From Farm to Table News

Quick Downtown News: New Digs for Publican House, Naked Chocolate; Community Butcher Opens on George St.

nakedThe Farm to Table blog doesn’t get updated very often during the winter months, but I thought I would throw out some news that will excite shoppers in downtown Peterborough.

After moving to a new location at 142  Hunter Street, Naked Chocolate has opened their doors just in time for Valentine’s Day.  Get on in to buy that special something for your Valentine.

Don’t have a Valentine?  Chocolate and wine go perfectly together — what better way to drown your sorrows!

The Publican House has opened a brand new tasting room and retail store — right beside the publican brewery.  The tasting room has expanded seating for those who want to hang out for a while.  The new store, which features a large cooler, brewery merchandise and seating area, is now open to customers daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. It opens at 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Finallycommunity, there is a new butcher in town.  And downtown carnivores are rejoicing!  The Community Butcher Shop caries all local beef, pork, and chicken.  Owner, Scott Walsworth, prides himself on sourcing local product and supporting the community.  I took the time to sample a number of his products — some thick-cut smoked bacon, tandoori chicken wings, and lamb merguez — and they all scored high on the Farm to Table taste-o-metre.

The exciting part?  All three venues are on board for next year’s culinary tours!  Look for this year’s schedule to be released in April.

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Spread the word: Farm to Table is hiring!  We’re going to be taking on a young entrepreneur to help organize and run the tours — and to help expand them into new markets.  Deadline to apply is March 2nd.

Hot Sauce Contest

Chipotle-HurtHOT SAUCE CONTEST!
Announced on Twitter, my personal Facebook page, and here on ptbolocalfoods.ca

Any new Peterborough Farm to Table Culinary Tours Facebook “likes” between now and Friday at 5pm will be put into a draw to win one of 3 Farm to Table hot sauces: Habanero Death, Chipotle Hurt, or Cayenne Maim. 3 prizes in all.

These aren’t fancypants bottles of sauce, but rather home canned and made from peppers and other ingredients grown in the Farm to Table gardens.

Trust me when I say that they are much sought after culinary fireballs. Hand-crafted, they range from pretty darned hot to “wow, where did my eyebrows go.”

Sorry existing “likes,” but look for a contest for you early in the new year (including a chance to win tickets for the weekly summer culinary tours).

Want a tease? Here is the Chipotle Hurt, featured on Punk Domestics.

Burger Wars: Round 1. Introduction

burger

There’s a burger war heating up in Peterborough. And it’s a hot, juicy, grill-fired mess.

With Reggie’s Hot Grill, the new Canteen of Kawartha “Cabins,” and the recently-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 earlier this year 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.

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 — and has since started making a burger ruckus. The WORKS Gourmet Burger Bistro has begun pumping out burgers in 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 14-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.  They are also big enough to have a PR firm, who scolded me earlier this year when I mistakenly gave the incorrect number of franchises in a blog posting.

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?

As for The Cabin of Canteen of Kawartha?

I had my first sample earlier this summer – 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…  Along with reviews for the WORKS and Reggie’s.

That’s right, readers, over the next week, I’ll be reviewing what many are seeing as the Big 3 in Peterborough Burgers.

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.

My Reggie’s review will appear, hopefully, on the weekend.

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 Three.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Burger eating is a tough job, but someone has to do it.  And I’m looking at you Peterborough!

May the best burger win!

NOTE: I’ll be writing about some other great burgers in the future, including the Holiday Inn, Brio Gusto, and Rare Grill House.  These establishments, while they make great burgers, are not really burger restaurants the way that these ones are — they’re more full-menued, with burgers appearing beside other main entrées.  I’ll include them in a separate category, and perhaps compare them to the three in this series.

Also, please let me know if there are any other places to consider, either in the full menu category or in the mainly burger one.

EDIT:  Find my review of the WORKS Gourmet Burger Bistro here.

Welcome to the New Web Home of Farm to Table Peterborough

Hello, and welcome to the new online home of Farm to Table Peterborough and the Farm to Table Downtown Culinary Tours.

As Farm to Table has grown and morphed over the past few years, the purpose of the website has also changed. Farm to Table isn’t serving as much food as they once did — though Donald will still entertain the odd request for small-scale catering. Instead, we’re spending the bulk of our time promoting local, seasonal food, the people who grow it, and the local businesses and restaurants that either sell or serve it.

We’re writing more than ever, consulting people on local food purchasing ideas, and, of course, offering the very successful Downtown Culinary Tours.

In the near future, we will be providing a listing of Peterborough area restaurants and stores that specialize in local and seasonal produce, naturally-raised meats, wholesome dairy, plus other great products.

We also hope to be expanding our culinary tours into new communities and into new formats — including some weekend and evening tours.

Check back frequently for updates.

Of course, the best way to ensure that you don’t miss a thing is to subscribe to the Farm to Table Peterborough blog. Just fill out the subscription form on the left of the screen, and you’ll get all the news that we have to offer.

Also, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter (@farm_to_table) and on Facebook (PeterboroughCulinaryTours).

Thanks for stopping by the new site. We hope you visit regularly.

Bon appetit and cheers!

Donald

Downtown pub “Hops” into new local flavours

My latest column from the Print Edition of Peterborough This Week.

Brewmaster, Doug Warren and hops grower, Jay Schiller, show a before and after shot of the Wet Hop Ale brewing process.

 

Downtown pub “Hops” into new local flavours

Being a food writer can be a lot of hard work.

Deadlines loom. There is constant pressure to publish in order to keep a roof over your head. And people feel compelled to have you try their latest culinary creations and handcrafted beverages.

Why only last week I had to spend an afternoon in the basement brewery of the Olde Stone Brewing Company, sipping microbrew beers in order to report on the latest small-batch options available to Peterborough diners.

After a very thorough sampling I’m happy to report that the current seasonal offerings of the Olde Stone will meet – and perhaps exceed – the expectations of local beer aficionados.

It’s a tough life, I tell you. But someone has to eat and drink for a living.

It should come as no surprise that the Olde Stone’s new seasonal beers are exceptional. Brewmaster Doug Warren has been creating fine brews at the pub for the past five years – he’s been designing craft beers for 25 years in total. Before setting up shop at the Olde Stone, he honed his skills making beer for such well-renowned microbreweries as the Kawartha Lakes Brewing Company, Mill Street Brewery, and the Churchkey Brewing Company.

Warren’s regular house line-up ranges from an India Pale Ale to a Bitter to a Stout. My personal favourite is his Red Fife Wheat beer. All of these brews are popular with the pub’s diverse clientele, with discriminating local beer appreciators making the Olde Stone a regular stop and tourists flocking to the establishment on the merit of its strong reputation.

While the roster of regular house beers remains the same year-round, Warren’s limited edition seasonal beverages tend to reflect the tastes of the season.

And this autumn he has tried to keep these tastes as local as possible.

He’s serving up an “Olde Stone Pumpkin Ale” – flavoured with several varieties of pumpkin from Martin’s Fruits and Vegetable Farm in Campbellford. He has also created a “Wet Hop Ale” made with hops grown at Slow Acres Organics – a farm just south of Peterborough.

“I try to use as many local ingredients as possible,” said Warren as I explored his brewery. “But this is not always possible when you have limited local options.”

Staff at the Olde Stone serve me up a pint of Wet Hops.

 

 

The Wet Hop Ale is particularly notable in its use of local ingredients. Hops, you see, are not traditionally grown in Peterborough – at least they haven’t been in quite a while.

According to Jay Schiller of Slow Acres, the crop has only recently been re-introduced to the area.

“It’s been around 100 years since hops have been grown commercially in this part of Ontario,” he told me as I sipped the results of his agricultural experiments. “The climate here isn’t all that great for older varieties of the plant.”

Farmers, however, have been carefully breeding varieties that respond well to various climates.

“It takes quite a while to naturally produce new varieties,” he explained.

“It takes generations of plants to bring about the changes needed to adapt to growing conditions.”

“Naturally” is a word that carries great importance for Schiller. After all, being an organic grower means that he takes particular care in producing the most natural crops possible. He is careful to stress the difference between breeding new varieties through persistent selection and genetically modifying plants.

“Traditional breeding of crop plants has been standard practice for thousands of years – really, since people first started farming. And it is a technique that is a perfect fit for people who have concerns about the science of genetic modification.”

As a person who values naturally-produced, local, seasonal ingredients – and one who also values great beer – I’m excited that one of only a handful of Southern Ontario hops growers has set his sights on producing for local breweries.

It has made for a great beer drinking option.

The “Wet Hop” has a delicate hoppiness – much less so than you would normally get with traditional dried hops. Both the flavour and aroma have a floral quality. There is a notable malt taste. It is a dark amber beer that maintains its slight foamy head for the duration of the glass.

The “Pumpkin Ale” is a somewhat conventional ale that contains hints of both pumpkin and spice – cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. But these flavours compliment rather than dominate the beer. It tastes like autumn in Ontario.

The Olde Stone Brewing Company has been serving up quality beer and pub food from their downtown location for the past 15 years. Their autumn seasonal beers should be available for most of October. You can find them on George Street in downtown Peterborough.

Slow Acres Organics is a 100-acre diversified organic farm just south of Peterborough. The farm is in the ‘transition’ phase from 30-plus years of conventional farming with an expectation of official organic certification coming in the next couple of years. Owners Jay and Heidi will be producing heirloom and other certified organic vegetables this coming season. They’ll also be selling organic eggs. Look for their products next year.

Because I am showcasing local beers this week, I don’t have a recipe for this column. But be sure to check out the Farm to Table blog at www.mykawartha.com<http://www.mykawartha.com>for many local, seasonal recipes and tips.

In the meantime, I plan on sampling these local brewing endeavors heartily – until the Olde Stone’s batches of “Wet Hop” and “Pumpkin Ale” run out later this month.

I’ll do so for journalistic purposes only, I can assure you.

I’ll take one – or several – for the team.