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April, 2013:

Chef Lynn Crawford, iögo, and Community Food Centres Canada Partnership

Packing vegetable pasta salad to go at the Stop's Community kitchen.

Cooking in a group can be a distracting experience — conversation and making sure that you’re keeping pace with everyone else are strong, if slightly unsafe, reasons to take your eyes off the cutting board. But, put a pro like celebrity chef Lynn Crawford at the station one to your left and suddenly things become a lot more intense. That’s where I found myself a couple weeks ago when I got the chance to visit The Stop‘s community kitchen on Davenport Road in Toronto.

Nick Saul, Gerry Doutre, Chef Lynn Crawford, Rachel Gray

Nick Saul, Gerry Doutre, Chef Lynn Crawford, Rachel Gray

The group of fellow bloggers and food writers had been gathered together to learn more about the partnership that has been struck between Ultima Foods (through their Iögo yogurt brand) and community kitchens. The have partnered with specific community kitchens near their production facilities, the larger Community Food Centres Canada, and with Chef Crawford. (more…)

My Work with Qualifirst Foods

Qualifirst Roka Cheese Puffs

The waters where day job meets personal blog are often swimming with sharks. Problems arise when the two parties – employer and blogging employee – have different ideas about who’s the appropriate audience for what information and how time should be spent. I’m lucky to have found a way to make the blog work and regular work connected and supportive of each other and I’d like to share great news today about a new project I’m starting. Over the last week I’ve joined the social media team at Qualifirst Foods and will be helping them with their community building efforts on Twitter and elsewhere. (more…)

Goose Island Comes to Ontario

Bottles of Goose Island Sofie and Matilda

At the same time that a new brewery seems to open in Ontario every week, we are also treated to the release of widely-recognised, international beers almost as often. Two Belgian style ales from Chicago’s goose island brewery – Sophie and Matilda – will be making their Ontario debut this April.

The plan is to have them in LCBOs by the week of April 29. Until then, they are exclusively available at Nota Bene on Queen Street West. I had the pleasure of attending a media lunch there last week to mark the occasion. (more…)

Second Draught: Brasserie Dupont’s Biere de Miel

When I write tasting notes for my First Draught posts, I do my best to not let preconceived notions cloud my judgment. Sometimes, though a reference to how the beer differs from expectations is unavoidable. I can’t remember a honey beer experience (before this one) that wasn’t full of cloying sweetness. As I think about it more, that might be because the honey beers I’ve tried (usually dug out of the bottom of a cooler at a barbeque) really were designed to be that way – sweet, cheap, and cheerful. Anyway, the point is that this beer is anything but. It has all of the aromatic and lovely floral aromas and flavors of honey without any of the sugary sweetness.

The rest of the Dupont release also deserves some attention. The Monk’s Stout is all right, but as I posted on a homebrewing discussion forum, who needs another halfway decent stout in the middle of April? The bruine is good (and on the same forum some have speculated that it will get better with age), but the Cervezia is the other gem of the brewery feature. In some ways it’s an advanced version of Dupont’s famous saison. My tasting notes for it include “funky” “pastrami” and “wicked length”. That world-famous, mainstay saison is now a regular listing the LCBO and should still be on shelves after the brewery feature ends. (more…)

Second Draught: Alexander Keith’s Casade Ale, a large-scale brewer’s foray into craft beer

Alexander Keith's Hop Series Cascade Ale

While wearing their trend-spotting thinking caps, other beer writers have wondered in print why Keith’s produced this new beer. On one hand, because their “India Pale Ale” is really nothing like the style should be, Keith’s has more to lose than some other macrobrewers by acknowledging the existence of craft beer. On the other hand, the end game question comes up: if regular Keith’s drinkers try this beer and like it, won’t they then turn to actual craft beers with their fistful of limited beer dollars?

I’m not really sure how to answer these questions. Maybe Keith’s thinks that craft is a trend (the decades-long history of real ale campaigning in the UK probably indicates otherwise) or maybe somebody at the multinational, brewing behemoth realised that dollars are being left on the table. Either way, the Cascade ale (and to a slightly lesser extent the Hallertauer version) is a very good beer. It will be easy to find this summer and I’ll be happy to drink it again. (more…)