Vancouver’s already oh-so-shiny food industry sparkles a little brighter thanks to the Dirty Apron Delicatessen and Cooking School (540 Beatty Street), a culinary hub featuring a delicatessen and creative cooking classroom.
As you probably know, we’ve been fans of the Dirty Apron’s founder Chef David Robertson for a long time – in part, because he happens to be an incredibly passionate advocate for eating local!
For some holiday food inspiration, we reached out to Robertson to chat about everything from his favourite (locally sourced) treats and foodie gifts to his own personal traditions. Enjoy!
Buy Local Eat Natural: Holiday food traditions can be so inspired and creative. Does your family have any seasonal food traditions?
Chef David Robertson: My wife is from Germany, so we have blended some of her traditions with the local ones here. On a chilly Canadian night one of our favourite things to do is grab some delicious local cheeses and then make Glühwein (literally “glow wine”), a traditional warm German mulled wine that’s made with different spices, sugar and citrus fruits—such a delicious combo.
BLEN: What would you put in your dream (locally sourced) Christmas gift basket?
DR: For me the best gift basket is one I can dive right into and start eating right away! There are so many options of locally produced wines, cheeses and meats that are amazing right now. My favourites include The Farm House Natural Cheeses (www.farmhousecheeses.com), a family farm in Agassiz that is doing some beautiful handmade artisan products. For wine, a great blend from Black Hills Estate Winery in Okanagan I’m enjoying right now is the Nota Bene Wine—a Bordeaux-style red. Moving over to meats, I’m definitely a huge fan of what they’re doing over at Oyama Sausage Co. (www.oyamasausage.ca). And of course you can never go wrong with locally made chocolate, especially if it’s Thomas Haas (www.thomashaas.com) or Beta 5 (http://beta5.myshopify.com/). I’ve been especially impressed with what the fantastic job Beta 5 is doing with their holiday collection (they were recently named one of North America’s top 10 Chocolatiers). To add a little special something to the basket, one of the best locally produced cocktail bitters is the Bittered Sling (www.bitteredsling.com). They come in mini-packs of six with flavours like Orange & Juniper, Moondog, and Plum & Rootbeer. Chef Jonathan Chovancek is producing them in small-batches and they are really incredible. And finally for a little unexpected twist to the ultimate foodie gift basket, I’d include a voucher from the Dirty Apron, of course! It’s the gift that keeps on giving, because you can ask the person you give it to, to come back to your house and duplicate what they’ve learned.
BLEN: That all sounds so good! In your opinion, what are some of the great culinary benefits of being in BC for the holidays? Are there local holiday treats you can’t do without?
DR: For me, this is the time of year when pastry chefs really shine. Elinor Chow Waterfall at Cadeaux Bakery (www.cadeauxbakery.com) is fairly new on the scene. She was the pastry chef at Chambar and opened her own shop about two years ago with a philosophy that is all about natural, seasonal and locally sourced ingredients. She gets really into the Christmas theme of doing things—from little Christmas logs to scones with seasonal pairings. I also really love the Christmas flavours from Ernest Ice Cream (www.earnesticecream.com), which include Rum & Eggnog, Whiskey Hazelnut and Salted Caramel.
BLEN: Do you have any homemade gift ideas to share?
DR: People love homemade, so that is a route my family and I often go for gift giving. Something simple like cookies that are hand decorated and put into a little bag can make a great gift to send off to friends and families. I also love doing jams and preserves. One year I spiked them with a port and sherry compote and it went over very well. At the Dirty Apron we are making our own little mini biscotti to put in jars and send out as Christmas gifts.
BLEN: Great ideas! And finally, can you share a well-loved personal Christmas recipe?
DR: I’m going to share something a little more contemporary that we love, the Pear & Apricot Stuffed Pork Loin.
1 lb Pork Loin (boneless, center cut)
50g Double Smoked Bacon (diced)
1 Shallot (diced)
1/4 Pear (diced)
1/4 cup Dried Apricot (diced)
1/4 cup Sultana Raisins
6 cloves Roasted Garlic
3 sprigs Italian Parsley (chopped)
2 sprigs Fresh Thyme (leaves only)
Salt & Pepper
Preheat oven to 300F
Brown the bacon until crispy and evenly coloured, remove the bacon from the pan and place onto a paper towel. Keep the bacon fat and add the shallots to the pan and sauté on medium heat until soft. Then remove the pan from the heat and add the pears, apricots, sultanas, roasted garlic, fresh herbs and season with salt & pepper. Add the bacon back to the pan and drizzle the mixture with olive oil. Allow mixture to cool.
Take the pork loin and push a long sharp knife into either end of the loin and carefully work it back and forth gradually widening the whole until you’ve cut a pocket through the center from one end of the loin to the other without breaking through the sides.
With your fingers and a spoon push the mixture into the pocket of the pork loin. If any stuffing is left over it can be baked in a small casserole dish with the pork loin.
Season the pork on all sides with salt and pepper. Using a large enough pan sear the pork on high heat browning evenly on all sides.
On a roasting tray, roast the pork until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 150F. Remove the pork and allow resting for 15 minutes before slicing.