Tojo’s (Vancouver, BC)

Tucked into an unassuming block of office buildings on Broadway, one of Vancouver’s busiest thoroughfares is a Tardis-like temple of Japanese gastronomy run by one of the planet’s most famous sushi chefs. This itamae titan is Hidekazu Tojo and unlike a lot of chefs with half a century of experience tucked under his apron he can be counted on to be at his restaurant nearly every day with a big smile to greet guests.  

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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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Spot Prawns!

It was early on a Friday afternoon and despite the breezy grey weather I was soaked to my screaming bones with sweat and cursing Crystal’s Uncle Calvin (who got me into my current situation) under my breath. Brycen (Cal’s son) and I were hauling a very sketchy aluminum rickshaw overflowing with heavy metal crab traps up an impossibly steep gangway. It took both of us to get the beast up and over to Calvin and his new friends; a gang of grizzled old fisherman who did nothing to help us, but sure seem to have opinions on how we’re doing it wrong.

I was trying my very best to look tough in front of this motley collection of bums and pirates, despite my suspicion that there was a better way to go about this whole affair. Of course I was the only one on this particular commercial fishing dock that had no sea legs. Calvin and Brycen both grew up on fishing boats as (I suspect) Cal’s father and maybe even father’s father did. They knew all the moves, the lingo and the unspoken rules of the dock. Me, I was just an extra pair of hands. (more…)

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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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Miso-Roasted Oysters

Oyster MotoyakiI know it seems like I throw miso in everything – like Jamie Oliver with all that damned rosemary – but if you’re a fan of oysters stay with me. If you have friends and family that are a little oyster-phobic this is the recipe that will turn ’em around. It’s that damned good!

And that’s impressive because there aren’t many things that people eat more polarizing than oysters. Shuck a couple and half the people at your dinner party will gag while the other half dig in with wild abandon.  My wife was one of the former (an unrepentant hater of oysters and most other bivalve mollusks) up until only recently. Now she tolerates a few raw oysters now and then but only if they’re the size of a dime and the larger ones get only scornful looks unless they arrive slathered in miso mayonnaise.

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