Sherman's Food Adventures: Sugar Mountain Catering at Arundel Mansion

Sugar Mountain Catering at Arundel Mansion

Generally, the most obvious place for possible good eats is the standard full-service restaurant.  However, there is also a good chance that this can be found at a food court or food truck as well.  Heck, even some fast food outlets offer up some solid experiences.  On the other hand, we often overlook catering companies as we only ever think about them when there is a wedding or some corporate event.  So with that in mind, I was intrigued by the invite I received recently from Sugar Mountain Catering.  They were serving up an 8-course meal at the Arundel Mansion in New West.  I ended up joining Grace, Emily, Carolyn, Amy, Diana, Joyce and Kirsty

We began with an amuse bouche consisting of a Crostini graced with cured Roma tomato and basil encrusted chevre.  It was finished off table side by a drizzle of 25-year aceto balsamico.  If an amuse is supposed to whet one's appetite, then this was a success as it was loaded with bright acidic flavours.  The tomato was tart, sweet and impactful while the balsamic added another shot of sweet acidity with depth.  As for the chevre, there was enough of it to provide a creamy and smooth balance with the herbaceous hit of basil.  

Our first course was the Maple Hills Farms Free-Range Chicken Consumme with vermouth, spring morels, foie gras, mirepoix, vegetables and pate feuilletee.  Beyond the fairly thin crispy puff pastry, we found a broth that was steaming hot, yet very mild in flavour.  I did get some woodsiness from the morels and brightness from the crunchy veggies, however, a sprinkle of salt really helped bring the broth alive.  Next up was the Braised Fraser Valley Beef Cheek and Bone Marrow Custard with Italian parsley, fleur del sel, pink Himalayan salt, glace viande and grilled bruschetta.  This was hands-down a fan favourite.  Buttery and decadent, the custard hid little tender morsels of beef cheek that were like pockets of surprises.  Despite the full-bodied glace viande on top, the accompanying salt was necessary to amp the flavours.

Presented in a martini glass, we found Dungeness Crabmeat with grilled asparagus and Pemberton Valley fingerling potato dressed in a grain mustard vinaigrette.  There was no shortage of fresh fluffy crab that was nicely seasoned which gave way to a creamy mustardy finish.  The vibrant asparagus, tender potatoes and firm peas offered up different textures and sweetness to the dish.  A somewhat surprising dish was the Gulf Island Pink Shrimp Perogies.  It was garnished with wild Sockeye belly bacon, ikura caviar and sour cream along with truffle butter.  Despite being thick, the dumpling skin was tender and soft.  The buttery shrimp were nice, but did get lost amongst the dough.  There was a nice balance of seasoning where the sweetness of the shrimp was accented by the salmon bacon.

The only dish I wasn't particularly fond of was the Nori-Wrapped Tempura Ahi Tuna with shiso oil, uni cream and ponzu daikon sprouts.  The dish was beautiful to look at with the perfectly prepared tuna, but in terms of texture, it didn't work.  I found the tuna to be overly firm and underseasoned.  Despite the tempura batter on the outside, there wasn't the textural contrast I was expecting.  Furthermore, the uni cream was a no show, but the shiso oil was quite aromatic.  Onto another fish course, we had the Poached Filet of Smoked Wild BC Sablefish.  It was accompanied by half a Fanny Bay oyster, brandade gratin, fennel, bacon and rosemary infused veloute.  The buttery sablefish was smokey and salty.  This flavours were further reinforced by the aggressively seasoned and creamy veloute.  I really liked the buttery oyster as the brininess provided a departure from the salt.

With our last savoury course, we were served the Roast Rack of Salt Spring Island Lamb with Chianti syrup, sauteed fiddleheads and roasted spring vegetable couscous en cocotte. I really enjoyed this as the lamb was expertly prepared medium-rare.  Tender and juicy, the lamb was unfortunately a bit underseasoned.  Even with the syrup, it wasn't particularly flavourful. On the other hand, the rib portion of the lamb was more tasty due to the fat content and the proximaty of the herbs.  

For our sweet course, we were presented with a Dessert Troika consisting of Cashew and Cardamom-Spiced Love Cake with coconut ice cream, Jackfruit Tarte Tartin and Belgian Chocolate-Raspberry Pot de Creme. Interestingly, the pot de creme had a bit of a kick to go with the rich chocolate.  I liked how it wasn't overly sweet.  The same couldn't be said about the tarte tartin as it was sweet with a slight tang.  Not sure if the puff pastry base was that appealing.  As for the love cake, it was aromatic and moist with a bit of buttery nuttiness.  It went well with the creamy coconut ice cream.  At this point the meal had lasted over 3 hours, then again, there was 10 courses in all if we included the amuse and palate cleanser.  Overall, the food was pretty good, especially given the limited kitchen facilities of the venue.

*All food, drinks and gratuities were complimentary*

The Good:
- Well-executed proteins
- Fairly interesting menu

The Bad:
- Some dishes required more seasoning
- Due to the limited kitchen facilities, the meal was pretty long     
  

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