It’s been 35 years since The Sooke Harbour House opened on the tip of Whiffen Spit overlooking the Juan de Fuca Straights, a mere hour or so from our province’s capital. Owner and slow food proponent Sinclair Philip and celebrity chef Edward Tucson built North America-wide cred by sourcing local, sustainable foods and focusing on clean unobtrusive flavours decades before it became the standard. The Inn has won boatloads of awards (both as a hotel and as a restaurant) and been profiled by every food, drink and travel publication you can think of.
That was then, and this is now. The majority of praise for the South Island institution has grown a tad quiet as of late. Chef Tucson moved onto other projects years ago and according to the spiteful whispers that prickle at the edges of our industry, when he left a lot of the Inn’s hard-won reputation left with him.
Neither Crystal nor I had ever been to the Inn during its halcyon age, but we had always kept it in mind as a sort-of “bucket list” type destination. Someday we’d try it, how could we not?
When I was a kid I would run outside every New Year’s Eve just as the ball was dropping and the whole neighbourhood was shrieking “Ten! Nine! Eight…” to stare up into the sky and feel the changing of the old year into the new.
I’d stare and stare listen and wonder what made the last year different, and squidge my eyes shut and search in my guts to feel something new and grown up inside.
Every year was the same. No change… No difference between one year and the next. Not until this year… 2014 is the year everything changed! (more…)
As many sharp readers may have guessed, I’m not only a cook, amateur writer and degenerate wastrel, but a huge… And I mean HUGE geek. Capital G!
I love 80s ‘wrasslin, comic books, Godzilla flicks and nostalgic video games almost as much as love shaping dumplings or searing duck breasts. So when I was researching my 2014 Holiday Guides (plural, I also have a gift guide for foragers in the works that probably won’t make it out before X-Mas) I was floored by the massive amount of geek-centric kitchen gifts available to the internet-savvy public.
Sites like Nerd Approved, Archie MacPhee’s, and Pintrest led me down a long ‘n dark rabbit hole of nerdy kitchen accessories. This stuff is serious kitsch… It’s like the internet knows me!
Holiday shopping sucks.
It should be fun and joyful, but most of it is a florescent-lit hell of shopping cart lines, tinny Sinatra music and a dull nagging doubt that you (yes you) could have done better… Could have found that perfect gift for the one you love! Instead every year is a bit of a compromise, a sell out. And every year another promise to get it right… Next year.
No longer! “Next year” is this year, and your good buddy The Internet is here to save you from another long, soul destroying slog through Wal Mart. This year you can point and click your way to the perfect gift for everyone on your list, including your buddies in the culinary industry!
A very special chicken deserves very special care, and I can think of no better technique to accentuate all the wild, bug-fed chickeny goodness of a farm chicken than en cocotte.
I got turned on to this old-school French method of cooking chicken from an old issue of Cook’s Illustrated, which touted it as one of the “Discoveries that will change the way I cook”! Well, it wasn’t quite as revolutionary as all that, but it is a great way to cook chicken.