I'm pretty sure I'm not the first person to use that title in relation to a food article. But, in the case of my experience last week, it is completely fitting. My friend Cassandra Anderton from Good Life Vancouver invited me to a great event on behalf of Tourism Abbotsford (#exploreabbotsford). Hosted at the picturesque Mt. Lehman Winery, about 20 of us sat down at a well-decorated family style table, designed by The Spruce Collective. A blend of brewers, farmers, vintners and, media types, we were all encouraged to sit next to folks we had yet to meet and get to chatting. After a warm welcome from Vern Siemens, proprietor of the winery, the lot of us traded stories about not only the fare, but also about what inspired us.
I sat next to my dear friend Joe Leary, although we made sure to surround ourselves with unfamiliar but friendly faces. Over a few glasses of pinots, gris and noir respectively, we followed with a merlot reserve. All three varietals are approachable now but the 2012/2013 vintages would surely show structural character after a few years. And, as wine has the mystical power of invoking conversation, the volume around the dinner table grew in decibles. I especially enjoyed speaking with young enthusiastic cheese maker, Jason Dykstra of the Mt. Lehman Cheese Co. He brought a very fragrant blue capri, an ash ripened goat "Frisky" and a wonderfully complex cheese he called "Duchess." In an homage to his Dutch roots, Jason "scooped out" half of the moisture to make the curd "bouncier", and indeed he acheived just that. In fact, that very morning he had experimented making Water Buffalo cheese for the first time. I look forward to the end product. All the food and beverage was provided by the local Fraser Valley producers and the menu was well executed by the brigade of Restaurant 62.
We started with squash roasted with Cambell's Gold honey and chèvre. Then a Maple Hill Farms chicken roulade. I have had their product before and it is always beautiful. Roasted beets and parsnips, risotto with shiitake mushrooms and, a Yarrow Meadows duck breast came in sequential order. All were wonderfully done. We had already enjoyed a nice balance of flavours but then, a final dish of Lepp Farm's Market pork loin arrived and added a perfect finish to the program. I usually don't have a very big sweet tooth but when the plate of Onnink's blueberry chocolate bonbons came around, I had to indulge myself. That was a good call and, as proprietor Jesse tells us, "They are always in perfect taste!"
As we were getting ready to depart, the fine gents at Ravens Brewing Company laced Joe and I with a parting gift, a smoky I.P.A. Thank you fellas, it was delicious. The take away bag contained a crisp, juicy apple from the Taves Family Farm. I enjoyed it the following morning and in doing so, I had a flashback of the prior night's soiree. What impressed me the most was the pride of the Fraser Valley crew. They know what they have going on out there and they aren't afraid to enjoy the fruits and, cheeses and, liquids of their labour. I'm just glad they like to share.