If you’re looking for a dining experiencing a little off the beaten path, head down the long and narrow staircase at the Salt Tasting Room to the restaurant’s basement cellar. There, two to three times a month, you’ll find guests seated around a 30-foot long wooden table for the Salt Cellar Series. The majority of these events feature a tasting menu built around wines from a selected winery, which are paired with artisanal cheeses, charcuterie, and house-made condiments. However, on several occasions, the spotlight shifts to highlighting goods made by cheesemakers, fruit growers, and beekeepers.
When I attended the Salt Cellar Series on July 17 as a media guest, the focus was on honey from local beekeeper Melissa Cartwright of Mellifera Bees. Cartwright explained at the start of the tasting that she is in her third season of beekeeping, and that she keeps bees in three Vancouver locations—atop a building at the corner of Main and Georgia Streets, above Le Marché St George (4393 St. George Street), and at the corner of 3rd Avenue and Maple Street. It was interesting to learn during the tasting that honey collected a short distance apart retained unique flavours based on the area.
The first half of the tasting featured loonie-sized samples of three honeys paired with white and rosé wines, cheeses, and charcuterie that were selected by Heather Hospitality Group beverage director Mike Mitchell. A lemon-infused honey was paired with a citrusy Pinot Gris from Creston’s Baillie-Grohman Estate Winery and a wedge of Italian Toma cheese. The second pairing featured a fragrant vanilla-bean-infused honey matched with a Cedar Creek Chardonnay and a piece of aged Mahón cheese. In the third pairing, a rich, Macadamia-nut blossom honey Cartwright had acquired from Hawaii’s Big Island Bees was teamed with an 8th Generation Rosé and slices of Toscano Fig salami.
After the majority of diners had finished grazing on the first three pairings, the final three—honeys paired with red wines—were served. On the table was a smoky chestnut honey from France’s Famille CrosApiculteurs matched with a Pinotage from Oliver’s Stoneboat Vineyards and prosciutto; cardamom-infused honey from Mellifera paired with a peppery Carmenere from Chile’s Koyle Vinyards and Coppa di Zibello, a type of Italian cured pork; and a thick and grainy honey collected from the Marché St George location paired with a blackberry dessert wine from Cowichan Bay’s Rocky Creek and a slice of Point Reyes blue cheese.
The entire tasting lasted around two hours, and diners were encouraged to ask questions about all of the different products. Salt Cellar Series tastings begin at 7 p.m., and guests are required to purchase tickets ($40 plus tax) beforehand in order to reserve a seat. The next Salt Cellar Series is scheduled for Tuesday (July 24) and features wines from Kelowna’s Sandhill Estate vineyards.
You can follow Michelle da Silva on Twitter at twitter.com/michdas.