Food for Thought

Caramelized yam and scallion soupThe subtle sweetness of caramelized yam, scallion and garlic blended into a rich, thick creamy soup was my choice for a hearty start to a Thanksgiving lunch.  Canadian Thanksgiving was over 6 weeks ago and today it is the USA that celebrates.

Orange yams, scallion and garlicI have so much to be grateful for that two celebrations seem very appropriate so I raise my spoon to my family and friends in the US and give thanks with them, albeit from a distance.

The Buy BC Food Campaign is an initiative to help consumers easily identify foods and products grown or produced in British Columbia. This new program of the B.C. Food Processors Association (BCFPA), was launched yesterday with a Food Cart Race, at Safeway on Robson Street, that highlighted the range and variety of BC made food products. Safeway  has over 1600 such products currently available at their 76 retail stores throughout BC and is partnering with the BCFPA to promote this program.

In the afternoon of the third day of our Amazon adventure, we made our first actual foray on foot into the jungle. Rather than viewing the vegetation and the birds and critters from the boats, we were actually going to hike to the Kapok Camp where we going to spend the night.

From the time we arrived at the airport in Iquitos and were taken to our coach for the ride to Nauta, we were in the capable and highly organized hands of the naturalist team who were leading our Amazon explorations. In my professional career I have encountered many people who were experts in their field, but Juan-Carlos Palomino and Robinson Rodriguez have made an indelible impression on me that I will never forget. How they could spot a tiny black dot high in a tree as we were speeding down river in our motorized skiff, and instantly identify the type of bird, simply blew my mind. Specially when our skiff driver, Darwin, would stop the boat so we could see the bird. Even through my very powerful binoculars I could often barely make out the shape of the black dot- which now just looked like a big bird-like blob to me. But they could point in the bird guide to the exact type of bird. And then when I zeroed in on the image captured (usually by Robinson, for me) on my camera, and zoomed in on the image - there it was. No longer a black blob.

Before supper each night, we were entertained on the upper deck by the ship’s band of whom the mainstays were brothers, Oscar and Edgar Rachi, and Blumer Arica, all of whom sang as well as playing multiple musical instruments. We danced lots of salsa and merengue with the occasional rumba for variation. It was quite a surreal experience to  be dancing on a river boat in the Amazon jungle!

As far as salad greens go, I confess to a minor addiction to arugula - or rocket lettuce- as it is sometimes known. Recently at the urging of several friends, I decided to add baby kale to my diet and so I was excited to find Lavinia, from Fern Alley Market Garden in the Squamish Valley, selling fresh microgreens and kale-based salads at Granville Island Market.

Among the microgreens they harvest are sunflower, bull's blood red beet leaf, Red Russian kale, white stem Pak choi, black Tuscan lacinato kale, red mustard and arugula, soil grown in the open air. Their signature salads are kale-based with Red Russian kale and include mixes such as The Trio; Sweet Greens; Spicy Blend and Flash Salad.

They are at Granville Island Public Market on Thursdays and Saturdays; Whistler Farmers Market on Sundays; Ambleside Farmers Market on Sundays and Squamish Farmers Market on Saturdays so look our for them.

Roast chicken is one of my favorite home cooked comfort foods.  It evokes memories of my mom-in-law's famous Sunday lunches where my husband and his brothers would vie to top each other's stories, and we would sit around the table and laugh till our sides ached. A great way to roast chicken at home is to use a rotisserie. You can flavour it with your favorite herbs and spices and control the fat and salt content.

I have been writing a bit lately about my personal enjoyment of various coffees and my experiments with making my perfect early morning cup. (J is for Java;  and X is for X-ploring the X-Factor in Java). So having not had time on my first visit to Eat! Vancouver 2012,  there  was one thing I specially wanted to check out on my second visit. The coffee-chocolate connection.

On entering  BC Place i headed straight to  the Van Houtte Coffee booth where I thought I might get  some more enlightenment about different blends of coffee. There I wanted to explore what my Coffee Profile was. Did I like my coffee Bold, Velvety or Mellow, and Fruity or Woodsy?  Hmmm. I love my coffee, but I suspect my taste might vary according to mood and time of day.

One of the joys of downtown living is that I can walk easily to events held anywhere from Coal Harbour to English Bay and at our civic theatre complex or sports stadia. This weekend I moseyed down to B.C. Place where the 2012 Eat! Vancouver is on. With my recently acquired K-cup coffee machine and my $12 hand-held milk frother I have elevated my coffee preparation to new levels (J is for Java- and Coffee Addiction) so I was particularly interested to check out the rounds of the Western Canadian Regional Barista Championship that is being featured at Eat! Vancouver this year for the first time.

Because I wanted to leave time to check in at the cooking shows and the Barista contest, I decided to start with a systematic approach to the exhibitor section and do a quick check of what new products were out there and come back later for a more detailed look but somehow I ended up acquiring some stuff, and my bag got really heavy.

a taste of chicken on yam cake with peach preserveDockside Restaurant at the Granville Island Hotel is a favorite place of mine for pre-show dining and as you can tell from my last two reviews (Dockside  and Dockside:Take 2) I have generally really appreciated the food there. So I was very interested to learn that Chef Simon McNeil has taken over as Executive Chef, and to find out what he plans for the menu, at a Meet the Chef event.

A Camembert from Vancouver Island's Natural PasturesOysters, Cheese and Sauces - who knew these things but chefs, fishmongers and dairy people?

Cheese: Our recent tasting of Soft-ripened Bloomy Rind Cheeses prompted questions from our tasters like  "how are Camembert and Brie different anyway?" It was a question that had frequently flitted across my mind, but one that I had never seriously set out to research. So now was the time.

So here goes with some foodie trivia: Without  any books on cheeses in my library, my first visit was the web - but as usual I found conflicting information but this is what I gleaned from my reading.

 The modern day form of both Brie and Camembert that we get in North American s similar in that both are soft ripened and often made with similar bacterial cultures.  The original French Brie has a long history, and was often required as a tribute by the French Kings. Camembert is named after the 18th century Norman village of Camembert, where its originator Marie Harel lived. The name was given to this cheese after Napoleon had enjoyed a sample presented to him by one of Marie's daughters in 1855.

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