Tuesday, May 3, 2011

buying local

this is the insane-o burger i had last night. it was pretty darn good. and the cool part is that i was able to get almost all of the ingredients at the market on sunday when i was twitchy and just couldn't stand at my table all day...
it's a bacon double cheeseburger with caramelized onions, lettuce, pickles & loads of condiments. the beef came from getaway farm, the bacon is from roselane farm, the cheese is from that dutchman and the buns are from spice of life.  i've been buying from getaway, roselane and the dutchman for awhile, i'm addicted to the bagels from spice of life, but these buns are a new discovery. they're sweet potato based, nice & soft, totally awesome and perfect for grilled burgers. now that bbq season is upon us, i have a sneaking suspicion i will be consuming a lot of these - but it's cool, it's like getting a serving of vegetables in a bun...right?
now there are a lot of folks who are super die-hard about buying local - ie. the 100 mile diet. i buy local as much as possible but i also don't like to restrict myself too much - spices, coffee, chocolate... what i do like is finding the best ingredients possible, and those typically come from the local farmers and purveyors. 
my background is in fine dining, and that's how i learned to cook. every kitchen i've ever worked in had very close relationships with the local farmers. they would show up to the back door with their wares, work with the chefs to decide what to grow & sometimes let the cooks grow small gardens on their property and help set up restaurant gardens in the city. i remember one day just before service, we had run out of chanterelles and were trying to decide what to do, when all of a sudden, there was a knock at the door. a little frenchman with a wicker basket full of chanterelles, he had just foraged, was wondering if we'd like to buy any... are you kidding me? it was pretty cool/trippy/a godsend/good karma - almost like a scene out of movie. i'm trying to develop relationships with the farmers here so things like that happen to me.
now, i am a very picky eater - my palate is getting better & i practise a lot - but i've always hated tomatoes. turns out i just hated the icky, mealy, watery tomatoes found at the grocery store. in-season, heirloom tomatoes are now one of my most favourite things. i grew 27 varieties in my backyard garden in ottawa, and i'm going to try my best to grow some here too - it will probably involve building a windbreak but we'll see. things that are grown when they are supposed to, under the conditions that nature intended, just taste better, plain & simple.
i just love the flavour of the chicken from shani's farm (and the sausages too). it's not injected with water or fed things to fatten them up unnaturally fast. i've actually been talking with the owner - this season's chickens are almost ready, so i'll have some on the menu very shortly.
another farm i really dig is getaway, their beef is rad. it's not crazy expensive and you pay for what you get: beef that is raised in nice, happy conditions, by a farm family & they eat grass instead of weird, creepy things. 
roselane farm is just mind-boggling to me. the selection & quality of the products that the owner is able to pump out blows my mind - he must not sleep... like ever. the pepperettes help me get through the really rough days, the sandwich meats are often traded for cupcakes, and i love to buy the slab bacon and cut it up myself.
foxhill, that dutchman, noggins, riverview herbs, selwood green, sweet williams & the fish shop are the other places i like to spend my money (aside from all the jewellery & art i always pick up at market, but that's a whole 'nother blog post...).
this week i'm channeling japan. definitely, miso-marinated getaway flank with soba noodle salad, and i'm also thinking grilled teriyaki tofu, cashew chicken yakitori, shiitake gyozas, steamed bok choy with soy & peanuts and some other fun things. 
this week's menu is sort of a riff on a lunch dish i used to be obsessed with in ottawa. john taylor at domus cafe used to make a wonderful miso-grilled quail atop steamed bok choy with a spicy peanut dressing - sounds odd but it was so craveable. john taylor is also considered one of the best - if not the best - chefs in ottawa. if you take the time to read the menu, you'll see all the references to local farms and his emphasis on seasonal/regional cuisine. i never worked for him, but most of my coworkers had and his style definitely permeated the menus of all the other high-end restaurants in the city. 
there seem to be a few halifax restaurants that share the same philosophy - brooklyn warehouse, fid resto, chives , and mix fresh kitchen. i've only been to one of the 4 since i've been back, but their menus read really well and they are all definitely on the top of my list of priorities.
now i'm hungry.


  1. Oh my gosh, Jenna, I LOVE how you write! Oh now I'm hungry, and I just ate boring ass breaky of scrambled eggs and toast. Now I'm thinking, 'how would Jenna make eggs and toast sound like a sassy gourmet meal'? PS- Brooklyn Warehouse is Amazing!

  2. thanks daina! brooklyn warehouse is actually the one place i've been. love, love, love the style, music & food. def my kinda place - very similar to the whalesbone (the last place i worked before leaving ottawa).

  3. Insane-o-burgers rule! Wow, I am drooling.
    I'm about to watch Top Chef Canada. Did you have a chance to see Masterchef Au?

  4. i may never leave the sofa again! i watched the entire disc yesterday. it could become a problem... also i totally agree with your tweet - chef nfld is definitely the coolest.