Friday, December 25, 2009

A Local Merry Christmas

If anyone ever thought shopping local wasn’t fun and exciting you just have to get out there and know each experience is a personal reflection of the owners – and they’re all different!

Jon and I dropped into a bakery in Niagara Falls the day before Christmas thinking we were going to buy a loaf of bread. Surprisingly, inside there was a whole host of Italian food items so I began to browse. I wasn’t impressed with the style and quality of bread but I did get a few other things including some cheese. I stood in front of the deli counter and the girl at the cash yelled to another in the back room to come out and serve me –heaven forbid she’d walk the 3-feet to do the job herself.

Out from the back came a rather husky, robust woman, olive skin, dark hair tied back, twice my size with a rather nasty disposition that she was being very careful to keep in check – no doubt for my sake.

“How much is half that block of mozzarella,” I asked and was immediately shown cheaper balls of mozzarella in the cooler in the centre of the room. It wasn’t what I wanted so I bravely challenged her orders and ordered the mozzarella from the deli counter. She grunted as she took it out, claiming it was more expensive. She was a women of definite food opinions and not afraid to show them.

She wrapped the cheese, walked past the girl standing at the cash register and placed it with my other purchases. Then she reached under the counter and pulled out a hand calculator – pushed a few buttons while visually scanning my purchases. “Ok, gimme twenty bucks”, she said.

Jon handed here a $20 bill and she stuffed it into her back pocket before she began to bag my food. I stood there wondering how I could get a receipt since she didn't use the cash register – our eyes met, she smiled rather sinister-like and wished me a Merry Christmas in a firm, deep voice.

The visual signs were all there – ask for a receipt lady and you die! Jon and I left the bakery with our goods and once in the car, burst into laughter. Who knows, she’s probably a very nice lady, just stressed because she hadn’t finished her Christmas shopping – hope we helped.

Merry Christmas and may it be a delicious one…

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Wildflower Market and Restaurant

Want a great place to buy local food and to enjoy it made for you? You have to go to the Wildflower in Fonthill. The retail section of the restaurant is full of organic, local and natural products. The restaurant has two identities; first a gourmet deli counter with sexy sandwiches and super salads and then the restaurant with it's relaxing spa-like atmosphere.

Restaurant Chef Joel LaBute's cuisine is heavy on the local. I had White Meadows Farm Pork with The Apple Bin Apples and Just Veggin' Parsnip Chips. It was served with Dave Irish's Greens - yum. I followed that up with Goeshen Farm Lamb Meatloaf, Tree & Twig Parsnip Mashed Potatoes, Dave Irish's Curried Carrots and Victory Gardens Winter Mint Pesto. The menu reads like a culinary geography map of Niagara. LaBute's cuisine is very Jamie Kennedyish and its presented in sexy, clean, very appetizing ways. Ya gotta go!

The Talk of Local Food

Hey, what a great day in Guelph at Ignatius College. Ontario Farm Fresh ED Cathy Bartolic put together an amazing group of Ontario's local foodies to talk about the challenges and opportunities in local food. When lunch was served it was full of vegetables from Ignatius' on-campus gardens - delicious! Ontario Farm Fresh is an organization that assists farm marketers so I can tell you there's plenty of good things to look forward to in the 2010 season! Check them out

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Culinary Inspiration from My Ethnic Heritage

I’m reviving my Italian grandmother’s recipes at a special cooking class on Dec. 13. My grandmother would make the old Italian traditional wine cookies, the hard ‘moscotte’ style cookies. I know no one knows what moscotte are but I’ve revived the concept into modern versions that you're sure to recognize.

Black Chocolate Cabernet Cookies

Toblerone Icewine Shortbread

Niagara Baco Noir Crescents

Chardonnay Curd Meringues

For the class, I’ll be splashing a bit of Cabernet into some black chocolate fudge cookies, a few drops of Niagara icewine in Toblerone shortbread and a smear of Chardonnay curd on light meringues.

The event to be held at Southbrook Vineyards in Niagara-on-the-Lake, will also feature a cookie exchange. For all who come with their own favourite Christmas cookies, they’ll leave with a beautiful assortment.

The event proceeds will go to the Craig Award, a scholarship program at Niagara College which helps fund innovative agricultural projects so consumers have food choices and agriculture becomes sustainable.

I started The Craig Award with my husband Jon in the name of our late son Craig, who died 10 years ago at age 22. Funds for the award are also being raised from sales of my cookbook, "Niagara Cooks: From Farm to Table."

For on-line reservations, go to or email or call 905-262-4941.