Au Petit Chavignol
843 East Hastings St.

Open for Dinner: Thursday to Monday, 5 p.m. until late

Signature Drink: Kir Royale
Signature Dish: Market Terrine

Rating: *****
Dinner & drinks for two: $90

For many reasons, I’ve steered clear of reviewing most wine/charcuterie lounges in the past. The fact that many of these establishment don’t actually cook or have kitchens is one reason—maybe the biggest. After all, what am I supposed to review…the quality of their slicing apparatus? Or maybe the refrigeration process for the cheeses? One can talk about atmosphere, décor, service, wine lists—all the accessories—but it has always struck me as odd that the main attraction (for me, at any rate), namely, the food and its preparation, is the one thing that generally tends to be redundant.

There’s also the fact that most charcuterie purveyors carry similar stock—Iberico, Little Qualicum, etc. Wines might range a little more, but in the end, you’re chomping down on cured ham and aged cheese. Add some bread and you’ve got a school lunch.

Having said that, I also must admit that there is something very satisfying about making a meal out of foods that are so blatantly full of fat, so sinfully lacking in greens and fibre, so inexpressibly delicious. It’s certainly not the healthiest food you’ve ever eaten, but it just may be some of the tastiest. And, if Jennifer McLagan speaks the truth in her latest book, Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, it just might be healthier for you than you think.

Rich terrines surrounded by pork fat, think wedges of aged cheese, paper-thin slices of cured meat, and French butter—heart attack or haute cuisine, either way you die happy, and, as we all know, it’s stress, and its by-product cortisol, that’s the real killer. And it certainly beats slapping margarine on Wonder Bread. No nitrites, nitrates, MSG, or animals that have been fed their siblings can actually make for some very high quality, incisor-worthy food.

And there is some actual cooking that goes on in these establishments…even those without ovens. Terrines must be cooked and moulded, sauces must be reduced and jellies and other accoutrements must be made. Forget Bon Maman preserves and baby Gherkins, think gewürztraminer and quince jellies and relishes of bell peppers and mango.

The good folks at Au Petit Chavignol, which recently opened on that near-forgotten section of East Hastings (wel, The Gourmet Warehouse helps keep the flame alive) understand the difference between Schneider’s and salsiccia, and if meat, cheese and wine is your thing, then a lesson in Provolone provenance should be on your dance card.

We started with the grand tasting platter ($45), which was a three-tiered wonder of terrines, pâtés, cheeses and cured meats, well-stocked with preserves and pickles, and accompanied by the magically refilling carb basket. By the by, excellent crackers with a hint of cheese were the table favourites, even over the fresh-baked bread.

The daily terrine ($10) was a chicken liver compress that had been soaked in port and Madera wines, and whipped into a buttery, silky frenzy so reminiscent of foie gras that I had to ask twice if it was really just chicken (it was). The gewürtz jelly it came with was sweet icing on a very rich cake. Mac and cheese ($9) was a baked casserole of three cheeses over Béchamel sauce and bread crumbs. A plate of La Quercia Rossa prosciutto ($5.50) with the never-empty bread basket and some of the aforementioned French butter ($3) made a great meal. Dessert was a paper bag of warm-from-the-oven soft chocolate cookies ($7) that screamed of dark brownies and raw cacao.

Who needs vegetables, anyway?

Chile Takes Cab to New Heights

The Aconcagua Valley is known for its mild, Mediterranean weather conditions and sandy, clay-rich soil. Viña Errazuriz’s 2007 Max Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon has miniscule hints of Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Shiraz, but is more than 90 per cent Cab Sauv. An intense nose of berry and balsamic is offset by a fruit-forward palate with notes of chocolate. The 2004 is still on shelves and is even bigger. Pair with osso buco, lamb, stews and spicy dishes. BCLS $19.99.


Top Shelf

On Wednesday, April 29, the fifth annual Burnaby Empty Bowls Gala Reception will take place at the Hilton Vancouver Metrotown Hotel. Proceeds go to Burnaby’s Food First Committee in support of the hungry. Tickets $50. Call 604-205-3000 or visit

Dining Out

Starting this Monday, Cibo Trattoria (900 Seymour St) will offer Meatball Mondays. Enjoy a hearty plate of meatballs made from Pemberton Meadows beef and Sloping Hills pork, along with salad, bruschetta and a glass of wine, for $25 ($19 for teetotallers). Call 604-602-9570 for details.

On May 3, La Quercia Restaurant (3689 West 4 Ave), along with Tyler Dawson of Liberty Wine Merchants, will host a six-course dinner featuring food and wine from the Veneto region of Italy. The menu will focus on seafood and fresh, seasonal produce. Tickets $119 per person. Call 604-676-1007 for more info.

Food in Brief

EC Dana Reinhardt, formerly of Cru, and Sous Chef John Corsi, formerly of Pied-a-Terre, will soon be seen together at the almost-open Circa Restaurant & Lounge on Granville.

A new farmers’ market will arrive at Station Street (near Main St and Terminal Ave) on June 10 and will run every Wednesday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. until October 21.

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