My name is Aman and I have a pantry problem.
I’m obsessed with pantry items. After returning home from a 7.5-month edible adventure where I literally ate the world, I wanted to learn more about Canada to truly make this home. To celebrate how edible the country really is, I’ve been going direct-to-the-source and building my own, not so little, Canadian mega pantry. I think it’s really cool when you get to showcase what’s happening across the country at my pop up dinners.
Here are some of the things I jammed into my suitcase:
Try all the things and then buy all the things. The sad thing about Canada is the fact that we restrict free trade across provincial borders, so you probably won’t find Michel Jodoin’s booze outside of Quebec and the SAQ.
En route to New Brunswick, we bought their sparkling rosé cider, made with a unique Geneva apple that has a red flesh, 3-year aged apple brandy (think Calvados equivalent), apple vermouth and original cider. On our route back, we decided to speed our way to the ciderie to pick up more for our respective homes (and we succeeded).
Arctic Kiwis / Farmers’ Market
Baby kiwis…as in the tropical fruit, they grow in PEI and New Brunswick – I’ve not seen them in Nova Scotia during this trip, but definitely something to keep your eye out for them. Small and green, you eat them whole. The inside looks like a regular kiwi, but taste wise they’re a bit more acidic with under-ripe sweet tropical notes. We don’t have anything like these in the west, and so I dehydrated some to take back.
Organic Canola Oil / Alpha Mills
Alberta is the first place you think of when you mention canola. Naturally, I was intrigued by how organic canola oil from PEI would be, especially given their crazy sandy soils. It’s more viscous than Highwood Crossing’s in Alberta, but I’m excited to taste test them side-by-side.
You should probably buy all the things that head distiller, Ezra, makes. But, the Fort George Genever Gin was pretty special. In such a small space, Ezra and his team gets to truly play and they have some interesting things in their ever-evolving portfolio. It’s also the place for Rhum’s (which is spelt weirdly because they can’t officially call it a rum, even though it is).
Lisa and Rob have quite the story. They felt like they needed something outside their corporate jobs and that’s where seeds for the The Hardwood Tree were sown. There is so much love in their woodworking pieces and you just need to have a conversation with Lisa to feel her sense of pride. That’s why we decided to pop into her showroom instead of buying from the HFX Brewery Market. I picked up a black cherry board that was hand crafted using local wood for $35. Lisa explained that black cherry wood is uncommon because it has groves that make it harder to work with, but in her words, ‘we have time’.
I popped a bottle of Benjamin Bridge brut as I celebrate leaving my full-time marketing job this June. You can say I was excited to taste my way through the portfolio, but this time at the Gaspereau Valley winery. The cool-climate, sustainably minded sparkling house does such a great job. From their Pet Nat to Nova 7 to a new non-vintage brut and a very special 2011 bottle of bubs, we were not disappointed. That east coast hospitality was very much present. If you’re travelling, just visit their tasting room and you can ship your wines for a flat rate of $15. And so I did. I’m looking forward to re-living this adventure with a glass (or two).
Maple syrup is not just maple syrup and Sugar Moon Farm is oh, so special. The flavour profiles of the syrups change depending on the season, so I made sure I bought home early, mid and late extractions. The earlier extraction tends to be the more delicately flavoured syrup, but that’s not necessarily the lightest in colour. Speaking with Scott, ‘the trees will do what they like’, so every year is different – it’s a true sense of the growing season for that place, at that time, by those particular maple trees. I’m excited to bust out a flight of these at one of my Okanagan pop ups to change perceptions.
Riven Woodworks, located in the Halifax Seaport Market (Pier 22) is a bit of an unexpected hidden gem amongst the chaos and sameness of the surrounding gift shops – from collectibles and antiques to beautifully crafted handmade items by owner, Barry, himself. As soon as I saw a one-of-a-kind wooden spoon with a deer antler handle I fell in love. The story only got better as Barry went on to share more details about the piece as he wrapped it in tissue with love. Nova Scotia will forever be part of my kitchen now.
I usually sweeten my dishes using maple syrup or local honey, but now I have a Canadian sugar in my pantry, which is pretty cool. The process is to take the maple syrup, heat it to a high temperature and then granulate it. It’s quite the process, which is why it is a little more expensive, but Nova Scotian maple trees also produce less syrup than places like Quebec, so the price is more than fair.
I learned that salinity is at its highest during stormy weather, so this husband/wife duo are outside when everyone else may be inside, hand-harvesting their sea salts that are uniquely Nova Scotian.
One of my experiments for this trip has been to compare the taste of sea salts from the Pacific vs. the Atlantic. The Pacific is warmer than the Atlantic, so I picked up some Tidal Salts to help with that thought. This was an interesting experiment – the west coast sea salt from Salt Spring Island, BC was milder in taste than the two Atlantic versions I tried. The Tidal Salt had a crisper salinity, making it more complex and giving it a bigger punch.
From foraged mushrooms and juniper berries, to seaweeds and alder berries. You can buy direct from Sarah and you don’t even have to go foraging (or worry about poisoning yourself in the process).
Skilfully cured charcuterie made in-house using great quality ingredients, plus a really awesome selection of cheese to complement. After tasting Fred’s duck prosciutto (which only has two ingredients – duck and salt), I literally bought 300g in a vac packed sealed packet to safely get it to the Okanagan. Ratinaud was one of the culinary highlights of the trip. Well done Halifax, well done.
I think it’s safe to say that the east coast has been a delicious place to visit. I’m excited to retell the stories of the places I visited, the people I got to meet, and most importantly, the way they made me feel. Supporting local is not what I do, but who I am, and I’m fortunate to have gone direct-to-the-source for the cool things in my ever-growing pantry.
I came to this country on an entrepreneurial visa, so the goal was to bring jobs, through our family restaurant, to Canadians. Jumping over the pond, we didn’t just want to do that. Instead we wanted to be part of the community and that’s why we supported the Slow Food farm-to-table thinking. Put simply, we got to make a bigger impact; even it was small in the grand scheme of things. I want to showcase the best of Canada and the Maritimes will definitely be part of my evolving food baby of a story. And hopefully we’ve planted a seed on what’s possible in your own backyard and it’s got you a excited about exploring more of Canada.
We are very fortunate to live in the country we do.
Oh yeah, if you’re wondering how I managed to bring all this back to the Okanagan (which is on the opposite end of the country) I’m really good at smuggling things, there was loads of bubble wrap, I may have gone to The Bay and bought a second suitcase and I might have worn six outer layers to reduce my luggage weight. I have no regrets.
All in the name of food,