Thirty people were treated Saturday to their first taste of the newest special events venue in Vancouver — Soirée Supper Club and Catering.
After traveling across the globe to educate herself on wine and food, owner Keri Buhman has opened a space that speaks to her love of French cuisine. She said she could think of no better way to celebrate that than with a proper tribute to American icon Julia Child on her 103rd birthday.
Using the best-selling cookbook that Child co-authored — “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” — as her syllabus, Buhman served a six-course meal that began with a light and creamy vichyssoise; followed by a garden fresh salade niçiose and tarte ratatouille; chicken coq au vin presented two ways to accommodate dietary requests; a selection of delectable cheeses; and ending with a light and seasonally appropriate chocolate mousse with fresh berries.
She also drew upon her extensive wine knowledge to offer a wine-pairing option that proved a popular choice at her inaugural dinner.
After earning her associate degree in viticulture and winemaking at the Institute for Enology and Viticulture in Walla Walla in 2006, Buhman worked at Canoe Ridge Winery and the Marcus Whitman Hotel for a stint before relocating to New Zealand to attend the New Zealand School of Food and Wine. There she completed a culinary and sommelier program and went on to finish two levels of the internationally recognized WSET (Wine and Spirits Education Trust) certification which gave her the credentials to work as a sommelier at the exclusive Kanuhura Resort in the Maldives off the coast of India. One year later, she was back in New Zealand teaching WSET courses while studying for her diploma in the prestigious organization.
When the 2011 Christchurch earthquake literally leveled all that she had, Buhman returned to the Pacific Northwest and set about rebuilding her life. Out of the rubble was born C’est la Vie, a crêperie that began the following year at the Vancouver and Camas farmers markets before becoming a brick-and-mortar establishment in Battle Ground in the spring of 2014.
She attributes her time attending multicourse meals (referred to as dégustation dinners) in Paris and the Champagne region for her affinity to French cooking and the impetus for expanding from a breakfast and lunch café to a supper club that returns evening entertainment to engaging conversation enjoyed over lengthy meals of thoughtfully prepared plates.
“I like to play with sweet and savory complementing each other. I think I identify with French cuisine over any other because of their philosophy of fresh ingredients cooked simply but elegantly; smaller portions packed with flavor; (and) quality over quantity,” Buhman said.
Soirée allows Buhman the physical space to create to her heart’s content in a fully commercial-grade kitchen with room to seat 30 comfortably in the main dining space and 40 to 50 people for mix-and-mingle type events. There’s also a prep table for plating dinners in front of guests and, drawing from her favorite part of dégustation dinners, two trolleys from which to serve the tableside cheese course.
Buhman describes the interior of Soirée as a cross between 1920s Paris and French countryside with blue walls, wainscoting, dark wood floors and large alder farm tables hand-crafted by her husband, Justin.
Looking ahead, Soirée will host monthly six-course dinners with varying themes. Buhman said that September is nearly sold out and the menu has yet to be released. A monthly three- to four-course mimosa brunch will be added in 2016 and, depending on the level of interest, a Friday night four-course social hour could join the list of recurring events.
Holding the WSET Diploma in Wine & Spirits and drawing from her teaching background, Buhman also conducts wine education classes, which she’s looking forward to hosting in her new location.
The space is also suited for baby showers, bridal showers, rehearsal dinners and has already been scheduled for a private dinner for 10. Her upgraded kitchen will allow her to offer more quiche options at C’est la Vie and expand the catering portion of her business, which has grown steadily over the last several years with accounts as varied as company barbecues to the annual teas at the Marshall House to business ribbon-cuttings and, of course, weddings.
Soirée Supper Club and Catering is at 1307 N.E. 78th St., Suite 10, Vancouver.
For a list of upcoming events, go to www.soireesupperclub.com.