Fresh Bites

Following Vernon’s Culinary Trail

Paddling with ELEMENTS Adventure Company
Photo credit: ELEMENTS Adventure Company

When I came in search of food experiences in British Columbia’s North Okanagan Valley, I didn’t expect to find myself HERE.

Pine forests tumble down the Monashee mountains and cottonwoods throw shadows over the canoe, as I float with seven other paddlers down the Shuswap River.  Other shadows flit below the water:  Chinook and Sockeye salmon returning to their birthplace to spawn.  A Bald eagle whistles from a tall snag, but before I can locate his partner, my guide, Charles Ruechel, sounds his call to stroke hard on my side of the canoe.  By the time we clear the “sweeper” – a tree laid low over the water – we’ve left the eagle behind.  No matter.  Minutes later, another eagle splits the October sky.

Read the full story in the Summer Issue of Taste & Travel International magazine.

Feeding the 5000 Calgary

Feed the 5000 Calgary logoFor me as a food and travel writer, food is about adventure, about culture, about creativity and conviviality.  But food is also about nurturing body and spirit and – at its most basic – it’s about survival.   That’s why I volunteer at the Drop-In Centre, the Food Bank, and with LeftOvers Calgary.

Through LeftOvers I’ve learned that, at its worst, food is also about waste.  HEAPS and HEAPS of it.  So I’m excited to be a part of Feeding the 5000 this upcoming Thursday in Olympic Plaza – an event that will see Calgary chefs and volunteers turn perfectly edible food that would be destined for the landfill into a tasty lunch for 5000 people.  And the best part?  LUNCH IS FREE AND EVERYONE’S INVITED.

From its inaugural event in the UK in 2009, Feeding the 5000 has spread to locations around the world, including Paris, Sydney, New York, and Vancouver.  Its aim is to raise awareness about global food waste.  Fully 1/3 of the world’s food production is wasted, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization – discarded in processing, transport, warehouses, grocery stores, restaurants, and home kitchens.

Yes, you read that right – ONE THIRD of the world’s food production never makes it into the mouths of people.

In Canada alone, approximately 170,000 tonnes of edible food – or 300 million meals valued at 31 billion dollars – are sent to landfills every year.  This squanders countless resources in terms of water, energy, land and the like – and makes discarded food one of our largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.

Here in Calgary, we’ve got work to do, too.  Discarded food accounts for 36% of all material going from our homes into our landfills  – and a 2016 study commissioned by the City of Calgary revealed that 52% of that discarded food is edible.

The food we’re talking about is not spoiled, mouldy, or otherwise unsafe to eat.  Think those imperfect fruit and vegetables that you’re reluctant to buy at the supermarket (Yup – I’m guilty as charged).  Or food beyond its “best before” date, but not past its expiration date.  Overstock and oversupply at retailers.  And mislabelled, improperly packaged, or damaged food.

Feed 500 Red Deer eventWhat SAIT Chef Andrew Hewson and his team of volunteers aim to do this Thursday, June 15, is transform unsellable winter-stored potatoes and carrots, ugly tomatoes, surplus chickpeas, day-old bread – and anything else that might turn up in the food truck – into a delicious and nutritious summertime lunch that includes soup, salads, and dessert.

I’ll be chopping up some of those vegetables in the lead-up to the event and serving food in Olympic Plaza from 11 am to 2 pm.  Come on down and have a taste – did I mention that it’s free?

While you’re eating, you’ll be able to find out what LeftOvers Calgary, the Calgary Regional Partnership, the Recycling Council of Alberta, and other organizations are doing to address food waste at the community level- and what we can do at home and at the supermarket to reduce our own food waste.

If you’re interested in joining me at the chopping block, contact me here – or on Facebook – and I’ll let you know where to be and when.

Or contact Jessica Letizia directly (jessicaletizia@calgaryregion.ca) and she’ll tell you how you can still help out before, during, or after the eventFeeding the 5000 would be happy to have a few extra hands on the team.

The food you’ll see is destined to surprise you.  Come on down and check it out.

Feeding the 5000 Calgary

June 15, 2017/11 am to 2 pm/Olympic Plaza

For more information, see F5Kyyc.com.

 

Croatia’s Pelješac Peninsula

Salt pans from Napoleon's road, Croatia
Photo credit: C. Van Brunschot

If I could design a perfect day in food-travel heaven, this would be it:

A gentle hike on a mountain trail, overlooking vineyards heavy with fruit. A meet-up with a winemaker and a lingering visit to his cellars and tasting room. Perhaps a breezy float on the bay to take the heat out of the day. Then a long picnic lunch of shellfish just plucked from the sea.

Lucky for me, today IS that day.

Read the full story in the Spring Issue of Taste & Travel International magazine.

Eating India

Surjit Singh in Amritsar
Credit: C. Van Brunschot

Thanks to Karen Anderson for the shout-out on her Savour It All blog about my “Eating India” article in the newest issue of City Palate.  The article highlights my travels through northern India in late 2015 with Alberta Food Tours   a truly delicious adventure.

I’m happy to say I’ll be making a return trip with them in the fall – this time to Mumbai, Goa, Kerala, and the Cardamom Hills!

You can read Karen’s post here – and see my full article in blazing colour in the digital edition of City Palate here.

Big Tastes of Spring

(NOTE:  WINTER IS COMING GOING) 

Tulips

 

Know what always tells me that spring is actually on its way?

It’s not the tulips that appear at the checkout, whispering tight-lipped promises that they’ll open their hearts, if only I’ll take them home.  (I do, and they prove true to their word).

Nor is it the bare patch that emerges in my garden after a long Chinook, reminding me of where my rhubarb lays sleeping.  (That just makes me sad.  BUT I’ve found an antidote for that, which I’ll share later on).

It’s the moment when I take my last luscious YYC Hot Chocolate Fest sip (thank you, February!) and open my browser to the listings for The Big Taste – Calgary’s annual festival for food lovers.  Those ten days in March when hundreds of city-centre chefs put on their best show, with multicourse meals that remind us what a terrific food town we live in.  This year, more than 90 restaurants make their pitch for your heart and mine.

Big Taste 2017But the festival’s not all signature events and gourmet dinners (though there’s plenty of those, with menus whose read is its own delicious indulgence).  Our chefs and restaurateurs know – perhaps better than most – that we’ve been hurting here in Calgary during this economic downturn.  So they’ve also included 3-course lunches for only $15 and $25 dollars, and Happy Hour specials featuring all your favourite and soon-to-be-favourite drinks and snacks.

So even if the belt is tight at the moment, there’s good excuse to loosen it up just a notch and treat yourself to a little morale boost.  To celebrate the news that we’ve turned the corner and – though the climb is still long and slow – better times lay ahead.

To venture down to the new-kids-on-the-block like Royale Brasserie and Mill Street Brewpub on 17th;  Klein/Harris on Stephen Avenue;  or Provision in Memorial Park.  Stave off the winter blues with a new-to-you cuisine at Hapa Izakaya (serving Japanese),  Paper St. Food + Drink (featuring international street food),  or Foreign Concept (helmed by Gold Medal Plates winner, Chef Jinhee Lee, and her mentor, Duncan Ly).

King salmon - The GuildMaybe it’s time to check out the food scene stars that you’ve just never made it to, like Pigeonhole  or  Whitehall.  Or to splash all-out: at SAIT’s Centennial Celebration in their spiffy downtown culinary campus – or at The Guild toasting Canada’s 150th birthday in the iconic Hudson’s Bay building .

Whether your inclination is to explore new food frontiers or rediscover old favourites, know that scores of our culinary best are working hard behind the scenes to coax fabulous flavours and colours from our province’s larders and root cellars.  They’re tapping local greenhouses – and sourcing fresh crops from our neighbours in gentler climes – to remind us of what we can look forward to as the days grow longer.

They’re bringing spring back to Calgary. Time to show them a little love.  It’s been a long cold winter for them, too.

The 2017 Big Taste Foodie Festival (#BIGTASTEYYC) launches this Friday, March 3 and runs through Sunday, March 12.  Find restaurant listings, menus, and reservations links at http://www.calgarydowntown.com/the-big-taste.

Okanagan Spirits Rhubarb Liqueur

AND FOR THOSE LIKE ME WHO CAN’T WAIT FOR THAT FIRST TASTE OF RHUBARB:  Track down a bottle of Okanagan Spirits’ Rhubarb Liqueur – my favourite springtime discovery. In an inspired turn of crowdsourcing in 2016, Vernon’s craft distillery asked Okanagan residents if they’d like to share their spare rhubarb for a little experiment.   Okanaganites responded in droves – with everything from truckbeds of rhubarb stalks in dirt, to sealed baggies of carefully-chopped fruit.  Distillery staff painstakingly washed and hand-chopped all 650 pounds – to produce a spirit that’s so tart and fresh, you can almost hear the crunch.  Look for it at fine liquor stores in Calgary or order it online while supplies last.

Text and photos © 2017 Catherine Van Brunschot

Hot Eats in San Diego

Blueberry-basil shrub with lemonade - Zymology 21
Photo credit: C. Van Brunschot

Some food tours are all about discovering a regional cuisine.  Others provide a gateway to understanding local culture.

And some are just about who’s the brightest kid on the block doing great things with food.

Bite San Diego’s Downtown/Little Italy tour is all about the latter -which could explain why the majority of the fifteen folks who’ve turned up for today’s tour actually live within an hour’s drive…

(Taste & Travel International, Winter 2017) READ MORE

 

A Little Mexican Cooking in Puerto Morelos

Sopa de lima plating
Sopa de lima plating, awaiting the soup (Photo credit: C. Van Brunschot)

If a looming January has you dreaming of an escape to Mexico, travel with me for a moment to a sweet little cooking school in Puerto Morelos:

To duck beneath the arches of the breezy hacienda terrace of Casa Caribe is to escape instantly from the sun-baked attractions and adrenalin-soaked adventures that are the core of a Mayan Riviera experience on Mexico’s Yucatan coast.  Beneath the high ceilings of this unassuming guesthouse, the smell of coffee wafts past a mural of Mexican lovers in a jewel-toned landscape and white wicker chairs beckon from across the cool terracotta tiles…

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