Food for Thought

My Chocolate Tree chocolatesThe best thing about touring the booths at farmers' markets and craft fairs, is meeting the entrepreneurial artisans who are so passionate about their products. Here are some of the sweet treat goodies I found at the December Got Craft? holiday fair. They will be selling their treats at other markets and fairs so check them out.

Toffee shortbread cookieThe selection of finds shown here include Honey from Mellifera Bees, caramel popcorn from  Batch Sweet Kitchen, Karla's SpecialTeas, exquisite chocolates from MyChocolateTree, brilliant coloured flavoured chocolate from Coconama Chocolate Company, and shortbread cookies from Half Baked Cookie Company.

For those that specially appeal, their websites are listed at the end of this post.

Cilantro leavesWe humans are a wonderfully diverse species. Just think of the different languages and cultures that have evolved in different parts of the world. One aspect I find especially fascinating is the question of taste.

 For example I have a strong aversion to whole olives, yet I enjoy tasting different olive oils. On the other hand I love anchovies on pizza  – a choice that causes some of my friends to throw up their hands in disgust and order a plain pizza margherita with only tomatoes, mozzarella and basil.

But most of all I absolutely loathe cilantro, one of the most widely used herbs in South American foods. Cilantro, also known as coriander is the name of the leafy portion of the coriandrum sativum plant. In many cuisines, specially in Mexico, South America, and South-East Asia it is widely used to add a kick to foods. Most people who like cilantro absolutely love it in their food. Unfortunately if you are among the 21% of Asians or 17% of Europeans to whom cilantro tastes like a foul soap, even a touch of cilantro in a dish can render it distasteful. Blamed for this are the aldehyde chemicals that confer a unique flavour to this plant.

Got Craft? Holiday Christmas Craft FairEleven days till Christmas family get-together and stocking-stuffer gifts remain to be found. Luckily this weekend a two day holiday craft fair - Got Craft? - is open from 10 AM to 5 PM today and Sunday at the Maritime Labour Centre.

location of Maritime Labour Centre, directionsNot sure how to get there? Here are directions.

I found  many unique artisanal products ranging from infused salts to unusual teas and wickedly delicious popcorn snacks.

Caramelized yam and scallion soupThe subtle sweetness of caramelized yam, scallion and garlic blended into a rich, thick creamy soup was my choice for a hearty start to a Thanksgiving lunch.  Canadian Thanksgiving was over 6 weeks ago and today it is the USA that celebrates.

Orange yams, scallion and garlicI have so much to be grateful for that two celebrations seem very appropriate so I raise my spoon to my family and friends in the US and give thanks with them, albeit from a distance.

The Buy BC Food Campaign is an initiative to help consumers easily identify foods and products grown or produced in British Columbia. This new program of the B.C. Food Processors Association (BCFPA), was launched yesterday with a Food Cart Race, at Safeway on Robson Street, that highlighted the range and variety of BC made food products. Safeway  has over 1600 such products currently available at their 76 retail stores throughout BC and is partnering with the BCFPA to promote this program.

In the afternoon of the third day of our Amazon adventure, we made our first actual foray on foot into the jungle. Rather than viewing the vegetation and the birds and critters from the boats, we were actually going to hike to the Kapok Camp where we going to spend the night.

From the time we arrived at the airport in Iquitos and were taken to our coach for the ride to Nauta, we were in the capable and highly organized hands of the naturalist team who were leading our Amazon explorations. In my professional career I have encountered many people who were experts in their field, but Juan-Carlos Palomino and Robinson Rodriguez have made an indelible impression on me that I will never forget. How they could spot a tiny black dot high in a tree as we were speeding down river in our motorized skiff, and instantly identify the type of bird, simply blew my mind. Specially when our skiff driver, Darwin, would stop the boat so we could see the bird. Even through my very powerful binoculars I could often barely make out the shape of the black dot- which now just looked like a big bird-like blob to me. But they could point in the bird guide to the exact type of bird. And then when I zeroed in on the image captured (usually by Robinson, for me) on my camera, and zoomed in on the image - there it was. No longer a black blob.

Before supper each night, we were entertained on the upper deck by the ship’s band of whom the mainstays were brothers, Oscar and Edgar Rachi, and Blumer Arica, all of whom sang as well as playing multiple musical instruments. We danced lots of salsa and merengue with the occasional rumba for variation. It was quite a surreal experience to  be dancing on a river boat in the Amazon jungle!

As far as salad greens go, I confess to a minor addiction to arugula - or rocket lettuce- as it is sometimes known. Recently at the urging of several friends, I decided to add baby kale to my diet and so I was excited to find Lavinia, from Fern Alley Market Garden in the Squamish Valley, selling fresh microgreens and kale-based salads at Granville Island Market.

Among the microgreens they harvest are sunflower, bull's blood red beet leaf, Red Russian kale, white stem Pak choi, black Tuscan lacinato kale, red mustard and arugula, soil grown in the open air. Their signature salads are kale-based with Red Russian kale and include mixes such as The Trio; Sweet Greens; Spicy Blend and Flash Salad.

They are at Granville Island Public Market on Thursdays and Saturdays; Whistler Farmers Market on Sundays; Ambleside Farmers Market on Sundays and Squamish Farmers Market on Saturdays so look our for them.

Roast chicken is one of my favorite home cooked comfort foods.  It evokes memories of my mom-in-law's famous Sunday lunches where my husband and his brothers would vie to top each other's stories, and we would sit around the table and laugh till our sides ached. A great way to roast chicken at home is to use a rotisserie. You can flavour it with your favorite herbs and spices and control the fat and salt content.

I have been writing a bit lately about my personal enjoyment of various coffees and my experiments with making my perfect early morning cup. (J is for Java;  and X is for X-ploring the X-Factor in Java). So having not had time on my first visit to Eat! Vancouver 2012,  there  was one thing I specially wanted to check out on my second visit. The coffee-chocolate connection.

On entering  BC Place i headed straight to  the Van Houtte Coffee booth where I thought I might get  some more enlightenment about different blends of coffee. There I wanted to explore what my Coffee Profile was. Did I like my coffee Bold, Velvety or Mellow, and Fruity or Woodsy?  Hmmm. I love my coffee, but I suspect my taste might vary according to mood and time of day.

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