Monday, January 22, 2018

Flavourful Saskatoon, January 22, 2018

Starting Your Zero-Waste Journey, Jan. 24
Cassandra Stinn will share her insights on going zero waste from 7-8:30 pm, Jan. 24, at Soul Foods Conscious Grocer.

Cooking with Beer, Feb. 2
Make a 3-course meal using 9 Mile Legacy’s beer at The Local Kitchen on Feb. 2.

Community Farmers’ Market
Now here’s a positive thought! Community Farmers’ Market has posted its 2018 opening date – Tuesday, June 19.

Aschenti Cocoa 
Aschenti Cocoa chocolate bars are now available at McNally Robinson Booksellers. A Winnipeg company, they source their cocoa directly from small local farms in Cameroon. The cacao is grown without chemicals and only the best beans are shipped to Winnipeg where they are roasted in small batches. Flavours include Cinnamon & Ginger and Almonds & Himalayan Pink Salt.

Reinventing the Wheel 
I’ve been slowly digesting an in-depth, comprehensive book about the factors that are involved in cheese-making. Reinventing the Wheel: Milk, Microbes, and the Fight for Real Cheese is written by Bronwen Percival, buyer for Neal’s Yard Dairy, and her journalist husband, Frances.

The book isn’t light reading, but if you are interested in artisan vs. commercial cheese production, microbes as fairy godmothers and evil witches, and raw milk vs. pasteurized milk, you’ll come away with a much more nuanced approach to all three topics. There’s a plethora of factors to consider when making cheese, from breed of cow to culture to equipment, and I’m filled with admiration for the small-scale artisan cheesemakers who attempt to balance all these factors and still make a living.

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 environmental initiatives and events. 

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

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Unexpected Benefits of Housesitting

Housesitting was, initially, a less expensive way to travel. But as I reflect on the past few years when I have housesat more and more, I realize I have experienced a great many unexpected benefits from housesitting.

Fully Alive 
It’s easy to sleepwalk through life. We have routines and predictable patterns. To a fair degree, those get thrown out the window when I’m housesitting. All of a sudden, I’m in a new place and I have to figure everything out from scratch.

I may not have even seen the house or have an exact address before I arrive, so there are some anxieties, but I’ve learned to treat it as an adventure.

I’ve gone to places I’ve never heard of before and would not have chosen to visit and yet I fell in love with them. I could easily live in Quillan and I really enjoyed the architecture and the outlet of the Louvre in Lens.

I buy fruit and vegetables at the butcher’s. I discover the multiple ways to travel into London from the suburbs. I eat local specialties – from Basque cheese with pimenton to Bramley cooking apples and red currants.

I take advantage of whatever opportunities are available. When I’m close to a movie theatre, I watch several films. In London, I head to the museums. I attended a talk on archaeology and an amateur theatre festival in Quillan (in French).

Different Lives & Cultures 
We tend to take it for granted that everyone lives the same way we do. But that’s not the case. It’s often the smallest details that bring this close to home. You need to lift the handle on many European doors before you can lock them. Not all clothes dryer have an air vent – you may need to empty the drawer where the excess water is stored. I’m gradually getting the hang of different electrical appliances (televisions, vacuum cleaners, dishwashers), but I’m still stumped occasionally. I discovered the hard way that some dishwasher tablets need to be unwrapped!

I watch British and French television. I follow local politics. I’m intimately aware of the local weather and wildlife. What’s wintery weather in the UK certainly wouldn’t qualify in Saskatchewan! I’m feeding a fox at my present housesit and now know they mark their territory with their very pungent scent. There are wild green parakeets and grey squirrels at the bird feeder.

I Can Do It! 
I end up doing things I’ve never done before when I’m housesitting. I’m familiar with cats and dogs, but 18 chickens was a completely new experience.

Several of the homes I’ve been in this year are heated primarily or completely by wood. Keeping the fire going and the house warm is much more immediate when you’re putting logs on the fire and not just turning the dial on the thermostat.

I get more exercise when I’m housesitting. The houses are all larger than my apartment, and I have more chores to do – whether it’s feeding the chickens or cleaning up after the cats.

I rely on public transit and walk miles when exploring a new place. I bring groceries home in my backpack.

Space & Pets
I consider myself very fortunate to have a nice apartment in Saskatoon, but, oh, I do so enjoy living in a house, having space to move about, lots of windows to view the world outside, and a garden.

I don't have pets of my own so the opportunity to offer my lap to a purring cat or take a dog for a walk is priceless.

Housesitting for extended periods of time wouldn’t suit everyone. I’m an introvert and very independent, but I value staying in touch with friends and family online and by phone. I was immensely grateful to receive Christmas cards and presents in the mail.

My work keeps me connected as well, tying me in to my home community and giving me a sense of purpose. I’m not sure I’d be as happy if I were a full-time tourist.

It’s All Good 
No housesit is perfect. But the benefits always, always outweigh the disadvantages – fabulous day trips, walks by the sea, the opportunity to be in a really interesting city.

If you’re interested, take a look at the Trusted Housesitters website. The Nomador website is smaller but excellent if you want to housesit in France (it helps to be bilingual).

Monday, January 15, 2018

Flavourful Saskatoon, January 15, 2018

Vinyasa Yoga for Youth Dinner, Feb. 8
Vinyasa Yoga for Youth is hosting a 5-course vegan meal prepared by some of Saskatoon’s best chefs on Feb. 8 as a fundraiser.

Waste Reduction at Dad’s
You’ll get bonus points for taking your own bag to Dad’s Organic Market – 50 points for cloth or reused plastic and 100 points for thermal or cooler bags. What a great waste reduction initiative!

Legacy Yogurt 
I was sorry to hear that Legacy Yogurt, which has been at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market for the past 8 years, is shutting down operations due to increased costs.

Alberta Local Food Act 
The Government of Alberta is asking for public feedback on a proposed Local Food Act. Farmers’ market and direct farm purchases in Alberta exceeded $1 billion in 2016 and the number of Albertans spending more than $1,000 per year at farmers’ markets has doubled since 2008.

The proposed act establishes a definition of local food, enhanced food safety training requirements for farmers’ market managers and vendors, and would apply existing federal organic product regulations and certification requirements to organic foods produced and marketed in Alberta.

Good Reads 
Books for Adults: Food Tank has published a list of 22 good books to read this winter. A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things: A Guide to Capitalism, Nature, and the Future of the Planet by Raj Patel and Jason W. Moore caught my attention. So did Hippie Food: How Back-to-the-Landers, Longhairs, and Revolutionaries Changed the Way We Eat by Jonathan Kauffman.

Children’s Books: Food Tank has also published a list of children’s books about food and agriculture.

Magazine: You might want to take a look at Eaten, a new online magazine. The first issue is dedicated to the Food of the Gods – from Tibetan butter carving to race, religion, and fried chicken in the American South.

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 environmental initiatives and events. 

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

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Sweet Tooth Tours, Belgravia, London

Question: What’s the best way to explore an area of London and satisfy your sweet tooth? 

Answer: Sign up for a tour with Lynne Staartjes of Sweet Tooth Tours

Lynne is a Cordon Bleu-trained baker who loves interacting with people, so she decided to establish Sweet Tooth Tours in July of last year to share some of her favorite food businesses in her home neighbourhood of Belgravia, London. The tour groups are always small, but I was extremely fortunate to receive a personal tour as the other participants had had to cancel due to illness.

Belgravia is a pretty neighbourhood with tall white stucco townhouses mingling with a variety of small, independent stores and restaurants. We started our tour at R Chocolates, founded by Sir Evelyn de Rothschild, a self-confessed chocoholic, in 1931. A quiet, elegant store, this would be a great place for afternoon tea or a box of chocolates.

The hot chocolate is absolutely delicious – chocolate flakes and roasted and ground Italian hazelnuts are blended with milk for a very rich, addictive drink.

A portion of the proceeds from the Sea Salt Caramel elephants supports Asian elephant conservation – hence the lovely door knob.

I wasn’t too sure what to make of Peggy Porschen Cupcakes – it was almost too pink, pretty, and “Instagrammable”! The store was crowded so I took my cupcake home and revised my opinion. I enjoyed every bite of my chocolate cupcake with a gooey salted caramel centre topped with rich, creamy icing. If you’re a banana fan, Lynne recommends the Banoffee cupcake, but I’ll stick with the Chocolate Salted Caramel if I’m ever back in Belgravia.

Our third stop was at Olivogelo, selling a range of gelato, sorbet, and ice cream. The owner is from Sardinia and has established a small group of restaurants specializing in Sardinian cuisine. The staff demonstrated how the gelato is made and I was then able to sample as many of their products as I desired. After quite a few samples, including some Sardinian specialties such as Sardinian Nougat and Date and Grappa, I settled down with scoops of two of my favorites – Bitter Honey with a tangy lemony flavour and Orange with Chocolate Flakes (made with real orange juice).

A visit to Pierre Hermé Macarons & Chocolats was a happy reminder of France. I was told that Hermé specializes in unusual flavour combinations and that certainly seemed to be the case judging by some of the macarons on display: White Truffle & Hazelnut (an unusual but memorable combination of the delicate aroma of truffle and the sweetness of hazelnuts), Chocolate & Foie Gras, Caviar, and Citron Noir. I’m fussy about macarons as they don’t always measure up to those from Wild Serendipity Foods in Saskatoon. Not too surprisingly, these were excellent.

Our final stop at The Fine Cheese Co. was probably my favorite stop on the tour. I’m deeply interested in cheese and Jake, who introduced me to the store and provided me with samples of a variety of different cheeses, was friendly, fun, and knowledgeable.

The store sells a variety of British and international cheeses, often with a very specific provenance (all the Swiss cheese is from one particular farmer). They also sell a variety of products that go well with cheese, for example, crackers and cakes of dried fruit.

I highly recommend Sweet Tooth Tours. Lynne is knowledgeable and goes out of her way to ensure you enjoy yourself. She has a really solid relationship with the stores we visited and the staff were all delighted to welcome tour participants.

There are opportunities to learn something new, watch products being made, and enjoy plenty of samples. (I took several of my samples home with me so I could enjoy them at my leisure rather than stuffing myself with one big sugar rush.) As part of a tour, I also benefitted from a 10% discount on the cheese and chocolates that I purchased.

Lynne says that she likes to under-promise and over-deliver, and she certainly did just that. With 5 stops and a tour lasting over 2 ½ hours, I was able to enjoy the neighbourhood and sample a great deal of its delicious food without feeling rushed.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Flavourful Saskatoon, January 8, 2018

Wasted, Jan. 16
Watch Wasted: The Story of Food Waste at The Two Twenty’s Community Film Night, Jan. 16.

Glen at Crossmount, January 
Glen at Crossmount has 3 upcoming events that may be of interest:
Introduction to Cider, Jan. 23
Robbie Burns Day Lunch, Jan. 25
History of Wine Grapes, Jan. 30

Wine & Chocolate, Feb. 16
Enjoy a glass of wine and join Julianna Tan of Those Girls at the Market to learn how to make organic raw chocolates on Feb. 16 at The Local Kitchen.

Kids in the Kitchen: Mexican, Feb. 22 
Kids ages 12-14 are invited to make and eat a Mexican feast at The Local Kitchen on Feb. 22.

Veggie fish & chips with mushy peas

Volunteers Needed 
CHEP Good Food Inc. is looking for volunteers to assist with an after-school children’s cooking program for grade 4/5 children. Chefs in Training sessions run once a week for 5 weeks at participating elementary schools, with several sessions running over the course of the year. If you are interested, send your resume by Jan. 19 to CHEP’s Children's Nutrition Coordinator, Joshua Keil at or by mail.

Composting & Recycling
A number of Saskatchewan organizations set up compost bins, established biodiversity gardens, and reduced waste with help from a 2017 EcoFriendly Action Grant.

Food Insecurity on Campus
It’s disturbing to learn that 40% of students at the University of Saskatchewan face some degree of food insecurity. Researcher Rachel Engler-Stringer says that, “Students most likely to report food insecurity were those who had used student loans, students who are parents, international students and Indigenous students.”

Peas on the Prairies 
“Silicon Valley investors and global food giants alike are now looking at the humble pea as "the future of food." Peas – long considered a pantry staple and filler ingredient for soups and stews – are suddenly the focus of tens of millions of dollars in research and development, and are being transformed into trendy new pea-based products. According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, 170 new food products containing pea protein were launched in 2015 alone – 32 of them in Canada. 

“Yellow peas in particular have emerged as the favourite, given their relatively neutral colour and flavour. And, as the world's largest producer of yellow peas, the Prairies suddenly finds themselves at the leading edge of the 'future of protein' movement.”

Flavourful Saskatoon is a weekly Monday feature. I also post articles about food that is good, clean and fair; travel; and books.

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

Monday, January 1, 2018

Flavourful Saskatoon, January 1, 2018

Happy New Year!

Beginner Latte Art Class, Jan. 11 
Venn Coffee Roasters is offering a beginner latte art class on Jan. 11.

In Vino Veritas, Jan. 18 
Co-op Wine Spirits Beer is hosting In Vino Veritas at Boffins on Jan. 18. Expect a line-up of Italian wines paired with dishes prepared by Boffins’ culinary team.

Nope, that’s not a typo! A Crowler is a 32-oz. can that can be filled on any beer tap line and is then sealed. High Key Brewing Co. will be offering crowlers when they open.

An interesting (long) article about fermentation: “Fermentation produces delicious foods. But more than that, it connects humans to the invisible processes of life all—to the microbes that were here for billions of years before humans arrived, and will persist for billions more after they have gone.”

5 Mushrooms a Day Keep the Doctor Away 
The Guardian newspaper has published a list of future food trends. I’m intrigued by the growing recognition of mushrooms as a healthy food option: “a US study recently proclaimed that eating any five mushrooms per day could stave off heart disease, cancer and dementia. Yet what’s less widely known, in the UK at least, are their adaptogenic properties – it’s their botanical nature that greatly improves your body’s ability to adapt to stress.”

Let’s Keep Farmers’ Markets for Farmers 
Tenants of an Ontario farmers’ market are being threatened with eviction because they stood up for local producers over resellers peddling wholesale goods from elsewhere. It’s an all too common scenario and completely unfair to farmers and customers.

Try vegan this January, and you’ll join the ranks of Nike sports superstars who promote a plant-based diet. The film, From the Ground Up: Where Do You Get Your Protein?, follows a football player who looks at food choices and sports and will be available on iTunes Jan. 9. You’ll find information, recipes, and more on the Veganuary website.

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 environmental initiatives and events. 

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

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Christmas at Borough Market

What a treat to be able to do some of my Christmas shopping at Borough Market in London, UK! There’s been a market on this spot for 1,000 years and it’s an amazing place to shop for local and international food products.

The market sprawls beneath the arches of London Bridge with trains rattling by overhead. There are many vendors in the market buildings, while others have independent premises nearby.

Quality over Quantity
The food at Borough Market isn’t cheap, but it’s all of superior quality. Many of the vendors are also producers. Others offer hand-picked wares from small-scale artisan producers. Much of the food is organic and made by hand, and the market has close ties with Slow Food.

You’ll find unusual products, excellent quality, and incredible flavour.

British Cheese
There were so many vendors selling cheese and I made a point of buying British cheese although I could also have bought cheese from Croatia, France, and Switzerland.

I’ve purchased Gorwydd Caerphilly in the past and knew it was a must-have this year as well: “Gorwydd Caerphilly boasts traditional Caerphilly cheese produced by the Trethowan family at Gorwydd Farm, just outside the village of Llanddewi Brefi in Ceredigion, west Wales. The cheese is made with unpasteurised cow’s milk and animal rennet, using original hand-turned presses and mould. It is matured for two months at closely monitored temperature and humidity levels; during this process, each cheese is carefully turned every day.”

A new one for me this year is organic Bath Soft Cheese: “It has a pedigree stretching back to the 1790s, listing Admiral Lord Nelson among its many admirers.”

White Stilton is a very mild cheese. I’m more familiar with it when it’s been combined with chunks of apricot or ginger. “White Stilton is a Protected Designation of Origin and can only be made in one of three counties - Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire from locally produced milk.” 

Neal’s Yard Dairy is extraordinary for the support and encouragement they offer to Britain’s artisan cheesemakers: “We select, mature and sell farmhouse cheese from the UK and Ireland. We work with about 40 cheesemakers. We visit them regularly to taste their cheese with them and select the batches we want to mature and sell.”

Social Enterprise 
Good food not only tastes good; it’s also good for the people who make it and eat it. Two stalls had strong social goals and objectives.

Luminary Bakery is a “social enterprise offering opportunities for women from vulnerable backgrounds to build a future for themselves. We use baking as a tool to take women on a journey to employability. We offer courses, work experience and paid employment within our bakery. By investing in and releasing them to realize their dreams, through training, employment and community, we aim to break the generational cycles of abuse, prostitution, criminal activity and poverty.”

I didn’t purchase anything from Nibs Etc. but I was impressed that they were using waste ingredients – fruit and vegetable pulp from local juice bars – to make their products.

A whole section of the market is dedicated to food stalls offering an incredible variety of lunch options.

I had a messy but delicious burger sitting beside a replica of Sir Francis Drake’s Golden Hind, looking at the amazing skyscape across the Thames.