Canada Day Edition: The Veteran and the Rookie

Joe Beef vs Heartbeat

Here on the eve of Canada Day, we wanted to remind everyone that, while we're not a store that's exclusively Canadian, we ARE a store that's dedicated to offering the best the world has to offer and that includes some incredible Canadian products. And what better way to talk about them here than with a hockey metaphor!

On the left side of this photo, three offerings from the veteran, Joe Beef - the Montreal institution that includes the Joe Beef and Liverpool House restaurants as well as a variety of take home sauces and rubs. A great example of Canadian pride is watching Joe Beef's founders, David McMillan and Fred Morin, take the late great Anthony Bourdain ice fishing with foie gras and the "finest wines known to man" and on a culinary trip as they ride by train from Montreal to Quebec City. The ketchup, BBQ Sauce and Reserve Jerk Sauce we're offering are great examples of their commitment to foregrounding bold flavours and great ingredients. The ketchup is a mix of tomato and red pepper with less sugar than you typically find in a grocery-store ketchup. The BBQ sauce AND the jerk sauce are both built around a base of Quebec prunes for a heady, jammy note in each.

If Joe Beef is the Mario Lemieux in this hockey metaphor (the once upstarts are now the establishment and they own the team!), Heartbeat Hot Sauces are not even the Sidney Crosby - more like the Connor McDavid! This is a young team from Thunder Bay Ontario with just two sauces in their line up: fresh jalapeño with fermented serrano peppers bring a bright heat to the table while the fermented red habanero is, curiously, both sweeter and hotter with a bit more depth of flavour. But their undeniable talent has already got them playing in the big leagues. They are featured in the number 2 spot in the line up on season six of Hot Ones - the YouTube show where celebrity guests try to keep it together while host Sean Evans interviews them and leads them through a series of hot sauces ending with the Last Dab - a sauce that comes in at around 2.4 million Scoville units!

Not only is it a very big deal to be featured on the show, Heartbeat is also featured at Heatonist, the hot sauce vendor in Chelsea Market NYC that's behind the Hot Ones show and their own line of hot sauces.

This Canada Day, celebrate this tasty Team Canada at YOUR barbeque!



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Sharpen Your Sense of Flavour

OCNI Flavours

OK, bear with me - this may be our most puzzling post yet. And it comes from a Montreal/France collaboration with an acronym meaning "Unidentified Food Object" (hence the amusing logo) and, like it's namesake, it's something strange and exciting and out of this world.

What you're looking at in the four test tubes above look like double-thick crayons. But instead of being made of wax and pigment, they're made of a careful formulation of agar-agar (the seaweed-based food product that acts as a solidifier) and flavour - in this case basil, soy and porcini mushroom, lemon and salt and hot pepper and garlic respectively. The unidentified object on the right is something perhaps more familiar: a pencil sharpener.

They come in a handy pack that converts neatly into a stand for your countertop:

Now, here's where it gets REALLY interesting:

When it comes to finishing a dish, you're probably used to sprinkling a little salt, grinding a little pepper, crushing a couple of chillies, grating a little parmesan, zesting a little lemon, squeezing a little lime, shaving some truffle.... Well, get ready to add a couple of new verbs to your culinary actions. You're going to really sharpen the accents to your dish by twisting the chosen flavour stick in the sharpener for that final flourish of finishing flavour.

OCNI flavour stick in action

Come into the store to check it out and ask for a demonstration. Then be prepared to welcome these friendly and flavourful aliens into your kitchen!

It's a new frontier in cooking and OCNI is inviting you to boldly go...!

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Urban Bees, Urban Honey

Alveole tastes of Toronto

You've probably heard about the challenges facing bee populations worldwide - and not only how that affects them but how, in turn, that affects us humans who depend on the work of bees to cheaply and efficiently pollinate many of the crops on which we depend. And yet pesticide use, habitat destruction and other threats to apian life keep ramping up.

While we should all demand greater protection for these important ecological partners in all kinds of habitats, it turns out that cities are often great places for bees to thrive: there are strict anti-pesticide laws, untapped floral diversity and largely unused rooftop spaces. Alvéole is a Montreal-based company dedicated to building that urban ecology and part of that is building a market for the sweet results - urban honey.

Bees collect the nectar to support their colonies generally within about a 5km radius, so each location creates a distinct flavour and colour profile reflective of the local flora and conditions. The original Montreal tasting box is available so you can compare the neighbourhoods of Villeray, NDG-Westmount, Saint-Henri and The Plateau but Alvéole is now well established in Toronto. For yourself or for a gift, what better way to share the taste of Toronto than this collection of honeys produced by urban bees in the Junction, Rosedale, Cabbagetown and Leslieville.  

Share this post and let's create some real buzz around this great project and great product! And to see how you can bring urban beekeeping to your home or business, visit the Alvéole site here.

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Not Beyoncé

Lemo Lemonade

As much as we love her (and carry a "Happy BirthBey" card in her honour) this post is about the other kind of Lemonade, which is about to come in to its time in the sun.

Once again, a happening company from Montreal (though with roots in Franco-Manitoba) is the source for this excellent syrup/cordial/cocktail mixer. LemoLemonade (take note of their awesome square logo!) is all hand pressed, hand grated and hand bottled using quality ingredients with gorgeous balance in three flavours. Depending on which one you choose you're going to get the perfect blend of sweet and sour, tart and spicy, tangy and bitter.

We keep promising we're going to publish a video with some summer cocktail tips and I think we may start with this one (it's just that the test results are so darn delicious we get a bit sidetracked). If you don't see a video up here by mid-June, come and ask at the counter and we'll try to give you the benefit of our experience!

Find LemoLemonade at the front of the shop to your left as you come in. Let summer begin!

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