Kale and Whole Kitchen philosophy went out the porthole for three weeks when I flew to Singapore and boarded Crystal Cruise’s Symphony (but I went on a diet when I got home, including no wine for a few weeks, which I hadn’t done since infancy.)
‘Here’s the plan. We’ll eat in the bistro first, have our butler bring us some caviar and then we’ll freshen up for dinner.”
I overheard this conversation in the van shuttling me back to the cruise ship Crystal Symphony from a daylong excursion in Thailand. My fellow passengers and I were set to weigh anchor from Laem Chabang near Bangkok and head to Saigon, our next port of call on the 16-day Treasures of Southeast Asia cruise.
I was already well acquainted with David Feliu, the butler in my premium penthouse. I first met him two days before when I boarded the ship in Singapore. As he delivered champagne to my suite, he apologized for not greeting me and asked me why I had unpacked my own suitcase. Had I already made a Downton Abbey faux pas?
“Perhaps I can bring you a little caviar?” he suggested. read the whole story ►
I’ve been busy creating a new website and blog with fellow foodista and writer Joanne Blain, called The Whole Kitchen. I challenged Joanne: could she abstain from processed foods for a year? Could you do it? Growing up, processed food was a luxury. I remember our first camping trip in Canada (we immigrated from England) – my dad opened a can of stew and a can of potatoes. Heavenly!
Since I started thinking and eating for myself, I haven’t so much as bought a can of beans (and canned vs dried beans is an ongoing debate with Joanne). I have caved and bought canned chicken stock because my dog, Lizzy, needs it drizzled on her kibble and sometimes I run out of homemade, much to her chagrin.
Kids, Eat your vegetables, er, I mean dessert. Vegetable Desserts will be popular. Sure, carrot cake and pumpkin pie are nothing new, but how about parsnip pie, beet parfait and chocolate beet cake with candied beets? If you don’t believe me, check out Johhny Iuzzini’s beet dessert.
My food trend picks from 2012 could apply to 2013.
Pulled Pork and BBQ
Pulled pork has gone from a Southern regional specialty to the BBQ favourite north of the Mason-Dixon Line. And for good reason. The juicy, succulent, tangy, sweet, smoky concoction is the ultimate comfort food, satisfying every food craving in one bite. From the pulled pork sliders with Okanagan peach barbecue sauce on mini-brioche buns at Hawksworth to the featured item on Subway menus across Canada, we are bonkers for pulled pork.
Indoor chefs are taking their talents into the backyard and finding that pulled pork is not only a crowd-pleaser, it’s easy to cook: because there is fat in the butt, it self-bastes. As a chef once told me, “Fat is Love.”
Increasingly, people are buying smokers for slow-cooking pork over 18-20 hours, which is traditional BBQ in states like Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and the Carolinas. The pulled pork motto is “Low and Slow”. But not everybody wants to invest that kind of time or energy in a dish that’s guaranteed to get gobbled down in a hurry because it’s so delicious. “For me, barbecue is not just a pastime, it’s a lifestyle,” says competitive barbecuer Ron (“Rockin’ Ronnie“) Shewchuk, whose pulled pork is now offered on high-end food market shelves in BC.
Gluten-Free is Glam
Until recently, gluten-free diners (those who are wheat intolerant or celiac) had few options when it came to dining out. But increasingly, restaurants are devoting entire menus to gluten-free items (e.g., Fairmont hotels across Canada offer Baked Tofu with Bean Noodles or Cornish Crab Cake and Marinated Cucumber & Grapefruit Salad). From pasta to pizza to macarons, gluten-free has gone glam.
Macarons are the eye-catching French sandwich cookies that are now the rage in North America. The chewy treats, often found in unlikely dessert colours such as blue, green, and red, are made with almond flour, egg whites, sugars and food colouring. Flavoured buttercream provides the sandwich filling. “We are blown away by the popularity of the macarons at Thierry Patisserie,” says publicist Shelley McArthur, “and they are definitely the most popular item.” Vancouver pastry chef Thierry Busset sells 1,000-1,500 of the Parisian temptations per day at Thierry Patisserie. Hmm — there aren’t that many gluten-intolerant customers in Vancouver, which is proof positive that gluten-free foods are attracting people sans dietary restrictions.
Foraging Wild Things
We know about the holy trinity: local, regional and organic. Now, with purse strings tightening across Canada, concerns about GMOs, a heightened interest in 0-mile diets and growing produce in the backyard, home cooks and chefs alike are foraging wild foods.
Think ramps (wild leeks), fiddleheads, and “weeds” such as dandelion and stinging nettles, purslane and even the lowly chickweed. They’re all popping up on high-end restaurant menus across Canada. Not only do they taste great, they’re unusual, interesting and make for great conversation. And they’re growing in your backyard.
While devoted foodies have long been foraging for kelp, wood sorrel, salal berries, grand fir leaves and of course, wild mushrooms, chefs from Victoria to Halifax are now introducing them to their restaurant patrons. This year, Vancouver Island’s Sooke Harbour House hosted a wildly (pardon the pun) popular Foraged Food Festival.
Gourmet Sauvage, based in Sainte-Adèle, Québec offers a mind-boggling array of wild products—my kitchen shelf is stocked with their jellied cedar, pickled cattails, and milkweed pod ketchup. Forage—one of my fave restos in Vancouver, recently opened to rave reviews.
You can’t get any greener than harvesting foods that grow wild in your own ‘hood.
As the trend towards seasonal/local food settles in for the long haul, chefs are increasingly canning and preserving ingredients so they have a greater diversity of products year-round. Chef James Walt of Whistler’s Araxi has been doing this for many years with PembertonValley summer produce. He uses the house-canned versions in the winter to supplement the root crops that are typically all that’s available fresh. Chef Quang Dang also cans and preserves ingredients for use at the restaurant.
“Right now on my shelves I have pickled green strawberries, picked before ripe and great with sardines,” says Dang. “I found coronation grapes on a bush behind the restaurant and pickled them.” Dang recently got together with friends and held a canning party. “They want to learn about canning and I’m a willing teacher,” he said.