Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Farm-to-Table, Restaurant Setup, and Flaccid Asperagus

It don't get fresher!
 While it's post hoc ergo propter hoc to even suggest the correlation as causation, it just so happens that I now live in a city of which university students are a major demographic - and because they're such a driver on the market, we have a fairly well-settled farmer's market.

Now, I could go a long way out of my way and explain why that particular run-on sentence makes, well, sense, but that's out-of-the-way.

A major part of the awesomeness of the farmer's market isn't the ability to acquire things I can get at the supermarkets - it's the ability to acquire the things that I can't. Duck eggs, brioche, promises nobody intends to keep...

What I was surprised to find, though, were the butchers offering farm-to-table meats. Fresh produce I was expecting, as well as a weekly supply of the sort of greasy delights that qualify as carnival food... but supremely, ultimately fresh meats is a new one to me.

Now again, the main problem is that I simply don't have the time for the market. You need to get in very early to get the really good stuff, and that leaves me with getting about 4 hours sleep. Plus, let be honest, the costs aren't comparable. It's worthwhile for things like free-run Duck Eggs, Rabbit, or those peculiar fishes which, in spite of being in season, are not at the local Sobeys. But for everything else, the convenience of the supermarkets is just too much to bear.

Now, having said that, there very much is a quality differential, which ties into our next topic. For all its minor setbacks and waiting, the process of launching the Vault has actually been deeply inspiring insofar as tweaking my own restaurant designs. Obviously, I'm a few years away from my own launch. I've still got to go off and finish my Red Seal, never mind pulling down a few years of experience besides. In that respect, the plans I've been making for several years now are all highly tenative - mostly concerning themselves with matters of style, rather than outright figures.

That having all been said, the experience of having access to all this very good food has been a major motivating factor in my decision to build relationships as directly as possible with growers and producers themselves. Not out of any real hatred for the middle men, but more out of a desire to keep everything as local as possible. After all, restaurants as an industry have impressively large greenhouse gas footprints. It would be nice to minimize that, where possible.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Different Approach

So I should start the day with an apology - I seem to recall having promised more frequent posts. Obviously, that hasn't been happening. If you saw the kind of hours we're putting in at Vault 29, you'd know why.

So, if history has shown us anything, it's that I usually come here to talk about what I'm working on. When I was running the show over at the pet store, I posted a lot about fish. When I was selling tea, I talked a lot about tea.

I've also talked a lot about different ways of taking the concept of diet. It shouldn't surprise anyone that humanity as a whole or western culture specifically is consumed in the analysis of what we're eating. I just got done with the posts on nutrition which were a little heavy with references to the human biological machine.

The thing is, humans in general, and my generation pretty specifically, eat a whole lot of junk food. We know it's junk, and its inequities compared to "real" food (however we define that) are beyond dispute, but we eat it anyway. The last month or so has been fuelled by cans of sugary caffine tinged with flavours that are supposed to remind me of fruits, bags of sugary confetti, and greasy, quickly-scarfed meals from the local burger-slinger. That I work in the higher end of the Bar spectrum of cuisines seems not to be a factor - I need to eat quickly, and I need energy density.

Thing is, when you eat like that you find yourself rather rapidly deteriorating in health, if you can be bothered to pay attention to your own health. You might not have time to map out specific nutritional requirements - requirements I happen to know I am meeting regardless, thanks to a steady stream of multi-vitamins.

The obvious fact in all of this is that there's more to food than merely hitting your chemical requirements. Food has a role in mental health, at the very least.

So what I'm thinking of doing is just cutting out the nonsense completely. I mean, obviously that's not perfectly possible - or even very feasible, considering just how often it's the case that I really do only have 15 minutes to cook and eat a meal. But I can certainly do a lot better than I have been.

So what's real food look like? I don't know, but we'll see.