Archive for the ‘Artisan’ Category

SQUIRL is a new take on traditional preserve and jam making.

Based in Los Angeles, SQUIRL only works with farmers who farm organically. The fruit is then preserved simply with a minimal amount of organic cane sugar, naturally occurring pectin and crafted in small-batch copper jam pans handspun by nearby coppersmith, David Burns, of Rough and Ready.

Preserves are a mix of the traditional, such as preserved Meyer Lemons and Moro Blood Orange Jelly, as well as more unusual ideas, including Mulberry & Thai Basil jelly, and Mandarinquat (a hybrid cross of Mandarin and Kumquat) spiced marmalade.

Long Beach-born jam-maker Jessica Koslow spent time working in pastry at the James Beard award-winning restaurant Bacchanalia in Atlanta, Georgia. When she returned to California, Jessica was attracted to the diversity of local produce – beautiful and honest snapshots of the state’s vigorous growing seasons.

Her preserves are made without shortcuts. In order to maintain the brightness of the fruit a batch can take up to three days to produce due to the stove-top pectin making process: SQIRL’s pectin is derived from seasonal fruits, which are soaked then cooked low and slow to pull as much pectin from the fruit and rinds as possible.

The results are meticulously crafted preserves that not only portray the wealth and diversity of California’s crops and its generous seasons, but also remind us of the value in the antique process of preservation. Sqirl — it’s the jam


Read Full Post »

A traditional crop of the Mediterranean, I’m quite surprised that in my purchases of Olive oil, I have never thought to buy a bottle of Greek olive oil, tending to pick Italian, Spanish or even Australian before even considering Greek. In part, this is hardly surprising: Italy and Spain actually produce over 60% of the world’s olive oil.

But if the statistics are to be believed (and this from someone who wasn’t particularly great at A level Maths with stats), Greece actually has the largest per capita olive oil consumption in the world: which would tend to suggest one thing.  They’re keeping the good stuff for themselves.

Of course, with the global financial meltdown, and the Greek economy needing a shot in the arm, the good stuff finally seems to be making its way out on to the global market – complete with style and flair.

Products from Esti



Originally established by two brothers in 1912, in Kalamata, Esti has grown to become one of the largest producers in Greece.  They grow a unique variety of olive called Koroneiki, named after the historic town of Koroni, in the Messinia region of the Peloponnese.

Koroneiki olive treese produce fruit that ripens between November and December and produces an excellent quality olive oil with exceptionally low acidity, a deep and bright green colour, with a fruity, bittersweet taste and smooth feeling of various fruits with a predominant apple taste.  Today, not only does the company produce oil, they have also branched out into olives and vinegars.


Oils from Candias


Based on the island of Crete, Candiasoil produces Extra Virgin, Organic and PDO olive oils.  The Extra Virgin and Organic oils use the native Koroneiki olive, while the the 3 PDO oils are from 3 distinct areas, namely Peza, Sitia and Viannos.  Each bottle is beautifully presented.


In a clear, sleek, glass flask simply engraved with a modern Greek letter logo and hand-sealed by a special silicone cork, exists one of the most expensive olive oils available today.  At 150 Euros for 1,000 ml, Lambda is branded as the first luxury, ultra-premium extra virgin olive oil in the world.

Lambda’s olives are pressed within eight hours of picking and processed through careful cold extraction. Then workers fill and label each flask by hand, without any machinery, to limit the harmful oxidation process which can affect taste and quality.

Lambda olive oil

Read Full Post »

I love weekends.  Aside from getting all those pesky chores done, they are a time when you can kick back and enjoy a leisurely breakfast.

An often prepared dish at ours is pancakes with the ubiquitous maple syrup.

Maple syrup is a syrup usually made from the xylem sap of sugar maple, red maple or black maple trees, although syrup can also be made from other maple species such as the Bigleaf Maple.  In cold climate areas, these trees store starch in their stems and roots before the winter; the starch is then converted to sugar and rises in the sap in the spring. Maple trees can be tapped and the exuded sap collected and concentrated by heating to evaporate the water.  Traditionally, the sap starts to run in March, but with this years harsh winter, things have slowed down somewhat.

It turns out that most of the world’s maple syrup is from Canada. But I don’t think they have yet to export the amazing creations from Ninutik.

Coco - hand painted maple chocolates

Elegant, modern, distinctive – these are the words that describe the spirit of Ninutik design. Their intent is to present maple syrup – a Canadian cultural icon – through the lens of design, art and sugarmaking. Ninutik products are designed by Dianne Croteau and Richard Brault, the founding partners of Studio Innova.

For several years Dianne, Richard and their young son Andre made small quantities of syrup from majestic sugar maples on protected land along the Niagara Escarpment. What started as a personal harvest soon evolved into a design exploration featuring maple syrup and sugar as the medium.

BOUQUET 6 is a bouquet of sweet maple sugar lollies

Their design process begins with an idea followed by a simple sketch for discussion. When moulds are needed, a drawing is prepared and sent to a master mouldmaker. Samples are created in their studio kitchen, and tested and tasted for flavour and texture. Packaging is made to exacting specifications to ensure that every gift is presented with quality and elegance.

Cube 57

Cube 57 is inspired by Canada’s First Nations who kept their maple sugar in hard cakes. NINUTIK revisits this early tradition by offering a hefty handcrafted cube of pure maple sugar. As delicious as it is stately, each Cube 57 is unique in colour and texture with marbled veins, small bubbles or white flecks.  The delicate flavour of maple sugar enhances sweet and savoury dishes alike. Cube 57 can be grated like a fresh parmigiano reggiano cheese. It comes presented in a solid maple finger-joint box with hand-rubbed beeswax finish, made in Canada. 

Bubble 80

BUBBLE 80 is an exceptional limited-edition gift that marries the mastery of glass artist Brad Sherwood with the purity of maple syrup. Ninutik commissioned Sherwood to create these precious bubbles by hand, and in small quantities. Each is blown from borosilicate glass, a special high-temperature glass commonly used for scientific purposes. Presented in a solid maple finger-joint cube with hand rubbed beeswax finish.

Read Full Post »

Boiling coconut palm sap to produce sugar

My first full day in Thailand has been action packed: in the morning, we visited the local village of Samut Songkram to see how coconut sugar is produced, and then journeyed to Klong Klone, a small fishing village in the heart of a community mangrove conservation programme.

Monkey in the mangrove

The mangroves support a huge abundance of wildlife from monkeys and birds, to an array of fish which use their roots as a nursery for their young.

We toured the mangroves and were then taken out to sea where we were provided with a fascinating insight into the lives of the local fishermen, who not only farm oysters and clams, but catch a variety of sea life, particularly shrimp, which are used to make one of the best Kapi (shrimp paste) in the country.

Netting shrimp at sea

Made from tiny transparent shrimp, they are netted, then brought to shore, unloaded, rinsed, laid out to drain before salting (approximately 1 cup sea salt to two pounds of shrimp), then filled into earthenware jars overnight.

The next morning, they are spread out on plastic sheets on the ground next to the fishermen’s home to dry in the hot sun. Late in the day, they are gathered and re-stored in the jars for the night, to be laid out again the next day when the sun burns hot.

This goes on for three or more days, until the shrimp disintegrates and turns from pink to a dark purplish brown. When the shrimp are no longer recognizable and completely turned into dense paste, the kabi is ready for use. If properly dried, the paste can keep for several months without refrigeration.

Fresh shrimp being laid out to dry

Klong Klone’s kapi is particularly prized for its aroma and flavour, and although I declined to try some (our local fisherman guide took great joy in breaking off a piece and popping it into his mouth like fudge), I know it’s an essential for Thai specialities such as Nam Prik and of course curry pastes.

I wasn’t told how much they sold the finished product for, but tellingly, where fishermen used to be able to fill their boats full of shrimp in one day, the gentleman we met and photographed had only managed to catch half a kilo, despite having been out at sea for five hours.

Read Full Post »