A tribute to trout farmer Sean Brady whose incredible ingredients are an inspiration to our kitchen. The life cycle of a trout starts with clay pepper spiced roe. The roe then becomes trout alevin that we have prepared “in Carpione.” The baby rainbow fillet has been treated in the style of an anchovy [or sardine], adult albino trout, a pigmentless fish of incredible delicate flavour fished with senape and yogurt.
My Toronto Life post that takes place at Kolapore Springs Hatchery (May 2012): GALLERY: Catching up with Top Chef Canada’s Carl Heinrich at Kolapore Springs
Gallery: Kolapore Springs Fish Hatchery with Carl Heinrich & Ryan Donovan (April 2012)
Gallery: Sotto Una Buona Stella (March 2015) dinner when Gentile served his Kolapore Springs-inspired dish
In late Spring of 2012, Carl Heinrich, fresh off his head chef role at Marben and still vying for the Top Chef Canada title, first introduced me to Kolapore Springs Fish Hatchery and it’s co-owner, Sean Brady.
Up until that point I had only heard of Kolapore Springs from seeing its name repeatedly pop up on top restaurant menus across the city. I was unaware of the interesting story behind the top quality trout, nor of how Brady and Bruce Green had been raising all-natural, sustainable, organic spring-fed trout since they acquired the defunct hatchery near Collingwood, Ontario. That was in 2009. It was probably 2011 when they started to infiltrate onto our restaurant plates.
What a treat it was to be invited with a small group by Heinrich and chef/butcher/co-owner Ryan Donovan to meet and break bread with the producers, including Gillian Flies of The New Farm and Norm Hardie of Norman Hardie Winery (who makes superb wines, by the way) to learn about what was happening up on this remote stretch of the Kolapore Uplands.
Without getting too technical (mainly because this is distilled from the conversations and the walk-about facility tour we took that day), the quality of the farm-raised trout can be attributed to the unique growing conditions available by position of the hatchery that is unmatched by others.
First, its water source is downstream from two forest streams that run under the Kolapore Uplands forest floor. The result is a collection of enzyme rich microorganisms and tiny wild fairy shrimps in the water. Besides feasting on organic feed, the trout’s diet is supplemented by the natural life found in the spring water – insects, minnows, and those shrimps – the latter imparting that vibrant rouge colour to the trout’s flesh.
Second, trout require clean, constantly moving water to grow. While Brady noted that the hatchery (built in the ’60s) wasn’t exactly up to environmental specs (at the time; now it’s a permanent installation), it also produced a near perfect environment to raise trout. Water from about 500-metres upstream slosh down a system of concrete raceways towards the hatchery, which doesn’t just create the eddy flows required, but also results in highly oxygenated waters.
Third, water from the forest streams are cooler than most commercial fish farms. The fish growing in these chillier conditions end up being healthier, with firmer flesh.
After touring the facilities (please see the Galleries above), we sat down to a generous feast prepared by Donovan and Heinrich, featuring produce from New Farms, wine by Norm Hardie, and of course, the incredible Ocean Wise-certified fish. There was also a campfire roast, some hot toddies, plenty of conversation, and, for me, a new appreciation for sustainable aquaculture.
How appropriate then to have things come back full circle at the Sotto Una Buona Stella dinner and Gentile’s tribute dish to Brady. That, and the fact that I was conversing* with Brady days earlier for an (unrelated) project. I’d like to think great minds think alike, but in all sincerity, we’re quite fortunate here in Ontario/Canada, and there’s never enough opportunities to celebrate those special somethings and special someones who make it possible.
* This is the primary reason behind featuring Kolapore Springs Fish Hatchery in the Day Trip package I penned for Where Toronto (June 2015). Interested visitors can make arrangements with Brady and Green, who are happy to host tours and even take guests out on belly boat fishing trips, arrange an ashore lunch and more. Do check it out!