Spooning and Forking

Archive for June, 2012

Unconventional Meat – Horse Meat

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

It is mentally and emotionally challenging to eat Horse, but so is all meat as far as I am concerned. I think Horse meat is especially hard to stomach because of the companion aspect to it. In North America we don’t eat dog, cats or horses, on a large scale. But many places around the world do. It is common to eat dog in China, Korea, Switzerland. In places like Peru, certain areas of China and Switzerland, you can find cat. And Horse, well, there are many countries that eat Horse. This episode was a hard one to tackle.

So Horse. Did you know that Canada exports horse meat to places like Japan and Europe? Alberta is known for its beef and ranchers. And we all understand that cows get eaten. But what happens to all those horses when they can no longer be ridden? They stop winning blue ribbons? They get tangled in barbed wire, or break a leg? But what happens to retired racehorses and horses that people can afford to keep anymore? Seriously, horses are expensive. The land and the horse are not what make it expensive it is the trailer, the truck, the feed and the veterinary bills that can add up and turn your cash into compost in a very quick time frame.

I had horse meat two ways at Taste Restaurant. Chef Greenwood makes his own charcuterie, which is displayed in this enormous and gorgeous glass faced refrigerator type thing along the wall of the restaurant. On any given day, in this display, you might find a curing pig’s head, bison tongue and a plethora of other charcuterie, along with a crazy variety of rare and stinky cheeses. He prepared the horse two ways for us: horse tartare and horse sausage.  I am a big fan of tartare and will usually try it to compare, however, I am becoming less and less enamoured by truffle oil and most tartare has a hint of it at least. This is a trend that I will be very happy to see go away, but for the time being I will deal. I still love raw meat.

Chef Greenwood uses a chili oil rather than a truffle oil, which enhances the sweet flavor of the meat and gives it a slightly spicy finish. It really is a dance in your mouth. The horse sausage itself was so moist with a really smooth consistency. It was moister than most sausages I’ve had. I like cured & dried meats, sausages and the like, but they are often chewy, which to me brings another level of entertainment to eating. It’s like it is acceptable to play with your food. Only it is a secret play between your tongue, taste buds and teeth.

Also in this episode, I speak with a Horse Meat Inspector from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Dr. Martin Appelt, and the Chairman of the Horse Welfare Alliance, Bill Des Barres, who himself raises horses and eats horse meat. The Horse Welfare Alliance has an amazing website with a plethora of information about this and other concerns within the Horse Industry in Alberta and Canada. Then as far as other unconventional meats, Amanda speaks with a rabbit farmer who not only raises rabbits for meat but also keeps them as pets. And we also speak with Chef John Michael MacNeil about serving brains at one of the finest restaurants in Calgary, Teatro.

If you missed this episode you can download it on iTunes. Or go to www.cjsw.com for links to this and other podcasts. The background music has changed to En Croisiere by the French band called Juanitos. You can now download it for free from www.freemusicarchive.org

Festivals – The living is easy in the Summertime

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Recently a friend came into town for the first time and the one thing that I heard over and over during those three days was, “Calgary sure knows how to party”. True story. During the summertime there are so many festivals in Calgary that it is really hard to hit them all. But every Calgarian has her favorites and I was only able to speak with a handful.

First up, Evan Woolley from the City of Calgary’s Food Committee speaks to us about the summertime Calgary Eats. Held in Olympic Plaza on Canada Day this free festival has activities for all ages. The food trucks will be there and you will be able to get a basket to wander around the various food vendors to build your own picnic. Check out www.yycfood.com to see what the Calgary Food Committee is doing.

The next weekend is the famed Calgary Stampede. Held July 6th – 15th this year marks the 100th Anniversary of the Calgary Stampede, so James Radke makes a promise to find out what sorts of food were served at the 1912 Calgary Stampede and serve something similar to those who hit the grounds. In addition to the classic staples, every year they have new food items so Mr. Radke discusses those a bit. Think fried kool-aid.

After you’ve got your yee-haw’s out of your system for one more year, head down to Kensington for the Sun & Salsa Festival. Held Sunday, July 22nd you can try over 40 different salsas. This year they even have a Margaritaville tent! But alas, no margaritas … I asked.

For a little multicultural flair head down to Olympic Plaza on July 21st and July 22nd for Fiestaval. I speak with Alex Pinzon who is heavily ensconced into Calgary’s enormous Latin Community. Many countries can have different dialects depending on the region, look at the accents out East compared to Calgary. Well, the same can be said about empanadas. Empanadas are essentially dough filled with meat, but depending on which country they come from makes the difference in what they taste like. Mr. Pinzon discusses the differences. He also tells you what other delicious sorts of goodies you can find at Fiestaval and that it is way more than just salsa, merengue and tacos. I mean, even if it was just salsa, merengue and tacos – I’d be fine with that.

Arguably Calgary’s largest festival, the Calgary Folk Music Festival, comes down to the studio to chat with us about the food you can find on Prince’s Island from July 26th – 29th.  The Folk Fest as we lovingly call it, is a staple for the summertime. It is by far my favorite festival, even as I have made the switch from attendant to volunteer. So although I will be working at the Folk Fest this summer, the experiences and friendships created are the greatest memories you can have. But, hurry the festival is almost sold out. I know, that seems crazy, but it is honestly one of the greatest experiences you will have.

So now that July is over, we jump into August. Although there are other festivals happening during the month of August, I am limited to time and many of these festivals didn’t get back to me, so I spoke with Sue Van Aalst from Taste of Calgary. Taste of Calgary is held August 16th – 19th at the plaza around Eau Claire Market. During the weekend of Taste of Calgary, you can try food from all sorts of local restaurants, which is really a brilliant premise: you try small portions so you don’t have to commit to an entire evening out without knowing whether you can eat it or not. The example we speak about is the African restaurant, Nubian. Well, the food intrigues me but also scares me at the same time, so Taste of Calgary will be a perfect place for me to try a little in order to make the assessment of whether I can do an entire African meal.

Finally we speak to Debra Wong about BBQ on the Bow. Also held at the Eau Claire Market Plaza, BBQ on the Bow takes place on September 2nd. There are lots of activities, music and food to enjoy while lamenting on how your summer is now over. But what a way to end a summer of festivals.

If you missed this episode you can download it on iTunes. Or go to www.cjsw.com for links to this and other podcasts. The background music has changed to En Croisiere by the French band called Juanitos. You can now download it for free from www.freemusicarchive.org

(check out www.cjsw.com for more information about other festivals not included in this episode)

Foie Gras

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

Spooning & Forking has moved up in the world … in time that is. And for our first hour long episode I wanted it to be a good one. My co-hort’s at Spooning & Forking wouldn’t touch the subject with a 27 ft. pole but I love to ruffle feathers. And the bad puns begin.

A couple months ago, I was trying to come up with ideas for show topics. I like to do things the hard way and come up with topics that make people think a bit. Basically, I try to get people mad – honesty seems to come out of fury. Seriously, I like to poke a sleeping bear. So I suggested Foie. Not because I love it, because I don’t. No one else on the team wanted to touch it. I started chatting to whomever would listen. And then one day Cam Dobranski from the Brasserie in Kensington sent out a tweet saying he received his second hate mail about having foie on the menu. I was pretty surprised that someone would send a piece of hate mail because of a food item. Then I found out that several other chefs in town received the exact note. So there it was. I took the bait.

Then I had a conversation with JP Pedhirney, Chef de Cuisine of Rouge. JP had heard that I was doing an episode on the subject of foie and explained to me how the birds are anatomically different from what most people think. The digestive and respiratory systems in waterfowl, which are what ducks and geese are, are completely separate. So if you think about it and you replay the image of the duck choking with vomit all over itself, you have to wonder how much photoshop goes into it. If breathing happens independently of eating then how can they suffocate? Hmmm. These were questions I had to find answers to.

Here’s a story: many years ago I went out to dinner with a bunch of friends for a birthday celebration. We chose to go to one of the most delicious restaurants in Calgary – Rouge – where we all ordered the tasting menu. As with all groups of more than 6 you are bound to have finicky eaters. So, one person doesn’t like seafood, another doesn’t like red wine, another doesn’t like white wine, someone doesn’t eat pork, someone doesn’t like onions… Wowsa – I’d hate to be the Chef for a table like ours. Well, at that time, I was not a fan of foie gras but I didn’t say anything. I figured I could pass it along to my partner. I didn’t end up passing the foie to my partner but rather to my friend; and thus every time thereafter, when foie was presented to me, I would pass it along to my friend John. I chose John over my own partner, because I figured John’s wife doesn’t eat foie either and so he would have way less chances to have the foie that he loved so much unless they were with us, and if my partner and I were dining alone he would get foie probably more often than John anyway. There is a little insight into the way my brain works… damn you John Stuart Mill, damn you.

Moral of the story is: foie was just not for me. I know about unethical or inhumane treatment of some animals produced for food, and I will be the first to admit that I cannot look at the horrific images put up on certain websites. I am aware that these things happen.  But, I have spent my whole life around farmers and producers of food and I know that they are not all monsters. The horrific things that groups like PETA or Stop Force Feeding present to the public are egregious examples of the bad side to food production. There is good and bad in everything. I am fine with eating meats that come from animals that are taken care of by people who care about the health of the animal because in the end a happy animal produces a better product, which commands a better price – I won’t pretend to cite an economic theory here but I know there is one in that statement somewhere.

Foie. What is the controversy? Well, you can google it. The gist of it is people are concerned for the well-being of the animals health because of the act of gavage. Gavage is a technique which force-feeds the ducks or geese to enlarge their livers for foie gras. Typically, gavage means that the waterfowl are gathered around and a tube is shoved down their throats where a mash of grains are shot into their digestive systems. Look into it. Type in gavage in a Google search and you will find tons of information. People say that shoving the tubes down the throats for the force-feeding causes discomfort, causes lesions on the throat and esophagus, causes the birds to regurgitate and choke on their own vomit, causes aversion behavior and sepsis. There are a few things wrong with those claims though.

In this episode I speak with Executive Chef Michael Dekker, who at the time was finishing his stint at Rouge.  I also spoke with Chef Xavier Lacaze from Muse Restaurant. Chef Lacaze is from the south of France, which is kind of the modern birthplace of foie gras, and I thought that his experience with foie would be especially insightful.

Then I spoke with the farmer. I love farmers. Seriously. I love them.  Ian Walker from Mariposa Farms in Ontario not only produces a very exclusive foie gras he also distributes it. It seemed that his big thing with the issue of foie gras is that there is a disconnect between the people who produce it and the people who protest it.

Finding a waterfowl proved more difficult. And who came to my rescue? A real surprising hero, actually. I sent an email to the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary outlining what I was doing with this episode and I wanted to chat with an expert who could speak to the natural migratory habits of waterfowl as well as their two separate systems: the digestive and the respiratory. Sid Andrews from the City of Calgary Parks department spoke to me about how wild waterfowl do things naturally. Sid Andrews is the Interpretation Coordinator at the Ralph Klein Park south of Calgary.

In my pursuit on this subject, I have discovered several producers who produce natural, sustainable and/or ecological foie gras by trying to mimic or replicate patterns and habits in as natural a way as possible.

I acknowledge that not everyone is interested in eating foie gras and not everyone will like it. Certainly, most people cannot afford to eat foie gras on a regular basis. But, all I am saying is, be open. Try it. Try it a couple times before making your assessment. Basically just open yourself up to knowing where your food comes from. If you make an opinion about something, and take a strong stance, you need to be able to back it up. If you don’t eat it because of the traditional practices of gavage, well then question where it comes from and try the stuff that isn’t traditionally force fed. But if that is your stance, I hope that you also question where your chicken, beef, oranges and red peppers come from.

If you missed this episode you can download it on iTunes. Or go to www.cjsw.com for links to this and other podcasts. The background music has changed to En Croisiere by the French band called Juanitos. You can now download it for free from www.freemusicarchive.org

Some foie gras producers to check out:

Au Goût d’Autrefois – Jacques Legros

Mariposa Farms - Ian Walker

La Pateria de Sousa – Eduardo Sousa

For further reading or just names of people who are speaking about this subject check out the following links: