You don’t have to look very far to realize we are absolutely spoiled on this coast to an abundance of culinary riches. Wild mushrooms, acres of fertile farmland producing the best produce you could hope to eat, pasture run chicken and duck, a long list of well managed, easily accessible seafood, ethically raised lamb, pork and beef, great wineries, breweries and cider houses. The list goes on and on.
There has been an increasing trend the last handful of years that has consumers looking to know more about the product that they are being served at their favourite restaurants, or buy at their local grocery store. Farmers markets, community supported agriculture, farm-gate sales – the focus is on the ingredient now more than ever in my lifetime. Menus with words like local, seasonal, organic and wild. I suppose it’s only the recent past that has seen this become the exception, not the rule.
Near the top of this long list of food is a particularly interesting product. That is venison from Sidney Island, British Columbia. In the early 1900′s this fallow deer was introduced to neighbouring James Island, and in the 60′s a few of them swam across to Sidney Island, where they have mostly had their run of the place, causing damage to the delicate coastal vegetation on the island, and causing damage to themselves. With no predation on the island they were over populating, which has consequences of it’s own.
The northern tip of the island is home to Sidney Spit park, the remainder is owned by private landowners. In recognizing the problem on the island, there have been culls of this deer population over the last number of years, with Two Rivers Meats coming on to help process this game for market sales. These deer do something very unusual, which makes them unique as a food source. Given that they have essentially mowed down the grasses on the island, which would be their normal food source, they have been forced to move closer to the shore where they munch on kelp. This gives the meat a somewhat briny, mineral flavour that sets it apart.
It’s not likely that you will see this particular beast in your grocery store’s meat case any time soon as it’s all sold to restaurants, but it serves to highlight the diversity of food we have here on the west coast.