Unlike most Vancouver food bloggers, my blog is focused on home cooking. And the more I cook at home–which is more and more over the last couple of years–the less I eat at restaurants. Now don’t get me wrong, I love eating at restaurants. Good restaurants, that is. What I hate is paying for a meal, thinking, “I could have done better”. Which is why when I go out to eat, I tend to gravitate to restaurants that serve classic French cuisine, particularly of the rustic country variety.

So when Kim of I’m Only Here for the Food and Sherman from Sherman’s Food Adventures invited me along to Bistro Bistro in an early celebration of Easter, I rearranged my schedule so I could make it. I had dined at this little Kitsilano eatery on my birthday and really enjoyed my meal and the atmosphere. One bite of their superbly cooked lamb and I decided that, along with Les Faux Bourgeois, it was going to be one of my favorite restaurants.

We arrived shortly after opening and were joined by Mijune from the blog  Follow Me Foodie. This is a restaurant that quickly gets packed, so our early arrival ensured our pick of tables. Of course, we ended up choosing one right by the window, which allowed in the maximum of sunlight.

We started with the tapenade and French baguette, which was served on a cutting board for that rustic, country touch. The bread was better than much of the bread served at restaurants, with a crispy, flaky crust and a soft, chewy interior that was fluffy at the same time. It was a very light baguette. I’d had the tapenade at Bistro Bistro before and it was wonderful. This time it was very bland, seriously undersalted, which was a disappointment.

Due to my recent dietary restrictions, I decided to assemble a meal out of several appetizers and ordered the escargots, mussels and pomme frites. For six dollars, roughly what you would pay for six or seven escargots at a Greek taverna, I got a nice little plate piled with escargots and a delicious side of lightly dressed greens that complemented the snails nicely. Although the presentation was unique and attractive, I also found the escargots bland. I felt they could have used a bit more of everything. More garlic, more butter, more salt. I’m the first to admit that I have a bit of a salt fetish and often find dishes underseasoned (see my post on La Brasserie) but my fellow bloggers agreed with me.

The mussels were served in a classic broth of white wine, shallots, and parsley. Although the broth was flavorful, it had a bitter, astringent aftertaste, which seemed to indicate that the wine was not properly cooked off.

At this point I will digress a bit and mention that one thing I enjoy about Bistrot Bistro is the way the food is served. Everything comes in little casserole style dishes or Dutch ovens, or in the case of the mussels and frites, little metal buckets. I think little touches like these go far to elevate the dining experience. In addition, both times I have gone to Bistrot Bistro, the service has been wonderful. Very attentive but not fawning in a way that one often finds annoying.

The Pommes Alumette Mayo were of the shoestring style. Although  I personally prefer a thicker fry, these were near perfect, with a hot, salted exterior and a fluffy, mealy interior that was not thin on taste.

I also had a chance to try some of my companions’ dishes. For a broader analysis of their meals, please refer to their websites by clicking on the links above. At this point, I want to mention the rabbit, which we all agreed was the highlight of the evening. Rabbit is not something I eat often, as in the past the rabbit I have eaten has been stringy and not well prepared. The rabbit at Bistrot Bistro was excellent. It was moist and perfectly cooked, served in a white wine cream sauce. The sauce was light and full of flavor, perfectly balanced. My mind raced, already devising a way of cooking such a sauce at home. The next time I go to Bistrot Bistro, I am definitely ordering the rabbit.

For dessert, I had the lemon tart, one my standbys at French restaurants. It did not disappoint. It had a creamy, tart interior, which I really enjoyed since I don’t like desserts that are overly sweet. It was served with a berry compote and a dollop of whip cream.

I also tried the chocolate mousse, which was light and airy with a deep chocolate flavor. I wasn’t supposed to be eating mousse (the eggs, the milk) but couldn’t seem to stop dipping my spoon into it. So much for dietary restrictions.

Overall, I enjoyed my meal at Bistrot Bistro and will go there again. Although sides are extra, the portions are substantial. The dishes were generally well executed and a great value for the price. It’s not easy to find such quality dishes at such a price point. The attentive service and bright, splashy atmosphere are also big pluses.

Bistro Bistro

1961 West 4th Avenue

Vancouver, BC

V6J 1M7

(604) 732-0004

Thank you to Kim-Kiu Ho from I’m Only Here for the Food and Sherman Chan from Sherman’s Food Adventures for providing the photography. Salut!


Bistrot Bistro on Urbanspoon

There is something about seafood, shellfish in particular, that seems so decadent. Even the most simply prepared pot of mussels can elevate a meal, and a platter of raw oysters with a squeeze of lemon is a delicacy I imagine few would turn down at a cocktail party. Never mind that it was not long ago that oysters were reserved for the proletariat, and lobsters were eschewed as undesirable bottom-feeders. At the banquet of life in the twenty-first century, seafood is king.

Whenever in doubt what to feed company, I turn to the vast oceans.  Grilled jumbo shrimp cocktail. Mussels cooked in a saffron broth, or in wine and cream. Lobster pot pie. The choices are endless, and require very little time or fuss, since seafood is best highlighted with only a couple of extra flavors in order to let its specialness shine through. What could be easier than a throwing a few scallops into a pan with a knob of butter, or tossing some clams and spaghetti together with garlic and olive oil?

When I came across this recipe for Bay Scallop Gratin by Ina Garten, it instantly became one of my best-loved and oft-cooked recipes. It combines several of my favorite ingredients: scallops, butter, shallots, and panko bread crumbs. And of course, it’s gratineed. I think I would eat my shoe if it were gratineed.

Serve these scallops in individual gratin dishes alongside a salad and a loaf of crusty French bread and you have an elegant meal that will impress even your most important dinner guests. Follow it with creme brulee for dessert and you’ll knock it out of the park. Not bad for half an hour in the kitchen.

Ina Garten’s Bay Scallop Gratin

Serves 6

Ingredients:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

6 large garlic cloves, minced

2 medium shallots, minced

2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, minced

4 tablespoons minced fresh parsley, plus extra for garnish

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons Pernod

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

6 tablespoons good olive oil

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

6 tablespoons dry white wine

2 pounds fresh bay scallops

lemon, for garnish

Directions:

1) Preheat the oven to 425F. Place 6 (6-inch round) gratin dishes on a sheet pan.

2) To make the topping, mix the butter in a bowl with an electric mixer on low speed. Add the garlic, shallot, prosciutto, parsley, lemon juice, Pernod, salt and pepper until well combined

3) With the mixer still on low, add the olive oil slowly as though making mayonnaise. Fold in panko with a rubber spatula.

4) Place 1 tablespoon of the wine in the bottom of each gratin dish. Pat scallops dry with paper towels and distribute evenly among the dishes. Spoon the garlic butter evenly over the scallops.

5) Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the topping is browned and sizzling and the scallops are barely done. Turn on the broiler and bake for 2 more minutes for a crusty, golden finish.

6) Drizzle with lemon juice and sprinkle with parsley. Serve immediately.

Imagine that you are a foodie of epic proportions. You spend all your time making food, eating food, or thinking about making or eating food. Your mailbox is regularly filled with issues of Bon Appetit and Food & Wine magazines. Browsing the cheese section at Whole Foods is your idea of a good time. You’re convinced that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, because that’s the way to yours.

Now imagine that you are also long-plagued with mysterious medical ailments and that you have noticed strange symptoms randomly take hold of your body. You drift from doctor to doctor, who all brush you off or look at you like you’ve gone senile, until one comes up with an answer that actually makes sense: you have food allergies. Not only do you have food allergies but you are also (gasp!) gluten intolerant!

Quel horror! What a disaster. Can a worse fate befall such a committed foodie?

No. I am here to tell you that it cannot.

Not long ago I was sharing some pate de campagne on crusty French bread with a foodie friend. We were rolling our eyes and mocking all the poor souls who claimed to have all sorts of food allergies, intolerances, and enzyme deficiencies. We agreed that these people actually suffered from food phobias that were manifestations of a deep-seated fear of gaining weight or dying from cancer. We also agreed that these people were generally a pain to eat with.

Now I am one of those people.

I have been told that I am intolerant of several foods, some of which I rarely or never eat–like kidney beans and cola nuts. Other things I gorged on daily, in one form or another, like wheat, milk, and eggs. Not surprising, since these items all fall in the list of top seven allergens. But excuse me! How do you live a life void wheat, milk, and eggs without moving to the Himalayas and subsisting on brown rice and yak butter?

For the last couple of months I have been finding out how.

The first week of my avoidance diet was a living hell. I found myself repeatedly breaking down in tears or throwing pans across the kitchen a la Gordon Ramsey, wondering what in the world I was going to eat. No more pasta carbonara. No more Quiche Lorraine. No more almond croissants the size of baseball mitts. Soon I pulled myself together, however. I was feeling so lousy and nothing else had helped that I told myself I had to give this an honest try.

I began by eating foods that were naturally gluten-free. I bought Egg Replacer and found a delicious Greek style yogurt made from goat’s milk. I switched to Manchego cheese, the deliciously pungent Spanish cheese made from the milk of sheep. Slowly I began to find my way.

The first month I felt terrible. I actually felt even worse than I had before. But after five weeks, six weeks, I began to feel amazingly well. I bounded out of bed with energy. I smiled more. My belly no longer looked like I was carrying around a five-month-old fetus. I even lost some of the weight that I’d been finding so impossible to get rid of.

I don’t know if I totally buy into this food allergy thing. I think that very few people have actual food allergies but sensitivities seem to be another issue altogether. Because our food is grown in such depleted soil and so many of us are exposed to chemicals and pollution that even environmental allergies are increasing exponentially, it makes sense that many of us would react to certain foods. I don’t know if I am willing and able to cut out all these cherished foods forever, but knowing that I feel so much better when I do has made it so much easier to stay away from them. Furthermore, the couple of times I have cheated, I broke out with hives on my face, which makes those little cheats seem hardly worth it.

For weeks I have sat here wondering how I was going to continue to post on my blog. I didn’t want to change the format or the content. I didn’t want to become another gluten-free blog. The great thing about blogging, though, is that I have expanded my repertoire and have learned to look at food in broader terms. There is a lot you can eat even if you can’t eat wheat or dairy. Even old favorites can be revamped with a little bit of ingenuity and know-how. (Also, I still cook for other people and see no reason to deprive them. You’ll continue to find those recipes here.)

Not knowing if I could forgo my daily baked good, I did a fair amount of research in gluten-free baking, which lead me to Annalise Roberts’ wonderful book Gluten-Free Baking Classics. Annalise has come up with a blend of flours that substitute beautifully for wheat flour in a lot of recipes. Many of the things I have made from this book have been a close approximation of the “real thing”. In fact, Gourmet magazine once wrote about this book … “we dare anyone to detect that they [chocolate chip cookies] weren’t made with traditional wheat flour”.

I don’t know if I would go that far in terms of these scones, but when faced with the prospect of going without, I would say that for gluten-free, they’re pretty dang good.

Annalise Roberts’ Gluten-Free Baking Mix

2 parts brown rice flour (i.e. 2 cups)

2/3 part potato starch (i.e. 2/3 cup)

1/3 part tapioca starch (i.e. 1/3 cup)

Gluten-Free Cranberry Scones

Ingredients:

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup dried cranberries

2 cups rice flour mix (see above)

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum

1/2 teaspoon salt

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

2 large eggs

Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 425F. Position rack in center of oven. Line heavy baking sheet with parchment paper.

2) Combine milk and cranberries in a glass measuring cup and set aside.

3) Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, xanthan gum, and salt in a large bowl of an electric mixer. With mixer on low, cut butter into flour mixture until it resembles a coarse meal. Alternately, use a food processor. Put mixture in a small bowl and set aside.

4) Beat eggs in the same large bowl of electric mixer until very light and foamy. Add milk and flour mixture and mix at medium-low speed for 1 minute. Use lightly floured hands to pat dough into a large 1-inch thick round on a lightly floured surface. Cut out scones with a 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter or a glass. Press dough scraps together and repeat.

5) Place dough on prepared baking sheet and put in center of oven. Turn oven temperature down to 375F and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and cooked through. Serve with warm butter or preserves.

Makes about 9-10 scones.

Note: When measuring the flour mix, do not scoop up flours with measuring cups as this will pack the flour down too much. Measure each flour by scooping it into the measuring cup and leveling with a straight edge. Measuring accurately is even more crucial in GF recipes than in others. Combine all of the flours in a plastic container and shake to combine. Large amounts of flour can be mixed for later. The flour mix is best kept refrigerated, as it can go rancid after four months or so.

Given a chance to live a life other than my own, I would choose to live Laura Calder’s, the quirky yet charming host of Food Network Canada’s French Food at Home. Despite its ups and downs, I don’t often wish my life to be any different from what it is. What would be the point? I’m also one of the least jealous people around, but can I just tell you that this woman’s CV sends me into paroxysms of envy?

Although she is currently a popular television personality and a cookbook author, Laura Calder began her career trajectory in journalism and public relations, after studying linguistics as an undergraduate and acquiring a Master’s degree at the London School of  Economics. Laura soon realized that this path was not for her and enrolled in a program at a well-respected culinary school in Vancouver. Her diploma led to work in the Napa Valley and subsequently France, where she worked for British cookery writer Anne Willan at her school in Burgundy.

Laura ended up staying in France for the better part of a decade, which is where she wrote her first cookbook and contributed to a variety of magazines such as Gourmet, Vogue Entertaining and Travel, and Gastronomica. Finally, she returned to Canada and began shooting for the Food Network.

What I find so fascinating about Laura Calder, and so many other well-known chefs and food writers, is that she achieved a high level of education and career success before considering a life in food. Ina Garten also has a Master’s degree and used to work on energy policy for the White House. Vogue food writer Jeffrey Steingarten was once a lawyer. Ruth Reichl, former restaurant critic for the New York Times and editor of Gourmet magazine, has an M.A. in Art History. When you have an all-consuming passion for food, it calls out to you. Food comes first. You cook it, eat it, read about it, talk about it, and spend all your money on it. It’s one of those passions that can’t be ignored. You may start off wanting to be an economist, a teacher, to work in banking, but sooner or later … food is going to get you.

So here I sit at forty, on the verge of my third career change, a career that has nothing to do with food, a part of me regretting that I hadn’t taken a different path. In the meantime, I have been writing about food: blogging, pitching magazines with a modicum of success–success I hope to build upon. I don’t know where it will lead, but hopefully somewhere. It’s always been my firm belief that when you work hard at something and have a passion for it, you can’t possibly fail. You just can’t give up too soon.

Laura Calder’s Coq au Riesling


Ingredients:

6 chicken legs, split at the joint

salt and pepper

1 tablespoon each of butter and olive oil

4 shallots, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tablespoons Cognac

1 cup Riesling

1/2 cup stock

1 tablespoon butter, more if needed

1/2 pound mushrooms, quartered

1/2 cup creme fraiche or sour cream

chopped parsley or tarragon, for garnish

Directions:

1) Season the chicken legs with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil and butter in a saute pan and brown the chicken on all sides, working in batches. Remove it to a plate and add the shallots and garlic to the pan. Cook for one minute.

2) Pour the Cognac in the pan to deglaze. Put the chicken back into the pan. Pour the wine and the stock over the chicken. Cover and cook until the chicken is tender–about twenty minutes-turning once.

3) In the meantime, melt a bit of butter in a frying pan and cook the mushrooms until golden. When the chicken is cooked remove it to a platter and keep warm. Boil the cooking liquid down to sauce consistency. Stir in the cream and mushrooms. Correct the seasonings. Pour the sauce over the chicken. Scatter with parsley and serve.

It’s hard to believe that a year ago today I started my little blog. I wasn’t sure if anyone would read it; after all, there are so many food blogs out there. I wasn’t looking for thousands of readers. What I was hoping for was a loyal following that would enjoy reading what I had to say and be inspired to cook something new. I was also developing as a food and travel writer and thought a blog would be a good forum for me to find my voice as one. Most of all, I wanted to really learn how to cook. To some end, I think I have accomplished these things. I’ve also made some wonderful friends who love food as passionately as I do. This was an unexpected benefit–icing on the cake, if you will.

Lately, I haven’t blogged as much as I would like to. Work, friends, family and the mundane details of daily life sometimes keep me away. Plus, there’s the book.

I have started a new novel. The last time I started a novel was ten years ago, in graduate school, when I was working on my Master’s degree in Creative Writing. I had been working on this novel on and off since then when a few months ago I met a man, an accomplished artist, who gave me this piece of advice: start something new.

At first, I balked. I had already started over again once before and was almost three hundred pages into the manuscript. How could I just start something new? It would feel like quitting. But after I thought about what he’d said, I realized he was right. The novel wasn’t working. Starting something new didn’t mean I would never finish it. Maybe one day I would be able to go back and look at it and figure out why it wasn’t working and fix it.

In the meantime, the new novel feels right. It’s still early days but it’s going well. Being my own worst critic and a perfectionist, I’m usually unhappy with whatever I write until I have revised it over and over again. But this is different. It’s only the first draft, but I like what’s on the page. The characters are alive, the story has layers. When it’s done, I think it will have guts. It’s already shaping into kind of story I like to read.

So I’m celebrating today–with chocolate cake. After all, what can be more celebratory than that? It seems to me that once you start baking, you’re always searching for the perfect chocolate cake. For me, a chocolate pudding cake is such a cake. Rich with deep chocolate taste and a center so moist it borders on gooey, it’s dessert nirvana.

This recipe is from Canadian Living. It’s one of those magazines where everything is tested a bazillion times, so the recipes are reliable. It’s simple yet delicious. I wanted something festive today, so I made a layer cake and frosted it with caramel icing, but you don’t have to do anything like that if you don’t want to. It’s delicious just as it is, or with a dusting of cocoa or icing sugar.

Chocolate Pudding Cake


Ingredients:

3/4 cup (175 ml) packed brown sugar

1/4 cup (50 ml) cocoa powder

1 cup (250 ml) boiling water or hot coffee

3/4 cup (175 ml) all-purpose flour

1/3 cup (75 ml) granulated sugar

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

1 teaspoon (5 ml) baking powder

1/3 cup (75 ml) milk

1 egg, beaten

2 tablespoons (25 ml) butter

1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract

1/2 cup (125 ml) chocolate chips

Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 350F. In a bowl, whisk brown sugar with 2 tablespoons cocoa powder. Whisk in boiling water or coffee until smooth.

2) In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, 1/4 cup cocoa powder, and the baking powder. Add the milk, egg, butter, and vanilla. Whisk until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips.

3) Spread flour mixture in greased 9-inch cake pan. Pour liquid mixture evenly over top.

4) Bake in center of oven for 30 minutes or until the cake is firm when gently touched.

Whatever happened to Delia Smith? You know who I’m talking about, the bestselling English cookbook writer and renowned television personality. Before there was Nigella, there was Delia. Perhaps she is still big across the pond, but it’s been awhile since I’ve seen head or tail of her in this neck of the woods. I remember watching her on the Food Network years ago, instructing in her straightforward and somewhat starchy style. Compared to the razzle and dazzle of the new generation of television chefs, she seems like a throwback. There’s no coyness, no simpering, certainly no cursing and throwing pans across the kitchen. With Delia, it’s all about the food

How to Cook Book One was my very first real cookbook. By real I mean the kind of cookbook that teaches technique, that is focused on real food made from fresh ingredients–the opposite of the land of dump-and-pour Rachel Ray style of cooking that I once inhabited. Using her recipes I made some of the best dishes of my life and realized that I wasn’t hopeless in the kitchen. With a truly good recipe, anyone can make something fantastic. The trick is separating the wheat from the chaff. Delia’s cooking is wheat.

When I turn on the Food Network these days I am almost always disappointed. The lineup is full of shows like Top Chef, Chopped, and The F  Word–insipid reality shows where the food is distant to the antics of the participants. Shows like Delia’s actually taught people how to cook, but it seems that people who want to learn how to cook are no longer the network’s primary audience these days, which I think is a shame. Maybe one day we’ll get bored with the reality tv model and it will all come full circle. But in the meantime, I have Delia’s books.

Delia Smith’s Classic Fresh Tomato Sauce

Ingredients:

Serves 2-3 (enough for 12 ounces/350 grams pasta)

2 lbs/8 oz/1.15 kg fresh ripe tomatoes

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 large clove garlic, peeled and crushed

approx. 12 large leaves fresh basil, torn into pieces

Parmigiano Reggiano, to serve

salt and freshly milled black pepper

Directions:

1) To skin the tomatoes pour boiling water over them and leave them in the water for exactly one minute. Drain and gently peel off the skins. Reserve 3 of the tomatoes for later and roughly chop the rest.

2) Heat the oil in a medium saucepan, then add the onions and garlic and cook gently for 5 minutes, until they are a pale gold. Add the chopped tomatoes and about 1/3 of the basil. Season with some salt and pepper.

3) Simmer the tomatoes on very low heat for 1 1/2 hours, or until almost all of the liquid has evaporated and the tomatoes are reduced to a thick, jam-like consistency, while stirring occasionally.

4) Roughly chop the reserved tomatoes and stir them in along with the rest of the basil leaves.

5) When serving the pasta, cook for one minute less than usual. Return it to the saucepan after draining and mix with the sauce, cooking for one minute. Serve with a sprinkling of the parmesan cheese.

The Olympics are in full swing here in Vancouver. Every morning when I go downtown to my place of work, I am amazed at all the people in the streets, at the lines for the various pavilions. It’s an exciting time for the city. You can feel it in the air. But my life is so hectic that I haven’t yet had a chance to partake in the festivities. A part of me doesn’t really care, but another part wonders if I’ll be sorry later. To be perfectly honest, sports don’t interest me all that much and the Olympic Games, whether summer or winter, hardly at all.

If I’m drawn to anything about the Games in Vancouver, it’s the food. There are some pavilions that I definitely want to check out. I want to see what the world is cooking. And I plan on going to the French Quarter on Granville Island very soon.

In the meantime, I’ve made turkey.

Today is one of those days when I actually have a little time to myself and I chose to spend some of it in the kitchen, whipping up some dishes to tide me through the week. A lot of it will go into the freezer, as do a lot of the things I cook. Cooking in batches makes my life a lot easier.

I love having slices of this turkey meatloaf on hand for dinner, or tucking it between a couple of slices of bread for a delicious sandwich at lunch. For all its leanness, it’s surprisingly juicy. Plus it’s so easy to put together.

This recipe is adapted from Chef Michael Smith from the Food Network in Canada. His recipes are accessible and down-to-earth yet full of robust flavors.

Michael Smith’s Turkey Meatloaf

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 onions, peeled and sliced

4 garlic cloves, minced

8 ounces button mushrooms, cleaned and chopped

2 pounds of ground turkey

1/2 cup milk

1 cup breadcrumbs

2 eggs

1 can (156 ml) tomato paste

a few dashes Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon dried thyme or oregano

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 350F.

2) Saute oil and onion in a skillet over medium-high heat until they are golden brown. Add the garlic and mushrooms and continue sauteing until the liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms are lightly browned.

3) Mix the turkey, milk, breadcrumbs, egg, tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce, thyme and mushroom mixture in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper

4) Press the mixture into a loaf pan or an 8×8 baking dish. Bake until firm and lightly browned on top. An instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meatloaf should read 165 degrees.

photo courtesy of Sherman @shermansfoodadventures.com

The Olympics are here! After years of anticipation and preparation Vancouver is finally playing host to the 2010 Olympic Games. I’d paid little attention to all the hubbub as the day of the opening ceremonies grew closer, but this week I have finally been caught up in the excitement of it all. The part that I’m looking forward to the most? For the world to see what an amazing city Vancouver is, and that British Columbia is one of the most spectacular places on earth.

The night before the opening ceremonies, I was fortunate to attend a media event for food and wine journalists sponsored by Tourism Vancouver Island. The region of Vancouver Island–along with B.C.’s Sunshine Coast–is considered an area of unparalleled natural beauty and is one of the world’s top tourist destinations. Readers of  Conde Nast Traveler Magazine have voted Vancouver Island Best North American Island for eight years consecutively, and it has also been voted Best Island in Continental US/Canada by Travel & Leisure Magazine. The event showcased the fine wines and fresh seafood of the region and featured cooking demonstrations by world renowned chefs, including Bob Blumer from Food Network’s Glutton for Punishment.

photo courtesy of Pacific Kiss

The highlight of the evening was the seafood supplied by Pacific Kiss, purveyors of  sustainable oysters, scallops, clams, and mussels. British Columbia is known as the “oyster capital” of Canada and its cold, nutrient-rich waters are optimal for growing shellfish. Pacific Kiss provides product to local and international markets. From February 12 to 28, local growers are showcasing twelve of B.C.’s best oysters in the Pacific Kiss oyster platter available at select restaurants: Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House and Monk McQueen’s Fresh Seafood & Oyster Bar in Vancouver, and at Smitty’s Oyster House in Gibsons, on the Sunshine Coast.

courtesy of Pacific Kiss

With a bounty of fresh, natural ingredients at our doorstep, it’s easy to see why Vancouver is oft-voted one of the ten best restaurant cities in the world.

Also on sample was a wide selection of local wines, including those from the family-run Beaufort Vineyard and Estate Winery. Susan and Jeff Vandermolen’s handcrafted wines have won awards internationally.

photo courtesy of Beaufort Wines

They produce small-lot wines on their vineyard in Vancouver Island’s beautiful Comox Valley, and offer a tasting room, a picnic area, and tours of the winery and vineyard–which has an amazing view of its namesake Beaufort Mountains.

courtesy of Beaufort Wines

The Vandermolens are actively involved in special events and fundraisers benefiting the local community. Take a look at their website for more information on these special events and the story of the Beaufort Winery.

For the cooking demonstration portion of the evening, Chef Bob Blumer alongside notable chefs from the region, prepared oysters on the half shell smothered in a light and buttery Hollandaise sauce and geoduck (pronounced gooey duck), a species of a very large saltwater clam native to the Northwest coast of the United States and Canada. The “neck” and siphons of the geoduck can measure up to a meter in length. It is the largest burrowing clam in the world and is considered a delicacy, particularly in Asia, where it commands around $30.00 US a pound, or $65.00 per kilo.

The evening was highly enjoyable and a great success. A reminder what a wonderful place Vancouver is to eat. With such abundant natural resources, a strong tradition of multiculturalism, and a growing passion for local and sustainable food, it’s no wonder it’s one of the best eating towns to ever host the Olympic games.

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QUOTE

"Noncooks think it's silly to invest two hours' work in two minutes' enjoyment; but if cooking is evanescent, so is the ballet." -Julia Child

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