In the middle of everything, I closed my eyes and listened. The sounds alone would have been enough to satisfy some, and grow a little jealousy in most. In this moment, I thought about the home on the corner 28th Avenue at St. George, and how fortunate we were. I thought about how curious a bird's-eye view of our dinner party would look, elegantly breaking the silence of a predominantly quiet street. This isn't to say that we were loud, though; the whole evening was subdued, neighbourly and enchanting.
We were privileged to collaborate with Scout Magazine's editor, Andrew Morrison, along with his wife, event coordinator Michelle Sproule. It is not possible to find two more talented and charming people in Vancouver's media industry, and you could say that the reason there even was a second dinner, was because of them. I invited Andrew and Michelle to join us at our first olive oil tasting/Puglian dinner, but scheduling issues arose. Fortunately, amid brainstorming between our team, Tonio, and Scout, we decided that a joint endeavor was in order.
Seats to this latest dinner sold out within less than half an hour. The fact that so many people were interested was incredible to all parties. I remember calling Tonio with the news, and his reaction was a smile. I couldn't see it over the phone, but the pause before his overjoyed laughter made it easy to envision. The overwhelming interest is a clear sign of how badly our city needs events like this to happen more often.
This night differed for me in more than a few ways. First, I was with Tonio from the onset, taking pictures behind the scenes as he prepared the food to be served in a few hours, and I rolled up my sleeves to help out with what I could. Getting to be a part of the evening from start to finish was exceptional. It was also the birthday of Kari (my better half), and she was our pastry chef for the evening. The night unravelled with eloquence and beauty. If I had one word to describe our dinner, it would be comfort. A glowing evening, illuminated by smiles, externally as well as internally. There is something infinitely beautiful about the Larsen's backyard. It feels completely private and foreign. Its intimacy is unmatched, and, when you pair that with the table-setting talents of the Larsen and Michas families, it's something that I wish everyone could experience.
Tonio wanted to raise the bar with this supper, introducing more complex dishes and also meat to this menu. The champion of these plates was an appetizer, and possibly the simplest; burrata from Putignano, Puglia, flown in by The Benton Brothers Fine Cheese. Just one hour away from Tonio's hometown in Italy, this delicacy is a fresh Italian cheese, a luscious duo of mozzarella and cream, enveloped in a delicate shell of mozzarella. Generous portions of burrata were dressed with Tonio's Famiglia Creanza olive oil and a pinch of salt, and feasted upon with authentic Altamurian bread made by the master bakers of Trilussa. It is simply the best thing I've have the chance to savour in my lifetime. Not to take away from the other dishes, including a mozzarella salad with tomatoes and basil, tagliatelle with a walnut and basil pesto, orecchiette with broccoli rabe and anchovy, and brasciola in sugo, but there was just something spiritually pleasing about the burrata.
The crowd favourite, and possibly the shining star of the meal for most, was Kari's apple, fig, and toasted almond crostata, topped with homemade basil-vanilla bean ice cream, then drizzled with Tonio's olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt. Testaments to my feelings about her dessert could be seen on all of the blissful faces in the candle-lit shop at Marché (dessert was served indoors), as well as from a nod from the Scout team, by including her dessert in the magazine's Awesome Thing We Ate and The Daily Dope columns a few days after.
Although a week has gone by since the event took place, everything is still fresh in my memory. I am excited to see where future collaborations and dinners take us. Two dinners in, and I can say that these are the moments that I will look back upon without a shadow of regret. Thank you to all of our readers and guests, for making life more wonderful.
Photography | Michelle Sproule & Luis Valdizon
Discourse | Luis Valdizon
Link N° 001 | Scout Magazine's recap of events
Link N° 002 | I Heart Big Flavour a.k.a. Kari's take on the evening