I was recently invited to a farm to table dinner with a group of some of Vancouver's most influential food bloggers and writers. The destination: Hopcott Farms in Pitt Meadows. The crew all met up at The Fairmont Waterfront and jumped on a bus that would take us to our final destination. Seventeen hungry, curious, and enthusiastic foodies rolling out to one of the province's most celebrated farms for plates of food, goblets of wine, and steins of beer; count me in everytime. (This is where I thank Cassandra Anderton for the invite and Heather from Destination B.C. for putting the whole thing together)
Upon arrival, we were greeted by Mike Lindsay, head butcher for Hopcott and all around swell guy. He gave us a tour of the new faciltiy add ons which included a second smokehouse, a dip tank for packaging, a tumbler for extracting extra air out of roasts and hams, and a vacant spot that will soon be filled with the arrival of a new bandsaw. Of particualr interest was the Pek-Mont Smoker, a stainless steel vessel that uses wood chips instead of liquid smoke to impart flavour to products. As we were informed, the wood chip process takes twice as long to smoke but generates "real flavour". This practice of all natural, old school technique is something the crew at Hopcott takes very seriously.
After the tour we took our seats and were welcomed by a well-appointed Charcuterie Board consisting of a selection of cured meats from Hopcott, a melange of cheeses comlpiments of Golden Ears Cheesecrafters, with pickled carrots and beans from Goodies by Thelma. One of the standouts for me was an Herbed Gouda. It had nice grain to the texture and a mild nut flavour that brought the herbs to life. After a heart warming greeting from Jen Hopcott, one of the 3rd generation family members that help run the farm, more food started to arrive. My good friend Joe Leary and I had just imbibed on our first sips of a wonderfully balanced Play Dead I.P.A. from Yellow Dog Brewery, when the second course of Potato Corn Chowder found its way to the table. Made with milk from Birchwood Dairy and smoked bacon and ham al á Hopcott Farms, it was nice and light with a perfect saltiness. The I.P.A. proved to be a great companion to the buttery fat of the smoked pork.
Then, the deluge of edibles started to follow in sequential order, leaving our table and our bellies full of good eats. Mini Yorkshires with Shaved Roast Beef and Housemade Gravy, The Hopcott Platter, consisting of Meatballs, BBQ Beef Sliders, Smoked Gouda and Roast Beef Paninis and Turkey Havarti Sandwiches on Cranberry Bread comprised a huge third course. Bread Affair supplied all things dough and the product was excellent. Kale Salad and Wedge Fries cooked in Beef Tallow served as sides, and both were well made; in fact, the fries were a 10 out of 10. All of which went with a glass of Backyard Vineyards Pinot Gris. The sweet tooth fans would not be disappointed either, as Mini Milkshakes and Homemade Fudge made by Mrs. Hopcott rounded out our dining experience.
In speaking with Tal Pincott, one of the cattle ranchers whose family has supplied the Hopcott family with bovine since the mid 50's, I came to learn that their two respective families have a lineage going back to the same small town in England. The Pincott's bring the cattle down to the Hopcott's when they are about one year old and the Hopcott family does the rest. In hearing stories from members of both families, one got the sense that they really genuinely care about their product. The word 'traceability' was used a lot during the course of the evening and seemed to be a major factor in the way the farmers and ranchers alike do business. We heard from Bob Hopcott as well, the second generation proprietor who took over from his father when the time had come. Along with wife Debbie, they raised their kids into the biz and the pride of a family-run operation was apparent and moving.
In this world of mega facilities, growth hormones and GMO-plumped produce, it is essential that people like the Hopcott's and Pincott's stay the course of tradition. We, as consumers, need that attention to detail and the passion that comes from doing things the 'old school' way. In fact, many of us not only seek it out, we demand it. As our entourage of foodies clambered back onto the bus, goodie bags chock a block full of Mrs. Hopcott's Fudge and Yellow Dog Beer, there was an air of appreciation for the evening we had just collectively experienced. I love seeing good people doing good things and the Hopcott family embodies that statement. No part of the animal goes unused, there is accountability, there is traceability, and most importantly, there is mutual respect founded on an understanding that family comes first. For a business that has had its barn doors open since 1932, the old saying, "They just don't make em' like they used to", certainly holds true.