Monday, May 27, 2013

Flavourful Saskatoon, May 27, 2013

Food Trucks 
Food trucks are coming to Saskatoon, possibly as early as next month.

Dan Walker of Weczeria is the first one to announce details of his food truck. It’s called Joy Ride and will serve mostly healthy food, with some vegetarian and vegan options.

Follow @Joyrideyxe on Twitter to find out where the food truck is located. They expect to be in the downtown/north end for lunch, 8th Street for dinner, and late nights will be on Broadway.

Bon Temps Cajun Café
I’ve been reading good reports on social media about the Bon Temps Cajun Café that has just opened at 223 2nd Avenue South. If you’ve been, let me know what you thought.

New Microbrewery?
I’ve been hearing rumours about a new microbrewery opening soon in Saskatoon. If anyone has more details, please email me. I’d love to spread the word.

Vegetarian Options
Chipotle is testing a vegetarian menu item. They believe it’s so delicious that it will have crossover appeal.

Edmonton’s vegan food truck, Sailin’ On, has opened to very positive reviews, supporting my claim that so long as vegan/vegetarian food is good, it will be popular.

Yes, it is possible to have a vegetarian tapas tour in Barcelona. The New York Times’ Frugal Traveler proposes a wide variety of options.

Establishing a Culinary Business
Amy Scherber, a New York City baker, offers advice on establishing a culinary business:
  • Start from a small base; 
  • After expanding, spend 3 years at a plateau to make sure you can manage; and 
  • Constantly analyze food costs, labour costs and the unexpected costs. 

Natural Wines 
Most wines are produced to be consistent and use industrial production techniques. On the other hand, “the joy of natural wines is that each one is living and every bottle is unique, even those from within the same vintage,” says Giulio Armani, the winemark at La Stoppa and founder of the new domain, Denavolo.

Patricia Nelson, the author of the Slow Food International article, concludes that there is room for both mainstream and natural wines: “Natural wines counter what seems to be increasing homogeneity, and it is heartening to see producers and retailers embracing craft practices while creating products that do not present an ever-pervasive sameness.”

I don’t normally drink cocktails, so I don’t know much about bitters. This Globe and Mail article, highlighting Victoria Spirits in Victoria, BC, provides some useful background information.

I was interested to learn that you can use bitters in cooking. Anna Hunt, of Victoria’s Charelli’s Cheese Shop and Delicatessen, uses orange bitters in pancakes and cookies, and black pepper bitters in a compound butter.

I visited Charelli’s when I was in Victoria three years ago and am pleased to see them expanding their business. I also tasted several of Victoria Spirits’ products.

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

You can follow Wanderlust and Words on Facebook, Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Monday, May 20, 2013

A Vegetarian Rant

I walked out of a foodie gathering last evening with laughter ringing in my ears. Oh, I’m sure it was intended to be friendly laughter, but all the same, they were mocking me.

Vegetarians are not taken seriously in the food community. We are odd, delusional folks who fail to appreciate that meat is the centre of any classy meal. Well, I beg to disagree. Good vegetarian food is creative, flavourful and forward-thinking.

I was a terrible cook until I became a vegetarian. The traditional “meat and two vegetables” led to boring meals with no flavour. As a vegetarian, that standard scenario was turned on its head. Every meal was different – would it be a soup or a stew, savoury pancakes or spring rolls? Meal planning was suddenly way more fun.

Trips to the farmers’ market became an adventure. What could I make with fennel? Why not try arugula on my pizza?

Cookbooks were culinary travel adventures and my spice rack expanded to include flavours from around the world. There was Brazilian Black Bean Soup, Spicy Szechwan Vegetables and Tofu, Samosas, Mushroom Moussaka, Turkish-Style Stuffed Zucchini, and so much more! There was nothing boring about my diet.

Good vegetarian food is flavourful and adventurous. Unfortunately, most vegetarian meals in restaurants are dull and uninspired. Restaurants have one vegetarian option that they serve year in and year out. It’s pasta or gnocchi or eggplant. It’s often bland. You can tell that the chefs aren’t interested.

The excuse they’ll offer – and yes, a top chef offered me this excuse just last night – is that folks in Saskatchewan like their meat and potatoes so that is the focus of restaurant menus.

Well, if that’s the case, why are there so many ethnic restaurants in every city across Saskatchewan and Canada? Locals love going out for Thai, Chinese, Mexican or Indian food. And all those cultures offer great, flavourful vegetarian options.

If chefs can’t make their vegetarian options just as exciting as their meat options, then they’re failing at their job. They’re using meat as a crutch rather than focusing on creating flavourful, inventive dishes of all shapes and sizes.

Times are changing, and people’s attitudes are changing. We’re travelling more and we want to try new dishes and unusual flavours. We’re more health conscious. Sure, we enjoy rich food, but we’re also looking to our chefs to give us tasty food that is also healthy. And many people care deeply about the health of our planet. Raising animals is resource-intensive, depleting and polluting our land and water.

It’s time for chefs to get on board with food that is creative, flavourful, forward-thinking – and possibly vegetarian. Don’t get stuck in a carnivorous rut – explore your options.

Flavourful Saskatoon, May 20, 2013

Forestry Farm Centennial Fair, May 26
Head on out to the Forestry Farm Park and Zoo from noon to 5 pm on May 26 to celebrate the Farm’s 100th Anniversary. The Centennial Fair will include concessions, wagon rides, old-fashioned games and contests, an artisan marketplace, and demonstrations.

Out with the Old, In with the New
Souleio is closing, effective May 25. Fortunately, the beautiful heritage building will house a new culinary business. Chef Dale Mackay, who won the Top Chef Canada competition, is returning to his hometown and opening a restaurant that will emphasize local food. I met Dale last evening. He is planning a 100-seat restaurant with a focus on French bistro-style food. He'll be preparing his own charcuterie and operating a small butcher shop. Dale hopes to open in mid-July.

Let’s Start Truckin’ 
Food trucks should arrive soon in Saskatoon (finally!). Dan Walker of Weczeria is ready to go. His truck will be called Joy Ride and will feature global fusion/global street food (via Savour Life).

Cake in the Garden
The Cake Witch will be selling her cakes and goodies every Saturday from 9-5 in the garden of the Garden & Architecture store on Avenue A and 19th Street.

Barbara cooks from scratch with real butter and organic fair trade cocoa.

BBQ Bonanza, May 25
SaskMade Marketplace is hosting a BBQ Bonanza on May 25 from 10:30-4:30. The guest chef is Jenni Willems, and there will be lots of meaty samples from J & J Sausages and Bluestone Farms.

March Against Monsanto
There will be a March Against Monsanto on May 25 at noon, meeting at Kinsmen Park across from the Mendel Art Gallery. There will be a talk on May 22 at 6:30 pm at the downtown library entitled The World According to Monsanto, with special guest speaker Percy Schmeiser.

Rhubarb is Priceless
There is no surer sign of spring than rhubarb. But what we now take for granted as a common garden plant was once a valuable medicine.  

“In 17th-century Russia, rhubarb was so valuable that much of the country's treasury was derived from the medicinal sales of the imported rhubarb root. When Chinese emperors and Russian czars had a border dispute, withholding rhubarb was China's biggest weapon.”

Good Stalk: Rhubarb by Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl provides more history of the valuable rhubarb as well as some suggested recipes.

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

You can follow Wanderlust and Words on Facebook, Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Monday, May 13, 2013

Flavourful Saskatoon, May 13, 2013

Top of the Hops Winery Dinner, May 25
The Tops of the Hops Winery Dinner on May 25 will feature wines from Bodegas Luzón presented by the winery’s representative, Isidoro Perez de Tudela.

I have fond memories of a tour and tasting at Bodegas Luzón in Jumilla, Spain, accompanied by Isidoro Perez, and highly recommend their wine – and hence the dinner!

New places and products to check out:

Leyda’s, 112 20th Street West (gluten-free, nut-free) – they are hoping to open in mid-June

Congress Beer House, 215 2nd Avenue South – opening this coming week – looks like they’ll be offering lots of craft beers on tap – rotating taps to bring in new draught all the time

Twig & Squirrel’s Wild Goods is stocking Bogart’s Bay Coffee. Bogart’s Bay roasts their organic coffee by hand on a traditional charcoal-fired roaster they imported from India. They import their coffee beans through a non-profit wholesaler of ethically traded beans.

Saskatoon Farmers’ Market
The Prairie Pantry is now selling various ready-to-eat foods – from olives to salad. I enjoyed the couscous salad with its light curry flavour and lots of raisins and fresh vegetables.

Uncle Mike’s Natural Products (soap, deoderant, healing salve) is at the market on Sundays and Wednesdays. Mike only uses natural ingredients and uses minimal, recyclable packaging.

Cake Witch Café
Barbara Harder-Lutz is looking for a partner to help her bake and run the Cake Witch Café in Rosthern. No money, but Barbara believes there is lots of potential.

Vegan Food Truck
Food trucks will soon be setting up in Saskatoon. I understand that Dan Walker from Weczeria is almost ready to roll. But I bet there won’t be a vegan food truck like Sailin’ On that has just got started in Edmonton.

They’re offering vegan fast food – from a Vegan Reuben with shaved seitan on rye to Drunken Chik’n with deep-fried lemongrass tofu to Curry Chips (fries smothered in curry sauce) and Gingembre (homemade ginger soda).

Pairing Music with Chocolate
A recent Edmonton Symphony event paired local chocolate with one of the songs. The audience was invited to eat one of the chocolates during each of the four movements. Sounds like something Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra might want to imitate, although supplies of locally-made chocolates are extremely limited.

Guide to Sustainable Beer
How do you define sustainable beer? Grist suggests that sustainable beer is local, craft beers brewed in small batches.

There’s a movement towards making beer from locally-sourced ingredients and an interest in protecting the quality of the local water, using green energy sources, reusing waste products, and supporting the local community.

Here’s a global guide to honey – from beehives in downtown Tokyo to white honey in Ethiopia and leatherwood honey from the rain forests of Australia.

Photos: Jumilla and  Bodegas Luzón

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

You can follow Wanderlust and Words on Facebook, Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Flavourful Saskatoon, May 6, 2013

Soup & Brownies at City Perks
If you’re lucky, you can pick up a one-litre container of soup at City Perks. The Shitake Mushroom Chowder is crammed full of mushroom slices and chunks of potato and carrot – absolutely delicious.

I also picked up a container of Tomato Zucchini Soup, and Coralee Abbott told me to serve it with a little feta cheese crumbled on top.

P.S. You don’t have to be following a gluten-free diet to enjoy City Perks’ gluten-free brownies. They’re amazing! And Coralee has promised to contact me when there’s a batch with sour cherries and goat cheese.

Naked Leaf Tea
City Perks is now serving loose leaf teas from Naked Leaf, a Calgary company sourcing small farm, organic teas. Naked Leaf has a large variety of teas, and you can order online. They also have a Tea of the Month Club, and you can customize your tins with labels designed by Calgary artists.

Saskatoon Farmers’ Market
The Saskatoon Farmers’ Market has extended its operations to the outdoor Market Square.

Goodlife Greenhouses has returned, and I stocked up on packages of dehydrated tomatoes for next winter. The dehydrated slices are really sweet as they’re from fully ripe tomatoes, and they crumble easily, so you can add them to everything from omelettes to stews.

Mediterranean Breeze is back with their savoury Persian pastries, hummus and date-filled cookies.

Prairie Pie Wagon is now selling slices of quiche and savoury turnovers (bean or beef).

And be sure to pick up some Seabuckthorn Syrup from Northern Vigor Berries. I love the combination of tart, fruity and sweet.

Prairie Fruit
With warmer weather, it’s time to start planning menus centred around all our wonderful prairie fruits. The Prairie Fruit Cookbook: The Essential Guide for Picking, Preparing and Preserving Fruit is an amazing resource.

It covers everything from picking and storing the fruit to canning and drying it. And there are lots of recipes – cherry martini; rhubarb barbecue sauce; sage, caramelized onion and plum pizza; pear smoothie; raspberry mint jam. Yum!

School Meals
I was horrified to hear about a Saskatchewan school that serves koolaid and fruit loops for breakfast. They say it’s what the kids want, but it sure isn’t healthy, so I was pleased to read a couple of articles about healthy school lunches in the United States.

Revolution Foods is striving to deliver healthy, locally-produced food, using children to design and test the meals. The meals don’t contain high-fructose corn syrup or transfats, and they are free of hormones and antibiotics and often organic. It took over 1,000 attempts to develop a child-approved baked chicken wing as they don’t want to serve deep-fat fried foods.

A school in Queen’s, New York, has gone one step further, becoming the first traditional public school in the country to serve all vegetarian, all the time. For kids who object to the hot meal option, there are cheese or PB + J sandwiches.

Prairie Icons – Chinese Restaurants
Head out across the Prairies and you’ll find a Chinese restaurant in almost every small town. Some have been there for almost 100 years, started by Chinese immigrants, many of whom had worked on the railroads.

Chop Suey on the Prairies, a new exhibit at the Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton, tells their story.

Pedal-Powered Ice Cream
There’s a reward for your effort at a pedal-powered ice cream store in downtown Los Angeles. Just hop on the bicycle in front of the store and churn your own batch.

Coffee Shops
Here’s a list of the best coffee shops in Canada – none in Saskatoon unfortunately, but four from Edmonton.

Photos: Market, Tarragona, Spain

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

You can follow Wanderlust and Words on Facebook, Twitter, or by email (top right corner).