All Mondays should begin with the sweet smell of cornbread, a lesson in smoking ribs, and a BBQ feast complete with a Driftwood beer (before noon). Really, they should.
This all happened yesterday in Steveston, when I returned to Hog Shack for an education in smoked pork ribs, pulled pork, and their famous “Burnt Ends” with one of the owners (and chef) John Lim. I learned that the keys to southern BBQ are simple ingredients, attention to detail, time, and a chef’s personal mix of homemade rubs and sauces.
We prepared ribs to smoke outside on the smoker, a pork butt for pulled pork, coleslaw, and some of their famous ‘burnt ends’ (saucy, smoked brisket tips).
John told me all about all the qualities of good BBQ, including the red ring around a piece of meat that indicates it’s been smoked, and the fact that yes, you can smoke spam (though we stuck to ribs yesterday).
My favourite trick was watching as John removed the size-able bones from the finished pork butts, and used them as ‘paddles’ to mash up the hot pork.
It didn’t take long to do – they were so tender they simply fell apart, and with some added sauce and a bit more mixing, the pulled pork was ready to go.
We plated up the ribs, pork, burnt ends, some freshly-tossed coleslaw, and one of my all-time favourite foods: freshly-baked cornbread.
These, along with a beer, were my ‘brunch,’ and they tasted glorious.
Thanks to John at Hog Shack for the cooking lesson – and I apologize to everyone who stood near me for the rest of the day – I smelled like a walking, talking rack of hickory-smoked ribs! Or perhaps I should say “you’re welcome?” That’s a pretty fine aroma.
Later in the day I went to Steveston Seafood House for dinner, which is a village institution for the last 35 years. Its current owner, Shane Dagan, was named one of the city’s 30 under 30 by the Richmond Review this past February; he started there as a busboy when he was 17, then went on to buy the place when he was 24! Pretty impressive.
They recently underwent renovations, and the interior is now modern but classic – pale blue with dark brown seats, and a sleek gas fireplace built into the wall.
The restaurant is offering a special 4-course Celebrate BC menu until June 30th. For $37.95, the menu’s meat, cheese, fish, and shellfish are sourced entirely within the province, including Ocean Wise seafood and of course, BC wines.
I opted for the pan-fried oysters; the roast beet and goat cheese salad; the rainbow trout; and the deep dish apple pie, with a glass of Blue Mountain Pinot Noir to drink.
The bread I started with was baked in house, and apparently the chef changes up the herbs in it each day. I could distinctly taste the sweet, licorice-y flavour of fennel seed, and it was unbelievably good with butter.
The oysters came from Fanny Bay on Vancouver Island, and were crispy, golden, incredibly flavourful, and served with a spoonful of vinaigrette below them. Lovely.
The salad had roasted beets from the Fraser Valley, Saltspring Island’s famously creamy goat cheese, and candied pecans. The greens were perfectly dressed, and I loved every bite!
The rainbow trout from Mission with fried capers was wonderful, though my one complaint was that it was seasoned with too much coarse salt. I’m a salt fiend, but it was too much even for me. I’d have preferred plain rice to rice with cubed vegetables, but the roasted carrots, zucchini, and asparagus were really nice.
Finally, I had a piece of warm apple pie for dessert, layered with Bavarian cream, topped with crumble, and served with some very creamy vanilla bean ice cream and caramel sauce. Just the right way to end my delicious, smokey day.
Cash and cards accepted
Vegetarian (and non-seafood) options available