A cup o' goodness

What locavore doesn't dream of a different world? One where your eggs come from the neighbours in gingham-lined baskets and your bacon from the farm across the street. Where cheese is freshmade and baked goods pulled warm from a non-factory oven. These things - ideals of a kind - are hard to imagine while trolling the isles of big name grocery stores, and besides - who has time or neighbours like that? But in a deli-market like The Cup Bistro & Deli in Squamish it's a way of doing business. It comes naturally to owner Steve Fencho, a farm kid from Saskatchewan with a penchant for good, fresh food.

"If we can make it from scratch we do and if I can't source it well locally, I source it authentically," he said. "My mom was always cooking, baking and making and we were outside raising chickens, ducks, cows so we grew up raising, slaughtering, butchering.

"We'd go to the neighbours and butcher their hogs, they'd come to our place and we'd butcher the chickens. We did everything from the ground up."

That understanding of life cycles and a respect for the process is part of the reason The Cup bustles with local customers, many of who are repeat offenders. They come for slabs of cheese, tins of chipotle, bottles of olive oil and perfectly cured Italian prosciutto. If they're hungry they turn their attention to the daily breakfast and lunch menu, hung high on the wall behind the displays. Tender Pemberton roast beef salad ($8) drizzled with tamari vinaigrette or the irresistible Manwich ($9.50 - and belying the name it appeals to both genders), a pulled-pork sandwich served in a crusty bun with figs and smoked local cheddar. Schnitzel ($9.50) is served crisp on a Portuguese bun and other menu items (too many to list) run the gamut of epicurean preferences, including lamb, eggs, French toast, and homemade granola.

The customers who pop in for the specialty market goodies have a rich selection of vittles to choose from. Behind banks of cool glass sit large pucks of English blue Stilton, smoked and aged cheddar and Okanagan-made brie. Long strands of naturally cured pepperoni coil next to Italian prosciutto, salami and slow baked free-range turkey. The olive oils are accompanied by instructions on how to best use them. Shepherd's Pie, Turkey potpie and cassoulet sit ready for take out - easy dinners packed into flakey purses of homemade dough - slightly better than any pizza you planned on ordering. Richly coloured tubs of homemade peanut butter and yogurt are wisely positioned next to the baked goods by the cashier.

"The peanut butter and yogurt were almost accidental," Fencho continued.  "They worked out, people love them and now we can't take them off the shelf.

"I'm only doing what really has been engrained in me and my career through cooking and food. Get the best quality stuff, maintain your standards and your quality and people will come, they will enjoy it."

With his lifelong knowledge of butchery, it's no surprise that meat is Fencho's pride and joy. Almost 100 per cent of the beef sold at The Cup comes from the Pemberton Valley, the turkey and chicken from the Fraser Valley. More than organic, the standards of which are still wobbly, Fencho is genuinely interested in how the animal lived and its quality of life pre-slaughter.

"I'd rather know that the SPCA put a stamp on this because they look at husbandry, they look at feed, they look at access to the outdoors, I'd rather see those kinds of things measured," he said.

"Not very often are you going to get something locally raised that gets abused by the owner, it just doesn't happen so what we've done is paired with a lot of local farmers and suppliers and they know now what I want."

Through The Cup, Fencho offers cooking classes, catering and the occasional special dinner. The next specialty evening will be held on April 9 - this one an olive oil and wine pairing hosted by an Italian expert (call for reservations, 604-898-5553).

Taking a brief reprieve from the lunch hour buzz, Fencho waxed seasonal when asked to describe his favourite meal - one that aligns perfectly with his business ethic.

"On a hot, sunny day I can have a few olives, a beautiful glass of white wine and some freshly sliced prosciutto - I'll take that any day of the week," he said.

"When the weather is cold and I have a beautiful slice of bacon going into the oven with some beans, that sets the standard pretty high as well."

For more information go to The Cup Bistro & Deli's page on Facebook or www.thecupbistro.com . Even better, drop by the market at 40378 Tantalus Road in Squamish.



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