Thursday, September 14, 2006

Equinox Cafe Steps Up to the Plate!

I have some exciting news. This morning I got an email from Jessica and Sean from the Equinox Cafe in Duncan and they've stepped up to our 100 Mile Diet Restaurant Challenge and are offering not just one dish but a 3 course 100 Mile Diet meal! They'll be offering this meal from Sept. 14th to the 16th. Of course, much of their regular menu utilizes local products. It's so fabulous that they've gone out of their way to create a 100 Mile Diet meal. Bravo to them!

Unfortunately, no Nanaimo restaurant has stepped up to the challenge. I sent out someone else to get restaurants for the challenge so I didn't get a chance to talk to the restaurateurs and chefs around here myself but from what I gather there's a bit of bridge building that definitely needs to happen between farms and restaurants around here.

Oh well. I won’t allow myself to get too discouraged, especially when I look around and see other nearby communities that are embracing their local farms. To the south of us is the Cowichan Valley and southern island which are filled with restaurants that celebrate the local bounty. I heard that there is a group in Metchosin who are doing a 10 Mile Diet. 10 freaking miles! More power to them! As I mentioned in a earlier post, the Comox Valley has a great farm-loving community and the bakeries there are at the forefront of a artisan baking revival. That whole community is thriving. Now we just have to get Nanaimo’s head out of it’s SUV behind to see that the Wal-Mart food culture is not the way to go.

Let's hope the enlightened spirit of folks like the Equinox Cafe and other local farm loving establishments in nearby communities spreads over Nanaimo soon. But until then, let's reward those that do support local farms and food producers with our patronage. I am going to hit the Equinox Cafe for their 100 Mile meal. I may even drag the Mr. with me and make it a date night. For those interested, here's their fabulous 100 Mile menu:

First course - Potato and Zuchinni bilini, caramelized onions with blackberry and chardonnay drizzle.
Second course -Highland beef NY steak topped with charred cherry tomato compote. Served with fresh local vegetables and roasted Russian Blue potatoes.
Third course -Crustless apple and plum meringue.

(wipe drool off of keyboard)


Speaking of dinner, we had the most awesome bison smokie and roasted veggie stew last night. I did a small roast-up yesterday admist my last round of canning. From my garden, I picked 3-4 lbs of cherry and small heirloom tomatoes, tossed them into a roasting pan with a sprinkle of kosher salt and threw them into an 300F oven for an hour and half. I also threw in a couple cloves of garlic. In another pan, I was roasting up a turban squash, some yellow and purple carrots and peppers, all local, of course. I pretty much ignored it until the timer rang.

I didn’t get my canning finished until about 9pm last night. I canned up a batch of pickled beets and a batch of spicy pickled carrot sticks. Tired and running on fumes, I gathered the following:

-2 bison smokies from Island Bison, roasted tomatoes, garlic, peppers & carrots, leftover roasted corn from a few nights back, a few handfuls of spinach and a couple shallots from my Nanoose Edibles produce box, glassful of Cherry Point’s Coastal Pinot Noir.

I basically chopped up the smokies & shallots and threw those into my wok over medium heat. Let the meat carmelize a bit and shallots soften then toss in the wine to deglaze. Cook that down a bit and then simple toss in everything else except the spinach. Let it all simmer a bit for 10 mins. You can add some water or broth if it’s not soupy enough for you. Then right before serving, I threw in the spinach and a few fresh cherry tomatoes. I tasted and seasoned it accordingly. I had slices of Natural Pasture’s wasabi cheese and cucumber from the produce box as a side. Man, was it ever good. The bison was mildly seasoned to allow it's flavour shine through. It's definitely leaner than typical smokies. A couple went a long way. The roasted tomatoes provided a rich flavour base to the soup. It was a great 1st fall soup of the season.

There was enough leftover for lunch today. I love leftovers. Yes, it tastes better the second day. Next time, I just might add the spinach to the bottom of the soup bowl and pour the soup ontop and let the heat of it wilt the spinach. The spinach in the leftover batch tasted fine but it looked a bit grey.

(Update: I tried the soup again tonight but without roasting any of the veggies and with a white wine instead of red. The verdict. ..It's bitching.)

I found out that I’ve got another 4 weeks on my produce box. I guess had enough forethought in the spring to sign up for a whole 16 week program. Thank goodness, this week’s box included a bunch of local apples including some famous Bramley Seedlings which are some of the best baking apples. You know what we’re gonna have for dessert tonight. There amongst all the greens, tomatoes and apples was a small bunch of the most delectable grapes. They were divine. Small fruit with only a seed at most in each. They were tender and sweet, with none of that weird bitter aftertaste from the skin. The texture was a bit different with an almost velvety smooth flesh.

For all those whining that the produce box makes it soooo much easier to follow a 100 Mile Diet, get off my back and get your lazy asses over to a farmers market. It's harvest time and there will be a ton of stuff available there.

Until then, happy eating!


Nanaimo’s 100 Mile Diet Challenge

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