I've been buying my produce at the St. Lawrence Market for the past 40+ years. I often speak with my guy, Murray about his daily visits to the food terminal where he buys his product. I've threatened to join him but the thought of rising at 3 am for this deflates my enthusiasm.
The misery continues at the Ontario Food Terminal
Chef Loseto reports that things are tough at the Terminal. It’s dark when he gets there, bitterly cold with shortages of all produce. The only thing which sustained him was a trip to Kelowna which as the 2014 Gold Medal Plate Canadian winner resulted in a victory lap where he cooked dinner for 150 people at Big White, to much applause. At the Terminal he found that everything seems to be almost 3 times the price; however, when shopping in Kelowna, he found that prices were twice as expensive as in Toronto. How is that possible?
High prices at the Terminal usually go hand in hand with crop failures and higher energy prices. Judging by the scarcity of products, (he said that he had to fight for everything), it would seem that the higher prices have resulted from crop failures in California. Lower energy prices are offset by our low dollar. Californian lettuces and other green vegetables appear to have taken a hard hit by frost. Shortages have also put pressure on Mexican produce, which also has risen in price.
The good news is that Canadian root vegetables are abundant and of good value. Ontario sunchokes and leeks are nice. Remember though to use them soon after you buy them or they will deteriorate quickly at this time of year because your refrigerator is not cold enough to preserve them. Hot house Ontario vegetables are scarce except cucumbers. There are no field peppers and hothouse Ontario tomatoes are hit and miss at best.
So what was good? The Chef liked the look of Mexican asparagus although he did not buy it because he dislikes serving food not corresponding to our seasons. He also saw really nice looking Mexican tomatoes and notes that Mexican produce continues to get better all the time. Blood oranges from Italy have just arrived. Earlier in the month the Chef did buy Moro blood oranges by Cecelia from California. These are tarter than the sweet Sunkist Californian variety but not as good as the Sicilian ones. The Chef also liked Israeli persimmons a lot. He recommends Portuguese pears, California clementines, Italian kiwis and Spanish peppers. He thinks the cold storage apples are excellent but again, similar to Ontario sunchokes and leeks you’re required to consume them soon after purchase.
Finally, the Chef has discovered some fantastic Ontario hydroponic lettuce which is tinged red. This lettuce is so beautiful it could be used as a floral centrepiece for dining. We have yet to find out who its producer is but we are actively looking. We will report back on our progress.
We are using lamb saddles and bison tenderloin which had not been available so far this year. The Toronto market for squabs has sold out with the demand for Chinese New Year.
New wild bass from the US tops the list of new fish available, along with Nova Scotia caviar which the Chef likes.
On GEORGE’s Valentines menu was dark chocolate banana mascarpone mousse. It appears that the media is pushing chocolate desserts strongly this month. Our head server scoffs and says her grandmother in Jamaica makes her own chocolate (and coffee) from beans she harvests on her own bushes located on her property there.