A Great Pair

IMG_6048As I walked through the Welland Farmer’s Market this morning I stopped to chat with Sarah from Angels Gate Winery in Beamsville. She was sampling their 2013 Gamay Noir so I took a bit next door to our store to introduce it to the cheeses we are sampling today.IMG_6047 The Gamay Noir greeted our Chevre Noir like a long lost family member!  So I popped back to the market to introduce them more officially. Sarah described the Gamay Noir as bursting with red plum, raspberry and blackberry up front, IMG_6051complimented by subtle undertones of toast, cedar and cherry.  Although some people grab for a safe Reisling during the summer months the fresh fruit notes of the Gamay makes it an excellent hot weather choice…especially paired with an aged goat cheddar like the Chevre Noir.

Come on out to the Welland Farmer’s Market Saturday mornings.IMG_6050 Enjoy a taste of wine at Angels Gate’s wine table, meander through the displays of fruit and veggie vendors, and listen to a bit of music.

Then walk next door to The European Pantry to sample our cheeses and meats.

A trip to the Welland Farrner’s Market isn’t complete without a visit to The European Pantry!

Jensen Cheese – A Welland Market Tradition

Since the 1940’s the Jensen cheese counter has been a familiar fixture at the Welland Farmer’s Market. IMG_4874 I remember pushing our oldest daughter in her stroller down the center aisle of the historic older market building and hoping the line up in front of their counter wouldn’t be too long. When you finally got to the front of the queue you could count on seeing Ed Coulson’s friendly face smiling at you over the counter. In those days, I never imagined that we would join the market vendors to sell wares and later be running a cheese and import shop just a stone’s throw from that very spot. Although we never were located in the venerable historic building, our business had it’s start about 18 years ago at the market.

We were sorry to hear that Ed was retiring and Jensen Cheese would no longer be selling their cheese at the market. It marks the end of a significant era.  We were thrilled, therefore, when Jensen cheese asked if we would be willing to continue to market their cheese in Welland. There have been many meetings, phone calls and emails as the details were worked out by Glen Echo Fine Foods who handle the distribution of Jensen Cheese in the rest of the province. We are happy and proud that we can now announce that the Jensen Cheese market tradition will continue right here next to the Welland Market at The European Pantry.

Our first delivery of Jensen Cheese arrived today. The boxes are emptyIMG_4876 and the cooler is stocked with Jensen’s traditional cheddars.  It was a bit of a challenge fitting it all in with the 75 other types of cheese we have in stock but with a bit of creative rearrangement we did it. When you see the large Jensen banner Saturday flying outside our store you will know you have come to right place.

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We look forward to welcoming Jensen’s faithful customers and hope to make their cheese buying experience as friendly and as pleasant as the Jensen family have since the 1940’s.  We also take this opportunity to wish Ed Coulson all the best as he enjoys sleeping in on Saturday mornings now!! You can read more about Jensen Cheese by clicking here.

Autumnal Inspiration

Fall seems like the time that everyone starts cooking and baking again. Maybe it’s the cool nights that just beg for the oven to be turned on.  Or perhaps walking through all the wonderful produce at your local farmers market, like the Welland Farmers Market next door to our store, makes you want to want to roll up your sleeves and put something up for the cold winter nights. If you are really fortunate like me, you will have a tree laden with ripe fruit that is wishes to be glorified in some special recipe.

I am enjoying an amazing apple harvest this year. Last year with its late spring frost, I got a total of 2 apples on our tree. This year the tree is loaded with apples.  I estimate at least double its usual output of 1 bushel.  We have already been enjoying apple sauce and crumble from the my cullings. Anything that has flaws, has been pecked by a bird or has fallen is ending up in a pot or a tin. We have a wonderful cold storage so the more perfect specimens will keep well into the new year.  Provided that I don’t have any unwelcome little B&B guests. I have already dispatched 4 of them.  Eying my wealth of apples I did a walk around on my day off to find out where these pesky little creatures were getting in. I found some loose mortar and stone around one basement window. I have never outgrown my childhood enjoyment of playing with mud so I spent a pleasant hour repairing those spots with some mortar. The way back into the house is past the apple tree.  I couldn’t help myself…before I knew it I was stuffing apples into the bib and pockets of my overalls….enough for a large strudel and some apple cake.

I must admit I cheated a bit on the strudel by using phyllo pastry we sell in our store. But I was quite proud of my results…albeit a Dutch-Canadian woman’s interpretation of a Hungarian specialty…and posted pictures IMG_4742on the Hungarian food Facebook page I am a member of.  That led to a long discussion about the origin of strudel…it made its way to Austria via Hungary who were bequeathed the mysteries of strudel dough making by invading Ottoman Turks.  I waIMG_4743s also treated to many wonderful hints about making strudel dough so I can go the whole way next time and start totally from scratch. With all those apples I shall sometime soon since I have never been one to walk away from a challenge. The one thing no one offered was a recipe for the dough.  I found one on line…click here if you want to discover the mysteries of homemade dough yourself  …Otherwise you can cheat like I did and buy phyllo.

Strudel isn’t the only fall treat that has been intriguing me.  A few weeks back a customer asked me to get some nice aged provolone because she would be preserving stuffed cherry peppers. Most Provolone you will find in stores is mild, soft andIMG_4745 reminiscent of Mozzarella. I found her a wonderful Provolone Torpido Auricchio aged about a year. It is made by an Italian family in Wisconsin. I think the mild Provolone in the cooler is probably is feeling very mediocre right now…although I told it that it still makes a wonderful pizza or grilled cheese. Of course,my curiosity was tweaked and I had to find out how she was making these stuffed peppers… here is the recipe I found:  Marinated Stuffed Cherry Peppers.

Then if all this wasn’t exciting enough, I had another customer come in to buy Gorgonzola for…wow…Pumpkin Ravioli with Gorgonzola sauce. This recipe uses wonton wrappers to make the ravioli.  I think my customer makes hers totally from scratch but, hey, if we can cheat with ready made phyllo pastry, we can cheat with wonton wrappers. When the smells waft from your kitchen window, your neighbours won’t know any better!

History within these walls.

IMG_1156If you are visiting Welland for the first time, you might note the rich cultural heritage of the city…particularly evident on Saturday mornings at the local farmers’ market at Market Square. IMG_1107IMG_1126A memorial just down from the market beside the canal pays tribute to the people who built the Welland Canal. It is fitting, therefore, that the world is coming to Welland for the 12th World Dragon Boat Racing Championships because the world lives in Welland. Here at the European Pantry we celebrate this rich heritage of cultures. We carry a wide variety of ethnic imports and are always looking to find those products that bring the taste of home into the kitchens of Welland. IMG_3209Apropos then that our store here at 30 Avenue Place is located in a building that also has a strong cultural history. Today we had an enjoyable visit from yet someone else who has a family connection to the building.  It was a pleasure to meet Josephine Davies nee Ort.  Several members of her family lived here about 65 years ago. She told us of her German immigrant family, the Orths who settled as farmers on Forks Road south of Welland. Two Ort(h) sisters, Anna and Louise, married  two local Templain brothers, also of German heritage.  When Louise’s husband died soon after the marriage, she moved into 30 Avenue place.  Her sister Anna settled across the street at 23 Avenue Place. After both Anna’s husband and Louise died, Anna moved into 30 Avenue Place with her daughter Marjorie. Josephine said that Anna and Louise were real city girls despite their farm upbringing. They used their exceptional seamstress skills to keep themselves dressed to the nines.  Louise worked at a fancy store just a block over in downtown Welland….so dressing well was important.

So the walls of our store which once watched the activities of both German and Hungarian families must smile now as the descendants of these immigrant groups SAM_2135come here to find the foods that connect them to their roots.  And our city, built by immigrants of so many cultures, smiles as we welcome the dragon boat racers of the world!

Why Toronto shops in Welland.

Yesterday, a customer came in confessing that he was twenty minutes down the road home to Toronto when he realized he had forgotten to stop by our store before leaving. He turned around. Last weekend we had a group of Torontonians come by. Immigrants from Russia, they were in town to see the historic Welland Canal.  We also have people coming in regularly for family in Toronto because they can’t find products at home. These incidents got me thinking about this shift. I grew up just outside of Toronto. In those days, we often traveled to “the city” to purchase products not available in our moderately large city. Now people travel to outside the city to shop.  Why? Most certainly, internet has changed the environment. Well maintained websites allow businesses in smaller communities to connect with customers on a provincial and even broader level. But I think there are also other factors at work. Welland is representative of many post-industrial towns. As factories closed we were left with more brown fields than green fields. The children of the post-war immigrants who had settled here left for those greener fields that we no longer could offer. Frequently, that meant Toronto and other larger centers. There are those who love the hustle and bustle of city life but there are also those who yearn for the simpler, stronger roots they remember in communities like Welland. People are coming home to visit and even retire.

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But not everyone I meet once lived in Welland. Those of us who have remained here often take for granted the attractions that Welland possesses.  We have a rich resource in the recreational canal.  People come to trace the history of the Welland Canal commemorated in many ways like above. Others come for the water sports hosted here.  This summer we will host racing events for the Dragon Boat races and Pan Am games.  The walking and biking trails on Merrit Island draw many visitors every year. This summer our outdoor waterside amphitheatre will stage musical events again. These visitors shop in Welland. People tell me that Welland has the best farmer’s market in Niagara. People travel to shop there. We benefit from The European Pantry’s location adjacent to that market. Proximity is important, so let’s not forget that Welland is next door to many wineries. There are also huge advantages to shopping in smaller communities like Welland. Yes, there are ethnic delis in Toronto but unless you live in the neighbourhood one has to battle traffic and find parking to shop there.

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High land values necessitate squeezing product into much smaller stores to keep prices competitive. I thought our store was tiny until I visited Toronto stores like the one pictured above.  These stores do a good business but the shopping experience is much different. People who grew up in Europe tell us that stepping into our store is like going home.  We brag that we have Niagara-on-the-Lake atmosphere with Welland prices. In Welland we can create an iconic store atmosphere and offer low prices. And that is the crux of why Toronto shops in Welland.  We offer a break from the city: cultural, historical and recreational opportunities; a relaxed environment where people wave you into the parking spot they were about to take; a milieu where shop keepers have time to talk about food not just sell it to you. We need to stop apologizing for what we no longer are.  We need to catch the vision of what we can become. There in will be the salvation of post-industrial towns like Welland.

Spring comes to Welland!

IMG_3402The snow is still evident here in Welland but spring is peaking through! IMG_3399

Snowdrops & anemones…always the first flowers to brave the world each spring. We have also noticed that the people of Welland are re-emerging from winter hibernation.

Our European Pantry sign is no longer obscured by a pile of snow. Now people shopping next door at the Welland Farmer’s Market can see our sign again!

IMG_3404What are the signs of spring where you are?

Hearty Foods …it’s that time of year!

IMG_1987We are all craving soups, stews and stamppot  (Dutch mashed potato dishes) at this time of year.  Check out these “cool” pictures of our corner of Ontario today. John shoveled our sign out of the snow at 7 am and it’s piling up again

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I walked next door to the Welland Farmers’ Market to see how the vendors were faring.

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The folks from Haist Farms were selling apples and hot cider…love this display!IMG_3231IMG_3232IMG_3233Fresh meaning to “frosted baked goods”!

It was much warmer inside, especially with the Annual Chili Cook-Off happening! IMG_3237IMG_3239 IMG_3254Our panel of judges included Deputy Mayor of Welland, Pat Chiocchio (who was taking no chances at staying warm!), Cindy Forster, local MPP, Malcolm Allen, our voice on Parliament Hill, and Counselor Bonnie Fokkens who represents the Welland Market at city hall. Dan Fortier’s first place finish not withstanding, Mr. Arnold Steve definitely earned bragging rights by snagging both 2nd and 3rd places with his mild and hot chili entries! IMG_3266IMG_3268 Welland Farmers’ Market has a long history.  Many of the vendors have been coming out for years. “The Flowerman” first came to the market 57 years ago to help his father sell vegetables. Now his daughter, like many market families, is continuing the tradition into the next generation.

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So the market is open!  I didn’t have time to check out the rest of the market in the other building…maybe next week.  And if you come to the market, don’t forget to drop by The European Pantry.  We are right next door…where you will find all the fixings for those hearty winter meals!