Thursday, September 29, 2011

Vancouver 2011 Food Highlights

I have just spent 2½ weeks housesitting in North Vancouver (Thanks, Stephanie and Anne!). As always, this was an excellent opportunity to check out some Vancouver food and food places. Here are some of my new finds.

Chill Winston
Chill Winston occupies a sunny corner in Gastown. A friend and I enjoyed a meal on the patio. I sampled three of the beers they had on tap (there’s a huge beer selection). My vegetable sandwich was amazing – grilled asparagus, marinated artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, hummus, lettuce and tomato on walnut scallion bread.

Pourhouse
Next time I visit the Pourhouse, I’ll be sure to sit at the bar so that I can watch the bartenders make their extensive line-up of cocktails.

There aren’t a great many food options for vegetarians, but the mushroom tart topped with arugula salad was very tasty, and my Old Cuban cocktail brought back happy memories of sipping mojitos in Nicaragua. And I loved the decor - bare brick and wooden beams.

There is a Saskatoon connection as Adam Johnson, who used to work at Sushiro, is now cooking all the wonderful food at the Pourhouse.

Other Gastown Options
It took me a while to locate Blood Alley, but it was worth the search. I hadn’t realized that amongst all its shiny glass towers, Vancouver still has at least one cobblestone mews. Next trip I will be sure to have a glass of wine at Salt Tasting Room (looks like a similar set-up to Flint in Saskatoon).

[According to local legend, Blood Alley was the "location for a number of butcher shops. At the end of each day they would be rinsed out, resulting in the inevitable blood in the street. As if that was not enough they used to hold public executions in Blood Alley Square."]

I’d also like to visit the brand-new Revolver coffee shop and Nicli Antica Pizzeria. And the list goes on and on. My thanks to Meghan, Mike, Sean and Todd for their restaurant recommendations – I’ll have to visit Vancouver frequently in order to check them all out.

Terra Breads
The Terra Breads outlet is a must every time I visit Granville Island Market. I love their crusty loaves (cranberry pistachio is yummy!) and their grape bread with pine nuts and walnuts.

They have just opened a new licensed café at 1605 Manitoba Street (just off the False Creek seawall in the former Olympic Village) serving soups, salads, sandwiches and pastries. (If you travel by bus or train, this is within easy walking distance of the station.)

Benton Brothers Fine Cheese
A new cheese store with an outlet in Granville Island Market! I’m ecstatic (you may have guessed that I love cheese), particularly when I discover that Benton Brothers Fine Cheese specializes in artisanal, small-production cheeses with a huge selection of Canadian cheeses. I'll be stopping in here every time I'm in Vancouver.

Vij’s Frozen Curries
Vikram Vij’s Indian restaurant is a Vancouver institution. I picked up a couple of Vij's frozen, ready-to-serve curries and highly recommend them. My favourite was the curried kale and potatoes. The paneer and red bell pepper curry was extremely well made but a little too sweet for my taste. Next time I’ll try one or two of the other vegetarian options.

Nourish
I housesit in Lynn Valley, North Vancouver, so I was delighted to discover Nourish, a grocery store with a local, organic focus directly across from the Lynn Valley Library (food and books – twin passions!). This will be off the beaten track for most Vancouver visitors, but I shopped here on several occasions.

See also: British Columbia VQA Wines Fall 2011

Monday, September 26, 2011

Flavourful Saskatoon, September 26, 2011

Foodie news and events in and around Saskatoon – lentil brownies, pumpkin spiced ale, better bread box, Townsite Brewing 

Lentil Brownies??
Lentils are a fantastic source of protein and fibre, are gluten-free, and may even help reduce the risk of heart disease. And we grow them right here in Saskatchewan, exporting 90% to other countries around the world.

A great new website, lentils.ca, offers a great collection of recipes, including lentil brownies, pina colada cream pie, lentil and cheese quesadillas, and asiago, artichoke and lentil salad.

Pulse Canada is another informative website about beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas. You can download a cookbook listing the top 10 ways to eat pulses as well as recipes for soups, salads, appetizers, and desserts. Or you can pick up a copy at the Little Market Store at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market.

Better Bread Box
Nestor’s/Three Sisters community bakery and youth training program at 912 20th Street West continues to expand its selection (turtle tarts, sour cherry pie, chocolate pecan pie), and calzones (artichoke, asparagus, peppers and bacon, onion, mushroom) for lunch on Fridays.

Sign up for their Better Bread Box and every two weeks you will receive a box of baked goods made by youth from the core neighbourhoods with the supervision of a professional baker. For more information, phone 975-3995 or email betterbreadbox@gmail.com

Winston’s Pub
Winston’s Pub offers over 140 varieties of beer. Their new fall offerings included Pumpkin Spiced Ale and Raspberry Porter.

Did you know that the bar was built on two levels in order to segregate the men from the women? Thank goodness that’s a thing of the past!

Name Your Nuts
Have you tried the cinnamon-glazed pecans from Name Your Nuts (Saskatoon Farmers’ Market and SaskMade Marketplace)? They make a great snack or salad topping.

Townsite Brewing
Saskatoon is losing two fine young brewmasters, but our loss is Powell River’s gain. Cedric Dauchot and Chloe Smith are leaving for Powell River where Cedric will be the brewmaster for a brand-new micro brewery – Townsite Brewing. You can follow their activities on Twitter at @townsitebrewing.

Good luck, Cedric and Chloe. We look forward to drinking some of your new brews next time we’re in BC.

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. My thanks this week to Michelle and Shelley for their contributions.

See also: Flavourful Saskatoon September 19, 2011

Photos: Sea Wall, West Vancouver

Sunday, September 25, 2011

British Columbia VQA Wines, Fall 2011

Over 40 wineries were represented at the BC VQA Fall Release Tasting sponsored by the British Columbia Wine Institute. I sampled wines from approximately half of them. Listed below are some of my personal favourites as well as some of the conversations I had with the winery representatives. Please keep in mind that I only sampled wines from half the wineries represented. The fact that I don’t list a winery doesn’t mean it isn’t great.

BC’s wine industry has grown from 17 wineries in 1990 to over 195 in 2011. Wine is now being produced in five different wine regions – Okanagan Valley, Similkameen Valley, Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island and Gulf Islands) – from 60 different grape varieties.


Hester Creek Estate Winery
I had enjoyed a bottle of Hester Creek Estate Winery’s Merlot earlier in the week, but the Cabernet Merlot is even better – smooth and spicy. Hester Creek (Oliver) is one of the larger wineries with a restaurant, guest villas and cooking classes.

Kraze Legz Vineyard and Winery
My brother and his wife frequently climb near Skaha, so I took particular note of Kraze Legz Vineyard and Winery, which has a tasting room and two licensed picnic areas overlooking Skaha Lake.

The single vineyard Pinot Blanc won a Silver Medal at the 2010 Canadian Wine Awards. It’s tart, green and very pleasant.


Moon Curser Vineyards
Moon Curser Vineyards (located in Osoyoos), formerly called Twisted Tree, underwent a dramatic rebranding this past year. Their black and white labels remind me of Hallowe’en and they recount a story of gold-smuggling miners crossing the border at dead of night to avoid the customs agents. It’s great fun and very distinctive.

They also make great wine. The representatives told me that they deliberately chose to grow different grape varietals from other BC wineries rather than to compete head on with the same varieties. As a result, they are one of only 2 or 3 Canadian wineries growing Tempranillo grapes. Tempranillo is an early-ripening Spanish grape, but it is challenging to grow in Canada, even in Osoyoos, one of the hottest areas. The Tempranillo 2009 is still a bit rough and will improve with aging; however, I thought the Dead of Night, a blend of Tannat and Syrah, was brilliant (a personal preference for smooth red wines).

Okanagan Crush Pad Winery
Advertising for the Okanagan Crush Pad Winery (Summerland) states “wine is narrative,” and this winery makes a point of telling the story of Okanagan wines – the climate, the land, the geography of the northernmost wine-growing region in the world. They produce some of their own wines but also provide a co-working space, resources and expertise to other winemakers, assisting small winemakers with everything from crushing the grapes to marketing.

Robin Ridge Winery
Robin Ridge Winery, in the south Similkameen Valley, is approximately 15 years old. The Similkameen can be hotter in the summer and colder in the winter than the Okanagan as there is no lake to provide a moderating influence. It’s very windy, which helps with insect control.

The 2009 Chardonnay (aged on oak) is buttery and rich. My favourite was the 2008 Merlot – round, acidic, lovely.

Summerhill Pyramid Winery
Summerhill Pyramid Winery (Kelowna) has been making organic wines for the past 20 years. I’ve tried several of their wines in the past and enjoyed them all. The Cipes Brut, a very dry sparkling wine, has won a gold medal every year since being introduced in 1992. I thought it was lovely!

Summerhill is now offering boxed wines, which reduce carbon footprint by over 75% over glass bottles. The wine stays fresh up to 6 weeks and is less expensive than a similar amount of bottled wine. I tried the 2008 Alive Organic Red and enjoyed it.

Burrowing Owl and Tantalus
Both Burrowing Owl Estate Winery and Tantalus Vineyards use sustainable farming practices.

Burrowing Owl is located at the northernmost tip of the Sonoran Desert that stretches all the way to Mexico. They use alternative pest control systems, providing bluebird boxes and bat nurseries so insect-eating guests will stay awhile. They discourage big-horned sheep and bears from eating the grapes but never harm them. Athene is their newest and most full-bodied red with lots of fruit and a touch of spice.

Tantalus Vineyards overlooks Kelowna and is one of the oldest continuously-producing vineyards in British Columbia. Riesling vines planted in 1978 and Pinot Noir planted in 1983 make up the backbone of the vineyard. The fruit is sustainably grown and they employ a non-interventionist approach to the winemaking process. The Old Vines Riesling is their flagship wine – green, crisp and acidic.

Other Great Wines I Sampled
Check out the very first Sauvignon Blanc ice wine from Paradise Ranch Wines (Naramata). It was certainly my favourite.

Saturna Island Vineyards (Gulf Islands) has a very nice fortified wine, Vinsera. I also enjoyed their Rosé, a very pleasant summer patio sipping wine.

I recommend the Merlot from Poplar Grove Winery (Naramata). It’s been aged for 21 months in French oak and 9 months in the bottle.

Tinhorn Creek Vineyards (south of Oliver) offers a self-guided winery tour and a concert series from late spring to early fall. The Oldfield Series are winemaker Sandra Oldfield’s signature wines. I particularly enjoyed the 2Bench White and the Oldfield Merlot.

Do try the Merlot and the 7Blanc from Township 7 Vineyards (located both in the Okanagan and in the Fraser Valley).The white is fruity with just a hint of sweetness. The Merlot has been barrel-aged for 26 months and is smooth and full-bodied.

The Amber white blend from Young & Wyse Winery is light and citrus, while the Syrah is smoky and yummy.

BC Cheese
The Dairy Farmers of Canada provided samples of three BC cheeses. My favourite was the Comox Brie (mild and creamy) from Natural Pastures Cheese Company, but the Rathtrevor (tangy, nice texture) from Little Qualicum Cheeseworks and the Tiger Blue (creamy) from Poplar Grove Cheese were also very, very good.

See Also: Little Qualicum Cheeseworks, Morningstar Farm

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Saskatoon Offers Great Food and Great Wine

I have added two pages to my website to serve as handy references (links in top right-hand corner):

Great Food Places in Saskatoon

Winery Reviews

I will continue to update and add to the pages over time.

It should be noted that I am a vegetarian and I try to eat local, organic food and support local producers. This influences my choice of food and restaurants.

Photo: Weczeria

Monday, September 19, 2011

Flavourful Saskatoon, September 19, 2011

Foodie news and events in and around Saskatoon – community gardens, woman power, birch syrup, wild mushrooms, local apples and vodka

Community Gardens
CHEP Good Food Inc. is working with community gardeners to increase access to fresh, affordable, healthy food. Here’s an excerpt from EcoFriendly Sask’s interview with Ruth Anne Hudack, Community Gardening Coordinator with CHEP:

“Ruth Anne says that there has been increased interest in community gardening over the past three years. Accessibility to land was a problem at first, but City officials and community decision-makers have grown in their understanding and appreciation for community gardening. Saskatoon Public Schools provided funding and support for four pilot projects in 2011, and the number of churches providing land is growing....

"Community gardening is evolving from a recreational activity on small plots of land to intensive gardening on larger plots as people seek to produce their own food in order to ensure greater food safety, a smaller carbon footprint, and financial savings.” There are over 18 community gardens in Saskatoon, from a large garden with lots of ethnic diversity at the University Residences to a shared, communal garden in Caswell Hill."

Employment: CHEP Kids Kitchen Employment Facilitator
For four years, CHEP Good Food Inc. and the Greater Saskatoon Catholic School Division have partnered to offer Kids Kitchen, an after-school children's nutrition and cooking skills program. This year, up to three 5-week sessions will be offered to grade 4/5 students at community elementary schools.

Requirements: Experience working with food and children; excellent knowledge of food and nutrition; access to a reliable vehicle; clear criminal record and vulnerable person's check; post-secondary education in a related field is an asset. Term: 3 hours per day, two or three days per week for up to three 5-week sessions.

Application deadline: Monday September 26th. For more information or to submit a resume, contact Robin Hartl at robin@chep.org (or fax resume, Attention Robin Hartl, to 655-5512.) 

Women Feed the World
Oxfam Canada’s Executive Director Robert Fox will address University of Saskatchewan students in his presentation, “Women Feed the World: Why the world’s food system is broken and why women are key to rebuilding it.”

This event is being held in the ISSAC (International Student and Study Abroad Centre) Training Room, Lower Place Riel, Room 80, University of Saskatchewan on Friday, September 23 from 1:30-2:30 pm.

Local Apples at the Market
There were locally-grown apples (no herbicides or pesticides) for sale beside the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market on Saturday (across from Cava). Hopefully they’ll be there again this coming Saturday. (via @VictorDas – thanks!)

Birch Syrup and Wild Mushrooms
SaskMade Marketplace is now carrying birch syrup and dried mushrooms (porcini, pine mushrooms, chanterelles, morels) from Prairie Infusions. Prairie Infusions is dedicated to harvesting and selling wild foods that are available in Saskatchewan’s forests in an environmentally-sound way.

City Perks
City Perks coffee shop will continue to be open on weekday evenings during the fall and winter. They will close at 6 on Saturdays and Sundays. They will take reservations for groups or clubs with over 4 members who want to meet in the evenings.

Harvest Supper
The Friends of the Forestry Farm House will be serving a three-course harvest supper on Sunday, September 25 with seatings at 5 and 7 pm at the Superintendent’s Residence, Forestry Farm Park. Tickets are $25 and must be purchased in advance. Call Claire at 373-1787 or email c.bear@sasktel.net 

Cava Secreta – Wine and Dine
Enjoy food and wine from Spain on September 23 or food and wine from Tuscany on September 30 with Cava Wines & Spirits. Call 664-CAVA for more information.

Cava Secreta – Soy Vodka
Cava Secreta is now selling 3 Vodka. 3 Vodka is carefully distilled from soy and select grains and has been well received around the world. Try the original or black raspberry flavour. 

Food Bank
Following the Food Basket Challenge this past week made me very, very aware of how fortunate I am. The Saskatoon Food Bank is not the solution to hunger and poverty in Saskatoon, but it plays a crucial role in helping to feed hungry people. Financial donations are greatly appreciated as they can often double the dollar amount through special arrangements with the supermarkets. You can even donate online.

If you want to give actual food, here are some of the most valuable items: canned protein (beans, fish, or meat), canned fruit and vegetables, peanut butter, whole grain cereals, pasta and rice, baby food and baby formula, chilli, hearty canned soups and stews, 100% fruit juice.

Friendship Inn
The Saskatoon Friendship Inn provides two meals a day for anyone who comes in the door – no questions asked. On any given day, up to 500 people will come to eat breakfast and/or lunch. They are currently raising money to build a bigger facility. You can donate online.

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 September 12, 2011

Photos: City Park Community Garden 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Saskatoon Food Basket Challenge

Trying to Understand Hunger and Poverty in Saskatoon


I value good food, and I spend a large percentage of my budget on food. I feel very fortunate that I have always had sufficient financial means to buy food and I’ve never had to use the Saskatoon Food Bank, but I’m aware that for many people that is the only option.

My sister in law, Inspector Shelley Ballard, is one of the participants in this week’s Food Basket Challenge. The participants have all agreed to live for one week on the contents of a basket from the Saskatoon Food Bank, along with 5 staples from their cupboard and $5.

It is, in many ways, an artificial exercise, as they will go back to their regular budget and eating habits at the end of the week. However, the discussion on the Food Basket Challenge’s website and Facebook page is thought-provoking, and I’m looking forward to follow the participants’ progress over the next week.

Personal challenges
There are so many different issues for the participants to consider:

“Can I keep it up for a week, or will I cave in and go back to my old habits?”

“I’m a vegetarian or I have food allergies. Will the Food Bank allow me to substitute one item for another?”

“Will I have enough energy to work effectively?”

“Will I still be able to socialize?”

Using our imagination 
I think that all the participants are beginning to realize that in order to participate in the Challenge, they must put themselves in the shoes of a person with a limited budget who is forced to use the Food Bank in order to survive. And that requires imagination.

“If I was using the Food Bank, would I have a car and be able to drive around town to take advantage of specials? Probably not.”

“Would I have time or a space to plant a garden? Would I know how to grow fruit and vegetables?”

“Would I be volunteering at events where I’d receive free food, or would I be too busy just keeping my head above water?”

“Where could I find free food (a free meal at my place of employment, supermarket samples)?”

“How do I make my diet less boring and monotonous? Herbs and spices can provide a much more varied eating experience, but the initial purchase is expensive.”

“Will starchy foods and carbohydrates replace fresh fruit and vegetables because they’re cheaper and more filling?”

First person accounts
A first person accounts event will take place on Thursday, September 15, at 2:00 at the Salvation Army. A panel of people who have had struggles accessing food and shelter will present their stories. A question and answer period will take place after their presentations. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Defining poverty 
Shelley pointed out to me that I have lived in poverty at various times in my life, and this made me realize that there are many different levels of poverty, and it is often difficult to identify people who live in poverty.

I am fortunate to have a good education and a network of supportive family and friends. My appearance, my cultural and social background all ensure that I can fit in and not stand out as a “poor” person. People in poverty are our friends and neighbours.

Making a difference 
One of the things that I hope to learn is how I can make a difference. What foods should I be donating to the Food Bank to help improve the selection? Would it be better to donate money?

I am haunted by one woman’s comment on Facebook about how painful it had been for her to listen to her baby crying from hunger.

How can we work together to fight poverty? How can I make a difference?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Flavourful Saskatoon, September 13, 2011

Foodie news and events in and around Saskatoon – japadogs, brewery tour, community bakery, wine, recipes 

Paddock Wood Brewing Tour, September 13 
Like Paddock Wood’s Facebook page to indicate that you will be participating in a tour of the brewery at 11 am on Tuesday, September 13. Enjoy!

Sushiro Japadog Charity Night, September 14 
Megan and Todd, the owners of Sushiro restaurant on 10th Street just off Broadway, are hosting a charity party on Wednesday, September 14 to support Oxfam and its work with the East African food crisis. Contribute by purchasing a Japadog and a Moosehead brew. 100% of your money will be donated to Oxfam.

In Vino Veritas, Boffins, September 21 
Discover six wine and food pairings at Boffins Club on Wednesday, September 21. The cost is $30/person and should be reserved in advance (249-5344, boffins@boffins.ca) as space is limited.

Sundays at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market until October 9 
Have you visited the Sunday market at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market yet? You’ve still got time as it is on until October 9. There is lots of variety with a mix of old and new vendors, various nationalities and all sorts of different products. It’s less crowded than the Saturday market so you can talk to the vendors and enjoy the samples.

Nestor’s Bakery/Three Sisters 
Nestor’s Bakery and the Three Sisters, a community bakery that trains young people involved in the criminal justice system, and provides baking to the community, opens its doors on September 15. Carmen and Keith Dyck of Fruition Orchards and Family Farm operate the baking training program, which will sell a healthy line of artisan baking called the Three Sisters, including breads, pies, cookies, muffins and squares.

Schools and groups can arrange access to the bakery equipment, and they will be arranging fundraising “pop up” bake sales for schools and non-profits. Follow their activities and news on Facebook .

Premier – South Australia Wines Seminar, September 30 
Premier, Saskatoon’s Fine Wines, Spirits and Specialty Foods Festival, will be held at TCU Place from September 29 to October 1.

Doug Reichel, Fine Wines Sask, is hosting a tasting to introduce sustainable, biodynamic wines from Southern Reef, Cape Jaffa and La Lune – a great opportunity to taste nine wines from South Australia. Tickets are available from TCU Place.

Saskatchewan Pulse Growers 
The Saskatchewan Pulse Growers Association represents over 18,000 pulse crop producers in Saskatchewan. Their website and Facebook page have lots of lentil, chickpea, pea and bean recipes.

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 September 5, 2011

Photos: Cypress Mountain, Vancouver

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Seoul Korean Restaurant

It’s okay to play with your food! 


Remember when you were little and your parents firmly told you not to play with your food? Well, I have good news! Seoul Korean Restaurant at 334 20th Street West in Saskatoon encourages you to play with your food!

Seoul Korean Restaurant just opened a couple of weeks ago, and it’s a fascinating blend of modern and traditional. The menu is an iPad2, which works well as there are photos of all the dishes.

There is not a lot of choice for vegetarians, but we enjoyed the cup of miso soup and the potato pancake (gamja jeon) at the start of our meal. We then had a couple of rice dishes, one in a hot pot (my preference as it stayed hot longer).


Now, this is where the fun begins. The rice dishes come with the vegetables (zucchini, mushrooms, carrots) beautifully arranged around the edge of the rice with a fried egg perched on top and a side dish of hot sauce. And you’re supposed to mix it all together!

Dessert is a traditional Korean dish called Patbingsu. Again, you’re presented with a beautifully-arranged bowl of shaved ice topped with ice cream, sweetened condensed milk, fruit, red bean paste and fruit syrups. There are small or large servings, depending on how many people there are in your party. And – again – you’re told to mix it all together!


As with the Istanbul Diner, I really appreciated the extra touches of authenticity. There is a lovely First Birthday Party display. According to the restaurant’s Facebook page, this ceremony blesses the child with a prosperous future and has great significance in Korea. They offer to take a photograph of your baby in front of the display.

We also received a complimentary cup of Sujeonggwa, a traditional fruit punch. It was served with shaved ice and flavoured with lots of spices.


I encourage carnivores to try out the full menu and do let me know which dishes you prefer. Above all, have fun playing with your food and experiencing a little taste of Korean culture.

Seoul Korean Restaurant is open from 11 am – 3 pm and 5 pm – 9 pm from Monday to Sunday.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Flavourful Saskatoon, September 5, 2011

Foodie news and events in and around Saskatoon – organic, fair trade lemon pepper and dried fruit, a new pub, cooking classes and a food basket challenge 


Ten Thousand Villages – Ethical, Organic Dried Fruit
 Ten Thousand Villages on 2nd Avenue is selling packages of dried fruit from Level Ground Trading. The fruit is certified organic and the farmers receive a fair price for their harvest. Fresh fruit is cut and dried by women living in Cazuca, Colombia, a refugee settlement on the outskirts of Bogotá, providing fair income, microcredit loans, education and health care opportunities for their families.

There are four different varieties: mango, pineapple, golden berry (I was told that the tart berries are really good in a salad), and tropical (banana, mango, coconut).


Rook and Raven Pub
A new pub opened this week on 2nd Avenue (where Barking Fish used to be located). The Rook and Raven is a new venture by the owners of the Yard and Flagon on Broadway. Lindsay Adams, one of their servers, says that there are lots of vegetarian options on the menu as well as an impressive Scotch list. I’ll be checking it out shortly.

Wild Serendipity Foods
Michelle Zimmer of Wild Serendipity Foods has posted her fall cooking class schedule. Classes include a dinner starring Saskatchewan ingredients; a duo featuring savoury, spicy dishes and sweet, creamy desserts; fabulous one-dish meals; and holiday appetizers.

Lemon Pepper, Orchard del Sol 
Orchard del Sol is a farm in south-central Costa Rica that produces pepper, coffee, vanilla, cocoa, and chocolate. The farm uses ecological, ethical farming practices. This means no chemical fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides, a fair wage for employees, and shade-grown production providing a habitat for many species of birds.

They sell their products at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market as well as online. I am really enjoying using their lemon pepper. The fresh pepper berries are soaked in farm-fresh lemon juice and enhanced with organic lemon peel and zest. There is no filler – just pepper and lemon for lots and lots of flavour. In addition to their food products,

Orchard del Sol offers holiday packages and farm stay/volunteer opportunities.


Food Basket Challenge 
My sister in law, Inspector Shelley Ballard, is participating in the 2011 Food Basket Challenge. Amy Jo Ehman, author of Prairie Feast: A Writer’s Journey Home for Dinner, and Chef Anthony McCarthy of The Saskatoon Club have also accepted the challenge.

The participants will attempt to live off a food basket from the Saskatoon Food Bank for up to one week and will share their experiences online. The Challenge is intended to generate awareness and discussion about poverty in our community. The Challenge begins on September 13 and wraps up with a town-hall style meeting on September 20.

Saskatoon Farmers’ Market – New Items
It’s so exciting to see an increasing diversity of fresh products available at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market. Floating Gardens is offering fresh okra, and La Plaine Trail Produce has tomatillos. I'm also enjoying the Chinese buns with sesame seeds or red bean paste from a new vendor.

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 29, 2011
Level Ground Trading: Fair Trade Coffee

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Pop-Up Restaurant and a Vegetarian Feast

A fantastic meal by White Birch Catering Dinner Club at Fruition Orchards

Going out for dinner is fun, but it’s even more fun when the meal is served on a farm with four-day-old sheep, a crowd of hungry chicken, and some scatterbrained goats.

White Birch Catering Dinner Club, under the direction of Chef Moe Mathieu, hosts a dinner approximately once a month. The theme and the location are constantly changing, but the quality of the food remains the same – outstanding.

This month’s dinner was a vegetarian banquet planned by Chef Moe’s apprentice, Lindsay Adams. I had met Lindsay and knew that she was a strong advocate for good vegetarian cuisine, so I was eager to see what she would come up with.

Fruition Orchards
The dinner was held at Fruition Orchards and Family Farm, the home of Carmen and Keith Dyck. The farm is just outside of Aberdeen, and they have 90 sheep, 10-15 goats, and approximately 300 chicken, in addition to 6-7,000 young fruit trees and 10 beehives.

The property originally belonged to Carmen’s grandparents, and they are living in the former Aberdeen United Church, which is approximately 104 years old.

We had a chance to tour the property before supper, which was great fun as it was feeding time, so the goats were trying to eat the chicken feed, and the sheep were up to their eye balls in huge piles of hay.

After dinner, Keith explained that the animals graze on the grass and weeds in the orchard, fertilize the fruit trees, and eat the insects and other pests. They offer tours of their property and provide opportunities for people to help out.

The Menu
About 20 of us gathered in the renovated church to enjoy a five-course meal. It was such a treat to enjoy a fully vegetarian meal of such high calibre. There was such a range of flavours and textures, and the quantities were just right – enough to satisfy but not so much that we left feeling uncomfortable.

The summer vegetable gazpacho was so refreshing. And a number of us, who absolutely loathe cilantro, were surprised to find that it didn’t even slightly spoil our enjoyment of the soup. Was it a different variety of cilantro?

The second course was a soybean, fennel and barley salad flavoured with white wine and tarragon. The combination of soybean and barley made it a protein-rich addition to the meal. I enjoyed the varied textures with crunchy soybeans and chewy barley.

Next up was a cauliflower cheddar tart garnished with walnut pâté. The walnuts provided a rich, flavourful accompaniment as well as protein.

I was so impressed with the variety of fresh vegetables. The next course included a tomato relleno and a zucchini feta pancake garnished with a very zippy jabañero sauce.

Dessert was a lemon-honey mousse with chocolate mint ganache topped with red currants, cherries and Saskatoon berries picked on the Fruition Farms property. I particularly enjoyed the contrast between the tart, frothy mousse and the rich chocolate ganache.

Fruit Wines
Fruit wines from Living Sky Winery were an excellent accompaniment to the vegetarian feast. I had a glass of their currant wine and was pleasantly surprised to discover that it was relatively dry and with enough complexity to give it character.

We finished the meal with a taste of Keith Dyck’s sour cherry vodka. This is fruit with a punch, and I’m delighted that he shared his recipe and I’m hoping that my sister in law will prepare and share a batch.

Conclusion
Don’t be afraid to experiment with vegetarian dishes and meals. The variety of flavours and textures should satisfy even the most diehard carnivore.

Do support local farmers. Wobbly baby sheep and strutting chickens with fancy headgear enrich our lives.

Do enjoy a dinner organized by the White Birch Catering Dinner Club. You’ll have a fabulous time.