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.

Fringing in Adelaide

Yabarra Spirit Trees, Adelaide

If you’re feeling a little blue about more months without travel and all of your favourite local festivals being cancelled, you’re not alone.

And if you’re a particular fan of fringe festivals, you’re probably also concerned about how those performing artists you’ve been waiting to see are making out.

Build a Rocket - before the performanceTruth is, they’re not going to be travelling to any festivals for the foreseeable future through this 2020 festival drought.

But there’s a wee bit of good news from Adelaide Fringe (the world’s second-largest annual arts festival), which managed to eke out its 2020 festival in February and March just ahead of the covid crisis’ descent on Australia.  It’s launching a new online pilot platform called Adelaide FringeVIEW, encouraging local and international performing artists to submit a digital version of their show to be presented to online audiences around the world.

“We want to help the artists who are unable to perform live or have had their shows cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions,” said Adelaide Fringe Director and CEO, Heather Croall.  “There is a need for the arts industry to band together and come up with new ideas, and with people at home and more time than ever to experience new shows, we want to provide an opportunity for people to access entertainment while supporting artists who have been impacted”.

Adelaide FringeVIEW  is designed to create an income stream for artists still looking to perform while restrictions are in place, with audiences asked to buy a ticket to help support the industry.  Artist registrations for the new platform have been open since April 15 and are free.  All proceeds from ticket sales are given back to the artist.

Fringe handbills - AdelaideThe Adelaide FringeVIEW platform will be live to the general viewing public starting this Friday, May 1 through to the end of May 2020.

“We are truly heartbroken to see so many livelihoods impacted,” Ms. Croall said, “but together we can continue to support and connect artists and audiences from around the world during a time where isolation is the new norm.”

So if you’re craving your fringe fix and want to support the artists who bring their innovative shows to you, see https://adelaidefringe.com.au/fringeview for more info, and for tickets starting this Friday.

And to help satisfy your wanderlust  in the meantime (or at least soothe your clipped wings), check out “Fringing in Adelaide” – my take on Australia’s fabulous festival city when I ventured there in March 2019.  It’s an opportunity to look back and look forward to better days, and you can read it here or in the Spring issue of Taste & Travel International magazine.

TandT-Issue-37_Cover-web-730x944There’s also a few recipes to expand your kitchen repertoire (and don’t we ALL need that at this point?), including a delicious vegetarian dish from Adelaide Central Market, and a bright prawn and pineapple Thai curry developed by one of Adelaide’s premier chefs, Chef Nu Suandokmai.

(And in case you’re wondering:  Adelaide Fringe has no idea who I am and certainly did not subsidize the article or this post in any way 🙂 )

Cultivating an Urban Grower

Urban Farm School garden
Photo credit: C. Lamoureux and C. Van Schepen

Spend just ten minutes with Carmen Lamoureux, founder of the Urban Farm School in Calgary, and you’ll want to dash home to plant some food.

In your flowerbed.  In a pot.  In a patch of dirt next to your condo building, even.

Her passion is that contagious…

Read the full story here, or check out the complete March/April issue of Savour Calgary magazine online here.  

Meet the Producer: Trail’s End Beef

Trail's End Beef Historic Ranch
Photo credit: C. Van Brunschot

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A LONG-TIME VEGETARIAN TAKES THE REINS OF AN HISTORIC CATTLE RANCH?

At a century-old farmhouse tucked in a fold of Alberta’s Porcupine Hills, I’m about to find out…

Read more here or in the new issue of Savour Calgary, available now on newstands at all your favourite food-loving businesses in Calgary and area.

This is Melbourne

Melbourne CBD from SouthbankI turn into the laneway, and there they are: the world’s top chefs in repose against a brick wall.  Massimo Bottura of Osteria Francescana.  Joan Roca of Spain’s El Celler De Can Roca.  New York’s Daniel Humm of 11 Madison Park.  And Hestor Blumenthal of The Fat Duck.  Hosting the gathering is Ben Shewry, chef-owner of Australia’s highest-ranked restaurant, Attica.

It’s the kind of happy serendipity that might precipitate handshakes, selfies, and – dare I hope? – sage morsels of inspiration to fuel my culinary dreams…

Read the full story here, or in the new issue of Taste & Travel International magazine.

 

Radio Interview on THE INFORMED TRAVELER: Talking about Tuscany

Thanks so much to Randy Sharman for inviting me to chat about Tuscany on the May 5 episode of his radio show, THE INFORMED TRAVELER.

I love the relaxed, conversational way that Randy’s show brings the latest in travel news and tips to his listeners.  Like me, he believes that “there’s no better learning experience than traveling the world and meeting the people who inhabit it”, and he’s dedicated to teasing out stories and insights from his on-air guests.

The INFORMED TRAVELER is heard Sunday’s on 770CHQR in Calgary, 630CHED in Edmonton and on 980 CKNW in Vancouver.

You can also listen to free podcast episodes on curiouscast.ca and omny.fm by searching Google Podcasts,  Apple Podcasts, or Spotify on your electronic device.

In the May 5 segment, Randy uses my City Palate article “Late to the Table: a Culinary Walk Through Italy” as a springboard for discussing why food is special in Tuscany and how best to explore the region’s culinary treasures.

You can listen to my segment here – or hear the full episode (including info on celebrating Cinco de Mayo in Los Cabos or volunteering abroad) on THE INFORMED TRAVELER website.  If you like what you hear, you’ll find past episodes available on the website, too.

I’m looking forward to chatting with Randy again sometime in the future!

Text and photos © 2019 Catherine Van Brunschot

Late to the Table: A Culinary Walk Through Tuscany

Tuscan countrysideLet me be upfront:  I never read Frances Mayes’ Under the Tuscan Sun. Never saw the movie. I’m unaccountably indifferent to pasta (and Italian food  in general, if truth be told). Yes, I missed the boat completely on the raptures of Tuscany.

Friends who’d spent time in the popular Italian region said this was a gap in need of remedy. Stat.

So I booked a culinary walking tour of Tuscany, offering hillside rambles and an abundance of wine. Now THAT’S something I could commit to…

Read the full story in the current issue of Calgary’s City Palate magazine.

Street Food and More in Mumbai

Kulfi from Sharma's Milky
Kulfi from Sharma’s Milky

As financial capital of India and home to Bollywood, Mumbai has long held a cosmopolitan outlook on culture and food.  And in a city of 18 million people – well, the possibilities for dining are practically endless.

With the help of knowledgeable locals – and a little sweet serendipity, too – I “discovered” these South Mumbai favourites (including some of the BEST street food vendors on popular Chowpatty Beach)…

 

Read more here or in the current issue of Taste & Travel International.