Vol. 3: No. 171 – May 17, 2013
We have made it into Spring- or did we miss it this year?
Chef Loseto reports that the word at the Ontario Food Terminal is that while we have found the Spring to be cold, the Ontario vegetables which are now being delivered are being grown in ideal conditions. This is particularly true for Ontario asparagus both, green and white, which the Chef thinks are sweet and superb. We referred him to a recent article in the New York Times extolling the virtues of European asparagus. This year he told us, the Ontario crop, both green and white, is much better than anything coming out of Europe. But if you like asparagus, see the article, Worthy of Versailles for an interesting discussion on how it is harvested.
Wild ramps have started and the Chef is using them in cavatelli with fresh peas accompanying his halibut dish. Shortly before the season ends, he pickles them so that he can use their taste in the summer long after they are unavailable. Fiddleheads will be starting soon and should be good this year given the climate.
The Chef recommends the current crop of Ontario hothouse produce like tomatoes and peppers. He purchased some outstandingly sweet Ontario hothouse Boston lettuce which he suggests you keep your eye out for.
Ontario root vegetables are still available and are in much better shape than those available at this time last year although the supply of beets is getting low.
Finally, look for Ontario broad beans which are just out and excellent. Cook and eat the whole pod like ordinary green beans.
From the US, peas and favas are arriving. Remove and blanch the peas in the fava pods. Then slip off the skins of the peas with your fingers. Add these to whatever else you are serving for dinner or just munch on them with salt.
The Chef is now replacing rapini, broccoli and brussel sprouts with the new Spring veg. He’s happy! For our part we just learned to make the most delicious swiss chard in our new pressure cooker and we are going to stick with the chard for a while. We start by sautéing the stems and contrary to the manufacturer’s instructions do not add water when the leaves go in (because they are wet). One minute at pressure and they’re done.
US strawberries are here although the Chef calls them “kind of fake”. To him they do not seem natural because they are designed to be of a similar size and endure long transportation well. Ontario strawberries when they appear come in all shapes and sizes and deteriorate quickly providing a much better taste experience when fresh.
Loquats are here from Spain for a few short weeks and are recommended. The Chef continues using lots of tropical fruit waiting for Ontario berries to begin.
We had a minor mushroom crises in the kitchen as the Chef discovered that the Ontario morels he had bought were not real morels. Indeed they were vaguely toxic. He recognized this after he found that the stem and cap were two pieces. In a subsequent twitter exchange, one follower said there was a variety of yellow morels which are two pieced and not toxic although the ones which the Chef returned were not yellow morels. Porcinis from Oregon have started.
The Chef is shifting to lighter meats including Ontario veal and lamb. It remains difficult to find lamb from Ontario which is consistently good. In China by the way, the latest food scandal revolves around lamb. In a raid in Shanghai, police recently arrested a gang which was passing off rat, fox and mink as lamb. The counterfeiters used gelatin, food coluring and industrial chemicals to mimic the taste.
At the recent Salon International de l’Alimentation held in Toronto, we talked to a producer of Welsh lamb raised on grass in the dewy mountains of Wales, hormone and antibiotic free. Apparently they arrive fresh 5 days after being processed in Wales. Sam Gundy at Olliffe says they are delicious. The producer says the quality is consistent. Olliffe carries the product or can order it. We are looking forward to trying it even though local is what it’s certainly not.
The season of the sustainable spot prawns from BC we carry has restarted. Also we are ordering our first wild king salmon. The US soft shell crabs from the east coast have started, the best being from Chesapeake Bay. Last year the season extended into September which was way over their usual time.
We have started a new semi soft goat cheese, Ashley, which the Chef likes.
Finally some desserts are featuring the new California strawberries the Chef is so scornful about. It is a training exercise so that we are fully prepared with our recipes and techniques when the good ones from Ontario arrive.
Summer wines are either in or due to arrive shortly at George
The wine rep, Jerome Pernot, from Chateau Léoube is coming this week to discuss his wines. We wrote about this unique Provençal operation in previous years. The wine maker is the famous Romaine Ott, one of the famous Ott brothers who once produced the most well known rosé in France at Domain Ott. When he sold his company he met the new owner of the adjacent land, Chateau Léoube, and offered to produce wine there. Chateau Léoube’s, Sécret de Léoube is the best rosé which they offer and almost all of it is sold only to high end French restaurants with a dribble exported from France. George buys the lion share allocated to Ontario.
Also, we are bringing in a selection of Cru Beaujolais. In June we will review here the Cru Beaujolais selection we have assembled.
Does Toronto need a Great Gatsby cocktail? Probably! We are creating one.
Does Toronto need an expensive California wine dinner with superb food matched with some of the most iconic aged California wines ever presented here and which are unobtainable? Most certainly. George has scheduled this event at $325 pp on May 24. See the George website for details.
Another Michael Pollan book
How do ingredients get transformed into a meal? Michael Pollan’s new book Cooked, A Natural History of Transformation answers the question and provides loads of background on how we got to where we are now in terms of the history of such transformations.
Pollan contends that most people in North America have contracted out their meals to large corporations who provide processed food lacking healthy good nutrients and good taste. This development ought to be viewed, he asserts, in the context that cooking is a “defining human activity.” It differentiates humans from other animals. Cooking allowed us to spend less time gathering and consuming huge quantities of raw food and has lead to a transformation where we had time to develop our cognitive capacity leading to civilization as we know it. The book addresses the question that now that we have outsourced much of the work in cooking, what are the consequences?
To examine this, Pollan looks at the four major ways we transform food ingredients into food. These he categorizes as using fire or roasting, using water or braising, using air or baking and using earth or fermenting. Unexpectedly, the latter two categories are the most interesting.
In each of these categories, he goes through the history of producing food by the method involved and draws conclusions about where we are going. It’s an aggressive agenda and he pulls it off impressively. Along the way, Pollan digresses into a potpourri – such things as the merits of vegetarianism, commercial white bread (after you read this you may give it up forever), the properties of unami, pickling to prolong a season (a much applied technique by Chef Loseto), pasteurization and the rise of the post-Pasteurians (who challenge government regulation) and the growing awareness of the implications of the kilogram or so of microbes which reside in our gut. If the latter interests you see a further article by Michael Pollan in the New York Times.
Interspersed through all this are many stories such as relating sexual congress to cheese, how he found that a microwaved meal took longer to prepare than a home cooked one, how some animals and insects are attracted to alcohol as much as people and the like.
All in all, it’s a splendid read. Throughout, Michael Pollan writes about family experiences, his previous lazy approach to cooking and other common touches which may lead a reader to believe he is just like us. Of course, his research is so abstract and science based, he is not like us at all. He is one of these very clever people who is a superb communicator. No doubt he is a genius. And a hard worker also to cover all the diverse research areas he undertakes. It may be his best book yet – a romp through a complex world of food and cooking trends, well worth exploring.
— Le Patron
A monthly online newsletter, Ecclesiastes 3 contains Le Patron’s ruminations on local seasonal food markets as well as speculation on broader global food issues.