I am partaking in a journey where I will appraise every non-franchise restaurant in town and review their food as well as their service. It is an attempt to expand my mind and appetite. Simultaneously, I will also be taking what I learn from these establishments and attempting to remake them with my extremely limited skill.
I’ve decided this will be my last review of White Goose. Am I bored? No. Has their quality fallen? Of course not. But talking and posting about White Goose Bistro by this point is like walking up to random strangers and discussing how awesome Star Wars is. I mean everyone gets it, we’re all on the same page. It’s one of those natural laws we accept as fact. Grass is green; water is wet; sky is blue; women have secrets; White Goose is an amazing restaurant. In my recent article covering the Northern Taste challenge, I compared head chef Ryan Cyre to Thannos from Guardians of the Galaxy.
White Goose had the best table at the recent Summerfest Taste Pavilion and won the recent BCNE Northern Taste Challenge. My recent visit to their actual restaurant was marked by a visit by actor Ron Perlman and celebrity chef/author Bob Blumer. And even with those eminent patrons, Ryan still made a point to approach my table personally to discuss a dish I had ordered. There are great chefs in Prince George—fact—but I have yet to find one with the passion for food like Ryan. He lives and breathes good food. I doubt he sweats sweat; more likely he sweats béchamel sauce…which…admittedly sounds disgusting, but you get my point. And he gathers around him colleagues who match his passion, who strive for that high quality. This includes his sister, running front of house, who could also be a better baker than him.
In a previous review I had mentioned that White Goose was a revolutionary experience for such a small town, nailing a coffin in the accusation that restaurants in Prince George cannot be and should not be critiqued on the same grounds as those in Vancouver and that local restaurants can never hope to achieve the echelon of quality boasted by the likes of celebrity chefs and Michelin star establishments in larger cities. I also mentioned that White Goose should be that special place you take your loved one for birthdays and anniversaries, and not where you take a girl you met the day before on your first date. It’s a foodie’s heaven, and when I die far in the future from, hopefully, a failed heart after a night of constant debauchery on my 99th birthday, and I gain the Matrix-like ability to construct my own heaven like Robin Williams in What Dreams May Come (I’ll miss him), there will be a spot where a White Goose will sprout…because it wouldn’t be a heaven without it.
And that would be the end of it, a proper close to the review, but I love gushing about the food. I started with the grilled polenta served with a mouth-watering porcini mushroom reduction and followed that with seared tuna with grilled risotto. The main was also fringed by a fistful of spring beans, which I usually don’t finish but totally cleaned up. There was a dessert, I remember, but didn’t take a photo of it, chocolate cake with butter pecan sauce I believe. Now don’t get me wrong, I still love North 54 and Twisted Cork, but I plan my year around the days I can save up for White Goose. It’s just worth it. And returning back to the Star Wars metaphor, sure, every year films get made that win best picture Oscars, and that’s all good, but Star Wars is just…well…Star Wars.
…unless JJ Abrams screws it up…which he totally could.
I skipped supper today, and I’m still not hungry. I walked into the Summerfest Taste Pavilion early with $40 in my pocket and an empty stomach from not eating the previous twelve hours. Let’s be honest, this is not the Summerfest with Taste Pavilion; it’s Taste Pavilion with a handful of tables carried over from the Farmer’s Market. Despite wishing to support many of these local businesses, many of them I just saw the day before (or week previous if you attended the BCNE). The Taste Pavilion is where it’s it at; it’s everything, and the crowds proved it. I arrived early, got my tickets, and had downed four dishes before the crowds flooded in like divine retribution (I wanted to build an ark with two of every dish). A deluge it was, and by 11:30 I thought the area had reached a bursting point, but not true. It would get even more condensed; by noon, the entire street was packed like a Rush concert.
First up was Shiraz and the promise of Shawarma—a new cuisine Reza plans on offering at his restaurant. I followed that with a fish taco from White Goose, and samosas from Karahi King. After a breath, I returned to the booths a double fisted Zaffron Cuisine. I might have been critical of the approach of their restaurant, but I sure can’t complain about their food. After the lamb meatballs, I returned for their saffron and pistachio ice cream. Smart people—offering both a savory and a sweet dish, ensuring demand for both. Even at White Goose, I had to decide between the taco or garlic fries with goose mayo. Twisted Cork offered a local organic Kobe beef slider, which was amazing, if not… well… deceptive. I mean those are a lot of words. “Organic” has always been one that annoyed me—I mean are there edible animals made from silicon? “Locally” I can respect, but “Kobe”? Kobe? You know that Kobe refers to a specific strain of a specific cow in Japan, right? It’s a type of wagyu cattle and although there are wagyu cattle farms in Alberta, I don’t think they are allowed to call themselves Kobe. To call local beef Kobe is extremely deceptive, if not an outright lie. Some stores claim to sell Kobe beef even though it’s nearly impossible to get it outside of Japan. I’m just saying it’s a famous moniker often misused.
Now to the negatives, the first with Nancy O’s. I really enjoy Nancy’ Os but their pork taco left me unsatisfied. It was ok but the untoasted wrap just felt a little limp, perhaps unfair given it followed behind White Goose’s amazing variation of the same idea. And finally Booster Juice, which somehow felt it couldn’t be bothered to bring any equipment down for the event, instead transporting box after box from their location by car, only for said shipment to sell out five minutes later, forcing another ten minutes as the vehicle dashed for more. Why they didn’t prepare better or bring equipment on site I can’t understand, but I saw the lineup outside that booth scatter more than once.
I warned people to come early and by 1:30, “sold out” signs started popping up. By 2:00 several booths had shut down entirely. I had twelve bucks in tickets left so I blew it all on desserts and pop. Do I have any suggestions for the future? On my end, I badly needed a wingman—all my friends and even my girlfriend couldn’t make it. If I had someone with me, they could have shared a meatball and samosa, split those garlic fries. As such, after four plates, I had to walk around for 90 minutes before gaining the room to continue. Also, this place badly needed an announcer, someone with a microphone tapped into a loudspeaker everyone could hear to promote lesser patronized tables and alerting to delays and lineups…and yeah, lineups. I wasn’t hungry when I entered the queue for Twisted Cork; I was banking I would be fifteen minutes later when I reached the counter.
And the value was apparent. I stuffed myself for $40. I was plenty full at $25. I actually thought the portions in some cases were almost too large, another reason why I will kidnap someone if I have to next year. But wow was the rest of the Summerfest depressing. Two side streets with basically nothing, they need to team up with a car show or something. HEY, that’s an idea!
Any clear winners? Other than the crowds, I would throw a shout out to Karahi King, Zaffron Cuisine, Shiraz, White Goose Bistro and Twisted Cork. So a great event and one I will attend again next year.
Not going to lie, I didn’t know that much about Bob Blumer before I turned into one of his biggest fans. My first blip-vert moment of exposure was a segment of his Weirdest Restaurants program in, if you can believe it, another restaurant. I developed a love of collecting autographed cookbooks and wanted to add another alongside Mona Talbot, Gordon Ramsay, and others. What I didn’t know was that I was about to have an amazing weekend interacting, and being in relative close proximity with, a fantastic human being.
It helps that he’s Canadian.
It’s odd that as I sat across my mother at White Goose, Ron Perlman (yes, that Ron Perlman) to my right and Bob Blumer behind me, that I wanted to be part of the latter’s table. By that point, I had already purchased his book, had it autographed, and posed in a photo (bombed deservedly by an adorable little girl). I had no idea Bob was signing books, and I came up 5$ short of the asking price. He waved the difference, and the next day, I made a point of reimbursing that trust with a 10$ bill, only for Bob to make change against my insistence.
That would have been the end of that except I had gracefully been invited by Ryan Cyr to White Goose that evening, the aforementioned table seating. Ronny P was forced to depart due to prior obligations, a fact he was visibly depressed at (the man looked so relaxed and laid back, only to be uprooted like Groot and forced to make an appearance at a lesser restaurant franchise that will remain unnamed). The night churned along until Bob approached my table and carried on a conversation with my mother, admittedly a bigger fan of him than I….though not for much longer.
Umm…I meant I’d soon be a bigger fan than my mother rather than her being less…yeah I could have worded that better. I related to Mr. Blumer my own experience in unusual restaurants, specifically that of Inamo in London (which can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=euP4BhRW0CY).
After, Bob embraced my mother in a photo-op that made her glow. As the evening came to a close, Ryan pulled me aside to praise my reviews in front of Blumer, an encounter which came about from of a needed bathroom bre—okay…it wasn’t a bathroom break. Coming clean, I was simply walking to the bathroom in hope Ryan would say something. It wasn’t planned on our parts, swear to Superman—I was simply banking on Ryan’s generosity. Ironically, I ended up needing to go to the bathroom anyway.
When Ryan spoke of my quote/unquote accomplishments, Bob actually admitted to hearing about me. I, of course, believed him incorrect. My blog has 68 followers with mostly friends on Facebook. Certainly this is not the case on Urbanspoon and TripAdvisor, with the latter having over 38,000 readers (most in the UK), but the thought was sweet nonetheless. Admittedly there is a chance that upon coming to Prince George, Bob read my reviews in research for the Northern Taste Challenge…yes, yes, let’s go with that.
Bob’s positive attitude and showmanship really won me over and as I shook his hand a final time, I commented that he affirmed my admiration for him. He’s all that and a bucket of chicken. I hope he’ll return to our little town again.
Northern Taste Challenge 3. North 54 vs White Goose challenge.
Northern Taste 2: White Goose versus Twisted Cork
Northern Taste Challenge: North 54 vs White Goose 1
I’ll avoid beginning my coverage of the Northern Taste Challenge by commenting on how amazing White Goose Bistro was. Why bother, they won, and like Thannos from Guardians of the Galaxy (how’s that for a pop-culture reference), Ryan Cyr can now sit proudly atop his asteroid-sized throne and grin discreetly.
White Goose cleaved through the competition like a paladin against a hydra in Dungeons & Dragons; it was skill coupled with a barrage of natural 20s. But it wasn’t easy, and I want to take this time praising the competition, those you might not heard of. First of all to North 54, no better competition I thought for White Goose, the runner up behind them for best restaurant in Prince George (according to me). A brilliant and courageous chef, Marc Kraima brought his A-game to the table and threw down the gastronomic gauntlet. By the end, there was no certainty. No nuclear bombs were dropped—this was World War 1-style ditch fighting, close combat with bayonets fixed—victories were measured in yards gained. Triumph came at the cost of burned fingers and fatigued souls.
And yet, when I asked Ryan Cyr of White Goose who scared him the most, it was Twisted Cork that bubbled from his lips first. Coming up third place in this challenge, Twisted Cork earned Ryan’s trepidation. On the second day, when the points were tallied, the breadth between the winning bistro and second place was less than 1%. In many ways, I wish Twisted Cork was given another chance, but time was simply not on their side, and I look forward to seeing what chef Chris Angus (his name is CHRIS ANGUS) brings to the table next year.
And none of this devalues the courage of the Ramada—as Bob Blumer mentioned—Wilma Cragg, a chef specialized more with catering battling with the culinary giants and surviving the second round, a mere stroke from the top spot. More than the obvious publicity gained for simply being in the competition, I love the fact Ramada was so proud of their chef’s talents to have (or to let) her compete at that level. I really thought Ramada had taken North 54’s spot with that final dessert. Cragg only achieved said initial victory after emerging bloodied and bruised against Bits of Bliss, a relatively small operation most people probably weren’t aware of (but I bet are now). Truly underdogs, Cindy Klassen’s very presence can be marked a victory.
Singling out the top three again, it’s no surprise why I picked them earlier this year as the 3rd, 2nd, and all-time best restaurants in Prince George, and in the exact order awarded this past weekend. My prophetic skills aside, the microscopically narrow margin between these three restaurants substantiates my claim that they are all worthy recommendations. As evident as mana from heaven, we can claim such a prestigious echelon of quality from our little mill-town.
Personally, I’d love to see the competition expand next year, with the likes of Shiraz, Nancy O’s and Shogun making an appearance. I’d like to see all the sushi restaurants get together and battle it out. Considering the crowds that showed up to these cooking events, not only is there demand for more of them, there’s a legitimate passion for the competition. By the end of the last round, as winning restaurant and chef was named, I must admit an overwhelming of emotion. I welled up, a tear almost broke past the eyelid. This wasn’t just the validation of a restaurant; it was of a town and its people. Of course, there are those that demand steak and potatoes, westernized Chinese plopped off a buffet ladle, but for many others, there remains the desires of what food can truly become when molded by the hands of a master. I never like comparing food to art, equating plate to canvas, but there is just something incredibly special about seeing masters specialized in a craft display it for everyone to see. And what’s best about the whole affair is that tomorrow, we can all go to one of these places, and show our love by handing them our money and enjoying the fruits of the labor. Mana from heaven indeed.
Lemongrass should be chopped before tossed into a food processor in order make it less…grassy. It’s a common mistake where people toss chunks into a blender in hopes it finishes the job, but with lemongrass what it actually does it create long strands which stick in your teeth and roll around in your mouth like inedible twigs. And I couldn’t find this exact recipe online, so here I go, typing the whole thing out and contributing finally to something new on the internet…
3-4 large green chilies
…and some other stuff—Jesus, this recipe is big. So many ingredients—most others you’ll find online are half this long. Sigh…all right, where was I?
4 garlic cloves, chopped
3 shallots, chopped
2 lemongrass stalks, trimmed and chopped
3 kaffir lime leaves
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp cumin seeds
2cm galangal + 2 cm of ginger (or 3-4 cm ginger)
Handful of coriander (that’s cilantro for you philistines)
1 tsp salt
Peanut or Groundnut oil
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 large aubergine, chopped roughly (eggplant, it’s eggplant)
200g exotic mushrooms (or any mushrooms, I won’t criticize)
1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
1 tsp green peppercorns
400g chicken thighs, boneless
400 ml coconut milk
300 ml chicken stock
(Have I lost you yet?)
1 tsp palm sugar
2 kaffir lime leaves
1 tbsp. fish sauce
Large handful of coriander
2 tbsp. holy basil, torn (or unholy basil, I mean, I don’t judge)
—Whiz all the ingredients for the curry paste together in a blender with 1-2 tablespoons of oil.
—Heat a tablespoon of oil in a hot pan, add all of the curry paste and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic, aubergine, mushrooms, carrot, and peppercorns to the pan and stir-fry for 3 minutes. Skin and bone—wait a second, the recipe says to skin and bone the thighs but if you just buy them previously skinned and boned, you’re okay—the thighs. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces, add to the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the coconut milk, mix well and cook for 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock together with the palm sugar (you could have used regular sugar), lime leaves and fish sauce. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 25-30 minutes.
—Simmer until the aubergine and chicken are cooked. Stir in the coriander and basil and cook for a further 1-2 minutes.
—When the curry is ready, divide among four warmed bowls. Garnish with extra coriander and basil.
Another fish dish, so as you might expect, I gave it to my mother to make. Now in defense, two years ago, I wouldn’t have even touched fish…baby steps. My only issue stems from the chorizo, something I might have mentioned before. I love fine-ground Spanish chorizo, while the homemade Portuguese variety my mother acquires tastes like a pig inebriated from red wine consumption stumbled into the path of a road-roller and was then stuffed into its own intestines and cured in its mother’s tears. I’m sorry; this is a situation where store-bought chorizo tastes better. It just does. I offered up the brown rice, at least. I did enjoy the meal but lamented the variety of sausage.
4 tablespoons Olive Oil
175 g Chorizo Sausages sliced
250 g Cherry Tomatoes quartered
4 tablespoons dry sherry or sherry vinegar
6 175g Cod fillet
Sea Salt & freshly ground black pepper
8 large basil leaves shredded
-Heat some of the oil in a large frying pan; add the chorizo followed by the cherry tomatoes and sherry vinegar. Cook for a few minutes over high heat until the tomatoes have softened. Remove the chorizo and tomatoes and transfer to a plate. Set to one side in their juices and keep warm.
—Heat some more oil in the same pan. Place the cod, skin side down in the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes until the skin is golden. Season the fish as it cooks. Turn the fish over then cook for a further 30 seconds to 1 minute.
—When the cod is just cooked, tip the chorizo and tomatoes back into the pan. Stir in the basil, squeeze over a little lemon juice and season to taste. Let the flavors infuse for a minute or two and serve with the rice.
Don’t know what a runner bean is—I’m pretty sure it’s on the same Olympic lineup as the jumping bean while secretly hating the attention its comrade receives in the press. It probably jacks itself up on drugs which costs it a testicle and it goes around claiming itself a victim while picking up celebrity endorsements while concealing its insidious transgressions. Or perhaps it’s actually green beans’ fatter cousin, which makes the title ironic and oddly insulting to the green bean, especially considering they are both green, indicating the latter is described as being perhaps immature. They can be substituted, though the pine nuts should not. This is a quick pasta that should finish up in a matter of minutes. Remember that’s fresh rosemary. I should make this again as it was damned good and its simplicity should be appealing to many of you out there.
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
Handful of fresh rosemary, chopped
250g runner beans, trimmed and sliced
150g goat’s cheese
50 g toasted pine nuts
Freshly ground black pepper
—Cook the penne according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
—Melt the spread in a large pan, add the chilli and rosemary, and warm over a low heat for a few minutes. Turn up the heat and add the beans, cooking for approximately 4 minutes.
—Drain the penne and add to bean mixture, crumble in the cheese and scatter over the pine nuts. Season with the pepper and mix well before serving.