Monday, August 22, 2011

Lasqueti Dinner

Recently, I helped with a charity dinner on Lasqueti Island, held at the rustic heritage building pictured above. The goal was to raise funds for the island
community health centre. In all, $15,000 was raised for the centre! The event was organised by the talented and energetic Bonny Joy. Whose ability to encourage people to donate both time and items for the silent auction was impressive to say the least. It was a weekend of great people, good food and wine, and the knowledge that we were doing something to help make our corner of the world a better place.
This is the menu from the event, matching wines were served. All the produce came from Lasqueti farmers and the only thing that wasn't local was some lemon for the seafood and a few condiments.

The Lasqueti Last Resort Society Gala
August 31, 2011

Tasting plate of sustainable BC fish and shellfish
Local tuna poached in cold pressed canola oil, chili & preserved lemon
Cold smoked honey mussels, prawn and crab vinaigrette
With salsa & sourdough crostini

Salad of tender Lasqueti greens & flowers
Summer tomatoes & cucumbers
Herb & cider vinaigrette

Salish Sea smoked sea salt, Eden garlic & rosemary roasted Lasqueti lamb
Minted huckleberry & red onion relish, Moonstruck feta tsatsiki
Medley of Lasqueti vegetables with herb butter
Roasted baby potatoes

Le trou Lasqueti-
Blackberry wine and black pepper sorbet floating in Slivovitz sirop

A selection of exquisite homemade Lasqueti desserts
With Chantilly cream

Delicacies to end your feast-
Moonstruck cheeses, Beddis bleu & Karl’s Bigleaf Maple Sirop marinated white grapes
Wolf Island chocolates, seasonal fresh fruit & hazelnut biscotti

We started the weekend before by butchering three feral sheep. The lambs were split from nose to tail, boned out and rubbed with an aromatic mixture of rosemary, local garlic, juniper, smoked sea salt (provided by one of the local volunteers)and cracked black pepper. The boneless meat was then rolled and put in a very cold fridge to marinate for the week. On the day of the event the boneless lambs were wrapped in pork caul fat and slowly roasted. The caul had the effect of forming the meat into tight rolls that held their shape when sliced. Served with a minted huckleberry & balsamic relish and a jus that had been reduced for three days, the lamb was succulent and delicious.
Janine a local woman who had been Hospitality Director for Holland America, decorated the room and provided advice on how to run the service. It was a glittering, elegant display that made everyone who walked into the room stop and!
Despite being a long and arduous day it was helped by the able and good humoured assistance of several local women. Annie, Gail, the two Kathy's, and Wendy were amazing, helping to prep all the vegetables, seafood and fruit, prepare a beautiful salad topping, and serve the meal. I could not have had a better time: hand feeding lamb to my lovely assistants and making bad jokes made the day go remarkably smoothly. (not to mention the judicious application of some fine fermented grape juice)
I have always been well supported by the local community on Salt Spring, so when I was asked if I would help with this event it was a no brainer even if it was on another island. (Not to mention that my girlfriend was one of the ones doing the asking.) It has become important in these difficult times to know that when help is needed you can rely on your neighbours and community to come forward. The bond that has been made with these people is something I feel profoundly and it is part of what makes me happy to live where I do. As a chef from a different generation, I did an apprenticeship that was partially subsidized with Government (and indirectly taxpayer/community) support, and so to return the favour when asked is something I do gladly.
Photos by John Martin(thank you) with additional photos by Heather Cameron

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Canadian Cuisine ?

This posting I would like to introduce a guest writer, Heather Cameron to whom food is not just fuel but an exploration on many levels.

Here’s the question: Which is the more Canadian dish? A plate of poutine made with potatoes from Idaho, cheese from Holland, and canned Heinz gravy from Pennsylvania, or a Chicken Chow Mein made with all ingredients sourced from your own (assuming you live in Canada) back yard? It brings up the old chestnut of Canadian identity crisis: being essentially a nation of immigrants, what makes us Canadian?

Former Prime Minister Joe Clark is quoted as saying, "Canada has a cuisine of cuisines. Not a stew pot, but a smorgasbord." Read more here.This is in keeping with the Canadian model of the cultural mosaic, as opposed to the American melting pot. The celebration of diversity is one of the hallmarks of the tolerant, small “l” liberal society we aspire to.

I was thinking about this after reading a less than enthusiastic review of the burgeoning trend of including “Canadian cuisine” on the menus of Vancouver restaurants. It is not enough to include butter tarts, maple syrup or pea soup and be able to pass as Canadian. Sourcing ingredients directly from a local farmer, fisherman or butcher comes a lot closer, but, given the Canadian climate, some things just have to come from other places. Olive oil, coffee, and chocolate are some of the essential items that would be very hard to live without.

As near as I can figure, having watched Chef Bruce Wood in action over the past several months, the notion of “terroir” is the most important factor in defining, first of all, good food; and second, the national character or style of the dish. Terroir is a French term that comes from the word for land, and denotes the special characteristics that the geography, geology and climate of a certain place contribute to the unique qualities of the food grown there. Working from the idea of terroir, Chef Bruce creates very Canadian menus that draw upon his vast knowledge of culinary traditions, yet have a freshness, flavor and quality that say “Here. This place, and this taste, are one.”
I checked Catharine Parr Traill’s “Canadian Settler’s Guide” (published in 1855) to find out if this feisty British woman had anything to say about the unique food she encountered in her new country. Lots of recipes for maple syrup, suggestions for substitutes for hard-to-come-by items like coffee and tea, an enthusiastic endorsement of “Indian – Corn” and tips on how to deal with venison show that Traill took a no-nonsense approach to feeding her family with the bounty of the land. She also states the dual loyalty of the emigrant experience with her closing lines:
“I trust you will find kind hearts and friends, and much prosperity, in the land of your adoption: never forgetting you still belong to that land, which is the glory of all lands, and are the subjects to a mild and merciful Sovereign, who is no less beloved in her Province of Canada, than she is by her loyal people of Britain.”
Anita Stewart summed it up in an interview about the national celebration she started in 2003, Canada Food Day, which fell on July 30th this year:
“Canadian cuisine is a menu of stories in a land of ultimate culinary possibilities! The richness and biodiversity of the indigenous harvest – our original palate – is the foundation of it all. Built solidly upon that base are our iconic ingredients – wheat, beef, apples – enriching and embroidering the culinary traditions of a multitude of immigrant groups who have gathered together from the four corners of the globe, men and women with a passion for this land which they now call “home.” Canadian cuisine is at once a reflection of climate, history, immigration pattern and cultural traditions. It’s about pride and tenacity — and it’s about the pure sensual pleasure of tasting the richness of Canada on every level, from the physical to the intellectual.”