Saskatchewan Landscape

In keeping with our new hobby of exploring close to home, we ventured beyond the Alberta border toward Saskatoon, a city I love but haven’t properly visited in years. We didn’t realize it was only 6 hours away, and with a route that goes right through Drumheller, we hopped in the car for a long weekend in June. With a population of around a quarter million, it’s neither a small town nor big city – the perfect size for exploring, really. And like most Canadian city-towns it’s currently exploding with good food, new breweries and plenty of good coffee to be discovered.

W’s first discovery: phone books! Thick paper ones that listed everyone in the city. It was such a novelty, he lay on the hotel book reading it half the night.

Night Oven

The next morning, we hit the Night Oven. Love the name, the place, the bread, the pastries, the coffee. Some of the best bread in Canada is baked right here, baked with heritage grains – ed fife wheat, purple wheat, spelt, dark buckwheat, khorasan, einkorn and rye – sourced from Saskatchewan farmers and milled onsite, the loaves then baked in their own homemade wood-fired oven. These guys are hardcore bread artists. Their pastries, on the other hand, are flaky and delicate – that powdered sugar one on the right is filled with cream, as if a croissant and cream puff got together and produced delicious offspring.

The Hollows 1

The Hollows is one of my new favourite restaurants anywhere. It’s in the Riversdale neighbourhood, one of the oldest areas of Saskatoon, that like so many old inner-city neighbourhoods is seeing some revitalization. The Hollows took over a space that for generations housed a Chinese restaurant called the Golden Dragon – anyone who grew up in Saskatoon recalls eating there with their parents. In the basement, which is damp and low-ceilinged and now full of shelves of preserves, pickles and culinary experiments of all kinds, they found boxes of Golden Dragon plates and even order pads, which they still use. Chef owners Christie Peters and Kyle Michael cure, brine, smoke, butcher and preserve, forage dandelion greens from neighbours’ yards for the tastiest pesto, tan the hides of the animals they butcher, and use the fat to make the soap for their restaurants. (They also own Primal, which is more Italian-inspired and equally fantastic.)

Black Fox Distillery

We happened to be there on World Gin Day, and so went out to spend it with Barb and John at Black Fox Distillery, a two year old distillery who had just won best cask gin at the World Gin Awards in London, UK. Such wonderful people, and a gorgeous farm loaded with haskap berries, pumpkins just starting out, and fields of wildflowers. And the sweetest dogs. It’s so nice to get to know the people who grow and make your food. (And gin.)

wanuskewin 2

We headed out to Wanuskewin Heritage Park, a national historic site and generally amazing place above Opimihaw Creek and the South Saskatchewan River, where archaeological finds have pre-dated the Egyptian pyramids. To date, 19 pre-contact archaeological dig sites have been identified in the creek valley bottom and coulee depressions along the valley wall. We went on a medicine tour, a walk during which we explored and learned about indigenous plants and their uses within the early Northern Plains Indigenous communities, saw beaver lodges and loons, and cooked bannock over an open fire.

wanuskewin 1

There are open dig sites and other evidence of archaeological exploration around the grounds, and a cultural/interpretive centre with a theatre, meeting space, further storytelling and cultural artifacts, and a restaurant where they serve local whitefish, bison stew and stacks of smoky grilled bannock with berries and whipped cream.

Wanuskewin food
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lunch at fifteen 1

You know that saying, that you should do one thing every day that scares you? I’m not sure who wrote it, but I admittedly always scoffed at it a bit – healthy fear is a good thing, most often triggered for good reason, and pushing beyond that life-saving emotion isn’t necessarily the secret to a successful venture. But. Sometimes you gotta stop staring at your computer, blankly and incredulously taking in the endless barrage of awfulness and just get out and do something already.

I posted something on my personal Facebook page a few days ago – an open wish that we could somehow reclaim those viral images of angry people bearing tiki torches and flood the internet with people gathered together, armed with casseroles and curries and baklava and pie — heading to a backyard barbecue or picnic. To have peaceful pluralist potlucks and picnics everywhere, and use those garden torches to illuminate conversation and real connection. To gather people in our communities and spread the message that bigotry and hate are unacceptable, that love wins — and brings pie.

And so a few days went by, and people liked it, and loved it, and commented and texted offering help and ideas, and things kept happening in the news, and we all continued to feel angry and frustrated and wanting to do something – anything – to stand up to all this. So if you’re game, lets do what we can in whatever ways we can to bring people together and light up the dark, everywhere, wherever you are. I went to the dollar store yesterday and bought a bunch of tiki torches. This weekend, a week since the events in Charlottesville and the killing of Heather Heyer, let’s gather in parks and living rooms and back yards and remind the world -or even just your cul-de-sac— that there is good in the world and support in our communities, and that we won’t allow racism to permeate our society. Let’s invite people beyond our usual circles — neighbours, friends, coworkers, newcomers — so that we can get to know and better understand feelings and perspectives beyond our own, so we can look those who feel scared or marginalized in the eye and remind them that we stand with them. So that maybe we can generate a clearer sense of where to go from here, or at least provide comfort to each other at a time when every day seems to bring a new reason to be scared and horrified. There are few better ways to get to know each other than over a meal, particularly one everyone has contributed to. (And if you can’t gather some people for a meal -or snack, or coffee- this weekend, do something when you can. This sort of thing never expires and should really carry on forever.) I loved learning awhile ago that in Switzerland, in French, a potluck is called a pique-nique Canadien. Canada isn’t so much a melting pot as a potluck — we all bring something unique and wonderful to the table.

Among all the calls and texts and bits of brainstorming, my friend Brooke pulled together a website overnight, to direct questions and upload images so we can spread love (and pie) far and wide, and is organizing a potluck in Salt Lake City.

People are so amazing.

Potluck Collage
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Rhubarb Sour Cream Drop Scones

This was a weekend I felt like baking for people. Even before things began to happen, I woke up on Saturday morning wanting to make something for the farmers we were going to pick up our CSA share from, so I turned on the oven without knowing what I was going to make.

Rhubarb Sour Cream Drop Scones

I didn’t want to default to my usual scones. I pondered muffins. I confess I’m one of those people who enjoys the muffin top more than its stump. I had a tub of sour cream that needed using and some pinkie-thin rhubarb that’s perfect for breakfasty things, and so I started mixing a batch of muffins, changing course halfway through when I decided to give drop scones a go again.

Rhubarb Sour Cream Drop Scones
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Biera 3

This post was sponsored by Travel Alberta-thanks for helping me share the things I love about my home province.

There are so many good things to eat in Edmonton these days, I can’t keep up with it all. We went for the weekend, and it’s never enough time. One of these days I’m going to schedule an eating week and call it work. Who’s with me? Edmonton food crawl? We could wear stretchy pants and explore by bike?

Ritchie Market

First, I have to tell you (if you don’t know already) about a new multi-tenant eating spot similar to the Simmons Building in Calgary – Ritchie Market houses Transcend Coffee, Acme Meat Market, Blind Enthusiasm Brewing and Biera, a great new restaurant that focuses on pairing food with beer. (And yet I wouldn’t quite call it a brew pub.) Chef Christine Sandford is at the helm in the kitchen-we met her last year when she made us sourdough pizza and baby corn in the cobb oven on a nearby farm.

Biera 1

We snuck in for bar snacks-peppery radishes with salty chicken skin and canola aioli, canola-crisped sourdough nuggets with foamy Alpindon cheese + BC sumac, crispy ferns w ramp aioli, kohlrabi with queso fresco + sunflower shoots. Such interesting, delicious, creative uses of prairie ingredients, with beer brewed onsite to wash it all down. Can’t wait to go back for dinner.

Biera 2

Speaking of food that goes well with drinks, I’m an enormous superfan of Corso 32 and its 30 seat bar next door, Bar Bricco. Everything they serve is amazing, but the Egg Yolk Raviolo at Bar Bricco is truly one of the best things I’ve ever eaten – I’d seek it out any day, and argue it’s worth driving to Edmonton for. (Apologies for not having a photo-my last raviolo experience was with a group who dove in instantly upon its arrival at the back of the dimly lit bar.)

Uccellino 2

Chef/owner Daniel Costa has since added a third eatery on the other side, Uccellino [oo-che-LEE-no], which is every bit as good as the other two. They’re tiny, long spaces and each opens at 5, so my habit when I’m in town is to go to one of the three right at 5 (it’s tough to get in), or to try to stop in later for a drink and a nibble (or an entire raviolo) if I haven’t already eaten too much elsewhere and I manage to talk myself out of going to bed.

Uccellino 1
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Bourbon Blueberry Crisp

Much of the time, I’d choose a fruit crisp over pie. Not only because it’s so quick to make (and I’m so often the one making it) and because measurements don’t need the same precision, and there’s no worry over whether or not you’ll be able to extract a clean slice, but because I love sweet-tart, juicy fruit, particularly berries and stone fruits, and especially topped with a rubble of butter and brown sugar. It’s the ideal vehicle for vanilla ice cream and whipped cream, which I am an enormous fan of.

Blueberries in box
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Red jam

Having acquired a stunning loaf of bread that had toast written all over it, I simmered up a small pot of jam using the handfuls of berries I foraged from my sisters’ back yards (strawberries in Anne’s, raspberries in Ali’s) and the Nanking cherries I shook into my empty coffee cup between the car and our house, and a few Juliette cherries plucked at my parents’ house. I want everyone to know that making jam is not scary, and does not have to be an all day, dozens of jars process.

Red berries

Small Nanking cherries and even bigger but softer, juicier sour cherries can be tricky to handle, not quite firm enough to be pitted for pie. Typically impatient with random cherries, I usually cover them with water, bring them to a simmer and press them through a colander back into the pot to get rid of any pits. As easy as draining spaghetti, really. From here you can make syrup for waffles or cocktails, or go the jam or jelly route – I tossed in some raspberries and strawberries and added about half as much sugar as there was fruit. Measured completely by eyeball. (I rarely use any packaged pectin.) Bring it to a simmer and cook it until it turns into jam – really, that’s it. I caught most of the process on Instagram stories last night – at first the berries will look like simmering berries, then they’ll condense, the bubbles will get slower, the foam will start to disappear, and it will look like warm jam. If you want to test it, spoon some onto a cold plate and push it with your finger once it starts to cool – it should wrinkle.
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Raspberry-Saskatoon Galette - an easy, summery free-form pie

For the record, I take photos of the food I share here before we all dive into it; it’s not styled in a studio, and more often than not people are sitting around while I snap, waiting to eat it. Such was the case this evening, when a handful of family came over for pizza in the back yard. Because there are so many berries in the city right now (the benefit of breaking all records for heat and sun this year) I made a pie.

Raspberry-Saskatoon Galette 1

A galette, actually – a free-form pie you assemble and bake on a baking sheet rather than in a pie plate (although a pie plate works well too, and contains any leaks), which is one of my favourite things to do with a chunk of puff pastry. It was one of the items that got ejected from my overstuffed freezer in order to make room for the ice cream insert (priorities) – almost like it was meant to be.

Raspberry-Saskatoon Galette 5
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Blueberry Gin Jam

There are wild blueberries here in Muskoka, but they’re tiny and tedious to pick, and I miss the round, sweet highbush blueberries that had just come into season in BC before we left. We snuck away for brunch the weekend before this past one, which seems like forever ago, before heading out of town. It was early afternoon and we were hungry, and jumped straight to the fried chicken on biscuits, but they recognized we had missed an integral course and brought a tray of breakfast pastries anyway – croissants and other fancy breads, along with a pot of blueberry gin jam to spread all over everything.

Blueberry gin jam 3
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Cherry Dutch Baby

I’m such a fan of the Dutch baby. We’ve always called it a puffed pancake – an eggy batter that puffs up all dramatically in the oven, like a Yorkshire pudding. It’s been too hot to have the oven on lately, and one day when it poured rain and the temperature dropped below 20, I cranked on the oven and used a half bowl of withering cherries as an excuse to make one.

cherry dutch baby 4

You can do a lot of things with a Dutch baby, but in basic terms you can bake the fruit into it, or put it into the bowl-shaped pancake after. Putting the fruit into the bottom of the pan first creates little pockets and holes where the fruit has steamed through; the edge still domes impressively, and the bottom is all lumpy with fruit. I have a few cast iron skillets, and this is a smaller one I tend to use when it’s just for two or three – I use a ratio of 2 eggs, 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup flour for this size, and 3 eggs, 3/4 cup milk and 3/4 cup flour when I use my larger 9 or 10 inch skillets. Everything else stays the same – and to be honest, I never measure my fruit, or the butter and oil I cook it with.
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