Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Melipal Winery, Argentina

Building its brand with honesty and pride in the people, the land, and the vines


At the Melipal winery in Mendoza, Argentina, the Aristi family is establishing their brand with a focus on quality and personal involvement.

The next generation
Ignacio Aristi is an agronomist who has always made his living from the land, watching the weather and the soil, trying to predict the harvest. But his work involved commodities. It wasn’t hands-on, and he often talked to his family about his desire to play a more active role in developing a value-added business.

In 2001, Ignacio visited Mendoza, Argentina’s premier wine-growing region, and recognized that a winery would provide an opportunity to maintain his commitment to the land while also shaping a distinctive brand that reflected his family’s values and personality.

It takes a long time to establish a winery and make it profitable, but that was okay because Ignacio was building for the next generation, his five children.


Ownership equals responsibility
I met with Irene Aristi, Melipal’s general manager, in May when she was in Saskatoon with Doug Reichel of Doug Reichel Wine Marketing Inc. to take part in Top of the Hops. She described the steps her family took to establish the winery. While Ignacio maintains overall responsibility, it is his children who are directly responsible for the winery.

Clarisa Aristi and her husband Santiago Santamaria were the first family members to move to Mendoza. At first they took care of everything that needed doing, but they are now able to focus on sales and marketing. Clarisa, Irene’s sister, is a graphic designer so she has designed the wine labels, the brochures, and the website.

Irene studied industrial engineering at university and her father hoped that she would become the winery’s general manager. She spent two years familiarizing herself with the winery, with a particular focus on the vineyards, before stepping into the top position.

It was trial by fire this past winter as the region was hit by a heavy frost and Melipal lost a great deal of fruit. Irene knew that this would have a huge impact on the people who work for the winery and their families, and her first priority was to the people. “I met with the workers, and I told them that it was going to be a hard year but none of them would lose their jobs,” explains Irene.

Although the winery and vineyard managers both have houses at the winery, Irene has chosen to live in Mendoza where she is less isolated. She can go to the gym and have a social life. But the winery is always on her mind “When I see black clouds in the sky, I’m instantly worried about hail, and I’m on the phone to the winery right away,” she says.


The land and the vines
Mendoza is a desert, and the vineyards are irrigated by canals from the reservoir. Water rights are based on hectares of production, and they are always aware that they have to conserve water. Winter snowfall determines how much water is available in the summer.

Because the climate is so dry, they do not need to apply any fungicides, so the grapes are grown organically.

The Aristi family initially purchased three properties, one of which was already planted with 20-year old vines. They planted the other Melipal vineyards themselves in 2001, 2002 and 2003. Las Nazarenas vineyard was a later purchase; its Malbec vines were planted in 1923.

Irene says that the differences between the vineyards are remarkable. They each require different amounts of irrigation, different pruning methods, and are harvested on different days.


The wine
The Melipal facility is very modern, an accurate representation of a new winery and a new family initiative. It has been specifically designed to produce small quantities of top-level wines. The grapes are picked and sorted by hand, and the tanks are small so that each batch can receive individual attention.

The Aristis had no winemaking experience, so they took a methodical, step-by-step approach. Their first wines were the Melipal Malbec and the Melipal Reserve. “We wanted to do one wine and do it really well,” says Irene.

A couple of years later they planted Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. Their Ikella brand now produces single varietal wines from each of these grapes. Single-varietal wines are very common in Argentina, so this was a natural first step, but they are now experimenting with different blends. “The Cabernet Franc/Malbec/Petit Verdot blend is amazing,” Irene says. “We’ll be offering that in the future under the Melipal label.”

The Ikella Malbec has more fresh fruit and less oak than the Melipal Malbec, making it an excellent sipping wine. The Cabernet Sauvignon is also young and fruity, but Doug Reichel commented that it had much more depth than most wines at that price point. “Ikella wines are serious wines,” he says. My personal favourite is the royal purple Merlot, and the white Ikella Torrontes with its tangy citrus notes is a refreshing summer drink.


Honest and unpretentious
I have so much respect for entrepreneurs like the Aristis who start a new business, taking a hands-on approach to learning every facet of the business. Bodega Melipal is a new winery that is building its brand with honesty and pride in the people, the land and the vines. They offer excellent wine at an excellent price, and I look forward to observing and sampling their wines as they evolve and broaden their product range. Such a pleasurable form of research!

See also:
Bodega Melipal: Malbec Wines from Argentina
Doug Reichel Wine Marketing Inc.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Flavourful Saskatoon, August 29, 2011

Foodie news and events in and around Saskatoon – patio party, harvest fair, night on the rocks, and goat cheese

Antiques Appraisal, September 3
Do you have a family treasure? Bring it to the Marr Residence on Saturday, September 3 from 1:00-4:30 pm and have local antiques appraiser John McGowan tell you more about it. Limit 2 items per person. $5.00 per item.

Farmers’ Market Patio Party, September 4
Riverbend Plantation Café and the Garlic Guru are holding a Patio Party at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market on Sunday, September 4 from 5-8 pm. The menu includes tapas, appetizers, and dessert flambé. Cash bar and one free alcoholic drink. Live entertainment by local jazz duo Bassavoce. Tickets are $30 per person or $50 per pair and are available at Riverbend Café or the Garlic Guru.

Marr Harvest Fair, September 5
Relive the tradition of a pioneer harvest fair at the Marr Residence on Monday, September 5 from 1:00-4:30 pm. There will be contests, demonstrations of heritage crafts, and old-fashioned races. Bring your entries of best jams, jellies, pickles, flowers, garden produce, baking and handiwork.

A Night on the Rocks, Boffins, September 7
Taste 6 classic malts of Scotland paired with a variety of delicious delights at Boffins Club, Innovation Place, on Wednesday, September 7. The cost is $30/person and places should be reserved in advance (249-5344, boffins@boffins.ca) as space is limited.

Petrofka Bridge Orchard at SaskMade Marketplace
Apple cider and dried apple slices from Petrofka Bridge Orchard are now available at SaskMade Marketplace on 8th Street.

Saskatchewan Goat Cheese
Marin Waddell and James Holtom of SalayView Farm have a herd of Nigerian Dwarf Goats and have just started making and selling soft unaged goat cheese (plain, chive, herbes de Provence) at the Regina Farmers’ Market. They plan to expand and make feta and mozzarella in a few years’ time. The farm, south of Regina, is not organic, but they’re a small-scale operation and plan to give their herd personal attention.

They don’t expect to be making enough cheese to sell in Saskatoon for a couple of years, but if enough Saskatoon foodies like their Facebook page, they may make occasional deliveries to our fair city. So please! Support my cheese habit, and like their Facebook page. I’d love to try Saskatchewan goat cheese.

Fine Wines Sask
I helped organize a wine tasting at Axon Development Corporation this past week. Doug Reichel of Doug Reichel Wine Marketing Inc. led an entertaining, informative tasting of five of his wines – two whites, two reds and a dessert wine. There was something for every palate, and employees who work together all week long had something new to discuss in a relaxed atmosphere. Along with bread, cheese, wine and vinegar, and chocolate, everyone had a great time. I would highly recommend contacting Doug to organize a similar tasting at your workplace.

Flavourful Saskatoon is a weekly Monday feature. Email penny@axonsoft.com if you have products, events or places that you would like me to include.

See also:
Flavourful Saskatoon August 22, 2011
Istanbul Diner (Saskatoon’s new Turkish Restaurant)
Floating Gardens (greenhouse eggplants and melons)
Jacqueline Neusch – Sew Chic Eco Décor (interior design tips for an eco-chic, environmentally-friendly home)

Photos: Valencia and Barcelona, Spain

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Floating Gardens

On a century-old family farm just outside of Saskatoon, a brother and sister team are trying their hand at a modern style of farming. But their goal remains the same as it has been for generations – to help feed the local population.

This is the first season of operations for Floating Gardens, a hydroponic greenhouse operated by Rachel and Chris Buhler. Rachel has a Master’s degree in Plant Sciences while Chris has a diploma in greenhouse management. They have built a huge greenhouse (176 x 144 feet) on the family farm and have started selling their produce at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market as well as to a few local restaurants and Steep Hill Co-op.

Their produce is absolutely gorgeous – shiny plump eggplants, cherry tomatoes in an assortment of shapes and colours, baskets of strawberries, and all sorts of melons (cantaloupe, charentais, mini honeydew). It’s a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach.

Local produce
Saskatchewan grows less than 10% of its own produce – far less than either Manitoba (57%) or Alberta (33%). The rest is imported. Rachel and Chris hope that they can demonstrate and lead the way to increased local production of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Their greenhouse is designed to operate year-round, and they are trying their hand at producing a wide variety of different crops. Tomatoes and melons grow well in the summer when there is plenty of sunshine. Attention will shift to herbaceous crops (lettuce, spinach) in the winter when the days are so much shorter.

Wood heat and a high-tech computer system
The Buhlers have installed two waste-wood boilers that are 2.2 million BTU each as their primary energy source for heating the greenhouse during the winter. The wood is waste that is currently going to the landfill, so it’s an effective synergy with another local business.

The greenhouse has an inflated wall to provide additional insulation, and there is a back-up natural gas boiler and two pumps.

A high-tech computer software system keeps track of all the greenhouse operations. It has been programmed to feed different combinations of fertilizer to different crops, and it oversees the storage of heat in hot water tanks during the day for release in the evenings.

High-wire hydroponics
Floating Gardens is currently only using half the greenhouse. It has been designed to support crops hydroponically, so the plants absorb nutrients from the liquids in the trough at the base of each long row of plants.

Each of the plants is attached to a wire so it can grow up rather than out. When the plants reach the top of the wire (well over my head!), they create some slack in the wire so that it can continue growing by stretching up and sideways. The melons are all snug in pantyhose bags to support their weight.

The hydroponics system relies on chemical nutrients, but the Buhlers are only using biological pesticide control. There is a colony of bees to pollinate the plants, and parasitic wasps and other predator insects help keep pests under control.

Insects and diseases can spread quickly in a large, enclosed greenhouse, so cleanliness is a top priority. Double doors help to keep insects out, and workers and visitors to the greenhouse must wash their hands and change their shoes on entering and leaving the greenhouse.

Floating garden
The second half of the greenhouse is now being developed, and it will be operational this winter. A large, low container fills the floor space and will serve as a pond. Crops will be planted in Styrofoam blocks and pushed out from the edge of the pond to begin growing. Each week a new set of Styrofoam planters will embark on the pond, and by the time the first crop is ready to harvest, it will have reached the far side of the pond and be easy to reach for harvesting.

It’s a modern take on an ancient gardening practice. The Aztecs constructed floating island gardens in the canals of Lago Texcoco in pre-Hispanic times. Modern-day farmers in Bangladesh are being encouraged to cultivate floating vegetable gardens in the waters of the Brahmaputra.

What shall we grow?
When Rachel and Chris phoned some of the large seed companies to ask for recommendations on the best crops to grow hydroponically, the companies asked if they were located in BC or in Ontario. They had no experience with hydroponic operations in Saskatchewan so couldn’t offer any advice.

As a result, the Buhlers decided to plant a great many different varieties and to evaluate their success at the end of the season. As a result, consumers currently have an outstanding variety of produce to choose from. There are standard eggplants, skinny Japanese eggplants, and tiny green Thai eggplants. There are 19 different varieties of tomatoes – from heirloom Japanese black trifle and brandywine, to strawberry-shaped cherry tomatoes and super-sweet Sungold. There are at least 4 or 5 varieties of melon. And because the fruit and vegetables have been grown indoors, they are in first-class condition.

Rachel and Chris have also been experimenting with some Chinese herbs. It is extremely unusual for a commercial greenhouse to grow such a wide range of different crops. I hope that they will continue to do so – as a consumer I relish variety. And right now, I’m having a fabulous time trying out a different eggplant recipe every single week.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Istanbul Diner

I had dinner last evening at the Istanbul Diner (255 3rd Avenue South, Saskatoon). As I stood in the entrance way, debating where to sit (it’s a big restaurant), a tiny girl in a pretty pink dress skipped up to greet me, took my hand and led me to a seat.

She proceeded to provide me with a menu and express great disbelief over the fact that I was a vegetarian and didn’t want to try the lamb kebabs or the fish.

The chef, however, had no such problem and was delighted to provide us with vegetarian kebabs accompanied by fresh green salad and rice. He asked how spicy we wanted it, and it came exactly as ordered – very mild heat with lots of flavour.

The vegetable kebabs included lots of roasted tomato, pepper and chunks of Thai eggplant (tiny, egg-shaped fruit).

The menu bears further investigation by carnivores, but we were pleased with our vegetarian option. There are no desserts, but we were given a small piece of Turkish delight and a glass of tea to finish off our meal.

The chef came round with hand wash, which I thought was charming and unexpected, but it is very perfumed so I’d avoid it if you have allergies.

The Istanbul Diner is holding grand openings on Friday, August 26, and Saturday, August 27.

I’m pleased to see Saskatoon’s restaurant scene continuing to expand and to include restaurants with a specific focus. Do stop by and enjoy a Turkish meal in pleasant surroundings.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Flavourful Saskatoon, August 22, 2011

Foodie news and events in and around Saskatoon – bakeries, coffee shops, espresso, fine dining, farmers, and cider

Caffe Sola
Caffe Sola has new windows! The large windows and corner location have been a blessing and a curse for Caffe Sola. The new windows are treated to reduce the negative impact, and wooden benches along the window provide additional seating. Looks awesome. (And the baked goods are pretty awesome too.)

Il Secondo
Il Secondo, Christie’s Bakery’s location just off Broadway, is now open until 9 pm on Fridays and Saturdays. And they have a liquor license, so you can enjoy pizza straight out of the wood oven along with your choice of Italian beer or wine (at least 2 red and 2 white).

EarthBound Bakery
What would Saturdays be like without a stuffed croissant from EarthBound Bakery? The croissant this week was exceptional – the filling was roasted pattypan squash with arugula-walnut-garlic pesto. Trent Loewen, the baker, uses as many local, organic products as he possibly can. All summer long, the vegetables are from his brother Paul’s farm.

Commercial Kitchen - Saskatoon Farmers’ Market
The Saskatoon Farmers’ Market has received a substantial sponsorship cheque from Agrium for the construction of a state-of-the-art commercial kitchen. The kitchen will host local cooking classes, workshops, catering events, and other food preparation. The Market hopes that the kitchen will be up and running by October.

Wild Serendipity Foods
The French macarons from Michelle at Wild Serendipity Foods (Saturdays at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market) are a delight – chewy and flavourful with a rich, creamy filling. She’s introducing two new flavours – praline and marzipan.

Macarons are really fussy, and Michelle has taken the time and effort to perfect them. (photo credit: Cindy La)

Living Sky Winery
Living Sky Winery is now making rhubarb cider. It should be available in a couple of weeks. And they’ve frozen a big batch of local raspberries – something to look forward to in the winter.

Weczeria
I had dinner at Weczeria last week. The focus on local, seasonal food is noteworthy. There was fresh mint in the cream sauce on the gnocchi, kale alongside the ratatouille and polenta, transparent onion slices marinated in maple balsamic vinegar and crispy roasted chickpeas in the salad.

The chocolate mousse with chai ganache and ginger ice cream for dessert was fabulous, and I loved the raw rhubarb slivers on top of the pannacotta (reminded me of when I was a little kid dipping rhubarb stalks in a bowl of sugar). The macarons – not so good – I’ll stick with the ones from Wild Serendipity.

Ag in the City
Ag in the City is a two-day event to show urbanites the role agriculture plays in all our lives. It is being held at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market on September 11 and 12.

Sunday, September 11 is open to the public and features a breakfast of locally-produced food, information about farm groups and products, a pie auction and a harvest picnic on the riverbank. Elementary and secondary school groups will tour the exhibit and cooking demonstration on Monday, September 12.

Duck Duck Goose
Too early in the day for wine and tapas? Duck Duck Goose has an espresso machine and uses organic milk in all their coffee beverages.

Flavourful Saskatoon is a weekly Monday feature. Email me (penny@axonsoft.com) if you have products, events or places that you would like me to include.

See also:

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Sushiro and Duck Duck Goose: Bringing Japanese pub food and Spanish tapas to Saskatoon

Megan Macdonald and Todd Gronsdahl, the owners of Sushiro and Duck Duck Goose restaurants in Saskatoon, are artists and world travellers who enjoy sharing their love of food in a friendly, inviting atmosphere.

They are adapting the Japanese pub and Spanish tapas traditions to suit a Saskatoon audience, and it’s a welcome addition to our social and cultural environment.

Sushiro
Sushiro, on 10th Street just off Broadway Avenue, offers a varied selection of Japanese dishes accompanied by martinis (lychee sake, plum blossom plum wine), cocktails (wasabi Caesar), beer (Hitachino, Asahi, Kirin, Sapporo), wine and tea.

Fresh sushi is a central focus of the menu, but there is so much else as well. My absolute favourite is the Panko crusted mushroom risotto cakes drizzled with Japanese chilli mayo. The tempura sweet potato is also great and so are the fresh, crispy salads with carrot, daikon and even seaweed. I keep meaning to leave room for dessert because they sound intriguing.

It’s fun to visit Sushiro with friends and share a variety of different small dishes. But you don’t need to have a full meal. You can also pull a stool up to the bar and enjoy a late-night beer and a snack. “We’re not really formal,” says Megan. “We wanted to recreate the pubby atmosphere of an izakaya with fun music and staff and snacks.”

One of Sushiro’s first locations was just off 7th Avenue in City Park. There were only 12 seats and no one was more than 10 feet away from the chef. “It was like throwing a house party every night,” says Todd. It was too small to be financially viable, but the atmosphere was great and this is something Megan and Todd are trying to maintain.

Duck Duck Goose
Todd and Megan had an extended holiday in Spain a few years ago and realized that wine and tapas bars, like izakayas, emphasize good food and drink in a casual, friendly atmosphere. When Dan Walker of Weczeria moved to a larger space on Broadway, the time seemed right for Megan and Todd to open their own Saskatoon version of a tapas bar.

Duck Duck Goose (616 10th Street E) is open from 11 am to midnight and offers wine, beer, cocktails, espresso and an assortment of small, European-inspired dishes.

I had roasted mushroom and provolone Panini with watermelon gazpacho salad, accompanied by a glass of Parés Baltà wine for lunch. It was fantastic. The sandwich was rich and enticingly spicy while the salad was fruity and refreshing.

Desserts include lighter-than-air churros and chocolate dip, almond horchata gelato and crème caramel.

The dinner menu offers a wide selection of snacks and small main courses – from duck poutine and bacalao fritters, to truffled popcorn and asparagus with romesco. It’s European comfort food at its best, and there are lots of options for vegetarians.

The wine list is a mix of Spanish, Canadian and European wines with several offered by the glass. “We want to share what we love,” Megan says. “We’re not going to sell what we don’t know.”

Breaking the stereotypes – a female sushi chef
One of the highlights of Megan’s university years was meeting people from around the world, and she started experimenting with all kinds of dishes, even making her own tofu. But she was fascinated by sushi. “It’s so beautiful, so artistic,” she says.

When Todd and Megan were living on Grand Cayman, there was a popular sushi bar run by a well-known Japanese chef. Sushi restaurants don’t usually hire Caucasians or women, but the chef was having problems obtaining work permits for Japanese staff so Megan managed to land a job in the kitchen.

“I learned everything,” says Megan. “He’d go to the beach and leave me in charge. I put in 80 hours a week, but I was really well trained.”

Megan enjoys introducing Saskatoon residents to dishes that she and Todd have found on their travels, bringing them home and creating a new, personal version. “Fine dining can be so pretentious,” says Megan. “We just want to make good, simple food. We want it to be accessible so that people will really like it. It’s for everyone.”

Art and renovations
Todd is an artist. His first love was graffiti-style art, but his interests expanded while they were living in Spain, and he created over 1000 sketches. Back in Saskatoon, he turned the sketches into silk screen paintings and held an exhibition at the Mendel Art Gallery in 2007.

Todd has now taken several university art classes, and he spent 5 months last winter at the Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver.

Operating two restaurants doesn’t leave much time for formal artwork, but Todd’s artistic talents have a ready outlet in building renovation. This is fortunate, as he has renovated three houses and three business locations in the past few years.

“Duck Duck Goose is a reflection of my art,” Todd says. “I make sculptures of old found objects. I take something old, recycle it and make it special.”

Living in Vancouver, Megan and Todd were impressed with the way businesses had breathed new life into the old buildings in Gastown. “Small, old, unique spaces are charming,” says Megan. “We saw the potential in the site of Duck Duck Goose [a lumber yard in Saskatoon’s early years as a Temperance colony].”

The space is warm and authentic , respecting the historic nature of the building and the Broadway area while also adding a touch of whimsy. The old safe in the centre of the room is being used for storage, while its door has become a communal table. A chandelier and matching wall sconces from a hotel in Cairo feature antlered deer busts. The coffee menu is chalked onto the exposed brick chimney.

Wonderful staff
Megan and Todd say that they would never have considered opening a second restaurant if they didn’t have such wonderful staff at Sushiro. Aman Saleh was named Saskatoon’s best server by Planet S magazine, while Kristen Matheson does a fantastic job in the kitchen.

“The new restaurant is a chance for us and our staff to grow and expand,” says Todd.

Warmth
A restaurant’s success depends on its owners. It is their vision, their values and their personalities that are the determining factors. Megan and Todd are warm, caring people who offer high-quality food in a casual, art-filled environment. Enjoy!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Flavourful Saskatoon, August 15, 2011

Foodie news and events in and around Saskatoon – wine and tapas, veggie day care, dessert trends, and farmers’ markets

Duck Duck Goose
Duck Duck Goose, Saskatoon’s first wine and tapas bar, will be opening at lunch time on Tuesday. I’ll be posting a profile of Megan Macdonald and Todd Gronsdahl, the owners of Sushiro and Duck Duck Goose Tuesday afternoon.

Veggie Tots Day Care
Are you looking for a vegetarian/vegan day care for your children? If so, contact Kim Vander Kooy at veggietotsdaycare@yahoo.ca. Kim has two young boys, a Bachelor of Education and experience teaching in Africa and Asia.

Birthday celebrations - Saskatoon Farmers’ Market
There will be musical entertainment and free samples from the vendors at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market on Saturday, August 20 and Sunday, August 21 to celebrate the Market’s 36th year of operation.

Events organizer
The Saskatoon Farmers’ Market is looking for an Events Organizer. Email your resume, with a cover letter, to skfarm@sasktel.net

Pure Frozen Yogurt Bar
Pure Frozen Yogurt Bar has just opened in University Heights (126 – 1824 McOrmond Drive). Pure is a self-serve bar with 8 yogurt flavours and up to 50 toppings. They’re open from Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 10 pm and on Sundays from 11 am to 9 pm. (via Saskatoon StarPhoenix)

Dessert trends – Coming soon to Saskatoon?
Tiramisu Bar – Tiramisu bars have just opened in New York City and Milan. Dolce Vizio Tiramisu in NYC sells tiramisu in 6 flavours with the option to assemble your own from the custard, lady fingers and toppings in the self-service bar and can be enjoyed in the restaurant or as take-away. In addition to the classic tiramisu, they offer limoncello, orange espresso, mango and nutella. (via New York Times Diner’s Journal)

Dessert in a Jar – I’ve been seeing lots of online references to desserts cooked and/or served in mason jars. Is anyone serving them in Saskatoon? Take a look at lemon meringue pie in a jar or s’mores cake in a jar – looks yummy!

Cake ShotsHot Racks Bakery is planning to offer cake shots – the cupcake you eat with a spoon. Sounds interesting – I’ll let you know what I find out when I meet with Andree Bobinski, the Hot Racks baker later this week.

More farmers’ markets means more jobs
The United States Department of Agriculture released its latest Farmers Market Survey last week. There are 17% more farmers’ markets in the United States than there were last year, “a sign that the local and regional food system is robust and thriving. More farmers markets mean more opportunities for small and midsize farmers – especially beginning farmers – to diversify their farms, ssell their products, and grow their businesses.”

The report goes on to state that “modest public funding for 100 to 500 otherwise-unsuccessful farmers markets a year could create as many as 13,500 jobs over a five-year period.” (via Grist)

Local food at local events
The municipality of Saanich on Vancouver Island plans to serve local food at all its events, eventually moving toward having local food in all its food services. What a great way to support local farmers.

This follows the example of the University of Victoria whose Green Purchasing Policy estimates that 46% of their produce comes from Vancouver Island farms and 36% of the meat and poultry comes from BC producers. All the baked goods and pizza come from bakeries in southern Vancouver Island.

Choices Cafeteria in St. Thomas More College, University of Saskatchewan, serves local organic meats, vegetables, breads and free trade coffee.

In a pickle
If you’re canning the season’s abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables to enjoy during the winter, here are a few unusual recipes: Italian Eggplant Pickles, Cambodian-Style Cabbage Pickle, and Rowan Berry Jam.

Flavourful Saskatoon is a weekly Monday feature. Email me (penny@axonsoft.com) if you have products, events or places that you would like me to include.

Today's photographs were taken in Barcelona, Tarragona and Valencia.

See also:
Flavourful Saskatoon August 8, 2011

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Travelling the World: Jin Jin Cuisine Dumpling

I’m fully alive when I’m travelling in a foreign country. In completely new surroundings, with unknown sights, sounds, smells and culture, I pay attention to everything.

It’s possible to have that same experience in my home community if I make the effort to step out of my routines and explore a new location. Andrew, Shelley and I did just that last week when we had lunch at Jin Jin Cuisine Dumpling at 416 20th Street West in Saskatoon.

The outside of the building is unassuming, but Mike, a new friend, had told me that they served great food. We ventured in the door and were grateful that the chalkboard menu in Chinese was supplemented by a bilingual paper menu.

The restaurant is owned by a Chinese couple, Yang Wei Fang and Yao Yu Shang. The husband cooks and the wife looks after front of house. Her English is pretty basic, but she’s friendly and helpful. We explained that we were vegetarians and she kept repeating “no meat” as she wrote down our choices.

Mike had recommended some dishes and we also ordered a dish that the owner recommended. The first dish to arrive was the pan-fried cabbage dumplings. Shaped like small perogies, they were absolutely delicious. Next up was the special – a stir fry with vegetables, noodles and strips of omelette. Another hit! Next came the green onion pancakes and the leek-filled steam buns. Way too much food, but piping-hot and tasty.

I went back to Jin Jin Cuisine Dumpling last evening with a friend as the restaurant we’d been planning to visit was closed. The “stir fry” dish is called rice noodle pancake, and it was equally delicious the second time around. Yang Wei Fang told us that it’s their most popular dish.

We also had a tureen full of a soupy dish of scrambled eggs, tofu and tomato that was excellent and a refreshing accompaniment to the starchier dishes.

The dumplings don’t contain meat, but I’m not sure they’re vegetarian as Yang Wei Fang kept warning us about something they contained. Unfortunately, we couldn’t understand her. But I didn’t really care – they were delicious, and it was liberating not to know exactly what I was eating.

I encourage you to visit Jin Jin Cuisine Dumpling. You’re in for a treat.

My thanks to Mike for recommending the restaurant. I’m continuing my exploration of foreign destinations on 20th Street in Saskatoon with visits to two more restaurants. I’ll keep you posted.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Writing with Elegant Simplicity

Effective writing is simple and elegant – like a well-designed garden. It invites readers to enter, to follow the story, to explore the ideas.

Enjoy the photographs of Spanish gardens and pick up some effective writing tips in my Elegant Simplicity slideshow.

Don’t hesitate to contact me if you need help with editing or writing projects or would like me to facilitate a communications workshop.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Flavourful Saskatoon, August 8, 2011

Foodie news and events in and around Saskatoon – vegetarian magic, scarlet-red coffee, local beans and oats and cooking classes

Local Bounty
I dropped in at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market on Sunday, August 7 to check out the local food samples available from the local chefs participating in Local Bounty. Calories, White Birch Catering, Cava Caffe, Riverbend Plantation and Garlic Guru were on hand with an assortment of small bite-sized dishes, and it could be accompanied by a glass of wine.

There was only one vegetarian option (Garlic Guru), but the lemon-mint panna cotta from Riverbend Plantation was yummy and made up for the lack of variety. There were lots of people and lots of activity in the food court area. Put it in on your calendar for next year.

White Birch Catering – Vegetarian Dinner
White Birch Catering is offering a vegetarian banquet on Saturday, August 27 at 6 pm. It will be held in the old Aberdeen church, which has been converted into the family home of Carmen and Keith Dyck, Fruition Orchards. White Birch says that they will shock and amaze us with their vegetarian magic. Call 881-2033 or go online to www.whitebirchcatering.com to make a reservation.

Las Palapas Mercado
Las Palapas Resort Grill will be opening a Mercado – Mexican Imports & Specialty Grocery on Broadway Avenue (next door to Bud’s). It should be fun. The sign in the window doesn’t indicate an opening date. (photo and story via @WaywardReporter)

Simon’s Fine Foods
Simon Reynolds has posted his list of Fall/Winter Cooking Classes. There’s everything from a Trip to Asia, to Culinary Boot Camp, to desserts, pulses and tapas.

Museo Coffee
Museo Coffee has two new varieties of locally-roasted coffee – Shakiso Guji from Ethiopia and Sangre de Toro from Costa Rica.

We’re full of beans!
The September issue of Canadian Living magazine features a Saskatchewan harvest menu. While they were in Saskatchewan, they participated in a media tour hosted by the Saskatchewan Pulse Growers. Watch the slideshow of their tour and download some recipes incorporating peas, beans and lentils.

New Oat Varieties
The University of Saskatchewan Crop Development Crop Centre has launched three new varieties of oats, each with distinctive characteristics. CDC Nasser has the feeding qualities of barley but doesn’t need to be processed. CDC Morrison is an early oat with a combination of nutritional qualities that makes it attractive to Quaker Oats and the milling industry. CDC Big Brown has high yields and is resistant to wheat. (via On Campus News)

Flavourful Saskatoon is a weekly Monday feature. Email me (penny@axonsoft.com) if you have products, events or places that you would like me to include.

See also:
Flavourful Saskatoon August 1, 2011
Lindsay Adams, Apprentice Chef

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

SaskMade Marketplace

Introducing Saskatchewan products to Saskatchewan consumers

The Saskatchewan Food Producers Association opened SaskMade Marketplace in the fall of 2004 to showcase their members’ products and to provide members with experience running a business. It was a handy place to shop for local gifts if you were travelling overseas, but the range of produce was fairly limited.

It was a challenge for the Association to run a business on a shoestring budget. In January 2011, they decided to sell SaskMade Marketplace to private owners, Candace Ippolito, April Nichol and their partners. Candace and April are both farmers, and all the partners have strong connections to the agricultural industry.

The new owners will continue to showcase Saskatchewan products but are also planning to expand the store by offering a wider range of Saskatchewan-made products and a larger selection of gift baskets that will appeal to more people. They also hope to introduce an educational component in order to provide consumers with recipes and information about the products.

Ken Neuman was hired as manager of the SaskMade Marketplace in April, and we met in July to tour the store and discuss their plans for the future.

Ken grew up in Edmonton, moving to Saskatoon with his wife 11 years ago. He helped to develop the ice cream program at Jerry’s Food Emporium (investing in equipment, inventing recipes, developing flavours) and this brought him into contact with local producers, particularly fruit growers.

As a result, he is well placed to identify and form a relationship with food producers across Saskatchewan. In his first three months at Saskmade, he has doubled the store’s product offerings, and there is plenty of space for additional expansion.

Saskatchewan grown and made
SaskMade’s focus is on products that have been grown or made in Saskatchewan, and they cover a wide range. You can purchase organic flour from Loiselle Organic Family Farm and Daybreak-Scheresky Mill. Ken particularly recommends Daybreak’s Sunrise Pancake Mix which is bursting with flavour from a mix of five grains, flax and sunflower seeds.

There are lots of fruit and berry products from well-known producers, such as Over the Hill Orchards and Prairie Berries. Alternatively, you can snack on Choo-It Granola or roasted lentils from Muscle Bird Nutrition.

If you can’t make it to the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market, you can pick up many of the Market vendors’ products here at the store. There are Indian chutneys and sauces from Chatty’s Indian Spices and Premala’s Spicy Sensations, as well as hummus from The Garlic Guru, and scone mix from Wild Serendipity Foods.

I was particularly interested in the organic products, but Ken says that there is a greater demand for gluten-free food. The store carries Over the Hill Orchards’ frozen, ready-to-bake gluten-free fruit pies, and Ken says the brown rice crust turns out really well.

The store is also planning to stock difficult to find products, such as Saskatchewan maple syrup (already available), and Ken would like to eventually stock fresh fruit and vegetables.

New features and renovations
SaskMade Marketplace is completely overhauling its website to include an online store with a catalogue of all their products as well as web pages for each of the food producers to tell their story in words or video. The online store is expected to be operational on August 5. You can also follow SaskMade Marketplace on Facebook.

The store itself will be undergoing renovations in September to make it easier to use and more appealing. A grand opening is tentatively scheduled for October.

Consumer education
SaskMade Marketplace brings Saskatchewan producers together in a common venue and introduces them to consumers. “My goal is to know the producers well enough to be able to tell their story and tell it well,” Ken explains.

Ken plans to start holding a regular evening series where consumers can meet the producers, learn about their products, and collect some recipes. “Many of us wouldn’t know what to do with things like quinoa if the producers didn’t help us out,” says Ken.

Room to grow
If you haven’t visited SaskMade Marketplace lately, now is the time to do so. They carry a wide range of local products, and their line continues to expand. I’ll definitely be checking in on a regular basis to find out about new offerings and events.

SaskMade Marketplace is located at 1621 8th Street East. They are open Monday to Saturday from 9 am to 8 pm.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Flavourful Saskatoon, August 1, 2011

Foodie news and events in and around Saskatoon – cheese, beer, oil, melons – and it’s all local

Three Farmers Camelina Oil Tasting
Drop by Souleio Foods at 265 3rd Avenue South on Saturday, August 6 to taste Three Farmers Camelina Oil. 

Camelina is an ancient seed that used to be grown extensively in Europe. It is now being grown in southeast Saskatchewan. The oil is rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids as well vitamin E. It keeps well and can be used for everything from marinades to frying and baking.

Local Bounty
Saskatoon Farmers’ Market: Local chefs will be preparing local food at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market on Sunday, August 7 from noon to 3 pm. The appetizer samples will sell for $2 each.

Prince Albert: Two events at the Forest Centre on September 9 and 10. On Friday evening, CJ Katz and Doug Reichel will be hosting a food and wine pairing. There will be a dinner on Saturday featuring the “Best of Local Cuisine.” $40 per event or $75 for both. Call 1-800-868-7470 for tickets.

Paddockwood Brewing Company
Paddockwood has just released the first in a series of 12 beers dedicated to 12 gods. It’s called Ragutienne after the Slavic goddess of beer and is available at the brewery in Sutherland.

Flint
A friend and I spent several hours catching up on each other’s news at Flint (259 2nd Avenue South) last week. The selection of cheese as well as the accompaniments (relish, chutney, etc. – many from Fruition Orchards) is outstanding. I’ve heard that their martinis are well worth sampling, but I stuck to wine.

Hot Racks Bakery
Hot Racks Bakery at #50 – 304 Stonebridge Boulevard will be opening shortly. They’re planning to use social media (Groupon, Foursquare, Smartphone apps, Facebook, Google Places, QR codes) to spread the word. I’m looking forward to visiting.

Canadian Cheese
I’m always delighted to find Canadian-made cheeses that rival the best that Europe has to offer. I’m currently enjoying Baluchon, an organic cheese from Quebec, which is mild and creamy but with a tangy nip, and Geai Blue, a blue cheese that is made in New Brunswick and aged in Quebec. Both cheeses are available from Souleio Foods.

Floating Gardens
In last week’s Flavourful Saskatoon, I described Floating Gardens’ greenhouse. Unfortunately, their website is out of date so some of the information was incorrect. This is their first season and the heating system cost more than they expected, so they are only using half their greenhouse space at present and don’t have any fish.

But it’s still fabulous! The greenhouse walls are lined with strawberries, and the plants are grown on wires so they stretch up towards the ceiling, way over my head. There are a half dozen varieties of tomatoes, three kinds of eggplant, and at least three kinds of melon. The French Charentais melon (orange flesh) is so sweet and delicious.

They plan to grow year-round so we can look forward to fresh spinach and lettuce even in the coldest months of winter. More to come in a blog profile – in the meantime, be sure to buy some of their lovely produce at the Wednesday and Saturday Farmers’ Markets.

Flavourful Saskatoon is a weekly Monday feature. Email me (penny@axonsoft.com) if you have products, events or places that you would like me to include.

See also:
Flavourful Saskatoon July 25, 2011