Monday, October 29, 2012

Flavourful Saskatoon, October 29, 2012

Gluten-Free Food Fair, Nov. 18 
The Garlic Guru is hosting the winter edition of the Gluten-Free Food Fair on November 18 from 5-7 pm at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market. There will be about 15 dishes to choose from. Sample plates cost a toonie.

Cooking Classes
If you love to cook, here’s an opportunity to improve your skills and have fun with a group of other food lovers. Grace Whittington of Riverbend Plantation will be offering four different cooking classes at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market during November and December. They include: Dips and Spreads, Cheese Balls and Pâtés, Hot Appetizers, and Basic Cooking for Students.

Souleio’s Liqueurs 
I had a fabulous evening at Souleio this past Friday. Souleio’s four house-made liqueurs were served alongside desserts and cocktails made using the liqueurs. The Carmincello was paired with a dark chocolate pot de crème that was wonderful. My favourite liqueur was the Crème de Cassis because you could really taste the fruit and it was slightly tarter than the other liqueurs. The Haskap and Vodka Martini was my favourite cocktail. And if I you get a chance to try the Cocoa Truffles filled with Spiced Haskap Caramel – grab them by the handful!

John Côté, who prepares the liqueurs, was at the event. He and his family have a farm, Tierra del Sol, just outside of town where they grow flowers (sold at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market) and have started to develop an orchard. They’re working with the University’s fruit breeding program and planted 2000 varieties of grapes this summer to see which ones are hardy and will do well in a Saskatchewan climate.

John says that he enjoys working with the chefs at Souleio to develop the liqueurs. He is planning to set up a micro distillery on his farm.

Matt Hunter’s guitar playing was the perfect accompaniment to food and conversation.

Food Labels
What information would you like to see on food labels? A ballot initiative in California calls for the labeling of genetically modified foods, while British supermarkets will be adopting “traffic-light labelling” to help identify the healthiest and unhealthiest foods.

Farms vs. Houses
The City of Edmonton is currently discussing whether prime farmland in the city’s northeast should be transformed into a residential suburb. The debate raises important questions around municipal food and agriculture strategies that definitely apply in Saskatoon as well. Let’s hope Saskatoon City Council will address this issue. We can’t allow land developers to control the discussion – there’s too much at stake.

Bringing the Streets to Life
Edmonton’s Mercury Opera does a fantastic job of promoting opera through outdoor events. Last year, they held an opera on the LRT. This year, it was held outdoors after participants had enjoyed food and drink at several local businesses. It’s a great way to bring the streets to life in the evening.

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, like the Wanderlust Facebook page, or subscribe to Wanderlust and Words by email (top right-hand corner) to stay on top of Saskatoon’s evolving food culture.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Spelt and Millet: Ancient Grains for Today's Healthy Diet

When I was growing up, whole wheat flour and rice were exotic options. Now we have a whole range of intriguing choices – buckwheat, spelt, millet, kamut – the list goes on and on. My problem is that I don’t know very much about some of these grains, so I arranged a phone call with Nicole Davis, the Owner/Manager of Daybreak Mill near Estevan.

Daybreak Mill grows and processes approximately 18 different kinds of flour, whole and de-hulled grains, flakes, cereals, and legumes. They are 100% organic. “We want people to have access to healthy, wholesome food,” Nicole explains.

Two of Daybreak’s products – spelt and millet – have been nourishing people around the world for over 9,000 years.

Spelt was cultivated by ancient civilizations in Europe and the Middle East for thousands of years. It grows well in poor soil and doesn’t require fertilizer. It’s resistant to frost and the thick husk protects the grain from insects. However, spelt requires more processing than wheat as the hull must be removed.

There are, however, advantages to eating spelt. It has more protein than ordinary wheat and contains a different form of gluten that is easier to digest.

Daybreak has been growing spelt since 2003, and it’s their most popular product. “It has a high moisture content and makes a light, moist loaf,” Nicole says.

They also sell spelt flakes and whole grain. Spelt flour is one of the main ingredients in Daybreak’s Sunrise pancake mix.

Millet is a member of the corn family with long, broad leaves. Daybreak grows a very old variety of millet that came from the Ukraine. “We call it Alvin’s Millet,” Nicole says, “after Alvin Scheresky, one of the first organic farmers in North America and the original owner of the farm and mill.”

In North America, millet is primarily used for bird seed, but it’s the sixth most important cereal grain in the world, sustaining more than one third of the world’s population. Millet has a short growing season and grows well in hot, dry conditions. It also stores well, so it’s often set aside in case of famine.

Millet is gluten-free. Its protein content is similar to wheat and corn, and it’s rich in B vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, iron and zinc.

Millet is one of the main ingredients in Daystart cereal, which also contains buckwheat, oat bran, sunflower seeds and brown flax.

Did you know? 
• There are references to both millet and spelt in the Bible (Ezekiel 4.9, Isaiah 28:25).

• In 1850, 94% of the cereal acreage in one region of Germany was planted with spelt. Only 5% was producing wheat for bread.

• Sweet millet porridge is a popular dish in Russia and Germany.

• Millet is fermented to make beer in Taiwan, pombe in East Africa, and a distilled liquor called rakshi in Nepal.

• Daybreak Mill has a wide assortment of processing equipment to handle all its different crops. Millet seeds are much smaller than grains of spelt, so they require a different de-huller. The spelt flakes are processed using an old roller mill.

See also: Daybreak Scheresky Mill

Credit: This article was originally published in SaskMade Marketplace's October newsletter.

Photographs: Courtesy of Daybreak Mill

Monday, October 22, 2012

Flavourful Saskatoon, October 22, 2012

Sugar Moon Cakery 
It was 10:30 am on a week day, and Starbucks on 2nd Avenue was jam-packed with people. But just two doors further down, I got immediate service at Sugar Moon Cakery – and my choice of fresh-baked-from-scratch goodies.

I’ve been following Sugar Moon on Facebook, and Brenda bakes small batches often two or three times a day, so you know that what you’re getting is straight out of the oven.

I loved the small, plump chocolate chip cookies – homemade goodness without any of the work. The cupcake icing is surprisingly light and airy, and I liked the raspberry cupcake as the real raspberries in the icing added a refreshing tang. Brenda says her puffed wheat and rice krispie squares are particularly popular, and she makes colourful Jolly Pops – I wanted to smile just looking at them. Childhood treats for grown-ups.

Sugar Moon Cakery serves hot and cold drinks as well as muffins and other goodies. They are open from 7 am to 3 pm, Monday to Friday. You can also order a hand-decorated cake for special occasions and family celebrations.

The Woods Alehouse 
I had lunch at The Woods Alehouse yesterday. I loved the atmosphere – booths fashioned from old wooden pews and lots of local art on the walls. It felt like a good place to sit and have a quiet pint of beer or visit with a friend over a snack, although I’m sure it’s livelier in the evening when there is musical entertainment.

We need these public meeting spaces. Coffee shops are one option, but there is room for other alternatives, and we should be able to have a quiet drink without having to endure a noisy bar scene. The food was unexceptional, in my opinion, and I would love to see it improve so that it’s a better match for the interesting beer menu.

Wild Cuisine Catering
The Saskatoon Farmers’ Market has a new tenant! Wild Cuisine Catering will be taking over the restaurant spot formerly occupied by Guiseppi’s. Their breakfast menu will include a boar sausage sandwich and a breakfast bowl with hash, egg, scallion, tomato and a light herb dressing. The lunch menu will include a maple bourbon barbecue burger, chicken lime tequila wraps, as well as an ever-changing selection of soups and pizzas.

It’s a “meaty” menu (I know! Vegetarians are still in the minority. Someday....), but there are some vegetarian and vegan options, and they’ll be sourcing lots of their ingredients from Farmers’ Market vendors. Their goal is to stay local and organic as much as possible.

Their website outlines the environmentally-friendly practices they follow – from green shopping bags to composting and recycling.

I'm looking forward to sampling their cooking.

Kaleidoscope Gardens
I am so impressed by the vegetables grown by Adithya and Jennifer at Kaleidoscope Vegetable Gardens.

On small, urban plots, they have grown a wide variety of unexpected vegetables (an amazing selection of small eggplants, fingerling sweet potatoes, Asian greens, heirloom potatoes). Their products are always in mint condition, beautifully presented and taste absolutely delicious.

You can find them at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market on October 28 and November 4. And, starting in May, they’ll be part of the Saturday markets.

Adithya and Jennifer are looking for additional garden space – are you interested in renting out your backyard? If so, you can contact them by email.

Harvest Hoedown, Oct. 28
The Saskatoon Farmers’ Market is holding a Harvest Hoedown from 5-9 pm on October 28. There will be a harvest dinner, children’s activities, costumes and fun for the whole family.

Taste: Seasonal Dishes from a Prairie Table, Oct. 28
CJ Katz will be offering samples and signing her book, Taste: Seasonal Dishes from a Prairie Table at 1 pm, October 28, at McNally Robinson Booksellers.

SaskMade Marketplace, Nov. 3
Don’t miss SaskMade Marketplace’s Christmas Open House on Saturday, November 3 – a good opportunity to taste and see their local vendors’ Christmas specials.

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, like the Wanderlust Facebook page, or subscribe to Wanderlust and Words by email (top right-hand corner) to stay on top of Saskatoon’s evolving food culture.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Rainy Day in Loreto, Baja California del Sur

Loreto was the first settlement on the Baja Peninsula and served as the capital of Las Californias from 1697 to 1777.

Loreto is located on a large bay in the Sea of Cortez, and there is a large marine preserve with dolphins, sea lions, blue-footed boobies and lots and lots of pelicans.

A tropical storm passed to the east of Loreto while we were there, making for a very wet, rainy day.

I would happily go back again, to sip a glass of wine at the bar overlooking the square, to watch the sun rise over the bay and to stroll the streets and alleys.

The town is full of palm trees and flowers and framed by the coastal mountain range.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Taste: Seasonal Dishes from a Prairie Table, CJ Katz

Start turning the pages of Taste: Seasonal Dishes from a Prairie Table by CJ Katz and you’ll be seized by a desire to head to the kitchen and start cooking. But you’ll also be filled with pride because you live in Saskatchewan, a province that produces such a wide variety of healthy, tasty food products.

CJ Katz is a food writer and photographer based in Regina and culinary host of The Wheatland Café on CTV. Taste is her first book, and it’s a treasure trove of seasonal recipes highlighting Saskatchewan ingredients.

Spring features asparagus, fiddleheads, rhubarb and strawberries. Summer brings barbecued burgers, wild mushrooms and cherry pie. The Autumn feast includes wild rice, squash, apple dumplings and spelt cookies. Winter warms the stomach with split pea soup, braised lentils and bread pudding with brandied fruit. (Disclosure: As a vegetarian, I’m not highlighting the meat recipes!)

I’m longing to make the Dark Chocolate Cherry Brownies (a rich batter with both cocoa and chopped dark chocolate sprinkled with sour cherries), Stuffed Mini Pumpkins (they’re so cute and the wild rice stuffing sounds delicious) and the Wholesome Pancakes (whole wheat flour, flax, chopped almonds and apple).

I was pleased to see that the recipes were simple enough for home cooks to make on week nights or on special occasions, taking advantage of CJ’s knowledge and experience to really stand out.

But Taste is much more than a good recipe book. It’s also a celebration of Saskatchewan products and producers. Each chapter is accompanied by photographs of local farms, farmers and their crops, and the recipes are punctuated by pages featuring Saskatchewan products.

I thought I was relatively familiar with Saskatchewan food products, but I learned so much. Did you know?
  • Saskatchewan has 86,000 bee colonies tended by 965 beekeepers, and Tisdale is the Honey Capital of Saskatchewan. 
  • Wild rice is native to the Great Lakes, but northern Saskatchewan is now the “rice bowl” of Canada, producing more than half of the country’s wild rice crop. 
  • Western Canada, primarily Saskatchewan, has two major spice crops – caraway and coriander – but we also grow anise, cumin, dill and fenugreek. 
  • Barley is the second most widely grown cereal crop in Saskatchewan. 

Be sure to buy a copy of Taste: Seasonal Dishes from a Prairie Table by CJ Katz. It would make a perfect gift for yourself or your best friend. The book is available at many locations around Saskatoon – the Little Market Store at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market, SaskMade Marketplace, Indigo and McNally Robinson.

CJ Katz will be reading and signing her book at 1 pm on Sunday, October 28, at McNally Robinson Booksellers in Saskatoon.

My thanks to Canadian Plains Research Centre Press for providing me with a review copy of the book.

See also: CJ Katz: Savour Life

Monday, October 15, 2012

Flavourful Saskatoon, October 15, 2012

My Favourite Things
I had a great holiday, but it’s good to be home and picking up great food from some of my favourite producers.

Here are just a few of this week’s food delights:

Pumpkin-Chocolate Brownies from Earth Bound Bakery – they just celebrated their 4th anniversary!

Vegetarian pad thai from Sawaddee Bistro

I won a basket of goodies from SaskMade Marketplace at the Three Farmers’ celebration of their Dragons’ Den win. SaskMade has so many great products – from Petrofka Bridge apple cider vinegar to sweet potato soup from Simon’s Fine Foods (and so many more – I can’t possibly name them all).

Fresh n Local delivered groceries to my home on Tuesday. What a timesaver in a busy week! They're now supplying City Perks Coffee Shop and Caffe Sola with fresh, local, organic produce - isn't that great!

Free Friday Frenzy 
The Garlic Guru, Saskatoon Farmers’ Market, is offering week-day specials and the chance to enter a draw to win a free Friday meal for you and 3 friends, one entry with every purchase. Free Friday Frenzy runs from October 19 to November 30.

Steep Hill Food Co-op
Steep Hill Food Co-op is selling 100% recycled aluminum foil, petroleum-free wax paper and unbleached parchment paper baking cups. They have parchment paper that’s been coated with silicone rather than quilon, a heavy metal that is toxic when incinerated. Silicone-coated paper can be used several times as well.

Herschel Hills Cheese 
I fell in love with good cheese as a teenager when I lived in France for a couple of years, so I am super-excited to be able to buy locally made cheese at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market.

Sharon McDaniel of Herschel Hills Artisan Cheese House has just started selling her cheese at the Market, and it seems like every week there is a new variety. I attempted to show restraint by only taking home three out of at least five different options.

The Midnight Cammie is my current favorite, a ripe, gooey camembert that is sharp with flavour. But I also love the bite-sized chunks of Feta that are perfect for snacking, and I’m looking forward to trying the Fromage Blanc on my loaf of Currant-Walnut Bread from Earth Bound Bakery. Sharon was offering samples of her herbed cream cheese and the fromage blanc mixed with grated lemon rind – so good!

Sharon McDaniel is a member of Slow Food Saskatoon and will be attending Terra Madre, Slow Food’s international food fair, in Italy later this month. I’m sure she’ll come back brimming with new ideas. Not to worry – she plans to make enough cheese this coming week to keep eager customers like myself satisfied until she returns from Italy.

Sundays at the Market 
I visited the Saskatoon Farmers' Market twice this weekend, both Saturday and Sunday. The Saturday market has lots of choices, but it’s busy and crowded. Sunday, on the other hand, you have time and space to browse and chat with the vendors. And there are enough vendors and different products to satisfy.

I came away with an armful of delicious food – beet greens and heirloom German Butterball potatoes from Kaleidoscope Gardens, Muffuleta Olive Salad and Chocolate-Cherry Jam from Fruition Orchards, whole wheat tortillas from a new vendor, Las Tortillas, and more cheese (!!!). And that was in addition to everything I’d already bought on Saturday.

I also enjoyed samples of a Beet and Quinoa Salad and a Seabuckthorn Smoothie made by Brooke Bulloch, a registered dietician with Food to Fit. Both were excellent.

Saskatoon Sous Chef 
I was disappointed to learn that Saskatoon Sous Chef had been forced to shut down because they lost access to the kitchen they’d been using. There really is a shortage of commercial kitchens in Saskatoon, which I’m sure hampers a lot of would-be food entrepreneurs.

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, like the Wanderlust Facebook page, or subscribe to Wanderlust and Words by email (top right-hand corner) to stay on top of Saskatoon’s evolving food culture.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Sunrise, Sunset: The Malecon, La Paz, BCS

The malecon in La Paz, Baja California del Sur, is a popular place at sunrise and sunset when the air is a little cooler.

Just hanging out . . . .

A fast food feast from a fishermen cleaning out his boat:

Jacques Cousteau called La Paz the "aquarium of the world."

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Community Gathering Place, San Jose del Cabo

San José del Cabo is just a few miles away from the glossy resorts that line the tip of the Baja Peninsula, drawing millions of North American tourists to Cabo every year, but it has managed to retain at least some of its own personal identity as a Mexican town.

As with so many Mexican cities, the central square is a community gathering place once the heat of the day is past. On the weekends, vendors set up stands to sell food, candy and toys.

Children play soccer and everyone enjoys an iced fruit bar or ice cream from the paleteria.

There’s a bandstand for concerts as well as a stage, and the cathedral is right across the street.

San José has one of the largest Mexican flags I’ve ever seen. It’s quite a job for the municipal police to take it down at night.

The square is surrounded by colourful stucco buildings. The neighbouring art district has a wealth of galleries and craft shops. It pays to wander as there is less touristy kitsch and more real art the farther away you are from the square.

I had breakfast on several occasions at the outdoor tables in front of Molly’s Restaurant.

There’s a French bakery just around the corner from the square. The baking isn’t up to Parisian standards, but it provides some welcome treats, including excellent gelato.

San José del Cabo was founded as a Spanish mission in 1730. For more information about Baja’s past and present, I recommend reading Miraculous Air: Journey of a Thousand Miles through Baja California, the Other Mexico by C. M. Mayo.

See also:
Flora's Farm Fresh Food
Wirikuta Cactus Park
Coffee in San Jose del Cabo

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Wirikuta Cactus Park, San Jose del Cabo

The Baja Peninsula is a desert and the heat can be overwhelming. There’s been a lot of rain in the past two months, a source of delight and astonishment to the locals who say that they have had no rain for the past four years. The hillsides, which are normally brown, are currently green, but the dominant plant in this region is still the cactus, that canny plant that does such a good job of storing and conserving water.

For a close-up look at cactus, we visited the Wirikuta Cactus Park just outside of San José del Cabo. It’s part of the planned resort community of Puerto Los Cabos, providing plants for local gardens and a site for events. But it also plays an important role in conserving endangered cactus and succulent species from around the world.

The 12-acre garden houses one million plants, with over 1,500 different species and a labyrinth of 1,000 bonsai bougainvilleas. There are massive greenhouses with tiny cacti of all shapes and sizes. I particularly liked the hairy “Viejeros” or “Old Men.”

The garden honours indigenous culture – the Wirikuta is the sacred site of the Huichol Indians – and is carefully laid out according to sacred traditions with three pyramids rich in crystalline quartz and a Hopi labyrinth.

The entrance to the park isn’t obvious, and there is no parking lot. We were flagged down by a guide as we circled the roundabout! But once we entered the park, he gave us an extensive tour that included offering us cactus fruit and guavas straight from the tree.

If you’re ever in the Cabo area, be sure to visit Wirikuta Cactus Park. The sheer scope and variety of species is impressive.

See also: Flora’s Farm Fresh Food


Friday, October 5, 2012

Flora's Farm Fresh Food - San Jose del Cabo

Heat still blanketed the uneven pavements and colourful stucco buildings of San José del Cabo as we (my sister, Clare, my brother, Andrew, and his wife, Shelley) headed out of town on palm-tree lined boulevards.

A steep, curving dirt road led us downhill to Flora’s Farm. Bird song punctuates the sweet, fresh air as we are seated in the outdoor restaurant. Our table is directly beside the farm garden, with a border of perennial herbs on the side closest to us and a tall row of palm trees at the far end. An informal arrangement of flowers adds a bright splash of colour to our table, and we’re pleased to find Baja wines on the menu.

Flora’s Farm is a ten-acre organic farm in the foothills of the Sierra de la Laguna Mountains in San Jose del Cabo, Baja California del Sur, Mexico. They grow a huge variety of different herbs and salad greens, raise their own animals and make their own bread. In the busy winter season, visitors can enjoy breakfast, lunch or supper in the restaurant, go on a farm tour or make their own meal from ingredients purchased at the farm market and store. There are cottages so that you can live on the farm – not one’s typical vision of a Cabo holiday.

Flora’s Farm offers a fascinating range of cocktails infused with their own herbs and vegetables. The Farm Julep is made with watermelon water, while the Gardentini combines vodka, thyme and lemon juice. The Cucumber Smash is cucumber, gin and lime.

We chose a bottle of red wine from Casa Baloyán, one of the many excellent wineries in the Guadalupe Valley near Enseñada in north Baja. If you are interested in learning more about this new, relatively undiscovered wine region, I recommend reading Wines of Baja California: Touring and Tasting Mexico’s Undiscovered Treasures by Ralph L. Amey.

 First up was a basket of homemade breads – white, wholewheat and a wonderful olive/nut bread. So good – high quality bread can really set the tone for a meal. We then shared an appetizer, two salads and a main course. The Ricotta Crostini were fragrant with lemon, olive oil and thyme. The Field Greens were a wonderful mix of greens fresh from the garden, including less common varieties, such as purslane and amaranth. But the real hit was the Tomato Panzanella Salad with crunchy chunks of bread, ripe red tomatoes and fresh mint leaves in a mouth-watering dressing rich in extra virgin olive oil.

The main course was spaghetti dressed with 10 different herbs grown on the farm and topped with a fried egg. Simple yet delicious and something that I will try to imitate at home. Our only criticism was that spaghetti was a little boring; Andrew would have preferred a different form of pasta.

One must always leave room for dessert, and we were glad we did. The chocolate cake was rich and moist, but we especially enjoyed the pineapple/mango upside down cake.

The service (in English) was impeccable, and we enjoyed meeting Vanessa Olsen, who I believe is one of the owners/managers. Her enthusiasm for providing customers with fresh, organic, local produce in the farm setting was infectious. We also had a chance to meet some of the 10 rescue dogs who roam the property, and a large butterfly/moth landed on our table while we were eating. (Fortunately, the fan kept the insects and flies away!)

Pablo Oporto’s guitar playing and singing twined its way in and out of our conversation and was totally delightful.

If you are in Cabo San Lucas/San José del Cabo, be sure to visit Flora’s Farm. Let your senses enjoy the sights and flavours of a tropical farm.