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Ingredient Profile: Black Garlic

Black garlic bulbs at Whole Foods Market

It’s no secret that there are trends in foods – and one ingredient we’re starting to see on menus more and more frequently is black garlic.

What is black garlic, exactly?

Black garlic is simply fermented white garlic – no other fancy gimmicks or ingredients (and no panic necessary for soy-averse gluten free diets).

It’s possible to make your own by keeping whole heads of garlic in a warm humid environment for 3 to 5 weeks, though this does come with it the environmental downside of leaving your oven on 140C /280F the whole time.

(Plus, “fermenting” and “look it up on the internet” aren’t necessarily good food safety companions.)

With any trendy food comes the inevitable claims of Super Amazing Health Benefits (now with more Omega-3s!), so take from it what you will that it’s meant to have double the amount of antioxidants of non-fermented garlic, and claims it’s a new superfood.

But let’s get down to the good stuff – how does it taste and what do you do with it?

Black garlic cloves take on the texture of roasted garlic (albeit a touch more firm)

First off, you can eat it raw if you’re so inclined. The flavour is incredibly mild and a touch sweet, almost like a firm textured roasted garlic but leaning towards a balsamic vinegar or tamarind tanginess.

General guidance is to cook with it as you would use normal garlic – but beware, the inky colour does transfer so if you didn’t want grey ricotta or eggs you may wish to hold off.

I tried it in two recipes:

– Sliced and mixed with maple, orange zest and pomegranate molasses served over roasted duck breast. The flavour didn’t really stand out and I couldn’t quite figure out what the hype is about (though it does look like the poor man’s truffle).

– Sautéed with shallots in an asparagus risotto. You can see I wasn’t kidding about the colour transfer thing – besides the garlic, the only ingredients are shallots, leeks, asparagus, arborio rice, white wine and clear vegetable stock.

Asparagus risotto with black garlic and leek.

Now I get the hype – and it’s spot on! The flavour of black garlic was very rich and pronounced and I will say it added so much to the dish I didn’t need nearly the level of salt and parmesan I usually sneak into risotto.

(Plus, it had the added benefit of covering up the slightly charred leeks that I meant to caramelize gently.)

Quality & Storage

It’s not the most common product to find so you may not be able to pick and choose when it comes to quality. If you’re going to make it yourself, it’s crucial to start with the highest quality garlic because the fermentation process intensifies flavours.

I was advised to keep it in a paper bag if I would use it within a month, or in the fridge to keep for longer than that.

So, how to find this magic ingredient?

In Vancouver you can find it at both South China Seas Trading Co and Whole Foods Market (Cambie). Rumor has it that it’s available at San Francisco’s Berkeley Bowl as well.

Where have you found black garlic? 

Any tips or discoveries in cooking with it?

McDonald’s Revealing Burger Ad Secrets

Yesterday, McDonald’s Canada treated their audience to an inside look at why the burgers in McDonald’s ads look so much more appetizing than the ones you get when you actually purchase one for yourself. See the video below:

The Secret To Beautiful Burgers

The secret to the beautiful burgers in McDonald’s advertisements won’t surprise you. It amounts to a few diligent hours of preparation by food stylists topped off with a Photoshop touch-up session; much as you’d expect for a human model about to find him/herself on the cover of a fashion magazine.

No big surprises there, but some of you are probably surprised (or skeptical) that the ingredients they use are the same as the ones used in the store.

Nevertheless, there are a few interesting takeaways.

Authentic Stories Resonate With Consumers

The days of food brands marketing their products based solely on claims like “Tastes Better” and “Less Fat” are now over. When McDonald’s overtly makes moves to establish consumer trust by effectively showing their boxer shorts on the internet, you can be assured they know it’s worth the risk of blowback. They believe that so earnestly, they’re addressing an un-authentic marketing tactic in an authentic way. We all know that addressing your weaknesses is an effective way to build trust.

Takeaway: Do you know that your customers have questions you haven’t answered? It’s time to step up to the plate with answers.

Social Engagement Is Paramount

McDonald’s Canada is using social media and a question-answer engagement website to connect with their customers. They’re fielding question from their audience on a daily basis, and you can imagine that consumers have a lot of questions for McDonald’s. Often when a controversial food brand open up a forum like that, they face the most challenging questions first.

They’re taking this to the next level by answering questions using video, and putting the people behind their brand front and center. They’re humanizing the corporation, which is one of the very best ways for companies to use social media.

Takeaway: If McDonald’s is willing to tell their story on social media, how long can you get away with staying quiet?

Authenticity Is Becoming More Authentic

Vancouver Farmers Markets 2012 Summer @vanmarkets via @miss604

Local blogger Miss604’s got a great roundup of this season’s Vancouver farmers markets. Don’t forget to grab our iPhone app to promote the local producers and show the community what’s fresh near them!

via @miss604:

Trout Lake Farmers Market (foodtree profile)

Location: North Parking Lot of John Hendry Park at Trout Lake
Dates: Saturdays, May 12, 2012 to October 20, 2012
Hours: 9:00am to 2:00pm each week

Kitsilano Farmers Market (foodtree profile)

Location: Parking Lot of Kitsilano Community Centre (2690 Larch at 10th)
Dates: Sundays, May 20, 2012 to October 21, 2012
Hours: 10:00am to 2:00pm each week

West End Farmers Market (foodtree profile)

Location: 1100 Block of Comox across from Nelson Park at Mole Hill
Dates: Saturdays, June 2, 2012 to October 20, 2012
Hours: 9:00am to 2:00pm each week

Main Street Market (foodtree profile)

Location: Main Street Station at Thornton Park (across from the train station)
Dates: Wednesdays, June 6, 2012 to October 3, 2012
Hours: 3:00pm to 7:00pm each week

Kerrisdale Village Farmers Market (foodtree profile)

Location: East Boulevard between 37th and 41st (near Kerrisdale Arena)
Dates: Saturdays, July 7, 2012 to October 6, 2012
Hours: 10:00am to 2:00pm each week

See you all at the markets!

Trivia: Trout Lake Farmers Market is the very first business record ever on Foodtree!

Finding new beer startup Churchkey Can Co’s beer @churchkeycanco

Late last week we caught a blog post on tech publication Techcrunch about Church Key Can Co, a young company in Portland, Oregon that’s turning heads by producing beer that requires churchkeys to open. From the article:

The cans are the old-timey variety that you probably haven’t seen since the 60s. They’re made of fully-recyclable steel, and require a churchkey opener to get into. You puncture one corner of the top, then make a deeper puncture on the other side to drink out of. Ever noticed a triangle-shaped piece of metal on the other end of some bottle openers? It’s for these types of cans.

The company is backed by a set of people in the technology world, so it caught our attention as a foodtech startup. We investigated a bit further and wondered where we might find and try this beer, because the churchkey thing is cool, but what does the beer actually taste like, right?

The company’s website lists the places, but it really isn’t all that helpful. There’s no map and no information for these places, like even a phone number to call and check if they’re carrying Churchkey.

So we took their retail list and crunched the data.

Click here to see their Where to Buy map, which gives you a good feel for where you can find Churchkey. Our mobile app now has this information in it as well for people on the go. And if you do find Churchkey somewhere you can verify these places by sharing a photo of the beer cans on Foodtree.

Have you had their beer yet? How was it?

The Changing Face of Farming: Urban CSA #realfood

CSAs move into towns and cities…

Community supported agriculture is a great way to take a step closer to the food you are eating, allowing you to know exactly where your food is coming from, who’s growing it and how it’s being grown. CSAs have been around for a while, but in recent years local farms have taken a step closer to your table at home: they are filling in the spaces in our towns and cities.

Urban farmers like Emi Do are ring fencing agricultural areas as cities grow around them, as well as finding unconventional spots to produce food on a small local scale.

“By bringing farming to the city, we are in essence bringing food production closer to the people it feeds. I love that I get to engage in dialogue with my neighbors and that my profession is one that nourishes them.”

Urban farms are wide spread enough now that you can almost guarantee that every city will have one or two, and you might be surprised at the growing power these small corners of land have, we’re not talking the occasional lettuce here. When I stopped by Yummy Yards in Vancouver Emi explained to me that this season she is growing: kale, swiss chard, collards, spinach, salad greens, arugula, cabbages, carrots, beets, turnips, radishes, onion, kohlrabi, leeks, scallions, garlic, squash, pumpkin, zucchini, beans, peas, eggplant, peppers, cherry tomatoes, cilantro, parsley, basil, and more!

It’s great for the community!

While urban farms can and do supply restaurants and markets, the real power of these projects is that they can provide the communities around them with food via Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).

If you are in Vancouver you can find out more about Yummy Yards’ CSA here, or Yummy Yards’ Foodtree page here. Aternatively investigate your local CSA scene to find something similar near you!

Food Advocate: Kia Robertson, creator of Today I Ate A Rainbow @eatingarainbow #foodadvocates

Our mission at Foodtree is to connect people with great food. With this in mind we’re highlighting individuals and organizations we think do a fantastic job of contributing, promoting, building, and transforming the food system. We call them Food Advocates. Would you like to participate? Fill out our interview here and we’ll follow up!

Today we chat with Kia Robertson, author and creator of Today I Ate A Rainbow, which turns healthy eating into a game for parents to encourage their children to establish great eating habits!

Tell us about yourself:

I am a mom to an amazing 8yr old daughter, the wife of a fantastic husband who is also my business partner in our 3 companies and I’m a recovering picky eater!!!

I created an interactive game called Today I Ate A Rainbow for my daughter and it was so successful that I decided to turn it into a product that could help other families set healthy eating habits!

Tell us about your project/business:

We are so proud of our product Today I Ate A Rainbow, it’s a game that gets kids ASKING to eat a rainbow of colorful fruits and veggies every day! Using a rainbow as a guide, this product makes it easy to understand that kids need to be eating at least 5 different colored fruits and vegetables everyday…they need to Eat A Rainbow! Each color group is packed with a unique set of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients so growing bodies benefit the most from eating from each group.

The Rainbow Kit is an easy to understand concept for children aged 3 and up. It comes with 4 sets of tracking magnets, a laminated fridge chart, a color coded shopping list and a book called The Rainbow Bunch.

Our website is full of tips on how to get kids eating a rainbow, suggestions for picky eating, recipe ideas, insightful blog posts, our kids cooking video series called In The Rainbow Kitchen and our free downloads such as coloring sheets, certificates and our new and free Today I Tried chart that is a visual tool that it can take at least 10 exposures to a new food before it’s accepted!

Hearing from happy parents and educators is always the best part of this job…I know what it’s like to be a picky eater and I also know what it’s like to be a parent who just wants the best for their child so it means a lot to me that our product is making a difference and helping family live healthier lives!

Has your relationship with food evolved over time? How?

Well this is going to sound rather ironic considering the company I started… but I was an extremely picky eater for most of my life…I rarely ate any vegetables and only ate a few fruits! My mom says I’d go so far as to pick the grated carrots out of carrot cake.

Becoming a mother changed all that in a hurry! I wanted to ensure that she grew up with healthy eating habits and I wanted to be a good role model for her. So I started reading everything I could get my hands on that talked about healthy eating! It has been a long and sometimes uncomfortable journey for me.

Today I eat mainly fruits and vegetables, I juice daily and we make at least 90% of our meals from scratch! I have never felt healthier, happier or stronger than I do now!

What is your earliest memory about food?

My earliest food memory would probably be when I was two years old having a picnic with my mom in our backyard on a warm sunny day eating strawberries and feeling the juice drip down my face :)

What’s most important to you when it comes to buying food – local, organic, fair trade, GMO-free, etc?

All of the above :) If I had to choose I would say that supporting local farmers is the most important to me followed closely by organics and then GMO-free foods. It is all so important and makes a difference so we do our best to buy wisely!

What is the one thing you’d like to see change about the food system?

I would like to see small organic farms getting government subsidies and support from their local communities. I think it’s time we focus on our food choices and how what we choose impacts the earth, our health and our economy. Every family makes a difference when it comes to voting with our forks!

What is special about food where you live? What’s one thing you would change?

We live in an area that is full of vineyards, orchards and farms…we can walk 5 blocks to a local farm and get our eggs, organic honey and veggies. Just down the road from them is a wonderful berry farm. I especially love picking a crispy juice apple off the tree at my parents orchard!

One thing I would change…I’d love to see more organic farms in the area!

What are your favorite ingredients to use when preparing a meal?

My favorite ingredients to use would have to be garlic, olive oil, onions and lemons! One or all of those ingredients are in most of our meals!

What are your favorite foods?

My favorite foods: well I recently discovered the joys of juicing so I’m really enjoying all kinds of vegetables and fruits that way! Other than juicing I love my husband’s fresh homemade bread, pretty much all fruits and I love pasta!

Other than food, what are you particularly excited about right now?

I am really excited about a new movie out called Hungry For Change, a new book called French Kids Eat Everything from Karen Le Billon (read her Food Advocate interview), and the fact that Spring is finally here and we can start planning out our garden! Oh and I am really enthralled with Pinterest :)

Tell us about a food-related project that has inspired you:

I find Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution very inspiring! We watched his tv show as a family, I like to take part in their twitter parties and I am really excited about his upcoming Food Revolution Day on May 19th!

Where can people find you both online and offline?

I’m sharing our rainbow eating message on our

Twitter: @eatingarainbow


Thanks for taking part in our Food Advocate series! 

Cheese? Yes Please!

Seattle Hosts Celebration of Washington Cheesemakers Saturday

Will you be in the Seattle area this weekend?

(Or do you need an excuse to be there?)

The first – and we hope annual! – Washington Artisan Cheesemakers Festival is being held at the Seattle Design Center on Saturday afternoon. Featuring 20 Washington cheesemakers, the event gives enthusiasts the opportunity to meet the artisans and learn more about what makes their cheeses unique.

And – *ahem* – taste one or two along the way.

Foodtree is delighted to help the festival by providing technical support – including providing QR Codes for the tasting booths to help the new fans find where to buy their favourites!

Here’s just a small sample of what’s on offer:

Mt Townsend Creamery

Mt Townsend Creamery, one of the larger Washington producers, has just recently opened up a tasting space in Pike Market. They are perhaps best known for the soft-ripened Seastack, which uses vegetable ash ahead of ripening.  It’s a popular offering and graces the cheese plates of many a fine restaurant around Washington and beyond.

Mt Townsend's Seastack is dusted in vegetable ash prior to ripening.

Golden Glen Creamery

Golden Glen Creamery, out of Bow, WA, sources milk from their own herd of Holstein, Guernsey and Jersey cows to make their range of artisan cheese. In addition to their farm store, you can find the cheese at Alder Wood BistroMadison Park Conservatory and many small grocers and food coops around Washington.

River Cheddar double cream cheddar from Golden Glen Creamery

Kurtwood Farms

Dinah’s Cheese from Kurtwood Farms has received consistent accolades over its lifetime. Kurt Timmermeister, a chef turned cheese maker, has recently released the book “Growing a Farmer” about his transition to living off the land that contributes to Dinah’s Cheese. His food philosophy? Eat “the very best foods in the very best ways.”

River Valley Cheese

River Valley cow and goat milk cheeses can be found across in specialty grocers, PCC and Whole Foods in Washington. One of their most popular is the Naughty Nellie raw milk tomme – a cheese that has been bathed in local Pike Brewery’s ale of the same name. Not only is their raw milk artisan cheeses winning several awards, they also offer cheesemaking classes to try your hand at it at home.

Raw milk artisan cheese from River Valley

And what is a cheese tasting without something to help wash it down? Local breweries, wineries and cideries will be on hand to advise in pairings, and artisans are providing bread, crackers, jams and sweets to accompany the cheeses.

If you’re heading to the Washington Artisan Cheese Festival – Why not grab our free iPhone app and snap a picture to keep track of your favourites? And look out for me – I’ll be there the afternoon, snapping pictures and learning a thing or two myself!

Event Details:

Washington Artisan Cheese Festival

Saturday 7th April 2012, 12pm-6pm.

Seattle Design Center

5701 6th Avenue South

Seattle, WA 98108

21+ only. Buy advance tickets here ($35) – limited tickets will be available at the door $40. Price of admission includes cheese tastings and 3 drinks for beer, cider or wine.