February 26, 2005

Winter Detritus and Herbs of Spring

I've ventured out onto the verandah and surveyed the damage done to my herbs over this particularly harsh winter. The sage is done-for, but that would have happened anyway as the plant was on its last legs of indifference and neglect. I harvested seeds from the last time it bloomed, and plan to plant them this spring.

The chive pot is broken. My beautiful cobalt "strawberry pot" which houses the chives and has survived the predations of the cat, has been split vertically into three chunks. The roots of the chives, valient little herbs, are holding the pot more-or-less together, but the shattered pottery is obvious. The chives themselves seem unconcerned with anything other than shooting this year's crop of green spears upward into the light, unphased by the state of their container.

The rosemary, however, is fine. Little twiglet buds are swelling on the branches, and it seems happy enough. Ditto the oregano, which has spread to take over a fallow container and thereby tripled its size. Fierce stuff, this Cretan oregano.

I always plant basil in the spring, because I'm fond of it for everything from pasta to salads to sandwiches. So, thus far I am scheduled to plant basil and sage. I've been doing a lot more of both French and Caribbean cooking lately, so I think I might plant some thyme as well. I had a pot of thyme years ago, but almost never used it. Now, it seems that every other recipe I pick up calls for a few springs of fresh thyme. I'm always a little cautious using dried thyme in recipes because I think it always tastes old and dusty - like the "barbeque" sauce at Swiss Chalet. Fresh thyme doesn't have that quality about it, and therefore can be used with greater abandon

February 25, 2005

Decisions, decisions...

No sooner than I write about the difficulty of choosing between duck & schnitzel, I get an invitation to dinner at a German restaurant that serves both. However shall I cope? Would that all my dilemmas were so delicious.

February 24, 2005

I'll have the duck

It’s difficult for me to refrain from ordering duck, when I see it on a menu. Not that there is anything wrong with ordering duck – quite the contrary. There does come a point, however, when one can get in something of a rut. A delicious rut, but a rut none-the-less. Happily for me, Feenie’s offers a good variety of duck dishes, from the upscale shepherd’s pie to the duck clubhouse sandwich and the always popular duck confit. They even serve duck prosciutto in their Oyama-heavy charcuterie menu section. I can order duck while fulfilling my burning need for variety. But still, it has gotten to the point of self-consciousness on the order of feeling the need to explain myself, if I order duck.

A few of my friends are fellow sufferers of this near-disorder of compulsive duck-ordering. When I opt for something else instead, I find myself secretly hoping that one of my companions will order the duck so that I can taste it, or at least smell it. I feel as I imagine a recent ex-smoker would feel, hoping desperately that someone else will light up a cigarette.

Menus that contain both duck and schnitzel just about do me in.

February 23, 2005

Birthday Dinners

We have something of a tradition going, after all these years, of celebrating our birthdays with fine dining. There are so many amazing restaurants in this town that we still haven't quite caught up with the at-least-one-visit plan that I once imagined was feasible. Part of the problem is restaurants like Lumiere, which beg to have repeat visits.

Last night, however, I'm proud to say that we stepped outside the beckoning, siren call of restaurants that we wish to re-visit, and went to Bishop's.

Bishop's is one of the better known of Vancouver's restaurants, particularly on the international scene. It has long been the darling of visiting movie stars who are more interested in an elegant, quiet, fabulous dinner than the see-and-be-seen hip joints downtown. The food, as with the decor, is decidedly west coast with French methods (there were brunoise vegetables in my spiced duck broth!) and fabulous vegetables such as braised sunchokes and roasted parsnips. Bishop's was engaged in the idea of locally sourced organic ingredients and lightly prepared vegetables before they became the Next Big Thing.

I can hardly believe how long it has taken me to get to Bishop's, actually. I've met the head chef, Dennis Green, who is friends with an ex-boyfriend of mine. Dennis was sous-chef at the time, which reminds me of just how long ago this really was, but I was invited to his home for a wonderfully casual supper of turkey and vegetable pie and salad (for which we contributed some exceedingly peculiar-looking mushrooms called "hen of the woods" but, since Iron Chef, better known as Maitake). We sat around after dinner, sipping wine and discussing food and the business of restaurants. Menus were plotted, brunch was discussed, and the importance of location was hotly debated. It was an all-around convivial evening, and convinced me of Dennis' passion for food, for cooking, for life. I made a mental note to go to Bishop's soon.

When I heard that he had made head chef, I reminded myself of my intentions to go there, but still more years crept by, until - almost out of the blue - I went last night. Now it has been moved to the list of "must re-visit soon." Of course, we know what "soon" looks like in my culinary world of good intentions, but now I have the impetus of memories of the meal that I had there, and the knowledge that Bishop's more than lives up to its reputation.

Getting Started

Sometimes, it's a little tricky getting started. This site is something of Exhibit A, I'm afraid - I've been promising people for ages that I would add a blog to the main Always in the Kitchen site, but it's taking me forever to get around to it.