by Ivy Knight
Chef Robert Clark and restaurateur Harry Kambolis’ C Food is an important book because it’s focus is on a restaurant that practices what it preaches. Vancouver’s C Restaurant bases their menu on sustainable seafood and when they say sustainable they mean sustainable.
What sets them apart is that, unlike most other restaurants, they don’t claim to care about sustainability then turn around and kow-tow to a wedding party that demands shrimp cocktails but refuses to pay spot prawn prices.
As they say in the introduction to the book, “C Restaurant seeks to provide ‘ethical luxury’, not opulence at any cost.”
Until people are told they can’t have tiger shrimp and the reasons why it is wrong to expect, let alone partake of, then we will never see change. Thankfully Clark and Kambolis are steering their customers away from the ever-popular and endangered choices and exposing them to truly sustainable options.
The Vancouver Aquarium launched Ocean Wise in conjunction with C Restaurant to better educate chefs and consumers about sustainable seafood choices. Ocean Wise will celebrate it’s fifth year in February 2010, the program is currently being used in over 2000 locations across the country.
The photos in this book are quite artsy and don’t really showcase the food as a completed dish to illustrate a recipe. Think more esoteric – food as muse. Get beyond the shots, which could easily decorate the Manhattan apartment of a Bret Easton Ellis protagonist, and you’ll find recipes that will change your life.
A chilled fennel consommé with fresh mussels, geoduck with horseradish cream, grilled octopus with preserved lemon. All of the recipes are innovative and easy to follow. A dish of ahi tuna with truffle syrup and nasturtium leaf puree is completely original, delicious and elegant as well as ridiculously simple.
It’s not all about fish either, a section on white and red meat offers recipes for foie gras parfait and grilled beef cap with marrow sauce. There’s even a sweet chapter that stays true to the innovative nature of the book with recipes for grape soda and chilled icewine jelly .
In a world where useless cookbooks outnumber the useful a hundred to one, Clark and Kambolis have given us one that will spend more time in the kitchen than on the coffee table.
Ivy Knight is a freelance food writer and cook in Toronto. She asks that you experience more of her tactless ranting at www.ivyknight.com.