Tag Archives: calgary

Bean to Bar Chocolate by @Choklatyyc for Valentine’s Day – my @AlbertaAtNoon column for February

Valentine's is the kind of special occasion that I get my little chocolate fountain out and actually use Choklat's chocolate to lavish the love of my life with his favourite treat photo - Karen Anderson

Valentine’s is the kind of special occasion that I get my little chocolate fountain out and actually use Choklat’s chocolate to lavish the love of my life with his favourite treat
photo – Karen Anderson

Chocolate is a great ingredient and some say it is its own food group. In the history of chocolate, we’ve gone from small family run firms concerned with ethical practices and the purity of their product – to big multinational corporations infamous for their exploitive monopolies and ruthless quest to increase bottom lines – to a new trend back called the “bean to bar” movement which appears to once again be focusing on purity and ethics.

This post will talk about what it means to be a bean to bar chocolate maker and the history of how we’ve arrived at this trend. To close we’ll focus on Alberta’s one and only bean to bar operation, a company called Choklat and its three Alberta stores.

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Ho-Ho-Hold onto that party idea till the New Year – How small groups can have BIG holiday fun once the season has wrapped up

Wine tastings are always fun. Time for a little time out...for good behaviour?  Here's a list of fun things to do for your small group Photo - Karen Anderson

Wine tastings are always fun.
Time for a little time out…for good behaviour?
Here’s a list of fun things to do for your small group
Photo – Karen Anderson

I’m thinking about all my friends in the hospitality and retail industries who are going gangbusters right now. It doesn’t take three wise men to know that they’ll be holding on till the New Year for a share of the good cheer most of us our currently enjoying thanks to their hard work.

There’s also whole gaggle of small groups and groups with small budgets in our town who can’t afford to check everyone into a spa-laden hotel or to fly in The Eagles to help them Take it Easy like some of this city’s generous corporate giants have been known to do (Calgary is Canada’s corporate head office capital).

Think of this post as a stocking overflowing with ideas for small groups whose gratification must be delayed. Here’s a few flings you can have before spring.

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Art installation #2 – seeing the #yycflood through the eyes of Kate Sara Bennie and a really good gift for @nenshi

"Summer 2013- Flood; Consume" acrylic on canvas by Kate Sara Bennie from the artist's website - used with permission

“Summer 2013- Flood; Consume”
acrylic on canvas by Kate Sara Bennie
from the artist’s website – used with permission

My friend Kate Sara Bennie works at the Tea Trader shop in the Inglewood neighbourhood of Calgary. She’s an artist. She works enough to pay her rent and feed herself but otherwise protects her time to paint and to just be still. Being still lets daydreams and flashes of places distill within in her – which of course, often leads to more painting.

In this installation I’ll talk a bit about Bennie and the story behind the painting above.

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Savour Life – Art Installation #1 – my friend Louise Savoie’s art show June 7 – 8, @ArtCentral Calgary

"This is how you putt" Oil painting by Louise Savoie From the collection of Karen Anderson

“This is how you putt”
Oil painting by Louise Savoie
From the collection of Karen Anderson

My friend Louise Savoie (Lou Lou) helps me savour my life. She is an artist. My home and life are touched by her work as an oil painter and by the richness of our friendship. I’m excited to announce a show she will be featured in here in Calgary and I want to tell you a bit about her work from my perspective.

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Savour Food – SPIN farming – Small Plot INtensive farming

This is an article I wrote for City Palate Magazine last year and I’m sharing it here because I’m writing a lot about gardening and farming this week in preparation for my Alberta at Noon column on CBC Radio One this Thursday. The information about this “urban agriculture” movement, for those of you interested in such things, will round out your knowledge of current trends in all things green and growing right now. My next post will be about seed saving, permaculture and farming workshops with Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms.

SPIN City – how Calgary is becoming more sustainable one urban SPIN farm at a time
By Karen Anderson (as originally published in City Palate Magazine, July/August, 2012)

Rod Olson & Chad Kile

Rod Olson & Chad Kile

In Food and the City: Urban Agricultural and the New Food Revolution,(Prometheus, 2012) author Jennifer Cockrall-King highlights the perils of our industrial food system: food shortages, food scares related to contamination, the controversy around genetically modified organisms, peak oil, peak water and peak farming knowledge. While closing the door on any doubts of industrial farming’s viability she also opens a window of hope by reporting on innovations being made to meet the challenge of feeding the world’s 7 billion hungry mouths. SPIN farming is one of those rays of hope.

People typically think of “spin” as a public relations tactic used to sway opinion, often in highly manipulative ways. In this article, SPIN is an acronym for Small Plot INtensive farming, a method of urban agriculture developed in Saskatoon over the last twenty years.

Wally Satzewich and Gail Vandersteen were urbanites living in Saskatoon but dreaming of a country acreage devoted to growing vegetables to sell at the city’s farmer’s market. They bought their piece of rural dreamland, planted 10 acres of crops but after a few years of dealing with deer, bugs and wind on the open prairie and some meticulous record keeping they realized that the protected, well cared for, lower pestilent inner city plots they had kept were the source of most of their income. They sold their rural farm and started to mentor others about the most successful small plot crops and intensive growing methods. Enter Roxanne Christensen a writer who famously proved SPIN methods would work when she turned an inner city Philadelphia plot into an economically viable urban half-acre farm in just two years. Christensen partnered with Satzewich to develop “How-To” manuals which sell for a modest $19.95 here. Christensen told me that one of the most important aspects of their work is the mentoring their SPIN farming system offers. She explained, “at least one or two generations have opted out of the farming profession, so there is a lack of sufficient mentors and the type of farming being practiced has not kept up with the times, so that much of the knowledge base that is available is out-of-touch with current economic and cultural realities.” The website currently has 684 SPIN farmers enrolled in their free online support group.

Rod Olson and Chad Kile, the owners of Leaf and Lyre Urban Farms, were Calgary’s first SPIN farmers. Olson, who was raised on a farm near Camrose, stumbled across the SPIN farming website when he was pondering how to incorporate his love of the land with his now urban setting. SPIN gave him an “aha” moment and with brother-in-law Kile he attended a “Local 101” conference in March of 2010 and heard Tony Marshall, owner of Highwood Crossing Organic Farms, talk about how Cubans utilized SPIN farming® to feed themselves in response to being cut off from oil supplies. Marshall also highlighted Satzewich’s work so that attendees of Local 101 would believe SPIN practices could be applied in our Northern Prairie climate.

Olson and Kile became convinced that SPIN would be both the way back to a lifestyle they loved and the way forward in terms of a progressive form of agriculture that would be sustainable and adaptable to Calgary. Kile agreed to be the brawn of the operation while Olson would do all the marketing and business development. Kile is an introverted academic who when not working on his PhD actually likes nothing better than digging in the dirt for hours. The CPO Chorus’s Principal Tenor and part-time youth leader Olson excels in community connection and networking. The next challenge was finding land.

Fortunately, they had also met Julie Van Rosendaal at Local 101 and she was able to facilitate an interview on CBC Radio One’s The Calgary Eyeopener where she is the resident food and nutrition expert. Offers of garden plots began to flow in and Leaf & Lyre roto-tilled their first plot in April of 2010.

The profile of SPIN plot lenders tends to fall in three categories. There are aged widows who are happy to have their backyards cared for again, there are young families who want their children to be exposed to backyard gardening but that don’t have the time or the know-how themselves and there are young people who have the land and would like to feel part of the movement and have more ties to their community. Olson and Kile are now up to their goal of 25 plots and the half-acre needed to fulfill their business plan which could see them make up to $72,000 per year according to the SPIN farming® website. They now refer ongoing land offers to a program that connects would-be growers with willing lenders at a website called Land Share Canada.

Leaf and Lyre’s specialty is greens as they are the plants best suited to Calgary’s climate and because they provide the best return on investment. They sell directly to restaurants and also have a weekly booth at the Hillhurst Sunnyside Farmer’s Market where patrons will find spinach, mizuna, tahtsoi, kale, onions, arugula, spring mesclun mix, red oak leaf lettuce, chard, unique carrot varietals and potatoes throughout the season.

A mere two years ago Leaf and Lyre were the only SPIN farmers in Calgary but 2012 will see at least three others join this urban agriculture cum sustainability movement (See Sidebar – The New SPINners). The Calgary Food Committee released its initial assessment and action plan on June 6, 2012 to help the City of Calgary formulate a plan for sustainability and food security in the decades to come. Part of that plan could include identifying land that could facilitate SPIN farming. In the meantime, Olson and Kile hope to band with “the new SPINners” to develop and share much-needed resources for coordinating the cleaning, storage and distribution of crops that could keep our city in fresh food for the future. Calgary could become known as a great SPIN city.

Sidebar – The new SPINners

Leaf Ninjas

Kai Boettcher, Luke Kimmel, Dave Carlton of The Leaf Ninjas

Kai Boettcher, Luke Kimmel, Dave Carlton of The Leaf Ninjas

Contact: Luke Kimmel, Dave Carlton, Tim Kessler, Kai Boettcher and Andrew Renaux
403-830-7229 or luke@leafninjas.ca
Produce: leafy greens, micro-greens, carrots, beets, turnips, radishes, and onions, and a variety of herbs grown in plots throughout Inglewood and Ramsay in the city’s southwest. Leaf Ninjas are also in the business or permaculture design and installation
Available at: The Area in Inglewood, 1119 – 10 Ave SE & The Market Collective (various locations)

Urban City Farms and CSA

Will Carnegie and Chris Kostashuk

Will Carnegie and Chris Kostashuk

Contact: Will Carnegie and Chris Kostashuk, 403-973-6035 or urban.city.farms@gmail.com
Produce: many leafy greens and lettuces, beets, peas, beans, carrots, cucumbers, squashes, corn, leeks, watermelon, Brussel sprouts and onions grown in both the southwest quadrant of the city and on a 1 acre lot in Chestemere.
Available at: by CSA subscription and check the website for market locations throughout the summer.

Urban Sunflower Apiary and Market Garden
SONY DSC

Contact: Jerremie or Rita Clyde, 403-483-7816 or urbansunflowerca@gmail.com
Produce: pesticide and chemical-free bee products, vegetables and 10 kinds of potatoes for 2012 grown in plots in the northwest and at Paradise Hill Farms in Nanton.
Available at: Hillhurst-Sunnyside Farmers Market each Wednesday, May 30 – October 3 sharing a booth with Leaf & Lyre Urban Farm.

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Savour Life – Cool thing #1 – VR Wine’s Private Wine Locker Program

I am always out and about. It’s part of my job to explore Calgary, Alberta, Canada and the world’s food scene. I constantly meet exciting people and see the fun things they are doing and the delicious ingredients they are working with. I realized this week that I am constantly saying, “That’s so cool”. The accompanying thought for me is always, wow, everyone should get to know about this, not just me. I love to pause and savour these moments with the proud person who is showing me their idea or their product. I think they are proud because they are sharing something truly creative. I’ve just had the epiphany that I could use part of this blog to help them share their cool things with more people. They deserve it. So here goes, when I catch myself saying “That’s so cool”, you will know about it here.

One really important thing you should know is that you’ll only be seeing and hearing about things I like for their own merit. I will never accept money for this. I’m not running ads or doing commercials. You have to be able to trust that this is just me, communicating my tastes to you. You are free to ignore these things or enjoy them. But no one will ever dictate what cool things get chosen for this website. Thank you very much; I’ll stay a free agent in that regard. I promise to be a curator and editor of cool things that you can count on to come without any paid bias (well, I might accept a sip of wine or morsel of food but that’s it). So here we go.

Cool thing #1 – VR Wine’s Private Wine Locker Program

Phoebe Fun, owner of Vin Room Wine with the wall of private wine lockers available at her store

Phoebe Fun, owner of Vin Room Wine with the wall of private wine lockers available at her store

My friend Phoebe Fung is a business dynamo with so many great ideas its flabbergastingly fun. She owns two restaurants, Vin Room and Vin Room West, and just opened a private wine boutique, VR Wine, that sells all the wines featured at her beautiful restaurants.

Now here’s the cool part. At VR Wine, you can join their private wine locker club (for a minimum purchase of $300/month) and they will stock your locker with new wines each month according to your tasting profile. For people who are gradually building their own cellar collection but that don’t have time to do the research and shopping themselves this could be a very helpful time saver and aid. I know we don’t all have $3600 a year to spend in this way, but that does not take away from how cool an idea it is. If this is your dream go for it. There’s only 12 of these lockers but here’s all the things this service includes as follows:

•Hand crafted, cedar and teak lockers with private combination locks for secure and safe storage
•Temperature and humidity controlled
•Access to lockers during regular business hours
•Access to exclusive offers and special purchases not available to the general public
•10% off all regularly priced wine and accessories purchases (discount not transferable)
•Exclusive invitations to private locker members’ events
•Consultation with one of VR Wine’s sommeliers to design your monthly wine program
•Updates to your personal profile as your needs change and develop

VR Wine
3106, 8561 8A Ave SW, Calgary, AB T2H 0V5
587-353-8344
vr-wine.com

Savour Food Savour Life and now Savour Cool Things while you are at it. Cheers, Karen

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