Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Regina Flavours

What will I discover in downtown Regina? Gourmet cabbage, raspberry porter, a vegetarian coffee shop, an English library, and a bento box – not to mention a fantastic light display. 

Flip – Cabbage Goes Gourmet
Most restaurants have a vegetarian option on their menu, but it is frequently tacked on as an afterthought – boring and predictable. On the other hand, a talented chef will take mundane vegetables and turn them into an outstanding gourmet feast.

The Savoy Cabbage Ragout by Chef Dave Straub of Flip blew me away. It combined cabbage simmered in white wine, romano beans, lentils and leeks with roasted baby potatoes, grape tomatoes and a sprinkling of parmesan. The dish was a happy blend of textures and flavours. Who knew that cabbage and beans could taste so good! With a full wall of windows,

Flip (1970 Hamilton Street, next to Atlantis Coffee) is full of light with an open bar and kitchen so you can watch the chefs prepare your meal. Service was friendly, and the dessert was good (really moist lemon olive oil cake with caramel sauce). I’ll definitely be heading back to Flip on my next trip to Regina.

Beer and Theatre 
For a casual meal and an intriguing selection of beer, head to Beer Bros. Bakery & Cuisine. There are only a limited number of vegetarian options, but the lengthy beer list more than compensates, and the server kindly let me taste several before choosing a Raspberry Porter that was on tap from Tree Brewing in Kelowna.

I enjoyed an arugula salad topped with roast root vegetables and scotch ale mustard dressing. The food is locally sourced, and they have over 150 beers (16-20 on tap).

Beer Bros. is particularly handy if you’re heading on to the Globe Theatre, which is right next door. I went to a performance of Countries Shaped Like Stars by Mi Casa Theatre (Ottawa). It was quirky and delightful: mandolin playing, cookies shaped like monocles, and a heart-breaking love story. I’ll definitely be watching out for Mi Casa performances at next year’s Fringe.

100% Vegetarian
The Green Spot Café (1838 Hamilton Street) is a completely vegetarian coffee shop. It’s not fancy, but the fresh muffins and steamed milk early every morning were a treat, and they serve a variety of vegetarian meals at lunch time.

Monarch’s Lounge, Hotel Saskatchewan
After a busy day, it was a pleasure to relax in a comfortable armchair in the Monarch’s Lounge of the Hotel Saskatchewan. The green baize ceiling and wood-panelled walls invoke the very civilized surroundings of an English stately home. It’s a delightful spot to relax and enjoy a glass of wine, a pot of tea, or a full meal.

Koko Patisserie
The Koko Patisserie, with its elaborate display of delicate pastries and cakes, in the lobby of the Hotel Saskatchewan is a visual delight. Unfortunately, the flavour of the two items that I sampled didn’t match their exquisite appearance.

The hazelnut macaron had a lovely texture, but the apricot filling was too heavy for its delicate shell. The chocolate cookie was obviously made with quality ingredients, but it was more like a chocolate bar than a cookie; I would have preferred a more cake-like texture.

I’d definitely recommend trying Koko’s baking. They offer an extremely wide range of products, and I suspect some are more successful than others.

Hanabi (1950 Broad Street) is a quiet Japanese restaurant. I thoroughly enjoyed a Veggie Bento Box, with a variety of different dishes presented in a red lacquer compartmented box.

Night Lights 
The City of Regina has recently renovated the area around Victoria Park to provide space for a twice-weekly farmers’ market (in the good weather) and other outdoor events. It comes to life at night with a constantly-changing light display.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Flavourful Saskatoon, February 27, 2012

Foodie news and events in and around Saskatoon – women feed the world, cheese-making, granola bars, and philosophy - don't you wish you were here? 

Women and Girls Feeding the World, March 11
Attend Women and Girls Feeding the World, a celebration of International Women’s Day, on Sunday, March 11, from 1:30 to 4:00 pm at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market.

There will be entertainment, education and refreshments as you share and learn about the importance of food and food security in the lives of women. (via @S_Beev - thank you!)

Executive Chef Dinner, Saskatoon Farmers’ Market, March 15
Ryan Marquis, Executive Chef of the Delta Bessborough, will be cooking up a storm at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market's Executive Chef Dinner on Thursday, March 15.

Chef Ryan is a two-time winner of the Silver Medal at the Saskatchewan Gold Plates. His menu includes Caramelized Squash & Jalapeño Bisque, Roasted Beet Carpaccio, Rhubarb Wine Drunken Northern Pike with Lentil Salad and Layered Carrot Pâvé, and Folded Blueberry & Strawberry Tart finished with Maple Cassis Sabayon.

Tickets are available online or at the Farmers’ Market office, Tuesdays through Saturdays.

Cheese Making Workshop, March 21 & 22
The Saskatchewan Food Industry Development Centre’s first cheese-making workshop was so popular that they’re holding another one on March 21 and 22.

Locally-Made Granola Bars???
The Saskatchewan Food Industry Development Centre now has equipment to form, cut and wrap granola bars. If you have a food idea that would be a good fit for the Centre’s bar manufacturing equipment, contact the Food Centre’s Product Development Manager, Sara Lui at

We Wish You Were Here
I am a strong supporter of local food products and local culinary entrepreneurs, so I've signed up for, an independent social media campaign to get together and tell the world what a great province we live in. We're not just the province with the funny name. We have forests and grasslands, fabulous restaurants, fruit wineries and distilleries, pulses and grains, and so much more. Join me at

The Table Comes First
The Table Comes First: Family, France, and the Meaning of Food by Adam Gopnik is a personal, subjective look at food and the place it holds in our lives. If you enjoy philosophical conversations, this book is well worth reading.

“The table comes first, before the meal and even before the kitchen where it’s made. It precedes everything in remaining the one plausible hearth of family life, the raft to ride down the river of our existence even in the hardest times. The table also comes first in the sense that its drama – the people who gather at it, the conversation that flows across it, and the pain and romance that happen around it – is more essential to our real lives, and also to the real life of food in the world, than any number of arguments about where the zucchini came from, and how far it had to travel before it got here. If our questions of food matter, it is because they imply most of the big fights about who we are – our notions of clan and nation, identity and the individual.”

And, if you have noticed the growing number of food bloggers in Saskatoon, perhaps it is indicative of our evolving food culture:

“But in Paris, and only in Paris, was there yet a real food scene – a mass of critics, diners, chefs, and above all writers who were talking and writing about food in new ways. They didn’t eat more in Paris. They couldn’t. But they did talk about it more than they did in other places, and then wrote about the things they said.”

Flavourful Saskatoon is a weekly Monday feature. I also post regular profiles of culinary entrepreneurs, new restaurants and new food products.

Follow me on Twitter or subscribe to Wanderlust and Words by email (top right-hand corner) to stay on top of Saskatoon’s evolving food culture.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012 - Your Online Guide to Shopping Locally

Shopping at the mall or the supermarket is convenient: it’s one-stop shopping for a wide range of different products. And yet, there is a particular joy in purchasing and using a handcrafted item and in supporting your neighbour’s small business – if only you could find them.

Marsha Lemon is a busy mother with four young children. She was looking for a baby blanket for her sister in law’s newborn, and she was sure that there were local knitters who made beautiful garments, but how was she to find them?

“I didn’t know where to begin so I looked online, but I couldn’t find anything,” Marsha explains. “When I did a general search for ‘local Saskatchewan’ and ‘made in Saskatchewan,’ I came across lots of industry-specific sites, such as the Saskatchewan Craft Council or the Saskatchewan Fruit Growers’ Association, but with the exception of SaskMade Marketplace, which at that point was under different ownership and seemed more food-based, there was no one website where consumers could go and see a full range of locally-made products.”

Marsha had worked for 10 years in the agricultural industry, but when her youngest child was born, she chose to stay home. This was an opportunity to channel her frustration over being unable to locate a locally-made baby garment to productive purpose.

She would start an online directory for local products and services.

LocalSask Website 
The LocalSask website went live in September 2011. Marsha wanted to make sure that the site provided much more than the basic information, so each member who chooses to advertise their products on her site can post photographs, videos, links to their website or Facebook page, as well as a list of places where their goods can be purchased.

Marsha says that at the moment she is focussing on smaller home businesses as they’re the ones who need the most help with promotion. There has been a great deal of interest from arts and crafts businesses (alpaca yarn, baby quilts and cloth books, jewellery), but the directory also lists food (spice mixes, wild-harvested mushrooms), farm products (signage, garden equipment), and bath and beauty products.

Local businesses pay between $50 and $150 a year to become a LocalSask member. Each member has a page that they control. They develop the content, including their choice of photographs and contact information. There is an events calendar where members can list upcoming activities.

It can be difficult for small businesses to establish an online presence. LocalSask provides a centralized site that provides strength in numbers as well as marketing assistance. “LocalSask is a marketing tool for small businesses,” Marsha explains. “Photographs are so important if you want people to really see what you have to offer. Not everyone is comfortable with computers; if that’s the case, then I am able to help them upload their information.”

Marsha hopes that one day consumers will be able to enter the name of their community on the LocalSask website and locate all their neighbourhood businesses. “I’ve lived in Vanscoy for 10 years,” Marsha says, “I had no idea that my neighbours included Grandora Gardens, See a Book Take a Look, Sylvia Chave, and Night Sky Alpacas. It’s amazing – they’re right in my backyard, and I didn’t know it.”

Marsha is also daydreaming about a truly local Christmas and hopes to develop a Christmas wish book that will help shoppers fill all their holiday needs – from gifts to turkey – locally.

Visitors to the LocalSask website are invited to post comments, providing an outside perspective on the products.

Marsha also uses the Features page to share with readers some of her own experiences as she tries to shop locally and care for her family. For example, there’s a recipe for homemade laundry soap made from soap nuts as well as information about the advantages of locally-harvested wild mushrooms over canned or imported ones.

LocalSask is also active on Facebook and Twitter, starting conversations and promoting individual members’ businesses.

Why not join the conversation? Check out the LocalSask website today. And if you have your own business, give Marsha a call and discuss becoming a member.

Photos: Prairie Pearl Quilts, Happy Monarch Designs Inc.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Flavourful Saskatoon, February 20, 2012

Foodie news and events in and around Saskatoon – Mexican chocolate, Ukrainian babas, Boreal Bistro, Seedy Saturday

Seedy Saturday, March 10
Seedy Saturday, a family-friendly eco-fair promoting open pollinated and heirloom seed-saving, biodiversity and sustainable living, will be held on Saturday, March 10, from 11 am to 4 pm at E.D. Feehan High School.

Organized by CHEP Good Food Inc., the activities will include 35 exhibitors, a demonstration area, the SaskTel Mendel Art Caravan for kids, and hourly workshops. Workshop topics include: Seed Saving, Wildflower Gardens, Home Composting, and Sustainable Agriculture in Cuba. Watch for updates at

The Boreal Bistro, Christopher Lake
Executive Chef Kevin Tetz is busy preparing for the opening of his restaurant, The Boreal Bistro, in the Christopher Lake Hotel on April 2.

We can expect some unique items based on foraged food from the boreal forest as well as traditional lakeland food. You can follow The Boreal Bistro on Facebook.

Prairie Harvest Café
I am delighted to report that Prairie Harvest Café will be continuing to sell their ready-made meals at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market.

From Baba with Love
From Baba with Love is a collection of Ukrainian recipes written and published by the Ukrainian Women’s Association of Canada, Hanka Romanchych Branch in Saskatoon.

There are masses of recipes for everything from borsch to potato pancakes and poppy seed torte, but there is also a very informative section on the folklore and contemporary traditions surrounding food on each of the feast days throughout the year.

The book is available at McNally Robinson Booksellers and the Saskatoon Public Library. With thanks to one of my Twitter friends for bringing this book to my attention – I apologize for not remembering exactly who mentioned it.

Taza Chocolate
I received two discs of Taza’s Mexican stone-ground, organic chocolate for Christmas, and I’ve been hoarding it because it is soooo good! But I shall hoard no longer, because I can replenish my stock at The Better Good on Broadway Avenue.

Taza’s owners fell in love with Mexican stone-ground chocolate and carved their own granite millstone to grind the cacao beans that they obtain directly from Mexican farmers. Taza describes their product as “rustic, organic dark chocolate that bursts with bright, bold flavor and texture.” That sounds like marketing talk, and it is, but it’s also an accurate description of the chocolate, which has a slightly granular texture and a fruity flavour.

Taza Chocolate Brand Video from Taza Chocolate on Vimeo.

Flavourful Saskatoon is a weekly Monday feature. I also post regular profiles of culinary entrepreneurs, new restaurants and new food products.

Follow me on Twitter or subscribe to Wanderlust and Words by email (top right-hand corner) to stay on top of Saskatoon’s evolving food culture.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Flavourful Saskatoon, February 13, 2012

Foodie news and events in and around Saskatoon – buy a share in a market garden, take a cooking class or attend the Saskatoon Heritage Society Dinner

Buy a Share in Wally’s Urban Market Garden
Gail and Wally, Wally’s Urban Market Garden, are offering 10-20 people the opportunity to support their market garden through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) scheme.

$500 will purchase a half share that will be worth $600 credit for whatever produce is available at their market stand all year round. $1000 will purchase a full share and $1200 stand credit.

Wally and Gail have a wide variety of produce, for example: shallots, pea greens, salad mixes, heirloom tomatoes, squash, beans, potatoes, beets, spinach, chard and fresh herbs.

This is a limited offer. Talk to Wally or Gail as soon as possible if you are interested. They are at the Saskatoon Farmers' Market on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, or email them at

Hudsons Saskatoon, February 17
Hudsons Saskatoon (401 – 21st Street E) is holding its Grand Opening at 8 pm on February 17. If you love sports and beer, this is the place to be. They serve some beers from Canadian micro breweries. The menu’s focus is on wings and burgers, but they have recently hired a chef and will be working towards a better menu with more made-from-scratch dishes. Hudsons is part of a small Alberta chain that first opened on Whyte Avenue in Edmonton in 2003.

Prince Albert Cooking Class, February 27
Chef Kevin Dahlsjo, Two by Dahlsjo, will be hosting a cooking class on February 27. There’s limited seating so call to book a seat.

Saskatoon Heritage Society Dinner, March 2
The Saskatoon Heritage Society is holding its annual dinner on Friday, March 2 at the Delta Bessborough. Dr. Ryan Walker will be speaking on Reflections on Saskatoon’s Urban Growth and Changing Concept of Place. Call 717-1791 to obtain tickets.

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School
If you are a fearful kitchen novice or if you offer cooking classes for beginners, The Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home Cooks by Kathleen Flinn is a must read.

Flinn, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu, gathered a group of women who were intimidated by cooking, relying on frozen or packaged food to feed their families, and showed them how easy it was to make soup, bread, salads and other dishes from scratch. It completely changes the women’s lives as they realize how much more flavourful fresh food is and how simple it is to prepare.

Artisan Cheese Making in Saskatchewan
The February issue of Savour Life has an excellent article about Artisan Cheese Making in Saskatchewan by CJ Katz.

Flavourful Saskatoon is a weekly Monday feature. I also post regular profiles of culinary entrepreneurs, new restaurants and new food products. Follow me on Twitter or subscribe to Wanderlust and Words by email (top right-hand corner) to stay on top of Saskatoon’s evolving food culture.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Chocolate Kisses

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and I am in love with chocolate. Here are some interesting, perhaps unexpected options. Give them to a friend – give them to yourself. Enjoy!

Go Green Go Local
A number of stores sell organic chocolate (Dad’s Organic Market, Herbs ‘n’ Health Foodport). An excellent Canadian choice is Denman Island Chocolate from Steep Hill Co-operative.

It’s difficult to find a truly local chocolate bar as we can’t grow cocoa beans in Canada. Denman Island Chocolate is, however, manufactured in Canada.

Daniel and Ruth Terry moved to the Gulf Islands, British Columbia, in 1998. They turned to chocolate, “a shared love that dated back to their search for the perfect fuel while bicycle touring in northern France.”

The company practises environmentally sustainable practises – from using recycled wrapping paper to wrapping the chocolate melter in a cocoa cozy. They donate 1% of their gross income to local environmental conservation groups.

You have lots of flavour choices – from a fruity Razzle Dazzle bar with freeze-dried raspberries to Holy Molé, which I’ve been told packs a lot of heat from the chipotle pepper. The chocolate is made in Europe, and all the ingredients are organic.

The website emphasizes what you will NOT find in their chocolate bars – no waxes, salts, preservatives, artificial ingredients, and less sugar.

Go Global Choose Free Trade
Ten Thousand Villages has an expanding collection of international food products. I picked up a Divine chocolate bar, which describes itself as “Heavenly Chocolate with a heart.” I’m not usually a fan of white chocolate as it tends to be poor quality, but the Divine white chocolate with crispy bits of freeze-dried strawberries is truly excellent. I will definitely be going back to try out the other flavours.

According to Ten Thousand Villages, chocolate is big business with over 14 million people directly involved in the production of 3.6 million tonnes of cocoa. Prices fluctuate wildly, and it’s hard for individual farmers to make a living as they lack the bargaining power to negotiate fair prices.

In 1998, a British fair trade company and a Ghanaian cocoa cooperative came together to form the Divine Chocolate Company. Divine is now a leading fair trade brand in the UK competing successfully with mainstream brands. The cooperative has over 40,000 members organized in approximately 1,300 village societies, and they own 45% of the shares in Divine.

Go Geeks Techie Special
Not only do iChoc chocolate bars have a name and a shape very similar to the iPhone, the whole business is run from an iPhone app!

According to Discover magazine, the iPhone turns the mixers and grinders on and off, and every part of the operation is videotaped and streamed live to the internet.

The chocolate bars are available at Dad’s Organic Market and Steep Hill Co-op. The chocolate is organic and flavours include Go Go Mango and Chillout Caramel.

Alternatively, you can download the iChoc app and eat piles of virtual chocolate without gaining an ounce.

Go Crave
Valentine’s Day arrived a week early when I received a special delivery of Crave Cookies and Cupcakes Valentine specials. What a treat!

The kirsch and sour cherries really enhance the chocolate in the chocolate cherry cupcakes, and there’s a decadent swirl of chocolate ganache icing on top. And don’t miss the chocolate tarts filled with gooey caramel goodness.

Plus there are heart-shaped cookies (custom message) and assortments of cupcakes in pink, white and chocolate topped with tiny heart-shaped candies.

Go Chocolate
Wishing you all a Valentine’s Day rich in chocolate and laughter. Have fun!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Flavourful Saskatoon, February 6, 2012

Foodie news and events in and around Saskatoon – fine dining opportunities, Taste Legend, Farmers’ Market membership, and pioneer family life

Valentine’s Day Candlelight Buffet, Wanuskewin
Wanuskewin Heritage Park is holding a Gourmet Candlelight Buffet at 6:30 pm on February 14.

The menu, prepared by Executive Chef Kevin Merasty, includes Northern Saskatchewan Wild Rice Salad with Sun-Dried Cranberries and Almonds, Peppercorn Bison Wellington, Seven Grain Cherokee Rice Pilaf, Flambéed Shrimp in Chili Lime Butter, and Chocolate Fondue.

There will be a First Nations dance performance following the dinner.

Executive Chef Dinner, February 16
The next Saskatoon Farmers’ Market Executive Chef Dinner is on Thursday, February 16 and will be prepared by Chef Brent Lloyd. The menu includes Goat Cheese Crostini with Honey Caviar, Roasted Apple and Parsnip Soup finished with Apple Cider Foam, Wild Boar Pot Stickers, Lingonberry Braised Beef Short Ribs on Truffled Polenta, and Warm Dark Chocolate Cake with Honey/Green Tea Ice Cream.

Eat Well – Year Round – at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market provides an account of the January dinner.

Open House, Marr Residence, February 20 1-4 pm
Celebrate Family Day from 1-4 pm on February 20 with a visit to the Marr Residence (326 – 11th Street East), the historic home of the Alexander Marr family and discover what family life was like in pioneer times.

Make an old-fashioned toy, tour the house and displays, and sample an old-fashioned cookie recipe.

Spadina Freehouse, February 28
Spadina Freehouse is holding a 7-course wine and food pairing. Robyn of Cellar Stock will guide participants through the pairing. There are only 12 spots, so book quickly.

Taste Legend Restaurant
I had lunch at Taste Legend restaurant at 423 20th Street West last week. It’s a large, pleasantly decorated restaurant with an extensive menu. The vegetarian options weren’t obvious, so we asked the server to recommend some dishes.

My favourite was the eggplant and potato dish, which had been cooked to perfection. The greens in onion oil were also excellent. I’ll definitely be visiting Taste Legend again.

Farmers’ Market Membership
I was disappointed to learn that Prairie Harvest Café will not be selling ready-made meals at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market after the end of February.

The Farmers’ Market website states that “each individual selling at the market must be a qualified member and must be personally present to operate their stall. This provides the customer the opportunity to deal directly with the producer, which allows a personalized touch with the products that are being purchased.”

That is a laudable policy as it is important for me to purchase products directly from the producer; however, I feel it’s being interpreted too rigidly. Prairie Harvest Café has been represented at the Market for the last month by Aaron Wignes who is one of the co-owners of Prairie Harvest Café. He may not be the person in the kitchen, but he is certainly fully involved and fully aware of all aspects of the business.

Similarly, a fruit cooperative can be a hands-on operation, with each member providing fruit they have grown for sale, but they would not currently be acceptable as a Market vendor because they are not a single, unique individual. In other cases, it may be extremely difficult for the person who is tending a large farm or milking cows twice a day to also be present at the Market. It may be their wife or best friend who is willing to oversee the Market stand.

I would be very disappointed if the Market started reselling produce they had obtained from a large, anonymous distributor, but I also believe that the Market’s success and long-term viability will depend on broadening its scope and becoming a little more flexible. I know that every topic has at least two points of view, so please comment if you have a different perspective.

Food Centre and Cheese
The Saskatchewan Food Industry Development Centre Inc. assists Saskatchewan food producers in developing and manufacturing their products. Producers use their fully-certified facility to prepare everything from noodles to chutney.

The Centre recently hosted a cheese-making course, and I was delighted to learn how eager people were to start making artisan cheese in Saskatchewan.

Flavourful Saskatoon is a weekly Monday feature. I also post regular profiles of culinary entrepreneurs, new restaurants and new food products.

Follow me on Twitter or subscribe to Wanderlust and Words by email (top right-hand corner) to stay on top of Saskatoon’s evolving food culture.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Eat Well - Year-Round - at the Saskatoon Farmers' Market

Do you only visit the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market in the summer when the Market Square is overflowing with fresh vegetables? Maybe you think there isn’t much worth buying in the winter, but you’d be wrong.

Saskatoon’s chefs know better – they shop at the Market all year round.

Chef Anthony McCarthy
I was one of the lucky guests at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market’s first Executive Chef Dinner in January. Chef Anthony McCarthy, winner of the 2011 Saskatchewan Gold Medal Plates, prepared a delicious five-course meal with products he had purchased at the Market.

It was such a delight to see the variety of local products he used in his recipes and to realize that I could employ many of the same products and techniques at home.

Local Vegetables
This is the first year of operations for Floating Gardens’ year-round greenhouse, and it’s been such a treat to be able to buy fresh greens (sorrel, spinach, basil, Chinese chrysanthemum), tomatoes and other fresh produce even in the winter.

Chef Anthony served a roasted carrot soup that was garnished with thin strips of sorrel and a dollop of ginger yogurt. Sorrel has a light lemony flavour, adding a fresh, spring-like touch to the dish, and it would be so simple to replicate at home. And isn’t it great that we can buy locally-made yogurt from Hounjet Orchard?

The appetizer was served on a base of fresh pea shoots (Wally’s Urban Market Garden) tossed with citrus hemp dressing and hemp hearts (Hestia Organics). More fresh vegetables, even in the middle of winter.

Carrots, potatoes, and other root vegetables are available almost all year round from a variety of vendors (Geo. Simpkins Market Gardens, Living Soil Farms). There are so many different ways to prepare them – from soups to stews to cakes. Chef Anthony had roasted them, and they tasted really sweet, so I thought I’d try adding some Saskatchewan honey or maple syrup next time I roasted vegetables.

Local Grains and Pulses
The main course featured wild boar and beef, both of which are sold at the Market. But I was perfectly content with the lentil risotto and another diner told me that it was the best part of the entrée. I was inspired and immediately went home and prepared a gourmet lentil dish with cream and wild mushrooms soaked in red wine.

If you are more comfortable following a recipe, there are plenty available on the Hestia Organics website – Demeter’s Cilantro Lime Wheat Grain Salad, Honey Red Lentil Bake, Beluga Lentil Hummus, and Red Lentil Curry. Living Soil Farms has recipes for Spicy Dal and Carrot Soup as well as Cheesy Lentil Spread.

Gourmet Touches
There are plenty of Market products that will help you add a gourmet touch to your meal. Chef Anthony used Costa Rican lemon-infused pepper from Orchard del Sol and Red Clover Blossom syrup from Bedard Creek Acres (I think it’s available in the Little Market Store).

Chef Anthony added an intriguing touch of molecular gastronomy to the salad with powdered cold-pressed canola oil (“There’s no need for olive oil when you have excellent local oils,” Chef Anthony proclaimed). I found a recipe for olive oil powder online, so you can make this at home as well.

The dessert trio included sea buckthorn gelato; chocolate pâté; and wild blueberry, haskap and black currant compote. You could make the compote yourself from fruit you’ve bought at the Market – or you could keep it simple and purchase the sea buckthorn gelato ready-made from Northern Vigor Berries – that would definitely be my solution.

Upcoming Executive Chef Dinners
Dinner at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market is fun. The Agrium Kitchen is open so that you can keep an eye on the activity, and the chef introduces each dish. It would be really fun to come with a group of friends or co-workers and to spend a leisurely evening chatting as you sample the excellent local food.

The next Executive Chef Dinner is on Thursday, February 16 and will be prepared by Chef Brent Lloyd. The menu includes Goat Cheese Crostini with Honey Caviar, Roasted Apple and Parsnip Soup finished with Apple Cider Foam, Wild Boar Pot Stickers, Lingonberry Braised Beef Short Ribs on Truffled Polenta, and Warm Dark Chocolate Cake with Honey/Green Tea Ice Cream.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Artisan Cheese-Making in Saskatchewan

Travel in Europe and you are immediately struck by the number and variety of local cheeses, but then you come home to Saskatchewan and there are next to no local artisan cheeses, but that situation is about to change. (Salayview Farm south of Regina has just started making an excellent fresh goat cheese.)

The Saskatchewan Food Industry Development Centre Inc. (Food Centre) held a two-day cheese-making workshop this past week, and it was filled to capacity with people who were eager to start making cheese as a hobby or to sell commercially.

The course was led by Margaret Morris of Glengarry Cheesemaking and Erin Hiebert, the Food Centre’s Manager of Skills Development and Food Safety Programs, while Brev Chesky, the Centre’s Processing Director, assisted with the hands-on portion of the workshop. I was fortunate to join the class at the end of the workshop and to get a first-hand glimpse at the cheese-making process as well as to meet some of the participants.

The Course
Margaret Morris is the owner of Glengarry Fine Cheese in Lancaster, Ontario. She also operates Glengarry Cheesemaking, which sells the equipment and supplies needed to make cheese.

The course combined classroom sessions with hands-on experience making five different kinds of cheese, and participants were excited by how much they had learned. “They were wonderful instructions for kitchen cheese-making,” Murray Gray of Aylsham Fruit and Vegetables said. “Margaret gave us all the techniques you need and explained how to use the cultures and starters to create different flavours and textures.”

Using milk from the University Farm, the participants made camembert, feta and mozzarella cheeses on the first day. “These are uncooked cheeses,” Ann Smith, Agriculture Council of Saskatchewan, explained. “You add culture to the milk, let the enzymes work for a bit, and then add rennet to make the curds.”

On the second day, the participants made cheddar and gouda, which are both cooked. You need at least 12 litres of milk to make a batch of cheddar as you need the weight to create a supple, even texture.

I was amused when Margaret took a French fry cutter in order to slice the cheddar into curds. She then added salt, and we were immediately able to sample the curds. They were delicious with a light but distinctive flavour.

One woman, who is from Quebec, said that her family loves poutine. She came to the course to learn how to make fresh cheese curds to serve with poutine and was delighted as the curds tasted just like she remembered. Mission accomplished.

Hobby or Commercial
Some of the participants were interested in making cheese at home for their families. Others were hoping to start selling it.

“The cheese you buy is so expensive, and it doesn’t always taste good,” Ann Smith said. “My mother made cheese when I was growing up as we had our own cows. I definitely plan to go home and make it. You don’t need any special ingredients – just culture and store-bought milk.”

Debbie Janzen and Murray Gray sell fruit and vegetables at the Prince Albert farmers’ market and Co-op and are hoping to start selling cheese. “We could make it in the winter, and it would be aged and ready for the farmers’ market in the summer,” Murray says. “The regulations are not that cumbersome, and the Food Centre supplies everything you need.”

Lois and Clayton Jack of HollyHock Market in Mortlach are also considering starting to sell cheese, and a group of people from near Saskatoon are also exploring the possibilities.

Three Saputo employees participated in the course as they were interested in learning more about the science and the practice of making cheese on a small scale. “They shared lots of information,” Sara Lui, the Food Centre’s Product Development Manager said. “It was good networking.”

The Viability of Artisan Cheese Production
The Food Centre is a valuable resource for small Saskatchewan producers who are able to use the Centre’s certified facilities to make a wide range of products. Erin Hiebert, the Centre’s Skills Development and Food Safety Manager, says that they have the equipment to prepare 100 litre or smaller batches of cheese.

Margaret Morris says that she works with customers whose production size ranges from 100 to 5,000 litres per day or per week. “Cheese-making requires really dedicated personnel who are prepared to commit time, capital and marketing,” Margaret says. “But if you’re on a farm, it has good potential for increasing the value of your farming business.”

The best of luck to all the participants as they go home and start trying their hand at making cheese. I look forward to tasting the end product.

Upcoming Food Centre Workshops
The Food Centre will be offering a series of industry workshops in 2012. The next one is scheduled for March and will cover Fluid Bed Drying, Granulation and Agglomerations.

See also:
Cheese, Glorious Cheese
Bulk Cheese Warehouse
Saskatchewan Food Industry Development Centre Inc.
Little Qualicum Cheeseworks, Vancouver Island
Charelli's Cheese Shop and Delicatessen, Victoria, BC
La Formatgeria la Seu, Barcelona, Spain

P.S.You need to put pressure on the cheese so that it will settle and have an even texture. If you don't have weights, you improvise.