With its strong emphasis on locally inspired, ingredient-forward cuisine, it only makes sense that The Salted Vine Kitchen + Bar would team up with a winery known for its award-winning, terroir-driven wines. On July 26, Squamish's much buzzed-about fine-dining restaurant is hosting its first ever Winemaker's Dinner with the Sea to Sky's de facto winery, Fort Berens.
Restaurant director and sommelier Pat Allan explained the impetus for getting the Lillooet winemaker involved with the multi-course feast.
"(Fort Berens) is essentially the most local winery to us in B.C., and because we emphasize using local products as much as we can, we thought that was a good fit," he said.
Executive Chef Jeff Park's four-course menu exemplifies his seasonal approach, featuring a shortlist of ingredients that our bountiful region is known for: sumptuous prawns; Steelhead trout from Little Cedar Falls, served two ways; succulent Pemberton beef cheeks; and a poached pear vanilla cheesecake.
Those will be paired with handpicked selections from Fort Berens' wide-ranging catalogue of wines, including its signature dry and late-harvest Rieslings, pinot noir, and its 2014 cab franc.
Fort Berens co-owner Rolf de Bruin spoke about the joy and challenge of pairing his products with the kind of seasonally focused food that has become Park's hallmark.
"The fun part about local cuisine is that it changes so frequently. The local products change with the seasons, so that means a menu needs to change with the season, and I think our wines tend to be very versatile, they're very fruit-friendly, but they're versatile in the sense that they're not particularly paired with one great dish on the menu for the entire season, but (several dishes) as the season evolves," he said.
"It's a real dance of the two partners at the table: the farmer and the winemaker and the wine and the food."
No stranger to these types of winemaker dinners, de Bruin said they are a great way to not only share Fort Berens' products, but the story and philosophy behind the Fraser Canyon's first commercial vineyard, leaving a long-lasting impression on the guests in attendance.
"Doing a dinner like this, you could spend up to three hours with these guests, and that makes it much more of an intimate experience where you can elaborate on a number of different things that you normally wouldn't be able to do," he said.
"They really become immersed, and once they go back to that liquor store where your bottle is sitting on the shelf, all of a sudden they associate it with all those experiences they had."
Since opening its doors in September, The Salted Vine has earned a glittering reputation among locals and visitors alike — thanks in part to a steady stream of glowing media coverage.
And although Squamish isn't known as a destination for high-end cuisine, The Salted Vine is quickly shifting that perception.
"(The restaurant) has been very well received amongst the locals, there's been a very good presence in the media, and also people stopping in driving up and down the highway," Allan said.
"Quality cuisine is not limited to big cities and resort towns, it can be done in any small town across the county, for that matter."
Tickets to the Fort Berens Winemaker's Dinner are $100, including tax and gratuity, available by calling the restaurant at 604-390-1910.