by Patricia Mack
I recently had the pleasure of attending the ten-day Right Some Good culinary and music festival held in small towns and historic sites along the rocky shores, rolling farmland, glacial valleys, barren headlands, mountains, woods and plateaus of Cape Breton, this serene and sparsely populated island in Nova Scotia. The event teamed world-class chefs hailing from as far away as Peru, China and Belgium with local chefs and culinary students for a series of gourmet dinners that were accompanied by the music of island talent.
Right Some Good is a local expression describing something excellent or extraordinary, which was quite fitting. The goal was to attract visitors and tourists, but also to showcase the island’s foods — a wealth of fish, shellfish and farm-fresh produce. The subtext, said event creator Pearleen Mofford and culinary director chef Stefan Czapalay, was also to expand culinary horizons of the local chefs, the island’s novice cooks and apprentices, as well as its avid diners.
“I truly think we did that,” Mofford said after the first night of the sold-out festival, when renowned chef Alvin Leung, Jr., the so- called “Demon Chef” of Bo Innovation in Hong Kong, presented his dinner at the tiny Judique Community Centre. One of the eight courses featured red fish in har mi sauce with Shao Hsing wine, tomatoes and potato gnocchi. It was an unaccustomed starring role for the Cape Breton red fish which are a colorful and plentiful variety of drum — usually cut for bait, not for the dinner plate.
“Who knew the possibilities?” said local chef Jared Wolf, of Allegro Grill & Deli in Sydney, Cape Breton, who assisted Leung. Leung also dazzled and sometimes confused the locals unfamiliar with “molecular” cooking. His xiao long bao — wiggly grayish globs served in soup spoons — exploded on the tongue in a spray of miso for anyone brave enough to plunk one into his or her mouth. Not everyone was.
“I don’t do that all the time,” said Leung, as he lit his trademark cigar in the kitchen after the meal, “but mainly, like tonight, just to amuse and engage the diners.”
At the Little River Harbour event, equally exotic fare was offered courtesy of chef Atul Kochhar, the award winning Indian-born British chef who owns Benares in London. Cooking eleven dishes featuring Cape Breton foods, none was more dazzling than his grilled spice-rubbed lobster served with tomato salad and masala vegetables plucked from local gardens.
The ten dinners were designed to be unique, so buffet lines at Little River Harbour gave way to soft candlelight and white linen tablecloths at the historic Orangedale Train Station for a dinner created by chef Vincent Masson, an ardent supporter of local cooking and regional flavors in Belgium.
“It is precision and balance — that is my cooking,” said Masson following the five-course meal that dazzled with dishes demonstrating the chef’s exacting techniques and presentations that went from kitchen to table as small works of art composed of ingredients such as Cape Breton mussels, lobster in red curry, and local haddock in Elderen wine broth.
“This is a delightful event,” he said. “It was a challenge, but the potential for fine dining is here — the fresh local food, good cooks who season carefully, and a lot of passion for eating well.”
For further information about Right Some Good, visit RightSomeGood.ca
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