Liquids & Solids
What is Slow Food?
(It’s not about braising.)
People often ask me if Slow Food means slow cooking, crock pot classics and braised meats. While many on the West Coast subscribe to a "Slow Food"-inspired lifestyle, many people don’t know that this way of consuming what is good, clean and fair emerged thanks to the Slow Food movement in Italy, and operates as a global network of non-profit organisations celebrating 25 years of fighting for the little guy: the farmer, the fisher, the food consumer.
In Canada, Slow Food arrived 15 years ago in Montreal first, and then on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands thanks to a handful of committed chefs, farmers and restaurateurs who recognised a troubling shift in the way we were feeding ourselves. Slow Food presented an alternative, a return to a localised food system that nurtured the people, the land and the waters that produced the food. It reminded us that the pleasures of the table are important, and that shared meals of garden goodness are vital to a good life.
Today, Slow Food advocates for a clean and fair food system in over 170 countries. In Canada, we are a volunteer organisation stretching from coast to coast, with members involved in every link of the food chain. Slow Food Edmonton’s Kevin Kossowan was tasked with capturing the diversity of the movement for the short film, What is Slow Food in Canada? In his trademark vibrant style, Kossowan’s camera takes us on a cross-country culinary journey to Vancouver Island, the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys, central Alberta, Montreal, Vallée de la Batiscan, Lanaudière, Cocagne in New Brunswick, Toronto, Tatamagouche in Nova Scotia, and more.
As Story Chaser, Kossowan also chronicles his adventures hunting food for his family in his series, From the Wild. His cinematography is stunningly textural and nuanced, making one instantly proud to live in such a ruggedly beautiful country.
In collaboration with Knifewear, Canada’s preeminent knife supplier for chefs, Kossowan is also the man behind the lens and music score for the two-part documentary Springhammer, about Japanese blacksmiths whose lives are dedicated to crafting culinary knives, drawing on their traditional sword making techniques.
Exemplifying all things Slow Food, Kossowan has helped create a thriving urban farm, Lactuca, minutes from downtown Edmonton and a food preservation educational outreach club called Shovel and Fork, with Slow Food Edmonton convivium leader, Chad Moss.
After visiting conviviums from coast to coast, Kossowan describes what Slow Food in Canada is, “It’s a force, like an oversized kid that doesn’t know its own strength. As an aggregate, the projects the people on the ground are having across the country are dramatically changing the face of good, clean, and fair food… showing me the best of our country through the lens of Slow Food.”
Links to Kevin Kossowan’s projects:
From the Wild: http://storychaser.ca/?page_id=24
I love my friends. I highly respect Chefs. And I love having friends that are highly respected Chefs. So, about whom am I speaking? None other than Damon Campbell, the Executive Chef Shangri-La Toronto's flagship restaurant, Bosk. Now, I have known Damon for going on twenty years, I have watched his star rise, but have also been privy to some of the stories of common struggle that either make or break many of the world's great Chefs. It can be a very demanding job, often times thankless, and the hours are long. Yet, in the chosen few, a fire burns in the belly, a longing to explore and create drives them and keeps the daunting apsects at bay.
One of my favourite meals was compliments of Damon when he worked at Diva at the Met here in Vancouver. It was a wonderfully prepared chicken dish that had been smoked with Earl Grey tea; in fact, it inspired the way I make my poultry brine, but that's a different article for another day. Before landing at Diva at the Met, Damon gained valuable experience and education at the famed French Laundry in Napa Valley. Under culinary guru, Thomas Keller, Damon worked those tireless hours that come with the territory, and it bettered him and his understanding of the realities of the industry. I remember bragging to friends, while living vicariously through Damon, that I had a buddy working at one of the world's best restaurants.
It is easy to lose passion for something you love. I have experienced it with music. One day it's all you think about. The next, the mere thought of it twists your gut into knots. Is it fear of failure or fear of success? Either way, for those with the drive to fight back, be tenacious, and face their inner demons, the reward of staying the course is ten fold. Damon faced those pointy horned little monsters, and not only reinvigorated his love for the cooking, he ignited a passion that has made him one of the most prolific Chefs on the planet.
An opportunity to travel to Asia and work at Shangri-la Kuala Lumpur came to light and Damon seized the chance. After years of paying dues, honing a new skill set, and adopting a palette for regional flavours, Chef Damon Campbell was truly born. His hard work did not go unnoticed and the universe rewarded him with the top position at Shangri-la Toronto and Bosk Restaurant. A beautifully designed room on the lobby level of Toronto's Shangri-La Hotel, the environment and the clientele are both conducive to excellence.
My dear friend and very accomplished writer, Karen Bliss, is a mega foodie and my T.O. tour guide whenever I am in town. On this particular occasion, though, I had the pleasure of introducing her to Chef Campbell's wizardry, through the guise of a four course lunch. Before I break down the menu, allow me to say this: the staff were awesome and very genuine. Often in fine dining the atmosphere can take precedent over personality; a balance between the two is a nice chord to strike. At Bosk, they have mastered it.
When Damon came out from the kitchen to greet us, it garnered some attention, and I can't lie, I felt kind of special. We chatted for a few minutes; he suggested some nice wine to pair alongside the meal, and double checked if there were any allergy concerns or non desired items. Once we gave the go ahead I could see the wheels start to turn in Chef's head. I know that look and I was excited for what was to follow.
The first course of Seared Diver Scallops with Pickled Hon-shimigi Mushrooms and Avacado with Crispy Rice was a perfect start. Cooked to perfection, the scallops' buttery texture were complimented by the crunch of the rice, and the pickled mushrooms added salinity and a wonderful earthiness, plus the character of the vinegar brightened the dish superbly. Next up, Butter Poached Lobster with Truffled Potato Gnocchi and Tomato Concasse. Chef Campbell has taken great advantage of his proximity to the Eastern Seaboard and because of this, the lobster he orders is bar none, hands down: Incomparable. One tail and one claw each had our mouths watering. The house made gnocchi was fluffy yet substantial, and the concasse added a nice burst of acidity and colour. After the second course, we switched to red wine, and took a moment to reset our taste buds.
When the Cumbrae Beef Rib-Eye and Shortrib with Roasted Shallots and Parsnips arrived on a bed of Kale covered in jus, I think my cutlery jumped into my hands and started naviagting the dish before Chef could explain the ingredients. My knife and fork literally animated themselves. Damon stated that the Cumbrae ( pronounced KOOM-BRAY ) Beef was the best he had seen, touting it over even Wagyu or Kobe. From the first bite I instantly agreed. In fact, if no one had been watching and we weren't in such a respectable establishment, I would have freed myself of all utensils and gone in with my bare hands. The beef was rich, succulent, and perfectly portioned. The roast veg still had that crunch one looks for when paired with a buttery cut of meat and, well, who doesn't love jus?
I lost my sweet tooth years ago, but when the fourth and, regrettably final course came, I seemed to find it again, and this time it came back with a vengeance. A share plate of Coconut Sorbet with a Mango and Passion Fruit Panacotta on Shortbread, White Chocolate Struesel, Poached Pear with Hazelnut Caramel Cake and, a Ginger Molasses Crumble with Pear Sorbet, was stunning. Karen and I looked at each other, looked at the plate, I looked at our server, asked for a double espresso, then my dear friend and I went to town on the desserts. Not sure how we did it but I don't think there was a crumb left.
After a few minutes slumped back in our chairs, hand over our bellies, eyes bigger than our stomachs, Karen and I settled up our bill and thanked our server profusely. Chef Campbell came out to wish us farewell and even walked us to the door. Karen had to run to another appointment which gave Damon and I a few minutes to catch up. As we stood in the rain, we laughed how it reminded us of a Vancouver day. We talked about our roots and how we were both thankful to be where we were at in life, and then, like good bro's do, we hugged it out. As I ambled out into the Toronto streets with a belly full of good food and a head full of good memories, I was reminded how much I respect chefs, how much I love my friends, and how much I love having friends that are respected Chefs.
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.
"Come quickly I'm drinking the stars", Dom Perignon supposedly called out to his fellow monks after "inventing" Champagne. While the quote has been erroneously accredited to him, it does hold wonderment. Champagne is one of those wines that immediately engages your senses.
Just looking at a glass filled with that creamy, golden liquid makes you forget all woes and brightens your mood.
Playful bubbles dance across you palate, you feel every single one. Thoughts of yeast and freshly baked biscuits come to mind, dried apricots, green apples and even marmalade. Before you know what's happened it's time for another glass.
Nothing says celebration like that unmistakable "pop" of Champagne being opened. It's just glorious!
Sadly, there is a dark side to this wonderful creation. I meet people time and time again that tell me they don't like Champagne! I stare aghast, resisting the urge to slap them across the face, restraining myself in the knowledge that it's their fault. They've been led astray. The Devil's greatest con was convincing mankind he didn't exist.
The biggest con in the Champagne market is "big brand" Champagne convincing you you're drinking quality product. You know the ones, the oh-so-recognizable orange label that sits on everyone's wine list. The ones that all seemed to be marked down in price at Christmas time. All you're are doing when you buy a bottle of this pedestrian Champagne, is paying for their expensive advertising campaigns. In my opinion, the quality has dropped off so drastically over the last ten years they no longer represent their purpose.
A bottle of Champagne should be special, used to celebrate a wondrous achievement or to be thoroughly enjoyed with great friends.
Join me in my effort to support Grower Champagne.
Grower Champagnes are sparkling wines made in the Champagne region of France that are produced by the same estate that owns the vineyards from which the grapes come. While large Champagne houses use grapes sourced from as many as 80 different vineyards, Grower Champagnes are more terroir focused, being sourced from single or closely located vineyards around a village.
A Grower Champagne can be identified by the initials RM (meaning Récoltant-Manipulant) on the wine label.
Grower Champagnes have been described as "artisanal winemaking" with terroir being the focus for each wine, rather than an emphasis on a consistent "house style" that can be made year after year. While large Champagne houses, such as Moët et Chandon may source grapes from the entire Champagne region, the vineyards owned by a Grower Champagne maker are generally clustered around a single village.
To me these grower champagnes offer a unique expression of their terroir and provide more character and interest than your standard, mass-produced brand Champagne. In a day where we shy away from mass– produced foods and are opting for the organics, locally grown and sustainable options, why wouldn't we want the same for our Champagne?
Help me start a revolution against what I like to call, "corporate champagnes" and really experience what all the fizz is about!
Champagne is expensive, so why waste your money of mass-produced rubbish when could be tasting the stars for basically the same cost!
Just to give you an idea, take a look at the annual production figures from some of the big houses.
Moet & Chandon – 26 million bottles, Veuve Clicquot – 10 million bottles, Laurent Perrier – 7 million bottles, Piper Heidsieck – 5 million bottles. Surely this quantity can't equate quality?
Look out for some of my favorites next time you're in need of something special:
Champagne Vilmart (110,000 bottles)
Herni Billiot Fils (45,000 bottles)
Pierre Gimonnet (70,000 bottles)
Larmandier-Bernier (130,000 bottles)
Recently I had the privilege to taste a range absolutely stunning wines from Champagne Devaux.
I don't need to be sold on Champagne, I love it already, but to taste something this elegant, reaffirms the majesty that is Champagne!
I tasted through the range that will be hitting the Vancouver market shortly with my good friend Stephanie Power who is the portfolio consultant for Evolution Fine Wines. I love tasting with Stephanie. I have a great palate but Stephanie's is phenomenal! I've always said, women do seem to be better tasters.
Just when I've think I've picked out all the flavors that could possibly be in a wine, Stephanie adds at least five more that takes you on a completely different flavor profile. It's so much fun and we can spend hours discussing the intricacies of a wine.
Champagne Devaux, founded in 1846 is one of the oldest houses in Cote des Bar and produces some of the best pinot noir in the whole appellation. I think this is why I enjoyed their Blanc de Noirs so much.
Made from 100% pinot noir, this was just so approachable and an absolute pleasure to taste. So much complexity on the nose but it didn't make you work too hard for it. This wine was willing give up all everything as if to say, "here I am, love me" and I did! Plum, pear, dried apricot, roasted apple and even tobacco.
The palate was even better;now there is yeast and biscuits. All these flavors together combine so well. To me this is what champagne is all about. The best thing about this wine has to be the mousse (the bubbles), so soft and seductive, every individual bubble caressing the palate and each one holding a different flavor. Heaven!
Joe Leary and Photographer Charles Zuckerman present ‘Startenders’; a PrevailPrevail.com exclusive. ‘Startenders’ features Vancouver's next generation of talented star bartenders; each one provided with a spirit from the Corby portfolio as selected by Absolut Brand Ambassador Jacob Sweetapple to challenge and inspire the bartenders to create an amazing original cocktail. Cheers!
Having only spent about three years thus far in the Vancouver bartending scene, Matt Cooke admits to a rather abrupt departure from his initial career path.
“Actually my background is Chemical Engineering,” he says.
“I left that about three and a half years ago and started working at Rogue on Broadway; opening that place as a bartender in 2012 and being a working bartender there; pouring beer and learning the ropes and meeting people through the industry there I eventually got hired on at Tableau Bar and Bistro”.
That would take him through the next year and change before a switch to Odd Society Spirits; setting up their tasting room before taking over as Bar Manager at Homer Street Café.
These days you can find Matt creating his fanciful cocktails as Bar Manager at the newly-opened Ancora Waterfront Dining & Patio.
“I’m trying to incorporate flavours that are coming out the kitchen into the bar program; and being inspired by what they’re doing in the kitchen; certainly some Asian influence, and a lot of Peruvian flavours and spices and peppers, all the while encapsulating the West Coast as well.
Armed with a bottle of Havana Club 7 Year Rum, Matt Cooke presented us with the Chicha Libre.
Rapid Fire with Matt Cooke
Favourite alcoholic beverage:
Well made dark spirits: Ron Millonario XO from Peru, El Tesoro Reposado tequila, Laphroaig Quarter Cask, and my bottle of 1983 Chateau de Laubade armagnac. A small pour of a nice amaro or grappa after dinner is also one of my favourite things.
Some of the hot spots you like to frequent:
I wouldn't say I'm a frequenter of any establishments around town; there are too many places on my 'must try' list. That being said, some of my recent favourites include: AnnaLena, La Quercia, and The Mackenzie Room. On my 'must try' are Mission Kits, Torafuku and Bodega on Main.
Biggest tip you ever received:
Don't go into retail. And while not the biggest monetarily, I once got a 1429% tip on a beer (that's $100 on a $7 bill).
Must have garnishes behind the bar:
While not a traditional garnish, an eye dropper bottle of Angostura bitters for our Pisco Sours at Ancora, it makes for beautiful designs in the frothy top of the drink. Otherwise I'm a traditionalist: lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruit for zesting, pimento stuffed olives, pickled onions, and good quality brandied cherries. We're currently developing a house Caesar recipe, which will be adorned with some sort of seafood…. stay tuned!
Difficult spirit to 'cocktail up':
Vodka is a challenge in the sense that to highlight the spirit the other ingredients need to be subtle. Vodka can easily be overwhelmed by other flavours, but there are some great vodkas in the market that deserve to be the showcase, finding that balance is key.
What's the easiest?
I like working with tequila; it can be subbed into classics that use whisky, gin, or rum and will bring a unique twist. Guests are often timid to try tequila cocktails as well, so impressing them with a well made agave beverage is always rewarding.
Will craft beer cocktails become a big deal:
I don't think so, not to say they don't have a place, but they'll never be what a well made Old Fashioned or Negroni is. However, I do think that beer-forward establishments can get away with cleverly made beer cocktails that offer a twist to their usual menu offerings while staying on theme. Cocktail bars utilizing the bitter, dry, malty, or fruity character of a beer in a cocktail is smart as well – but in this sense only an ounce or less is needed and therefore doesn't really constitute a 'beer cocktail'. I prefer my pint unadorned by the extra booze.
Who influenced you early on as a bartender:
Initially, my parents. My sister's and I were trained early on how to make a great margarita, and I knew how to make a proper martini before I graduated high school! But what really got me excited about what was happening in Vancouver was David Wolowidnyks win as Bombay Sapphire's Most Imaginative Bartender back in 2012. I had just joined the bartending community and was having fun experimenting with Lillet and flavoured vodkas. His win opened my eyes to what was happening in Vancouver and made me want to be a part of it. Shout outs also to Kevin Brownlee for teaching me to properly cut lemon wedges, and JS Dupuis for encouraging me to shake harder.
*chicha morada: In a large pot, add 4L water, 15oz dried purple corn, 1 cinnamon stick, 1tsp whole cloves, and the core and skin of one pineapple. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 45 minutes. Remove from heat, cool, strain, and store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
**demerara syrup: Add 2 cups demerara sugar to 1 cup of hot water. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Cool, store in the fridge.
All Photos by Charles Zuckermann