by Lauren Mote
At 2:25pm sharp on Thursday, I grabbed whatever I needed for work, my umbrella, a thick notepad and a pen. I wasn’t going to be late… how could one actually be late for a complimentary Grand Marnier tasting at Goldfish Pacific Kitchen in Yaletown? Not me, I definitely fit the attendance profile. Nonetheless, the different varieties of the orange-peel infused cognac are waiting for me, plus some workplace colleagues to create the perfect split between objective opinion and a social experience.
My tasting partners, Kenneth and Misty, both joined me from Lumière on West Broadway, for a food and cognac pairing at Goldfish, the newest restaurant from the Joe Fortes Corporation in Vancouver. Goldfish’s Executive Chef William Tse worked closely with cognac superpower Grand Marnier to create a appetizer, entree and dessert menu exclusively for this tasting.
As we enter the restaurant we are immediately greeted by a room temperature glass of Chateau de Sancerre. I drop a donation in the snifter to my right, and fill out a ballot to win a $1000 bottle of cognac on my left.
I glance around the huge open space, and notice the crystal stemware glistening at the different tasting stations. It’s time to try. To my left, bartenders Chewie and John are shaking cocktails of Grey Goose and Grand Marnier Cuvée du Cent Cinquantenaire; simply garnished with a thin orange slice. Divine. At the next table over, bartender Sean is shaking Patron Tequila with Grand Marnier Cuvée Louis Alexandre and lime juice for an unforgettable Margarita.
In the centre, four round tables are set up, each one 15 feet behind the other, housing low ball glasses and an ounce of Grand Marnier. Each table profiles a different cognac, tasting notes and history. To my right, Chef Tse’s kitchen crew has set up tables with cassette burners to produce the tasty pairings for our cognacs.
The first table profiles the popular Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge. This was the first release from the Marnier-Lapostolle Distillery, founded in 1827. This cognac was released in 1880. The unique nose provides mandarin orange, raisin and apple. This young Grand Marnier (aged up to 10 years) is produced from the finest growing regions in Cognac, France and blended with tropical oranges to give us its signature taste. The taste is clean and refreshing. I paired this cognac with Chef Tse’s seared scallop with blanched julienne vegetables, in a ginger-infused beurre blanc. An exquisite pairing.
The next pairing accentuates the smoothness of Grand Marnier to bring us the Cuvée Louis Alexandre, named for Grand Marnier’s inventor, and his favourite ritual of adding a drop of XO (Extra Old) cognac to his blend. The liqueur has drier more refined cognac taste then the original and can be aged up to 15 years. The nose is very familiar. Smells of Earl Grey tea (bergamot oil) and woodiness momentarily captivate me. We paired this with Chef Tse’s jasmin-tea scented arctic char, blanched julienne vegetables and a grand marnier infused coconut sauce. Simply delicious. I loved how well the tea notes in the char complimented the bergamot notes in the Louis Alexandre. A successful match.
The next table houses a gorgeous bottle. Grand Marnier Cuvée du Centenaire celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Lapostolle Distillery, first released in 1927. This recipe is blended from the very best cognacs from the Grand and Petite Champagne regions in France. The nose exhibits spicy orange zest and a long lasting finish on the palate. This cognac is paired with Chef Tse’s seared pork tenderloin, topped with caramelized apple, wilted frisée lettuce and a soy drizzle. The saltiness in the soy drizzle brings out the spiced orange in the cognac well.
I sit for about 20 minutes, gathering the personal food and tasting notes from Kenneth and Misty. The finale to the afternoon is the dessert area. In a separate room, one chef is cooking alone. He has two pairings for us. The first is a snifter of Grand Marnier Navan Vanilla cognac paired with a Navan and coffee spiked crème brulée topped with a crispy cashew and coconut gyoza. Grand Marnier Navan Vanilla is a blend of cognac and Black Madagascar Vanilla to produce a rich liqueur that “dances on your tongue” says Gigi of West Restaurant. The crème brulée is a gorgeous smooth texture. It almost reminds me of Balkan style Cappuccino yogurt . I enjoyed it immensely.
Our last pairing of the day is brilliant. Grand Marnier Cuvée du Cent Cinquantenaire celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Distillery, first released in 1977. This liqueur is a blend of cognacs from the Grand Champagne region in France, aged for 50 years and blended with the familiar essence of distilled tropical oranges. The nose gives us sweeter spices, like cinnamon and star anise, as well as tangerine zest. This cognac is paired with fire-roasted poached plums, combined with Grand Marnier Cuvée du Cent Cinquantenaire, coconut gelato and a loose peanut and coconut sprinkle. Luxurious indeed; I was ecstatic.
I reflect on the difficulty in providing hot food to order for a tasting session with an uncertain number of guests. Overall I concluded my afternoon quite content. I leave the Goldfish, after introducing myself to Chef William Tse, and thanking him for such a glorious afternoon. I see the potential in his cuisine, and I am anxious to return with my partner, Chef John Corsi to experience all that this Pacific Kitchen has to offer. The hostess hands me a bright pink “loot-bag” filled with goodies. A pewter Grand Marnier flask, bottle topper and the liqueur history and notes I receive are greatly appreciated. Alas, my taxi arrives. I am off to work with nothing but oranges and cognac on the brain. An easy sell.
What else can possibly be concocted with the world’s most delicious orange liqueur Grand Marnier? I guess we will soon find out, or we will have to start creating our own experimental dishes and cocktails at home.
For more information on the range of Grand Marnier products, recipes or pricelist, visit http://www.grandmarnier.com . For more information on Goldfish Pacific Kitchen, including menus and special events, visit http://www.goldfishkitchen.com.