Overwhelming to the senses. In the best way. That’s my interpretation of the Dine by Design East gala this past Thursday night. My first experience of the event, at its second annual edition, served as a full body experience. What I would describe as a mishmash of food, drink, design and art, the gala is really just a whole lot of fun.
Stepping through the doors of the Olympic Community Centre to see it completely transformed into a gallery of beautiful spaces is impressive enough. With a large cash bar near the entrance, a champagne bar in the back, dimmed lighting and the DJ spinning ambient music, it had the vibe of “upscale night club turned art gallery”. While I was lucky enough to make a round on the media tour, before it got too crowded, the general admission to the event has a lot to offer. On top of being a fundraiser for the Amber Harkins Scholarship Memorial Fund at NSCAD (a cause to feel good about), the evening goes something like this: stroll through the venue while tasting hors d’oeuvres dreamt up by some of Halifax’s most talented chefs, chat with local designers and architects who are excited to explain the inspirations behind their spaces, and sip on local beer and wine samples, all while surrounded by extremely well-dressed people.
There is so much to report on for an event like this, but I’m going to stick to what I do (and what I know): the food. Here are the best three things I tasted at Dine by Design East gala. For photos of almost all the food at the event, peruse the gallery at the bottom of the post.
My top three:
#3 – From Chef Luis Clavel, Atlantica Hotel Halifax: Ash organic chicken, smoked olive oil powder, tiny basil. Served on a stick (who doesn’t love that), topped with the thinnest piece of crostini, drizzled with truffle oil; the juicy, tender texture of this chicken (done sous vide) was mind-blowing. Luis isn’t known for doing simple food, but this is an example of how he changes your relationship with simple flavours: chicken, olive oil, basil, bread… elevated to the next level.
#2 – Pictou Lodge Beach Resort’s chef Thomas Carey handed me this: cured smoked Atlantic salmon belly, lemon emulsion, buttermilk gel, radish, pickled sea asparagus on stone fruit cracker. The rich, smoky, melt in your mouth salmon belly sang when combined with tangy flavours like lemon, radish and pickled sea asparagus. Put it all on a crunchy, hearty cracker, and this is my kind of eating.
#1 – Robert Reynolds of EDNA never seems to disappoint. His Garden Party inspired menu was spot-on, and my favourite taste of the night was his marinated shrimp cocktail, tequila, citrus, shallots and avocado mousse. I’m a huge shellfish lover to start, but it was really the usage of harmonious flavours like tequila, citrus and avocado that made every well-balanced bite of this adorable little shrimp cocktail work.