My wife and I took her visiting parents out for dinner last night, and we picked Forage, thinking it looked like a pretty accessible selection from Vancouver’s farm-to-table share-plate dining scene. These are, after all, hardy folk who’ve never really spent a lot of time in upscale restaurants (on my side of the family, special occasions are marked by dining out, on this side of the family they’re marked by steaks the size of your head. So is every Sunday too, actually. It’s pretty awesome.)
Forage is in league with Wildebeest, with a particular affection for locally sourced and seasonal ingredients, and a style that is very contemporary but rustic and country as well. The price point is really fair, and one of my favourite parts about this style of dining is that you can really spend as much or as little as you want depending on how many dishes keep coming to the table.
Note: I’m grateful we scouted the much-fussed-about Pidgin first and never brought them there - it’s much pricier, half of the Asian-fusion menu doesn’t really work, and it’s located on the diciest corner in the whole of metro Vancouver. Riding the bus to get there, I was as close to being mugged as I’ve been in the city. Getting out of the restaurant there are police waiting outside to help you get a cab. Not exactly sexy times.
The first snack to come to the table - and it got there so fast I was practically still ordering - was the crackling and popcorn. I fucking love popcorn. I go to movies I don’t really care about just to eat it. And this was popcorn with pig fat! Holy shit.
I think if I ever get some real success in my life and I finally go the full Dan Aykroyd, I’m going to have 30-pound tubs of this sitting in my washroom next to my gold bidet while my Colombian housekeeper pleads "Meester Luhwig, Meester Luhwig, no mas on de popcorn…" and there I’ll be, sweaty and drunk, hurling insults back at her while I inhale the popcorn and look at old photos of myself and say “YOU COULDN’T DO WHAT I DO ESMERELDA” and she screams back "You know my name Manuela! I HAVE YOU BABY!"
But I digress…
This was a nice little Charcuterie board, with a chicken liver parfait at the centre and few different cured meats (I missed their descriptions, probably lost in popcorn fantasies of the rich and bloated.) The house-made IPA mustard and pickles were a really nice touch.
Now this was the first point of the meal when the Old School may have stepped in the way of my inlaws really loving the dining experience. These are squash perogies with a birch syrup vinegar reduction and scallion creme fraiche. They were absolutely delicious, but a little on the “weird” side for a family that ABSOLUTELY DISMISSES my mere SUGGESTION that we could include some cheddar perogies at Christmas instead of just the plain potato ones. Regardless, I loved the dish.
My favourite of the night, a bison tongue ravioli with jus, crispy parsnip and chantrelles. Big earthy flavours delivered in a perfect homemade noodle, very comfortable and still a bit exotic (too exotic for Ashley’s mom, who couldn’t stop thinking about the big gross beef tongues you see at the grocery store.)
The night’s special, fresh-caught halibut with fiddleheads and a rich hollandaise-style sauce. This was really delicious, with the fish cooked absolutely perfectly, all buttery and flaky like good halibut should be. The white stuff was an olive oil powder, which definitely would have been scoffed at by a judge on a cooking contest show, but regardless this was unanimously the rest of the table’s favourite dish of the night.
And finally we have cured Keta salmon with stinging nettle soup, gnocchi, bacon and creme fraiche. I personally loved the combination of the grassy soup with the saltiness of the salmon skin and bacon and the warm richness of the gnocchi. The stinging nettle was a little off-putting for some of the others, especially given how rampantly it grows out at the family cottage.
Dynamite meal, and Forage gets a solid recommendation. Just be wary when bringing… conservative diners.