Food & Drink » Glenda Bartosh on Food

To surprise is to delight

Unorthodox food winners take the cake in 2016

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Here we are, folks, at the end of another year, which means time to look back and contemplate who we are and where we've been, and where we might be headed.

Good things comes in threes, so with a nod to Pique's annual roundup of the Best of Whistler and Pemberton, may I present three totally subjective — and surprising — food bests from 2016.

In keeping with the season, good wishes to you for the coming New Year. May it be your best ever.

Glutton, glutton, who's got the glutton?

This may be heavy-handed, and more than ironic given the holiday season, but one of my "Best of's..." this year has to be the "Gluttony" exhibition (nudetincan.com/index.php), by Nude Tin Can Gallery in St. Albans, England.

My art radar is always on for smaller, local galleries that break free of traditional "white cube" programming (meaning most of the gallery scene), especially for art agents provocateur more concerned with political and public engagement and pushing boundaries than decoration or investment. This one takes the cake, or at least a big slice.

In 2015, I first introduced you to this gallery and its exhibition for World Toilet Day. Based on an open call for up and coming artists from around the world, "Don't Forget to Flush" was aimed at building awareness of the 2.4 billion people around the world who have no access to improved sanitation, including the 1 billion who have to defecate in the open.

Best of all, "Don't Forget to Flush" shone a light on a critical issue with a whiff of taboo about it. Admit it. Bet you've not been to many art shows highlighting pee and poo.

Anyone could get involved by voting for her or his favourite piece, plus the exhibition benefitted the not-for-profit organization, Toilet Twinning. In keeping with this sustainable, democratic mandate, this year's "Gluttony" was held in conjunction with Sustainable St. Alban's Week and The Hunger Project.

Taking on one of the seven deadly sins is no small feat for a small, local gallery. Besides that, the provocative results were a coup. How about a wonderfully piggy Donald Trump being silenced with an apple? Or the edgy, tattooed naked Knave of Hearts who stole many tarts (you decide which meaning for "tarts")?

Take a gander, Whistler. I can't wait to see an art initiative coming out of this creative resort town that combines all of the above ingredients — up and coming artists, international call, a sustainable theme, and helping out some angle of what you're shining a light on. Bonus if it takes on an edgy taboo. Bet it will win a "Best of..." one day.

Humble, bumbly humble berry

I'll leave it to Pique's loyal "Best Of ..." voters to pick "The Best" restaurant (will it again be Rimrock Café?) and "The Best" chef (could it possibly be Araxi's James Walt?). I couldn't possibly argue with hundreds of readers — in fact, I usually agree with them. So my strategy is to fly under the radar with these best picks and go for the humble pie.

Keeping that in mind, along with taste, ease and knowing a good deal when I see one, my best pick for Whistler eating this past year, or just about any year, has to be those freshly baked vegetarian pies with the perfect golden crust from Peaked Pies. Or is it Purebread's rich and delicious Old Stumpie bread made with Stump Town coffee and molasses? Or a yummy, organic smoothie from The Green Moustache?

The festive elves know it's difficult to choose only one, so I'll just have to change course and go with the amazing wild huckleberries we plucked trailside on our way to Alta Lake last summer.

Bottom line: Never underestimate the wild things in life.

Big picture food stuff

Lifting our collective head up from the bushes for a bigger worldview, may I present some predictive "Best of..." trends for 2016 (did they really come true?), and some top predictions for the coming year in case you might revisit this column in 12 months and see whether the experts hit the mark.

For 2016, Cosmopolitan magazine predicted the top three trends to be hot and spicy Nashville-style fried chicken, which is made with Tabasco sauce and butter; fermented foods such as pickles, sauerkraut, kefir and kimchi, to counterpoint sugar; and savoury ice creams with combo fruit/veggie flavours like orange/ginger or savoury yogurts like watermelon/feta.

Even allowing for the American bias of a Nashville recipe, can't say that we saw these big three sweep our Wet Coast scene. I will, however, admit to eating a lot of sauerkraut and pickles, but I've done so for years mainly because both hubbie and I are half-Polish, although two halves don't make a whole in this case.

Thanks to our Persian, Arabic and Middle Eastern neighbours, we also drank a lot of good kefir and, surprisingly, enjoyed some yummy hummus with interesting flavours, harissa standing tall among them. I say "surprisingly" because "hummus with interesting flavours" was the No. 4 choice in Cosmo for 2016

As for the National Restaurant Association's top prediction for 2016 food trends, it was a continuation of one from the previous year, one predicted to continue into the next, albeit with some twists: all things locally sourced and environmentally sustainable. The 2017 twists are "house-made condiments" and restaurant menus moving away from ingredient-based items to concept-based ones with "hyper-local" sourcing being "hot."

More on this in the New Year. In the meantime, party well but party safe ringing in 2017.

Glenda Bartosh is an award-winning journalist who likes the element of surprise.

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