Cherries, chocolate or wine/champagne anyone?

Since the start of June, I cannot help noticing all the popping red colour of cherries front of store everywhere I shop. Cherries always remind me of my childhood and our Aussie Summer Christmases. My Mother would fill a large bowl on display to brighten up the house and we couldn’t wait to take a handful!

Some of the things I love when celebrations start in Summer are cherries, chocolate and champagne – it’s the simple things in life right?

Although I know that while I am here in Vancouver, cherries are in season come Summertime but sadly without Christmas to enjoy. So when I saw that Whole Foods Market were selling these beautiful organic cherries at a special price this week, I couldn’t resist.

Our celebration was to have our first dinner party at our home here in Vancouver with our closest friends who have been amazing and awesome to us since the first day we arrived. We love entertaining and wanted to treat them to something special and came up with a vegetarian menu (catering to dietary requirements) which was delicious and not too heavy. I was also looking for a good reason to indulge in the local BC Salt Spring Island, Chèvres (which is a very soft, fresh goat’s cheese).

Our friends brought us an exceptional wine which I also want to make a mention of from the Okanagan Valley, BC; ‘Joie Farm’ Pinot Blanc 2011. Joie means “Joy” in French and this wine certainly lives up to its name and is inspired by Alsace with a beautiful tropical fruit intensity. This was a very memorable drop and I look forward to exploring the Okanagan vineyards very soon.

Our menu:-

Entrée – Sashimi grade salmon + Edamame                                                                     Main – Beetroot and goats cheese tart accompanied with a Fennel, radicchio and walnut salad (recipes sourced from delicious. magazine Australian edition). and the dessert…

Dessert – Chocolate meringues with amaretto cherries and coconut gelato (dairy-free)

The Kid’s menu was cheese and vegetable frittata with fries followed by banana gelato (sugar-free) with raspberries and a petite meringue on the side.

The sun has rolled on consecutively for over a week now and it is reminding me more of what our Summers are like back home in Australia.  I will combine a Christmas Summer favourite with the beautiful cherries that are in abundant supply which is just singing for an opportunity to entertain with these.

Cherry topped mini-chocolate meringues with coconut gelato (makes 6)              This meringue recipe is inspired and adapted from Valli Little’s recipe in delicious. magazine.

Ingredients 

4 eggwhites, at room temperature

11/4 cups caster sugar (or berry sugar)

1 tablespoon cocoa, sifted

1 teaspoon white vinegar

1 teaspoon cornflour

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

24 cherries pitted

2 Tablespoons of caster sugar (or berry sugar)

3/4 cup Amaretto liqueur

Coconut gelato (a good quality creamy one)

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 150 Celcius / 302 F. Line a large baking tray with baking paper.

2. Whisk eggwhites in the bowl of an electric mixer with a pinch of salt until soft peaks form. Add caster sugar, one tablespoon at a time, every minute or so whisking until thick and glossy. Fold in cocoa, vinegar, cornflour and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract until well combined.

3. Dollop 6 rounds of the mixture onto the lined tray. Using the back of a spoon make an indent in the top of each one. Place in the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 120 C /250 F. Bake for 45 minutes then turn the oven off and leave the meringues in the oven to cool completely.

4. Meanwhile, add amaretto and sugar to pitted cherries and leave in fridge for an hour. Remove when ready to serve and heat up in small saucepan till syrupy consistency.

5. Using an ice-cream scoop place coconut gelato on meringues and pour amaretto cherries on top. Garnish with a few fresh cherries in the bowl as well.

A champagne to match for a celebratory note? Moët & Chandon’s Rosé Impérial – Enjoy!

What occurred to me today…

do we shop on impulse due to being time-poor and being bombarded by marketing messages or because we feel it is a quick fix to make us feel better, more relaxed, happy, fill a need?

This thought really dawned upon me when about to enter a mega store in Vancouver. Back home, I have never been the model “mass grocery” supermarket shopper. My preference is Local. I prefer to step in and out of small food stores; my favourite bakery, my nearby friendly fresh produce grocer, my community focused independent supermarket back home. There are really only two main mass grocery stores who are head to head competitive with each other; Woolworths and Coles. There is one other which is increasing in it’s numbers; IGA (Independent Grocery Association), and that’s about it.

For me shopping local, meant convenience, easy access to all the items I needed when I didn’t have the time to plan properly; I always took a little time to explore what looks good each day and buy only what I need for various meals I was going to prepare for the present moment. It also made me feel like a member of the community; buying local fruits and vegetables for example from our friendly grocer Galuzzo’s in Glebe (Est. 1934) was giving a bit back and was a satisfying experience. If you’d like to read up on the history of Glebe see, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glebe,_New_South_Wales

Was this an efficient use of time? I guess there are two ways of looking at it…on one hand, I was making several trips to stores instead of just one or two in a week. I had variety and was conscious of what products I was buying and focused on the ingredients that are behind each one and where they are sourced. It was personal. On the other, one trip to a large supermarket with the hustle and bustle in a week would save time for me to do other things but, would it enable me to make all the informed choices I was making previously on my smaller quicker trips? It was impersonal.

I thought I would put a new shopping experience to the test in my new neighbourhood. I am now surrounded by numerous supermarkets which are part of chains, some that are local wholly owned stores, some that are providing many organic, sustainable and ethical options and some that provide a combination of both. I am going to weigh up my experience with that of buying from smaller community stores against variety, healthy organic choices available and price. There appears to be a dozen or so large grocery stores or more in Metro Vancouver and I have barely scraped the surface. I have popped my head into Choices; which is the most local conveniently placed store to me and although very expensive, it provides a large selection of organic/natural foods, fair trade coffee and small deli for packaged items like salmon, meat etc.

Whole Foods Market, also known to locals as ‘Whole pay cheque’ has only a few locations across the city…one happens to be close to me in Cambie Street and it is heaven…if only to browse or buy the occasional gourmet treats! To be quite honest I probably have been in there one too many times already, it is a one stop shop to the highest quality, least processed foods, a large selection of organic local produce as well as a range of bakery, whole body care, household, baby and kid’s products and more. It is an established US company and one of their values is supporting sustainable agriculture and organic farming.

Another large one I am exploring for the first time is Save On Foods which I come to find out is a Western Canadian company who are proud to be the number 1 supporter of local suppliers, producers and growers in BC communities. I have also since found out they are focused on being a leading eco-friendly company. They offer sustainable choices and are one of the first retailers in North America to actively commit to a sustainable seafood approach for example they are the first to sell sustainable Coho salmon.

So how much time did I spend researching the foods I consumed? I looked up their online weekly specials and then walked up there to begin my shop.

It is surprising that a store so large will still satisfy my goals of shopping for local produce and other organic products at a reasonable price. You can become a member and therefore receive special offers and further savings too. After an hour, I was at the register with a smiling face letting me know I had saved $35! What I have also found is that competition from so many supermarkets has driven up customer service levels, so my experience felt a little bit personal.

I realise, that if I spend a bit of time looking at the weekly specials at the range of supermarkets in my area, I have loads of variety and can choose products I want to buy at the best price.

I guess my conclusion is that I still go out to do almost daily shops…but I enjoy it. The only difference is, now I am more conscious of the products I want to buy prior to stepping out of my door and the bonus is getting them for a much better price. I have spent marginally more time than the usual back home and my shop this week has saved me more than $110. It’s a market driven by a lot more competition which suits me entirely down to a “T” right now.