Dish – March April 2012

Farmers Jane

Three Saanich Peninsula (Vancouver Island) women, Heather Stretch, Northbrook Farms; Robin Tunnicliffe, Feisty Field; and Rachel Fisher, Three Oaks Farm have written a book on farming. All the dirt: Reflections on organic farming (Touchwood Editions) Wait, not so simple. They didn’t own a farm? They didn’t grow up on a farm? Didn’t marry a farmer? No. They started from scratch. Therein lies the beauty. The book is all the dirt — from tales of stinky dumpster-diving farm hands to reams of sales charts and profit and loss statements. Along the way they bought the distribution business Saanich Organics, expanding their community of farmers and people who love what they grow, and by doing so, help preserve the stunningly beautiful agricultural heritage of the peninsula. It’s a joyful, and hopeful, book about hard work and the benefits of collaboration. Whether you are an armchair farmer, backyard gardener, thinking of becoming a farmer or operating a market garden — read All the Dirt.

That’s amore

One of our favourite restaurant people, Clint Zaiffdeen (Fairmont Hotel Macdonald, Hardware Grill) is part of the ownership group at the new Famoso in West Edmonton mall. It’s been a heady ride. “We opened right after Christmas, getting staff then was really tough, but we’re ok now,” says Clint. “So far we’ve made about 15,000 pizzas. Our most popular is the margarita with house made tomato sauce, Italian flor de latte (cow’s milk mozzarella) and fresh basil. I’m here making dough about 7am. We go through three 25 kg bags of Caputo Tipo 00 flour and about 16 big cans (3000 g each) of San Marzano DOP tomatoes a day.” Clint talks about the pleasures of ownership. “I loved going to Naples and discovering their passion for pizza. Now we’re helping the west end discover real pizza made with authentic ingredients.”

Charpop pops

Calgary for dinner? Yes! Especially when the cooks are Connie De Sousa, her husband John Jackson and Toronto’s Black Hoof founder Grant Van Gameren. CharPop happened for three nights with 60 people per night at Aviv Fried’s Sidewalk Citizen Bakery off McLeod Trail. They hauled in some furniture, brought dishes and crew from CharCut and cooked an amazing a la carte menu — open face croissant with lamb, sumac, nigella seed and mint; rabbit pie topped with shaved lardo; beef heart steak on bannock.

A new kind of alphabet soup

Chef/poet Dee Hobsbawn-Smith has a new book this spring called Foodshed: An Edible Alberta Alphabet (TouchWood Editions). The first section, Faces and Fences, has a charming set-up. As Dee says in her introduction: “I hope you enjoy the slightly goofy thought processes that also landed ducks under Q (for Quackers) and ensured, like any frugal prairie cook, that every letter of the alphabet was used.” For example, K for kale allows the opportunity to tell the story of the Thompson Small Farm near Sundre where Clydesdales rather than tractors do the fieldwork. M for milk’s immortal leap (aka cheese) relates Rhonda Headon’s foray into making pecorino at the Cheesiry near Kitscoty. Part two: Facts and Figures, contains definitions, policy discussion and a lengthy reading list, ideal for anyone interested in food, eating, Alberta farmers, agriculture and public policy. Dee’s message: “Cook at home. Grow things. Share. Sit down and eat with others. Visit a farm.” Words to live by.

Bread and bon bons

Zofia Trebaczkiewicz of the Prairie Baker in the Enjoy Centre has been hard at work developing a new line of breads with baker Gabor Dobos including a toothsome, slow-rise whole-wheat baguette made with a spelt starter. “The Prairie loaf uses only sour dough as a leavening agent; half the weight of the bread is a rye starter. Our amazing traditional double fermented rye is flying off the shelves, as well as the carrot loaf,” says Zofia. Curtis Jones, formerly of Kerstin’s Chocolates, creates colourful, sweetly delicious macaron, cake, tarts and stunning truffles. If the delicate Valentine’s Day samples we tried, with flavours of citrus and tropical fruit in glorious shades of pinks and corals, is any indication of the quality — we’re sold. Next up is a wheat free, sugar-free vegan line of bakery items using the gluten free flour mix made in-house.

Lucky maud

Olive Me (8613 109 Sreet, 780 988-3281) has a new stuffed olive called the Lucky Maud in honour of the movie Maud Mary & the Titanic. Filmmaker Geraldine Carr tells the story of her great-grandmother who missed the boat. In 1912, Maud Mary Price of Liverpool was a widow with three children under ten. She purchased four tickets on the maiden voyage of the most unsinkable ship of all time, the RMS Titanic. The olive recipe is still in development but we know the Lucky Maud has fresh cilantro, roasted coriander and tangy fresh lemon. It will be featured during April as Olive Me’s Olive of the Month. See the movie in April at Metro Cinema.