Buying Local: Why We Should

Lately I have been thinking about the idea of buying local, not necessarily just in foods, but for as much as I possibly can.  I remember when I was young and going on vacation with my family, and every time I noticed an item that had a “Made in Canada” tag or sticker, I would marvel at the thought of how I was so far away from home yet this object is right before me, also from Canada. I couldn’t help but have a sense of pride too, I guess it’s a bit like meeting other Canadians or Québécois in a place you’d least expect to, having what you might call an instant connection.

Now on an even narrower scale, buying locally, meaning anywhere near Montreal or the Province of Québec, I have to admit that I’m in a jubilant sort of awe, when I bite into a local apple or a pear; it’s got this crisp, sweet and juicy taste. I feel impressed that one of our own local farmers made a tomato that didn’t taste like water; instead a firm, mouth-watering slice that screams, YES, make no mistake, that’s a tomato from Québec!

The benefits of buying local are:

  • Getting tastier, and fresher produce or meat
  • Supporting people in your local communities with jobs (and we’re talking a lot more than the farmer’s job)
  • Local companies that these people work for are more likely to help local charities or organizations
  • An effortless way to help protect the environment because when you buy local, you cut down the transportation as we all know it’s a lot further to get that cauliflower from the USA than from your backyard
  • the knowledge of different types of produce your surroundings is able to produce

I took a quick look at different grocery stores recently just to get an understanding of prices.  Produce isn’t that cheap at all in the different chain grocers, $3.99 Cauliflowers, $4.99/lb of red peppers for example. I think at prices like that, why not get something local that will taste great as well? Also another reminder is this: some people are under the impression that buying locally means it will be quite costly or even more so than buying exports, the truth is that it’s definitely not the case, otherwise how do you explain Jean-Talon Market, or any of the large markets? What L’Autre Choix Mini Marché carries isn’t different from the markets either. The produce is very much local!

Anyhow, if for anything else, I know that I enjoy having a community, and when you know you can support your community (by buying locally) and your community can support you (by donating to local organizations), it’s a win-win situation for all of us.

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Comfort Foods for the Cold Weather!

It’s that time of year again where the weather is getting colder, and I think a lot more people are more than willing to just relax at home.  I have recently ventured into the world of Twitter and decided to ask, what kind of comfort foods do people enjoy?

So far I got 2 recipe replies from a self-professed “picky eater” from San Francisco, for a Veggie Chili, and a Tuscan Chickpea soup! (YUM) So I thought I would share the following two recipes with you as well:

http://pickyeaterblog.wordpress.com/2010/11/30/the-best-vegetarian-chili-ever/

http://pickyeaterblog.wordpress.com/2009/07/20/tuscan-chickpea-soup/

If anyone else has anything to add, please feel free to let me know!

Happy Freezing Sunday Afternoon!

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The Call of the Mighty Kale

I still remember the first time I touched Kale, it felt like really, really, firm, frizzy cabbage and for some reason, I imagined myself picking up all sorts of random decorations and eating them; super NOT interested.

My second encounter with Kale was quite different; I was feeling peckish and asked my friend if she had a snack to tie me down till dinner. She tossed me a cellophane bag of unidentifiable dark green and orange-ish chips. Kale Chips with simulated cheddar (made from cashews apparently). I looked at my friend like she was crazy but she urged me to give it a try. So I tried one, and then another, and soon enough I had polished off half the bag. They were amazing, beyond amazing, I asked my friend why she never shared these with me before, as she rolled her eyes at me.

I rushed out to my nearest grocery store, and picked up a bag, and then put it back down. It seems that Kale Chips came with a hefty price tag ($8-9). So I did a bit of research and found out that Kale Chips can be simple to make. Here’s a link to a recipe that I’ve followed more or less:

http://www.natalieskillercuisine.com/2010/03/crispy-kale-chips.html

The best way to keep Kale fresh, is in the fridge, it’s also one of those veggies that is grown year round (you can get it locally grown at L’Autre Choix).  Kale is a really nutritious dark leafy green veg (source of beta carotene, vitamin A and C), and if you have a family that might oppose to it, mince it, and toss it in pasta sauces, salads, soups, or tacos – they won’t notice, I promise you. Kale can also be prepared boiled, fried, roasted, and grilled. I personally liked them best with a sprinkle of salt, a splash of balsamic vinegar and really slightly wilted. I urge you to get out and grab some Kale!

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Keeping You In The Local Loop

So a couple years of running around, learning the ropes, bringing in the best produce and products that our loyal following has requested; makes it easy to neglect tools (Twitter, Blog, Facebook Page) that can help you learn more about us and better serve you.

So here in 2011, I hope to blog more, welcome new customers and cherish existing customers, introduce rarely-seen products, be more community involved and get people to know the more human side of Clara Kwan.

I hope to be accessible enough so that you can enjoy all the great products that I am whole-heartedly delighted to share with you. If you haven’t had the chance to come by and check out this mini marché, please do so, as we might have the ingredients that you’ve always been looking for!

We are located at 330A Ave. Victoria,Westmount, QC, H3Z 2M8 closest metro: Vendome

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Sunchoke: Oft-talked about, Not-seen-much

As an avid prime-time cooking show viewer (Hell’s Kitchen, Top Chef, Iron Chef, etc.), over the past year, I keep hearing about the affable Sunchoke (aka Jerusalem Artichoke).  The most common phrase being, “I’ve prepared (insert such and such meat) with a Sunchoke puree.”  Maybe you’re all thinking, um why didn’t you just google it, but quite seriously, I want to know why I have never seen this in a grocery store in my life existence.

So let’s do a quick run down of Sunchoke info:

AKA: Jerusalem Artichoke, Sunroot, Earth Apple, Topinambur (in french)
Part of the Root Family: like potatoes, yams etc.
Tastes like: sweet and a bit nutty, in it’s raw state like the water chestnut
Shelf Life: Will keep a couple weeks in a plastic bag in the fridge,
Texture: Potato like; crunchy when raw
Ways to Cook: Mashed, Roasted, Baked, Fried, Raw

Fun Facts:

The Sunchoke has no relation to the artichoke rather is related to the Sunflower!
It’s one of those root vegetables that contain iron, so maybe you don’t have to be 100% dependent on spinach alone.
It can be a great addition to the Cole Slaw (Raw of course)
In Germany, Sunchokes are fermented to make a liquor called Topinambur

Final fun fact: oh yeah, we carry them in our store!

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Love for Food

Have you ever had something so delicious that you sigh, and think to yourself; “wow, how amazing was that?” I feel that lately I have been doing exactly that quite often. The other day at my grandmother’s my mom made Vietnamese rolls with shred pork loin*, rice paper, soy sprout and vermicelli*.  With a to die for fish sauce as dip. And I am telling you it was amazing! So simple, but delicious. Additionally, she made dumplings, painstaking, labour intensive dumplings! Sigh! I wish I was having that again! I don’t know when she will be making it again.

*by the way, the ingredients comes from my store!

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L’Autre Choix Mini Marche 330A Ave. Victoria Westmount, Qc 514-369-1888

L’Autre Choix Mini Marché – Montreal’s fresh take on the grocery store experience!

Where you will find essentials, organic foods, as well as local products and rare goods. At L’Autre Choix Mini Marché, we support small businesses, our community, and a healthier future for all.

Looking forward to tantalizing your palate!

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