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.