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Fabulous boletes, aka porcini, have sprouted on Vancouver Island and feature prominently in an upcoming dinner at Deerholme Farm.

Feeling peckish? Let me whet your appetite even more with the following.

Duck-liver and pine-mushroom pate with cloud berry jelly on raisin bread croutons followed by a salad of pan-seared duck breast, frisée, bacon, candied pine mushrooms and a blue cheese and citrus vinaigrette. Still hungry? Consider the ultimate lasagna: porcini bechamel, shredded duck and buffalo mozzarella (from nearby Fairburn Farm), all of it laced with sage and roasted garlic.

Oh my, I’m almost drooling as I read the mouthwatering menu featured at Deerholme Farm’s teaching kitchen in Cowichan on Vancouver Island Saturday, Nov. 20, the final wild mushroom dinner of the season. There’s duck in every course, including a dessert of duck-egg crème caramel with port-poached pear and dried pear crisps. The man behind the menu is our favourite Island foodie, chef Bill Jones, who also happens to be a master wild-mushroom forager (he taught me much about finding them in the Lower Mainland when he still lived here).

Jones seems to have a built-in radar for finding boletes (porcini), chanterelles and pine mushrooms, not to mention lobster, cauliflower and other fab fungi. Jones dries, pickles and freezes the mushroom bounty, much of it practically outside the front door of his farm, where he also grows veggies year-round. Jones is part of a network of great food and wine producers and promoters that have made the Cowichan Valley a foodie’s dream destination.

If you’re on the Island in late November, sign up now for this dinner, which you’ll watch being prepared and eat in the cozy kitchen/dining area of Deerholme. Cost is $90. You will not go away hungry! More info at deerholme.com.

Bill Jones in the Deerholme Farm kitchen

Want a taste of the good life? It’s only a ferry ride away.

Consider: Baked Cortes Island oysters with locally foraged morel and leek gratin. Seared Qualicum scallops over  pork belly and stinging-nettle casserole. Flat bread with spectacular B.C. spot prawns and handmade cheese spread. Grass-fed beef-tenderloin carpaccio with roast garlic and Saltspring’s Moonstruck blue cheese.

The above dishes are on the cooking-class menus in the coming months at Deerholme Farm Cooking School in Vancouver Island’s fabled Cowichan Valley. Most — if not all — the foods cooked and served in the 1918 heritage farm’s updated kitchen are from nearby farms, fishers, cheesemakers, and bakers.

Jones checks out planting beds at Deerholme.

The greens and other veggies are from Deerholme’s own planting beds, just a stone’s throw from the kitchen. And the eggs that might make their way into the desserts and other dishes are from several varieties of heirloom chickens that happily cluck, scratch and pick away at any bug or worm silly enough to cross their paths at Deerholme.

“My favourite is the Ameraucana which lays those beautiful blue-green eggs. They also . . . have thicker, deep yellow-orange yolks — great for making custards and ice cream,” says Deerholme owner Bill Jones.

Aside from its heritage status, the kitchen also boasts wall ovens and a sink from the late James Barber’s Urban Peasant set. Barber was a neighbour and good friend of Jones, who spent three years restoring and updating the kitchen before he began holding cooking classes in 2005.

Jones, a French-trained chef, author of nine cookbooks, avid wild mushroom hunter, and wild plant expert is a champion of local and sustainable food sources. Jones fled the urban landscape of Vancouver 10 years ago to further pursue his passion for growing, foraging for and cooking fabulous food.

He is part of a vibrant food community in Cowichan that has helped turn it into a wonderful food and wine destination. His classes are mostly demonstration – with lots of sampling, so bring an appetite – but there are several hands-on classes too, one on dungeness crab (March 27)  and the other on wild salmon (June 5). A wild-foods class (April 24) includes a trek through nearby forests to hunt for morels.

Classes, which can accommodate up to 15 people, run from noon to 5 p.m., and cost $90 for most sessions (hands-on and specialty classes cost more). Here’s a list of what’s coming up this spring:

March 20, Island Spring Seafood, including salmon, scallops, octopus, oysters and crab — all from local waters.

April 17, Morel Mushrooms find their way into tarts, alongside pate, on salads and stuffed with several other delectables. It promises to be a good year for this prized mushroom, says Jones.

May 22, Asparagus and Spot Prawns, two of B.C.’s best spring-time foods, done five different ways. Spot prawns, sweet and wonderfully succulent, were once caught and immediately shipped offshore to eager palates in places like Japan. Today, thanks to a concerted effort by a number of B.C.’s top chefs, the prawns are made available to locals as well. It’s food for the gods.

June 19, Pasture-raised Meats, including chicken, beef, pork, duck and lamb. Taste the difference and learn how to bring out their best flavours.

More details at 250 748-7450, or check out deerholme.com, or email bill@magnorth.bc.ca.

Black garlic. Wenzel duck. In-house smoked bacon and in-house dry-aged beef.

These are just some of the fabulous playthings in Kris Kabush’s new culinary sandbox.

Kabush, 27, took over the reins as Executive Chef at Burnaby’s  Hart House Restaurant last month, and black garlic — originally a Korean and Japanese fermented health food that’s recently become all the rage with North American chefs for its unusual, intense and sweet flavour — is on the menu in several of his dishes. “It’s delicious,” he says.

Kabush, born and raised in Surrey, grew up in a family of foodies. His mother taught cooking and other home ec arts in the Surrey school district, and his dad, he says, is an avid cook as well, particularly when it comes to barbecuing.

Although he began making pancakes for the family when he was four years old, Kabush didn’t discover a real passion for cooking until high school, when he got his first restaurant job. Once he graduated, he began working as an apprentice at the Wedgewood Hotel, finished the Red Seal program at Vancouver Community College and completed his apprenticeship at Vancouver’s Four Seasons Hotel before working in the kitchens of such highly rated restaurants as Lumiere and Cioppino’s. It was the passion and the drive for excellence he saw in the people he worked with that inspired him to go for the gold himself.

His mission now is not only to update HH’s menu but to obliterate the fusty perception that the restaurant is “a place to take your grandma” as he oversees a range of inventive dishes that are Mediterranean in spirit and flavour — “Italian, Spanish, with a kick of French influence,” is how he describes it. That black garlic? He buys it at South China Seas Market on Granville Island in Vancouver, and the Wentzel duck is  an Indiana farm product he prefers because “I find the quality and flavour of their ducks superior to any other available to me.” (more…)

Okay, this blog is primarily concerned with food of the gloriously edible kind, but I’d like to do a little “scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” for my friend and former Province colleague Peter Darbyshire, who has a richly varied blog at Cancult.ca, a look at all that, in his view, makes us a Canadian culture, including, at times, what we eat. He plugged Accidental Foodie on his site, so I’m returning the favour.
Peter is one of those irritatingly talented people. He writes novels and has them published (latest one coming out this spring), he’s a great editor, and though he hates mushrooms, he’s a foodie in his own right.
So check out his site. After all, it does provide lots of nourishing food for thought.

He’s written cookbooks with Jean-George Vongerichten and been a personal friend for 15 years, says Mark Bittman, New York Times food writer and author of a number of best-selling cookbooks himself.

Vongerichten, one of New York’s best-known celebrity chefs, thrilled the Vancouver restaurant scene when he opened Market at the luxury Shangri-La Hotel last year, about the same time that another New York City culinary superstar, Daniel Boulud, opened DB Bistro Moderne where Lumiere used to be.

In the NY Times latest food section, Bittman offers up Vongerichten’s favourite fried rice recipe. featuring leeks, crispy fried shreds of fresh ginger and a sunny-side-up fried egg. “It’s the straightforward but extremely clever refinements on the classic that make his recipe special,” says Bittman.