Hanging with the Honey Bees

Hanging with the Honey Bees
Credit: C. Van Brunschot

IT’S TIME.

I flip the hood over my head; blink twice as my vision adjusts to the mesh hanging in front of my face.  I ask for a final inspection of my suit and the beekeeper rips the Velcro away for readjustment before patting it firmly over the zippers at my neck.

“Looks good,” she says.  “Are you ready?”

I am SO ready.

“Let’s do this,” I say.  And I pick my way through the dandelions toward a pair of bee boxes bright against the sky.

I’ve arrived at Chinook Honey Company – just a stone’s throw from Okotoks’ Big Rock erratic – to join seven other participants in the farm’s BACKSTAGE WITH THE BEES experience.  It’s my own personal tribute to 2021’s Year of the Beekeeper – and a good excuse to indulge my fondness for honey…

Read more about my experience as a wanna-be beekeeper HERE – or in this month’s issue of SAVOUR CALGARY magazine.

Alberta Local Food Week

Winter family w their turkey flock
Credit: Winter’s Turkeys

What a GREAT time for local food in Alberta!  Alberta Local Food Week is upon us, bringing with it SO many ways to discover the diversity of food and drink produced right here in our backyard:

  • Alberta on the Plate 2021 Dine Around kicked off this weekend and runs through August 15, with 80+ restaurants across the province offering fixed price menus featuring local producers AND recommended local craft beer or local spirit cocktail pairings.  There’s lunch, dinner, gourmet dinners, and takeout – find full details and menus here or follow them on Instagram or Facebook.
  • Open Farm Days runs this Saturday and Sunday (August 14 & 15) with 100+ Alberta farmers inviting you to see what they do and to taste what they produce.  Use the online portal to plan your stops and schedule your visit times. 

Need more inspiration?  Read “Meet the Producers” and “The Bison Whisperers” in the current issue of Savour Calgary magazine – featuring several ranchers who have knocked the socks off Debra Smith and myself of late.  Look for Savour Calgary on these newsstands around the Calgary region.

#ABlocalfood #ABonthePlate #localfood #supportlocal

Text © 2021 Catherine Van Brunschot

More on Great Growers

Allpa Vertical Farms Team
Credit: Bonafide Media & PR

Apologies to my wee band of followers for not including a direct link in my previous post to the Great Growers article in this month’s Savour Calgary magazine.  And thanks to those of you who clicked through multiple links to eventually find it!

Let’s just attribute the omission to too many Friday distractions.  The link is now included in the Farmers’ Day post – but to keep it simple, you can also read the article here.

It’s Farmers’ Day in Alberta!

Dancing Goats Farm
Craig Sanok & Paul Chambers (Credit: Dancing Goats Farm)

Happy Alberta Farmers’ Day!

One of the great aspects of my gig writing for Savour Calgary magazine is the opportunity to sit down with farmers and talk about their life’s work. Their passion never ceases to amaze me and it’s a privilege to be an ear with which they choose to share it.

This month’s issue of Savour Calgary magazine presents just a few of the amazing people growing food for us in Southern Alberta, including Allpa Vertical Farms, Red Fox Fungi, and Solstice Berry Farm.

Recent issues have also featured Grand Trunk Veggies/Chef’s Farmer, Dancing Goats Farm, Bear and the Flower Farm, and Trail’s End Beef.

There are SO many other great producers out there and I hope to share more of their stories in the months to come.

Look for their products at fine restaurants and grocers across Calgary, and at farmers’ markets throughout the region.

And join me in thanking all Alberta farmers for the essential work they do to keep us happy and healthy!

#FarmersDay #albertafarmers @ufacooperative

Text © 2021 Catherine Van Brunschot

Culinary Cowichan Valley

Cowichan Bay Village waterfront (Credit: C. Van Brunschot)

While the covid vaccine roll-out numbers continue to climb, so, too, does the hope that we’ll be able to explore a little beyond our neighbourhoods later this year. 

As you look ahead to the summer and fall, consider some of the great close-to-home destinations covered in the current issue of Taste & Travel International magazine – including Vancouver Island’s Cowichan Valley, which I was fortunate to visit in 2020. 

Read more here or at https://tasteandtravelmagazine.com/ .

Forged By Fire

Chef Jinhee Lee at JinBar
Credit: C. Van Brunschot

A global pandemic is hardly an optimal scenario for opening a new restaurant venture.  But many Calgary chefs did exactly that – proving that where passion and ingenuity ignite, there’s no putting out the flame.

What does it take to be a chef-entrepreneur during times of adversity? I sat down with Chef Jinhee Lee, Chef Connie DeSousa, and Chef Jenny Kang to find out.

You can read what they had to say here – or in the March/April issue of Savour Calgary magazine.  Some of their comments may surprise you!

Jasper Revelations

Picnic near Angel Glacier

IT’S A GOOD TIME FOR EXPLORING OUR OWN BACKYARD.

That’s been my approach for the past ten months – and  what brought me (and my husband) to Jasper in September for a beautiful end-of-season camping trip.

We hiked.  We biked.  We sat by the fire, while elk bugled into the night sky.

And under the capable guidance of Estelle Blanchette from Jasper Food Tours, we explored Canadian cuisine with four “pods” of Alberta travellers.

You can read about our food tour in the Winter issue of Taste & Travel International  –  here or here.

The folks of Jasper have worked hard through the pandemic to welcome visitors in a safe, responsible – and always engaging – way.

And now that it’s winter, Jasper is MAGICAL.

Skating, skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing are just the beginning.  There’s ice walks in Maligne Canyon.  Winter wildlife tours.  And Dark Sky gazing in the world’s largest astronomy park.

Starting next week, you can enjoy in-restaurant dining with your family once more – and Jasper Food Tours will be gearing up again to introduce you to some of the best.

(Note that things are booking up quickly for the Family Day/Valentine’s Day/Lunar New Year weekend ahead).

Here’s hoping that you can take time to get out and explore.  There’s so much to love in our own backyard.

(In case you’re wondering  – this was not a sponsored post nor did I receive any discounts, gifts, etc. from any Jasper tours or venues.  I just like to share great people and places.)

Text and photos © 2021 Catherine Van Brunschot

Lighting Up Christmas 2020

From “DOUGHNUTS TO DOSAS: A Christmas Tale
(Story: C. Van Brunschot; Photo credit: S. Dunk)

“It was 2003 and time for the talk.  Like many propositions put forward to tweens, it might not go well.

 And the proposition we were making to our son and daughter?  We wanted to take them travelling at Christmas…” 

Say, what?

Travel?

Christmas?

What fantasy world is this?

In the Year of the Pandemic, travel feels like a distant dream – and carving the usual Christmas traditions out of 2020 is looking as possible as returning to 2003.

Christmas parties?  Gone from the calendar.  Community celebrations?  Better get the laptop going.  Family gatherings? Uh-uh – not if we want to keep Grandma & Grandpa healthy, the kids in school come January, and our own workplaces and businesses open.

Keeping our collective chin up seems to take a little more energy each day.

Enter Savour Calgary magazine, whose holiday issue just hit the stands last week.  It isn’t going to flatten the second curve or generate a new covid vaccine.  It won’t bring distant family members home for the holidays.  It won’t bring us any closer to that light at the tunnel’s end.

But it just might offer a wee bit of first aid.  Call it a thin string of lights to brighten up that tunnel wall.

The November/December issue is unabashedly Christmas focused.  Dishes up big sides of nostalgia.  Brings global experiences to Calgary and points to ways we can enjoy them right here at home.

And among its stories are different slants on what it means to celebrate Christmas – and a reminder of the joy found in solitude, too.

So if you’re looking for escape, fresh inspiration, that fruitcake recipe you lost, or just a small smile, check out this digital copy of the new issue or look here for where you can find a free paper copy to thumb through with your glass of mulled wine.

Me, I’m a sucker for all of those things – and happy to contribute a story to Savour Calgary, too.  (That’s an excerpt at the top of this page.  You can read the full text of “DOUGHNUTS TO DOSAS:  A Christmas Tale” here).

My strategy this year is to set aside what I’ll be missing and focus instead on how to make “different” into something good.

Best wishes to everyone for the holiday season – no matter how or what you celebrate.  This, too, will be just a memory some day.  There’s still some choice to be had in what that memory might be.

Text © 2020 Catherine Van Brunschot

Meet the Producers

Craig Sanok and Paul Chambers of Dancing Goats Farm

Spend some time with modern farmers and you’ll find they’re a thoughtful bunch. Especially these Calgary-area producers, who are getting noticed for doing things differently.

Jessica and Christopher Fasoli of Bear and The Flower Farm

Kye Kocher of Grand Trunk Veggies

Some even call themselves “nerdy”.

They’re focused on building community around quality local food – and on mindful stewardship of the planet’s resources.

Here’s a peek at why they’re turning heads…

Read more on my conversations with these local producers here – or in the new issue of Savour Calgary magazine. On newstands now at all of your favourite food purveyors.

 

Hunter Valley, Australia

Gundog Estate WineryJust a two hour drive from Sydney, the Hunter Valley is not only Australia’s oldest, but its most visited, wine region.  With fall markets, year-round food and wine festivals, and concerts featuring international pop stars to chamber music virtuosos, it’s easy to see why.  A covey of stellar vineyard restaurants and artisanal food producers cements the Hunter’s place as a food-lovers haven.

READ ON HERE to learn more about my favourite discoveries in the Hunter Valley – or check out the full Summer issue of Taste & Travel International magazine HERE.