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|MAY 2009 • ISSUE NO. ONE|
• Sparkenhoe Red Leicester
• Real Crème Fraîche
Every 8th and 26th of every month 20% of all cheese sales are donated to support Vancouver Island Hospice.
FOL EPI BREADS
Every morning, usually some time between 10 and 11, we're presented with armfuls of warm, soft, yet deliciously crusty baguettes and whole wheat loaves from Fol Epi. ('Fol Epi' is Latin for 'Crazy Wheat.') Former Wildfire co-owner Cliff Lear has opened a new bakery at Dockside Green. He bakes his magnificent, yeasty creations in a hand-built, wood-fired oven, using flour that he grinds fresh daily with his hand-built grinder, out of the wheat stored in his personal silo. Such a fine line between madness and genius... We also get his pastries and boules every Saturday. What's a boule? Come in and find out! (Photograph by: Darren Stone, Times Colonist. Detail.)
And the best thing for baguettes? Cheese. Obviously. But butter is a very close second. Beurre Ancestral from Fromagerie Le Detour in Quebec would no doubt live up to Cliff's standards. (Cliff, if you're reading this come try it and let us know.) The main thing you're likely to remember on tasting it is that butter is actually made from cream. Rich, gorgeous cream... on a warm, crusty baguette... sorry... seem to have lost our train of thought...
SPARKENHOE RED LEICESTER
On to the feature cheese! For most of us in Victoria, a stately, turn of last century Edwardian conveys a satisfying sense of history and tradition. So it can be humbling to consider that many cheeses have ancestry far older than any local architecture. For example: the Sparkenhoe Red Leicester we just received from Neil's Yard Dairy. (Neil's Yard Dairy buys cheese from 70 independent cheese-makers in the UK and Ireland and distributes them to shops and restaurants internationally.)
Sometime before 1700, the cheese made in Leicestershire significantly diverged from the Cheshire cheese being produced in neighbouring counties. Certain villages became renowned for the quality of their 'Red Leicester'. But the dawn of the industrial revolution and factory production (c.1850) severely impacted quality, and by the latter half of the 20th century Red Leicester had virtually ceased to exist beyond relatively insipid, mass-produced blocks.
The Chapman family's Sparkenhoe Farm made its first batches of Red Leicester in 1745. It made its last in 1875. The last, that is, until November 2005, when current owners David and Jo Clarke revived the lost practice. Using raw milk from their 150-odd Friesian-Holstein cows, they make their cheese with animal rennet and bind it with cloth and lard. The result is a savoury, aromatic cheese that is wholesome, nutty, milky and rich with tradition.
SUN WING TOMATOES
The first crops of the year have arrived! These tomatoes can't actually fly (unless Carmen goes too far one day...) but they are divine. Jeanette Lee and Tom Law grow wonderful, vine-ripened, pesticide-free Cherry, Campari, and Heirloom tomatoes in their greenhouses on Oldfield Rd. Believe it or not, these ones actually taste like tomatoes. We also get Sun Wing's lovely English and White Spine cucumbers. Yum.
If you really love tomatoes, you can kick up the intensity even more with Mutti Aceto di Pomodoro, a tomato vinegar from Italy. This is a full-on flavour with mouthwatering acidity. It's great with the creamy mellowness of fresh mozzarella, awesome on asparagus, it adds an edge to marinara... just be warned - it's not for the timid palate.
CHARELLI'S TASTING ROOM
Many of you have noted, often with relief at finding we haven't actually closed, that we've moved two doors to the right. And if you've heard the rumours regarding our old space... they're true. We're currently renovating it, and it will soon be a private tasting room where you can learn about and sample all kinds of gastronomical delights: wine, olive oil, beer, sweets, meats... and cheese! We're going to let the space develop organically into whatever it needs to be, so if you have ideas for events or products you want to share, please let us know.
According to the New York Times, Vij's Indian restaurant in Vancouver is 'easily among the finest in the world'. But even if we weren't island-bound, a craving for world-class curries doesn't necessarily coincide with the desire to dress up and go out. Sometimes it comes with a hankering to spend a low-maintenance evening in the comfort of your own home. Luckily, you can have both. We bring Vij's entrées to the island. All you need to do is drop the packages into boiling water for 20 minutes, and you have some of the best Indian food in the world ready for your table. Favourites include: Natural Chicken in Vij's Masala, Punjabi Lamb, Coconut Beef, Black Chickpea and Ginger... Naan bread and Vij's specialty chutneys are also available. And we've just fully restocked. As our regular Vij-aholics know, they don't last long, so now's a good time to try them.
If you're looking for a more historical curry condiment (and who isn't), we'd have to recommend Mrs. H.S. Ball's Chutney. Honestly. It's a South African icon. It was first made in Cape Town by Mrs. Amelia Ball (married to one Mr. H.S. Ball) during World War One. She sold it to friends and at church bazaars to earn a little extra income. Almost a hundred years later its popularity is international and only growing. This one's definitely stood the test of time.
Covered Bridge Potato Chips - burlap is the new black. We all know Carmen uses 'food shows' as an excuse to jaunt off to exotic places for good times, while trying to get us to feel sorry for her for working so hard. And also as an excuse to extract gratitude from everyone for tracking down glorious foodstuffs - ostensibly for our benefit. Don't fall for it! During her last bout of wild partying in Montreal, though, she did somehow manage to find Covered Bridge Potato Chips from New Brunswick. We haven't stopped munching since they arrived in their endearingly rustic burlap potato-sack packaging. Available in Sea Salt, Sea Salt and Cracked Pepper, and Barbeque, as well as Sweet Potato with Brown Sugar and Cinnamon, they are super crunchy and have a deliciously natural taste. Please buy them so we stop eating them.
Best use for a small burlap sack. Reusable cheese-shopping bag? Hiding your favourite cheese from your significant other? Nouveau-rustic haberdashery? Best idea wins 200 grams of your choice of cheese. Just reply to this email.