Soft, chewy, handmade caramels

08 Dec

 

artisan-caramel-box

 

Soft, chewy, handmade caramels are an old-fashioned treat made with simple ingredients. Traditional recipes have you combine a mixture of cream, butter and sugars over medium-high heat and voila — caramel!

 

On paper, it seems simple but a great caramel is more than the sum of its ingredients. Many of my personal attempts at caramel making have ended in disaster. The mixture has either burned or crystallized, resulting in a grainy mess. Caramel making is harder than it looks, I’m happy to leave it to the professionals.

 

Imagine my delight when my friends at Saul Good Gift Co. offered to send me a box full of handmade artisan caramels. All of the caramels, none of the kitchen disaster — yes please!

 

One thing I love about Saul Good’s gift boxes is the exterior packaging.The box is decorated with an artful rendering of Canada and a personalized gift tag. It’s slightly mysterious. At first glance, you wouldn’t be able to guess what is inside. This little bit of suspense adds to the fun of opening the gift.

 

 

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Inside the box, I found a friendly little postcard and a Fresh Sheet. The Fresh Sheet lists the flavours of the caramels and details about the artisan makers on one side. On the other side, it lists details about the Saul Good Gift Co. I peeled back the wrapping paper to discover a sparkling selection of assorted caramels. It was hard to know where to start. I consulted the Fresh Sheet for fdescriptions before digging in.

 

 

fresh-sheet

 

 

I decided to start with a classic Salted Caramel made by Kitchening & Co. from Langley, BC. The folks at Kitchening & Co. are famous for their French macarons and classic chewy cookies . Their caramels do not disappoint. They are generously sized so you can split one in half to share or save it for later. The texture is firm and they have a deep caramelized sugar flavour with a subtle hint of salt. These are a perfectly nostalgic treat.

 

 

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The other two caramel flavours in the box come from Roselle Desserts. Roselle Desserts is a Toronto-based treat shop. I spent more time than I care to admit scrolling through their Instagram. Everything they make looks so tempting. First, I tried their Passionfruit Mango caramel. I am a huge fan of mango so I was happy with the rich, tropical, slightly floral flavor. Next, I tried the raspberry version. It was like eating rich, buttery toast with jam…minus the toast. I really enjoyed the soft texture of these caramels, they were easy to eat.

 

This assortment of caramels would make a great holiday gift for a small office. The individually wrapped caramels can easily be shared with a crowd. I ate more than my fair share and had plenty to share with friends and family.

 

Check out my unboxing video to see what it’s like to get a gift box from Saul Good Gift Co.

 

 

About the Author & Photographer

Jasmine

Jasmine Lukuku is a professional sweet tooth who spends much of her time baking, eating, photographing and writing about treats. She co-founded chocolatecodex.com to share her love of fine chocolate with the world. Follow Jasmine: @chocolatecodex

 

 

 

 

 

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At East Van Roasters, Chocolate is a Vehicle for Social Change

11 Nov

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Vancouver has many fine chocolate shops but East Van Roasters is one-of-a-kind. Located in the Downtown Eastside, EVR is a business with social change baked right into the DNA.

 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

Head Chocolate Maker and Director, Shelley Bolton founded East Van Roasters in 2013 as a non-profit social enterprise. Her mission was to create a training and employment program for the women residents of the Rainier Hotel located above the chocolate factory on Carrall Street.

 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

The women in the program face multiple barriers to employment and East Van Roasters serves as a place where they can develop skills and build their resumes before rejoining the general workforce.

 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Head Chocolate Maker and Director, Shelley Bolton. Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

The business recently expanded to include a second location half a block away. The new location houses a retail bakery as well as the confection production facilities, while the original location operates as the Vancouver’s only bean-to-bar chocolate factory/coffee shop.

 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

The social impact of East Van Roasters extends beyond the local level. The chocolate at EVR is made in-house from responsibly sourced cacao beans. This means that the farmers that grew the beans were paid fairly. This is chocolate you can feel good about buying and giving as a gift.

 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

Making chocolate is a long process that requires skill and attention to detail. Shelley and her team start with carefully selected raw cacao beans. The beans are sorted, roasted, cracked, winnowed, ground, refined and tempered before being molded into fine chocolate bars and bonbons.

 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

If you are a dark chocolate purist, you should try their single origin bars. They are made to highlight the unique flavour properties of the cacao beans. For a real treat, try a couple of bars side-by-side and observe the differences. A bar made of beans from Madagascar will taste drastically different to a bar made of Ecuadorian beans.

 

Jasmine Lukuku of ChocolateCodex. Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Jasmine Lukuku of Chocolate Codex. Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

If you prefer a sweeter treat, EVR has a selection of flavoured bars and delightful filled chocolates and truffles. Some recent standouts include the chocolate dipped cacao nib toffee and layered truffles featuring pâte de fruit. The fillings and inclusions are all selected to work in harmony with the chocolate. Love Nutella? EVR sells its own chocolate nut butters; perfect for slathering on toast or eating with a spoon.

 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

Saul Good is proud to include East Van Roasters chocolate in many of our Vancouver Gift Baskets and Canada gift baskets. 

 

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About the Author

Jasmine

 

 

Jasmine Lukuku is a professional sweet tooth who spends much of her time baking, eating, photographing and writing about treats.

 

She co-founded chocolatecodex.com to share her love of fine chocolate with the world. Follow Jasmine: @chocolatecodex

 

 

 

 

About the Photographer

leah bio

 

 

Leah Villalobos Bartok is a mother, hiker and lifestyle photojournalist. She has a unique ability to document stories and capture personalities.   

 

View more of her work on Instagram: @photogbyleahv and browse through her site www.photographybyleah.ca 

The Art of Appreciation: how to value people in the workplace

06 Nov

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Top 5 Tips for Meaningful Appreciation

 

 

1) Be public. Always appreciate your team with the whole group present as it makes your statement public and recognized by others. No matter how righteous or private people may be, most people care about how they’re perceived by others. Showing appreciation publicly makes people feel good and creates an open culture where it’s the norm to acknowledge solid team work and achievement. When people feel appreciated, they are more productive, innovative and creative.

 

 

2) Be direct and personal. Attribute your appreciation to an individual and call people out by name. Tell everyone what they did and how it helped you personally. Appreciating colleagues and employees can have incredible results. It can help everyone be more productive as individuals and teams.

 

 

“Dan, I appreciate your creativity from our meeting yesterday with Acme as it helped me provide assurance to the client that we’re the right team for the job.”

 

 

3) Quality counts. It’s all about perception. Recognition through corporate gifts and awards can have a profound effect on relationships. When one receives something of prestige it reiterates the value of the relationship. If a gift is perceived as cheap or of low quality, it can result in the recipient feeling undervalued or at worst humiliated.

 

 

4) Business is all about people and relationships. Appreciation doesn’t have to take the form of executive gifts and fancy luxuries, it can be the small tokens of appreciation given in the right way that makes people feel valued by an organization. We all work way too long and hard to not enjoy our jobs. Be good to each other, because it feels good and it’s great for business too!

 

 

5) Enjoy the Results! The process of appreciating colleagues and employees can have incredible results helping everyone be more productive as individuals and teams. If done well appreciation can make the recipients feel amazing, acknowledged and empowered. If done poorly it can have the opposite effect leaving recipients resentful and questioning their relationship. Unfortunately, it’s not always the thought that counts, it’s in the execution that appreciation maximizes value within your business.

 

 

Where does chocolate come from?

25 Oct

 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

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Chocolate is one of our most cherished foods. We love to eat it and we often give chocolate as a gift. Despite our enthusiasm, most people don’t know how chocolate is made. Fine chocolate is often associated with countries such as Belgium, France, and Switzerland but where does it really come from? How does the humble cacao bean become a fancy bon-bon?

 

I recently traveled to Ecuador to learn more about this process and see how chocolate is made from tree to bar.

 

Growing Cacao

Cacao plants prefer to grow under tree cover in the tropical rainforests. These forests are located within 20 degrees north or south of the equator. This means that the majority of chocolate begins its life on small farms in developing nations. Farmers are the unsung heroes of the chocolate world.

 

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Cacao blossoms and cacao tree

Harvesting Cacao

The fruit is typically harvested by hand using machetes or sticks with sharp blades. The bright white pulp of a healthy cacao fruit tastes incredible. It is sweet and tangy, but it doesn’t taste like chocolate. The chocolate flavor is developed in the beans through a series of steps in the post-harvest process.

 

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Cacao fruit

The Fermentation Process

Once the fruit is harvested, the beans and pulp are removed and placed into boxes where they are covered with banana leaves and left to ferment. Fermentation is one of the most important steps in the flavor development process. In recent years, farmers and chocolate makers have been experimenting with different fermentation processes to improve cacao flavor.

 

 

Drying the Cacao

After fermentation is complete, the cacao is spread out on drying beds. The beans are occasionally raked to ensure even drying. Once dry, the beans can be sold on the international market as raw cocoa beans or they can be further processed.

 

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Cacao beans before and after drying

Sorting, Roasting, Cracking and Winnowing

The beans are then sorted to remove flawed beans before roasting. In Ecuador, my hosts used a homemade roasting drum but many people use ovens or coffee roasters. The roasting process contributes to the final chocolate flavor.

 

Once the beans are roasted, they are cracked and winnowed. Winnowing is the process of removing the paper-like skin from the beans. It is tedious work when done by hand, so most chocolate producers use machines to help with this process.

 

Cacao beans that have been roasted and winnowed are called cacao nibs. You can find cacao nibs in many stores. They make a great alternative to nuts for snacking or baking.

 

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Nibs

Refining the Chocolate

Cacao nibs are ground down to a paste called chocolate liquor. This paste is combined with sugar and refined further to make the sweet chocolate we know and love. This process can take several days and requires attention to detail in order to attain the ideal flavor and texture.

 

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Chocolate being refined with a tabletop melanger

Tempering and Molding

The refined chocolate is poured into a container and cooled. Some chocolate makers will age their chocolate as that can improve the flavour. This solid, refined chocolate is then melted, tempered and molded into chocolate bars or bonbons.

 

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Tempering and molding chocolate bars

 

When all of these steps are completed with care, the result is high-quality chocolate. Unfortunately, the majority of chocolate on the market is not produced to such rigorous standards. Industrial chocolate makers often cut costs by purchasing poor quality beans that have not been properly handled post-harvest. These cost cutting practices also result in low wages for farmers who rely on the cacao trade to survive.

 

The "Fancy-full" gift by Saul Good Gift Co.

The “Fancy-full” gift by Saul Good Gift Co.

 

The good news is that many chocolate makers are transparent about their sourcing practices. Chocolate makers such as East Van Roasters and Sirene even include sourcing information on their packaging and websites. Saul Good Gift Co. works with chocolate makers and chocolatiers who are committed to sourcing high-quality cacao and chocolate products.

 

 

For more information on buying good quality chocolate, check out this guide to chocolate bar packaging by Chocolate Codex, Buying Good Chocolate: Reading the Label

 topbanner-local-artisan-gift-guide

About the author

Jasmine

Jasmine Lukuku is a professional sweet tooth who spends much of her time baking, eating, photographing and writing about treats.

She co-founded chocolatecodex.com to share her love of fine chocolate with the world. Follow Jasmine: @chocolatecodex

 

Toronto confection masters

26 Sep

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We love to brag about the incredible talent we feature in our gift baskets. In previous stories, we have showcased a sampling of artisans from BC (3 Brilliant BC Mompreneurs)  and from Alberta  (Artisans from the Heart of Alberta). In the story below, we are highlighting three fabulous Toronto confectioners featured in our newly-curated Canada gift baskets. Please stay tuned for more stories about our artisans from Ontario and all across Canada.

David H. Chow – Engineer-turned-pastry chef

David has a dynamic approach to chocolate and pastry. In his previous life, he was an engineer. If you look at his work over time, you can see the thought process that could only originate from the mind of an engineer. David explores his craft like an art and a science that flows and evolves. We can never predict what David will try next. The only constant variable is that he is continually recognized as one of Toronto’s top pastry chefs and chocolatiers.

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Over the past decade, David has cultivated a unique style that has sent ripples all over the world. His legendary status does not change his child-like curiosity and warm demeanor. You can visit his Toronto shops and explore his repertoire. You can also sample his delightful products in our Canada gift baskets.

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Laura Slack Chocolate – Edible art

Laura Slack creates edible art. She has been a baker since childhood and she has trained professionally throughout her life. From gorgeously designed chocolate bars to large chocolate skulls, you can rely on Laura to please your eyes, palette, heart and mind.

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The packaging and structure of Laura’s confections demonstrate the top-shelf quality. When you experience her products, you will taste the thoughtfulness and expertise that she pours into each hand-crafted creation. You can find Laura’s incredible products in our Canada gift baskets. You can also find her Lion’s Paw liquid salted caramel truffle on the dessert menu at Nota Bene Restaurant.

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Roselle (Steph & Bruce) – French-inspired desserts

These two lovebirds met while honing their craft in France. Their collaborative style is rooted in French traditions and their experience is international. Steph and Bruce have both worked in Michelin-starred kitchens in Europe and Asia.

 

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Roselle was created with a lot of heart and soul. It was a dream that floated through their minds during travels abroad. This dream then landed back in Toronto where they created a venue for their creations. You can visit their shop in Toronto and find their delightful creations in our Canada gift baskets (below).

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{recipe} sprouted Canadian-grown chickpea falafels

19 Aug

 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

When Shira McDermott and Janna Bishop created GRAIN, they stimulated new conversations about Canadian-grown grains. From wheat berries to chickpeas, these products have captured the hearts and minds of local chefs.

 

Our team loves combining brilliant local chefs with delicious local products. We are grateful for the thoughtful recipes that emerge. This new falafel recipe is our third post that features GRAIN. Our first post was by Chef Charles Macurdy featuring Canadian quinoa stuffed squash with sage brown butter.

 

Our second post featured Chef Annabelle-Choi (below) in an interview by Jasmine Lukuku. This post captured Annabelle’s story, her love of GRAIN and her legendary charcoal sourdough. We are delighted to share Annabelle’s incredible falafel recipe featuring sprouted Canadian chickpeas by GRAIN. 

 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Sprouted Chickpea Falafels

Ingredients

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

1 cup sprouted chickpeas*

 

1/2 medium onion, diced

 

1 clove garlic, crushed

 

1 tbsp parsley, chopped

 

2 tbsp cilantro, chopped

 

1/4 tsp cayenne

 

1/2 tsp ground cumin

 

1/2 tsp ground coriander

 

1/4 tsp ground cardamon

 

1/2 tsp baking powder

 

3 tbsp water

 

1/2 tbsp all purpose flour

 

4 tbsp grape seed or canola oil

 

 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

Directions

1)  In a food processor or meat grinder, process sprouted chickpeas, onion, garlic, parsley and cilantro just until mealy but not completely blended, as you want enough texture in your falafel and not just a ball of mush. Transfer into a medium mixing bowl.

 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

2) Next, mix your spices together in a small bowl and sprinkle over your falafel mix, using a wooden spoon to mix in the spices.

 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

3) After you have mixed your batter, cover with cellophane and rest in the fridge for about an hour.  This will help create some structure to your falafel balls during frying.

 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

4) Have a sauce pan or a deep sautéing pan on your burner over medium to high heat, add your oil and let it come up to frying temperature.  Make sure the oil does not come to a smoking point. If this happens, take it off your element and let it cool slightly, and lower your temperature.  

 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

5)  Using an ice cream scooper, a spoon, or your hands, create 2 inch balls and place them gently into the hot oil.  Press down slightly on each ball with the back of your spoon or a spatula.  After a couple minutes or so, flip them to the other side and continue to dry until golden brown.  This should take about 6 – 8 minutes.

 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

6) Transfer fried falafel balls to a wire rack to cool down, so they can continue to crisp up.

 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

7) After a 5 min rest, you can eat them right away, or fridge them and bake when you are ready to eat them!

 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

How to Sprout Chickpeas

 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

To sprout chickpeas, take dried chickpeas and soak overnight, making sure you leave double the amount of room/water as the chickpeas will more than double in size.  Next day, drain and rinse chickpeas, place in a mason jar and use a leftover lemon bag and the jar lid to create a screen.  Turn over the jar and tilt it into a bowl overnight.

 

The next day the chickpeas should have what looks like a start of a white tail.  If not, rinse and drain again a couple times, and leave it for another day on your counter tilted with the mouth at the bottom again.  

 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

We hope you enjoy experimenting with sprouted Canadian chickpeas! They are packed full of protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

You can find GRAIN in various gourmet food shops in Vancouver. You can also find these fine products in Saul Good Gifts: Kitchen sink and Superior staples (below).

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About the Photographer

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Leah Villalobos Bartok is a mother, hiker and lifestyle photojournalist. She has a unique ability to document stories and capture personalities.   

 

View more of her work on Instagram: @photogbyleahv and browse through her site www.photographybyleah.ca 

 

Artisans from the Heart of Alberta

08 Jun

In Alberta, there is a burgeoning local business movement. The momentum is driven by awareness, trend, logic and an appreciation for good products made by good people. The folks at Launch Calgary are promoting knowledge to empower shoppers through their Made in Calgary campaign (below).

 

made in calgary

Image via @launchcalgary on Instagram

 

When you “spot the dot”, you know you are supporting a business that is born and raised in Calgary. When you shop locally, up to 25% more money stays in the local economy. This campaign gives local businesses “a home ice advantage”. Their website is full of fascinating facts and great resources, such as the info below. You can check out the made in Calgary campaign: www.madeincalgary.org and follow their movement on Instagram: @launchcalgary

 

made in calgary

Image via www.madeincalgary.org

 

At Saul Good Gift Co., we also love shining the spotlight on brilliant local talent and strengthening local economies. We are excited to celebrate some of Alberta’s best artisans with two newly-curated gifts: The Calgary confidential and Big sky Alberta. Each gift shares a story of passionate artisans who are contributing to the momentum of Calgary’s local business community. In this post, we are highlighting three women who create delicious products for our Calgary gift baskets.

 

Canada Sweet Shop

canada sweet shop market

 

 

Dannah knows that her calling in life is candy. She started out when she was six years old. She has vivid memories of making candy with her mom at Christmas time. She would help butter the pans, measure ingredients, sort the peanuts, and of course taste the finished product!

 

When the recession hit in 2008, candy became a necessary source of revenue for her family. By the age of eighteen, Dannah dove into the business component of artisanal livelihood and soaked up all necessary knowledge she needed to get to the next level.  

 

 

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Over the years, the Canada Sweet Shop has grown. Dannah now has a commercial kitchen in Strathmore, Alberta and a solid crew of amazing staff. The products she makes include the old fashioned Peanut brittle and English Toffee that are featured in our Calgary gift baskets and Canada gift baskets. She also makes old-fashioned buttery caramel popcorn and many varieties of peanut brittle and nut free brittle. Dannah’s commercial kitchen produces candies that cater to food sensitivities.

 

 

Real Treat Kitchen

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Jacqueline is keeping it real in the Rocky Mountains. Her talent for cookies is flourishing with Real Treat Kitchen. These scrumptious morsels are packed full of whole organic ingredients that are locally sourced whenever possible.

 

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From Highwood Crossing flour to Vital Green Organic dairy, each handmade cookie tells a delicious local tale. She takes inspiration from “fond memories, places travelled, and pure fantasy, playing with flavours and textures, telling a story with every cookie”.

 

 

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Real Treat cookies are thoughtful creations that are delightfully different: Salted caramel shorties with fennel, Dark chocolate with smoked pecans, Lemon sablés with herbs de Provence and Breakfast cookies. In our gift baskets, we feature the Double dark chocolate with a twist (house-candied lemon).

 

 

Crave Cupcakes

 

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Carolyne McIntyre Jackson and Jodi Willoughby are sisters who created Crave together. Their decadent creations are inspired by fresh ingredients and family recipes. They learned the art of baking on their family farm in High River, Alberta. Growing up in a busy kitchen inspired an appetite for simple, sweet indulgences made from scratch. It also inspired the creation of Crave Cupcakes.

 

 

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The first Crave Bakery opened in the Kensington neighbourhood of Calgary, Alberta. Using their Grandmother’s chocolate cake and their Mom’s Vanilla cake recipes, they went to work serving the best cupcakes they knew how to bake. They use only real butter, they crack every egg by hand and they bake fresh every day. You can find their delicious caramel popcorn in our Calgary gift baskets.

 

 

Calgary Gift Baskets 

 

Calgary confidential

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This gift features some of Calgary’s finest candies and confections (and one from Edmonton for good measure). It was put together for people who like to keep tabs on the lesser known gems in the town they call home.

 

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Big sky Alberta

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It seems like everything in Alberta is a little bit bigger. So we filled this Rocky Mountain-sized gift basket with a massive selection of perfectly crafted confections from Calgary and Edmonton.

 

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Celebrating BC Jam Masters

01 Jun

 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

In BC, we are blessed with an incredible selection of lovingly handmade jams. From the Gulf Islands to the Rocky Mountains, there are numerous jam masters cooking up potent preserves with juicy local fruits. In addition to the fresh ingredients, there are jam recipes in BC that can be traced back through multiple generations. Handmade local food tells us stories about our diverse local culture. When we share these foods together, we build community.

 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

 

Our team at Saul Good Gift Co. had recently been searching for a jam to go into our gourmet gift baskets. This process has been extremely difficult. There are simply too many amazing options! In order to find the right jam, we asked local artisans to submit their jam for a contest. After selecting four finalists that we adore, we asked folks from our community to help us decide. We gathered at the Capilano Tea House in Vancouver BC. Attendees sampled jams on bannock and sipped handcrafted tea.

 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

This jam tasting event was attended by a variety of folks from our community. There were bankers, lawyers, financial planners, real estate developers, property managers, web developers, food bloggers, chefs, nutritionists, coffee roasters, local business enthusiasts…and a toddler. It was a great mix of people who offered a diverse range of input to help us decide.

Saul Good BC Jam Contest Finalists

East Van Jam 

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East Van jams are a work of art. The jars are adorned with a variety of fun characters and the product quality is superb. Natalie captures the experience of fresh local BC fruit that is gathered seasonally. She keeps the sugar low so that you can enjoy wholesome goodness while keeping your blood sugar levels on an even keel. Indulge deeper into the narrative here: East Van Jam  You can also salivate over fresh Instagram photos: @eastvanjam

 

 

SaltSpring Kitchen Co. 

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The anchor on the jar of Saltspring Kitchen Co. jam is an appropriate symbol. Melanie is an anchor for the perpetual momentum of island artisan excellence. She is a pro with her products and she paints your palette with both sweet and savory ingredients. These jams are fun to combine with other gourmet foods. Check out the Pairing Guide here: SaltSpring Kitchen Co.  and follow the island vibes on Instagram: @saltspringkitchenco

 

 

 

 

  kitskitchen

Finalist-KitsKitchen-Straberry-Rhubarb-Jam

The kitskitchen’s  claim to fame is their nourishing local soups. They are rooted in a mission to make lifestyles healthier and easier. In their soups and jams, they allow the organic ingredients to speak for themselves. The goodness of their products seems to soak into your cells and make them smile. You can learn more about their offerings: kitskitchen and follow them on Instagram:  @kitskitchen 

 

Le Meadow’s Pantry 

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At an early age, Geneviève fell in love with harvesting and foraging. Her jam style is influenced by her lineage and her travels in Europe. Le Meadow’s Pantry cooks classic jam using a traditional copper pot method. Learn more about Geneviève’s creations: Le Meadow’s Pantry and follow her on Instagram: @lemeadowspantry 

 

 

 

 

 

We are excited to find opportunities to include these jams in customized corporate gift programs. For our year-round gourmet gifts, we have selected Le Meadow’s Pantry Blueberry Honey Jam. Based on the feedback we received, it is ideal for a wide audience. 

Jam Tasting Slideshow – Photography by Leah Villalobos Bartok

About the photographer

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Leah Villalobos Bartok is a mother, hiker and lifestyle photojournalist. She has a unique ability to document stories and capture personalities. You can view more of her work on Instagram: @photogbyleahv and browse through her site www.photographybyleah.ca 

 

 

 

Chef Annabelle Choi’s charcoal sourdough made with local grains

05 May
Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

Annabelle Choi is a talented chef and baker based in Vancouver. She was trained at Ballymaloe, the world-renowned cooking school located on an organic farm in Ireland. She’s known for her sourdough bread making workshops; events that sell out within hours of being announced.

 

We met up with Annabelle on a sunny spring afternoon in the kitchen of Elysian Coffee to talk about her approach to cooking and her love of Canadian-grown products by GRAIN. The series of photos below capture the process of making her legendary charcoal sourdough. 

 

 

 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

 

How did your education at Ballymaloe inform your food philosophy?

 

Ballymaloe was one of many things that helped me understand the significance of honouring where our food comes from…before it even hits our cutting boards as chefs. The 100-acre organic farm and surrounding natural permaculture illustrated what it means to respect the art of terroir, and how it’s so essential to stay humble in one’s craft, as we’re just mere instruments trying to communicate the true work that is done before it even reaches our hands.

 

 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

 

 

What are your favorite local grains to work with when making baked goods?

 

I usually exclusively use GRAIN for their legumes & wheat grains, and Anita’s Flour for my bread making needs when I’m doing large orders.

 

 

 

How did you discover GRAIN products?

 

It’s hard to pinpoint as it feels like GRAIN has always been my go-to grain provider, but I think I started using their products right as they started reaching out to wholesale clients. Shira (co-founder of GRAIN) would come into Matchstick Coffee Roasters where I founded an all natural bread program at the time, and we got to geeking out over bread and legumes. I used them for one of my first pop-up dinner events for Kinfolk Magazine, and I was hooked!

 

 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

 

Do you notice a difference in quality between local grain and legume products and the mass market products?

 

Definitely. When you have a smaller, localized purveyor who cares about their community, consistent quality, and customer relationships, you get a product that doesn’t need much manipulation if at all to create beautiful tasty dishes.

 

 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

 

Mass produced bread products have a list of the following: Whole wheat flour, water, wheat gluten, high fructose corn syrup, contains 2% or less of: soybean oil, salt, molasses, yeast, mono and diglycerides, ethoxylated mono and diglycerides, dough conditioners (sodium stearoyl lactylate, calcium iodate, calcium dioxide), DATEM, calcium sulfate, vinegar, yeast nutrient (ammonium sulfate), extracts of malted barley and corn, dicalcium phosphate, diammonium phosphate, calcium propionate (to retain freshness)… I don’t know about you, but the latter just scares me as I can’t even pronounce half of it.

 

 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

 

How do you approach working with an unfamiliar ingredient?

 

I research first, then play, then dial it in. Usually, someone has done a lot of work trying to figure out where that ingredient came from, and what it’s original purpose was in the natural world. I think if I can first understand that, then I can best honour its potential as an inspiring part of a dish or product.

 

 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

Have you ever had a kitchen disaster that resulted in a great new creation? A happy accident?

 

Oh man, those situations are ones that I think chefs/cooks both hope and fear for haha. I’ve definitely had my share. Most start with me looking sad at first at the object of my initial failed attempt, but then pushing myself to be creative so I don’t create waste, which usually results in happy, interesting outcomes or at the very least, lessons learnt!

 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

 

Do you have any Vancouver food heroes?

 

One of my all time favourite chefs to have collaborated and eaten with was Jesse McCleery out on Galiano Island. He is co-owner of Pilgrimme Restaurant and is one of my local food heroes as he truly respects where his ingredients come from. Jesse is incredibly humble about his work, where the dishes really celebrate the terroir and aren’t overly plated/precious.

 

Another would be Kris Barnholden from Latab Restaurant in Vancouver. Kris has an excellent palate, considerate and well-thought-out menus where he also celebrates the narrative of his ingredients quite beautifully.

 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

 

 

Your sourdough bread making classes are very popular. What are your students most surprised to learn about the bread-making process?

 

Yes, it’s pretty exciting to see so many folks interested in all natural sourdough! I think what most students find surprising during the class is the amount of time and work that is needed for one batch of bread. As someone who personally celebrates the process in all things, I think it’s a very important lesson to learn for folks who are leading busy lives, and are used to modern conveniences. It kind of puts things into perspective and calls on a simpler time when life wasn’t always dictated by money as a means of currency. I think understanding the narrative, from ingredients to the transformation of a simple grain, can become inspiring and worth pursuing.

 

 

Annabelle’s charcoal sourdough (below). 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

 

What advice do you have for the novice home cook who would like to include more local grains in their diet?

 

Start small, and give into the fear that it might f-up at the first try, and just go for it. I mean, if you can boil water you’re already past the novice stage when it comes to grains. Just remember that grains need to be broken down in some way to make the nutrients available to you, whether that’s by soaking, sprouting, or fermenting.

 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

 

How can our readers find out about your upcoming workshops and events?

 

The best way to find out about upcoming workshops and events are to head over to my Instagram or Twitter account, @annabellechoistudio, or check out my Facebook page: Annabelle Choi Studio. I also encourage those who are looking to sign-up for bread workshops specifically should email me to be put on the waitlist, as they sell out fast: info@annabellechoistudio.com.

 

We want to give a big THANK YOU to Elysian Coffee for lending us their kitchen and to Shira from GRAIN for providing products for this photo shoot. 

 

You can find local GRAIN products in Saul Good Gifts: Kitchen sink and Superior staples (below).

new home gift vancouver

 

About the author

Jasmine

 

Jasmine is a professional sweet tooth who spends much of her time baking, eating, photographing and writing about treats.

 

She co-founded chocolatecodex.com to share her love of fine chocolate with the world. Follow Jasmine on Instagram: @chocolatecodex

 

 

 

About the Photographer

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 8.55.34 PM

 

Leah Villalobos Bartok is a mother, hiker and lifestyle photojournalist. She has a unique ability to document stories and capture personalities.   

 

View more of her work on Instagram:  @photogbyleahv and browse through her site www.photographybyleah.ca 

 

Cooking is not a Spectator Sport

08 Mar

Homemade-bread

 

Cooking is what makes us human. It can help us connect to ourselves, our community and our culture. Yet it feels like cooking has become a spectator sport. Cooking shows continue to draw ratings and we spend our free moments drooling over food photos on instagram. We embrace the idea of cooking yet shy away from the act. We innately understand the deeper value of a home baked loaf of sourdough slathered in locally made jam, yet the making of bread and jam seem more like hobbies than valuable life skills.

 

Best-selling Author Michael Pollan and Oscar winning director Alex Gibney have teamed up to bring us Cooked, a 4-part documentary on Netflix. Cooked champions the idea that cooking at home is a step towards a healthier food system. Over the years we have created a culture of convenience; we have outsourced cooking to free up time. This trade off has not served us well. Michael Pollan has written extensively on this subject in his books The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food. In Cooked, rather than tell us what not to eat, he urges us to focus on enjoying the process of preparing food. Cooked asks us to slow down and get our hands dirty.

 

 

sharing-a-meal

 

Fire, water, air and earth — Cooked shows us the surprising ways these elements can transform humble ingredients into nourishing food. Through the magic of big-budget film production, we circle the globe and visit a diverse cast of food advocates, scientists, makers and cooks; each one bringing something special to the table. One stand out character is a Benedictine nun/microbiologist with a passion for artisanal cheese making. It’s makers like her who have taken on the task of preserving and documenting traditional processes.

 

There are a number of reasons for the reluctance to fully embrace the kitchen; cooking takes focus, skill, planning and time. It’s not efficient and we have come to value efficiency. If we want to embrace cooking, we have to approach it from a different angle. Cooking doesn’t have to be a chore, instead it can be a creative collaborative event or a solo meditation. Cooking can be entertainment. Cooking can be fun

 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

Not convinced to step into the kitchen? That is okay! We don’t all have the time (or desire) to make our own chocolate, pasta or preserves. Fortunately, there are many wonderful artisans, bakeries, and restaurants dedicated producing high-quality food. Saul Good Gift Co. is committed to supporting these small-batch makers by including them in our locally sourced gift baskets. They may not be home cooked, but they are made with the same level of integrity and thoughtfulness. Your support allows these makers to serve their communities as conservators of traditional domestic arts.

 

There are many lessons to be learned from Cooked, but one major takeaway is that food—lovingly made by hand— feeds us in more ways than one.  

 

 

 

About the author

Jasmine

Jasmine is a professional sweet tooth who spends much of her time baking, eating, photographing and writing about treats.

 

She co-founded chocolatecodex.com to share her love of fine chocolate with the world. Follow Jasmine on instagram: @chocolatecodex