The meandering epicurist

Littlejohn Farm—Prince Edward County

This farm says ‘take us as you find us.’ Chickens scratch, pigs root, ducks squabble, and crop plants tumble over each other in glorious disarray. But, at just three and half acres, this is as close as most of us will get to a working farm. And it is a real eye opener for city slickers. Which is the whole idea. 

Luhana and husband Zach have devoted Littlejohn Farm and their time to offering non-preach hands-on education about healthy food and where it comes from. And, as Zach is a trained chef, education here means
deliciously edible lessons. The pair offer a wide variety of by appointment experiences for a minimum of 10 people
that includes; tours of local wineries, visits to neighbouring cheesemakers, hands on sourdough bread making classes, charcuterie production, and the ultimate alfresco fine dining experiences in the garden.  

Luhana, who has a degree in International Relations, and a master’s degree in Micro-Finance also holds corporate leadership events at the farm. The only non-farm elements I ran in were the recently constructed whimsical, finely appointed ‘out houses.’

Di Lisio’s: Steak on the barbie

BBQ’d steak used to simple. Purchase steak, slap on the grill, turn once and serve. Result: seared on the outside and anything from blue to grey on the inside. 

Many years ago, a foodie friend invited to dinner. When I arrived barely opened the door before rushing straight past me into the kitchen where he opened the oven and plunged his meat thermometer into the roast. Lesson learned. Careful, structured application of heat in the reverse sear method is key to the perfect steak. And, of course, a good meat thermometer.

But first, what to buy? Some beef may look good but how it was raised, what amount of fat does it have and was it wet or dry aged? The answers—the difference between virtually tasteless and rich and flavourful.

I was first drawn to Di Lisio’s Fine Meats at St. Lawrence Market by a set of ribs loitering in a cold age case their hang tag claiming they’d been bathed in Bourbon whiskey. A butcher’s experiment apparently. Given the shrinkage from moisture loss, not to mention the price of alcohol, the strip loin’s price was remarkable reasonable. How could I resist? The result was a tender, rich steak with understated sweetness. Definitely a repeat.

But what of Di Lisio’s other steaks? They carry genuine Japanese Wagyu beef with documented genealogy as well as Australian and US Wagyu. Domestic beef like Belgian Blue, PEI raised grass fed Hereford and French Limousine are from local farms. Among their butchers there are ongoing esoteric arguments…. Does the best strip loin come from the sixth or seventh rib or the chuck end? One prefers the US Snake River Wagyu, another the Australian. They all agree, however, on the ‘money’s no object’ Japanese steak lurking under the finest striations of yellow fat. 

The Snake River US Wagyu is in a class, and price point, of its own. The difference is small but revealing with the Snake River sharing a more masculine flavour that’s deep and buttery—the result of its marbled fat. Of the non-Wagyu, the PEI raised Hereford has a taste veering towards roast prime rib. The Limousin was, well, meaty. In the end, I gave up trying to pick a favourite … every one was a great steak.

Pinehedge Farm 

The colour, a tincture of pale gold, struck me first. Then it was the thick, rich creamy texture not the more familiar gelatinous consistency. This is true sour cream. 

I searched the label’s fine print. Where were the ubiquitous fillers, stabilizers, bulking agents and the viscosity enhancing homogenizers of commercial sour cream? Completely missing. This was real pasteurized cream and culture. 

I became curious about Pinehedge, the pioneering biodynamic farm on the border of Quebec and Ontario. Established in small town Austria in 1972 by Anton Heinzle, a farmer who was way ahead of his time when it came to biodynamics. Heinzle’s lifelong dream was to emigrate to Canada which he did in 1982, settling on land in St. Eugene, Ontario. 

Today, Josef, Anton’s son carries on his father’s pioneering tradition and just added his own on-farm processing plant Able control the whole dairy production process, he makes keffir and yoghurt as well as their remarkable sour cream. Be warned, there’s no turning back once you’ve tasted the difference.

Scooped Ice Cream

A new addition to the Distillery District, this ice cream-only branch of Demetres dessert chain was a lifesaving find on a sweltering summer afternoon. Oh, the agony of choice! Lemon Curd Blueberry? Melon Meets Mint? Roses of Paradise? I finally settled for Roasted White Chocolate. This ice cream bespeaks of the opulent buttery taste of cream with a teasing texture of white chocolate fragments. Yum!

Clausthaler Original 

Non-alcohol beers have come a long way. Many beer aficionados remain sniffy but Clausthaler Original Non-Alcoholic Beer gets understandable, if grudging, respect from all but the extremists.

Clausthaler began developing their beer in the early ’70s and achieved non-alcohol status by finding just the right stage at which to stop the fermentation process. To my occasional beer drinking taste this was an excellent quality lager, sans the intoxicating stuff.

Onyx Chocolate

If Van Gogh had made chocolate truffles, he could not have upstaged the electric vibrancy of Onyx colours. These finger-licking truffles have a sparkly gem like appearance and curated into a pretty box a stunning hostess gift. Curiously, Onyx can be visited by those in the know, in tiny space shared with Wong’s Ice Cream on Gerrard St East in Chinatown.

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