Field Trip: Detour Roasters Cafe

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

It wasn't hard for us to become instant fans of Detour Coffee when we first noticed their sandwich board a few summers ago. It took us up an alley to the back of a building in downtown Dundas, Ontario. Kaelin McCowan's hidden coffee roasting operation was something decidedly cool in the almost too quaint town, and it was inspiring to meet someone not only discovering their passion, but acting upon it. We followed up with a Field Trip back in August.

Since then, Kaelin and his wife Crystal have opened Detour Roasters Cafe in the front of the building. It's the perfect collision of Kaelin's coffee zeal and Crystal's culinary inclinations. We were lucky enough to go to their official launch on Saturday and sample a lot of what the new cafe has to offer.

Kaelin and Crystal.

Drawing on her New Zealand heritage, where there are few formalities when it comes to entertaining, Crystal ultimately wants people to be relaxed. She envisions a space where you hold a business meeting one day, and bring the kids the next.

Smoked tomato & sweet pepper soup and beef and barley with wild mushroom soup.  Their pastrami is smoked in-house.

They make what they can in-house and source the rest as local as possible. Their meat, smoked on the premises, comes from Hundred Mile Market, and their bread is sourced from De La Terre Bakery in Niagara. Crystal spent time this past summer preserving. She made jams, pickles, and ketchup and they make all of their own mayo and dressings. Tim, one of the chefs, has a pretty strong philosophy of whole animal consumption, which he'll get to exercise often once he starts bringing in whole pigs from his parents' farm.

Yogurt & berries topped with homemade granola and their fresh muffins and scones.

They keep the menu simple, so they can focus on quality. We tasted delicious soups, sandwiches, cookies, and brownies, and the homemade granola is something we would be tempted to have every morning if we were just a bit closer.

Right now they are open 8 to 6, Monday to Friday, and 8 to 5 on Saturdays. Sundays are in the works and they might even be open 7 days starting next week.

If you ever find yourself in the Hamilton area, make the trip to the beautiful village of Dundas. It's nestled in a unique little nook in the Niagara Escarpment that feels miles away from where it really is. And then just relax with one of the best coffees and sandwiches you'll have in a while.

Detour Roasters Cafe
41 King St. West
Dundas, Ontario

Field Trip: Fenwood Farm

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A few years ago when we first moved to the Hamilton area, we heard of a chicken farm that supposedly had the best chicken ever. It took us a while, but we finally made it to to Fenwood Farm via a series of country roads and a long tree-lined laneway.

Since that day, it's been our family's exclusive source for good, healthy chicken. We've tried to make it a bi-weekly stop in our effort to stay out of the grocery store. Our basic plan is this: Dearsley's Meats for fresh beef, bacon, two dozen eggs, cheese, and then two weeks later, Fenwood Farm for fresh and frozen whole chickens, and another batch of eggs.

The store is located behind Carol and John Fennema's home and is lined with freezers filled with not only chicken, but a great selection of pork, wild-caught seafood, venison, Mapletons organic ice cream, and their own beef and turkey. They also stock emu oil, lip balm, a variety of soaps, honey, fair-trade organic coffee and even organic pet food.

John and Carol Fennema have been on their 100 acre farm for 20 years, 18 of which has been organic. John grows all the grain to feed the organic chickens, they raise their own beef which roam free, and have free range egg laying hens in the gorgeous old red barn.

The surprising fact is how many chickens they process each month. Beyond the laying hens, there are no other chickens on the premises. Their meat chickens are on their son's farm close to Cambridge and they process around 2,000 organic chickens and 1,000 natural chickens from it each week. It's a big number, but given the list of restaurants and stores they supply, it makes sense.

I asked about the living conditions for the birds and Carol smiled as she said that the birds have plenty of room to run around, have nice shavings for beds, and lots of outdoor access when weather permits. The plan was for us to follow Carol over to see the chickens, but we ran out of time. It's still on our to-do list.

We're pretty familiar with what organic means, but Fenwood also sells "natural" chicken, and that word is often in a grey area. So we asked. Their natural chicken is a close second to their organic chicken, with the exception of non-organic, but still vegetarian feed, and outdoor access isn't mandatory. Visit this site to clear up some of the language.

If you're looking for a source of responsibly raised chicken, drop by and meet the Fennemas or find out where you can find their chicken on their website. They're committed to great chicken and good health. And with each purchase you are encouraged to take a free bag of chicken soup bones. They not only make a delicious stock, but they ensure the whole chicken gets used.

Visit the second post ever on our blog for our favourite roasting recipe and why buying a whole chicken is important.

Fenwood Farm
774 Sawmill Road
Ancaster, Ontario

(905) 765-1479

Bloggers on the Radio

Monday, January 17, 2011

If you missed it, I was on McMaster University radio, CFMU 93.3 recently talking about our blog on a show called The Grapevine. Hosted by two young ladies, Grace and Alex, it highlights local food initiatives in the Hamilton area. Grace also has her own blog to complement it.

My show was recorded on December 7, and just made it on air this past Friday. I was terribly worried, since I had a nasty cold and was totally overdosed on decongestant. A few of my facts were pulled out of a pseudoephedrine fog, but other than that it turned out all right.

If you want to listen to the show, I hacked the matrix and you can download the mp3 of the show here and listen to it anytime.

Or you can stream it from their website. First, hit the stop button at the top of the window to stop the live feed. Then, click on "programming," and look for "The Grapevine" in tiny letters under "Friday." I'm on the 14.01.2011 show.

Canadian Food Blog Awards

Thursday, January 13, 2011

We were nominated for the Canadian Food Blog Awards this year and were surprised to hear that we were finalists in three, count 'em, three, categories - Best New Blog (under 12 months), Best Seasonal/Local Blog, and Best Photography. The funny part is, we might not have ever known if someone didn't congratulate us on Twitter.

The judges list is pretty impressive and it's a bit scary thinking of all these amazing food professionals judging our amateur work. Nevertheless, we're quite excited as voting closes this Saturday.

So in the spirit of photography, and because we couldn't find the time to do a proper "year in review" post during the holidays, here are a few favourites that we were lucky enough to capture last year.

And no, these aren't for the judges' benefit, they're probably all done voting by now. But if not...

Adolf Neumann, Beekeeper
Planting our first real crop of garlic
Grimo Nut Nursery
Rick, from Wilsonville Organics

And finally the video from our trip to the Schibli Organic Dairy Farm.

Field Trip: Our Allotment

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

This week's Field trip might seem a bit light, but to us, it isn't. We didn't visit an exciting wood-fired bakery or get treated to a local meal at a fancy restaurant. In fact, we visited my parents' house to check out a vacant piece of land that we hope will feed us for a year.

We live on a 70'x70' lot in town, and most of it is shaded by black walnut trees, which poison the soil for most vegetables. The front yard isn't much better - the gravelly strip gets a fair amount of sun, but we had to bring in a lot of dirt so anything other than grass would grow. We built a few 4'x4' garden boxes and did relatively well for what we had to work with. But what they gave us, a few tomato plants, some cucumbers, were more of a novelty than anything practical.

So that's how we find ourselves in this cold, snowy field. My parents, who have some land in Norfolk County, Ontario, have offered up this little, quarter-acre plot for us. After assuring them that the full maintenance and all failures and successes fall on our shoulders, we’ve started planning. We’ve picked out most of what we want to grow, and are planning a small greenhouse to get everything started. The greenhouse itself will be built from salvaged pieces of my grandfather’s greenhouse which started year after year of tomatoes, cabbages, peppers and more.

This year we hope to tip that scale away from novelty and actually produce a sufficient amount of food on our own. Our goal is to be as self-sufficient as possible - especially next winter. Come february 2012, we want only one thing in our shopping cart - milk.

Stuff we got for Christmas- Scissors

Monday, January 10, 2011

Welcome to a new little segment on our blog. We don't want to share everything with you (new long-johns), we just want to share a few interesting things we found in our Christmas stash.

We have always used scissors in the kitchen for cutting everyting from pizza to meat but we've just used the ordinary old plastic-handled kind until Jesse got me these new ones from Lee Valley.

I am pretty excited to have some official, sanitary kitchen shears. What makes them so sanitary? With a quick twist, they come apart for super easy cleaning. No surprises between blades and no meat-juice hiding plastic seams.

Field Trip in a Can

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Meet Sunday night dinner. It's one of those meals that feels just as nice as it tastes. Knowing that most of the ingredients came from local farmers and our garden is great, but the fact that we're making it in January is pretty exciting. We can recall the intimate history of each major ingredient, with only the exception of the flour in the pasta, which was grown out west.

The herbs in our sauce were from our garden and dried at the end of the season. The tomatoes (that we canned) and peppers (that we roasted and froze) were grown at Wilsonville Organics. The mushrooms were grown on our shiitake log and then dried. The beef in the meatballs is from the Meloun's farm, next to my in-laws. And the onion and garlic comes from our CSA food box.

The only downside is that these local winter meals are a special occasion for us. Last summer, we only dipped our toes in preserving (figuratively), but this summer, we're going to jump right in. As we spend evenings picking out seeds for our garden, not only are we picking things we would love to eat in the summer, but we're planting for the winter as well. We've got big plans, and are adopting a quarter acre for next year.

I am already imagining shelves filled with strawberry jam, dill pickles, and perhaps pickled asparagus. We're going to freeze more corn and roasted peppers, and at least triple the amount of tomatoes. I'd like to freeze a variety of vegetables to use in soups, stews, and pasta dishes, dehydrate many more herbs, make some fruit juices, and even try making some different pie fillings. It seems like a lot, but if we check each one off when it's in season, it should spread itself out nicely over the summer.

It's sort of like planning for a baby. Jesse's been building some beautiful boxes to store our preserves in and his dad is excited to build a big root cellar in the side of a hill for our vegetables that will store.

If you are new to canning, or looking for a helpful and up-to-date reference, a great book to get you going is "Canning & Preserving with Ashley English." We're totally crushing on Ashley's Homemade Living series - they're pretty perfect. As in her other books, everything is laid out logically. Charts provide a checklist so all of your tools are in order, interspersed with stories featuring real people, and their experiences and advice, while ideas for each season are organized so you don't miss anything.

It's helpful to read up early. We were learning as we went last year, which was frantic at times and didn't leave time to make the best decisions. We ended up with a few jars of watery tomato sauce and a few others that pour out like molasses. But it's ok. By this time next year we'll be pros, and well-fed. And the best part about it is that we'll be able to enjoy a meal that is uniquely ours. With unique, nuanced flavours that are only in one of our jars.