Roasted beet dip with goat cheese
We just returned from a short stay in Vancouver, a four hour drive from our current home going west. The roads were treacherous following a first heavy snow fall and we passed several empty cars in the ditch along the way. Trucks were having a difficult time climbing up the hills, sliding right back down with little control. We were glad to arrive safe and sound at the Rosewood Georgia hotel in the center of town and enjoyed a couple of days of luxury away from home attending to family business.
I usually travel with a foodie agenda but not this time. I didn’t have a list of must try restaurants, no shopping lists and no kitchen shops to visit. It was refreshing, I must say, not having to run around trying to fit too much in. As it turns out, it is not that difficult to get good food in Vancouver. On the recommendation of our daughter we went to Belgard Kitchen in Railtown (a couple of blocks Gastown) on the first evening. The restaurant (and bar) is located in the historic Settlement Building on Dunlevy Street. The building was once a metal foundry and according to urban legend may have been home to bootleggers who had their boats built there especially to hide the loot. The building has been refurbished and is now home to the Belgrad Kitchen, the Vancouver Urban Winery, FreshTap, Roaring Twenties Wine and Postmark Brewing company. It is a warehouse style space with exposed wood beams dating back to 1923 when the building was constructed. The gorgeous entrance doors are at least 12 feet tall and above them there is a series of windows along the roofline letting natural light stream in. The Vancouver Urban Winery features a tasting bar serving wine on tap from behind a long wooden bar. Fresh Tap, part of VUW, is specializing in packaging fine BC wines in stainless steel kegs is also on the premises. They market wine in stainless steel kegs to restaurants and bars serving wine on tap, which is an up and coming thing in the industry. The Postmark Brewery is located on the premises, divided from the restaurant by a wall of wooden kegs with stainless steel tanks visible directly behind.
Belgard Kitchen chef Reuben Major offers an eclectic and international tapas menu ranging from Korean rice bowl to Asian slaw, yam gnocchi and mushroom risotto. We called for reservations but were told that two people on a weekday night should not be a problem and we can just come at 8:00. Well, not quite. The restaurant was full when we arrived and we were advised that there will be a 30 minute wait. Since the restaurant is located in a rather isolated part of town and we already sent the hotel Rolls Royce Bently who drove us there back, we had no choice but sit on a wooden bench at the entrance and wait.
In spite of a 20 minute wait for a table we did enjoy the ambiance and a few tapas style dishes. The menu featured several interesting dishes but we were pretty full and only tried three. We ordered a Burrata and eggplant caponata with grilled sour dough crostini and goat cheese coulis, and a beet salad made with four types of beet preparations. The caponata was heavy on tomatoes and short on eggplant and the beet salad was rather good. The one thing that lingered with me was a Ruby Red Beet Dip with goat cheese and toasted almonds served with carrot, celery and pepper sticks and soft, long grilled pita sticks. The balance of flavours between sweet, savoury and tangy was just right, as it would be in a well seasoned beet soup. I asked what was in the dip and was told it was made with beets, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, creme fraiche and goat cheese. I don’t know if these are the exact ingredients but I had to try and make it at home. It was a little difficult to get the flavour just right. You will have to trust your own palate and play with the lemon juice and salt ratio to achieve the taste that is right for you. I added the goat cheese to the dip itself, not just as garnish on top, and for me it completed the flavour palate beautifully. It added a creamy tanginess that lemon alone didn’t impart.
The presentation was attractive with the dip served in little jars on a board, much like the mushroom dip below. The dip was served warm with the goat cheese sprinkled on top also warm, soft and silky. You can dip the vegetables sticks into it or spread a little over the grilled bread.I am going to try my hand at the mushroom dip as well (sans bacon, of course) in the next few days. These dips seem like such useful recipes for a gathering or for an evening a deux.
4 large beets
Juice of 1/2 a lemon or as needed
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/3 cup goat cheese, crumbled
Wash the beets and keep intact. You can cut off a bit of the stem but not too much so the beets don’t bleed too much. Keep the flower end intact.
Wrap the beets an a foil packet, add 1/2 cup water to the packets, seal it the best you can and place on a baking sheet.
Cook at 400℉ until the beets are cooked through. You can pierce them with a sharp knife, when the knife goes through easily then they are done. depending on the freshness and size of the beets this can take about an hour.
When the beets are done remove from the oven and let cool until you can handle them. Make a cut at the flower end and the skin should slip off like a negligee on James Bond movie. At this point you can refrigerate the beets and proceed the next day.
Cut the beets into chunks and place in a glass bowl.
Season with lemon juice, salt and honey. Seasoning depends on the flavour of the beets so you have to taste and make adjustments.
Place the goat cheese crumbles over the goat cheese and microwave for 30 seconds just to warm up the cheese (and the beets if they were in the fridge).
Remove from microwave and stir to combine and blend the cheese into the dip.
To serve spoon the warm dip into a small glass jar and top with a few pieces of crumbled goat cheese. You can warm this up before serving in the microwave or the oven but be careful not to over heat, it should just be warm, not hot.
Serve with vegetables sticks and grilled breads.