Tomatomania in Vancouver

With asparagus, cherry and spot prawn seasons behind us, summer’s last foodie gasp is gearing up. Late August means tomatoes — and not those dry, pinkish things they sell at Safeway. We’re talking organic heirloom tomatoes, fresh and flavourful enough to eat like hand fruit.

Through September 15, husband and wife chefs Jean-Francis and Alessandra Quaglia of Provence Restaurants will be celebrating their favourite summer harvest with their Third Annual Tomato Festival with both locations offering special three-course table d’hôte menus featuring local heirloom tomatoes in both classic French recipes and West Coast novelties.

At Alessandra’s Point Grey location, the $45 menu offers a choice of two starters: Heirloom Tomato Napoleon (with buffalo mozzarella, prosciutto crisp and fennel relish) or a traditional Provençal Tomato Tartlette; followed by a triptych of mains: Tomato Tapenade-Crusted Arctic Char (with yellow campari tomato coulis), Tomato, Honey and Balsamic Glazed Quail (with tomato confit, potato tian and juniper berry jus) or Sun-dried Tomato Gnocchi with Sautéed Lobster Medallions (oyster mushroom, pea shoots, green tomato bisque).

For dessert, Chef Essex Balce has created two tomato treats: Wild Lavender Panna Cotta (grape tomato marmalade, toasted almond brittle) or Candied Tomato, Basil and Olive Oil Cake (cherry tomato coulis, lemon crème fraîche). Add $20 for a flight of three French wines expertly paired by sommelier Josh Carlson.

Meanwhile, over at Jean-Francis’s Yaletown resto, the $48 menu consists of three appetizers: Chilled Yellow Campari Tomato Soup, Provence’s signature Fresh Tomato Tarte or Heirloom Tomato and Avocado Salad (Pernod prawns, mixed greens, vinaigrette). Then choose from three main courses: Strozzapreti Arrabiata (bacon, spinach, prawns, roasted roma tomato sauce), Dungeness Crab and Heirloom Tomato Stew (mussels, clams, scallops, fennel, roasted heirloom tomatoes, white wine and garlic broth) or Seared Halibut (shaved fennel, saffron and pea basmati rice; spice heirloom tomato vinaigrette).

Finish off this tomato trio with Candied Tomato Chocolate Pot de Crème or a choice off the regular desert menu if you’re feeling tomatoed out. Also available is an all-BC boutique wine paring created by sommelier Rachelle Goudreau.

If you’re more of a home cook, our favourite place for heirloom tomatoes has to be the seemingly endless selection at the weekly Farmers Markets from this Okanangan farmstead, where you can find everything from the yellow-and-red striped Texas Star to the Russian Black Plum to the Peppermint. The Vancouver Farmers Market will also be hosting a Tomato Festival of its own at Trout Lake Park on September 15 and at the Kitsilano Market on September 16.

Provence Marinaside
1177 Marinaside Crescent at the foot of Davie St., 604-681-4144

Provence Mediterranean Grill
4473 West 10th Ave., 604-222-1980

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