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Archive for April, 2009

There really is nothing better – it’s like pulling a fresh peach right off the tree.  A most wonderful breakfast:

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Although I consider myself to be very open minded, I find that it’s the oddest things that I can struggle eating.  Tripe?  Gizzard?  Heart?  Brain?  Tongue?  No problem.  A new fruit?  What you talking about Willis?  It’s like I become all Sam-I-Am and all sense of culinary adventure is instantly thwarted.

My Father recently reminded of Michael Smith’s tirade that if you see food that you’ve never hear of, buy it.  I had seen and heard of Dragon Fruit before but never tried one:

I have learned that the one we tried is officially a red pitaya (pitahaya) and are native to Australasia, Central and South America.  They are a sweet fruit that grow on cacti in fairly dry and warm climates.  Although sweet , their flavour can border on bland and they will taste better chilled than warm (our specimen was served warm).

Cutting it open revealed it’s inner mysteries:

The fruit was moist (though not juicy) and black seeds that I could have easily mistaken for black sesame seeds filled the fruit (they are edible).  The flesh and characteristic of eating this low-calorie fruit is very similar to that of a kiwi (minus the green colour and “furry” skin).  The texture was virtually indistinguishable from a semi-firm kiwi.  Eating is simple – use a spoon and treat the outer flesh like a bowl.

They come in a variety of colours (on the inside and the outside).  They make a pleasant desert or could be used to refresh your palette between courses.  Many Asian fruit and produce stores carry them as do T&T in the Toronto area.

When was the last time you tasted something for the first time?  Be bold and explore and discover the world around us today through all of your senses – including your sense of gastronomic adventure!

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The more I learn about beer, the more I know I have yet to learn.  The statement “I don`t like beer” once made sense to me – however it makes less sense as I learn more and more about beer from around the world.  We live in a day and age that makes sampling the world`s finest easy and show us that beer is not simply a golden carbonated beverage.  Varieties which resemble fruit juice, others that a crisp like champagne, rich and mixed with coffee, fermented in bottle and others that feature toasted smoky hops are just a few of the many of the varieties that show beer to be as diverse as vegetables.

I`ve been waiting for a while to crack this bottle:

Thomas Hardy`s Ale is not for everyone.  It`s a small bottle (250 ml) and a strong pour (in flavour and alcohol as it`s 11.7%).  This English Ale was created in 1968 and is regularly collected by beerhounds around the world.  The label claims people have allowed the beer to age for more than 25 years and a search on the Internet will reveal claims of people sampling 40-year old varieties.  The beer is bottle conditioned, meaning that it continues to ferment and develop flavour in the bottle and can continue to develop flavour for years in the bottle (similar to Fuller`s which we previously wrote about).  Unlike Scotch, this means that you can buy a young bottle and let it gain value and flavour in your cellar.  This makes is more affordable (though not cheap at almost $5 a bottle in the LCBO) though far more tempting to break in to.

We had a sample last evening.  It poured like syrup and tastes closer to hard liquor than beer.  A wonderful after-dinner drink or something to match with beer and chocolate it resembles a stiff mixed drink more than one would expect with the word “ale.”  It is not so much refreshing as it is a slow-sipping treat that can be stretched for an hour or two (I actually paused to drink a pilsner when I got a little hot in the kitchen).  There is very little carbonation and the flavour will potentially overwhelm your mouth with flavour.

This beer is highly regarded amongst beer drinkers of the world and is very hard to find in many places.  As Canadians are still discovering the beers of the world, this is surprisingly available at a lot of LCBOs.  I predict that this type of thing will become more difficult to find in years to come and while you may not love it, I highly recommend trying it while you can.

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I went to the 17th annual Good Food Festival and Market this weekend at the International Center (near the Airport in Toronto`s west end).  My Father and I thought it was our first time at the event until we walked the halls of the show and had a feeling of deja vu and think we may have attended a previous version many years ago.

Despite arriving about 30 minutes early we were still surrounded by a crowd and were several hundred people deep in a line to enter.  People were in high spirits and the chaos was fairly well organized and it wasn`t the nightmare it could have been (we were fortunate to find out we had originally stood in a lineup for people who had pre-purchased their tickets and were able to move to another line without much pain).

The show was busy!

We didn`t know what to expect – I was a bit confused at first when we noticed that a lot of people had brought big bags and grocery trolleys.  A 20-year veteran of the show explained that there were some samples and other products that were heavy (such as pickles) and her cart would save multiple trips back and forth to the car.

I really enjoyed the show – though it was different from what I would have guessed.  there were a tonne of free samples; often of food I had not seen or tried.  When you tasted something you liked you could follow it up with purchasing the product at very good prices.  Most of the food would keep in the pantry (pickles, canned fruit) or the fridge (pastrami, cheese and the like).  Samples were plentiful and I enjoyed the show a great deal.

There were many food demonstrations as well – the main attraction was the exposure to new foods that I had not seen before and I thought the show delivered on it`s promises here.  The event bills itself as a festival of Home Cooking and Home Eating – and I thought it was exactly that.  This was an exhibition featuring ingredients rather than dishes and, as such, was great for us.  If you`re not into cooking at home or trying new products to cook, you may want to skip.  If you`re looking for exposure to new things and groceries at good (and even great) prices, this is something to check out next year!

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I have so much respect for those who work so hard creating food for our tables.  My brief insight into the lives of farmers, fishermen (and women) and those who support them is one that leaves me doubting that I do what they do.  long hours, unpredictable yields and pricing are made more complicated by expensive technology, competing needs (such as real estate) for their land and feast or famine years.  Their numbers are dwindling and the family farm is something that is scarce and declining and something that I hope to inspire others to support.

I had the absolute privilege of briefly meeting John Jaques and family from Thamesville, Ontario this weekend.  Thamesville is north of the 401 between London and Windsor.  Their family farm goes by the moniker Sunshine Farms and specializes in asparagus.  The family-owned farm continues to be worked by John, his wife Claudia and their sons (Josh, Ben and Adrian).  They offer standard vegetables in addition to a line of certified organic produce.  They are super friendly and most excited about what they are doing.

John was exhibiting at the Good Food show and market featuring the farms 24 different types of pickled vegetables.  His Zesty Asparagus was nominated and competing (and, in my opinion) should win a best in show prize.  They are picked from the field by hand, individually (hand) loaded into jars and turned into a wonderfully crunchy, somewhat spicy, dill-infused piece of heaven.

We bought 5 jars of product from Sunshine Farms and the ingredient list reads just like the carrots below.  There are no preservatives, no chemicals and feature ingredients you likely have in your own home.  This is the closest thing to making your own pickles that you can get without actually making the pickles.

The results are wonderful and taste as good as they look:

 

One of the things I really admire about Sunshine Farms is that they aren’t scared to make products that they clearly like.  Their are many spicy and zesty lines that may scare some people away and have the rest of us lining up.  You get the sense that the products are made the way that they believe it should be – as opposed to making a product based on what they think people will buy.  This integrity is transparent in their food and makes me feel good enjoying it.  I don’t feel as though I’m eating a product – rather I feel like I am sharing their family recipe of pickles and this makes the experience much more similar to tasting pickles from a friend as opposed to factory.

This is truly food that is made by hand and heart.  Go out of your way to Support Sunshine Farms and you’ll be rewarded for your efforts with a wonderful treat that you’ll be proud to share.

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There was a long time in my life that I didn’t think much about vinegar – it was something that came from a bottle and I considered it to be something manufactured as opposed to crafted.  Vinegar is much closer to wine and beer than the commodity I considered it to be and, at it’s finest forms, relates closely to wine and specialty cheese.

Essence of Niagara is bottled by Niagara Vinegar Co. and was a wonderful discovery at the Good Food show.  The Essence line of products was purchased by Niagara Vinegar about 18 months ago.  The company manufactures jellies and vinegars using local area grapes from vineyards as the common inspiration in it’s products.

They sold a sample pack of 6 Wine Vinegars (for an incredible deal of $5) which includes Chardonnay Peach, Sauvignon Blanc Cucumber, Vidal Maple, Baco Noir Blueberry, Baco Noir Raspberry and Vidal Cranberry Plum.  We were fortunate to try several of the Vinegars and I was thrilled with the fresh tartness offered in these sweet elixirs.  These are surefire winners for salad dressings and other cooking – I am excited to use the maple the next time we put salmon under the broiler (the maple is from actual maple syroup).  There was an honest pride apparant in the products and the kind team who presented them to us.

I was also thrilled with many of their jellies – including this gorgeous Red Pepper Jelly:

We purchased a different jar – a wine vinegar jelly which features cranberries and cinnamon to bring a sweet bite that is calling out for the closest piece of cheese it can find.  It was interesting, original and tasty!

Essence of Niagara is essentially exactly what it claims to be.  I admire the careful attention to finding new ways to share the grapes from Niagara with the rest of us and really recomend you sample some of their wares (a list of stores can be found on their site).

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Whether you are interested in beer or not, invest the 4 minutes in watching this wonderful video which features the passion, vision, character, excitement and commitment of a clan of people dedicated to challenging the way things are done.I have been declaring and praising the American Craft Beer industry as being something special for some time now. This praise is often met with a raised eyebrow north of the border – although that is starting to change as Canadians are gaining access to more American beer and are more curious about beer in general these days with a renaissance occurring.

Beer is becoming hip and the average beer drinker is learning far more about what they are drinking. I believe we are going through a transition that wine went through in California in the 1970s – it is becoming better understood, receiving a share of the spotlight and gaining status that will elevate it beyond the adult equivalent of lemon aid – something to drink on a hot day after cutting the grass.

A lot of the credit to the emergence of beer at the adult table is to the credit of hundreds (and likely thousands) of craft brewers across the world. Meet a few of them in this video (and thanks to Mike Palmer from Stone Brewing for sharing)

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “I Am A Craft Brewer“, posted with vodpod

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