Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Year in Review: What I Shipped in 2010

It is all too easy for me to focus on the contracts I didn’t get or the skills I don’t have. Seth Godin’s blog post, challenging his readers to identify and celebrate what they had shipped in the past year, was refreshing. And an eye-opener. I have accomplished a great deal in the past year.

Here are my top five achievements for 2010. What are yours?

1. Content analysis and substantive editing of a book: The Saskatchewan Population Health and Evaluation Research Unit (SPHERU) hired me to edit 15 cases studies that they plan to include in a KT [knowledge translation] Casebook. I thoroughly enjoyed working with the writers to identify gaps in the content and structure of their case studies, to focus attention on KT, and to ensure consistency. As someone who loves books and has tremendous admiration for the people who write and publish them, it was fantastic to be part of the publishing process.

2. An accreditation module (handbook and workshop) on communications for senior educational administrators in Saskatchewan (League of Educational Administrators, Directors and Superintendents of Saskatchewan – LEADS): The one-and-a-half day workshop in October was fun. Topics ranged from strategic planning by telling happy stories to a social media bingo. Donella Hoffman, the Communications Consultant for Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools, did a great job of demystifying media relations.

3. Workshop on listening, organizing and writing skills with Ombudsman Saskatchewan: I really enjoy sharing knowledge and helping people to develop their skills. Now, if I could just practise what I preach when it comes to being a better listener!

4. Interviewing and blogging about culinary entrepreneurs: It was scary to approach total strangers and ask if I could interview them. But what a gift it has been to listen to these incredibly passionate, hard-working, ethical people. And I’ve had a tenfold increase in the number of visitors to my blog.

5. Promotional work for the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market: We set up a business page on Facebook, and I learned a great deal about using humour, photographs, and anecdotes to build community.

My thanks to all the great people I worked with in the past year and to my family and friends for their ongoing encouragement and support.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

CJ Katz: Savour Life

If you are interested in finding out more about local food and the culinary scene in Saskatchewan, a good place to start is with CJ Katz.

CJ publishes Savour Life, a weekly electronic newsletter about local living and eating. She is also the host of Wheatland Café, a weekly television cooking show (Wednesdays at 12:15 on CTV), and Savour Saskatchewan, a biweekly radio show talking to local food producers (every second Tuesday at 7:45 am on CBC Radio One with Sheila Coles).

Trial and Error
“I learned to cook through trial and error,” says CJ. As a 10-year old, CJ dabbled in cakes and cookies. She undertook more ambitious cooking projects after her parents divorced: “I visited my father, and he asked me to cook a pot roast.”

CJ doesn’t believe you need a degree to be a good cook, and her goal is to provide recipes that are quick, easy and accessible for people to cook at home.

Prairie Roots
Many of CJ’s recipes have strong Saskatchewan ties. A recent recipe showcases lingonberries from northern Saskatchewan.

CJ moved to Regina 8 years ago after having worked in Ottawa for 12 years and discovered the local food scene. “There were so many interesting things going on, “she says. “Why was nobody writing about this?”

CJ had been offering cooking classes in Regina, so she had a mailing list of about 50 people. She started sending out a small newsletter. As its popularity grew, she rebranded it as Savour Life and created a website. The newsletter now has 10,000 subscribers.

Multi Media
CJ had been writing a food column in a local newspaper and had done some television work while she was in Ottawa. This continued once she moved to Regina. She worked for the Regina Leader Post for a year and a half and was the culinary host on the weekend edition of CTV’s Good Morning Canada, which used to be aired out of Regina. Occasional radio appearances developed into a regular column.

CJ says that she enjoys all the different media formats. “It keeps it interesting,” she says. “I’m not sitting at my desk writing all day long.” She creates recipes for Wheatland Café and gets out in the field and talks to people for her radio spot. It also ensures that she is not reliant on a single source of income.

Cookbook
CJ’s newest project is a cookbook to be published by Canadian Plains Research. “It will have a strong Prairie focus,” she says. “I’ll use recipes from Wheatland Café, short paragraphs about producers and photographs of dishes or producers.”

Healthy Living
CJ is the Vice President of the Saskatchewan Triathlon Association Corporation. She has participated in one triathlon, but her primary role is as cheerleader and support for her sons. CJ says that triathlon started out as an adult sport but has progressed and now includes four and five year olds. “They think it’s hilarious and have so much fun,” she says.

“It’s all about healthy living and lifestyles,” she says. “It’s a good complement for what I’m doing.”

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Evolution of Saskatoon Cuisine

artisan cheese, organic bread, specialty wine stores and much, much more

This article was written for and published in the Winter 2010 issue of Fine Lifestyles Saskatoon.

Growing up in Saskatoon in the ‘60s and ‘70s, my idea of a fine dining experience was pancakes at Smitty’s or Tahiti Treat with my fish and chips from Gibson’s. Two and a half years in France in the late '70s changed my expectations, but Saskatoon hadn’t caught up. I longed for good-quality cheese and a full range of deli products, but I was out of luck. That’s no longer the case. Saskatoon’s food scene is expanding rapidly in many different directions.

Embracing Diversity
It used to be difficult to find sushi in Saskatoon; not any longer. The archetypal prairie restaurant offering Asian and Canadian food has been replaced by restaurants specializing in Szechuan, Cantonese, Laotian or Thai food. “People are travelling more,” says Beemal Vasani, co-owner of Saskatoon Sous Chef. “They want authentic international cuisine.”

Souleio is a fascinating combination of restaurant, deli, wine bar and grocery store. They offer local food with European flavours. Artisan cheeses from Quebec sit side by side huge wheels of Comté from France. There is fresh seafood every Thursday, and Chefs Rémi and Uwe plan to expand their meat counter to include housemade pâtés, sausages, ham, and rillettes.

Souleio sources as much as possible locally, with foragers supplying unexpected delights – wild strawberries, pine mushrooms, lingonberries, and more. The chefs are also making a wide range of products on site, including roasted and pickled cauliflower, crème fraiche, and green tomato and cardamom jam.

Supporting the Local Economy
More and more consumers want to know what they are eating and where it came from. People take pleasure in shopping at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market where they can develop a relationship with the person who grew or made the food.

Trent Loewen of Earth Bound Bakery buys almost all his certified organic ingredients from just two local suppliers. “There is nobody in between,” says Trent. “I like to maintain that conversation with the local producer and support them.”

Local chefs, like Lee Helman of Truffles and Daniel Walker of Weczeria’s, purchase as many ingredients as possible locally. Chef Simon Reynolds, who is originally from England, believes that the trend will continue. “In England, the menus are now like a geography lesson,” he says.

Food and Wine
“Wine was created for food,” says Cameron Rizos, Managing Partner of Cava Wines & Spirits. “As we expand our food, we want the wine to go with it.” As Saskatoon’s first private liquor store, Cava has two key missions. The first is to demystify wine. “Wine isn’t complicated,” says Rizos. “It’s what you like. It should be fun.” The store offers frequent tastings and dinners so that people can explore what is available and define their tastes.

Secondly, Cava works closely with restaurants to provide training and help them enhance their offerings. Rizos believes that the food scene is ahead of the wine scene in Saskatoon, but that’s changing. In September, Saskatoon Station Place received an Award of Excellence in the Wine Spectator 2010 Restaurant Awards, the first restaurant in Saskatoon to be recognized in this way. The restaurant’s wine list includes 150 wines stocked by Cava Wine & Spirits, including many different wines by the glass.

Celebrity Chefs
“In the UK, the chef is a highly-respected professional,” says Simon Reynolds. “Food is trendy, and chefs are like rock stars.” That’s not yet the case in Saskatoon where students pay their way through school by working in restaurants but don’t see the restaurant industry as a career option. This frustrates Reynolds who has 22 years experience running kitchens with four million dollar budgets. “It takes a lot of skill and responsibility to cook food properly,” says Reynolds. “If I cook for 50,000 people a year, I’m responsible for that many people’s health.”

Rizos agrees and looks forward to the day when young people are inspired to choose the food industry as their chosen career. They will become professional sommeliers because they want to learn and talk about wine, or they’ll become professional servers, providing increasingly knowledgeable and inspired service to their customers.

High-End Dining at Home
Operating out of Wild Serendipity Foods, Chefs Simon Reynolds and Brent Lloyd, along with Michelle Zimmer, offer a wide range of popular cooking classes. The chefs emphasize how much they enjoy sharing their knowledge. “If I teach someone how to make bread or soup, I’ve given them a gift for life,” says Reynolds. “So few people cook at home, and that’s sad. In England, the Sunday roast is a big thing with good food and the family around you. It’s the one time you’ll all be home together.”

Lloyd and Reynolds are also noticing a growing demand for personal dining, particularly for special events. The menu is completely customizable, and you can dine in the comfort of your home without being interrupted by waiters, but a professional is taking care of the preparation and clean-up.

Saskatoon Sous Chef offers ready-made gourmet meals for busy professionals. With one chef from Peru and another grounded in local comfort food, they supply an endless variety of salads and meals in a bag. McKeown’s Ready Made Meals and Catering has just started offering weekly specials using local foods, putting an upscale spin on old favourites. Each dish is a generous helping for two people, and you can pick it up or have it delivered.

As Saskatoon grows, so does its food scene. What a feast!

See Also:
     Earth Bound Bakery

Monday, December 20, 2010

Doug Reichel Wine Marketing Inc.

“There’s a quality of wine that’s indicative of the truthfulness and carefulness of the winemaker, who humbly respects the characteristics of the grape and its wine potential”

As a teenager growing up in rural Saskatchewan, Doug Reichel associated drinking with getting drunk – and he abstained. But after obtaining a degree in theology, Doug started teaching in South Africa and he saw that wine, along with good food and good friends, could be life affirming and enjoyable. He later taught in New Zealand, another wine-producing country, and this further reinforced his interest in wine.

An entrepreneurial orientation led Doug to embark on a new career marketing wines in Canada. In the early ‘90s, Doug and Andy Waldorf met through their sons’ Cub pack in Vancouver. Andy was a pilot with Canadian Airlines and had money to invest in a wine marketing company (now known as the Waldorf Wine Group) and Doug had connections with winemakers in South Africa. The timing was right as the embargo on South African wines had just been lifted, and South African winemakers were eager to re-establish their connections with Canada.

Doug founded Doug Reichel Wine Marketing Inc. in 2004 and now distributes wine throughout Saskatchewan and Manitoba from his home base in Moose Jaw.

“Truly humble farmer artists”
Doug’s portfolio is primarily composed of small, family-owned companies. He is on a first-name basis with the winemakers, providing the link between producers and consumers.

“Our early exposure to wineries was almost always with the winemakers themselves,” Doug says. “It allowed us to meet and get a sense of the very best of the winemaking world – truly humble farmer artists. If I’d met the high-powered sales people of the corporate world, I don’t think I’d have found anything to attract me.”

Doug says he’s learned to pay attention to good wine as opposed to splashy packaging and shortcuts. “There’s a quality of wine that’s indicative of the truthfulness and carefulness of the winemaker, who humbly respects the characteristics of the grape and its wine potential,” says Doug. “There’s all sorts of room for creativity and innovation but no room for arrogance.”

“I didn’t know wine could be so profound”
In 2000, Doug took his daughter to South Africa, the land of her birth. Friends poured a bottle of 17-year-old Rozendal wine. “I pushed the meal aside and got lost in the ’83 Rozendal,” Doug says. “I didn’t know wine could be so profound, robust and elegant at that age.”

When you enjoy a wine, you want to know about it, so Doug set out to find the people behind the Rozendal wine. When Doug set up his own company, he started importing Rozendal wine and Saskatchewan is now the only jurisdiction where it is available.

Wine marketing in Canada
Each province and territory in Canada has separate liquor licencing and taxation regulations. As a result, wine marketing companies represent individual provinces, and winemakers may have six to eight representatives in Canada. Doug Reichel Wine Marketing Inc. operates in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and Doug says that they are completely different operations.

Saskatchewan
Doug’s first task is to find the wines he believes are worth importing. He then has three separate sales roles.

First of all, he must present the wines to the buyers. Until recently, the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA) was the only buyer, but the market has now been opened up to include two specialty stores – Cava Secreta in Saskatoon and Willow Park in Regina.

If the government accepts the wine, Doug moves on to his second sales role: convincing as many as possible of the 79 government store managers and franchisees to stock his wines. The stores are chronically short of space, so this can prove challenging.

Finally, Doug needs to promote his wine to the restaurant and hospitality industry and the general public. “I’m not a salesperson,” says Doug. “I’m a teacher and promoter. It’s very fulfilling to do a wine and food evening, to talk about the grapes and the winery, and see how the wine works together with the food.”

Locally owned and operated
Doug prides himself on being headquartered in Saskatchewan and on bringing in wines that are not available elsewhere in Canada.

Doug says that there are about 30 resident wine representatives in Saskatchewan as compared to 250 in Alberta. All but a handful are employed by large, out-of-province companies. “Many of them have money and are now dabbling in wine,” Doug says. “I don’t come from a position of wealth. If I don’t sell wine, I don’t eat.”

Looking ahead
Doug does not expect to expand his portfolio much beyond its current size. He hopes, however, to introduce a wine from Burgundy in 2011, and he wants to pursue some additional Italian wines. “Italy is the top world producer, and I only carry 3 or 4 Italian wines,” Doug says. “They have the history and the variety. Their approach to winemaking is so life-friendly.”

FineWinesSask.com
Doug’s website includes interviews with winemakers and descriptions of the wines and wineries. You can sign up for an electronic newsletter, and Doug hosts wine seminars several times a year – the most recent was in conjunction with Luis Manino of Bodega Melipal.

     Doug Reichel Wine Seminars
     Altos de Luzon: Wine from Jumilla, Spain
     Bodega Melipal: Malbec Wines from Argentina

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Town that Food Saved: How One Community Found Vitality in Local Food

The Town that Food Saved by Ben Hewitt takes a look at how the small, rural community of Hardwick, Vermont, has been reinvigorated by the introduction of a number of food businesses – from a composting business to a seed company to various farms.

It’s an enjoyable read as Hewitt paints vivid descriptions of the farmers and business owners. In addition, the book examines some of the issues that must be considered if we are to create a long-lasting, equitable, and ultimately local, food system.

Do We All Need to Become Farmers?
Hewitt’s book discusses a rural community with rich farming land and several small towns in close proximity. Many of the people have a garden and some livestock. A number of young entrepreneurs are developing strong new food businesses, and it’s not difficult to imagine this area becoming self-sufficient.

But how does that equation translate to a large city or to a province such as Saskatchewan with far more land than people?

Some of the Hardwick entrepreneurs have been criticized for establishing large-scales operations. But what is the appropriate scale for agriculture? “An operation that’s too big for its locality will find itself needing to exploit other, more distant markets in order to off-load its product. And in doing so, it will compete with operations in these markets, forcing them to lower their prices and then extend their reach in order to survive. It becomes a race to the bottom.”

If we are to feed ourselves locally, will we need to revert to an earlier way of life where every family had a garden and preserved fruits and vegetables for the winter?

There are no easy answers, and I was frustrated that Hewitt presented such a rosy, idealistic picture of life in Hardwick, Vermont, because it’s not translatable on a larger scale or in a different locale.

Value-Added Farming
It is heartening to see local farmers and producers revitalizing the Saskatchewan prairies. It is no easy task to establish a fruit orchard or a market garden or a flower farm. And yet, all of the owners emphasize the importance of identifying value-added products in order to make a sufficient profit to survive. And so shoppers at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market are fortunate enough to be able to buy locally-made ice cream, jams and preserves, cut flowers and wine.

I wholeheartedly support that. But I’m also aware that these are extras. Can local farms produce either the quantity or the types of food that could independently feed the population of Saskatoon and surrounding area?

A Community of Producers and Consumers
Many of the Hardwick food producers support and help each other. They hold monthly meetings and are very familiar with each other’s enterprises. Once the seed business has harvested squash seeds, another entrepreneur explores ways to harvest the flesh and turn it into pies or other food.

A similar support network is available to some degree amongst the various vendors at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market. The Prairie Pie Company uses lentils from Living Soil Farms; Saskatoon Sous Chef buys potatoes from Wally’s Urban Market Garden. But this is extremely limited in scope. Ultimately, each of the vendors, as well as the Market itself, are promoting their own individual efforts. There is no collective body providing economic or marketing support to all the vendors.

Hewitt optimistically believes that the “participatory nature of local food systems holds tremendous power, not merely to secure and understand the cycle and source of our nourishment, but to reawaken a sense of responsibility for and toward the communities in which we live. To assume accountability for our food is to assume responsibility for our lives.”

However, Hewitt acknowledges how few people are actually supporting the local food businesses in Hardwick and how all the residents rely on the local supermarket for a good portion of their food. And while it is heartening to read about producers who are giving food to the needy and offering various kinds of community support, I question how far that would reach. Communes tend to fail because it is human nature to be individualistic and to put personal needs ahead of the interests of the community as a whole.

I recommend reading The Town that Food Saved by Ben Hewitt. It may not provide all the answers, but it certainly asks some valuable questions. And it paints vivid portraits of the food producers and the town itself.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Saskatoon Farmers' Market December 2010 Newsletter

Wally’s Urban Market Garden, Prairie Pie Company, Good Spirit Farm & Bakery

The Saskatoon Farmers’ Market vendors are an awesome bunch of hard-working, creative people.

Wally’s Urban Market Garden
Some farmers have a large rural acreage; others grow their crops in a greenhouse. Wally Satzewich and Gail Vandersteen grow their crops on up to 30 small, urban plots.

In the winter, Wally focuses his attention on SPIN (small plot intensive farming). Working with a partner in the United States, SPIN offers educational material and answers questions from other people who are interested in small-scale intensive farming.

Prairie Pie Company
Mary Uzelman and Kevin Porfoun have a 12-acre orchard with sour cherries, Saskatoon berries, rhubarb, raspberry and black currant near the Hague Ferry, north of Aberdeen. Mary bakes up a storm with her fruit – muffins, pies, smoothies and more. Kevin is in charge of the specialty coffees. And there’s always a smile and a cheerful word along with your purchase.

Good Spirit Farm & Bakery
Jonathan Lee defines artisan bread as a hands-on quality product that has been thought about from start to finish. He and his partner, Peyton Leavitt, grow the wheat, bake the bread in a wood oven and drive two hours to the Market every week to sell their product. (Here is an expanded article about Good Spirit Bakery.)
Happy Hour – December 22
December 22 is the last market before Christmas. The Market will be open from 11 to 7 with children’s activities in the morning and a happy hour hosted by Living Sky Winery from 4 to 7.

If you would like to stay up to date on Saskatoon Farmers’ Market news, email sfmnews@sasktel.net and ask to be included on the mailing list. Or follow the Market on Facebook.

Saskatoon Farmers' Market Newsletters:
December
November
October
September

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Good Spirit Bakery, Saskatoon Farmers’ Market

“We were living in the midst of all this wheat – why not make bread?”

I have tremendous admiration for culinary entrepreneurs. They work hard; they set high standards for themselves; and they are artists who are always trying to improve their product. This is the story of Good Spirit Farm and Bakery.

Adapting to Changing Circumstances
Nine years ago, Peyton Leavitt and Jonathan Lee, along with their herd of sheep and dairy goats, moved to a farm near Naicam, Saskatchewan. They planned to raise and sell stock, but the bottom dropped out of the market with the BSE crisis. Jonathan says that cattle farmers received significant government support, but that wasn’t the case for goat and sheep farmers. Jonathan and Peyton needed to find a new source of income – quickly.

It was a huge surprise to Peyton and Jonathan that, despite the wheat fields stretching to the horizon, no one in Saskatchewan was making artisan bread. Peyton is an organic cook who has worked in vegetarian restaurants, but breadmaking was something new. They studied a book, made some bread and went to try their luck at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market. Fortunately, it was a huge success.

Ingredients
Jonathan defines artisan bread as a hands-on quality product that has been thought about from start to finish.

“The ingredients are so important,” Jonathan says. “We started growing and milling the wheat ourselves because we wanted it as fresh as possible. We want to control the ingredients and the nutrition. If we buy from a farm, we make sure they follow our organic practices.”

Good Spirit Bakery has a repertoire of about 30 different kinds of bread, with about 10 varieties available at a time. “We’re up to our eyeballs in cookbooks,” says Jonathan. “We try and keep it seasonal. We recently had a pumpkin and black pepper. The recipe was from southern France. We take a little bit from here and there, add in our own ideas and come up with something quite nice.”

As much as possible, they take advantage of seasonal ingredients – crabapples for an oatmeal-apple bread, fresh basil from the garden.

Peyton’s son, Asher, has recently joined the team and is specializing in pastry – croissants, muffins, veggie pot pies. “He’s really talented in the kitchen, just like his mother,” says Jonathan. “I’m just the labourer. I run the farm and the oven.”

Wood Oven
Three years ago, Jonathan and Peyton built what they believe was the first wood oven in Saskatchewan. “You can’t beat wood-fired bread,” says Jonathan. “Wood heat is lovely. It cooks so evenly – right through the bread. You can get a lovely crust and a lovely flavour.”

However, baking in a wood oven is a huge undertaking. First you chop the wood and start the fire. The bread is baked using the residual heat that is stored in the oven. “You have to understand the wood, what kind of heat it will produce – will it heat the top or bottom bricks,” says Jonathan. “There’s no dial, so it’s all by judgment. If you don’t get it right, the heat will die out – or you cook the bread too fast. To this day, we struggle every week.”

To produce a crusty loaf of bread, Jonathan and Peyton throw in a gallon of water after placing the loaves in the oven. The steam rises and coats the bread, creating a golden crust.

The focaccia is different. It is baked while there is still an open flame behind the bread to cook the top.

Looking to the Future
“The Farmers’ Market saved our farm and gave us a wonderful business,” Jonathan says. But it has come at a high price.

Naicam is 190 kilometres northeast of Saskatoon, and the drive takes over two hours. “It’s a bit of an epic journey,” says Jonathan, especially as they have been baking bread for most of Friday night. “We used to not sleep until we got home from the Market,” Jonathan says. “We don’t really recover until Tuesday.”

The couple are currently reviewing their options, but the bottom line is a very simple one.” We don’t mind working, but we need sleep,” Jonathan says. That seems little enough to ask for a family that has given so much of itself to produce a quality product.

Note: This is an expanded version of an article in the December issue of the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market newsletter.

Other Wood Oven Bakeries:
Il Secondo, Saskatoon
Wild Fire Bakery, Victoria
Fol Epi Bakery, Victoria

Monday, December 6, 2010

Il Secondo, Saskatoon: Christie’s Bakery Opens a Second Location

It’s 4 in the morning and Tracey Muzzolini is making bread at Christie’s Bakery on 33rd Street. She’ll be across town, at Broadway and 10th, opening up Il Secondo, the bakery’s second location, by 7 am.

The day will pass quickly as she makes and bakes one pizza after another in the wood-fired oven. Her brother and business partner, Blair Muzzolini, will join her at lunchtime. The last call for pizza is at 5:30, and Tracey will be on her way home at 7:30 pm after a 15-hour work day. This is a short-term solution, but it is nonetheless a huge amount of work.

“I do get a little tired in the afternoon,” Tracey says. “I’m quite proud of myself for keeping up. The food industry seems romantic, but you have to love it because you put a lot in.”

A Baking Tradition
The Christie brothers opened Christie’s Bakery in 1932 at its current location at 420 33rd Street West. Tracey’s parents, Janet and Ennio Muzzolini, bought the bakery in 1965, and Tracey and her brother Blair have worked there their whole lives.

Tracey spent 5 years in Australia and 5 years in Toronto 13 years ago. In Toronto she was doing makeup for film and television, but work with Chef Susur Lee at Lotus restaurant brought her back to the food industry, and she returned to Saskatoon and the family business to evolve her own baking style.

Tracey’s first step was to develop a line of artisan breads – a first for Saskatoon. She took classes from the Bread Bakers Guild of America, a non-profit alliance that was formed in 1993 to shape the skills and knowledge of the artisan baking community.

Saskatoon’s Star Female Baker
Tracey doesn’t brag, but a Google search quickly informed me that Saskatoon can be proud to have an award-winning baker practising her craft in our community. Tracey competed with Team Canada at the 2007 Louis Lesaffre Cup, winning a silver medal in this international competition.

Tracey talks about her role models on the Bakers Journal: “I grew up in my family bakery, so I never thought much about being a female baker. But between the long hours and the physical nature of the job, the world of professional baking has commonly been dominated by men. It was because of the great success of several women in the industry, that I chose to really pursue my own baking career. My mother worked side-by-side with my father for over 40 years to create a successful business. Linda Haynes of Ace Bakery, Nancy Silverton of La Brea Breads, and Amy Scherber of Amy’s Bread were all inspirations to me. These days, in bakeries across North America, women are working shoulder-to-shoulder with men, and performing well. At the international competition level, however, women are still a minority – their quantity is low, but their quality is high!”

The Bakers Journal also offers a recipe for patriotic Maple Granola Bread that Tracey created for a Louis Lesaffre Cup competition.

Neapolitan Pizzas
Tracey’s interest in artisan bread led her to Neapolitan pizza baked in a wood oven (this video - see below - explains what’s involved). “I’m pretty fascinated with the simplicity of the pizza, and yet it’s still so good,” Tracey says. “I’m learning a lot about wood and about fire. It’s really high maintenance because it cooks so fast – about 90 seconds at 800-900 degrees.”

Tracey says she’s still a novice and can only manage 2 pizzas at a time. She hopes to eventually be able to cook 3 or 4 at a time. “I’m challenging myself to get faster,” she says. It goes faster when her brother or her mother are working with her.

All in the Family
Janet and Ennio Muzzolini are stepping back from the business, while Tracey and Blair step forward. But they are still very active. Janet does the books, and Ennio will be in to help with the Christmas baking. Tracey and Blair sound like a comfortable team and appreciate each other’s strengths. Tracey says that Blair is a “super computer genius, a super brain.” (Thank you, Blair, for the great wifi at Il Secondo!)

Christie’s fruit cake is made using a 100-year old recipe from Ennio’s stint with the CN hotels. And Tracey promises to find time to make panettone for Christmas.

Customers had often asked for a second Christie’s location on Saskatoon’s east side. When the current location became available, it seemed like the time was right. The bread and pastries continue to be made at the 33rd Street location. Il Secondo offers the full line of baking, but it also has more seating, giving it a comfortable café feel. It is fascinating to watch Tracey baking pizzas in the wood oven, and the bakery is already a popular place for coffee, lunch or a visit with friends.

Other Great Bakeries:
Earth Bound Bakery, Saskatoon
Fol Epi Bakery, Victoria
Wild Fire Bakery, Victoria

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Edible Christmas Presents and Treats, Saskatoon

I plan to celebrate the holidays with lots of good food and drink. So I’ve assembled a list of some of the good things on offer from the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market, local bakeries, delis and culinary entrepreneurs. It’s local; it’s organic; it tastes great – and we’re not just accumulating more “stuff”!

Saskatoon Farmers’ Market
Organic Stollen and Veggie Pot Pies – Good Spirit Farm & Bakery

Holiday CupcakesSliced Decadence (Gingerbread Pear, Egg Nog Bliss, Chocolate Mint, Cranberry Lemon, Lavender Shortbread, Coconut Snowball)

“Not your usual” Baking Trays (in two sizes) – Wild Serendipity Foods (including the ever-popular blackberry sage thumbprints)

Meat Tourtieres – Prairie Pie Company

Good News! Living Sky Winery and McKeown’s Ready-Made Meals and Catering will be Market regulars starting in January.

Bakeries
Organic Fruit CakeEarthbound Bakery

 Italian Panettone – Christie’s Bakery and Il Secondo

Ready-Made Meals
Fully-prepared Turducken (a whole deboned turkey, stuffed with a deboned duck. stuffed with a deboned chicken layered with homemade cornbread and chorizo stuffing and gravy) – McKeown’s Ready-Made Meals and Catering (I can't believe I'm mentioning meat! I'd only do it for you, Mike!)

In-home Catering or Appetizer PartiesMcKeown’s Ready-Made Meals and Catering

P.S. Mike tells me that his ready-made meals have been sporadic lately because he’s been so busy catering. But he promises to have some Christmas-themed meals available before Christmas and 3 meals per week minimum in the new year.

Edible Presents
Gift certificates for Cooking Classes – Simon Reynolds and Michelle Zimmer. I took a look at the upcoming class schedule at Wild Serendipity Foods, and there are some awesome options: Indian Vegetarian (MZ), Italian Vegetarian (SR), Super Foods (nutrition-packed foods chosen by Registered Dietitian Cathy Langdon, MZ), English Cream Tea (SR), Mystery Box (SR).

Gift Certificate for a Personal ChefSimons’ Fine Foods

P.S. You can catch Simon on Shaw TV’s In the Kitchen – here’s the most recent episode

Snack Attack Gift Baskets (spicy chickpeas, caramel corn, party mix, trail mix, milk chocolate almonds, candied marshmallows) and Biscotti – Saskatoon Sous Chef

Housemade Liqueurs (Carmincello and Limoncello) and pickled Chanterelle MushroomsSouleio

Absolutely the BEST selection of Tea (sourced directly from small farmers) – Camellia Sinensis

For more information:
Earth Bound Bakery
Wild Serendipity Foods
The Food Mentor
McKeown’s Ready-Made Meals and Catering
Chef Simon Reynolds
Souleio Foods
Living Sky Winery

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Altos de Luzon: Wine from Jumilla, Spain

Mediterranean Sunshine and Grapes

I am infatuated with Spain and wine. So when Doug Reichel (Doug Reichel Wine Marketing Inc.) suggested that I try Altos de Luzon, a wine from southeast Spain, I leapt at the opportunity. And I’m glad I did as I enjoyed the wine and will buy it again.
Spanish Wine
Spain produces a huge amount of wine, but most of it is sold in Europe. Some regions, such as Rioja, have gained an international reputation, but there are other wine regions which fly under the radar. One of these is Jumilla, in southeast Spain, slightly inland from the Mediterranean.

Altos de Luzon (Jumilla 2005) is one of several wines produced by Bodegas Luzon winery, which was founded in 1916 by a group of winemaking families.

The Luzon vineyards are located in the Jumilla region, south of Valencia and inland from Murcia. It’s a sunny, hot, dry mountain plateau. Grapes have been grown here for over 2,000 years, starting with the Phoenicians, the Romans, and the Moors.

Soil and Climate
Extreme heat does not usually produce great wine, but in Jumilla the heat is tempered by the cool night-time temperatures, which preserve the wine’s acidity, and the local Monastrell grapes do well here. Legend has it that the grapes were first grown in the monasteries of Catalonia, hence the name.

The hot, dry climate means that there are less pests and disease, so a number of local growers, including Luzon, are producing organic wines.

Jumilla has sandy soil containing very little organic material. As a result, it escaped the phylloxera epidemic, which forced most of Europe to replant its vineyards with vines grafted onto American rootstock. So Altos de Luzon benefits from a blend of 50-year old ungrafted Monastrell vines, combined with 25% Tempranillo and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon from 20-year old vines. A healthy blend of old and new.

Robust but Subtle
Now to the important stuff! I really enjoyed the taste of Altos de Luzon and it was a good combination with a rich eggplant moussaka. It has lots of fruity, acidic flavour and compares very favourably with Pinot Noir (one of my personal favourites). I much prefer it to Malbec wines, which are too strong for my taste.

Altos de Luzon 2005 was aged for 12 months in French and American oak (20% new oak). The wine has a smooth, subtle, smoky finish; it’s not agressively oaky. I’ve always wondered why there was such a difference between wine that was aged in French and American oak. Apparently American oak has much bigger pores so the wine absorbs more of the oaky taste.

Mediterranean Diet
The village of Jumilla is located at the foot of a 15th century castle, and there are several bodegas offering wine tastings. The Wine Travel Guide to the World says that a farmhouse on the Luzon estate has been converted to a hotel with its windows overlooking the vineyards, but I was unable to find any additional information.

There are so many good reasons to visit Spain – the wine, the olives, the architecture, the sun. This description of paella, said to originate in nearby Valencia, evokes so many of the things I love about Spain:

“But paella has come to represent a large part of what I love about Spain and why I have chosen to make my home here. It is a dish that embodies the strange contrast of old and new that forms the powerful identity of this country. Its ingredients have been wholly incorporated into the Spanish cuisine and culture, and yet almost none of them are native to the Iberian Peninsula: rice and saffron were introduced by the Moors between the 8th and 11th centuries; the olive tree and its oil were brought by the Phoenicians roughly two millennia earlier; the indispensible pan that the dish is cooked in comes from the Latin word patella, brought by the Romans; even the Spanish wine (whichever of many you choose) that should always accompany your favourite paella has its origins elsewhere.”

Luzon in Saskatchewan
The Luzon wines are brought to Saskatchewan by Doug Reichel Wine Marketing. Altos de Luzon costs approximately $28 in Saskatchewan and is available in the government liquor stores. The Dulce de Luzon dessert wine and the two organic Luzon wines are also excellent.

Further Information:
     Catavino is an informative website/blog about Iberian wines
     Vinos de Jumilla
     Jumilla Spain and Monastrell Grape
     The Mystery and Magic of Murcia
     Doug Reichel Wine Seminars

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Living Sky Winery, Saskatchewan

“really good fruit wines that are as complex and enjoyable as any grape wine”

For so many years, people wanted to get off the farm and live in the city. But the tide appears to have turned as people are deliberately choosing to make a living in the country. But this is farming with a difference – market gardens, fruit orchards, flower farms. And Saskatchewan now has two fruit wineries, one of them very close to Saskatoon.

Living Sky Winery is the dream child of Sue Echlin and Vance Lester. Sue grew up on a ranch in Alberta and Vance is a biologist by training. Sue had 10 horses, and they were growing hay on their farm near Perdue (about 65 km west of Saskatoon), but they were still travelling to the city to earn a living. They wanted to be full time on the farm.

Fruit Wine
They decided to try making fruit wines after a wine touring holiday in BC. Five years ago they planted their orchards – 10 acres of cherries, raspberries, black currant, haskap and rhubarb. (They purchase strawberries from a Hutterite colony.)
Fruit wine is a lot more flexible than grape wine. Sue and Vance hired Dominic Rivard as their winemaker, but Dominic is a consultant. He lives in Nova Scotia and works with a number of different wineries around the world. In fact, when Sue and Vance first contacted him, he was in Thailand setting up a fruit winery.

Dominic, Sue and Vance chose fruit that would grow well in Saskatchewan and that Dominic felt would make good wine. Sue and Vance are responsible for growing and harvesting the fruit. The fruit is then frozen and stored until Dominic comes out to make the wine.

And they don’t know in advance what kind of wine they will be able to make. First of all, it depends on the harvest. There were no cherries this year because of winter kill, but there was a good harvest of black currants. Dominic will test the fruit for sugar and acid levels, and that information will guide the winemaking process.

The fruit ferments for two weeks and is then filtered and clarified. Most fruit wines don’t require aging as they don’t have tannins. They did age their cherry port, and black currants have tannins so they might be able to age them as well. “We’re planning to try to age a port in oak this year,” Sue says.

Environmentally Conscious
Living Sky Winery is not certified organic. However, Sue says that they are very environmentally conscious. “We avoid chemicals if at all possible,” she explains, “and we till to get rid of weeds.”

They moved the Delisle Co-op building onto their farm, and it has a new lease on life. The back end is used to manufacture the wine, while there is a small tasting area at the front.

There are no neck wraps on the bottles because they’re unnecessary, and Living Sky Winery relies on online marketing (website, Facebook, Twitter) rather than print materials.

Challenges
“Our biggest challenge is convincing people that you can make really good fruit wines that are as complex and enjoyable as any grape wine,” says Sue.

I’ve just finished a bottle of rhubarb wine, and it was great. Fruit has a lot of sugar, so it can’t be as dry as grape wine. But it’s an awesome option for people who like a slightly sweeter wine or who enjoy port and dessert wines.

The second challenge is based on location. “It’s a whole different ball game from BC,” Sue says. “Sourcing equipment is difficult when you’re so far away from the industry. Let alone getting delivery trucks to find your farm.”

There is a second fruit winery in Saskatchewan, so perhaps this will be less of a challenge in the future. Cypress Hills Vineyard & Winery is just off the Trans Canada Highway and close to Maple Creek and Fort Walsh.

Sales
Living Sky Winery is currently selling Rhubarb, Raspberry and Strawbarb table wines, a Framboise dessert wine and a Juliett cherry port. The port won a bronze in the 2010 Canadian Wine Awards. And I’ve just learned on Twitter that they hope to start making cider in 2011.

Sue and Vance started selling their wines at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market two weeks ago, and they hope to have a permanent booth in January. You can also contact the Winery and make arrangements for shipping, pick up or home delivery (Saskatchewan only).

Taj Mahal restaurant now serves Living Sky wines, and Sue hopes that they will be able to sell more wine directly to restaurants in the future. “Some BC wineries sell 100% of their wine to restaurants,” she says.

Once the good weather returns, I’m looking forward to driving out to the winery for a tour and tasting. Tours are by appointment only. “We want to be able to spend some time with people,” Sue says. “We don’t want people to just taste and leave.”

Good luck, Sue and Vance. Living Sky Winery is a welcome addition to our province.

Note: Mooberry Winery in Parksville, Vancouver Island is also a fruit winery.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Great Places to Eat in Edmonton

local food, lots of vegetarian options

I have written in depth about some of the great places to eat in Edmonton – Blue Plate Diner, d’Lish, Wild Tangerine. Here’s a brief review of some other places where I had a really good meal.

Moriarty’s Bistro and Wine Bar (downtown Edmonton)
Nothing defines a holiday better than a relaxed lunch in sophisticated surroundings. Other customers were having a serious business lunch; I was sipping my wine and enjoying an incredibly decadent dessert. It would be worth a trip to Edmonton just for the apple and pear tart with its rich, buttery red wine caramel sauce.

Moriarty’s, at 10154 100 Street, is next door to the Sherlock Holmes Pub and just up the street from the Citadel Theatre. They have an extensive list of wines by the glass, with an enosystem ensuring a broad selection of fresh wines.

Moriarty’s is a member of Original Fare, a group of independent restaurants that emphasize local food.

Café Mosaics (Whyte Avenue)
Imagine! A restaurant that serves nothing but vegetarian food. What a treat! I had a grilled tofu sandwich with mushrooms, onions, red pepper and cheese slices that was moist and flavourful. The vegan chocolate cake was a little odd, but it came with a huge scoop of chocolate mousse that was excellent.

Café Mosaics is located at 10844 82 Avenue NW. It’s young and funky with a colourful, cheap décor. It wasn’t elegant, but it was welcoming and flavourful.

Highlevel Diner (South Edmonton)
Highlevel Diner is an Edmonton culinary institution with a 28-year history. Directly south of the Highlevel Bridge, it is a busy restaurant with a menu to suit every taste. People of all ages will feel comfortable here. Sunday brunch appeared to be very popular with a line extending out the door and around the corner.

Food is purchased from local suppliers – “responsible growers who care as much about nutrition and health (both yours and the planet’s) as we do.” The eggs Florentine arrived piping hot, and the website reassured me that the eggs were from locally-raised, free-range chickens.

Culina Mill Creek (South Edmonton)
This small restaurant was jam-packed at lunchtime on a Friday, but the service was fast and the food was awesome. Located at 9914 89th Avenue, they describe themselves as a friendly, neighbourhood café, but that description does their fine cuisine a disservice.

Culina Mill Creek is a member of Slow Food Edmonton and supports local businesses and suppliers, including Cally’s Teas. The Persian Flatbread Sandwich with Quinoa Salad was absolutely amazing.

Cally’s Teas (South Edmonton)
Cally’s Teas (8608 99 Street) is a tea-themed gift shop just south of Culina Mill Creek. It is jam-packed with an extensive range of teas (both house blends and well-known international suppliers). There is an eclectic collection of china and small items that defies description. It was great fun to browse while sipping the cup of tea provided when I walked in the door.

Plus:
     Blue Plate Diner
     Credo Coffee    
     d’Lish Urban Kitchen and Wine Bar
     Wild Tangerine

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Alley Kat Brewing, Edmonton

small is beautiful - and profitable

I ventured deep into Edmonton’s south industrial area to find the home of Alley Kat beers. Alley Kat was founded in 1995 and is the longest-running microbrewery in Edmonton.

Their first beer, Aprikat, remains their most popular and reminded me of a fruit cooler. They add apricot extract to the conditioning tanks, and it is sweet with lots of fruit flavour. They also make Alley Kat Amber brown ale, Charlie Flint’s organic lager and Full Moon pale ale (double the hops – oof!) on an ongoing basis.

Alley Kat produces approximately one million bottles of beer annually. They sell primarily to Alberta as well as a little to Saskatchewan, but they also send 300-400 kegs of Full Moon to a bar in Seoul, Korea, each month.

An Edmonton teacher working in Seoul recommended the beer. The Korean bar owner came to Edmonton, tried the beer and liked it, and now stocks it in his bar.

Small = Flexible
This example illustrates how flexible small businesses can be.

As a consumer, I like buying from small, independent businesses. I know who I’m dealing with, and that gives me a greater sense of trust for the product they are selling.

There are several additional advantages from a business perspective. Small businesses can offer personalized service and pay attention to even the smallest details.

Personalized Service
Alley Kat not only makes a special shipment to Korea, they also produce specialty beers for individual restaurants and liquor stores. Their chilli beer is only available at Dadeo, a Cajun restaurant on Whyte Avenue in Edmonton. They are also thinking about producing a mead (fermented honey drink) that would only be available from the Sherbrooke Liquor Store, Edmonton’s biggest beer store.

Alley Kat is celebrating its 15th anniversary by producing 5 limited-edition beers. Employees have had an opportunity to experiment with different types of beer or different processes that might not be productive on an ongoing basis. I really enjoyed the Apple Wit, which tasted much like dry English cider. They also made a Smoked Porter, a Cascadian dark ale and a Ginger Beer (not the sweet variety, but a genuine beer made with juiced ginger root).

Quality before Quantity
Alley Kat beer is not pasteurized, so it only stays fresh for about six months. They personally visit the local liquor stores and trade out expired product.

Reuse and Recycle
Alley Kat, like most breweries uses recycled bottles. They also recycle the yeast, harvesting it and using it for 20-25 generations. They reuse some of the water for two different parts of the brewing process.

The leftover wort is scooped into big barrels, and farmers come and pick it up to feed their cows. One of the teachers in NAIT’s culinary program picked up 10 pounds to make bread with his students.

Visiting Alley Kat
Alley Kat is located at 9929 60 Avenue, Edmonton. They offer free walk-in tours on Thursdays and Fridays between 2 and 4 pm, and the tours include a small taste of about five of their beers.

See Also:
     Penny Bright Brewery, Saskatoon