Vancouver Island is a truly special place. An amazing place I recommend you all to come to. One of the special gastronomic items is salmon. Real wild organic (um, it’s from the sea after all!) tasty salmon. What it’s all about. And on Hornby there is a guy who will smoke your salmon to the temperature you like. I called three days ago to ask if he had any cold-smoked and he said a batch was just going in the smoker, so it just be ready in time. Yup, a two to three day smoke! Maple and Alder smoked at 90F. And none of that farmed nasty stuff – this was wild, line caught, BC’s finest. Caught by the same guy who smoked it. I I can remember correctly I think he told me it was chum salmon caught near Sooke. Now I just have to pack it properly so that it makes it home fine.
Oh, and just to torture you, it was $15 a pound. You ain’t seeing those prices at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market! ;-)
So we all know about small wineries that start up by wine lovers wanting to put their stamp on the wine, and home brewers who expand and expand their production until they’ve built a small brewery and are making the rounds selling their brew. But small artisanal spirits makers are still fairly rare. Yes, we have a small distillery in the Bay Area on Alameda, and we have that vodka guy in Texas, but they’re still fairly rare.
So wasn’t it a fun surprise to see a small artisanal distillery on tiny little Hornby Island! We got a great tour today and got to do some tastings of their vodka and gin and other assorted spirits. Here’s a picture of their stills, which I was amazed fit into a really small space. One of the two partners is a retired organic chemist from UBC, so that explains the high-tech nature!
I’m a strong believer that all vodka is the same. It’s just distilled neutral spirits. Sure, if you did a tasting of them at room temperature, and really concentrated, then you may be able to discern a slight lemon quality in one, or a slightly heavier body in another. But certainly not worth paying the difference between 10 bucks for 1.75l vs 30 bucks for some marketing machine driven 750ml bottle. So I tasted their vodka and found it pleasant, but not worth the $50 a bottle their charging. But then there was their gin – a good quality gin, but way heavy on the aromatics. Still, I bought a couple to bring home and try again.
Now this was all legal and on the up and up (though they started as “home distillers”), and they make many hundreds of cases of booze a year, but it’s still a kitchy little operation, as evidenced by their name, and their packaging. I don’t mean to offend them, but wow, they needed a bit of help on branding!
All in all a nice visit to a small boutique distillery and a pleasant surprise while on vacation!
You know, we really are very privileged living where we do. And to have a Farm Box makes it the icing on the cake. I sort of fall into an obliviousness with this, and I get a rude awakening when I venture out of our veggie-shed.
Case in point:
On our way to Hornby, we caught the ferry from Vancouver to Vancouver Island, and stopped in Nanaimo for some food to bring to my mother in law’s. It was a fairly generic supermarket, which in my fairly snobby opinion is so depressing to me. Lots of images of farmers on the walls and messages of “thank your local farmer” and all that, all under bright flourescent lights. Rainbow grocery this wasn’t! I ended up in the butter section, and there was a whole section of the stuff. One organic kind at double the price of the others. I said sure, I’ll pay the difference, but then I looked carefully at where it was from, and can you believe it … it was from Quebec!! On the other side of the damn country!! Argh! I ain’t buying that. So I checked out the other 6 different kinds of butter, and they were all from the same damn Quebecois producer!! Ahhh, I had entered the seven circles of hell, and it was in a grocery store in Nanaimo, BC.
Be thankful for what you get in the Bay Area! And thank your (real!) local farmer. Um, that would be Andy and Stephen!
We’re on vacation up on beautiful Hornby Island in British Columbia visiting Melinda and The Gordo’s mom. Not much Farm Boxing up here, but not to say we’re not eating well! Here was the start of our dinner the last two nights … Fanny Bay oysters, from, um, Fanny Bay! Purchased from the source!
We got alot. A real lot! At six fifty a dozen (canuck bucks at that!) you can’t blame us for getting 5 dozen. Though they were a bit big so we ended up grilling them …
We’ll try to post some updates as I can, but suffice to say, the blog will return in full force next week.
It’s been miserable cold in San Francisco the last week or so. Like winter temperature cold. Brrr. So it was a shock to get the first of this season’s tomatoes in the Farm Box this week! I guess it really is warm down on the Farm.
Well, on Wednesday night in preparation for our friend Richard’s visit on Thursday, I started a braise of some Marin Sun Farm beef short ribs. Started by getting them nice and brown in the pan …
… then removing them and sweating down some aromatics in the same pan …
… then let them cook at low heat for three hours with some beef stock and a bottle of red wine. I let it cool and refrigerated and rewarmed for dinner. Braises are always better the next day! Oh, and I whizzed up the sauce along with the now very soft carrots and onions in the blender. This made for a nice thick rich sauce. Yumm.
We had some nice brown basmati too, and some of the last of the share’s worth of carrots.
I was most interested in tucking in to those tomatoes! I macerated some farm-box onions in balsamic, then tossed them together with chopped basil from the garden, some calamata olives, and some feta. Topped with good salt and excellent olive oil, and it was the first true taste of summer!
Our fridge is Empty. Devoid of any and all veggies. Thank goodness more reinforcements are coming. Here’s what’s waiting at home!
- Zucchini Squash OR Desiree Potatoes
- Green Cabbage, Romanesco OR Broccoli
- Chantenay Carrots
- Sweet Corn OR Cucumbers
- Onions (likely Walla Walla)
- Tomatoes (Heirloom, Green Zebra, OR Monica – a red roma type)
So what’s the plan?
Hmm, the tomatoes and onions and some of the leftover (or new if we get ‘em) cucs will make a nice greek salad with a few olives and some feta on top.
Sweet corn will be simply boiled and allowed to transport me to summer on the east coast!
I hope it’s potatoes over squash. Then it would be a potato salad with slaw from the cabbage for a weekend grilling session.
If it’s Romanesco, I’m going to steam it whole, plop some butter and good salt on it, and bring it out to the table for carving – the kids love that, as they call it “crazy broccoli”
Carrots have been so good lately, haven’t they? A few will go in the slaw, the rest possibly grilled and combined with the corn maybe as a warm side salad.
What are you going to do with your box?
Catching up a bit on Farm Box posts. Well, we haven’t had much chance to get through our veggies! Alexis had 3 sleepovers in a row, so that meant fairly easy tasty food that a slew of 8 year olds would like! Made some frikadeller, some simple roasted veggies, salads, that sort of thing. Sorry, no pics – was too busy making sure they weren’t destroying the house!
Saturday night Alexis was away for her third sleepover so Melinda, Yvette and The Gordo took the opportunity to head out for a night on the town, which included a visit to the new Hogs and Rocks in the Mission. Well recommended, especially for the artisanal American ham. Yum.
Yesterday we had Michael and Patricia and their adorable daughter Ruby over for an afternoon brewing session which continued on to dinner with Yvette and The Gordo.
Here’s a shot over Michaels shoulder as he is stirring the mash, just as the hot water went in. We made a Steam beer, not too dissimilar from an Anchor Steam style, in the keep-it-local theme. Oh, and it doesn’t get more local than the hops we used, which were from Michael’s front yard!
There was an intriguing recipe for cold borscht in the NY Times magazine this weekend. It was part of a fabulous article about a 14 year old girl who asked her father to use 1/2 an acre of their yard to grow veggies, and she started a CSA for the summer! Awesome, eh?
I started with slicing (Continue Reading…)
We got our box last night. Pretty nice looking, eh? Turnips, beets, and onions at 7 o’clock. Cucs for pickling at 10 o’clock. Spring onions half hidden there at 11. There is a romaine head evident, but there is also a read leaf butter lettuce that was amazingly heavy – I’d hate to buy that at the store. it had to have been a pound! Then there is parsley root at 6, and then those lovely strawberries!
Alexis had a friend over tonight from camp/soccer, so I pulled out a half Marin Sun Farms chicken out and got it brining all day. Okay, I know, I know, never leave the grill unattended. I’ve been “taught” this lesson soooo many times. Well, I got taught it again. Yikes!
Well, it turned out not too bad in the end – Melinda loves the burnt bits so she took those off, I portioned it up and laid it all on a bed of sauteed beet and turnip greens. Gotta say, those greens were the best part of the meal!
I had an abundance of beets, and a shortage of time, so they got boiled, de-skinned and a quick white wine vinegar pickling and a bit of olive oil.
There were also a ton of pickling cucs in the fridge, so they got a similar treatment. Got some plain white vinegar hot with some sugar in a pan and chucked in the cucs. The heat softened them a bit and let the vinegar in. Crispy, but yummy.
Had some brown rice and caesar too. A nice healthy meal, I’d say. Quick, simple, and tasty! After all, the girls weren’t interested in eating - they were having a sleepover!
We got invited up to Tahoe for the weekend to our friends’ Sean and Claudine’s house. Lots of pool/beach time, MTB time (Flume and Tahoe Rim trails – yumm!), water skiing time, and cooking! Claudine recently finished intensive cooking school and an externship at Boulette’s and is really a fabulous cook. I brought up our CSA veggies, and some Marin Sun Farms pork and we had a great time cooking together.
For Saturday night, we started with a cold green tomato soup that Claudine made, topped with some roasted nuts (sorry, no pic). It was so nice to sit outside eating this – I heard it was cold in San Francisco!
I cut up three big fennel bulbs and caramelized them in butter.
A great base for the chicken that Claudine had brined up, which we put on the grill.
I grilled up some carrots, some onions …
… and a couple ears of corn …
… and mixed it together as a warm salad, topped with some garlicky tahini sauce that Claudine made. Damn fine, that was.
Then we had a salad too, with some cherry tomatoes …
… with some lettuce, some onions macerated in vinegar, and some basil.
For dessert, Claudine went all out with some ice cream sandwiches. Some homemade ice cream sandwiched between two homemade ginger cookies – awesome!