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Vancouver underground supper club serves up decadently prepared wild foods.
Swallow Tail Tours’ secret supper club introduces foodies to B.C.’s wild bounty.
If you recall, I love eating home cooked meals, so when I found out about Swallow Tail Tours’ secret supper club, I knew I had to check it out for the Secret City blog.
Vancouver-based Swallow Tail Tours owner Chef Robin is a hobby chef and trained sommelier who calls herself a hunter-gatherer, and means it literally. She forages BC’s forests and waters for berries, mushrooms (chantrelles are her favourite), herbs and seafood. She’s also a big fan of wild game and is gearing up for her first hunting trip this fall.
“I really do believe in the 100-mile diet way of cooking,” says Robin, who comes from a line of pastry chefs and wild-food enthusiasts. “I try to stick as close to it as possible.”
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Check the website for upcoming supper club dates and other culinary events.
January 14–February 5, 2011
A culinary speakeasy tour that carts diners away in a Vancouver Trolley to a selection of undisclosed pop-up restaurants with food from talented Vancouver chefs.As part of Dine Out Vancouver
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Her three-year-old company offers leisurely tours of the province’s natural wonders and foodie and wine regions, accompanied by Robin’s local, wild cuisine. Tours include cycling Okanagan wine country, a four-day foodie tour of the Gulf Islands, guided wild greens hunting, as well as custom trips. The company began offering secret suppers in Vancouver last fall, with Robin heading up the kitchen.
Robin says her favourite wild catch is Dungeness crab, which she also teaches guests to catch and cook, but she also loves foraging for indigenous plants, such as licorice fern, whose delicately anise-flavoured fronds she uses in salads and as garnish for desserts. (Her telling me about licorice ferm triggered a long-buried memory of my kindergarten teacher bringing it to class for us kids to taste. I haven’t encountered it since, but now I’m curious.)
In addition to the wild stuff, Robin’s cuisine incorporates locally grown meats and produce; wines and beer by BC vintners and brewers; fruit, veggies and herbs from her own backyard; and occasional imports, like her current obsession, Spanish olive oil.
All I and my fellow supper club guests knew about our three- or five-course prix fixe feast before arriving at our “secret” location was that it would contain seasonal and wild ingredients. As Robin later told me, her menus depend on “whatever I can get my hands on.” We weren’t disappointed.
We started with crostini with local hazelnut and chantrelle mushroom pâté and hazelnut oil. That was followed by organic leek soup with white truffle oil (purchased in Europe) served with homemade bread with rosemary (grown by Robin), and battered in Vancouver’s own R&B Red Devil pale ale.
Next up was a crunchy-sweet dandelion fritter with Island-based Venturi Schulze Vineyard’s balsamic vinegar. It was so tasty, I decided I’ll try fritterizing my yard’s bounty of those “weeds” this spring instead of waiting for the squash blossoms.
Then came Robin’s cedar-smoked romaine salad, an entire heart done on the barbecue for four minutes, then dressed Caesar-style. We all appreciated the decanter of extra salad dressing, which we poured onto our empty plates and mopped up with bread.
The third course, and my favourite, was homemade egg-noodles in a sherry, thyme cream sauce with dried chantrelles, harvested last fall on Vancouver Island.
The main course (above) was Arctic muskox prosciutto, one of Robin’s favourite wild meats, with a potato-leek mash made with Sea Cider’s Rumrunner cider, along with Qualicum Bay scallops, asparagus and golden beets.
The finale was chocolate-chunk cookies with a sauce made of Venturi Schulze’s Brandenburg No. 3, along with two delicate huckleberries, harvested by Robin on Vancouver Island last summer, then frozen.
The courses were delicious and slowly paced, and my dinner guests good company. Robin inspired me to not only go beyond my hunter-gatherer comfort zone (blackberries; the odd sea or lake creature), but to think about creative new ways to prepare nature’s freebies.