Pantry Raid

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It\’s the end of an award-winning year for alive magazine. To celebrate, we\’re taking a look back at one of alive\’s newest features: the Fresh Sheet. Featuring the finest in contemporary, healthy cuisine, this new food column from writer Jason McRobbie showcases some of Canada\’s greatest restaurants and the chefs who put those restaurants on the Canadian culinary map.

It’s the end of an award-winning year for alive magazine. To celebrate, we’re taking a look back at one of alive’s newest features: the Fresh Sheet. Featuring the finest in contemporary, healthy cuisine, this new food column from writer Jason McRobbie showcases some of Canada’s greatest restaurants and the chefs who put those restaurants on the Canadian culinary map. These restaurants were chosen for their innovation, their dedication to good fresh food, and their contributions to the growth of Canadian cuisine.

A few themes emerged during this inaugural year: the benefit of a well-stocked pantry; an emphasis on fresh, local food; and the idea that anyone can cook well if both they and their pantries are well prepared. For this year-end retrospective, we list the restaurants, the chefs, and their recipes. All the recipes are available online at alive.com, where you will also find some Web exclusive recipes. While you’re there, look for Sally Errey’s tantalizing vegetarian holiday recipes.

We started the year at the mercy of the culinary creations developed by chef Nick Brown for his restaurant, Grammercy Grill. His philosophy that “not every meal has to be a fancy affair, but they should be as enjoyable to make as to eat” can be seen in the simply elegant dishes he prepared for our first-ever Fresh Sheet column, which appeared in January.

1. Nick Brown’s Menu

  • Italian White Bean Soup
  • Brie and Wild Mushroom Phyllo
  • Crab-Stuffed Free-Range Chicken Breast with Root Vegetable Hash and Basil Oil
  • Molten Chocolate Cake

In February, we followed the culinary compass and went to West–one of the top 10 restaurants in the world according to the UK’s Sunday Independent. Executive chef David Hawksworth’s worldly yet local cuisine, with an emphasis on fresh fish and game and seasonal fruits and vegetables, proved why West is such a top-ranked restaurant.

2. David Hawksworth’s Menu

  • Soup of Sunchokes with Roasted Scallops
  • Salad of Belgian Endives with Roquefort Dressing
  • Poached Smoked Sable Fish with Bacon, Clams, and Cabbage
  • Celeriac and Nutmeg Purée
  • Apple, Pear, and Quince Tarte Tatin

    Chef Tony Marzo welcomed us to the open atmosphere of Vintropolis, an exciting new West Coast restaurant. For March, he created a seasonally simple menu that was light and healthy, skilfully combining foods from both land and sea into slyly reconfigured traditional favourites.

    3. Tony Marzo’s Menu

    • Bruschetta Salad
    • Caramelized Onion Tart
    • Pan-fried Baby Squid
    • Lemon Custard
    • Pine Nut Cookies

    Spring was the perfect time for an April visit to West Vancouver’s Salmon House on the Hill Cookbook, which has been a city staple for 30 years. Chef Dan Atkinson, whose recipes filled the Salmon House on the Hill Cookbook a few years ago, shared a wonderful collection that supports his philosophy, “fewer dishes need not mean fewer flavours.”

    4. Dan Atkinson\’s Menu

    • Curried Caesar Salad with Mandarin Oranges and Cilantro Chickpea Croutons
    • Oven-Roasted Lamb Rack with Lavender and Prosciutto Crust and Red Wine Reduction Sauce
    • Sweet Potato Risotto with Star Anise and Soy
    • Chocolate Strawberry Gateau

    May’s lesson was that food is more than fuel. Our teacher and chef, Marcus Von Albrecht, has built a career based on the virtues of healthy eating, physical fitness, and balanced living. This former president of the British Columbia Chef’s Association emphasized the importance of source and season in his spring recipes.

    5. Marcus Von Albrecht’s Menu

    • Mixed Greens with Grapefruit Vinaigrette, Blue Cheese, and Grilled Apple
    • Cedar Plank-Baked Salmon with Wild Rice Fritters
    • Pears Poached in Red Wine

    The focus in June’s column was sensibly delicious cooking. Chef Jeff Van Geest, from Aurora Bistro, described his kitchen’s interest in staying dynamic and open to inspiration from local sources. The recipes were light, fresh, and crisp.

    6. Jeff Van Geest’s Menu

    • Organic Mixed Green Salad with Strawberries, Goat Cheese, and Hazel Nuts
    • Roasted Halibut on Lentils with Braised Spring Greens
    • Individual Créme Fraiche Cheesecakes with Rhubarb Compote

    “Catch. Cook. Eat.” That’s the motto of July’s Coast Restaurant and executive chef/partner Sean Riley. Based on this motto and the restaurant’s focus on seafood, chef Riley creates monthly seasonal menus. He focuses on uncomplicated and honest seafood, and he sometimes finds himself in the spotlight, cooking for guests at the restaurant’s community table.

    7. Sean Riley’s Menu

    • Ahi Tuna and Arugula Salad
    • Dungeness Crab Crusted Halibut
    • Fresh Berries with Late-Harvest Sabayon

    In the middle of bathing suit season, we visited the La Vida Wellness Spa at The Sutton Place Hotel in Vancouver and were hosted by executive chef Kim Thai and chef Raman Armand. Their focus was on a de-stressing menu with a French continental influence. They say that “the challenge to creating great, healthy food is to learn the basics, and then develop the confidence to make stress-free, creative choices.”

    8. Kim Thai and Raman Armand’s Menu

    • Baby Greens with Anise-Poached Oranges, Vanilla Balsamic Vinaigrette, and Champagne Froth
    • Pan-seared Snapper on a Bean Cassoulet with Mushroom Ragout and Pepper Relish in a Grainy Mustard Sauce
    • Organic Vegetables with Garlic Spinach Purée
    • Fresh Fruit Pavlova

    The concept of September’s restaurant, Cru, is colour-coded pairings of wine and food. Chef/owner Dana Reinhardt scours the local markets every day for fresh food ideas. Then sommelier/owner Mark Taylor pairs by-the-glass wines to each dish. Such innovation is truly a reflection of fresh thinking.

    9. Dana Reinhardt’s Menu

    • Chilled Heirloom Tomato Soup with Dungeness Crab and Avocado
    • Roasted Bison Tenderloin with Merlot Sauce and Faro Risotto
    • Peach Shortcakes with Ginger Crème Fraîche

    A father and son team was featured for October. Antonio and Patrick Corsi own all three Quattro restaurants, located in Vancouver, North Vancouver, and Whistler. The influences of the senior Corsi’s homeland of Italy are very evident in Quattro’s menus, which artfully and tastefully combine season, region, and tradition. For us, they composed a traditional Italian Thanksgiving menu.

    10. Antonio and Patrick Corsi’s Menu

    • Rucola Balsamica
    • Fettuccine Tartufate with Portobello Mushrooms and Truffle
    • Oven-Roasted Pheasant Breast
    • Panna Cotta

      We were all star-struck when Vancouver superstar Iron Chef Rob Feenie was featured in November. He’s come a long way from cooking with his sister’s E-Z Bake Oven—the recipes prove it.

      11. Rob Feenie’s Menu

      • Blue Cheese and Apple Coleslaw
      • Seared Scallops with Pink Grapefruit and Radicchio
      • Roast Chicken with Tomatoes, Roasted Peppers, Olives, and Capers
      • Cherry Chocolate Clafoutis

      In the end, this inaugural year showed immense potential for this fresh, new column. Next year, we are traveling east to feature more of the exciting, innovative, and healthy restaurants and chefs that are helping to raise Canada’s profile on the world culinary map.

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