Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Ten Reasons Why You'll Want to Visit the Glen at Crossmount

If you’re interested in local food and urban food production, you’ll want to visit The Glen at Crossmount, an agro-tourism event centre that is still under construction 5 kilometers south of Saskatoon.

The McKercher family has owned land on Highway 219 close to Cranberry Flats for generations. They spent some time pondering what to do with the land and came up with a bold, ambitious plan that includes a seniors’ village and an event centre.

I spent two hours touring the newly-opened Glen at Crossmount events centre. Here’s what I found.

Event  Centre & Gardens
Glenlyon Hall is a light-filled space with large windows overlooking the pond and gardens. Word is already out about this new facility, and they have been fully booked with weddings every weekend since opening in August 2015 and they’re already fully booked for 2016. The Hall seats up to 200 people. Food is provided by Picknic’s Catering.

Weather permitting, weddings are held in the gardens, which have a Mediterranean feel with wide gravel paths and large swathes of purple-flowering catmint. Plants must be drought-tolerant. “We water them once to get them established and never again,” explains Tyler Kaban, one of two horticultural experts who are directing the agricultural activities at Crossmount.

The Glen has started offering classes for both children and adults. Many of them have a horticultural theme, such as raising orchids, which is a passion of James Dawson, Crossmount’s other horticultural expert. There’s also a variety of craft classes (e.g. winter wreath making). This fall they offered a series of environmental engineering for kids classes.

Some classes will be offered in the greenhouse giving people an opportunity to be surrounded by green, growing plants, even in the middle of winter.

“We’re still experimenting with different topics and different timeframes,” explains Amy Ta, Marketing & Business Development Manager. You’re invited to contact The Glen if you are interested in offering a class, workshop, or activity.

Bistro & Skating
Future plans include a bistro with a large outdoor patio. They’re looking for a partner to run it and hope to offer morning coffee and dainties, Sunday brunch, and fall suppers.

There will be skating on the pond once it freezes over, followed by hot apple cider.

Apple Orchard & Cider 
And now we come to the part of The Glen that I find really exciting. On the far side of the pond is an apple orchard. It may not look too impressive at the moment as the trees are young dwarf varieties, but they’ve already planted 1,000 trees and plan to plant another 2,000.

Tyler Kaban is Crossmount’s apple farmer and cidermaker. He explains that they’re growing apple varieties that have been developed at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) over the last 60 to 100 years. “We’ll be making cider from dozens of genetically distinct U of S apple varieties giving us more complex flavours,” he explains. “The cider will be unique – literally homegrown.”

The apple varieties have been chosen to provide the right balance of tannins, sugar, and acids to make a good cider. The tannins are particularly important as they provide mouth feel and colour. For the first few years, the local apples will be blended with apples from British Columbia. Tyler will be pressing his first apples this fall and plans to have cider for sale by the spring.

Initial plans are to produce a specialty cider called Farmhouse with more tannins, a darker colour, and an English style. There will also be a more familiar blend that is sweeter, highly carbonated, and refreshing. Tyler is also planning to make a hoppy cider that will appeal to craft beer drinkers and a berry cider made using Prairie berries. They’ll also be making an ice cider using apples that have frozen on the branch and a soft non-alcoholic cider.

Tyler is currently making test batches of perry using U of S pears that are high in acid and sugar and very high in tannins.

They plan to crush 150,000 pounds of apples a year in the 3,000 square foot production facility, which will produce approximately 45,000 litres of cider. The apples will be cold pressed and the soft cider sterilized with UV light to maintain flavour and quality.

The cider will be sold at Crossmount. The tasting room overlooks the Japanese garden and has a large window on to the lab where Tyler makes test batches of cider.

Bees, Grapes & a Farmers’ Market
The apple orchard is just the start of a large-scale farming operation. Tyler will be planting hardy University of Minnesota grape varieties on the slope behind the garden next spring and plans to make ice wine.

There will be a u-pick orchard of locally developed eating apples that are derived from Honey Crisp, a crisp, dense apple. The u-pick may also extend to cherries and chokeberries.

Local farmers will be invited to grow crops in a communal field and sell their produce at a weekend farmers’ market. “There are so many places where you can buy local fruit and vegetables on Valley Road,” explains Amy, “but there’s very little on this side of town.”

They are also hoping to set up beehives in the apple orchard.

The Glen at Crossmount has so much potential. Building an agricultural business is a slow process, and I commend the McKerchers for having the foresight and vision to commit resources to such a long-term project.

Upcoming Events
Fall Fest, October 31 - games & crafts, costume contest, life of a cider apple presentation at 2 pm

Cider 101, November 26 - the history and varieties of cider, guided tour of the cidery

Monday, October 26, 2015

Flavourful Saskatoon, October 26, 2015

Saskatoon Food Access
Saskatoon Food Access is a new Facebook page designed to discuss food access in Saskatoon. They are encouraging people to sign a petition and send a letter to Galen Weston, Loblaw’s Executive Chairman, protesting the fact that not only has Loblaws closed the Shop Easy grocery store in City Park, but they have placed a restrictive caveat on the sale of the land, prohibiting it from becoming another grocery store.

Green & White’s Food Issue
Green & White, the University of Saskatchewan’s alumni magazine, has dedicated its fall issue to food. The Hummus Effect: Changing North American flavour palates one pulse-based dip at a time was particularly interesting:

“Canada is the world’s leading exporter of lentils, chickpeas, and peas, and Saskatchewan grows 96 per cent of Canada’s lentil crop, 90 per cent of Canada’s chickpea crop, and 70 per cent of Canada’s dry pea crop. 

“This dominance is a relatively new development. SaskPulse reports that Saskatchewan farmers only started diversifying into pulse crops in the 1970s, pushed by the wheat glut of that time and by the availability of well-adapted varieties developed at the University of Saskatchewan.”

I'm enjoying Linda Ortiz's tomatillo verde/avocado dip - mild but full of flavour

Food Security, Nov. 26 
What Does Food Security Mean to Canadians?, a two-hour panel discussion from 7-9 pm, Nov. 26, will bring together four different researchers to present their perspectives on addressing hidden hunger. Panel members are Rachel Engler-Stringer, Community Health & Epidemiology; Bert Vandenberg, Plant Sciences; Wanda Martin, Nursing; and Emily Jenkins, Veterinary Microbiology.

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).

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Handcrafted Ice Cream in Victoria, BC

Summer and ice cream are a perfect match. And, if you’re going to splurge, make sure that you are eating the very best ice cream possible.

I had three really great ice cream experiences in Victoria this past summer. Be sure to check them out the next time you’re on Vancouver Island.

Cold Comfort 
Cold Comfort makes small batch, seasonally inspired ice cream. They use mostly organic ingredients, along with local fruits and herbs. There is no shortage of unexpected flavours as Cold Comfort has created over 340 different varieties, including Rosewater & Raspberry and Rosemary & Sour Cherry.

My absolute favourite was the East is East non-dairy sandwich bar. Sandwiched between thin layers of dacquoise is a rich mix of coconut milk, organic cane sugar, tamarind and cardamom.

Kid Sister 
Kid Sister originally sold paletas, Latin American fruit popsicles. They’ve expanded their menu to include a variety of ice cream bars and frozen yogurt. The milk and yogurt are organic and all of the packaging is made from compostable material.

Fol Epi 
In addition to its wonderful bread, pizzas, and baked goods, Fol Epi Bakery offers organic soft-serve vanilla ice cream in the most delicious waffle cones I have ever tasted. There’s a choice of toppings, but I highly recommend the chocolate sauce and toasted hazelnuts. The cones are gooey and delicious, perfect for a stroll around the harbour.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Flavourful Saskatoon, October 19, 2015

Grow Your Own Garlic, Oct. 24 
Pay Dirt Farm is offering a 2-hour garlic seeding workshop for organic gardeners in Nutana, Saskatoon, from 10 am to noon, Oct. 24. You’ll take home all the materials you’ll need to grow a garlic plot in your own backyard.

Fall Fest at Crossmount, Oct. 31 
The Glen at Crossmount is holding a Fall Fest from 1-4 pm, Oct. 31. There will be pumpkin carving, a costume contest, hot apple cider, crafts, and games. Vector Coffee will be there will specialty coffees and steamers for the adults.

Portuguese Wine Tasting, Nov. 7 
Join Francisco Figueira de Chaves of Medeiros Winery on his first visit to Saskatchewan for a wine tasting at Saskatoon Co-op Liquor Store on Nov. 7. Fine Wines Sask is hosting additional events in Regina, Rosetown, Estevan, Moose Jaw, and Wolseley.

Big Night for a Little Park, Nov. 10
The Nutana Community Association is hosting a fundraising dinner at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market on Nov. 10 to raise money to update the Albert Recreational Unit at the corner of Clarence Avenue and 13th Street. Chef Adam Patrick will pair each course with wines and liqueurs.

Taiji Eastern Cuisine 
Sawaddee Bistro on 2nd Avenue closed in September. I’m curious to find out more about the new restaurant, Taiji Eastern Cuisine, that is moving into the space.

Café Noir Espresso 
I picked up a naanwich and soup at Café Noir Espresso on Friday. I love the fact that everything they serve is vegetarian. I really enjoyed the spicy, Indian-flavoured chickpea and tomato soup. They carry macarons from Calories, gluten-free baking from Inside Out Bakery (the lemon shortbread had lots of fruity flavour), as well as their in-house baking (including samosas). It’s a good place for a quick lunch downtown.

Make Farm-Fresh Cheese at Home
Four simple steps for making farm-fresh cheese.

What is Black Garlic? 
If you’ve ever wondered what black garlic is, Lucky Peach provides a comprehensive answer. “Black garlic is what you get when you heat whole garlic cloves at about 60ºC for around forty days in a relatively humid environment. The garlic turns black (or very dark brown) and becomes sweeter and more acidic, pliable, and sticky. It also loses the pungency of fresh garlic, allowing you to use those fruity, roasty, caramelized flavors in places where popping in a whole clove of garlic would be not so nice.” 

How Fair is Fair Trade Wine? 
Unfortunately, according to Palate Press, fair trade wine isn’t a really good idea. “The biggest problem is that wine isn’t like sugar or chocolate or bananas. Most fair trade products are price-driven: quality isn’t much of an issue, so you’re looking for the lowest price….Quality is simply a bigger part of the equation for wine.” In addition, “fair trade isn’t actually helping the worst-off members of Argentina’s wine industry; it’s reinforcing the growing gulf between the poor and the wealthy.”

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, October 12, 2015

Flavourful Saskatoon, October 12, 2015

Fermentation Potluck, Oct. 23 
Saskatoon Ferments is hosting a potluck on Oct. 23. Join the group to get the full details.

Harvest Dinner Fundraiser, Oct. 29 
Vinyasa Yoga for Youth is hosting their Fall Harvest Dinner Fundraiser on Oct. 29 at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market. Five local chefs will prepare a five-course vegetarian dinner. Tickets are $75 and are available at Nosh Eatery, Tap, or One Yoga.

Winemaker Dinner at The Hollows, Oct. 30
Join Pierre Jhean, Winemaker for Henri de Villamont, Burgundy, France, at The Hollows Restaurant, Oct. 30. Fine Wines Sask is hosting additional events in Regina, Rosetown, Estevan, Moose Jaw, and Wolseley.

Fall Reading List
Food Tank has put together a fall reading list. I’m eager to read A Taste of Generation Yum: How a Generation’s Love for Organic Fare, Celebrity Chefs and Microbrews Will Make or Break the Future of Food and The New Bread Basket: How the New Crop of Grain Growers, Plant Breeders, Millers, Maltsters, Bakers, Brewers, and Local Food Activists Are Redefining Our Daily Loaf (available from the Saskatoon Public Library).

Fall Menu at Nosh Eatery 
We tried out Nosh Eatery’s new fall menu this past week. The vegetarian charcuterie plate was a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach – the smoked mushrooms are especially good.

The desserts were tasty and the chocolate and spice layered zucchini cake with mint cream cheese frosting was a visual delight, but my favourite was the pumpkin chocolate cheesecake.

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, October 5, 2015

Flavourful Saskatoon, October 5, 2015

Restaurants for Change, Oct. 21
On Oct. 21, more than 50 restaurants in 13 Canadian cities will donate all or part of the proceeds from dinner service to Community Food Centres Canada of which the Saskatoon Food Bank and Learning Centre is a member.

In Saskatoon, Riversdale Delicatessen and Wankuskewin Heritage Park Restaurant are participating in Restaurants for Change.

Order a Selection of BC Wines 
Saskatoon’s liquor stores have a limited collection of BC wines. You can now order a shipment of wine from 30 different craft BC wineries through New District, BC’s only online craft wine marketplace. There’s a good assortment of wineries, a fair bit of background information, and the purchasing process looks straightforward.

The Beginner’s Asian Pantry 
The authors of 101 Easy Asian Recipes provide a guide to what you should look for when stocking your pantry with Asian ingredients.

Guide to Organic Coffee 
“Higher-end coffee tends to be slathered with slogans, logos, and banners claiming all sorts of things about the conditions of the farm and the relationship between the farmer and seller. Sometimes there will be photos of happy coffee farmers, or long narratives about how much the CEO of your local coffee roaster cares about his Honduran farms. Proceed with caution.”

Here are some tips for getting an accurate reading of the labels.

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).

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Your Office Needs a Personal Barista

Monday mornings can be rough. But not always. Axon Development Corporation invited Daryl Grunau of Vector Coffee Company to their office to serve coffee for two hours. The lineup began immediately for Americanos, Macchiatos, and Lattes. Those of us who don’t drink coffee were happy to receive Earl Grey Lattes and Vanilla Steamers.

There were baked goods from City Perks, where Daryl also works. And seconds, sometimes even thirds, of coffee.

It was a chance for people who don’t usually drink specialty coffees to try them out and to enjoy the personal service. And Daryl’s low-key approach was never intimidating. Tell him what kind of coffee you like (“sweet and frothy”) and he’ll make a drink that suits your taste.

Daryl has a mobile coffee cart and comes prepared to make a variety of specialty coffees. All he needs is a plug-in. The cart is quite remarkable as it comes apart and he manages to squeeze it into the back of his very small car.

Daryl Grunau was named Best Barista in Saskatoon by Planet S and he knows his coffee. You can sign Vector Coffee Company up for a morning coffee party, a conference, or a Christmas party. I know that Axon’s staff are hoping he’ll make a repeat visit.