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.


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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Heidi's Beads and Buns

It Blew My Head Off

This week we ventured out to the perplexedly named Heidi’s Beads and Buns. As it happens, she sells beads and buns, thereby making a mockery of my attempts to discover some sort of hidden meaning in the interplay between the two words. Beads and buns and smoothies now, too, Heidi tells me.

So many rings, so little time
So many rings, so little time

It took a little cajoling to have accompaniment this week, but I did eventually convince Clara and Solomon that there might be something in it for them. They were both disappointed that the “something” did not involve one of Heidi’s fanciful creations. However, they were both delighted that they not only got to have a cinnamon bun, but they were also allowed to choose which one they wanted. Solomon had an “it’s too good to be true” look of suspicion as he selected an inner-row bun, but Heidi cheerfully pried it out for him. That bit of cinnamon bun iconoclasm was enough to make him delight in his prize, regardless of flavour. Happily, they were delicious as well as risqué.

Oooh la la
Oooh la la

I asked Heidi about the odd seeming combination and she shrugged, as though she had never considering the combination odd. She said “well, I’ve just always made cinnamon buns.” Here’s hoping she continues to always keep on making them.

On to the beads. Heidi has an eye-catching collection of rings, bracelets, earrings, and necklaces that have prompted no end of begging and agony in poor Clara over numerous visits to the Wolfville Farmers’ Market. Please don’t think I’m a terribly mean mother, but I did not buy anything for Clara. I did, however, let her and her brother try on and model several different rings, all of which were “the most beautiful ever”.

Clara's adorable chubby hand with ring
Clara’s adorable chubby hand with ring


Solomon's adorable chubby hand, with ring
Solomon’s adorable chubby hand, with ring

Although, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m not much of a jewellery wearer, I decided to go out on a limb (or digit, as it were) and acquire a fun and funky ring for myself. I was torn between a red bead with red wire creation and a silver ring with a flower. Clara made the decision for me by choosing the flower one.

“Why that one?” I asked.
“Because,” she said, “it blew my head off.”
I can’t argue with that.

I’ve been wearing the ring off and on for a couple of weeks now and I feel very ostentatious when wearing it. I was certain that everyone would notice my foray into the jewellery wild side. However, aside from the “oh, that’s so cute” comments, only my father expressed an opinion. He asked “does it squirt water?” Thanks Dad!

Computering and modeling.  Multi-tasking at its finest
Computering and modeling. Multi-tasking at its finest

I love it and it makes me feel a little dangerous to wear because it’s so out of character for me. It also feels a little dangerous to wear because I need it to be sized ever-so-slightly but Hurricane Arthur prevented me (thus far) from revisiting Heidi and her glorious goodies. Fortunately, Arthur did not whip it off my pinkie, but it’s really only a matter of time. I will return, Heidi, I promise.

The real highlight of the visit was allowing Clara and Solomon to choose a necklace and earrings set to give to Grandma for her birthday (which is the day before the Grapevine is published, so it’s safe to tell you). They were thrilled to be able to carefully examine each set and finally agreed to one that I hope my mother will love because it is unique, lovely, and beautifully made, but also because it was chosen with love.

I won special bonus points from Heidi for pronouncing her last name correctly on the first try. You’ll have to stop by her booth at the Wolfville Farmer’s Market to find out what it is and see if you can get bonus points, too. Actually, I made up the bonus points part, but you should go anyway, because Heidi’s creations are strictly offline.

Foxhill CheeseHouse

Sally Adores Fox Hill Cheese House, Too

So I have this friend whom I’m going to call Sally (mainly because that is her actual name). Sally is quite possibly the best cook/chef/baker in the Universe. One time when I was spending the weekend with her, I phoned home to gush to Mike about all the delicious food I was eating. Mike sighed, on the other end of the line, and said gloomily “Yeah, yeah, yeah, tell me when she makes something that’s not the best thing anyone has ever tasted – that would be news.”

Which brings me around to this week’s feature: Fox Hill Cheese House. I was a little nervous about profiling them this time because I’ve been a fan ever since we moved back to Nova Scotia in 2006 and I was afraid I would have nothing new to try and nothing new to say.

When we moved home (for me) and here (for Mike) one of his greatest joys was discovering that Fox Hill produced curd cheese (which our children have re-named as “squeaky cheese” (try some, if you haven’t, and you’ll understand)). I think fresh, widely available curd cheese was one of the few things Mike missed from Montreal, so finding a local source pretty much solidified his commitment to never. ever. ever moving from the Annapolis Valley so help him. If someone could start up a truly Montreal-style bagel bakery I might never be able to get him to visit his parents again. But I digress.

With my ever-so-biased background in mind, I decided to attempt to approach the Fox Hill booth with fresh eyes (er, mouth). After much drooling and dithering (a potentially messy combination) I settled on some dill and chives havarti, curry quark, and Crostata gelato.

Now. Events have transpired since my last post and I must confess I’m both pleased and unsettled. You see, I’ve acquired a new reader who is keenly interested in the content of these bits. Solomon, I’m sorry to tell you this, but I may have had some delicious gelato in the house that I may have declined to share with anyone. Those tubs are so little and, well, so scrumptious. You may not want to read ahead….

Rumour has it I shared one bite with Mike
Rumour has it I shared one bite with Mike

Crostata is not a flavour I would have chosen of my own volition. That is due to the simple fact that I would have had no clue how to pronounce it. It was described as “like pound cake.” Yes, it is, but kind of in the way that a tricycle is like a Harley Davidson. It’s buttery and melty and almost embarrassingly rich. It is best served in wee portions, in solitude, and after the kids are safely tucked away in bed. You may also want to tuck it into the back corner of your freezer. You’re welcome.

My next flavour endeavour was the dill and chives havarti. This cheese is a very popular choice, I was told. I loved it, but just like Sally’s cooking, that’s not really news. I love all Fox Hill cheeses, but I have to say that of all their mouth-watering choices, I remain a committed fan of the Fenugreek Havarti. Fenugreek makes the cheese have a maple-y flavour and it makes the person eating the cheese have a complete lack of self-restraint. I can’t keep it in the house (either literally or figuratively).

Cheese not exactly as pictured here.  Thanks Fox Hill for letting us swipe this pic from your website.
Cheese not exactly as pictured here. Thanks Fox Hill for letting us swipe this pic from your website.

Finally, the curry quark. This made me really nervous. Quark? Isn’t that an elementary particle and a fundamental constituent of matter (thanks, Wikipedia)? Just kidding – I’ve had quark before, but it seemed so odd to combine it with curry. So I put off tasting it until tonight whilst typing this missive. My high school Home Economics teacher would have been appalled at the lack of colour contrast between the yellow quark and the yellow carrots I dipped into it…but she would have heartily applauded the flavour explosion. I think the carrots were good, but really they were basically just overladen spoons. I recommend you buy a tub of this yumminess and transfer it into your own dish. Surround it with carrots, or whatever. Then, bring it to the next potluck you attend. Everyone will want your recipe. Grab a pen and paper and write down: Fox Hill Cheese House Curry Quark. Then, wink knowingly. Trust me, they’ll thank you.

Fox Hill Cheese House can be found at the Wolfville Farmer’s Market, in their natural setting at 1678 Church St, Port Williams and at the Halifax Seaport Market. You can virtually visit at http://www.foxhillcheesehouse.com/ or on Facebook and Twitter. And if you pop in to their home base on a Thursday afternoon you can help yourself to a bag or 4 of fresh, warm, delightfully squeaky curd cheese. Save some for me, please.

Gourmandises Avenue Chocolaterie

Best. Chocolate. Ever.

If you know me in real life, you will, no doubt, have heard me say “I don’t like chocolate.” I don’t like chocolate cake, or brownies, or chocolate pudding, chocolate ice-cream, or that waxy brown stuff that shows up around Easter time. Gross.

However, the real truth of the matter is – I’m just an absolutely unbearable snob. I was clearly royalty in a former life, because I simply adore chocolate that is good enough for the Queen. Lucky for me, a chocolate-maker who has made chocolate for the Queen just so happens to have a corner staked out at the Wolfville Farmer’s Market. Lucky for the Queen, I wasn’t there when she was sampling his wares, because I might have created a diversion so I could snarf some of her goodies while she wasn’t looking.

The weekend I went to do reconnaissance (see how I slipped in a wee French word there) with Gourmandises Avenue Chocolaterie I faced some resistance on the home front. Apparently Clara is encountering some market fatigue. “Max,” I said, “you’re up.” He grudgingly came along. He brightened considerably when we arrived and I clarified our mission. By brightened, I’m meaning a glow one measures in Petawatts (I googled that word – it means one quadrillion watts – a lightning bolt only has a trillion).

Don't bite the spoon Max.  Wait!  No!
Don’t bite the spoon Max. Wait! No!

Jean-Pierre Gallois is the master chocolatier AND the proprieter, so it was great fun to chat with him while we drooled over our selections. He explained that when he started the shop they produced about 70% pastries to about 30% chocolates but they currently have almost entirely flipped that ratio. In deference to this history, I decided that it would not be right for me to only sample the chocolates. It would be a disservice to both my readership and to M. Gallois. Duly instructed, then, Max chose a pot au chocolat (which is just what you are thinking, but also it has a chocolate spoon). I had crème brûlée which is my 100% hands down no-holds-barred absolute favourite dessert in the entire world.

Even the raspberry spoke French
Even the raspberry spoke French

Now. There are things I don’t know much about and there are things I am afraid of trying lest they disappoint me. A badly made crème brûlée can be lumpy or eggy or too heavy on the vanilla. I have had bad crème brûlée and it makes me want to weep for humanity. I’ve had crème brûlée in the centre of Paris and it made me want to weep for the sheer joy of it all. Selecting crème brûlée from Gourmandises Avenue Chocolaterie was going all in with my taste bud gambling chips.

Fast forward to a few minutes later. Max tucked in to his pot au chocolat and exclaimed something along the lines of “it looks like pudding but it tastes like heaven” whilst I tentatively placed my first bite into my mouth. I closed my eyes. I sighed audibly. Max, in his ennui-laded teenager voice, said “aren’t you being a little dramatic?” I arched an eyebrow and dug out a small sample (you have no idea how magnanimous this makes me). He put it into his mouth. “Well?” I said, “was that too dramatic?” “No,” said he, in a voice of quiet reverence. “Do you want to trade?” he asked. Look, friend, I’m a mother but I’m no Mother Theresa. Child can buy his own with his allowance if he wants to…

Destination: delirium.
Destination: delirium.

But I’ve gone on and on and I’ve yet to mention the main event! M. Gallois was kind enough to insist I take a sample of each of the truffles he had on offer (and, re-sampling allows me to inform you that the selection changes from week to week!). I am not going to bore you with going on and on about how absolutely spectacular each one was – go get your own (and share with me, thanks).

What I am going to tell you is that you may never want to eat another chocolate from anywhere else ever again once you savour one of these beauties. You know how they say beauty is on the inside? Well, that is true with these chocolates for sure, but the beautiful designs make sure that they’re beautiful on the outside as well. I was particularly taken with the beauty of the Gaspereau Port chocolate. M. Gallois explained that he sends the design to a speciality edible design-maker in Quebec which then sends back sheets of the motif which he carefully hand-applies to each chocolate. It’s almost heart-breaking to eat them…but I assure you, you’ll get over it very, very quickly.

I'm not ENTIRELY selfish.
I’m not ENTIRELY selfish.

And the lemon thyme made with thyme they grow themselves? Or the honey (local) lavender (local)? I did not even know they made a Gaspereau Maple Wine truffle until I read the website. I may die.

Everything that is crafted by this genius-with-chocolate will make you want to run away from home and join the circus if it were made of chocolate and the chocolate was Gourmandises Avenue Chocolaterie and you could just be one with the chocolate all of the time for the rest of your life and forever and always and…

I’m sorry, I got a little carried away.

And so should you. Go, eat.

I mean, how can you resist?
I mean, how can you resist?

Gourmandises Avenue Chocolaterie can be found at the Wolfville Farmer’s Market every Saturday and at the Halifax Seaport Market. Like them on Facebook (and watch a terrific interview M. Gallois did in April for Global TV) and visit their drool-worthy website: http://gourmandisesavenue.com/

(but leave the crème brûlée for me, k, thanks).

Carla Dunham Jewellery Design

Who Are You Wearing?

Now that I am a hardworking and intrepid journalist with looming deadlines and tough-nosed (but fair) editors, I have decided to take my duties more seriously and stop visiting the booth I’m planning to profile mere hours before writing my latest missive. Not that I still don’t write the missive at the last minute, but I digress.

From almost the moment she was born, Clara has looked askance at my general lack of decoration. No holiday passes without her offering me some type of “jewellery” to wear. Alas, I’m not much for shiny things. This week, Clara was overjoyed to learn we were visiting the booth of Carla Dunham (also of interest – those two have all the same letters in their first names. Obsessed with jewellery…same letters in names. There is obviously a connection to be made).

I will confess I was a little nervous because I don’t wear earrings, bracelets make me twitchy, and rings are okay if they are my totally plain wedding band. “Clearly,” thought I, “I am NOT Carla’s target market.” “Clearly,” thought Clara, “Mommy is nuts.”

As often happens, the first thing in Carla’s display that caught my eye was the item I ended up circling back to after agonizing about all my other possible choices.  I could not resist a gorgeous charm necklace with a tiny acorn, a wee jewel coiled up in copper wire, and a tiny circle with tiny letters spelling out “Strong.” “This,” I stated, “is running the Bluenose 10k with me.”

Also defies gravity
Also defies gravity

Carla is a wire-style jewellery maker (jewellist? Jewel-monger?) who makes a wide variety of items to suit every taste (even jewelphobes like moi). If she doesn’t have something to suit your fancy…she will MAKE IT. My friend Laura (of ValleyFamilyFun.ca fame) and her siblings special-ordered a gorgeous piece for their mother for mother’s day. Carla, basically, can make your wildest jewellery dreams come true.

Custom Family Tree.  Shazam!
Custom Family Tree. Shazam!

And here’s the cool thing: if you are a weird werido like me who is very particular about such things as how long a necklace must be to avoid the “this feels like a leash!” category on the one hand and the “send help, I’m losing oxygen from this winch around my neck” variety…Carla will alter it for you. Not a word of a lie, Carla shortened my necklace for me in front of my very eyes in less than 1 minute. It’s pretty much a super power.

What's she building down there?!?
What’s she building down there?!?
The hand is much quicker than the eye.
The hand is much quicker than the eye.

But again I digress. I meant to tell you about all the advantages of taking my time to allow the experience of something like a lovely new piece of jewellery to fully develop. I DID wear my necklace on the Bluenose, and I think it may have had some sort of cosmic influence, because those hills did not make me feel like I was dying. Runs since then…not so much.

The other great thing about wearing this necklace is that at last count FOUR different women exclaimed “OH! It’s a Carla Dunham!” when they noticed it. This is good news for Ms. Dunham. As for me, I felt like I was on the red carpet at the Oscars. “Ms. Killam, who are you wearing?” Nothing like a little glamour and name-dropping tossed into one’s day.

In all seriousness, though, Carla’s work is absolutely lovely. Why buy something that a zillion other people have when you can get a one-of-a-kind piece from Carla? I have quite a number of glamourous friends in my life (you know who you are, and don’t you deny it!) and I know they all have birthdays…

As for dear Clara. She would have liked one of everything, but I gently guided her to something she probably wouldn’t lose. Alas, my glittering princess is also an incorrigible slob (sorry, Mom, she might be your only granddaughter, but you know it’s true). We settled on a hair jewel. Clara wore it proudly for a daily, and then Victoria the Mermaid has worn it ever since. I did persuade her to lend it to Clara for her dance recital, but it really does look amazing in mermaid hair.

A little post-recital Grandpa love.
A little post-recital Grandpa love.


Carla Dunham Jewellery Design can be found on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, and of course at the Farmer’s Market in Wolfville.

Anna Weig @ Grand Pre Winery

A Real Corker

Sometime there are things a person just has to do. Through no fault of her own, she’s subjected to torturous, painful experiences that simply must be gotten through for some purpose greater than the suffering she must endure. This week, sampling Domaine de Grand Pré Winery‘s offerings, was most decidedly not one of those experiences.

On the morning we went to the Market, Clara and I were on a tight time budget. It was her older brother Max’s birthday party and I’d baked a cake while Clara was at dance class. As soon as she arrived home, I swooped her up and off we went to market.

With Clara by the hand, I swept up to Domaine de Grand Pré Winery booth and launched into my RootLocal spiel. A bewildered looking Anna Weig explained that she’d been in Germany for three weeks and was therefore unsure of who I was or why I was asking my 6 year old to try a sample of Maréchel Foch. See, I was hoping to get an “ew YUCK!” face from her, but she is too diplomatic for that, so after she’d touched her little tongue to the liquid and politely declined it, I gallantly offered to finish off the sample for her. It really was lovely, but I do not go in much for reds, so I peeked around to see what else was on offer.

Why is she doing this to me?
Why is she doing this to me?

I was sorely tempted to try the Tidal Bay because I’ve yet to be less than in love with any of the Tidal Bay wines on offer by the various participating Valley wineries…but I thought RootLocal deserved a true first impression from me.  (You’ll be happy to hear that I had a glass of Grand Pre’s Tidal Bay when my sisters and I took our mother out for dinner.  It is everything I had expected: deliciously delightful.)  My eye landed on a very Champagne-y looking bottle.

Solomon was much more willing to try a taste and much more obliging with the face of disgust.  Then he asked "what can I eat to get this horrible taste out of my mouth?"  Champlain = wasted on children.
Solomon was much more willing to try a taste and much more obliging with the face of disgust. Then he asked “what can I eat to get this horrible taste out of my mouth?” Champlain = wasted on children.

Anna explained that while the name Champagne is not able to be used unless said concoction is grown and bottled in the Champagne region of France, Domaine de Grand Pré’s cleverly-named Champlain is made using exactly the same process. It’s a bit of a mad-scientist process involving yeast inside the bottle and a beer-cap-style cap to seal it, a year or so to wait, and then an inverting, daily turning, and freezing process that allows the yeast to be fished out and a cork slapped into the bottle. I’m positive Wikipedia can explain it better than that. Suffice it to say: you can’t get this stuff in a kit.

All the wine snobs use tin foil once their bottles are open.
All the wine snobs use tin foil once their bottles are open.

This adventure was educational in more ways than one. As I’d mentioned before, I was in a rush that day. As soon as we wheeled into the driveway, I frantically slapped the remainder of the cake together and had it ready about 30 seconds before the first guest arrived. At that point, I remembered the Champlain waiting out in the van. I fetched it and put it in the freezer.

Here is where the educational bit comes in. Since I am a self-trained hack when it comes to wine appreciation, I googled how to drink champagne (a.k.a. Champlain) and learned it was best served cold. Although the freezer speeded things up a bit, my lovely sister Joan was not able to wait as she had only popped by briefly to wish Max a happy party. She gamely agreed to give it a taste with me. I was happy to share, but I explained to her that I would have to be careful, because it should be cold. As it happens, Google was NOT kidding. If you open Champlain without letting it thoroughly chill, it will exit the bottle rather enthusiastically.

The young gentlemen at the party were quite entertained by the enormous pop followed by me laughing my head off and my sister attempting to “save” the precious liquid by capturing it with her mouth. Fortunately, the bubbles were more sound than fury, and the eventual level of liquid was not much lowered. I poured three glasses (did you think I was leaving Mike out?) and we found the cork two days later.

Joan to the rescue
Joan to the rescue

I was going to pretend I was all sophisticated and compare Champlain to all the other champagne I’ve tasted, but I realized you would see through me faster than a cork can hit a ceiling in the middle of a 13th birthday party. Here’s what I CAN tell you: Champlain is perfectly delicious. It is dry and apple-y tasting and it stings your mouth with a zillion bubbly bursts of champagne-y goodness. It’s not so dry that you feel your eyeballs are about to be sucked into your sinuses, and it’s not so bubbly that you feel your skull might lift off. I could drink this stuff every day. But I won’t, because that would mean it was no longer celebratory and there might be other ill effects. Please drink responsibly, audience.

Also pairs wonderfully with birthday cake
Also pairs wonderfully with birthday cake

However, if you have anything you want to celebrate: a wedding, a birth, the beginning of Spring (at long last), or that it’s a Thursday afternoon…I highly recommend chilling a bottle of Champlain and then carefully opening it. My mother also tried it and also pronounced it delicious.

Bonus: see how I resisted making a bad pun about how it’s not chamPLAIN, it’s chamAWESOME.

Extra bonus: I’ll be called to the Bar on June 6th, an event that is often celebrated…

Domaine de Grand Pré’s winery offerings can be found at the Wolfville Farmer’s Market, at some NSLC locations, and many other places, including the possibility of ordering online! You can find all sorts of information about them at there website: grandprewines.ns.ca

Annapolis Valley Food & Craft