After several years running popular Cowichan Valley restaurant Amusé Bistro, Bradford Boisvert and his wife, Leah, wanted to try something else.
Staying in the food industry, the couple opened Cure Artisanal Meat and Cheese in Cobble Hill’s Valleyview Centre in November 2014, providing the Cowichan Valley with a European-style deli focused on ingredients sourced in the Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, and the rest of B.C.
“We were looking to do a bit of a change,” Boisvert explains. “But still bring unique and different food to the Cowichan Valley.”
Boisvert trained under European chefs at the Culinary Institute of America in New York City, and has added to that with years of practice, reading and self-education. Cure’s way of doing things was a dying art, on Vancouver Island at least, until a few years ago, but seems to be experiencing a renaissance.
“It’s coming back more and more,” Boisvert says. “I like to think that we are part of doing that.”
In addition to local quality ingredients, Cure makes a point of sourcing ethically sound meats.
“The big thing is that we know these animals have had a great life and been well-taken-care-of,” Boisvert says. “For one thing, it’s just good nature, and it adds to a great result in the end product.”
Employee Joe Westra, who has been with Cure for the last two years, has enough experience in the food industry to know that Cure is doing things a special way.
“We use high-end ingredients,” he says. “We do things right, and slow. And the result is a beautiful product. We stand behind everything we make, and in this industry, that’s kind of hard to say sometimes.”
Starting with pâtés and sausages, Cure moved into dry-cured meat, concentrating on Eurporean styles from Italy, France and Spain. Their products range from coppa — pork shoulder that is cured and aged for two months in Cure’s special curing chamber — to breseola — beef eye of round that is air-dried and cured with juniper and a variety of spices.
Boisvert believes people’s eating habits are changing.
“People are wanting to do more and more stuff at home,” Boisvert says. “There’s a transition from dining out to eating in .”
Meat and cheese undeniably go together, and although Cure doesn’t make cheese in-house, they bring it in from local producers like the Cowichan Valley’s own The Happy Goat, and other Island producers, and other cheesemakers around the world. They also smoke a cheddar that they bring in from Quebec and then sell both retail and wholesale.
That’s not to mention their housemade condiments, about 10 that come and go throughout the year. About three months ago, they added a fresh-meat cooler to the front of the shop.
“We were bringing in a lot of meats, so why not offer it fresh too?” Boisvert says. “It complements the take-home idea. Everything in the shop is like that.”
Cure also sells dry-aged meat: roasts and steaks that have aged for 30 or 60 days. The meat is more expensive, Boisvert notes, but the dry-aging enhances the flavour and tenderness. Bone broth made in the kitchen appeals to customers of the fitness centre next door because of its richness in healing compounds like collagen and glutamine.
Also available in the shop is pizza dough, essentially bigger batches of the dough they were already making for onion tarts. Along with buffalo mozzarella, tomato sauce and Cure’s own pepperoni, customers can get virtually all the ingredients for pizza right there.
Beyond their own store, Cure has been distributing pâtés, dry-cure meats and condiments throughout B.C. for about a month.
Boisvert says its hard to put a percentage on it as it changes from week to week, but they try to source as much of their ingredients as possible from the Cowichan Valley. The also have close relationships with other food producers in the Valley, including True Grain Bread, the Cowichan Pasta Company — Cure is one of the few places their pasta can be bought in bulk — and Drumroaster Coffee, who provide ingredients for coffee rubs and smoked chocolate espresso truffles.
Cure also supplies the neighbouring Pizzeria Prima Strada with meats.
“That’s what the Cowichan Valley is really about,” Boisvert says. “All of us working together to let people know about good food.”