chive flower butter

FullSizeRender 6Quick, before they’re gone! Gather a handful of chive flowers, separate them into their individual florets, and mix them into a hunk of soft butter with salt to taste. Form it into a log, roll it in plastic wrap, and stick it in the freezer. Slice off rounds from the frozen log when you want some and put the rest back in the freezer till next time. Drop a thawed round on top of any meat or fish, or toss with hot vegetables. Spread it on crackers or toast and make canapés. Delicious AND beautiful!

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Saturday jam sessions

Saturdays we’re open from 11 till 7, and there’s a jam session from 2-5. We never know who’s going to drop by with their own instrument(s), or just pick up one of Ross’s guitars off the wall. Here’s 30 seconds of today’s impromptu set.

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farm-to-table or farm-to-fable?

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Some of my gardens last summer. Food, flowers, and herbs destined for the Noodle Guy’s kitchen. But where does our butter come from?

Laura Reiley, the food critic for the Tampa Bay Times, is writing a series called “Farm to Fable” that exposes outrageous fraud perpetrated by some Florida restaurants and farmers’ market vendors attempting to cash in on the trend for all things local. “Farmers” buying national grocery chain rejects from a huge distributor and claiming they grew them organically and locally. Restaurants claiming their meat is ethically sourced from a small local farm when it’s actually from a giant conventional (read: inhumane) operation several states away. They’re well-written articles and I highly recommend them.

They got me thinking about where we get our ingredients and what claims we make about it. Our website says we use ingredients that are “as fresh and local as possible”, which is pretty vague. We do go to quite a bit of effort and expense to support other small businesses in the area. We get most of our cheese from Fox Hill or Holmestead, except for Parmigiano-Reggiano which we get from Italy via Costco. We use maple syrup from Hutchinson Acres and honey from Brandt’s Bees. We get all of our in-season vegetables from Longspell Point Farm and TapRoot Farms, and we’re working on out-of-season produce as well: last year Longspell grew 300 Roma tomato plants to carry us through the winter, and we use TapRoot’s frozen basil “pucks”. When we want vegetables that the local farms can’t supply, we turn to the small, independent markets like Foote’s and Henny Penny’s; the big grocery stores are a last resort. (Their out-of-season produce may well come from the same place, but their profits go to different ones.) The one thing we will never buy from a store is meat. All our fresh pork, beef, and chicken comes from Longspell Point Farm.

Some things just aren’t available locally. Olive oil, which we use a LOT of. Peppercorns. Butter! I wish Fox Hill would start making butter. We are not allowed to use “backyard butter”, so our only source is large industrial dairies. Lemons. I’ve started a lemon tree, but even if it survives and thrives, I’ll be lucky to get a handful of lemons every year, which isn’t enough for our home use, let alone the shop.

We’re doing the best we can, I think, which doesn’t mean we’re not always on the lookout for ways we can improve. But doing much more than we are now would require a significant change not only in what we do but also in what our customers do, and what they expect and are willing to pay for. In the article on restaurants, Reiley writes: “The first tipoff on a menu? Constancy.” She’s right. Until someone in the Valley starts growing green onions hydroponically and on a large scale over the winter months, if you see fresh green onions in a restaurant dish in February, you can bet your Birkenstocks that they’re from Mexico or California. But most of us like constancy. We are accustomed to a steady supply of staples like tomatoes, peppers, and bananas regardless of geography or season. Are we willing to endure/embrace a winter of nothing but root vegetables and hardy kale?

We are also accustomed to cheapness. Many people, including all of our customers (thank you!), are willing to pay more for food that costs more to produce for any of a variety reasons: because it is locally sourced from a small supplier, because it is organic or GMO-free, because the people who grew/harvested/processed/served it are paid a decent wage, etc. But there is a limit to what even the most conscientious people are willing and able to pay. I have reached that limit myself, over a very small bag of potatoes for $10. Our customers might well reach that limit if we started using all local, non-GMO flour and had to pass on the cost of a 300% price increase in our main ingredient. (We currently use unbleached organic flour from a distributor in Halifax.)

Again, we’re doing the best we can. I just planted a huge bed of salad greens that will find their way onto Noodle Guy plates in a couple of weeks. Green onions will follow a few weeks later, and then basil and parsley, and finally garlic and tomatoes and peppers. It’s going to be a good summer.

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dinner and wine!

2570923990_6195785da9_b.jpgIt’s been a long time coming, but we are finally staying open later for dinners three nights a week: Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, with the last seating at 7pm.

Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays you can still get an early dinner because we’re open till 6. And at 6pm on Wednesday, we stop serving pasta and start “sip & dip” until 8: a platter of dips (e.g. tzatziki, hummus, baba ghanoush, spinach-artichoke) with free refills and a glass of wine for $15.

Yes, “glass of wine”! We are now licensed. We have a careful selection of reasonably priced wines by the bottle or the glass, three kinds of Propellor on tap, and some bottled beer as well. Our licence is an “eating establishment” licence and not a “lounge” licence, which means we must serve food along with any alcoholic beverages.

Finally, we have two more spring concerts and then no more until the fall. This Sunday, April 10, Donald MacLennan from the Modern Grass will be launching his new album “Belleville”. Dinner is at 6, the show is at 8, and tickets ($40) are available at the shop. Then on Mother’s Day weekend, Ariana Nasr returns to The Noodle Guy with her brilliant Edith Piaf show. Saturday dinner/show times are 6 and 8; Sunday 5 and 7.

Saturday afternoon music jams run all year round from 2-5!

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five years!

IMG_0417.jpgFive years ago Friday, Ross opened the pasta shop just a few doors north of its current location. Friends helped plaster and paint (thank you John, Zelda, Geoffrey, Trevor, Vernon, Carol, Eva, Mervyn, Saara, Heather, Alex!), Ross did all the plumbing and wiring and obviously the cooking and a zillion other things, and I did the signage and paperwork. We sold 25 dollars’ worth of pasta on that first day and were pleased as can be.

Now we’re in bigger digs with 30 seats, 7 wonderful employees, a loyal, regular customer base, and a new liquor licence! More on that anon.

 

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tiramisu

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This is not a picture of the tiramisu I make. I had this in northwestern Italy several years ago. I was on a trip with my mother, and we had tiramisu for lunch EVERY single day! This one in the picture certainly isn’t pretty, but it was by far the best of the trip—and they were all very good.

I learned how to make tiramisu from Marco Foladore, the best chef I ever worked with. We were both at a restaurant in London, Ontario called Bon Appétit in the 90s, and on slow days he’d sometimes show me how to make things. A couple of pasta dishes and this tiramisu:

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Over the years, my tastes have changed a bit and I like my tiramisu a little bit airier, so I double the beaten egg white. And I usually swap out a little bit of the sweetened espresso for some dry Marsala. But Marco’s original recipe is still terrific. It’s important to use fresh espresso (a lot of recipes call for espresso powder), top-quality cocoa powder, and the freshest barnyard chicken eggs you can find. The price of mascarpone makes this an expensive dessert, but it’s worth it.

 

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happy 2016

2016 was already off to a good start, but being named best restaurant in Nova Scotia (outside of Halifax) by the Chronicle Herald made it all the better! We are delighted, and a bit dumbfounded because it was so unexpected.

I don’t want to be all Academy-Award-acceptance-speech here, but we absolutely must acknowledge the amazing people who work at the Noodle Guy. Ross wasn’t even in the building the day that the restaurant critic stopped in, so that alone is testament to what a great job they do! We’ll save the naming of names for future blog posts, but they know who they are. We are also so appreciative of our customers, many of whom have become truly good friends.

I have just discovered that people have been posting customer reviews on Google and Facebook as well as on sites like Yelp and Trip Advisor. I thank our sweet potatoes that 99% of it is enthusiastically positive! I feel like we should be gratefully responding to the 99% and constructively addressing the other 1%, but Ross is really busy making noodles, and I have an awesome full-time job that has nothing to do with pasta, so we can’t even begin to keep up with all of that. We love to talk to people in person, and we try to answer e-mail and messages promptly, and that’s the best we can do.

For 2016, we are planning a few events and we are FINALLY going to apply for a liquor licence! I have been amassing the paperwork for some months now and we are nearly there. Cheers to the new year.

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