’m all excited. But he says, “Sure.”
I DM Chef Paul within 7 minutes of his posting the offer and he answers me right away. AHHH. Russ and I get the last 2 seats at the 5:30 pm seating of this collab! Now I just have to wait a whole week…
I hope that sets the scene. A Phil Scarfone- Paul Moran collab. That’s a big deal. I felt like Charlie finding the golden ticket to the chocolate factory.
So, one week after my very excitable low-key Friday night with Russ, the two of us arrived at this adorable bakery on Main Street called Liberty. We were greeted by two friendly young ladies who escorted us to our table. Through my boundless love for chatting with everyone I later found out that one of the young ladies, Danielle, is engaged to Chef Paul.
But I didn’t want to sit yet. Or ever, really! I just wanted to watch Chef Paul Moran and Chef Phil Scarfone create their culinary magic.
Both chefs came around and introduced themselves to their guests. Chef Paul told me his name and I just said hello. I shook his hand, and stared at him. Russ later told me I never told him my name. Was I chef struck? Yeah, probably!
Dinner service started with assorted snacks from the chefs or Amuse Bouche, as they call it in France.
It has come to my attention that it’s considered impolite to lick your dishes clean. But that is exactly what I wanted to do with Chef Phil Scarfone’s celeriac soup. It was full of taste and so smooth and creamy. A delightful surprise lay quietly in the middle of this dish: crab agnolotti. This one was a home run and it was just the beginning of the evening. Apparently this soup had made an appearance on Top Chef Canada. No big shock there.
Next came mignonette oysters on the half shell. Then tacos, chef’s version. All in all, an unforgettable Amuse Bouche.
OUR FIRST COURSE
Okanagan apple salad, fennel, walnut, Avonlea cheddar, Szechuan peppercorn
The salad course featured a dish of crisp local Okanagan yellow apples, aged Avonlea cheddar, crunchy walnut bits and a citrus dressing. The amalgamation of all the tastes was dynamite. I’d like to eat this apple salad everyday for the rest of my life.
OUR SECOND COURSE
Side striped shrimp crudo, shitake, squid, kaffir lime sorbet.
These shrimps were slender and delicate. In Italian, crudo is a term used to describe an uncooked dish. Their subtle, uncooked flavours melded very well together with the elegant addition of the kaffir lime sorbet.
Before I tell you about the THIRD COURSE, I should mention that right after each course, I’d leave Russ (not for long, I promise) and head over to watch what the boys had cookin’. At one point, Chef Phil Scarfone asked me if I wanted to come into the kitchen.
Uhhhh, what do you think my response was? 100 percent yes!!
I made my way around the counter. Et voila, I found myself talking to Chef Paul Moran. He was creating his version of Veal Tonnato, our next course, traditionally from the Piedmont region in Italy.
I made my way down the kitchen to check out what Chef Phil Scarfone was creating. He was working on our next course: mushroom risotto, made with Acquerello rice. Chef Phil explained that this rice comes from the north of Italy and is a full proof varietal. I also recognized the name as being the name of a Michelin restaurant Russ and I once visited in San Francisco about 10 years ago. As for the mushrooms, Phil had foraged them himself for this dish. He’d spent 3 hours foraging down a logging road in Squamish. Talk about dedication to fresh local ingredients. So great!
Okay, so where were we…? Right…
OUR THIRD COURSE
Veal Tonnato, Albacore tuna, bull kelp, lemon vinegar, basil, potato
I enjoyed Paul’s version of Veal Tonnato. He stuffed the tuna into his veal and presented it in sliced rounds. He also roasted it instead of boiling it, as it is traditionally prepared.
Both chefs are known to be foragers. The addition of the sea vegetable, bull kelp, in this dish added another local addition to this meal. Our BC coastal waters provides fabulous conditions for growing healthy, strong kelp.
OUR FOURTH COURSE
Foraged Mushroom Risotto, Caciocavallo Ragusano, chive, charred lemon juice
I appreciated the effort Phil took to provide us with fresh foraged mushrooms. We were rewarded with an unbelievably creamy risotto. The caciocavallo cheese was from the south of Italy and is a hard cow’s cheese with a sweet flavour profile. Charred lemon juice was simply fantastico on this dish! It’s going to become a regular addition to my diet, I think.
OUR FIFTH COURSE
Lamb two ways, eggplant, tahini, mint
Our lamb dish was simple and flavourful. Lamb neck presse, a French dish and roasted loin. The eggplant was roasted. The dish was garnished with fresh mint leaves.
OUR SIXTH COURSE
Sea Buckthorn, meringue, pear, vanilla, purple shiso, pomegranate
Poached pears with sea buckthorn…can you imagine? I had never had the highly nutrient dense sea buckthorn before and it was a treat. The consistency of the pears was stellar. It was all hidden under very thin pieces of meringue and peppered with pomegranate seeds.
… And my tummy was full!
This is what I know after this dinner experience: I want to forage and I think both chefs are secretly Italian. They shared so much goodness, using local ingredients and their love of their craft shined on all of us that Friday in November.
My understanding was that this Phil Scarfone- Paul Moran collab was like giving each chef another full time job.
I certainly haven’t heard any whispers of another dinner of this kind in the near future. I was grateful to have had this experience with chefs whom I admire. Thank you Chef Paul Moran and Chef Phil Scarfone for taking me on a culinary adventure.