Yearly Archives: 2016

  • St. Catharines shop shells out fresh tortillas

    My column, Eating Niagara, runs every second Wednesday in the St. Catharines Standard, Niagara Falls Review and Welland Tribune.

    One of Oscar Rivera’s first tasks when he arrived in Canada 10 years ago was to convert his backyard into a corn field.

    The former agricultural engineer from Guatemala City did it in a quest to find the perfect kernel. Each seed he planted promised possibility. Collectively, they represented the new life Rivera was cultivating for himself and his family, including four children, who left their homeland for the safety Canada promised.

    His plan was to grow corn ideal for grinding. He’d sell his harvest to a tortilleria that would turn his season’s work into a taste of home. He search for the right maize lasted two years. All the while his wife, Arminda, lamented the loss of her lawn.

    “My wife almost killed me,” Rivera, 56, said with a smile. “We had grass there but I had to erase it to plant corn.”

    After all his research, the buyer he had lined up for his crop fell through. So Rivera, who was dismayed at the additives he found in corn tortillas available in Canada, decided to make the Central American staple himself.

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  • Peach Tree
  • Noodles draw oodles to Viet-Thai joint

    Kim Pham of Pho Xyclo.

    Strip Mall Gems is a series of Eating Niagara, my column that runs in the St. Catharines Standard, Niagara Falls Review and Welland Tribune. This instalment is about Pho Xyclo in Niagara Falls.

    You could call Kim Pham picky.

    After all, it’s how the Niagara Falls restaurateur will describe herself if asked.

    But then, you can’t build the city’s best Vietnamese eatery, according to crowd-sourced ratings, by being willy-nilly.

    Pham, who owns and operates Pho Xyclo (pronounced Feu Zicklow) with friend David Chau, is nothing short of exacting when it comes to turning out bowls of pho, the noodle soup slurped at street food stalls in Vietnamese villages and now beckoning Niagara locals to the restaurant’s home in a Dunn Street strip mall.

    Ditto for the stir-fried southeast Asian dishes that round out the menu at Pho Xyclo, named after the three-wheeled rickshaws weaving through the clogged streets of Ho Chi Minh City.

    Rather than order her vegetables from a restaurant supply company and risk them not being up to snuff, Pham heads to the grocery store every day to load up on peppers, cucumbers and lettuce.

    “That way I know how fresh it is. If it’s in a shipment, I don’t know how long it has been sitting there,” Pham insists.

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  • Peach Tree
  • Wonton Way: The History of Fort Erie’s Chinese Restaurants

    This story I wrote about the history of Fort Erie’s Chinese restaurants originally appeared in Niagara Life magazine. This story was a year in the making and born out of a curiosity for why three Chinese restaurants existed side by side on the town’s quiet waterfront.

    The mindless scrolling through my Instagram feed came to a standstill when I saw it.

    It was a haphazard array of plates on a table: stir-fried vegetables with chicken, a combo meal with an egg roll and fried rice, and two half-drunk glasses of ice water. Peeking out from underneath the edible mess was a paper placemat, the kind that’s a magnet for the drippings of just such chop suey meals, easily replaced after the gluttony to make way for someone else’s order of sweet and sour and chicken.

    Along the upper edge, May Wah Restaurant and Tavern was written in red Shanghai-style font. In the caption below her photo, diner Melissa Rebholz wrote, “When in Canada.”

    The palatial May Wah is in Fort Erie where the Niagara River begins its unyielding advance toward Niagara Falls. Rebholz hails from a virtual universe away in Tennessee. The farmer and chef whose family lives in western New York, was fuelling up at the local legend – and one of a triumvirate of remaining Chinese restaurants that rule Fort Erie’s riverfront – after a day trip to Niagara Falls during the Christmas holidays.

    “Stopping for Chinese food on the way is a must,” she added in a follow-up comment.  Continue reading

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  • Peach Tree
  • Fall Rolled Up: Apple-Cranberry Fruit Leather

    This post was sponsored by the Ontario Apple Growers (OAG). What does that mean? I was paid to develop this recipe for apple-cranberry fruit leather. OAG set up and accompanied me on a visit to Art Moyer’s apple orchard but the recipe and story I’ve told below are my own, without input or editing by OAG.

    I have a rule that I won’t eat apples until peach season is over.

    It’s not a hard and fast one. I knew I’d waver when my mom arrived at my door in early September with a handful of Ginger Golds. And I knew I wouldn’t regret it.

    Niagara doesn’t grow a lot of apples. We’re small potatoes compared to Georgian Bay, home to the most acres of apple orchards in Ontario. But we’re still mighty. Those Ginger Golds told me so.

    So did a visit to Art Moyer’s Grimsby apple orchard last week, a swath atop the Niagara Escarpment that his family has farmed since 1947. Continue reading

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    Category On the Farm, Recipes

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