Thursday, February 28, 2013

Earth Bound Bakery: The People, the Products, the Future

It’s hard to grasp what goes on behind the scenes when you drop into a store, make a few purchases and leave. I shop at Earth Bound Bakery once a week, but I didn’t know anyone’s names or what they did. It was time to spend a little longer at the bakery and begin to find out more about their roles.

Trent Loewen opened Earth Bound Bakery (next door to Dad’s Organic Market) just over four years ago. The grains and produce are organic as are as many of the other ingredients as possible.

Trent uses lots of local ingredients as well. That can be a challenge, but it obviously stimulates his creativity. In the summer, there are tomato basil or asparagus croissants, while in the winter the standby is mushroom and sharp cheddar with an occasional roasted yam and jalapeño.

“I work with what I’ve got,” Trent says. He was recently offered a box of over-ripe bananas and made an amazing lemongrass, lime leaf, coconut, curry, banana soup.

Bakers work crazy hours. Trent and his assistant, Jason, come in at 2 in the morning. Jason, who plays in a couple of local bands (Activist Maguire, Who Drew a Porno?), leaves at 10 or 11, but Trent stays on to help at lunchtime when the bakery is extra busy. (Sorry, no photograph. Jason had already left when I arrived.)

Jason’s first task is to laminate the croissant dough, folding in the butter, chilling, rolling, chilling and rolling again.

I was surprised to learn how much work goes into preparing the croissants. The starter contains milk and sugar and is refrigerated overnight.

The chocolate for the chocolate croissants starts out as large packages of organic, fair trade Cocoa Camino 70% cocoa chocolate chips, melted, poured onto a sheet pan, rolled, chilled and then cut into chocolate sticks.

The filling for the bear claw-shaped almond croissants (with whole almonds for claws) is made from scratch from almond flour, butter, sugar and eggs.

Laura B. 
Laura B. is responsible for almost all the baked goods apart from the breads. Everything she makes is vegan. “It’s easier than conventional baking,” Laura says. “There’s less errors and it tastes the same. No one can tell the difference.”

The apple pie muffins are wheat-free as well as vegan, and Laura makes 3 dozen every day. This past Saturday, there were also protein-packed cranberry quinoa almond muffins for a healthy breakfast. Laura makes 150 cowboy cookies every Tuesday and Friday and they usually sell out.

Thursday is cupcake day. Laura has just started baking with agave nectar. I watched her ice a batch of agave lime cupcakes with coconut buttercream frosting. She used chilled coconut cream in the frosting to give it an intense, completely natural coconut flavour.

Laura C. 
Laura C. is responsible for preparing the starter and other ingredients for the next day’s bread.

Earth Bound maintains three different cultures (liquid white that works relatively fast, solid white for a denser bread and red fife) and they make five different kinds of bread every day as well as a changing selection every day of the week.

One of the most popular loaves is the hemp and sesame seed with its wonderfully crunchy crust. I watched Laura stirring together large quantities of black and white sesame seeds and hemp hearts.

She also put seeds on to soak for the power bread (decorated with a Superman stripe to indicate the hearty helping of energy-rich ingredients in every slice).

Laura says that she had never made bread before working at Earth Bound, and she particularly enjoys substituting for Jason when he’s away. “Then I’m involved from start to finish,” Laura says. “It’s more fun. I like shaping the loaves.”

Working in a bakery takes a fair amount of physical strength. Laura handles large sacks of sesame seeds and flour as well as containers of starter. The large mixers must be scraped, and I was glad I left before they started doing dishes.

Laura is a proud Dog Mum, so be sure to ask after Jasper the next time you’re in the bakery.

By day, Joanna serves customers and looks after dishes and clean up. But by night, she plays the bass in the Seahags, “an old-timey country garage band.”

Joanna says that customers ask a lot of questions about ingredients. “I think we get a lot of people with allergies,” she says, “as they ask very specific questions.”

“11 to 3 is our crazy time,” Joanna says, as lots of people come in for lunch as well as to buy baked goods. On quiet days, once everything is cleaned up, Joanna also does some vegan baking. “After I get it all cleaned up, I have to decide if I really want to mess it up again,” she says. “I do that about once a week.”

Joanna says that they have some wonderful customers. One little girl brought them a Valentine’s Day card, while others have brought them a bottle of wine. “Sheila gives us each $20 at Christmas,” Joanna says. “She went out and bought painkillers when Laura had a headache, and she gave us a tray for our coffee supplies.”

The Future 
When Dad’s Organic Market added on an extension, Earth Bound gained some extra space in back.

“It changed my life,” Trent says. Now they have a back door! Before that, supplies were delivered to Dad’s loading dock and carried through Dad’s to the bakery. Garbage went out by the same route.

They also gained some storage space so they no longer have to reorder all their supplies on a weekly basis, and Trent will be adding a walk-in cooler.

The extra space is good news for customers as well. Trent plans to move the washrooms and the display cases further back. This will create some additional seating room, increasing the number of seats from 10 to 25.

The bakery will stay open during renovations, although they may not be able to serve lunches. We should start to see changes in the near future.

Pop-Up Restaurant
Now that the bakery is well established, Trent wants to do more cooking, so he plans to hold occasional dinners and some brunches. He may publish the menu in advance, but it’s more likely that people will book a seat but won’t know what is on the menu until they arrive.

Trent anticipates offering two appetizers, two entrees and two desserts. He is known for his vegetarian cooking, and he himself is vegetarian most of the time, so vegetarians will be sure to enjoy the dinners.

Trent says we can expect French/Mediterranean cooking with a bit of ethnic influence. “I like Mediterranean food,” he says. “It’s fresh, healthy. Not fussy.”

Monday, February 25, 2013

Flavourful Saskatoon, February 25, 2013

City Perks
The renovations at City Perks have transformed a nice coffee shop into an outstanding one. The raised ceiling, chandeliers and recycled furniture (stools from The Pat, doors from the Bessborough made into tables, old church pews) add so much class. In addition, the kitchen layout is bigger and more efficient for staff, and there’s more seating room.

The eco-conscious design and furnishings are thanks to Jacqueline Neusch of Sew Chic Décor and Christoph Neusch of Ribbitt Homes. (photo credit: J. Neusch)

City Perks is now serving 49th Parallel coffee out of Vancouver. And the baked goods are still awesome!

Cake Witch
 I finally made it to the Refinery Market last Wednesday and had a chance to sample Barbara Harder-Lutz’s cakes and biscotti. Barbara says that the Lemon Lavender Biscotti with Almonds are her signature piece, and they’re outstanding – crunchy with lots of lavender flavour. The cakes are made from scratch, with butter. The BC peaches in the Vanilla Bundt Cake with Peach Swirl made the cake a little soggy but very flavourful. Barbara sells her products at the Wednesday market at the Refinery and from the Cake Witch Café in Rosthern.

Food for Health, WDM
 Food for Health is a new temporary exhibit at Saskatoon’s Western Development Museum. There are eight interactive displays (pedal a bicycle to see how quickly you burn calories) and over 30 showcases and panels. There’s also an interactive website for the national travelling exhibit.

Granola: From Bulky Sweater to Little Black Dress
In the past, granola was a synonym for hippie living. Not any more. The New York Times shares some very creative granola options – from deconstructed yogurt and granola to savory granola with crushed black pepper served with goat cheese.

East Frisian Tea
I was fascinated by an account in The New York Times of the unique tea culture that developed in East Frisia, Germany. The carefully blended black tea is served in an espresso-sized cup with a piece of rock sugar in the bottom and heavy cream poured down the side of the cup. You don’t stir but let the cream form a mushroom cloud and the sugar slowly dissolve.

Dine Green Association
The Dine Green Association helps restaurants and producers (e.g. packaging) reduce their environmental impact and provides certification/endorsement. They also offer consumers a list of green restaurants in some of the larger US cities.

The association offers the world’s largest database of environmental solutions for the restaurant industry. It sounds like a great idea so that individual businesses don’t have to spend a disproportionate amount of time researching all the options for themselves.

Argentine Malbec
If you enjoy Malbec wines, I recommend reading The Vineyard at the End of the World by Ian Mount, which recounts the history of Argentine winemaking and the emergence of Malbec as the country’s premier wine.

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, February 18, 2013

Flavourful Saskatoon, February 18, 2013

Café Noir Espresso Bar 

I’m happy to see a new independent coffee shop on 2nd Avenue. Café Noir Espresso Bar is located in the King George building (former location of Saskatoon Sous Chef). The big windows provide lots of light which complements the modern décor. In addition to coffee and other hot drinks, they have baked goods – from ginger cookies to cheesecake brownies and strawberry tarts. They serve coffee from 15 Kilo Coffee Roasters in Calgary.

Floating Gardens
Floating Gardens has started harvesting their floating beds for the first time. They had two kinds of lettuce, two kinds of kale, spinach, herbs, cucumbers and more at the Saskatoon Farmers' Market on Saturday.

City Perks, Feb. 19
City Perks reopens tomorrow - Tuesday, February 19, at 7 am - with a whole new look and layout. I'm excited to see it in person - the photographs they've been posting on Facebook look amazing. And they plan to add to their menu. 

I had a very tasty bowl of cauliflower curry soup at Museo last week, followed by one of their rich, gooey brownies. It’s a great place to sit and watch the river or to dream about spring in the Conservatory.

Eat, Listen, Relax, Feb. 22
Souleio’s monthly wine tasting on February 22 from 6-9 pm offers a variety of wine and small plate combinations. Call 979-8102 to make a reservation.

Seedy Saturday, March 9
Don’t miss CHEP’s 15th annual seed exchange and eco fair on Saturday, March 9 from 11 am to 4 pm at E.D. Feehan Collegiate. There will be over 40 exhibitors as well as speakers on edible weedy plants, seed saving, urban farming in Saskatoon, and xeriscaping on the Prairies. Slow Food Saskatoon will be there with samples of Red Fife bread (thanks, Bryn!).

Community Greenhouse
Community gardens are increasingly popular, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if Saskatoon had a community greenhouse? John Robb says a greenhouse would be a community gathering place, particularly in the winter months when we can’t garden outdoors and would foster the development of local micro farmers and food producers.

Top 10 Most Innovative Food Companies 
Fast Company has compiled a list of the top 10 most innovative food companies globally. They include SodaStream, for “making DIY carbonation sexy;” Stonyfield Farm, for “making its supply chain more sustainable;” and _Kind snacks, for “showing that “performance foods” don’t have to be processed and weird,” plus launching several charitable campaigns.

Rebuilding the Foodshed
Rebuilding the Foodshed: How to Create Local, Sustainable, and Secure Food Systems by Philip Ackerman-Leist looks like it would be worth reading: “Showcasing some of the most promising, replicable models for growing, processing, and distributing sustainably grown food, this book points the reader toward the next stages of the food revolution. It also covers the full landscape of the burgeoning local-food movement, from rural to suburban to urban, and from backyard gardens to large-scale food enterprises.”

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, February 11, 2013

Flavourful Saskatoon, February 11, 2013

Vegan Cupcakes 
I spent a morning chatting with the staff at Earth Bound Bakery last week. I’ll post a full account of my visit shortly, but in the meantime you should know that all the baking is vegan.

Laura B. makes wheat-free apple pie muffins every day and Thursdays is mini cupcake day. The flavours change, but last week they were agave lime with coconut buttercream frosting (made with chilled coconut milk) – yum! There are Cowboy Cookies on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Cake Witch Café, Rosthern 
Cake Witch Café in Rosthern is opening at noon on February 14.

Hummus & Pepsi
Did you know that hummus is one of Pepsico’s fastest-growing products? They distribute the Sabra brand to North America and will soon be distributing it world-wide. To secure a steady supply of chickpeas, Pepsico is helping 10,000 Ethiopian farmers to double their chickpea production. The project also hopes to address the local problem of malnutrition by supplying ready-to-consume supplementary food to malnourished children.

Health is Better than Bacon 
A large study in the United Kingdom showed that vegetarians have a 32% reduced risk of heart disease and 28% less cases of diabetes. The researchers believe that lower blood pressure and cholesterol account for the difference and point out that diet is important in protecting against heart disease.

Local Produce at Walmart
Walmart claims that 11% of its produce is now local, but the benefit to small farmers is extremely limited as they can’t meet the price, quantity and consistency required by Walmart. But do we want to turn small farms into large, streamlined operations???

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, February 4, 2013

Flavourful Saskatoon, February 4, 2013

Terra Madre Night, Feb. 7
Join Slow Food Saskatoon at 7:30 pm, February 7, at Root Down Workers’ Cooperative and explore Terra Madre/Salone del Gusto, the world’s largest food festival, through the photographs and experiences of Bryn Rawlyk and Sharon McDaniel.
Enjoy coffee and dessert from Root Down, sample some funky Italian cheese (Sharon's photograph), and check out the silent auction. Forget about winter and celebrate the world’s best food and drink.

Cherry Valentine Evening, Feb. 14
Students from the Saskatoon School of Horticulture are hosting Cherry Valentine Evening on February 14 in the Masonic Temple with live music and food featuring Saskatchewan-grown cherries as well as signature cocktails with spirits from LB Distillers. Call 931-4769 or email to purchase tickets for $45 each.
The students say, “The Prairie Cherry is one of the greatest fruit crops that we can grow here and we have chosen to honour it by using it a feature product of the evening. Cherries will be the select ingredient featured in the meal, the drinks and of course the decor and prize opportunities.”

d’Lish by Tish Café 
I had breakfast yesterday at the newly-opened d’Lish by Tish Café on 14th Street (the Pacific Gallery’s former location). The large windows, sunshine-yellow walls and paintings by local artists provide a cheerful atmosphere.
There were lots of breakfast options, including fresh-baked banana-chocolate chip muffins, but I went with a bowl of quinoa topped with berries, Greek yogurt, hemp hearts and maple syrup – delicious and super healthy.
There are fresh soups daily (one is always vegetarian), and they serve beer and wine by the glass. I’ll definitely be going back.

Fourth & James, Lumsden 
If you’re on the Regina highway, be sure to detour and visit the Fourth & James Bakery in Lumsden. My brother and his wife stopped by for coffee and scones and gave it top marks.
Shelley says, “The triple-berry scone was light and fluffy, chock-full of berries and had a crisp sugary topping.”

Seabuckthorn Syrup 
Northern Vigor Berries, Saskatoon Farmers’ Market, has a new product – seabuckthorn syrup made with organic cane sugar and locally-grown, organic seabuckthorn purée.

I think it will be perfect for pancakes, but my sister in law has her eye on it for ice cream.

Souleio Grab and Go
Souleio now has a grab and go section with fresh sandwiches made daily, Greek yogurt parfaits, salads and bottled drinks.

Slow Food Reading
Could taste, or more precisely the lack of taste in today’s mass-produced food, be a contributor to the obesity epidemic in America?

Since 2010, Slow Food International has launched 1000 gardens in Africa and raised the funds to complete 700.

David Buchanan, author of Taste, Memory: Forgotten Foods, Lost Flavors, and Why They Matter, discusses the importance of heirloom foods and biodiversity

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.