Thursday, July 26, 2012

Your Farmers' Market Has More than Veggies!

So Many Good Things at the Burlington Farmers' Market

You may be quite surprised the next time you visit your local farmers' market.  The scene has changed - evolved as it were.

You expect to find carrots at the farmers market.  Not beauties like these heritage varieties that I bought today on the Burlington market, but good local carrots are a consistent staple at most markets.

And potatoes, like these coloured lovelies.

 It's expected that there will be onions - though probably not always heirloom whites.

I loaded up on all of these, as well as green beans, corn, tomatoes, and some nectarines.  I even got a basket of fat tomatillas.  But what surprised me was the wealth of other good things to eat that was available here, made or grown by individual small producers, from numerous little stalls.

Like home made Ice Cream!

Alexa Fraser makes ice cream from fresh milk and cream and local fruits and herbs.  Her basil ice cream is a hit, something a bit different to perk up a summer meal.
Her ice cream is pricey, $8 for a pint, $4.50 for a cone, but the ice cream is pure and delicious.

And Then There's Fresh Flowers

Millcreek Flower Farm, just outside Ancaster, brings beautiful bouquets of flowers to market each week.  They're irresistable.

I bought a bunch of lavender coloured lizyanthus, or prairie flowers, which look lovely on my kitchen counter.

Need something healthy for the main course?  
Smokeville has smoked rainbow trout that makes a perfect centre dish for a summer meal.  They also do smoked salmon, trout, bacon and salmon pate.

 Other vendors offer small batch organic olive oil, home made bread and pies, and fresh eggs and cheese.

So who needs the supermarket in high summer season when the farmers' market is in full swing?
Not me!

The Burlington Market is held in the back parking lot of Burlington Mall, corner of Guelph Line and Fairview Street on Wed, Fri, and Sat.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Local Author Celebrates Local Flavours



Pssst!  Want to know who is growing fresh garlic?  Gourd zucchini? Micro-greens? Heritage tomatoes? ...

Ask this lady.  She'll likely know. 

She's Lynn Ogryzlo.  Here you see her teaching a class on preserves, and, while she does do many cooking classes, her real passion is for writing cookbooks.  Not just your run of the mill cookbooks, but books that are tied so closely to the land they are inspired by that you can almost smell the fresh veggies.

Her first cookbook, Niagara Cooks - From Farm To Table, won the award for best local cookbook in the world.  It is an inspiring chronicle of the people and the farms and producers in Niagara who are growing and making wonderful things for our table.  It's a treasure trove of information on where to get the best produce and the hard-to-find ingredients and who to get them from.  In addition to that information, she supplies easy to make recipes for the ingredients, with the final products lovingly photographed by her husband, John.  Each recipe has a backstory, making it the kind of cookbook that I love, not just a collection of impersonal recipes, but an inspiring read as well as an instructional one.

Her follow-up book, Niagara Cooks - A Seasonal Attitude - chronicles the bounty of Niagara through all four seasons, again compiling the stories of the growers and producers who inspired her.

In her next book, she expands her territory and explores the culinary richness of the entire province, in The Ontario Table, again beautifully illustrated with John's photos.

All three are gorgeous books, and they are particular favourites of mine because of the philosophy that is their context - that we should get to know our local farmers, that we should use and celebrate the wonderful things that grow in our back yards, and that we should, in a simple and joyous way, appreciate theexcellent variety of our (metaphorical and literal) table.

You can find Lynn's book at many outlets in Niagara or order them from her website here.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Niagara Peaches - Heaven in your Hand!

UnimPEACHable Niagara! 

 Quiet Acres Presents the Best of Niagara at its Roadside Stand

I've had imported peaches. Nothing special.  The Georgia peach is talked about a lot. It's an okay peach.  But nothing beats a Niagara peach.  Nowhere else can you get a peach that is firm yet tender, sweet but just tart enough, with intense flavour notes of almonds, florals and citrus. A just picked Niagara peach, at is ripest best, is one of life's pleasures worth savouring.

And right now, the first peaches of the season are ready so it's time to plan a road trip down the Niagara Peninsula to load up on these lovelies.

The early peaches are clingstone, which means they are a bit harder to slice, but the flavour is gorgeous. Eat them in your hand, make a peach pie ( my personal favourite), bake up a peach cobbler, whirl them into a smoothie or slice them over vanilla ice cream. Best dessert ever.  And if, by some slim chance, you have some left over, they can be preserved in a simple syrup to be enjoyed on a dark winter's day, or made into jam.

And according to Maureen MacSween of Quiet Acres in Niagara on the Lake, this is a vintage season for peaches. "The hot weather has been great for the peaches.  The high heat units boost the sugar and flavour and since we irrigate our orchards, the peaches have developed superbly this season.The heat not only boost the flavour and size of the peaches, it gives them nice rosy red cheeks.  So they look good too." 

 If you are looking for a place to buy peaches, as well as the other fruits and vegetables that are in season right now, head for the Quiet Acres fruit and vegetable stand on Lakeshore Road in NOTL.  Plums,cherries, local garlic, zucchini, corn, apricots, fresh dug new potatoes - and many other beautiful fresh local produce is available here.  The staff are friendly and helpful - and pretty too!

 It's a perfect excuse for a drive to Niagara. 

 Quiet Acres is easy to find - here's a map to help.
Quiet Acres
 672 Lakeshore Road 
 Ontario, Canada.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Hamilton Just Got a Little Cooler

Design Annex, 
Art Gallery of Hamilton

James Street North, the emerging art district in Hamilton, just got a bit of street cred, and a lot of style.  The new Design Annex of the Art Gallery of Hamilton will open to the public on Saturday, July 7th, showcasing local and emerging artists, Canadian designers and edgy and beautiful things to buy.
It's a clean lean space in a heritage building, once a warehouse built in 1860, that was reserected by serendipity.  Tim  Potocic, founder of Sonic Unyon and the Supercrawl, knew of the building and dreamed of its potential, but couldn't afford personally such a big undertaking that the renovations would entail.

At the monthly Art Crawl, he was introduced to architect Bill Curran - "Tim, meet Bill - Bill, meet Tim - you two should talk".  They talked, discovered that they shared many of the same ideas and from that conversation, the purchase and renovation of 118 James Street North had its genesis.
Now it houses the offices of the CBC, as well as the new Design Annex.
"The Annex," explains Louise Dompierre, President and CEO of the Art Gallery of Hamilton, "is a new branch of the Art Gallery where people will be able to see experimental exhibitions and discover new products, many of which will be made by local artist and artisans."

It is a "Creativity Lab" where exhibitions will be mounted and intimate musical performances will be held. The Art + Design Store will feature products for home and office as well as rental art.

The inaugural Design Annex exhibition is a 30 foot exposed brick wall hung with poly curtains informed by the architecture of the building.  Created by the artists' collective WE-3, Grand Drape is comprised of curtains lasercut with a pattern inspired by the original tin ceiling.
I'm not crazy about it - looks a bit amateurish, particularly with the limpness of the plastic that allows the curtains to droop and thus makes the design problematic.  But I like the idea and the inspiration for it.
Have a look at it here, where Mayor Bob Bratina is delivering his welcome speach with the curtain as backdrop....
The works in the Design Annex shop are different and exciting, however, and this will be a perfect place to find gifts and design objects for the home that are unique.  This will also be a home for local artists and artisans to launch new works and for local and world music groups to perform.
It's a creative addition to the neighbourhood and one that will hopefully encourage more development on James.

Design Annex
Art Gallery of Hamilton
118 James Street North, Hamilton
Tuesday-Wednesday, 11 am-6pm
Thursday, 11 am-8pm
Friday, 11am-6pm
Saturday and Sunday, 10 am-5 pm
closed Monday
James Street North Art Crawl (2nd Friday of the month) 11 am -11pm.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Local Gems: Cake & Loaf

Nickey and Josie are the spirit and energy behind this new bakery on Dundurn in Hamilton.

If for no other reason, come here for the Nanaimo Bars.   They are addictive, in a very good way.  Made completely from scratch, including the custard centre which is almost always made from a powder, even by home cooks, these bars are the best I have ever had. (Sorry, Mom!)

There are many more reasons to visit. These two young ladies, who met at Niagara College while both were taking the Baking Apprentice course, and reconnected on Facebook, opened Cake & Loaf Bakery  at the end of August in 2011, and have been local favourites ever since. Their passion is centred on local and fresh ingredients and a committment to connecting with a community of local farmers and suppliers.
"If I had to sum up our philosophy" says Josie, "I would say we believe in local and fresh, without messing it up too much!"  They are seriously dedicated to supporting local farmers, and making everything from scratch.
There are several savoury dishes on the menu, prepared by local chef Sarah Guinan, as well as freshly baked breads, vegan specialties, great baked goods and coffee from Detour Coffee.

The proof is in the eating.
Grab a selection of the delectable desserts for your family, for your friends at work, or for yourself. Everything hs been freshly made, with no pre-made additives, from fresh butter, farm eggs and local flour from Oak Manor.

 A favourite with children is the Ginger Crinkle Cookie.

 Imagine a cup of tea and a slab of the Cake & Loaf's  S'mores, - they even make their own graham crackers.

Pecan bars are loaded with nuts.

And the brownies are dense, intense and decadent.

Drop in to this local bakery which is dedicated to the best ingredients, and whose baking is top quality.
And keep an eye out for their summer specials - Ice Cream sandwiches made from freshly homemade ice cream, and individualized picnic baskets for summer excursions, weekend getaways or hostess gifts.

Cake & Loaf Bakery
Nicole Sherman and Josie Rudderham
321 Dundurn St. S.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Animals Who Steal The Scene: Part Three

Cats Around The World

Full disclosure here - I am a cat person, have been forever.  So I notice them when I travel.  Like this lovely tabby above - he was the resident cat in a canal house museum in Amsterdam.(Museum Willet-Holthuysen,)  He was happy to be petted by any visitors to the canal house gardens, purring loudly and cuddling up indiscriminately. He was a pleasant grace note in that historic garden.

And cats seem to be everywhere.  A new study says that cats outnumber dogs as pets, but many of the cats I have seen on my travels have been more like free spirits than somebody's tame kitty.  

In the centre of Rome I was astounded to come upon an important archaeological dig of historic ruins that was densely populated with cats. Torre Argentina is home to about 250 feline friends, sheltered amongst the oldest temples in Rome. 

 Seven days a week, volunteers from different countries feed, clean and look after them. Visitors can help by donating, or even by adopting one of the cats.  You can watch a video of one of the cats, Eva, being bathed lovingly by the staff at Torre Argentina.  She is a rescued cat who cannot wash herself.  Amazing to see all the cats sunning themselves happily in this historic place in the centre of Rome - it is said to be the place where Julius Caesar was stabbed by his friends, with Brutus dealing the first - "Et Tu, Brute?" - and most painful cut.

In New Zealand, I visited a farm and culinary store, where cats lounged in the sun, greeting visitors with haughty dignity.

And in Israel, in the ancient ruins of the city of Massada, where I had climbed in the dawn darkness to be on hand to witness the dramatic sunrise over the Dead Sea, this lazy gentleman was there before me, scratching his back on the ancient stones.
Mexico has its share of cats, and in one of the markets in Puerto Vallarta, I came across a table set up by a group who ran a home for homeless and abandoned cats.  "People drive by and throw kittens over our wall into the garden.  I guess they know we will take care of them." one of the organizers told me.

An artsy cat in an art gallery in Jaffa in Israel was intriguing.  I loved his coloured face, part orange, part black. He had the artistic temperment to go with his surroundings, too - aloof but willing to accept any attention.

This is a beloved cat from Rochester, since passed on.

And these are my girls, sisters who usually get along quite well, unless cat treats are involved.

They are allowed to roam in the back garden, but only on a rope, as the ravine harbours coyotes who have killed cats in the past.
It's clear that cats are worldly creatures.  But so are dogs - the next post's subject.