Tag Archives: organic

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?

Too much lettuce? Make soup!

18 Sep

by Jill Boruff

Each week we receive a lovely basket of organic veggies from a local farmer. Most of the time, we manage to eat the deliciousness before the next batch arrives the following week. However, in the past two weeks, we received three heads of lettuce–more lettuce then two people can possibly keep up with. I love big green salads, but there are only so many that I can handle in a week. I certainly didn’t want the lettuce to go to waste. A colleague at work had mentioned lettuce soup, so I turned to the Internet, and found the following soup recipe in the New York Times. Though I was a little skeptical at first, the soup turned out to be really good. It is much like a leek and potato soup, but with the taste of lettuce coming through instead of leek (obviously).

If you want to see the original recipe (and much better food photography) check out the original article.

The author says that this is a good way to use up the tough outer leaves of a head of lettuce. I am not sure that I agree. I cut out the extremely tough and woody parts of the lettuce and only threw in a few of the tough outer leaves. They didn’t purée as well, and I am not sure what the soup would have been like if it had been made with all tough leaves.

Also, it doesn’t really matter how well you chop things, as it is all going to get puréed at the end.

lettuce soup

lettuce soup

Lettuce and Potato Soup (adapted from Martha Rose Shulman in the New York Times)

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

2 medium onions, roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves, roughly minced

1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and roughly diced

6 cups water

Three long springs of fresh thyme, rinsed (a bay leaf would be nice, too)

Salt to taste

5 ounces or about 4 cups lettuce leaves, washed and coarsely chopped (I think I added a bit more)

Freshly ground pepper

1. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy soup pot over medium heat and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and the garlic and cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the potatoes, water, and thyme, and bring to a simmer. Add salt to taste, cover and simmer over low heat for 45 minutes.

2. Stir in the lettuce leaves and continue to simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes. The potatoes should be thoroughly tender and falling apart.

3. Using an immersion blender, or in a blender blend the soup until smooth. Add lots of freshly ground pepper, taste and adjust salt. Enjoy!

Check out Jill’s bio on the Contributors page