Tag Archives: food resources

Formal Table-Setting 101

red leafFor many, Thanksgiving is an occasion for pulling out all the stops – a Long Weekend holiday full of family,  fall, and feasts.  Nieces and nephews play in their fancy outfits and party shoes, the hallways breathe a rush of crisp air with the arrival of every guest, colourful turkeys and pressed leaves adorn place settings and mantelpieces, and gifts of the autumn harvest take centre stage at Thanksgiving dinner.  The day is a vision of fall elegance – why not honour it with a table to match?  Dress to impress: set the perfect table with our easy-to-follow guide:

Note: the formal table setting is designed for a four-course meal: soup, salad, main, and dessert, with coffee and tea served during or after dessert; however, the arrangement can be easily adapted to suit your Thanksgiving feast.

Table Setting

Beginning at the centre: dinnerware is layered according to courses served.  The soup bowl (1) sits atop the salad plate (2) under which rests the dinner plate (3).  Ideally, there is a distance of 24 inches between the centre of the plate and that of its neighbour.  If you wish to warm the bowls before serving, do so and ladle soup from the stove once guests are seated to avoid collisions during assembly.  Clear dishes away between each course.

For the flatware: the knife/knives and spoons lie to the right of the plate, ordered chronologically by course from the outside in.  Thus, the soup spoon (4) rests farthest from the plate, with the optional spoon for the main (5) and the knife (6) placed in between.  Usually teaspoons are not set out until the coffee and tea service, but may be placed to the right of the knife if so desired.  For real sticklers, the distance between the knife (6) and the plate (3) determines the spacing between all other elements of the place setting.  To the left of the plate, the salad fork (7) and the dinner fork (8) lie in order of courses served, again from the outside inFlatware and dinnerware should be aligned along an imaginary baseline 1 inch from the table’s edge.

falling leavesThe napkin (9) may be neatly folded and placed on the left of the setting, or alternatively tucked elegantly into  the water goblet (13) or artistically balanced across the soup bowl (1).  Above the forks sits the bread plate and bread knife (10); the butter dish will have its own butter knife.  The dessert spoon (11) and cake fork (12) rest in parallel but converse alignment.  Arranged in an arc or a triangle, the water goblet (13) and wine glassesred (14) and white (15) – round out the place setting.  A place card (16) may be displayed at the top.

And voila – a formal table for an elegant occasion.  Whether your soup is a classic French onion or a modern chestnut; if you’re salad’s built from crisp apples and tart dried cranberries on crunchy romaine or grainy goodness with fresh herbs; whether a colossal stuffed turkey or a sweet-brined ham constitutes your piece de resistance – your table will be well prepared to receive.  Have fun and make it your own by adding brightly-coloured leaves, napkin rings, clusters of pine cones, candles, a harvest-themed centerpiece, or anything else that strikes your fancy.  Bring your magnificent feast to a fittingly exquisite table this Thanksgiving and celebrate the art of fine dining.

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Back-to-School Kitchen Essentials

September means back to the daily grind – and return to the routine of cooking as a household.  Putting food on the table (and in the lunchbox) can be quite laborious, but the right equipment can take a remarkable load off.  Here’s our list of kitchen must-haves for the busy (or even the calm) household:

Hardy Toaster

For quick and healthy breakfasts in a household on-the-go, a quality toaster is a must.  With the right toaster treatment, bagels, waffles, toaster pastries, and slices of the family’s favourite bread get a warm and wonderful homestyle finish that makes those early mornings worth the rise.  And who could resist the sweet, wheaty aroma that fills the kitchen mere moments after depressing that trusty lever?  For a household of variety, choose a toaster like the KitchenAid 4-Slice Toaster (we love the red) with adjustable settings on both sides so everyone can toast to their personal preference.

Kitchen Aid Red 4-Slice Toaster
Top Grade Chef’s Knife

The fruit and veggies that breakfasts, lunches, and dinners love are at their greatest nutritional potential when chopped, sliced, or diced fresh – and even in a small household, that can seem like a lot of knife-wielding!  However, the task becomes much easier – even enjoyable – if you’ve got the best tools.  A sharp, solid but lightweight chef’s knife might just become your best friend in the daily grind of carrot and celery sticks, apple slices, vegetable stews, and even meat and poultry preparation, too.  We recommend Farberware Pro Forged Chef’s Knives for reliable edge and clean, easy cuts.

Farberware Knifeset
Solid Cutting Board

… and on what type of surface will you exercise those knives?  Only a good-quality cutting board, we hope!  A busy kitchen often benefits from two or three of these at least, especially when several pairs of hands offer to pitch in.  Wooden boards, like the Wusthof Bamboo Utility Board, tend to last longer than plastic ones, and they even have their own antibacterial properties.

Wusthof Bamboo Utility Board
Amenable Veggie Peeler

Shedding the bitter skins of potatoes, carrots, celery, and other vegetables can be a pain if you don’t have the right tool – especially if you’re preparing large volumes of stew, soup, sauce, etc.  And then there’s the battle of the cylindrical apple peel!  Choose a decent peeler, on the other hand, and those skins will slide off effortlessly in beautiful strips without leaving ragged edges or ruts.  Your hand will love the silicon handle and grips on the OXO Good Grips Vegetable Peeler, and the curved blade will give your veggies the gentlest shave.

OXO Goodgrips Veggie Peeler
Sterling Cooking Pot

One of the best time-saving tricks for cooking in a household is making meals in mass quantities, so leftovers can fill lunchboxes the next day, plates for subsequent dinners, or freezer-safe tupperware for future meals on hand.  For this, a good-quality, solid-bottomed 8-quart (or larger) pot is essential.  Try Henckels TruClad Stainless Steel 8-quart Stock Pot on for size and make mid-week meals a no-brainer.

Henckels TruClad Stainless Steel 8-Quart Stock Pot
Cast Iron / Non-stick Skillet

The best pans are the ones that distribute heat evenly across the surface and enliven the flavours of the food without losing nutrients.  It’s a subtle balance, so investing in a top grade skillet (we like cast iron or non-stick) is well worth the capital.  Enjoy the ease and lightness of a non-stick pan like the Calphalon Contemporary Non-stick Deep Skillet with Lid, or relish the rich flavour that the Lodge Logic Cast Iron Skillet imparts upon a meal as it becomes more and more seasoned over time.

Calphalon Contemporary Nonstic Deep SkilletLodge Logic Cast Iron Skillet

Capacious Colander

A roomy colander like the Top Chef Rubber-Footed Colander speaks for itself – with its sturdy handles and smart-drain design, you’ll never want to wash your bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables any other way, ever again!

Top Chef Rubber Footed Colander

Dexterous Food Processor (or Blender)

Meals come together faster with a powerful food processor and/or blender.  Smoothies are a great healthy breakfast solution, homemade hummus and other dips add tasty boosts to lunches and snacks, and pestos or fresh tomato sauces make dinner a healthy, delicious breeze!  You can even use different types of blades to chop or grate in seconds flat.  Get the best of both worlds with the Cuisinart 48-oz Deluxe SmartPower Duet.

Cuisinart 48-oz Deluxe SmartPower Duet

Quality Spatula

Even the best-made meals fall to pieces in the wrong hands.  Serve up those fried eggs, pancakes, burgers, fish filets, and grilled cheese sandwiches with ease – grab a spatula with a solid, good-length handle and a durable flipper for optimal dexterity and maneuverability.  We like the WMF Profi Plus Stainless Steel Non-stick Spatula.

WMF Profi Plus Stainless Steel Nonstick Spatula

Zippy Coffee Grinder

Get those eyes bright and that tail bushy right off the bat with a cup of good ol’ java, made from freshly ground beans.  Release a wealth of flavour and caffeine goodness (as well as that unmistakably stimulating aroma) with an industrious grinder, a handy tool that can hide away nicely until the moment of its summons.  The Krups GX4100 Coffee and Spice Grinder gets the job done perfectly, whether it’s crushing whole cloves into fine powder or pulsing earthy Sumatran coffee beans to just the right consistency for your favourite coffee maker.  Our household wouldn’t be complete without the classic Italian Stovetop Espresso Maker.

Krups GX4100 CoffeeSpice Grinder italian coffee press

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Urban Beekeeping


Ever considered becoming a friend and farmer of bees?  Now might just be the best time: in addition to growing its participation in the urban farming movement, Vancouver is dabbling in the art of urban beekeeping – an earth-friendly hobby that’s taken off since the City Council gave its official nod of approval in July 2005.  Under the subsequent bylaws, residents can register up to 2 hives per 10 000 square foot lot – or up to 4 on lots exceeding that size – with the BC Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, and reap the many benefits of hosting an apian community right in their backyards.


What benefits might those be, you ask?  An unexpected many, in fact!  To start off with, there’s the abundance of fresh bee products.  A single colony of bees can produce more than 100 pounds of harvestable honey.  That’s pure, unadulterated sweetness in the belly, produced right at your doorstep.  Imported varieties, by contrast, often contain GMO’s, sugar syrups, pesticides, and other additives used during commercial processing.  Nothing beats the taste of homemade, honest-to-goodness honey – like VanDusen’s house-made wildflower honey, which you can taste at the cafe with Afternoon Tea!

bee products beepollen

Other bee products, including beeswax, pollen, bee venom, propolis (tree resin mixed with bee-produced enzymes) and royal jelly (enzyme-enriched food made by young worker bees to feed their queen) can be used in a wide variety of holistic health and healing practices, the science of which is known as apitherapy. 

Bees also offer backyard, community and public gardens incredible pollination power.  In fact, the pollination  service provided by bees is estimated to be 60 to 100 times greater than the market value of honey.  This is due to the rich diversity of plants that such efficient and Printwidespread pollination supports.  Due to an interdependence cultivated over 90 million years of co-evolution, many flowering plants will not bear fruit without pollination by bees.  It’s thanks to the bees that we can enjoy such a wealth of crops and floral blooms – 80% of our favourite fruits, nuts, seeds, and legumes rely on honey bees for pollination.

Interestingly enough, studies have shown that urban areas are much healthier environments for bees than rural ones in many ways.  For instance, the density of city and sub-urban gardens tends to include a much greater concentration and diversity of pollen and nectar sources – a whopping 1000 varieties, in some places, compared to the average 10 in rural areas.  Most cities also enforce strict pesticide limits, which make these sources cleaner and healthier for both the bees and the honey they produce.  Additionally, the average temperatures within urban areas tend to be higher than those of rural regions, which allows bees to stay active (and productive) for longer periods of the year.

 Noah Wilson-Rich explains why every city needs healthy honey bees.

Love the idea but not a so DIY-inclined?  Hire a beekeeper to tend your hives for you!  Experienced beekeepers, like Melissa Cartwright of Backyard Buzz, have begun to offer their expertise to hive-owners throughout the city.  If the Lorax speaks for the trees, then Melissa speaks for the bees.  She’ll commune with the bees and do the hive-keeping heavy lifting, and you’ll get to keep all the honey.  A happy hive helps the city thrive!

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