Monday, October 23, 2006

Return to Covey Hill, rev. ed.

Mr. Safian's fig. a: Mr. Safian's stand, Rte. 202

For some reason we were slow to return to Covey Hill even though we’d had such a great experience there last year. Weather? Puces Pop? We were never sure why exactly, but it most certainly had something to do with the endless summer of 2005, when a warm summer stretched into a lengthy Indian summer. By the time we were done we’d been out to collect apples (and on some occasions pears) three times, the last time in early November. As some of you may remember, we discovered the man we now call our apple guy on our very first trip out last year—a trip prompted by an almost Wellesian search for the origins of an apple crate.* Yes, that was the trip where we explored Covey Hill for the first time. It was also the trip where we met Mr. Eugene Safian.

Mr. Safian's, just west of Stevenson Rd. fig. b: approximate location of Mr. Safian's stand

Of course, last year we took to calling him Monsieur Safian because we were absolutely convinced he was a b’en bon Québecois--so much so that we’d spoken to him exclusively in French in all our dealings with him. This year we found out that although he does speak French with a perfect rural Quebecois accent, he also speaks English perfectly fluently (again, with a rural accent) and that he identifies himself primarily as an “Anglo” even though his mother tongue was yet another language.

We’d had suspicions that M. Safian had Eastern European blood from the start—there was something about that family name that struck us as not exactly pure laine and maybe Hungarian or Romanian or something. When he quizzed us, those were our first two guesses, and when both of those came up short we guessed Armenian. He told us, “Yeah, everyone thinks it’s Armenian.” In fact, his parents came from the Ukraine, as it turns out, and young Eugene grew up speaking Ukrainian at home. His father had moved to Canada sometime in the 1920s, and like many other immigrants at that time (my grandfather being one of them), he bounced around the country in search of work, even making it as far as British Columbia before eventually returning east and settling in southwestern Quebec, where he established himself as an orchardist and started a family. It was Eugene’s mother who changed the family name to Safian in an attempt to create something that would seem more familiar to outsiders. The name has been mistaken for Armenian ever since.

Anyway, maybe it was all due to that shared Eastern European heritage or something, but we clicked with Mr. Safian from the first time we met him—we definitely had some kind of connection. Usually these things manifest themselves in a knowing look, a twinkle in the eye, a hesitant question about family background--like when The Capitan/Le Capitaine, the venerable Jean-Talon egg merchant, gave Michelle one of those looks one time and then asked, "Are you Czech?", completely out of the blue (we've been loyal ever since). With Mr. Safian it was different. The last time we went to visit him last year, that Monday morning in early November, we showed up and his stand was disassembled, his parking lot was cordoned off.

parking, Mr. Safian's fig. c: parking lot, Mr. Safian's

We parked the car along the side of Rte. 202 and took a look around. No sign of Mr. Safian, no sign of Susie, his faithful Doberman mix. Michelle wandered down along the 202 to the end of the slip of an orchard that makes up Mr. Safian’s southern plot. I wandered in the other direction and knocked at his front door. No luck. A few minutes later we regrouped and tried to figure out what to do. We’d just decided that we would head towards Franklin centre and hit another apple stand or two, before coming back to see if we’d have better luck the second time around, when who should appear miraculously out of the dense forest on the south side of the road but Mr. Safian himself. Sure enough he opened up his operation for us, and a half an hour later we were on our way again with a trunkload of late autumn apples.

This year we had a similar experience. We’d just been telling our friends K and S about the charms of Mr. Safian and the stroke of good luck we’d had with him the year before. Once again, it was a Monday morning. Once again, we pulled up and his stand was closed up, the parking lot was roped off, and there was no sign of Mr. Safian. Once again, we fanned out to see if we could spot him. Once again, we came up empty. We were in the process of trying to figure out what our next step would be, especially seeing as none of the apple trees we’d seen along the way were showing apples, when, once again, Mr. Safian appeared out of the blue, this time in a car. It seemed like happy days were here again, but the first thing he told us was that not only were his trees clean, but he was completely out of apples. It had been an early season this year and the trees hadn’t produced quite as many as they had in other years. We said, “Completely?," and he said, “Well, I may have a few apples left—some Macs, some Cortlands—but don’t get your hopes up.” He opened up his shed, and—he was right—there wasn’t much left, but there was plenty enough for the likes of us, and much more than he’d been letting on. Not only did he still have Russets and Spys, two of our absolute favorites, but we had lots of Macs left and some very impressive-looking (and tasting) Cortlands. We didn’t get to pick them this year, but otherwise we couldn’t have been happier.

We ended up going to see Mr. Safian twice in the course of one week, the second time to pick up a 66-lb crate of phenomenal Flemish Beauty pears, and on this second trip he filled us in on some of the vagaries of the apple trade. Yes, it had been a short growing season this year, and, yes, apple trees in southwestern Quebec hadn’t produced nearly as many apples as they were capable of producing, but there were other factors at play that had led to the present apple shortage. You see, Mr. Safian explained to us, upper upstate New York has a couple of growing regions that produce apples, and especially Macs, on a massive scale that absolutely dwarfs the output of an area like the Franklin-Covey Hill-Hemmingford corridor. These operations are “huge,” he told us, “huge.” One of the biggest of these apple orchard regions is the one that surrounds the town of Chazy, right alongside Lake Champlain some 15 miles or so south of the Canadian border. One orchard alone measures about 25 square miles of territory and produces an astronomical number of apples per annum, he claimed. Well, it seems that Chazy suffered a devastating hailstorm this summer, one that wiped out the majority of the town’s apple crop in one fell swoop. Usually, hailstorms are pretty localized and they might take out a strip of agricultural land. This one had been different: it ravaged a much larger area, including most if not all of that massive mega-orchard Mr. Safian had described to us. Just how big a hailstorm are we talking about? One eyewitness reported five to ten minutes of sustained 3/4” hail, enough to cover the ground with a thick layer. This had the effect of throwing the balance in the Northeastern apple market completely out of whack. And it meant that the demand for Quebec apples from south of the border was enormous.

There was yet another factor affecting Mr. Safian’s supply, though. He’d picked up a new client last year when a fellow apple grower/friend of his decided to get out of the orchard business after some tough seasons, handing over a prized client in the process. And just who/what was this new client? Not some big apple juice or apple sauce conglomerate, not some big bakery, not some local cidrerie. No, it was a nunnery situated in the whimsically named Salaberry-de-Valleyfield nearby, a town otherwise famous for its hydroelectric projects and its notorious traffic cops (you’ve been warned). Last year, the good sisters [he wouldn’t tell us which order] placed an order for an entire bin of apples—Cortlands only!—20 bushels to the bin.

cortland apples, Mr. Safian's fig. d: "Cortlands, only Cortlands!"

Apparently they’d been pleased with Mr. Safian’s Cortlands, because this year they doubled their order. Two weeks later they called again and asked if they could top up their order with another half a bin. By that time Mr. Safian was already running low, but he reluctantly said yes—what else could he do?—and somehow he managed to cobble together another 10 bushels of premium Cortlands. As he told us, “I’ve got no idea what those nuns do with all those apples, but when the nuns ask, you listen.” The deal had apparently been beneficial to both parties. The nuns had apparently been impressed with their bushels upon bushels; Mr. Safian had made out well. “Let’s just say I was smiling all the way to the bank,” as he put it, presumably because he’d sold so many apples in one go and managed to get a good price, but, then, you never know, he might very well had had something else in mind.

So there you have it. Last year, Quebec’s apple growers had a long growing season, one that allowed us to go a collect our last load of apples in early November, but the apples never really reached their full potential and a lack of early frost left them a bit fragile. This year there’d been a short growing season with low-production and unusually high demand, resulting in a serious shortage of apples, but three early frosts had made those apples that were available particularly sweet and unusually hardy. As the character of Roberto once put it in the film Down By Law, "It is a strange and beautiful world."

crates, sign, Mr. Safian's fig. e: "The orchardist is IN"

Oh, and Susie? We didn’t see her this year due to some rather serious health problems. Apparently she was still coming out occasionally to see people on weekends—she always had been a social dog—but mostly she’d been taking it easy, resting in the warmth and safety of home.


*Okay, it really wasn’t "Wellesian" in the least, but the term has a nice ring to it.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Not Your Baba's Borscht

beets, candy-striped and otherwise fig. a: beets, candy-striped and otherwise

Don't get me wrong: there's nothing wrong with your Baba's borscht and the recipes that follow are by no means some kind of rejection of the fine tradition of borscht-making that extends across Poland, the Ukraine, Russia and beyond. As you'll see in a few months when we print an authentic Baba-approved recipe for a hearty winter borscht (and as should be obvious to anyone who's followed " endless banquet" over the last couple of years), we're big fans of those time-tested recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation. It's just that personally I can't lay claim to a borscht-making lineage--my Baba was Slovak and therefore didn't make borscht, even though pickled beets were a staple of her table--and so my take on borscht might strike some as unorthodox. Not disrespectful, just a bit different. For one thing, I've never made a borscht that wasn't meat-free. This is because I started making borscht back when I was a vegetarian and I quickly learned that the combination of onions, garlic and beets makes one heck of a broth, and quickly, too. If I want a borscht that's more of the stick-to-your-bones variety I just make it chunkier, I bump up the potato content, and I add some extra dairy to the mix. In the fall, however, I tend to crave a borscht that's lighter on the palate, one that's got a clear broth that really highlights just how flavorful and attractive beets are at this time of year when they're at their peak. Since discovering heirloom varieties of beets, like white beets and golden beets, a few years ago, I've tried to make sure to make at least one borscht per harvest season that takes advantage of the best heirloom varieties I can get my hands on. I don't fetishize heirloom beets, but if I have the option to buy golden beets over your standard beet-red beets (especially when they're more or less the same price), I will. Two years ago I made an extraordinarily sweet borscht using white beets and white carrots, both heirloom, and both very inexpensive because I'd picked them up from our friend Patrice. This year, over the last couple of weeks, I've made two of these specialty borschts.

For the first of these I used the gorgeous candy-striped specimens that you see in the photo above. I avoided using cabbage altogether, and only included potatoes to make the broth (I took them out when the broth was done). The carrots, the copious amounts of dill, and the dollop of sour cream that came with each bowl added a bit of familiarity, but those candy-striped beets made for one of the most striking borschts I've ever seen.

Borscht I

1 tbsp canola oil
1 onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium-size leek, cleaned and chopped finely
5-6 medium beets (the nicest ones you can find), peeled and diced
6-8 cups water
2 carrots, peeled and chopped into 2-inch long sticks
4 small potatoes, peeled but otherwise left whole
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh dill
salt and pepper to taste, making sure to pepper the borscht assertively
sour cream (garnish)

Heat you oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add your onion and sauté for a couple of minutes. Add the garlic and leek and continue to sauté over medium heat until the onions have started to become translucent and the leek is wilted and flavorful. Add the beets and sauté for a minute or two. Add the water, the carrots, and the potatoes and bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the potatoes and save them for another purpose [like making some outrageously flavorful pink homefries the next morning for breakfast]. Add the dill and simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes.

borscht fig. b: borscht with candy-striped beets

Serve in bowls that will show off the beautiful color of the broth as much as possible with a dollop of sour cream and plenty of good, fresh bread (like a baguette, a sourdough, or, better yet, a pumpernickel, rye, or challah loaf).

golden beets fig. c: golden beets

Borscht #2 was made with the lovely golden beets you see above. The broth was even lighter this time around because I didn't use any potatoes at all. I did add cabbage this time around, but I went with just a little bit of Savoy cabbage instead of your standard green or red cabbage. This may have been the sweetest broth I've ever made, right up there with that all-white borscht mentioned above. The golden beets gave it the most beautifully delicate flavor--then I added the cabbage and ten minutes later the broth had become even sweeter and mellower. I loved its pale yellow color, which brought to mind fallen leaves.

Borscht II

1 tbsp butter
1 onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 small leeks, cleaned and chopped
4-5 medium beets
6 cups water
salt and pepper to taste, making sure to pepper the borscht assertively
1/4 head savoy cabbage, chopped into a fine shred
sour cream (garnish)

Melt the butter over medium heat in a large soup pot, being careful not to let it scorch. Add the onion and sauté for 1 or 2 minutes. Add the garlic and leeks and sauté for about 10 minutes, or until the onions are becoming translucent and the leeks have wilted and become flavorful. Add the beets and the water and bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes. Adjust the seasoning and add the cabbage. Simmer for another 10 minutes.

golden beet borscht fig. d: golden beet borscht with savoy cabbage

Again, serve so as to show off the borscht's beautiful color. Add a dollop of sour cream to each serving. Have plenty of good bread on hand.

Both of these borschts are quick, easy, inexpensive, and vegetarian. More importantly, they're phenomenally tasty. Make them with some exceptional beets--like the candy-striped beets we got from Jacques et Diane at Jean-Talon Market, or the golden beets we got from Patrice--and they might very well be the best borschts you've ever had. Other than your Baba's, that is.


Monday, October 16, 2006

Kamouraska Konnection I

By the time we got to 5550 Casgrain, a covered carport right in the thick of Mile End's manufacturing district, last Saturday,

5550 casgrain

there was already a crowd, and they'd pretty much cleaned out a lot of Patrice's more popular items, like the fingerling potatoes. There was still plenty left, though, and Michelle was particular excited to see that there were 4-ft. cardoons for sale. No joke. She picked one up and put it aside

michelle, cardoon

and then we picked out other selections: baby leeks and baby fennel bulbs, golden beets, fresh horseradish, tomatillos. Patrice's sales are always something to behold--you almost feel as though you've suddenly chanced upon some exotic botanical display that's mysteriously and inexplicably found its way into a hidden corner of the city. With those humongous cardoons dominating the scene, this one was particularly surreal. It was also particularly convivial. In addition to getting to see Patrice again after many months, we ran into all kinds of friends, old and new.

malo, hermine

We were turning heads left and right as we rode down St-Viateur and then St-Urbain with those massive cardoon fronds swaying in the wind behind Michelle's bike like some strange vegetal plumage. "What the...?" "Did you just see what I saw?" "What is that thing?" In spite of its ridiculous size, Michelle found that cardoon to be remarkably aerodynamic, and we made it home in no time.

When we got back to SoJo [the little-known South of St-Joseph part of Mile End], we spread our haul out on the kitchen table and the Inspector came by to do his job.

still life with cat

When we'd passed inspection, it was time to stop simply admiring our purchases and actually do something with them. Having never tried them before, that cardoon was what we found ourselves most enticed by. So that's what we got started on first.


Friday, October 13, 2006

Straight outta Kamouraska

The incomparable Patrice Fortier--who we've written about on a few occasions over the past couple of years--will be back in town this Saturday, October 14, selling produce, herbs, and canned goods from his legendary Kamouraska farm/garden/orchard, La Société des Plantes. He'll be in the parking lot at 5550 Casgrain from 11am to 4pm. I know, it doesn't sound very romantic, but his prices are very good and he always has the most extraordinary stuff in tow. Everything is organic and heirloom and some of his varieties are unique in North America (!).

According to Patrice, highlights this time around will include:

pommes de terre 'German Finger', confitures de petites prunes, cardons, chou-palmier de Toscane (kale noir), choux de Savoie, poireaux, céleri aromatique, mini-fenouils, chicorée à feuille de pissenlit, topinambours, raifort, sarriette séchée, tomatillos, feuilles de mauve crépue, mini-betteraves 'Golden', ficoïde glaciale, fleurs de pois-asperge.

For more on past encounters with Patrice, including guerrilla streetside sales (like the one planned for tomorrow), a bike shop sale, and even an impromptu home delivery, check out the following:

November 2004
October 2005
November 2005


Thursday, October 12, 2006

Too Pooped to Talk Pop

Phew! Things were so hectic last Sunday, it's taken us a few days to recover.

If you weren't able to join us because of other commitments or because you're part of our virtual community somewhere hundreds, even thousands, of miles away, this is what you missed:

Svestka Preserves, Inc.

Michelle, in action, serving up our very own communion of sorts to the ravenous shoppers who turned up at the Canadian Grenadier Guards Armory that glorious Sunday. Crab apple jelly. Ketchup aux fruits. Fig preserves. Plum chutney. Red currant jelly. Marmalades galore. & c. A bewildering array of advertisements. And samples, lots and lots of samples (in this case, kumquat marmalade).

That was early in the day. By the time 7:00 p.m. rolled around, we'd been largely cleaned out. Gone were the oignons confits, the plum chutney, the red currant jelly, and a whole host of other Švestka specialties. Gone were most of the crisp, orchard-fresh apples we'd been giving away all day. We'd seen lots of friends and made lots of new friends (including visiting New Yorkers, Los Angelenos, Bostonians, Torontonians, Vancouverites, and various other out-of-towners). And we'd had some pretty vivid conversations with some of our patrons. You think bartenders hear some tales? You should try working a jams and jellies booth at a crafts fair. The blue-ribbon story? Well, one particuarly enthusiastic customer, having just paid for a jar of Michelle's raspberry preserve, proceeded to tell us that she'd bought it in honor of her first son, who'd been conceived in a raspberry patch. I kid you not. Don't worry, we very politely refrained from asking, "Who with?" "He hates it when I tell that story," she told us. Thankfully, he wasn't around. These events are always an experience, and this one didn't disappoint in the least.

If you're having a hard time imagining the scene, here's what it looked like from the balcony at about 5:00 p.m., with the late afternoon sunlight streaming through the massive windows:

Puces Pop 2006

If you look closely, you can see Michelle in brown right in the center of the photo, giving a couple of greenhorns the hard-sell, dazzling them with her witty repartee and her formidable powers of persuasion.

If you're thinking to yourself, "That's not an armory, that's just some big ole gym," think again. That "big ole gym" was very much an armory, very much a vestige of Montreal's past as a garrison city. In fact, the place was haunted with all kinds of ghosts, like this dashing old fuss 'n' feathers


and these brave souls


And lest you forget that the proceedings were part of pop festival, there was the odd performance to liven things up a little, like the performance by Patrick Watson (no, not the knob-twiddler in front, the guy behind the grand piano belting out a tune) in the "Puces Pop Lounge" captured below:

patrick watson & co.

Anyway, thanks ever so much to all of you who stopped by (like this trio of bright-eyed and thoroughly satisfied customers).

3 satisfied customers

We had a great time and we hope those of you who made purchases are enjoying your Švestka preserves.


Thursday, October 05, 2006

Pop Tips

This is just a friendly reminder (yes, more shameless self-promotion) that " endless banquet" together with Švestka Preserves Inc. will be manning a booth at this week's Puces Pop arts, crafts, and science (?) fair. Puces Pop will be taking place over the course of two days, this Saturday and Sunday, October 7th and 8th, at the Canadian Grenadier Guards Armory, 4171 Esplanade (corner of Rachel), directly facing Parc Jeanne-Mance. Our booth, however, will only be in effect (as they say) on Sunday, October 8th, from noon till 7:00 p.m. (or while supplies last).

Now, what can you expect to find? Literally dozens of different preserves of all sorts, from our legendary oignons confits, which brought tears of joy to many at last year's event, to a whole host of never before seen varieties, such as:

preparing crab apples fig. a: Michelle prepares her crab apples

crab apple jelly fig. b: and this is how her crab apple jelly turned out*

crab apple jelly


36 lbs of grapes fig. c: 18 lbs. of muscat and pinot noir grapes

muscat honey fig. d: muscat honey = muscat love

muscat honey

What exactly is muscat honey? Well, somehow Michelle managed to turn 9 lbs. of muscat grapes into the most other-worldly nectar. She named this ambrosia "muscat honey," and it'll be available to you, friends, on Sunday.

Now, one last bit of information: this Saturday, as part of Film Pop, "where movies and music make out in the dark," there'll be a screening that might be of interest to some of you out there. Those of you who've been reading us for a while might remember a couple of posts from earlier this year that had to do with the late Simcha Leibovich and his legendary grocery store.

Simcha's pickles fig. e: Simcha's pickles

The second of these posts centered on a barrel of pickles that had been "liberated" from Simcha's during the shooting of a film there, and this barrel's strange demise. Well, that film, Posthumous Pickle Party, gets its premiere Saturday night at Film Pop, and its maker, Ezra Soiferman, will be hosting a bill + Q & A that includes "The Birth Of The Smoked Meat" by Jeannette Pope and Zoe Mapp (a film that sounds like another bit of essential viewing for all of you modern noshers out there) and the intriguingly named "Montreal Stories, 1971" by Vanya Rose. Check it!

For more information:


* Note: absolutely no Photoshop-type manipulation was used in the production of this digital photograph

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Tartaric Blackberry Acid Test

blackberry acid, stage one

Anyone who has grown up around blackberry bushes knows their true nature is not unlike a weed: hardy, expansive, and prolific. On the West Coast you can walk virtually anywhere and pick bucketfuls whenever you like. You begin to take blackberries for granted—until you move out east, that is. $3 a pint is a bitter pill to swallow, but swallow it you must if you love blackberries. Suddenly the days of pies, cobblers, buckles, shortcakes and anything else you can do with them are gone. Suddenly you’ve got to be selective about your projects. I was definitely sporting my selective glasses this summer, hunting around for the best recipe to spring on this year’s crop of blackberries. When I saw the recipe for Blackberry Acid in the August/September 2006 issue of Saveur, however, I knew it was the one.

What is Blackberry Acid? A thick, slightly fizzy syrup which, when you add seltzer water to it, makes a blackberry soda drink. Apparently, it was a popular drink in the South before the days of the Cola Wars, a true drugstore counter classic. Which may help to explain the presence of one of its principal ingredients: tartaric acid. Which begs the question, “What in God’s name is tartaric acid?”

As something that used to be a common household item, alongside citric acid and ascorbic acid, tartaric acid has all but disappeared from our shelves. Tartaric acid is a by-product of the winemaking process, and was used extensively in yesteryear as a preservative, an acidifier, and a carbonator, but has since been all but eclipsed. But who on earth would stock such stuff in this day and age? Somehow I knew my best bet was also the one closest to me: our corner pharmacy, N.J. Shore. Aside from having an almost poetic name that calls to mind images of boardwalks and salt water taffy, N.J. Shore is a true treasure trove—the kind of drugstore that’s practically a museum, the kind of drugstore where you can find all kinds of fascinating discontinued oddities, the kind of drugstore where Anthony used to pick up strange 1960s postcards for 10 cents a pop. They’d come through for me in the past with citric acid, so I figured I might as well ask.

“What do you want with that?,” the woman at the counter asked me. I didn’t know of any illicit use* for tartaric acid, so I had nothing to hide. “I’m making blackberry soda,” I responded. “Blackberry soda?” Suddenly things started happening. “I need some tartaric acid over here now!,” she barked into the backroom. “She’s making soda!” Seconds later a strange little bottle of white powder came from the back with a vintage of about 1941.

atlas tartaric acid

“How much?,” I asked, fully expecting some crazy big-ticket price for such a rarity, for such an antique. “Just bring us some soda and you can have it.” I ran home with it and, needless to say, I got to work right away.

Here’s what I did:

Blackberry Acid (from Saveur’s August/September issue)

8 cups blackberries
7 cups sugar
2 cups water
2 Tbsp. + 2 tsp. tartaric acid**

Mix all of the ingredients in a large glass jar and cover. Let stand 24 hours, stirring occasionally. Strain through cheesecloth and discard berries. Place syrup in sterilized jars and cover with cheesecloth secured with a rubber band. Store in a cool, dark place for 3 weeks.*** Store in the fridge and serve with seltzer water.****

After all was said and done, I was left with a syrup that was so good and so totally blackberry, that I vowed then and there that I would make this treat every year from now on (even if I have to import the tartaric acid from the Tartar Mountains myself).

blackberry acid

As for you, dear readers… Believe it or not, there are still blackberries at the market if you run. Couldn’t you use a little good old-fashioned Blackberry Acid in your life?

Oh, and, yes, I did return to N.J. Shore with blackberry sodas for everyone.

Tartaric acid from the folks at N.J Shore: free.
Seeing their like-kids-at-a-soda-fountain expressions on their faces when I brought them their own batch of blackberry sodas: priceless.


* I later found out that it is toxic and can poison you if ingested in significant quantities (!). Pretty much like every other substance known to man.
** In the end, I didn't end up using that bottle of Atlas tartaric acid. I kept it as a souvenir and bought a slightly newer vintage at a big, modern drugstore on Van Horne. It wasn't something they stocked regularly. They had to special order it for me.
*** I tried a small amount before this step and found it to be too sweet and flat-tasting. The fermentation that occurs over the course of the 3 weeks makes a big difference in the final taste.
**** Just a brief note on the sad state of seltzer affairs in North America: almost all of the seltzer home delivery companies have shut down, with a few notable exceptions (i.e. Seltzer Sisters in the San Francisco Bay Area). I wish we could get local seltzer delivered to our door. We are looking for any traces of what must have been a big part of Montreal’s past. If anyone has any information on companies that used to provide this service in Montreal, please let us know. We mean it. Just think of how much better our blackberry sodas would taste.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

They're Here!

BLiS maple syrup

For those of you who may have been wondering, we did end up placing a group order for some BLiS Bourbon Barrel Matured Organic Maple Syrup. It took a few days to organize the order, but when we finally did James, at Mikuni Wild Harvest's Vancouver office, was more than happy to place the order for us. And lickety-split, there they were, on our very doorstep. A whole box of these beautiful bottles. At just under $30/750 ml bottle plus shipping--when the going rate for premium Quebec maple syrup is around $6/540 ml can--there's no question that this bourbon barrel-matured maple syrup is an indulgence, even an extravagance,* but as soon as we cracked our bottle open and refreshed our memories we were glad we'd shelled out. I've taken a few little nips over the last 24 hours, and every time I do that Batch #348 surprises me--I think I'm ready for its smokiness, its rounded caramel notes, and then... it catches me off-guard again. Of course, we're pretty much the ideal targets for the people at BLiS: we love high-quality maple syrup and high-quality bourbon. We're not sure where to keep this bottle, both because of the way it looks and the way it tastes: the pantry? the liquor cabinet?

Anyway, if we've piqued your curiosity, you can contact the good people at Mikuni Wild Harvest here.

Oh, and this doesn't mean we're retracting our Maple Syrup Challenge. The race is still on.


*Then again, Stelio tells us that 375 ml bottles were selling at Charlie Trotter's for about $30 (U.S.), so according to some our order might even count as a steal (as absurd as that may seem).

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Top Ten #13

1. muscat honey

2. Collected Stories, Carson McCullers

Wolf River apple

3. Wolf River apples

4. Brightblack, Morning Light, S/T (Matador)

5. Little Miss Sunshine, dir. Dayton and Faris

6. roasted, caramelized carrots à la Spotted Pig

7. To Be or Not To Be, dir. Lubitsch

the shocking blue

8. The Shocking Blue, "Poor Boy" and "Send Me A Postcard"

9. BU, Montreal

10. Broken Flowers, dir. Jarmusch + "There Is An End," Holly Golightly + The Greenhornes