Monday, January 30, 2012

Flavourful Saskatoon, January 30, 2012

Foodie news and events in and around Saskatoon – February brings apples, heart-shaped cookies, Townsite beer, and plans for a local bounty store in Prince Albert

Irish Music Night, Museo, February 1
Museo Coffee hosts Comholtas, Saskatoon’s Irish folk session music club on the first Wednesday of every month from 6:45-8:45 pm. You’re invited to come and enjoy the music and the locally-roasted coffee – there’s no cover charge.

February is Apple Month
The BC Tree Fruits Association was formed 75 years ago. In February, they celebrate National Apple Month to promote locally-grown fruit. Check out the association’s website. I particularly liked the section showing all the different apple varieties that are grown in BC. They also have lots of recipes – from Caesar Apple Salad to Peanut Butter Apple Crumble. While you’re cooking, your children can decorate an apple, upload the photograph and enter the Artful Apple contest. The winner will receive an Okanagan vacation package for four.

Apples can be found even closer to home in Saskatchewan. Have you tried the apple chips, apple juice, or apple cider vinegar from Petrofka Bridge Orchard? And be on the lookout for a new producer – Creekside Orchard in Melfort.

Valentine Treats
I’m sure there will be an abundance of edible treats for Valentine’s Day. Here are the first few that have come to my attention:

Effective February 1, Crave Cookies and Cupcakes will have chocolate cherry cake topped with dark chocolate ganache infused with kirsch. Or you can pre-order heart-shaped sugar cookies with the message of your choice.

Prairie Ink Restaurant (McNally Robinson Booksellers), is hosting a Valentine’s Day Dinner on Tuesday, February 14. There are vegetarian appetizer options as well as vegetable lasagna as a main course.

Souleio is offering a five-course dinner; a vegetarian option is available. Both dinners require reservations.

Local Bounty Store in Prince Albert
Karen Cay, a Prince Albert resident, has organized a potluck on February 26 at 12 noon at the Prince Albert Arts Centre to find out whether the community would be interested in forming a co-operative local bounty grocery store. Her goal is to provide residents with easy access to local produce in one location. She would like to have a certified kitchen in the back for preserving.

Townsite Brewing
Chloe Smith and Cedric Dauchot were brewing some great beer in Saskatoon last year. They moved to Powell River, BC, this summer and Cedric is now the brewmaster for a brand-new micro brewery – Townsite Brewing. They expect to start selling their first brews at the end of February. I really hope some of them make their way to Saskatoon!

Sea Buckthorn Berries
Did you catch my article about sea buckthorn products from Northern Vigor Berries? If not, here’s the link. I really enjoy this local fruit with a tropical flavour – and it’s really healthy.

It’s Our Choice: People-Friendly Urban Design
Food isn’t the only topic I’m passionate about – urban planning really matters! Take a look at my article about the choices Saskatoon faces as it evolves.

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, January 25, 2012

Sea Buckthorn: Superfruit from Northern Vigor Berries

It’s winter, and I’m longing for fruit, but I’m trying to buy as many local foods as possible so pineapples and mangoes are out of the question.

Not to worry! I’ve found a new favourite that combines a tart, slightly tropical flavour with a heaping serving of health-giving vitamins and anti-oxidants. And it’s grown in Saskatchewan.

Sea Buckthorn Berries
Sea buckthorn is a deciduous shrub that was originally grown in Europe and Asia. It doesn’t mind a cold climate or poor soil, so it’s found at the foot of the Himalaya, in Siberia – and on the Canadian Prairies.

Sea buckthorn has a long and storied history. Ghengis Khan is said to have fed sea buckthorn berries to his army and the leaves to his horses to keep both healthy and strong prior to battle. Tibetan medicinal texts from as early as 600 A.D. refer to the herbal remedies made of sea buckthorn for skin and digestive disorders.

The tradition continues. The Indian Department of Defence recently sponsored a conference on sea buckthorn. They use sea buckthorn in a wide variety of food products – juices, jams, teas and baked goods – to boost the soldiers’ immunity. Clinical trials have shown that the leaves reduce the soldiers’ stress levels and help them to withstand the high altitude and low temperatures in areas such as the Himalaya.

Northern Vigor Berries
Sea buckthorn products are sold at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market by Northern Vigor Berries, a local family business.

The Strelioff family purchased a farm near Verigin, Saskatchewan, in the late ‘60s. It had been farmed traditionally, but Georg Strelioff switched to growing alfalfa. He used no chemicals and raised alfalfa leafcutter bees to pollinate the crop. He decided to plant an orchard of sea buckthorn in 1998.

“My stepfather is never afraid of a new venture,” says Betty Forbes, President of Northern Vigor. “When he heard about the tremendous nutritional value of sea buckthorn, he was eager to try this new crop.” Along with Betty’s brother, Gregory Bloodoff, they have cared for the crop ever since.

Superfruit
Sea buckthorn is a nutritional powerhouse, containing up to 190 bioactive components. It is rich in vitamins C, E and K; carotenoids; antioxidants; and omegas 3, 6 and 7.

In addition, all parts of the plant can be used. The berries can be served whole or made into juice. The leaves can be steeped to make tea. The branches and fruit pulp can be used as animal fodder.

Russian cosmonauts used sea buckthorn cream to protect themselves from cosmic radiation, and the oil has been applied topically to treat a variety of skin problems, including burns, eczema and poorly-healing wounds. The bark is used in a number of pharmaceuticals.

Growing and Harvesting Sea Buckthorn
Sea buckthorn is a tall (6-13 feet), hardy bush. As long as there is good drainage, it grows readily and has an extensive root system that fixes nitrogen. It sends out suckers, which could be a problem, but Betty Forbes says that they can be transplanted, thereby avoiding the cost of purchasing additional bushes.

The biggest challenge comes when farmers want to harvest the fruit. The berries are tightly packed around the branches and are surrounded by thorns. “The long thorns are very dangerous,” Betty says. “We have to wear protective clothing and even the toughest gloves will only last a few days.”

The branches are cut and put into reefer trucks operating at minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit. “They have to be kept really cold because of the high oil content (e.g. omegas 3, 6 and 7) in the berries,” Betty explains. The fruit is then taken to a central cleaning facility where it is cleaned and packaged.

Fruit Products
Northern Vigor sells a number of different products. You can purchase frozen berries, frozen or freeze-dried berry purée, tea, fruit leather, or gelato. I’ve been enjoying the berries in my breakfast cereal. The tiny seed adds a little crunch, and Betty says it’s very nutritious. My sister in law is planning to make an apple-berry crisp.

My next purchase will be a tub of the Outrageous Orange Gelato. It tastes really rich, but it is made with skim milk and is 45% pure fruit.

Local restaurants are using sea buckthorn in a variety of different ways. Calories serves the berries in a martini. Truffles and the Saskatoon Club serve a sea buckthorn sauce on duck or scallops; while Museo Coffee adds the berries to scones and spinach salad. The Willows and The Purple Grape in Regina use the fruit in a vinaigrette.

Retail Outlets
Northern Vigor Berries products are currently only available at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market, but they will soon be available at SaskMade Marketplace in Saskatoon and at Dad’s Organic Market in both Saskatoon and Regina.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Flavourful Saskatoon, January 23, 2012

Foodie news and events in and around Saskatoon – Chef Anthony heads to Nationals, Griffin Takeaway, Slow Food Canada, SPIN Farming and more

Warm the Heart Soup Cook-off, January 29/February 1
Enjoy a bowl of soup and support the Heart and Stroke Foundation during WinterShines by sampling the soups of some of Saskatoon’s most talented chefs.

At noon on Sunday, January 29, beginner chefs will compete against each other for the honour of moving on to the Warm the Heart Cook-off at 5:30 pm on Wednesday, February 1. Both events will be held at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market. Pay $5 for soup and bread or $10 for soup, bread and a glass of wine.

Michelle Zimmer of Wild Serendipity Foods has entered her Thai Carrot Coconut Soup in the January 29 competition. Good luck, Michelle! We love your soups as well as your scones and macarons.

Gold Medal Plates Preview Dinner, February 3
Chef Anthony McCarthy, the gold prize winner at the 2011 Saskatchewan Gold Medal Plates, will be competing in the national championship in Kelowna on February 11.

You can preview his dish as part of a four-course dinner at the Saskatoon Club at 6:30 pm on February 3. Tickets are $50 and can be obtained by emailing Chef Anthony at anthonym@saskatoonclub.com or by calling 652-1780. A portion of the proceeds will go towards covering the team’s travel costs.

Slow Food Canada, May 3-6, Edmonton
The Edmonton Convivium will be hosting the national meeting of Slow Food Canada from May 3-6. Valerie Lugonja, the Conference Chair, assures me that there will be plenty of fun activities in additions to the meetings, including a farm tour, a farmer’s market tour, an 8-course regional meal, and a tour of Fort Edmonton.

It would be great to have some Saskatoon representatives at the meeting to gather information for setting up a local Slow Food Convivium. Contact Valerie@slowfoodedmonton.ca for further information.

Griffin Takeaway
Griffin Takeaway has just opened at #10-3311 8th Street East (beside Jysk), so we had to check it out. The owner, Nicole Barr, is a vegetarian and is highlighting dishes that are vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free.

The single-serving pudding cups caught my eye as I hadn’t seen anything similar elsewhere. The lemon curd was tart and refreshing and disappeared all too fast. The creamy goat cheese balanced the powerful olive tapenade in my sandwich – a very good choice if you love cheese and olives.

Griffin Takeaway is open Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 7 pm.

Three Sisters/Nestor’s Bakery
Three Sisters at Nestor’s Bakery continues to add to its products. You can now purchase homemade noodles (in various shapes and sizes) as well as locally-grown wheat – not to mention fabulous jams, jellies and granola from Fruition Orchard.

Wally’s Urban Market Garden
Urban farming has tremendous potential as a source of local food and local jobs.

Wally Satzewich and Gail Vandersteen, the owners of Wally’s Urban Market Garden, have been growing and selling vegetables at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market for over 20 years. They grow their crops on small garden plots in and around Saskatoon.

“We need to redefine what it means to be a farmer,” Wally says. “You can be a farmer even though you’re small. You don’t have to own a large, sprawling farm.”

My interview with Wally, one of the founders of Small Plot Intensive (SPIN) Farming, is on the EcoFriendly Sask website.

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, January 18, 2012

Agrium Market Kitchen

The Saskatoon Farmers’ Market proudly opened the Agrium Market Kitchen this past week.

The sale of local food products is now complemented by cooking classes, dinners, and demonstrations.

The kitchen is also available to local individuals or groups who want to host their own event or prepare foods that require a licensed commercial kitchen.

Sponsors
Agrium Potash Vanscoy gave the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market $25,000 towards the construction of the kitchen and an outdoor patio (much-needed seating on busy Market days). Agrium says that they are pleased to help the Market as they feel it’s a good fit with their work with local farmers and agriculture.

A number of other local businesses also stepped forward to help make the Market Kitchen a reality. They are: Beehive Flooring, FloForm Countertops, Krazy Kiley’s Audiotronic, Riversdale Mechanical, Samsung, and Saskatoon Appliance.

Executive Chef Dinners
The Saskatoon Farmers’ Market will be holding a series of Executive Chef Dinners, prepared by some of Saskatoon’s finest chefs, on a monthly basis from January to May. All five of the chefs have been Saskatchewan Gold Medal Plate contenders.

The first event is on Thursday, January 19, with Chef Anthony McCarthy, who won the gold medal at the 2011 Saskatchewan Gold Medal Plates. The five-course meal includes a soup, salad, appetizer, entrée and dessert. Tickets are still available.

Further dinners are planned for February 16 (Chef Brent Lloyd), March 15 (Chef Ryan Marquis), April 19 (Chef Trevor Robertson), and May 17 (Chef Mike McKeown).

Cooking Classes
The Market also hopes to host cooking classes with plans already in the works for a Mexican cooking class with Linda Ortiz who sells fresh tortillas and salsas at the Market.

Kitchen Bookings
The Agrium Kitchen Rules and Rental Rates provide the information you will need to book the kitchen.

For further information, email Judy Thiesson, the Market’s Events/Kitchen Organizer.

Photos
Chefs Mike McKeown and Joel Hassler, Prairie Harvest Café , prepare hors d’oeuvres for Agrium Market Kitchen’s Grand Opening

Quesadillas prepared by Linda Ortiz

Monday, January 16, 2012

Flavourful Saskatoon, January 16, 2012

Foodie news and events in and around Saskatoon – Symphony Scotch, Station 20 West Gala, PA Cooking Classes, Gourmet Products & Gooey Buns

Explore Mediterranean Spain, January 20
Join me on Friday, January 20 at 2 pm in the Frances Morrison Library Auditorium (main downtown branch) for a trip to sunny Spain. My slideshow presentation moves beyond the beaches of Mediterranean Spain to visit local markets, Roman ruins, palm tree gardens, and Gaudi architecture.

Gluten-Free Food Fair, January 22
There will be a Gluten-Free Food Fair at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market on Sunday, January 22 from 5-8 pm. The cost is $2.00 per plate. This is a fundraiser for the Saskatoon Celiac Association.

Scotch Fest, January 27 & 28
Support the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra and enjoy a blind tasting of some of the world’s finest scotches, accompanied by hors d’oeuvres, and with entertainment by orchestra musicians at Scotch Fest.

The tasting will be led by experts from Cava Wine & Spirits, and you can choose to attend on either Friday, January 27, or Saturday, January 28, from 7-9 pm. Tickets are available online at picatic.com or by calling 665-6414/652-2240.

Chefs' Gala Dinner, February 11
The Saskatoon Chefs' Association will be hosting its third annual Chefs’ Gala Dinner on February 11 at Prairieland Park. The menu will feature local and Canadian food and wine. Funds raised will go to Station 20 West. Tickets are available on online from Station 20 West.

Gourmet Products, Simon’s Fine Foods
Simon’s Fine Foods will be stocking a small range of gourmet products, including sweet and hot smoked paprika; green and black olive tapenade; preserved lemons; white, purple fig & Seville orange balsamic vinegar; basil infused olive oil; Royal Belgian preserves (e.g. blood orange, wild lemon); and 00 pasta flour.

Contact Simon if you would like a full list with prices and to pre-order. He’ll be placing an order on February 17.

Prairie Pie Company
Mary Uzelman and Kevin Porfoun, Prairie Pie Company, deliver smiles and friendly greetings along with pie, muffins and coffee at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market.

I stop by regularly to pick up one of Mary’s individual pies – both the lentil and mushroom-spinach-feta are great supper options during the week.

Mary is always trying out new recipe ideas. This month she has some wonderfully gooey lemon buns with lemon in the filling and in the cream cheese icing. Or, if you’re looking for something a little more “healthy” for breakfast, try the baked oatmeal with fruit topping – it’s delicious too.

Two by Dahlsjo, Prince Albert
Chef Kevin Dahlsjo of Two by Dahlsjo is now offering private and public cooking classes in Prince Albert. Start the evening with a glass of champagne and antipasto and finish it off with a chef’s dessert. The next open class on February 20 will feature tapas.

Two by Dahlsjo now offers a four-course table d’hôte, which combines set items with your choice of a main course.

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

Follow me on Twitter or subscribe to Wanderlust and Words by email (top right-hand corner).

See also:
Delicious local ingredients and vegetarian options at Saskatoon’s newest restaurant, Prairie Harvest Café

Photos: Mary Uzelman and the Prairie Pie Company

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Prairie Harvest Café


Prairie Harvest Café, Saskatoon’s newest restaurant, features comfort food, lovingly prepared from scratch using as many local ingredients as possible. And it tastes great!

Chef and co-owner Mike McKeown has been a part of Saskatchewan’s food and catering industry for over a decade. Working in remote fishing camps, Mike relied on an airplane to drop off supplies. “It really makes you think on your feet as you have to work with whatever is available,” Mike says.

More recently, Mike has been selling ready-made meals at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market, so he is well acquainted with the local food producers.

Slow Food
Prairie Harvest Café will serve the kind of food that Mike and his co-chef, Joel Hassler, like to eat. “It’s food with a lot of time and love put into it, but entirely accessible to the customer,” Mike says. “In Saskatchewan, we are also very lucky to have access to so many local grains, legumes and root vegetables. It will be a lot of fun to explore the landscape with the menu and hopefully come up with some really neat dishes.”

Mike says he always has maple syrup, mustard powder, lentils, kosher salt, and cabbage (“a very versatile vegetable, especially useful in the winter months”) on hand. They’re all ingredients that are readily available when we cook at home, but they’re transformed into something special at Prairie Harvest Café.

Menu
Prairie Harvest Café is open for both lunch and dinner. The lunch menu includes various burgers, including a vegetable and lentil patty. Mike is excited to see the reaction to the turducken burger. “I think it is an entirely unique dish. We have taken the three meats (duck, turkey, chicken) off the bone and ground it ourselves,” he says.

Mike’s sister in law is vegan, which has motivated him to learn more about vegetarian/vegan cooking. As a result, Prairie Harvest Café is one of the best vegetarian options in Saskatoon.

At the slow opening this past weekend, we sampled three vegetarian appetizers, two mains (including a vegan stew), and two desserts, and the chefs promise to have a vegan dessert by opening night.

My personal favourites were the three appetizers. The perogies stuffed with chanterelle mushrooms, aged cheddar and squash served with house-made crème fraîche and caramelized onions would make an excellent main course. We also really enjoyed the fritters, hemp and flax crackers, beet and potato chips (all house-made) served with either warm goat cheese and veggie relish or eggplant and chickpea hummus.

The pumpkin and parmesan fettucini was delicious, and the coleslaw was one of the best I’ve tasted with lots of crunch and a tangy, apple flavour. The vegan stew with root vegetables cooked in Paddock Wood beer is a great idea and I loved the wild mushrooms, but I would have found it more enjoyable if it hadn’t been quite so strongly flavoured and had had a pastry or shepherd’s pie topping to provide balance.

The pumpkin and spiced rum cheesecake was delicious, and the Bailey’s and coffee crème brulée will be a particular treat for coffee lovers.

Local Ingredients
Look through the menu and you see lots and lots of local ingredients – from lentils, hemp hearts and flax to wild mushrooms, eggplant from Floating Gardens, and locally-grown meat.

Prairie Harvest will be featuring Paddock Wood beer exclusively, with several on tap in the near future. The emphasis will be on Canadian wines, and Mike plans to offer fruit wines from Living Sky Winery.

Teamwork
Prairie Harvest Café is built on long-term friendships. Aaron Wignes, Mike’s partner, has been a friend for almost 20 years. Aaron is a local contractor and took responsibility for the décor.

“Aaron had the vision and ability to get the restaurant to look like we envisioned it,” Mike explains. “I’ve seen a previously unknown interior decorating side of him. He found all the antique tables and chairs on Kijiji and planned the colour scheme.”

Mike’s co-chef is Joel Hassler, whom he has known since Grade 8. “Joel is a very calm and professional presence in the kitchen,” Mike says. “He keeps us organized and can slow it down and keep us focussed.”

They are joined by Scott Wyman as the day chef. “Scott is really in step with our vision and has the experience to fulfill it,” Mike says.

I admired the wait staff, which includes Jill Colby, Lee Jones, and Julia Quigley, who did a great job at the slow opening. The restaurant is full of narrow passageways and awkward corners. This is great for customers as each table has its own private space, but it does make it harder for the staff to move about.

Prairie Harvest Café is located at 2917 Early Drive in Brevoort Park. The official opening is Friday, January 13. Lunch is served from 11 am to 3 pm and dinner from 4 pm until the close. The restaurant will be closed on Sundays and Mondays during the winter months. Reservations can be made online or by calling 242-2928.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Flavourful Saskatoon, January 9, 2012

Foodie news and events in and around Saskatoon – take your pick of a Market dinner, a Chinese New Year celebration, a Robbie Burns supper, and a new Prairie restaurant

Prairie Harvest Café, January 13-14
Prairie Harvest Café will officially open its doors at 2917 Early Drive this coming weekend.

I attended the soft opening this past weekend and was very impressed with the quality of the food and the setting. I’ll be posting a full review later this week.

Executive Chef Dinner, Saskatoon Farmers’ Market, January 19
The Saskatoon Farmers’ Market will be hosting Executive Chef Dinners on the third Thursday of each month from January to May, pairing local chefs with fresh Market ingredients.

Chef Anthony McCarthy, recipient of the Gold medal at the 2011 Saskatchewan Gold Medal Plates competition, will host a 5-course meal with wine pairings on Thursday, January 19. You’ll have a chance to talk with Chef Anthony before dinner. Tickets are $85 and are available online or at the Market office (Tuesday to Friday).

Future dinners will be hosted by Chef Brent Lloyd (February 16) and Chef Mike McKeown (May 17).

Explore Mediterranean Spain, January 20
Join me on Friday, January 20 at 2 pm in the Frances Morrison Library Auditorium (main downtown branch) for a trip to sunny Spain.

My slideshow presentation moves beyond the beaches of Mediterranean Spain to visit a cheese store tucked away in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter, wineries in Jumilla, palm tree gardens in Elche, and chocolate factories in Vilajoyosa – not to mention lots and lots of markets. I hope to see you there.

CFCR Chinese New Year Feast, January 20
CFCR Community Radio is holding its annual Chinese New Year celebration feast on Friday, January 20 at the Mandarin Restaurant. Tickets are $25 and are available from CFCR.

Robbie Burns Supper, January 21
The 96th Highlanders Pipes and Drums and the North Saskatchewan Regiment Pipes and Drums are presenting a Robbie Burns Supper on Saturday, January 21 at St. Patrick Parish, 3339 Centennial Drive. Dinner at 6:30 will be followed by Celtic dancing, pipe bands, and a silent auction.

Wine Fundamentals 1
Cameron Rizos, Managing Partner of Cava Wines & Spirits and an ISG-certified sommelier instructor, will be offering Wine Fundamentals I, the International Sommelier Guild’s (ISG) introductory course. The course offers a basic understanding of the major grapes used for making wine around the world as well as an introduction to fortified and sparkling wines. Register on the ISG website and then contact Cava for further information.

Three Farmers Camelina Oil – New Flavours
Three Farmers has launched two infused camelina oils – Roasted Garlic and Chili and Roasted Onion and Basil. Three Farmers products are available online as well as at various Saskatchewan retailers. I know that SaskMade Marketplace is carrying the new oils.

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

Follow me on Twitter or subscribe to Wanderlust and Words by email (top right-hand corner).

See also:
Cooking up a Storm: Expanding Saskatoon’s Food Culture
Random Acts of Urban Playfulness

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Cooking up a Storm: Expanding Saskatoon's Food Culture

I’ve been dreaming about ways in which Saskatoon can support and expand its local food and culinary enterprises. Here’s my 2012 wish list in no particular order.

Start-up Grants & Resources
New businesses often need help – from drawing up a business plan to renting space in a commercial kitchen to building a production facility. Let’s establish a community platform that links people and resources to culinary entrepreneurs who need help.

Note: The Saskatchewan Food Industry Development Centre does important work, but its focus is limited to developing commercial food products. Similarly, Ideas Inc. is a local business incubator, but it does not have a food focus and lacks a commercial kitchen, which is sorely needed. (This last sentence was added in response to a reader's comment.)

Role Models:
The Toronto Food Business Incubator is a non-profit organization that supports the growth of food industry micro-enterprises. Members have access to business plan analysis and feedback, a fully-equipped commercially-certified kitchen, shared liability insurance, and assistance in migrating to independent facilities.

The Small Change Fund is a Canadian, grant-making micro philanthropy. Grassroots charities submit proposals. Investors choose the projects they want to support (a community orchard management and fruit harvesting program in Toronto, a student-led, school-based food learning project in Kitchener).

Kickstarter is a large American funding platform for creative projects. It supports a wide range of food projects, from chocolate bars to greenhouses to cookbooks.

Promotion & Support Networks
Bakers and chefs are often more at home in the kitchen than out on the street marketing their products. Let’s provide our local culinary entrepreneurs with a marketing network that actively promotes local businesses.

In addition, let’s create a group that supports the work of individual entrepreneurs by providing opportunities for them to share ideas, problems and successes and that creates community support for their activities.

Role Models:
Edmonton’s Live Local is a non-profit organization that encourages people to eat, dine, shop, play and work locally.

Shop Local promotes local, independent businesses through a website, store decals and brochures. Eat Local First connects local farmers with people who love to eat fresh quality food at a reasonable price. Dine Local supports independently-owned restaurants that endorse regional cuisine made with local ingredients.

Slow Food is an international movement dedicated to supporting good, clean, fair food. It recognizes that food is a source of pleasure, community and culture. Local chapters host a variety of events. There are active chapters in British Columbia, Calgary and Edmonton – but none in Saskatchewan or Manitoba.

The Toronto Food Policy Council connects people from the food, farming and community sectors to develop policies and projects that support a health-focused food system. They were a key player in the development of the Toronto food strategy (Cultivating Food Connections: Toward a Healthy and Sustainable Food System for Toronto).

Pop-up Restaurants & Supper Clubs
Variety is the spice of life. One-time-only restaurants or food events introduce local residents to new food ideas and give novice chefs and restaurateurs a chance to spread their wings and establish a reputation.

Role Models:
Saskatoon’s White Birch Catering has hosted pop-up dining events on a farm, in a flower shop and in a heritage building.

The Social Feed organizes dinner parties at local, independent restaurants in a number of Canadian cities. The food is served at large communal tables so you have a chance to meet new people as well as sample a new restaurant’s dishes.

A Txoko is a Basque gastronomical society. Male members come together to experiment with new ways of cooking, eat and socialize. (A Canadian version doesn’t have to be restricted to men!)

Vegetarian Restaurants
I long for the day when Saskatoon has a classy, vegetarian restaurant where vegetables, legumes and grains are the star attractions.

Role Models:
Check out these amazing vegetarian restaurants – I don’t even recognize some of the menu items:

Vanilla Black, England (fried mushroom mousse and pernod pancakes or warm celery pannacotta and blue Wensleydale profiteroles are just two of many mains)

Green Zebra, Chicago (Hen Of The Woods Mushroom Pâté, date mostarda, pumpkin seed brittle or Mustard & Caraway Spaetzle Stroganoff, hon shimeji, smoked cipollinis, dill, crème fraîche)

Millenium, San Francisco (Roasted Winter Squash & Quince Bastilla or Cannellini Runner Bean & Smoked Leek Gratin)

Customer Service Awards
Many young people support their education by working in a restaurant. It’s a stop-gap measure rather than a career choice. And yet good cooks, bar tenders and servers are worth their weight in gold. What can we do to make restaurant work a viable career option? Higher wages would definitely help, but it's not enough on its own. I’m short on solutions – hopefully you can suggest some.

Role Models:
Planet S newspaper asks readers to vote for Best Bartender, Best Barista, Best Server and Best Staff.

I’ve included more foodie daydreams – food truck festivals, progressive transit dinners and urban farms – in Random Acts of Urban Playfulness.

Now it’s your turn. What would you like to see added to Saskatoon’s food scene?

Photos: Barcelona, Alicante, Tarragona

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Random Acts of Urban Playfulness

Cities have personalities. For far too long, Saskatoon’s personality has been somewhat schizophrenic. The riverbank has been a green oasis in the midst of a rather bland city – downtown streets lined with anonymous banks and office buildings and urban highways with generic strip malls and parking lots.

I’ve started a wish list of random acts of urban playfulness – small, defiant gestures to draw people out of their cars and onto the streets of downtown Saskatoon.

Food Trucks and Pop-Up Shops
City Hall is surrounded by green spaces that are hugely under-utilized. Let’s turn them in to people spaces by inviting food trucks and food cart vendors to park beside City Hall with creative, lunch-time offerings.

Let’s hold a food truck festival on a week night with buskers and craft stalls and displays.

Let’s hold an outdoor Christmas market with hot chocolate, music and dancing to keep us warm whatever the temperature.

Let’s set up pop-up shops on vacant lots or coffee shops in parking spaces.

Role Models:
Vancouver has greatly expanded the number and type of food trucks and carts on its streets.


It’s Time to Rethink ‘Temporary,’ a New York Times editorial, provides numerous examples of temporary architecture – from a mobile church in the Netherlands to retail stores in shipping containers on vacant lots. (Photo via The Brooklyn Paper)

Parklets convert parking spaces into mini green spaces and gathering places. It’s a temporary measure that can quickly create people places.

Bus Mall Opera
The discussions around public transit have become monotonous complaints about inadequate service or under-utilization.

Let’s lighten the mood by staging a performance on the bus and in the bus terminals.

Or we could host a progressive dinner and travel from one location to the next by bus.

Role Models:
Opera on the Edmonton LRT

Nashville’s Transit Week Progressive Party

Alleys for People
There are a number of alleys linking 2nd and 3rd Avenue (one beside Souleio, another beside Art Placement). What if we cleaned them up and pedestrianized them?

We’d have space for an art exhibit or a restaurant terrace or a green walkway.

We could invite the public to cover the pavement with colourful chalk drawings.

Face painting and games could turn the space into a children’s playground one afternoon a week.

Role Models:
Vibrant Alleys in California (photo credit: Brian Ulaszewski)

Alleys and Lanes in Melbourne, Australia

Green Roofs and Urban Farming
A bird’s-eye view of downtown Saskatoon is grey and boring. How can we transform roof tops or parking lots or boulevards into green spaces? Can we transform some forgotten corners into urban farms?

Role Models:

Start small! Small places of anarchy in Tokyo

High-tech greenhouse on the roof of a Vancouver parking garage

It’s your turn. What random acts of urban playfulness spark your imagination?

Note: I wrote this article before reading Public Spaces, Activity and Urban Form, Phase I of Saskatoon’s City Centre Plan, and it supports my random ideas. If you haven’t taken a look at this report yet, do. It’s easy to read, lots of visual explanations, and very interesting. Now Saskatoon just needs to follow through on these great ideas.

Next: Cooking up a Storm: Expanding Saskatoon's Food Culture

Monday, January 2, 2012

Flavourful Saskatoon, January 2, 2012

Foodie news and events in and around Saskatoon – from cask ale to perogies, ginger, knitting, and vegan recipes


Saskatoon’s First Cask Ale Event, January 5
Winston’s Pub, in partnership with Paddock Wood Brewing, is hosting a cask ale event on Thursday, January 5. Bagpipers will be piping in the cask at 7 pm to be followed by knocking in the spigot.

Ukrainian Christmas, January 7
Be sure to stop by The Three Sisters at Nestor’s Bakery for some traditional Ukrainian foods to celebrate Ukrainian Christmas on January 7. You can pick up perogies, borscht, Urkrainian bread, poppy seeds, and more.

Earth Bound Bakery, closed January 1-12
Earth Bound Bakery is closed until January 12. How will I manage without my Saturday croissant!

Wild Serendipity Cooking Classes
Michelle Zimmer of Wild Serendipity Foods has posted her Winter 2012 Cooking Classes. The Desserts Only class in May sounds awesome – 5 amazing sweet treats. I recommend signing up immediately as Michelle’s classes fill up fast. I had a great time at the Holiday Appetizers class in November.

City Perks Knitting Group
Novice and experienced knitters are invited to participate in the Friday Night Knitting Group at City Perks coffee shop from 7 to 10 pm.

Just Ginger, Saskatoon Farmers’ Market
If you enjoy ginger, be sure to stop by the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market on a Sunday when Just Ginger will be happy to give you a sample of her many jams and chutneys – all with a splash of ginger.

I picked up two small jars of Gingered Rhubarb, Cranberry ‘n Spice Jam as well as Gingered Cranberry, Pear ‘n Rhubarb Chutney. The ginger adds complexity to the flavour and isn’t overpowering.

Just Ginger will be at the Saturday market if and when space is available.

Brainsport
Did you know that Brainsport (Broadway Avenue) sells a variety of locally-made products, including Choo-It and Genki energy bars (made from prairie-grown lentils)?

Two by Dahlsjo, Prince Albert
Starting in January, Two by Dahlsjo will be hosting a monthly dinner club. Email Chef Kevin (kevin@twobyd.ca) or call the restaurant at 922-2992 for additional information.

Go Vegan! with Sarah Kramer iPhone and iPad app
The Go Vegan! with Sarah Kramer app for the iPhone and iPad includes 60 recipes, videos and audio tips, as well as an emailable shopping list. Sarah Kramer has a vegan curio shop in Victoria, BC. You can download a Vegan Guide to Downtown Victoria from her website.

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.

Photos: Cloister, Tarragona Cathedral, Spain

Sunday, January 1, 2012

My Favourite Books of 2011

It’s a holiday tradition to review the books I’ve read over the past year. Here are my favourites for 2011:

Nature
Bees: Nature’s Little Wonders by Candace Savage
The mix of graphics, myth, history and science was entrancing.

Travel
A disturbing look at the lives of women in Egypt - they are so constrained by societal, male rules.

Catfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Voyage through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam, Andrew Pham
How do people survive in a country that has been ravaged by war and occupation for generations? Pham, whose family escaped to the United States, returns and experiences the conflict between his American values and beliefs and his family ties to Vietnam.

The Woman who fell from the Sky: An American Woman’s Adventures in the Oldest City on Earth, Jennifer Steil
Steil is an American journalist who moves to Yemen as editor of a local newspaper – an informative look at Yemen and journalism in a small Arab country.

Communications
I am a freelance communications specialist. These are the books that were particularly helpful to me professionally in the past year.

Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers, Dave Gray, Sunni Brown and James Macanufo
I used some of the 80 games in this book while facilitating a two-day communications workshop. They were a useful tool for stimulating discussion and creative thinking.

Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness: The Science, Design, and Engineering of Contagious Ideas, Dan Zarrella
Zarrella's latest book provides practical tips, based on scientific research, for increasing your effectiveness on social media.

McGovern stresses the importance of making it easy for readers to find the information they are looking for on your website.

How you present your information is so important. The way the words are organized on the page affects the way they are perceived. If this topic interests you, check out my slideshow on Elegant Simplicity.

Food and Wine
Chocolate Chocolate: A True Story of Two Sisters, Ton of Treats, and the Little Shop that Could, Frances Park and Ginger Park
Chocoholics will enjoy reading about two sisters who establish a chocolate shop in Washington, DC. Be sure to have some chocolate on hand to eat while reading.

To Burgundy and Back Again: A Tale of Wine, France, and Brotherhood, Roy Cloud
This book set me to dreaming about becoming a wine distributor and spending my time travelling through the wine regions of France and Spain.

Four Kitchens: My Life Behind the Burner in New York, Hanoi, Tel Aviv, and Paris, Lauren Shockey
The author works in 4 very different kitchens in 4 different countries - from molecular gastronomy in New York to street food in Vietnam. You catch a glimpse of the disconnect between becoming a chef because you love cooking and feeding others and the sheer drudgery of preparing food in a high-end kitchen.

Richardson provides a fascinating tour of Spain and its regional cuisines.

I wasn’t familiar with American grape varietals, such as Virginia’s Norton, and found this book to be an absorbing look at the history and current status of American grapes.

Fiction
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Helen Simonson
A lovely, gentle book about maintaining high personal ethical standards but having the courage to be flexible when necessary.

Mystery
The Blood Royal, Barbara Cleverly
I’m not usually a fan of historical mysteries, but the Joe Sandilands series based in post-World War I India and England captured my attention. The characterization, plot and setting are all rich in detail.

See also: Outstanding Books of 2010