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jamiemaw

eG Foodblog: jamiemaw - In the Belly of the Feast: Eating BC

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jamiemaw   

Much like cookbooks, what the world needs now is many fewer restaurant critics. Over the next week, it’s my goal to ensure that you talk me out of my job, while I, meanwhile, try to talk you into it. So to speak.

In other words, I want you to ask me lots of questions.

My life doesn’t hang in the balance of my next review, something that I’ve been doing professionally for the past 15 years. But from writing about restaurants I’ve also come to know the food service business quite well, I suppose. And behind the swinging doors lie much bigger stories, especially of the collaboration of chef, farmer and fisherman; distribution; cross-cultural influences (Vancouver, where the culinary DNA is still knitting itself together, is a fine laboratory to observe that in); the collusion of wine with food; and more recently, the necessity of sustainability, especially as it relates to the global fishery. This week I’m going to eat my last Russian caviar. Ever.

No, restaurant reviewing would be much less interesting if I couldn’t write about these bigger stories. So I hope that I can transmit to you how the research works, how the writing gets done, and ultimately, lend a sense as to how culinary cultures--born from diversity--emerge with a sense of their new locality.

We’ll be covering a considerable amount of real estate across this big, raw-boned place:

• We’ll begin today In British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley Wine Country and for the next two days and nights look in on some agricultural history (in an attempt to track the area's culinary evolution) and wineries, cook with chef Michael Allemeier of the Mission Hill Family Estate Winery (braised boar cheeks will be featured at a Friday night dinner party with some wine folks) and a revisit to a restaurant to demonstrate our review process and methodology.

• On Saturday I’ll return to our home in Vancouver—where we have some friends joining us for a little seasonal cheer, ‘Seven Hour Sacrificial Lamb’ and ‘Cheesier-Than-Mariah Carey Scalloped Potatoes.’

• On Sunday morning we’ll be flying to the wild outside coast of Vancouver Island to the ecotourism town of Tofino, which is about an hour’s flight in a twin engine aircraft. Once there we’ll be looking in at coastal cuisine from the pans of chef Andrew Springett at The Wickaninnish Inn and, in a more casual vein, at the construction of excellent fish tacos at Sobo.

• On Monday we’ll be returning to Vancouver to go behind the scenes at pastry chef Thomas Haas’s (he was the opening executive pastry chef at Daniel in Manhattan) lovely production facility, and observe John van der Liek at the Oyama Sausage Factory, which carefully produces more than 150 products. We'll aslo track the history of a new restaurant, from development menu to opening night and review.

• Through the balance of the week we’ll look inside many more professional kitchens and markets, hopes and dreams.

I’m sure we’ll find a few other things to do too. Once again, I very much encourage your questions.

Last night, the Ice Wine harvest was supposed to start. In order to trigger that, Vintners' Quality Alliance reguations demand the temperature must stay at or below -8 degrees Centigrade through the entire pick, which can take a while. Anything else is just Late Harvest fruit. Alas, there was a slight inversion off the lake yesterday afternoon and it was called off. So we stoked the fire and rolled back into bed.

But now I’m off to pick up some croissants down the hill at La Boulangerie. We baked some Irish soda bread yesterday as well. I’ll make some strong coffee when I’m back, and begin to tell you a little more about this disturbingly beautiful place . . .

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Welcome,

Jamie

Image: On the Beach - Okanagan Lake last afternoon, 1530 hours.


Edited by jamiemaw (log)

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Daddy-A   
• On Monday we’ll be returning to Vancouver to go behind the scenes at pastry chef Thomas Haas’s (he was the opening executive pastry chef at Daniel in Manhattan) lovely production facility, and observe John van der Liek at the Oyama Sausage Factory, which carefully produces more than 150 products.

This, folks, is what I'm waiting for! Chocolate & charcuterie! What a week!

Too bad the icewine harvest couldn't have happened last week when we had the cold snap. Ah well .. a little late harvest never hurt anything, except perhaps the winemakers' pocket books.

A.

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jamiemaw   
Too bad the icewine harvest couldn't have happened last week when we had the cold snap.  Ah well .. a little late harvest never hurt anything, except perhaps the winemakers' pocket books.

A.

We'll be trying again tonight, Arne!

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This will be very interesting. Thank you so much for blogging Jamie. Your wit and knowledge will be enjoyed greatly.

To start: speaking of the history of parts of the Okanagan....did you know that before the wineries, and before the orchards...( I am saddened by how many of these have been knocked down and delevoped into housing and retail in the Kelowna area)....that a good part of Kelowna agriculturally, was Tobacco farming? There was a big cigar plant/industry going on there! I just can't remember what caused the change to have the area switch to tree fruits.

Can you try to discover this reason for me Jamie?

Looking forward to this week. :smile:

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Daniel   

Hey Jamie,

Thanks for blogging.. What a gorgeous photo.. Looking forward to this exciting blog.

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BCinBC   

Looking forward Jamie, you certainly haven't left much room for trivial things like sleep in your schedule.

Irishgirl, that is an interesting tidbit - how did / could fruit displace the cashiest of cash crops (tobacco)? I'm very curious now.

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Ling   

Wow...you're doing our province proud, Jaime! :wub:

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Anything with the imprimatur of Jamie Maw will be positively inspiring and done with great panache and flair .. your longstanding commitment to quality will be in every post

Anticipating breathtaking text and photos within this blog ...

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300rwhp   

Cashiest of cash crops but only one a year. And cash crop doesnt mean it pays a high amount, but rather that it is paid in cash. Also 1900-1920s the rise in production of tabacco from other areas of the world namely AFrica would have depressed prices, possibly making in unprofitable to produce tobacco in such a short growing season.

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BCinBC   

I am no farmer, but apples, cherries, peaches... all are harvested only once a year too, no? Competition from other parts of the world as transportation became cheaper I could see as being a deterrent, tho.

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jamiemaw   
This will be very interesting.  Thank you so much for blogging Jamie.  Your wit and knowledge will be enjoyed greatly.

To start:  speaking of the history of parts of the Okanagan....did you know that before the wineries, and before the orchards...( I am saddened by how many of these have been knocked down and delevoped into housing and retail in the Kelowna area)....that a good part of Kelowna agriculturally, was Tobacco farming?  There was a big cigar plant/industry going on there!  I just can't remember what caused the change to have the area switch to tree fruits.

Can you try to discover this reason for me Jamie?

Looking forward to this week. :smile:

Interesting question, Irishgirl.

gallery_12924_2156_236119.jpg

George Rose standing in his Ellis area tobacco field which is ready for harvesting, 1910.

Photo courtesy of Kelowna Museum Archives.

The Early Tobacco Industry in Kelowna

"First Nation peoples in the Kelowna area grew tobacco for their own use long before Louis Holman began growing it for commercial purposes in the 1890s. Holman, an American born tobacco expert, teamed up with an Englishman John Collins and began production on seven acres of land situated near the Pandosy Mission. In 1898, the Kelowna Shippers Union made a deal to purchase and manufacture the tobacco. The factory they opened adjacent to the Canadian Pacific Railway wharf downtown enjoyed initial success but by 1902 it was forced to close due to the lack of a sustainable market.

Over the course of the next 25 years several factories opened and closed with the ups and downs of the industry. The quality of the tobacco was exceptional, yet a number of factors including high transportation costs, mismanagement, and large-scale production in the East prevented the industry from succeeding on a prolonged or consistent basis."

So it seems the commercial production of tobacco (bout filtre in those days, I'm sure) stemmed from about the time that the commercial orchards were into high production. Especially Lord Aberdeen's Coldstream Ranch near Vernon which was very active in the last decade of the 19th Century. Lord Aberdeen (more on him later) took great joy in shipping his apples to the Covent Garden fruit competitions in London--and often upstaging his former countrymen.

Thanks to Donna and Kim at the Kelowna Museum Archives for sharing this information so promptly.


Edited by jamiemaw (log)

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jamiemaw   

gallery_12924_2156_45619.jpg

Breakfast was necessarily a simple affair this morning--it will be a busy business day. I do something quite different than food writing during the day, and nasty brutish men in hard hats will be visiting throughout the morning and afternoon.

The croissants and raisin danish come from a lovely little pattiserie called La Boulangerie, where the proprietor, Pierre-Jean Martin, and his wife, Sandrine Raffault, insist on importing French flour-"but of course!" The soups are always piping hot, and their selection of breads, pastries (especially the pear tarte Tatin) and sandwiches (homemade gravlax) are compelling. The pattiserie is in a former taco shop with a drive-thru window, which raises interesting possibilities.

Today we had mugs of Caffe Artigiano's espresso-blend beans. Artigiano is a chainlet of very good coffee shops in Vancouver. Vince Piccolo, the owner, used to use Intelligentsia product from Chicago. With enough retail outlets now to support integration, he opened his own roasting plant four months ago. The result--found in this blend especially--is robust but smooth. We used the drip this morning, because nasty, brutish men in hard hats don't drink latte, baby.

gallery_12924_2156_5255.jpg


Edited by jamiemaw (log)

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This is going to be a great week, Jamie! Thanks for sharing...and those photos are beautiful! This Manhattanite is very jealous.

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avocado   

After reading about the fabulous adventures of all you Vancouver e-gulleters, I guess I subconsciously decided that I needed to become one of you: when my dad asked me the other day if I thought I'd stay in Wisconsin for a while, I replied without thinking, "No, I'm thinking about moving to Vancouver." :blink:

And now this. Sheesh. Maybe I should avoid this blog, as I do have a good job and a lease here in Wisconsin...

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No, I'm thinking about moving to Vancouver."

You realize, avocado, that you need not interrupt your life as it is and simply become a V.V. ... Vicarious Vancouverite ... after reading over Jamie's blog all this week, you will feel very much at home knowledgeably discussing the positive vicissitudes of Vancouver life ...

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jamiemaw   

IN THE BELLY OF THE FEAST: BRITISH COLUMBIA

Belly Up . . .

We’re going to return to the Okanagan Valley in a while folks, but first I thought I’d start in with some of the dangers of restaurant criticism and then speak to the culinary and dining culture of this province . . .

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“Bring me the head of Maw on a plate”, an irate chef once demanded.

So I did. But he marked me down for my presentation.

“Like the more conventional forms of oral sex, food writing is an acquired taste. It’s rife with pleasure, certainly, but also with fear and even latent danger. And after a decade, and several thousand restaurant reviews and dozens of longer essays that deigned to detail our culinary history and culture, with appetites only temporarily appeased I remain as randy for more as the day I began.”

So began my recent column in Vancouver magazine that thanked my readers over the past 10 years for their forbearance in putting up with me. Even some of my most loyal readers liken my writing style to having a mild case of gallstones. No wait, that’s my editor.

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“His writing style is akin to having a mild gallstone attack,” even some of his most loyal readers protest.

”Or just after a very large man has broken wind in a telephone booth,” say others.

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I keep my man—Mr. King—handy whilst making

public appearances. Rest-o-ranting comes at a price—no

telling when a livid chef might wheel around the corner,

ready to vent my spleen. Fortunately, that Super Bowl

ring on his paw has yet to imprint itself on a chefly visage.

* *

Over that past decade there has been a sea change in British Columbia’s dining culture, both in restaurants and at home. How we approach the table looks different now: Relaxation in liquor legislation; small plates dining (which found its North American footing here); rapid fire roll-outs of Chinese both casual and not, izakaya, Korean, and many other Asian cuisines and formats (there are more than 400 Japanese restaurants in the City of Vancouver alone now); the extraordinary development of restaurants in Yaletown, the city’s born- again warehouse district.

Behind the swinging doors there has also been massive change: the collaboration of chef, farmer and fisherman has seen a heady reinvestment in local, sustainable ingredients (including the 82 indigenous species in our coastal fishery that we like to eat), many now easily available in local markets and shops.

Our wine industry, especially in the Okanagan Valley, has gained real structure too, and the international awards (LA County Fair for Best White; Avery Trophy [iWSC-London] for best Chardonnay in the World) amongst others, that go with it.

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Canadians require this kind of outside validation—it’s like stamping our passport of approval. Otherwise one of my favourite countrypersons, Pamela Anderson, would be watching our bay - English Bay - from Kits Beach at the bottom of our street . . .

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Kitsilano Beach, Vancouver, August, 2005

Perhaps because we live next door to a country with ten times our population (Canada and the US are the two largest trading partners in the world) we’re a curious breed: polite to a fault, and one that leaves little to chance . . .

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And remarkably helpful to visitors . . .

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We also believe in Truth in Packaging . . .

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Fortunately, Canada is a newish country with ample food reserves. For instance, we find these 25-kilo New York strips handy if friends drop over unexpectedly.

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Besides “The Only Thing That Can Hurt You Here Is Yourself,” there’s only one other rule in our house: In the interests of hygiene, no spitting on the floor please.

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English and French are the official languages of Canada. The unofficial ones are all the rest.

In Kelowna, where you watched me eat my modest breakfast this morning, our circumstances are most delightful: Treetops is a lovely cottage high on the eyebrow of a tall hill above the lake. I commute here most weeks for our family business in property development.

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High in the Mission Hill vineyards. When the sun hits the lavender, it smells like grandmothers-going-to-church.

Kelowna is 400 kilometres east of Vancouver and is the hub of the valley’s wine industry. It’s a four hour drive, but in the winter we commute on a WestJet 737 that takes just 35 minutes. Airplanes help a lot in getting around this big place.

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As I said upthread, this week we’ll be flying about the province, from Kelowna, over-nighting in Vancouver, then off to Tofino and, finally, back to Vancouver.


Edited by jamiemaw (log)

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zilla369   
When the sun hits the lavender, it smells like grandmothers-going-to-church.

Beautiful line. Blog on, Jamie!

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jackal10   

This is going to be good.

I'm just discovering Canadian Ice wines. Is there a guide to them?

Which do you consider the best?

I've had Paradise Ranch and Cave Spring.

I believe there is a Lang Vineyard (my family name). It would be nice to get some of that.

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A blog from the illustrious Jamie Maw brings with it the promise of stellar writing, fantastic photography and some excellent vicarious meals ahead. I, for one, can't wait.

Blog on, McDuff! :biggrin:

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Pan   

This is awesome already! Great pictures, and I've always enjoyed the way you use language.

Jamie, will you be commenting on your feelings about being recognized or anonymous in this foodblog, or should we look elsewhere for your take on that?

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jamiemaw   
This is going to be good.

I'm just discovering Canadian Ice wines. Is there a guide to them?

Which do you consider the best?

I've had Paradise Ranch and Cave Spring.

I believe there is a Lang Vineyard (my family name). It would be nice to get some of that.

Jack,

A group of us will be visiting London in early February for a Sustainability Dinner. I would be happy to bring some ice wines with me. And yes, there's an excellent guide: John Schreiner, who has written several books on the Wine Country.

You'll find your namesake winery here.

Mission Hill bought Paradise Ranch last year, and with it the remarkable chalk bench above Naramata at the southern tip of Okanagan Lake. Stunning.

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