Category Archives: Ruminations on the Edible

Food inspired writing

Easter eating and Terroir Symposium 2013

Felix colouring eggs-just before a "pink" spill

Welcome to Easter weekend.  As I was taking pics of my mom and Felix making our traditional Good Friday lunch of Czech “jidaski” (a sweet yeast bread that my mom “ties” into little buns that we eat up with a lot of butter and a lot, a lot of honey.) I realized that the eating part (though delicious and hightly anticipated) is not even as important as the “making of” the jidaski.

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Even in English I can’t read this handwriting (my moms) and my grandmothers never looked like anything more than wavy, snaking squiggles to me.

Because the “making of” makes me happy. It reminds me of being a kid, of our traditions and of the fact that every year my mom seems honestly mystified with something in the age-old recipe that she doesn’t ever remember doing before.  It usually has to do with the yeast and every year we wait anxiously to see if the jidaski will rise to their expected glory.

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We also always have a discussion that goes along the lines of “yeast, it’s not what it used to be”.   And always  looks are passed between Tad and my dad, “please let there be some meat with this lunch”.  Which there is, though yah, the point of the whole jidaski thing is “no meat on Good Friday”.   (But what can God have against thinly shaved, Italian rosemary ham?)

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So the making begins.  Felix starts to add and mix–with assistance from the master.

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There is always a spill–flour or sugar scattering–and my mom makes everyone stand back, as if we are on the edge of a dangerous sinkhole–and cleans up thoroughly,  extending the fault line at least a foot outside the contaminated area. Since my efforts at wiping are haphazard at best, there is always a point where I step beyond the invisible DO NOT CROSS tape and get reprimanded.

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Somehow by the end of the whole baking ritual my mom is ultimately left to finish which probably is a relief.  Or so I tell myself as by this point I have reverted to disinterested teen daughter, flipping through whatever old magazines are around the cottage.  (Did you know Kate Middleton is pregnant?)

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But we’re all back for the reveal.  Golden, aromatic and tender jidaski.  Ready for lunch.  Guaranteed I will eat one or five too many.

What a festive whip!

What a festive whip!

And here is an Easter transition that only my mom and dad adhere to (kidding!), Shades of Shades of Grey…

“In the Czech Republic and Slovakia, a tradition of spanking or whipping is carried out on Easter Monday. In the morning, men spank women with a special handmade whip called a pomlázka (in Czech) or korbáč (in Slovak), or, in eastern Moravia and Slovakia, throw cold water on them.”  (WIKIPEDIA)

Which brings me to the Terroir Symposium this year  (aside from the whipping as far as I know) whose themes are surely rooted in family food traditions including hashing out the same disagreements each year as you sit around the table eating far too much of a good thing.  Which is a good thing in itself.

For the Love of Food: Stories, Memories & Culture

Everything we eat has a story. Food is the basis of our existence, but we can also craft narratives around it: stories of hunger and sharing, of bounty and blessing. The dishes we prepare embody the traditions and heritage of our cultures; the memories we create through the food we eat, help define us. Food reminds us where we come from and encourages us to go somewhere new.

For this edition of Terroir, our presenters will share stories of their most compelling food experiences, memories and inspirations.

05 Pictures of mushrooms

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It’s the New Year, keep smoking but clean your fridge already!

clean fridge

Where was I with my New Year’s blog and well-wishing?   I was cleaning my fridge.  It was a pain in the butt. It was gross.   But look at the after picture!  (sorry, you will also see the BEFORE).

As of Jan 1 all the food, condiments, drinks and tubes of anchovy paste are edible.  Most are visible and anything pushed to back is cornflour and maple syrup who no one cares about–even if they’re not discovered for 4 months.

dirty fridge

EWWWW is right.  Aside from the cheese drawer, that was pretty clean.  But you had to see this so you too could know how I have struggled.  With lethargy, laziness and the fear of what the hell is in there?

Well guess what I found!

duck confit

Duck confit!  And I would have eaten it but it was dug into–who did this?  Was it one of the other foods?  Was the duck clawing it’s way out?  A mystery.

counter o fridge

So you start by taking everything out of the fridge–wow–you realize you have a lot of sauces–and a lot of jars with only one or two pickles left…and hey, I had extra capers?

But then you clean with soapy water and organize and you feel a sense of peace.  Peace on the cusp on 2013.

Only NOW you can go on that diet, and quit smoking and exercise more– but me?  I stopped at cleaning out the fridge.

cookie

And for something prettier…..I hope everyone’s year is as full of sparkles as Felix’s most best cookie.

Thank you for reading my blog, thank you for commenting and thank you for still reading into 2013 even though you saw the BEFORE picture of my fridge.

xo Sue

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Soupstock Needs Volunteers-and not just the soup-slurping types

You may have heard about the SoupStock event happening on October 21.  Hopefully you’re thinking “200 kinds of soup, hell yah”.  And you probably know the event is trying to raise awareness about the fight to stop the Highand’s companies proposed mega-quarry just 100 km northwest of Toronto.

Or perhaps you’ve seen “Stop the Megaquarry” signs but you don’t quite know the scope of what is being planned, in which case please take the time to watch this short video.  It is eye-opening.  It’s 6 minutes long and it is riveting as you realize what exactly the environmental impact will be.  On us.

The Highland Companies proposes to blast a pit deeper than Niagara Falls from beneath a landscape of great agricultural and ecological importance.

Soupstock is being organized by the Toronto Chefs’ Congress and the  David Suzuki Website (click to read more): Joining Chef Stadtlander are well-known culinary champions like Lynn Crawford, Jamie Kennedy, Brad Long and Donna Dooher. Up-and-coming chefs like Jon Pong of Hoof Raw Bar, Craig Harding of Campagnolo, and Calgary’s Connie DeSousa of Charcut, will also showcase their talents

THEY NEED VOLUNTEERS!  (INCLUDING CHEFS TO MAKE SOUP!)

They are looking for volunteers to play multiple roles during the Soupstock event including:

  •  Helping chefs unload their equipment and supplies during the morning of the event
  •  Selling soup tickets and swag at visitor tables
  • Cleaning up the park and ensuring everything is recycled properly
  • Answering questions about the host organizations and the mega-quarry campaign
  • Supporting speakers and musicians at the main stage
  • Helping direct media questions
  • Skills and Knowledge Required:
  • Great people skills – friendly, professional and outgoing
  •  Energetic, enjoys working in a team
  • Flexible, comfortable in fast-paced environments
  • Excellent verbal communication skills
  • Strong interest in environmental issues and commitment to sustainability
  • Must love soup!

    Time Commitment:

    8 hours during the Soupstock event on October 21 (approximately 9-5:00) and a 1 hr orientation on October 17 at 7pm.

    Volunteer benefits:

    An opportunity to try original soup recipes from some of Canada’s greatest chefs  Morning coffee and muffins to energize you for the day
    Soupstock volunteer t-shirt
    Information about critical environmental issues in our province

    The opportunity to be involved in the largest culinary protest Ontario has ever seen!

    If you’d like to volunteer please email Aryne (asheppard@davidsuzuki.org) describing yourself and your interest in supporting Soupstock.

     

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Filed under Ruminations on the Edible, Travel and Food, Uncategorized

Almost Perfect Frozen Foods…wait, what?!

Doesn’t this sign just beg for a caption contest?   I just love it.  From the name itself to the visual image of the word PERFECT deteriorating and falling apart.

Time and time again Tad and I are baffled  at the name of this frozen food store when we drive by it on the way to Apsley (and the cottage)  along Hwy 7.

It’s just…well, when it comes to frozen chicken….I’d actually like it to be fully perfect.

I am thinking that whoever came up with this name is no longer in advertising.

(I just now noticed the sign for GUNS below the food sign.  See?  They advertise “Accuracy PLUS….not “pretty good accuracy, almost perfect”)

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Into every garden a little chives should fall

I was thinking about our little garden as the weather has hottened and long weekend arrived.  We have a little patch of dirt amongst the flowers where I’d plant some tomatoes and herbs–usually basil and rosemary and then last year I planted some arugula which thrived despite my lack of attention.

This year that patch of dirt has been flattened by a sand box for Felix and I will have to dig out another part of the garden if I want to continue planting.  Which I have been feeling laissez-faire about (lazy, pronounced with a french accent).

Until my friend Lisa snipped some chives for me from her front garden on Thursday.  They’ve been coming up on their own year after year.

Aren’t they beautiful?  But they also smelled fragrant when chopped.  I have already used some in an omelette and with salty butter on baby potatoes.

It reminded me how awesome it is to be able to have something you grew yourself, on hand and ready to customize your own cooking.

I also love dill so now am thinking I will plant dill, the chives and maybe some mint (mojitos 24/7  or…. maybe just 18/7).   Also the tomatoes and arugula.   And some green beans.

(See, once you start you can’t stop)

So even if you have a small patch, or just some pots, plant something.

Even if it’s just for the ability to cut some herbs,  pop them into a glass on the window sill and feel very Martha Stewart.

So Happy Long Weekend.   Don’t forget to have ice cream, my current favourite is the apple ice cream (is it gelato? can’t remember) from Ed’s Real Scoop.

But after a bike ride (or in the middle of?) a fudgesicle and oh….a creamsicle!

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Musings on Toronto’s Chef legacy


Not to flog a well-ridden horse (ok, I will)  but I’ve been meaning to get back to posting about the Terroir 2012 conference  and while looking through my notes got to thinking about the dialogue surrounding the 50 Best Restaurants List.   There was outrage, insult and a lot of defensiveness felt at Canada’s chefs being excluding from the rankings.

I read a few interesting opinions as to why we are being “overlooked”  and even why we may not yet deserve to be there.  Some writers seemed to feel that cuisine in Toronto (or across Canada) is very good, excellent even, but  plays it too safe– no real risks are being taken.  Or perhaps not enough.  Maybe this is partially due to clientele.  A restaurant has to survive in an incredibly tough business.  A kitchen must cater somewhat to the palates (and wallets) of the customers as much as the chef may be dying to expand his diners’ comfort zone.

On my initial visit to Chantecler in April I asked which dishes were the “hits”.  The answer was “depends who you ask”.  The regular customers had certain faves and the industry people who ate there had others.

All of this was running through my head as I thought back to the Terroir 2012  “Culinary and Drink Trends” session.  The first half seemed to focus more on food trends in general than just drinks, and a fascinating conversation evolved about where cuisine in Toronto was headed.  Grant Van Gameren, executive chef at Enoteca Sociale (formerly of Black Hoof fame) was very outspoken and raised some interesting questions about the legacy of Toronto’s chefs as leaders.

He said that as new interests develop and old trends fade (so long charcuterie) we need more chef-leaders in the city. A lot of  small restaurants are being opened by newer, younger chefs and a lot of the “grandfathers” are doing TV.  Which wasn’t a criticism, just a question about who is out there teaching these new up and comers?  In Van Gameren’s opinion, “we’re in a 5-year block of transition” to what our food scene is going to be.  And which of these younger guys/gals is going to still be around?

He went on to say that the need to break free, expand your creativity in your own kitchen is understandable but are 27 and 28-year-old chefs ready to set the pace for the next generation?  He suggested that many chefs in Toronto need to travel more, stage more around the world.  Get a more international perspective.  Right now no one in Toronto is doing much to stand out.

He even singled himself out saying sometimes that when he is mentoring his crew, he will find himself wondering what more he can learn–so he can better lead those under him.

Van Gameren also acknowledged that in order to sustain a groundbreaking restaurant like Chicago’s Alinea in Toronto you would need investors to take on the risk and also the local support of Toronto’s diners–people need to be willing to shell out cash for more than just comfort food.

He pointed out that a lot of the smaller places opening these days take on the same formula– reclaimed wood, edison bulbs and copper accents–and some chefs do serve  avant-garde cuisine in these cozy rooms–but often the stereo is blasting so loud you can barely hear your server describing, with great care, the dish you’re about to eat.

Which brings me back to the type of restaurants that are featured on the Top 50 list; true “fine-dining” venues with a less laid-back atmosphere.  Places where the chefs are moving cuisine forward, maybe even before the diner is ready to take the leap.  Though hopefully they have enough faith to jump.

Do we have these kind of leaders (and diners)  in Toronto? In Canada?  I guess we’ll have to wait and see what happens next year.  Or in the next five.

For some interesting perspectives on the Top 50 list (and how it’s is judged) you can check out these links:

Lesley Chesterman, The Montreal Gazette

Chris Nuttall-Smith, The Globe and Mail

Adrian Brijbassi, Vacay.ca

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Terroir 2012: Making mouths water like crazy

Terroir 2012, proving you can never have too many cooks...

Slushy wet snow, smokey, wood-burning smells in the air and a warm packed room accented with aromas of cooking, scattered  beer cans and people unravelling themselves layer by layer from their outdoor gear.  Could have been an afternoon anywhere in Canadian cottage (or cabin) country.  Aside from the iPhones filling up with photos of just-foraged plants being sliced, fresh sausages being filled and local trout being smoked.

Connie DeSousa making sausages (yes, Top Chef Canada lovers, celebrity sighting!)

Plus the fact that the whole feast was being prepared by some of the most talented chefs in Canada (and some outside of Canada). It was a fantasy Thanksgiving-doppelganger afternoon at Mad Maple Inn in Bruce County this past Tuesday, April 24.

The dining room at Mad Maple, this is the view from the open kitchen.

The event was part of The Terroir Symposium 2012.  The day before had been a full house at the newly renovated Acadian Court, now run by Oliver and Bonacini (more on the symposium in another post).   I was fortunate enough to be invited on the following day’s tour of Grey Bruce Simcoe county–complete with bus ride, April flurries and a more moments of awesome than even the Book of Awesome could come up with (lunch featured wood-fired pizzas and was hosted by Michael Stadtländer at his Haisai Bakery and Restaurant.)

Check out Renée Suen’s photos for Toronto Life where she gives a preview of The Singhampton Project, Michael Stadtländer’s upcoming visual and edible feast at Eigensinn Farm.

We were hosted by Miriam Streiman who is opening Mad Maple Country Inn in this summer.  Above is the side table which served as the appetizer hang-out (if you weren’t stealing nibbles from the main kitchen.)   The yellow wax encased cheese is from Best Baa Dairy and the two cream cheeses came from newish producers Steacy and Scott den Haan of Primeridge Pure Dairy Products.

But let me get to the heart of it–the meal.  The formidable menu was posted on the wall after dinner was served and I had to take it in three pictures to get it all, as it reached down to the floor.  For more of the chefs and the food, check out Jessica Allen’s piece for Maclean’s.

THE CHEFS, THE FOOD AND THE LOCAL PRODUCERS

Beer Bread and birch plates

BRENT LEITCH, Two Kinds of Beer Bread, Creemore Springs and K2 Milling

CARL HEINRICH, RYAN DONOVAN, JULIA AYEARST, Trout on Kale with Mustard Vinaigrette, Kolapore Springs and The New Farm

So tender, so beautiful, so trouty

CARL HEINRICH, RYAN DONOVAN, JULIA AYEARST, BBQ Pork belly and trotters on baked beans, Blue Haven and The New Farm

CONNIE DESOUSA, Lamb organ Kielbasa with Brassica mustard, Twin Creeks Organic Farm and Forbes Wild Food

CRAIG FLINN, Black chicken soup with Jerusalem artichokes and wild mushrooms, Blue Haven, Creemore Springs and Wylie Mycologicals

JEREMY CHARLES, Wild Newfoundland Rabbit with Red Tail Flour pappardelle, wild mushrooms, speck, wild mustard and fresh herbs, K2 Milling, Forbes Wild Foods, Michael Stadtlander

JEFF CRUMP, Spit-Roasted Lamb with sauce gribiche, Twin Peaks Organic farm

BEN SHEWRY, Grated Potatoes , The New Farm, Tama Mutsuoka Wong

The grated potato salad with foraged greens and poached egg

Ben Shewry of Melbourne, Australia's much accoladed Attica restaurant, working on potato salad

Forager for Daniel NYC, Tama Mutsuoka Wong, talks about her finds which are going into the salad

JAMES ROBERTS, Potatoes gratin with wild garlic and shallot confit, The New Farm, Frobes Wild Food, Harmony Organic

PETER BURT, Fire-roasted beers and carrots and (and I can’t read the rest of the list, damn), The New Farm

CONNIE DESOUSA, Fresh Cheese Cheesecake with Rhubarb and almond Crumb, Harmony Organic

And finally my Cinderella…I never find out who she was, but man, was she a beauty!

And if you’re thinking–where was the bar?  It was there, in a cozy back room, the wine provided by Georgian Hills Vineyards.

And if you’ve been waiting to see a picture of Ivy Knight, woman-of-all-trades (and a back of the bus fun person–I am a front of the bus read a book person, it makes me sad sometimes) here she is.  Check out her awesome new website all about foodstuffs at swallowfood.com  and ask for an I SWALLOW sticker for your iPhone.

See the glee, the fun that was had?  She’s laughing because she just swore at me.  But then, I did cut off most of her face in this picture.  Even?

Fun was had, food was had, Tuesday’s will never be the same.   Though I might start eating off  birch plates (even sturdier than paper and disposable in the wood pile).

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Filed under Ruminations on the Edible, Top Chef Season 1, Travel and Food, Uncategorized