Shop with a Chef: James Walt, Araxi

November 1, 2009

The chef at Araxi drops by North Arm Farm (1888 Hwy. 99, Pemberton, 604-894-5379. Northarmfarm.com) outside Pemberton twice a week (he lives just up the way) to pick up the squash blossoms that get stuffed with Moonstruck ricotta. It’s extra work going in person, but worth it: blossoms, berries, and arugula come into the kitchen “still warm from the sun.” The restaurant’s oyster raw bar gets zip from a six-farm consortium out of Cortes called the Outlandish Shellfish Guild (Outlandish-shellfish.com). Varieties like Black Pearl and Marina’s Top Drawer arrive three times a week, and Walt looks for the weightiest specimens, filled with brine and juices. He gets 13 varieties of potatoes from Across the Creek Organics (8356 Meadows Rd., Pemberton, 604- 894-6463). Walt evangelized a popular European varietal, the Desiree, now cultivated widely in Pemberton. He recommends it for pomme purée and gnocchi; Banana Fingerlings for their unparalleled nutty flavour; and Pemberton Purples for unique flavour. Two Rivers Meats (833 W. Third St., North Vancouver, 604-990-5288. Tworiversmeats.com) supplies duck from Yarrow Farms and beef from Pemberton Meadows. “When they started five years ago,” he recalls, “it wasn’t what I wanted—too grassy, too lean. I told them what I knew about finishing the beef on grain; now it’s fantastic.” He’s enthusiastic about the “nasty bits” like shoulder blades, shins (for ragout), and necks, which get dry-aged, then slow-cooked with veal jus and aromatics. It all adds up to intensely local food that tastes of its place.

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