Foodie-friendly taste trends and other meaty matters for spring
Pleasures of the Flesh
by Jessica Patterson
It’s difficult to pinpoint an exact date that marks the beginning of spring in Alberta, but the province’s foodies aren’t ones to sit around and wait for the last snows to melt. Instead, they’ll be diving into the flavours of the season, and while those will include the usual assortment of local early-season produce – heirloom carrots, anyone? – those in the know say the defining flavours of this spring season will be found in the flesh.
Heather Gould-Hawke, the executive chef at Calgary’s foodie haven District, says bison is becoming increasingly popular with Albertans. “They call it the other red meat. It’s a healthier choice because the animal is lower in fat. People are asking for it and looking for it.”
The proof is in the plating. Gould-Hawke says District put bison on its menu about a year ago and couldn’t keep it in stock. “Even though we’re diehard Albertans about our beef, I think people are going to support bison.”
People are also interested in game meat, Gould-Hawke says, though in the past most have been hesitant to try it. “People are asking for it. And I’m surprised – I’ve never had that happen before. They love it, whether it’s elk, venison or caribou,” she says.
Speaking of meat, the trend towards charcuterie has caught the eye of Nolan Matthias and Jen Mikla. Like most foodies, they have day jobs – and day salaries, to support the habit – as “mortgage architects” with Matthias Financial. By night and weekend, though, they are Calgary foodies – literally. Matthias and Mikla run Calgaryfoodies.com, a popular culinary website that reviews meals, trends and wine, and they test their taste buds at three to four different restaurants a week. “Charcuterie is dried meats, cured meats,” Matthias explains. “We’ve noticed it in more and more places we go.” For so long, Mikla says, it had seemed like just chicken and fish was on the menu. “But now, you’re seeing a huge resurgence in charcuterie, and in bison and elk,” she says. Having become enamoured with duck-smoked bacon and elk salami, Mikla sees the trend as “something that you’re used to, that you know and love, and adding something fun to it.”
Calgary Golf and Country Club executive chef Vincent Parkinson agrees. While the regular menu at the club doesn’t change much, Parkinson sees charcuterie coming back as part of the daily specials.
“I want my younger cooks to be exposed to that skill set,” he says. “Not only does it give them a different experience, it’s also using less-popular cuts of meat, the secondary cuts which are often wasted.”
He also sees a growing move towards seafood sustainability.
“I think seafood sustainability is going to be a big issue,” Parkinson says. “Specifically, I see it being big with salmon. I think it’s clear we can’t keep fishing wild fish, so we have to farm salmon. And we have to find a way to do it, to work with the environment, that’ll benefit everyone. Why? Because there won’t be any fish left if we don’t farm it.”
Cooking is the new rock ‘n’ roll. And the best cooking tools, such as Japanese knives, are like the new leather pants and tambourines.
Take it from former pro chef, Kevin Kent, who began his knife business, Knifewear, in 2007 in order to share his love of Japanese blades. “The big reason that chefs love Japanese knives is that they are made with much harder steel,” the self-described “knife nerd” says. “Harder steel gives us two advantages: we can make the knives sharper and make them stay sharper longer.” Kent even designed seven of the nine lines from Masakage, the thin, razor-sharp blades available primarily at Knifewear in Calgary’s Inglewood neighbourhood. Check out the gorgeous Masakage Yuki Santoku (yuki means “snow”) for $151 or the Masakage 210mm Kumo Gyuto, (kumo means “cloud”) for $298. Happy carving.
Frazzled, frustrated and don’t want to cook? Instead of opting for pizza or the dreaded KD, why not hire a personal chef for the night, like Corinna Murray, the owner of Personal Thyme chef service in Calgary? Murray customizes each menu personally and specializes in dietary restrictions, be it gluten-free and dairy-free or more particular needs. Murray and her staff can cater for a variety of sizes, from weddings to parties of two, and from multi-course meals to hors d’oeuvres. “I also do cooking demos as entire events or, more commonly, as part of a dinner party,” Murray says. “It’s a big trend these days, that clients want to learn what exactly it is that I do and how to make the dishes I prepare.” For more information, including prices, check out personalthyme.ca.
Learn how to roll sushi, master the delicate art of sugar craft or impress your cocktail-swilling friends with your newfound mixology mastery this summer with SAIT’s continuing education courses. In these hands-on courses, you will be expertly guided by a professional instructor in a variety of culinary arts, from baking and pastry to adventure cooking and much more. Prices range from $100 to $550, depending on the course. Register for them at www.sait.ca.
Goodbye to Gluten
For many North Americans, gluten has replaced cholesterol as the dietary enemy of the moment. For Calgarians, at least, keeping gluten out of one’s diet just got a bit easier with the opening of the Gluten Free Marketplace Inc., the first exclusively gluten-free grocery store in Calgary. “There is no store in the city like this one,” owner Sheena McFarlane says. “People can confidently come in and be able to get whatever they want.” Calgary-area shoppers who head to glutenfreemarketplace.ca can get a variety of non-perishable items delivered to their door. Meanwhile, the 1,500 square foot retail location at Country Hills Landing is home to over 1,000 gluten-free items, including Tangy Bang! Hot Sauce for $5.99 and Inca Red Quinoa Grain for $6.49.