Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Christmas at Borough Market

What a treat to be able to do some of my Christmas shopping at Borough Market in London, UK! There’s been a market on this spot for 1,000 years and it’s an amazing place to shop for local and international food products.

The market sprawls beneath the arches of London Bridge with trains rattling by overhead. There are many vendors in the market buildings, while others have independent premises nearby.

Quality over Quantity
The food at Borough Market isn’t cheap, but it’s all of superior quality. Many of the vendors are also producers. Others offer hand-picked wares from small-scale artisan producers. Much of the food is organic and made by hand, and the market has close ties with Slow Food.

You’ll find unusual products, excellent quality, and incredible flavour.

British Cheese
There were so many vendors selling cheese and I made a point of buying British cheese although I could also have bought cheese from Croatia, France, and Switzerland.

I’ve purchased Gorwydd Caerphilly in the past and knew it was a must-have this year as well: “Gorwydd Caerphilly boasts traditional Caerphilly cheese produced by the Trethowan family at Gorwydd Farm, just outside the village of Llanddewi Brefi in Ceredigion, west Wales. The cheese is made with unpasteurised cow’s milk and animal rennet, using original hand-turned presses and mould. It is matured for two months at closely monitored temperature and humidity levels; during this process, each cheese is carefully turned every day.”

A new one for me this year is organic Bath Soft Cheese: “It has a pedigree stretching back to the 1790s, listing Admiral Lord Nelson among its many admirers.”

White Stilton is a very mild cheese. I’m more familiar with it when it’s been combined with chunks of apricot or ginger. “White Stilton is a Protected Designation of Origin and can only be made in one of three counties - Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire from locally produced milk.” 

Neal’s Yard Dairy is extraordinary for the support and encouragement they offer to Britain’s artisan cheesemakers: “We select, mature and sell farmhouse cheese from the UK and Ireland. We work with about 40 cheesemakers. We visit them regularly to taste their cheese with them and select the batches we want to mature and sell.”

Social Enterprise 
Good food not only tastes good; it’s also good for the people who make it and eat it. Two stalls had strong social goals and objectives.

Luminary Bakery is a “social enterprise offering opportunities for women from vulnerable backgrounds to build a future for themselves. We use baking as a tool to take women on a journey to employability. We offer courses, work experience and paid employment within our bakery. By investing in and releasing them to realize their dreams, through training, employment and community, we aim to break the generational cycles of abuse, prostitution, criminal activity and poverty.”

I didn’t purchase anything from Nibs Etc. but I was impressed that they were using waste ingredients – fruit and vegetable pulp from local juice bars – to make their products.

A whole section of the market is dedicated to food stalls offering an incredible variety of lunch options.

I had a messy but delicious burger sitting beside a replica of Sir Francis Drake’s Golden Hind, looking at the amazing skyscape across the Thames.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Liverpool Street, Spitalfields, and Leadenhall

I’m housesitting in London, UK, for the next month. I arrive in central London at Liverpool Street Station. This is an area of London that I’ve never visited before so I spent the day wandering the area.

Liverpool Street Station opened in 1864 and is Britain’s third busiest station serving 64 million passengers a year.

Not far from the station is Spitalfields Market. The former covered market now houses a wide assortment of restaurants, craft stalls, and an innumerable number of food stalls.

It amused me to find The Vurger Co., a plant-based burger pop-up in the former meat market. 

The area has always welcomed immigrants from around the world. The boat used for this sculpture transported immigrants from Turkey to Greece.

This area appears to be a very busy, high-density business district, and there are quick lunch options for every taste – in restaurants or street markets.

There are so many tall, modern buildings in London, more than I've noticed in Paris, but perhaps that’s just the area I was in.

Old juxtaposes new as is immediately apparent when you walk into Leadenhall Market.

Leadenhall Market is one of the city’s oldest markets, standing at the heart of Roman London. The current structure with its pillars and vaulted glass ceilings was built in 1881.

If you’re in this area, I highly recommend visiting the Dennis Severs’ House. In silence, by candlelight and firelight, you move from room to room examining the traces of the family that lived here. The book is still open, the tea half drunk – they could be just around the corner. It’s deeply moving if you are prepared to open yourself up to a new experience.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Flavourful Saskatoon, December 18, 2017

Chef Jenni Launches Season, Dec. 23
Exciting news! If you love Chef Jenni’s cooking, you’re sure to want a copy of Season, a collection of stories and recipes featuring local ingredients. She’s launching her book at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market from 11 am-2 pm, Dec. 23. And, if you haven’t yet bought a copy of Renée Kohlman’s All the Sweet Things, here’s your chance.

Scotch from the Islands, Jan. 12 
Taste a sampling of Scotch from the Islands around Scotland on Jan. 12 at Co-op Wine Spirits Beer.

Latte Art Throwdown, Jan. 20 
Venn Coffee Roasters is holding a Latte Art Throwdown on Jan. 20. Email to register or to watch.

Cooking Classes 
Cooking classes for January and February are now listed on the Simon’s Fine Foods’ website. There’s everything from Pulses, including chickpea pancakes and chocolate lentil brownies, to Young Chefs, Afternoon Tea, and Sushi.

Is Your Snack Bar Really Healthy?
Raising the Bar: Choosing Healthy Snack Bars versus Gimmicky Junk Food “exposes misleading marketing practices by food industry giants that market candy-like snack and energy bars as wholesome and nutritious. The report further exposes leading natural/organic brands for including cheap, conventional ingredients instead of creating nutritive products that qualify for the USDA organic label.” A scorecard shows how quality varies widely.

A Winter’s Dose of Vitamin D 
Supplements aren’t the only way to get Vitamin D in the winter. Mushrooms have a significant amount of Vitamin D, especially if they’re sun-dried.

Happy Christmas 
I hope that all of you have a peaceful, happy holiday season with your family. Flavourful Saskatoon will be back on January 1, 2018.

Flavourful Saskatoon is a weekly Monday feature. I also post articles about food that is good, clean and fair; travel; and books. You may also enjoy EcoFriendly Sask profiling Saskatchewan environmental initiatives and events. 

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

Monday, December 11, 2017

Flavourful Saskatoon, December 11, 2017

I've been eating some very fresh eggs this week!

Botté Chai Bar 
Parviz Yazdani plans to open Botté Chai Bar, a Persian tea house and eatery, to share the culture and food of his country of birth.

Hearth Restaurant 
Beth Rogers and Thayne Robstad grew up in Saskatoon. After travelling and finessing their culinary skills, they moved back to Saskatoon and opened Caboose Catering in 2015. They have now purchased the former Crazy Cactus restaurant on Melrose Avenue and hope to open the Hearth Restaurant in Spring 2018.

Cooking with Chef Jenni, Jan. 10 & 25 
Learn to make homemade perogies with Chef Jenni at The Local Kitchen on Jan. 10. Or you can join Chef Jenni on Jan. 25 and learn to make some new vegetarian dishes.

Karma Catering 
Karma Conscious Café and Eatery has a catering menu with sandwiches, soups, salads, main courses, desserts, and drinks.

Tall Grass Prairie Bakery in downtown Winnipeg is selling sourdough bread made with Kernza, a perennial grain. It isn’t ideal for bread as it doesn’t have enough gluten, but as a perennial grain, it’s a huge boost to environmentally sustainable agriculture.

National Food Sustainability Rankings 
France ranks first in the 2017 Food Sustainability Index, which evaluates food sustainability issues in 34 countries across three pillars—food loss and waste, sustainable agriculture, and nutritional challenges. Canada ranks at #11 for overall ratings and #5 for food loss and waste.

Flavourful Saskatoon is a weekly Monday feature. I also post articles about food that is good, clean and fair; travel; and books. You may also enjoy EcoFriendly Sask profiling Saskatchewan environmental initiatives and events. 

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

Friday, December 8, 2017

Bristol's Waterways and the SS Great Britain

Bristol, in southwest England, has been a major British trading port for centuries and the leading slaving port in the mid-1800s. Nowadays it’s home to Banksy, a thriving alternative/creative economy (the Bristol pound), and a strong streak of independence.

With less than 24 hours in Bristol, I chose to focus on the docklands and wended my way to the dockyard where the SS Great Britain launched in 1843.

Designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the SS Great Britain was the first iron-hulled, propeller-driven ship to cross the Atlantic. The ship travelled over 1 million miles to New York and later Australia before being abandoned in the Falkland Islands.

Now completely restored, the SS Great Britain can be viewed from below the waterline to observe how it was constructed.

A walk through the ship is eerily realistic – the cow on deck moos, you can hear people coughing and smell sweat in steerage. There’s a bloody basin of water beside the woman who has just given birth and the smell of medicine in quarantine. History brought back to life.

I took the harbour ferry from the museum back to downtown Bristol. The juxtaposition of centuries-old warehouses and modern condominiums is mesmerizing.

I truly believe I'm destined to live in The Cheese Warehouse).

There are houseboats and restaurant boats, old bridges, and wonderful new pedestrian ones that curve their way across the water.

Brunel was appointed chief engineer for the Great Western Railway when he was only 27. Bristol Temple Meads train station, several viaducts, and a major tunnel that he designed are still in use today.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Flavourful Saskatoon, December 4, 2017

Christmas Evening Market, Dec. 14 
Enjoy drinks and treats at the Saskatoon Farmer’s Market Christmas Evening Market from 4-8 pm, Dec. 14.

Christmas Stollen
The Night Oven Bakery has Christmas Stollen. Raisins, almonds, and candied citrus are soaked in rum and mixed into a rich sourdough, which is then wrapped around house-made marzipan. After being baked, it’s soaked in rum butter and dusted with icing sugar. Place an order for pickups on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday from now until Christmas.

From War Zones to Comfort Food 
The Guardian newspaper has published their list of the best food books of 2017. It’s an interesting collection: from a comfort food diary to women’s stories and recipes from Syria.

Hunger, Migrant Workers, and Roundup 
Civil Eats provides a much more sober list of recommended books covering farming, migrant workers, hunger, foraging, antibiotics and herbicides.

School Kids and Fast Food
Communities in Great Britain have started banning fast food outlets close to schools. What do you think? Would you support a similar policy in Canada?

Flavourful Saskatoon is a weekly Monday feature. I also post articles about food that is good, clean and fair; travel; and books. You may also enjoy EcoFriendly Sask profiling Saskatchewan environmental initiatives and events. 

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

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Mulled Wine and Fog in Arras

It was a foggy, foggy day in northern France, but that didn’t stop crowds of us from heading to the Christmas market in Arras.

The large squares in the centre of Arras are unbelievably beautiful. Arras was part of the Spanish Netherlands for many years, which helps to explain the Flemish-Baroque architecture of the 155 townhouses surrounding the two squares.

Originally made of wood, they were reconstructed in brick after extensive damage during World War I when Arras was only 10 kilometres from the front.

The Marché de Noël occupied one of the squares and was jam-packed with people. There were young soldiers cradling machine guns on the perimeter and we went through a security check before entering the square, but people didn’t let that bother them.

This was the biggest Christmas market that I’d been to and there were way more booths and way more food, much of it with a regional focus – sandwiches from Alsace, mulled wine with prunes from Anjou, and even maple syrup from Canada.

There were also a variety of craft booths – lots of Petrushka dolls, Christmas toques, and nativity scenes.

The cabins had elaborate displays on their roofs.

There was an assortment of rides and a skating rink in the centre of the square.

I headed straight for the mulled wine – it was a very cool, damp day! But I refused to try the Pipi de Renne (reindeer) or the Pipi de Vieille Fille (old maid)! There were churros, waffles, sauerkraut, hot dogs, rissoles, and so much more to munch on.

Christmas markets are such a fun, festive time for families and young people. It’s a shame we don’t have them in Canada.