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Edible Souvenirs

Pic-Bois Maple Vinegar, Quebec

By Kat Tancock

If you’re a maple lover, you’re probably already using the syrup on more than just pancakes: on top of plain yogurt, added to salad dressings or as a natural sweetener for your morning oatmeal. But if you’re ready to take things up a notch, reach for a bottle of the latest kid on the maple shelf: sweet and sour maple vinegar from Brigham, Quebec’s Cabane du Pic-Bois. (more…)

Intermiel Médiéval Mead, Quebec

By Kat Tancock

The thought of mead conjures up images of times gone by, of dark, firelit castles and perhaps a summertime picnic in the forest, all clothing styled à la The Tudors. One look at a bottle of Médiéval Mead from Intermiel, a Quebec bee farm and meadery (also maple grove and distillery), and you know that that’s precisely the feeling they were going for. (more…)

Still Waters Hand-Made Single-Malt Vodka—Ontario

A small-batch distillery north of Toronto has started selling its homegrown vodka on-site, and is working on small-batch single-malt, rye, and corn whiskies, to be released in small quantities “as they become mature”.

Still Waters vodka and whisky is made with Ontario-grown grains and distilled in pots by hand, a slow process that yields more precise results than the industrial stills larger manufacturers use. In the case of Still Waters vodka, that means a subtly sweet flavour with a hint of vanilla and no burn.

For now the vodka is only available in person at the distillery (along with some imported whiskies), about 25 km north of downtown Toronto.

Read the full story at TorontoLife.com.

Érablière Escuminac Birch Syrup, Quebec

By Kat Tancock

Maple syrup is a potent symbol of Canadiana and a key staple in many of our nation’s pantries. But what you may not know is that the sugar maple doesn’t have a monopoly on the business of sweet sap. A growing industry is making use of birch trees to produce a similar sugary nectar.

Like maple syrup, birch syrup is produced by tapping mature trees—usually 30 to 70 years old, and at least 10 inches in diameter—in early spring, then evaporating and filtering the sap before bottling. Érablière Escuminac, in the Gaspésie region of Quebec, currently taps 6,000 trees annually, though the property has the capacity to harvest from up to 25,000 as demand increases. (more…)

Sledding Hill Lavender Syrup, Nova Scotia

By Kat Tancock

Based out of Bear River, in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley, Sledding Hill is a small farm that grows market produce, vegetable starts and ornamental plants. But it’s with their packaged products that owners Martin McGurk and Gordon Tingley, originally from Vancouver, get most creative. Their catalogue includes lavender and chili-lemon sugars, jellies and simple syrups, as well as lavender pepper, a mixture of black peppercorns, ground lavender florets and citrus peel.

The lavender simple syrup is a hit down in Lunenburg, where you can buy it at Ironworks Distillery and sample it in the subtly floral lavender martini at Fleur de Sel, one of Atlantic Canada’s best restaurants and a Gold Medal Plates gold award winner. (more…)

Saskatoon Berry Jams, Syrups and Pies

By Kat Tancock

Saskatoon berries, also called juneberries, are antioxidant-rich, sweet blue-purple berries with (edible) seeds.

Though the berries grow elsewhere in the northwestern US and western Canada, the Canadian Prairies are where you’ll find most of the world’s commercial production of Saskatoons, and in Okotoks, Alberta, about 20 km south of Calgary, you’ll find the Saskatoon Farm, home to 50 acres of pick-your-own saskatoon berries, usually ready in mid-July. (more…)

Infused and Smoked Salt from Vancouver Island Salt Co.

By Kat Tancock

“I essentially boil water for a living,” says chef Andrew Shepherd of his salt-producing venture Vancouver Island Salt Co. in rural southern Vancouver Island.

When Shepherd originally came up with the idea, he says, “My friend said I couldn’t do it. He came over and we stayed up all night boiling sea water. In the morning we had a pile of salt. I gave some away and everyone freaked out.”

Why bother, you might ask? Artisanal sea salts, says Shepherd, retain flavours from the bays the water is harvested from, so that each has a unique taste. His salt has a “big, clean flavour” and, he says, can be used in smaller quantities than other salts for the same amount of taste. As for flavours, Shepherd cold-smokes with maple, cherry and other woods, and has been experimenting with infused salts such as balsamic, roasted garlic, mustard and banana pepper.

Local chefs are supporting the venture: Shepherd cites the Harbour House Hotel on Salt Spring Island and the Whole Beast in Victoria as clients, and says that Raincity Grill in Vancouver “actually puts my salt out on the tables and lets the guests know where it’s sourced from”.

Where to buy: In retailers across Vancouver Island and in Vancouver, and online at http://visaltco.com.

Anna Tolazzi Artisanal Chocolates—Kitchener, Ontario

By Kat Tancock

Stop in Saturday mornings at the Kitchener Market, about a 90-minute drive from Toronto, and you’ll find a bustling hall packed with food, crafts and produce vendors that spills into the (covered) outdoors. Kitchener’s easy access to Ontario farms means an always-good selection of local produce. On my visit I found countless pounds of Ontario squash, apples, broccoli and other fall goodies.

But for something more unique, head indoors and up a small flight of stairs to the corner of the market building and the stall of Anna Tolazzi chocolates. Chocolatier Katharina Ortner creates organic, fair-trade truffles and bars with eclectic inspiration. Some truffle flavours are enhanced by the hyper-local: the Wilhelm Tell is made with market crabapples, the Kimono blends wild elderberry from Ortner’s own garden with sage and lemon in a dark ganache.

As for bars, flavours range from Canadiana (the Sugarbush bar mixes milk chocolate with roasted pecans and maple flakes) to the exotic (the Maharaja, a tamarind- and cinnamon-infused dark chocolate), all packaged in colourful wrappers based on vintage wallpaper patterns.

Fair warning: you may have trouble choosing—all told, Ortner has upwards of 300 varieties of chocolates.

If you’re picking up gifts, buy more than you think you need—the bars have a habit of becoming unwrapped.

Where to buy: Kitchener Market, Kitchener, Ontario; Saturdays, 7 am–2 pm {map}

Maple Caramel Spreads from Montreal’s Beriza Confiserie

By Kat Tancock

For a sweet souvenir from Quebec that’s more interesting than the standard tin of maple syrup, look no further than artisanal maple-sweetened caramel spreads from Montreal confiseuse Diane Croteau of Beriza Confiserie.

(more…)

Vista D’oro Farms Preserves, Fraser Valley, BC

By Kat Tancock

About an hour’s drive southeast out of Vancouver in South Langley, BC, Vista D’oro Farms was an escape from corporate life for owners Lee and Patrick Murphy, who have built the 10-acre property just blocks from the U.S. border into a diversified farm and winery where everything is grown naturally, if not certified organic.

The Farmgate Market sells the farm’s wine, produce and fresh baked goods as well as other products from the region, but it’s the artisanal preserves that are the star of the show: “About 80% of what is grown on the farm ends up in a jar or bottle,” says Lee. They cook up about six varieties each season in small batches using traditional recipes and fruit from their farm and nearby farmers they trust.

Flavours such as orchard pear and cocoa nib, caramel apple with dark rum, and green tomato with garam masala are designed to be enjoyed in a variety of settings: with scones or toast, accompanying a cheese board, atop ice cream or as a glaze or sauce for meats. Jars ($8.95 each) can be purchased at the farm, ordered online or found at select retailers and restaurants in the Lower Mainland.

Details:
Vista D’oro Farms
346 208th Street
Langley, BC
www.vistadoro.com

[map]

Evelyn’s Heritage-Grain Crackers, southern Ontario

By Kat Tancock

Wheat has been getting a bad reputation lately, but at southern-Ontario-based Evelyn’s Crackers, it’s quality that matters. Owners Dawn Woodward and Edmund Rek bake with organic, locally grown and nutrient-rich grains including Ontario heritage crop red fife wheat as well as spelt, rye and buckwheat to create a range of crackers that are as tasty and attractive as they are good for your health (and the local economy).

Flavours include the Slightly Seedy, picked as a favourite at the 2011 Great Canadian Cheese Festival, which blends wheat and oatmeal with flaxseeds, sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds; and Spicy Dal Spelt Sticks, great for dipping in hummus or tapenades, and made with red lentils, Indian spices and a touch of coconut.

You can find the crackers at cheese shops, markets, health-food stores and artisanal and gourmet grocers across southern Ontario and the GTA.

Homegrown Spirits at Ironworks Distillery, Nova Socia

By Kat Tancock

The picturesque town of Lunenburg, NS, is about an hour’s drive south of Halifax and a popular destination for visitors to Atlantic Canada due to its rich German and maritime history and relaxed seaside vibe.

While touring this UNESCO World Heritage Site, designated as a National Historic District by the Canadian government, stop in at the Blacksmith’s Shop on Kempt Street, right near the water, for a visit to Ironworks Distillery, the province’s first micro-distillery. Founded in 2009, it offers tastings and purchases of its spirits, made based on local ingredients.

On our visit, we sampled the apple vodka (it goes down smooth and has a true apple flavour) and blueberry liqueur: like all their fruit liqueurs, it’s made with less sugar so the taste of the fruit shines through. (It goes very well on ice cream, and we’re envisioning a Nova Scotian variation on the Kir Royale.) Apple brandy is also popular, and there’s also a rum from Newfoundland molasses (albeit from imported sugarcane, of course). If you’re flying home, make sure to ask for bubble wrap to keep the bottles protected in your checked luggage.

Details:
Ironworks Distillery
2 Kempt Street, Lunenburg, NS
ironworksdistillery.com

[map]