After five years not returning like a salmon to my spawning grounds, we had the opportunity last month to plan a trip to Canada for a short little break in the action. The truth is, any trip we take is always planned around food. It is never only about eating but also about hunting down those wonderful things that are truly special and unique to that specific area. As we prove it in Cuca day in and day out, our philosophy is to go as local as possible and we follow this religiously even on holidays.
Cooking food at home is a very different experience compared to that of a restaurant. It is not only the precision, the stress or the fast pace demanded of chefs, I am talking also about why people fall in love with the craft of cooking in the first place, how at home you can take a whole day to slowly prepare a meal with attention and love. This is why I make a point of cooking at home every time I have the opportunity as it is (apart from greatly appreciated by Virginia) like therapy, meditation and a much needed break from my day to day life,
Now back to my story, we made our way to Salt Spring Island, a small island just outside of where I grew up and a quick float plane ride or ferry trip from Vancouver. Waking up in the morning surrounded by deep dark green wilderness and the isolated coastal beauty of British Colombia you can see why the meat, fish and vegetables live a happy undisturbed life that does not go unnoticed when consumed by those lucky enough to stay for dinner. With 4 days and a proper kitchen we planned to take full advantage of the island's organic markets, local farms and fishing spots.
DAY 1: MUSSELS
One of my favorite foods has to be mussels. I can however understand why people do not share this opinion as it is easy to end up with overcooked shrunken seafood gummy bears in big empty black shells. But when the mussels are much heavier than they appear (like a ripe melon) and come from cold nutrient filled waters, it can easily become an expensive addiction. Straight from the dock on that beautiful autumn afternoon, the famous local mussels were my only worry with 6 hours until dinner; no stress, no pressure, just some quiet quality time with me and my new shiny purple friends. A small amount of heat is enough to release open a mussel but these bad boys held on for dear life till eventually opening to expose beautiful bright orange, massive sized, tender seafood balloons. Eating our way slowly through the Japanese chawanmushi-like custard bulging from inside its thick powerful shells, everything else faded away and my new friends delivered by far the best experience a mussel had to offer. One thing is for sure: whenever we open in Canada, mussels will be on the menu.
Day 2, 3 & 4 of finding, cooking and eating to be continued...