Shop With A Chef: Dale Mackay

After a 12-year career in fine dining, which took him to London, Rome, New York, and back home to Vancouver, Dale Mackay wanted his new restaurant, Ensemble, to reflect a more casual atmosphere with lower prices. “It’s a different type of service. It pumps—you’re always doing something new.” Eschewing culinary hives like Gastown, the Top Chef Canada winner opened Ensemble (staffed by his former Lumière team) in a maligned space on Thurlow. “Everyone talks about this being a cursed space. I’m happy to prove them wrong.” The food still reflects the perfectionism of his fine-dining roots, though the menu is larger (27 items) and the portions smaller. “We have everything from a pulled-pork sandwich with a fried pickle to hamachi with grapefruit. It’s great for sharing.” In the summer Mackay’s kitchen works with a variety of fresh produce. Look for a pavlova made with Okanagan Valley peaches.
How to Buy

“Peaches are fragrant; you want to have a good smell. Ripeness is big: peaches go from firm to overripe fast. They’re temperamental. You have to keep rotating them, even in the fridge; otherwise, the bottoms get soft.” Mackay buys his fruit from Gabriel Fernandez, who runs a stand at Trout Lake Market.

How to Cook

Peaches love spices: “cinnamon, other Middle Eastern flavours; cilantro, basil, ginger.” Firm, they pair well with savoury meats, especially pork. When overripe, “I make jellies and jams.” For a quick peach compote, start the pan with a bit of caramelized sugar, lemon zest, and cinnamon. Add peeled and crushed peaches. Cook for five minutes, adding a splash of lemon at the end.