Cumin, Beer and 20 Strangers

Last month, Canoe Brewpub held its inaugural Long Table series. This was the first time Canoe offered an event like this, where you sit at a long table with twenty strangers and enjoy a set menu of an entrée paired with one of the brewpub’s beers. Offering impressive value at 15$ per person, I decided to attend two.  Both meals managed to transport my taste buds to far off places using cumin as a key flavour. Native to Syria and used traditionally in Middle Eastern and South Asian cooking, cumin is now a common addition in Mexican inspired dishes. Perhaps, because cumin is part of the parsley family, it lends itself well to a variety of dishes and does add a depth and warmth to dishes from many parts of the world.

The entrée for my first long table experience was a Moroccan inspired lamb ossobuco, accompanied by Canoe’s Beaver Brown ale, an appropriately selected pairing for a fall evening. Prior to serving the meal, a tour of the brewery was offered so that the patrons could learn about the beer making process. Much to everyone’s amusement, our tour guide emphasized, on both nights, the similarities of the effects of drinking beer to those of inhaling cannabis.

After the tour, we returned to the long table. Although the ossobuco was served sans gremolada, which disappointed a couple of the diners, this was soon forgiven as the lamb, accompanied by creamy mashed potatoes and fragrant cumin-glazed carrots, fell easily off the bone onto forks and into hungry mouths.

Three nights later I went back for more, and saw the Long Table return to the Moroccan region, when Canoe Chef Ruthford presented a North African goat curry vindaloo. If you ever need an easy way to start dinner table conversation, serve goat. The goat was not from North Africa, but from Vancouver Island, and it surprised many of the diners in being so succulent. A common misconception about goat at the table was that it is a tough, gamey meat. I think that Canoe managed to convince the whole table that goat should be on the menu more often.   A British inspired beer, the Extra Special Bitter was served with the curry and it certainly worked.  The curry was served with rice, naan, pappadams and chutney and raita. I didn’t need the raita to cool the curry, because I prefer a lot of heat in a vindaloo. Once again, this was provided by the use of cumin. I was delighted with the meat, which was curried to succulent perfection.

The cumin plant is an annual, and can grow in gardens on Vancouver Island. However, Richard White, resident owner and operator of Hazelwood Herb Farm in Ladysmith, reports that the yield off each individual plant is not great, so unless you are growing many plants it is easier to buy the seeds. Cumin is widely available at grocery stores and specialty food shops.

The next series of Long Tables kicks off at Canoe this Sunday, November 8th, and runs until Wednesday, November 11th. Visit our Events board for more details, or call 250.361.1940 to reserve your spot.

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