Wednesday, April 29, 2009

09/04/29: Experiments with Food Photography

My meal at Pan on Tuesday March 31 . . . sitting by the window on a sunny afternoon . . . with the most flavour-filled Cobb salad I've ever had.

Friday, April 24, 2009

09/04/24: Shallot Scans

Shallots bought at the Food Basics in St. Catharines,
April 11, 2009.

09/04/24: Golden Beet Scans

Golden Beets bought at the St. Catharines market,
same day as sprouts (below)

Friday, April 17, 2009

09/04/17: Sprout Scans

Crunchy Mixed Sprouts from the St. Catharines Market.
Bought April 11, 2009.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

09/04/11: Sidenotes

Finally breaking down, I bought a new scanner yesterday. I will therefore be scanning and posting new pictures in the next few days - no excuses this time!

I went to the St. Catharines market early this afternoon and bought a few more interesting food items that should appear even more interesting when scanned and zoomed . . . I'm looking forward to it!

09/04/09: Interview with a cheesemaker.

The Millbank building was originally owned by Parmalat, but was sold to a group of Mennonite families (for $475000) when the company went under in ____. The group put another $400000 into it and the leased it out, first to another group of Mennonite families (Mornington Dairy, sold 95% of their goat milk to Liberte, but recently lost the contract) and then also to Montforte Dairy, in 2004.

All of Montforte’s milk starts at the farm, goes to Guelph to a milk grader for testing, and then is transported by truck to the Dairy in Millbank. They drive into the giant garage-style doors into a fully enclosed concrete dock where they are hooked up the hoses that pump the milk through pipes to the pasteurizer (HTST – High Temperature, Short Time – 15 seconds at 163C). The receiving bays for the trucks have to be carefully designed to prevent exposing the milk to contaminants from outdoors. They cost about $150000 to install – a lot of money for a small, artisanal cheese company – so, in Montforte’s new building in Stratford, they have adopted a new way of receiving and pumping out the milk trucks: the trucks back up to the building and are carefully sealed off before pumping. This keeps the contaminants from even entering the building, saves them from having to pay for the giant doors, and takes up much less interior space otherwise used to house the trucks.

The milk is processed and kept at 22C until ready to go into storage. French cheeses typically need to go into a drying room. The milk is stored at 0C, while the cut/packed/fresh cheeses are stored at 4C. There is a lot of wasted product when the cheese has to be cut into specific weights to be packed and sold at stores. The ends, though they could easily be grated and sold as a prepared product, are usually throw away. Other cheeses are aged at a carefully monitored 10C with 90% humidity, with a complete change of air in the room three times per day to ensure that the ammonia in the environment does not sit at the ground.

Ruth Klahsen grew up in a Russian Mennonite family with a doctor for a father. At eh age of 19, she was shunned and after leaving home, promptly got herself pregnant. Her son is now 30 years old. She had another child a couple of years later and moved to Woodstock, Ontario, but still hadn’t decided what she wanted to do for a career. There was very little work in the early 1980s and unemployment in that town was at 50%. She joined WINTO (___) and got work in London. Having no money for a car, she hitchhiked to and from work every day.

She decided that she wanted to become a cook, inspired by her Oma’s skills in the kitchen) and enrolled in the Stratford Chef school in 1983, its inaugural year. She trained and worked as a top chef in Stratford for the next 20 years, and was employed as the chef at the Stratford Festival for much of that time.

In 2003, Ruth decided she needed a change from cooking. She joined forces with a man by the name of Sebastien Montforte, who had 27 years experience in the cheese industry. They had worked together for less than a year when Sebastien, voicing his frustrations and spewing derogatory names at Ruth, left the business. Shortly thereafter, it was discovered that all of the cheese they had made that first year had been contaminated by raw milk, and they lost $160000 worth of product – much of the $250000 Ruth had raised to start up the company.

Thankfully, fortunes have changed considerably since that first year: sales have doubled every year. Last year Montforte sold a million dollars worth of cheese with a 15% profit share. Their reputation has spread mostly by word of mouth, and sales are expected to continue to grow – hence the new building in Stratford. Montforte’s business model will see their sales capped at $5 million to ensure that they stick to their roots as a quality-based, small-scale operation.

They will continue to expand, however, the types of products they craft, now using four kinds of milk (cow, sheep, goat, and water buffalo) and soon selling a selection of charcuterie.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

09/04/07: Link to UW thesis layout regulations

09/04/07: Montforte - Interview!

This morning I ventured out to the former location of Montforte Dairy in Millbank, Ontario. They will be moving into a new facility by the end of this year, and so are not presently making cheese at the Millbank building. Though I couldn't take any pictures of the cheese-making process, I did have the opportunity to speak with the owner /head cheesemaker, Ruth Klahsen. Her enthusiasm and deep-rooted passion for her art, as well as her future-focussed, genuine concern for the farming community shone brightly even in the dank, semi-dismantled factory. She is a true gem of a woman and I feel priviledged to have had the opportunity to talk with her.

09/04/05: Prepping for Montforte Interview

as quoted from their website:


In a world gone mad for innovation and change, it’s the small pleasures that keep us sane. And in the constellation of small pleasures that salve the mind and nourish the body, what trumps the sheer sensual deliciousness of a well-crafted cheese?

At Monforte, we’re convinced the small things do indeed make a difference, that agriculture is best practiced on a human scale, and that our cheeses, each in its own quiet way, reflect something a little deeper than the technology behind mass manufactured food – a little of the poetry and passion of life itself.

We believe quality is as much our creative capital as the astonishingly good milk our shepherds bring us. Our sheperds are our chief collaborators in building a sustainable sheep dairy industry and in assuring the welfare of the sheep whose milk we use.

We think our band of artisanal cheese lovers – chefs and sommeliers and retailers and enthusiasts alike – believe in sustainability and impeccable quality too. It’s a shared passion, in short. What could be better?

We launched our dairy in the spring of 2004, growing [pardon the pun] organically, slowly, with a steady eye on deepening our knowledge of the art and craft of cheesemaking even as we reached more and more taste buds.

It’s been challenging, painful, beautiful, exhilarating and a kind of wonder we’ve made it this far.

But we have, indeed. Thank you.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

09/04/01: Ode To Squash

Squash, my dear foul-weather friend
Thick-skinned and hearty, biting breezes are kept at bay
Protected, the flesh is sweet - is tender, like a sleeping babe at peace with the world.
At peace and creating peace - amidst the turmoil of changing seasons
Pureed it coats the mouth of the menace
The silk mask tempering ferocity.
Roasted its intensity combats even the most bitter bitter greens
Arousing tenacity in trial by fire.
My comfort in the cold, you warm my heart with memories of meals spent with family.
A staple for centuries, a delight in my lifetime, you satisfy my hungry body
Asking nothing in return but to be appreciated and seen as somehow special in the eyes of it’s eater.