Saturday, June 14, 2014

Discovering sumac and za'taar

Foodies take note: sumac could make a terrific addition to your herb selection. Executive chef Karan Suri recently touched down at the Fairmont Vancouver Airport's Globe@YVR, and he's introducing food lovers here to exciting new flavours.

Born in India and having worked in Africa and Dubai, Suri draws on all sorts of exotic influences for his sophisticated but comforting dishes.

Derived from the berry of the Rhus coriaria plant, sumac has a sour edge, a bit like hibiscus. Sumac can be used on its own, but it's also a key ingredient in za'taar, which is a blend of Mediterranean spices; Suri adds wild marjoram to his, a mix that can embolden meat and fish.

From fish tacos with a dehydrated-potato breading to fingerling potatoes seared with bacon to accompany succulent sablefish, Suri's stuff is worth a trek out to YVR even if you're not flying anywhere.

When you see that kind of creativity at work in a kitchen, it can inspire you to do more, try more, in your own.

Photos from top: beet five ways with goat cheese and walnuts; fish tacos with jalapeno aioli; sablefish with fennel soil; seared scallop with duck confit and aged balsamic.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Cycling from bite to bite: Whistler rocks it for fit foodies

Imagine this, parents: a trip to Whistler that didn't involve a stop at that playground near the Olympic rings.
Granted, as far as playgrounds go, that one is pretty fine, what with its rubbery turf and all. But I sure enjoyed not having to hang out there this weekend, a getaway for our 10th anniversary.
The highlight: hopping on our bikes on Saturday and cycling for hours. I'm not talking hard-core uphill stuff. I'm talking the lovely, leisurely Valley trail, with stops enroute for food and drink. Seriously, stopping for lunch, drinks, coffee, cookies is the only way to ride.
First pause was at Table Nineteen Lakeside Eatery at the Nicklaus North Golf Course. It bills itself as Whistler's best patio, which could be argued (the Mallard Lounge at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler ain't too shabby). But it's still a beautiful spot, with views of Green Lake and surrounding mountains. We had the Vegetarian Mezze, with roasted artichoke hearts, red peppers, and onions as well as flavourful hummus topped with goat cheese and served with delicious flatbread. Were it not for the large groups of loud, male, martini-swilling golfers surrounding us, we might have stayed for more.
Onward: through the trails, around Lost Lake (lots of people hanging out, so to speak, at the nude dock) then over to Creekside. We skipped the pricier items at Nita Lake Lodge's Cure lounge and opted instead for snacks to go from the lodge's Fix Café, taking our treats to the nearby dock. Drenched in sunshine, it was perfect place for strong coffee and chewy cookies.
I loved being able to spend all day on the bike. Know what I noticed? Everyone who was riding a bike on that trail was smiling. Can't wait to do this with the kids when they're past the whining stage.
For dinner we walked to 21 Steps. Yes, there are 21 steps up to the second-storey restaurant with views of the village stroll. The food is not Rob Feenie-fancy but good and good-sized. We especially loved the mussels in a white-wine-shallot-and-garlic broth. I need to make these at home.
A note to Whistler Saturday-evening diners: chances are good you'll be sitting next to a group celebrating a stag or stagette. We had the misfortune of sharing the space with a group of 16 men toasting the groom-to-be with Sambuca shots accompanying their appetizers. Outside, we counted six more stags/stagettes within an hour. Listen up, young'uns: the tiara and sash look is getting tired. Time to get just a smidge more creative.
All in all, Whistler is perfect for those who are passionate about fitness and food. You've got countless opportunities for both. It doesn't get better than that.