On a sunny, but chilly December morning Maureen and I headed to the Locavore Artisan Food Market at Memorial Hall in New Edinburgh. Located in a tiny community centre, the room was brimming with local food vendors and patrons, all there to celebrate our local food business and the local food movement.
Cookies, salsas, ice creams, breads, spreads, mustards, sauces, jams, pies, spices, cakes, full meals and many other items were being sold at a brisk pace. By the time you read this, the event will be over, of course. However the vendors make their products available via many outlets in the city and sometimes directly. It really is worth seeking out these artisans and supporting their businesses. It helps to diversify the Ottawa palate, grow the local economy, bring together the Ottawa food community, and it’s damn tasty too. These items make terrific presents and also make form a more interesting table at home.
We picked up more of Pascal’es amazing hot chocolate (and I hope to actually have some this time), some “Hot Toddy” ice cream, some michaelsdolce jams, Mrs. McGarrigle’s mustards, Yummy Cookies chocolate-dipped shortbread cookies and some smoked tomato jam from Just Wing’it. Yum!
Here’s a listing of all the local artisans with links to their websites. Please support them!
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.
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.
Our house growing up was a hectic place during my teen years. Both my sister and I played competitive ringette for teams in different divisions, and both my parents were involved on the coaching staff and or served with regional and provincial boards for the sport. Weekends were often spent on a big diesel bus and in a hotel room. My dad always said “You haven’t lived until you’ve had french fries and coffee at 7 am in a cold arena.” Of course that was back in the good old days when arenas served chip-wagon-quality fries. It was rare that we all shared a sit-down dinner together during the winter months anyways. Dinner was often on the hoof and from our local take-out joint. I remember those days with great fondness.
Rob’s home was alien to me. His stay-at-home mom had baking and snacks ready after school. Dinner involved sitting down at a table set with napkins! The meal was served from pretty dishes on the table, not from the pot on the stove. And dessert! Dessert was an everyday event, not just a company thing as it was in my home.
I would not have traded the hectic life of a competitive ringette family for anything, but I did enjoy a dinner invite into the serenity of the Rose household. And did I mention they had dessert EVERY day? One of the first memorable desserts I enjoyed there was jam buns. These buns were a simple dough rolled out, cut into squares, placed in muffin tins and filled with strawberry jam. You can fancy the buns up by using an upscale preserve instead of strawberry jam and serve with some lightly sweetened whipping cream.
First, a couple of fact-checks for Maureen’s memories: we didn’t have after-school snacks. My Mom just thought Maureen was THAT special. And Mom baked more often than rarely and more rarely than often. But we DID have dessert at every meal and served from bowls on the table. Most times, dessert was very simple — ice cream, store-bought jelly roll, or pudding. But sometimes, usually in the summer, we had wonderful pies and maybe once or twice a year we’d have these jam buns.
Jam buns. It’s what my mom called them, maybe due to a poor French-to-English translation. They were poorly named in any event, as they were tarts, made with a rich shortbread crust that weren’t “bun-like” at all. The jam part was accurate, though. She always used whatever cheap jam we had in the house, usually the store-brand strawberry or raspberry jam that was 70% pectin by volume. But it didn’t matter. Maureen might say that it would be an option to fancy these up with good preserves or fresh fruit, but THAT WOULD BE WRONG. It would be a terrible violation of childhood memories and a violation of the spirit of these depression-era treats. Mom would always take the leftover crust, roll it out, spread it with jam and roll it up, cut into pieces and bake them last as impromptu pastry rolls.
Okay. true confession time. I must have been 4 or 5 years old and Mom had made these jam buns for dessert. It was mid-afternoon, and Mom had made some of these earlier in the day and they were sitting out on the kitchen counter, already cooled with a dollop of whipped cream on each one. In a moment of weakness and INCREDIBLE lack of foresight, I decided to steal one. As I was stuffing the last of the tart into my face, I heard Mom’s voice behind me, saying, “What are you doing?”. I played it cool and tried my best to conceal my chipmunk cheeks full of tart and turned to face her hoping she wouldn’t notice that I probably had jam and whipped cream from chin to forehead. I didn’t have to say anything, and she grabbed me by the forearm, brought me over to the kitchen garbage can and forced me to spit it all out. And then, that night at dinner time, Mom announced that I wouldn’t be having any dessert because I had already had a tart during the day, which accomplished two things. First, she saved me some embarrassment by implying that permission was involved, so that was good. The second thing, which directly set off the alarms in my 5-year old sense of “fairness” – which in a multi-child household is the law of the land that keeps the peace, is that I didn’t get dessert AND I was made to spit out the one I stole. Somehow I was down a jam bun in the deal. And it’s stupid, but that sticks with me.
Maureen said I could have an extra one of these, so all is right with the world.
2 cups flour
3 tsp. baking powder
2 tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup lard
mix in as pie dough (not much direction here. I cut the lard in to chunks and then used my fingers to mix the dough.)
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
Jam, pie filling, or preserves
Whipping cream (optional)
Roll out to 14 inch thick.
Cut into squares, put in muffin tin, drop in one tsp. jam or filling.
Bake at 450 degrees till light brown.
Note: I found the dough to be very sticky. I placed it on a floured surface, incorporated about 1/4 cup more flour, rolled it into a ball, placed in a saran covered bowl, and chilled it. The dough worked perfectly after this step.
Click HERE for a printable version of this recipe.
Monday morning is our last chance to grab a bite in New York. We fly out in the afternoon and have to head to the airport just after noon. A cloudy but warm day which holds some promise of a very nice spring day once the clouds disperse. We head on over to the Clinton Street Bakery a few blocks from our hotel. We attempted to eat here on the weekend but were faced with a 90-minute wait.
9:30 on a Monday finds the bakery very busy but with an empty table or two. We are seated near the window. The place is clean and welcoming, bright and homey. We order the Southern breakfast with biscuits and tomato jam on the side, and I can’t resist a glass of fresh squeezed ruby red grapefruit juice.
The southern breakfast consists of two eggs however you like ’em, two slices of excellently fried green tomatoes, adequate cheesy grits (Rob makes them way better. His are cheesier) and four or five slices of thick-sliced sugar-cured bacon that is the BEST EVER bacon we’ve had. Juicy, flat, perfectly crisped, and almost candied, it would be a good enough reason alone to return to this breakfast spot. Their famous biscuits are in my opinion just good biscuits but I’ve had better cat-head biscuits (so named because they’re the size of a cat’s head — made with lard or bacon grease and whole buttermilk) in the south, in Nashville and North Carolina specifically. At Clinton Bakery they were served with good raspberry jam, not the tomato jam we ordered and were looking forward to, as good tomato jam was a treat, but we didn’t make a fuss. It was all good.