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...


Jennifer said...

Hi Claire,

Hey great blogsite. I can't believe I haven't stumbled across it until you found us! Thanks. We'll be reading....