TIPS FROM THE PROS
Four chefs offer up their favourite unusual flavour combinations:
Goat cheese and soy sauce
Chef Edward Tuson of The EdGe Restaurant in Sooke, B.C., discovered this odd combination when, on a whim, he added the soft cheese to a pork-stock-based sauce flavoured with soy sauce. He says the saltiness of the soy sauce somehow works with the sharpness of the cheese. He notes that it has to be 100 per cent goat cheese, as cow's milk cheese is too mild.
"Every time I tell people [about]it, they're like, 'What?' And then I make it and they're like, 'Wow. that's good. Really good."
Rhubarb, coffee and beef
When rhubarb is in season, Steve Mitton, chef of Murray Street in Ottawa, likes to make a rhubarb espresso purée, which he combines with ground espresso and rubs onto beef ribs before braising them.
"You've got a beautiful bitterness in the coffee - that rich, roasted sort of flavour that gives depth to just about everything," he says.
Meanwhile, the rhubarb helps tenderize the meat and gives it an edge. "I always use some sort of a vinegar when I'm braising, and if I can use a natural that has that tartness to it, then all the better."
Cinnamon and lobster
Chef Paul Rogalski of Rouge Restaurant in Calgary came up with this pairing years ago, while tweaking a lobster bisque recipe.
"I was analyzing the flavour of our lobster bisque and something was missing," he says. He tried simmering cinnamon in the bisque, and it worked.
"Lobster is quite sweet on its own," he explains, but lobster bisque isn't. "Once you roast the bones, it has almost a dirty roast flavour, and this just brings it back up to being sweet - just sensationally, anyhow."
Pickled green strawberries and sardines
Wanting to experiment, Chef Quang Dang of Vancouver's Diva at the Met persuaded a local farmer to give him some unripe strawberries. He pickled the still-green berries with onions, basil and mustard seed. The taste reminded him of pickled herring.
"So I thought, 'Hmm, we've got sardines, let's see what happens.' And it worked. Sardines are an oily fish … and a lot of Scandinavian dishes serve different pickled vegetables with a fish, like a mackerel or a herring or something like that. It just naturally goes very well together."