Thursday, April 16, 2015

Saskatoon Co-op Liquor Store

The Saskatoon Co-op Liquor Store opened on March 28, 2014. As of one of Saskatchewan’s first specialty liquor stores, I was curious to find out more about what is involved in setting one up. Dawn Wreford, the store’s Liquor Procurement and Marketing Manager, was happy to oblige.

Dawn started working in a restaurant when she was 14, so she has lots of experience in the hospitality industry. She’s completed the first two levels of the International Sommelier Guild’s program and in 2010 she started working for Select Wines & Spirits. As a manager, she was responsible for promoting their products and getting them listed in Saskatchewan. It was a switch from serving wine to selling it, working closely with SLGA on logistics, pricing, promotion and supply.

Dawn now had a good feel for both sides of the industry and was well placed to help the Co-op set up their new store.

Selecting the Products 
The Co-op currently stocks approximately 4,000 different products, substantially more than the 2,400 products you’ll find in SLGA’s full-line signature stores (e.g. 8th Street, 2nd Avenue, University Heights).

Approximately 60% of the store’s product is warehoused at the SLGA distribution centre out of Regina. It represents the most popular brands that people will expect to find when they come into the store. The Co-op carries just about everything that SLGA carries so that people aren’t disappointed.

The other 40% is where the Co-op can really differentiate itself by carefully selecting wines, beers and spirits that they believe are under-represented. These products come from various sources, including Alberta, BC and individual wineries in Argentina, Chile, Italy, France, and Spain.

“It takes some training to fill out the sections,” Dawn explains. “You want a fair selection of wine from each region of each country. You don’t want all the same varietal or the same price point.”

Dawn felt that Ontario’s VQA wines were under-represented in Saskatchewan so the store has dedicated a section to them. “They’re really good wines,” Dawn says. “The VQA program is solid and they’ve been making wine for so much longer than BC. They have a different climate too; their Riesling is really good.” The Co-op stocks Hidden Bench wines that are hard to come by as they often sell out at the winery.

When asked for more recommendations, Dawn directs me to the French and Italian sections, which she believes are under-shopped.

If you’ve been looking for a product, say so. “If more than one person requests a wine, I’ll try to bring it in,” she says. “It feels really good when we see someone with a huge smile on their face because they’ve found something unexpected or something that they’ve been looking for.” The store has already been able to meet requests for Underberg Bitters, Aperol, Pastis, good-quality grappa, and some high-end whiskies.

Working Together 
Dawn credits a great deal of the store’s success to the Co-op employees and the store’s partners.

The Co-op has 32 liquor stores in Alberta, but this was their first in Saskatchewan. All the Saskatoon staff came from other areas in the co-operative. “They weren’t wine people,” Dawn says, “but they’re learning all the time and really interested in helping people.”

All the products are channelled through the SLGA. “The SLGA has been a very good partner,” Dawn says. “The team on the special orders desks has been very helpful and supportive. As long as the supplier can provide the right information, SLGA is game to order it.

Suppliers approach Dawn directly and small distributors, such as Doug Reichel Wine Marketing, have been very supportive.

The walk-in beer cooler has a huge selection of craft beers that changes from week to week. There are often limited edition beers, one-time-only offers from sales agents. “We try to react quickly and bring in new products so that people don’t get bored,” Dawn says.

The Co-op was the title sponsor for Premier in 2014 and presented beer for the first time.

One way to discover new products is by attending a tasting. The store’s tasting room is well equipped and you’ll receive a plate of bread and cheese to accompany the drinks.

The tastings are listed in the monthly newspaper flyer, but they can also be found online. Guess the Expensive Wine is one of the most popular tastings and there is a monthly beer tasting. The store also hosts winemakers on a regular basis.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Flavourful Saskatoon, April 13, 2015

Riversdale Delicatessen

Steep Hill Food Co-op
I stopped in at Steep Hill Food Co-op last week to pick up some Passage Foods sauces. According to their website, they have a wide range of international flavours.

I’ve been able to find Chipotle Lime and Tikka Masala. They’re a great way to flavour a quick stir fry with tofu and vegetables.

While I was browsing, the Screamin Brothers Frozen Treats, made with organic coconut milk, caught my eye.

Food Trucks
 With warmer weather, I’m hoping the food trucks will soon be out on the streets. Here are a couple that are new to me.

Rebel Melt“fresh made hillbilly-inspired grilled sandwiches and other yummy vittles”

Soom Soom“fresh from scratch world foods, focusing on Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine"

“Pulled Pork” for Vegetarians 
Pick up a can of green jackfruit at a local international store, such as Fiesta Pinoy, and treat yourself to Barbecue Pulled Jackfruit Tacos.

Bell Peppers and Cookie Dough
Rock climber Alex Honnold loves chocolate chip cookie dough, red bell peppers and is minimizing his impact on the environment by eating mostly vegetarian/vegan. If you’ve never watched Alex Honnold climb, he’s amazing!

Flavourful Saskatoon is a weekly Monday feature. I also post regular profiles of culinary entrepreneurs, new restaurants and new food products.

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

Monday, April 6, 2015

Flavourful Saskatoon, April 6, 2015

Appreciating food from a very young age

Seed Starting Workshop, Apr. 9 & 14 
Learn the basics of starting your own plants indoors at a Seed Starting Workshop sponsored by the Saskatoon Food Bank and Learning Centre’s Garden Patch. The workshop is being held at the Core Neighbourhood Youth Coop from 10-11 am on April 9 and from 7-8 pm on April 14. All supplies are provided.

Station 20 West Fundraiser, May 2 
Support Station 20 West at a supper and silent auction catered by Touch of Ukraine Restaurant on May 2.

Gangsters Italian Sandwiches Food Truck 
Bill Matthews sold Two Gun Quiche House and bought a food truck. Gangsters Italian Sandwiches Food Truck will serve classic Italian sandwiches made from local ingredients (e.g. bread from Earth Bound Bakery, herbs from Floating Gardens, peppers and tomatoes from Grandora Gardens).

Why I Eat Organic Strawberries 
Hunched over for up to 10 hours a day, Glorietta is a California strawberry picker. The foreman berates her and her wages are inadequate. And the strawberries are making her sick. “As she fills carton after carton, she experiences constant nausea, muscle weakness, and eye irritation from the chemicals sprayed. She says her employer does little to protect its workers from exposure.”

Not only do strawberries contain high levels of pesticide residue, but their production involves chemicals that don’t impact the consumer but do impact the farmworkers.

As consumers, we can make a difference. Boycott foods that are produced in unhealthy conditions. If you don’t feel you can afford to eat an all-organic diet, at least avoid the Dirty Dozen – for your own health and for the health of those who grow and pick our food.

Are CSA Farmers Earning a Living Wage?
As this article points out, there are advantages to becoming a CSA farmer, although your wage will only be slightly higher than other farmers. CSAs also represent tremendous potential:

“Farmers and members constitute a critical mass that can push for national policies to address the common needs of CSA farms …. It is the connectivity and solidarity of CSA farmers and members that holds the greatest promise for improving the business model’s viability.” 

Native American Food Culture in the Modern World
The Sioux Chef specializes in Native American pre-reservation foods of the Dakota and Ojibwe people who lived on the Great Plains with an emphasis on indigenous ingredients. Chef Sean Sherman says,

“The proteins in the meats are easy because it's just the wild animals that are out there. For me, it was a longer study in ethnobotany: what plants are indigenous and were growing around here, how Native American people were utilizing things, understanding Native American farming and agriculture, because it was such a huge scene especially in this region. And understanding how food preservation systems were working for people to maintain and keep a lot of food in their food caches to last them through the long winters. For me, it was basing my food, my pantry items, on those pieces -- the dried corn, the dried beans, the dried wild rice and all the varieties of all of that. When they were making things into meal and powder, all the different dried vegetables that were utilized. Those were the base flavors for me to really think about using in this region.” 

Flavourful Saskatoon is a weekly Monday feature. I also post regular profiles of culinary entrepreneurs, new restaurants and new food products. 

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

Monday, March 30, 2015

Flavourful Saskatoon, March 30, 2015

Easter Egg Hunt 
Join the Easter Egg Hunt at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market from 10 am to 2 pm, Saturday, April 4. The Market will also be open on Sunday, April 5.

Liquor Tastings 
The Co-op Liquor Store organizes regular tastings: 
April 10, 7 pmConcha y Toro wine (including Bonterra)
April 25, 7 pm – the history and production methods of several rum distilleries
April 30, 7 pmNathalie Bonhomme, Spanish wines, including one made in collaboration with Bodegas Juan Gil, Jumilla

Wally’s Urban Market Garden
It must be spring – or else Wally of Wally's Urban Market Garden is very optimistic. He told me he planned to start planting garlic and onions on March 29!

What could be nicer than a thirst-quenching glass of cider in an English pub or a French crèperie? But cider is also popular in northern Spain, parts of Germany and other countries around the world as I discovered when I read World’s Best Ciders by Pete Brown and Bill Bradshaw. The book highlights artisan ciders as well as providing some background on big companies, such as Strongbow and Magner’s.

BC Tree Fruits is introducing its first cider, called Broken Ladder, in April. One of my favourite Canadian cider companies is Sea Cider on Vancouver Island and I enjoyed Lonetree’s dry cider when I was in BC this past summer.

I’ve started following the Cider Monger’s blog to keep up to date on new Canadian ciders.

Best Food Writing 2014 
If you are interested in the people, places and ideas behind our modern food culture, Best Food Writing 2014 is a must read. The series compiles short essays from a wide variety of sources and I make sure to take it out from the library every year.

Flavourful Saskatoon is a weekly Monday feature. I also post regular profiles of culinary entrepreneurs, new restaurants and new food products.  

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

Thursday, March 26, 2015

SMAK Ukrainian Store & Coffee Shop

Way back in November, I visited SMAK Ukrainian Store & Coffee Shop at 1002 - 22nd Street West, open Monday-Friday, 10 am to 6 pm. They stock an impressive variety of products as these photographs will illustrate.

Mushrooms - yum!

Marinated vegetables

They also stock no-stir, quick-cooking barley, buckwheat and millet.



Soup in a jar - just add water

Homemade bread and rolls with cherry, plum and poppyseed filling

Spices and marinades

Kvas - a lighly fermented drink made from rye bread

Honey with fruit and nuts

Tea - some with herbs from the Ukrainian mountains

Monday, March 23, 2015

Flavourful Saskatoon, March 23, 2015

Urban Agriculture for Sceptics, Mar. 27
Noelle Chorney and William Hrycan will discuss the pros and cons of urban agriculture and field questions from the floor from 2-3:30 pm, March 27, at the Frances Morrison Library.

Transitioning to Organic Farming, April
Saskatchewan Organic is offering a series of one-day workshops across the province in April on how to profit from transitioning to organic farming.

Bizarre Beers, Apr. 1
This month's beer tasting at the Co-op Liquor Store is a series of weird and interesting beers from various breweries.

Famoso Pizzeria
I really enjoyed my mini pizza and chocolate gelato at Famoso Pizzeria. Good food and a nice, casual atmosphere (photos, except for the wine, are of Famoso Pizzeria).

9 Mile Legacy Brewing
Saskatoon will soon have a new addition to its craft brewing scene. 9 Mile Legacy Brewing, located in the Ideas Inc. building next to the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market, will be opening in late April and plans to sell growlers on site as well as draft to some local pubs. They’re planning a rotating line-up of ales with up to 4 available at any given time.

Chain Reaction Urban Farm
I was delighted to see a video on Facebook showing a local urban farmer trying out his new cargo bike. As Jared and Rachel Regier of Chain Reaction Farm explain, “We know that it is possible to farm by bike and we are serious about using sustainable farming practices right down to the way we transport our food and tools. We consider this our peaceful zero emission counter, or "chain reaction", to the failing fossil fuel driven economy.”

Torreón de Paredes Wine
I thoroughly enjoyed a tasting of 7 wines from Torreón de Paredes Winery in Chile on Saturday. The winery was started by Don Amada Paredes in 1979 when he was 73 years old! I particularly enjoyed the Chardonnay Reserva and am looking forward to purchasing the Pinot Noir Reserva Privada, which will be available at the Co-op Liquor Store in roughly two months’ time.

Talking about the Chardonnay (available now at Co-op Liquor Store), Javier de Paredes said, “We are very cautious not to overdo it. The oak should frame the fruit not kill it. The character of the wine is in the fruit.” Javier went on to say, “Our style of winemaking is on the softer, more mellow, elegant side.” 

The Co-op will also be bringing in Sweet Raquel, the winery's late harvest dessert wine. Torreón de Paredes wines are distributed by Doug Reichel, Fine Wines Sask.

Local Food Distribution
There are a lot of small local growers and a lot of people wanting to serve and eat local food. The challenge is often in helping the two groups to connect. A food distribution hub and business resources for small producers are part of the solution.

Interesting Wine Tours
I like to travel independently, but these Kutrubes wine tours in Georgia and Macedonia/Greece/Bulgaria look really interesting as they’re off the beaten track and include visits to wineries that might be difficult to visit on your own.

Flavourful Saskatoon is a weekly Monday feature. I also post regular profiles of culinary entrepreneurs, new restaurants and new food products.

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

Monday, March 16, 2015

Flavourful Saskatoon, March 16, 2015

Slow Food Saskatoon 
Slow Food Saskatoon is planning some interesting events over the next few months. I encourage you to attend one or all of them. In addition to the events listed below, there are several members-only events – an excellent reason to become a member of this international organization.

Mar. 29, 1:30-3 pm (The Local Coffee Bar) – Hear from Nicole Davis, Daybreak Mill, and other past attendees about all there is to see, taste and enjoy at Terra Madre, an international slow food festival.
Apr. 19, 1:30-3 pm (GSA Commons, Emmanuel & St. Chad Chapel) – In celebration of National Poetry Month, local poets will read from their works.
May 24 – Eat These Words, Slow Food Annual Fundraising Dinner & Readings from MFA Creative Writing students (part of Wild About Saskatoon’s NatureCity Festival)
June 28, 1:30-3 pm – tour of Saskatoon Food Bank’s Garden Patch

Saskatchewan’s Craft Breweries 
There was an excellent profile of some of Saskatchewan’s craft breweries – Nokomis Ale, Rebellion Brewing, Black Bridge Brewery, and Bushwakker Brewing – in this past weekend’s Regina Leader-Post.

The Temperance Brewing Co-operative Ltd. is taking a different approach as it’s using a co-op model. “Temperance’s plan is to build a base of a few hundred members who are invested, both financially and psychologically, in the brewery. They hope to leverage the capital raised from members into additional financing for a 10 to 20 hectolitre brewery with a full-service tap room to serve the region. As an initial step, they hope later this year to contract brew a beer to get the name out and start generating some revenue.”

Flying Dust First Nation 
Flying Dust First Nation has a 20-hectare organic garden, a storage facility that includes a farm store and a commercial kitchen, and a CSA. They offer cooking and crop production classes.

Christie's - Il Secondo Bakery

Coffee Cherries & Leaves 
If you’re always eager to try something new, here are a couple of coffee-related options.

City Perks serves cascara, a coffee cherry tea that is made from the dried skins of the coffee cherries once the beans have been removed. It doesn’t taste like coffee and has a much lower caffeine content. “Cascara is often described as having a sweet, fruity taste with notes of rose hip, hibiscus, cherry, red currant, mango or even tobacco.” 

Another option is coffee leaf tea (I don’t know whether it’s available in Saskatoon). It has no caffeine and very high levels of antioxidants.

(with thanks to Daryl (@ddgrunau), one of City Perks’ very knowledgeable baristas)

Leibster Nomination 
My thanks to Nicole Davis, Daybreak Mill, for nominating me for the Leibster Award. I really admire Nicole and her determination to grow, mill and distribute healthy, organic flours, grains and cereals. Young farmers like Nicole are our hope for the future.

The Future of Local Food 
The number of farmers’ markets has changed very little in the past two years as food producers find new ways to get their food into the hands of local consumers: e-commerce, food hubs and farm-to-school programs.

Is the Era of Big Food Coming to an End? 
Consumer demand for fresh, healthy food has led to a decline in the growth of the large food companies, such as Kellogg and Kraft. Some of the major food producers are responding by offering healthier options. Unfortunately, some processed foods continue to see growth, such as Pringles chips and Chef Boyardee’s canned pastas.

Vegan Chefs
It’s great to see vegan chefs receiving media coverage. In this article, three vegan chefs (including a 14-year-old girl) share recipes and outline what inspired them to become chefs.

Flavourful Saskatoon is a weekly Monday feature. I also post regular profiles of culinary entrepreneurs, new restaurants and new food products. 

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