The Cascadian Smash Cocktail

It didn’t take long for summer to pack it up. It went from T-Shirts to raincoats practically overnight, the temperature dipped into the long pants zone and no-one is still wearing flip flops in all this muck. *sigh*It’s time for me to stay inside and organize all the late summer fruit ‘n veg harvested from our garden and out in the wild.

The latest bit of foraging I did yielded three large mason jars full of Oregon Grape Syrup, which retains much of the wild berry’s natural sourness tempered with just a hint of cane sugar. It’s very similar in taste to a Blackberry-Balsamic Shrub which is a type of fruit and vinegar syrup or cordial used to give cocktails a sexy sweet ‘n sour kick. (more…)

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Oregon Grape

Nothing makes an amateur forager feel more like a rock star than passing some scrumpy-looking bush in the neighbour’s yard and telling your friends, “See that there… You can eat that.” And you probably have a friend or two who’s down to try anything and immediately pops whatever berry you just pointed out into their mouth.

“Bleeeeaagggh! Why would anyone want to eat this!?” comes the response, followed by the look of betrayal. “This tastes nothing like a ripe blackberry. It’s sour! Why did I listen to you? You’re not a rock star! What if this is poison?” It is a scene we foragers know all too well… I’ve had it happen a couple of times to me and still recall the sting of recrimination and weird looks. *laughs*and it always seems to be thanks to Oregon grape.

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Spot Prawn Tortelloni

My parents are coming from Ontario to visit so we’ve been busy this week cleaning up the yard, trimming back the encroaching  forest and sowing the last crop from the garden so when they arrive they’ll have a place to lounge in the sun and something to snack on. I intend to do quite a bit of grilling for them, but not every meal. Here and there I’ve packed away freezer bags full of pre-made nibblets for the nights when we’ve had a bit too much adventure.

One of these instant meals includes a heaping helping of our local Spot Prawns, which I’ve still got frozen in water-filled bags from back in June. I mentioned that spot prawn makes a fine stuffing for dumplings of all shapes ‘n sizes and that goes for stuffed pastas as well!

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Moon Under Water Brewpub (Victoria, BC)

My wife and I hadn’t visited Victoria in about a year ‘n a half so when we decided to ramble down the Island last weekend there were three things we weren’t prepared for: One – Hotels cost more than University tuition. Two – Half of Vic is being knocked down and remodeled so the roads and sidewalks (or lack thereof) are an apocalyptic mess of crumbled concrete and rebar spaghetti. Three – Electronic bikes that you rent with your phone are freakin everywhere!

To avoid the first problem we stayed outside the city center and spent as little time downtown as possible to avoid problem number two. The Ebikes were what saved us! We found a couple discarded bikes at the foot of the galloping goose trail (seriously people just leave them any old place) we fired up the U-Bike app and unlocked ‘em. Two hours and two dollars apiece later we had biked ½ the trail, looped back, met a bunch of new friends, pissed off some spandex-biker types and rolled up on the Moon Under Water Brewpub to enjoy some craft beers. (more…)

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Spot Prawn Tempura

After getting completely trounced in the first round of last week’s Shellfish Festival competition, I’ve been thinking a lot about simplicity. One of my many mistakes during those surreal 45 minutes was going in too many directions at once instead of focusing on a single, well crafted dish. So yeah, fourteen years experience and I still have to go back and work on fundamentals! *laughs*

I’ve still got bags of Calvin’s freshly-caught Spot Prawns in my freezer and the whole family is home today for one reason or another. I think it’s time I channel my fryer days at Wasabiya and bang out some simple, perfect prawn tempura. (more…)

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