Friday, October 19, 2012

Lunch at Le Crocodile Restaurant

Lunch at Le Crocodile with the friendly foodies of VanFoodBloggers was everything that is fine dining.  From the moment we arrived we were enveloped by the comfort of the surroundings.  Every detail from the immaculately starched snowy white linens, the gleaming silver, the carefully selected fresh flower arrangements to the luxurious banquet seating - all of these elements expressing perfectly the hallmarks of fine dining that is so enjoyable.  In fact it was so comfortable it turned into a decadent three hour lunch for most of us.
Chef Jacob surprised us with an amuse bouche (a chefs way of saying hello) -  a sumptuous melt-in-your-mouth tart of egg custard so fine and delicate it quivered. For the first course (after making much ado about the onion tart and the tomato gin soup in my last post) it was arranged that we'd all have a tasting plate of these two favorites. After that everyone would be on their own to choose whatever else they wanted.

I was terribly keen to have the Kussi oysters and made this my main course. My fellow foodies however declined this treat - and with the mignonette sauce I was glad to have them all to myself. Kussi means precious in Japanese. They're not widely available outside of the west coast - lucky us!
Foodie Wendy ordered a lovely meal that included pan seared Foie gras and proffered a morsel to taste which I gladly accepted. Where else but France do they have a law stating that "Fois gras belongs to the protected cultural and gastronomic heritage?  Though there are several cruelty free producers now making ethical sources of Foie gras it will be awhile before chefs make the transition.   

Chocolate mousse
lemon tart
During my time working as an apprentice preparing the mise-en-place for the chocolate mousse was yet another nerve racking exercise - do not burn the flaked almonds or over whip the cream - just do not do it!  Sadly I lost the recipe long ago.  This chocolate  mousse has no comparison - trust this. With that in mind deciding what dessert to have between my two favorites -  chocolate mousse and lemon tart - I went with both.  Who can say when I'll get a chance to come back.  Yes - good excuse! To decide the better dessert - well it just can't be done. 

Fine dining never lets you out the door without a small sweet token of appreciation and in Le Crocodile's case a signature set of white and dark chocolate crocodiles.  

Our group gave a rating of 5 out of 5 stars for this MeetUp and I was charmed to touch bases with Chef Jacob and to catch up on his family news.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

My Alma Master - Chef Michel Jacob and Le Crocodile Restaurant

Tomato and Gin soup  recipe from Le Crocodile Restaurant

A cook collects recipes that come from many sources and when we have the luck to work in one of the cities greatest restaurants and to work beside a Master like chef Michel Jacob we join in a long line of cooks and chefs who have made the recipe their own, connecting us to the past and the present.  These two recipes from Le Crocodile have been an important part of my repertoire both professionally and at home and have stood the test of time - after 26 years they are still on the menu. 

VanFoodBloggers is a Meetup group dedicated to sharing the cities vast restaurant scene.  The group started  meeting last fall with a hardy set of keen diners and bloggers who have been getting out and discovering some wonderful food.  I had the pleasure of attending a couple Meetups and liked the group for their knowledge and passion.  One fellow in particular - Simon - invited me to join him at my Alma Master - Le Crocodile Restaurant after I mentioned doing a stint in the kitchen.   Simon  - thanks for inspiring me to visit my culinary roots.

Le Crocodile Restaurant is a classic Alsatian restaurant first, with a modern Vancouver flair.  Chef Michel has been consistently excelling in his native dishes of Strasbourg in the Alsace region of France, but belonging to a city of modern tastes he has melded wonderfully the sumptuous foods of our city with his masterful touch making Le Crocodile into one of the greatest temples of fine dinning.

Le Crocodile recipe - Ziewelkuche - Alsatian onion tarte
One of my jobs at Le Crocodile was to prepare the onions for this tart and it was a tense part of my work - the onions had to be paper thin, evenly cut and then braised without coloring.  Such a simple task you think - no it is not - many, many things could go wrong and if the slightest variant appeared there would be hell from the sous-chef, and the waiters even.  This is serious business here - here I understood what consistent meant.  Exacting standards don't come easy.  This is the quintessential aspect of Chef Michel and his standards have earned him the respect of his peers and the highest accolades.

roasted tomato soup from my garden

VanFoodblogger are meeting up for lunch at Le Crocodile and it will be interesting for me to experience the present Le Crocodile while remembering what it was when I was there back in 1987.

My memory of standing next to Chef Michel during the lunch service each day  - where my responsibility was to make the plates ready for the food when the orders came in -  he'd say "two meat plates and three fish plates" - I would put the garnish on the plates and into a 500 F oven for mere seconds, timing it so everything went out sizzling hot, but not curdled -  is still a source of confidence for me.  It was dangerous work.  I had burn scars on my arms from my wrist up for years.

I am looking forward to trying the Kusshi Oyster grown by Keith Reid of Stellar Bay Shellfish in the Comox Valley, thought by any who have tasted these as the 'ultimate oyster'.  This article describes best the pleasures of the kusshi.

To my fellow VanFoodBloggers who will be joining me - see you there.

I know it will be delicious and we'll be sharing some of the best food in Vancouver and beyond.

for the tomato soup in all of us -  my back yard ruby jewel