For the last couple of weeks, I've been riding on a non-stop wave of summer's bounty and local food events. Now I'm perched on Wednesday, with a dayplanner spilling over with events, appointments and meetings, and I've barely had time to digest last week. There's still a huge load of canning to do and I'm contemplating a Mid-Autumn moon festival 100 mile feast. But all I want to do is sit on my porch and eat my tomatoes. I'm high centered on hump day!
Here are some highlights from this last week:
Last Thursday, I spoke at Duncan's Chamber of Commerce 100 Mile Diet Breakfast, hosted by the Equinox Cafe. Sean and Jessica at the Equinox Cafe have been local farm supporters from the very beginning. Their menu boasts produce, meats, cheeses, wine and other goodies from Cowichan Valley farms. I can't remember much of my talk. It was far too early and the coffee didn't kick in until I got home. I do remember that there was very good local bacon to be had ;)
That night, I had some friends over for dinner. I made a cioppino with local halibut, tomatoes from my garden and veggies from the produce box, and a glassful of Cherry Point's Coastal White. Cioppino is a traditional fish stew. I'll let the Italians, Portuguese and San Fransiscoans fight over who's tradition it is. Fishermen made this stew as their daily meal with their daily catch. It's recipe is written by whatever you happen to have on hand. It's about as easy-peasy as you can get. Saute a bunch of veggies in olive oil, dump in chopped tomatoes, chunks of fish or shellfish, wine/stock/broth, cover and let simmer for 10 minutes. Sprinkle a bunch of herbs from the garden and you've got yourself a meal!
I've had to move my dining room table into the already cramped kitchen. My friends are too polite to say anything about the new eating arrangement.
I've had to relocate the dining table because my dining room area has been turned into a tomato refugee camp.
Friday. Well, something happened on Friday but I can't remember what.
Saturday was filled to the rim. My friend Dave and I headed over to the Errington Farmer's Market to pick up some fleece from a local sheep farmer, Elaine at Weaver's Rose Cottage.
All the fleece, roving and yarns at her stall were all from her own sheep. I picked up a few pounds of washed Romney wool at $8 a pound. What a deal! She also runs natural dyeing workshops. Elaine can be reached at (250) 248-1270 or just pop by the Errington's farmer's market. She's at stall 10.
The market is fabulous. Just what a farmer's market ought to be, a market that serves the community, not a tourist trap filled with trinket stalls . It's tucked in the local park and had wooden covered stalls and it a real friendly vibe. Part social hub, part local market, part community stage, it was a great place to spend a Saturday morning. There was a range of local produce from plums, to melons, greens and squashes. There was local seafood vendor and prepared foods and a few arts and craft stalls but the focus definitely was on local produce.
Afterwards, we headed over to Coombs market in search of more veggies and fruit for canning. They have island produce sold in cases. I also found one of my favorite foods, chantrelles. At $9/lb, I managed to find some wiggle room in my food budget to get a small bagful.
The less you do to chantrelles, the better. They have a mild, woodsy-nutty flavour that begs nothing but a saute in butter.
Here's one of my favorite things to do with these forest treasure: chantrelle and scrambled egg. Saute a bunch of chopped chantrelles in a couple plugs of butter for a few minutes. Add beaten eggs and scramble them up over medium heat. I like them soft and just a breath shy of runny. I topped the mushrooms and eggs with a few thin slices of Hilary's Belle Anne cheese. Steamed green beans rounded off the dish. So simple. So good. For heavens sake, don't skimp on the butter. If you're going to use factory farmed eggs you might as well throw the chantrelles into the trash. Better yet, pass 'em over to me, you obviously don't deserve chantrelles ;P
Saturday afternoon was spent navigating the pockmarked asphalt serpentine otherwise known as the Pacific Rim Highway as I ran off to the west coast to spend some time with DH, who has returned to his job as kayak jedi for the waning days of the season. Beachcombing black bears, burping sea lions, jumping salmon and hubcap sized sea stars made cameo appearances on our romantic-comedy-action adventure weekend.
On Tuesday, I returned to my 100 Mile Diet soapbox with an appearance on CHLY's Changes program. I ranted too much, forgot to mention a bunch of stuff that I had wanted to mention but otherwise, I think I did alright.
The folks at Changes had put a challenge out to all the restaurants to take on the 100 Mile Diet. Victoria boasts a growing list of restaurants that focus on local foods and Cowichan Valley has a 3 or 4 restaurants of the same goal, with one on a 20 mile diet (Yippee!). The last time I walked into one of the Nanaimo's finer restaurant's that boast they are making a local food a priority, I found out that their lamb was coming from Australia :(
Well, I'm proud to say that one Nanaimo establishment has stepped up to the 100 Mile Diet challenge and boy, they're doing it in style!
The Mermaid's Mug on Wesley Street has taken on the challenge. I popped over there yesterday to see how they were doing. They're bringing in local fruits and veggies from just down the road. They're using island meats and cheese. Their coffee is from a local roaster and is direct fair trade (of course). Michelle, the owner, has already squirrelled away a ton of local fruit for smoothies and is looking to can tomatoes to see them through the winter. There's also talk of building her own vegetable garden in the yard behind the restaurant. Music to my ears.
Finally, somebody who isn't just paying lip service! I'm just thrilled that I can finally go out to eat in Nanaimo and still be able to stay on my 100 mile diet.