Friday, September 02, 2011


Food. One of my great passions besides cars. Having grown up in The Netherlands which is a country with a deep-rooted agricultural culinary culture, I have never quite fully become 'North American' in my eating habits. I don't understand the allure of fast food, high-sugar soft drinks or processed foods. I started to become a lot more aware of food and food culture after moving to Vancouver, realising the incredible bounty that the Fraser Valley and the ocean have to offer in terms of fresh produce and seafood that comes in a very distinct seasonal cadence. I always had a casual interest in cooking and with a slowly rising disposable income also came the ability to spend more time eating out at increasingly fancy restaurants, growing along as a consumer with the burgeoning Vancouver restaurant scene. I took some lessons at various chef's and cooking schools and began to do a lot of fairly serious cooking at home.

Anyone who spends time educating themselves about the food chain and the industrial machine behind it quickly realizes that there are some serious issues to deal with. This post could become very long and complex if I went into this in depth so I am going to stick with the local restaurant scene, using one of my long time favorite Vancouver restaurants as an example. Refuel. Formerly known as Fuel. Robert Belcham and Tom Doughty started Fuel back in 2007. Robert being the chef and Tom the manager/sommelier. These guys have a food philosophy that is very much compatible with my own. Let me illustrate it with an example, the pig. On Vancouver Island there is a farm called Sloping Hill. Here they raise free-range animals in a cruelty-free, organic natural farm environment. Robert gets his pigs from here and does his own butchering. He uses almost the entire animal for various purposes including making his own chacuterie like salami, bacon and chorizo. Sometimes he makes pork belly confit, one of the most sumptous dishes I have ever had the pleasure of eating.
This philosophy extends to his seafood, poultry (chickens come from Polderside Farms) and vegetables. The menu changes along with the seasons and availability of ingredients. As a consumer and father, I am very aware of what I eat, where it comes from and how it affects me, my family and ultimately the food chain around me. By supporting restaurants like Refuel, I make a statement about what I find important and I am happy I can involve Kai in this, he is very familiar with Refuel and what it stands for. Add to this that Refuel's staff is always very friendly, warm and welcoming and you have a perfect combination.

Building on Refuel's success, Rob and Tom have opened two more restaurants, Campagnolo and Campagnolo Roma. These are two casual Italian bistros where the food is down to earth family style Italian food, created with the same ingredients and philosophy as Refuel. Connie likes them which means a lot given her very traditional Italian cultural food background. They now have a great system where these restaurants can source from themselves so to speak, with their own meats ending up on their pizzas and in their pastas.

Refuel also does regular events, ranging from spot prawn boils at the start of the spot prawn season to 'whole hog' dinners and the most recent one, the 'fresh picked corn feast'. I always try to attend these and take Kai along when I can. We attended the corn feast a couple of nights ago and it was wonderful. Everyone was seated at a communal table and we were treated to a feast of corn on the cob, corn salad, creamed corn, spot prawn corn dogs, corn bread, corn fritters, fried chicken and smoked pork belly. R&B Brewery (my favorite Vancouver microbrewery, I'll post about them at some point) provided a one-off Peaches and Cream Heffen Weisen cask that went down nicely with the food. Kai absolutely loved it as well. (the food, not the beer!)
There are many other examples in Vancouver of restaurants that strive for local, seasonal, organic and sustainable food. Kitsilano Daily Kitchen run by the ever so talented chef Brian Fowke is another prime example of this. His menu changes daily based on what he gets from his producers and what he finds at the markets. I can go on, will do so in a future post...

I am bad at taking cameras to meals so I only have blurry iPhone photos that aren't worthy of posting here. The images in this post were taken from Refuel's web site. The next time I go I will endeavour to bring a camera and take some decent shots.

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