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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26
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More, Please!

Noelle Chorney
Published Thursday January 8, 04:55 pm
Let’s make the dining scene even better in 201

Photo Credit: Illustration by Evgenia Mikhayova

Most people make their wish lists for Christmas, but because that season is such a rush for everyone, you can never get everything you want, right? So I’m going to make a list that has an entire year to come to fruition!

 

Saskatoon’s dining scene has improved by leaps and bounds in the last 10 years, but evolution is constant — and there’s always more awesome things we can add. So: what do I hope to see in the coming year?

 

EMBRACE THIS PLACE

 

Local food has gained tons of “ground” (sorry…) over the last few years. But this year I was introduced to a whole new level of local cuisine, one where we truly embrace what we have rather than trying to recreate the nouveau cuisine of California in our sub-Arctic climate. (You know we live in a sub-Arctic climate, right?) People have been eating well on what our environment has to offer for thousands of years, and we underestimate the culinary value of things like prairie berries, spruce tips and wild rosehips.

 

Yeah yeah, as a culinary city we’ve embraced “Carmine Jewel” sour cherries, and I fully support that, but our landscape has so much more to offer. (I know I’ll personally be harvesting some spruce tips come spring, which can be candied and dried and used as a resiny herb just like rosemary.) Other than The Hollows, which has been rocking the dandelion fritters and making chokecherry bitters to mix into cocktails, there is much, much more that can be accomplished. Let’s make like the First Peoples and put to good use what our land has to offer.

 

GIVE THE VEGGIES SOME LOVE

 

Yotam Ottolenghi has elevated the lowly vegetable to a stunning art form, and we should take a page out of one of his prolific cookbooks and do the same. I know it flies in the face of our meat-and-potatoes Prairie roots, but our soils, gardens and farmers’ markets can turn out some fantastic produce. We, and the restaurants we dine at, should work at turning that produce into something inspired and Instagram-worthy.

 

While places like The Odd Couple are doing some neat meat replacements (like ginger mushrooms instead of ginger beef), I’d like to see more restaurants that turn vegetables into something that not even the most devoted carnivore would turn up their nose at. Like Nosh’s menu, which is basically meatless but chock-full of soul-satisfying dishes nonetheless.

 

Oh, and how about some gourmet salads, people? It wouldn’t kill restaurants to put the same energy and creativity into their salads as they do into their main dishes. Salads CAN be a main event, if done right. Just sayin’.

 

GET PICKLED

 

I don’t mean the drinking kind of getting pickled (although that can be fun too) — I mean that fermented food is becoming a big deal. In fact, it’s been a big deal for more than a decade in California, and for, oh, thousands of years among all traditional cultures, because it’s the best thing around for overall health and well-being. We’re seeing some signs of pickled food getting onto Saskatoon menus, like the cute little pickled quail eggs on the menu at The Grazing Goat, the housemade mustard at Riversdale Deli that my mustard-maniac friend swears by, and the occasional pickled garnish in other restaurants.

 

But there’s so much more potential for pickling. I’m talking old-school lactic acid fermentation, like sauerkraut, Kosher pickles and kimchi. Also, shrubs for cocktails, and milk kefir or kombucha to drink or add some zing to desserts. Have you heard of labneh, the Middle Eastern yogurt that’s taking the world by storm? If not, you need to read more Bon Appetit magazine.

 

You can make fermented foods yourself at home, and restaurants can make them too, adding a healthful element as well as infinite variations and possibilities that will help restaurants make the flavours their own. It takes some more planning than “quick-pickling,” but it’s much more tasty, and better for you.

 

ARTISANAL EVERYTHING

 

Specialized restaurants are a big deal in larger cities. Saskatoon may not have enough critical mass for multiple ramen restaurants, or restaurants that cater to cat lovers (seriously, it’s a thing). We do have Stacked Burger Bar though, which raises the humble burger to new heights. And some of our older city bakeries are re-inventing themselves as artisanal doughnut destinations, à la Voodoo Donuts in Portland, Oregon. I tried a pretty fantastic maple bacon doughnut from Nestor’s Bakery on 20th Street, which was offered alongside a Black Forest doughnut, and some gorgeous fluffy classics. The message? Don’t just make a pretty good burger or a decent donut. Make an effing fantastic version of whatever you’re making.

 

GOOD FOOD FOR ALL

 

I know the concept of fine dining is out of reach for many people struggling to make ends meet. I often feel — keenly and somewhat uncomfortably — my privilege in both being able to afford to eat in excellent restaurants and getting paid to write about it. 

 

There’s a growing awareness about eating good, clean and local food, and while not everyone can afford to shop at the Farmers’ Market or dine out regularly, I hope that 2015 will offer more opportunities for those of us who want to share the benefits of good eating (as opposed to simply fine dining) with those people who need it most. Whether that means opening up more community garden spaces or teaching gardening skills to inner city families, I truly wish for good food — meaning healthy, whole, clean and local if possible, for all Saskatoon citizens, and the world beyond. Happy New Year — and good eating!

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