Today I visited Kitchener for a food show. It was not for the public, but rather for customers of a particular restaurant food supplier. No, I haven’t decided to open up a restaurant, but rather I attended with a friend who does own a restaurant (Well Fed in Gravenhurst). I haven’t been to Kitchener-Waterloo for a very long time. In fact, I think the last time may have been a bus trip to Oktoberfest when I was at McMaster University for my MBA. We rented a school bus – god those are terribly uncomfortable, why do we treat our nation’s children like this? – but I am not sure why we had to drive from Hamilton to K/W to drink beer as plenty was consumed on the bus. In fact, so much that we had to make an emergency pit stop on the side of the road for some gentlemen to relieve themselves. Needless to say, they did not get the privacy they likely desired as we all hung out the windows heckling them while cars whizzed by on the other side. (no pun intended).
I may have visited a supplier there once too, but I cannot remember which one or why I was there. Isn’t it interesting how you think you’ll never forget all of this stuff, and you totally do?
The food show was interesting for me. It’s fascinating to see how much of the products are pre-done for restaurants. You can buy pretty much anything you wish – already made for you. Usually it arrives frozen, you just defrost and sell. Which really takes the romance out of it for me. I like to think about the chefs and cooks across our land cooking and baking everything from scratch, with love in each stroke and cut. All of this pre-done thing was disappointing for me, but definitely understandable.
It isn’t feasible – do you pay a chef for 4 hours to prep the veggies for dinner service or do you buy them already done? Do you make vegetable broth by boiling your leftover veggies for hours or simply buy it from someone who has already made the effort and even condensed it into a bowl? Bake your own cheesecake or simply buy one of the many pre-made desserts? With the narrow margins in restaurants, most simply cannot command the price that all the absolutely from scratch would cost.
Best thing I tasted today is the Red Velvet Cake from a rep that had a mullet and bit of a belly. It was VIVID red with cream cheese icing. I haven’t had any sweets for a while and this for the first taste of cake in 3 weeks. It was delicious. So sugary, so sweet, so sticky. I would have eaten 16 sample pieces if social grace had not prevailed. I asked if they got the bright red colour from beets or red food colouring. He seemed taken aback and almost sheepishly said “Red colouring”. That’s a shame, don’t you think? I mean Red Velvet Cake is not supposed to be vivid red – it is supposed to be brown with a deep red tinge to it. The red (anthocyans) was naturally occurring when vinegar (acid) mixed with unprocessed cocoa. Once the Dutch ruined it with their new cocoa processing techniques, the new more alkaline cocoa didn’t react red like it used to. So let the dying begin!
This particular sample was white cake dyed dark red. And it reminded me when I worked at Dairy Queen 20 years ago. The supplier had to control the amount of red gel icing we purchased to decorate ice cream cakes because red dye was a possible carcinogen. That is what I was told, who knows if that was the truth? But it takes the love out of all of those valentine heart-y cakes doesn’t it?
April 10th, 2012 Extra-Ordinary: The best red velvet cake ever made. Followed by 10+ other samples at the show. Sometimes you just have to be first – not the best.
PS Well Fed does not purchase anything already pre-made but makes everything from mostly scratch. Yes, they buy some things pre-prepped, but that is just good business sense!