My last trip to Montreal was highlighted by meeting Derek Damman, the chef of D&A. On my recent return, Derek invited me back to sit down and devour some of his uniquely Canadian terroir offerings. Mind you, I'd just partaken in a tasting of wood fired pizza's with my host Michele of Osteria Venti, but that's another story. A bit satiated with dough and toppings, I wasn't gonna turn down Derek, a tall red headed fellow with gnarly tattoos. Michele and I instead ended up sitting enjoying a small personal chefs tasting at the "chefs kitchen table."
Derek started us off with a wine from British Columbia from Hainle Estate. I forgot the grape variety,but it was nice. In front of us was a plate of house-made charcuterie, which included donkey saucisson, bologna, lardo and cappicola. Derek worked for Jamie Oliver, so there's the Anglo/Italian connection and Derek own skillled alchemist and food smithing style.
Next up was cast iron-skilleted rabbit from Stanstead, cold smoked and lightly crusted with rice and simply garinished with micro greens and onions. The rabbit was the show stopper. Perfectly cooked, livers, loin, legs. A wedge of lemon to squirt on top. The smokey quality permeated without overpowering the dish.
While we shared the liver, loin and greens, we discussed chef war stories, dirty laundry, the latest ingredients, especially those Derek gets from his former partner Alex Cruz at Societe-Original, some of the best farm-to-table products.
Then out came another of what I remember as a favorite dish; Drake duck with, with passion fruit like flavored sea buckthorn berries; hidden with rye berries and flavored with a hint of of chillies.
At this point I couldn't move… and all I really remember – other than the overall sense of delightful satiation… was the conversation.
Food and wine were good. Very, very good. Derek is truly an exciting chef. The last bit of excitement I remember was a shaving of house cured sea urchin roe botarga, which competes with the usual Italian commercially offered product. Derek showed us a pack that he'd fermented with rye berries; Sandor Katz would love it!
Michele and I in bliss, saw an ice cream sandwich on a plate…trouble, he gave us one, chocolate chip cookies sandwiching an ice cream disk, flavored with pink peppercorn..divine!
On news widely reported through chef circles, D&A is no longer open, we were lucky to get the treatment up close and personal. Good luck Derek on your future endeavours, keep on cooking!