Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Bassingham Village and Farmland

As I was travelling to England, I was second guessing my choice of housesits. Why had I chosen so many small villages with limited amenities and minimal bus service? Why hadn’t I chosen more big cities? But then I arrived in Bassingham and I realized I had made the right decision. It didn’t hurt that the sun was shining!

The house I’m staying in is lovely, full of light and cozy furniture and a sweet Bengal cat called Nala. She was very vocal when her “Mum” was still around but has been sleeping most of the day. She did get up and eat while the “stranger” was out of the house. And she came begging for some of my cheese at lunchtime.

Bassingham is a small village just outside of Lincoln in the east of England. There are two small stores, and I was delighted to discover that they sold everything I needed – from muesli for breakfast to wine with supper. I bought some lovely cherry and orange marmalade from a small, local home-kitchen business called Saints and Sinners and I’ll be making apple sauce shortly with my English-grown Bramley apples. The apples are misshapen and sour, but I love them.

In the afternoon, I headed out in the sunshine. I started out on a public bridlepath, but it turned rather muddy so I headed on to the farm roads instead. Judging by the size of some of the shrubs’ trunks, the hedge must be very old. I hope it’s home to lots of small critters. There were enormous oak trees, fields full of kale, and horses in a field nearer town.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Flavourful Saskatoon, November 11, 2019

Local Happenings
FoodRenew is saving food from going to waste by picking up donations from local businesses and taking them to community centres. They are looking for a volunteer to pick up food on Wednesday afternoons from Extra Foods on Broadway.

Check out the Farm to Fork Christmas Market on Dec. 6 hosted by The Pig and Pantry and The Wandering Market.

Join winemaker Pierre Jhean of Domaine Henri de Villamont for a Burgundy wine tasting on Dec. 6.

Sample some of importer Doug Reichel’s wines at a come-and-go, reception-style event from 3-4:30 pm, Dec. 7.

Hearth Restaurant is my favourite place to go out for a special meal in Saskatoon. Local food prepared with care, a seasonal menu, old-fashioned plates, and a comfortable environment. Mushroom-cheese dip to start, followed by pasta and polenta, with sticky toffee pudding and chocolate truffles for dessert – yum!

10 different vegetarian lasagna recipes! There’s herbed tofu lasagna for vegans and gluten-free polenta and Portobello mushroom lasagnas.

I’m on my Way! 
I leave for Europe today. First stop is the United Kingdom, then France in February.

Flavourful Saskatoon is a weekly Monday feature. I also post articles about food that is good, clean and fair; travel; and books. You may also enjoy EcoFriendly Sask profiling Saskatchewan nature/environmental initiatives and events. 

You can follow Wanderlust and Words on Facebook, Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Monday, November 4, 2019

Flavourful Saskatoon, November 4, 2019

Local Happenings 
I had lunch at Restaurant Kashmere on Broadway Avenue on Friday. If you enjoy Indian food, this is the place to go. The dahl was creamy and flavourful. The eggplant bharja had a bit more zip – if you enjoy lots of onion, choose this one. I appreciated knowing that they were using (and promoting) Saskatchewan lentils and you could tell they were cooking from scratch. Service was excellent and the food was beautifully presented.

Prairie Sun Brewery is now open on Broadway with regular hours, 7 days a week, starting Tuesday, Nov. 5.

Aria Restaurant & Spirits in Rosewood offers a diverse menu with food for everyone, regardless of their dietary restrictions.

Bulk Basket opens in Riversdale on Tuesday, Nov. 12, and is hosting its grand opening on Nov. 16 and 17. There is free 2-hour parking on Avenue D and 8 customer parking spaces behind the store.

In a potentially futile effort to combat insomnia, I have come across a range of organic teas. I’m enjoying them so much that I’m not too fussed about their potential to send me to sleep – but it can’t hurt! Pukka Herbs offers a wide variety of organic teas and actively seek out Fairtrade and FairWild certified ingredients. I’m enjoying the relaxing teas at bedtime. The chamomile tea is much more flavourful than other chamomile teas I’ve had in the past, perhaps because it includes three different types of chamomile – Egyptian, Croatian, and Hungarian. I also recommend the Night Time tea, which includes oat flower, lavender, and limeflower.

The term FairWild was new to me. Their goal is to ensure ecologically, socially, and economically sustainable resource management and supply practices throughout the supply chain of wild-collected products. It sounds like a great idea to me as foraging for wild food can easily get out of hand.

I would never have thought of using a potato masala curry as a toasted sandwich filling. But, then again, why not!

Food for Thought 
I’m going to be thinking twice before I purchase any more cashew-based products as I’m really not happy about “contributing to an industry sullied by a long, complex supply chain rife with human rights abuses.”

Containers and packaging make up 30% of America’s waste so it’s good to see supermarkets as well as independent stores moving to bulk food. But it needs to be done right. Can customers bring their own containers or are you offering them plastic or paper bags? How many customers buy bulk chickpeas – maybe they would be more inclined to buy bulk hummus?

Flavourful Saskatoon is a weekly Monday feature. I also post articles about food that is good, clean and fair; travel; and books. You may also enjoy EcoFriendly Sask profiling Saskatchewan nature/environmental initiatives and events. 

You can follow Wanderlust and Words on Facebook, Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Saturday, November 2, 2019

No More Sleepwalking!

“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes 

When I’m travelling, I’m fully alive. A week can feel like a month because it’s packed full of new sights, sounds, and experiences. It’s harder to stay “awake” to what’s around me when I’m at home. I settle into comfortable routines, walk familiar paths, and fail to observe what is going on around me.

I’ll be back in Europe this winter and I’m determined to live my time there to the fullest. I’ve come up with some ideas to get me exploring more widely. Some are old, some are new. Lots of them can be incorporated at home as well as on the road.

1. Don’t stay in a hotel. Hotels are a neutral environment. If you really want to get a feel of a place, you need to live like the locals. Housesitting means that I not only shop locally, but I also figure out how the local garbage and recycling schedules work, and may end up purchasing a fundraising calendar from the local fire department.

I have mixed feelings about staying in AirBnBs. Some are run like a business and are unfair to the neighbours. But others are great. I had a chance to chat with my hosts in two French AirBnBs this past winter because the owners lived on the premises. And I love being able to do some of my own cooking.

2. Walk and use public transit. When I was in Wales, another housesitter for the same homeowners was surprised by how many people I had met locally. But she drove a car and shopped in the big supermarket in the neighbouring town, whereas I walked up and down the hill, shopped in the local village stores (the butcher’s had the freshest fruit and vegetables), and took public transit.

3. Participate in local activities. I am a regular at the local cinema in Quillan, France. I’ve also been to an archaeology lecture and amateur theatre performances. I’ve got to know some of the local ex-pats who’ve invited me to join them at quiz night and a fish and chips supper.

4. Go on a tour. I had no idea there were so many fountains in Aix en Provence or how many restaurants there were in Manchester until I went on a tour. I took two wine tours last year in Lyon. One was too superficial, but the other one was great.

5. Do something you don’t normally do. I had such fun making a Christmas wreath in Torquay last winter. I am not a crafty person and would not have done this if I’d been at home. But my wreath turned out well, and I was really proud of my accomplishment.

6. New initiatives. I have several new projects to try out this winter to help me expand my horizons.

I plan to photograph things that have surprised me, made me laugh, or delighted me.

I’ve purchased The Mindful Traveler Exploration Journal. I get bored keeping a traditional journal as I tend to record the same events every day. This journal, however, starts each page with a challenge or an idea: from setting an intention for the day, to considering the nature of impermanence, to getting a little lost or speculating about the people who live or use a building.

I will be in Quillan for two full months, so I’m going to look for places to volunteer, perhaps at the local library, so that I have more opportunities to talk French.

I had lunch with two British friends yesterday who gave me all sorts of great ideas about things to see and do. I would not normally visit a railway museum, but that’s one of the things I now plan to do while I’m in York. They are also going to put me in touch with one of their friends who lives in the town I’ll be visiting. The friend of a friend is in a band, so hopefully I’ll be enjoying a brass band concert this Christmas.

Now I’m turning it over to you. What do you recommend I do or see while I’m in England (Lincoln, York, Wetherby, Littlehampton, North Devon) and France (Paris, Quillan, Lyon)? What alternate approaches to travel or life have you found stimulating?

Please post comments on Facebook or email me. I turned off Blogger comments as I got so much spam. Thank you!

“I rarely end up where I was intending to go, but often I end up somewhere I needed to be.” 
Douglas Adams 

Photos are from a previous visit to Lincoln.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Flavourful Saskatoon, October 28, 2019

Local Happenings 
Head out to Black Fox Farm & Distillery on Wednesday nights for live music, cocktails, and a tour. Each week will feature a new cocktail. Plan ahead and reserve your spot for wreath-making classes in late November and early December.

Spice up your week with chili peppers from Grandora Gardens – from mild, to medium, to off-the-scale.

Here’s an unexpected way to make bread pudding by putting the bread and milk through the food processor (and then adding figs and walnuts).

Food for Thought
Whole Foods has announced their top 10 food trends for 2020, including new nut butters and vegan spreads, fruit and vegetable flours, foods from West Africa, and non-alcoholic drinks.

If you’re interested in France, I highly recommend A Bite-Sized History of France by Stéphane Hénaut and Jeni Mitchell. Starting in prehistoric times, the book links food and history in a series of short anecdotes. You’ll find out why we should thank Charlemagne for French honey and how the popularity of Camembert and Vache qui Rit (Laughing Cow) cheese is directly linked to World War I.

Flavourful Saskatoon is a weekly Monday feature. I also post articles about food that is good, clean and fair; travel; and books. You may also enjoy EcoFriendly Sask profiling Saskatchewan nature/environmental initiatives and events. 

You can follow Wanderlust and Words on Facebook, Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Monday, October 21, 2019

Flavourful Saskatoon, October 21, 2019

Local Happenings 
Dennis Skoworodko of Our Farm will teach you how to make sauerkraut in a fermentation workshop at MakeSpace from 9:30-11 am, Oct. 26.

Celebrate Hallowe’en Mexican style with Pan de Muerto from the Mexican Bakery at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market. Or, enjoy a kiss of strawberry or Saskatoon berry jam with one of their Besos.

I’m delighted that Dad’s Organic Market is now carrying some Miyoko’s vegan cheeses made from fermented cashew cream. They’re the best of the bunch in my opinion, especially the smoked and aged farmhouse cheeses.

Of course, you may prefer a regular dairy cheese. In which case, I highly recommend Saskatoon Spruce’s cheese. Be sure to try the smoked variety, which has lots and lots of flavour.

Have you tried Black Fox Farm & Distillery’s haskap gin? It incorporates haskap berries from boreal forests around the world. A percentage of the profits goes to the Saskatchewan branch of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.

Don’t let the fall colours fool you. There are still lots of fresh vegetables at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market. Look at these gorgeous Hakurei turnips from Kaleidoscope Vegetable Gardens! This Japanese turnip “is sometimes referred to as a salad turnip, due to its crisp, delicious raw flavor. Unlike other turnip varieties, hakurei do not need to be cooked. They have an even-textured density and the flavor pairs well with a variety of different food items. Eat them raw (just whole, or chopped/grated in salads), make a quick pickle, or cook with their greens to enhance their natural sweetness.”

Food for Thought 
Food without fields? “Tech ‘solutions’ to agricultural challenges can actually perpetuate the industrialized food system. . . . We need to consider, too, the vast amount of time and resources diverted to technologies that entrench us further in a fossil-fuel dependent food chain versus a liberated, regenerative one.”

How well does your favorite chocolate bar score when it comes to farmer income, child labour, organic and/or non-GMO? Find out on the Chocolate Scorecard.

Meat consumption per capita grew by 75% between 1961 and 2011. Some of the factors driving increased meat consumption may surprise you as they include urbanization and the number of women in the workforce.

Flavourful Saskatoon is a weekly Monday feature. I also post articles about food that is good, clean and fair; travel; and books. You may also enjoy EcoFriendly Sask profiling Saskatchewan nature/environmental initiatives and events. 

You can follow Wanderlust and Words on Facebook, Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Friday, October 18, 2019

Alt Hotel Saskatoon

What’s not to like? It’s Canadian. It’s part of a small family-owned chain of hotels. It showcases the prairies. And it’s in a great location. Alt Hotel Saskatoon is located across the street from Persephone Theatre and Remai Modern and right beside the riverbank. Choose the right room and you could lounge on your bed while enjoying the fireworks displays. There’s a building site next door at the moment – but not for long. Plans are in place for paths winding their way between grassy banks and around a pond with fountains.

I was fortunate to be invited to Alt Hotel Saskatoon’s grand opening and benefited from a private tour of the facilities. There’s a lounge and pool table at the back of the main floor. On the second floor, there’s a series of conference rooms, all with huge floor-to-ceiling windows, built-in AV equipment, and whole walls set up as whiteboards. There’s also a gym on the third floor.

We looked at 3 of the hotel rooms. They’re not large, but they’re well equipped with lots of light-coloured wood, big windows, and murals of canola fields. Dogs are welcome in some of the rooms. The hotel also offers a romantic weekend package with champagne and chocolates.

I found some of the prairie touches somewhat clichéd (not convinced I want to sleep beside a canola field mural), but I loved the pops of bright colour and the clever ways they used wood as wall finishes.

The hotel chain prides itself on showcasing local products so the snack bar in the lobby stocks Three Farmers roasted chickpeas and pea pops and there’s a display of photographs by Saskatchewan photographer, Herry Himanshu. 9 Mile Brewing beer was on offer in the lounge and Dale McKay from Ayden Kitchen and Bar was catering the opening. I absolutely loved his make-your-own pavlova bar with an assortment of fruit, sauces, and whipped cream.

Groupe Germain is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. At 24 years old, Christiane and Jean-Yves Germain were running 4 restaurants and a disco. In the late ‘80s they switched from restaurants to hotels. They now have 16 active hotels and 3 brands (Alt, Alt+, Le Germain) spread across Canada. This is the first Alt hotel in Saskatchewan.