Category Archives: Products

Cool gadgets and food finds.

The Dish: Amazing Tomato Sauce!

In the winter, we buy good canned tomatoes, in whole and crushed and sauce form because good, fresh tomatoes are nowhere to be found. Recently in a local gourmet store, we happened upon a small, stubby bottle of cherry tomato sauce, made in Italy by Agromonte. It looked just like the old stubby beer bottles and it even had a pop top.

We opened it several weeks later to make pizza and couldn’t believe how alive the sauce was with fresh cherry tomato flavour. It’s sweet, with a little acid and needed no dressing up at all. It made for amazing pizza sauce. Unfortunately, enough time had passed between buying this bottle and us using it, that we had forgotten where we bought it. We looked many places on our usual rounds and happened upon it at the Herb and Spice in Westboro on Wellington. I’m pretty sure that’s not where we got it originally, but we’re very happy to have found it again. We bought 6 bottles of the stuff and have since used it in simple spaghetti and pasta dishes with consistently terrific results.

 

Piggy Market 2.0!

The new and even better Piggy Market re-opened November 12th as an artisan delicatessen and craft butcher shop. I dropped in this week for a quick chat with Dave Neil, co-owner of Piggy. He explained that craft butcher is an Irish designation for meat that is hung to age not cryovaced. The new butchery offers custom cutting of local beef (O’Brien Farms) and Ontario pork as well as heritage pork – Large Black, Berkshire, and Tamworth, which they rotate on a weekly basis. This means you can visit Piggy and have your beef ground while you wait (they take orders ahead of time on the phone as well), and have your steaks cut to your desired thickness. If you are interested in stocking your freezer and want a more hands on approach you can order a 1/2 pig, whole lamb or prime cut of beef, and they will butcher it to your specifications after hours while you watch. You also have the option to sign a waiver and do some of the cutting yourself.

Piggy is also committed to featuring the best charcuterie available locally. Currently they are carrying an array of wonderful treats such as lardo, cutatello, rosetta and salame from Dolce Lucano of Woodbridge, Ontario (exclusive) and smoked molasses and cracked black pepper bacon (!) and dried sausage from Seed to Sausage in the Charbot Lake area. This is probably the best charcuterie Rob and I have come across in our travels and Piggy brings it to us right here in Ottawa. Check out Piggy’s website and blog for weekly offerings, or just pop in and be inspired like we do.

For the upcoming holiday season, Piggy Market helps you get into a festive mood with offerings like goose, duck, suckling pig, turkey (local and local organic), tortiere and plum puddings, beef suet for mince meat and for your feathered friends, and high fat butter from Stirling, Ontario for your baking. They also offer prepared charcutierie platters on slate boards for your entertaining needs.

Piggy continues to carry all your favorites: a selection of Ontario and Quebec cheeses, local eggs and dairy, Art-Is-In bread, Jamaican patties, Bryson Farms products, local produce, Pascal’s ice cream, Piggy’s own to die for 4-cheese mac and cheese and more.

On our first visit to the new re-opened Piggy Market, we were inspired by a beautiful flank steak and changed our dinner plans. We marinated it, grilled it, sliced it and served it with grilled red peppers and onions, a cilantro relish and some hot sauce. We’ll cover the meal in more detail for a future posting, but here’s a delicious preview.

 

Pascale’s Haute Chocolat

By now most of us in Ottawa are familiar with Pascale‘s wonderful ice cream creations. Most of us have had the pleasure of her truly inspired flavours at a local restaurant (Whalesbone, Allium, SmoQue Shack, Arc) or snagged a pint of creamy goodness at the Farmer’s Market at Lansdowne or Piggy Market. This weekend on our weekly trek to Piggy (recently renovated and expanded. – stay tuned for a review update) the lovely Pascale was on hand doling out cupfuls of rich, smooth, decadent, sweet hot chocolate with a hint of vanilla.

She does not stop though with just the best hot chocolate I have tried. She goes on to explain how I can mix it four parts to one part beer (she recommends Beau’s Bog Water) for a nice malty flavour, or pour it on top of a dark, bitter espresso.

The genius of mixing the chocolate with beer came at a chilly Octoberfest event where she had lots of hot chocolate and lots of beer and nobody was buying ice cream. In the interest of research I mixed it with a Belgian Dubbel. O.M.G. I will likely never have hot chocolate any other way.

The chocolate, is a divine mix of Cochrane’s all natural milk, milk chocolate and bittersweet 58% cocoa, bourbon vanilla pods and sea salt to finish, prepared and ready to heat and drink. Pascale notes that the milk chocolate contains malt and therefore is not gluten free.  The sublime mix is sold in mason jars and needs to be refrigerated. Should last a month in there…technically, but it won’t. You will be lucky if it’s still there when you go to make a little demi tasse for yourself. This is not a drink for children. This is way to good for anyone who will be happy with a grainy cup of Nestle Quick. Pascale’s Hot chocolate is available only at Landsdowne Farmers market and will be available at Locavore, where you can also pick up Pascale’s ice cream in half pints, festive ice cream sandwiches and yule logs. Half pints of ice cream are also available at Piggy Market, Red Apron, Life of Pie and Serious Cheese in Kanata, year round.

Pascale’s French Canadian roots, the upcoming festive season, and a love of playing with flavour combinations all inspire her. She is thinking not about sugar plum fairies but sugar pie ice cream and real butterscotch made with Johnny Walkers right now. Check out Pascale’s website for other products and look for her December 10th 2011 at Locavore Artisan Food Fare.

Dish: Jam Session

I’m a jam guy. I really like good jam. By good jam, I mean the kind where the fruit flavour (and content) is prevalent and it’s not overly gummy with pectin and other thickeners. As well, most commercial jams are just too damn sweet and frankly, it’s unnecessary.

I’ve come across some tremendous jams in our travels, and I always pick up a couple to bring home and have no issue with buying really, really good jams through mail order. As well, there are some lovely boutique jam makers close to home. I thought I’d highlight a couple that have really impressed me.

First up is Michael’s Dolce, a local jam maker who is delivering delicious and unique flavour combinations that you don’t see anywhere else, such as Rhubarb/Black pepper, Pear/Vanilla, or Fig/Blood Orange. You can check their website for where to buy them, but they are available at many of the better food shops in the city as well as in Toronto and now making inroads into Montreal. We’ve bought their jams at Piggy Market and the Ottawa Bagel Shop.

My favorite is Kiwi/Lime: It has an intense citrus punch that’s fresh and tart and softened just a bit by the melony sweetness of the kiwi. Peach/Cardamom is another fave – a fresh farmer’s market staple, mixed with an exotic spice.

…and then there’s the Loveless Cafe’s Peach Preserves.

On one of our road trips, we found ourselves at the Loveless Cafe on the outskirts of Nashville, TN. It’s a local landmark where it’s famous for making the best biscuits in the USA. Of course this would be a hotly contested claim, but they are highly regarded, and we have to say that their biscuits were unique, fluffy, rich and delicious. They serve them with preserves, like a Mexican restaurant gives you tortilla chips and salsa as you sit down and peruse the menu. They chose to serve us a raspberry jam (which was good, but not mind-altering) and their peach preserves which surprised us with their colour, texture and flavour.

The jam is brown, not the light, peachy colour we’ve come to expect. That’s because Loveless Cafe chooses to caramelize the peaches, which accounts for the rich, darkness and flavour.

These are available by mail order throughout the US and Canada, but from Canada, you’d have to call them to order, as like many US-based business, their on-line ordering systems just doesn’t recognize the existence of other countries. We only had a quarter-jar left from our last order of 4 jars, forcing us to make do for these photos. Now we have to order more. Give them a call, you’ll be happy you did.

Oh, the shame! …not.

Butter chicken is one of the most amazing dishes known to humanity: creamy, sweet, buttery. The token description on most Indian takeout menus – “chicken in a creamy tomato curry sauce” does not do it justice at all. Butter chicken needs a new PR campaign.

I made butter chicken from scratch once, using my mom’s Better Butter Chicken recipe. This is a “healthy” version of butter chicken, and when she made it, the dish was actually quite tasty. When I made it, it tasted like crap. I don’t know where I went wrong, but it certainly took me a lot of time and effort to get there, even if it resulted in screwing it up badly. Luckily, there is a very easy way to guarantee a perfect butter chicken meal with much less stress.

A walk down any “ethnic” aisle in the grocery store will find a shelf of pre-made sauces of various countries of origins: the aforementioned butter chicken, pad thai, korma and all kinds of curry sauces, such as red and yellow curry. Yes, my butter chicken comes from a jar – and it is delicious.

Of all the butter chicken sauces we’ve tried (between sticky sauce powerhouse VH, President’s Choice regular and Blue Menu as well as Metro’s store brand), VH wins hands down. It’s nicely sweet and rivals what you’d get at any half-decent Indian take-out place. President’s Choice korma sauce, which should be a creamy sauce with nuts and dried fruit, was a disappointment. Thai Kitchen sauces are always perfect, and you only need a spoonful or two of their pad Thai sauce to make this tangy noodle dish.

Grabbing a jar or two can give you more time to give that chicken a crusty sear, cook your shrimp to perfection, or plan the most complimentary side dish. Every jarred sauce I’ve come across includes easy-to-follow directions and suggestions such as adding broccoli to your butter chicken, or serving your red curry shrimp over pasta.

Few people have time to squeeze and strain tamarind fruits or dissolve palm sugar chunks in order to make pad thai from scratch. Spending all day simmering and stewing away should be reserved for special occasions, not average weekday meals when you’re craving something different.

There’s absolutely no shame in it.