Monday, July 9, 2012

TEST DRIVE by Julia Aitken

Out of Africa
At the Canadian Gift & Tableware Association’s trade show last February, it seemed every cookware manufacturer was shilling a tagine. Is this the culinary face of last year’s Arab Spring? Taste wise, it’s a revolution I’m happy to subscribe to, and eastern Ontario’s condiment company Perth Pepper and Pestle obviously agrees. Its new Moroccan Tagine Spice blend is a balanced combo of cumin, coriander, paprika, cinnamon and turmeric. My only peeve is the packaging—a flimsy plastic tube which is fiddly to open and too narrow to accommodate a measuring spoon.

The spice blend also makes an appearance in chutney-like Moroccan Tagine Everything Sauce, which the company touts as both a condiment and an ingredient. Slathered on grilled chicken thighs, it added sweet spiciness and nice hit of heat. Next on my “to do” list are chicken wings tossed in the spice blend, then roasted and served with the sauce as a dip. (Spice blend: $2.99/35 g; Beach Fish House, Queen St. East, Toronto. Sauce: $7.99/250 mL; McEwan, Karl Fraser Rd., Toronto. Or, visit for retailers.)

Just a Bite
While many desserts are things of beauty, they tend not to be handbag-friendly. I can’t say that not being able to pack a key lime pie in my purse has wrecked my life but that hasn’t stopped me from embracing Dessert Bites, whose resealable bags render them eminently totable. Made by Mississauga-based Allan Candy, (, the spherical soft chews, in their lovely retro packaging, are available in four remarkably authentic classic dessert flavours: Key Lime Pie, Strawberry Shortcake, Chocolate-Raspberry Cheesecake and—my fave—Apple Pie. And, no, you can’t eat just one! ($3.99/200 g; Walmart and Sobeys.)

Local Brew
After products from Perth and Mississauga, let’s complete this locavore hat trick with a new artisanal beer from Cameron’s Brewing Company of Oakville. In early May, the family-run brewery’s Rye Pale Ale (RPA) won the Gold and People’s Choice Awards at the Ontario Brewing Awards. Blending American and British interpretations of India Pale Ale, Cameron’s RPA is made using seven different hops, five malts, and a generous dose of rye.

In the glass, the ale is slightly cloudy with a lovely fluffy head. A lemony aroma is followed by spiciness on the palate and a slightly bitter, hoppy finish that makes the beer incredibly refreshing on a sizzling hot day. And, while it may smack of sacrilege to any self-respecting beer drinker, the ale’s citrus notes make it a great candidate for a shandy, teamed 50/50 with 7UP. ($14.07/6 x 341 mL; visit for your nearest Beer Store.)

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