Thursday, September 4, 2008

Harvest of Plenty

Finally the fruits of labour are bountiful!

I was in the garden yesterday after my much needed holiday to find a huge array of colours dispersed throughout the green of the plants!

See attached pictures...

I have brought in tons of tomatoes for us to cook with just in time to do a wedding for 150 on the weekend that requires most, if not all of what I picked yesterday!

We've been plenty busy over the last few weeks, things ramping up for a busy fall of corporate luncheons and private parties. We are all very excited about the coming season as it leaves us with plenty of local product and artisans to work with.

I will keep you all posted as more tomatoes come from our garden!


On another note, we have been re-developping our Green Menus and Green Weddings for our offerings and so far the response has been phenomenal. People are aching for this kind of service!

It's a good thing for a company that is more and more looking into greening as much of its offerings as possible.

Keep your eyes open, and if you're interested in Green Weddings or weddings in general, join us at Booth 402, Landsdowne Market this coming saturday where we will be for the Wedding Show! Promises to be a great time!

I'm off to clean up so that I may return to the kitchen next week (yes for those who didn't know, I was working in our office for the last 2 months). I am excited to get to work with food again! I have been focusing a lot on the business and booking end of things and am ready to go back out on the floor



Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Photographic Evidence


This may look a little jumbled once I post, Blogger is giving me a hard time with these. I think you get the jist of it though.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008



The garden has exploded! It is so beautiful to see the life that can come from a few handfuls of seeds. Amazing.

Tomato plants are now tall and hardy, producing tiny green tomatoes, some ribbed, some staying small.

Beans and peas have just grown exponentially. In fact, I’m a little afraid of what I am going to walk into tonight when I go. I haven’t been since mid-week last week and even then it was huge.

We used some beets on a plate this weekend for a beautifully staged wedding of small plates. I have attached some photos, but none of which are of the beets unfortunately. They are still to come.

We also picked some crisp, fresh, young snap peas and tossed them into our Vegetable Mélange. What a beautiful vegetable!

I will post a few pictures of the Terroir Project tomato plant soon. It has taken well to our soil, and is growing in leaps and bounds. I can’t wait to sit down and do the tasting with Debbie.

I will keep it short and sweet for today but expect more soon.

Unfortunately, blogger isn't allowing me to post photos for some strange reason. Til next time!



Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Out at in the garden these past mornings and oh what a change!

I have to admit that I hadn’t been around much in the last week or so, and Tracey has been good enough to do some weeding, and ever so smartly, lay some landscaping material down over the portion where nothing is planted yet. She’s saved us from quite a few hours of wedding.

That tomato plants are growing ferociously and some are even starting to bloom. I admittedly thought we were going to lose a lot more then we actually did. I haven’t counted them, but I would say we have roughly 45-50 of the 60 we initially planted. And they have all hardened very well and are thickening up in order to hold the bounty they will produce!

Our peas and beans are out of control! They keep growing up and reaching out higher but to no avail. I wasn’t able to get netting that high so they are now growing back towards the ground. Should be interesting, next time, planting them further apart!

Beet and carrots…. Well, they are slow to come, but will be there in good time. We have 2 rows of beets that are growing and a few of the carrots, but I had to turn 3 rows of carrots into 2 rows of beets yesterday J Magic I tell you.

I have planted another set of beets so that we may keep using them throughout the season as we finish off out first batch.


Got a visit from Debbie Trenholm today ( , a sommelier friend of ours who is always doing fun and exciting stuff around the city. In fact, they just received a Award for their All-Canadian Wine List featured at Trio Restaurant ( here in Ottawa.

She has started a new project called the Terroir Project.

In essence, we are planting 4 identical tomato plants, in four entirely different regions of the city and surrounding area to see what nuances are brought upon by the soil it is being grown in, the amount of sun it gets, etc…

The participants are :
- Ron Eade (Ottawa Citizen Food Writer) – Growing his plant in a terracotta pot on his deck in Lincoln Fields area (
- Chef Nelson Borges of the Westin Hotel – Growing his plant in his wife’s farm outside Ottawa
- Sommelier Debbie Trenholm of Savvy Grapes – Growing her plan in the vegetable garden around her pool in Carp
- And of course myself – Growing our beautiful plant out in our Navan Farm.

Tasting will happen sometime in early September, after my wedding of course, so keep your eye on the blog to find out more in the coming weeks and months!

Alright, I should be posting some photos tomorrow morning some time. See you all then!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Help Stuart Collins and Bryson Farms

If you haven’t heard already, Stuart Collins of Bryson Farms has been saved from extradition. I won’t elaborate much more on the story, only to say that it is very important for each and everyone of us to contact our local MP’s and voice our opinion over this matter. Stuart is a staple in our community and without him, Bryson Farms won’t continue.

Please help Support Stuart!

The Transplant

A successful transplant if I do say so myself… well almost…

Last week (sorry for being so behind on my posts), we were able to transplant all 60 or so tomato plants to the garden as well as thin out some of those ever growing weeds. It was a hot day to do it all, but definitely worth the sweat. The only problem was that we lost about 10 or so plants… mostly the smaller ones, rest assured that what we have left is thriving!

Of all the seeds we started we have 7 different types. My plan is to be able to showcase them each individually as well as in a group through various recipes as they become available. So far we are just sitting and praying that we get a little sunshine to help them on their way.

On another note, the peas and beans are growing exponentially! I can’t keep up with them! I have put some bamboo skewers into the ground and run some string to help them come along. I’ll be in there tomorrow morning trimming and cleaning up! Hasn’t been a good week for weeding as it has rained every single day. Not that we didn’t get any done: Thanks Tracey!

I am not looking forward to all the mosquitoes that this rain will bring on. I'm off to Canadian Tire tonight to look for a netting to wear.

Over all, everything is looking very green, beet tops are up, and some itty bitty carrots as well. Soon enough well have a harvest of plenty!

Anyone have any suggestions for Organic fertilizing? I've looked everywhere and can only find Fish Emulsion. The debate is there... we shall see.


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

we have life...

Good day to everyone. I know it’s been over a week since I last posted, but to be honest, I haven’t seen the garden in about that much time either. It was an incredibly busy week last week at Epicuria and I found myself giving a hand wherever possible.

I decided that rain or shine, I was going out to Navan today. And, today, was a pretty gloomy and foggy day to be taking pictures, but I was delighted to find beautiful sprouts of life!

A few weeks ago we planted beets, peas, beans and carrots. Lo and behold, they are coming through. Everyone but the carrots that is. They are slow coming, but I have faith. Hope you do too. I'll let you guess what is what.

I dragged my brother-in-law out to take a few pictures so that they would do them(the sprouts) justice. I am always fascinated when I see sprouts start to emerge from the dark dank earth. All that life coming from such a little, rock hard, bean or seed. They slowly push their way through the dirt, little by little gaining more ground and getting more sunlight.

With all this hot weather we are getting (or bound to get soon) comes a slew of business in the catering department, and tons of people coming in on Thursdays and Fridays to purchase food for the Cottage. Our freezer section has been busier then ever and Isabelle, our Pastry Chef, along with her team, have been cranking out the beloved cookies. She even made an ice cream cone one this week! J

I received my copy of Ottawa Magazine this week and was DELIGHTED to hear about the up and coming restaurant shuffles, changes and additions for the city! I'm especially excited about the new addition to our neighbourhood, Fraser Café ( Two brothers, both ex-Domus, have come together and formed a Seasonal Kitchen. I can't wait to find 10 minutes to go in and make a reservation! Check it out and frequent it often. Let me know what you think.

I’m going to cut this one short, but expect another entry by the end of the week.

Oh but before I go… Is anyone even reading these entries? I have yet to hear of one person through feedback. If anyone could just send me out a quick shout that would be fantastic .



Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Sprouts no more

Evening before last was filled with transplanting of our massive amount of tomato plants. After leaving them in the mini-greenhouse over the weekend, they all grew 1 to 2 inches. It is quite spectacular to see that so much can happen in so little time. Had them spread all over the living room when my fiancé and landlord arrived. I got quite the look from the latter until she realized what I was growing. She lives in New Edinburgh and informed me that she was following our articles in the New Edinburgh News ( We've been lucky enough to be able to contribute to the community newspaper on a regular basis now for the past few months.

I’ve had to replant about 80% of them so that the stem isn’t so high and they can support themselves. Won’t be long now, another 2 weeks or so, and they will be hitting the garden, ready to grow! I’ve added a few pictures, which I realize are the first of me actually working. Voila!

Speaking of hitting the garden, tonight is going to be a marathon of planting. My fiancé and I are going out to Navan to plant carrots, beets, celeriac, and maybe a few other root vegetables. Should be covering about 65% of the ground with them. Supposed to be great weather and hopefully not too hot. Now is the time to get these things in the ground, as I’m not looking forward to all the mosquitoes that are supposedly coming out very shortly. I’ve looked all over for the “last frost” of the year predictions and we should be beyond it now. Here’s to hoping.

Probably won’t have time for another entry this week as catering is ramping up and I’ll be lending them a hand over the next few days. Again, I’ll be gone all weekend and won’t be back till late Monday night now. (For anyone who is curious, planning a long distance wedding more then 5 hours away, includes a great deal of travel time.)

Let’s hope all goes well tonight!


Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Gardening is not a rational act

“Gardening is not a rational act.” is a quote I found by Margaret Atwood. After last nights moving of 10 yards of topsoil; I agree. In 4 ½ hours we managed to move most of that about 100 or so feet and spread it all across the garden. Needless to say, I was a little stiff this morning and am dreading rolling out of bed tomorrow and being sore ALL over. The photo below is the original pile at about 3/4 gone.

I was lucky enough to be able to enlist JL for some help and have a Tracey’s husband pitch-in for a few hours. Thank goodness I didn’t have to do it all on my lonesome. We finished up at about 8:30pm and we were exhausted. I do have to admit that having the use of the mini-tractor was a great help!

All in all, we have most of it done now and have left a few piles on top of the garden to spread out once things have settled.

Next week is planting time! Oh, and, good news, spoke with Stuart and Terry at Bryson Farms and they will provide us with seeds for Heirloom Carrots! Talking to Stuart, I was assured that we had a long enough growing season to plant 2 sets of carrots so that our harvest lasts longer and the same for beets.

Now that the search is over we can re-focus our efforts on getting things into the ground and re-organizing the layout, as things have had to change, as they always do, once we broke into the ground.

Next week I plan on laying everything out, maybe make a few paths down the center, and I'll be planting seeds for carrots and beets.
As everything comes together, and the seedlings turn into real tomato plants, everything is becoming more and more exciting.

I’m away for the weekend but will keep you posted on how things are advancing very shortly. Also, Tracey should be putting up a post some time this week to tell you all about her weekend in New York City and our yearly participation in Bon Appetit ( Keep your eyes peeled!


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Top soil, cheese and seedlings

What a week. We had the Spring Trade Tasting for PECGWA last night, Bon Appetit tonight, another huge event tomorrow night and few others in between. Catering is busy, busy, busy. Speaking of busy, I head out to Navan tonight to load in 10 square yards of top soil into the garden. Should be interesting.

I have been able to recruit my friend JL again, which will be great help since Tracey will have her hands full at Bon Appetit. The soil was shipped last night and dropped in the front of the yard, so we’ll have to haul it around 100 feet to the back. I don’t think we’ll get it all done tonight, but hopefully we can do most of it. My only concern is that it rained last night and so we may be shoveling mud. :0(

On a brighter note, our tomato seedlings are doing great! I’ve posted a few pictures and will add some more tomorrow if I have time to take more shots. I have since moved them from the basement at the shop and brought them all home. Picked up a nice little greenhouse from the CTC (Canadian Tire Company), added two light fixtures and they are doing very well because of it I think!

I want to take a minute and talk about a wonderful discovery we made last night at the Trade Show Tasting. Over the last few weeks I have been trying to contact the owners of Fifth Town Cheeses (, an artisanal cheese company in Prince Edward County. I have successfully tracked down the owner and will be calling her today. All this to say that they donated a few cheeses for a station at the event last night and we were blown away!

FTCC is “an environmentally and socially responsible enterprise positioned as a niche producer of fine hand made cheeses using fresh, locally produced goat and sheep milk.”
And their product is phenomenal! We experienced an array of 3 or 4 soft ripened goat cheeses, goat cheese bagel spread, hand rolled cheese logs and last but not least, a lemon Sheep Milk Cheese. A hard cheese with just a hint of Lemon and just a touch salt; It was to die for!

I encourage everyone to visit the website and please ask for it from your local cheese monger. We will soon be carrying it as part of our permanent line of Artisan Cheese Platters.

Wish me luck for tonight!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Still getting the hang of this blogging thing...

My posting is a little tardy, but it did take me a few days to recover from our first real day of getting our hands dirty. I have removed a fair amount of turf to start new gardens over the years and I have to say it is one of the worst jobs out there. I am glad it is over. Fortunately, I was able to recover the following weekend eating in NYC.

One the goals of our project is to explore the financial sustainability of our garden. I love food but I have to say I love business just as much so I am keen to know more about the financial reality of a small specialized market farmer. We have spread sheets for our capital investment and cost of goods such as labour, seeds and soil. In the end, we hope to compensate ourselves by selling the produce to Epicuria at lower than market prices, but I have to admit, we really have no idea what the outcome will be. Complicating this is the small scale of our project but hopefully it will yield some good info.

Last week, we shared a booth at Bon Appetit with Bryson Farms, and Stuart was more than encouraging. He urged me not to worry about yield and just enjoy the process, which is the other equally important goal of our project. We have worked along side Bryson Farms at Bon Appetit for six years and it is always a pleasure to come up with a new menu item featuring their produce. This year we served a simple slaw of Bryson heirloom carrots and golden beets along side a mini sirloin burger. It was a busy evening and we put out 800 mini plates in just over 2 hours. It was the fastest paced service I have done in a while and was most certainly the equivalent of moving 10 yards of soil into the garden.

A little about New York. In between hauling wheel barrows of heavy sod (Andre did not cut me any slack that day) and serving sliders to masses of foodies, I had the pleasure of eating at Del Posto, Bouchon and Gordon Ramsay in a span of 24 hours. I had no idea I was to be eating at Del Posto (which is a partnerhsip between Mario Batali, Lidia Bastianich and Joseph Bastianich), until I was stuck in the Lincoln Tunnel at 5:30pm and informed by friends that we had reservations at 6:00pm. Yikes. To say the least we raced, made our reservations and were seated in one of the most beautiful dining rooms to enjoy one of the most sumptuous Italian meals I have ever eaten. The highlight of the meal for me was the Insalata Salumi Misti with Erbazzone and Stuffed Morel as well as the Orecchiette with Lamb Neck Sausage, Morels and Spring Onions. I love pork and I love richly braised meats so I was in heaven . My husband chose two wonderful Italian wines which cost more than my horse's monthly board bill but despite the high cost of fine dining in NYC it was worth every penny.

While Del Posto has a large two story dining room, Gordon Ramsay at the London has an intimate and glamorous room with just 46 seats. We chose the Menu Prestige tasting menu with wine pairings to get the full effect of the dining experience. I did note that most guests we ordering the three course A la carte menu but I suppose when you live in New York and eat out all of the time you don't want to subject yourself to the rigours of a tasting menu. I made sure I had a light lunch that day at Bouchon but have to say when I sat down, I had doubts as to whether I would last eight courses. I decided to skip the champagne to start and by the third course of Pan seared black cod with pig's tails, Caraquet Oysters, celeriac and sweet garlic I was back in the game and ready for the Filet of Brandt beef with braised Kobe short rib, cipollini onions and baby beets. I credit the Kobe for my endurance that evening which later included several fabulous cocktails in several trendy clubs and bars.

Just one more bit before I sign off. On Thursday May 7th we participated in the first annual fundraiser for Arts Ottawa East aptly named ARTinis and Appetizers. The evening had a Latin theme and was a great success due to the extraordinary organizing skills of Sandra McInnes. Our station was a hit with our delicious pulled pork buns and grilled chicken skewers with paint brushed on sauces.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Turf Has Turned...

This weekend was the first real hands-on weekend for the garden. And what a perfect day for it. The property we’re working on is on this beautiful slope with such a great view of the valley. Which leaves plenty of room for just enough breeze to keep you nice and cool when the sun comes out and beats down on you!

Tracey and I were out (I was able to recruit a good friend of mine, JL), nice and early to start measuring and figuring out our exact location. I’ve added a few before and after pictures to give you an idea. We’ve ended up cutting out a piece of land approximately 25’ x 25’ give or take as we had to accommodate for the sumac surrounding the property.

To turn out all the turf we rented a roto-tiller. The work is always easier when you have the proper tools! I can’t imagine having had to do it all by hand! The only downfall is that the tiller is better designed for turning soil that has already been cleaned out, so we ended up having to sift all the little pieces of turf it left behind. All in all, we spent about 6 hours outside which is working wonders for my farmers tan. Next year will be a breeze!

We only have a couple more things to do before it starts to look like an actual garden:

- Add more topsoil to enrich it a little bit, as well as leveling off the land, as it’s a tiny bit sloped.

- Hopefully repot some plants this week and get them in the ground soon

- Plant more seeds for things like carrots and beets that need to go directly into the ground

- And then of course, figure out a schedule for getting me out to Navan to take care of all this J

On another garden related note, we were missing some seeds for Heirloom carrots, seeing as they are extremely difficult to get a hold of. I have put in a request to purchase seed from Stuart at Bryson Farms (! Hopefully that comes through for us.

For those of you who don’t know Bryson Farms, it is a small Organic farm based out of the Pontiac region that does home delivery of product grown in their gardens. Check out the website and support local!

I’ve also sent out our first invites to a Trade Wine Tasting at the Vendange Wine Institute for the Prince Edward County Wine Growers Association (PECWGA). Unfortunately, it’s trade only, however, PECWGA has organized this event along with a few other partners in order to encourage the distribution of these products throughout this region as well is kick off their Spring Terroir Festival ( Next time you are at your favourite restaurant, make a point to ask for a Wine from the County.

Alright, I thought I would keep this nice and short, but turns out to be otherwise.



Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Welcome to the Epicuria Blog

Welcome to the first posting for Epicuria Fine Foods. Let us begin by enumerating a few things.

The first being who we are and what we do.

We are a Fine Foods shop based out of New Edinburgh and have been around for just over 18 years. We offer ready-made meal solutions, house-made jams and chutneys, and have just recently developed a full-line of Frozen, Ready to Serve Meals. We prepare a multitude of offerings so that people, just like yourselves, have more time to do other things, such as spending time with their families, and not have to worry about the quality and freshness of the food you are serving them. Simply put; simple food, made easy.

The second thing I would like to explain is who I am. However, you will have to refer to my profile for this as Blogspot thought I was writing too much.


Enough about me, lets talk about this blog. Why, you ask, are we blogging our experiences and creating a “food chronicle”? Well, in an effort to better understand where the food we make is coming from, we decided to take it one step closer to our food supplies. We have started planting our own 625 square foot garden. We have planted everything from carrots and tomatoes, to herbs and beets.

We are trying to better understand the work involved in getting the food from farm to table. We already know half the battle; this is our opportunity to see the other.

By doing so, we hope to make these types of vegetable, mostly heirloom, more affordable as well as more accessible to our clientele.

Hopefully, our blog will serve as an educational tool to anyone with an interest in the food they eat and the path it takes to get to them. Along with Tracey Black, our Executive Chef and Co-Owner, I am hoping to help you to better understand your food, from beginning to end.

Expect posts every few days and updates whenever they are available.



Sunday, April 20, 2008

The seed of something delicious....

The garden project came together for a variety of reasons. Andre and I both had our own gardens last year but when he purchased a new home and found himself without a suitable yard, we decided to team up and create a garden with a greater purpose. I had two small raised beds but with an extra acre at my disposal, plus two young children, two dogs, a horse and a thriving catering business, pairing up seemed like a good thing.

I grew up reluctantly helping my parents with their numerous hunting and gathering projects. There were two gardens plus numerous trips to "pick your own" farms that resulted in what seemed like hours of prepping, preserving and freezing enough food to get us through the winter. There was clamming, fishing, raising a pig and cow at my aunt's house and an assortment of game animals hanging in the carport. There was no shortage of exposure to knowing exactly where your food came from. In the end, what seemed like drudgery, paid off for me. I have a wonderful career in food, due in part to that experience.

Ottawa has numerous local suppliers to provide Epicuria with outstanding produce. Our long time friends at Bryson Farms deliver to us weekly their tasty greens, heirloom carrots, beets and more. So why start our own garden when there is no shortage of great produce? Simply, we want the experience of taking an ingredient from start to finish on a larger scale. Not only do we want control of the actual product we are growing, we want to know the cost, the time and more importantly the frustration of knowing exactly what we don't know and the joy of something accomplished. It should be an interesting ride.