I will throw down the gauntlet and state that there are many prepared foods in Waterloo Region that could rival any dish anywhere and anytime.
While there are many more examples I could give, here are just a handful of world-class dishes, whether prepared by restaurants or food manufacturers. Some are well known; others fly under the radar.
A great way to start the day is with a fresh, warm bagel with cream cheese – even regular cream cheese. No offense, New York, but the Montreal bagel wins head-to-head hands down.
Montreal-style bagels can have a sweet, honeyed touch that balances out perfectly with their wood-fired cooking. Woodfire Bagels and City Café in Kitchener (the latter open, by the way, this Labor Day Monday) have delicious flavor and can rival Montreal’s famous St-Viateur Bagel.
According to City Café founder John Bergen, the recipe is simple, but the result is delicious.
“It’s low in salt, sugar and rye flour to lock in moisture,” Bergen said. “There are no eggs because it can dry them out. They have a 24-hour fermentation, then they are boiled and cooked in a wood-fired oven.”
For another pastry, Kitchener-based Bosanski Burek has been making Eastern European phyllo pastries in Kitchener since the early 2000s. A popular morning, lunch and evening snack, burek (or borek ) is probably originally a Turkish creation.
The Bosanski burek comes from the husband and wife team and their Bosnian-Serb heritage. The rolled-up phyllo flatbread is available plain, with potatoes or meat, or with spinach and cheese. They can be found at Eurocan Foods, Italo Foods, Glogowski Euro Food and Ammar’s Market.
The region is endowed with many Middle Eastern restaurants with Lebanese, Turkish and Syrian culinary preparations.
Pulling out a hummus or baba ghanouj as an appetizer from the Ammar or Arabesque market is very satisfying – the latter being a markedly different baba ghanouj than you’ll see in the grocery store versions.
Smoked salmon pâté with pita chips
Heading to Canada’s east coast, T&J Seafoods Smoked Salmon Pate is a popular spread, but one that can go unnoticed.
Created by T&J founder Brian Jardine 15 years ago, the recipe starts with Atlantic salmon smoked for 17 hours before being seasoned, mixed and packaged, according to the T&J owner, Jeff Tailby.
(These aren’t dips, but if you’re adventurous, try T&J’s “Digby Chicks” Smoked Herring – great saltiness and smoke to go with a crisp beer.)
To pick up these dips and pates, grab some crispy and flavorful pita chips from Arabesque, or toss Culinary Spheres with a bag of corn tortillas from Taco Farm.
Tortilla chips are made in a three-day process that begins with a paste of masa, water, and salt, then tossing tortillas into the restaurant’s large machine. The tortillas are aged for a day to remove moisture (a critical step) before being cut, fried, salted and bagged.
These chips are available at many local stores, including Central Fresh Market and Kitchen Kuttings, and in over 100 cities across Canada. Thanks to the collaboration with the local company Faire, the chips are also available in the United States. This puts them in a class of their own.
A delicious recent discovery for me was Crema La Vaquita – a thick, rich sour cream made by Local Dairy in Ingersoll, a company that started in Kitchener in the 1960s.
With milk deliveries three times a week, the dairy adds a healthy bacterial culture to the pasteurized cream and lets time and the microbes do their thing.
Twelve hours later, salt is added and a rich, unique Latin-style cream is packed. Even the cheese maker is amazed by the transformation.
“I’ve been doing this for 30 years, and it still fascinates me when we pour four grams of culture into 500 liters of cream and it thickens,” says Local Dairy’s Sajeev Singh.
For sweets, the fine chocolate from Aura-La Pastries & Provisions and the ice cream from Four All Ice Cream are top notch in every way.
We’re moving into fall this month, historically a time of year when people would save meat – including what we call “cotton bagged summer sausage”.
Before refrigeration, in many countries around the world, in cooler fall and winter weather, animals were processed and every cut – including ground meat known as “summer sausage” – was preserved and hung to harden so it can be eaten later. this spring and summer.
Kitchen Kuttings of Elmira uses an old German recipe for its summer sausage (made by AF Weber of Wallenstein), says co-owner Lydia Weber.
“The beef or beef and pork combined is mixed with spices, pressed, bagged and smoked for about a week,” Weber said. “He then hangs another two weeks to heal.”
As the fermentation process develops a pungent flavor in the sausage, it also inhibits the growth of bad bacteria. (By the way, every batch of Kitchen Kuttings summer sausages is health department tested.)
But what’s really remarkable about summer sausage is that it doesn’t need to be refrigerated as long as it’s kept in a dry, plastic place.
“If you want, you can store it in the fridge wrapped in brown paper,” Lydia Weber said.
Here in Waterloo Region, we have world-class summer sausages with global history in the bag, as well as many other premium foods.