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Ironworks Distillery Works for Me!

Originally appeared in The Grapevine: September 18th – October 3rd, 2014

Although I think I should be famous by now…or at least, RootLocal should be famous, the most common response to “I write RootLocal” is “Root what?” or “um, that’s nice.”  Not so, with this week’s vendor.  I approached Ironworks Distillery and was greeted by the lovely Amber with warm enthusiasm.

Ironworks makes an impressive array of alcoholic beverages.  In fact, I would actually call it a dizzying array as I am not generally one to partake in spirits.  Nonetheless, I was game to try and Amber is not only friendly and engaging, but she is also incredibly conversant in all things Ironworks.

Amber and her wares, being helpful.
Amber and her wares, being helpful.

One of the most interesting products Ironworks makes is their Pear Eau de Vie.  I first “heard tell” of this inspired creation a couple of years ago.  My parents live in Woodville and they are neighbours to the farmers (Boates) who grow the pears for this creative fruit brandy.  They were the talk of the town as folk had seen bottles hanging from the trees!  Ironworks comes and installs bottles on the wee pear fruitlet and lets it hang there until the pear is fully ripened, at which time the bottles are removed and the spirits begin to flow.  Amber tells me that last year some 300 bottles were placed and there were 100 bottles of Pear Eau de Vie at the end of the entire process.  She told me they are harvested before hurricane season.  I did not even know we had a hurricane season, but then neither did Arthur.

The amazing part of the Pear Eau de Vie, though, is not the story or the presentation: it is the taste.  I had one small mouthful of it two weeks ago and I can still recall the flavour precisely, I kid you not.  It is fiery and smooth, clear and full, specific to the back of the throat and juicy to the entire mouth.  It’s like the pear has transcended its pear-ness and become the very essence of pear at the same time. I may need to buy a bottle of this nectar and have a mouthful every two weeks, just to remind myself of the joy of pear.

For a great article and photo series on what this process looks like, visit the Chronicle Herald.

And now I’ve devoted two paragraphs (pear-agraphs?) to rhapsodizing about a swig of one offering, and I’ve not yet told you what I took home to sample!

Lest you are afraid of spirits, like me, Ironworks provides cunning little bottles available in trios.  At first I was afraid I would have to choose 3 options from the aforementioned dizzying array, but Amber informed me that there were 3 groupings: a rum package, a brandy package, and an Apéritifspackage.  Given that I’m a very junior consumer of spirits, Amber recommended the Apéritifs.

This lovely trio contained one blueberry, one raspberry, and one cranberry liqueur.  I cannot even tell you which I liked the best.  All I know is I am not a fan of fruit wines, and I am not crazy about fruit-infused beers.  These are not either of those.  I do not like sweet alcohol.  These are not sweet.  There is just enough sweet in the cranberry to take the tartness down to a drinkable level.  They are all complex and wonderful and absolutely delightful to imbibe.  They are very much meant to be savoured…and they’re spectacular drizzled over vanilla ice-cream.  Like so:

I would like to say I shared this.  I cannot tell a lie.

Or:

Dad might have looked like a skeptic, but he is now a true believer.
Dad might have looked like a skeptic, but he is now a true believer.

So the moral of the story is: do not be scared like me.  Go see Amber at the Wolfville Farmers’ Market and she will give you a sample that will blow your mind.  Then take some home and enjoy it all over again.  My brother also tells me the distillery offers a spectacular tour.  Their website is glossy and informative: http://www.ironworksdistillery.com/ And I ran out of space to tell you about how crazy they are about sourcing every single thing as locally as possible.

slowdough2

Slow Dough Makes My Heart Beat Fast

Originally appeared in The Grapevine August 21st – September 4th, 2014

Bread gets a bad rap. Sometimes fairly (I know there are some of you out there for whom it represents something quite the opposite of the stuff of life) sometimes not so fairly (I didn’t say you needed to eat the whole loaf!), so if you are gluten-free, I suggest you avert your eyes. Reading from here is definitely not gluten free.

For our excursion to Slow Dough, Clara and I were joined by my mother, who was curious about the process – do I ask people questions and memorize the responses? Mom’s curiousity brought about the crashing realization that I actually have no idea how to be a reporter, I just wing it every time.

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Mom, gathering information whilst the person ahead of us in line is making her purchase.

Somewhat flustered by this epiphany, I did what all people suffering from performance anxiety do: I overshot the mark. I tried to buy it all.

Okay, that’s not entirely fair. There is a reason I usually speed up a little each time I walk past the Slow Dough booth. One look at all the gorgeous pastries, scrumptious looking cookies, bars, and cake, and perfectly rustic breads is enough to send this gluten-worshiper into a tailspin. How to choose just one thing? Who wouldn’t try to buy it all?

Thankfully, reason did prevail but I confess, I more than chose a few things. I bought several desserts (a butter tart, a piece of shortbread, a pecan tart) We shared a lemon tart at lunch. “Wow,” my mother said, “this is handmade filling!” Oh, yes it is. If you are thinking of lemon tart as filled with some insipid, gelatinous spread that reminds you vaguely of sunlight dish soap, you are woefully mistaken. Perfectly flakey pastry with a zippy, gooey, zesty, and just luscious filling is what you will encounter. Hand made indeed.

Absolutely too much yummy.
Absolutely too much yummy.

Never one to be stingy, I also chose two breads (Italian Peasant Road– which was ridiculously fun to cut on my mother’s mysteriously round cutting board) and an Asiago and Chive loaf.

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See if you can guess which is which? ;)

Slow dough makes their bread the, well, slow way. Rather than wasting all kinds of time whacking and prodding their dough, they just sit back and wait for the yeast to take its own sweet time. This is a product of patience and definitely not pot-watching. It’s baked in cast iron pans, making up for the arm strain saved from not needing.

Thankfully, you don’t need to sit at home, agonizing over the painfully slow process whilst prepping your arm muscles for their giant exertion. Slow dough does it for you!

There is an intriguing tangy taste and smell that emanates from the Round and the Asiago bread, well, if you add cheese to bread you have pretty much won my heart forever. Max sums it up succinctly as “ummmm, it was very good.”

Big flavour, little Solomon.
Big flavour, little Solomon.

I have to also confess that one visit was not sufficient for me. The next week we returned and procured a bee sting and an ice-cream sandwich. It’s just all too good. I could die.

If you’re gluten-free and you ignored my warning and read on: I do apologize. However, I think there might be some options you can handle, too. Stop by their booth at the Wolfville Farmer’s Market or check out their lovely website at http://slowdough.ca/ You’ll be glad you did!

Hilarity Ensued.

Judge Local (Tastes of the Valley) 2014

Originally appeared in The Grapevine: August 7th – 21st, 2014

You know how modern teams like to give all the kids ribbons just for playing? Well, if only we could have done that at the Wolfville Farmers’ Market in the Tastes of the Valley competition. Sadly, we could not, and on this one special day I was actually encouraged to be judgemental. Speaking of which, I’m not sure I’ve ever caused so much jealousy in so many people as when I went around telling (okay: bragging) people that I’d been asked to be a Tastes Judge. I was practically jealous of myself.

Being judgey!
Being judgey!

Picture this: first you get up in the morning and run 16k. Then you show up, starving and ready to be pampered, and someone brings you taste after taste of deliciousness upon deliciousness and asks you to eat at least some of each. Heaven, I’m telling you, it was heaven.

We did crown two winners – 1 “Savoury” and 1 “Sweet”. Savoury was one of those times when simple wins by its absolute perfection. Haddock Stew, seemingly lowly fare, was lovingly prepared by the good people of Frais Catering. Sometimes winners win because they have been so inventive and creatively complex. In my opinion, it is far more difficult to impress with something of which you, the consumer, might think “I could make that.” No, you could not. Unless you are Frais Catering. My notes say: “beautiful, rich but thin broth, delicate fish, amazing new potatoes.” It was gloriously buttery and just gorgeous. Note: the only photos I have  of the first place savoury winner are blurry beyond recognition. Sorry!  I do have a photo of the 1st place sweet winner that is slightly less terrible:

My children all call him The Chocolate Guy.
My children all call him The Chocolate Guy.

Honourable mentions should have been given to the Blomidon Pot Maple Smoked Salmon prepared by Blomidon Inn. This arrived near the end of my tasting duties but it still stood out. It was smoky and a little bit sweet, clearly concocted to delight. Saraj Bakery and Café made the most amazing Caprese Antipasto – it was almost too gorgeous to eat but really it was a beautiful blend of bursting fresh veggies and amazing flavours including fresh mozza from Fox Hill Cheese House.

Our “Sweet” winner was constructed by Gourmandises Avenue. It was called Religieuse of the Valley because apparently “Religieuse” in the pastry world means decorated cream puff. And decorated, it was indeed! Not only was it fantastic looking, it was fantastic tasting. It was creamy and crunchy and sweet and tart and light. It was a constellation of desserty-joy.

This is my wallpaper on my work computer.  Can you really blame me?
This is my wallpaper on my work computer. Can you really blame me?

Honourable mentions could have been given to the Chipotle Strawberry Beet Turnover by Between the Bushes. It was delightfully flakey and just complex enough that it was surprising and just traditional enough that it was scrumptious. Slow Dough Artisanal Bakery made an ice-cream sandwich named Ginger Creams. Imagine a thin but fluffy gingerbread cookie, a lovely layer of smooth vanilla ice-cream, and another thin but fluffy cookie on the other side. Heidi of Heidi’s Beads, Buns ‘n’ Fruit fame made the best cheesecake I’ve ever tasted – it was rich but not overwhelming and sweet but not cloying. And maybe it doesn’t seem fair to you, dear reader, but I’m going to bring Frais Catering up again because their Strawberry & Olive Oil Curd Tart was absolutely divine.

I feel sorry for you if you missed this year’s Tastes of the Valley. I really do. But there is always next year, and in the meantime, congratulate yourself for being able to access the fruits of these good peoples’ labours each and every week at the Wolfville Farmers’ Market (or nearby, since not all of the above-noted participants are at the WFM every week).

 

Wild Mountain Farm

MEAT-UP with Wild Mountain Meats!

Originally published in The Grapevine: July 24th to August 7th, 2014

It sometimes happens that certain people, in certain circumstances, get a pass. The judgements we would usually make, the assumptions we would usually form, are temporarily suspended. And then there are those times in which an audience will not only give a pass or suspend judgement, but will in fact give their object of assessment points for just trying. Such is the case, in my dear husband Michael’s opinion, when a man makes dinner for his family. Chefs, of course, are a different category altogether, but for an ordinary Joe to come home from work and whip up a meal for his hungry family elevates him to some sort of god-like creature and any food he creates is, by its very existence, divine.

I should note, at this point, that far from revelling in this automatic glory, Mike chafes at the idea that he should be congratulated for simply providing nourishment. In fact, he is annoyed when he is assured his food will be delicious before anyone has tasted it (often uttered whilst casting an envying glance in my direction).

This is all to say, dear reader, that Mike is nigh-on allergic to the thought of making any concessions to critiques of food offerings based solely upon the creator thereof. Therefore, when I asked our son Max to prepare the recipe I had provided him for the slow-cooking of a pork loin roast I had chosen from Wild Mountain Meat Market, I knew Mike would hold nothing back in his assessment of the resulting meal.

I should also note that Mike is not a connoisseur of porcine products (bacon notwithstanding). In fact, one might go so far as to say Mike has something of an aversion to pork.

So today, friends, I am here to tell you that for this man, to whom “it’s okay” is usually tantamount to high praise, to declare the pork loin roast awesome….that is nothing short of, well, awesome. Max was, as he should be, mightily pleased with himself.

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Sorry, I’ve disabled the eat-o-vision feature on this blog.

The pork loin roast was even awesome the next day in a rice-noodle and other-stuff-thrown-in-together stir fry Mike whipped up (NOT awesome because of his gender, mind).

Wild Mountain piggies are allowed to enjoy a wide variety of foods in their diet in order “to create the opportunity for them to find their ‘inner pig’” according to the informative and entertaining Wild Mountain website. The resulting roast seemed to prompt my family to also find their inner pigs as everyone had a second helping.

Never one to shy away from a new opportunity in pursuit of an experience to share with the world, I had also chosen beef jerky to sample from Wild Mountain’s array of meaty goodness. In fact, the only thing I refused to sample was the array of home-made dog food (which, I’m assured, has legions of fans).

I don't always eat jerky, but when I do eat jerky it's WILD (thanks Owen!)
I don’t always eat jerky, but when I do eat jerky it’s WILD (thanks Owen!)

Beef jerky seems like an odd thing to eat – I mean, normally I’m all about keeping the juiciness IN the meat, not sucking it all out. However, I decided to set aside some of my own judgements and assumptions to give it a try. It was delicious. This is not the corner-store dried up hunk of otherwise cruddy leftover meat – this is a carefully spiced and delightfully balanced blend of yummy chewiness. Or as Clara put it, “it’s MEAT!!!!” (ergo: delicious). No biases, just deliciousness.

She even WRAPS it for you!
She even WRAPS it for you!

Wild Mountain Meat-Up Market can be found at Wolfville Farmer’s Market, online at their aforementioned website (www.wild-mountain-farm.myshopify.com) and, of course, on Facebook.

At the Market

TWM Woodworking: Family Fun.

Originally appeared in The Grapevine: September 4th-18th, 2014

This summer, I have had the great good fortune of being invited to attend not one but two weddings for two lovely humans I know. One is a pal from law school, one I’ve known since she was born. In both cases, half of their gift came from the same vendor at the Wolfville Farmers’ Market so it seemed only fair that I share with you the source of these awesome and one-of-a-kind presents.

My own darling husband (Mike) and I were married 12 years ago (on August 25th) and of all the presents we received for publicly batting our twitterpated eyes at each other, the two handmade wooden cutting boards we received have been the most constant and useful reminder of that day. Of course, our children are also a constant and occasionally useful reminder of that day, but children are not for everyone and not available for purchase. At least, not at the Farmers’ Market. But I digress.

TWM Woodworking Crafts makes lots of great and interesting wood products that are mostly sourced from otherwise-scrap wood. There are shelf thingies, small cupboards, bird-feeders, and cutting boards. They even sell round cutting boards, which you may remember was a thing I commented on in my last RootLocal instalment: a round loaf of bread looks truly fetching on a round cutting board. Don’t just trust me on this, though: try it at home.

The glory in its glory: ah, the glory of it all.
The glory in its glory: ah, the glory of it all.

TWM Woodworking Crafts is a truly family operation, and when I say family, I mean FAMILY. Tammy walked me through the products she makes, her husband makes, her mother makes, and her husband’s mother makes. I was not surprised to hear they do not have children. Who would have time? Everything is beautifully made and functional and clearly intended to last forever and then some.

I let Clara choose the cutting board for the lifelong friend’s wedding and she chose the same style as the one I’d given to my law school pal. Each is unique, however, and Clara tells me she chose the “beautifuller” one from the selection on hand that day. I did not take a comparison photo, but I assure you they were all beautiful. Beauty IS important when one is preparing meals, and having a handcrafted cutting board is a sure way to incorporate beauty into an otherwise routine task.

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Is this not gorgeous? Do you not weep for the sheer beauty of it all?!?

I also purchased a length of hooks made from an old apple barrel stave (a word, incidentally, that popped into my head that happens to actually be the correct term for these things). I love that it is very “of” the Valley and I love that it is re- purposed. Also I love hooks (and shelves). It’s kind of perfect.

The only drawback about cutting boards, however, is that they really do last a lifetime. The ones we got for our wedding are still in perfect condition, otherwise, I would be getting another one (or two) from TWM Woodworking Crafts. But you should totally buy them as wedding gifts – or maybe for a baby shower present – something the baby can take with her when she is off to college!

TWM Woodworking Crafts can be found at the Wolfville Farmers’ Market, and on Facebook.