Tag Archives: Local

Salted Brick: simple honest intentions that make complex flavours

30 Oct
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In September,  I had the chance to work in the beautiful Okanagan Valley for a couple of weeks.  The picturesque and almost desert-like interior of British Columbia proved to be a powerhouse for fruit orchards and of course, as everyone has heard, vineyards.  The best part was, almost all the top restaurants sourced locally and stressed (ha!) the slow food movement.  Yeah, I had trouble booking a flight home.

I confess, I had a prejudice prior to my arrival that I would be served mostly vegetarian health-conscious fare (as if you don’t think granola when I say West Coast).  Much to my surprise (and relief), I found the complete polar opposite of fresh kale salad – really great charcuterie!  And one of my favourite places to split a board of locally sourced cured meat  in Kelowna was at Chef Jason Leizert’s Salted Brick.

Located next to the old Paramount Theatre, Salted Brick is a stylish but unpretentious eatery that makes food an accessible event.  Seven days a week they serve up mind-blowing affordable sandwiches to the lunch crowd (get the smoked chicken!  No, wait, the brisket! Ugh, no, the smoked chicken!)  while Wednesdays to Sundays there is dinner service and on weekends only, brunch. Everything is priced extremely reasonably and prepared with such care. Also, with the small seating space close to the food prep and bar, you cannot help the intimacy forged between the diner and the plate creator and that is part of the experience of their locavore’s menu.

As soon as I walked in, I could smell the aroma of cured meats and cheeses.  It was prevalent enough to almost act as an amuse bouche but certainly not overpowering.  My dreamy-eyed look must have indicated I would get a kick out of their ‘meat closet’ because guess where I was seated?  Yup right next to it- I could stare to my heart’s content.  My friends, all of this locally-sourced, free range and hormone and antibiotic free charcuterie was created in house!

A lot of glare, but even more meat.

A lot of glare, but even more meat.

My dining partner and I decided to start off with oysters from Salt Spring Island.  They were creamy, briney, and matched perfectly with a mystery house-made hot sauce.

Oysters from Salt Spring Island

Oysters from Salt Spring Island

Next came two giant boards which we unabashedly demolished.  Local cheeses and in-house cured meats.  Paradise!

Cheese board

Cheese board

 

Meat board

Meat board

The cheese pairings ranged from traditional to whimsical.  The charcuterie board was out of this world good; with each bite we proclaimed we found our favourite until we tried the next one.  Our server felt like a pal who casually wandered by and made sure we were having a good time.  We were never rushed, and with the beers and wine flowing, food to share, and a great atmosphere, we were shocked to find 3 hours had passed!

Salted Brick emphasized my belief that dining is an intimate event to be enjoyed with friends and the creators of your meal.  It also bridged the gap between food source and my plate – I could read about the farmers they sourced the meat from and see, with my own eyes, the curing room at the back of the restaurant.

Simple honest intentions and complex flavours – thank you Salted Brick.

 

Edit: I mentioned this was accessible to most wallets and I forgot the prices we paid for the above but just to give you an idea, they do offer a Family Dinner priced at $25/person!  And this is the ridiculously delicious sample menu: 

Bouillabaisse

Squash Ravioli, Brown Butter, Parmesan

Pork Cheeks, Mushrooms, Buttered Kale, Apple Sauce

Goat Cheese

Apple Tart Tartin

Salted Brick on Urbanspoon

 

Taste LOCAL! Taste FRESH! – Foodlink’s Annual Culinary Showcase & Fundraiser

29 Aug

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Fellow gourmandes in the southwestern Ontario region, have you heard of the event “Taste Local! Taste Fresh!” ? Foodlink Waterloo Region is a grassroots nonprofit organization that promotes local food. They connect farmers with food producers, provide local food education and perform community outreach. Their goal is that more and more people have access to fresh local food.

“Taste Fresh!  Taste Local!” is Foodlink’s annual local food showcase as well as the organization’s only fundraiser. What does that mean? The event pairs local food producers and chefs who work together and come up with food creations that celebrate the bounty of our local harvest.  All the proceeds go towards promoting lovely local food.

Steckle BarnThis year, the will be held on the grounds of Kitchener’s Steckle Heritage Farm – it’s a beautiful barn which dates back to 1840.

Guests will sample the delicious creations of nineteen chef/producer teams, all while listening to live music and taking in on an historic property surrounded by the natural beauty of southern Ontario.

TLTFweb14The writers at YYZ, especially the #smugcouple, LOVE the fresh local food movement/ philosophy. One of the joys of summer is popping out to your local farmer’s market on the weekend, buying WAY too much delicious produce and then cooking up a storm all week. It’s the only way to live. That’s why we’re really looking forward to the 11th annual culinary showcase taking place at Steckle Heritage Farm on Sunday, September 14, 2014, 2-5 pm. 

For all foodies in southwestern Ontario, this event is your Woodstock!  We expect to see you all there! GTA readers, Waterloo is a mere 1h 20 min drive away. Your daily commute into Toronto is longer and way less scenic of a drive. So, no excuses!

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Tickets are on sale here, while quantities last: $70/ person or $650 for group of 10. Each ticket includes food and a hand-crafted pottery plate.

Follow this link for a full list of chefs, restaurants, food producers, and sponsors. Foodlink is also on Twitter (@FoodlinkBLBF) and Facebook, naturally.

Photos credit: Sara Geilinger. 

The #smugcouple attends #VegTO

9 Sep

I am an omnivore. I eat meat and animal products. I eat lots of fruits and veggies. I wasn’t the natural candidate to attend the 29th Annual Vegetarian Food Festival hosted by the Toronto Vegetarian Association for YYZGourmand. But, this seemed like a #smugcouple outing because a) HoM and I love to hold hands while we visit Farmer’s Markets on the weekends b) we are obsessed with local, organic, and farm fresh produce (HoM partakes in a CSA in Waterloo) c) we’ve decided to integrate more veggies ( esp. leafy greens), seeds and grains into our daily diet. And, while all of these things are not directly related to vegetarian/vegan foods they all belong to an ethos that focuses on healthier living and a sustainable approach to food. And, I am determined to learn more about this food movement in my quest to lead a Goop-approved life!

Lessons:

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Chickpea stacks with Pickliz (Urban Acorn)

1) Local Food Movement – While the uniting theme of this event was vegetarian/ vegan food most vendors we visited and spoke to preached local, seasonal and sustainable ingredients. The Executive Chef, Daniel Holloway at Urban Acorn, for example, creates his menus (they cater events and host monthly supper clubs) with this approach.Rather than vegan/ vegetarian food, they offer “flexitarian” options, which focus on “sustainable healthy eating” but allow for “moderate” consumption of animal products. On Saturday, they created chickpea stacks with “Pickliz” ($4) which we could smell cooking on the grill as we talked to Marie (Events Manager). The chickpea patties were aromatic and hearty with just a bit of kick of hotness and complemented by the tangy sweetness of the Pickliz (slaw). I often complain that a vegetarian/ vegan diet would leave me cold and unsatisfied but this warmed my belly and filled me with strength to search for more deliciousness in the rain. Urban Acorn was the first and best food we tried all day. We can’t wait to attend a supper club or Soupalicious 2013 at Wychwood Barns.

HoM: To me, Urban Acorn displayed everything that is good about vegetarian cooking.  Rather than trying to fool people’s taste buds into thinking they were eating meat, they highlighted and celebrated the flavours of vegetables and legumes.  The chef at Urban Acorn showed that it is possible to create a dish that is downright delicious without “throwing some bacon on it”.  To me, throwing bacon on everything (donuts?!?) is a sign of laziness, rather than creativity.  True creativity is coaxing big flavours out of humble chickpeas and cabbage.

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Tori’s Bakeshop

2) Vegan/ gluten free baking does not have to be gross – HoM and I were once at the Distillery and had the worst gluten-free cupcake ever. It was flavourless and left a strange aftertaste. Yuck. In search of Tori’s Bakeshop (a natural and organic bakery that I read about on a Toronto Holistic Nutritionist’s blog), we found delicious cookies by New Moon Kitchen. Their products are found in health food stores all across Southern Ontario and offer cookies made with only a handful of real ingredients (no preservatives, trans-fats, or artificial flavours). The Ginger Snappers were so chewy and flavourful. I can’t believe that there were no animal products (butter or milk) with which to bind the cookies and that they only use sugar cane to sweeten their treats. Processed sugar is the devil! We tried their “Best Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies,” which were being sampled at this event, and were blown away by again the texture and flavour. Tori’s Bakeshop had a plethora of tasty treats from which to choose but we were charmed by their Blueberry Tart ($2). The pastry wasn’t flaky in the traditional sense but served as the vehicle for explosive blueberry flavour. It’s odd to say but with all the mass produced pie/ tart fillings out there, I have forgotten how real fruit tastes in baked treats. If you’re going to indulge your sweetness, you should do it the right way and choose healthier options made with real ingredients!!

HoM: One thing that annoys me with vegetarian/vegan/gluten-free cooking is that I have been told I need to “adjust my expectations.” I, however, believe that healthy food should taste good and I refuse to sacrifice quality.  I am happy to say that the baked goods we tried, especially New Moon Kitchen’s chocolate chip cookies, were not good vegan cookies, they were just good cookies full stop. We also bought some dog treats from The Brothers Boston.  My dog, Percy (yyzSirPercival) enjoyed them and attempted to get up on the counter for seconds, though he also likes to eat dirt from my planters so perhaps he does not have to most refined palate.

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Apple-sage & Chipotle “Sausage” Rolls (APieCalypse Now!)

3) Faux-meat? – It puzzles me that a so many vegetarian/ vegan food producers try to recreate the experience of meat for their adherents. The results vary. We tasted really yummy apple-sage sausage rolls from APieCalypse Now Vegan Bakery. I didn’t really mind the texture of the sausage because their filling was flavourful and the pastry was flaky. But, we also sampled tough chewy “artisan vegan grain meats” from Field Roast, which just reminded me of how much it didn’t taste or have the mouthfeel of a real hot dog.

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Jackfruit Taco (Hot Beans)

We also tried a Jackfruit Taco ($3.50) from Hot Beans, which sounds more awesome that it actually was in execution. The concept: unripe jackfruit simmered in a BBQ sauce served with salsa and a corn tortilla. The idea of jackfruit in place of meat was novel. It looked like pulled pork! Except, the flavour fruit itself was overwhelmed by the tangy BBQ sauce and salsa and it lacked a distinguishable texture.

4) Mainstream! – Vegetarian/ vegan/ organic/ local foods are no longer on the fringes of culture and TO eating. Judging by the number of people who came out to brave the wet weather, it was clear that there is a growing group of informed/ interested gourmands in the city who are demanding delicious and healthy food options. Hippies from our parents generation had kids and have gone mainstream with their message. So many of the vendors we met were already offering their products at a retailer near you, about to distribute their products more widely OR launching their own storefronts within the next year. Many vendors were happy to discuss/ educate us on their product and how it fits into healthier living. We tried Kombucha, a natural energy tonic, for the first time! The festival even offered free yoga classes (cancelled on Saturday due to rain) / talks by notable healthy-living gurus and even vegan/ vegetarian classes.

#smugcouple rating: This was the perfect event at which to share bites of food from a variety of vendors (portion control!). The Harbourfront Center is such an amazing event space in TO. If it wasn’t for the rain, there would have been live-music and yoga classes overlooking the lake! We *were*, however, disappointed at the lack of couples yoga classes offered to us … or matching hemp pants.