God forbid that a roving national eating correspondent should turn out to be some hoity-toity dink with elevated tastes, as someone on one of the Globe’s often surprisingly moronic comment pages accused me of being the other day.
His remarks surprised me all the more because I had been extolling the virtues of a bacon-and-sour-cream-stuffed potato… if extol is too grand a word for said critic - had been singing its praises, had crammed fast into my meat-hole…ya know what I mean, buddy?
In any event, the gentleman in question - I assume he’s a gentleman because he hides behind a male pseudonym - accused me of having snobbish and rarified tastes (after I had written about a baked potato, no less) because I had never eaten a stuffed baked potato before.
One must prepare for a great meal by consuming several others beforehand.
The reason I hadn’t is that my mother never had time to make them, and neither have I. The stuffed baked potato dates back to Escoffier and beyond, and is a creation for the upper classes by chefs with nothing better to do than ream out potato flesh, whip it and cream it and stuff it with cheese (and everything else), and then pipe that back into the potato shells. But nevermind the facts.
To relive some of the pleasures of the summer, I’d like to pass along some of the common but unexpected delights I have come across as I rolled along the highway, happier and hippier by the kilometre.
1) The butter tarts at Randy Spencer’s Tall Trees restaurant in Huntsville, Ontario, baked by his pastry chef, Kim Groomes. They’re so full of buttery goo, you’re a mess after you eat them. If you want a tidy butter tart, go to The Farmer’s Daughter on Highway 60, also in Huntsville, where the proprietor has designed her butter tart not to ooze. But they’re not as good as the Tall Trees tarts.
2) The charcuterie plate at Souleiou in Saskatoon, owned and run by Janis Cousyn and her chef husband Remi, with meat and attendant wonders supplied by various organic and localist partners. Another attraction of Souleio--and there are many--is that it’s full of attractive women. The restaurant is the gustatory equivalent of an ashtanga yoga class. If I was a man in the market for such fare, and lived in Saskatoon, I’d eat there twice a day.
3) At the recommendation of a friendly reader, after my unpleasant experience with bannock, I went to see Sharon Bond and Darren Dodd, who have reinvented the campfire bread. In their hands, bannock becomes a healthy doughnut instead of a rope of flour-and-water wrapped around a stick—a good thing. Their restaurant, The Kekuli Café (motto: “Don’t panic...we have bannock!”), in Westbank, BC (aka West Kelowna, if you take the other side in a local name dispute), reinterprets aboriginal food at every level, from the powwow taco (which they transform into an edible stable) to bison and caribou stew—for lunch.
4) Any ice cream from Cow’s, one of PEI’s contributions to world flavours, but especially the Cowie Wowie (vanilla, toffee, chocolate). I had one in Banff and another in Charlottetown, and am still wearing the effects.
5) The wonton-crusted tempura shrimp at Catch, in downtown Calgary. Some days they’re on special for $2 a piece. They’re huge. They’re delicious. Eat them at the bar.
6) The homemade foccaccia from Peggy Bodie’s Applewood Farm stand at the Golden, B.C., farmers market.
Farther down the aisle you can buy one of Andreas Vogel’s $3 bacon wraps - a long thin loaf of homemade pretzel bread, encased in cheese, and wrapped with a long piece of bacon. The bread makes it. The bacon doesn’t hurt.
7) Speaking of farmers’ markets, the one in Vernon, B.C., out behind the community arena, is brilliant with fruit. I went at the invitation of three Vernon women who immediately filled me in on the deeply competitive nature of summer canning in the Okanagan, particularly where salsa is concerned. Vernonites also like to layer fresh tree-ripened fruits of all kind together in stone jars, fill them with rum or gin or vodka, and then wait until Christmas to start eating the concoction.