EAT Magazine July_Aug 2014_Victoria_48_Layout 1 6/27/14 10:45 AM Page 11
EPICURE AT LARGE
By Jeremy Ferguson
Tofino chef Lisa Ahier’s gastro wizardry is captured in a cookbook as hell-bent on excitement as the food that inspired it. THE SOBO COOKBOOK ARRIVES WITH BELLS, notably an affectionate foreword from Sarah McLachlan as well as backcover tributes from Rob Feenie, probably the finest chef B.C. has ever produced, and sub-continental superstar Vikram Vij. No small praise. The applause could be understated. Chef Lisa Ahier has emerged as the gastro-wizard of the west of the west coast. Her story rings familiar to Islanders: how she and husband Artie opened Sobo (an acronym for Sophisticated Bohemian) in a purple food truck in a parking lot behind a Tofino surf shop. How they came—the tourists, the surfers, the locals—to woof down halibut-stuffed tacos and miso oysters. And how en Route, Air Canada’s in-flight magazine, named Sobo—a food truck?— one of Canada’s top 10 new restaurants of the year 2003. And away it went. Fast-forward to 2014. Sobo occupies a smart, inviting space in downtown Tofino. Its components are a Wood Stone pizza [oven?], furious open kitchen, full bakery and a hap-happy crowd. “We try to maintain moderate prices,” Ahier says, “prices our friends can afford.” Which makes her a rarity in this globally famed resort. The cookbook presents the Sobo oeuvre, with easy-to-follow recipes taking readers from breakfast to bedtime. Mundane doesn’t exist here: think Florentine breakfast pizza, Aztec bean soup, grilled watermelon and shrimp salad, miso oysters with smoked salmon bacon, polenta fries, prosciutto-wrapped halibut, barbecued octopus, cedar-plank salmon, West Texas onion rings, dark chocolate and salted caramel tart. Comprehensive chapters cover off the Sobo evolution, the unique nature of Tofino, cook notes (sauces, spices, seeds, oils, etc) and the staples, from fire-roasted corn to pickled jalapeños, of a kitchen hell-bent on excitement. Ahier’s idea of flavour is “killer” in Tofino-speak. Chef lives the mantra of organic, local and sustainable, but also transcends it. As foodies know too well, correctness doesn’t guarantee flavour. Love does. Foraging for top ingredients, infusing salsa sensation according to her American southwest sensibility (she hails from Fort Worth) and applying her CIA discipline in the kitchen, Ahier is simply the most original chef on the Island. It’s a beautiful book. Surf photographer Jeremy Koreski illustrates with crisp food photography and essence-capturing images of Tofino through the seasons. There’s also an endearing generosity here. Ahier’s opening tribute to Artie, “who has put his dreams on the shelf to help me realize mine” is more than eloquent. Full-page profiles salute local farmers and growers dedicated to producing the best our seas and soil can offer up. The effect of the book isn’t just to set the mouth a-watering. It leaves you hungry to be in the kitchen with the chef. Minor cavil? Lisa Ahier’s fried oysters are the best of the best on the west coast and the recipe, dammit, isn’t here. When she gilds her bivalve lily, expect pan-fried oysters crusted in hemp hearts and served with tequila and avocado ice cream. Also not here. So, Lisa, make the next one The SOBO Oyster Book, eh? E The SOBO Cookbook: Recipes from the Tofino Restaurant at the End of the Canadian Road (Random House, $29.95) by Lisa Ahier with Andrew Morrison
Open Lunch & Dinner Tuesday through At 45 Bastion Square
Globally Inspired. Local Flavour.
Camille`s @ 45 Bastion Square Victoria, BC 250-381-3433 www.camillesrestaurant.com
www.eatmagazine.ca JULY | AUGUST 2014