FROM THIS ROCK REVIEW
5 courses, 2 reviews, 1 highly enjoyable feast
The From this Rock Culinary Tour took place Oct. 26 at the Hotel Port aux Basques. This year the Gulf News sent a pair of first-time reviewers to partake and report back. Is the $60 price tag worth it? How talented are our local chefs? How good is the quality of our local food products? Both reviewers kept separate notes of their impressions and experiences without consulting each other during the meal.
First Impressions Charlene
This is my first time attending the From this Rock Culinary Tour. The experience starts as soon as you enter the dining room. The soft and elegant atmosphere immediately invited me in and made me feel comfortable and relaxed. The smell just instantly got my attention. A wine show pairing would be nice for each course.
Having grown up in Québec and lived in Halifax for over two decades, I’ve had lots of experience with fine dining. I love the décor and soft lighting. I could live without the slideshow, which I found distracting, and the table full of yummies out in the lobby would work better to highlight local food products instead. Agree about selected wine pairings for each course.
Appetizer: charcuterie sampler Charlene
The presentation was simple and classy. The richness of the paté was the perfect choice with the partridgeberry sauce. The colours and flavours complemented each other perfectly.
Agree on the presentation. Much to my surprise I thought the paté was the best part and I’m not usually a fan. The green tomato chutney complemented everything beautifully both in flavour and texture. My cheese slices were starting to crisp a bit on the edges because they’d been sitting just a wee bit too long.
First course: tagliatelle, pork ragout Charlene
The presentation of the first course of homemade pasta and ragout sauce was appealing. The sauce was so rich and savoury, you had to get every last bit with a piece of fresh bread. The mint leaf to refresh and cleanse the palate was a nice touch.
The ragout was spicy but not overpowering and provided an excellent accompaniment to the perfectly cooked pasta. I don’t usually like fresh parmesan but in this case, it put the dish over the top. Warm focaccia bread to mop up the sauce was really nice. Of all the dishes this one paired best with the wine.
Second course: spiced cod, gnocchi, sage butter Charlene – favourite dish
My first impression of the second course was that the serving size was a bit small, but by the time I finished this course I was completely satisfied. This was my favourite dish. The spiced cod and gnocchi were cooked to perfection, not at all overdone, and just melted in my mouth. The flavours in the spiced cod were so unexpected and delicious. I’d love to see this dish on local menus.
Rosalyn – favourite dish
This was easily the best dish of the night. The cod with just a hint of lime was full of flavour and soft, complementary spices and just melted in my mouth. It was the best cod I’ve ever eaten. The gnocchi was a perfect al dente and that tasty butter tied everything together. My only complaint was there wasn’t enough of it and I was left wanting more.
Main course: chicken roulade, truffled cauliflower, Brussels sprouts Charlene
The main course had a beautiful presentation and tasted as incredible as it smelled. All of the different textures and flavours combined really well. Very satisfying!
The meat was once again cooked to perfection and the gravy wasn’t overpowering at all but a nice complement. It was a nice, solid and filling dish. The best surprise was the veggies. I despise Brussels sprouts but they weren’t sweet or bitter here at all – just utterly fantastic. The truffled cauliflower was a new experience, light and fluffy and I quite enjoyed that too.
Dessert: partridgeberry trio Charlene – least favourite
The dessert presentation of partridgeberry trio was very striking. Even though this dessert was good, it was the least that I liked in the entire fivecourse meal.
Rosalyn – least favourite
If I have to pick one I like the least, it would be this one, but that does not mean it was a bad dish – quite the opposite. The moist, dense cake topped with partridgeberry mousse was soft and a nice change in texture from the heavy dishes before it. The splash of jam added colour but the crisp was almost entirely flavourless. It did highlight the local berry beautifully and in an original way, but the quality of the four dishes that preceded was just too good to rank this one any higher.
Final thoughts Charlene
The whole dinner was a memorable one, and one I would like to do again. I heartily recommend the tour to anyone interested in a different and more upscale dining experience.
I didn’t realize we had such talented chefs in the region, but they are true artisans when it comes to cuisine. They can definitely hold their own or even outshine some of the higherend restaurants I’ve dined at in Montreal and Halifax. And at $60 for such a night of great food and good company, I think the tour is a steal. I experienced old foods in new ways, and enjoyed ones I previously disliked. I also have to give major props to the servers who were quick, quiet and efficient. What a great experience!
Second course: spiced cod, gnocchi, sage butter