Monday, January 27, 2014

Flavourful Saskatoon, January 27, 2014

German Cakes at the Market 
The Cake Witch has teamed up with Wild Cuisine, one of the Saskatoon Farmer’s Market tenants. We can now purchase fancy German torte every weekend.

Wild Serendipity Soups
I am so happy that Michelle of Wild Serendipity Foods is once again selling her fabulous soups at the Saskatoon Farmers' Market. She's already served up two of my favorites:  Cuban Blackbean and Thai Coconut Carrot (both vegan).

Little Bird Patisserie
Once I’m more mobile, I’m really looking forward to visiting the Little Bird Patisserie & Café on Avenue B, just north of 20th Street. She offers a luscious array of baked goods as well as soups, sandwiches and salads.

Escape Winter – Food Gardening, Feb. 8
Join the Prairie Master Gardeners for a day devoted to food gardening. Workshops include Small Space Gardening, Culinary Herbs, Harvesting & Storing Produce for Winter, and Starting a Horticultural Enterprise.

Shop Local
There is a commonly-held belief that shopping locally costs more than shopping at the supermarket. One British woman has been shopping locally as much as possible for two years and she disagrees. The trick, she says, is to plan more and buy less. And less trips to the supermarket will mean less impulse purchase and better health.

Have you ever eaten teff, an ancient grain from Ethiopia? The tiny grains don’t provide a nice creamy texture, but they are super high in calcium, iron and protein. It is becoming increasingly popular; however, it faces the same challenge as quinoa. How do you promote exports without harming the local market in a country with chronic malnutrition and poverty? This secondary story contains more information and a couple of recipes.

Vegetarian Ventures 
What does a vegetarian serve at an omnivores’ dinner party? Shelley West of Vegetarian Ventures recommends comfort foods and a familiar dessert.

North American Truffles 
“Alexandre Dumas thought that truffles ‘make women more tender and men more lovable’.” Whether or not that is the case, they taste great, and I’m delighted to know that they can now be found in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

Spanish Wines
Spanish wines aren’t well known in North America, partially because they lack a unified brand.

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).

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Night Oven Bakery

A favorite book in the Rawlyk/Côté household is In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak. The bakers work hard, all night long, so that delicious cakes will be ready and waiting when people wake up in the morning.

Bryn Rawlyk hopes that people will be able to make the connection between the food and where it came from when they visit his bakery.

Standing at the front counter of The Night Oven Bakery, customers will see the millstones that have ground the grain and the wood-fired oven where the bread has been baked.

The Baker
When Bryn moved away from home, he didn’t know how to cook. He was conducting a long-distance relationship with Beth Côté, soon to be his wife, and she would email him recipes. From a rudimentary start (sloppy joes, three times a week) he progressed to working in various restaurants and bakeries across Canada.

Bryn was living in Montreal when he discovered wood-fired ovens. “I got excited about taking grains and making bread with the least amount of fancy techniques,” Bryn says. “It’s partially my math training. It’s simple but complex with so many variables.”

Bryn began making more and more bread and says that his three sons make excellent critics as they are very straightforward. If they don’t like something, they say so.

Whenever Bryn travels, he visits the local bakeries, arriving early before they open to chat with the baker and observe things are done. In 2012, Bryn spent two weeks helping his friend Cliff Leir at Fol Epi Bakery, an organic bakery with a wood-fired oven in Victoria, BC.

Bryn and Beth attended Terra Madre, a biennial, international gathering of artisan food producers, in 2012 as Slow Food Saskatoon delegates. The opportunity to meet so many food producers with so many hand-crafted products was an eye opener for Bryn and gave him the determination to start his own bakery.

The Equipment
Bryn enjoys working with his hands, so he decided to do as much of the construction of the bakery as possible himself. “If I’m going to do something long term, I should have some intimacy, some connection with it,” he says. “I’ll be able to answer any question because I did it all myself.”

Every stone in the wood-fired oven was lifted into place by Bryn. He designed the 1500-pound millstones based on the designs of the millstones that were brought to North America in the early 1900s. The stones were then manufactured and shipped from Europe. Bryn also has a smaller stone mill that he’ll use until the flour grind is perfected.

There are three basic types of wood ovens. A pizza oven has a high dome and the fire is inside the dome, producing a high heat for a short period of time.

Some bakers (e.g. Wild Fire Bakery in Victoria) use a black oven. They make a fire inside the chamber, then sweep it out and load in the bread.

Bryn chose to build a white oven. The fire is in a separate chamber underneath the oven, which has a low dome and lots of mass so that it radiates a slow, low heat. The oven has three chimneys with dampeners so that Bryn can adjust the temperature. If he wants to bake more bread, he adds more wood.

There is also an electric convection oven that will be used to bake the croissants and pastries. Some of Bryn’s equipment, such as the bread-making table, is handmade. Other equipment is recycled. There are tables from Caffe Sola and a large Toledo scale scavenged from the old Express Bakery on 33rd Street.

Some of the equipment was sourced internationally. The peels (paddles with 8-foot long handles for lifting the bread in and out of the oven) are from San Francisco, while the proofing baskets (made out of waste wood pulp) are from Germany.

The bakery is very much a family endeavour. Beth used a blow torch and wet broom to give a shou-sugi-ban finish to the cedar panelling in the seating area. The beams are from Bryn’s father’s acreage, and family and friends worked hard on various construction projects.

The Best Quality Ingredients
Bryn firmly believes that the best quality food relies on the best quality ingredients. Bryn will be using organic grains sourced locally, because he is convinced that organic tastes better. Loiselle Family Farm near Vonda will provide heritage Red Fife wheat while Daybreak Mill will supply ancient grains, such as einkorn and kamut.

Bryn plans to offer baguettes, whole wheat and rye loaves that taste good so even kids can enjoy them. The sourdough starter is one that Bryn has maintained for several years, and he says it’s very much the product of its surroundings – Saskatoon air, water and flour produce a Saskatoon sourdough.

The neighbourhood sees a lot of traffic with 500 students a week taking lessons at the Saskatoon Academy of Music around the corner and lots of traffic to and from the City Yards. “We hope to become the neighbourhood bakery, with people dropping by as part of their daily routine.”

Off to one side is seating for 15. The bakery will start small with coffee and pastries and build up over time.

Bryn hopes to start baking bread by the end of January and to be open to the public in February.

The Night Oven Bakery
629B 1st Avenue North

Monday, January 20, 2014

Flavourful Saskatoon, January 20, 2014

Drop In Collective Kitchen, Jan. 22 
CHEP is sponsoring a Drop In Collective Kitchen at Station 20 West. It starts January 22 from 6-8 pm and will run for 5 weeks. You can find out more about collective kitchens without needing to immediately make a long-term commitment.

Moose Tracks Launch, Jan. 24 
Prairie Sun Brewery is launching Moose Tracks, their Hazelnut Espresso Stout, on January 24 from 11 am to 11 pm with snacks, pints, music and tours.

Cakes in the City, Jan. 28 
L’Arche Saskatoon and Cheshire Homes are hosting a cake display and fundraiser during Wintershines at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market. Admire and taste!

Cultivating the Vision Community Garden Conference, Feb. 8 
The CHEP Community Garden Conference will be held at Station 20 West on February 8. Topics include school gardens, the Bauta Seed Saving Initiative and Growing Food in Canada: Perspective from a new Canadian.

Seedy Saturday, March 8 
Seedy Saturday will be held March 8 at St. Mary’s Elementary School. Vendors should contact CHEP to obtain a vendor registration form.

Downtown Coffee Shops
Citizen Café and Bakery opens its doors at 7 am, January 20.

The Local Coffee Bar, 167 3rd Avenue South (Birks building), is opening Monday as well. D’reen’s is providing the soup and baked goods. Coffee is from Bows and Arrows in Victoria, and tea is from Teafarm in Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island. And they'll be licensed to serve alcohol.

Food & Travel 
A photo essay showing how chocolate is made – from bean to bar

The top 10 international destinations for cheese lovers

Toast is more than just a fad (I don't think it's hit Saskatoon yet). It began as a way to provide comfort and safety.

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).

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Citizen Cafe & Bakery: Everyone is Included

Coffee shops are community gathering places and, as Saskatoon grows, it’s heartening to see new coffee shops opening their doors, inviting people to come in.

Nikita and Brittany Brown are sisters in law who started dreaming about opening a coffee shop together 7 years ago when they worked at PickNic’s. Later, both of them worked at Caffe Sola, and they say that the owner, Sarah, was a huge inspiration to them.

 So were their parents. Brittany’s father always said that he wanted to open a coffee shop, so Brittany feels that she has inherited and is following through on his dream. As a child, Nikita remembers going out to coffee shops with her mother. “I liked the atmosphere,” Nikita says, “and I wanted to make it my own.”

A place where everyone is included 
As Nikita and Brittany discussed their dream coffee shop, one key concept emerged. This would be a coffee shop that was accessible to everyone. In the end, the name would say it all. This was the Citizen Café & Bakery.

Nikita and Brittany were fortunate to find a large space to rent beside Dance Street on 23rd Street (across from Wall Street). There is a play area for children; a lounge area; a large table for group meetings; and a front area with tables, chairs and bench seating below the windows on the east and south sides of the building (Never fear! There is air conditioning and the windows are tinted). The coffee shop is wheelchair accessible with large washrooms and change tables for young families. There is even a small parking lot in front of the building. There is wifi and every table has an electrical outlet.

“We took everything we liked or had felt was missing in other coffee shops,” Nikita says.

A family affair 
Citizen Café’s building has seen many different occupants over the years, from a Rent a Wreck and a radiator shop to a dry cleaner’s and gym. Renovations were extensive, but fortunately Nikita and Brittany could count on their families for support. Nikita’s husband did all the carpentry; Brittany’s mother delivered the succulent centre pieces, and their grandmother helped sweep floors.

The bar, benches and some walls are lined with lovely aged wood. I was particularly taken by the black striped poplar benches. Nice work by Jacob Semko.

Vegan and gluten-free options 
The menu is as inclusive as the building. Brittany is the baker, and she says that there will be vegan and gluten-free options for all items.

Brittany herself is a vegetarian, and she wanted to make sure that the vegetarian/vegan sandwiches and paninis weren’t boring. They sound anything but, and I was getting hungry listening to Brittany and Nikita describe the different options. There will be a Panini with caramelized mushrooms and onions, aged cheddar and sun-dried tomato cream cheese; a Greek Panini that combines roasted and fresh vegetables for texture, drizzled with an almond-honey dressing; and a vegan sandwich with roasted sweet potato and red pepper, black bean spread, spinach, red onion, and cashew nut cheese.

Brittany is self trained with many different sources of inspiration. She baked with a friend’s grandmother in Germany and learned how to make yeast cakes, which she plans to serve in the mornings. “My friend’s grandmother gave me her cast-iron bundt pans, so the cakes have really crusty edges and are fluffy inside,” Brittany says. “They’re perfect for dipping into your coffee.”

The café will be sourcing its bread from Pleasant Hill Bakery, while Brittany and some of the other staff members who bake will be responsible for the baking. The focus will be on American-style baking – cupcakes, tarts, bars, and cakes.

Front of house 
Nikita will be responsible for front of house and says that the café will be open from 7 am to 5 pm, Monday to Friday, and from 10 to 4 on Saturdays. Eventually they may expand into the evening, but not just yet.

There will be a simple menu featuring soups, salads and sandwiches. They plan to make as much as possible from scratch, including the sauces, spreads and dressings. They will be serving Bean North coffee from the Yukon and tea from the Social Coffee & Tea Company in Ontario.

The menu will emphasize local, seasonal ingredients. Brittany is looking forward to growing a garden with herbs, lettuce and tomatoes on the building’s flat roof.

Wholesale baking 
Citizen is truly a café and bakery. The facility has a large kitchen and pantry as well as basement storage, and Brittany hopes to eventually distribute her vegan and allergen-free baking to restaurants and coffee shops around the city.

Nikita and Brittany also hope to set up roof-top patio seating one day, and they plan to eventually obtain a liquor license and be open in the evenings.

Young entrepreneurs 
Brittany and Nikita are excited to be part of a wave of young entrepreneurs who are opening businesses in Saskatoon and making it their own. “I feel really privileged be opening up at such a great time for Saskatoon, especially in this area,” Brittany says. 

Citizen Café & Bakery
#18 – 23rd Street East Saskatoon, SK S7K 1N4

Monday, January 6, 2014

Flavourful Saskatoon, January 6, 2014

Birthday Cakes
If you have a January birthday in your family, consider ordering a cake from Cake Witch Café. You have a choice of Lemon, Black Forest, Chocolate, Vanilla, Sour Cherry, and more. Barbara requires 5 days’ notice.

Two Gun Quiche, Feb. 14
You may still be recovering from a feeding frenzy over Christmas, but Chef Bill at Two Gun Quiche is already planning a Valentine’s Day feast. The six-course meal will cost $50, and he offers to custom create vegetarian options.

Chefs' Gala and Showcase, Feb. 15
The Saskatoon Chefs’ Association, in conjunction with Little Opera on the Prairie, Live Five Theatre and Ritornello Chamber Music, is planning a celebration of the City’s "best eats and cultural treats" at Prairieland Park on February 15. To purchase tickets for the Chef's Gala and Showcase, visit or call Anastasia Winterhalt at 306-716-6982.

Micro Breweries in the News
The January/February 2014 issue of Taps magazine has a cover article on three Saskatoon breweries: Paddock Wood, Prairie Sun and Saskatoon Brewery. It should be available online soon.

New Businesses
I had a great time visiting two up and coming businesses this week. They'll both be opening shortly.

Citizen Café and Bakery, #18 – 23rd Street East, has big windows, wooden benches, a play area for kids, and vegan and gluten-free menu options. They’ll be opening very soon.

The Night Oven Bakery, 629b 1st Avenue North, is being built from scratch by Bryn Rawlyk and his family. Bryn has built a wood-fired oven and will be milling his own grain.

The 1500 lb. millstones were designed by Bryn and then manufactured and shipped from Europe. He hopes to be open in February.

Short Break
I’m having back surgery on January 9, so there will be a brief pause before I get back to posting Flavourful Saskatoon. But you can’t hold me down for long – too many exciting things happening around town!

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).

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Favorite Books of 2013

Here are some of my most memorable reads in 2013.

On the Noodle Road: From Beijing to Rome, with Love and Pasta by Jen Lin-Liu
Who really invented the noodle? Lin-Liu travels along the Sillk Road linking Asia to Europe, making and eating pasta, in order to try and find the answer.

Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and War by Annia Ciezadlo
Annia Ciezadlo spent her honeymoon in Baghdad and then spent many years in Lebanon. For Ciezadlo, cooking and sharing meals created community and continuity while living in war-torn lands.

Desert Terroir: Exploring the Unique Flavors and Sundry Places of the Borderlands by Gary Paul Nabhan
Nabhan explores the connections between food and the land through stories of some of the iconic flavours of southwestern United States, such as Mexican oregano, mesquite-flour tortillas, discovering unexpected connections with Mediterranean and Middle Eastern desert food.

The Whole Fromage: Adventures in the Delectable World of French Cheese by Kathe Lison
Lison explores the many, many varieties of French cheese, meeting with shepherds, dairy scientists and cheesemakers across the country.

Longbourn by Jo Baker
Jane Austen’s books are written from the perspective of the gentry. Longbourn looks at the story from the servants' perspective. Descriptions of scrubbing laundry by hand made me very grateful for washing machines.

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
This is one of the most eccentric and delightful books I’ve ever read. Escaping from a nursing home on his birthday, he runs into a series of unusual characters, slowly recounting his personal history – encounters with Presidents, work on the atomic bomb, and much, much more. Jonasson's next book, The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden, is scheduled to come out this spring.

The Firebird by Susannah Kearsley
Interest in a Russian carving leads to a fascinating tale of Jacobite intrigue in Scotland and France and romance in Russia under Empress Catherine.


On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz
Horowitz discovers entirely new ways of viewing her New York neighbourhood through the eyes of a toddler, a geologist, a physician and a sound designer, among others. The book brings home the fact that we view the world through blinders, missing more than we actually observe.

Feral: Rewilding the Land, the Sea, and Human Life by George Monbiot
Human beings like to be in control, but we don’t do a very good job when we try to control nature. Monbiot argues for stepping back and letting nature take its course. Check out my full review of the book on EcoFriendly Sask.

Second Suns: Two Doctors and Their Amazing Quest to Restore Sight and Save Lives by David Oliver Relin
Two surgeons develop an inexpensive way to perform cataract surgery on improvised operating tables in remote parts of the Himalaya – a profoundly moving story of the difference that we can make in other people’s lives.

Overbooked: The Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism by Elizabeth Becker
Becker explores the explosive growth of the travel industry and its impact on the environment and the economy, a cautionary tale of rampant tourism.

Fast Times in Palestine: A Love Affair with a Homeless Homeland by Pamela J. Olson
This book opened my eyes to the tragedy and challenges faced every day by the people of Palestine.


Bonus – Mysteries 
For lighter reading, here are three mystery authors whose books I discovered and enjoyed this past year.

Charles Finch – Set in England in 1865, an aristocrat and member of Parliament is also a very clever sleuth. The first book in the series is A Beautiful Blue Death.

The mystery novels by Pieter Aspe are set in Bruges, Belgium. The Square of Revenge is the first of his books to be translated into English and features interesting characters and a family saga of revenge.

Scotland Yard has been shamed and embarrassed by its failure to solve the Jack the Ripper murders. Alex Grecian’s hero is a detective struggling to make his way in the modern era of detection with help from a doctor who is uncovering the first principles of forensic medicine. The first book in the series is The Yard.


See also: 
Top Ten Books of 2012