Tuesday, December 22, 2009

TopFive in Five: #5 Gift Certificates

This is the last installment of my five-week series of holiday gift ideas.

Down to the wire? Saving your shopping until the last minute? Or simply not sure what to get someone? Consider a gift certificate. I don't believe that gift certificates are always impersonal. In fact, I'll take a thoughtful gift certificate over another set of measuring cups any day. The key is to match the gift certificate to the person. Here are some choices that you may not have thought of.

1. Appetite for Books
Have a cook on your list but not sure what cookbook she already has? Consider a gift certificate to this unique book store in Montreal that focuses exclusively of cooking and food-related books. You'll be supporting locally-owned business and sending a foodie to cookbook heaven. Bonus: They also offer cooking classes!

2. A Cooking Lesson at Académie Culinaire
What cook doesn't want to learn new tricks? Académie Culinaire in Old Montreal is the mainstay of cooking classes in Montreal, but they can be quite pricey. For something more budget-friendly, or for the more adventurous or vegetarian cook, consider the workshops offered by Crudessence, a raw food restaurant in the Plateau that uses mostly organic ingredients, or Karen's Kitchen, a mostly macrobiotic, vegan cooking school in the West Island.

3. Dinner at DNA
Many restaurants will give you a gift certificate if you ask for one. To help you decide on the amount of the certificate, take a look at the menu and choose an amount that will allow the receiver and a guest to enjoy at least two courses, including tax. (If the certificate is for a vegetarian, Bonny's on Nôtre Dame would be my top choice.)

4. Ares Kitchen
The emporium of kitchen and baking supplies! When I was looking for baking trays and cake molds that weren't made in China, this was the only store that offered a selection. You can buy gift certificates online or at any of the three locations in Montreal (2355-A Trans Canada Highway, Pointe-Claire; or 1501 Blvd des Promenades, St-Hubert; or 1550 Blvd Le Corbusier #501, Laval).

5. The Conscience Verte Rebate Guide
This is a book with discount coupons for many green business around Montreal, including some food stores, restaurants and cafés like Crudessence, Bonny's, ChuChai, and Cantine. It's perfect for someone who delights in discovering new restos, shops and green businesses. At $20, it is also a great deal.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Top Five in Five #3: Boozy Bottles

This is the third installment in my five-week series of mindful gift ideas for the food lovers on your holiday gift list.

For those on your list who imbibe, you can rarely go wrong with a nice bottle of cheer. Increasingly it is becoming easier to find products made locally, artisanally, or with organic ingredients (and sometimes all three!). I'm not a sommelier or drinks expert, so I'm not going to offer too many specific brands here. Rather, here are five categories and a few suggestions.

I'm a cider-lover. And with the number of orchards in south-western Quebec, it's no surprise that there are lots of cider choices. One of my favorites that is widely available is Degel by La Face Cachée de la Pomme in Hemmingford, but see what your local SAQ or grocer has to offer. Also, Le Domaine Steinbach in Ile D'Orleans produces five organic ciders, including an ice cider. You can order their product online. In Ontario, see if you can find County Cider products in your area.

Mead or Honeywine
Like cider, mead in Quebec is sold as an alternative to wine rather than beer. There are lots of small producers in the Eastern Townships, Montérégie and up north. A few varieties are sold at the SAQ, including four organic products sold under the Forest label from Ruchers des Framboisiers in the Gaspe.


We're spoiled for choice with hundreds of microbrews in the Montreal region. My suggestions is to take a trip to a local shop that sells a wide selection of microbrews and put your own tasting-pack together as a gift. My brother did this last year and we enjoyed trying out the different brews. One brew of note for locavores is Rur'Ale, produced in St-Polycarpe using completely local ingredients. Marché des Saveurs at Jean Talon Market, Fromagerie du Marché at Atwater Market, and Les Delires du Terroir on St-Hubert street, and the Metro grocery store on De L'Eglise in Verdun all have excellent selections of microbrews. In Quebec City, try Depanneur de la Rive. (If you have a favourite place to buy microbrews, I'd love to hear about it!)


Close to Montreal, Vignoble de Négondos is a small organic vineyard in Saint-Benoit-de Mirabel near Lachute, Qc. that produces some nice wines. You can purchase a bottle (or more) at the vineyard or at Fromagerie Yannick in the Marché de l'Ouest, DDO. The SAQ has started offering organic and eco-pratique wine choices. See what your local has to offer.

My first choice here would be a nice bottle of ice cider, which is only made using traditional methods in Quebec. As mentioned above, Le Domaine Steinbach in Ile D'Orleans offers an organic ice cider that you can order online. Other than that see what your local SAQ has to offer, either in ice cider or other Produits de Terroir. If you're in Quebec city, consider a special visit to the SAQ Terroirs d'ici in Le Chateau Frontenac.

Previous installments in this series were cookbook ideas and crafty catches.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Vegan Chewy Chocolate Brownies

My friend over at A Season to Taste has been asking for this recipe. It's taken a while to post it though! I first got it from a cooking workshop we put together at Le Frigo Vert over ten years ago, and the brownies are truly amazing! They are soft, rich and chewy. And very easy!

Vegan Chewy Chocolate Brownies

1/2 cup flour
1 1/4 cup water
2 2/3 cups sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup cocoa
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 cups flour*
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup chopped nuts

Stir together the 1/2 cup flour and water in a saucepan over low heat until very thick. I use a whisk initially to stop it going lumpy. Then cool the mixture to room temperature. (This is important!)

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9 x 13 pan. (I've used two 8 x 8 pans with success as well.)

In a large bowl combine the sugar, salt, vanilla, and cocoa. Add the cooled flour/water mixture. Stir together. Add the oil and mix well until smooth and the oil doesn't separate out of the batter. (This can take a while.)

Add the remaining flour, baking powder and chopped nuts. (*For a chewier brownie replace up to 1/2 cup of flour with ground almonds. Highly recommended!) Mix well until all ingredients are blended. The batter will be fairly thick.

Transfer batter to pan(s). Bake 25-35 minutes until firm and a knife inserted into the centre comes out 'clean.'


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Top Five in Five #2: Crafty Catches

Last Friday I posted a list of crafty events going on leading up to the holiday season. These might not seem like the most obvious places to get mindful foodie and kitchen-related gifts, but you might be surprised. Consider these gift ideas. Keep in mind that your mileage will vary from fair to fair.
  1. Aprons, napkins, table cloths and dish towels
    Some of these can be really simple. I know someone who makes napkins and place mats out of old clothes and pieces of fabric. But you can also find some real pieces of art like hand-painted table cloths or silk-screened dish towels. Hand-knitted hemp dishcloths anyone?

  2. Napkin rings or table centrepieces
    If you're gifting cloth napkins, consider looking for some napkin rings to go along with them. I've seen wood ones, ceramic ones, rubber ones... Table centrepieces may include vases, candle arrangements, etc

  3. Pottered mugs and bowls
    This is pretty self-explanatory. To make a pottered mug extra special, toss in some packets of fair-trade cocoa, tea or coffee.

  4. Bowls, serving plates and cutlery
    These come in a wide variety of materials and qualities. I've seen cutting boards made out of driftwood, hand-carved wooden cutlery and bowls, serving plates made from papier mâché , and cheese plates made from melted jars and bottles. Very creative and unique stuff.

  5. Home preserves, jams and baked goods
    There are some fabulous and dedicated cooks out there. If you don't the time or the inclination to make your own, consider picking up a few jars at a fair. Admittedly, you have to be a bit careful when buying from a home cook.
Did I miss anything? Let me know.


This is the second installment in my five-week series of holiday gift ideas for foodies and kitchen junkies. The first installment offered cookbook recommendations.

For some other, not necessarily kitchen- and food-related, gifts. Check out Hour's guide to eco-conscious gifts.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Garlicky Lamb Stew

On Saturday, my friend had her annual celebration of garlic. It's a potluck party where every contribution to the feast must have garlic as an ingredient, including deserts. It's a fabulous evening and you wouldn't believe all the garlicky combinations that people come up with. Garlice cream anyone? It's actually delicious.

This year my contribution was a garlicky lamp stew made from local ingredients that are easy enough to find at this time of year. It was a big hit. Here is the recipe.

Slow-Cooker Garlicky Lamb Stew
1 kg local lamb or mutton (stewing cut)
ca. 1/2 cup flour
ca. 2 Tbs Epicure Tuscan Rub*
ca. 3 Tbs Champy sunflower oil
1-2 heads organic garlic (according to taste), crushed
1 bottle mild scotch ale, like LochNess
500 g organic red potatoes, cut
salt and pepper to taste

Combine flour and Tuscan Rub in a bowl. Cube lamb or mutton. Toss meat in flour mixture to coat it.

Heat oil in a heavy-bottom pan. Brown the coated meat over medium-high heat, in batches if necessary. Put the potatoes in the slow cooker on high. Add the meat, then add about half the garlic. Add the rest of the garlic to the remaining oil in the pan.

Reduce the heat for the pan to medium-low and stir-fry garlic for a few minutes, until soft. Add the scotch ale to the pan. Let it warm for about a minute and then pour the ale mixture over the meat and potatoes in the slow cooker.

Stir the mixture in the slow cooker. Make sure liquid covers the top of the meat and potatoes. If not, top up the slow cooker with boiling water.

Cover and simmer on low 2-4 hours, or until meat is tender, the potatoes are cooked, and the gravy is thick. Stir occasionally as the stew is simmering. Add more water if necessary. Season with salt and pepper towards the end of the cooking process.

Serve over a bed of greens, and with fresh crusty bread.

* I used this because it was what I had on hand. Originally I wanted to use rosemary, but when I looked in the cupboard I was out of it. I still think rosemary would work really well.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Crafty Events for Great Holiday Gifts

Craft fairs are great places to pick up gifts that score low on environmental impact and high on supporting local business. Most of the fairs run through November and early December. Here are a few to keep in mind. As well, the Montreal Gazette has a pretty complete list for 2009 here.

Saturday November 28th

  • Fair trade sale and pancake breakfast at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, 496 Birch St., St. Lambert, 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sponsored by Dix Mille Villages. Breakfast is $6.

Friday December 4th to Sunday December 6th

  • TMR Craft Fair at Schofield Hall, 90 Roosevelt Ave., T.M.R. from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Artisans and tea shop.
  • Dorval Potters Guild Pottery sale at Sarto Des Noyers Centre, 1335 Lakeshore Rd., Room S014A, Dorval. , 10 a.m. to 9 p.m

Saturday December 5th and Sunday December 6th

  • Public Yule Fair At Le Mélange Magique, 1928 St-Catherine W, from 10am to 5pm. Artisans, workshops and storytelling. Free admission.

Saturday December 4th to Tuesday December 22nd

  • Salon des Metiers d'Art at Place Bonaventure. The biggest craft fair in Montreal, this with over 400 professional artisans under one roof.

Sunday December 5th

  • Holiday craft fair at Evergreen Elementary School, 2625 rue du Bordelais, St. Lazare. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thirty artisans and refreshments.

Friday December 11th to Sunday December 13th

Saturday December 12th and Sunday December 13th

If I hear of any other events, I'll update this list.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Top Five in Five #1: Recipe Books

With only five weeks left until Christmas and other holiday gift giving days, I thought it was time to offer up some gift suggestions for the amateurs chefs, entertainers and foodies on our lists.

Over the next five weeks, I plan to offer a weekly post with five ideas along a specific theme. To kick-off my new series, here are my top five recipe book gift ideas. In the spirit of buying local, if one of these books looks interesting, please consider buying it from an independent book-seller (like Appetite for Books in Montreal) close to home before ordering it on-line.

  1. Farmers in Chef Hats by Linda Arsenault is a bilingual book featuring recipes and products from Île d’Orléans near Quebec City, where most of the farms are still family run. This book won the Gourmand World Cookbook for best local cookery book in 2007, and is a wonderful showcase for Quebec local foods.
  2. Earth to Table: Seasonal Recipes from an Organic Farm by slow-food pioneer Jeff Crump and Bettina Schormann is a stunning collection of recipes and articles organized by season. Many of the recipes come from the Ancaster Old Mill restaurant near Toronto, where Crump is executive chef and Schormann is the pastry chef. This book is equally at home on the cofee table as it is on the cookbook shelf.
  3. Along a similar vein, Farmer John's Cookbook: The Real Dirt on Vegetables by Farmer John Peterson and Angelic Organics, is also divided by season, but then it is also divided by vegetable. The goal here is to help folks cook with the produce from their CSA (or farm-share) baskets. Although Angelic Organics is near Chicago, almost all of the veggies have appeared in my local CSA basket. The book is also peppered with anecdotes and offers insight into biodynamic farming.
  4. In Fish, UK's Michelin-starred restauranteur and 'green chippie' pioneer Tom Aikens teaches us how to cook-up great seafood while keeping our impact on the oceans to a minimum. It contains over 200 recipes, as well as cooking and buying tips. Since this is a British book, a drawback for cooks on this side of the pond is that some species common to and sustainable in the U.K., may not be over here. It's nothing that a local seafood guide can't overcome though.
  5. Finally, for the baker or health-conscious foodie on your list, consider the Whole Grain Baking book by the folk at the King Arthur Flour company. Based in Vermont, King Arthur Flour is 'America's oldest flour company." It is also an employee-owned company that eschews GMO wheat and advocates sustainability.

Do you have a gift suggestion or did I miss one of your favourite books? Drop me a comment or a tweet and let me know!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Coffee with a Conscience in Verdun

Every now and then I stumble across a real delight. Case and point: Baobab Café on Wellington street in Verdun. Verdun is probably not where you'd expect to find a thriving socially- and environmentally-conscious café, but there it is. They also offers their patrons free Internet access.

The coffee is good and reasonably priced, especially considering that it is all fair trade. A small filter coffee served at the table set me back $1.75, and it was hardly 'small.' Baobab also serves espresso ($2.35), cappuccino and cafe au lait ($3.15-$4.25), hot chocolate ($2.75-$3.75), and chai tea ($2); all are organic and fair-trade. For an extra $0.50 you can replace dairy milk with soy milk.

If you fancy a nibble with your coffee, they have croissants, chocolatines, and a selection of muffins and scones for about $2. At lunchtime, they also have a selection of sandwiches starting at $4.25 and going up to $9 for a trio.

Finally, Café Baobab sells Camino fair trade products, including sugar, cocoa, hot chocolate and chocolate bars. They also sell their coffee en vrac for $10/lb.

All around a winner, I think. I'm sure I'll be visiting again.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

DNA Delivers Ecogastronomic Delights

Earlier this week, some friends and I went out to DNA Restaurant to enjoy their special "Ecogastronomy" menu in honour of Slow Food week. Founded in 1986, Slow Food was started in reaction to the rise of 'fast food', and was perhaps one of the earliest promoters, although indirectly, of the farm-to-table approach to eating. Proponents of Slow Food believe that food should be more than sustenance in the belly. Food, in its full range of recipes and flavours, should celebrated, savoured, and enjoyed in the company of others.

Recently, Slow Food has added eco- and social responsibility to its gastronomic roots--hence ecogastronomy. According to the Slow Food Canada website, "Ecogastonomy is an attitude that combines a respect and interest in enogastronomic culture with support for those battling to defend food and agricultural biodiversity around the world. [...] It helps to safeguard local cuisines, traditional products, vegetable and animal species at risk of extinction. It supports a new model of agriculture, which is less intensive and healthier, founded on the knowledge and know-how of local communities."

The Ecogastronomy menu at DNA Restaurant was true to all these Slow Food principles. It was my first visit to DNA and my expectations were high. I'd been hearing good things about Executive Chef and co-owner Derek Dammann's culinary concoctions that honour heritage food traditions and use mostly local and sustainable-sourced ingredients, as well as the extensive Canadian wine list compiled with partner Alex Cruz.

Overall my dining companions and I were impressed. We all agreed that the $45 set price for the four-course menu was a steal for the quality and quantity of food. Far too often, farm-to-table dining is out of the price range for the average person. For this event, DNA makes it reasonably affordable. Good on them! In contrast, the $45 optional wine pairing offered to accompany the meal was a huge disappointment and grossly overpriced. Only three services were accompanied by wine and the quantity was very meagre compared to other wine-paired meals I've experienced. Instead, consider ordering your wine by the glass or bottle with help from the sommelier. The extensive wine list offers some affordable choices (as well as some luxury ones!) and a very exciting selection of Canadian wines.

Now, on to the food! Overall the ecogastronomy menu is ambitious and varied. Our waiter was fabulous at explaining everything on the menu, even offering insights into the ingredients themselves and how some of the dishes are prepared. In keeping with the celebration of food in all its ranges and flavours, much of the opening appetizer and pasta course options include ingredients that many of us are not used to, such as heart and testicles (Yes, you read that correctly!). This was a turn-off for some at our table, and the source of great excitement for others. It was really interesting to watch the range of reactions.

Some of the appetizers on offer included zupa di pane (bread soup), porchetta di testa (a charcuterie made from a pig's head), veal heart tartare with brioche, fresh oysters, and Kamouraska lamb carpaccio. The carpaccio, which was delicate and flavourful, was a big hit at our table; as was the heart tartare for the more adventurous and the zupa di pane, which was full of chard and beans and very rich. Appetizers were served with a variety of fresh-baked breads and olive oil, which stayed on the table until the main course.

Moving on to the pasta course, selections included ravioli al sole, kamouraska lamb cavatelli, and spinach pasta with fresh lobster and Matane shrimp, among others. The ravioli was stunning. Upon cutting into it, the barely-cooked yolk of a duck egg spilled out onto the plate. I'd never seen that before, although some of my dining companions had encountered it in their own culinary gallivanting, and even tried to reproduce it themselves(!). Aside from the egg, the filling of the ravioli contained duck liver, heart, tongue, testicles and foie gras, in a refreshing example of leaving no part of an animal to waste. The cavatelli was also well-received. The lobster and Matane shrimp was tasty with generous portions of seafood and married well with the fresh spinach pasta, but was very, very salty. This was a shame because the delicate flavours of the seafood were not allowed to come through on their own.

Main courses included boudin noir (a blood sausage), kamouraska lamb, veal loin, milk-fed piglet, wild coho salmon and striped sea bass. All were tasty, well-prepared and well-presented. The only missing element was vegetables, which were there but you had to hunt for them. There is still a lot of seasonal produce available at this time of year, so I'm not sure why the veggies were so starkingly absent; although it is in keeping with the bistro style that seems so popular among trendy restaurants these days.

Wrapping up the meal, the salted pine nut tart with ginger and olive oil gelato was the perfect finish. I highly recommend it. Other options included apple cake and a chocolate panna cotta made from a traditional recipe (Ask the server about the secret ingredient.). This was followed by almond cookies and coffee.

Overall a very pleasant night. A few final notes: Almost everyone commented on the decor, which is high-tech, modern, tasteful and inviting. The layout also feels very private and helps keep the din of surrounding diners to almost non-existent (A feat well-worth mentionning!). However, the service for the four-course menu was very long. We were in at 7pm and not out until well after 11pm. At that point many of us were rushing out the door, even leaving early before the coffee, weary of long drives back to Vaudreuil and the North Shore. Finally, this is no place for a vegetarian, although I suspect that non-meat-eaters could be accommodated with advance notice.

Sorry, no pics. I decided to sit back and immerse myself in the experience of the evening.

PS. The Montreal chapter of Slow Food is offering a 10% discount on annual membership upon presentation of the restaurant bill from the this week's Ecogastronomy menu. for more details contact them at info(at)slowfoodquebec(dot)com.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Local, Organic and Gluten-Free

I seem to be having an epidemic of friends and colleagues being diagnosed with celiac disease these days. Gluten intolerance can really challenge your dietary and shopping choices. If you're also someone who prefers to shop local or organic, your choices are further limited. Unfortunately, many of the gluten-free products sold in supermarkets and health food stores are mass-produced and shipped in from across the continent. What is a mindful consumer to do? Fortunately, there are local gluten-free products.

One product line that comes to mind immediately are the pâtés available from Les Viandes Biologiques de Charlevoix. I'm not sure if they're all gluten-free, but certainly the pâté de campagne and a version of the cretons de porc are. (Seriously! They've replaced the traditional breadcrumbs in the cretons with rice flour.) I also recall that some of their dry sausages are gluten-free. Look for their products at Fromagerie Atwater and Maitre Boucher.

Another local supplier with some gluten-free products is Boucherie Valens. Check the label. Increasingly available around the city, all of the their meat comes from from small family farms in the Huntington region that are devoted to raising their animals humanely and sustainably. I've recently seen their meats, cold-cuts, bacon and sausages at Maitre Boucher, Pousse Ananas, and PA. You can also order from them directly.

While not totally local, GoGo Quinoa is a Quebec-based business that offers organic, fair-trade and gluten-free products imported from cooperatives in South America. Their products are widely available in health food and grocery stores across the province.

For take-home meals to reheat, Restaurant Marché Serafim opposite the Marché Bonsecours in Old Montreal offers some gluten-free choices. All of their food is organic and wheat-free. A lot of it is also local. Prices are reasonable, especially considering the location!

I'm sure there are other mindful, gluten-free products out there. If you know of some that I've missed, leave a comment or drop me a note.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Harvest Brownies

Looking at a pile of beets I pulled from my garden recently, I was reminded about a childhood treat: red velvet cake. While some recipes for this classic cake use red food colouring, my mum's used beetroot. Perhaps it was her way of getting veggies into us, although you'd never know it. It made a fabulously rich and moist cake that looked and tasted fantastic.

When I went rooting around for a recipe for red velvet cake, I came across a few recipes for chocolate beetroot brownies. Now, I'm more of a brownie girl than a cake girl, so the brownie recipes got the try. As well, unlike the red velvet cake recipes, the beetroot only required grating, not cooking.

I like this recipe because it doesn't use a lot of sugar. The brownies are also rich, moist, and a deep dark red. (Perfect for a Hallowe'en table too!) I've found that if I use fresh beetroot from my garden that I don't need to peel them. I only need to scrub them. I suspect, however, that if you're using stored or conventionally-farmed beetroot that you're better off peeling since the skin is probably tough and bitter.

Chocolate Beetroot Brownies
(Adapted from La Tartine Gourmand)

• 4 oz fair-trade dark chocolate (at least 70%)*
• 7/8 cup unbleached flour
• 1 cup ground almonds
• 1/3 cup fair-trade sugar
• 1/2 cup butter, softened
• 4 eggs at room temperature
• 7 oz (200 g) shredded raw red beetroot
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• Icing sugar** and cocoa for decoration

Set aside the butter and eggs so they are are at room temperature before you start mixing the ingredients. Meanwhile, peel and shred the beetroot. Combine the shredded beetroot in a bowl with the flour and ground almonds. Set aside. Also, melt the chocolate over hot water and then set it aside to cool.

Cream the butter then add the eggs. Beat well until well-blended and frothy. Add the sugar and mix well. Add the vanilla, the melted chocolate and the flour, almonds and beetroot. Mix well.

Oil a square cake pan and dust the bottom lightly with flour. Pour the brownie batter into it and bake in a preheated oven at 350F for about 30 to 35 minutes. Cool the brownies in the pan slightly before turning them out onto a cake rack. To serve, cut into squares and dust with cocoa and confectioner's sugar.

* To substitute cocoa for dark chocolate, combine 1/2 cup cocoa, 3 tbsp sugar and 3 tbsp oil or butter over a double boiler until smooth.

** I recently discovered fair-trade icing sugar at my local Loblaws. Look for it!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Asking the Uncomfortable Questions

I had to chuckle when I read the following from a recent article in the Denver Post:

After spending time on Arapaho Ranch, I believe I can reconcile my carnivorous ways with that which comes before I take my first bite: the animal's slaughter.

What meat do I eat now? Meat from animals that were raised humanely. I guess that makes me a "humane-itarian."

This demands research on my part. It asks more of my wallet, which means I'll eat less meat. It turns restaurant-dining, for the most part, into an adventure in vegetarianism. It could make for uncomfortable dinner parties ("Was this chicken raised humanely? You don't know? Oh, OK. I'll just have the carrots.").

You see, substitute 'humanely' for 'ethically' and that's me. And I do ask the uncomfortable questions at dinner parties and restaurants. (I'm very grateful that I have friends who are thick-skinned.) And I will eat the carrot sticks if the meat isn't reasonably local and raised naturally. That's how I do my activism. I won't make a big deal out if it, and I try to be reasonably discrete, but I will ask the questions. By doing this, I both stick to my principles and raise awareness among the people I'm in contact with. Sure, asking the question may feel uncomfortable, but the rewards are great. Afterwards, almost always someone at the table or party will ask me questions. Then a whole discussion gets going. What an opportunity!

I call this ripple activism. Like that old 1970s hair advert: if I tell two friends and they tell two friends and so on and so on and so on... It ripples out. Someone else recently suggested I call it trust activism or relationship activism. People are more inclined to believe in a cause or take action in it when they hear about it from someone they know.

So go on. I challenge you: Ask the uncomfortable questions.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

From Farm to Bottle

Did you know that Quebec has a farm-brewery? Neither did I until recently.

Located in Ste-Polycarpe in Montéregie, the Ferme Brasserie Schoune may be the first modern farm-brewery in North America. Founded by immigrants from Belgium, the farm has been growing corn, grain, soybeans, buckwheat and malting barley since 1980. A little over ten years ago, they started brewing their own beer from their farm products. All their beers are unpasteurized and brewed using traditional Belgian methods with only natural ingredients. Almost all of them are award-winning.

The microbrasserie currently offers several year-round beers, as well as a selection of limited edition brews. One, Rur'Ale, is completely made from Quebec ingredients for a 100% local brew. (I believe their hops are from their own farm, but I'm not sure.) Look for them at select grocery stores (mostly Metro), dépanneurs and specialty stores across the province.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Bye Bye Bluefin

Who'd have thought tuna could cause such a fuss? Scientists, environmentalists and politicians, of course. At issue in Europe this week is bluefin tuna, considered to be one of the most expensive and valuable sushi fish in the world. But the rise in popularity of sushi has taken its toll on bluefin tuna stocks. Since the 1970s, the population of Atlantic bluefin tuna has declined by as much as 90%. Bluefins are big fish and take a long time to mature. Increasingly, juvenile fishes are being caught before they have a chance to breed.

Environmentalists, including Japanese scientists, believe that overfishing is pushing bluefin tuna to extinction. One media story by ITV refers to the future of the bluefin as being 'as precarious as the Giant Panda," and some scientists believe that extinction may be as close as three years away unless firm action is taken now.

This week, the European Union (EU) executive commission urged member countries to agree to a temporary ban on bluefin catches until fish stocks recover. The United States is also calling for a ban. However, countries that regularly fish the bluefin have stalled the proposal. Japan is the main consumer of bluefin tuna and the Japanese are willing to pay a high price for the fish. Over 80% of bluefin tuna caught in the Atlantic and Mediterranean are exported there. Japan's own pacific bluefin is also overfished and there are calls to list both on the International endangered species list.

It really angers me that some politicians can't see beyond economy and politics to the bigger environmental issues. Yes, banning fishing on a lucrative export item has economic consequences, but the longer-term consequences (both environmental and economic) are more devastating. Have politicians learned nothing from the collapse of the cod fishery in the Canadian Grand Banks?

So what can we do as consumers?

  • Don't consume bluefin tuna (also known as Kuromaguro, Atun de aleta azul, thon rouge)
  • Order albacore tuna (shiro maguro) instead at sushi restaurants
  • Encourage your local restaurant or fishmonger to purchase a sustainable alternative
  • Support groups like Oceana and WWF who are lobbying for the fishing ban
  • Write your minister asking Canada to support the ban

Links to other articles and videos on this topic:

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Frugal Kitchen

A recent post on the travel blog Almost Fearless got me thinking again about frugality in the kitchen and the importance of a well-stocked pantry. These days many people rely on frozen family meals or packaged prepared ingredients. Yet with a few key ingredients always on hand in the pantry or freezer, I find I can create tasty, nutritious meals from scratch in about the same length of time that it would take to get a frozen pizza or lasagna to the table.

So what are my staples? Beyond fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables, my pantry relies heavily on dried beans and lentils, frozen soups and vegetables, canned/jarred sauces, rice, couscous, bulgar, pasta and potatoes. I always have eggs, cheese and yogurt in the fridge, as well as quickly-defrostable sustainable fish (usually salmon, tuna, mackerel, black cod, or scallops ) in the freezer. Baking supplies, like flour, are also always on hand.

Now, I must confess that I do have a couple of commercially-prepared food addictions. Perhaps it's the Brit in me, but I am totally addicted to Patak's curry pastes. They're easy to use, good quality, and spice up any meal in a matter of minutes. I also have a couple of canned curries that I regularly keep in my pantry. Canned beans and chickpeas are also present as practical back-ups to the dried variety, although I usually have soaked beans in the freezer.

So using these ingredients, what can I whip up in under 20 minutes? Here are a few suggestions for quick hot meals:
  • Hearty vegetable and cheese fritatta
  • Pasta and sauce
  • Soup and scones
  • Blackened salmon, rice and steamed veggies
  • Stir-fry with farmed scallops
  • Moroccan chick-pea soup
  • Curried red lentil soup served with yogurt
  • Quinoa chili
With a little bit of planning, like soaking beans or lentils, or leaving dough to rise:
  • Chickpea curry and Naan-style bread
  • Lentils and rice
  • Cuban black beans
  • Homemade pizza
Most of these things are quick and affordable to make, even with organic ingredients. If you're making and freezing (or canning) your own soups and sauces using local vegetable when in season, then a good portion of the meals can be local too.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Certification for Local Products?

Wow. Ottawa, you inspire me. Not only do you have fabulous, reasonably-priced, local-food restaurants, but I just found out about your 'certified local' program. This is how the Ottawa-based food blog, FoodiePrints, describes it:

In Ottawa, we have several farmer's markets whose vendors proudly sport Savour Ottawa posters (http://www.savourottawa.ca/). These posters denote that the producer or retailer has been certified via an audit by a third-party organization to produce local products or sell goods that are made from local products. Further, many of the locally-owned restaurants have already diversified their supply chains, pairing themselves with local farms. Some have even taken to growing their on produce in personal gardens. Many have even partnered with our local sustainable fin-fish and shell-fish supply.
What a fabulous idea! Wouldn't it be great if Montreal had something similar? The closest we get is the "Aliments de Quebec" logo that I'm noticing in supermarkets these days. While it is a valuable initiative, Quebec is a pretty big place. The label also isn't applicable to restaurants, which doesn't help me to choose establishments that are promoting local products and economies. I'd love to see the label expanded to include the tourism region of the producer (i.e., Aliments de Quebec - Montéregie) and a poster program for our local restaurants.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Taste of Farm Life

Ever wondered how your food grows or what a dairy farm looks like? Well you can get a peak this weekend at the Open House on Quebec Farms organized by the Union des Producteurs Agricoles (UPA) of Québec. Over 100 farms will open their doors to over 30,000 people between 10am and 4pm this Sunday, September 13th.

This is a great activity for adults and kids alike. Many of the participating farms have activities planned for all ages, as well as demonstrations, guided tours, product tastings, and even door prizes. So pack a light picnic, grab the kids or some friends, and hit the road for the day in a country.

Close to Montreal, a sample Eastern Townships itinerary may include a visit to the pork and dairy producer Ferme DGR Thibault in Saint-Valérian, the goat farm la Chèvrerie des Acacias and the orchard Val Caudalies in Dunham, and the produce farm (pumpkin, corn strawberries) La Roi de la Fraise in Saint-Paul d'Abbotsford. A trip in the Lanaudière region may include a duck farm (Ferme L'Oie d'or) in Saint-Gabriel-de-Brandon, and a bison farm (La Terre des bisons), potato farm (Les fermes Rivest Bourgeois inc.), and apiary (Les ruchers du troubadour) in Rawdon.

The UPA website for the open house event offers a variety of tools for planning your day out. You can browse farms by region or by type of farm. You can also consult a master google map of all participating farms. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Quebec Malt Beverage with Real Fruit Juice

I discovered these Muse fruit cocktail beverages during our recent heat wave in Montreal. I'm not generally a fan of alco-pops--they tend to be full of sugar and far too sweet for my taste--however these caught my eye because they had some interesting flavours and are made with real fruit juice. Although, exactly how much of the beverage comes from fruit juice, I'm not exactly certain. The drink also uses sugar and flavours.

Like most alco-pops sold in convenience stores in Quebec, Muse cocktails are malt-based. Made in Quebec, they come in three flavours: blood orange, pineapple and pomegranate. I decided to try one of each. Like other alco-pops they are very sweet. Straight out of the bottle, the blood orange cocktail reminded me very much of orange pop; and I found myself drinking it quickly like a pop. It had almost no discernible malt flavour and it was easy to forget that it was an alcoholic beverage. The pomegranate and pineapple cocktails were similar: very tasty, very sweet, and very smooth. Because they taste so much like pop, I would be very leery of having these out at a party with children around.

For my own palate, I found that serving the pomegranate or blood orange cocktail over ice and slightly diluted with club soda worked well to reduce the sweetness of the beverage and to resist the urge to devour the bottle in a matter of minutes. The cocktails would probably work really well in some punches as well.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Montreal Harvest Season in Full Swing

August is a season rich in local harvest and tastes. Across the province, the semaine québécoise des marchés publiques kicks off this Saturday. Over 40 public markets will participate, each scheduling its own array of special events. Close to Montreal, these include a Garlic Festival theme at the Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue market (Saturday), a bébé-écolo theme at the marché Rosemere (Saturday), and cooking demonstrations by chefs at the Marché Atwater (Saturday and Sunday). More events continue over the week and into next weekend. Consult the website for more information.

For a day trip out of the city, the Lanaudière region just northeast of Montreal is full of tasty gems, many of which get showcased this weekend at Les Fêtes Gourmandes de Lanaudière. In its fifth year, the festival is held in Saint-Jacques-de-Montcalm, about one hour north of Montreal, and showcases over 75 local food growers and artisan producers. The festival kicks off on Friday, August 21st and wraps up on Sunday the 23rd.

We're also spoiled for choice in the coming weeks for rural fairs in the area. The Montreal Gazette Blog--Shop, Chop, Eat--has a quick list of what's going on, including the Compton Fair this weekend. Country fairs offer a really good peak into the rural life of the region, featuring livestock, produce, baking and craft competions, as well as good food, music and conversation. It can be a great way to hook up with local farmers for a freezer-full of meat or produce, fresh from the farm, next season.

Monday, August 17, 2009

L'Origine in Old Montreal Disappoints

I'd really like to say that I enjoyed dining at Bistro L'Origine recently, but the truth is I didn't; neither did my dining partner. We both expected more. Located in front of the science centre in Old Montreal, L'Origine has been open since 2005 and bills itself as using local, organic or fair-trade ingredients in its menu which is inspired by Montreal's cultural heritage. You can see why I really wanted to like this place! Alas, it was not to be.

We started our meal with drinks. Disappointingly, most of the wines and beers were imports, I settled on a cocktail and my friend on the only local beer on tap on the menu. My Gingermania --a blend of gin, 7-up, ginger and other spices--was delicious and refreshing, however my friend had less luck. His pint of Chambly Blanche beer was served warm. Very warm. Not exactly refreshing on a hot summer's day.

The food was equally erratic. My soup of the day, maple-lentil, was delicious and an interesting blend of flavours. The market-fresh salad was also very good, and the plates of nachos and charcuterie we saw floating by headed to other tables looked fabulous. Our main courses, however, were both disappointing. I chose the Table d'Hote: a chicken in a tomato sauce served over couscous. It was quite tasty, but very ordinary. The server also couldn't confirm if the chicken was organic or not, which is odd in a restaurant billing promoting itself on sustainable principles.

My partner fared less well with his choice, roast beef and portabello mushroom on a bun with caramelized onions. It was simply horrible. On the menu, the combination sounded intriguing, but the caramelized onion was so sweet, and there was so much of it, that it just overwhelmed any other flavours. (Yes, that is all onions you see in the photo!) There was also only a single thin slice of roast beef in the sandwich. I'm not sure that we would have tasted it even without the onion disaster.

We arrived at 5pm. At this time the bistro had live entertainment. It was simply a singer and a guitar player, which would normally be fine, but it was so loud through the speakers that we could barely have a conversation. We were both relieved when the duo took a break. The subsequent 'chill' music provided by the dj was a much better match to the atmosphere.

On the plus side, our waitress was very nice and friendly; the prices are quite reasonable for Old Montreal; many of the local suppliers are mentionned by name on the menu; and the overall ambiance is perfectly suited to a terrace on the Quai. If I'm looking for a quick nacho nibble and a drink with friends while soaking in the sun in the Old Port, I'd probably go back. But I'd ask for a glass of ice alongside my drinks, and give the main courses a miss.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Saveurs et Tentations at the Old Port

If you're looking to explore local or organic food around Montreal this weekend, you may be spoiled for choice. In addition the Fete Bio Paysanne at the TOHU (previous post), the new Saveurs et Tentations kicked off on Wednesday at the Quai Jacques-Quartier in the old port. The event mostly showcases local food producers and agri-business, but also includes imported artisanal products. Over 80 exhibitors from different regions of Quebec are represented, including a lot of local microbreweries, cidreries and wine-makers. Yes, samples are available. When I was there earlier this week, some producers were giving free tiny tasting samples, whereas others were offering more substantial tasting portions that you could purchase using tickets. Some gems I found are Le Grimoire Microbrasserie (Granby), La Vallee de la Frambroise (raspberry wines and liqueurs; Val-Brillant), Les Viande Biologiques de Charlevoix, Les Delices de L'Ile D'Orleans and a really good absinthe stout from Brasserie de Montreal (Griffintown).

In addition to food to buy and taste, the festival also has free presentations, workshops and cooking demonstrations, as well as more substantial cooking classes ($50).When I was there earlier this week I took in an excellent presentation on the history of cider and wine-making in Quebec (it repeats Saturday at 5pm) and on on culinary tourism in Montreal. I'm hoping later this weekend to get out to one of the interactive workshops on Quebec farming presented by Quebec farmers and the UPA. Slow Food Vancouver, Slow Food Nova Scotia and Slow Food Prince Edward County also have presentations planned, giving the event a much broader scope than simply Quebec.

Saveurs et Tentations runs until Sunday at 6pm. Admission is free. If you're planning on going, I recommend public transit. You can access Quai Jacques-Cartier by walking south from Champ de Mars metro or Place D'Armes metro.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Fête Bio-Paysanne This Weekend

Did you know that Montreal is home to the largest organic-environmental fair in Canada? La Fête Bio-Paysanne is held at the public square of La TOHU in the St-Michel Environmental Complex in Montreal every August. Now in its sixth edition, the festival attracts over 20 000 people and brings together almost 100 exhibitors displaying organic foods and products, as well as booths with tricks and products to help you reduce your environmental foot print. The event also has workshops, tastings, live performances, and family activities.

The event kicks off this weekend on Friday at noon and continues until Sunday at 5pm. Admission is free. A quick ride on bus 193E from Jarry metro station, or bus 94N from Jean Talon metro station, will get you to the festival. By car, take exit 74 or 75 from Hwy 40.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Wine Festival in Terrebonne this Weekend

Looking for something tasty to do this weekend? Consider a wine tasting trip to L'Ile des Moulins in Old Terrebonne, just north-east of Montreal.

Described as the second most important vinticultural event in the province, the Festival des vins de Terrebonne brings together wine producers from across Quebec and internationally for two days of wine and cheese tastings, as well as showcasing of other local foods. The programme also features wine tasting workshops for those of us looking to discover our palate, and musical events.

Admission is $3 per day, plus any tickets you purchase for tastings. There are also lots of little shops and restaurants in the old town and surrounding area.

Terrebone is about 30 minutes by car from Montreal: From either highway 13 or 15 take autoroute 440 east, which turns into the 25 north. Exit 22-E onto route 344 into Terrebone.

By bus, take the 19A from Montmorency metro station to the Terrebonne bus terminal (about 25 minutes). From there you can walk to Ile des Moulins (about 15 minutes) or take bus #8 (about 5 minutes).

Monday, July 27, 2009

Transforming Green Beans into Pâté

I've been debating with myself about whether I should include recipes on this blog. It wasn't part of my initial vision for this space, but I'm beginning to think that recipes with some of my favorite seasonal foods would be a nice fit. So on that vein...

It's the season for green beans. This recipe for a walnut and green bean pâté is one of my favorites. It's adapted from The Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen. I was skeptical when I first saw it. Green beans and walnuts aren't the most obvious of combinations for a pâté, but once I whipped up a batch I was quickly won over. Katzen says it tastes like chopped liver. I tend to agree! It's excellent on crusty bread on in a sandwich. It is also a great on crackers or accompanying a cheese plate.

Vegetable Walnut Pâté
1 Tbs vegetable oil
1/2 cup minced onion
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups green beans, chopped
2 hard boiled eggs
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1 Tbs fresh lemon juice
1 Tbs mayonnaise
1 Tbs nutritional yeast
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
black pepper to taste

Heat the oil in skillet over medium heat and sauté the onions until they begin to brown (about 10 minutes). Add the chopped green beans and saute until tender and very slightly browned(another 10 minutes or so). Remove from heat.

When the beans and onions are cooled, combine them in a food processor with the rest of the ingredients and grind them into a paste. Chill and serve.

When I serve this as a pâté, I like to top it with fresh fried onions. Basically, slice up half an onion and fry the slices over medium-high heat until they're brown and crispy.

If you don't ahve nutritional yeast, you can skip it. It's harder to skip the parsley. Also don't overdo the mayonnaise or lemon juice.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Seasonal Community Markets in the Southwest

I recently discovered that Montreal's SouthWest and Verdun districts will soon be getting small seasonal community markets. The project aims to bring fresh, affordable and local produce to this region of Montreal which has been criticised as not having affordable access to nutritious food. Most residents in the area live below the poverty line. The markets are supported by the Groupe Sud-Ouest en sécurité alimentaire (SOSA) and the Conférence regionale des elus (CRE).

The markets kick off this weekend in Cote-St-Paul and Verdun. The market in Little Burgundy will start in August and the one in Saint Henri gets underway in September.

Eglise St-Paul, 1690 de L'Eglise
Saturdays, 9h-14h
July 25, August 1, 22, September 5, 19, October 3

Parc du souvenir (metro Verdun)
Sundays 9h-14h
July 26, August 2, 3, 16, 23, 30, September 6

Little Burgundy
Yolande Breton Community Centre, 1845 St-Jacque
Saturdays 9h-13h
August 1, 15, 19, September 19, October 3, 17

Saint Henri
Ecole St-Zotique, 4841 Av Palm
Fridays 5h-19h
September 4, 11, 18, 25, October 2, 9

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Local Food in the News

Here is a quick round-up of some news items about local or seasonal foods that I came across this week in blogs and mainstream media. Not all of the articles are new, but they did catch my attention.

The Conference Regionale des Elus de Montreal recently announced an initiative to bring more organic food into Montreal. Over $390,000 will be invested in the program over the next three years, whose main objective is to encourage the creation of new businesses in the organic food sector. The provincial government is also a partner in the project. Read the press release (in french) here.

Earlier this month, five southwestern Ontario grocery stores went independent, ending their franchise relationship with Sobeys. In an interview with CBC, the owner of one the stores said that his customers were asking for locally-produced food but Sobeys' corporate policies prevented him from buying local products. Read the full story here.

An article in the Montreal Gazette a couple of months ago talks about the artificial economy created by Quebec's Farm Income Stabilization Insurance program, including the frustration of local farmers who want to buy farmland to supply the increasing demand for local vegetable crops but can not because banks prefer to lend money to larger, more financially stable companies who use the land to supply feed for livestock. It's an interesting read. You can find it here.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Savouring Sustainable Seafood in Ottawa

Before a recent trip to Ottawa, I asked around about restaurants serving up sustainable, local or organic fare. To my pleasant surprise, it turns out there are a lot of them in Ottawa, including a small seafood restaurant serving up sustainable fare. At the suggestion of FoodiePrints, I headed off to check it out.

The Whalesbone Oyster House is a tiny, rugged-looking but tastefully decorated little place located on Bank street. It is completely devoted to serving sustainable catches and is a member of the Vancouver Aquarium's Ocean Wise program, a program that helps consumers identify restaurants serving sustainable seafood. (Wilfrid's Restaurant in the Fairmont Chateau Laurier in Ottawa is also a member of Ocean Wise.) In addition to being its own restaurant, Whalesbone supplies fresh fish and seafood to several Ottawa area restaurants and hotels. It also offers a catering service.

Oysters are the obvious focal point Whalesbone. So while we browsed the menu, we sipped on an oyster Caesar, a basic Caesar served with a fresh oyster. We also ordered a couple of oysters to sample. Being new to oysters, our hostess suggesting trying an east coast and a west coast choice and foregoing the sauces so we could enjoy the full taste of the shellfish. The PEI Colville Bay oyster, our east coast choice, was sweet and subtle; whereas the west coast Outlandish Gems from BC were smaller, meatier and saltier. Now I understand why our server suggested enjoying the east coast ones first!

My friend opted for the catch of the day: east coast lobster. It was served without its shell on a bed of Swiss chard and delicate finger potatoes. The sauce was slightly sweet with just the right amount of butter and garlic. Since eating scallops is a very rare treat for me, I opted for the hand-picked Qualicum Beach scallops from Vancouver Island served over bitter greens, garlic sprouts, and a mixture of white beans and bacon. The scallops were large and perfectly seared. Their natural sweetness, augmented by a light maple sauce was a perfect compliment to the bitter greens. A truly brilliant combination.

Unfortunately, we only had a bit over an hour to dine, so we didn't have time to try their new sundae bar featuring Pascale's Natural Ice Cream. We also passed on the wine list, which is divided in light-bodied, medium-bodied, full-bodied and sweet wines, making it easier to pair them with your meal. That's okay. We'll just have to go back!

Whalesbone Oyster House
430 Bank Street
Ottawa, Ontario

Head Chef: Charlotte Langley
Owner: Joshua Bishop

Dinner for two, including oysters and drinks ~ $100

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Celebrating St-Jean with Quebec Food

This St-Jean we spent a lazy--and hot--day at home. I enjoyed some time in my garden. I also headed down to Atwater Market to pick up some yummies to enjoy with friends later in the day. My main stop was Fromagerie Atwater. They have a great selection of cheese, beers and local charcuterie products, as well as a helpful and knowledgeable staff.

The last few times I've visited, I've been eyeing their selection of organic "bâtons" from Fou du Cochon, an artisinal sausage-maker in Kamouraska. The bâtons look like pepperettes, and are all organic, low salt and made without nitrates. This time I indulged. Being a bit of a spice freak, I chose the "bâton piquante." Although my dining partners found it a bit greasy, we all agreed that it had just the right amount of chew and a fabulous flavour. None of us found it exceptionally fiery, however it was subtly spicy and worked beautifully sliced thinly on a piece of baguette. A little went a long way. The bâtons don't require refrigeration, and I plan on picking up a few next time I go canoe camping or backpacking!

Of course, being in a cheese shop, I couldn't leave without a piece of cheese. I asked for a firm Quebec cheese with a strong flavour, and was offered a taste of "Alfred, Le Fermier," a raw-milk, washed-rind organic cheese from the Charlevoix region (Fromagerie La Station de Compton). One bite and my taste buds were doing the happy dance. Alfred, Le Fermier is produced with milk from a single herd and ripened over eight months. It is described by the producer as having a flowery and nutty flavour. I found it less nutty and more earthy.

My shopping trip was rounded out with a trip through their truly diverse beer section. I almost always come away with at least one beer I've never tried before. This time it was La Blanche à L'Absinthe, a absinthe white beer brewed by Le Micro du Lièvre in Mont Laurier. This is definitely a summer sipping beer! The absinthe herbs give it slightly bitter and lemony taste. Also, it may have been the hot day, but I found the alcohol really going to my head quite quickly with this brew. I found it paired really nicely with the cheese, sausage and bread.

We rounded off our backyard picnic with local strawberries, which are just starting to arrive in the markets. They were red, sweet and succulent. I haven't found any one grower at Atwater market to have consistently better strawberries than another, but do ask if the strawberries are indeed from their own (or a neighbour's) farm.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Local Farmer's Markets

The summer solstice not only heralds the official start to the summer, but also the start of local market season. I have fond memories of markets from my childhood visits to relatives in England. Market day was always a big deal. It was the day my grandparents would go into town to pick up their groceries--fresh from the farmer's stall--and other household supplies.

The region around Montreal is not without its versions of 'market towns,' or perhaps towns with markets. Here are a few I've come across. I haven't visited them all, so please take this only as a listing, not an endorsement. If you're familiar with any of these markets, I'd love to hear your thoughts. Or, did I miss one? If so, let me know!

Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue Market
Featuring about a dozen local growers and producers, the market takes place along the waterfront boardwalk every Saturday between 9am and 2pm from the end of May until the beginning of October. During the winter the market moves indoors to Ste- Georges church and is on a monthly schedule.

Finnegan's Market, Hudson
Well known to antique hunters and day-trippers alike, Finnegan's offers a wide variety of food merchandise, including produce, flowers, hand-crafted items and more. It's open Saturdays from 9am to 4pm just north of Hudson village off main street.

Alexandria Market, Ontario
A favourite of good friends of mine! Open 9am to 2pm every Saturday from June to October, this market located at Island Park in Alexandria features about 15 local farmers and producers from Eastern Ontario.

Marché public de Salaberry-de-Valleyfield
Every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 8am to 1pm in the centre of Valleyfield, this local market brings together small farmers and producers from across this rich agricultural region.

Marché public du Vieux-Saint-Jean
One of the oldest markets, the Marché publique du Saint-Jean has been running for over 150 years. It's open Wednesday and Saturday mornings over the summer and hosts about a dozen local producers. During July and August, they sometimes have artists and performers.

Marché du terroir d'Oka
Every Saturday from 9:30 am until 1pm starting mid-July in front of the Oka Abby.

L'Autre Marché (Rosemere)
Held weekly from mid-June to mid-October in the parking lot in front of the Rosemere municipal library.

Marché de la Gare de Ste-Therese
A community market held every Friday and Saturday at the Ste-Therese train station starting the end of June.

Marché Val David
A personal favourite of mine! Held every Saturday from 9am to 1pm in the centre of the town of Val David, this bustling market features over 50 local producers, including cheese-makers, bakeries, farms, coffee roasters, cider-producers, artisans and more. There are also cooking demonstrations and hot food vendors. The summer market is weekly starting mid-June. In October it moves indoors and switches to a monthly schedule.

Marché Mont Tremblant
This one starts a little later than most other markets, possibly because it caters more to tourists in the region. It kicks off the first Saturday in July opposite the BMR in Mont-Tremblant village and goes until September. About 30 local producers participate, as well as local restaurants who sometimes give cooking demonstrations.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Mainstream Media Madness on Sustainable Food

The past few days have seen such a fabulous mix of really good food articles in the mainstream media, I feel I have little choice but to round them all up here (if only for my own sanity).

Fish and Seafood
Last week, the Vancouver Sun told us we "can and should eat fish." The article highlights Vancouver Aquarium seafood conservation program, Oceanwise, that rates local partners and restaurants on how sustainable their seafood choices are.

Closer to home, Monique Beaudoin at The Gazette checked out her local Provigo grocery store with Beth Hunter from Greenpeace Canada. The pickings were slim, but not impossible. Her associated blog post offers some tips to help you make sustainable seafood choices, as well as a YouTube video, FishVision Glasses.

Over at the New York Times, well-known food writer Mark Bitten explains why putting fish on the dinner table isn't as simple as it used to be, and shares some of his own dilemmas around buying fish. This article was one of my favourites this week. An associated post on his blog offers a link to the trailer for the documentary End of the Line, released earlier this week in the United kingdom, as well as a clip of Bittman in a radio interview on "The Takeaway"

Battle Against Big Agriculture
On Wednesday, the Life section of the print edition of the Globe and Mail offered its take on the documentary film Food, Inc., which arrives in Montreal and Toronto on June 19th. It also has a practical Q&A with Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma, about eating well, eating organic and eating local. The section also features a review of Quebec artisan cheese Blue Haze. I know what I'll be picking up at the cheese shop very soon!

Eating Local
How does locally-made pasta from locally-grown heritage grains sound? It sounded good enough for the Globe and Mail to include a story about it on Monday.

Montreal is not without local awesomeness as well. Stéphanie Bérubé at La Presse offers us 10 québecois products that local locavores should check out, from organic sausages to cider and miso and mushrooms. She follows this up with a list of 10 things a local gourmand must (absolutely) do (soon). I agree!

Phew! That's a lot for a few days. There were even more stories and articles that passed across my desk and twitter this week. I suspect a lot of the media madness has been due to World Ocean's Day on Monday as well as all the media work that is being done around the wider release of Food, Inc next week. Whatever the cause, it's been a busy week!