May 2010

Stacy gets ready to dig into fresh apple fritters.

Oh, to be in Toronto right now, where the temperatures are in the 80s (okay, the 30s, if you’re a stickler for Celsius and clueless about Fahrenheit). Here, we’ve been caught in the grip of devil rain for a week, with no end in sight. It’s downright depressing and I worry about all the veggie seedlings – rainbow chard, sugar snap peas, bush beans, beets, carrots, squashes, mizuna and other greens – that may drown if this doesn’t stop. And the heritage tomato plants are still in their cold frame, looking healthy and sturdy but quickly outgrowing their pots and sure to turn blue if taken out of their comfy little shelter in this weather.

I’m ready for happier thoughts though, which is why when I heard about Toronto’s current heat wave, I was reminded of our visit there in late April (no heat waves then, but nice weather nonetheless). Our favourite eastern rellies, Stacy and Dean, took me on a road trip to St. Jacob’s Farmers Market in the heart of Mennonite country. It’s in the Waterloo-Kitchener area about an hour’s drive from the big city.

Outside the main market buildings, numerous vendors were selling fresh fruits and vegetables, most of them imports as the growing season was just starting. I did see fresh wild garlic – or ramps, as they are called locally – and lots of  local maple syrup. In summer, I’m told, there’s a huge selection of local fruits and vegetables available there, but truth be told, we had come for a more wicked treat: the market’s famous fresh apple fritters. (more…)

Just a quick note for all  you fine-wine and spirits lovers about two great upcoming events next Wednesday, May 26,  the first a spirits tasting from 2:15 – 4:15 the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts, 1505 West 2nd Ave., Vancouver; the second a wine tasting at 7 p.m. at The Sutton Place Hotel, 845 Burrard St., Vancouver.

Both tastings are being hosted by Georg Riedel of the famed wine-glass family. The spirits tasted include Herradura Repasado Tequila, Hennessy V.S.O.P Cognac, and Ben Riach Curiositas 10 Year Old Peated Single Malt while the wines are from
the fabulous Mission Hill Family Estate, including their 2007 Reserve Riesling, 2007 SLC Chardonnay, 2007 Reserve Pinot Noir, and 2006 Oculus.

Tickets for the spirits tasting are $50 and include three Riedel spirits glasses valued at $80. Tickets for the wine tasting are $99 and include a four-piece stemware set of Vinum XL Riedel glasses — one each of the Vinum Bordeaux, Montrachet, Burgundy and Sauvignon Blanc glasses — valued at $148.50. These are all beautiful machine-blown lead crystal glasses that are dishwasher-safe.

­The event is meant to introduce what a press release calls “a new generation of Riedel glasses”. Although I have been a bit skeptical of the theory that a wine’s best flavour is enhanced by the shape of the wine glass (Riedel has a glass for just about every wine varietal), I do own a number of Riedel glasses and can vouch that their elegance certainly adds cachet to any occasion. And, let’s face it, when you feel elegant, things do have a way of tasting better.

In any case, fine wine or fine spirits and beautiful glasses. You can’t go wrong!

For spirits-tasting ticket info, go (full disclosure: I do volunteer work for the BCHF, which receives $45 for every ticket sold). For wine-tasting tickets, call 604-264-4069 or email

“The goals of the spot prawn festivals are to highlight an environmentally sound and locally sourced product and to remind us that farmers markets don’t stop at the waters edge.” The Chefs’ Table Society of B.C.

Behind this declaration lies a stark market truth. Spot prawns are a seasonal delicacy in B.C. and the influx of farm-raised Asian prawns into our grocery stores over the past decade or so have posed a threat to the local fishery. The Asian variety are available year round and they are generally cheaper. But even 10 years ago, the intensive farming being done on the shorelines of Asian countries to meet world demand were killing whole swaths of seabed. The dead areas were becoming so large that they could be seen by satellites high above the earth. Those who actually went out to see such farms in operation were appalled at the filth and destruction left behind when farms could no longer be productive and had to move on to cleaner waters. In short, such production just isn’t sustainable. (And, by the way, if you’ve ever tasted a local prawn next to an imported, farmed specimen, you’ll never go back to the import.) (more…)

My new nutmeg grater.*

There is always that glint in the eye when they reach the gadgets section. They finger the strawberry hullers, the cherry pitters, the green-bean slicers and plastic lettuce knives. They study the pineapple corers, the six different sizes of meatball makers and the 17 different graters, wondering which one they can reasonably justify as a purchase right now. No worries. There’s always something that’s a must-have.

They are the gadget freaks and I recognize them because I am one of them. It started many years ago when I bought a French parsley mill because I liked the look of it. I hardly ever used it for parsley but found it to be a dandy garlic chopper and used it that way for many years before it finally fell apart on me.

I’ve had to dial down my gadget-seeking gene, if only because there is no more space in my gadget drawers (yes, that’s plural!). But I could not resist this one; a knuckle-saving nutmeg grater that also acts as a round little storage bin for the whole seeds. (more…)