Each summer in remote Northern BC, one of the world’s best salmon lodges turns into a great restaurant—where David Hawksworth and guest chefs like Normand Laprise cap each day of great fishing with an incredible tasting menu.
EDITOR IN CHIEF
IT ALL SOUNDS RATHER GOOD, DOESN’T IT? TAKE IT FROM ME: IT IS.
If you know your way around Canada’s very best restaurants, and I described to you a meal that began with a splashy, colourful plate, featuring a roast tomato, a scattering of sea asparagus, pickled girolle mushrooms and plump sea snails—all of it artfully painted with stripes of sea parsley purée—you’d likely have a pretty good idea of who cooked it.
And if I told you that the dish that followed was a slice of perfect terrine of Quebec foie gras, accompanied with poached strawberries and dabs of cheerful pink rhubarb jelly, and that after that came roasted Quebec venison loin with blueberries and a smear of puréed black garlic, you would be all but certain.
Dessert, which featured white chocolate ganache with a signature pairing of strawberry and tarragon, would be the clincher. You would know now for sure.
“You were at Toqué!, right?” you would say. “What you’re describing has Normand Laprise’s fingerprints all over it.” But you would be only half-right.
Correct on the Laprise front, of course, but wrong on location. For where I was eating and Laprise was cooking was in fact the middle of nowhere. Or more precisely, the Northern tip of Langara Island, just 27 foggy miles from the coast of Alaska, at the ne plus ultra lodge of the West Coast Fishing Club, aptly named The Clubhouse.
Laprise was there as part of the annual David Hawksworth and Friends culinary retreat, a late July event that has been running for nine years.
For the length of the four day trip— which happens to correspond with prime fishing season—the uniquely luxurious lodge steps up its already impressive culinary program into an extravaganza of excellence of the sort that you can ordinarily experience only in a major city.
Each of the four elaborate evening meals come with fine wines, paired to each course by the guest sommelier, the irrepressible Mark Davidson of Wine Australia. And to boot, there are daily cooking lessons on offer from Hawksworth and his guest chefs.
The 2015 event was, as always, an action-packed four-day fishing trip. I returned home with a catch of four Chinook salmon, one Coho, one sockeye, two halibut, some new cooking skills—in the form of two excellent new cold soups for my summer repertoire: Laprise’s surprising cold cod purée and Hawksworth’s tomatillo gazpacho with crab—and a liver of which only a moulard duck could be proud.
The night after Laprise’s meal was a magnificent buffet, with stations run by the likes of the excellent Vancouver caterer Dino Renaerts (a Canada’s 100 Best judge) and Model Milk’s keenly talented Justin Leboe (another judge, and in 2015, ranked 12th in Canada). And on the last night, Hawksworth as usual punctuated the magnificent annual event with a dazzling meal of his own.
It began with the aforementioned tomatillo gazpacho, evolved to a (very) slowbaked and succulent fillet of Chinook, topped with a gremolata of smoked oats and plated with a fragrant purée of nasturtium.
Next, a bacon-fillet of bison, cuit sous-vide, with panisse and chickpea purée. And, to finish, a bracingly refreshing take on rice pudding, with shattered citrus and crispy yoghurt. It is the sort of cooking that would impress anywhere, but the fact that these chefs can pull all this together in a helicopter access only lodge the middle of nowhere—and in a small and basic kitchen— makes it all the more remarkable.
The 2016 Hawksworth and Friends event runs July 17 to 21. It marks the 10th anniversary and will commemorate the best of the past, along with something new and newsworthy.
Needless to say, David Hawksworth will be back. But so will Normand Laprise— because henceforth, in expression of a new partnership between Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants and the West Coast Fishing Club, the top-placed restaurant chef in the country will always be invited to cook at the event—and in 2015, Laprise finished first overall in our rankings.
The event is selling fast, so book now, not later. If you cannot make the July date, do not despair. Three more culinary focussed collaborations between Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants and The West Coast Fishing Club are planned for 2016, including Barbecue and Bourbon (June 5 to 9) and a Beach Cookout (August 14 to 18).
Watch canadas100best.com and westcoastfishingclub.com for details.