Thursday, December 13, 2012

Middle Earth Menu

The University of Ottawa campus gets a bit slow after classes wind down, and the upside of this is that we get to experiment a bit.
To celebrate the opening of The Hobbit, we're experimenting with a Middle Earth Menu based on the books! Here is our planned menu for the week of December 17- December 20, 2012!

Middle Earth Menu

Monday: Comfort Food in Hobbiton
Burglar’s Mushroom Soup
Buckland Mushroom, bacon and beer tarts (veggie option available), with Potatoes and Soup
Tarts without the bacon for the vegetarians
Bilbo’s Seed cake

Tuesday: The Road goes Ever On- Middle Earth Fusion
Shire Tacos- Roast Chicken Tacos, with cheddar & pickles, ale sauce
Veggie Mince tacos (french lentils filling, cheddar & pickles, ale sauce)
Sméagol Soup: Salmon and shrimp soup with leeks, tomatoes and potatoes
Buttered Scones and Raspberry Jam

Wednesday: Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire
Troll’s Mutton Sammich- shaved lamb, fresh greens, Smaug sauce, roast taters
Veggie: Misty Mountain/Welsh Rabbit- cheesy toasty sammich, Smaug Sauce with roast taters, salad
Burglar’s Mushroom Soup
Bjorn’s Honey Cakes

Thursday: The Lonely Mountain
Mince pies and cheese, taters, soup (alright, it’s kinda like tortiere, but you know, it’s kinda like Christmas)
Veegie mince pies and cheese, taters, soup or salad
"Onion Ring to Rule Them All" soup (with optional bacons)
Fili’s Apple Barrel Cake

Closed for the End of the World (and the end of exams, and all signs of life on campus)

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Reality Checks.

Well. It's been a while since I hit the blogosphere. I've missed it, but it's been so busy getting the truck up and running, trying to manage the other aspects of the business, taking on additional TV spots, catering, teaching and doing those bits of life like keeping a moderately tidy house and walking my dog that I haven't blogged. I'm behind on a lot of stuff, really, and just trying to keep it all together.

Neat stuff is going on, though!

We're parked on UOttawa Campus, and we're rocking it. We moved to a more central location this last Monday, and our sales shot up, making me glad once again we are in a truck and can just pick up and move if a place isn't working out.
The students are really enjoying our food, and I think the real goodness of it is striking a chord. One thing that has really surprised me is the increasing popularity of our apple cider, which, in reality, is just apple cider with a bit of cinnamon. It's pretty straightforward, but the students are talking about it a lot, and coming up asking for it after hearing about it (don't worry, we're still selling tons of soup).

It hit me yesterday. The fact that it's actual apple cider. It's real. It's just food. It's food. Real food.From apples. From an orchard. Pressed by people. Who live at their orchard. Who bring me the cider. And we heat it up. With cinnamon. Just food.  And it's sort of hard to get real food. Quickly. Affordably. And then it hit me. Holy crap. My mission to connect people with real food is working. And people WANT real food. With substance. With health. With love. With justness and realness and wholeness. And people really want this, this real food. And it's shockingly hard to get real food. As a young woman said over her cell, as she stopped in front of the truck, "woah- it's like fast food, only all healthy, and GOOD." I'm amazed at how unique this is.

We made French Onion Soup this week, and despite the challenges of making Grazing Days Bone Broth in a limited space time continuum, it was worth it. Thanks to Adventures of An Ottawa Foodie for the blog post and the picture!

And yeah, it's funny it took me the cider to recognize this, but it's what we're doing. We have lineups at lunch now, and we are getting BUSY.  I had to cook extra after we closed down this week as we ran out, and ran out again.

I can't do it alone, though, and as usual, I have tons of great help. The lovely Clare has returned to her summer work (sigh) but wonderful Julie is with me still, and we're adding a couple of young folks to our mix. I'm going to start taking an afternoon or two away from the truck so I can manage the paperwork and planning that I have been frightfully neglecting, and plot our next move (a trailer with our solar generating equipment that doubles as storage space for our cool foods in summer, summer menus, the next truck- as if we stay on campus we need a second truck for festivals, classes, the ideas are infinite, the resources, finite). My brother is planning again, so brilliant!

That's the stone soup news. On to the heap of paper. Egads.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Morning Interview!

We did it!

Not without any hitches, mind you, and certainly not without any stresses, but we had a busy opening weekend with friends coming by, some quick recruiting for help, a lot of laughs, a bit of stress, some really fantastic food, great feedback and great help.

The set up day on Thursday was a bit stressful- the gas folk, who were supposed to finish the truck on Tuesday, were still working away at it two days later. We got Sweetpea back into our loving hands at ten (well, Les did as I ran around getting bread and a float). We got on the ice, and my food supplies started arriving as we got the truck set up. That was really cool- Brad from B. Goods walking across the ice with his cookies and Auntie Loo's lovely cupcakes, Chris from Hall's Apple Cider sliding the crates of apple cider across the ice, Mathieu from Roast'd Nuts slid across, Pierre from the Happy Goat brought us his life saving scrumptious caffeine, the lovely and highly talented Clare arrived, bearing beef, ready steady hands and smarts.

We opened at six, and hoped for crowds that didn't really come... But it was a set up night and we did okay! Lots of friends popping by to say hello- it makes a world of wonderful difference!

Friday was fun- a little slow too, since we opened at six and it seems like the lunch crowd is really where we are going to make it. Leela brought a crowd over

Overall, I have to say, it was awesome. The learning curve was pretty steep on Saturday, as speedy and brilliant Julie and I tried to get systems in place while having a line up for most of the afternoon, running out of overpriced water bottles, my brother taking care of the water tanks. All this while chatting with the bylaw officer who arrived about three minutes after we realized we'd buried the fire extinguisher under a pile of water bottles. She noticed it right off. She also noticed that the gas people (that'd be Superior Propane, who, in my books, officially suck) had not given us the certificate we need to be licensed. We need to track them down.

Have I mentioned how much my brother rocks? He does. He really does. 

 So, here are some pics! Others have taken them... I was kinda busy.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Transitions: from fries to soup, from grime to shine

Once upon a time, in the late summer, I bought an ugly old chip truck. It was cheap.
And it had a really cool grill.
Is that reason enough to buy a truck? My brother didn't think so... He looked toward the future, and saw the trouble of the aged vehicled-repairs, unknowns and many dollars. I looked and saw the cute grill, style, and vintage adorableness.

It ran, but barely, and had no brakes. I towed it to the mechanics. He thought it would be a bit to get it running, but doable. I still thought it was a good truck. See how ugly it is? We didn't even take pictures of the inside. It was too gross- they'd used lard. And waterproofed with roofing tar. I got a good deal.
This is where I started to pay for the good deal. And the mechanic's bill was twice what he'd thought, but boy, it was FUN to drive. I got the safety and the plates.

My bro returned to Saskatchewan to work on a contract, and I drove the van to my sisters', where my brother in law and I pried apart the lard welded fryers with crowbars and managed to sell a bunch of the fryer stuff. Small, small return...

Blasted it!  Nasty Paint, gone!
Pretty paint, ON! Ooh, that grill.

And then- my brother returns. We plot. We plan. He gets the flu for three weeks. I start a soup delivery business and get more credit. He chastises me for painting the truck too early, but agrees that really, it's cute. I stress a little. Our discovery of Ottawa stores specializing in obscure fastening items, retro truck parts and electrical items begins to grow. Now, in mid- January, we are experts.
We get into the garage.
It's filled with limos.
Brian, who rents it to us, has a limo company. He drove Gordie Howe around in the summer. We try not to get paint anywhere. We ripped everything out, insulated it, and made the roof work.

I'm small and fit in the truck. My brother is large and does not.

And we rebuild. The strapping and insulation is first so we can put more things on afterward.And we can be warm, even though we're in a garage. It's cold outside and inside.

I bring soup, and eat it there, and then work after doing other stuff all morning. Like making menu boards, talking to licensing people and managing the soupscriptions and banking.

 Shanger and Shawn putting up the wall. Shanger took most of the pictures and was the king of the detail work, like this very well taped dashboard- which is now shiny chrome.

Les and Shawn finishing the edges. Shanger took this through the gas heater vent space.

 Jer arrives and does some awesome safety bear McGyvering of the beautiful awning and shelving.

Shawn working through the plumbing. This was tricky- I mean, mobile industrial kitchen in the winter and all. It's tricky.
Installing the outside fill pipe....

 Les and I figuring out the plumbing details. Very pensive.

Scrubbing out the last bits of dust. Jer finishing the edges of the floor.

 Jer on the electrical... We thought we could keep the old stuff. We couldn't. Nothing. But it'll be simpler now to install the solar when the time comes, which is soon.
 Les taking care of where the hot water tank used to be. King of Bondo.

Bryan and Silvana brought their detailed eyes and steady hands to the taping. 

Frank adds the French...


Les orders soup... 
From me in the finished kitchen with the stove, fridge, and sink. Look at all that room!

 So happy! So grateful! So tired! So grateful!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Good Soup into Great, Good Truck into Great

Woah. It's been, like, a month since I last posted... eek!
The short of it?
  • The soupscription service has grown from 5 customers to 22 in six weeks.
  • The truck has gone from a lard encrusted fry machine to a shiny stainless steel kitchen with custom plumbing and gorgeous details (photos to come in a full on photo post of the construction!)
  • The truck is totally stylin'. It's ubercute. Wait for the reveal... I know you are :-)
  • My brother Les is a genius to have built/organized/styled up the truck.
  • I open soon, but have no actual date. I do think this fact alone may be responsible for the throbby vein in at the base of my skull.
  • Suppliers are all coming together/have come together, including Funny Duck Farms and an organic supplier who has organic Quebec leeks! Yippee!
  • I have great help on board with Clare, who is going to be working with me in the teeny space- and is patient with the opening date fiasco.
So, the truck is really being done with loads of love- my bro Les, his buddy Shanger, contractor Sean and my buddy Jer are, despite my get-'er-done desires, taking care of details I never even knew existed. It's taking time, but it's beautiful.  It's definitely gone from good to great- due to the attention and love (and line of credit).

This week saw two interviews- one with Ontario's Own, where Jodi Lastman and I talked about waste and how to avoid it, and the other with Shawna Wagman at Ottawa Magazine.  It's really interesting how keen people are on this idea. It seems it's time has come... Shawna asked me how to turn good soup into great, and after some thought, here's what I came up with.

You need to start with good stock. It's really key to have a solid base to work from- and preferably one that incorporates the flavours in your soup. For example, a basic vegetable stock (onions, carrots, celery, leeks and herbs in water with salt) can be augmented with lemongrass and some chili for a Thai soup, which increases the depth of flavour. Japanese dashi kombu adds a beautiful depth to vegetable stocks as well- and adds some of the umami flavour that can be missing from many vegetable broths.

Balancing your acid, salt and sweetness is always really key as well. Having wine, some type of vinegar, lime or lemon juice (or a combination!) to deglaze your pan and then to finish the soup with creates a layer of flavour that you just can't get any other way. A smidgen of sweetness complements many soups (but not all!).  I often use balsamic, honey, maple syrup or mirin (which is a Japanese rice based sweet vinegar) when I am finishing the seasoning of my soups. Enough salt is also key.  There's a fine line there- especially with so many people being conscious of their sodium intake.

The third part of a great soup is time- although this isn't true for all soups, it's certainly true for stocks. Time to simmer to allow the flavours to marry, time for everything to get together. Beef stock takes at least twelve hours to cook, then there's the skimming and the actual cooking of the soup- which can take another three or four hours as well.  Lots of time also allows you to put in lots of love- and that is always pretty key for making anything great!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Is SOUPMAKER a profession? I think so.

Well, I just gotta say wow. I mean, I knew that this whole soup business was a pretty good idea, but it's kinda crazy how much it's starting to take off, and how very, very busy I am becoming. This week's updates? The Locavore Artisan Food Fair that I helped organize with Loreli from Siren's Bakery, Micheal and Fumie from michealsdolce, and my buddy Pierre, the Happy Goat, was a huge success despite the freezing rain. We had almost all our vendors get there despite the heavy ice and terrible roads, and we figure about three hundred people came through the fair.
It was my first BIG event, and I have to say, I wasn't really expecting to sell out quite so quickly! A lot of people had read the fantastic article in the Citizen and we're looking forward to trying my soups! As we were still setting up (thanks Jenn!) we were being surrounding by people looking for take home soups- and if I'd had more, I'm sure I could have sold more. It's time for a few more pieces of infrastructure before the next big event so I can transport more soup and fill more bellies. Funny- selling out made me both sad and happy at the same time- I would have like to have had enough to fill the demand, but there's a certain compliment inherent in running out of stock (oh, the puns). It's really great to realize that there's a demand for my product. 
And the soups yesterday were:
  • Organic Brazilian Black Bean Soup
  • Organic Chicken, Mushroom and Leek (which was to die for)
  • And the Indian Carrot Spice Soup. It's always popular.
  • Plus a quinoa cranberry walnut salad.
 People can be SO nice- I had a woman tell me she generally doesn't like anyone's soups but her own, and she liked mine, and others say they were all three delicious. They were gobbled up by children and adults alike. This makes me happy.
And I forgot to get pictures! I'm going to have to do that at some point when I'm at an event. Sigh.

Lots of organization to do this week for the truck and the soupscriptions- but it's a little more settled than last week and so I should be able to do it. Especially if I keep waking up at five in the morning, ready to work. Woohoo! Sleeplessness and productivity go hand in hand...