A Fellow Local Blogger and Slow Food Member has it really goin’ on!
At dinner last Saturday, I learned that Kevin has a similar philosphy to mine from his wife, Pam: “Asking can reap great rewards.” That is exactly what I did. When I came back from our summer trip to Europe, I spent my first morning coffee vicariously with Kevin as I caught up on all I had missed while away on his site: Kevin Kossowan. I was blown away. I had met Kevin through inviting him to my Taste Tripping Party and had noticed that he had revamped his site from an almost exclusive focus on wine to a much broader focus and at this time of year it was gardening. Did I say I was blown away?
I wrote and asked when I could visit him for a tour of his garden. Asking can reap great rewards. Not only did I get an invitation to tour his garden, we received a most gracious invitation for a tour and tasting of this garden vegetables. “No.” is rarely a word I use at any time, and the words, “We would love to!” were pushed through the send button seconds after reading the message in case he changed his mind. Vanja and I arrived, raspberry ice-cream in tow, last Saturday at 6.
We parked my little car in front of his front yard garden. This was the first year he had removed much of his lawn and planted it with food. His plan is to have the front primarily a fruit producing garden.
Before we rang the doorbell, we were greeted by Pam and their darling daughter E. She was shy for about 2 minutes, then showed me the play dough strawberry shortcake that she and her little sister were busy making in the kitchen. YUM! Do we get to eat this for supper? “No!” E. peered at me curiously. “It’s too salty!” Oh, I think this is going to be a very fun evening!
Kevin had just spent the day pressing apples for his apple wine project coming up, and we immediately headed out to the garage to see what he had accomplished. I had to capture a shot of our group on the small parcel of lawn Kevin has left in his yard. We happened to be sharing our time with Kristeva and her pouch. Kevin and she met through their on-line writings and had become mutual admirers of one another. Kristeve’s blog is Howling Duck Ranch. Kevin’s comment to me: “If you think I am a hard core foodie, meet Kristeva. I am nothing compared to her. She is hard core! She lived alone on a ranch and completely provided everything for herself.” That is what she has written about on her site and it is well worth more than a peek! She had come from her home in British Columbia to spend the weekend with his family (as well as search out a new home in Grand Prairie). When Kevin had invited us, he had said he was a “sharing kind of guy”. I was truly thrilled to be a part of this distance cyber-relationship becoming a reality.
The garborator on the kitchen counter had actually initiated this outdoor visit. Kevin had purchased a new garborator to juice his apples. I love the way he thinks. He created a very rudimentary process to do this, and it worked like a charm. He has videoed the entire process, and it should be on his site, soon. Meanwhile, take a look at his beginnings of this process.
I am not so sure why one vat is a different colour. I didn’t notice it when I was there. It the wheel barrow is the remains of the apple pressing. That you will have to see when Kevin posts it. All I can say is, later in the evening, we had the pleasure of tasting this wine. I am not a wine drinker, but it was really delicious!
Little E. was a very articulate partner in Kevin’s garden tour. She is showing us the crates the apples were in and has perched her little toy on the top of the crate so that Kristeva’s pooch can’t find it. And, the tour begins!
Hopefully, in the comments section, Kevin will identify these tomatoes and tell everyone where he gets his seeds. He started all of his tomatoes from seed and I loved the rustic manner in which he had them all held together in their upright position. It was definitely a work of folk art.
The wild “nodding onion” is chive-like and Kevin has written about it on his site. He brought some back from the islands in British Columbia and gave it a go. It is flourishing in its patch and it probably the most delicious onion type of onion green I have ever tasted, as well. The stalk is bolder in flavour than a chive or green onion, and complex. I found texture dense, but not nearly as dense as a leek. I would love some of this in my garden and I adore that this is a wild plant that he has foraged and transplanted into his own garden.
My photograph does not do justice to the strapping and sculpturing of the tomato fence.
“And, look! We had a sunflower!” E. darted across the garden and under the flower. I remember a neighbour across the street growing these when I was a child. He brought a ripe seeded flower over to us in the fall and it was an unforgettable experience. We scraped the seeds from the flower and baked them in the oven with salt and ate them. I had never had any sunflower seeds that came close to my memory of the taste of these until about a hundred years later when I was in Northern Serbia with Vanja. These little gals definitely know where their food is coming from and what it looks like while it is growing.
While I was inspecting the sunflower, daddy was yanking up a leek. I am inspired. I love leeks and have never grown any. Mainly because their seeds have not been “handy”. Leeks will be in my garden next year. It is the end of August, and look at that gorgeous leek. We all buried our noses into its roots and took in the earthy and appealing pungency of the fibres just revealed to the air. There is nothing like that kind of experience. It is why I garden.
Time for some beets. Kevin had plans for a beet and goat cheese salad. Beets and goat cheese is a pairing made in heaven. I cannot get enough of them together and there are so many ways to create dishes around these two ingredients. Daddy Kevin is definitely conferring with E. as they pull out some beets for the evening meal.
Meanwhile, L. is frolicking on the grass outside of herself with joy due to her four-legged weekend house guest. He is not in the photo, but she is running after him, none-the-less.
To the left is a root vegetable I have never heard of called Takinogawa Long Burdock. To the right, is celeriac. I have never grown it, so mistook it for giant parsley. Vanja’s mother grows this and uses the leaves as we do parsley, but they are definitely more dense and are best when cooked.
And there were lonely little ripe apples in the onion patch: perfect snacks for the girls while out playing. Kevin mixed his seeds when he was planting and the resulting beet hedge was gorgeous.
I was enthusiastic about seeing the Takinogawa Long Burdock root when Kevin offered. It wasn’t really ready yet; it was about as big as a young carrot, but without the point. And how could I not taste it? I found the raw flavour to be very mild and the texture was actually juicy enough at this stage to be eaten raw shredded or chopped into salads. Kevin found it tasted somewhat like peas. I got that faintly. It was almost more like a lo-boc or Japanese radish to me, but without the little bit of heat (as this had none) and with more density. I will be curious to see it at maturity and didn’t think to taste the leaf. I am certain it would be very flavourful and great for wrapping and cooking.
The potatoes were also seeded all mixed up which made for an attractive leafy border to the walk from the front to the back of the house. There are also potatoes planted in the front lawn – well, what used to be the front lawn – this year. Kevin dug up a few varieties and added them to our dinner bowl filled with beets, the leek, mustard flowers, and some nodding onion.
Either I was too distracted, or Kevin was just on a mission, but when I turned around, he had a gorgeous leafy head of what looked like lettuce in his hand but was souring with the bitterness of the leaf. “Ooooh! We can’t use this. It is just far too bitter for my taste.” And, it was truly bitter. It would need some thought to put that into a combination where it could be palatable. Maybe shaved on top of a pizza? It did not go into our dinner bowl.
“What are these?” I asked about the sturdy thin wisps of grass-like plant that was holding its own against the breeze and remaining erect without any support. “Mustard.” Immediately I went for the flower. I know they are to be the most flavourful part of any herb or plant and these did not disappoint. I want to grow mustard, too! Now this is the perfect addition to the Alberta plate. We cannot garnish with violette flowers like they do in France, (not with the flavourful ones they grow there) but mustard is grown here and is the perfect garnish. The small flower did pack a punch of mustardy flavour, but just the right punch. It wasn’t hot like a horseradish. It was, well, “mustardy”. I found my mouth watering and craving a savoury compliment as I tasted it. See how it grows, below?
I can see uses for these flowers in a myriad of kitchen dishes.
Another wild herb that Kevin has seeded is this wild thyme, below. He got the seeds of this at Bedrock and Bank Seed in Old Strathcona. This is a much more substantial thyme than the traditional English thyme I grow. The leaves are about 10 times the size, but still very small. I will be attempting this, too, next summer. I am not yet a successful seedling planter and transplanter, but it is on the list, and I am not afraid! (…only of failure!)Â
Then there was the lavender. Ah, the lavender. It proliferates in this garden. He has found that this varietal ofÂ “Lavender Lady” has really done well for him. I was delighted to find some still blooming at this time of the year. I first learned of his lavender when I read his post about how he dries his herbs. Who doesn’t love lavender? I have never been able to get it to come back for a second year, yet have remained undaunted for most of my life as it goes in anew each spring: more than one kind and more than one of each. I hope that I can be as successful with the “Lavender Lady” in the spring.
And I was gifted with a bag of the dried lavender which I cherish.
At which point I had to go into the garage and peek at the bags I had seen on video, again, passing by a smiling dill stretching to the sun on the way.
I am glad I came back as I was then able to see the garlic tied on the wall. This is great garlic. A smaller version of Sundog Organic’s (City Market downtown) garlic which is the best in the world. I think Kevin will have something equal to them next year if he uses some of this as his seed. I tasted it later in the evening and it is a stellar product.
I did examine every corner of the back yard, but there was a lot happening and it was time to get into the house. I had seen a host of squash blossoms in the front yard, and we will all just have to keep posted to see what else comes out of Kevin’s garden this summer. On to the tasting!
I had offered to bring bread for the meal, but Kevin had said he had a sponge working in a bowl in the kitchen and this loaf was on the stove top when we returned: a beautiful artisan loaf. Kevin didn’t end up serving it, and how can I complain? The meal was vast. But, I would have loved to sink my teeth into this. I must confess.
Our vegetable bowl is on the counter and the kitchen is gorgeous. The entire house is. It is a character home in an older area that they have breathed new life into by maintaining all of the original charm of the place. Again, Kevin and Pam have done it all. Much with the help of Pam’s dad. I found the large clock on the wall to be a very symbolic representation of how this family spends their time. They have made some very conscious choices about how they spend their time working for money and working to save money in such a way that it provides the quality of life they find gratifying. Both Pam and Kevin work together in a family business and choose to work less hours and make less money to spend more time on the projects he writes about… and travelling. They are both well travelled and this is very apparent in their garden, in their home, and on their table later during the meal.
Curiosity, intensity, wisdom, openness, innocence: her eyes hold it all. The happy yellow reminded me of my mother. Our kitchen at home was painted this colour when I was a child and this area is so warm and bright and inviting.
But before I sat, I had to admire the artwork that was flanking the walls. Kevin’s maternal grandfather had done this portrait in one of his classes many years ago of one of his students. It was headed for a garage sale or the trash bin when Kevin rescued it. I would love to hand it, too! What a family treasure!
The opposite wall holds a tryptic done by a friend who painted a photograph they took while on a vacation in Tuscany. Moving.
I did offer to help and actually accomplished brushing some baby carrots for the “hunters mash”: carrots and turnip. The carrots were given to Kevin on one of his farm tour visits and the turnip he picked up at Sundog Organic earlier in the day at City Market downtown. He has just started another project when he is visiting a host of local farms an doing a “blog-u-mentary” on each one. His first one to Nature’s Green Acres is already up!
But, for the next part of the evening, I sat sipping the most incredible sparkling water with a couple of tablespoons of Evan’s Sour Cherry Syrup stirred into it watching Kevin prepare the meal. What a refreshing treat!
He and Pam had did some work at Greens Eggs and Ham’ Farm and brought home sour cherries that were made into syrup: incredible!
I could not get over the colour.
We didn’t sit without a wine, either. We are at Kevin Kossowan’s house, after all. For those of you that do not know, he was a prolific wine blogger for ages. As we are not wine aficionados, I am happy he has changed that from the primary focus of his site.
Between the stove and the fridge is the perfect little pot and utensil rack keeping the most used items handy. Below it is a shelf with salts and sauces and oils…
…and butter and garlic. The perfect working kitchen. It was a pleasure to watch the cooking processÂ and Kevin made the experience look completely effortless. I have to learn how to do that!
The hunter’s mashÂ was starting to boil. The leeks are simmering. Fall was and is definitely in the air.
Pam has been bathing the girls and itÂ was time for bed. I got a hug, too! E. was looking at my T-shirt and told me that “these” (all the “e’s”) were her favourite letter. How old is she again? Three. How this family spends their time is not only evident in their garden!
L.’s favourite house guest has found a comfy corner to curl up in and she is also full of hugs and giggles before bed. Pam disappears for an hour or more as she completes the bedtime rituals with the girlsÂ and we start the meal without her.
How gratifying to dig potatoes and be eating them an hour later. The variety is appealing; even the compost bowl is a work of art. I know I am easily excited, but there is something primal and gratifying about being able to provide this very basic need to one’s family within the boundary’s of the home property.
What an about turn we have made as city dwellers when eating garden-to-table is such a rare occurrence.
Kevin’s uncle hadÂ hunted Canada Goose and had sausage prepared by a local butcher. Lucky Kevin, and lucky us! I did ask Kevin to tell me who prepared it for him, but I asked so many questions; hopefully, he will fill this information in for us in the comments section of this post. How Canadian is this for our starter: Canada Goose in Evan’s Cherry syrup with Hunter’s Mash and mustard? EH?
I am not a meat eater, thought I do enjoy meat, I cannot digest it. This wasÂ sublime with the spash of Evan’s sour cherry syrup! I’m not sure if the tasting was more gratifying, or watching Kevin’s reaction when he tasted the pairing for the first time! We will no be eating “Hunter’s Mash” at our house. Vanja is not a lover of cooked vegetables, but really enjoyed this earthy mix. The brightness of the fresh little baby carrots coupled with the tender young turnip for Sundog’s Organic Farms was steller and I could not think of a better name for it! Charmed, enamoured, under a spell… I was enchanted. I really was. Kevin paired this dish with his homemade Saskatoom wine. It really is a very special creation. Need I go on? Do you get the idea? If you are not Canadian, this is as Canadian as it gets.
At which point, Kevin waved his finger at me and pointed to the earthenware pot bubbling on his stove top. I arose to peer into it. Oh, my: sous vide Berkshire Boar pork belly from Irving’s Farm Fresh. Kevin and some buddies get three big piggies every fall from Alan and butcher and wrap them on their own. They keep as much of the skin on each of the portions as possible and make their own lard for pastry and another for cooking. This pork belly was slow cooked in pig fat until succulent and tender past understanding with flavour that I have never before experienced in a piece of pork and I have had my fair share of flavourful bites of pork throughout my life. This one topped the list.
It was plated with the variety of potatoes and the leeks. We never got into the specifics of comparing the potato tastes and textures. It would have been too contrived under the circumstances. They were the pillows ofÂ goodness capturing the bold and bright fatty drippings from the porkbelly. The leeks contributed the mellow aromatic connection that orchestrated such excitement on this modest plate. Vanja was moaning. We all were.Â S potato tasting was the furthest thing from our minds at this moment.
We were savouring and slurping and licking and lapping every drop of goodness from our plates. It was paired with Kevin’s home made apple wine made with red sparkle apples. YUM!
The little pooch was probably a little over the edge cholesterol-wise during the night, as this happy little package of pork fat was his bedtime snack.
CrÃ¨me BrÃ»lÃ©e made with Greens Eggs and Ham’s duck eggs and Avalon Cream from Planet Organic was our dessert. I was pleased to see the easy handling of this torch. I have a fancy schmancy kitchen one that is absolutely useless. Is there an occasion coming up when I could put one of these on my wish list? How about the Fall Equinox? … or Thanksgiving? A blow torch might be the perfect gift for Hallowe’en, Vanja!
The sugar coating crackled into lush thick creamy vanilla goodness. “Please sir, may I have some more?” That would have beenÂ my theme song for the evening. Tastes of each different wine with the brÃ»lÃ©e was such fun.
More? More? Yes, indeed! Now, the cheese tray featuring Smoky Valley Goat Cheeses from the City Centre Market with the Inniskillin Ice Wine. How did he know this is my absolute favourite after dinner treat?
Kevin has written about the Valencay in the pyramid shape above. He has also written about their feta and their Mountain Tomme, not served her tonight. Above, and below in the cylinder is their St. Maure. Watch for a post on that from him. It was our favourite that evening. But, they were all incredible. Finally, we have a producer of artisan goat cheeses at a local city market! The wedge is their Farmer’s Cheese and the curved wedge was a gouda from another producer: also delicious, but with herbs and flavourings. I always buy at least one package of the Smoky Valley young chevre in the plastic container every week. It is incredible.
Each of these selections had a strong enough personality to stand on their own, but as a group, brought such aÂ depth and substance to the table through the spectrum of flavours and textures on the tray that it was hard to stop tasting and testing. None strong or pungent, and that would not have been a bad thing. They just are not.
Pam had reappeared during the main course and was both were recounting travel experiences they had in the past. One particular trip, Kevin and Pam revisited a vineyard in Alsace. The same gal was there for the tasting and was blown away when Kevin and Pam told her what an impact she had upon them the year before. She had guided them through a tasting and had told them about her favourite wines and some aspects of her personal life which they recounted to her on this second visit. I am sure sure was deeply touched.
To finish the meal: Canada Goose pepperoni, also compliments of Kevin’s uncle. Who’d ‘o thought?
During that tasting in Alsace, Kevin asked if he could purchassÂ a “˜crachoir’, or wine spitting vessel, as a memory because he really liked the one at this particular tasting. The answer was, sadly, that the crachoir were not for sale; however, she would see what she could do. After scrounging around in the back of the tasting area, she reappeared with what Kevin is spitting into this evening. “I don’t like to get drunk; I don’t like the feeling of a hangover, but I do love to taste and enjoy my wines!”
Like Kevin in Alsace, I learned thatÂ “Asking can reap great rewards.” I knew this, but at times, theÂ reward is greater than expected creating a memory so vivid and unforgettable. This was definitely one of those evenings.
Kevin’s CrÃ¨me BrÃ»lÃ©e Recipe:
- 500 mL Avalon cream (Planet Organic)
- 1/2 organic Madagascar vanilla Bbean
- 95g sugar
- 118g duck yolk from Greens Eggs & Ham
- Bring cream to simmer with scraped vanilla bean contents and half the sugar
- Whisk the yolk with the remaining half of the sugar
- Temper the hot cream into the yolk mixture
- Pour into ramekins and bake in a bain marieÂ at 325Â°F until just set [about 45 minutes]
- Kevin thumps the oven handle with his fist to see how much jiggle they have, and just as they start to lose the center jiggle, pulls them out of the oven
- Cool, then chill
- Sprinkle sugar on top, roll ramekin around to spread, and dump off excess; torch and serve