Last week, Sara McKenna and I had the pleasure of attending the one year anniversary edition of the Greasy Spoon Diner Supper Series, a stellar monthly event out of Save-On Meats hosted by A Better Life Foundation. Founded by Mark Brand in 2012, ABLF raises money to provide food to women, children, and those in assisted living as well as job training and employment opportunities to create lasting and meaningful change in the community.
For last week’s installment of the Greasy Spoon Diner Supper Series, chef Jesse Grasso cooked up a delicious four course meal inspired by his favorite dishes from diners across the US and Canada. Each course was paired with a special cocktail brimming with complementary flavours.
Our first course was a smoked whitefish (inspired by Russ and Daughters, NYC). Prepared in a similar fashion to a traditional tuna salad, this was the perfect way to start off our meal. The fragrant smoky bite and crunchy housemade chips (meant for scooping) gave this classic diner dish a refined elegance. To drink, we started with a cocktail of Bacardi superior, coconut, fresh pineapple, lime, and cynar. In the midst of all of the Vancouver rain we’ve been having lately, it was just the dose of tropical I needed to usher me into springtime.
Up next was a deconstructed BLT (inspired by UFO Restaurant, Toronto), complete with a mouthwatering strip of crispy pork belly which had it all–alternating marbles of crispy pork with melt-in-your-mouth fat rich with flavour. It was paired with oven dried tomatoes, smoked mayo, and lightly-dressed watercress. The plate was dressed with alternating dollops of mayo and Wonder bread puree. It paired beautifully with a light refreshing cocktail of Sapphire gin, house orange vermouth, celery bitters, and hard cider which worked well to cut through the richness of the pork belly.
The final savoury dish was a beef tongue french dip (inspired by Philipe the Original, LA). The buttery soft flavor and texture of the thinly-shaved beef tongue married so well with the brioche bun that the two individual elements were almost indistinguishable from one another, a cohesive sandwich packed with comfort-food-vibes. The aus jus was deep and full-bodied, easily absorbed by the brioche. To drink, we enjoyed robust cocktail of Bacardi 8 Year, Dewars Scotch Whiskey, Tawny Port, and Tiki Bitters.
The real standout in my eyes was the dessert round–an indulgent banana pudding (inspired by Hattie B’s, Nashville) paired with a bright, unique cocktail of Jack Daniels, cold brew coffee (from Vancouver local Notch), orange bitters, lemon, and tonic water. The pudding was a parade of textures; from the lightly-crisped meringue to the creamy vanilla custard, the chewy banana pieces to the cookie crumbles hiding near the bottom, each spoonful contained a little microcosm of beautiful flavours. The drink was an unexpected way to finish, but all I’d ever wanted in a dessert drink–crisp and aromatic, the bitter flavours and bubbles cut right through the weight of the pudding and served as a perfect palate refresher between bites.
There are few things Sara and I love more than helping out a great cause, eating a wonderful meal, and getting a chance to connect with each other and our greater Vancouver community. It was most definitely a night to remember.