Monday, December 31, 2012

Top Ten Books of 2012

It’s a holiday tradition to review the books I’ve read over the past year. Here are my favourites for 2012. (It was a tough choice; when in doubt, I chose books that were less well known.)

I love to travel – both physically and mentally. The following books taught me a great deal about life in other countries.

Dancing in the Fountain: How to enjoy living abroad, Karen McCann
Oh, if only I could move to Sevilla, Spain, and really learn to speak the language and experience the culture like Karen McCann!

Home is a Roof Over a Pig, Aminta Arrington
This book provides an exceptional overview of education (kindergarten and university) in China and the inherent contradictions between what people believe and what they say.

Running Away to Home: Our family’s journey to Croatia in search of who we are, where we came from, and what really matters, Jennifer Wilson
A family lives in a small village in Croatia for a year.


Chasing Chiles: Hot spots along the pepper trail, Kurt Michael Friese, Kraig Kraft, Gary Paul Nabhan
A fascinating account of chile peppers – where they are grown, where they came from and how climate change is affecting chile farming. This book is of particular interest to Slow Food members.

My Berlin Kitchen: A love story (with recipes), Luisa Weiss
A book for everyone who is unsure of where they want to live or who they are meant to be – plus lots of recipes.

Food and the City: Urban agriculture and the new food revolution, Jennifer Cockrall-King
A number of books have been published recently about urban farming; this one is particularly good. Based in Canada, Jennifer takes us on a tour of urban farms around the world. (Jennifer is a Slow Food member.)


The View from Lazy Point: A natural year in an unnatural world, Carl Safina
Safina travels north, south, east and west from his home on Long Island to determine the state of the world’s oceans and lands. There’s hope as well as concern, and his poetic writing does a wonderful job of describing places and people.

Chasing Wildflowers: A mad search for wild gardens, Scott Calhoun
Calhoun hits the road in search of wildflowers in bloom – from Mexico to California. The photographs and text do an excellent job of encouraging readers to share his passion.

Business & Communications

Winning the Story Wars: Why those who tell (and live) the best stories will rule the future, Jonah Sachs
This book has inspired me to change the way I communicate in order to effectively share values as well as information – a must-read for communications professionals and non-profits.

Bright Lights, No City: An African adventure on bad roads with a brother and a very weird business plan, Max Alexander
Max Alexander’s brother believed that Africa needed successful businesses, not charity – and he set out to prove it. Read this book if you are an entrepreneur or social activist or interested in Africa.

Christmas Bonus 
I’ve been reading these books over the holidays. They are still so fresh that I’m not sure if they fit within my top 10, but they are certainly worth reading.

Owls and Other Fantasies and Blue Iris, Mary Oliver
Oliver’s nature poetry paints pictures in words and always delights me. For example, she describes a heron as “an old Chinese poet, hunched in the white gown of his wings.” These short books are compilations of some of her best poems about birds and plants.

The Old Ways: A journey on foot, Robert Macfarlane
Macfarlane brings to readers’ attention the web of paths that cover the globe. “As I walk paths I often wonder about their origins, the impulses that have led to their creation, the records they yield of customary journey, and the secrets they keep of adventures, meetings and departures,” he says. The book is a meditative, philosophical account of some of his walks.

See also: Outstanding Books of 2011

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Axon Slow Food Tapas Party

“Slow food is real food,” says Mike McKeown of Prairie Harvest Café. Rather than mass-produced food that has been transported thousands of miles and contains unpronounceable chemicals and preservatives, I eat Wally’s carrots, Michelle’s macarons and Trent’s bread.

My brother, Andrew, and his wife, Shelley, share my appreciation for high-quality, local, organic food, so we decided to host a Slow Food Tapas Party for the staff of Andrew’s company, Axon Development Corporation. We had so much fun, and the food and drink were both beautiful and tasty. Here are some of the highlights.

Many hands made quick work of the set up and preparation. Shelley did an amazing job of cooking and organizing, and we’d never have been ready on time without help from Jennie.

Saskatchewan grains and pulses: Shelley made Wild Rice Balls and Hemp, Lentil and Flax Cookies. We served bite-sized portions of Wheat Berry Salad, and there were four varieties of bread from Earth Bound Bakery: Red Fife Sourdough, Hemp and Sesame, Date and Fennel, and French Baguettes. We also served three kinds of hummus.

Saskatchewan fruit and berries: Tiny Flax Pancakes were topped with Sour Cherry and Raspberry sauces. The chocolate bars and Wheat Berry Salad contained Seabuckthorn Berries. We also had various fruit vinegars and chutneys.

I’m a cheese fanatic so I’m thrilled to now be able to purchase locally-made cheese. We served four kinds of cheese from Herschel Hills Artisan Cheese House: Feta, Halloumi, Goat and Camembert.

Floating Gardens’ year-round greenhouse has expanded the season for fresh vegetables. I love their cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, fresh greens and herbs, and the edible flowers add a touch of class.

Many people aren’t aware that carrots come in a variety of colours and shapes, each with their own particular flavour and texture. One woman was sure that we had dyed them. But no, they are all grown locally by Wally Satzewich.

Michelle Zimmer of Wild Serendipity Foods went to France to learn how to make macarons. We haven’t found anyone else who makes them as well as she does.

A party wouldn’t be complete without beverages and ours were as local as possible with fruit wines from Living Sky Winery, liqueurs from Lucky Bastard Distillery, and four kinds of beer from Paddock Wood Brewery. We served wines from British Columbia, Oregon and California, plus an organic wine from Argentina. We also had non-alcoholic fruit ciders.

We purchased nearly all the food at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market, SaskMade Marketplace, Earth Bound Bakery and Dad’s Organic Market. It would be unmanageable to include a list of all the products and their sources, but I’ll be happy to answer requests for additional information.

Photo Credits: Andrew McKinlay

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

An Oasis of Good Food on 20th Street

As Saskatoon grew, the large supermarkets moved out to the suburbs, leaving older neighbourhoods, such as Riversdale, without a grocery store. For 13 years, local residents, who often didn’t own a car, didn’t have easy access to fresh fruit and vegetables.

Good Food Junction: Fresh Fruit and Vegetables 

That’s no longer the case. Good Food Junction opened in September 2012, and the first thing you see when you enter the store is a display of fresh fruit and vegetables.

It’s not a big grocery store, but it has an ample supply of local vegetables (carrots, potatoes, beets, cabbage from the Milden Hutterite Colony), fresh bread made by local youth at Three Sisters/Nestor’s Bakery, a dairy and a meat section, as well as a variety of dried goods.

“Gene Dupuis, the owner of Prairie Meats, is so community-minded – he’s done an awesome job,” says Ralph Winterhalt, the manager of the Good Food Junction. “He vacuum packs all our meat so that it will have a longer shelf life.”

Good Food Junction is very much a part of the local neighbourhood. They supply Root Down Workers’ Cooperative as well as a local day care and many other community organizations. Ralph also hires local residents as much as possible.

The Good Food Junction operates very much like any other local neighbourhood grocery store, but there is one significant difference. They do their best not to sell any addictive products, such as tobacco or lottery tickets.

Apart from this one restriction, customers are encouraged to fill in a request sheet at the tills or let Ralph know if they don’t see what they are looking for. “We’ve brought in products like feta cheese, unsweetened soy milk and gluten-free rice flour at customer’s request,” says Ralph. “We’ll try and meet every request, within reason as we only have limited space.”

Ralph used to own Ralph’s Confectionaries, and he built four out of five of the stores from the ground up, so he knows his way around establishing a business. He’s also a long-time supporter of Station 20 West. Starting out as a volunteer on the advisory board, Ralph went on to become the Business Development Manager for the Good Food Junction, Project Manager for Station 20 West, and now Manager of the Good Food Junction.


I hadn’t realized that there would be a restaurant at Station 20 West until I met Roman Goodheart, the chef and manager, at a Slow Food Saskatoon event, and he invited me to drop by and visit.

The CHEP Café offers healthy, affordable food that local people will enjoy eating. They hire entry-level workers, providing them with the training they will need to apply for work in the food industry.

As CHEP Good Food Inc.’s first social enterprise initiative, the café has a triple bottom line. Their success will be judged based on their social and environmental achievements as well as their economic success.

It’s a simple menu but tasty with fresh soup and sandwiches daily and a variety of salads, cookies and muffins.

We sampled the black bean and fresh veggie sandwich, and it was delicious.

The soups are packed with vegetables, and the baking is made with 50% whole wheat flour. Soup is $3.00 while wraps are $6.50 (Black Bean, Roasted Corn and Salsa or Fresh Veggie & Goat Cheese). Cookies are only $1.00.

Roman hopes that catering will eventually contribute 70% of sales in order to help cover the costs.

There are 22 seats in the restaurant which has large windows overlooking 20th Street. Artwork will be provided by the artists who participate in CHEP’s Art Auction.

Station 20 West has a zero waste policy, so the restaurant has recycling bins for cans, plastic, trash and organic waste.

“We’re using biodegradable products even though they’re more expensive,” explains Roman. “But we still don’t want them to end up in the landfill. We plan to shred them and add them to the garden compost.”

CHEP supports Saskatoon’s community gardens, and they just started a new one at Station 20 West last summer. Roman hopes that it will become a production-oriented garden so that he can use the fresh produce in the Café and teach kids how to garden.

Be sure to visit Saskatoon’s healthy food oasis on 20th Street. Enjoy a tasty lunch in the restaurant before picking up a few groceries in the Good Food Junction. You’ll be greeted with good food and smiles.

Photo Credit: Shelley Ballard McKinlay

Monday, December 17, 2012

Flavourful Saskatoon, December 17, 2012

Prairie Pie Co.’s Home Baked Oatmeal
My go-to breakfast at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market is home baked oatmeal topped with fruit and cream from the Prairie Pie Co. It’s healthy and delicious – the perfect way to start the day. And now I can enjoy it at home as well. Mary Uzelman and her sister, Cindy Placatka, are selling ready-to-serve baked oatmeal in two flavours – Tart Cherry & Almond or Saskatoon Berry. Yum!

A New Look for City Perks
City Perks on 7th Avenue starts renovating their space on December 27. They’re finding a little more room for customers and redesigning the kitchen to make it more convenient. Their designer is Jacqueline Neusch from Sew Chic Eco Décor. I spoke to Jacqueline last year about her environmentally-friendly design practices, working with refurbished, repurposed, and sustainable furnishings.

Great Tea, Great Service
I’ve been purchasing loose leaf tea online from Camellia Sinensis Tea House in Montreal for a number of years. They have a very large collection of teas to choose from – I know of no one else who offers so many different varieties of oolong.

They travel to Asia each year to visit the farmers and source the teas that they will offer for sale. Many of the suppliers are small, often organic, farmers and Camellia’s blog introduces the farmers and their land, creating a personal connection between the grower and the consumer.

In addition to flavourful tea, Camellia Sinensis provides outstanding service. When I opened my most recent purchase, I found that they had included a pretty little tin of Puer Langhe from Vietnam. I’ve been wanting to try Puer tea – and now I can.

Cake Witch Café, Dec. 21
The Cake Witch Café (3008 5th Street, Rosthern) is holding a Last Minute Stocking Stuffer Bake Sale on Friday, December 21 from 3-8 pm.

2013, International Year of Quinoa
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization has designated 2013 as the International Year of Quinoa. Two filmmakers, Michael Wilcox and Stefan Jeremiah, headed to Bolivia to find out why such a tiny grain merits world-wide attention. Here’s a promo for their documentary, The Mother Grain. (via The Huffington Post)

Eat Orange
US researchers have found that women with the highest levels of carotenoids in their blood had the lowest risk of breast cancer. So folks, let’s eat lots and lots of carrots and oranges and sweet potatoes!

True Food
If you’re looking for ideas on how to eat more healthily, check out True Food: Seasonal, Sustainable, Simple, Pure by Andrew Weil, Sam Fox and Michael Stebner.

The book combines recipes and essays to help you prepare food that tastes delicious and promotes well-being. (via Shelley – thanks!)

My Berlin Kitchen
I am thoroughly enjoying reading My Berlin Kitchen by Luisa Weiss. Torn between her roots in Berlin and New York, she cooks her way to happiness, finding love along the way. If you’ve ever felt confused and out of place, you’ll cheer for Luisa as she finds her place in the world. Lots of recipes too!

Merry Christmas!
I’m taking some time off over the holidays. Flavourful Saskatoon will be back again on Monday, January 7.

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, December 10, 2012

Flavourful Saskatoon, December 10, 2012

Ingredients Artisan Market 

I visited Ingredients Artisan Market at the north end of Earl’s on Saturday and fell in love – big windows, classy décor, wine tasting, deli with cheese and fresh products, an Italian espresso machine, bread from Christie’s, and lots of intriguing products from around the world (English crisps, Tahitian vanilla extract, tipsy olives, chocolates). I’ll be going back very soon for a more extensive visit.

Sunday Brunch at Root Down
The Root Down Workers’ Cooperative is now serving Sunday brunch (Belgian waffles, burritos, tofu scramble, paddy cakes and more). Sounds delicious!

Life, Legumes & Pursuit of Nitrogen, Dec. 13
Saskatchewan is the world’s largest exporter of lentils, and commercial lentil varieties bred at the U of S account for a third of global production. Best of all, lentils and other legumes add nitrogen to the soil where it can be used by other plants. Bert Vandenberg, NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Lentil Genetic Improvement, U of S, will talk about the importance of legumes in the wider ecosystem and the ecological virtues of pulse crops at the Saskatoon Nature Society’s meeting – 7:30 pm, December 13, Room 106, Biology Building, U of S.

Holiday Lunch Buffet, Dec. 14 
Garlic Guru, Riverbend Plantation and Wild Cuisine are offering a Holiday Lunch Buffet on Friday, December 14, from 12 to 2 pm. The menu includes Roasted Red & White Onion Soup, Fig & Apple Salad, Turkey, Wild Cajun Roasted Root Vegetables and assorted desserts.

Wild Cuisine, Dec. 16
Wild Cuisine Eats is holding its grand opening on Sunday, December 16, at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market. They’ll debut their new Bagel Bison Breakfast Sandwich. There will be free Honey Whiskey Duck Wings and a chance to enter a draw for a catered private dinner.

Body Butter Café 
Body Butter Café is selling soap made from Paddock Wood beer – sounds like a great stocking stuffer. Body Butter Café bath and body products are available at Mother’s Melody and Positive Passions.

Petrofka Bridge Orchard
Petrofka Bridge Orchard is for sale. I hope it goes to good owners who maintain and expand the fine traditions established by Mike and Anne Noel.

Herschel Hills Artisan Cheese House is selling cajeta, a rich caramel sauce. I drizzled it on plain Greek yogurt – yum!

Flour – So Many Options
Steep Hill Food Co-op is selling almond, sorghum, chickpea, barley, oat, unbleached, stoneground wheat, rye, buckwheat, spelt, kamut, gluten, coconut and arrowroot flour.

Books about food make a great Christmas present.

Foodshed: An Edible Alberta Alphabet by dee Hobsbawn-Smith is the winner of the Best Food Literature (Canada-English) at the 2012 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.

Taste: Seasonal Dishes from a Prairie Table by CJ Katz won Best First Cookbook (Canada-English).

Amy Jo Ehman offers additional suggestions on her blog, Home For Dinner.

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, December 3, 2012

Flavourful Saskatoon, December 3, 2012

Just Ginger 
Just Ginger is right beside the door as you enter the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market.

The vendor has an amazing collection of preserves made with ginger – candied apple ginger jam, ginger seabuckthorn syrup, garlic ‘n chili sauce, raw pickled ginger and candied ginger (with and without seabuckthorn) and more. I really like the chutney.

Eagle Hill Foods
Shelley, my sister in law, visited Sun Dog Craft Fair this past weekend and brought back some Eagle Hill Foods chocolates. They were delicious! Each large square was filled with a fruity mixture of saskatoons and cherries (with a little sugar, corn starch and rice krispies).

Eagle Hill Food also sells fruit toppings, cherry juice and iced teas. All their products will be available at the Little Corner Store at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market; some are available at SaskMade Marketplace and Nutters.

Herschel Hills Artisan Cheese
I am delighted by the variety of different cheeses that are now available from Herschel Hills Artisan Cheese House. The Truffle Camembert is one of my favourites, but I also enjoy the chunks of feta, and I’ve heard that the fresh goat cheese topped with red pepper jelly is also excellent.

Don’t miss their booth at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market on Saturdays and Sundays – there are always lots of samples.

Saskatoon Farmers’ Market, Dec. 8 and 19
There will be Christmas celebrations at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market on both Saturday, December 8, between 11 and 1 and on Wednesday, December 19, from 3-7.

State & Main, Dec. 5 
State & Main, a small Alberta chain of restaurants, opens in Saskatoon on Wednesday. They’re across the street from Persephone’s Remai Theatre and have an outdoor patio that should be great once summer rolls round again. There are a few vegetarian options (veggie burger, flatbreads, appetizers), and you should be able to find gluten-free options. Menus are location-specific, so be sure to look at the Saskatoon menu.

Cake Witch, Dec. 6
Are any of you familiar with Barbara Harder-Lutz, the Cake Witch, who sells German-style cakes at the Wednesday market at the Refinery/St. James? They sound really good (German Chocolate-Vanilla Marble Bundt Cake, Black Forest Biscotti, Linzer Stars, and more!) and I’m eager to try them, particularly as she plans to open a bakery in Rosthern.

You can check out the Cake Witch Café (3008 5th Street, Rosthern) on December 6 from 3-8 pm when Barbara is hosting a Nikolaus Day Christmas Craft Fair with music, crafts, artists, authors and fresh German Christmas baking).

The Griffin Takeaway
In addition to a wide variety of gluten-free baked goods, The Griffin Takeaway, located next to JYSK on 8th Street East, has some really tasty sandwich options. The Avocado and Artichoke sandwich is stuffed with big, fat chunks of artichoke – perfect for artichoke fanatics like me. I also really like the Olive & Goat Cheese sandwich, and I’m looking forward to trying their Jacket Potatoes with a variety of different toppings.

Vancouver Food Strategy
Vancouver’s new food strategy will go before city council in late January 2013. Vancouver’s urban farm land has quadrupled in the last 2 years, and Alterrus Systems harvested their first crop on the roof of a downtown parkade in November. The new strategy focuses on improving food access in low-income neighbourhoods and expanding urban farming initiatives.

Organic Food Certification
The PLU code used by most produce distributors contains some useful information. If the code begins with a 9, you know the produce is organic. A number 8 prefix, less common, means that it’s genetically engineered. (via Isobel - thank you!)

Unfortunately, Canada’s organic food certification may not be too reliable. A recent article in The National Post questions whether there is adequate testing before crops and livestock are certified organic.

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.