Friday, 9 August 2013

The Karma Project

How I love the Karma Project! What started as a little community storefront in 2007, expanded into the space next door and started serving food, and has grown steadily into to so much more. The community garden is at the epicentre of this operation and offers garden plots to local citizens for a mere $20.00 a year, while providing fresh produce for the local women's shelter and more.

As in it's beginnings, the Karma storefront endeavors to offer crafts, jewelry, preserves, produce, art works and herbs that are local, organic and fair trade. The little cafe adjoining it goes one step further with a concept that was new to me - the pay-what-you-wish kitchen. That's right, you pay what you think the meal is worth! I am told that musician, Jon Bon Jovi, runs a similar eatery in New Jersey known as the JBJ Soul Kitchen, where there are also no prices on the menu.

In summer, good things are constantly coming in from the community garden and from local producers, and being snapped up by shoppers, made into meals in the kitchen, stuffed into food boxes, shipped off to Christian Island where no grocery store exists or sold at farmers' markets. And in the midst of all this activity, teaching goes on, or more accurately the re-teaching of once common skills that have been slowly slipping away. How many of us today could successfully grow their own potatoes or know how to make sauerkraut at home? The Karma Project wants to help people to get back to their roots, quite literally.

The face of the Karma Marketplace is Erin Chapelle, a lovely nature's child who exudes warmth and a great passion for what she is doing. She is so busy and so energetic. When she explained all the activities she and the Project were involved in, I thought this woman must dream about Karma at night. She and the Karma Project are a great fit for The Huronia Food Trail.

I haven't seen a full menu for the kitchen side of the Karma Marketplace, but that may be because it changes daily according to what delights come in from the fields and gardens. While our media tour group was there, we munched on a rustic and garlicky dip made from sunflower seeds and surrounded by a rainbow of multi coloured organic carrots. Yet another glass of lemonade was downed by most if not all of us, even though we'd been offered some at a number of previous tour stops, but on a day as hot as that one was, you can never have too much fresh lemonade!

I must admit I hadn't been very aware of these kind of movements until recently. My eyes are being opened to some of the wonderful things that are being done locally, mostly by young people, to promote sharing, growing, teaching, sustaining, and cooking. I have seen snippets of information about places in my own city of Barrie, such as the D.I.Y. and the Unity Market, but I realized I know very little about their mission. I must make it my mission to find out.

Check out the Karma Marketplace's Facebook page - there's a lot of great info. and photographs there! And watch the beautifully produced video on this page that really gets their message across.

Monday, 5 August 2013

The Works - It Works For Me!

Apologies in advance for the lack of photographs, but our venture into The Works Gourmet Burger Bistro was a last minute decision after a long, hard day of perusing craft displays at Kempenfest under the bright sun! Yes, yes - I should have a phone and/or camera of my own with me at all times, and it may very well come to that soon, but for now I'm resisting 21st century technology as much as a food blogger can. I'm sure The Works won't mind if I borrow a pic or two from their website to showcase their goodies.

We parked our car on Mulcaster St. and walked down to the festival, passing several Dunlop St. eateries and discussing their virtues on the way. My husband, 19 year old son and myself wondered out loud about The Works - we had heard mixed reviews. I said "There's only one way to find out for sure!" A few hours later on, we were definitely ready for something to eat, and there was The Works again so in we went. You will find them just a few paces west of Mulcaster St. on the south side of Dunlop St. E., number 137 in a long narrow space with a lake view at the back. I'm sure my eldest son played a show here once with his metal band during a previous life of this building.

The interior decor is very industrial, with exposed brick, rough wood floors, pipes and gears, corrugated metal and even unusual serving vessels like glass measuring cups for your drinks and tin cake/roast pans instead of plates. Very funky! I understand The Works is a chain restaurant, but I didn't get that feel. Lots of young staff around - I figured it was all hands on deck with Kempenfest in full swing nearby. Our server was Shayla, a super enthusiastic server, definitely in the right job.

And then there's the menu - oh wow! At first glance, it seems complicated. With several dozen burger selections, you might get a little alarmed, but once Shayla gave the 30 second burger course, I was much better. Pick your bun. I took whole wheat. Take note - they have gluten free too. Pick your burger. I'm sure most diners choose ground beef, but there's other choices like chicken, turkey, elk, veggie or even a huge portobello mushroom cap! Then pick your topping either by name or by number. Our son, who considers himself a master barbecued burger chef (and nearly curled up and died trying to find a decent burger on a trip to Scotland last year), chose the juicy lucy, which he told me, between big bites, contained an awesome garlic sauce and a cheesy seeming burger patty. My husband and I both got the teriyaki melt containing teriyaki sauce, sauteed mushrooms and swiss cheese, which begs the question - why have I never thought of putting teriyaki sauce on a burger before??? A new jar will be appearing in my fridge this week.

The food was absolutely delicious. My veggie burger was huge and I was quite stuffed when I left. In fact, I was so stuffed I never ate another thing all day. I was even too full to have any desire to write about it until the next day! Of course, I could have used a bit of self restraint and left a bite or two, but it was too good!
The fries were really good and so was the gravy, which is vegetarian friendly by the way. The pop was refilled often without a word. I saw the apparently famous tower-o-rings go by a few times. It's a tall stack of onion rings on a pole and it instantly reminded me of the old Fisher-Price stacking game for kids. Next time, I might try the poutine which is served in a bucket

So yes, there's only one way to find out if a restaurant is as good or as bad as they say - go and have a bite for yourself. It's only a gamble of a few dollars and an hour of your time. These three gamblers hit the jackpot and will be back I'm sure!

Saturday, 3 August 2013

We Love The Moose!

I remember when Moose Winooski's was the new thing on Bayfield St. That must have been in the mid 1990s, because my eldest son, now 23 years old, celebrated his ninth birth there. It was also one of the few sit down restaurants we dared go to. With a gaggle of 5 kids, we usually chose take out or fast food, so we could make a quick exit when the troops got rowdy, but Moose Winooski's has a nice little corner play area complete with toys and tv. They also use paper table cloths for families, complete with lots of crayons, so the little scribblers can get their art on.

It's probably been a few years since I was in for a meal, even though Moose Winooski's is more or less down the street from me. My kids are mostly grown up, and relatively civilized now. In fact, my youngest son recently did a co-op term as a host there and my middle son has worked in the dish room for the past 2 years. His ball hockey team, the Sky Pirates (don't ask), is mainly comprised of Moose employees and the management is very good at making work schedules that work around the games. As you can see, it's a real neighbourhood business.

Yesterday, we had the great honour of hosting a young Japanese exchange student for the day and were looking for fun things to do in the Barrie area. Taka is from Murayama, Japan, a sister city to Barrie. It's the same city that my daughter had the good fortune to visit last summer on her trip with the Barrie Youth Ambassadors. We started out at the Shanty Bay Go Karts and Mini Putt, followed by the Georgian Mall and then some down time with video games. We decided to top off our day with dinner at a virtual Canadiana hall of fame, Moose Winooski's

We had an absolutely delightful server named Lindy. She was just great, and very patient. I'm sure she had to come back three times to see if we were ready to order. Between indecisiveness, a minor language barrier and being very chatty, we took quite a while! We started with a warm artichoke dip and a platter of nachos and a round of assorted pop. Lindy brought jugs of pop after a while, so it seems the refills are free. Nice!

Appetizers were quickly attacked by the young people and our main entrees weren't long in arriving. Between the 7 of us, we had 2 orders of quesadillas, fish and chips, a Mediterranean wrap,  baked penne pasta, a turkey club sandwich and a chipotle chicken sandwich. We had some special requests - no tomatoes on the chicken sandwich due to allergies, a bread substitution on the turkey club and extra gravy for one of the french fries. All of those were attended to perfectly.

My fish and chips were really good. Seafood is the only meat I eat now, as I mostly follow a vegetarian diet. I order fish and chips quite often when dining out, and I am frequently underwhelmed by my meal. I wasn't expecting a restaurant that is known for it's ribs and wings to make a good fish and chips, but I was pleasantly surprised. The fish portion was large, soft, flavourful and perfectly golden.

It's no wonder that Moose Winooski's has been around a while now, when so many others have tried and failed to keep an eatery afloat. The Moose, as the regulars and employees call it, is the perfect package - fun atmosphere, family friendly, awesome food, superb service, community oriented, ideal for watching sports and being a shrine of all things Canadian, a destination in itself for foreign visitors.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Le Maitre D' Where Cultures Blend

Nothing was more welcome that hot day to our group of sidewalk weary, half melted writers and bloggers than the ice cold lemonade offered at a number of our tour stops. Inside Le Maitre D', a large bee skep shaped vessel filled with chilled lemonade was again the first order of business. We were pretty appreciative of their air conditioning too!

Located at 106 Main St. in Penetanguishene, Le Maitre D' is a fairly new, rather upscale dining establishment located in a building that has housed a series of restaurants over the years. They refer to themselves as being a "personal, neighbourhood style restaurant". I think a family would be happy to gather there and I also believe it would be a suitable location for a special occasion too. An 8 seat private dining room is also available for bookings.

The owner is Dave Brunelle, a true son of Penetanguishene, with very deep roots in the area drawing from French Canadian and Metis ancestry going back at least 4 generations. An experienced businessman, he has dreamed of opening a place like this. His grandfather was a fisherman and his grandmother was a cook of some renown, making feasts for her large family, church functions and community events. The family was involved in farming, hunting and producing maple syrup as well. Dave can bring all of these influences and experiences together under one roof at Le Maitre D'.

And what to eat? The menu is a nice size - not over extensive and not so small as to offer too few choices. Servers in black and white offered an array of sample sized menu items for our approval and we nibbled on tiny tarte au sucre (brown sugar pie), tourtiere (savoury pork and beef pie), tartare de coregone fumee (smoked white fish) and traditional aboriginal people's bannock. I must say that I couldn't get enough of the smoked white fish and have to confess that I had several tastes of that particular menu item, just to be sure!
I understand that the bannock has become a little bit of a local sensation because of it's inclusion on the Sunday brunch menu where it is featured in the cleverly named eggs bannodict.

Dave is another member of the Huronia Food Trail who is a great believer in obtaining his ingredients locally whenever he can. All his fish, including the smoked fish, comes from Lepage Fishery in Pentetanguishene which fishes the fresh waters of Georgian Bay. Fellow Trail members become suppliers too when Eco Huronie provides organic vegetables and the Karma Marketplace keeps Le Maitre D' stocked up on chutney, ketchup and jam.

Diners can savour the fresh and delicious cuisine while listening to the sound of local French Canadian music in the background. Once a month, these local artists preform live at Le Maitre D'. Be sure to have a look at the works by area artists on the walls, as well as the historical photographs of old Penetanguishene. Wines and beers from near and far are on offer to make your evening complete. In the words of the well crafted press release I received, "Because so much of what we do is authentic to the area, from recipes, tastes, entertainment, art, and its ownership, Le Maitre D' stands alone."