Monday, August 30, 2010

Essence Floral Design, Saskatoon

A Florist in the Heart of City Park

Neighbourhood Roots
Catherine Summach grew up in City Park, and she is delighted to return to its well-loved streets to open her own floral design store at the corner of Princess and 7th. Tucked around the corner from City Perk coffee shop and just a few blocks north of City Hospital, Essence invites you to stop and admire the flowers or explore a delightful mix of giftware.

I’m not surprised to learn that Catherine has been a florist for 23 years when I learn a little of her history. “Garth Grimson was my art teacher at City Park High School, and he inspired me to use my artistic talents,” she says. “I always drew flowers. And as a child I really enjoyed playing shop. I set up a little store under the basement stairs with a cash register and shelves. “

Contemporary Elegance
Catherine enjoys working with different products – orchids, calla lilies, hydrangeas – “everything exotic,” she explains. She spent 3 years in the South Pacific so she’s very familiar with tropical blooms. She even worked in a small florist’s shop in Sydney, Australia.
“The floral industry has changed,” says Catherine. “I want to provide a blend of exotic, contemporary, and pretty/soft.” She also sells green and flowering plants.

Wedding Flowers
“For brides and grooms, their wedding day is the most important day of their lives,” says Catherine. She plans to meet with the brides after hours so that she can give them her undivided attention. “My store is called Essence because I want to listen to the brides and capture the essence of their dreams.”

And Catherine certainly has the experience to translate those dreams into reality. She taught floral design at Dutch Growers for 10 years and coordinated the store’s Christmas decorations. I have happy memories of visiting Dutch Growers with my mother in order to enjoy the store’s festive atmosphere, so I can vouch for Catherine’s talent.
Christmas Floral Design
Catherine plans to offer classes in Christmas floral design on Monday and Wednesday evenings throughout November. Participants will create a wreath or a door swag, and there will be Christmas music and hot apple cider. “It will be a nice night out,” she says.

The intriguing mix of giftware displays Catherine’s personal touch. The hand-knit baby clothes are made by her 86-year-old mother in law.

She has a wide range of espe bags from Ontario that are both fashionable and fun with bright colours and appliques. “I wanted to provide computer laptop bags that are colourful and fun,” she explains.

There are gifts from $2.50 up because Catherine wanted to make sure that anyone who wants to can buy a gift. She also stocks gift bags and tissue so you can shop, wrap it up and be on your way.

Essence will stock Time and Again candles for Christmas gift giving. They have lead-free wicks and “smell good when you burn them, not just when you buy them,” says Catherine.

Welcome home to City Park, Catherine. It feels like Europe to be able to shop in my own neighbourhood.

Website: Essence Floral Design now has its own website (Feb. 28/11)

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Sous Chef Challenge

When I don’t know what to eat, I head downtown to Sous Chef at #2-157 2nd Avenue (King George building) in Saskatoon. There is always something interesting in their display case – organic purple potato salad in lemon vinaigrette or roasted eggplant and mushroom lasagne with zucchini and blue cheese or raspberry nectarine crostata or . . .

I had a chat yesterday with Beemal Vasani, one of Sous Chef’s owners, and he says that they challenge their chefs to be creative. “The cooks are making decisions based on what’s in the cooler,” he says. “That forces us to use stuff that’s fresh and local.

Local Food
Sous Chef uses local food as much as possible.

Beemal recently signed a deal with the son of a farmer in Sicily who has 45,000 olive trees and his own olive oil processing plant. “That’s local,” says Beemal, “because I shook hands with the person. I know him.”

Sous Chef is also making deals closer to home. Carnivores will be pleased to hear that Sous Chef hopes to offer certified organic meat from BC and Alberta in the very near future. They also work directly with farmers, such as Anne and David Cook of Asquith, to decide what vegetables they will grow for Sous Chef’s kitchen.

Just Ask
Beemal encourages customers to “just ask” for what they want to see in the store. “We want to please the customer,” he says, “and it flexes the muscles of everyone in the kitchen.”

So, here’s the Sous Chef Challenge. Choose two or three ingredients, one of which must be local, and ask Sous Chef to create a dish with your ingredients. Contact Sous Chef by Tuesday, August 24 at noon with your request, and let’s see what their cooking staff can produce by the end of the week. I’ll post the Challenges on my blog on Wednesday, August 25 and photos of the results on Friday, August 28. And we’ll all eat well!

The New Sous Chef Kitchen
I had a tour of Sous Chef’s new kitchen. I saw one empty space that will be a cooler and another empty space for the industrial-size crock pot. But, hey! We’ve all seen dry wall, so I didn’t take any photos.

However, I have been promised a tour when everything is in place, as well as a chance to talk with the chefs. I’ll keep you posted.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Earth Bound Bakery, Saskatoon

It has become a Saturday morning ritual to visit the Earth Bound Bakery at 1820 8th Street East (next door to Mano’s restaurant).

What better way to start your weekend than with a chewy, crusty loaf still warm from the oven and maybe a croissant for lunch? When I learned that the owner, Trent Loewen, had started serving fresh sandwiches at lunchtime, I had to visit.

Trent says that he designed his store to be really open so he could visit with customers. Even better was to offer soup and sandwiches for lunch – “I like conversation and seeing people enjoy food,” Trent explains.

I’m all in favour – lunch was great. Andrew and I both had housemade hummus with sprouts and cucumber on hemp and sesame bread. I had a bowl of roasted beet and potato and green lentil and fresh dill soup, while Andrew had curry chickpea, cauliflower and summer squash.

I had a mini chocolate cupcake for dessert, while Andrew had a pain au chocolat. Every bite was delicious.

Certified Organic and Local
Almost all the ingredients Trent uses are certified organic and grown in Saskatchewan. And he buys all his ingredients from just two suppliers. The L’Oiselle family farm near Vonda and Bob Balfour of R & J Milling near Riceton grow, mill and deliver the grains, seeds and lentils.

“There is nobody in between,” says Trent. “I like to maintain that conversation with the local producer and support them.”

Variety is the Spice of Life
There is always something new on offer at Earth Bound. Trent bakes new varieties of bread most Wednesdays and Saturdays. There’s a new variety of bread today as well – oatmeal flax-bran sourdough with prunes. “That’s for my regulars,” jokes Trent. (I bought a loaf, and it was deliciously moist with a crunchy crust and big chunks of fruit.)
“I make new products as often as I feel inspired,” says Trent. “That’s why I’m in business for myself – so I can do what I want, what my customers want, and set my own standards.”

There’ll be a new product on offer today (August 13). Trent woke up from a dream about making croissants with reduced red wine butter. So he set about blending the wine and the butter ready for the next day’s croissants – some with blue cheese, some with walnuts, maybe some with both. (I am trying to think up a valid excuse for dropping by to buy some!)

Happy Anniversary
Earth Bound Bakery will be celebrating its second anniversary in September. They’ve come a long way from the early days at an outdoor stall at the Farmers’ Market. And I think we can look forward to more milestones in the future. Trent was a chef before he became a baker, and he hopes to open a restaurant someday. I’ve promised I’ll be one of his first customers. Won’t you join me?

And, in the meantime, please go buy me a croissant with reduced red wine butter and blue cheese and walnuts. Or a fresh sandwich. Or a mushroom and sharp cheese croissant. Or . . . .

News Updates
Trent is working on a website and says he’ll be “linking and jazzing up soon” (I foresee bread dough on his iPhone!). In the meantime, he does post sporadically on his blog – that’s how I found out about fresh sandwiches.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Illusion of Cheap Food

We used to grow our own food, and the marketplace was the centre of every town. Now, we live in huge cities, and our food comes packaged and wrapped in plastic from a sanitized supermarket.

30 million meals are served every single day in London, England. Just try and picture the farms, the factories, the stores, and the trucks that are required to grow and deliver and cook that much food – every single day of the year – in every city around the world.

Carolyn Steel, author of Hungry City: How Food Shaped our Lives, says in a School for Life blog post:

“Have you ever thought about food? Not in terms of what to eat for breakfast, but about what food really means? Ours is the first society in history to take food for granted: to treat it as something to be made as cheap and convenient as possible, while we get on with the ‘more important’ things in life. Industrial food systems have made feeding ourselves seem easy, but when you factor in all the externalities – fossil fuel consumption, rainforest destruction, desertification, pollution and obesity, to name but a few – it becomes clear that ‘cheap food’ is an illusion, and an expensive one at that.”

In her TED talk in Oxford last year (see below), Carolyn outlined some of those expenses:
• 19 million hectares of rain forest are lost each year to create new arable land.
• A further 19 million hectares of arable land are lost due to salinization and erosion.
• One half of the food currently produced in the USA is thrown away.
• One billion people are obese, while another billion starve.

What did you eat today? How much did it cost?

Friday, August 6, 2010

August in Purple and Gold

We're standing on holy ground.

"The English word holy dates back to at least the 11th Century with the Old English word hālig, an adjective derived from hāl meaning whole and used to mean 'uninjured, sound, healthy, entire, complete’." (Wikipedia)

August in Purple and Gold

Thursday, August 5, 2010

West Vancouver Delights

I wouldn’t mind living in West Vancouver – ritzy apartments overlooking the harbour, salt sea breezes, and interesting stores and restaurants. Ah, well. I can always visit.

Fraiche Restaurant
A room with a view and a friend in the kitchen – what more could I ask!

I was delighted when my North Vancouver friends took me out to brunch at Fraiche. And it was really special because Stephanie’s son, Theo, has just been hired as a cook.

Fraiche is located at 2240 Chippendale Road – way, way up the hillside overlooking Coal Harbour and Stanley Park. It’s an outstanding view. And the food is pretty good too :)

I can’t resist eggplant, so I had the Tagliatelle Pasta with spiced eggplant caponata and parmesan. Stephanie had the Chevre Omelette, and Anne had the Pain Perdu. And we all thought we’d chosen the best dish on the menu.

Bete Noir, a flourless chocolate cake served with blackberries and apricots, and a glass of Cava made my meal complete.

West Vancouver Sea Wall
It’s an annual ritual to walk the sea wall between Dundarave and Ambleside. I watch the boats, hope to see a seal, and admire the beach art and flowers. It’s the perfect way to spend half a day in idle pleasure.

And there’s no better way to finish the walk than a beer and a meal on Saltaire’s third-storey terrace. Sunshine, ocean breezes and fries. Life is good.

Slideshow – Beach Art, Ocean Waves and Flowers

West Vancouver Sea Wall