The meandering epicurist

Our man about town shares his latest findings.

Chocolate Fish & Chips

I was gifted a bar of coffee hazelnut milk chocolate from the Newfoundland Chocolate Company. Impressed by its creaminess, balanced flavours, and ‘just right’ level of sweetness, that showed through the café nuttiness, I decided to check out the company’s website and, to my delight re-discovered that wonderful Newfoundland whimsiness.

Fish and Chips rendered in chocolate. Milk chocolate capelin, (from the smelt family) sea salt potato chips coated in, you guessed, it more chocolate. Even better, a Chocolate Emergency Kit. A box everything you need in the face of a chocolate withdrawal: A box of chocolates, hot chocolate, a selection of chocolate bars, toffee crunch. 

I couldn’t resist and sent off my order. And I’m not sharing, sorry.


Cherry Street BBQ

I readily admit to being late to the party. After years of passing the unassuming brick building at the unfashionable end of Cherry Street, I didn’t venture in until after the Michelin guide awarded Cherry Street BBQ,  a coveted Bib Gourmand. 

Get beyond the whirlwinds of construction dust kicked up by trucks, the building’s mundane appearance, inside and out, and you are sure to be rewarded. 

I ordered the brisket sandwich. With a long and very slow cooking time over a wood fire, I’m told  this tough pectoral meat loses 50% of its weight. A soft bun encases my wonderfully rich flavourful brisket that’s nicely set off by onions and pickle. At $15 it’s a bargain. 

Simplicity is, apparently, Lawrence La Pianta the award-winning owner and pitmaster’s secret. Hewing to Texas style Brisket his only seasoning is salt and pepper. His equipment…. a repurposed shipping container wood smoker out back where his culinary magic starts as early as 4 am daily.

Wood smoke, claims La Planta is what implants that wonderful balanced flavour. I agree. Aside from his brisket his award-winners include: St. Louis style ribs, wings, sausages and more. 

The BBQ’s recent much deserved recognition has understandably ramped up demand. Order early to avoid disappointment.


Cumberland Sausages

As I write this, December 2nd—International English Breakfast Day, sponsored by the English Breakfast Society, looms. Theakston, my loyal butler is excited. After all, his full English breakfast, complete with silver tray, is a treat to behold. But where to find a genuine British sausage? 

A sausage crafted in a rural British butcher shop is my benchmark. After years of disappointment, Theaks and I stumbled on what we craved at Whitehouse Meats in the St. Lawrence Market. 

Almost hidden amongst the exotics—buffalo, kangaroo, camel, and musk ox—lurked the sine qua non of English breakfast: British Bangers, Lincolnshire sausages and, my ultimate favourite, Cumberland’s. 

A speciality of the Cumbria region of the Northwest of England for some 500 years Cumberland sausage is a meaty, slightly spicy, rather herby sausage that was given protected Designation of Origin by the EU in 2011. A true Cumerland’s taste profile depends on the meat being chopped not minced. There is some dispute on the other ingredients, but most include some rusk, thyme, sage, nutmeg, mace and a pinch of cayenne pepper to lift the richness of the pork. 

Leila Batten, principal of Whitehouse, confides that while most of her meats are made in house these plump little wonders are actually brought in. No matter. They’re entirely befitting such an important gastronomic event as Breakfast Day.


Birdy’s Daughter Blue Mountain Coffee

“Allow the mountain to talk to you” urges, Toronto based, Caron Morgan founder of Birdy’s Daughter. And I do. It whispers smoothly: dark chocolate without bitterness, flecks of minerality with just enough acidity to tease the palate. 

This is coffee that benefits careful extraction. I used a 1:17 weight ratio for my pour over, stronger than normal. The results are dark, rich and rounded. Wonderful stuff.

Caron named the coffee with a nod to her mother whose resilience and perseverance not only inspired her. It also turned out to be her saving grace when the lockdown started days after she opened and her founding co-partner died.

Morgan is member of JAWIC, Jamacia Women in Coffee an organization that brings education to coffee farm workers. Nunk Farms, is the community of farmers she works with in a designated high altitude area of the Blue Mountain where following the stringent requirements of the Jamaican regulator JACRA earn her brand the right to be called Blue Mountain Coffee.

Everything Nunk does is rigorously monitored… right down to the containers used for shipping the  green beans.  I even notice the retail vacuum-packed roasted beans are uniform and evenly roasted—a uniformity that can only be achieved by careful hand picking of only the fully ripe beans. 

Repeated cupping done by a local specialty roaster ensures the magic of bringing the beans alive. No short cuts here. Worth every penny.


Zero Acre Cultured Oil

I’m not one to bet against a successful serial entrepreneur or microorganisms that thrived for millions of years before homo sapiens.

Richard Branson has invested in California based start-up Zero Acre Cultured Oil as it replaces vegetable oils with a healthier and more sustainable alternative. Cultured oil puts microbes to work converting feedstock of sugar cane by fermentation. The claims are substantial. Its high in healthy fats, low in bad fats has smaller environmental footprint compared to commonly used cooking oil they say.

Zero Acre argues we use more agricultural space for oil production than for fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts combined. And it demands vast amounts of water. The result is often deforestation, biodiversity loss, and climate change.

Displacing oils high in saturated fat long linked to heart disease because they boost LDL cholesterol and triglycerides would be positive. However, sugar cane says the World Wildlife Fund can have significant impacts on many environmentally sensitive regions and has led to significant
impacts on biodiversity. The benefits may not be unalloyed.

Zero Acre is currently only available in the US, but I hope to secure a sample to test in an upcoming article.


Staub Ceramique Bakeware Set

Give your romantic Valentine’s celebrations a classic French twist when you choose festive cherry ovenware from Straub’s high performance twice-fired ceramique collection.  

Always the  darling of the dinner table each attractive, yet functional, piece creates a lasting impression adding style to even the most simple of dishes. To ensure you have time to spend with your love go for date night perfection by preparing your dishes ahead of time with Staub’s freezer-to-oven-to-table convenience. This collection is also a thoughtful gifts for a Valentine who loves to cook.

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