Norwoods Restaurant (Ucluelet, BC)

A decade ago, going to the Pacific Rim for a Summer trip was a relatively simple affair. The most daunting part was navigating the winding, single-lane roller coaster of a road across the island. Once you and your family had arrived it was a simple matter of finding some parking at Big Beach and figuring out which gas station in Tofino had the best ice cream.

Now vacationing along the Pacific Rim is a vastly more complicated affair: The road is still shit, but instead of fearing the local yahoo’s pickup truck swerving into you it’s the endless parade of tourists ineptly driving monolithic motor homes or luxury sedans that keep your knuckles white. The vast expanse of beaches are choked with people and downtown Tofino is like the sweltering crush of Robson Street in Van compressed into four square blocks… Good luck finding any ice cream amongst the Patagonia vendors and gourmet Ramen joints. (more…)

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Sesame-Pickled Burdock Root

New ingredients are like amphetamines for kitchen creativity. From the moment I get home from a farmer’s market or an afternoon of foraging or hell, just back from a regular ‘ol grocery shopping run I’m jacked up! What is this crazy looking-stuff? Where did it come from? How do I process it and what can I do with all the bits? My mind is vibrating in a million different directions at once!

Last week I got a hold of some burdock root at the market in Courtenay and had just such a moment. These rough-looking tubers looked more like something dug out of a cat box than anything I’d serve for dinner, but The lady I bought ‘em from was insistent that they were a delicious spring delicacy! So yeah, I got ‘em home, mind ablaze and immediately starting hunting through my cookbooks for more info. (more…)

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Forbidden Brewing Co. (Courtenay, BC)

The Vancouver Island brewing scene is evolving at such a breakneck pace that every month or so I have to take a breath, go online or crack open a copy of The Growler and catch up on all the new trends, breweries, beer styles and lingo that I’m already ignorant of. Case in point: The term “Nano brewery” is the handle for a new crop of breweries that (according to this killer Paste article) “makes very, very little beer (say, between one and three barrels, or roughly ninety gallons at a time and boasts an ultra-limited distribution footprint.

This fits Courtney’s Forbidden Brewing perfectly. It’s ity-bity! There’s just enough room inside their tasting room for six tables plus a pool table (watch your back!) and a bitchin tabletop Space Invaders game machine. Despite these physical limitations the Forbidden crew make the absolute most of everything their situation can accommodate.

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Duck Prosciutto

My two greatest culinary passions are a) methods of preserving food- the simpler and more flavourful the better – and b) duck! The former being a tether to the distant past when salting and fermenting meant survival for crafty cooks and the latter being the tastiest damn animal know to man.

Now I know I’ve already done a ton of duck recipes, including the great-granddaddy of all preserved duck dishes: confit du canard, but bear with me one more time ‘cause this one’s a keeper. It’s a technique for preserving breasts that results in a semi-cured, dense and beautifully salty-sweet taste reminiscent of prosciutto de parma.  It’s dead-easy and a great entry-level way to get into more serious charcuterie. (more…)

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Love The Life: How To Stay Sane In The Culinary Industry

It was a night like so many others:  A hurricane of twittering servers running to and fro, The Clash blaring from the prep area, orders billowing like Tibetan prayer flags on the line and the hungry ghosts of a hundred tables whispering in my ear that they’re food’s taking too damn long to…

“Y’know, I’m really thinking about taking the Culinary Arts Course at the college… This feels right. I’ve already learned a lot already and I really like this place.” I overhear one of my prep boys debating his future over in no-man’s land and I automatically shout back, “You’re too damn smart for this industry! Go be an undersea wielder or whatever the hell makes more money!”

Everybody has a laugh and goes back to business but as I dug out another plateful of mashed potatoes I hear my own words ringing in my head. It was the same stuff I’d heard before and been told a million times by other, usually older cooks. Now I was the “lifer” on the line: The grizzled old man chiding the younger guys to get out fast and find a better path to fame and fortune far away from the hard slog of kitchen life. (more…)

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