From June 2012

Announcing the Farm to Table Culinary Tasting Tours!

NOW BOOKING FOR July – OCTOBER – Call or email today.

Explore the city of Peterborough by foot and by fork and discover the culinary delights that area has to offer.

The Farm to Table Tasting Tours showcase local boutique food stores and downtown restaurants, highlighting small batch, artisan food production and local/seasonal cooking.

Tours run from 1pm to roughly 4:00pm each Wednesday, from May through October. $25 per person. Tours leave from the Peterborough Downtown Farmers’ Market.

The tour will have both entertainment and educational components.

Learn some tips about shopping locally, find out about our local food system, make contacts with local growers/producers, and hear what local chefs and businesses are doing to access local products.

While not all of the products and menu items will come from Peterborough and the surrounding areas, there will be emphasis on local meats, dairy, and produce, as well as on small-scale craft food production and preparation. With breweries and wine bars on our the tour, you’ll also be able to sample some wonderful beverages.

You may even learn a thing or two about why some local ingredients don’t make it to local tables — and the difficulties of navigating food systems in the 21st Century.

Our roster of local businesses is ever-expanding and currently includes the following stores and restaurants:

Peterborough Downtown Farmers’ Market

Naked Chocolate (artisan chocolates)

Brio Gusto

Firehouse Gourmet (Gourmet food store)

Chasing the Cheese (Cheese Shop)

Brio Gusto Wine Bar and Restaurant

Rare Grill House

Black Honey Bakery

Le Petit Bar

and more!

Email me at donald @ farmtablecatering.ca today to reserve your spot or call me at 705-977-0604.

Local Businesses: Want on the tour? I’m contacting as many of you as possible, but feel free to contact me. I’d love to include you!

Your Tour Guide:
Look for more info soon:

Donald Fraser has spent over a decade working in community-based environmental education. As a former TV segment producer/host, newspaper columnist, and workshop presenter, he has featured countless growers, food producers, restaurants, and local food enthusiasts. His food writing has appeared in newspapers and magazines through Southern and Central Ontario. Donald marries a keen understanding of “food miles” to a love of diverse cooking styles. He believes in having fun with food, mixing the gourmet with the common-day to present food that anyone can sink their teeth into.

Burger Wars Heat Up in Peterborough

EDIT: This just in. I seem to have gotten the attention of The WORKS.

Apparently they have a PR team.

“Hi Donald,

My name is Alexandra and I work for a PR agency out of Toronto that that does PR for the WORKS. We have just come across your blog post online entitled “Burger Wars heat up in Peterborough” and we were hoping that you could make a couple of factual changes about our client. The official name of the WORKS is “The WORKS gourmet burger bistro” and there are currently 13 franchises with Peterborough being the 14th. We would really appreciate it if you could make these changes and if you have any questions please let us know.

All the best,

Alexandra Muszynski-Kwan
The Siren Group Inc.”

My apologies to the fine folks at The WORKS Gourmet Burger Bistro. I had counted the number of locations on their website, and came up with the number of 30 — the problem is that this is the list of places that they want to franchise to, not the list of actual locations. A bit on the confusing side, but, hey, I’m not their PR team (please note: I do have a writing and communications consulting business; find it at www.smallprint.ca).

I’ve updated their name in this blog.

Hopefully, I’ll be hearing more from The WORKS as this challenge goes on. On Facebook and Twitter, I’ve asked questions about the meat that all of these restaurants serve. Local? Fresh/Frozen? Grass fed? Pasture? Drug/Hormone free?

I look forward to hearing more about all of our local burger sellers.

The "Trail Burger" from the Cabin at Beavermeade Park. On the plus side: bacon! On the other side: griddled and squeezed with a spatula.

Reviews to Come; Looking for Your Peterburger Thoughts/Reviews

There’s a burger war heating up in Peterborough. Look for it to reach a hot, juicy, grill-fired mess later on this summer.

With Reggie’s Hot Grill, the brand new Canteen of Kawartha “Cabins,” The Holiday Inn Gazebo, and the soon-to-be-opened Works Burger Emporium all looking to attract the Burgertelle of Peterborough, the question has to be asked: Is our local food economy big enough to support this kind of beef? Or will our Peterburger scene sog and mush like a poorly made hamburger bun?

Some backstory here:

There was quite a bit of ink spilled when the City announced that both Reggie’s Hot Grill and the Hippy Chippy had lost their bids to operate at their respective popular locations.

Actually, only a moderate amount of ink was spilled. In this digital age, much of the anger, dismay, and protest occurred online. It is safe to say that many bytes were taken in this burger incident. Many people have pledged boycott.

Many of the people who Tweeted, Facebooked, blogged, and commented were duly concerned that two respected small business-based entrepreneurs were being tossed unceremoniously from locations in which they had built very impressive client bases.

In the end, it seemed to come down to money. In the case of Reggie’s, for instance, the competition, Canteen of Kawartha, scored a perfect 25 out of 25 in its financial bid. Reggie’s scored 18. The highest bid won.

Curiously, the City also awarded Canteen of Kawartha a higher score in the “Experiences and References” section. Apparently, they believed that a new operator would have better experience at a new (to them) location than an extremely popular one did at a location they held for five years.

As a food writer, I did not once – in the past five years – hear a negative peep about Reggie’s Trent University operation.

Makes you wonder what they were basing their scores on.

Could it be, as some people have suggested, that there are close business ties between a mobile fleet of coffee trucks (Canteen of Kawartha) and another fleet of trucks, tow trucks, and taxi cabs (the Liftlock Group, owned by Mayor Daryl Bennett)?

My guess is no. But there did seem to be some awfully interesting scoring going on when the final decisions were being tabulated. And this town is one for gossip.

The story with the Hippy Chippy seems remarkably similar. This time, though, it was a much more humble chip stand being bumped. Canteen of Kawartha successfully won that bid too, though they at least had the advantage of offering a fuller menu than the existing Chippy.

While all this was going down, a new challenger quietly entered the fray – though I’m willing to bet that they won’t stay quiet for long. The WORKS Gourmet Burger Bistro has begun renovating the former Trasheteria building at Water and Simcoe Streets. For those not in the know, the Works is an extremely popular franchise that began in Ottawa and has since spread across much of Southern Ontario. Now 30-franchises strong, the Works has begun to show some growing pains, with some burger connoisseurs questioning whether this franchise-based (semi)fast food is worth the hefty price you pay for it.

Finally, there is one more burger source to pay attention to: The Gazebo at the Holiday Inn. The Gazebo hosts the Kawartha Choice Burger Challenge all summer long – with different burgers being featured each week. The Challenge brings you beef, pork, chicken, lamb or elk meat from 12 area farms, in a variety of different recipes. While the burgers tend to be decadent and delicious, they change from week to week and don’t have the consistency that you look for in a regular burger haunt. This makes them awfully difficult to compare to the other big three.

When to comes to regular burger locales, fan-favourite Reggie’s is certainly not without its detractors. A few commentors on my previous burger musings have pointed out that Reggie’s East City location isn’t quite as dependable as it once was. Talk of dry burgers, missing toppings, substandard condiments… Well, let’s just say that things ain’t perfect in our home-grown burger shack.

I’ll fess up here. I’ve had some great burgers from both the Works (in Ottawa) and Reggie’s. I’ve also had a fairly mediocre one at the WORK’s Glebe flagship location. And, sad to say, I’ve also seen some sub-standard product from the Reggie’s kitchen – the last two my wife, Krista, got were burnt and dry. For the most part, though, both hit more than they miss. But will they both continue to do so?

At the Gazebo, I’ve had everything from a succulent lamb burger to a most questionable maple-glazed concoction that no-one at my table would take more than a bite of. The problem with burger experiments is one of glory or gory. Again, an issue of consistency – though you can hardly blame the Gazebo in this case. It is a rotating burger challenge, after all.

As for The Cabin of Canteen of Kawartha?

I just had my first sample earlier this week – it was a free lunch, bought for me by one of my very generous clients. I’m not going to let the cat out of the bag on this one, because that review is coming…

And it is coming alongside reviews of each of the combatants in Peterborough’s BATTLE OF THE BURGS!

That’s right, readers.

Throughout the summer, I’ll be sampling burgers from our 4 big challengers. And I’ll be posting the results here.

I think it is only right that we prepare ourselves for this burger war. With so many options, it is important that we find out, truly, who serves the best in town. As a result, I’m girding myself for battle – one that I hope doesn’t turn into a Battle of the Bulge.

Look for my review of The Cabin’s “Trail Burger” later this week. Please note, this review might not be for the burger-squeamish. There was a griddle involved, and some heavy squeezing out of juice with a spatula.

Look for reviews of Reggie’s, the Works, and The Holiday Inn Gazebo throughout the summer.

Now, I don’t want to be the only one judging these burgers. I want to hear what Peterborough has to say as well. I want to hear your thoughts and reviews on the Cabin (both Trent and Beavermeade), Reggie’s Hot Grill, the Gazebo, and (when it opens) The WORKS.

Let me know, Peterborough, which one of these is the best burger in town?

Or are any of them truly the best burger in town? Let me know who you think is currently “topping” these big four.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts, tasting some great burgers, and sharing the results with you.

It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.

May the best burger win!

Health Watch: Canned Foods and Your Children

Campbell's has vowed to remove BPA from their cans of soup... They just haven't said when.
BPA in can lining linked to health and development risks in infants, babies, children

People reaching for a wholesome can of soup or a nourishing tin of vegetables may be shocked to learn that their healthy choice might have some not-so-healthy contaminants in it.

Most canned goods on the market are lined with resins containing BPA (bisphenol A), a hormone disruptor that has been linked to cancer, obesity, delay or disruption of neurological development, early puberty, reproductive disorders, and diabetes. The effects of BPA are most significant in infants and developing children.

Many people remember BPA as being the now-banned substance formerly found in plastic baby bottles, drinking cups, and Nalgene-style water bottles. In 2010, the Government of Canada declared BPA a toxic substance. Much of the world has since followed suit.

So what is it doing it doing in most of the canned goods on the market?

Food packaging and food production companies argue that the resins used in canned foods are inert – that they don’t leach significant levels of BPA – and that it would take the consumption of hundreds of kilograms of canned goods to pose any health risks. They also claim that BPA is processed and rapidly excreted through urine.

Several significant studies have recently challenged these claims, including a Harvard Medical School paper from last year that showed a dramatic increase in BPA levels in people who regularly ate canned soup. In one experiment, researchers found over 1000 times as much BPA in the urine of people fed canned vegetable soup once per day for 5 days, as compared to people fed the same amounts of fresh vegetable soup. The study, published in the Journal of American Medical Association, is one of the first to measure BPA urine levels soon after the consumption of canned foods.

There is also the issue that, even if BPA is rapidly excreted, levels of the substance can remain high within the human body through continued exposure to it. A day that might feature a glass of apple juice for breakfast, some soup or canned pasta for lunch, and some canned veggies at dinner would make for a continued significant toxic presence.

“It should be noted that more and more companies are beginning a voluntary phase-out of BPA in their canned goods,” says Dr. Chris Metcalfe, a Professor of Environmental and Resource Studies at Trent University, and an expert on the toxic effects of organic contaminants. “But then the question remains, what do you replace them with? It’s something that the industry struggles with. And aiming for a safe replacement can sometimes seem like a moving target for them. This is why so many have been reluctant to change.”

Metcalfe recommends using caution when feeding infants and children canned foods. “Of course fresh fruits and vegetables are going to be a safer and more nutritious bet,” he advises.

He also advises mothers and expectant to watch what they eat. “BPA can be transferred through breast milk,” he explains. “And is also trans-placental, which means that mothers can transfer it to their unborn children as well.”

So what is a consumer to do? The safest bet would be for parents to try to eliminate canned goods from the family diet. This means switching to fresh, frozen, or dried foods, rather than canned. On the plus side, both fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables will contain more of their original nutrients than the canned varieties, so everyone in the family gets a healthy boost.

An inexpensive option is to freeze local fruits and vegetables while they are in season. Not only will you be sure that they are at their freshest and most nutritious, but you will also have a better idea of where your food is coming from.

More and more soups are now available in cartons rather than cans. Look for this to become a trend. As for canned pasta? There aren’t a whole lot of nutrients in these instant entrées – and what there is can easily be replaced by a combination of frozen or dried pasta and jars of sauce.

Finally, you can look for companies that offer BPA-free cans. While these products remain in the minority, they can often be found in health food stores or in the organic/specialty aisles of major grocery stores.

There are still plenty of ways to have a nice, healthy bowl of soup.