Saturday, October 31, 2015

Just Eat Canada is giving you FREE SAMPLES TODAY!

FREE FOOD TODAY from JUST EAT's Food Truck


TODAY ONLY - Saturday Oct 31, 2015
Trinity Bellwoods area (from 12pm – 5pm)


Restaurant: Pearl King

Dishes:
  • Veggie Spring Rolls
  • The hockey puck (a shrimp and onion medallion)
  • Crispy Fried Milk
  • Shrimp Toast


JUST EAT Canada, the nation’s leading food delivery app with over 5,000 restaurants on its roster, has launched a free food truck in Toronto. 

Since October 21, the JUST EAT branded food truck has been popping up around Toronto handing out free samples at six different locations, with a hot new restaurant participating each day.
 
JUST EAT’s hope is that the food truck will inspire hungry consumers to break free from their regular meal choices and have that great meal they deserve. By shining a light on these hidden gems, JUST EAT hopes to encourage their customers to try some of the amazing places in their neighbourhood that they may have not thought to order from before.























“With over 2,000 restaurants on our roster across the city, we want to show Torontonians there is far more than just pizza and Chinese food to order via JUST EAT ­­­­­– pad thai, tacos, hot dogs, falafel, burritos, kebabs, and sweet treats are also available,” says JUST EAT’s director of marketing, Luke Sheehan. “And what better way to showcase some of Toronto’s hidden gems than by giving away free samples!”



Social media: @justeat_yyz



Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Pukka restaurant introduces new menu


MEDIA PREVIEW of NEW MENU
Restaurant:    Pukka
Address:        778 St. Clair Ave. West (west of Bathurst)
Date visited:  Oct 26, 2015
Instagram     @pukkatoronto
Twitter         @pukkatoronto
Facebook      facebook.com/pukkatoronto
Hashtag        #pukkatoronto
Website:       www.pukka.ca
Phone:          (416) 342-1906


Pukka is a fantastic elevated Indian Restaurant like no other in Toronto, and it has added some new menu additions and invited a few local food bloggers to the restaurant to sample the new menu.  Pukka is owned by Harsh Chawla and Derek Valleau who also own the French Restaurant Concession Road which is located not far from Pukka on St. Clair Ave. West.   The small strip on St. Clair is quickly becoming a food connoisseur destination with original and high quality restaurants.  I had been to Concession Road not that long ago and enjoyed the food there.  You can see a previous blog post for a review of Concession Road.  I had heard a lot about Pukka and how good the food was so I was excited to attend this dinner.
Pukka is a lovely warm and comfortable restaurant.  I really liked the colorful artwork on the walls.



We were greeted by our Blogger friend Vicky who brings us all together for these delicious evenings and also by owner Derek Valleau.   We hung out around the bar upon arrival and all gathered around the beautifully made cocktails that were set up on the bar.   A sling, a sour, a martini and a cocktail.   While we were busy taking photos of the cocktails the bartender was busy mixing up some cocktails for us and we chose the one we wanted to try while also munching on some amazingly addictive Okra fries with a curry mayo dip.  Everyone fell in love with the fries.  Crunchy and light and perfectly seasoned.  I ordered the Varnassis Sling which had mango, orange, cherry, rum and a few other things.  It tasted so good and wasn't too strong.  Like a taste of a tropical country.  I drank the whole thing which is unusual for me.  

 
Owner Derek spoke to us about the new additions to the menu as well as the menu items that are staying on the menu.  He also told us about the fact that most of their proteins come from a local provider who produces higher quality food.   They are also going to be doing a few new things at the restaurant like an Early Bird Prix Fixe $49 for 2 people between 5-6pm.   They are also going to be doing their version of a 100 Foot Journey where they start at Pukka and move over to Concession Road so you can have both Indian food and French fusion in one dinner event.  They are trying some new things to bring their local community together and see if people like it.

 Peter Boyd their Sommelier who spent many years at Scaramouche and is now happy to be with Pukka and Concession road to curate their great wine selections spoke about the wines that were paired with the dinner.  There was a white wine and a red wine served.  I didn't taste them but I did smell them but I was told they were fantastic.  I am not a wine drinker so I can't tell you much about it.  They also spoke about their Wine Evenings.  Wines from Alsace and Germany paired with dinner for  $65 per person.  The next one is November 2nd.


 After taking photos of the food set up at the bar and mingling we sat down to sample the array of tasty dishes from the new menu.

PUKKA MENU

Cocktails:
Mumbai sour, Bombay Sapphire, Aperol, grapefruit, cardamom bitters, egg white
Varnassis Sling, Mango, cherry, orange, rum
Coconut martini

Okra Fries
Tandoori Calamari, Coconut Chutney & Citrus Slaw
Herb-Infused Chicken Tikka, Tamarind Chutney
String Chaat
Wine:  Vina Esmerald, Torres 2014

Boatman's Fish & Prawn Curry, Tamarind & Coconut Broth
Pumpkin Curry 
Punjabi Chicken
Beef Short Ribs, Black Cumin, Garlic & Ginger Masala
Naan Bread
Basmati Rice
Wine:  Valpolicella, Le Salette 2014

Dessert:  Chai popcorn and truffles
Chai Tea

 My favourite dishes were the addictive Okra fries, the String Chaat a delicious mixed salad with vermicelli noodles, chickpeas, puffed rice, pomegranates and a few other ingredients I couldn't figure out but in combination it was fantastic,  crunchy, sweet, savoury, soft noodles and delicious.  A favourite with most of the bloggers was the braised short ribs.  You didn't need a knife to cut them it was so tender.  I really loved the Chicken Tikka which was unusually green from a coating of fresh herbs and the chicken was so tender and flavourful.  I also loved the Coconut broth in the Boatman's Fish and Prawn Curry and mopped it up with the fresh Naan bread.  My friend Niki went crazy over the rice which was served in a preserving jar.  All of the food was beautifully presented and the evening lighting doesn't really do it justice in these photos.  You really do need to go and try it for yourself.   Don't expect the usual butter chicken and typical Indian dishes.  These dishes are not what you find in other Indian restaurants in Toronto but they are authentic Indian flavours and probably more what people in India actually eat.  It's funny that my friend who is Goan recently brought over some leftover Pumpkin curry that his dad made and they served a Pumpkin curry.  My friends was so hot that I couldn't eat it but Pukka's version was a lot easier to eat.

If you are looking for a nice evening out with your spouse or your friends for a great dinner in a cozy space and enjoy trying new things then this is the place for you.   Get yourself over to St. Clair Ave. West and check out their great restaurants and tell them I sent you.



*Disclaimer:  The meal was complimentary but all opinions are my own.



Pukka Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, October 24, 2015

1 in 3 kids in Toronto lives in poverty -Feed tomorrow week

October 19th marked the beginning of the 11th annual feed tomorrow week, five days when student volunteers, educators, supporters, politicians and public figures raising awareness and collecting pledges to feed Toronto’s hungry children. 
Feed tomorrow week is hosted by the Toronto Foundation for Student Success (TFSS) and proclaimed by the City of Toronto.
The Toronto Foundation for Student Success helps students succeed by helping to feed students, addressing issues of poverty, hunger, and poor nutrition, and their effect on education. 
TFSS works in partnership to bring together the resources, of the federal, provincial and municipal governments, the Toronto District School Board, education workers, families, concerned corporations, other NGOs, private individuals and the many diverse communities within Toronto.
The goal of the Toronto Foundation for Student Success is to help enable all students to reach high levels of achievement and to acquire the knowledge, skills and values they need to become responsible members of society.

FACTS

  • 1 out of 3 children in Toronto lives in poverty and more than 170,000 children and youth rely on breakfast, snack or lunch to make it through the day in more than 750 school and community nutrition programs. 
  • 3.9 Million people in Canada don't know when they're going to eat next. 1.1 million are children.
  • Children and youth, though only 21% of the country's population, make up 38% of those helped by freed food programs and student nutrition programs.
  • 40% of all children come to school hungry each day. It can be as high as 68% in at risk communities.
  • 78% of secondary school students who eat breakfast on most days are on track for graduation.
  • Canada is the only G8 country without a national school based student nutrition program.
  • Research shows that students who eat breakfast produce better grades, are healthier, have increased motivation, are 50% less likely to be suspended and less likely to miss school on a regular basis.
  • A healthy breakfast for a child costs just $1.50.
VIP bus tour group -photo provided by TFSS 

On October 21st I joined a group of VIPs at St. Lawrence Market and boarded school buses to travel to three schools to see nutrition programs in action. The group met with community volunteers and children and learn first-hand about the need these programs address


SCHOOLS

  1. Ryerson Community School (96 Denison Ave., Toronto, ON M5T 1E4), (Principal - Kien Nam Luu)
  2. First Nations School of Toronto (935 Dundas Street East, Toronto, ON M4M 1R4)
  3. Dundas Junior Public School (935 Dundas Street East, Toronto ON M4M 1R4) Principal - Georgia Chatzis)
Our day started off early at about 7:30am at St. Lawrence Market to meet up and grab a bagel and a coffee and hear about the Toronto Foundation for Student Success.  They were presented a large cheque for $545,000 from the Breakfast Clubs of Canada organization for the program.


This goes a long way but the increasing need for food banks and breakfast programs in Toronto means that it isn't going to last very long.
TFSS only receives  25 cents per child from the government and the cost per breakfast program meal is $1.32 so it has to come from public donations and corporate donations to make it happen.
There may be hope from our current new Government with Justin Trudeau as our new Prime Minister because he was an educator and is fully aware of the problem of child hunger in this country.  
It's shameful that currently 14 cents come from the City of Toronto and only 11 cents from the Province of Ontario to make up the 25 cents per child for breakfast.  What can YOU buy for 25 cents?
It is important for kids to be given nutritious food because 1 in 11 kids have diabetes now.  The rate has been rapidly rising over the past few years and it's important for kids to eat consistent healthy foods for their health.

We all hopped on a School bus to drive over to the schools and the first school that we toured was Ryerson Community school where we were given a guided tour by students who volunteered for the breakfast program to bring the bins of snacks into the classes where there was a need.  I must say the 2 kids that took us to 3 classes were extremely polite and informative.  They are learning great skills in volunteering at the same time.


The second and third schools were actually held in the same building on different levels.
We arrived at the First Nations Junior and Senior School of Toronto and received an offering of tobacco wrapped in fabric.  The tobacco is grown on the school property and used in their traditional First Nations ceremonial practices.  There were also kids in a drumming circle led by their teacher to greet us and young student passed around a bowl with the burning tobacco and I believe sage as well for us to be smudged in their smudging ceremony.  They perform the smudging ritual weekly to rid any negative energy.  I know I could use some of that for sure.  It was very spiritual ceremony.

At the las school Dundas Junior Public School we were told about the food safety program that they were doing.  There were students from S.E.E.D. Alternative High School who create their own learning contract.  Most of them are geared to working in health, education or the food industry in their future.  They all receive training to get a food handlers certificate which enables them to be able to work in a commercial kitchen or work in the food industry.  
They had a black light set up in the kitchen to demonstrate the importance of hand washing.

We were also shown their small but efficient kitchens that allow them to deliver either morning snacks and lunches in some cases and in other cases afternoon snacks too.  Different schools and grade levels and needs have different breakfast, lunch programs depending on the need and of course the funding available for them.  
In the First Nations school they are served Fresh Salmon and other native dishes like Bannock for their lunch as it is traditional food for them.  Because of their practice of bulk buying for the 2 joined schools the Dundas school is also able to share some of the First Nations food so both schools get an education about Aboriginal food and traditional food.  

The kitchens are staffed by a Coordinator who manages the budgets and organizes the parent volunteers who prepare the food for the children.  It's a tough job because not only is the budget extremely small but they are required to have a dairy, grain and fruit in each morning snack and it must cost less than $1.32 per child.  

After the tour we enjoyed a reception at St. Lawrence Market with food provided by the vendors of the market.  Photo on the left is me with fellow food blogger/makeup artist Carole Nelson Brown. (photo provided by TFSS)

me & Carole Nelson Brown
With the ever increasing rents, housing prices in Toronto and the decreasing wages and job opportunities there seems to be an ever increasing need for organizations like TFSS to pick up the need for kids who need someone to help them.  If you are able to help please click on the link below.

DONATE NOW at www.tfss.ca



Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Pre prepped Recipe bags for busy people


EASY PRE PREPPED RECIPE BAGS DELIVERED TO YOUR DOOR

I have known about Fresh City Farms pre prepped Recipe Bags for about a year now since I met Ran the owner at a Green Living Show last year.  I wanted to see if they would solve the problem of food waste and people never having enough time to prepare a full meal during the week.

So I thought I would finally have some time to commit to ordering some Fresh City Farms bags and test them out and see if they work for my crazy life of trying to be everywhere.   Well they sort of worked for me but I don't know if they are practical for me since I live by myself and they are designed for 2 portions per bag and they are fairly perishable since they have fresh meats, fish and mostly local fruit and vegetables and pretty much the healthiest products that they can get to suppliment the recipes.

The Recipe bags are ordered 3 bags at a time or more.  You can get bags that serve up more days and more people but the minimum is 3 bags that feed 2 portions each.

You don't exactly know what's going to be the bag that is delivered that week.  When I chose them it was different bags and I guess I didn't pay attention to what they were shipping the week it came or I might have seen if I could adjust it.

I received the Teriyaki Salmon, the Lemon Chicken Thighs and the Vegetarian Lasagna

They arrived in the afternoon during the week but unfortunately I was a bit busy for a couple of days and didn't have time to get to cooking them until Sunday and had to cook all 3 in one day to make sure everything didn't spoil.  I had to work the election the next day and wouldn't be able to cook or eat any of the meals.   So I powered through all 3 in one day and have lot's leftover in the fridge and the chicken is going to be used to make soup and the lasagna for the freezer.

The meals come in insulated lunch bags with an ice pack to last during pickup if you aren't home.  I have to be home because the deliver drivers can't get into my building unless I buzz them in.  That's a bit of a disadvantage for me but if you have a house and know you will be home within a reasonable hour of them being delivered it's great or if you have a concierge or they are able to leave it at your doorstep.  Something to consider.

Each bag has the recipe card attached to the front of the bag as you can see on the photos above.

Inside the bag are vacuum packed proteins and measured out ingredients.   The part I like is that you use everything in the bag and there is nothing leftover, although I didn't use all the ginger in one bag. I think it would have only tasted like ginger if I did.  Some things don't require much prep but some of the vegetables might need to be chopped or other things combined so there is varying degrees of prep required for different recipes.





For the Teriyaki recipe I had to cut the cabbage and mushrooms and add oil, salt and pepper.  The fish had to be set in a marinade that had to be prepared and then the cabbage and mushrooms were cooked in the oven for a little while before placing the marinated Salmon on top.  
Although this was pretty easy since you pull out one pan there was still a few moving pieces to this recipe.  If I had made this on my own I probably would have sauteed the cabbage and braised it if I liked the mushrooms which I don't but added them to the recipe to cook as directed but if I was to do this without a recipe I would have sauteed them in butter and then taken then pan fried the salmon separately to get crispy skin on the salmon but this might be more challenging for a busy or not very skilled cook so I understand that this recipe is supposed to be to make things easier.  I found that I undercooked the cabbage a bit and overcooked the salmon by about a couple of minutes but it was ok.

The Lasagna recipe required a bit of knife skills to chop the vegetables and then the kale needed to be mixed with Ricotta that was missing from my bag so I had to substitute Goat cheese that I happened to have in my fridge.  The noodles had to be cooked separately and the vegetables and tomato sauce in  the pot once the pasta was removed.  The whole thing was then layered in a baking dish and baked for 20 minutes I think.. I added some extra parmesan to the top as well.  This was ok but I use just crushed tomatoes when I make my tomato sauce so I didn't like the concentrated flavour of the tomato sauce as much.  I also would have cut the vegetables differently if I had made this my own way and would have cut the zucchini into long thin strips to layer so that it would make the noodles layer better and the zucchini cook better.  It was good for the fact that I didn't have to pull a whole bunch of ingredients from all over my kitchen so it saved a bit of prep time but I like my own lasagna a lot better but I could see this being a good bag for people that normally buy those frozen lasagnas and just need to cut back on some prep time.


The Chicken recipe had some great flavourings to marinade it in.   Lemon and Herbs de Provence which added a really great taste to the chicken and the vegetables.   The thing about this bag was that once again it came with mushrooms which I am not a big fan of but cooked them anyway.   It was the easiest bag to prepare.  You had to wash the potatoes and green beans and quarter the potatoes and trip the green beans and cut them in half and toss all of the vegetables in oil, salt and pepper and then layer the bottom of a baking dish with them and plop the marinated chicken thighs on top and bake.
The chicken came out really tender and had great flavour but didn't have the crispy golden brown skin on top.   Most of the potatoes were a bit undercooked and the green beans didn't look all that great when baked.  I would have probably seared the chicken and then added the sauce on top and baked in the oven with the potatoes on the side and had the potatoes cooking before the meat went in the oven and I would have blanched the green beans and probably sauteed them in butter and maybe added some of the seasonings afterwards to bring out the best cooking times for each item.  But once again this is meant to be an easy dish to just cook it all in the oven.


Overall most of the dishes tasted pretty good but if you are a competent chef you could easily make them a bit better.   You do need to have some tools in your kitchen and some cooking knowledge to make some of the recipes as I am sure that an inexperienced cook might not know what to do if they found that their ricotta was missing from the bag and it's kind of an important component,  they might not know what to do to adjust for it.   I mostly only follow recipes for baking and most of the time just wing it when I cook stuff because I know basic cooking skills but I want to have some friends who aren't as equipped in the kitchen try them and see how they do to see if the average person would be able to make these recipes well.

I love the concept and the convenience of these bags though.   You don't have to carry home bags and bags of groceries to make 3 meals and then waste half of the leftover stuff because you never get around to using it.   But for me not always having a consistent schedule and eating at events a lot of the time it might not be the best solution sometimes but I like that I have the option to order regular grocery bags or the recipe bags and adjust the deliveries so the next order will be a grocery bag.

I have tried the grocery bag and found it great but sometimes you get things you might not be able to use.  I found that I didn't get to the carrots in time and I still have one pumpkin that I haven't cooked yet but the other thing is that I can add extras to the grocery bags.

Overall it's great for young professional couples or busy families to be able to get fresh food delivered to their door and make up a meal fresh instead of a frozen dinner in about the same amount of time.  So you get healthier meals without the bad stuff.  You got to remember some of those frozen meals that go in the oven can take up to an hour and they aren't all that great and have tons of sodium so this is a great way to control the sodium because you generally add it yourself in the prep.


*Disclaimer:  I paid for the 3 Recipe bags and was not compensated for this blog post although Fresh City Farms has been a sponsor for a previous event all of the opinions expressed in this post are my own opinion.


Monday, October 12, 2015

Make your own Thanksgiving Dinner



It's Thanksgiving in Canada and the weather is amazing.
You don't have to wait for an invite to celebrate Thanksgiving or have a big family to enjoy it.

This week I have been feeling sick and super exhausted.  I think my stressful crazy month of September caught up with me.

Since I don't have family dinners anymore and my friends were either sick, working or busy with family I decided to get up and make my own Thanksgiving dinner yesterday.   I cooked all day and probably could have invited a few people over but I put all my energy into just making the food and cleaning up afterward so I didn't have any energy left to entertain anyone.


It started when I decided to get a Turkey Breast roll from Whole Foods.  I don't eat Turkey that often so it's nice to have some around Thanksgiving since I don't celebrate Christmas.  I thought it might be good to cook up the Turkey Breast and then have it for a couple of meals and sandwiches.


The MENU:

Rolled Turkey Breast Roast
Spiced Cauliflower
Basalmic Brussel Sprouts
Mashed Pumpkin
Stuffing
Roasted pumpkin seeds
Cranberry sauce
Gravy

Since the Turkey took up my whole oven because I only have one oven rack I had to do things in stages so it took me a few different tools and a whole day.  I decided to use my new T Fal Actifry XL to make Brussel sprouts and then I added spiced up Cauliflower.   They took about 20 minutes each without any fussing or turning. The Actifry did all the turning and timing.  It's really a great tool for a big dinner because it's like having an extra oven or fryer because it's a good substitute for frying and also works like a roasting oven.  It caramelized my vegetables beautifully.


I got a couple of small Squash Pumpkin's in my Fresh City Farms delivery so I decided to roast one and then I mashed it.  I also roasted the seeds.


I ate a bit of it but wasn't really in the mood to make Pumpkin pie but I would like to make a pumpkin loaf but need to get some flour first.   You go through a lot of flour cooking a lot of holiday types of dishes but I used up my flour making my no knead bread recipe.  I have posted the recipe I used before.  You can see it on a previous post, but I just used a recipe I got from Michael Smith.  It basically sits and rises for 20 hrs an then you bake it in a dutch oven on high heat for 25 min.
I also made cranberry sauce with the cranberries I had in the freezer from when they went on sale last.  I added star anise, a few cardamon pods and a cinammon stick to the simmering pot for extra flavour.  I would have used orange zest but I didn't have any oranges.   Don't buy the can, it's easy to make and you can add your own twists to it.


I made everything from scratch except for a little help from a bag of Ace Bakery stuffing mix which is just seasoned croutons.  I added fresh celery, carrots, onions and apple and fresh sage to the mix.  I cooked it on the stove and then finished it in the oven.


I added celery, carrots, garlic, onions, herbs and chicken stock to the bottom of the pan of the roasting turkey so I was able to make gravy from the flavours of the vegetables.  There won't be much turkey drippings because there isn't much fat and it's all light meat but using chicken stock added to the pan will give you enough to make a decent gravy.  I put all the stock and vegetables in a saucepot and reduced it down and added a bit of water and soy sauce and then thickened it up with a slurry of cornstarch and water.  I strained all the vegetables out but I think some people don't mind having chunky gravy.  I am not one of them.

I prepared the turkey by rubbing butter all over it and seasoning with salt and pepper and paprika for color and then added fresh sage sprigs on top.  I wanted to try the low and slow method of cooking the Turkey but it took too long so I cranked up the heat so that I could bake my bread.  However you cook your Turkey just make sure you use a Thermometer and cook it to 165ºF to be safe.  But be prepared to wait because Turkey is usually a lot of meat and if you cook it whole and stuff it that takes even longer because the heat doesn't circulate as well.  You could break down the turkey and roast it on a baking sheet but you will lose the presentation factor.  I liked the wrapped Turkey breast I found at Whole Foods.. nothing to do to it.  Just season it and pop it in the oven.

My food came from all over the place.  Some from Fresh City Farms, some from Whole Foods and the rest from Loblaws.  Try and get as much as you can that's local if you can since it's Agriculture Week but I know it can be hard if you don't have a good market near you but you can request local produce from your local grocer and if enough people ask they will add more.  Support your local farmers because they do their work so that you can eat well.   That's what I am thankful for this year.  That I have good food on my table and farmers who work hard for people like me who can't grow their own food.

Here is my finished plate.
Thanks to all the farmers and food workers that had a hand in the ingredients on this plate.


Is it worth it to do all this work?  Maybe not.  I spent a lot of time doing it and a lot of time cleaning up but there is a pride of making everything yourself and knowing what's in your food and also there's always leftovers and no big cooking the next day. Just warm it up and eat and relax you did enough work for a couple of days so you can have a rest now.

I understand why single people don't cook at home.  It's not always as economical but don't lose your cooking skills because they really are skills for life.  Sometimes I choose to cook and sometimes I choose not to but at least I have a choice I can make a great meal or have someone else make one for me.    Don't let being alone on Thanksgiving stop you from having the Thanksgiving Dinner you want to eat.  Just get in the kitchen and make it for yourself.  You are worth it.

Enjoy

Happy Thanksgiving.


Friday, October 9, 2015

Norkfolk County Farm Tour Day


Who:       Food writers, dieticians and home economists
What:      Ontario Agriculture Week Farm Tour
Where:    Norfolk County, Simcoe
When:     October 8, 2015
Why:       Tour 3 Ontario Farms for Ontario Agriculture Week and #loveONTfood 

I spent a glorious sunny fall day in the country this week visiting 3 Ontario Farms thanks to the partnership between Farm & Food Care Ontario and Foodland Ontario and the generosity of local farmers.

This is an event scheduled to coincide with Ontario Agriculture Week October 5 to 11, 2015.

Ambrosia apples from Schuyler Farms
 I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to go because we had to meet up to board a couple of buses in an Oakville carpool parking lot,  but thanks to the great organization by Jennifer MacKenzie from Farm & Food Care, who arranged carpools for me and a few others to be able to get to Oakville and back I was able to do the tour.  I was also fighting a cold and hoped that it wouldn't get in the way.  I think the fresh farm air helped a bit.

We arrived at about 8am and there was a table set up in the parking lot with muffins, scones, apples and tea and coffee.  Then we boarded the buses and departed for our 3 farm tour.

We toured Berlo's Best, Bonnieheath Estate Lavender & Winery and Schuyler Farms Ltd.

Berlo's Best Farm

Peter Van Berlo & son 
The first farm was Berlo's Best which is the largest sweet potato grower in Canada. Their new facility was built in 2006.  They harvest, store, cure and pack all of their own sweet potatoes and provide over 10,000,000 lbs of potatoes annually.  It is owned by Peter Van Berlo Sr. who operates it with his 2 sons.  They own 1800 acres and employ 100 workers.  Growing sweet potatoes was a learning process and along the way they designed and built their own specialized equipment to do the job of harvesting better so that they could make it easier to harvest quickly without injuring their workers.  They decided to grow sweet potatoes because the tobacco crops started going down and they didn't want to step on any other farmers toes in producing the same crops.  I would say they made the right decision and sweet potatoes is a lot better for people than tobacco is anytime.  They also grow Ginseng and about 80% is exported to China.

Bonnieheath Estate 
We boarded the bus again and headed over to Bonnieheath Estate Lavender & Winery for a tour and for lunch.  Owned by husband and wife team Steve and Anita Buehner since 1990.  Also affected by the shrinking tobacco market in 2006 the farm owners decided to diversify and they developed a well rounded business to weather some of the seasonal inconsistencies of owning a farm.  They grown Lavender and sell Lavender products in a little shop in their Winery. They also grown grapes, apples and grains and have their own wines that they sell on site.  On the day we visited it was Steve and Anita's Anniversary as well as Steve's Birthday so I would say we were there for his Birthday lunch which was excellent. The lunch was catered by The Combine.

Bonnieheath Lunch

Our delicious local lunch Menu:

Welcome:

  • Warm Norfolk Apple Cider spiked with Maple Vodka
  • Grasslands meats longhorn beef Corndog Bites with grainy mustard and smoked tomato ketchup
  • Sprouts for Life Kale Cups, black kale, radish, fennel, black peanuts with Pristine gourmet dressing


Lunch

  • Norfolk Caprese Salad with Sovereign Farm heirloom tomatoes, Pristine gourmet olive oil and Fior de latte
  • Local pickles, asparagus, cauliflower and garlic scapes
  • Housemade Focaccia served with Pristine gourmet oil and vinegar
  • Grilled Y U Ranch Longhorn Beef with Burning Kiln Winery jus
  • Caja China Leg of Lamb from Schuyler Farms with stuffing and lavender jus
  • Berlo's sweet potato casserole with Jensen cheddar and toasted Ontario pecans
  • Warm Spiced Norfolk golden beets
Dessert
  • Bonnieheath lavender beignet, salted chocolate dipped beignet with lavender pastry cream
Everything was fantastic, I think my favourite things were the sweet potato casserole and the tender beef and of course the beignet hit the dessert sweet spot.

Schuyler Farms
Brett Schuyler
The last stop was Schuyler Farms Ltd.. Also family owned and run and we were hosted by newly married couple Brett and Carrie Schuyler.  It's Brett and his whole family that owns and takes care of all of the aspects of the Sheep, Apple, Cherry and Grain crops. The farm is over 150 years old and they have about 3000 acres. It has also gone through modifications and modernizations.  They employ 100 seasonal workers and 6 full time workers.  They are very concerned with sustainable practices and use about 2,000 to 3,000 tons of compost.  Their Sheep live in an open field and are protected by an electric fence and 2 well trained guard dogs that live outside with the sheep.  They are bread for this job and their thick coats allow them to be outside in the winter.  They have another Irish dog named Dell that lives with Carrie a certified Sheep Herder who works with Dell to round up all the sheep.  It's an amazing sight to see them in action. 


We learned so much about all of the individual farmers practices and how they had to adapt to the challenging farm market by creating new equipment or extending retail products to their operations or just rotating different crops.  The Ginseng for example can't be replanted in the same spot after harvesting it.

Farming is difficult work and there are no guarantees that the weather will cooperate and a crop will be successful.  It's a calculated gamble for some farmers that have had to be smart to stay afloat.

We were given so much information that if I wrote about all of it in this post you wouldn't be able to read it all.  I encourage you to think about doing a Farm tour if you are able to and meet the farmers and see how your food is grown and processed and thank them for what they do.  Without them you would sit down to your dinner table with nothing on it.

Think about eating Local this week and as much as you can year round.  It's a good thing for you, it's a good thing for the local economy and it's a great thing for the environment.
I picked up a bag of Berlo's Best sweet potatoes and I have one roasting for my dinner right now and it smells fantastic. They are sold to Sobeys and also small bags at FreshCo so see if you can find some.

For more information:

Berlo's Best Sweet Potatoes  www.berlosbest.com
Bonnieheath Estate Lavender & Winery  www.bonnieheathestate.com
Schuyler Farms Ltd.   www.schuylerfarms.ca
Foodland Ontario www.foodland.gov.on.ca/english
Farm & Food Care Ontario www.farmfoodcare.org

To see more photos from our farm day tour on twitter and instagram check out #loveONTfood

Disclaimer*  The tour and lunch were complimentary but all photos and opinions are my own.

Berlo's Best sweet potatoes



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