Tag Archives: cheese

Love letters, part 1: Switzerland

8 Jul

Oh yeah, I was away for 3 weeks a little while ago. Here are some letters I’m sending back to Europe. Warning: I am speaking directly to countries and my food but at least you can’t hear the songs I made up as well.

Dear Switzerland,

The quality of your food is so astounding it almost makes up for the prices that are shocking to North Americans. Your dairy products = spectacular. Your bread, so far the best in Europe. Here are some pictures I took to remind me of your yummy goodness.

Shakeria

Shakeria

Oh Shakeria! I bought you for your hilarious name and because I still remember those school yard rhymes that still make me laugh. Despite your hilarious name, you are seriously delicious and not at all too sweet.

Bretzels

Bretzels

When traveling  through train stations (also pretty amazing), it was hard not to make cartoon sound effects as I screeched to a halt in front of the Brezel Konig. Brezel – you are soft, crunchy, perfect and make a good alternative to sandwich bread.

after Jungfrau

after Jungfrau

Dear giant rosti wok at the base of Jungfrau, thanks for the potatoes. After oxygen deprivation at 3500 metres up it’s nice to have another spectacular view, to have my skin return to its natural colour, and to drink some Fanta with your generous helpings.

cheese

cheese

You look like a flower but you taste like cheese. You are perfect. Please grow in my garden.

Ricola

Ricola

Just off the plane, I was handed a free sample. Ricola, you make all my jokes come true.

Restos + shops: double the foodie goodness

3 Jun

An article in the Globe and Mail beat me to this blog post: they wrote about the opening of Murray’s Market, three blocks from my house. Murray’s Market is a specialty food store, and sibling to the restaurant Murray’s Bistro.

It’s been said that Ottawa is a dull, uninspiring city, lacking heart (or culture, or beauty, or fun, depending on who you ask). Ottawa gets a really bad rap, for food and, well, for lots of things. Heck, on Monday, the area right by Murray’s Market was called tawdry.

Here’s what I think. While there is an element of truth in the stereotype, Ottawa is mostly just difficult to get to know: it’s like that shy girl at a party who looks kind of weird but turns out to become a good friend.

When it comes to food and bevvies, Ottawa is heating up: we have a few interesting chefs doing some really innovative work, and we have spawned our own local coffee chain, but I find we are still lacking great independent, simple lunch spots. I have written here previously of my love of the sandwich; things are improving in Ottawa in this department, too (with Ottawa magazine even featuring a sandwich smackdown) but it’s like sticking one sandbag in the Montérégie right now: it’s just not going to cut it. Ottawa is geographically … I believe the scientific term is …. massive, and we could gobble up lunch spots like there’s no tomorrow.

So that’s why, when I walked into Murray’s Market, I was thrilled. They sell cheese, and lots of meaty sandwiches, natch, but also boxed salads, home-made grilled cheese, muffins, cookies and local produce. Smart move!

One thing I especially love is their hand-painted wall map, illustrating with string and nails where their food comes from:

What a great idea, and what a creative way to represent this!

While I think Murray’s is  pretty cool, a quote from the Globe (“And from a retail perspective, you get that up-sell of people who are sitting in your restaurant or your bistro, going ‘Oh my God, lobster oil. Where in the world do I get that?’ ”) made me a little erm, vomitous (maybe it was the use of the term up-sell? Are my reluctant-capitalist roots showing?)

For a bit more background, the Globe mentions that “food trend forecaster Andrew Freeman is predicting the mixed business model will become one of the top 10 restaurant trends for 2011.” Examples include EatalyToronto’s Lakeview Storehouse, and Edible Canada (which expanded the other way, but to the same general end).

I appreciate the efforts of many retailers and restaurants to support local foods (I know one of the farmers who supplies for Murray’s Market, in fact), and I am so all over Murray’s Market (like a fruit fly to a glass of wine!) I was thinking a bit, though, (always dangerous) about this up-sell phenomenon. I recently finished reading The Authenticity Hoax, by Andrew Potter, and had local and organic food trends in mind when visiting the Market. Potter’s book, which is all about our quest for the “authentic” experience and the “authentic” life, contends that regardless of the science, many people prefer organic because of “framing effects,” meaning the fact that we know we are eating organic frames the experience in a way that makes it more satisfying for us.

Potter also contends that “the environmental benefits of local farming are actually highly overstated. […] In the end, moving locally grown produce around in small bundles […] is far more wasteful than putting thousands of tons of bananas on a container ship.”

Potter’s whole premise is that we are looking for sources of distinction in our lifestyle choices; moving the food discourse from organic to local was a way of “ratcheting up the stakes” for society: a kind of culinary one-upmanship in which “the shame of actually buying stuff on the open market” will eventually, in extreme cases, be “left for the lesser folks.” In case you think he’s exaggerating, think about the 100-mile diet craze, The Compact, or No Impact Man.

[Incidentally, I once did a display at work called “The 100-mile (book) diet,” which didn’t get too much attention; I guess reading locally just isn’t as cool as eating locally. Locally-sourced Canlit just doesn’t have quite the same cachet as locally-sourced carrots? Or it just doesn’t make us feel as virtuous?]

A recent article on the Sojourners Magazine blog addressed organic and local food as well, Author Joennifer Kottler announced she was planning to make some changes to her grocery store trips, including buying food close to its source and as close to its natural state as possible. She mentions friends who have purchased shares in Community Supported Agriculture, again, arguing as people do about similar programs in Canada, that this helps keep “fresh food more affordable.” Kottler does acknowledge that these options are not always available: “Please know I am very aware that the ability to make these choices is a privilege I have. And know at the same time that I am advocating for policies that will permit more of us to do the same — particularly folks who live in communities where food choices, especially fresh food choices, are severely limited.”

So, where am I going here? Murray’s is a great place, and I’m so glad it’s in my neighbourhood, offering more choice and variety to consumers, and supported by knowledgable, creative staff. I’m happy to have the privilege of choice.

Really, what I want to ask is, how do you feel about some of the larger issues at play here? What do you think about the organic and local food movements? Do you buy organic or local for all or certain products, and why or why not? What do you think about restaurants opening foodie shops?

A Taste of Charlevoix

5 Aug

by Jill Boruff

I like knowing where my food comes from. My recent trip to the Charlevoix region of Québec was an excellent opportunity to get up close and personal with the origins of my lunch.

The tourist office has an excellent guide to food in the area called the “Flavour Trail.” It helps you find many farms and local producers of food in the region. We made a point of visiting several of these sites during our stay.

Our first stop was Boulangerie Rémy. Not only do they bake bread, but they stone-grind the flour in a restored grist mill. We had a tour of the mill, where we got to see the waterwheel and the stones in action.

mill at Boulangerie Remy

mill at Boulangerie Rémy

Of course, we had to buy bread (and flour!). They are most known for the “Batard de Charlevoix” which is a sourdough loaf using a mixture of wheat and rye flours. It was delicious! We loved it so much that we went back for two more loaves. We were amazed at how long the bread stayed fresh and chewy without getting mouldy.

Batard de Charlevoix sourdough

Batard de Charlevoix sourdough

Our next stop on the Flavour Trail was La Maison d’affinage Maurice Dufour to gather some local cheese for our picnic. Before buying the cheese, we got to meet the sheep who produce the milk for some of the cheese. The cows were in a different pasture, so we didn’t get to meet them. I really enjoyed seeing the animals and where they lived.

We chose two cheeses for our picnic. The first one was a firm cow’s milk cheese called Le Migneron.

Le Migneron

Le Migneron

The second cheese was a runny cow-sheep milk mixture called Le secret de Maurice. This one was so runny that you had to eat it by cutting a hole in the top of the cheese.

Le secret de Maurice

Le secret de Maurice

For our second picnic on another day of visiting the region, we visited La ferme basque. Here, we were quite charmed by the women and girls running the little shop and giving tours of the duck farm. The girls, the daughter of the farmer and her cousin, who were only about 11 or 12, were so excited to show us the newborn ducklings that had arrived that very afternoon. They also showed us around to the other duck pastures, for lack of a better word.
ducks

La ferme basque

La ferme basque

We were able to taste many of the duck products in the little shop, and we finally chose duck rillettes to add to the leftover cheese and bread for our picnic. All of their products were made in small batches the farmhouse and were absolutely delicious.

rillettes

rillettes

It was so satisfying to meet the people (and the animals) who were feeding us. I only wish that I got to do it more often.

Jill Check out Jill’s bio on the Contributors page

Gourmet mac & cheese

12 Jul

When I was a little girl, Sunday lunch was a fend-for-yourselves kind of affair. After a long morning in church, my father would tear off his clericals, and he and I often sat down to a microwaved bowl of frozen mac & cheese. I know, the horrors. To this day, I occasionally cave and nuke myself one, in part for the memory, and in part because it genuinely isn’t half bad (I have it with a glass of wine now. So sue me). Luckily, my palate has also become more refined in the intervening years, and so I have expanded my cheese repertoire. I could probably live on cheese and nuts, to tell you the truth.

As with any new city, the way to get to know Ottawa is to ask around for hot tips. Or, in the digital age, subscribe to a bunch of local blogs. Thus it was via Girl About O-Town that I first read about Serious Cheese (do check out their site for tips on buying, serving and storing cheese). Ha! I thought… I am very serious about cheese! Count me in!

And so exploring I went, to meet the giant blue Beemster cow (yes, apparently everyone has to pet it; it’s instinctual) and survey the wonders of cheese (over 150 kinds!), cheese accessories (from fondue to cheese cutters to crackers and compotes) and freshly baked bread from the True Loaf Bread Co. in the Glebe.

They also serve their Serious Mac & Cheese (with bacon or plain), grilled sandwiches, and daily soup (they also make a mean coffee).

Fancy-ing up comfort food seems to be a whole “thing” these days, and this Serious Mac & Cheese is notable in this genre for its exceptional mastery of tastes and texture. Smooth, even, complicated, not excessively stringy, with a hint of spices, the Serious Mac & Cheese is a work of art. The first time I had it (with bacon, since that was all that was left that afternoon, and I don’t even especially like bacon), I very nearly wept. As described on the website, Serious Mac & Cheese is “made with an imported Elicoidali Pasta,” and is a blend of “Perron Cheddar (Quebec) and a Thunderoak Gouda (Ontario)” with “a touch of delicate spices.” Mmmmmm….

One cannot do justice to mac & cheese with a photograph, but I made a valiant effort nonetheless. Behold the wonder (and get more cheese porn from the bottom of this page):