FIELD & FOREST SPRING MENU
What constitutes a foodie? Is it chasing after the cheapest fried chicken and taking Instagram photos of rainbow-dyed grilled cheese? Or, is it doing research on where your food comes from, how it's grown, and its cultural significance. If the latter, you could certainly call Ian McHale a foodie. The Wildebeest Executive Chef connects with British Columbia-based foragers—Victoria’s Lance Staples, for example, who forgaes full-time—and sources from small farms such as the family-run Subtilia Ranch and Salt Spring Island’s 120-acre, organic Foxglove Farm. Sourcing his nori from Haida Gwaii cultivators, McHale also aims to illustrate the centuries-old knowledge of Indigenous foragers.
Further yet, McHale spearheaded Wildebeest‘s in-house canning routine: preserved fruits and vegetables sustain the restaurant’s menu through less foliaged winter months—Lady Fern fiddlehead vinegar, Grand Fir salt, and pickled wild strawberries, to name a few.
Pair those items with spring’s freshly-plucked B.C. fire morels, Douglas-fir tips, wild elderflower, wood sorrel, trailing blackberries, and forest lovage—all of which have been foraged for McHale—and you arrive at Wildebeest’s five-course, season-specific dinner series the restaurant has titled, aptly, Field & Forest. It runs for two weeks at the beginning of June, 2019.
The dinner is ushered in by a new cocktail from bar manager Alex Black, which is also thematic of their woodland sourcing. Facetiously called the ‘How to Dougie’, it brings the field into your cup by way of fir tip-infused Resurrection Spirits white rye, dry vermouth, foraged flowering currant cordial, maraschino liqueur, dotted with herbal bitters. Unique, bucolic.
The most striking item on this hyper-seasonal menu is the Peace Country Lamb Shank sourced from Innisfail, Alberta by Two Rivers Meats. Braised overnight for 12 hours at 95c with a heavily caramelized mirepoix and Madiera, it’s seasoned with the kitchen’s house-made Grand Fir salt. Next to the shank sits a spinach puree from the leaves at Terramera Farms sprinkled with sweet cicely (of the celery family), which was foraged near Mission. The cicely stalks were later used in pickling and to make oil, a task that truly embodies the oft-boasted yet hardly-followed root-to-tip philosophy. Perched on top of all this, are foie gras parfait-stuffed morel mushrooms—freshly plucked by the team in Pemberton.
Yes, you read that correctly: morel mushrooms stuffed with foie gras parfait. Yum.
Notable as well, is the Grand-fir ice cream from the dessert course. Rich in flavour, sweet and smooth to the taste, the nuances are unlike anything I’ve had yet in a dessert. It was a winner with all table guests. The kitchen made 40kg of Grand Fir Salt last year and Wildebeest’s pastry chef made cordials and sugars from this salt. It was used to make the malted custard, grand fir ice cream, and cannoli pastry.
Wildebeest’s spring ‘Field & Forest’ menu is available from June 3 to June 17, 2019