On the patio at Local Public Eatery, you can feel the cool ocean breeze from Kitsilano Beach across the street. Early Friday morning at the four-year-old restaurant, rock music blasts through the adjacent airy dining room, and about a dozen cooks and servers prepare for the flood of diners expected by noon. It’s 20 degrees outside, and the patio at Local is the place for beachgoers and Kits residents to be in the summer.
“We’re very connected to the beach,” Connor Gabbott, Local’s product development chef, tells the Georgia Straight. “When we first started the concept, it was very Southern California, and that’s what we’re kind of going for—a bit of that surfer vibe, laid-back, and food you can eat with your hands.”
Gabbott has been helping create SoCal-inspired menu items, like tuna poke and Baja chicken tacos, for Local since 2011. The North Shore–raised chef got his start in the kitchen at an Earls restaurant when he was 15. Over the years, he’s worked for the Glowbal Collection and West in Vancouver and Sooke Harbour House on Vancouver Island.
The casual, beach feel at Local, however, suits the self-described outdoors enthusiast best. He says the restaurant is so compatible with the surfing lifestyle that there’s even an outdoor shower on-site.
“Anyone who comes off the beach and wants to come inside can go and have a shower and freshen up,” he says.
At home, Gabbott opts for seasonal produce—such as corn, tomatoes, and peas—when preparing alfresco meals in the summer, but he emphasizes that there are no rules in cooking and encourages home cooks to improvise on recipes.
“Go to the store and find what’s fresh,” he says. “It’s the middle of the summer, so there’s lots of great produce out there.”
Gabbott’s go-to summer dish bursts with colour and flavour, but a few potatoes help this salad stand as a meal on its own. His pesto topping for ahi tuna comes alive with the addition of mint. To drink, Gabbott suggests a glass of Pinot Gris or rosé, or apricot beer or margaritas to help beat the heat.
Connor Gabbott’s B.C. summer salad with pesto ahi tuna
12 multicoloured baby potatoes
1½ Tbsp (22 mL) sherry vinegar, or white, red, or malt vinegar
14 oz (400 g) ahi tuna fillet
4 golden beets, scrubbed
Olive oil for drizzling
1/4 cup (60 mL) pine nuts
1 fennel bulb
24 Kalamata olives
Dijon vinaigrette, homemade or store-bought
1/4 cup (60 mL) goat cheese
Variety of fresh summer vegetables, such as tomato, cucumber, corn, avocado, peas, and kale, chopped
8 oz (230 g) lettuce mix
Herbs for garnish, such as parsley or torn basil, mint, or tarragon
Pesto (see recipe below)
1. Place the potatoes in a pot, cover with cold water, and season well with salt. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 15 to 25 minutes, or until knife-tender. Remove from heat and drain. Once potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut into bite-sized pieces, toss with vinegar, and set aside.
2. Season tuna with salt and pepper. Heat a pan over medium-high heat and apply a light coating of vegetable oil. Sear the tuna for 5 to 8 seconds per side, or until cooked to desired doneness. Remove from heat, let cool, and then place in freezer for 30 minutes. Once firm, slice into bite-sized pieces.
3. Preheat the oven to 375 ° F (190 ° C). Remove the greens from the beets, place the beets on a baking sheet, and drizzle with olive oil to coat. Season with salt, cover with aluminum foil, and bake for 45 to 75 minutes, or until beets can be easily pierced with a knife. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Peel and dice beets into bite-sized pieces.
4. Reduce oven temperature to 325 ° F (170 ° C). Place pine nuts on a small baking sheet and roast until golden, about 6 to 12 minutes.
5. Cut lemons in half crosswise. In a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, grill lemons cutside down for about 4 minutes, or until nicely charred.
6. Cut stalks and fronds off the fennel bulb, and using a mandoline or sharp knife, shave very thinly across the grain. Slice radishes thinly. Soak the fennel and radish in a bowl of ice water to make them very crisp.
7. Pit and halve the olives.
8. In a large salad bowl, combine desired amount of vinaigrette with potatoes, goat cheese, chopped vegetables, beets, fennel, radish, and olives. Toss until well coated. Add the lettuce mix and toss to coat.
9. To serve, divide salad between 4 plates. Top with pine nuts and garnish with herbs. Divide tuna into 4 servings and arrange beside each salad. Drizzle pesto over the tuna and place lemon halves on the side.
½ cup (125 mL) assorted fresh herbs, such as basil, mint, or parsley
1 clove garlic, peeled
4 Tbsp (60 mL) olive oil, divided
1. Remove stems from the herbs and roughly chop the leaves.
2. Crush the garlic clove with the back
of a knife.
3. Place the herbs, garlic, salt, and 1 Tbsp (15 mL) of the olive oil into a mortar
and grind with a pestle until the herbs are flattened and the garlic is incorporated.
4. Transfer the mixture into a small bowl, and stir in remaining 3 Tbsp (45 mL) of oil.
Yield: 4 servings, with extra pesto.
Recipe has not been tested by the Georgia Straight.