Posted on February 28, 2011
Photos: Shaken And Stirred
Cocktails and cuisine came together for one glittering evening last week at The Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria for the hotel’s Shaken and Stirred culinary competition.
The Fairmont Empress’ Theresa Dickinson and The Fairmont Newport Beach’s Rob Anderson held down hosting duties with humour, panache and a lot of sex appeal in this 007-inspired event.
Executive Sous Chef Ken Nakano of The Fairmont Empress Hotel challenged Executive Chef Chad Blunston in a series of five courses. Each chef was to prepare a dish that paired perfectly with a pre-selected cocktail. Myself and three other judges were given the task of rating each course out of 15 based on particular criteria.
The evening’s edible delights kicked off with a fanny bay oyster with yuzu lemonade and a sour cherry pearl from Chef Blunston battling against Chef Nakano’s Qualicum Beach scallop in a side striped shrimp terrine with coriander and avocado remoulade. The first course was paired with the Dawa cocktail, Dawa meaning “healing” in Swahili.
Other featured cocktails included The Empress 1908, featuring vodka infused with Empress Hotel tea, as well as OC Nights, Bronze Seduction and my personal favourite, the Mango Tango. What looked sweet and fruity actually packed a lot of kick with mango purée shaken with jalapeño.
Before the final and sweetest course, Chefs Blunston and Nakano served up everything from organic chicken breast from Goldstream and duck confit to king prawn with pineapple curry sauce and porcini braised chuck flat. Choosing the best dessert proved most difficult. Chef Blunston offered up banana cream beignets with an incredible trough of chocolate while Chef Nakano whipped up hazelnut florentine cradling espresso gelato.
When the last sip was savoured and the final crumbs all but licked off our plates, the numbers were tallied and a winner was declared. Chef Ken Nakano was the judges’ favourite, earning the most points for his simple yet creatively flavourful dishes. Chef Blunston, however, could hardly be known as second best: each course he prepared was a true work of art.
Rumour has it that The Fairmont Newport Beach is hoping for a re-match this fall in Orange County! Stay tuned for more on round two, but in the meantime, stop in at The Fairmont Empress Hotel next time you’re in Victoria and devour some of Chef Nakano’s food for yourself.