Friday, November 14, 2014

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Latest from the Clipping Service

The New York Times...I just can't help myself. I mean to check the food columns of the other on line papers, but never do.

1. Ribs Without Smoke. Who is rocking the barbecue in the Okanagan? I really am asking...anyone? There was a mobile barbecue situation in Oliver last summer; they were set up on the front lawn of a motel south of town on the west side of Highway 97. Anyone remember? Hopefully they will be back.

What I love most about barbecue is the comparatively low cost of equipment and the regional variety--North Carolina versus South Carolina versus Texas, etc... Has anyone definitively defined Okanagan Barbecue? What can the Okanagan do with a 50 gallon drum cut in half, a bunch of fruit wood and some Okanagan Beef or Lamb? (I wish I could say Okanagan Pork, but alas...) Or is Okanagan Barbecue about venison? There's plenty of them around. Or maybe it's salmon. What's your vision of Okanagan Barbecue?

2. Slaughterhouse Shortage Stunting Area's Eat Local Movement. Ooof! Should the Petaluma plant close, there will no longer be any truly local beef, veal, lamb or pork for the bay area. Sure, it will be grown there, but it will have to take at least 2 longer than usual car rides to get from farm to market. Meanwhile, gas isn't getting any cheaper, and yet essential agricultural utilities, namely abattoirs are fewer and fewer in number and are getting further and further away from population centres. Isn't that awkward.

3. Chef Julien Fouin, the Parisian Wizard of Offal. Speaking of abattoirs, for local food to work, (and by "food" I mean beef, pork, lamb, goat and fowl--animals that can be, and for the most part are raised in the Okanagan) there must be whole carcass utlilization. Eat your liver! I am digging this new trend to "eat those cuts that barely got us through the depression" as my mom likes to say. I'm happy to shake pom-poms any time someone comes out rocking the offal.

4. A Mafia Boss Breaks A Code Telling All: A Mafia boss and..."onetime restaurateur, catering consultant and coffee truck owner." Apparently walk-in refrigerators are a great place to go when you're trying to avoid electronic eavesdropping. Did you know?

Ok, so that's the Times. Who out there is scanning the Vancouver Sun? The LA Times? The UK Guardian? Many hands make...quick reading?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Greening the Restaurant Industry: Deep Fat Fryers + Free Market Capitalism = Clogged Toilets

Somewhere Adam Smith is having a hard time finding a working toilet and he doesn't know why.

Could it be fryer grease from the restaurants in free market heaven is clogging the sewers?

If you can believe anything you read in the news, that seems to be the case in heavenly Richmond, BC. Here's the headline:

Restaurant grease buildup costly to Richmond

How costly?
The City of Richmond has been handed a $480,000 repair bill — one of the biggest to be borne in Metro Vancouver — this week to fix a sewer main that ruptured after being clogged with grease.
and later on
Metro Vancouver — along with local municipalities — already spends up $2 million each year to clean up clogged and backed-up sewer pipes.
and lastly
It's estimated it will cost Metro Vancouver $1 million per kilometre to rehabilitate this sewer, and it will take 10 to 12 years to complete the work.
Paragraph two makes it clear:
The city suspects restaurants were responsible for the grease buildup
Wow! Richmond, a true rising star in BC's food culture, is destroying the civic infrastructure with old grease.

While the economic (let alone the ecological) toll of broken sewers is all kinds of fun to think about, even more fun is reflecting on the broken broke-ass broken-ness of our economy. What is it about free market capitalism as practised in British Columbia that some entrepreneur, multi-national fuel conglomerate or government agency isn't collecting all this grease (before it hits the sewers) and turning it into a magical liquid that can fuel engines?

What's crazier still is that converting fryer grease into bio-diesel is not a new science. "The history of bio-diesel began in 1880..."

Here's where a little centralisation can come in handy.

Let's take all the above costs and, simply for the sake of argument, call that number (ha!) One Million Dollars. Sure, the total costs will probably run somewhere in the tens to hundreds of millions, as initial estimates for large scale projects sometimes don't reflect reality--but for now, let's pretend a million bucks appeared like Manna from heaven, ear marked for a bio-diesel project, despite the anti-incentives like ending tax-exemption for bio-diesel in 2009.

With $1,000,000 could "we"

1. Train restaurant employees to collect fryer grease, an not pour it down the drain?

(This is perhaps the largest hurdle facing bio-diesel production from fryer grease)

2. Collect the bio fryer grease/transport to refinery?

3. Refine this grease and use it to run vehicles?

4. Donate surplus bio-diesel, as the ultimate profit is realised by the reduced stress the grease places on the sewer system--an ultimately unknown number that is larger than any of us realise.

It's like traditional Chinese medicine--you pay the doctor to keep you well, to maintain the body--the doctor doesn't get paid when you're sick.

"We" should be paying to keep the sewers free of fryer grease to avoid the much more costly repairs. When grease is kept out of the sewers, it can be refined, re-used and monitized. When it is thrown down the sewer, it becomes a gigantic tax-suck and eco-disaster.

Back to market centralisation, could the restaurants in the Okanagan collect their own fryer-grease and some how monitize it for the benefit of the restaurants in the Okanagan? Wouldn't that be a fun emoticon-insignia to put on your menu? How long before everyone wants a "We belong to the Okanagan Fry Grease Refinery Society because that's just how hip and evolved the restaurant culture is in the Okanagan" emoticon next to their deep fried offerings! Can stickers for the window be far behind?

Even if all that theoretical Okanagan bio-diesel was given away, don't you think it could be a wildly huge marketing coup for the region and its restaurants?

I wonder if the new prison will make bio diesel from their fryer grease?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Something I Learned Today

Bet you didn't know and the New York Times had something in common. Don't worry, they don't have that much in common, but they both have been running stories about local farmers taking local shit kickings in their local region by the locals.

Let's start with the New York Times, shall we? The headline is

Local, Organic Milk: Nice Idea, but Try Making a Profit

Did you get that? If you didn't, the article goes on to say

“Our boat is made of duct tape and we’ve almost sunk a few times, but we’re paddling along,” said Mr. Bell, 33.

MOO Milk’s journey is a cautionary tale: true grit, a laudable philosophy and a hot trend aren’t enough to create a viable business.

“There are folks who support what we do, but there’s not enough of them up here,” said David Bright, a former newspaper reporter and the organization’s treasurer. “So far, I haven’t been able to find 6,000 people who will buy a gallon of our milk each week.”

Now lets just pause for a moment and think about dairies. Yes, dairies produce milk, and in the case of MOO Milk, they provide the most exciting milk imaginable--the very frightening "whole milk" which despite having nourished people all over the globe for thousands of years and despite being the ingredient for serious cheese makers making serious cheese, we are blessed with a government (of the people, by the people for the people) gracious enough to step in and protect us from the dangers of this scary, scary product.

Dairies also produce something else. Can you guess what? Think chocolate milk...have you figured it out yet? YES! Manure! Thousands of metric tons of manure!

Now, imagine you live in an agricultural region with lots of land--land enough for several dairies. Imagine there are vineyards and orchards all around--plants that contribute substantially to the economy of this hypothetical agricultural region.

If it were up to you and you could choose one and only one, would you choose a dairy that makes manure to nourish all the plants (and the occasional bit of milk for those brave enough to drink it) or would you chose...a prison? (Don't get me wrong, prisons are hot right now--especially those fine fine Canadian built ones.)

Speaking of prisons, has also been writing about agriculture, particularly the joys of growing the beloved apple.

It's hard to say which article was more the rib tickler. Here are your choices:

1. Apple Prices

Prices are starting to come in for the 2010 apple crop and growers are appalled. For the third year in a row, prices have hit rock bottom. Growers say it is a crisis that could lead to the end of the Okanagan apple industry and could force growers to abandon their orchards altogether.

or is it

2. Apple Month Comes to a Close

“A year ago at this time, Okanagan orchardists were bleeding red ink because the cost of production outstripped the price of apples. Government was urged to help, but nothing of substance ever materialized.

Now, the situation is even more critical as the cost of growing apples is almost double what farmers pocket (22 cents compared to 12.6 cents a pound).

With little capital readily at hand, it may be difficult for some growers to prepare this year’s crop. Some may just pull out their trees and walk away.

Vote for your favourite in the comments section!!!

Makes me want to demand Okanagan apple pie and home made Okanagan apple cider vinegar every time I visit a restaurant in the Okanagan that builds their marketing identity around their "support of local growers" and "use of locally grown product."

Home made vinegar as value add from a local product that no one wants to buy? Crazy, I know...

Lastly, to make the voyage complete, we return to the New York Times with their coverage of "young" people getting into farming, be they underemployed "spikey haired" Japanese janitors, be they Uncle Sam's Misguided Children back from their peace keeping missions in other lands where the people can't manage to govern themselves to Western standards or Corporate Soldiers tired of slogging through the financial killing fields where the real wars are waged.

Farming. Who knew?


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Gate and Plate

This is interesting...from the blog Honest Meat:
Likewise, another key issue in why restaurants aren't supporting their local meat producers more significantly is the disconnect between what they are looking for and what producers want. I can't sell a 50lb box of fresh pork tenderloin every week, but I can sell them a couple whole hogs each month. But restaurants often don't have the space to break down whole animals, the skills, or they don't know how to properly menu all the different cuts of the animal.
How about the Okanagan? Well, here's a random list of some of the restaurants in the Okanagan. It is by no means a complete list, but it is a list--a starting point:

Bouchons Bistro
Black Iron Grill and Steakhouse
19 Steakhouse and Lounge
Hooded Merganser
Sals Prime Steakhouse
Grapevines (Gray Monk)
The Vanilla Pod
Hanna's Lounge & Grill
Minstrel Cafe
Old Vines (Quails Gate)
Barrell Room Bistro (Hillside)
Sonora Room (Burrowing Owl)

One afternoon, I went to each restaurant's web site, opened their PDF menu and looked at which cuts of beef were on the menu. PDF 4th quarter 2010 beef menu items of the Okanagan in descending order:

Rib Eye

Short Rib
Strip Loin
Flat Iron

And here are some cuts of beef that are not on any PDF menu in the Okanagan

Inside Top Round
Sirloin Tip
Flank Steak
Tri Tip
Eye of Round
Outside Round

Someone has to buy and do with these if there is going to be local beef. C'mon...flank steak hard is that? Tri Tips? What's wrong with those? Grind some burger with Outside Round and some fat of your choosing? Staff lunch?

Speaking of local beef, I had the occasion to go to a cattle sale in Kamloops today. If you've never gone to one, you really should--especially if you live in the Okanagan. There's one in OK Falls if you don't want to schlep all the way to Kamloops. I also prefer the hamburgers at the OK Falls sale over the Beef-On-A-Bun. But that's just me.

I didn't watch ever single second of the auction...just a few hours worth. Listening to the auctioneer's "chant" got psychedelic after a while. I was told that some calves in the 600-700 pound range were getting about $1.30 a pound. That's beween $780 and $910 a calf.

I don't remember a single bred heifer or steer that fetched over $1.00 a pound. Most of them hovered around $0.75 and $0.60. It also seemed like the heavier (and often the older) the animal, the less it was worth per pound. 1200lbs of cattle at $0.75 = $900. a 700 pound calf at $1.30 a pound, feed it for two or three years and say you sell it at 1200 pounds at $0.75 a pound for $900. That's a whopping -$10.00 in profit (provided you don't count the cost of feed, or labor caring for the animal). Do I have that right?

Restaurants: How would you feel if a customer came in, stayed there for 3 years, gained 500 lbs and during that time, that three year period, went to the bathroom randomly throughout the restaurant (again, for three years) and left -$10.00 to cover the bill?

Farmers deserve better!

Friday, January 14, 2011


I want to send a shout out to all you home bakers out there. I have recently read this book cover to cover and have to share with you all. I am a bread enthusiast, and much like the author of this book I have been dreaming of creating the perfect loaf of bread for most of my career. This author takes you on his journey of finding the "perfect loaf." Although there are many good recipe books out there, this one has brought me the closest yet to my "perfect loaf" after just three rounds in the oven with their formula.

The Basic Country Loaf formula has dramatic shape, the crust is strong and has the perfect crunch. The crumb is airy and open. This book is a great referrence for professional chefs looking to understand bread better and take their breadmaking skill to the next level. The great thing about it though is the book was written and photographed in a way that even a novice can have great success. The recipes in the book are unique, and along with several bread formulas, the author has also included great ways to use "days old" bead too.

Here are some pics from my first loaves. Happy Cooking!!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Is This Thing Even On?

Sure does quiet down in the winter here in the Okanagan...It's a real on-or-off proposition. I guess that's what "seasonal" means. Not that I'm complaining, because really, what better time than quiet time to go to Vancouver for some noise time?

Among the many reasons why Vancouver can be disorienting is the steady stream of "action" all year round. Just the other week I stood in the doorway and waited for a half hour for a table at Green Lettuce. (Could you imagine doing that in Penticton at this time of year?) It was worth the wait. Indian and Chinese cuisine is a fine fusion. I had read about it at the totally awesome (not to be confused with Chowhound).

Chowtimes is also where I read about the very excellent Koon Bo. I had attempted and failed to eat there in an earlier trip. This time we made it.

The food was great...completely solid. If you like Chinese food, this is the place for you. But as great as the food was (and obviously I'm not doing the smoked black cod, salt and pepper spare ribs or the scallops with Chinese broccoli justice) the experience is what stands out.

The restaurant was completely filled. Every single table taken. Most the tables were parties of 10 or more. The smallest tables were tables of 4. I was at one of them, 4 other western people were at the other. This isn't judgement, but fact. It was also interesting to see that these tables of 12 to 16 people were multi generational, with an 80 year spread from youngest to oldest. 4 generations?

While I don't speak Chinese and couldn't tell what everyone was saying, it seemed to be a convivial atmosphere. Lots of talking. Relaxed, but very civilised. Friendly, but not meddlesome. And lots of food. The family next to us (a family of eleven) showed us their banquet menu (in Chinese) and explained his personal embellishments--like live fish to be presented before cooking and butchered in the kitchen.

I can't remember the last time I had that kind of experience at a restaurant.

The winter is also a good time to do some reading. Catch up on the food columns.

Sometimes the New York Times gets it horribly, horribly wrong. Sometimes, however, the New York Times gets it perfectly right.

So do click anywhere on this sentence to read this article about blood and blood sausage--and do so if only for the picture.

But if you're too lazy to do even that, here's a fun quote:
But in American kitchens, blood is the final frontier of the nose-to-tail movement. “It’s 7 percent of the animal down the drain,” said Brad Farmerie, who has taught blood sausage workshops to fellow chefs in New York.
7 percent of the animal...can you dig it? What's 7% of 1200lb Angus? That's right, 84 lbs. Divide that by 2.315 pounds per litre and you get 36.285097192 litres of blood. Divide that by 3.78541178 litres per gallon and what do you get? 9.585508605 gallons of blood! (Did I get that right?)

Just about two 5 gallon buckets. That's a lot of kishka! Or a big meal for the Masai! Or the hot new thing in the Okanagan? Masai inspired cow blood served table side.

You heard it here first!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Guerrilla Tactics

As with many of us who live in the South Okanagan, come October we all suffer the seasonal layoff. It comes with mixed feelings and emotions. On one hand, the long grind of the summer makes us beg for some serious time off in order to regroup. On the other hand, we must take jobs that we don't want, leave town to find other work or claim E.I. for a percentage of what we earned in the summer.

This is not an industry specific layoff either. Everyone in this part of the valley seems to go into hibernation mode. The businesses and streets seem bare on most days of the week, with everyone grasping with white knuckles the last of their summer savings. This, as far as I can tell, is in part the fault of the community itself. We have bought into the rules that the banks, corporations and in turn the government have imposed on the people. Why is it that we as a community can not start exchanging goods and services amongst ourselves?

Some people believe that we need to fix the system before we can change it. I say why should we try and work with this broken system at all anymore. Why not start an entirely new way of doing business. Check that, what I am talking about has been around for ever, but for the profits of big business it has been vilified. Trading skills for other skills or currency.

We started trading bread for goods and services about a year ago and I have noticed a few things that make me realize how much good can be realized through this method of commerce. The most noticeable being that the true value of things becomes apparent very quickly. We trade bread for movie rentals. A new release move is $5 and a simple baguette costs about 35cents to make. We trade one loaf of bread for one new release movie. We both leave this transaction satisfied. We have a friend that will hem our pants or sew rips or reupholster furniture. She will let us know what she thinks is a fair trade and we work from there. Hem a pair of pants equals one loaf of bread. Reupholster our chair and we make her fresh bread a couple times a week for a month. Seems fair to me. This drives "the man" crazy. They make a lot less profit of us this way. Sure they got their taxes out of us for the flour that we purchased and they got their taxes for the fabric she bought for the chair. That is where the taxation stops though. I don't pay tax to have the chair fixed in a shop and she doesn't pay tax to buy bread in a store. If this keeps up, all of a sudden I can trade bread with someone who is making their own fabrics and someone can trade pants that they made for flour that someone milled. Oops, sorry I forgot that bank service charges and goods and services taxes are the only way to keep this whole machine running.

So, in the previous post we were asked how we plan to spend our off season. We have been making our bread and walking around the streets and businesses of town selling bread that we baked in the morning. $2.50 for a baguette or we'll trade it for a couple of lattes or maybe 4 bagels for a couple of used novels or $8 if you want to keep your novels.

So, if you live around here and you want some fresh bread you'll probably see us walking around peddling our goods for cash or maybe you have something that you wanna trade us. Either way it's a win win. Now I just have to convince our landlord that our rent is somehow worth a single shipment of 100 loafs of bread a month. Wish me luck.
Sean Peltier

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Meat Fest II / Rose Roundup

This mornings pork forcemeat, foie gras and cured salmon omelette just about finishes the last of the left overs from Meat Fest II. Thank you all for coming out. It was a gaye olde time!

For those of you who did not make it to Meat Fest II/Rose Round Up, this post is for you--that is, this post is intended to make you feel bad about being you and the bad choices you made and, hopefully, encourage you to re-think your bad choices as we turn our sights to Meat Fest III and which ever varietal we decide to compare and contrast in the wine portion of the festivity.

Before getting to the food, let's look at the Rose Round-up. Some of you might remember the Gewurztraminer Getdown of 2009, though it is likely that none of you remember (with any precision that is) the results of said event. Sure, the delightful and delicious Gehringer Brothers Schonburger Gewurztraminer stood steady at or near the top--but that's a no brainer. Of course Gehringer Brothers Schonburger Gewurztraminer stood steady at or near the top. But certainly there were other contenders, victors and disappointers. When isn't there a disappointer in the group?

In light of this statistical imprecision, this year, steps were taken to insure thorough and precise data collection for open distribution and equal utility for all:

As you can see from the above chart, testing was thorough and extensive. (Click on image to enlarge.)

To insure quality data collection, the wines were also carefully presented in a random fashion so as not to influence perceptions by "shelf location."

Here is the list of participants:

Gazela (product of Portugal)
See Ya Later Nelly 2009
Road 13 Honest John's 2009 rose
Dunham Frose rose 2009
Dirty Laundry Hush 2009
Quails Gate rose 2009
Silkscarf 2008 shiraz saignee
Tinhorn Creek oldfield series 2bench rose 2009
Marques de Caceres 2009 rioja (Spain)
Domaine Clair Dau Rose de Marsannay Louis Jadot 2008
Jackson Triggs unity white merlot
Chat-en-Oeuf 2009 (france)
The View Distraction 2009
Emeri pink Moscato (south eastern australia)
Quinta Ferreira rose 2009
Le Vieux Pin Vaila 2009
Pascual Toso Malbec rose 2009 (argentina)
Seven Stones Speaking Rock 2009 pinot rose
Strut Risque rose 2008 (half bottle remains)
Arrowleaf Red Reather rose 2008 (half bottle remains)
Jackson Triggs 2008 Proprietors Reserve rose
Henkell rose
Gray Monk 2008 Rotberger
La Vieille Ferme Recolte 2009

A few things caught my attention.

1. Seven Stones won the gold, Tinhorn the silver and LVP Viala, Marques de Caceres, Road 13 and Dunham Froese tied for bronze.

2. There were four bottles of road 13's Rose and 3 bottles of Qunita Fererria, with people lunging for the '08

3. The Dunham and Froese had the most votes in the #2 colum "wouldn't pass it up" with seven votes, while the most anyone else got was two. A bronze in the "excellent" class, a gold in the "wouldn't pass up" class.

4. The wine that got the most "nice try" votes was a rose made from Malbec grapes.

The remaining wine from the evening was combined and inoculated with organic cider vinegar with the intent of making a red/rose wine vinegar from the event. Hopefully it can mother the wines of the next event!

Now on to Meat Fest:

The obvious place to start is with the pig as it is from the pig that so much radiated...

...Like bacon caramel

...and bacon popcorn peanut pop on a stick what nots

...don't forget blood thickened pasta with pig tails.

Of course there was beef. And while the beef was a little less conspicuous than the pork, it was staggeringly good. Like tripe in jelly.

UNBELIEVEABLE! Can someone remind me again why tripe-in-jelly isn't on at least one charcuterie plate here in the valley? Oh, and don't give me that ol' "people don't eat tripe and we won't be able to sell it and make money" line of nonsense--that's not a suitable answer for anything--least of all around here.

Then there was Okanagan's Finest Angus Beef heart sashimi marinated in the new, unreleased Note Bene (and a pair of white creepers no less!)

Said another way, local cows, fed local wine at a local feed lot, processed (somewhat less) locally, marinated in local wine, fed to people of that locality.


There was also a bit of tallow--for a while anyway, until disaster struck and tallow clogged the gas jets ending the fun and, for all intents and purposes, ruining Meat Fest. (winking face emoticon here.)

The rig was up and running long enough to deep fry some cheeseburger spring rolls (delicious) and a pepper construction featuring cream cheese stuffing, bacon wrapping and all around breading (delicious as well.)

In the "other" category there was bear sausage (yum!)

and elk (made into tacos) and salmon (lox) which sadly did not their photo taken.

Lastly, and clearly most importantly was the very beautiful and thoughtfully made Meat Fest II cake--a cake for the ages that we hold dear to our hearts and will remember and cherish for all times by everyone.

There was also a wonderful pumpkin cheese cake that was hidden from the guests so it could be savoured in private.

I know I've left things out...that's what the comments section is for.

A smashing success all in all. A big thank you to everyone who came, brought and/or cooked.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Your Ideas Are Not Your Ideas

Taken from Paul Arden's book It's Not How Good You Are, It's How Good You Want To Be

Hey Okanagan food, how good do you want to be?

Pedal or coast? Mike Love or Brian Wilson?

Now that "the season" is ending, what's up for your down time?