Event Coverage: Mikuni Wild Harvest Pop-Up

Posted on July 18, 2012 by Luis Valdizon

Le Marché St. George is truly lucky to host some fantastically special occasions, and this past weekend we were graced with one of Vancouver's most precious and uncommon market events.

A rare opportunity allowed lucky visitors to purchase items that are exclusively available to proud, quality-driven gourmet boutiques, restaurants and chefs, including Iron Chefs Mario Batali and Masaharu Morimoto. Tyler Gray, the co-owner of Mikuni Wild Harvest, hosted the company's first-ever public sale with us on Saturday, and it was a huge honour, as Mikuni is a premier supplier that has dedicated more than ten years to providing the culinary industry with unequivocally unique and artisanal ingredients and products. A professional cook that I know likens her restaurant's Mikuni shipment days to opening presents on Christmas morning.

Tyler and I shared a brief conversation about his event, and it was very moving, how informatively and passionately he spoke about his products and craft, whilst also being sincerely genuine and hospitable. He kindly opened with the pop-up sale as a way for him to get to know his neighbors, to meet and thank them for sharing their community, while he and his fiancé reside at the Live @ Marché St. George space for the summer.

All of Mikuni's wares are of the highest caliber, and some of the ingredients available on the weekend especially shone as favourites for Tyler. The first product we talked about were finger limes, which he described as a citrus caviar. Finger limes contain segments of individual, self-wrapped and enclosed spheres that share a pronounced resemblance to caviar in their look and texture, except, of course, firmly popping with a brightly tart citrus flavour.

Tyler's mushroom of choice, morels, were foraged in Alaska and the Northwest Territories. He explained that this season hasn't been especially fortunate for their harvest, so having them at the pop-up event was really quite exceptional, because it is one of few opportunities, if not the only chance, for the general public to find their crop within in the city.

There was a particularly fascinating sunflower oil, that I overheard him praising to a handful of earlier customers. He explained that while sunflower seed oil might not sound like an exciting product, the cold-pressed one available was, in fact, the best he had ever savoured because it remarkably tasted like eating a handful of freshly toasted sunflower seeds. Tyler added his belief that chefs gravitate toward the oil because of the beautiful simplicity in executing something extraordinary with a fairly common ingredient.

White Seashore honey, my favourite to learn about on Saturday, is a product that he described as on a different level than any of the other honey products available on the market. Its manufacturers settled their apiaries near the Gaspé region of Quebec's shoreline, giving the honey's finish a salinity, because the herbs and wildflowers that the bees harvest pollen from have been exposed to the ocean air. Even better, flavour isn't the only distinct feature of this item: It's unpasteurized, retaining many nutritional health benefits, and the churning process it underwent also provided it with a brilliant, marshmallow fluff-like texture.

Both the sunflower oil and honey were produced by a small collective of foragers in Montreal, Société Orignal, whose aim is to pioneer and share natural, wholesome foods through a network of farmers, activists, chefs and grocers. Mikuni works in a similar way, building its relationships within the culinary world to procure a bounty that not only tastes better, but is better for us, as well as providing chefs with the tools and motivation to demand changes for the state of food and modern agriculture for all of us. This is a conviction that Le Marché also shares, and we are so grateful and happy to carry local produce and goods for our customers, as well as stock Mikuni-sourced items on our shelves, including Pok Pok Som drinking vinegars, Noble tonics, and fermented black garlic.

I would like to sincerely express my thanks to Mr. Gray for his time and generosity. His heart and effort showed in all of the details of the day, from the handwritten signs to the locally foraged display props. A few ideas for the future were mentioned in our chat, including neighborhood potluck dinners, pop-up restaurant nights, and the possibility of another in-house sale for the public. I hope to see all of these affairs manifested. In the photo montage above, also included is a picture of Tyler's truck, a sea foam green 1961 Chevy Apache; it is a tremendously stunning machine.