A wonderful indulgence while staying at the Hastings House is a dinner prepared by the culinary team of Executive Chef Marcel Kauer and Sous Chef Nick Trehearne. Menus are created to take advantage of the garden’s abundant vegetables as well as local, seasonal ingredients. Upon arriving at my dinner table with a view of Ganges Harbour, I knew that I’d be in for a treat.
Swiss-born Marcel Kauer started at the Hastings House in 1992 as sous chef for Hastings House; after four years he took the helm as Executive Chef.
Each table seating contains a customized dinner menu featuring the guest’s name on the cover. Any food restrictions are given to the staff ahead of time with careful attention paid to any allergies.
My first foray into the Hastings House dining experience was an amuse of in-house smoked tuna. Chef Kauer recently started smoking locally-sourced fish in-house and this served as a flavourful introduction to the meal.
Marinated prawns are served perfectly seasoned with a lemon, caper, and garlic dressing, alongside an artfully prepared crispy proscuitto cup topped with a small edible pansy.
I enjoyed this together with a glass of Pinot noir from Salt Spring’s own Mistaken Identity Vineyards, a certified organic winery with a 7.5-acre vineyard. The black currant and spice was a good match for the garlic in the marinade.
My herb-crusted wild Pacific halibut arrived with parmesan polenta and a circle of sweet soya emulsion with seasonal veggies. The polenta alone was divine; when combined with a mix of the garden’s own herbs and local, delicate fish, a sublime experience. This was enjoyed with a glass of Abbondante Rosso 2009, also from Mistaken Identity. The dense red estate blend has notes of cherry and pepper, while not overpowering the soft fish.
I got a completely new experience from the halibut when the sommelier poured a glass of Burrowing Owl’s 2009 Merlot, one of my hands-down top 10 BC reds. The deep, rich texture of the merlot was well suited to stand up to both the parmesan polenta (I need that recipe!) and the sweet soya.
If you’ve not yet tried Burrowing Owl’s Merlot, it’s a beautiful, complex wine that works both with a meal or enjoyed on its own.
The evening continued with a dark Belgian chocolate pâté, served with chantilly cream, strawberry-rhubarb purée and a few fruits and delicate white edible flowers. Not only was the taste combination incredible, but the presentation was almost too pretty to eat.
Kettle Valley’s Caboose fortified wine was poured to compliment the rich chocolate experience. This Naramata Bench dessert wine is a blend of both Malbec and Petit Verdot grapes from the winery’s King Drive vineyard, aged in French oak.
Other entrée options on the menu that evening were filet of Alberta beef, wild mushroom, mascarpone, and kale ravioli, and five spice duck beast in a red wine reduction.
This meal was slowly savored from start to finish, and the experience was heightened by attentive staff and quiet music in the background. A roaring fireplace and atmospheric lighting to match the Sussex style manor added to the enjoyment.
The dining room seats 30 people; the newly-completed verandah accommodates an additional 60 guests.
My dinner at Hastings House was compliments of the Hastings House Country House Hotel on Salt Spring Island, BC.