As the year draws to a close, I like to review my food photos and reflect on the amazing things that I tasted throughout the year. I am blessed to work in a field that I am deeply passionate about, and I enjoy exploring the world around me through food. Food gives you a view into the people and culture of a place, as well as the terroir. Everything tastes better when enjoyed in the context of where it was grown, and the history of the people who influenced the food.
I kicked off 2014 with a trip to San Francisco, where we enjoyed many great flavours. To pick one item from that trip was a challenge, but our visit to the famed Chez Pannise Restaurant, the creation of the even more famous Alice Waters stands out. Her philosophies on food start with the ingredient, and the chefs in the restaurant treat the ingredient with the utmost respect and care, using everything, and allowing the flavours to shine. This simple duck broth & noodle soup was perfect in it’s simplicity, garnished with fresh herbs and snap peas.
On that same trip we visited Craftsman and Wolves, a truly innovative bakery that pushes the boundaries with creative baked goods, and sophisticated twists on traditional items. It was there that we sampled the ‘Rebel Within’ – a savoury muffin baked around a soft cooked egg. We were so inspired by this creation that we came back to Ottawa and Jo-Ann spent a few weeks creating a similar ‘Red Apron’ version which we lovingly dubbed the ‘M’oeuf-in’.
Sometime last spring I made a discovery in Ottawa that I found difficult to believe I had not known about sooner. In the old Mello’s Diner on Dalhousie, new owners recently took over operations of this 45 year old Ottawa landmark. Traditional diner by day, a new chef has introduced a dinner menu offering truly excellent food including what I believe is the best hamburger available in this city.
I have watched many other patrons express concern when presented with a burger cooked this carefully and served this pink, but I believe that when you source your ingredients carefully, as this chef is doing, you can trust your food and the person cooking it for you. It’s a brave move on the part of this establishment, and I applaud their courage. But this is no fast food burger. It takes a full 20 minutes to cook this baby properly and it is well worth the wait. If you’re super hungry, start your meal with a plate of deep fried Brussel sprouts. You will never turn your nose up at a Brussel sprout again!
On an early summer trip through Rome, I had 3 days to eat as much famed Roman far as one could consume. An organized walking food tour took us into the Jewish Ghetto for some historical treasures. Most memorable was my first bite of this Torta Ricotta – a rich chocolate cheese cake made with few simple ingredients and baked in a wood fired oven until dark and crusty on top. Not too sweet, creamy and decadent, I was blown away.
There were many great taste memories of that trip, including a bowl of el dente pasta, treated simply with olive oil and shaved truffles. It’s often the simplest dishes that leave the lasting impressions.
The coffees were spectacular, and the baked goods were scrumptious, but the block of pecorino style cheese laced with truffles was beyond my ability to resist. This, I did manage to pack and transport back to Canada, and I savoured slices of it for weeks after my return home, each bite reminding me of the great times we had on our trip.
Summer is always a wonderful time in Ottawa to enjoy local produce for our short season. Tomatoes, local cheeses, fresh vegetables picked off the vine – my cooking efforts are pared down to the basics. It seemed like a good time to learn something new.
Eggs, although one of the simplest things to cook, are also the simplest thing to cook badly. I was reading an article and decided to try a new approach to scrambled eggs. Juniper Farm fresh organic eggs, low heat, a pinch of salt, constant stirring and lots of butter result in creamy, custard like eggs that are unlike anything you have ever tasted. The colour is bright, the consistency is spreadable, the taste is almost cheesy. Served with Purebread rye pumperknickel (another 2014 discovery), fresh chèvre, vine ripened tomatoes & capers, this was a memorable breakfast!
As in previous years, I have enjoyed many a great meal at the Fraser Cafe & Table 40 in 2014. These brothers continue to put great value on every plate, and you never leave their establishment feeling underfed or overcharged – an accomplishment in the restaurant industry these days. The meal that really stood out this year was a sharing platter of perfectly roast chicken, pork belly, polenta fries, mashed potatoes, gravy, and numerous side dishes. Although we were two hungry eaters we could not finish this platter, and got to take the leftovers home for lunch the next day. The service is always excellent and the food is beautifully prepared and presented.
Each year I visit the Atwater & Jean Talon markets in Montreal and a highlight is always the small stands and cafes serving up ‘ready to eat’ and inexpensive dishes. This year the Atwater market expanded their space for food booths, reminiscent of a food truck ’round-up’. We spent one happy afternoon sampling many of the delicious offerings which included gourmet grilled cheese, cured fish, curries and this amazing bowl of Thai soup from the Satay Brothers.
It was full of flavour, warm and comforting, and another perfect example of how simple food can be the most satisfying.
Finally, I had the great pleasure recently to visit a new addition to the Ottawa food scene. Macarons et Madeleines has long been a favourite of those ‘in the know’ for viennoiserie, but stepping into their new shop located at 1323 Wellington will leave you feeling that you have left Ottawa and arrived in Paris. The smell of butter fills the air. Their bright, beautiful shop is well stocked with delicious treats including, of course, macarons and madeleines. Everything looked beautiful and the few things I sampled were ‘out of this world’ delicious.
Just a sampling of the many great food experiences I enjoyed in 2014. Wishing you a very Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year. Here’s to great flavour experiences in 2015!
November 5, 2014
Last night we held a Client Appreciation night. All of our customers were invited to come out and enjoy a sampling of wines from our new Wine Club, and some tasty samples of items from our kitchen.
The menu went something like this:
Almost 100 people turned out, and if you were one of them, we thank you for spending the evening with us.
It’s a privilege to be able to do what we love and we appreciate the fact that there are people in our community who place value on good food, made with care, using ingredients that are sourced from our local farmer and producer community.
One of the highlights of the evening was when our client John Lowe arrived with a miniature of the Red Apron store, which he created, complete with people and cars. For more information on John, visit his Blog!
Early this summer I had the great pleasure of visiting the Turkish Mediterranean for 2 weeks with my 15 year old son. We hadn’t planned to go to Turkey, but were drawn there by a week long cruise of the area on a sail ship offering daily yoga, fresh food, and dips in the cool, blue waters. YogaCruise is operated by Sven & Kathja. They were the ultimate hosts on this trip, providing twice daily yoga, cool tunes, and great meals featuring ingredients from the region.
Tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers and fresh yogurt made daily appearances in our breakfast, lunch and dinner. Served up 50 different ways, these ingredients were staples of the local diet. Fish, beef, and lamb made occasional appearances. Desserts consisted mostly of dried & fresh fruits, nuts, and the occasional pastry or Turkish Delight.
Our days were spent like this: wake up, do yoga, eat breakfast, swim, lie in the sun, eat lunch, swim, lie in the sun, have tea, swim, lie in the sun, nap, do yoga, eat dinner, dance, sleep. After 7 days of this I was relaxed, tanned and just a teensy bit more fit. The 45 degree plus weather was most bearable due to the sea breezes and refreshing dips in the Mediterranean. Not a bad way to spend a vacation. Too bad it takes 24 hours to get there!
One of the may local recipes we enjoyed were these simple zucchini fritters, and considering we are in the thick of zucchini season, I thought it would be a good recipe to share with you this month.
1 pound zucchini (about 2 medium), trimmed
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2 scallions, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 medium garlic clove, minced or pressed through a garlic press
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup corn starch or all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
6 tablespoons olive oil
Lemon wedges, for serving
Shred the zucchini on the large holes of a box grater or in a food processor fitted with the shredding disk. Transfer the zucchini to a fine mesh strainer and set over a bowl. Toss the zucchini with the salt and let it sit for 10 minutes. Wring all of the excess liquid out of the zucchini with your hands, then set aside.
Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Mix in the dried zucchini, scallions, dill, feta, garlic and black pepper. Sprinkle the corn starch and baking powder over mixture and stir until uniformly incorporated.
Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Drop 2-tablespoon sized portions into the pan, then use the back of a spoon to gently press the batter into 2-inch-wide fritters. Pan-fry until golden brown on both sides, 2-3 minutes per side. Transfer the fritters to a paper towel-lined plate. Wipe the skillet clean with paper towels. Return the skillet to medium heat, add the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil, and repeat with remaining batter. Serve warm or room temperature with lemon wedges.
It’s the thick of blueberry season, and you can find late varieties of strawberries and raspberries at the local Farmer’s Markets in abundance. Last year we were receiving fall raspberries from Rideau Pines Farm well into late September!
Most berries fall into the SuperFood category. The antioxidants in berries help your body fight stress caused by free radicals that can lead to illness. Eating a diet rich in antioxidants can help improve your health, protect your skin and hair, and prevent certain diseases. All fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants, but nutrient-rich berries are some of the absolute best sources.
Vitamin C is also found in berries. Eating vitamin C–rich berries will contribute to radiant skin and healthy hair, and may reduce the risk of arthritis, cataracts, and macular degeneration.
There are so many ways you can enjoy your fresh picked berries, and because they are easy to freeze, you can enjoy local berries through the fall and winter. Here are some ideas!
Enjoy a breakfast of fresh berries, plain organic yogurt sweetened with honey or maple syrup, ground flax seed, hot oatmeal, or Justine’s Granola (available in our Retail Shoppe). A SuperFood way to start your day!
Finish your dinner with a bowl of berries topped with a dollop of whipped cream or greek yogurt.
Slice and layer berries, lemons, and other seasonal fruit in a pitcher with fresh mint and a couple of ounces of your favourite berry liqueur, then add a bottle of sparkling wine or Prosecco. Muddle to intensify the flavours.
Serve fresh berries with pound cake or angel food cake (see recipe)
Add fresh blueberries or strawberries to summer greens and toss with a sweet vinaigrette, garnish with some poppy or sesame seeds.
Make the best daiquiri ever. Fresh mint adds zing! (see recipe)
Make a batch of crepes or pancakes and top them with fresh berries and maple syrup. If you want to get fancy, add a slice of seared foie gras.
3 cups of organic white flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
3 cups sugar
6 eggs, at room temperature
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
1 tablespoon organic food grade lavender
1 cup sour cream
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and dust with flour, tapping out excess flour – a 2 loaf pans, or one 8 x 10 cake pan, or a bundt pan. This recipe also bakes well into muffin cups.
Sift flour, baking soda and salt into medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat butter in a large bowl at medium speed until fluffy. Gradually add sugar and beat for 4 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until just combined after each addition. Beat in lemon juice and peel.
Using a rubber spatula, mix in dry ingredients. Mix in sour cream. Transfer batter to prepared pans.
Bake until a tester inserted near the center comes out clean, which could be between 30 minutes (muffins) to 1 ½ hours depending on the size of your pan. Turn out carefully and allow to cool completely. This cake keeps well for a number of days if wrapped tightly.
6 cups ice
½ cup organic cane sugar or ¼ cup honey
150-200 grams of fresh strawberries
½ cup lemon juice
¾ cup rum
¼ cup triple sec
¼ cup sparkling water
In a blender combine ice, sugar and strawberries. Pour in lemon juice, rum and sparkling water. Enjoy!
This month, Jo-Ann and I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to get into our car and drive to Hudson, New York, to take part in an on-farm event in support of Friends of the Farmer. FarmOn! Foundation, is a non-profit charity, founded in 2011 to reinvigorate a respect for farming. The Friends of the Farmer Festival was created to raise awareness of local food choices and sources creating rural to urban marketplaces in support of sustaining local small-scale family farms Since its inauguration the foundation has worked to generate over $250,000 in economic development for the Hudson Valley’s local community.
In addition to a good cause, the real draw was an opportunity to have chefs like April Bloomfield – Spotted Pig, The Breslin – New York, NY, and Derek Dammann – Maison Publique – Montreal, QC serve us food and to engage in discussions about food, farm and the industry. As part of the Norther Chef Alliance, these 10 award winning chefs come together a few times a year to lend their talents towards the raising of money for good causes.
It was a beautiful day and the hosts at Fish & Game Farm put on a spectacular event that was well organized and perfectly executed. The 10 chefs paired off under large tents and served up 2 dishes each that featured ingredients that were locally sourced, or they brought with them from their various regions.
We sampled rotisserie chickens, smoked pig, spit roasted goat, coal fired vegetables, boiled crab and much more. Each chef-team was paired with a mixologists who were serving up cocktails using artisan spirits, local wines & microbrews. The net effect was a heavenly experience, culminating in a huge bonfire and live music performed by Medeski, Martin & Wood.
One of the highlights of the evening was the opportunity to meet Jeremy Charles – Raymonds – St. John’s, NL and his lovely wife and new baby, and to taste his delicious creation of crab, sea grass, new potatoes, and sea grass. His restaurant is now on my ‘must visit’ list.
We spent the next day touring around the town of Hudson, sampling spectacular baked goods from Bonfiglio & Bread , shopping for antiques and home wares, visiting a young and inspiring entrepreneur at Flower Kraut, culminating in a memorable dinner at Swoon Kitchenbar where I tasted the best pasta dish in recent memory.
We will absolutely visit Hudson again, soon!
We are Mothers, residents of our community, entrepreneurs as well as active participants in our local economy. We individually have a history of owning and operating successful local businesses.
Our commitment to getting people “back to the table” starts at home and extends to our community through a number of philanthropic endeavours.