Sorry I haven’t updated the old blog in a while. Lots has been going on, but unfortunately time has been rather limited recently. Between Leonardo da Vinci, upcoming Road 13 Vineyards wine dinners, heart to heart interactions with “Sales Mix”, cross border visits to Trader Joe’s, “faux-Tuscan interludes”, my new love affair with “all things Langley” and “Jazzy’s” new and “exotic” eating habits, life has been rather full. I promise to update soon and you can also look forward to a few restaurant reviews in the near future on Hokkaido Ramen Santouka, House of Dosas, La Bretagne Creperie, the Olive Garden (I’m not kidding) and Chubby’s Diner (I’m not making this stuff up).
I love halibut and I look forward to my first taste of halibut every spring. I can’t stand frozen halibut; it’s like eating tasteless cardboard and since I know how good halibut can and should be, I choose not to eat halibut between November and March. I don’t think most people realize how good fresh halibut can be and most think of it as the frozen stuff used in mediocre fish and chips. Fresh halibut can be absolutely amazing and I only realized this a few years back. Growing up in Toronto and cooking mainly on the Atlantic seaboard, fresh Pacific halibut was a rare treat. I moved to Vancouver in the fall of 2002 and it wasn’t until I tried first of the season fish in 2003, that I changed my opinion on this awkward looking fish forever. I now love halibut for many reasons. I love the taste and texture of the white flaky flesh, I love that it’s Ocean Wise and wild B.C. halibut remains a sustainable fishery and I love the mild flavor of the fish, which allows it to be a great canvas for other ingredients. I’ve really fallen in love with great B.C. halibut over the years and it’s on my short list of my favorite local ingredients.
As soon as I got this fish on to my cutting board, I already had a pan heating up on the stove. I cut a small piece from the top loin, I seasoned it only with kosher salt and started searing it with a little olive oil. In a few minutes, it was cooked to perfection, I summoned “Boomer” from the “dungeon”, we tasted it and looked at each other and said wow simultaneously. It was unbelievable and I have not had halibut this good in years. There was a stretch last summer when the halibut was exceptionally good, but I also remember the first taste of 2009 to be rather disappointing. I’m no expert and I really don’t know why the quality/attributes of the fish changes so drastically and frequently. In general, I love first of the season fish because the fish have been living in icy cold waters, have been feeding heartily and fattening themselves up all winter and when the season opens, they are usually at their eating prime. Why is the fish better one year versus the other? Weather, environmental effects, changes in the eco-system, fishing practices? I don’t know. All I know is when I taste fish that is this good, I freak out a little and I want to tell the world about it. I made “Sales Mix” call up a few of our favorite guests who love halibut, because I insisted that they taste this year’s catch right away. I roasted the collar of the fish for staff meal that day and I was so pleased watching the staff enjoy this special treat, watching them eat every morsel of halibut flesh, cleaning up every piece of bone, licking their fingers in between bites and sopping up all the sauce with warm bread. I brought some halibut home that evening, so that “Monk” and “Nuoc Mom” could have a taste and was so happy to see their wide-eyed reaction. “Jazzy” looked a little sad since she wasn’t able to have a taste, but I promised her that I would cook her a piece next year. I insisted that “Great Wall” call his parents and brother (a family of foodies) to come for dinner at Tapenade to sample this year’s stunning halibut offering. So I freaked out a little, I got a little “heaty” about halibut, I tweeted and facebook-ed non-stop about halibut for a few days. What can I say? This kinda stuff gets me excited.
Oh, by the way. We served the halibut at Tapenade Bistro last week simply pan roasted, grainy mustard spaetzle, a ragout of petite pois, double smoked bacon, pearl onions and mixed mushrooms, salsa verde and pinot noir jus. I’m bringing in another fish for Thursday this week and have not decided how we’re going to serve it. I’ll have to see what spring time ingredients are available and inspirational and I’m sure we’ll come up with something uber-tasty. I’m also going to be doing a halibut course for the two nights of the Road 13 Vineyard wine dinner next week, so I’m going to be showcasing B.C. halibut consistently, for the immediate future. Please, do me a favor. Go try some fresh halibut ASAP and you tell me if it’s the cat’s meow or not. I can’t wait to have another taste on Thursday.