Saturday, February 28, 2009


This is awesome.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Demonstration Class at Cookbook Co.

My brother and I attended a demonstration class at Cookbook Co. last night. The chef was the River Cafe's Scott Pohorelic. When he confessed upfront that he had become somewhat obsessed with creating regional sustainable meals, I knew I was in for a great night.

The menu was West Coast Oysters to start, followed by Arctic Char, Great Pacific Octopus with Wild Boar Chorizo, Pekin Duck, and Lemon Custard. Eep! A bit daunting for someone who tries to eschew meat. But I decided to give it all a try for the sake of the experience.

I learned many fascinating things during the demonstration. The chef and his sous chefs prepared all the food in front of us and explained techniques, the River Cafe's food philosopy, and tons of little details regarding local sources for organic food.

Here's a short list of things I learned:

- Giant pacific octopus is a sustainable source of seafood! Who knew!

- When you pick one up off the table, it makes a sound just like those plastic suction cup darts I played with as a kid. kinda creepy.

- I don't like giant pacific octopus.

- I also don't really like wild boar.. after a few years not eating red meat it was just not pleasant to eat. Not sure how to describe the feeling, it just seemed too strong and heavy. But I guess I satisfied my curiosity about how my taste buds would receive it..

- Most sources of Arctic Char are farmed, and it is a much more sustainable source of fish than other species from the region. It is very similar to trout.

- Highwood Crossing Canola Oil is indeed organic. I had heard no canola can actually be organic, because odds are the next field over is GMO, and canola polinates through the air. So there is bound to be cross contamination. But the owners of Highwood actually purchase canola from the Peace River area, where there are so few fields of canola that they can guarantee that it is in fact organic.

- The folks at River Cafe make their own butter, vinegar, bacon, crackers, bread, chutneys, pickles, and prosciutto. Impressive...

Scott spoke a lot about sustainable seafood, and let us know that River Cafe stopped serving farmed salmon ten years ago. He said because it is a carnivorous fish, "It's basically like putting a bunch of cougars in a pen, feeding them beef, and then eating them. It doesn't make any sense." Powerful analogy. Except in the case of farmed salmon, they are fed bottom trawled fish from poor regions like Thailand, with a bit of pink dye thrown in to make the fish appear healthy.

The duck was pretty good actually.. again pretty strong tasting, and probably more fat than I'd eaten in a year.. but good. Joel laughed at me because I was more interested in the vegetables. Lamb's lettuce, which I had never had before, is amazing! A really wonderful light taste. We also had a cranberry mostarda which was to die for. Definitely something I'll try making next canning season.

We finished the meal with a beautiful lemon custard, garnished with huckleberry sauce. The sauce was a really strong punch of berry flavor. River Cafe has stopped using corn starch for the most part, due to the concerns with GMO corn. They use agar instead, something I've read about in tons of vegan recipes but will have to try.

Overall a great experience. Time to start saving my pennies for my next meal at River Cafe...

Monday, February 23, 2009

Peeeeanuuut... peanut butter... (jelly)

Only Canadian children of the eighties would remember the Sharon Lois and Bram song about peanut butter. Tragically I couldn't find it on the internets. I did find THIS however, and it totally cracked me up. Argh, short shorts! Eek, tube socks! Do play it if you'd like to have a horrific eighties jingle in your head for the rest of the day, and vivid flashbacks of after school tv.

OK, back to peanut butter. I may just be getting a tad obsessive about made-from-scratch.. but I do enjoy knowing what goes into the things I eat. Also, made from scratch generally tastes better. I recently made Gomashio and it is really nice. Bonus: it cost $1.50 to make, and is sold in stores for about $6.00 for the same amount.
Elizabeth Seward at Planet Green posted a recipe to make your own peanut butter. Sounds simple enough. I didn't realize I could do this with my food processor. Easy peasy.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Another terrific lecture on food and agriculture

This one comes courtesy of the Terry Talks at UBC. I'm impressed with the articulate arguments presented by these students. Here is one on, what else, urban agriculture :)

Redefining boundaries: Urban Agriculture: Tiffany Tong from terrytalks on Vimeo.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Little green steps

At the beginning of the year, I pledged to take one action a week to reduce my environmental impact. I haven't exactly been able to keep up that pace, but I have been working away at it.

1) I have started freezing food in repurposed milk and OJ cartons. My logic is that the waxed cardboard is the cheapest, lightest, and safest alternative to freezing in plastic or glass (one cracked bottle of veggie stock was enough for me to give up on glass). And I can recycle them when they have worn out. Although, odds are it's petroleum based wax. Sigh.

2) I have decided to purchase only local beer from now on, and to look for sources for local spirits. Oh the sacrifices I make.

3) I bought a good stainless steel stove top espresso maker, so that I stop spending money, fuel, and self-respect on cappuccinos at Starbucks.

4) I am phasing out bath soap in plastic bottles. I started with a bar of shampoo.

Next book to read

Reading this interview of local foodie Dee Hobsbawn-Smith led me to my next book to read: The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry. Michael Pollan also mentioned it his book, so my interest is piqued..

Monday, February 16, 2009

Homemade veggie stock concentrate

In my ongoing quest to reduce the number of prefab foods I use, I've given some thought to the prepackaged items I use a lot. One of them is vegetable stock for soups - the options are make your own giant pot and freeze it (time consuming and freezer consuming.. also I rarely plan far enough ahead to defrost a litre of stock in advance..), or buy it premade. I've found the powders and cubes to be lacking in taste and it feels like a silly thing to spend money on. So I'm trying Just Bento's recipe for making your own veggie soup concentrate. I pureed the concentrate to use it for stock, and plan to freeze it in a silicone ice cube trays to avoid having to use plastic wrap.
I'm not sure that I trust silicone, but seems marginally safer than hard plastic for freezing. Are there any ideas out there for freezing without using plastic? It seems to be my biggest food storage conundrum..

Mark Bittman at TED2007

Mark Bittman, a food writer for the New York Times who writes 'The Minimalist' series (a great source of simple, fresh recipes), sums up the current threats to the world, created in part by the way we approach food.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Michael Pollan at TED2009

Michael Pollan talks about looking at the world from a plant's point of view.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Upcoming event on food security

Onion soup

Evan and I were both feeling just on the edge of the flu this week.. I found myself craving warm mellow soups like this one. Tasty onion soup is a challenge without the ubiquitous beef broth, but in this recipe the seasonings and especially the miso and beer give it the same full flavour.

Embedded Recipe Image (Unsupported on IE 7 and earlier)
Vegetarian Onion Soup



  1. 2 large yellow onions, sliced
  2. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  3. dash tamari
  4. 2 tbs butter
  5. dash vegetarian worcestershire
  6. salt and pepper to taste
  7. 1 bottle dark beer
  8. 1 tbs miso


  1. Saute the onions in butter on a medium low heat for 1 hour until caramelized.
  2. After 45 minutes, add the garlic.
  3. Add all the other ingredients except for the beer and miso, bring to a boil.
  4. Turn down to med-low and stir in beer and miso.
  5. Serve over toast and parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Casaubon's musings on food storage and eating seasonally

I really love Causaubon's thoughts on 'foodie' food storage and the return of peasant food.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Fun with Fermentation

Reading In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan has almost convinced me to give up on vitamin pills entirely. He points out the giant holes in the science of nutrition, and argues that eating the food itself is the best way to go. I'm going to try to be more conscious of getting enough nutrients, since I'm a vegematarian... I should be keeping an closer eye on my consumption of zinc, omega fatty acids, and minerals.

Enter beet kvass, which I read about on Doug DiPasquale's site. Apparently kvass is good for the blood, liver and digestion. Fermentation makes the nutrients from the beets more available for absorption. DiPasquale lists a really easy way to get whey, which you need to get it started.. you simply strain some organic yoghurt with cheesecloth, use the solids as fresh cheese, and use the liquid as your starter.

I have to say, I really like the stuff. I've been having 2 oz of it a couple of times a day. Rather hard to describe, it tastes like beet juice mixed with salty tonic water. Not delicious, exactly, but refreshing in a strange kind of way. I knew that it was addressing some gap in my diet when I got home from a long day at work and thought to myself "I really want some beet kvass right now." Wierd. It may be the sea salt that I'm craving -- I have read that people with 'delicate constitutions', ahem, benefit from drinking sea salt and water as it supports proper adrenal function. I am going to add ginger juice to the kvass next time around and I think I'll have a winner.

I'm going to have to try some other lacto-fermented recipes, like ginger ale and homemade orangina. Googling the topic led me to, an amazing blog, and her awesome post on kefir, called "Water Kefir is Like Fresca for Hippies". So now water kefir is on the list now too. I am NOT a fan of yoghurt kefir, I thought it was pretty nasty. But I'll try anything once.