The Savvy Shopper – 1000 Tastes of Canada

Back in November I attended an event hosted by Loblaw/President’s Choice to promote the launch of their Holiday Insider’s Report and the associated products. Shortly after that I wrote a post about the whole premise of the Insider’s Report, how it was modelled after a similar publication by a US company called Trader Joe’s, and how, as in the case of the original publication, most of the stories were not true.

In my blog post, I pointed out that the Insider’s Report contained many stories about how President’s Choice food developers travelled the world in search of new food items, but how they didn’t really need to, because most of their new products could already be found in the shops and restaurants of the many neighbourhoods of Toronto. I also noted that if President’s Choice was really sourcing their recipes from some Toronto (or Canadian) restaurant, bakery or chocolatier, wouldn’t it be a better marketing tool (not to mention a generally nice thing to do) to give props to the real inspirations behind those dishes instead of pretending they came from some little town in Italy or Mexico.

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Culinary Mis-Adventures

Giving props where props are due, I’ve got a lot of respect for Loblaws and their President’s Choice line for opening up new gastronomic horizons for the good people of our country and our neighbours to the south. Without the folks from PC offering us everything from peanut sauce to cheesecake, mango dressing to balsamic vinegar, we’d likely still be a society in which meat and two veg was the order of the day. President’s Choice has allowed Canadians to expand their palates and learn about the food of other cultures without shrinking their wallets.

I buy a lot of PC products, and have been known to get ornery as a bear when various items that I like but which sell poorly are discontinued – hello! Wasabi rice chips!!

However, the one thing President’s Choice really doesn’t do well – at least to my taste – is their prepared foods. Their chana masala is bland. Their fish pie lacking in fish, their pad thai is a glommy clomp of noodles that tastes of ketchup.

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Manic Organic – Part 1

A few months back I read something in one of the newspaper food columns about how relatively easy it was to get organic produce at local supermarkets. The article specifically mentioned the No Frills in Dufferin Mall, and it left me scratching my head. See, I shop at that No Frills and I can’t really recall seeing a whole lot of organic produce there.

This provoked the desire to start exploring. Maybe there were hidden gems in my local shops that I wasn’t even aware of. So over the past few weeks, I’ve been wandering the supermarkets of the west end of downtown to see exactly what there was out there in terms of organics.

You’ll notice that I stuck to supermarkets and chain grocery stores, as this is where most people shop. My own grocery shopping excursions take me regularly to St. Lawrence and Kensington Markets, Whole Foods and Pusateri’s, as well as a variety of farmer’s markets, shops in ethnic neighbourhoods and small health food stores, in addition to frequenting the stores listed below.

In my travels for this article, I looked for specific items such as milk and soy milk, eggs, produce and prepared foods.

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C is For Cookie – The Nitty Gritty

I spent Saturday in a conference room full of farmers and nutritionists. I scored a media pass to the Canadian Organic Growers conference, and besides the free organic lunch, everyone went home with a bag of organic swag. Most of the stuff was from President’s Choice Organics and included cereal, chocolate and tea. Some of the bags included pasta, while mine had a box of Nature’s Path organic chocolate chip cookie mix. We use other Nature’s Path products such as some of their cereals, and even the frozen waffles, so I was vaguely interested in the cookie mix.

As a die-hard home baker, I can’t remember the last time I bought a pre-made mix of anything [1]. My folks sometimes send me one of those “beer bread” mixes in a clay pot things at Christmas, but I think I still lived with my folks the last time I used a mix for anything. Certainly, they got used frequently when I was growing up, and I can recall my Grandmother using mixes for various things quite frequently, but then, it was the style of the time (her being a 50s housewife, after all), she had a brood of kids and grandkids to feed, and she hated cooking.

I was going to set the box aside for a food bank donation, but my curiosity got the better of me. Maybe they had figured out some way to make box mixes better these days. Maybe thirty years on, they were better tasting than stuff made from scratch.

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