My column, Eating Niagara, appears every second Wednesday in The St. Catharines Standard, Welland Tribune and Niagara Falls Review. This one is about four Niagara foods to try this spring.
I knew winter’s end was on its way to Niagara as soon as I heard the sap had started running.
Maple syrup season means I can start counting down to asparagus season (and after that it’s strawberry season) and all the goodness that comes with spring.
Some people live by whatever day it is on the calendar. My year gets broken down into food seasons, and I can tell you, I’m over root vegetables’ and squash’s time.
I’m ready for some fresh flavours. So in that spirit, I bring your four foods that are worth treating yourself to as the weather warms.
Hibachi Café's Spicy Cold Sesame Noodles.
Hibachi Café’s Spicy Cold Sesame Noodles
Noodles of any sort are pure comfort for me. Toss them with some emulsified peanut butter, sesame paste and fiery chilli oil, and I am on my way to my happy place. Hibachi Café’s cold sesame noodles are my express ticket to get there.
The noodles at this north St. Catharines strip mall gem are hand-cut, chewy strands cloaked in luxurious dressing that’s fragrant, and punchy with the addition of vinegar. Julienned cucumbers and scallions cut the richness while peanuts add crunch.
At less than $10, this dish has everything from vivid flavour and varied texture to slurpy goodness. Better still, a big bowl for dinner leaves enough for lunch the next day.
Think of it as a carb-filled salad that checks all the boxes for satisfying spring eating.
Strangeways Sweets' Chocolate Easter Egg.
Look at a juniper bush and you might think ‘gin.’ Beamsville-based chef Kyle Paton thinks salted caramel chocolates flavoured with the essence of the evergreen. And I’m grateful he does.
Paton thinks outside the Pot of Gold box with his chocolates and confections made with foraged and local flavours under his Strangeways Sweets label. He also finds inspiration from his favourite TV show, “Twin Peaks,” or his toddler son’s favourite foods, turning out surprising results.
Paton sells his chocolates in limited runs online. My advice: bookmark Strangeways Sweets (strangewayssweets.com) in your browser and sign up for the newsletter so you can quickly click your way to a box of the latest flavours, including his Easter eggs, when they become available. You can also follow Paton on Instagram (@strangewayssweets) to get your fill of eye candy.
Small Batch Co.'s Electric Avenue Juice.
Small Batch Co.’s Electric Avenue
I learned my lesson about drinking blue beverages on a late-night convenience store run when I was in university. Despite all that expensive education, I thought a blue slurpee was a good idea.
It wasn’t. Its effects were … startling. Kind of like eating beets, forgetting you did, then experiencing the panic that inevitably sets in about 12 to 24 hours later.
That doesn’t happen with Small Batch Co.’s new Electric Avenue, a lemonade dressed up with a swirl of blue spirulina. You can get your blue beverage fix and forget about it. I didn’t, however, because I really loved this juice and want to drink it every day.
Spirulina is algae that was made famous when NASA used it as a dietary supplement for its astronauts on space missions. Medical and nutrition journals chalk it up as a superfood with a long list of benefits, including being an anti-inflammatory that can relieve allergy symptoms.
The grey skies that bring those April showers and the pollen of May flowers have nothing on this stuff, available at Small Batch Co.’s downtown St. Catharines store.
Everything Nice's Canadian Pea Soup Mix.
Everything Nice’s Canadian Pea Soup Mix
I know there are still cold days ahead even though I’m set on shedding my parka and clodhopper winter boots. The antidote to those is this soup mix, especially if the mercury is an underachiever on a day you don’t feel like doing much in the kitchen. Just add water, simmer for 45 minutes, and this soup is done like dinner.
You can grab Everything Nice’s Canadian Pea soup mix and others at Welland Farmers Market on Saturday mornings. They also appear at craft shows throughout the region and at Creek Shore Farms’ seasonal farm store in St. Catharines, which opens again in April.
Everything Nice is a Port Colborne outfit that makes vegetarian and vegan soup mixes low in sodium and gluten-free.
This substantial version of a French-Canadian staple came my way in a care package, and the mix of split yellow and green peas, and red lentils was a definite pick-me-up. One package serves two adults who go back for seconds, or four without leftovers.
You can easily soup it up with a few shots of liquid smoke, or cubed smoked tofu, if you prefer.