A Non-Review of the Willows Inn, Lummi Isl., WA: Locavore or Loco-what?

While I do not do restaurant reviews or “serious” essays on IslandEAT, I have been thinking about a recent fine-dining “locavore” experience at the Willows Inn, Lummi Island, Washington.  It was one of New York Times10 Restaurants Worth a Plane Ride.  This is a lofty honour for a restaurant on an obscure island of 800 year-round residents off Bellingham, WA.

If you are not familiar with the term – in its most simplistic definition  – “locavore” refers to a person who focuses on local, in-season foods, in large part or exclusively.  The philosophy behind this “locavorean” ideal is that local foods:

  1.  Taste better, as they have not traveled tremendous distances.
  2. Work better together, as they are from the same area/region.
  3. Feature high nutritional value: they are fresh, seasonal, and often organic.
  4. Benefit the environment more, due to less packaging and transportation.
  5. Create less waste (see #4) and are to satisfy – but not stuff.
  6. Support local economies, small farmers, and independent growers.
  7. Represent how humans – or other animals – are meant to eat.

The above definition is my explanation and understanding of what constitutes a “locavorean” approach to eating.  It is one that makes sense to me as well as one I try to follow, to a large extent.  For me, I cannot find – or “source” – locally produced citrus, avocados, olive oil, cocoa/chocolate, vanilla beans, coffee, and tea (black, green, or white, that is, as opposed to herbal teas or tisanes).  Hence, I am not a hard-line “locavore”, as I have not stopped consuming these staples – at least staples in my kitchen.

Salmon comes from the Gulf Islands, though the lemon does not...

However, I eat only blackberries I have picked, as they are free and abundant in the Gulf Islands; buy eggs – all free-range/grain-fed/organic – just a 20-minute walk up the road; and have harvested nettles for cooking.   It is rare that I have any fish or shell fish from outside the seafood-rich waters of British Columbia, even some of which comes from right off this island.  (Here are some of my favourite recipes for maple-ginger-soy salmonsalmon chowderhalibut with lime-ginger-cayennehalibut cheeks, and scallops in brown butter with hazelnuts.)  Last week, I had eaten lamb raised on a farm on the other side of the bay, which I can see right from our house.  So that is pretty good, as far as “locavores” go.  I am privileged to live in a place where all this is possible.

For the “non-review”, keep reading…

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Guest Post by Moby on I Can Haz Food Blog?

I have been posting on IslandEAT for nearly one-and-a-half years ago – without any requests to do a guest post yet.  However, George and Jinja did an April Fools cat-food blog, but they already have their first guest cat food-blogger, Moby (AKA, “Mobesity Dog-Roast”).

Read about Moby and his many food issues on I Can Haz Food Blog?

IslandEAT will return with human-appropriate food matters shortly.

Avocado Sandwiches: Possibilities & Permutations

Are you looking for an avocado sandwich recipe? I was not really until I came across a recipe in Australia’s glorious gastro-porn, delicious.

In fact, I have hesitated to post about sandwiches, as they seem, um, well, so easy and straightforward.  So why bother?  Then this month’s Saveur arrived: The Sandwich Issue.  I happened to note that this excellent, wide-ranging, and thorough overview of (mostly American) sandwiches did not have many of the avocado varieties I often eat.

Avocado is one of the best sandwich ingredients I have come to realize over the years.  In fact, I myself have developed a number of avocado sandwiches varieties – more or less variations and permutations of other classics.

For instance, instead of a classic bacon-lettuce-and-tomato, I use prosciutto, a bit of mayonnaise, avocado, and tomato – faster, easier, and less messy than cooking bacon. This is one of my favourite sandwiches.  I serve it on sourdough, wholegrain, or even challah, for real decadence.  In my feeble attempt to mitigate the sandwich’s fat content, I remove the white lardy edges of the prosciutto and offer it to Jinja and George (who, BTW, might continue their April Fools Day food blog, I Can Haz Food Blog, due to interest from readers of IslandEAT).  These two cats sure love their prosciutto!

One sandwich I have developed of late is kind of a French tartine, with slow-roasted garlic spread over Dijon mustard on a multigrain flatbread or crackers, topped with a sliced avocado fanned out in wedges.  Sea salt (fleur de sel works especially well) and scads of freshly cracked black pepper are all you need for a great snack, brunch option, or lunch.  The tangy mustard and and nutty sweetness of the roasted garlic are superb complements for the rich creaminess of the avocado and the crunchy counterpoint of the flatbread – and vegan, vegetarian, and very healthful, too!

For the recipe – and the review…

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George and Jinja announce their new food blog

George and Jinja, who have more time to post than I these days, would like to announce their new cat-food blog, I Can Haz Food Blog? Check it out.

IslandEAT will return next week with human recipes.

 

Chill-Out Brownies: High Temperature Baking + Ice-water Bath = Creamy Interior + Chewy Crust

Are you looking for yet another brownie recipe? I was not, until I had come across one with a very unusual technique from the great Alice Medrich.

I though my brownie recipe collection to be complete, what with the extravaganza that is Ina Garten’s Outrageous Brownies, my grandmother Jessie’s very gooey double-chocolate brownie, the original 1897 brownie recipe, or the spectacular iced double-chocolate, double-malt brownies.  Really, I was not seeking another one for my arsenal.  After all, I have an entire cookbook dedicated to brownie recipes and a number of tried-and-true versions, with which I am completely satisfied.

However, I had borrowed Ms. Medrich’s book from the library, in an attempt to read more library cookbooks, rather than my habit of buying more and more.  This particular recipe jumped out at me.  Apparently, an acquaintance of hers named “Steve” rescued a batch of brownies from an oven which was much too high (or on fire – the author was not sure which) and immediately plunged the pan into an ice-water bath. Ms. Medrich relates that the brownies turned out to be very creamy, far from dry, with a chewy crust.  Thus, the “Steve ritual” intrigued me enough to try yet another recipe.

I had returned last week from a trip to Connecticut to visit my family, with a bit of time in New York; the latter destination was a day on my own for, in pursuit of evaluating the top cookies in the city at Levain Bakery and Momofuku’s Milk Bar.  I enjoyed my comparative taste-testing of Levain’s famed dark-chocolate-chocolate chip cookie and David Chang’s even better-known “compost cookies”.  This was most fun – actually it was a highlight of my trip – not to imply that seeing my family is not fun…

When I needed to make brownies for a potluck baby shower in Vancouver, I decided to try out this mysterious technique.

Gratuitous Floral Interlude

With the first day of spring – a Very Important Day of the Year – fast approaching, I noticed that the camellia outside our kitchen door finally started to bloom.  It is very late in blooming this year, what with the La Nina and her cold-wet winter, here in Canada’s so-called moderate Mediterranean climate (NB:  notice the teeth marks on the leaf below the flower – the local deer keep chewing the camellia’s leaves, although they are not supposed to like such leaves. Please get the word out to any deer you know…).

For the brownie review – and the recipe

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Avgolemono Soup: Fast Flavourful Greek Egg-Lemon Soup

Do you need a quick yet unusual soup to help you get through the end of winter? Avgolemeno soup, in my abbreviated version, is bright, creamy, and healthful.  It is thick and rich, yet relatively low-fat and easy to make.  This is one of my favourite soups to make during the winter for its simplicity and ingredients, which I regularly stock.

Avgolemono soup is a traditional Greek soup, which requires eggs and lemons for its consistency and lively taste.  While it is generally chicken-based, recipes sometimes call for vegetarian stock or other meat broths.  NB:  I do not agree with the Wikipedia entry for avgolemono soup “invariably” curdling, when refrigerated and reheated; I have not had this happen to me.

I have fond memories of avgolemeno soup from living in “Chicagoland”.  Greater Chicago had such an influx of immigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries that it would make such claims as more Poles than anywhere in the world except for Warsaw and more Greeks than any place outside Athens.  There were many outstanding Greek restaurants throughout Chicago, as well as diners, coffee shops, and other such American-style restaurants run by people of Greek descent.

As my family ate out many times each week while I was growing up, we often had Greek cuisine in “Greektown” as well as eating in Greek-influenced diners.  Avgolemeno (“egg-lemon”) soup was frequently on the menu in the former and the latter, with the name always in English at the diners. Except during my strictest vegetarian years, I always enjoyed avgolemono soup.

Gratuitous feline and fowl photos

George seems to be pondering when spring will arrive.

Any sprouts coming up yet?

Jinja may be looking around the corner for spring….

While a bald eagle appears to be contemplating spring nest locations.

For the review – and the recipe

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S’mores Bars: The Classic Campfire Treat, Indoors or Out

When was the last time you had s’mores around a raging campfire? Yesterday?  Sometime during your childhood?  Never?

For those of you who did not have a North American childhood, “s’mores” is a contraction of “some more” – it is a challenge to eat just one.  S’mores consist of graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate. There are two ways of making them:

1. Large marshmallows are toasted on a stick or skewer over a campfire and then placed between two graham crackers with a piece of chocolate (the residual heat will melt the chocolate or at least soften it to make the sandwich.

2.  Marshmallows and chocolate are placed in between two graham crackers and wrapped in a piece of aluminum foil (or in a wire basket) which then go close to the fire to heat up the mixture for a melted chocolate-marshmallow result.

Apparently, it was the Girl Scouts in the U.S. who can claim bragging rights to these delectable sandwiches.   Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts came out way back in 1927.  The first published recipe made it into this fascinating guide-book (the title alone makes it worth seeking, at used book stores or rummage sales…).

I made s’mores bars for a new year’s bonfire/potluck party.  Originally, I planned to bring the ingredients for s’mores:  However I could not figure out how anyone could make these in a relatively safe manner, in front of raging fire – not your average campfire.  Fortunately, I had come across a simple and quick recipe Cajun Chef Ryan posted right before new year’s.

On our island, recycling is a major past-time, as is composting and “burns”.  The latter only can take place between mid-October and mid-April.  Such fires are ways of getting rid of non-toxic debris, as we have no municipal garbage pick up.

Gratuitous kitty pictures – to keep things in perspective:

Jinja likes to hide at the bottom of a branch-filled giant vase.

From this angle, Jinja looks like a giant cat, emerging from said vase.

For the recipe and the review…

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