Our man about town shares his latest findings.
Some food combinations seem, at first sight, improbable. So it was when I picked up a jar of Saltspring Kitchen’s Blueberry Basil Preserve. But on the palate, it was sublime. Fruit yes, sweetness yes, but a glorious savoury element swept in turning this into one of the best preserves I can recall.
It’s a great story too. Born in Melanie Mulherin’s kitchen on BC’s iconic Salt Spring Island and launched in 2012 at the local Saturday farmers market, the preserve can be tracked down in various specialty shops from coast to coast. Mel’s gastronomic genealogy goes some way back and helps explain the exceptional quality of her preserves. There’s been a family restaurant, the grandfather’s grocery store, a chef husband and a mother in law who loved making preserves. Today Mulherin works from a commercial jam kitchen, but fear not, her Blueberry Basil preserve is still made with love in small batches as it once was in her tiny kitchen.
As her web site says, it’s “Peace, love & jam.” That’s a mantra I can endorse.
Can’t find it locally? Order on-line.
Creeds General Store
Tired of the unexciting? Jonah Creed, (you might recognize the name from the couture dry-cleaning firm), who runs a specialty café/coffee shop at Dupont and Spadina, took it a step further during the pandemic. With a fleet of vans at his disposal and a passion for the finer things, his Creeds General Store now delivers, in every sense.
Canadian sustainable cold- smoked salmon cured with 8-year-old Laphroaig scotch whisky? No problem. Or a 20 oz Ontario AAA vacuum packed ribeye steak from a selected Ontario farm? Maybe a bottle of cask-aged balsamic vinegar or fresh angel hair egg pasta?
His Emerald Grasslands butter, organic and grass fed with a touch of Vancouver Island Sea Salt is ideal on fresh daily sourdough bread from Brodflour. Why not throw in a couple of cans of the delectable seafood Conservas de Cambados from Galicia? And, I almost forgot— they have an amazing selection of cheese to finish. One could easily get carried away. No need to go to the LCBO or take a case delivery from your wine merchant, Jonah has an enticing selection of wine by the bottle. The Pinot Noir from The King Street Vineyard in Niagara caught my eye as did the Viognier from Paradou.
Next day delivery and pick-up in the GTA is available Monday to Friday. During the summer he’s also offering delivery to Collingwood, Lake Simcoe and Muskoka.
Aren’t We Sweet
St. Lawrence Market is one of my ‘go to’ spots as you know if you’ve been reading this column for a while. During these tough times, a quick and efficient shopping trip minimizes health risk while maximizing choice. But, curiously I keep finding remarkable stores that I had previously overlooked.
Tucked away on the lower level is Aren’t We Sweet, where I was drawn in by a packet of Le Petit Normand chocolate biscuits. Not any old biscuits. These are made with renowned Isigny butter and other ingredients sourced from Normandy. Mouthwatering.
Fossicking around in this overflowing bijou store, I’m delighted to discover a remarkable range of French and international products. From cans of Cassoulet to jams and syrups as well as a superb selection of chocolate from around the world. If you have a sweet tooth, it’s a must-visit.
I must confess, I’ve had mixed results with so-called chef prepared meals. They often sound promising but turn out to be disappointing. Duck confit from one recent order was a wan duck leg orphaned in a foil container. No garnish. Not even a sprig of parsley. Accompanied by an unexciting salad, the meal did not impress. And, I must grumble, it was not cheap.
En-Ville, by contrast catered an impressive multi-course meal for the Toronto Chapter of my eccentric club, The Thunderers. In place of one of our monthly well-lubricated gourmet meals, members organized a virtual dinner with food delivered by En-Ville. In normal times they cater weddings and high-end corporate events. For me it was the details that made the meal worth mentioning here: Ontario Asparagus Soup with pan-seared Canadian Scallop and Herbed Crème Fraiche, (some assembly required) and Yukon Gold & Sweet Potato Marble Mash. Not to mention the Ontario Rhubarb Lunar Cake dessert with Crème Anglais and Fresh Berries.
En-Ville’s regular menu includes similarly enticing side dishes, without which a meal is well, just ordinary. Consider their Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Oven Roasted Local Heirloom Beets with Ontario Honey Butter. And to finish DIY Cookie Dough complete with cooking instructions. Drinks include fresh pressed juices.
Want to host your own dinner party or opt for their regular offerings En-Ville stands out from the crowd.
Take out usually suffers between the time it leaves the kitchen to when it reaches your table. Soggy pizza anyone? Indian food may be one delightful exception. Like me, it travels well. Craving something more exotic, a group of friends and I ordered a pick-up from Kamasutra on Bayview.
The restaurant serves northern Indian food, that gastronomic confluence of grilled meats and creamy sauces. My idiosyncratic test of a good Indian restaurant is the ubiquitous Butter Chicken. It’s a relatively modern Indian dish of tomatoes, butter, cream, and spices but in the wrong hands it can be bland, unctuous or both. Not so with Kamasutra. The inherent creaminess was offset with a zing of spice and tinctures of tomatoes. Wonderful.
The even more modern Anglo-Indian Chicken Tikka Masala stepped up the spice and tomato. Perfect with the slow cooked traditional Daal Makhani as a more earthy counterpoint.
The only disappointment was the Naan bread that, unlike the other dishes, did not travel well. And, if I had one wish, it would be that they’d also offer aged brown basmati rice.