- NEWS & ACHIEVEMENTS -

2011
Delicious Magazine Recipe Feature Recipes published in Princes Trust Charity 'Trusty' Cookbook Guest panellist on UKTV Food's 'Market Kitchen' Recipes published in 'Come Dine With Me Special Occasions' book Blog named as a "Media Must-Have" in Jan & Feb issue of Olive Magazine

2010
Launch of Sabrina's one-to-one private cookery tuition Guest critic on Gordon Ramsay's 'F-Word' series finale Organised Top Chef Charity Banquet for Haiti raising £70,000 for 'Action Against Hunger' Seasonal Food & Recipe Writer for 'Blue Tomato'

2009
Winner of Channel 4's 'Come Dine With Me' (West London) 'Bronze' winner in professionally judged 'AA Home Cooking Competition 2009' Appointed resident cookery columnist for Foodepedia

Japanese Rice Risotto with Miso, Lemongrass and Scallops

Japanese Rice Risotto with Miso, Lemongrass and Scallops

Seasonal Penne Mediterraneo

Seasonal Penne Mediterraneo

Persian Split Pea, Dried Lime and Lamb Stew

Persian Split Pea, Dried Lime and Lamb Stew

Saturday, 25 September 2010

RECIPE: Parsley and Feta Salad with Pickled Chillies and Homemade Houmous

My latest ingredients of choice are pickled piri-piri chillies, available at Tesco for just 99p a jar. The pickling process takes a lot of the fiery heat out of the chillies which makes them a great addition to sandwiches, salads, omelettes and pretty much anything else you could think of. Heck, you can even add them to a nice Antipasto platter of cured meats and cheeses or eat them on their own. I'm addicted to them and just a little reminder that chillies help speed up your metabolism and aid digestion, so they are incredibly good for you. Some say that they are a fantastic aid to weight loss... But I say "Weight loss, Schmeight loss!" I just like eating them.

The salad is an accompaniment I made to a Morroccan-spiced rack of lamb (same one I cooked for Come Dine With Me) as well as the roasted sweet potatoes with a yoghurt and herb dressing, for which you can find the recipe here and the lovely homemade Houmous was also a dish that helped me win the show. So here are the recipes;

Parsley and Feta Salad with Pickled Chillies

1 large bunch (or 3 small packets) of flat leaf parsley
8-10 pickled chillies
1 red onion, sliced into thin half-moons
200g of feta cheese
Juice of half a fat lemon
Olive oil to drizzle

Remove all the thicker stalks of the parsley and discard (save them by freezing them as they are fabulous for adding real flavour to any stew, soup or stock) and plate into a nice flat serving dish. Then roughly chop your pickled chillies and sprinkle them onto the parsley followed by the onion clices. Crumble your feta cheese all over the leaves and finalli finish by dressing the salad with a good drizzle of best quality olive oil and the juice of half a lemon. Give the salad a final toss and serve.

Homemade Houmous

1 x 400g tin of chick peas (retain the brine also)
1 fat garlic clove crushed into a paste using a little salt
Juice of a whole lemon
1 tablespoon garlic oil
4 tablespoons of light Tahini
Olive oil
Maldon sea salt and pepper to taste

I prefer to mash the chick peas by hand to give a nice rough texture but admittedly it is a labour of love and whizzing them in a processor gives them the smooth texture that we are used to. Use some of the brine and some olive oil to help the process and get an even texture. Then add the crushed garlic, lemon juice (hold some back, you can always add, but can never take away!) and then add your Tahini followed by another good slug of olive oil and mix (or blitz) thoroughly. Add another thin drizzle of olive oil until you reach your desired consistency of hummus and season well with salt and pepper. Taste the mixture to check its flavour and add more lemon juice if desired. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil on top and a sprinkling of paprika for colour. You can infuse the houmous with chopped herbs, mashed aubgergine pulp or pretty much anything you like and you don't have to stick to using chick peas, I use butterbeans or white beans also and they work just as well. Just make sure you taste the Houmous as you go and add more oil and lemon juice if needed as different beans contain different levels of starch and sugar affecting the textures and flavours.

Simply The Best?

For a girl like me, indulgence means spending a little extra and buying selected brands to ensure I get the best quality ingredients possible. You may remember my article a while back where I was a shocked to discover that the makers of indulgent chocolate puds, Gü, only use free-range eggs in 3 of their 29 products. Most people I know view Gü as a premium brand which is priced accordingly and share my surprise at Gü are not using better quality eggs in their products. Since my discovery I have found out that Gü are actually owned by an egg company called Noble Foods that describe themselves as the “Progressive face of the UK egg industry”. Progressive indeed, just not progressive enough, as yet.

“Gü-gate” (as I like to call it) made me realise that I had fallen victim to the oldest trick in the book, the slick marketing campaign. Designed to entice you into purchasing their products using seductive imagery and ‘adult’ marketing (Gü’s words, not mine) believing you are buying into something exclusive and luxurious. I was reeled in, hook, line and stinking sinker and made to believe that I was getting the best ingredients for my money when that is not really the case. In protest, I am boycotting all Gü and Frü products until such time that their entire range is made using only free-range eggs. So for now, I shall have to get my chocolate pudding fixes elsewhere as the Managing Director of Gü, Mike Hodgson, has basically REFUSED to provide any glimmer of hope of them switching to free range eggs within the next few years saying (and I quote:) "Broader industry challenges affect companies like Gü, however we are simply not in a position right now to reveal specific business plans or timing." - Basically translating to the fact they have NO immediate plans to make any changes to their ingredient use.

So knowledge isn’t always power; and in this instance, knowledge seems to have turned me into a paranoid, ingredient-obsessed, label-checker, searching for the magical words ‘free’ and ‘range’ somewhere (anywhere!) on the packaging of my favourite foods. But it has got me thinking about other premium brands and whether or not they are really giving us that extra bit of quality that we are paying for or if it is all just a clever illusion.

Supermarkets have improved policies when it comes to using free-range eggs. M&S and Waitrose still lead the way with ensuring their own brands use only free-range eggs, although Waitrose continue to stock Gü and other products that do not use free-range eggs. Sainsburys have also made the commitment to no longer sell battery eggs and their ‘Taste the difference’ products are made exclusively using free-range eggs. But disappointingly Tesco continue to sell battery eggs and when I made enquiries about the eggs used in their ‘Finest’ range uses, I was told: “The majority of the Tesco Finest products use free-range eggs…” So should they really call the entire range ‘Finest’ if some products don’t even use free-range eggs?

I go on to discover bakery and patisserie retailers Paul UK and Maison Blanc are also not using free range eggs in many of their products. With Maison Blanc, started by Chef Raymond Blanc in 1981, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect them to use the best quality ingredients and Paul UK are not much better and aren’t using free range eggs in their bakery or patisserie, which at those prices simply isn’t good enough. Clever marketing is clouding our judgement and making us believe that when we spend more money, we get better ingredients when this clearly isn’t always the case.

But how are we supposed to know if certain products contain free range eggs? There is no information available whatsoever on Gü’s website (http://www.gupuds.com/) regarding the kind of eggs they use and after several emails to their customer service officer, Gü declined to tell me which kind of eggs they use, instead suggesting I meet their Managing Director to discuss the matter further. Is this how far we need to go to get answers? Do we have to meet with every Managing Director of every company in order to get a straight answer to a simple question?

Premium brands should be making a commitment to change to free-range. Both Gü and Tesco were quick to say that they are looking at making these changes, but that won’t happen overnight. So how long before we can expect these changes take place? How do we know what work is being done by these companies in a bid to go free range and how much of a priority the issue is? When companies like Gü aren’t particularly forthcoming about their eggs, what else could be withheld from us? Conversations with the Food Standards Agency, Trading Standards and the Consumer Trade Commission revealed that companies such as Gü have every right to withhold details of the ingredients used, as long as they never claim to use something that they are not. So basically they don’t have to tell us anything and as long as we don’t put pressure on them, nothing will change.

Getting answers won’t be easy but we should question the food we eat and what it contains. If you don’t make something yourself, you can never be 100% certain of the ingredients used to produce it. We need to become a little more inquisitive and vigilant when choosing products to ensure they meet our expectations. Whether quality or cruelty is your main concern or if you are just fed up with the lack of transparency of brands claiming to contain ‘only the best ingredients’, we need to put pressure on them and demand better quality ingredients, such as free-range eggs and demand that they be more upfront about their ingredient use.

Would you like to see more honest labelling and transparency from leading premium brands like Gü? If you discover that a premium product you enjoy does not use free range eggs, how likely are you to continue purchasing it? Would you expect free range eggs when you pay a little more for a product?

To contact Gü to voice your disatisfaction at their use of battery eggs, please contact:

Laura Bowyer - Customer Care Manager
E-mail: laurab@gupuds.com / Tel: 020 7605 0064

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

RECIPE: Homemade Fried Chicken - "Finger Lickin' Good"

I know I always go on about how simple recipes are and recently my cousin pulled me up on this and pointed out that not everyone is as comfortable in the kitchen as I am, which of course is a fair enough statement. But I would like to point out that whilst something may be easy, it may require some time and effort. The best things in life require time and effort, surely? I love KFC, but I don't eat it. Its bad for you, which is a no brainer but that doesn't mean I don't get the cravings for it. So here is my SIMPLE (sorry) recipe for you to get stuck in to and of course, the kids will LOVE you;

Buttermilk Fried Chicken Fingers

4 chicken breasts (not the enormous 'Franken-chicken' ones)
1 x 268 tub of St Ivel Buttermilk (cultured, which is low fat)
400g of plain flour
Cayenne Pepper
Maldon sea salt
Cracked black pepper
Tabasco/hot pepper sauce
Dried sage
Garlic granules
500ml of vegetable oil
Cling film

So first things first, cut your chicken into thick thumb-width fingers (length should be same as your longest finger) and put them all in a bowl. Then begin your marinade, for which you will need to exaggerate the quantities as the excess mix will be drained. Begin by pouring your buttermilk over the chicken strips, then shake about 12 drops of pepper sauce into the bowl (you will barely taste this in the end, so if you like it HOT, double it!). Add 3 teaspoons of cayenne pepper, 3 teaspoons of dried sage (crushed with your fingers), 3 teaspoons of garlic granules and 3 heaped teaspoons of Maldon sea salt, crushed and a generous amount of black pepper. Coat the strips well with the marinade, then cover the bowl with clingfilm and place in the fridge for 4-6 hours.

Once the chicken is ready to be removed from the fridge, take a large deep cooking pot and pour in all your oil and heat on a medium high heat. Then you need to make your flour mix ready for dusting the chicken in. In a wide flat bottom dish empty all your flour, then add 4 heaped teaspoons of cayenne pepper, 3 heaped teaspoons of garlic granules, 2 teaspoons of crushed dried sage and 5 teaspoons of crushed Maldon sea salt and generous black pepper. Then mix the ingredients well so that they are evenly distributed into the flour mix.

Take a strip of your chicken, drain off the excess buttermilk marinade and roll the strip thoroughly in the flour mixture until you no longer feel the moisture of the buttermilk. Repeat this will all your strips and place them on a plate, ready to be fried. At this point I would advise those of you using Electric cookers (like myself) to turn the heat up to about 8 (of 9) and gas users, keep on the same medium flame because your oil will smoke otherwise.

Test the oil with a little pinch of the batter; if it sizzles, you are ready to fry. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, begin to drop about 6-8 pieces of the chicken slowly into the pan. They should all be bubbling and sizzling at this stage and beware they don't burn so keep an eye on them. Just as the edges start to brown and crisp up, flip them carefully over to brown on both side. Repeat this will all the strips. Once done, drain your chicken strips on a plate lined with kitchen towel and serve with your favourite dips... I like BBQ sauce and honey mustard sauces. So much better than KFC and if you have kids, get them to help by dusting the chicken in flour, they will love it and you don't have to do it! Child labour as its permissable best!

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

REVIEW: 'Araxi', Whistler B.C.

Ask anyone in know the know, which is the best restaurant in Whistler and they will all tell you 'Araxi'. Having had several brushes with fame, including written endorsements of their cookery book by both Heston Blumenthal and Gordon Ramsay, as well as having the winner of 'Hell's Kitchen USA' working there for a period of time, no wonder Araxi is so well known. But well known, schmell known... I like to make up my own mind about restaurants, so lets see if the hype is worth believing.

The first thing that struck me is that despite being (supposedly) Whistler's best restaurant, the atmosphere is very warm and welcoming and their wine cellar is part of the main restaurant and is quite a big feature with over 1000 labels. The kitchen is also visible to all diners and I'm beginning to wonder if this heightens the fame of a restaurant in today's restaurant scene? Hmmm, food for thought. As Araxi is renowned for it's use of local produce, I wanted to make sure that I got a taste of as many of the wonderful local ingredients as possible.

After chatting with the staff, I am given a cookery book to drool over throughout my meal (a consequence of dining alone) as well as a delicious Amuse Bouche from their 'Raw bar' - Seared Albacore tuna with baby vegetables, shiitake mushrooms, pepper cress and ponzu sauce. A lovely dish perfect for cleansing the palate with the crisp citrus acidity of Japanese Ponzu. My appetite is cleansed, fired up and I am definitely ready for my meal now.

The menu is littered with more seafood than you can shake a stick at; 5 different kinds of oysters, Dungeoness crab and more Albacore tuna makes for a very fishy menu, but it was the Pemberton beetroot salad with Okanagan Goats cheese that got my attention. I love beetroot of all varieties; white, golden, striped, round, long... Get it? I love them all and although simple, this salad was a wonderful mix of several different types of beetroot, from Pemberton (about 30 mins drive away) with a lovely Goats cheese rolled in fresh pepper spicing making it absolutely delicious.

My main course of 'Trio of Paradise Valley Pork' with slow cooked belly, housemade sausage and pork cheek ravioli; a carrot puree, ginger crisps and green beans was a little too busy for my liking. Although not unpleasant, the pork belly was lovely, but I felt the ravioli pasta far too heavy, which coupled with it's dense meaty filling, made it a bit like an anchor in my stomach, sinking to the pit of it and fast. The sausage was slightly bizarre, triangular in shape without the customary casing and heavily seasoned with fennel (a very Napolitan sausage recipe) but the quantity used bordered into overkill. The carrot puree was an unusual but very pleasant accompaniment, which I enjoyed very much.

The dessert was most definitely the thorn in the side of the meal and it's subsequent downfall. I was too full to go for the obvious chocolate fondant and instead opted for the 'Agassiz Hazelnut Financier' a moist hazelnut cake with vanilla poached peaches, vanilla ice cream and apricot coulis. Again, another very busy dish although I was hoping the fruit would be light, the peach was bitter and almost liquoricey in taste; a flavour which I absolutely hate. The staff were very adamant that the dish did not contain liquorice, but the bitter flavour was so bizarrely and unpleasant that I just wasn't able to finish the meal.

I wouldn't write Araxi off entirely; I think I have had to learn to seperate personal preference from lack of culinary ability and in this case it was the former that seemed to affect the meal and not the latter. What I can say is that Araxi's cook book, with recipes courtesy of Executive Chef James Walt, is a fantastic find. I really enjoyed reading the recipes - which incidentally are categorised in 'seasons' rather than 'ingredients' which of course echoes the culinary style of the Chef and restaurant alike.

Whistler is a stunning resort and if you happen to visit, Araxi should definitely be on your list of must-dine destinations.

Araxi - 4222 Village Square Whistler, B.C.
http://www.araxi.com/

Maldon Sea Salt (Oh how I love thee...)

Anyone who knows me, will tell you that I have an unhealthy obsession with Maldon Sea Salt and cannot imagine cooking without it. So strong is my adoration for this brand that I am no longer able to use table salt and have taken to snobbily turning up my nose at anything less than Maldon. Bad? Yes, I know... but Maldon Sea Salt is harvested in Essex and I am so proud that we have such a great key ingredient available on our door step.

If you think Maldon Sea Salt, priced at £1.99, isn't anything special, then you would be wrong because back in Spring I visited one of the top restaurants in the world Chef Thomas Keller's 'Per Se' and they actually had a whole course devoted to tasting salts... Exotic hues of purple and coral from around the world including Himalaya and Hawaii and surprising 'Maldon Sea Salt'! Not that I ever needed any further convincing of its wonderful properties! It has even made several appearances on American cookery shows, making it quite the luxury ingredient over there.

I am actually convinced that Maldons gentle and truly delicious flavour makes all my food taste even better. I sprinkle it on bread and butter, in hot water to boil pasta and rice, on all kinds of roast meats and, of course, the most important thing that I could NEVER use another salt for... Tomatoes. Tomatoes + Maldon Sea Salt = No need for anything else. Don't believe me??? You should try it for yourself. Take 6 large tomatoes and literally hack them up, season generously with a few pinches of Maldon Sea Salt and some black pepper; drizzle a little olive oil and allow them to rest for an hour or so. What comes pouring out of the tomatoes is what can only be described as the pure 'essence' of tomato. A wonderful clear consomme is released and everytime I make this, my cousin Laily grabs the bowl and drinks the liquid like there is no tomorrow, so it must be good right?

Salt brings out the natural juices of food, which is great for vegetables and fruit, but not so great with meat and fish, although a little seasoning is essential. Whatever you use it for, I cannot recommend Maldon Sea Salt enough; it's great, it's British and it's ours!

For more information on this wonderful ingredient, visit:
http://www.maldonsalt.co.uk/

RECIPE: Roasted Sweet Potatoes With Yoghurt Dressing

Food doesn't need to be extravagant or intricate to taste great; sometimes the simplest of ingredients combined together can help give a dish that little extra 'oomph' to make it really special.

Sweet potatoes are one of my favourite root vegetables and I initially started eating them as part of a health kick and now I rarely ever eat normal potatoes at all. They are so much better for you than regular potatoes, lower in calories, starch, a low glycaemic index count and so versatile and flavoursome. You can steam them, fry them, sautee them, mash them and my favourite of all... roast them!

I regularly make wedges and serve them with my homemade burgers as well as pan-roasted salmon fillets with a wedge of lemon. Lately I have been thinking of different ways to serve them up and after serving them to guests at several recent dinner parties, they were such a success that I wanted to share this super-simple recipe with you so you can impress your friends with something easy that really takes very little effort.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes With Yoghurt Dressing

1/1.5kg Sweet potatoes (quantity is up to you, allow 2 per person)
Large tub of Greek Yoghurt ('Total' is my favourite brand)
Generous handful of chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
Small handful of of chopped fresh mint
Fresh pomegranate seeds
Maldon sea salt
Black pepper
Olive oil
Oven paper

Preheat your oven on 200 degrees (220 if not fan assisted) and line a large oven tray with your oven paper. Then peel all your potatoes and cut them into 1.5 inch slices (widthways). Once all peeled and sliced, drizzle them with olive oil and season well with lots of Maldon sea salt and some black pepper and mix well with your hands ensuring each piece is well oiled. Lay them all out onto one (or if need be, two) baking trays and bake in the oven for approximately 30 minutes or until nice and browned on the edges.

For the dressing:
- Add your chopped herbs and a generous seasoning of salt and pepper to your Greek Yoghurt and mix well.

Lay your sweet potato slices onto a nice platter, drizzle or dollop on your herb and yoghurt dressing generously over the sweet potatoes and then finally, top with the pomegranate seeds and a little extra chopped parsley if desired.

Its delicious, good for you and great for vegetarians or as a side dish to something meaty and delicious. A little taste of the middle east that is low on labour and high on flavour! Try it!

Monday, 6 September 2010

How about THEM apples???


When is an apple, not an apple? A question I recently asked myself when strolling along the famous Robson Street of Vancouver and I stumbled across the most bizarre thing I had seen in quite some time. If you thought "An apple a day keeps the doctor away" - with these little creations, you would most definitely be wrong because these appples can clock up an eye-watering 800+ calories making them less of a healthy option.

"Rocky Mountain Apples" take a standard green apple and transform them into something rather more special by dipping them in chocolate, caramel, hundreds and thousands, oreo cookie chunks, chocolate chips, chocolate fondant, marshmallows, peanut butter of whatever other 'candified' toppings are on offer that day. At $6.99 a pop, they are hugely popular and I can see why because no kid wants to eat a regular apple when they can have a Rocky Mountain Apple welded with 2lbs of sugary confection, yet still tell themselves that it is an apple and therefore healthy!

I refused to buy one of these candy-coated monstrousities as sugary treats have never been my thing but the staff were kindly 'disecting' them and offering samples and lets just say that the green apple itself offered some small salvation from its thick, tooth-achingly sweet casing. Sadly that small salvation would not be enough to convert a girl like me into a devoted lover of Rocky Mountain Apples, but it certainly is a novel idea and perhaps it could catch on some time in London? Especially around Halloween, it could be the ultimate 'pimped-up' toffee apple, that (no doubt) will have our kids all hopped up on sugar like addicts to a crack pipe. Still, it certainly is interesting what people seem to enjoy in other countries; although I'm not so sure it would catch on in good old London town.

RECIPE: PENNE 'MEDITERRANEO' SALAD

This is a really great pasta salad to make and unlike most pasta salads, it doesn't use mayonnaise or masses of olive oil as a dressing, it simply uses a red wine vinaigrette base as its dressing which makes it deliciously different and light without drowning out the flavours if the delicious ingredients you use in the salad. So here is the simple recipe for you, using some wonderful and seasonal yellow tomatoes that are vibrant in colour and bursting with flavour;

Penne Mediterraneo

250 of Penne pasta (cooked per packet instructions and then rinsed in cold water)
200gs of marinated artichoke hearts
200g of sunblush (not sundried) tomatoes
**TIP** M&S sell ready made deli pots of olives artichokes and sunblush tomatoes!
100g of your favourite black olives (I used Nicoise but Kalamata are also great)
500g of yellow tomatoes
1 small packed of flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
5 tabelspoons of olive oil
3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Make a quick dressing using your oil and vinegar and salt and pepper. Dress your cooked pasta in the dressing and mix thoroughly. Half your sunblush tomatoes, artichoke hearts (which come in halves, so quarters is what you want) and chop your yellow tomatoes into quarters also before adding them all to your pasta and mixing well. Lastly add your roughly chopped parlsey and mix all the ingredients thoroughly before allowing the pasta salad to rest for at least a coupe of hours to allow the vinaigrette to penetrate the pasta and ingredients and serve! This kind of dish is absolutely perfect as a meal in itself but some grilled fish or chicken or if your a veggie, some grilled Halloumi or fresh Mozzarella really give the dish a boost. This is a great way to use late summer produce like yellow tomatoes, so give it a try whilst they are still around!

Sunday, 5 September 2010

REVIEW: Daniel Boulud's 'Lumiere' - Vancouver

I admit I am not the biggest fan of Daniel Boulud and refuse to 'worship' him like so many other people seem to be doing as his food and restaurants have been beyond disappointing to date. Further more I am disappointed that his New York restaurant 'Daniel' seems to be climbing higher on the 'Worlds 50 Best Restaurants' list because my visit a few months ago was quite disappointing. With this in mind, I still find it hard to resist a visit to one of Vancouvers top restaurants Lumiere, where native Canadian Chef Dale MacKay heads up the kitchen. No stranger to the London restaurant scene, MacKay has worked at the jewel in the Gordon Ramsay restaurant empire, 'Restaurant Gordon Ramsay' at Royal Hospital Road, as well as Maze and Claridges; so this is most definitely a Chef who has worked hard at his craft. Anyone who serves time under Ramsay deserves a medal and, in some cases, the chance to run his own kitchen and so I grew more eager to try Lumiere for myself.

The restaurant is an intimate dining room offering no more than 40 covers; tastefully decorated with bronze alligator patterned banquette seating and ornate light fixtures that drop from the ceiling. Having learned my lesson from my gastro-tour of New York, I steer clear of 7 and 9 course menus and instead opt for a comparably sensible 5 course menu for my meal. An amuse bouch of clear gelee of tomato essence with an avocado cream and piquillo pepper puree cleanses my palate with a gentle hit of acidity and it is followed by the first course of Watermelon and Dungeoness Crab Salad with a Horchata Sorbet and Shiso Cress. Whilst I love both crab and watermelon, I didn't feel the two worked particularly well together. The watermelon proved to be too sweet for the delicate crab meat and in my opinion overpowered it somewhat; a little acidity courtesy of some lime juice would have improved it greatly for my palate. The 'Horchata' sorbet made me chuckle. 'Horchata' is a Mexican rice milk drink flavoured with cinnamon and it's presence in this particular dish baffled me somewhat but luckily its flavour was rather more subtle than usual.

Roasted Qualicum Bay Scallops with Fennel, Avocado and Black Garlic Jus is another interesting combination. Fearing that the fennel may overpower the delicate white flesh of the scallop, I take my first bite and instantly my fear is unfounded as each mouthful is a true pleasure; the juicy sweetness of the scallop with just a hint of aniseed from the wafer thin shavings of acidulated fennel compliment each other perfectly and the black garlic jus make for a deliciously sticky sauce that is perfect with the scallop and fennel combination.

A 'surprise' course arrives and I am told it is a dish that has literally just been perfected and that they wanted me to try (I love this kind of stuff) A ravioli of locally grown Pemberton sweetcorn with Girolle mushrooms; Not knowing what to expect, I take a bite and a creamy, sweet puree or corn bursts in my mouth, delivering the fragrant and sweet pungency of wonderfully ripe corn. I cannot tell you how delicious these little raviolo are; I would literally be happy to eat this dish by itself because it is sheer perfection and the ultimate comfort food. Its simplicity is staggering and the filling delivers such a concentrated flavour of the sweetest corn that it is quite simply mind-blowing, especially when corn is such a humble ingredient.

Next comes a herb-crusted halibut served with black trumpet mushrooms, white asparagus, cherry tomatoes and lobster jus with a little nugget of lobster meat. The plate is a little busy and there are slightly too many flavours for me but the brilliantly white halibut flesh is a visually-pleasing contrast to the bright green crust that adorns it and the fish is cooked to melting perfection. Admittedly fish isnt always my favourite course and sadly this is no exception as I felt it lacked the lustre of its former courses, but it was nice enough and didn't offend my palate in any way.

A duo of AAA Prime Beef with Red Wine Braised Short Rib, Potato Fondant, Seared Rib Eye and Romaine Parcel follows the Halbut and by this time I am already beginning to get incredibly full but the boneless rib of beef is cooked to perfection and topped with a stripe of fiery black pepper that does much to 'awaken' my senses. The red wine braised short rib was incredibly rich and delicious but a tad too rich when you have had so much to eat (the pasta may have tipped me over the edge) and I found the potato fondant to be just ok but I was not a fan of the Romaine lettuce parcel which had managed to somehow become rather bitter and unpleasant in all its wilted glory.

Dessert soon followed and the last thing I would crave after such a rich meal would be chocolate and sure enough that is exactly what arrived. A rich Chocolate Fondant
with Caramel and Hazelnut Nougatine Ice Cream extravagantly topped with 24 karat gold leaf. In all fairness it was probably one of the best fondants I have ever had. The melted centre came pouring out like a BP oil spill in a thick, unctuous slick of chocolate but I found the caramel ice cream to be one step too far on the 'sweet scale'; perhaps it was because I was stuffed or maybe just because I find caramel too sickly for my taste and I would have preferred something less sweet like a simple vanilla. Luckily I had a rather nice locally produced Riesling dessert wine to wash it all down with, giving me the desired acidity that I had so been longing for.

Just when I thought I couldn't possibly manage another bite, Boulud's traditional petit fours and mignardises arrive... Which I could have almost refused were it not for the most featherlight 'Madeleines' I had ever tasted in my entire life, which luckily are made to the same exacting recipe and have been the one consistently good item at all the Boulud establishments I have dined at.

Overall, I was extremely impressed when truthfully I didn't think I would be. The food was fantastic and although for my personal taste, some courses were a tad more 'miss' than 'hit', the majority were really very good and the scallops and the sweetcorn ravioli really stood out to me at the true stars of the meal. So it's not all bad at Boulud... Now if only Chef Dale MacKay would transport his his restaurant and team to London, I could die a happy girl because the meal I had here in Vancouver was a truly memorable one and I'm sad that I have to fly 10 hours if I ever want to experience it again. Lumiere is a beacon of light in an otherwise dark restaurant group that lacks any major spark... If you are ever in Vancouver, I would highly recommend you add it to your list of culinary destinations.

Lumiere - 2551 West Broadway, Vancouver, BC
Tel: 001 (604) 739 8185
http://www.lumiere.ca/