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FoodLovers, fresh on the farm


A few keeners in Pemberton are taking the 100 Mile Diet to new heights this summer, opting to keep things even closer to home, introducing a "100 Metre Diet" with their "true farm-to-table cooking."

The FoodLovers (also known as chef Maxim Ridorossi and pastry chef Jenna Dashney) are the culinary culprits who took over the kitchen at Pemberton's beloved 60-acre North Arm Farm last summer.

(For anyone not in the know, North Arm is owned and operated by Pemberton's mayor, Jordan Sturdy, and is both a functional farm and foodie paradise, where anyone can come and explore local agriculture at work, and take home a few treats for later.)

Of course, the highlight of any trip to the farm for me is visiting the North Arm's store, which has recently been renamed "North Arm Farm Country Market," and this year promises to be more tempting than ever with a tantalizing selection of new products available alongside the shelves of seasonal produce. The FoodLovers have expanded their typical store stock, which features Dashney's delicious baked goods, preserves, sandwiches and salads, to include handmade organic sausages and charcuterie, organic meats and a "natural twist" on the corner store concept featuring all-natural confectionery and pure fruit juice slushies. Last week, their shelves were lined with candied walnuts ($3), lavender sugar ($5), an assortment of herb and fruit syrups, and jars upon jars of pickled veggies (between $3.50 and $8).

But for anyone who isn't wild about doing their own cooking, this epicurean couple will also be offering prepared meals (lunch or a set dinner menu for around $40 on weekends) at their new 40-seat dining area, located outside of the barn, nestled right next to the fields. There, Dashney and Ridorossi will prepare meals in an open-concept kitchen before the guests' very eyes to create a true dining experience.

The FoodLovers have made a name for themselves around town for their high-end "supper club" concept - a three-hour, eight-course evening of gourmet goodies that are guaranteed to leave you swooning. But, this summer, they've decided to tone that experience down just slightly, switching to private lunches that are hosted outdoors so they can combine elements of cooking classes into the meal.

I had the opportunity to check out the pair's new "scaled down" lunchtime offering, and can attest that it is anything but. No corners were cut, here: the meal started with an impressive spread of B.C. cheeses, three types of homemade crackers (yes, you read that correctly: Dashney bakes her own crackers) and an antipasto platter featuring marinated asparagus, beets, radishes, beans and cauliflower fresh from the field. My appetite was already sated before we sat down for lunch. But once I saw what was in store for the rest of the meal I managed to make a bit of room to sample.

Thankfully, the first course was a light and simple salad made with sharp, peppery arugula grown right at North Arm (Dashney's modest claim was that "the arugula does all the work") tossed with a tart dressing made of tomato concentrate saved from last year's harvest, and sheep cheese.

For the main, Dashney had snagged some of Ridorossi's tender and delicious pulled pork and whipped up a batch of brioche buns to create pulled pork sandwiches, a classic BBQ favourite. I've got to admit I was a bit worried when I saw those buns headed our way - they looked so round and shiny that I was afraid they would be dry and crumbly, but I should have known better. Dashney knows her way around the kitchen, and these were perfectly prepared: crunchy on the outside, but soft and slightly chewy inside. They were served with two sides: a sweet, fresh coleslaw made of white beets, carrots, parsley root, parsnip, apples, chives and cider vinegar; and a warm potato salad, which featured three types of potatoes, caramelized onions and hyssop (an herb with a lightly bitter, slightly mint flavor; as usual, my trip to the farm was filling and informative).

Last, but certainly not least, we were treated to a warm slice of strawberry rhubarb pie served with whipped cream. With a pure butter crust, tangy and sweet fruit filling, and creamy topping, this little slice of locally harvested heaven signaled the start of summer, for me.

Anyone interested in a weekend lunch can come by between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., no reservations required. But they're expecting dinnertime to be a bit busier, so people should book ahead by checking or calling 604-902-5081. Their dining room should be complete by the end of June, and the Country Market will be open seven days a week, starting Friday, June 25.