Committed Again. 2012 CSA Food Basket From Roots And Shoots Farm

My summer eating is again going to consist of fresh, local, organic vegetables such as kale, beets, carrots, zucchini, lettuce, and tomatoes. This morning I renewed my subscription for my 2012 CSA food basket with Roots and Shoots Farm.

Roots and Shoots Farm is going into their 3rd season and so am I. A half share (less than $300) suits our family best. We will receive 8 baskets every other week, starting the end of June and going into October.

Roots and Shoots will be opening up subscriptions to their waiting list in February. Are you interested? Here is where you can sign up.

Below are some of my food baskets from this past season. Click on the picture to see more details from that week.

Looks delicious, doesn’t it? Are you considering joining a CSA farm this summer? It likely is a good time to start looking around.


[Thursday, June 30, 2011]


[Thursday, July 14, 2011]


[Thursday, July 28, 2011]


[Thursday, August 11, 2011]


[Thursday, August 25, 2011]


[Thursday, September 8, 2011]


[Thursday, October 6, 2011]

If you want to learn more about the farm, the contact information for Roots and Shoots Farm is:
ROBIN TURNER
robin@rootsandshootsfarm.com
www.rootsandshootsfarm.com
613.897.8975

Winter Bites Ottawa – Why On Earth Would I Do It?

[Image Source: Ottawa Magazine]

Winter Bites starts tomorrow.

Ottawa Magazine has teamed with local restaurants in the deep of winter to promote their good eats by offering 3-course prix fixe menus for lunch and dinner (some establishments are only doing dinner). The promotional period runs from Thursday, January 12th through to the 28th.

Typically there is a lunch choice of either $15 or $20. And dinner choices are $30 and $40.

I have been tracking this event out of the corner of my eye since it was first announced at the end of October. At first, I was quite ‘beige’ to the idea. Always weighing the value proposition, I needed content to get me to commit. That crisp, fresh, snappy blue, white, grey and red logo kept me watching as new news rolled in.

Eventually the list grew and the tweets began to stream. Winter Bites is now up to 29 participating restaurants. By contrast, Toronto’s Winterlicious event started with 36 restaurants in their first year a decade ago. They are approaching their 10th year as Winterlicious kicks off at the end of the month. They are now up to a whopping 175 participating restaurants. By that measure, Ottawa’s first year of Winter Bites appears to be a success.

So why on earth would I do it? Why would you do it? Who eats out in January?

  • Maybe you, like me, missed out on seeing a number of good friends over the busy month of December. I personally am taking time in January to catch up.
  • If guests are coming to town to enjoy all that winter in Ottawa has to offer, some are picking January over February to avoid the big Winterlude crowds. Or as some affectionately call it, ‘Waterlude’. Ottawa has seen its fair share of mild Februarys.
  • Here is a chance to try out some restaurants on the hesitation list – hesitation because of what I may have heard; a prior ‘meh’ experience but think they deserve a second chance; just don’t know that much about them; it feels like it’s too far to travel. A prix fixe menu says ‘deal’ and in some small way minimizes the risk of taking a chance.
  • For those pushing their Christmas parties into January because December’s dance card was too full, it will be a way to take on an event at a great price.
  • I never warmed to the Groupon concept. I want to pay a fair price for what I receive. Groupon deals make me feel like all the risk is being born by the restaurant. I want to support local and I want to see these businesses thrive. They can’t give their food away for ‘free’. A prix fixe menu event like Winter Bites seems like a great way to court potential new customers where both sides can win.
  • Many of us cocoon in January solely because of the weather. With these constant mild spells, I want to be outside, not in. Let’s hope this keeps up from the 12th to the 28th.
  • The price point for Winter Bites is much lower than many choices with Taste of Winterlude, another fine food event starting at the end of the month. There are plenty of people wanting to watch their dollar but also enjoy Ottawa’s eating scene. Nice to have something for everyone.

So what do I need to actually commit and make plans?

  • Well, first I need to line up some great company with my wacky schedule. My friends ‘catch up’ list is long. Already a challenge with two invites from those planning parties at non Winter Bites establishments. (I have made my pitch but have no say in the restaurant pick.)
  • Secondly, I need to see menus. If I am jumping into this event, I want to be lured in. Tell me what you are going to offer for lunch and dinner. If it’s a lunch date I am on and you are just participating in the evening, I will be taking a pass on you. BTW, my preference is for lunch dates. I crave daylight!

Naturally, I have seen a lot of repetition on the menus so far, as ‘winter fare’ is popular now. And that’s okay. It gives it all a competitive feel. Perhaps a chance to crown the best crème brûlée in town.

Probably the easiest way to peruse the many menus is to go to the Winter Bites Facebook page and cruise through the images in their wall photo library. This has been so helpful for me to start my Winter Bites battle plan.

Winter Bites is here to take a bite out of Ottawa’s winter. Are you making plans to be a part of it? I would love to hear your picks and why!

……………….. [Image Source: Ottawa Magazine]

LCBO Food & Drink Magazine – Winter Issue 2012

Thin is in. As usual, the Winter issue of the LCBO’s Food & Drink magazine sends the subliminal message in its January issue, that like us, they too are slimming down this month. Although almost a third of the size of the Holiday issue, it still packs a punch with great comfort recipes to see us through the remaining dark days of winter.

Here is what gave me tummy rumbles this issue:

  • Spicy Chilean Shrimp (From Value Added by James Chatto & Lucy Waverman)
  • Dumplings with Crispy Sage & Sherry Brown Butter (From Hot Potato by Leeanne Wright)
  • Seared Chicken with Mexican Mole Sauce & Lamb Shanks Braised with Cinnamon and Honey (From Sweet on Savoury by Michael Fagan & Julia Aitken)
  • Fig and Roasted Walnut Salad (From Enlightened Entertaining by Leslie Beck)
  • Microwave Rosemary & Black Pepper Chips & Caramelized Onion Dip (From Champion Chips by Heather Trim)
  • Steamed Grouper Japanese Style (From Cooking Clinic by Lucy Waverman)

What’s New by Julia Aitken caught my eye. Everybody seems to be talking about Rioja. I think I’ll be doing a ‘me too’ and check out the Beronia Tempranillo Rioja. I like the price, coming in under $12. Also the Nøgne Ø Imperial Stout just might be my secret weapon in the annual chili cook off I now enter each March.

Did you know that the Niagara-on-the-Lake Icewine Festival is on from January 13 to 29? Neither did I. Here is more info.

A fan of the LCBO Playlist? Rick Shurman and Earl Torno’s Winter Playlist will keep you warm. In fact, downright hot and bothered. Whether warming up a winter night and or priming for Valentine’s Day, you might want to load up your tunes with the likes of Sometimes When We Touch by Dan Hill, Let’s Get It On by Marvin Gaye and Wonderful Tonight by Eric Clapton. Check it out on iTunes.

Last but not least, a big WOW for Ottawa’s own Claudio Fracassi in Cynthia David’s Spotlight segment. Who in the Capital doesn’t know The Soup Guy. Claudio spreads soup love in the bowl AND with song. Congrats Claudio!

Plan ahead: The Spring issue hits the stores 8 weeks from today on Wednesday, March 7th.

I Love Food But I Love People More

I love food but I love people more.

For us, 2012 will be the beginning of a new normal. This year we have been touched by loss, as have people with connections to us – some very, very special.

When our dear loved ones leave us, they change lives. With 2011 hours away from drawing to a close, I reflect on the size of their wave.

To all of you facing new normals, our heartfelt wishes for good things ahead in 2012.

***

REST IN PEACE

Margaret – March 26
Minerva – March 27
Bryan – March 31
Ursula – April 25
Leona – May 3
Gary – May 19
Ruth – August 8
Willie – August 12
Brian – August 22
Lou – October 8
Donald Robert – October 14
Mary Jane – October 17
Donald Grant – November 9
Betty – December 25

Vanillekranse – Denmark’s Christmas Wreath Cookie

If only one cookie is made in Danish homes at Christmas time it would likely be vanillekranse. (The English would say vanillakranse. I have also seen it written as vaniljekranse.) Pronunciation is always a challenge for young children. As such, we just took it upon ourselves to use our own pet name, ‘hole cookies’. (Or would that be ‘whole cookies‘?)

When we were just wee, I remember my mother making so many Christmas cookies that she kept them in large cherry pails. This was one of those cookies that was made en masse. I would only be guessing, as a small child’s sense of perspective is often grander than reality, but I would say that she made at least 4 batches of vanillekranse. After all, it was my father’s favourite.

As it was in many homes, my mother took on the leadership role of creating the spirit of Christmas in ours. The month of December was brimming with anticipation as we all did our part to prepare and develop the feeling of ‘hygge‘.

There was the trip to the back woods to find the perfect spruce tree. She had final say before it was cut down and hauled home on the toboggan. She picked out the ornaments, many of them home-crafted with her supervision.

The collection of Christmas decorations were strategically placed about the home. Some did not survive our small hands or clumsy moves. One St. Nicolas in particularly was almost fully decapitated. But every year he was again tenderly placed out on the shelf with his head readjusted in place, secured only by a small section at the back of his neck.

The Christmas dinner itself had many traditional dishes reserved for special occasions and sometimes just this once a year.

But it was really the steady flow of Christmas baking throughout the year’s closing month that had us feeling the special day nearing. That feeling of ‘hyggewas easily achieved.

When she passed away, we made a pact to keep the tradition of her beautiful Danish Christmas cookies a part of our celebration time together, each picking our own favourite to make for our day of gathering. My choice was made for me since it was agreed that I would ‘inherit’ the implement that actually produces the wreath-shaped cookie.

It has been 8 Christmases now that we have been striving for our mother’s perfection. I sense that she would be very pleased.


TIPS:

I buy my ammonium carbonate at the Swiss Pastries store at Carlingwood Mall. It comes in a glass test tube. They also sell ammonium bicarbonate in a similar tube. Read the label carefully. Ammonium carbonate is an important ingredient as it is what gives the cookie its crisp snap while allowing the cookie to not be dry. I have also seen the ingredient at middle eastern grocery stores such as the Mid East Food Centre on Belfast Road near St. Laurent Blvd and the Queensway.

If you can’t find vanilla pods, use 2 teaspoons of pure extract. In fact make sure the almond extract is also pure. Artificial extracts will not yield the rich flavours that make this cookie so unique. Using a vanilla pod is worth the effort though.

I buy my ground almond at Rainbow Natural Foods on Richmond Road near Britannia. They keep their product refrigerated vs. in the dry bins to maintain its freshness and keep it from going rancid.

If I want to make double the cookies, I still make each batch singularly as not to over handle the dough. When I made two batches this year, I decided to count the cookies. We made 35 dozen.

VANILLEKRANSE

2 vanilla pods
500 grams all-purpose flour
250 grams sugar
125 grams ground almonds
1/2 teaspoon ammonium carbonate
375 grams Butter
2 teaspoons pure almond extract
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Cut the vanilla pod lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with the tip of the knife. Put in with a wee bit of the sugar to be used for the recipe to help mix it through the dough and avoid clumping, as it is quite moist.

Measure the flour, sugar, ground almonds and ammonium carbonate. Mix well. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter until the butter is in the form of very small pebbles. Drizzle the extracts and egg mixture over the dough. Incorporate the wet ingredients. Work the dough with your hands until it forms a ball. If it feels a bit sticky, add just a dusting of flour. If it is too sticky, the cookies won’t hold their ridges. Do not overwork the dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour.

Use the small star hole in the press plates for the meat grinder.

Put the chilled dough through the grinder and push out a long rope of dough through the small star pattern. Try to keep the dough as chilled as possible, keeping portions in the fridge until you need to refill the hopper. The ridges of the star pattern will stay intact more so when the dough is still chilly. To keep the long rope consistent, the hopper needs to stay reasonably full and you will need to push down on the dough in the hopper to keep forcing the dough into the grinder. Watch your fingers though!

The ropes are then cut into 4″ lengths. I create a ‘jig’ in order to move very quickly with my 4″ cuts. It ensures a consistent size and shape of cookie. If you have a piece at the end of the long rope that is much shorter than 4″, it goes back into the hopper.

Join the ends to form a wreath. Try to minimize the handling of the rope as you do this. Place on an ungreased baking sheet. (Some prefer to cover their pans with parchment paper.)

(I was thrilled to have my niece helping me this year!)

Bake the cookies at 350ºF for 10-12 minutes or until they are slightly golden. Let them rest and cool on the pan for 5 minutes before removing.

Store in an air tight container. Vanillekranse cookies freeze well.

Coconut Lime Clouds – Holiday issue of LCBO’s Food & Drink

A few things drew me to the Coconut Lime Clouds in the Holiday issue of the LCBO Food & Drink magazine. First, I love lime. Second, I love coconut. Third, it is a sweet that can be enjoyed by my party guests with a gluten sensitivity. Full credit to Christopher St. Onge at Food & Drink for yet another beautiful recipe.

Tips:

Bring your eggs to room temperature. Don’t miss this important step. It maximizes the volume when beating the eggs.

Make sure to add the sugar gradually to the fluffy whites when beating. If you add it too fast, your eggs will ‘fall’.

Be careful not to over beat your egg whites.

Go easy on the cornstarch. Do not pack it when measuring. It helps to keep the meringue ‘dry’ but you don’t want an overwhelming cornstarch taste.

Make sure you have a solid 2 teaspoons of the lime zest. It really gives the cookie zing. The Lee Valley microplane rasp is great for getting the perfect zest.

When the cookies have completed their second hour in the oven with the heat off, continue their cooling on the kitchen counter. Leaving them to cool in the oven will mean further baking (all be it at a very low heat) and will make them more crunchy. (Though, perhaps a texture you are striving for.)

When you serve them on a red plate or a small white plate on a red tablecloth, their subtle lime green will be more pronounced on contrast.

COCONUT LIME CLOUDS
Authored by: Christopher St. Onge, Holiday issue of the LCBO Food & Drink

Yield: 2 dozen cookies

1 cup sweetened coconut
2 teaspoons finely grated lime zest

1/4 cup cornstarch, scant

2 egg whites, room temperature

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/2 cup superfine sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 200ºF.

In a small mixing bowl, combine coconut, lime zest and cornstarch. Set aside.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer beat egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy. Gradually add sugar and continue beating until mixture holds stiff peaks. Add vanilla extract and blend briefly to combine.

Fold in coconut mixture by hand.

Drop a scant tablespoonful at a time onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet, allowing 1 inch between each cookie. Bake for 1 hour. Turn oven off and continue baking for an additional hour. Allow to cool completely before removing from parchment.

Bacon Jam Meets The New Nordic Cuisine

For today’s mid-morning feast I used my homemade bacon jam in a modern day version of smørrebrød, Denmark’s open-faced sandwich. Although there are dozens of very traditional and precise constructions for smørrebrød, I have had a hard time sticking to conventional recipes.

One food blog I read faithfully is Danish Open Sandwiches (Smørrebrød) by Marcus Schioler. It is out of Montreal of all places and showcases many classic recipes of the beautiful things that go into architecting authentic smørrebrød. I am in awe at the food work he has done on the blog in just one year. It really is impressive. And inspiring.

Tending to just go with what’s on hand, tastes that I think will work and a look that is attractive, I have done my own ‘smørrebrød’ thing when I load up layers on a sturdy bread base.

Perhaps my favourite post by Marcus would be a recent one titled New Nordic Open-Faced Sandwiches. Marcus frees me from my guilt of being reckless in my smørrebrød build. In this post, Marcus details the New Nordic Cuisine manifesto and I find out I might be okay. The most important thing to keep in mind though is to source your food locally. Already a mantra in our home, I think I am reasonably safe.

So how did I get to making bacon jam? Bacon jam is not typical Danish fare. You won’t find the recipe in the century old Frøken Jensens Kogbog. However, the Danes do love bacon and it often shows up on smørrebrød in some form – the rendered lard as a spread or the crisped bacon as a layer or a topping.

Throughout 2011 I kept hearing the phrase ‘bacon jam’. Anything bacon is good, right? But what really is bacon jam? What makes it jam? Is it made with fruit? My curiousity was piqued.

Then I finally tasted it. Two presentations at Savour Stratford’s Tasting Tent event incorporated bacon jam into their dishes. Chef Nick Benninger of Nick and Nat’s Uptown 21 in his 5 way “Porkapoluza” and Chef Sean Collins & Greg Kuepfer of Pazzo Ristorante as a topper on their arincini balls.

Shortly after that spectacular experience, I was reading that Skillet Street Food‘s bacon spread was being showcased at Toronto’s All The Best Fine Foods where owners are supporters of the local food movement. (Though, interestingly, Skillet Street Food is American.)

But the craze doesn’t stop. Since those jarred beauties have been tucked away in my fridge, a fellow food blogger, Kelly Brisson, demonstrated her bacon jam creation on a local morning show. Loblaws grocery chain is also on the bandwagon with their President’s Choice Black Label Bacon Marmalade.

My prediction? Expect to see more applications of bacon jam out there in 2012. Perhaps a North American focused condiment for now. Let’s see if this trend takes hold around the globe.

May I present my Breakfast Smørrebrød – Bacon Jam meets The New Nordic Cuisine.

BREAKFAST SMØRREBRØD
1 slice of Art-is-in Bakery’s Crazy Grain bread
Bacon Jam, spread thickly and to the edge

Scrambled eggs made with scallions and local cream

Salt and pepper
Oven roasted tomato, chopped (I made and froze in October)
Dollop of bacon jam

Kiss of sour cream

Garnish of fresh cilantro, chopped

BACON JAM
Adapted from recipes by Martha Stewart and @Yzhalia

750 gr bacon
2 cooking onions, diced finely
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
3/4 cup port
1 1/2 tablespoons molasses

In a large skillet, render the bacon over medium-high heat. It is easier to do it if the bacon has been cut into chunks first. You want the bacon to be cooked but not crisped. Remove the bacon pieces from the pan and drain on paper towels.

Pour off the the rendered fat. But don’t discard. It can be kept in the fridge and used for other purposes. (Wonderful for the preparation for hash browns for example. A Dane will love it as a spread on rye bread.)

Using a tablespoon of the fat, sauté the onions and garlic until the onions are translucent. Add the apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, maple syrup, port and molasses and bring to a boil, deglazing the roasty bits of bacon (the ‘fond’). After a few minutes add the bacon.

Pour the bacon stew into a Dutch oven if you have a very low simmer on your cooktop or a slow cooker set to high. Leave uncovered. Cook for approximately 4 hours until the liquid is very sticky and syrupy. It may take less time in the Dutch oven.

When you think it is done, transfer the bacon stew to your food processor and pulse it until you have a consistency that leaves small pieces but is not a purée. If you feel it is too runny, return it to the skillet and bring it to a boil for a few minutes. With the sugars in the mixture, it won’t take long to thicken. When you use it, you don’t want it to ‘run’. It should be the consistency of a ‘jam’.

Fill sterilized 125 mL jars to 1/2″ from the top. Seal with lids and rings that have been scalded. Keep in the refrigerator for up to a month.

LOCAL SOURCES:

Bacon – Bearbrook Game Meats Inc. purchased at the Ottawa Farmers’ Market, Lansdowne Park
Onions – Roots and Shoots Farm, Manotick Station, outside of Ottawa, purchased at the Ottawa Farmers’ Market, Lansdowne Park
Garlic – Abbey Hill Farms, Richmond, outside of Ottawa

Crazy Grain Bread – Art-is-in Bakery, Ottawa
Eggs – Bekings Poultry Farm, Oxford Station, outside of Ottawa, found in many specialty grocery stores around Ottawa, including Brian’s Butchery
Tomatoes – Waratah Downs Organic Farm, Iroquios, south of Ottawa, purchased at the Main Street Market

Finskbrød – Denmark’s Black Tie Shortbread

Finskbrød is Denmark’s version of the Christmas shortbread. One observation of my Scandinavian heritage is that everything tastes better with almonds. So it is no surprise that they have decorated this worldly classic with ‘their’ signature nut for extra taste and texture.

Like all great shortbreads, finskbrød is particularly light, buttery and ever so tender but firm. They pretty much melt in your mouth. The sugar/ground almond topping adds an extra je ne sais quoi that takes it from semi-formal to black tie. A beautiful food presentation is characteristic of Danish hospitality.

Maybe you have enjoyed many thistle stamped shortbreads over the years. Could this be the Christmas your cookie platter hops over a border or two?

* If you are interested in a variation, this latest recipe from fri.dk is a twist on the classic and has a spot of cognac in the dough. It is also less sweet than the recipe I make. If your Danish is rusty, Google translate does a terrific job. What I like about this recipe is that the almond used for the topping is made from a raw almond with the skin remaining. I think it is a sharp look if you want to go ‘upscale rustic’.

FINSKBRØD

COOKIE DOUGH:
500 grams all-purpose flour
350 grams butter, cool but not chilled
125 grams granulated sugar

TOPPING:
1 egg, beaten
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons ground almonds

Weigh the flour and sugar. Mix together. Cut in the butter until the pieces are very small. Work together with hands until a ball forms.

Wrap the dough and let it rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375ºF.

Roll the dough to a thickness of 1/4″.

With cookie cutter or knife, cut dough in 3/4″ long strips and then on an angle every 2″ to form a diamond shape, technically parallelograms.

Brush on beaten egg. Combine the equal parts ground almond and sugar. Sprinkle the almond/sugar mixture over the cookie dough and make sure all cookies are well covered.

Using a small offset spatula, gently lift each cookie and place on an ungreased baking sheet. They will rise a bit and also spread out a bit, but they can be placed reasonably close together on the cookie sheet.

Bake in 375ºF oven until golden brown. Check them at 10 minutes to see how they are coming along. Rotate the pan 180ºfor the last few minutes. In my oven and with my pans I find 12 minutes works well.

TIPS:

  • Use fresh butter. This is critical. My favourite butter is Lactantia. When I buy it, I store the extra bricks in the freezer until I need it in order to preserve its freshness.
  • Use salted butter for this recipe. Unsalted butter will leave a bland taste. Typically in baking you use salted butter unless noted. The balance of salt in the Lactantia butter is to my taste.
  • Roll the dough between two sheets of wax paper. This way you avoid adding more flour to the dough and throwing off the balance of the rich buttery taste. (I push in the edges to re-form them because they will split apart during rolling.)
  • Egg wash the cookies and sprinkle the almond/sugar mixture BEFORE they are placed on the pan. Not only is it faster, this minimizes the mess on the pan and potential over baking of many small sugary nutty crumbs. A smell I don’t want permeating into the cookies.
  • Cut the diamond shapes before putting on the topping. This allows you to pull away the imperfect pieces of dough at the edges so that the extra dough it can rolled again and not wasted.
  • Make sure to use fresh nuts. I buy my ground almonds at Rainbow Natural Foods, Inc. here in Ottawa (Lincoln Fields). They store their ground almond in a refrigeration unit. I do the same at home.
  • DIRTY FAMILY SECRET: If you use these cookies in a baking contest at work, always test them before sharing! No one should ever taste a flawed finskbrød. Consult an ‘expert’ if in doubt. 😉 You never want to run the risk of losing your job.

East & Main Bistro – Wellington in Prince Edward County

Tonight the executive chef of East & Main Bistro of Wellington, Ontario in Prince Edward County is competing in the regional Gold Medal Plates competition in Ottawa. Lili Sullivan has been the chef at East & Main since 2009.

My first experience with this place occurred when we took a weekend vacation to the County at the beginning of June this year. But the closest we came to eating Lili Sullivan’s fine foods was a box lunch on a farm tour as part of the Great Canadian Cheese Festival. Though it wasn’t any old box lunch by my way of thinking. I loved every bit of the vegetarian sandwich wrap, salad, to-die-for brownie and extra fixings.

A few months before I read through Ron Eade’s Omnivore’s Ottawa blog that Chef Sullivan was going to be participating in Gold Medal Plates come November.

A great box lunch doesn’t necessarily give you great insight into whether someone can capture the GMP crown. I needed an excuse to return and sit in for a fuller East & Main experience.

That chance came last month when returning to Ottawa from an out of town trip. Not a lover of the steady hard pavement of the 401 with its unpredictable truck traffic, I meandered off the highway past Brighton to take in the County. And with luck, catch lunch at East & Main. Fall had set in and the drive down Highway 33 was beautiful. The Loyalist Parkway curves by Lake Ontario just before it heads into Wellington. I arrived remarkably rested.

Owners Kimberly Humby and David O’Connor understood the clientele that would enjoy their bistro when they opened two years ago. As I sat down for lunch, my keen people watching instincts told me that I was surrounded by locals, regular visitors and tourists alike. And of course, the very food focused curious, like me. This is a destination place.

The interior is welcoming. Upscale touches to the finishings but still a cozy feel. In one of the bay windows they have placed a dining room table that can comfortably seat 6. On this day, it was occupied by four well-dressed ladies that, by my estimation, made this outing a regular event. In the other bay, were smaller groupings of tables to make room for a full wall buffet of their homemade preserves.

The menu offered 4 appetizers – soup, salad, trio of tapenades & pita crisps, and a pâté plate. There were also 6 sandwich choices ranging from $10 to $14. They came with your choice of soup, salad or frites. The 4 mains ranged from $12 – $13. Pasta, stew, quiche and a composed salad.

For my sandwich I went with one of the new offerings on the menu. Lobster and shrimp roll with smoked tomato tartar sauce on mini pastry house rolls from Pastry House in Picton. (The same bakery that supplies The Buddha Dog their great rolls.) Pastry House rolls are some of the best I have ever tasted. They risked stealing the show; however, the seafood filling was superb. Not to mention a handsome portion. I chose to have it with the soup du jour, leek and asparagus. I loved the creamy, silky texture and full flavour but I am not a gal who goes in for big croutons. I would have enjoyed a garnish with a bit more of a dressy look. My sandwich plate rang in at $14.

I was likely full enough after the sandwich and shouldn’t have considered dessert, knowing that I had a sedentary 3 hour drive ahead of me. But the menu beckoned.

I passed on the Mexican chocolate cake, crème brûlée, honey panna cotta and lemon curd tart. Instead, I chose the fresh berry shortcake: cardamom pound cake with macerated berries and cream. ($8.00) Being a Dane, cardamom is a much loved spice in baking. The cake had the balance of denseness needed to stand up to the juicy berries without being too heavy. Another hit.

I had a hard time leaving. It is a place you settle into and feel the comfort of home. Before I paid my bill I wondered to the wall of preserves to check out their creations. Owner, Kimberly Humby was restocking the shelves. She enticed me with the laborious love that goes into the Slow-Baked Applewood Smoked Tomato Paste (125 mL jar for $5.95) and the Ploughman’s Branston Pickle (250 mL jar for $5.95).

Having just put away so many jars of tomato creations myself, I had to know every detail of the Tomato Paste. She indulged me. Considering all the work, I was starting to feel like $5.95 was a bit of a steal for that wee jar.

Kimberly shared with me that their preserves are made with vegetables from their own garden and also from farms nearby in the County – Laundry Farms on County Road 1, Hagerman’s Farm between Bloomfield and Picton on the Loyalist Parkway, and Vicki’s Veggies on Morrison Point Road, near Milford.

Ottawa Magazine recently did an interview with Lili Sullivan before the GMP competition. The week before, The Ottawa Citizen had an article entitled “Five Worth The Drive” focused on destinations for wine tasting. East & Main Bistro was included. It appears the word is getting out.

The food, wine and beautiful countryside make Prince Edward County a vacation retreat from the big city. There are so many great places to eat in the County, it is hard to cover them all in a weekend. If you can work East & Main Bistro into your itinerary, you won’t be disappointed.

East & Main Bistro
270 Main Street
Wellington, Ontario
K0K 3L0
613.399.5420
Website: www.eastandmain.ca
Facebook: East & Main

Thurs to Mon: 12 – 2:30pm; 5:30 – 9 pm
Tues and Wed: CLOSED

East and Main Bistro on Urbanspoon

Succulent Beef Stew – The Mealtime Cure When Life Is Chaos

Succulent homemade stew tucked in the freezer in individual portions can save the day when life becomes too hectic.

Have you ever had that experience where you feel like you are living in a blender? Your time is not your own. You are juggling many responsibilities, not to mention the odd unplanned crisis or two. On top of that, you may be trying to make 3 healthy meals a day for yourself and your family.

Our lives have had an unpredictable rhythm to them this year. Nothing gets me feeling more defeated than eating fast food, takeout, or dinner from a can out of some sense of coping. I just can’t do it. Give me toast, a glass of water and send me to bed hungry.

As I like to tell my family, based on our packed freezer, we are now ready for Armageddon. Well, except if the power goes out.

When I catch a moment and find a great deal on groceries, I have been jumping at the chance to put some great treats into the freezer that will reheat well and reheat quickly. I package in single servings, ready for any size group, which of late is often just one.

Recently, while reading Ron Eade’s Thursday grocery special column, I saw that the Metro was advertising roast beef on sale. Two for one. I picked up two pieces just cents apart in price, yielding me a little over 4 pounds of outside round for what worked out to be about $3.65/lb.

I still had colourful carrots of white and purple left from my CSA share from Roots and Shoots Farm. Plus their onions and garlic. I had also picked up a small rutabaga at the Ottawa Farmers’ Market from the stand of Needham’s Garden Market of Arnprior. My beef stock was made by the Glebe Meat Market. I often keep supply on hand in the freezer.

With these basic ingredients on hand, it was succulent stew that was going to add to our freezer bounty. (Cross rib or blade are more typical cuts for stewing beef but I decided to use my outside round and handle it tenderly.)

Stew is also great for gifting to others with busy, chaotic lives. I have already snuck some into one of the hospital campuses this past week for a loved one’s dinner. Dare I confess? I also know of a diligent student now residing at one of our local universities that appreciates an impromptu food rescue when it comes her way.

I asked her for a picture of the gifted stew and mashed potatoes. Also riveting comments.

Her ‘riveting’ comments: “The food is delicious as always. Thanks so much!” She knows I fuss over plating and when the picture came: “Yummy! But not very artsy.”

For what it’s worth, plating can really make a meal. I shared with her the picture from my plate. We agreed the differences in look must be about ‘lighting’. Yeah, that’s it, the ‘lighting’.


[photo credit: Starving Student]

By the way, stew tastes even better the next day!

Succulent Beef Stew

4 pound roast suitable for stewing
4 cups carrots, chopped into 1″ pieces
2 stalks celery, chopped into 1″ pieces

1 small rutabaga, chopped into 1″ cubes

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 onions, diced

2 large cloves garlic, minced

fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

fresh marjoram or 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram

1 cup red wine
28 ounces diced tomato

4 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups beef stock
1 cup frozen peas (optional)
1/2 cup corn (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Cut roast into bite-size pieces about 1 1/2″ cubes.

Peel and chop carrots. Chop celery and set the two aside.

Peel the rutabaga and cut into chunks. Set aside.

Dice the onions and mince the garlic.

In large Dutch oven, heat oil over high heat. Sear the meat on all sides in batches (season with salt and pepper just before going into the pan). Then transfer to plate.
Make sure you don’t sear it too long or you can actually dry it out.

Reduce heat to medium and cook onions and garlic for 1 minute.

Add carrots and celery. Cook until onions are tender and vegetables perhaps are just starting to brown.

Stir in thyme and marjoram and cook a minute more. Add wine to help deglaze pan. Add the can of diced tomatoes.

Move mixture to large stock pot. Add meat and rutabaga.

Meanwhile in dutch oven make a roux. Melt butter. Add flour and cook for about 1 minute. Add the beef broth slowly to make a gravy. Add to the stock pot. Add the remaining beef stock not used in the gravy. All vegetables and meat should just be covered in liquid. If not, add more beef stock and/or wine.

Simmer on very low for 3 hours. Just before serving, if using, add the peas and corn and warm through. Also add salt and pepper to taste. If I am freezing the stew for later, I don’t put the peas in until just before serving. I find they don’t freeze and reheat well. (They turn a sad, hospital food green.)

Serve stew over mashed potatoes or egg noodles. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley if you would like to add a bit of colour.