Shop with a Chef: Stuart Irving, Cobre

July 2, 2008

For a chef who uses 10 different kinds of chilies on his menu, it’s somewhat surprising that Stuart Irving doesn’t like his food too hot. He prefers a nice building heat that doesn’t numb the tongue. Nearly a year ago Irving, 38, opened Cobre (52 Powell St., 604- 669-2396; cobrerestaurant.com) serving “nuevo Latino” fare that spans cuisine from the Mexican border to the shores of Argentina. South American grub has always been his comfort food (not counting his mother’s roast beef and Yorkshire pudding), but this night owl keeps his creative juices flowing with a varied diet, snacking on raw carrots and Granny Smith apples, or jicama sprinkled with Tajín (a mix of chili flakes, dehydrated lime, and salt). At Cobre, poblano peppers play a big role in his Mexican prawn dish ($15), and Irving can’t find them anywhere but at El Sureño Market (1730 Commercial Dr., 604-253-5017; Elsurenomarket.com), where he also sources Brazil nuts, fresh cheese Oaxaca-style, organic quinoa, and cactus paddles. At Que Pasa Mexican Foods(12031 No. 5 Rd., Richmond, 604-241-8175; Quepasafoods.com), he buys the kernel-like pequín chilies that go into his salmon ceviche ($13). Cobre’s wild boar and bison come from Hills Foods(1–130 Glacier St., 604-472-1500; Hillsfoods.com), and produce, jicama, and tomatillos from Jim M. Koo Produce (777 Clark Dr., 604-253-6622; Kooproduce.com). Irving knows that some customers like their dishes hotter than he does, so he keeps El Yucateco’s searing Mayan-style hot sauce in the back. Just ask for it.

Mini Review: Japadog

At the hot-dog stand in front of the Sutton Place Hotel (at the corner of Burrard and Smithe), suits and skaters alike wait in a half-hour lunch line for Noriki Tamura’s take on hot dogs, Japanese-style. In addition to standard street meats like Bavarian wurst and bratwurst, Tamura loads up Korabuta wieners (the highest-quality pork) with Japanese condiments like kaiware (radish sprout), seaweed, and miso-sesame. Tamura himself ate more than 200 of them last year: “Half my body is hot dog!” While he favours the Oroshi with wasabi mayo, we love the misomayo with hot pepper. Tamura and his wife plan to introduce a new Kobe beef dog to the menu, and perhaps even open a storefront. Yes, please! Burrard Street at Smithe

Hot Buy: Norpro Fish Flipper, $14.95

Hard-core grill masters know that size matters. Norpro’s eight-inch-wide, stainless-steel flipper is the Ferrari of fish turners, lauded for its broad, slatted base and forged from the highest grade of commercial steel (also available in nonstick). This baby won’t rust even when it’s left out in the rain. Finest at Sea, 4675 Arbutus St., 604-266-1904

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