Last year I discovered the joy of ordering great food online, from organic B.C. seafood and premium steaks to locally-produced chocolate and wine. All inspired delectable (if small) dinner parties. I even went to a live press event to meet the inventors of the Tero composter, only available online, then spent the rest of the year on Zoom. Here’s a taste of my 2021. Wishing you all a delicious 2022!
Beef it UP
Turn your dining room into a steakhouse with local beef delivered directly from Whispering Meadows Farms in Milverton, north of Stratford. The family’s grass-fed, grain-finished organic beef is supremely tender and juicy, judging by the exceptionally delicious steaks I’ve enjoyed so far. I first heard of Whispering Meadows a few months ago when my pilates teacher began raving about the organic beef, chicken, lamb and pork she’d ordered. Every week she’d thaw and cook another fresh-frozen cut – it was like Christmas! – while urging me to check it out. My plump 3-pound chicken went into a New Year’s Eve biryani, and their maple bacon from heritage pigs will soon grace a quiche. The farm’s beautiful website is packed with information and makes it easy to order. whisperingmeadows.ca
Of course if you’re cooking great steak you’d better have a pan that can produce a sizzling sear. I’m still breaking in my De Buyer Mineral B carbon steel frypan from France, coated with beeswax to enhance its non-stick properties, but it’s definitely going to last a lifetime. It arrived in a Steaklover’s box with tongs and a wooden French peppermill. zestspot.com
Virtual chocolate tour
Learn how to taste chocolate like a pro with experts from Tasty Tours. While real-life tours are on hold for now, you can still have a delectable box of local chocolate delivered to your door and sign up for a 30-minute virtual tasting for two via Zoom. Samples include dark single-origin bars from SOMA and Soul, stone-ground Darkness from Chocosol and Hummingbird chocolate from Almonte, Ontario, plus a few raw cocoa beans and nibs so you can experience chocolate from bean to bar. Boxes also come with a Toffle, the local butter tart-truffle treat. Here’s the link: tastytourstoronto.com
Elizabeth Coulombe and Valerie Laliberté were product design students at Université Laval when they realized many communities in Canada still don’t have green bin programs to recycle food waste. They also learned that food buried in landfill sites creates methane, a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide. Three years and a successful crowd-funding campaign later, the two women launched the Tero electric countertop composter. Inside the container sit two food-processor-like blades that dry and grind food scraps, creating a fine nutrient-rich fertilizer in three to eight hours. This fine dirt can go straight into the garden or be frozen til spring. Tero is ideal for everyday food scraps, including fruit and veg, dairy, meat, eggshells, chicken bones and coffee grounds. It cannot handle hard bones like beef and pork, hard mango and peach pits and hard shells from nuts or seafood. Oh, and it’s quieter than a dishwasher. Teroproducts.com
Yes, you can go to any of Toronto’s lovely specialty shops and find exceptional cheese from all over the world. My current favourites, however, are stacked on a refrigerated shelf in the most basic of supermarkets. Castello cheese, based in Denmark, bears whimsical names like Tickler Extra Mature Cheddar, Curiously Crunchy Aged Havarti and Intriguingly Nutty Vintage Gouda. They’re all so delicious I’ve taken to grating these 200g bricks over everything from cooked Brussels sprouts to pasta, that is when I’m not sneaking slices for snacks. I’ve also gifted them to family and friends, who’ve become instant fans. For parties, Castello commissioned sophisticated cheese plates using a few of their many products. Find ideas and recipes at castellocheese.com/en-ca/occasions-overview/cheeseboard
Green & Black’s
I can’t believe it’s been 30 years since Craig Sams, who invented Green & Black’s with wife Jo Fairley, flew across the pond to introduce us to the UK’s first ethically-sourced organic 70% chocolate bar. This rich, intense bar remains a bestseller, joined by a symphony of flavours to suit every chocolate lover. To find your perfect bar check out the new Intensity Scale, measuring degree of cocoa, sweetness and flavour intensity, on the front of each package. Even G&B’s milk chocolate (Intensity #6) is deeply satisfying. My personal favourite is the Maya Gold, flecked with orange and warm spices.