Thursday, September 29, 2011

Niagara on the Lake Vacation

Our love of wine caused us to find ourselves in beautiful Niagara on the Lake, Ontario this past weekend. NOL is rich with great restaurants and wineries. During our vacation we stayed right in Niagara on the lake but stopped in Jordan, Ontario on the way.

In Jordan we stopped at Upper Canada Cheese and did a tasting... WHAT FABULOUS CHEESE!! I must say, as far as cheese goes, it left nothing to be desired. They has some smooth, some crumbly, some salty and some creamy. We purchased some fresh artisan bread along with some goat cream cheese and Vidal Grape juice to have for breakfast in bed at the hotel for the weekend.

We then headed to Toute Sweet Ice Cream. This was less than exciting. They had limited flavours and typical add-ins. Aaron enjoyed his creme caramel with brownie but I was less than enthused by my fig and port with walnuts since it tasted like figs with cream. That was it for Jordan and it was off to NOL!

Once in Niagara on the lake we got settled in to our hotel and made our way into town. They have a street full of old town shops and restaurants. We made our way to some of the shops but only ended up purchasing food and wine. We got some dips and things from Kurtz Culinary Creations and some Wines from the local LCBO.

Night Cap from local LCBO, Yummy's from Kurtz.

Dinner Friday night was the highlight of the culinary adventure in Niagara on the Lake. We ate at a tiny place called the Stone Road Grill. Now this place might just have made the best poutine in Canada! Foie Gras Poutine with Monteforte Cheese Curds and Cabernet Franc Jus! Now seriously, is there something that sounds better than that?? I don't think so! What else was fantastic is that this small restaurant brings in as many local ingredients as possible and proudly serves local wine only. We ate a charcuterie plate (all made in house) and Aaron had lamb 3 ways and I had the Duck leg... all cooked to perfection. The duck skin was crispy and the meat was moist and tender. The lamb was delish! Even the lamb meat was from the winery up the street. They used the lamb to eat the branches off the lower vines and then send them off to slaughter.
Charcuterie Plate, Foie Gras Poutine,
On our guided wine tour we had a great time. We did a lunch tour with 3 other couples and ended up really enjoying the company. We would definitely do a guided tour again. We stopped at 4 different wineries which included Pondview Estates, Marynissen, Niagara College Teaching Winery and Colaneri. We made purchases from Colaneri and Niagara Teaching College. The other 2 were less than exciting for our taste. The teaching winery also has a brewery on site but we didn't have the time to take a trip there, next time for sure. Our favourite, by far, was Colaneri. The had a Late Harvest style Pinot Grigio that was superb! Then they had a Cabernet that was just amazing. They also have a Amarone that will be released early next year which we plan on ordering. I will definitely blog later about the wine's once we drink them! We also made a personal stop at Pillitteri to pick up some of their Pinot Grigio which was the wine I drank during appetizers at The Stone Road Grill. We also made a stop at Jackson Triggs to pick up some Cab. Franc ice wine for my brother. We got there on the perfect day since the Cab. Franc ice wine was on sale for $25.00 rather than $74.99. Needless to say we picked up a case of 6, 3 for us and 3 for my brother.

Colaneri Estate Winery, Niagara College Vineyard.
Grape Vines and Grape Clusters from Jackson Triggs.

Our last day was spent fishing the Niagara River. We spent a few hours trying to land some Salmon in the fast flowing area of the river but we didn't have any luck. We moved to a nice calm area and threw on some crayfish and caught a couple Bass. It could not have been a nicer day for fall fishing. The sun was shining and the wind was cool. We ended up having a great time together and our guide was cool and really helpful.

Photos from the beautiful Niagara River including The Lewiston-Queenston Suspension Bridge!

Our 2 Bass.. Aaron is holding my fish!

Overall, we had a great time and spoiled ourselves rotten on our trip. We not only ate well but we drank well and enjoyed great company.

Some Toronto Brewed Pumpkin Ale, Dessert in bed.
View from Our Room @ Queen's Landing, Our Wine Lot.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Tomatoes and Basil

Aaron and I tried our hand at canning this past weekend. We have many tomatoes in the garden but many are still green and we could not yield enough for canning so we purchased 2 tubs of plumb tomatoes from the local stand. We did tomato sauce which turned out amazing! We also made pesto with our basil from the yard and froze it in pucks. We used some recipes from our Put Em Up book but we tweaked the recipes to our taste. The pesto recipe we found very watery so we used one from online and modified the garlic amounts and also added some lemon juice and salt. The tomato sauce we added roasted garlic and sauteed mushrooms and I threw in some oregano, rosemary and bay leaves (removed bay leaves before canning).



As for the tomatoes in our garden, we plan on cutting our plants and hanging them in the garage to ripen the tomatoes and use them for pizza sauce. We made pizza sauce with our garden tomatoes earlier this summer and it was amazing so we will be doing this and freezing the sauce in puck form. Freezing will cause the water to separate for us to remove and will make the sauce nice and thick; perfect for pizza! As for our cucumbers and zucchini, we ate most fresh and may only can a few zucchini and cucumber pickles, if any. We also have a box of plum tomatoes left from the local stand and plan on making some salsa as well. Thanks to my friend Jenn, we have plenty of cans!

Food... Hot Topic. (Beware: RANT)

When we think about food most people think grocery stores, super markets and even fast food restaurants. Why is that?? Cheap, packaged, mass produced... hormone filled, antibiotic rich, preservative abundant, corn derived, chemically altered, genetically engineered grocery store foods ARE NOT GOOD FOR YOU! Not only are they not good for you but lets not get started on the treatment of the animals at the massive factory farms which supply our local grocery stores with their meats, eggs and milk.

When I think food, I think AGRICULTURE, gardening and animals. Which in turn gets me thinking LOCAL and COMMUNITY in terms of farmers markets and local stands. Then on to SUSTAINABILITY and horticulture and then I move along to nature, outdoors, dirt, insects, heath, wellness, I could go on and on of my train of thought. If we asked our ancestors what they think about when we say "FOOD" what do you think they would say? I think they would say something along the lines of "gardening, trade, work, sustainability, and life".

Our desire for MORE has led us astray. Big corporations have made millions by sucking the life and nutrition out of food. People spend hundreds, even thousands of dollars on "food" each year. They purchase boxed meals, frozen prepared meals and very little fresh, local foods. Grocery store advertise LOCAL FOOD! Take a look at this "Local Food". Most often it has still travelled hundreds of miles to get to the grocery store. Our local stores say "Ontario Fresh" or "Canada Grown" and other such buzz. Take a closer look at the labels and see where this food comes from. Most often is it still from hundreds of miles away. I saw "Local Ontario Pears" from Jordan, Ontario which is approx 3.5hrs away and "Canadian Blueberries" from British Columbia! Now, we have blueberry fields locally but people will still purchase blueberries from B.C which is, by the most direct route , approx. 4000kms which translates into 40hrs of driving... 40HOURS!!!! Imagine the resources used in this distribution. The harvesting, packaging, transporting and then selling of the berries. Now think about this with regards to other things. Some coming from across the world... things we can grow and produce locally! They say most places in the world could be relatively self sufficient with regards to food. Imagine such a world; the resources saved!

Don't get me wrong, this is a start! Yet, it is nowhere even close to where we should be. Food should be truly fresh and local. This means produced within one hundred miles or so from your home. People often then ask "What about during the winter months?" What do we think our ancestors did??? They certainly didn't all live in the southern climates. What ever happened to natural, healthy food preservation such as canning and freezing? The cold cellars full of local and self produced foods are a way of the past??? NO! They are the way of the future! This sort of convenience first, the environment and self sufficiency last mindset is not healthy for people or the planet. We need to start thinking about the future of our children and our planet.

Can one even have any sort of food sustainability in an suburban residential area? Local bylaws are restricting raising livestock and poultry, growing vegetable gardens and even canning foods which may be classified as a Food Processing Plant. This is ridiculous! We live in a society which is being held captive with regards to our food choices and most people are totally unaware of it. So I pose the question, DO WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO FOOD? If you are part of the united nations... you do! Does the right to food simply mean you have a right to purchase food from the grocery store which the elected government (may not even be who YOU voted for) controls and regulates, regardless of our individual political, ethical and religious beliefs. If this is the case we DO NOT have the right to food. If we truly have a right to food, which I believe we do, then this in turn means that we have the right to grow and raise our own food! Towns and cities do not have the right to tell us we cannot produce our own food for our families. If I want to have chickens for eggs, goats for milk and a lush vegetable garden I CAN! As a Canadian Citizen I have the right to food!

Some evidence to this:

Our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states in section 7:
"Everyone had the right to life, liberty and security of person and the right to not be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice."

In 1982, a right to security of the person was added to the Constitution. It was included in section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Security of the person in section 7 consists of rights to privacy of the body and its health and of the right protecting the "psychological integrity" of an individual.

"The States Parties to the present Covenant recognizes the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest standard of physical and mental health."

United Nations Economic and Social Council (COMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC, SOCIAL
AND CULTURAL RIGHTS) also has released this document outlining the right to adequate food and states :
"The right to adequate food is realized when every man, woman and child, alone or in community with others, has physical and economic access at all times to adequate food or means for its procurement.",
"The Committee considers that the core content of the right to adequate food implies:
The availability of food in a quantity and quality sufficient to satisfy the dietary needs of individuals, free from adverse substances, and acceptable within a given culture;
The accessibility of such food in ways that are sustainable and that do not interfere with the enjoyment of other human rights."
"Free from adverse substances sets requirements for food safety and for a range of protective measures by both public and private means to prevent contamination of foodstuffs through adulteration and/or through bad environmental hygiene or inappropriate handling at different stages throughout the food chain; care must also be taken to identify and avoid or destroy naturally occurring toxins."

Then there is Canada's Action Plan for Food Security recognizes food as a basic human right stating:
Promotion of access to safe and nutritious food is seen as a critical component of food security.

Also, the Supreme Court recognizes the right of Aboriginal peoples to traditional food gatherings but not the rights of other Canadian citizens to raise and produce their own food. It is mind boggling!

This is not to say that Towns should not be able to regulate food laws. I do believe that they should be regulated and reasonable. Lets face it, some people can get out of control with things. Having 50 chickens, 4 goats, 4 bee hives and a cow on 1/4-1/2 an acre is not reasonable let alone fair to the animals. Regulations are necessary, but must be reasonable! To tell us we can't is not reasonable or just.

Now lets look into why there are laws that restrict us from growing and producing our own food? The answer is not what most people think. It has NOTHING to do with health and the good of the people. Instead it is an old view based on Class and status! (suburb info found here p.5)

When the modern Suburbs were being developed, it was during a time where people wanted to define themselves. The rural communities and farming communities were seen as unfashionable. Those who sought to live in the suburbs were not wealthy enough to live in the cosmopolitan areas but did not want to be associated with the rural farming communities. Thus, the Suburbs were born! You may notice that most suburban areas have no sidewalks. This was due to the sidewalk being associated with the lower class citizens who were unable to afford vehicles (why would you walk when you could afford a car?). The keeping of livestock and food producing crops were seen as unfashionable and lower class as well. The problem was not that livestock was a health risk or a nuisance but that it was not modern, cosmopolitan and sophisticated.

In conclusion, let me just say that urban farming, including urban livestock, is the way of the past and the way of the future. We need to look past our noses and see the reality of our current food situation. Our food habits are major contributors to our growing obesity rate, increasing negative environmental impact.
The time for change is NOW!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Moving... maybe.

We have decided to try to sell our home.  We found a beautiful home in the county of Lakeshore.  It is a century old farm house that has been redone which sits on 1.7 acres of land surrounded by farmland.  This home would be perfect for us to have a small orchard, plenty of garden space, large chicken coop, duck pond, a few goats and even an ice rink in the winter months for the kids.  We put an offer on the home and are now trying to sell our current place.  We had the "For Sale"sign put in the front yard this morning and hope to sell fast.  If we are unable to sell our home we will be staying put.  Either way, we will be happy with the results.  If we are unable to move we will be fighting the bylaw that outlaws chickens as unconstitutional.  In the meantime we will remove our birds so that an ongoing court battle and outstanding bylaw infraction ticket doesn't get in the way of us moving.  If we lose the house we have the offer on we will quickly take our home off the market and bring our birds back to fight the bylaw.