Tuesday, April 20, 2010

In Defence of Local Food

I am beyond concern now. It’s another dark day for Niagara’s food scene. If you’re a regular at the Good Shepherd in Vineland you know more than anyone, it’s about more than buying meat. Franz and Denise Gerber are Mennonite farmers who converted their barn into a retail space so customers like you and I can buy good, organic, safe meat.

In their coolers you’ll find various cuts of beef, pork and chicken. From these animals they also make cutlets, pies, rolls, pepperettes, kielbasa, sausages and cheese. There are lamb roaming in the pasture and turkeys to be ordered for holiday seasons.

When you arrive at the Good Shepherd, Franz and Denise know you by name – a remarkable feat considering the abundance of loyal customers they have. You can sit at the table (a welcoming site when you arrive), or shop the coolers and know that when something comes off the stove, it will be offered to you.

Some say it’s good marketing to have your customers taste your products, but to know Franz and Denise is to know that it’s about taking care of their friends. At the Good Shepherd they encourage you to eat as much as you want and stay as long as you like, believing it’s the least they can do to make your life a little bit better.

For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, it's about a connection to our food. It's about knowing and trusting people to provide good quality safe food. All of the animals are raised naturally, butchered carefully and sold lovingly. The meat is free of chemicals, hormones, nitrates or any unnatural ingredients. The fact that Denise and Franz are great people is just a bonus.

So why is it a dark day you ask? Because on May 1, the Good Shepherd is closing its doors – and it’s not by choice. It’s a complicated story but I think it’s safe to say our government regulations have become so blind, restrictive, obscure and expensive that they felt closing was the only option.

For a couple who’ve spent their entire business life cultivating loyalty and trust, this decision is a sad and painful one for them. For thousands of current customers and countless future customers, it means we are loosing our choice. In Niagara we cannot buy this great food any longer - this is a crisis.

We are loosing our right to shop and buy what we want and where we want – where will it end? Being stripped of our local food choices is not what safe food is all about and we need to send a message that we don’t like it. Enough is enough!

Let’s all dress in black and meet at the Good Shepherd on May 1. Black to represent the death of one more of our food choices. If you’re with me on this one, email back!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Flavours of Greece on a Plate and in a Glass

Treadwell’s in Port Dalhousie does regional cuisine superbly! So when they were approached by the Kolonaki Group of Toronto and WineSavvy Consultants of Niagara to organize a special (trade only) Greek wine tasting, it was way over the top in flavour and authenticity. It became a delicious, palate lead journey to Greece.

To say Greece is the new up and coming wine region is not quite accurate. Greece has been producing wines like these for a few decades now, but without the giant marketing budgets other wine growing regions of the world have, they become the treasures of those in the know. For those of us who love Greece and its food and wine culture, these are the wines we surprise our friends with and these are the wines we enjoy at restaurants the likes of Treadwells who know better than any, how to create amazing culinary experiences that we all yearn for.

Tselepos Amalia Brut (100% Moschofilero, $24.95, available through *The Kolonaki Group)

First Course

Steamed PEI Mussels with Fennel Pollen Cream and Spring Chives


ved with 2008 Antonopoulos Adoli Ghis ($21.95, blend of Lagorthi, chardonnay, Roditis Alepou, available through *The Kolonaki Group)

Second Course

Grilled Mackerel with Oven Dried Tomatoes and Poached Free Range Egg

2008 Sigalas Santorini ($21.95, VQPRD Santorini, 100% Assyrtiko, available through LCBO Vintages starting May 1)

2003 Sigalas Santorini ($34.95, VQPRD Santorini, 100% Assyrtiko, available through *The Kolonaki Group)

Third Course

Steak Tartar with Potato Chips

2007 Skouras St George Nemea ($16.95, VQPRD Nemea, 100% Agiorgitiko (St George), available in LCBO Vintages)

2005 Estate Papaioannau Nemea ($19.95, VQPRD Nemea, 100% Agiorgitiko (St George), available in LCBO Vintages Sept 18)

Fourth Course

Roasted Belly of Pork with Wild Mushrooms and Red Wine Reduction

2004 Boutari Grand Reserve Naoussa ($17.95, VQPDR Naoussa, 100% Xinomavro, available through *The Kolonaki Group)

207 Kir Yianni Ramnista Xinomavro ($19.95, VQPDR Naoussa, 100% Xinomavro, available through LCBO Vintages Oct 16)

Fifth Course

Rosemary Crème Brulee with Lemon Sorbet

2008 Muscat of Limnos ($11.95, Appellation Limnos, 100% Muscat of Alexandria, available through LCBO Vintages)

2003 Sigalas Vinsanto ($44.95, 375 mL, VQPRD Santorini, 75% Assyrtiko/25% Aidani, available through *The Kolonaki Group)

* Kolonaki Group, Steve Kriaris



WineSavvy Consultants, Evan Saviolidis


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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Feasting on the Best in the World

I love openings, especially of great food shops! And he did it just for you and me. Lino Collevecchio is owner of Woodland Imports, an import company that brings in the most exquisite food products from around the world – and he’s just opened up his warehouse to retail sales.

Born and raised in St. Catharines, Collevecchio became a chef at George Brown College, worked in some of the best kitchens around the world and opened Woodland 15 years ago in Ancaster. Just last year he moved his business to Niagara and this past weekend (April 11, 2010), launched his retail division with a gastronomic opening that has been unmatched to date.

Woodlands supplies the best retailers in Canada from Whole Foods, Bruno’s, Pusateri’s and other like them. He flies in fresh cheese every 2 weeks and today, he opened most of them to try. My favourite by far was the Italian Rochetta ($20), an earthy, creamy, decadently rich cheese. The irresistible Ribiola ($15) is a blend of sheep and cows milk, triple cream and how could it not be decadent! He has fresh Italian Buffalo Mozzarella ($12) and Vento D’Estate, a sheep milk cheese aged in grass.

Along with the cheese, he also flies in fresh made ravioli in flavours of Arugula and Ricotta, Buffalo Mozzarella and Aged Asiago cheese, Pumpkin and the fourth is Porcini ($7).

Collevecchio still travels the world but now he’s not cooking, now he’s looking for amazing products to bring back to Canada. He inspects every producer he represents – what a job!

There was Chianti salami, one made with Rose and another with Pinot Grigio ($8). You can find Pingue meats there and an impressive collection of balsamic vinegars that are priced from $7 all the way up to $300 for the 100-year old balsamic.

Cases of Italian tomatoes ($22), fresh baguettes ($3), alborio rice ($4) and an amazing Calasparra rice from Spain ($8). One shelf held a collection of salts and another some juice; 100% organic pomegranate juice or black mulberry ($9). I munched on some sweet potato chips from New Brunswick ($4.50 for a large bag!) and mixed root vegetable chips ($3).

I found truffles, whole, chopped and sauced and the best collection of olive oil from bottles that ranged from $15 to $90 (great gift!). In between there are gourmet products that range from fig balsamic, marinated artichokes, black olive paste, dried porcini and Niagara’s Ice Syrup.

Woodland Imports, Gourmet Food Specialists is on 330 Vansicle Road in St Catharines and it’s only open Saturday and Sunday

from 11 to 3. It’s too bad you missed the feast of the best in the world, but drop in the shop - it’s a feast for the eyes!