a sad loss for the locavores in Toronto: Culinarium Closing

photo borrowed from The Local-Come-Lately http://local-come-lately.blogspot.com/

photo borrowed from The Local-Come-Lately
http://local-come-lately.blogspot.com/

I received this message in my email and as I read it, I could feel my heart break. I have been following Culinarium since their doors opened and how they managed to capture and keep my attention was their powerful message:  “You can eat local all year”.  I found that to be very inspiring because up until that point I had only managed to do so with fruits and vegetables that I preserved.  Culinarium was a lighthouse helping those to navigate through the fog, it is a terrible loss for Toronto locavores and they will be greatly missed.

Culinarium Closing

It is with a heavy heart that we close are our doors for the last time today.

After much number crunching, soul searching and consultation, I have come to realize that we simply cannot continue. Our cashflow is at an all time low as we struggle with retail sales 50% below projection and attempt to chip away at our overwhelming debt.  While we’ve had many successes and lots of great feedback from you our loyal and committed customers, we simply don’t serve a critical mass large enough to be economically sustainable.  We’ve run out of time and no amount of passion or drive or hope can change that simple fact.

Our mission has always been to change the way people eat, to entice folks to choose Ontario foods before all others and to tell the stories of the fine men and woman around our province who dedicate their lives to growing, nurturing and creating that food.

We hope you will continue to support their efforts through your weekly grocery purchases, via independently owned neighbourhood stores or farmers markets around the city.   Local really does taste better, and the ripple affect of your purchases really does resonate around our local economy in a far more meaningful way then dollars spent at big box stores with foreign owned interests.

Thank you, each and everyone of you for the years of sharing, caring, and eating together.  It has been a pleasure to get to know you, to see your children grow up, to share recipes and cooking tales.  My greatest surprise in opening this business has been the people I’ve met along the way – staff, customers and suppliers alike.

I don’t have the words to convey how important you all are to me, how touched and amazed I am with your generosity of spirit, passion and kindness.  I feel privileged indeed to have met you, served you and shared food with you.

My sincerest thanks,

Kathleen Mackintosh

Founder, Culinarium.

Field to Feast: Strawberries and Rhubarb… The Day After

I am going to make this for My birthday in August.

strawberry rhubarb 003

This pic pretty much sums up my absolute favorite way to use the strawberry-rhubarb sauce recipe which I posted earlier in  the week.  Well, other than just eating it with a spoon, that is.  The full-fat ice cream, whipped cream and vanilla spongecake are outrageously decadent and surprisingly light!  You cannot BELIEVE how much of this you can pack away before you even realize you’re full!

It all started with my grandmother, Babci Sophie.  Babci was an excellent cook – not a professional chef, but very skilled nonetheless – and it was fairly common for her to bake a cake for her family to enjoy after meals.  After all, she was feeding eight hard-working farmers every day.

I think she missed that baking after the kids had left the nest and she was getting on in years, this despite her diabetes.  Babci would take a stroll down the road (our family…

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No Hurries: Blueberry Peach Cobbler On The Grill

my mouth is watering.

Patrons of the Pit

Location: Pond-Side Pit

Temperature: 81 degrees F

Humidity: 79% 

Whilst waiting on a batch of coals to mature, the sun waned over the roof tops, its golden beams glittering over the pond here by the pit.  A doable humidity dallied in the air, and heronthe tweety birds flirted about in the alders and cottonwoods. Lazy clouds of cotton idle in a sky of pastel blue. I positioned myself in my BBQ chair of leisure, and tuned in the Twins game on the pit radio. One of the finer joys of summer grilling, is listening to my beloved baseball team travel the country-wide, and play ball. Granted, they generally lose 2 out of 3, but that’s OK by me. They add to the BBQ ambiance if you know what I mean. An acoustic wallpaper of sorts, to blend with the soft banter of nature.

The coals in the charcoal chimney are…

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Za’atar Roasted Chickpeas

this looks amazing!

Chicken Stock “Done Dirty”

chickenstockHere is a hard truth: When you buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts at the market you are getting ripped off.  Ever notice lately that a package of 2 (again, boneless and skinless) chicken breasts can cost up to $7 -$10, when a whole chicken sells for $10-$12? You can get one rotisserie cooked for that price too.  Guess what?  that whole chicken has 2 breasts.  It also has legs, thighs, wings, skin and bones but what Heck can you do with all of that really? … Everything.

Lets get back to the basics.  You can use left over raw or cooked chicken, skin and bones to make chicken stock.  It isn’t difficult and lets face it, chicken stock is pretty handy because a great many recipes call for it as an ingredient.

Here is how to make a Chicken Stock using the Foodfu technique I call “Done Dirty”

What is “Done Dirty”, Doug?  Here is the short of it (since there will be a follow up Foodfu article on this technique): Done Dirty is where you take pieces of meat, bone, skin, carcass, the parts of the vegetables (stems of broccoli, ends of the carrots etc) that you would normally throw away and use it.  In this case, in a chicken stock.

Chicken Stock: “Done Dirty”

Ingredients

  • Left over raw (including carcass) chicken, skin and bones or cooked chicken
  • Carrots (including the ends)
  • Celery (including the ends)
  • Onions
  • Coarse Sea Salt
  • Freshly Ground Pepper

*** Any Other Vegetables, Herbs or Spices ***  Seriously, you can put pretty much anything that you want in.  Just keep in mind that if you use strong tasting ingredients, that will be the dominant flavour in your stock.

Preparation

Put the leftover chicken bones and skin or even the whole chicken carcass into a large stock pot and cover with cold water. Add the veggies (rough cut)  onion, celery, carrots and anything else you want, including the throw away bits. Add coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Please wait until the stock is cooked to taste it.  If it needs more seasoning you can still add it in the later stages.  Play it safe people.

Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer uncovered at least 4 hours. Skim the junk as it surfaces.

Remove and trash the chicken carcass, and chicken bits. Strain the stock.

Now, taste the stock if it needs more seasoning … add it back to the pot, return to heat and add your extra flavourings.  Simmer for another 20 Minutes.

Add to Mason Jars and keep in the freezer for future cooking.

Why Baking Soda is King of the Cupboard

IMGA0758Baking Soda is a Pantry must-have and it should be on the top of your grocery list every single time.  Buy it in bulk.  Build it a shrine. Seriously, worship it.

But Doug, I barely ever bake!  irrelevant.

There are so many practical uses for baking soda in everyday life that I am having difficulty deciding where to begin.  However, since this is a food blog  … lets start in the kitchen!

Bak·ing So·da

Sodium Bicarbonate

a white, crystalline, water-soluble solid, in powder or granules, NaHCO 3, usually prepared
by the reaction of soda ash with carbon dioxide or obtained from the intermediate product
of the Solvay process by purification: used chiefly in the manufacture of sodium salts,
baking powder, and beverages, as a laboratory reagent, as a fire extinguisher,
and in medicine as an antacid.

Medical Dictionary

Baking Soda  bak·ing soda (bā’kĭng)
n. 
A white crystalline compound, used as a gastric and
systemic antacid, to alkalize urine,
and for washes of body cavities.
Also called sodium bicarbonate.

* definitions from: http://dictionary.reference.com/

Kitchen uses of Sodium Bicarbonate – A.K.A – Baking Soda

Besides baking …

  1. Open up a box of baking soda and throw it in your fridge, it will absorb foul odors and deodorize your food box.
  2. Put a little bit of baking soda into the pot with your boiling eggs, it makes it super easy to remove the shells!
  3. Rubbing meat with baking soda prior to cooking works as a  tenderizer.
  4. Mix 3/4 teaspoon of baking soda with 1 tablespoon of vinegar and you have just made your own baking powder.
  5. Wash your fruits and vegetables in baking soda.  You can also add vinegar, apple cider vinegar or even lemon juice to add an acidity level to the wash.
  6. You can reduce the acidity level of your tomato-based recipes such as pasta sauce or chili, by adding a pinch of baking soda.
  7. Soak your dried beans/”soup mix” beans in a baking soda solution to speed up softening and increase digestion.
  8. Soak fish or wild game in a baking soda solution prior to cooking.  It will reduce  the level of smells and “gamey” flavours.
  9. Wash a peeled onion in a baking soda solution prior to cutting, it will reduce the sting to your eyes.
  10. Add it to your coffee grounds to reduce the acidity level of your cupped Joe.

Garden uses of Sodium Bicarbonate – A.K.A – Baking Soda

  1. Sweeten your tomatoes by sprinkling baking soda on the soil around your tomato plants.
  2. Keep cut flowers fresh by adding a teaspoon of baking soda to the water in the vase.
  3. Sweep baking soda into walk way cracks to discourage weeds.
  4. Weed Killer.  Baking soda kills a number of weeds such as crab grass but you need to be careful because it also kills moss .
  5. Occasionally, lightly sprinkle baking soda around flowerbeds and vegetable gardens to prevent rabbits from nibbling at your buds and bounty.

Cleaning uses of Sodium Bicarbonate – A.K.A – Baking Soda … includes kitchen.

  1. Use a baking soda solution to polish stainless steel.  This is great for shining up your silverware!
  2. Use baking soda to deodorize carpets, garbage cans, shoes, litter boxes, ashtrays and pretty much anything with an odor.
  3. You can use baking soda and water in crusty pots and pans that you don’t want to scrape clean, just set to gently boil for less than 5 minutes.
  4. Vacuum up some baking soda to kill odors in the vacuum bag/removable filter.
  5. Replace your cleaning chemicals and use baking soda and vinegar to clean the stove top and counters.

Survivalist uses of Sodium Bicarbonate – A.K.A – Baking Soda

  1. Use baking soda and water (form a paste) to relieve skin itch from insect bites and pain from sunburn.
  2. Baking soda puts out fires.  Keep it by the stove, by the barbecue and camp cook stove.
  3. Apply baking soda on a jellyfish sting to draw out the venom.
  4. Use baking soda and water (form a paste) and apply it to relieve wind burns, bee stings and relieve symptoms of poison ivy/oak.
  5. Rub baking soda (dry) with a small brush to rub canvas handbags clean.

Hygiene and Every day uses of Sodium Bicarbonate – A.K.A – Baking Soda

  1. Use baking soda mixed in water as an antacid.
  2. Use baking soda as a face and body scrub.
  3. Add baking soda to a soft soap to help remove grease, grime and garden dirt.
  4. Relieve canker sore pain by using baking soda and water as mouthwash.
  5. Unblock stuffy nose by adding a teaspoon of baking soda to your vaporizer.

Believe it or not, this is a short list of what baking soda can be used for but this stuff is without a doubt, one of the most useful substances that you can have in your household!

Poll Dancing!

question-mark

Quick, Make Some Hummus!

IMGA0743Hummus

Ingredients

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 can of garbanzo beans (or Chickpeas for the folks at home), keep half of the liquid
  • 4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons of tahini
  • 1 teaspoon fine ground sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Preparation

In a food processor, chop/blend the garlic, garbanzo beans (chickpeas) with liquid, lemon juice, tahini and salt.  Blend until creamy and well mixed.  Put into a serving bowl and pour a little extra virgin olive oil over the top. Garnish with anything and anyway you please.

Optional:  Sometimes instead of using the liquid from the beans, I use beer.  I can’t give you an exact measurement because I just keep putting it in until I get my desired consistency.

Optional: Occasionally I add just a little bit of cumin.

Tahini Paste

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine ground sea salt

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread sesame seeds on a parchment-paper-lined cookie sheet, and bake for 7 minutes. Do not scorch them. Mix around and spread them out the sesame seeds again, and return to oven for 7 minutes more, or until sesame seeds are fragrant and golden brown. Transfer to another container.  Do not leave on the pan because it will continue to cook.

Add sesame seeds into a food processor and grind for 1 minute, or until seeds have broken down. While processor is on, drizzle in extra virgin olive oil, and continue to grind for 1 or 2 minutes more, or until it forms into a smooth paste. If mixture is too dry, then add more olive oil, 1 teaspoon at a time. Season with fine ground sea salt. Transfer tahini to a mason jar, and store in the fridge for up to one month.

MCF Restaurant Hit List – Toronto, Ontario

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There are a lot of really good eats in Toronto and this is the MCF Restaurant Hit List!  – Reviews to follow

The List

  1. http://theblackhoof.com/
  2. http://www.thestockyards.ca/
  3. http://woodlottoronto.com/
  4. http://farmhousetavern.tumblr.com/
  5. http://www.cavarestaurant.ca/
  6. http://www.theharbordroom.com/
  7. http://www.czehoski.com/
  8. http://www.thedrakehotel.ca/dining/venues/cafe/
  9. http://www.catchit.ca/
  10. http://thegroveto.com/
  11. http://www.theplaypen.ca/
  12. http://paulettesoriginal.com/
  13. https://www.facebook.com/TheBristolYard
  14. https://twitter.com/electricmudbbq
  15. http://edulisrestaurant.com/
  16. http://www.banhmiboys.com/
  17. http://www.bentrestaurant.com/
  18. http://www.grandelectricbar.com/
  19. http://kintonramen.com/
  20. http://hawkerbar.com/
  21. http://ursa-restaurant.com/
  22. http://richmondstation.ca/
  23. http://littledrunkbird.com/
  24. http://www.3030dundaswest.com/
  25. http://416snackbar.wordpress.com/
  26. http://strada241.com/
  27. http://momofuku.com/toronto/noodle-bar-to/
  28. https://twitter.com/to_oddseouls
  29. http://lacarnita.com/
  30. http://redfishresto.com/
  31. http://hopgoodsfoodliner.com/
  32. http://www.patriatoronto.com/
  33. http://www.fidelgastro.ca/
  34. http://www.therushton.com/
  35. http://lacarnita.com/
  36. http://www.hannas-shawarma.com/
  37. http://skinandbonesto.com/
  38. http://www.rocklobsterfood.com/
  39. http://pizzerialibretto.com/
  40. http://www.centrestreetdeli.com/home.html
  41. http://www.mortons.com/toronto/
  42. http://www.kaiseki.ca/
  43. http://www.thesainttavern.com/
  44. http://www.josos.com/
  45. http://ariaristorante.ca/#awp::
  46. http://actinoliterestaurant.com/
  47. http://www.acadiarestaurant.com/
  48. http://khaosanroad.ca/
  49. http://bymark.mcewangroup.ca/
  50. http://www.picnicwinebar.com/

Have any places that you want to add to this list or any restaurants that you recommend?  >  

Feast or Famine

screen-shot-2012-09-13-at-11-15-26-amWe’ve come a long way from the days of old, where everyone worked all year to yield the bounty of a good harvest in order to feast.  A time when you had to prepare for the harsh winter by freezing, drying and preserving.  There are of course still farmers, farmers markets, gardeners and people of all kinds that still do just that to this very day.  It is simply not the majority.  With over stocked super markets, mouth watering eats being prepared by an uncountable amount of Chef run restaurants and lets not forget (although there are times that I would like to ..) about fast food.   There are readily available food stuffs in every nook and cranny conceivable.  Your heart’s (okay, stomach’s) desire at any time, in any location with a quick swipe of plastic or a handful of cash and coin.  Indulging on impulse comes very easily.  It is not surprising then that there is also the opposite spectrum, shelves lined with vitamins and weight loss remedies.  Doctor recommended formulas, meal plans, diet programs, books, articles and money back guarantees with absolutely no risk to the purchaser.

Feast or Famine.  It certainly seems to come down to those two extremes.  How many people do you know or how often have you declared a New Years Resolution to lose weight?  Right after too many plates loaded with Holiday treats?  From fridge to treadmill.  There really doesn’t seem to be a happy medium, but then again where is the percentage in that?

That’s right folks, both sides of the extreme are in it for the money.  Your money.  You couldn’t have one side with out the other.  They feed off of each other and make no mistake, our choices from what we eat to how we diet and exercise is monitored and marketed.

Which spawns a couple of questions:

In a multi-billion dollar, industry driven world, how can we trust what we are being sold? It certainly would be difficult to convince me that industry leaders and the markets that they sell their wares to, think past red pens and ledgers.

With all of the well documented, well publicized and readily available information at the finger tips of those that hail to the mighty internet, leaf through the pages of books or watch countless forms of multimedia from a multitude of sources. Why do we ignore and continue to support said industries and markets, even when we discover facts that demonstrate that some of those products do not have people’s (or the Environment’s) well being or best interest in mind when being developed and sold?

I don’t think there is an easy answer to any of those questions but I do believe that they are worth asking.

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