Archive for the ‘Producers and retailers’ Category

Raw Mountain: Ottawa startup develops celery root snacks from scratch

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014
Candace Tierney uses Ontario-grown celery root to make Raw Mountain celery root chips. (Photos: Courtesy of Raw Mountain)

Candace Tierney uses Ontario-grown celery root to make Raw Mountain celery root chips.
(Photo: Courtesy of Raw Mountain)

Entrepreneur Candace Tierney wanted to combine her business smarts with her love of gardening, food preservation and plant-based eating. Since the 22-year-old U of Ottawa graduate already had two business ventures under her belt, it seemed like a natural step to start a new one, this time focused on developing and marketing local, vegan snacks.

Called Raw Mountain, the company recently launched the first of Candace’s products, a line of celery root chips she developed herself through months of trial and error. Besides Ontario-grown celery root (literally, the root of the celery stalks we’re more familiar with), the chips contain virgin coconut oil, organic apple cider vinegar and sea salt. “The response to the product so far has been incredible,” Candace says.

Why celery root?

It’s a tasty, nutritious vegetable that’s popular in Europe but not so much here.  The root’s low profile in North America was an attraction for Candace, whose goal is to challenge the way people think about food. She asked herself: “Why not use celery root to make a delicious, more sustainable alternative to potato chips?”

How are the chips made?

Candace washes the celery root, slices and chops it, adds the other ingredients, dehydrates the mixture and puts the finished chips into bags. One medium-size celery root yields three or four bags. A batch of 50 bags takes about two days to make.

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Are they healthy?

Celery root is a good source of many nutrients, such as vitamins C and B6, potassium, magnesium and fibre. Health benefits attributed to apple cider vinegar include lowering cholesterol, controlling blood sugar and aiding digestion. Virgin coconut oil (i.e., without hydrogenated or trans fats) contains lauric acid that boosts HDL or “good” cholesterol and lowers LDL or “bad” cholesterol. While sea salt contains as much sodium as table salt, it’s usually unprocessed so it retains traces of minerals like magnesium, potassium and calcium.

How “local” are the product ingredients?

The chips are made from scratch in West Ottawa. The celery root is Ontario-grown in-season, and Raw Mountain has a call out to farmers in Ottawa and across the province interested in partnering to supply celery root. At this point, the product’s organic apple cider vinegar, sea salt and virgin coconut oil are not or cannot be sourced locally.

How do Raw Mountain celery root chips taste?

They taste like celery – no surprise — but with an earthier, more substantial flavour that’s rounded out by the apple cider vinegar and hint of sea salt.

Where can I buy them?

They can be purchased online or through retail outlets and restaurants, including: Rainbow Foods and Herb & Spice Shop (Bank and Wellington stores) in Ottawa; Natural Food Pantry in Kanata; Dandelion Foods in Almonte; and Alice’s Village Café in Carp. Come fall, the snacks will also be available at the Carp Farmers Market.

What do they cost?

In a retail store, they cost $3.97 for a 20g bag. Online orders are priced lower, at $2.80 per bag, because they come in packs of 6, 16 or 24.

I’ve tried the chips and want to give Raw Mountain my feedback. How do I do that?

Send Candace an email at info@rawmountainfoods.com, post your feedback on Facebook or send her a tweet @rawmountain.

Do you preserve seasonal fruit and veggies by dehydrating them? How do you use the end product?

Mike’s Garden Harvest: First-season CSA focuses on success

Monday, July 14th, 2014
Mike Milsom of Mike's Garden Harvest CSA

Mike Milsom of Mike’s Garden Harvest CSA

 

Mike Milsom is taking me around his 1.25-acre, certified-organic CSA farm in Ottawa South on a sticky mid-June day.

He carefully checks rows of sprouting carrots and radishes while telling me about his first all-nighter in the field transplanting vegetables. “The field and I are having a relationship,” he grins. “The honeymoon is over and now we’re having some issues, like high clay content in the soil. This soil will grow wonderful vegetables but it’s tender when wet so it can’t be worked, and like gravel when dry so it’s harder for plants to germinate.”

Coming through for customers

This is the first season for Mike’s Garden Harvest CSA, so he’s especially anxious to come through for the 40 families who’ve signed up to receive weekly baskets of his fresh produce. “I owe so much to their support,” he says. For example, because CSAs ask members to pay for their food share at the start of the season, he has been able to buy essentials such as irrigation equipment and organic compost.

Mike’s also eager to get into steady production to satisfy customers at the Parkdale Market, and a local restaurant that wants to source from his fledgling micro-greens operation.

The difficulty at the moment is that the season has got off to a slow start. Spring arrived late and it wasn’t until the end of May that Mike was able to till the field he leases from Greta Kryger of Greta’s Organic Gardens. Then drenching rains turned the clay soil into a no-go zone for a week.

Despite the challenges, worry and long hours, he stays upbeat. “It’s good to be swamped and consumed by something worthwhile.”

Roots in food and farming

Mike’s commitment has roots in his youth working on different farm operations and studying farm management at the University of Guelph. Through those experiences, he realized that the best farmers were those with real passion for the land and what they grew on it. He also reached the conclusion that conventional farm practices had become ecologically unsustainable and damaging to our health.

After university, Mike immersed himself in the marketing and retail sides of food production, helping his father develop and manage an apple cider mill in Collingwood, Ontario. Together, they crafted a freshly pressed, sweet apple cider that became a favorite President’s Choice product for Loblaw.

When his father was diagnosed with terminal cancer, the business was sold and Mike took a break from food and farming to raise two sons and work in sectors as varied as carpentry, social work and licensed car repair.

He returned to growing food a few years ago, but it was his eldest son who motivated him to move into full-time farming. “I showed Tim one of my bean plants,” Mike says. “He held it, took a bite and his face lit up. Later on, he told me he just felt better when he ate my vegetables. His reactions decided me.”

Certified organic practices

In line with his concerns about health and sustainability, Mike advocates organic practices and made a point of getting organic certification.

“Growing vegetables organically is a lot more involved than just being chemical-free,” he explains. “We’ve all heard the expression, ‘you are what you eat’ – well, that’s true of the food, too. The soil isn’t just a planting medium. It should be an environment that’s rich with micro-organisms, where the plants actually feed, absorb nutrients and develop complex flavours.”

The best way to achieve that rich environment, he adds, is through measures such as applying organic compost, hand-tilling the soil beds, using carefully selected heirloom seeds, and doing planned crop rotation, companion planting, and calibrated irrigation.

We can grow our own food

Mike has lots of plans for the farm’s future. For example, he wants to be able to attract corporate customers, store root crops over the winter, install high tunnels to protect crops and extend the growing season, and maybe even set up an aquaponics operation.

If he could make one change to the food system through his efforts, I ask, what would it be? “To reacquaint people with origins of their food – the big food corporations are disabling us,” he says.

“The message I want to get out there is that we can grow our own food, and if we choose not to, at least we can learn how it’s grown and be educated consumers.”

Mike’s Garden Harvest

Produce: Fruits, vegetables and herbs, including: arugula, beans, beets, bok choy, broccoli, cauliflower, chard, Chinese cabbage, eggplant, fennel, kale, mixed greens, potatoes, snap peas, snow peas, squash, ground cherries, melons and more

Share prices: Range from $165 for Mike’s Flex Pack to $505 for a full season share

More info: www.mikesgardenharvest.com

 

If you could make one change to the food system, what would it be?

 

Tiraislin Farm’s Rosemary Kralik: An ambassador for food and animals

Friday, June 6th, 2014
Tiraislin Farm's Rosemary Kralik with some of her Tibetan yaks and Highland Cattle. Photo by V. Ward

Tiraislin Farm’s Rosemary Kralik with some of her Tibetan yaks and Highland cattle.
(Photos by V. Ward)

Among the things I’ve learned in writing Earthward: Ottawa Seed to Table is that producers of sustainable food in this region are extraordinary people – energetic, creative and resilient, with a deep sense of responsibility to others and to the natural world. Organic livestock farmer Rosemary Kralik is no exception.

A trim, vigorous woman in her late sixties, she raises, single-handed, about 100 Tibetan yaks, as well as Highland cattle, sheep and goats at Tiraislin Farm, her 722-acre operation in the craggy Lanark Highlands near Perth. She sells meat from her animals at the farm gate and  the Ottawa Farmers’ Market, and also supports local food through memberships in Savour Ottawa and Lanark Local Flavour.

Articulate, forthright and wryly funny, Rosemary is a self-described ambassador for food and animals. “If we have to eat meat, there’s no reason to disrespect the animals who die to feed us,” she says. “We must feed them well, make them happy and minimize the horror of their deaths.”

To supplement her income from the farm, she draws, paints and sculpts, specializing in portraits and studies of animals and people. Art and farming go hand-in-hand, she says. “Agriculture is the mother of all art.”

Born in Cairo and raised in England and Ottawa, Rosemary began farming in the 1990s, after a career in the public and private sectors that encompassed everything from scientific illustration and photography to graphics and fashion design, systems analysis and management consulting. Farming harnesses her skills and knowledge, she says, and satisfies her love of variety.

I spoke with Rosemary at Tiraislin Farm on a rainy, wind-whipped day in late April. After a long chat at her kitchen table, she took me to meet some of her beloved yaks and Highland cattle who were foraging in pastures near the house. Here are highlights from our conversation.

What do animals need to live a happy life?

As much as possible, they need to live as they wish. For my animals, that means being able to roam over much of the property at different times of the year instead of living in confinement. It also means foraging freely on buds, bark and leaves rather than being fed corn and soy which are hard for them to digest. It’s a life that seems to suit them. My animals are never ill and have never been given antibiotics.

When it’s time for an animal to die, I go with him to the local abattoir. I make sure he’s lying comfortably in a bed of hay and that there are no loud noises to frighten him. I stroke him and talk to him. When the end comes, there’s no trauma: it’s quick and painless.

What are the benefits of eating meat from happy, humanely raised animals such as yours?

The meat tastes better: it has a sweetness to it and people tell me they feel so good after they’ve eaten it. The meat is more digestible, too, at a molecular level. The less you cook it, the better.

Yaks and other grass-fed ancient breeds tend to be very lean and high in omega 3 fats which help reduce cholesterol levels and inflammation. They’re also high in conjugated linoleic acid which is said to protect against cancer, heart disease and other illnesses.

I believe the benefits go further. We’re all bags of chemicals, so if we’re constantly eating the meat of stressed, unhappy animals, it’s not surprising that there’s a lot of depression in our society.

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Running a livestock farm single-handedly would scare a lot of people off. What keeps you so committed?

It’s always fascinating. Farming spans biology, zoology, medicine, engineering, chemistry and many other disciplines. You continuously have to build and fix things, to solve problems on the spot and learn as you go.

There’s also great freedom that come with knowing you can feed yourself. That’s something we’re losing as our society becomes more urban. We’ve increasingly dependent on bosses of different kinds and rely less on ourselves. When you’re farming, you’re a slave to nature, but I don’t mind that slavery. In fact, I often find myself smiling as I shovel the shit.

If you could change one thing about the current food system, what would it be?

Stop preventing people from producing their own food! Open up more small abattoirs, let people grow food and trade it. No one ever died from eating a carrot their neighbour gave them and the more people who grow two bags of carrots, the better. Economies of scale may be fine for cars or widgets but they don’t work for living things. Having many more small farmers is the only food security we have.

Learn more about Rosemary’s organic meat at the Tiraislin Farm booth at the Ottawa Farmers’ Market. Check out her art at A Brush with Immortality.

The Best of Earthward: 8 ways to shop smarter at farmers markets

Sunday, May 4th, 2014

With so many Ottawa farmers markets opening this month, I thought I’d re-run this popular post from last year on how to shop them smarter.

Photo by Justin Sewell (via Flickr)  Creative Commons license 2.0

Photo by Justin Sewell (via Flickr)
Creative Commons license 2.0

Shopping at farmers markets is one of the joys of the Ottawa growing season. Just-picked produce, newly baked bread, homemade preserves, cooking demonstrations, specialty festivals and fairs: what’s not to love?

You can enjoy the experience even more and shop smarter at the same time by following a few simple steps, says Andy Terauds of Acorn Creek Garden Farm in Carp.  A regular presence at the Ottawa Farmers Market and the Carp Farmers Market, Terauds and his wife, Cindy, grow over 2,000 varieties of fruits and vegetables, as well as flowering and vegetable plants. They also sell Cindy’s preserves under the Naturally Cindy’s label.

1. Buy what you like and what looks good.

It may sound obvious, but Terauds says many customers come to the market with a specific recipe in mind and are disappointed to learn that the ingredients they want aren’t in season.  Instead, buy good-looking produce you know you’ll enjoy and then look for a recipe to go with it.  Most vendors can offer suggestions on how to prepare their produce.

2. Sample the food.

If five vendors are selling asparagus, which one do you buy from? According to Terauds, taste should be the clincher. “Try the samples vendors provide. That’s true for corn, too. If it’s not good raw, it’s not good. Better taste is why people buy local food.”

3. Don’t buy from the cheapest vendor.

Selling cheap can be a sign that the taste or quality isn’t up to snuff. What’s more, when you pay farmers a better price, you reward tehm for their hard work and motivate them to keep improving.

4. Come early.

Produce that sits out in the weather deteriorates through the day, so come early for the freshest, most varied selection. If the market opens at 8 a.m., be there at 8 a.m., Terauds counsels. But don’t come earlier because vendors will be setting up and won’t be able give you their full attention. Besides, every vendor has something that’s in short supply; having to sell it before the market opens means less for people who come during business hours.

Rainbow Heritage

Photo by V. Ward

5. Call ahead for big orders.

Need bushels of produce for canning or preserves? Instead of buying them at the market, call the farmer ahead of time to negotiate a price and arrange for delivery.

6. Bring bags and pay cash.

Depending on the weather, bring waterproof bags for breads and cheeses, or a cooler for anything that deteriorates in warm temperatures, such as soft fruit, dairy products or meat.

Since most vendors don’t take credit or debit cards, bring cash, preferably small bills and change.

7. Dress for the weather.

You’ll have a better time if you’re dressed for the weather so make sure you have the proper gear, including suitable footwear.

. Make the market an event.

Shopping at a farmers market is a social experience and one that appeals directly to the senses. Soak it all in. Make your market visit an event. Have a snack, talk to the vendors, watch a chef demonstrate a new recipe. “It’s a different experience to shopping at a supermarket chain,” Terauds says. “Take advantage of the differences and enjoy them.”

To find the market nearest you, check the Ottawa Farmers Market Guide.

How do you shop at farmers markets? What works for you?

 

Walk on the Wild Side: Amber Westfall’s Wild Garden aims to reconnect people and plants

Monday, April 28th, 2014

Weeds: they’re eye sores, right? Problem bits of green that blemish lawns and run riot in food and flower gardens.

Photo: Courtesy of Amber Westfall

All photos courtesy of Amber Westfall

Not so for Amber Westfall. An experienced forager, wild crafter and owner of a wild food and herb CSA farm called The Wild Garden, Amber regards everything from plantain to stinging nettles as valuable sources of food and natural medicine. “Wild plants extend the food season so we don’t have to rely on traditional crops with shorter life spans,” she says. “Learning about wild edibles and medicinal plants has really changed how I think about the environment. What I used to see as random greenery now stands out because I know it has an important role to play in the ecosystem.”

Besides growing wild edible and medicinal plants for her CSA members, she leads plant walks and workshops. This year, she’s offering a 10-session course that will include the basics of plant identification, harvesting, and post-harvest handling and processing.

Amber sat down with Earthward a few weeks ago to talk about her workshops, her farm and her love of the wild plant world.

How did you get interested in foraging and wild crafting?

I’d been dabbling in natural approaches to health since about 2005. At the same time, I was becoming concerned about the depletion of the planet’s natural resources and our tendency as a species to over-consume. To reduce my own footprint, I decided to start eating locally but there weren’t a lot of options for that at the grocery store. The more I learned, the more I realized that wild foods offered the variety I wanted, extended the season for fresh produce and offered a more natural and sustainable approach to health care. I was hooked.

How did The Wild Garden come into being?

I took a wild edible plant course with Ottawa educator and naturalist Martha Webber and did an apprenticeship near Wakefield. In the process, I began accumulating more plants than I could consume and wondered if I could turn my new-found passion into a livelihood. For a few years, I held workshops and led walks on wild edibles. Then, last year, I was thrilled to be able to launch The Wild Garden, stewarding a quarter-acre of land on the Just Food Start-up Farm.

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Tell me more about The Wild Garden CSA.

It’s an herbal CSA, which is a relatively new type of CSA in Canada but has caught on in the U.S. The goal of an herbal-focused CSA is to take subscribers into herbal healing, wellness and learning.

Members can build their supplies of medicinal plants, support local organic agriculture (I’m in the process of getting organic certification for The Wild Garden), eat more nutrient-dense wild foods, and learn about wild plants that grow in the greater Ottawa bio-region. They also benefit from free Wild Garden walks and workshops.

Can you describe what a typical delivery from The Wild Garden contains?

Members receive quarterly deliveries which include herbs for infusion, dried tea blends, herb-infused honey and vinegar, wild seasoning blends, wild food preserves, herbal liqueurs and more.

What does it cost to be a member?

The spring (April to June) CSA is available in 2 versions: the large CSA costs $225 (6 products a month for 3 months), the small CSA costs $160 for 4 products a month for three months. Both are sold out!

Tell me about the walks and workshops you offer.

This year, my plant walks will be set up more like a course, with 10 classes over four months. Classes can be taken individually but will build on previous classes and cover themes and content in more depth.

By the end of the course, participants will have the knowledge and skills to recognize more than 45,000 species of plants by family, as well as to correctly identify many local, edible and medicinal plants and incorporate them into their daily lives. They’ll also learn about harvesting plants in a beneficial way for the environment, and about post-harvest handling, processing and storage.

What kinds of wild plants would people be surprised to learn are edible or medicinal?

Dandelion, for example, is a culinary vegetable in the Middle East. The stinging nettle’s early spring growth contains iron, vitamins and minerals and makes a tasty soup once the prickles have been removed by crushing or drying the plant. The early shoots of the common orange daylily can be used as salad greens and the plant’s tuber tastes like water chestnut.

Many local plants can be used to support health.  Red clover and raspberry leaf make nourishing teas, elderberry is effective against H1N1 flu, plantain and calendula make good salves for cuts and bites, and camomile, blue vervain and cat nip are good for stress.

What do you enjoy most about what you do?

It’s such a joy learning about plants. We’re connected to them – and to the environment in general — in a deep, transformative way. I feel honoured to work with plants and to send them out into the community which can then benefit from them.

Amber Westfall’s 2014 Wild Edible & Medicinal Plant Course begins May 7. Register online for 10 ($165) or five ($85) classes. 

Have you ever foraged for wild food? Share your experiences.

The Unrefined Olive: Ottawa tasting bar gives global food local, sustainable roots

Sunday, March 2nd, 2014
Kilvert 2

Elizabeth Kilvert, owner of The Unrefined Olive
Photo: V. Ward

Ottawa’s Elizabeth Kilvert sells premium, extra-virgin* olive oils from around the world and aged balsamic vinegars from Modena, Italy, but her business is all about local community and sustainability.

A former biodiversity specialist and environmental educator, Kilvert took a leave of absence from her job at Environment Canada in 2012 to launch The Unrefined Olive, an olive oil and balsamic tasting bar on Second Avenue in the Glebe.  Not only did the concept appeal to her love of food and travel, it met her stringent ethical priorities. “I wanted to specialize in a nutritious food with a long history,” she says. “I also wanted to reach out to the local community and run the business with as low an eco-footprint as possible.”

*Extra-virgin refers to the first pressing of whole unblemished olives within a day of harvest.

The products

The Unrefined Olive offers:

  • 13 single-estate olive oils (from olives grown on a single farm or estate and bottled on site, delivering a more authentic product with tighter quality control)
  • 22 oils that are either flavour-fused (olives and whole fruits, herbs or vegetables are crushed together) or infused (a flavour is added after the olive oil has been pressed). Available flavours include Persian lime, Eureka lemon, blood orange, green Baklouti chili, organic basil, organic garlic, and many others
  • 7 specialty oils, such as walnut and truffle
  • 23 balsamic vinegars including honey, serrano honey, raspberry, pomegranate, aged black cherry, blackberry ginger, blueberry, espresso, dark chocolate and cranberry pear white

Products can be purchased in 200 ml, 375 ml or 750 ml bottles for $12, $19 and $32 respectively (other quantities and prices apply for the specialty oils).

How a tasting bar works

Tasting bars got their start with wine in California’s Napa Valley, and have started to catch on with extra-virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars. The oils and vinegars are contained in stainless steel casks, with spigots. You can sample different types and get tips on pairings and information on production methods from store staff.

Kilvert sees customer education as a big part of the service she provides. “We work with customers’ taste preferences and tend to down-sell, encouraging people to buy smaller quantities until they feel comfortable tasting and cooking with a variety of oils and balsamic vinegars.”

Education seems to be paying off. Since The Unrefined Olive opened more than a year ago, she has noticed a shift in customers’ preferences. “As they learn and taste more, they’re moving to purer, more robust oils.”

A healthy food

Extra-virgin olive oil is a key ingredient in the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet, shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. It is also an anti-inflammatory loaded with polyphenols that help reduce blood pressure, protect against cancers of the breast and the respiratory and digestive tracts, promote bone health and offer cognitive benefits. Balsamic vinegar has beneficial effects on cholesterol, blood pressure and blood glucose levels.

Quality oils and vinegars make it easier to eat healthy, Kilvert says. “They offer a simple way to add new flavour to everything from salads to fish to pasta. You don’t have to learn another cooking style or buy a new gadget.”

She also points out that olive production is less damaging to the environment than other oil-producing crops. Olive trees are more climate-change resistant, they’re grown without synthetic fertilizers and require minimal spraying.

Shrinking the eco-footprint

Kilvert strives to run The Unrefined Olive with the smallest possible eco-footprint. For example, she selected low-VOC paints and varnishes for the store and had LED lights installed. The stainless steel tasting cups are washed, sterilized and re-used, and customers are asked to wash their oil and vinegar bottles and bring them in for refills. Packaging is made from local paper with high recycled content, paper scraps are re-purposed, and product boxes are specially designed to work for the store’s three bottle sizes.

Instead of throwing out olive oils that are more than a year old – when their taste and nutritional value have passed their peak – they’re donated to Shepherds of Good Hope, food banks and a local soap maker.

Supporting community

As part of its broader commitment to sustainability, The Unrefined Olive supports local producers and community. For starters, many of the finishes and accessories in the store (including furniture, glass and pottery) were locally sourced, and providers from Ottawa and Montreal were hired to develop business software solutions.

In addition, the tasting bar:

  • offers specialty oils produced within a 100-mile radius, such as Stony Brook butternut squash seed oil from Geneva, New York, and cold-pressed, naturally farmed sunflower oil from Eastern Ontario’s Kricklewood Farm
  •  co-promotes artisanal foods from area producers who don’t have storefronts, such as Hummingbird Chocolate and The Salty Don
  • participates at local seasonal food workshops
  • contributes to community charitable efforts by donating gift boxes and bringing a mobile tasting unit to fundraising events.

“Community involvement is an important component of what we do,” Kilvert says. “It helps make us sustainable.”

In your opinion, what characteristic(s) make a local food business sustainable?

 

 

Share the love on Valentine’s Day with handmade local treats

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

Go local this Valentine’s with a heart-shaped chocolate torte from Carolina’s Box of Goodness.
Photo courtesy of Carolina’s Box of Goodness

Even with climate change, it’s unlikely that cocoa beans and sugar cane will ever grow in Ottawa. But that doesn’t mean sweet-toothed locavores are stuck with mass-produced candy on Valentine’s Day. Far from it. The region boasts a growing number of small-scale artisan bakers, chocolatiers, and confectioners who make their products from scratch, using local ingredients as often as they can.

With February 14 just days away, here are some ideas for treats made in the Ottawa region.

Auntie Loo’s Treats

Ottawa’s first 100% vegan bakery, Auntie Loo’s makes fresh desserts in small batches, from scratch, using organic and local products when possible. Many treats can be made in gluten-free versions.

  • Single-layer 6-inch cakes ($15 + HST)

Available in flavours such as champagne and chocolate strawberry, and decorated with Valentine messages.

  • Cake pops (6 for $15)

Choose from double chocolate and chocolate peanut butter.

  • Sugar cookies (6 for $15)

Available in sets with and without Valentine’s Day messages, and in mixed packs.

Other Valentine treats include: Cupcakes for 2 ($10 + HST), donuts with Valentine’s sprinkles (6 for $20), and a giant heart-shaped whoopee pie ($15 + HST).

Order online or call the store at (613)238-ALOO (2566). Arrange pick-up for February 13, 14 or 15.

Carolina’s Box of Goodness

Carolina Foresti, owner of Carolina’s Box of Goodness, specializes in artisan brownies, custom cakes and dulche de leche (a kind of milk jam similar to caramel but more complex). A native of Brazil, she creates her products based on family recipes and French baking techniques.

  • Valentine’s Sweet Duo ($12.50)

A small jar of dulce de leche and a large chocolate fudge brownie, packed in a craft box with red satin ribbon. The duo is perfect for sharing, Carolina says. “Just warm up the dulce de leche, cut the brownies in small pieces and serve like fondue, with berries. Or try a brownie a la mode, only add ice cream.” 

  • Heart shaped Chocolate Torte ($10.50)

Available in chocolate fudge, dulce de leche, caramel sea salt or raspberry swirls decorated with pearls of Belgian chocolate.

  • Box of 6 or 12 artisan brownies ($13.00-$25.00)

An assortment of chocolate fudge, caramel sea salt, dulce de leche, gianduia, cookie and raspberry swirl.

Place your order online.

Hummingbird’s Chocolate’s handmade, single-origin bars with Valentine wrappers.
Photo courtesy of Hummingbird Chocolate

Hummingbird Chocolate

A small-batch producer of dark, organic chocolate, Hummingbird Chocolate  is making a name for itself with handcrafted bars from single-origin Latin American and Caribbean cocoa beans. Owner-artisans Erica and Drew Gilmour make the chocolate using 19th century methods that bring out the unique flavours of the cocoa bean varieties.

  • Cinnamon-studded bars
  • Hummingbird’s regular bars (Bolivia, Bo-nib-ia, Hispaniola, Fleur de sel, Momotombo) with a Valentine’s wrapper

All bars are 50 g, cost $6.50, and can be found at locations such as: Red Apron, Thyme & Again, Kitchenalia, Pêches & Poivres, and Equator Coffee Roasters.

Hummingbird is also hosting a Valentine’s Day “Chocolate 101” tour of its workshop in Almonte; reserve at events@hummingbirdchocolate.com. For the month of February, it also launched a series of Saturday tours.

Isobel’s Cupcakes & Cookies

A family-run business, Isobel’s Cupcakes & Cookies makes its treats from scratch daily, working from quality ingredients (no mixes, shortening or preservatives) in a 100% nut-free environment. All boxes, cups and napkins are made from recycled materials.

  • Valentine cakes, $25 and up

Choices include white chocolate, raspberry charlotte, bleeding heart chocolate mousse cake (shaped like a heart).

  • Valentine cake pops, $2

Other offerings include and several decadent chocolate cupcakes, and chocolate cookie sticks dipped in white chocolate with Valentine sprinkles.

What’s your favourite spot for sweets in Ottawa?

Mountain Path’s Robert Hogg: poet, farmer, miller, organics advocate

Saturday, February 1st, 2014

Mountain Path mills organic flour on Robert Hogg’s farm south of Ottawa.
Photo by Mitch Lenart

 

He’s not an eco-poet, he says. Nowhere in his five books of published poetry does he rant about the contamination of natural resources or the perils of climate change.

Nevertheless, Robert Hogg — founder of Mountain Path, a specialty flour mill and food distributor south of Ottawa – has lived his life based on a deep respect for the land and a desire to protect it for future generations.

Dedicated to sustainable, organic food and farming

Since the early 1970s, Hogg has grown food organically on his 140-acre farm in North Dundas, and the small commercial flour mill he started on the property has been certified organic since 1987. The Mountain Path food distribution business he launched in the 1990s supplies exclusively organic and natural foods, and also supports regional organic farms and businesses, and fair trade.

Over the years, Hogg has been active in organizations such as Canadian Organic Growers, the Ecological Farmers of Ontario and the National Farmers Union, and has converted a number of farmers to organic practices.

Remarkably, he has managed to combine all of this with busy literary and teaching careers.  A participant in the 1960s Tish poetry movement with likes of George Bowering, Frank Davey, and former Canadian poet laureate Fred Wah, Hogg is working on his sixth book of poetry and editing an anthology of Canadian poetic theory.  From 1968 until he retired in 2005, he taught modern Canadian and American poetry and poetic theory at Carleton University.

Last November, Hogg, 71, sold Mountain Path to Signature Food Concepts but has stayed on as sales director.

Robert Hogg talked to Earthward recently about Mountain Path and his commitment to sustainable farming.

How did you get interested in organics?

It happened through my mother. When I was a child in Edmonton, she had some health issues that didn’t respond to treatment, and they became severe enough that she decided to go Vancouver to consult a naturopath. The doctor put her on a course of treatment that included a eating a diet of peeled grapes, strange as it may sound. She completely recovered. The experience turned her into a health advocate and supporter of natural foods. She founded the Canadian Health League, and some years later, when we’d moved to B.C., she opened a natural food store — the first in the Fraser Valley and probably one of the earliest in Canada.

Why did you become an organic farmer?

Once I had children of my own, I began to think about their health and how to protect it. Growing our own food organically seemed like a good way to do this. For several years, my wife and I rented land from the NCC where we planted an organic vegetable garden, kept chickens and raised goats for milk. Then, in 1973, in the midst of the back-to-the-land movement, we bought the farm we live on today. I’ve always believed in organic methods and organic certification. Farming organically and sustainably is about so much more than profit. It’s about the health of the soil and the water table, the health of people and animals.

How did you get into specialty milling?

One year I brought some Glenlea wheat I’d grown to Watson’s Mill in Manotick for grinding. The results were good so I started selling my flour to places like Herb & Spice and Rainbow Natural Foods.  When demand for the flour began to grow, I found a bigger mill – a 30-inch stone mill — to handle the volume and had it brought to the farm in 1983. We’re using it three decades later.

Stone-milling makes for better tasting, healthier flour than industrial milling. The slower process protects the grain from the high temperatures that promote rancidity and vitamin loss. Stone-grinding also maintains the original proportions of endosperm, bran and germ in the grains and preserves the nutrients that go with them.

How did the food distribution business develop?

After a while, people wanted to buy more than just flour from us so we began to source other products, like seasonings and spices from Frontier Natural Products Co-op and oils from Spectrum Organics. The business kept expanding from there.

What’s ahead for Mountain Path?

Being under the same business umbrella as Signature Foods and Natural Gourmet will benefit Mountain Path through more exposure and new customer relationships.  Just one example: there’s the potential to build on the large clientele Mountain Path already has among co-ops – rural buying clubs, basically.

What’s ahead for you personally?

As director of sales for Mountain Path, I’m still very involved in the company and excited about its future. But at 71, I’m happy with a somewhat smaller role than I had when I was the owner.  I’m looking forward to having a bit more time to farm, write poetry and spend time with my five grandchildren.

 

 

Goodbye, frozen pizza: These local businesses deliver healthy, sustainable food to your door

Friday, December 20th, 2013

 


Photo courtesy of Eating Well Ottawa

Most of us are so busy these days that shopping for and preparing healthy food often gets caught in the crunch. Big food corporations make lots of money on our appetite for convenience, catering to it with everything from frozen pizza to meal replacement shakes to soups you can sip while driving.

But food doesn’t have to be hyper-processed to be convenient. As demand ramps up for local and organic foods, Ottawa chefs and entrepreneurs are finding ways to provide the convenience people want without compromising on food quality, nutrition or environmental sustainability.

Several services in Ottawa allow you to order healthy, sustainably produced food online and have it delivered to your door. Depending on the service, you can get organic groceries, fully prepared gourmet meals, or boxes of recipes and ingredients to make chef-designed dinners.

The newest of these services is Eating Well Ottawa, an organic grocery business that started taking online orders last month.

Eating Well Ottawa

With the service, you sign up for a box of fresh, certified organic fruit and vegetables to be delivered to your home or office each week. Harvest and Office boxes are available year-round, and during the growing season there’s a Local box for customers who want produce from local and regional farms. Depending on the size and type of box selected, you can expect to pay anywhere from $30 to $55.

The company’s emphasis on organic and local reflects its commitment to sourcing foods in an ethical, eco-friendly way, says president Brendan Gorman. “We believe in local, regional and Canada first, and we support fair trade practices and environmental responsibility.”

Another important goal is to show that eating well can be simple and affordable, Brendan adds. “Grocery stores mark up organic foods by at least 40%. We’ve chosen to cut back on the mark-up so that good, sustainable food can become a more mainstream choice.”

Come mid-January, Eating Well Ottawa plans to launch new options such as a “detox” box with juices and other products to get people healthy again after holiday excess. In addition, customers will be able to add to their regular orders with items from organic/natural food businesses in the region including Mountain Path, Signature Foods  and Natural Gourmet.

In the longer term, Brendan says he hopes to offer meat and dairy products as well.

Ottawa Organics and Bryson Farms

At least two other businesses are already on Ottawa’s organic food home delivery scene. Ottawa Organics and Natural Foods works along the same lines as Eating Well Ottawa.  Bryson Farms is a certified organic CSA near Shawville, Québec, that delivers its own fresh heirloom produce, its own line of flash-frozen vegetables and prepared foods, and organic beef.

Chefx

Chefx is a new service geared to people who enjoy cooking but don’t have the time for meal planning or grocery shopping. Sign up and receive everything you need to prepare a gourmet dinner in about 45 minutes: a chef-designed recipe, step-by-step instructions, and fresh, portioned ingredients (local and seasonal whenever possible). Prices for weekly boxes with supplies for two dinners range from $59 for two people, to $139 for six.

Featured chefs include Chris Deraiche (Wellington Gastropub), 2013 Gold Medal Plates winner Marysol Foucault (Edgar), Marc Lepine (Atelier), Patricia Larkin (Black Cat Bistro), Matthew Shepheard (Mariposa Farm), among others.

Red Apron

Heading into its eighth year in Ottawa, Red Apron prepares fresh, eco-friendly gourmet meals for pick-up or home delivery.  Menus  highlight seasonal ingredients from regional producers and dinners can be ordered by the day or the week.

For the holidays, you can pre-order a whole, herb-roasted turkey – (locally sourced, antibiotic- and hormone-free) with all the trimmings, as well as other seasonal dishes such as tourtière, or bison, sweet potato and cranberry pie.

For more info on Red Apron, read my 2012 post.

Scratch Kitchen

Scratch Kitchen cooks, freezes and delivers healthy gourmet meals. Food is prepared in small batches in a commercial, health-inspected kitchen, using locally sourced and organic ingredients when possible. All meals are low in sodium and free of additives and preservatives. Order online from menus that include vegan dishes, soups, salads, pastas, ragouts and curries.

Read about Scratch Kitchen’s 2014 menu sourcing here.

What would make it easier and faster for you to prepare healthy meals?

The gift of food: Stocking stuffers for locavores

Saturday, December 14th, 2013

(Photo: zaimoku_woodpile via Flickr
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

Good food is a welcome gift, no matter what the celebration. And with the growing number of Ottawa-area food artisans, it’s getting easier to shop for the locavores on your list.

Here’s my list of ideal stocking stuffers: compact and non-perishable, with most prices ranging from $3.50 to about $20. I’ve based the list on my visit to this year’s Locavore Artisan Food Fair, a showcase of products from 20 of Ottawa’s most creative food-makers.

These artisans produce in small batches and use local ingredients when possible. Many don’t have their own retail space, so plan to contact them online, or visit them at the Ottawa Farmers’ Christmas Market or Flavours of Ottawa Holiday Food Markets. I’ve indicated where products are available at local restaurants and stores.

Artisan brownies and dulce de leche from Carolina’s Box of Goodness

Carolina’s Box of Goodness handcrafts rich artisan brownies in flavours such as Chocolate Fudge, Dulce de Leche, Caramel Sea Salt, and Cinnamon Pecan Blondie. The treats come individually packaged or in boxes of 6 or more. There’s also a Boozy Brownies Collection featuring Bailey’s Irish Cream, Amaretto & Ginger and Grand Marnier varieties.

Another option is Carolina’s dulce de leche, a simple mixture of milk and sugar that’s cooked until it becomes thick, creamy and full of complex flavours. It can be served with fruit, toast, pancakes and ice cream – or eaten straight from the jar.

Chocolate bars and Mayan drinking chocolate from Hummingbird Chocolate

Almonte-based Hummingbird Chocolate handcrafts dark, organic chocolate from single-origin, ethically traded Latin American and Caribbean cocoa beans, using 19th century methods that bring out the beans’ unique flavours. In addition to bar chocolate, Hummingbird has come out with Mayan drinking chocolate for the holidays, essentially a cake of chocolate on a stick that you melt in heated milk for a rich, spicy drink. You can find Hummingbird products at a restaurants and food stores across Ottawa. (For more information about Hummingbird Chocolate, read my February 2013 post

Chocolate truffles from koko chocolates

koko makes gourmet chocolate truffles by hand, using premium Belgian chocolate, and all-natural, gluten-free ingredients. Choose from traditional truffle flavours or more adventurous ones like margarita and spicy Thai chili.

Fairly traded coffee from The Barking Barista

These fairly traded, Brazilian, Indonesian, Ethiopian and Colombian coffee beans are craft-roasted by an Ottawa husband and wife team. For every pound of coffee you buy, $1 goes to help dogs in need. The owners are available at barkingbarista@yahoo.com or in person at the Ottawa Canine School, and will ship to you for an added cost.

Gourmet jams from Michaelsdolce

Confectioner Michael Sunderland makes all-natural gourmet jams, using local produce when and where possible. Michaelsdolce jams include: Blueberry & Lavender, Ginger Citrus marmalade; Fig Blood Orange, Papaya & Pink Grapefruit, Plum & Star Anise, and many others. Find them at Isobel’s Cupcakes and Cookies or contact info@michaelsdolce.com for more info.

Oil and balsamic vinegar from The Unrefined Olive

The Unrefined Olive is Ottawa’s only oil and balsamic vinegar tasting bar. It sells 50 fresh premium olive oils from around the world as well as balsamic vinegars and flavour-infused oils.  All balsamic vinegars come from Modena Italy, are aged for a minimum of 12 years, and are available in flavours such as fig, cranberry pear, pomegranate and dark chocolate. Flavour-fused olive oils include mushroom sage, Tuscan herb, basil, garlic, and hot chili. Drop by the tasting bar at 151 A Second Avenue in the Glebe or call 613-231-3133.

Elizabeth Kilvert, owner, The Unrefined Olive
(Photo: V. Ward)

Preserves from Top Shelf Preserves

Chef Sara Pishva makes her small batch pickles and preserves from locally sourced produce. Top Shelf wares include: spicy pickled garlic scapes, pickled turnips, red pepper jelly, molasses baked beans, brandied plums, spiced pears in syrup, pickled jalapenos, dill pickles, pickled beets, and more.

Smoked seasonings from The Salty Don

The Salty Don makes its own line of natural smoked salts, as well as pepper blends, unique items such as smoked quinoa and smoked risotto, and spa products. Salt and pepper flavours include Bison Smoked, Canadian Curry, Garlic Smoked, Peppered Provence, Lemon Pepper, and Saffron Pepper Rub, to name a few. You’ll find Salty Don products at Grace in the Kitchen and other locations.

Specialty tea from Kimicha

Kimicha owner and tea sommelier Kimiko Uriu sources the best-tasting black, white, green, herbal and fruit teas from Southeast Asia; two varieties she’s chosen have won awards at the North American Tea Championships.  In addition to packages of loose tea, Kimicha sells sampler sets and tea accessories. Order online or call 613-612-5464.

Sweet treats from Pascale’s Ice Cream

Pascale’s seasonal, all-natural ice creams are renowned in Ottawa.  For the holiday season, she’s also offering less perishable treats: try her salted caramel or sour cherries in balsamic caramel, but order soon because they go fast. Get in touch at pascale@pascalesicecream.com or call 613-322-4256.

What’s the best food gift you’ve received?

 

Crowdsourcing the menu: Help Scratch Kitchen choose new dishes for 2014

Sunday, December 8th, 2013

Crowdsourcing – using social media and other online services to ask the public for ideas or funding – is changing the way businesses, non-profits and individuals reach their goals. This is certainly true of food production, where crowdsourcing is being used for everything from starting farms to developing new ice cream flavours.

Ottawa’s Scratch Kitchen is putting its own stamp on the technique. To fill six spots on its 2014 winter menu, the family-owned meal -preparation-and-delivery business is asking Ottawans to contribute favourite comfort food recipes inspired by winter and cold weather. Winners will get bragging rights and a promotional code for a Scratch Kitchen order.

Of the suggestions sent in so far, Scratch Kitchen chef Sean Patrick Murphy is especially enthusiastic about a recipe for pumpkin and sweet potato soup from Andrea Woolner. Murphy adapted the recipe slightly and prepares it with vegetables from Acorn Creek Garden Farm and garlic he harvested from his own garden. “It’s not only perfect for the holiday, the soup is a perfect pick for our 2014 menu,” he says.  The recipe for it is included at the end of this post.

About Scratch Kitchen

Scratch Kitchen cooks, freezes and delivers healthy foods directly to customers. “We cook meals in small batches in a commercial, health-inspected kitchen, using locally sourced and organic ingredients whenever possible,” Murphy says. “We don’t put in preservatives or additives, and we go easy on the salt.”

 

Chef Sean Patrick Murphy

Chef Murphy is a graduate of the Cordon Bleu Paris Cooking School and the Culinary Institute of America, and has worked in some of Canada’s most prestigious restaurants, including Truffles, Scaramouche, and Café Henry Burger.

December 20 deadline

To have your recipe considered for Scratch Kitchen’s 2014 menu, send it to social@scratchkitchen.com. The deadline is December 20, 2013.

Andrea’s World Famous Pumpkin and Sweet Potato Soup

Makes 2 servings

Step 1:  Make Quick Vegetable Stock

Cooking time: 35 minutes

Makes about 3–4 cups (750ml–1 litre)

2 carrots, peeled and diced

2 medium size onions

2 celery sticks with leaves, chopped

4 cups (1 litre) water

Place ingredients in a medium stock pot and bring to a simmer, partially cover and continue to simmer for 15 minutes. Strain, and use as needed.

Step 2:  Make Pumpkin and Sweet Potato Soup

1.5 tsp olive oil

2 cloves crushed garlic

1 cup onion

2.5 cups vegetable stock

1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped

1 cup pumpkin (or any seasonal squash), boiled, peeled and mashed

1.5 tsp cumin

1.5 tsp white pepper

1 tbsp minced ginger

1 tbsp honey

* If you are missing any of these spices, curry can be substituted for an equally bold and unique flavour.

Sweat onion and garlic in olive oil until translucent.

Add cumin, white pepper and ginger and cook lightly 2 to 3 minutes. Add cooked and peeled sweet potato and pumpkin, add vegetable stock and bring to a simmer. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes. Finish with honey and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

Carefully purée the soup in a food processor or with a hand blender.

Serve with a baguette from Art-is-In Bakery and enjoy!!

 

What’s your go-to winter comfort food recipe?

 

Pork of Yore: Pasture production means happy pigs and succulent pork

Saturday, August 24th, 2013

Pork of Yore owners Ida Vaillancourt and  Gary MacDonell raise heritage pigs on their  200-year-old farm northwest of Renfrew.

The  animals – about 100 mostly Berkshire or  Tamworth-Berkshire crosses – have access to  large mobile houses where they can take  shelter from the weather or farrow their  young. But mostly, they’re out in the fields,  foraging for grasses and leaves, and grazing on apples and wild plums from the fruit trees that dot the 110-acre property. They benefit from exercise, fresh air and sunlight. They can root, dig and wallow to their hearts’ content, and they aren’t subjected to the painful tail-docking and tooth-clipping that take place at factory farms. In other words, they get to express what high-profile American farmer Joel Salatin calls the “pigness of the pig”.

Better life, better taste

Raising the animals in a healthy, stress-free environment not only gives them a better life, it results in safe, richly flavourful pork. After years of eating ultra-lean, dry-textured supermarket cuts, customers are bowled over by the succulence of naturally raised meat, Ida says. To prove it, she lets me sample a slice of roast butt chop as well as squares of pork terrine prepared by Chef David Cooke of Arowhon Pines. I found the meat to be addictively tasty, with the colour and umami of dark turkey meat. It’s a hit with area chefs, too: Pork of Yore is a regular supplier to The Black Tomato, Thyme & Again, Indulge Kitchen & Cocktails and Arowhon Pines.

“What you feed an animal affects the taste, and stress hormones affect the texture,” Ida says. “We don’t expose our pigs to artificial growth stimulants or chemical additives, and we don’t feed them animal by-products. They eat chemical-free pasture and hay, in addition to a twice-daily mixture of locally milled grains and soy.” The pigs certainly seem healthy and happy,  following Ida and me as we tour the paddocks and gently  nuzzling the backs of our legs.

 

Pastured heritage pigs at Pork of Yore

More eco-friendly

Rotating the pigs through the paddocks – each paddock is at least of 2.5 acres — also helps keep the land healthy, Ida says, by stimulating new growth and returning nutrients to the soil.

Although sustainably raised meat is more expensive than what’s  in supermarket cases, its superior taste and more humane and eco-friendly production make it worthwhile for a growing number of consumers.

Industrial pork

Pork of Yore’s approach stands in stark contrast to the industrial meat system. It’s no secret that most pigs in Canada and the U.S. are housed in crowded, contaminated surroundings, and given daily doses of drugs, including ractopamine, a controversial substance to promote leanness that’s been banned in the EU, Russia and mainland China.

In the past few weeks, the Humane Society International/Canada has made headlines by calling for a complete ban on gestation crates for breeding sows. The crates are too small for the sow turn around or to lie down in comfortably, yet most breeding sows in Canada are confined to them throughout pregnancy. Not surprising, the confinement promotes anxious, repetitive behaviour in the animals, and results in sores,  abrasions and other injuries. The sows are moved to slightly larger cages to give birth, then re-impregnated and returned to the gestation crate for the next cycle.

The National Farm Animal Care Council has drafted a new code of practice calling for gestation crates to be phased out by July 1, 2024, but the Humane Society is pushing for faster action to bring practices in line with Canadian public opinion (more than 84% oppose the use of gestation crates, it says) and with the direction major food companies such as MacDonalds and Costco have already committed to.

Write your MPP about local abattoirs

As a culture, we’ve become so used to industrial farming we tend to see pasture production as a relic of the past. Not so, Ida Vaillancourt says. “In fact, it’s the historical norm and the best way to protect people, animals and the land.”

Besides buying pastured pork, she urges people to support small meat producers by contacting their MPPs and demanding a stronger local abattoir system including mobile abattoirs where those make sense. Today, most animal processing is carried out by a handful of big facilities. Consequently, producers must transport animals to slaughter over longer distances, a more time-consuming, costly process that stresses the animals and racks up extra food miles. Licensing local abattoirs, as the B.C. government has done with the Salt Spring Abattoir, would go a long way to encouraging small-scale meat producers, Ida says.

Where to find Pork of Yore products: At the farm gate, the Carp Farmers Market and the Ottawa Valley Food Co-operative. You can also call 613-649-0076 or order online from heritagepork@porkofyore.com

What’s most important to you when you buy pork or any other meat: price, taste, eco-friendly production, or ethical treatment of the animal?

8 ways to shop smarter at farmers markets

Friday, May 17th, 2013

 

Photo: Kristopher Fritters, from Flickr

Shopping at farmers markets is one of the joys of the Ottawa growing season. Just-picked produce, newly baked bread, homemade preserves, cooking demonstrations, specialty festivals and fairs: what’s not to love?

You can enjoy the experience even more and shop smarter at the same time by following a few simple steps, says Andy Terauds of Acorn Creek Garden Farm in Carp.  A regular presence at the Ottawa Farmers Market and the Carp Farmers Market, Terauds and his wife, Cindy, grow over 2,000 varieties of fruits and vegetables, as well as flowering and vegetable plants. They also sell Cindy’s preserves under the Naturally Cindy’s label.

  1. Buy what you like and what looks good.

It may sound obvious, but Terauds says many customers come to the market with a specific recipe and are disappointed if the ingredients they want aren’t in season.  Instead, it works better to buy good-looking produce you know you’ll enjoy and then look for a recipe to go with it.  Most vendors can offer suggestions on how to prepare their produce.

  1. Sample the food.

If five vendors are selling asparagus, which one do you buy from? According to Terauds, taste should be the clincher. “Try the samples vendors provide. That’s true for corn, too. If it’s not good raw, it’s not good. Better taste is why people buy local food.”

  1. Don’t buy from the cheapest vendor.

Selling cheap can be a sign that the taste or quality isn’t up to snuff. What’s more, when you pay better prices, you reward farmers for their hard work and motivate them to keep improving.

  1. Come early.

Fruit and veg that sit out in the weather deteriorate through the day, so come early for the freshest, most varied selection. If the market opens at 8 a.m., be there at 8 a.m., Terauds counsels. But don’t come earlier because vendors will be setting up and won’t be able give you their full attention. Besides, every vendor has something that’s in short supply; having to sell it before the market opens means less for people who come during business hours.

  1. Call ahead for big orders.

Need bushels of produce for canning or preserves? Don’t try to buy them at the market. Call the farmer ahead of time to negotiate a price and arrange for delivery.

  1. Bring bags and pay cash.

Depending on the weather, bring waterproof bags for breads and cheeses, or a cooler for anything that deteriorates in warm temperatures, such as soft fruit, dairy or meat.

Since most vendors don’t take credit or debit cards, bring cash, preferably small bills and change.

  1. Dress for the weather.

You’ll have a better time if you’re dressed for the weather so make sure you have the proper gear, including suitable footwear.

  1. Make the market an event.

Shopping at a farmers market is a social experience and one that appeals directly to the senses. Soak it all in. Make your market visit into an event. Have a snack, talk to the vendors, watch a chef demonstrate a new recipe. “It’s a different experience to shopping at a supermarket chain,” Terauds says. “Take advantage of the differences and enjoy them.”

The May 16 Ottawa Citizen offers a rundown of what’s new and exciting at area markets this season. To find the market nearest you, check the Ottawa Farmers Market Guide.

What’s your favourite farmers market in the Ottawa area? What do you enjoy about it most?

Celebrate Valentine’s with local bean-to-bar chocolate

Saturday, February 9th, 2013

If you’re buying chocolate for Valentine’s, why not try some small-batch artisanal chocolate made here in Ottawa?  Hummingbird Chocolate Maker handcrafts its dark, organic chocolate bars from single-origin Latin American and Caribbean cocoa beans and uses 19th century methods to bring out their unique flavours.

Hummingbird is a labour of love for owners Erica and Drew Gilmour. It fuses their passion for chocolate with a commitment to social justice that’s rooted in years of aid work with farmers in developing countries. Not only does the couple strive to produce exceptional chocolate, they insist on buying cocoa beans that have been sourced ethically to ensure that the farmers who grow them receive a fair price.

Hummingbird chocolate has become a hit since its launch in June 2012. In fact, the Gilmours have had to buy more equipment to keep up with demand, and have moved the chocolate workshop out of their Stittsville home and into commercial space at Alice’s Village Cafe in Carp. “With our old equipment, we could only make 50 bars at a time,” Erica says. “Now we have two larger machines that can each produce 200 bars at a time.”

How does the chocolate taste?

Wonderful.  Depending on the origin of the cocoa, you can detect flavour notes of fruit, honey, toffee and whisky to name just a few. I sampled several bars at Hummingbird earlier this week, including their delicious Bolivia and Cumboto lines.  My very favourite was the deliciously spiced Patanemo bar, made from Venezuelan cocoa beans.

How is it made?

Making the chocolate is a 10-step process that takes about a month from start to finish. When the Gilmours receive the dried, fermented beans from the wholesaler, they: 

  1. sort the beans to remove twigs and debris
  2. slow-roast them
  3. crack them into bits called nibs
  4. sort the nibs by size
  5. winnow the nibs to remove the shells
  6. grind the beans into a moist paste called liqueur
  7. conche the beans. This is done by running the liqueur for 3 days, non-stop, through a machine that rotates grinding stones to develop taste. Organic sugar is added (the only other ingredient in Hummingbird chocolate) at this stage.
  8. let the mixture rest for 3 weeks to 30 days so the flavours can settle
  9. temper the chocolate in a special machine that adds sheen and rounds out flavours. Then the chocolate is poured into decorative molds.
  10. wrap the finished bars

How does the long process improve the flavour?

Like wine, coffee and tea, the taste of chocolate is a matter of terroir – the interaction between a given plant (the cacao tree, in this case) and the geography, climate and harvesting methods of the place where it’s grown. With chocolate, the longer production time expresses the unique flavours of the cocoa origin, offering more complex, layered tastes. It also gets rid of off-flavours, such as acidity. By comparison, mass-produced chocolate tends to have a uniform taste with more sweetness than character.  Acidity doesn’t burn off naturally, but is masked by adding other ingredients such as vanilla extract.

How much do the bars cost?

They retail at $6.50 each. The higher price reflects the higher quality cocoa beans, the labour-intensive production and the deeper flavours.

Who’s buying Hummingbird bars?

The bars appeal to different people for different reasons. Besides enjoying the taste, there are customers who may appreciate that Hummingbird is a local business, or that the chocolate is small-batch, or that it’s ethically traded. Others are drawn to the health benefits of cocoa. In addition to its following in the Ottawa area, the chocolate is sparking interest elsewhere in North America and in Europe, Erica Gilmour says.

Will the business stick with chocolate bars or branch out with other products?

The plans are to try darker and lighter chocolate and to sell cocoa nibs, Erica says. “The nibs are crunchy pieces of pure cocoa that taste very good sprinkled on oatmeal, for example.” In the long term, she’d also like to do some hot chocolate.

Where can I find Hummingbird chocolate?

It’s available at the Ottawa Farmers Market, Thyme & Again Catering and Food Shop, Coco Jojo, Gaia Java, Alice’s Village Café and Pêches & Poivres. You can also order it online from Foodie Pages.

What’s your favourite chocolate and where do you buy it?

Ottawa LAFF brings together eaters and local food artisans

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

 

Christmas markets are flourishing in Ottawa this year. Since many of them feature the area’s best artisanal foods, these markets offer a great way to sample what’s being made right here, with ingredients that are as local and organic as possible. Last weekend was especially busy, with three events scheduled: the Ottawa Farmers’ Market Christmas Market, A Taste of Ottawa: Westboro’s Holiday Food Market, and the Ottawa Locavore Artisan Food Fair (LAFF).

I was able to spend a few contented hours at LAFF’s December 8 market in New Edinburgh. With more than a dozen of LAFF’s 20 innovative food makers on hand, I had the chance to nosh on everything from Hummingbird’s small-batch, hand-crafted chocolate and michaelsdolce gourmet jams to Major Craig’s 1884 North India chutney. I also enjoyed a lip-smacking tomato and garlic soup from Stone Soup Foodworks, and a fiery salsa from Chef Richard Nigro, whose new store, Richard’s Hintonburg Kitchen, is set to open in February 2013.

Other creative food makers at the holiday market included: Art-Is-In Bakery; Auntie Loo’s Treats (a 100% vegan bakery);  Happy Goat Coffee Company (fair trade, organic coffee); Kawalsa Salsa; koko Chocolates; Relish the Flavour food truck; The Salty Don (gourmet seasonings); Scratch Kitchen (gourmet, home- delivered frozen meals); and World of Tea.

The Christmas food markets wind up December 16, with the last of four from the Ottawa Farmers’ Market, to be held 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Ernst & Young Centre,  4899 Uplands Drive.

What’s your best Christmas food market find?

 

 

 

Get back to the table with Red Apron’s comfort food

Friday, November 30th, 2012

The Red Apron’s owners, Jo-ann Laverty (left) and Jennifer Heagle

One way to enjoy sustainable food in Ottawa is to get it directly from a local farmer. Another is to buy it from a retailer like Ottawa’s The Red Apron.

Launched in 2006 by Jennifer Heagle and Jo-Ann Laverty, The Red Apron prepares fresh, eco-friendly gourmet meals in an effort to get people back to the meal table to enjoy good, wholesome food.  Menus  highlight seasonal ingredients from regional producers and dinners can be ordered by the day or the week, for pick-up or home delivery.  In the weeks before the holidays this year, customers are invited to drop by the store on Gladstone Avenue to stock up on festive pies, cakes and other treats. From the holiday menu, you can also pre-order a whole, herb- roasted turkey with all the trimmings, traditional tourtière, or bison, sweet potato and cranberry pie

Besides its meal service, The Red Apron sells ready-made foods from farms and small businesses in Eastern Ontario and Western Québec that meet the owners’ requirements for sustainable, ethical production. In the store, you’ll find Major Craig chutneys, Michaelsdolce jams and jellies, Juniper Farm sauerkraut, Clarmell-on-the-Rideau goat cheeses, Pascale’s ice cream and more.

In addition to being experienced entrepreneurs who’ve run several other businesses, Heagle and Laverty are busy mothers with strong ties to their communities. Here’s a Q&A from my interview with Jennifer Heagle.

 What motivated you to start The Red Apron?

People are so busy it can be hard for them to get a good meal on the table at the end of the day. There’s a lot of guilt around this, especially for women.  Jo-Ann’s and my goal is to help people who don’t have the time to cook to get back to the table with family and friends and enjoy delicious, healthy, well-prepared food. We also want people to have a chance to experience the high-quality, flavourful food that’s available from the producers and small family food businesses in the region.

Is there lots of demand for your meal service?

Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, we prepare and deliver 150 to 200 meal portions. We cook another 200 to 300 portions each day that we sell through the retail store.  These numbers are even higher on holidays and other peak times.

Why did you decide to put sustainability at the heart of what you do?

There’s such a strong connection between the health of the environment and the health of the food we eat. Before Jo-Ann and I started this business, we agreed that if we were going to spend the money and take the risk, it had to be for something worthwhile. No compromises. So we set some firm criteria for the taste, quality, healthiness and sustainability of whatever we prepare or sell.

What are your criteria for choosing suppliers?

Every ingredient we use or sell must be traceable. In other words, we want to know where it came from and how it was produced.  In season, we buy most of our fresh produce from local, usually organic, farmers. Our meat comes from producers in Ontario and Québec and as much as possible, it’s free of hormones and antibiotics. Our fish is ethically farm-raised, or wild-caught and sustainable. Our dried goods — beans, pasta, flour and sugar — are organic. We don’t use products with GMOS, artificial ingredients, preservatives, trans fats, dyes or MSG. And while we can’t accommodate dietary restrictions or allergies, all our meals are prepared from scratch with whole ingredients.

Is your food packaging sustainable?

Packaging for the food we deliver is all biodegradable, recyclable or re-usable, and we put the largest amount of food in the smallest container. As a business, we send very little to landfill. Most of our waste is either recyclable or it’s vegetable compost that our farmers feed to their cows, pigs and chickens.  

Does The Red Apron support community?

We feel a responsibility to contribute to the health and well-being of our communities as well as ourselves. Besides buying from local producers who grow delicious food in eco-friendly ways, we also donate food to certain organizations and community events. We look for opportunities to feed good food to people in need or to kids who might not have had the chance to try different foods.

Call The Red Apron at 613-695-0417 or visit them online http://redapron.ca

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