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March, 2010:

Spotlight Toronto

One of my favourite websites about our city, Spotlight Toronto, has just launched a redesigned version.  As part of the change they’ve decided to grant me some space for my sometimes coherent scribblings.  Take a look at my featured writer page and my first Spotlight Toronto article on Massimo Bruno’s Italian Supper Club.   I’m pleased (and a little intimidated) to be in league with such a talented group of writers who have answers to so many diverse questions.   As well, the photography and design are stunning.  I encourage everyone to browse the new site.

Content will still be posted here at Food With Legs at approximately the same rate that I have kept up for the last six months or so.

Twasting 1.0

Last weekend I had the pleasure of traveling to Niagara for Twasting 1.0 at Chateau des Charmes. The tasting was organised on Twitter by CdC’s director of marketing Michèle Bosc (@MBosc). Yes, it’s a borderline ridiculous name for an event but that’s not at all Michèle’s fault.  Blame the geniuses who named the most recent social media tool Twitter and not Jake Rock Fighter (my suggested, less-effeminate alternative).

The concept is quite excellent, I think.  Use a new technology to invite potential customers to sample your product in a sociable environment with other wine drinkers.  It helped that they supplied some excellent artisanal Canadian cheese. The large and diverse group that attended the tasting proved that those using Twitter aren’t just anti-social under-25 year-olds. (more…)

Seed Order Arrives

My main seed order for 2010 from William Dam Seeds

Friends, I hope this is the only time I resort to writing about my mail.  This is a special kind of mail, though, yesterday my main seed order arrived.  Everyone is rambling about their tiresome first signs of spring so let’s just call this the first signs of good food to come.

New tomatoes: Black Krim, Red Currant, and Amish Paste

Most of the seed for the vegetable garden at my family’s cottage in 2010 has come from an order I placed with William Dam Seeds.  The tomato seeds that I saved last year will be augmented by Amish Paste, Black Krim, and Red Currant (all organically-raised seed).  I’ll have more beets for pickling and roasting–both the visually-interesting Chiogga Guardsmark and the yellow-orange Touchstone Gold.  I’ve tried my hand at peas and soybeans in past years and will add broad beans (Witkiem) to my repertoire this time.

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Full Moon Olive Oil Tasting

500 ml bottle of Full Moon olive oil

This week the demonstration kitchen in the back of Pimenton (681 Mount Pleasant Rd.) was filled by more than a dozen food writers and other assorted gourmands.  We were gathered to taste the olive oil offered by The Olivar Corp.  Even with the tasting mat for notes and Dolores Smith’s professional guidance  it still seems a little odd to do shots of olive oil straight up.  (Not to worry, Dolores, I wasn’t actually shooting the oil; I swirled and tasted as directed.)

Prepared sheet for tasting notes

The first oil we tasted, Full Moon, is the newest addition to Olivar’s stable and was the night’s main event.  “What does everyone think of this olive oil?”  Our trained safari guide (sans pith helmet) asked the group.

My inner food nerd ventured, “I’m reminded of a tomato patch in July.” Yeah, not to worry, after this outburst of pretense I did my best to keep my mouth shut for the rest of the tasting.  But it really is what I perceived and the lists of descriptions from the “professional tasters” usually led off with “green tomatoes” or “green tomatoes and their vines”.  This was a new angle for me as far as olive oil is concerned.  Sampling the oil on its own helps the unique characteristics stand out and facilitates the comparison to other oils.

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Homemade Pancetta II

Home cured pancetta portioned and ready for use.

I know you have all been waiting with palpable anticipation for this, the conclusion to my pancetta adventure.  After eight days in the refrigerator covered in salt and spices, on March 6, I rinsed the cure from my pancetta-to-be and considered the biggest variable of homemade pancetta: to roll or not to roll?

As pancetta post number one discussed the cured pork belly that is rolled into the familiar jelly roll shape is called pancetta arrotolata in Italian and if it is left as a flat slab it is called pancetta stesa.

Predictably, I think this is an ideal situation for a pros-and-cons, pancetta showdown.

Rolled pros: When finished drying and sliced the slices have the familiar and attractive swirl-of-pork-fat pattern; a lower ratio of surface area to volume means that the belly takes longer to dry so may develop more intense flavour;  vaguely more authentic in that the grandmothers in more Italian villages would roll their pancetta but it is by no means unanimous; the pepper goes on the surface that is rolled into centre so it is more likely to stay with the meat.

Rolled cons: It is difficult to roll the belly tightly enough to prevent air pockets that can host dangerous microbes that thrive in a dark, moist, meaty environment; the belly needs to be trimmed more closely so that when rolled the meat cylinder has a relatively flat top and bottom–this causes waste; the pancetta should stay rolled throughout the process so it is difficult to observe how the centre of the roll is progressing.

Slab pros: More lean meat is exposed to the air (and observation) so it is easier to judge progress by colour; easier to thread twine (or a hook) through on corner of a slab than it is to carefully tie a roll; more easily divided for freezing.

Slab cons: Because it is supported by twine at only one corner stretches to become thinner and diamond-shaped; more surface area is exposed to microbes that can live with more light and air (like mold). (more…)