Sumo-Style Hot Pot with Chicken Meatballs

Sumo is the most perfect of sports. It has elegance, ceremony, danger, art, speed and most importantly two fat bastards smacking the shit out of each other. It is immaculate, which is why it has remained essentially unchanged for thousands of years. It remains the only thing in the world I want to see stay static. The only thing I love that loves me back.”

Warren Ellis – Transmetropolitan

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Tacofino Will Change Your Life (Tofino, BC)

Tacofino requires no press from me. It’s the single place every Tofino native and tourist alike can agree to eat for lunch. It’s grown from a single taco truck parked behind a surf shop at the edge of the world to a multi-location empire stretching it’s delicious octopus-like tendrils all over the island and mainland. It’s food is always on point, so there is no reason to review it…

…Except it changed my life!

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Howe Sound Brewpub (Squamish, BC)

howe-sound-brewery-1Squamish (or “Squampton” depending on where your allegiances lie) is a small burg nestled in the peaks between metropolitan Vancouver and the bacchanalian circus that is Whistler. It’s one of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful places in BC that you can easily visit by car (half an hour from the Horseshoe Bay Ferry!) and if you happen to love outdoorsy stuff like my wife and I do it’s a must-visit destination… Except… Well… It’s kind of at war.

Y’see it’s still a small town, just enough industry to keep it going during the winter and enough summer kids hanging around to run the store while all the tourists pile in. Problem is we’re not talking a handful of tourists here. When a sizable portion of metro Vancouver decides to holiday in Whistler, they’re all driving up the same highway at the same time to get there. And they’re all having lunch in Squamish.

During our entire five day long stay in Squamish we witnessed cooks, servers and baristas battling some of the most outrageous lineups of entitled people we’ve seen since… Well, Whistler *laughs* But Whistler’s veteran hospitality army can handle ‘em… Squamish just couldn’t seem to hold the line. Nearly everywhere there were long waits for food, dirty tables and panicked bussers, fuming customers and thousand yard stares from beyond the pass. Our sushi restaurant even ran out of rice!

But I said “nearly” everyone didn’t I? Yes! One shining beacon of hospitality stood out amidst the cloud of war. It’s the biggest, baddest, jam-packed fullest joint in town. The number one recommendation for dinner and post-MTB drinks we got from everyone. Squampton’s Generalissimo in the war of hospitality: The Howe Sound Brewpub.

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Poached Chicken and Rice

poached-chicken-and-riceI just realized our kitchen calendar was still on August and flipped it over, revealing the stereotypical picture of golden hued oak trees and a dilapidated barn that always accompanies September. Ugh… Here on the Westcoast September would be more accurately represented by a grey sheet of rain.

Yep, autumn has come just like it always does; like a switch is flipped, the sun just surrenders and the rains begin like the final act of Seven Samurai… And as usual most of my friends, family and co-workers are getting sick.

So the calendar goes back up on the wall, I fire up a big pot on the stove and pull one of my secret weapons against autumn depression from the freezer: Master Stock! I know it sounds like Master Chief’s little brother or a particularly corny GI Joe villain, but it’s not. It’s a broth made from simmering a whole chicken with Asian aromatics and then, over the course of many uses and multiple chickens it condenses into a powerful, gelatinous flavour bomb for use in soups, stews and sauces.

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Chicken In A Pot

Chicken in A Pot 1A 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.

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