Pide: A South Pond variation on a Turkish theme

Chef McKenna and I were bantering around menu ideas for our farm house suppers and we lingered on different types of bread and dessert offerings. Focaccia bread, pizza, flat breads, savoury and fruit pies and our favourite variations on this theme. What are the differences between all of these things, where do they originate? I love our pizza’s, just plain with fresh tomatoes and Bella Cassara fresh mozzarella and traditional fruit pies but I was open to suggestion. 

He suggested trying out Pide’s. (pronounced pea-day)  I confess that I did know what a Pide was. I hadn’t even heard of them and didn’t know what they tasted like. I was intrigued about a new experience. Chef McKenna whipped up a batch for a tasting - my favourite time of day. I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect. I did a sneak google search beforehand to at least know what I was going to eat and found the following: 

Pide is a flat bread baked with toppings in a stone oven. Pide and its various varieties are wide spread through Turkey and are established as an important food. The base is a flat-bread of a similar style to pita, chapati, or western pizza crust.”*

Crosswinds Farms chevre, pea shoots, wild leeks and Danielle's chilli harissa.

Crosswinds Farms chevre, pea shoots, wild leeks and Danielle's chilli harissa.

I had originally wanted to make a galette either sweet or savoury, which is more of a pie crust shaped in a circle but with a centre opening revealing the contents. I liked the idea of the pizza crust since it would not contain butter and there were more opportunities to use different grain flours. 

The Pide was honestly delicious. The thin crust light and airy and the balance of flavour from the filling was a perfect ratio. It can be made in the oven, in a stone oven, on the barbecue, pretty well anywhere. It is a great way to profile special or seasonal ingredients and there is really no limit to what you can put inside as fillings. It will be a feature on our menus.

Date accessed: April 28, 2017

2017 by Louis Herman restaurant review

Earth Day

Today is a big day for us at South Pond! It is April 22nd, 2017 - also known as Earth Day!

If you are unfamiliar with Earth Day, or more specifically Earth Day Canada, I strongly urge you to check out their website here. Earth Day challenges people all around the world to reconnect with nature and commit to environmental conservation.

In the name of environmental conservation and eco stewardship, we are excited to share some of our own sustainable initiatives with you! At South Pond, we are working hard to ensure that we are conducting our business with an environmental conscience. We currently participating in a number of environmentally friendly initiatives, but 2017 is a particularly exciting year for us as we further our acquisition of green technology.   

Earth Day at South Pond Farms 

Earth Day at South Pond Farms 

As you can imagine, as a large scale event venue there is inevitably food waste. We do our best to mitigate this waste and have always been advocates for compositing however, until this year- we had no way of composting animal protein and dairy. I am thrilled to report that thanks to our very own sustainability consultant Carlyle Apps, we have purchased the Bokashi meat and dairy composter! This powerful anaerobic device will ensure that no morsel of food waste is left behind and the remenants is used as fertalizer for the garden.

Coupled with our schnazzy new fermentor, our on going commitment to local farmers and local food is another major component of our sustainability initiative. Shopping locally cuts down on carbon dioxide and exhaust emissions that are by-products of transportation. By reducing our ‘food miles’ we are reducing our carbon footprint!

On  top of our regular efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle, this year we are working to instil a sense of appreciation for Mother Nature with a brand new event series; Seasons on the Moraine. Join us at the farm this season to learn about the ecosystems on the Moraine! Each session strives to connect individuals with nature- if you are looking to learn something new; or simply to sample some fire side snacks, make sure you register as spaces are filling up fast!

Seasons on the Moraine at South Pond Farms 

Seasons on the Moraine at South Pond Farms 

Today, over a billion people will be celebrating Earth Day world wide! We would love to hear how you are paying tribute to our fine planet on this great occasion! Feel free to share your stories by emailing connect@southpondfarms.ca.

Happy April 22nd Earthlings!

 

Bread

There are so many great types of bread and new varieties that I've never heard about. A first for me is this bread is called Vegetable Ash Sourdough made by our Chef here at the farm. It looks a bit crazy but it is delicious and does not have a burnt taste as you might suspect. Some claim ash has health properties and has important anti-oxidants for your body, help with digestion. Aside from these benefits, it is a great feature to add to your bread basket. 

Be Our Guest

At South Pond Farms we are a one stop, full service event venue. What exactly does that mean? It means that as a business we prioritize convenience for our guests. It means that when you book an event at South Pond you can rest assured knowing that we don’t just provide a space for your gathering; instead, we take care of all the details for you from decor and set up to fantastic local food, and even activities. Below is a brief summary of the services we provide so whether you are planning your event day in Ontario, or around the globe- you can arrive at South Pond knowing that every detail has been taken care of.

Vendors : Having worked with some of the best in the business, we are happy to refer you to some of our preferred vendors including DJ’s and photographers! Our list of co-collaborators will save you hours of research and the fear of booking someone who doesn’t meet your standards.

Table service: Sourcing tables, chairs, linens, cutlery, glassware, etc can take some major research. Will your desired company deliver? Will they set up for you? Will they tear down and repack? Or will you be saddled with the extra responsibility before and after your big event? If you book at South Pond- we can take care of the setup and tear down for you. We provide harvest tables, chairs and all antique plates, cutlery and glassware that you need to make your day a success so that you can walk in and out without unnecessary stress.

Flowers: We are happy to create unique arrangements with flowers fresh from our farm and local greeneries. Whether you are looking for simple centre pieces or bouquets with a dramatic flare, we have you covered. Between Danielle, and our dynamic garden team, we can create your ideal botanical backdrop.

Decor: Why spend hundreds of dollars on decor pieces when you can rent them for a fraction of the cost! We have built up our decor closet so that you don’t have to. From table runners to candles, from vases to decorative signs, we have a range of products that will complement your event and add to the ambiance you are looking to create.

Staff: It is not always easy to find accredited and professional staffing for your event. At South Pond, you can rest easy knowing that all of our kitchen staff have their food handler certifications, our bar staff are smart serve accredited and our wait staff have been trained in customer service! You don’t have to worry about interviewing and hiring

Bussing: No wheels? No problem! We strive to be accessible for all. We work with a fantastic bussing company so that you and your guests can kick back, relax and not worry about the logistics of getting to and from our rustic retreat.

Workshops: The fun doesn’t have to stop after your meal. We are happy to provide a range of customized workshops for you and your group. Roll up your sleeves and immerse yourself in intimate culinary and creative experiences. Our workshops combine all of the things we love; farm fresh ingredients, home cooking, the beauty of nature, artisanal baking and more! We will take care of the entertaining so that you can learn some tricks of the trade and most importantly, have some fun.

There are a number of perks associated with booking a full service venue, at South Pond we are here to ensure that your event runs smoothly. Let us take care of the details so that you can enjoy your special day and simply, be our guest.

 

Bread and Jam

My grandparents lived in the small community of Shelby, Michigan just near the coast of Lake Michigan. They had a one hundred acre farm perched on a small hill with a beautiful view of crops and other neighbouring farms. That part of Michigan - possibly like most of Michigan - was pretty flat and from their vantage you could see quite a long way out. Their land was uniquely positioned on this rise. Driving to their farm for a visit from Vermont was a two day excursion and for many years, my Dad drove a Fiat so imagine my brother and me in the back seat and sometimes our dog for two solid days...We started going to their farm when I was about five years old. The I spent time during the summers and on holidays, helping my grandparents, picking fruits and the delicious meals from her cookstove is one of my most vivid and special memories. 

When we got to the end of their very long laneway, we were allowed to jump out and run to the farm house. This was a special treat because the land was basically white sand and running down the lane was like running on a beach. My grandmother always greeted us, coming out onto the porch her beautiful flower gardens on either side.

Isabel French and her beautiful flower garden. Irises that travelled to my parent's garden to now my own.  

Isabel French and her beautiful flower garden. Irises that travelled to my parent's garden to now my own.  

My grandparents were not really farmers with a history and tradition of living on the land, but they moved to this magical place in mid life to start something new. They were not young homesteaders but a couple with three children looking for change. I’m not sure if their move was precipitated by anything in particular or because they wanted to live a more simple life. Looking back on it now, there are similarities with my own life that I was not even aware of when I moved here with my four daughters. That was now ten years ago when my eldest daughter, Carlyle was twelve years old. My dad also was a teenager and the eldest of three when my grandparents decided that they wanted to experience rural life, growing their own food and living as much as possible off the land. I’m not sure if my dad loved all the responsibility that he was required to take on then: milking the cow, walking a very long way to a school bus, gardening and picking fruits in the summer. My grandfather planted fruit trees and bushes, a large vegetable garden and asparagus. My grandmother cooked only on a wood stove similar to mine, she baked and preserved all the fruits and vegetables my grandfather planted. 

My grandparent's cook stove 

My grandparent's cook stove 

 

Whenever we visited, there were several things on the table at all times: a dish of preserved fruits like applesauce, raspberries or blackberries, cherries. We would get our own single portions in Ironstone dishes that today I have in my cupboard. There was always a loaf of fresh homemade bread and a jar of my grandmother’s jam - even at supper time. Food was simple and from the farm. It was always delicious. 

My grandmother's Ironstone for our morning fruits.

My grandmother's Ironstone for our morning fruits.

My own love of bread and baking was greatly influenced by my grandmother. The smells of a fresh loaf that you have kneaded and crafted and pulled hot out of the oven is something that once experienced, it stays with you forever. My mother, on the other hand, did not bake bread. But she and my father love all varieties of bread, in fact I would call them connoisseurs of sorts. They would actually travel quite a distance to Boston or New York city from Vermont in those early days before great baking came to Brattleboro, to get the traditional heavy, unleavened german breads or rye loaves two feet in diameter that my mother experienced as a child growing up in Germany. My dad just loves bread and he easily transitioned to the german style after meeting my mom but I know he loved the white, lighter breads made by his own mother. Both are a comfort to him and also to me.

Our own red fife wheat bread (agatha rowland photography)

Our own red fife wheat bread (agatha rowland photography)

Today, I strive to make the german rye and hearty breads of my mother’s heritage; I love the bread my grandmother made and there is a place for it at my table. Ultimately, any bread made with the freshest flours and grains - there is nothing else like it at any meal. 

from right to left: My grandfather French, my brother, father and mother with Thanksgiving meal on the table.

from right to left: My grandfather French, my brother, father and mother with Thanksgiving meal on the table.

The Changing Face of Weddings

When I say the word wedding, I am sure that a number of archetypal stereotypes come to mind. To prove this theory, I surveyed a few South Pond family members and some recurring themes included: Saturday, Black tie, White Dress, Afternoon Ceremony, Moonlight reception, Three Course Dinner. What our lovely family members seemed to be describing, was a Classic Wedding; and while this wedding is certainly common at South Pond, it is not the only type of wedding we offer!

The wedding industry is changing, more and more often we see brides shifting away from convention and incorporating personalized elements to ensure that their special day is truly one of a kind. Long gone are the days of Saturday only weddings; in fact, in 2016,  the majority of our weddings took take place on a Friday night or Sunday morning. We see a similar trend emerging in 2017 and 2018.

Friday nights offer a number of benefits from both a planning and fiscal standpoint. First,  there is something incredibly romantic about a Sunset Ceremony; you and your spouse exchanging vows as the sunsets over the countryside- someone please queue the photographer! Second, by planning for an evening ceremony, most of your guests will not have to barter for time off work - unless of course, if they are travelling long distances but in those situations Friday is usually a write of anyways. Third, because you are using the property for a shorter period of time, South Pond provides a discount for Friday night weddings. If you are on a tight budget, this is a great way to save some cash without drastically altering your vision.

Sunday brunches are another trend that we saw take off in 2016. If you assume brunches are solely for couples looking to host small intimate weddings you are wrong! In fact, last season one of our largest weddings was a brunch wedding! In our opinion, Sunday morning weddings are a beautiful alternative to the classic wedding. We try to reflect this uniqueness in our menu options for brunch by including exciting twists like breakfast stratta and scones - I don’t know about you, but we can’t think of a better way to kick off our Sunday morning!  Rolling hills, sunshine, fresh dew and hot coffee, throw in a wedding and some champagne and we are sold.

At South Pond, we know that weddings come in all different shapes and sizes. Our goal is to help you find the right fit for your vision, please contact us to discuss your options further! 




 

Rethinking Waste

I like to consider myself the woman behind the curtains at South Pond. I am the oldest daughter of four and South Pond is my home. I have helped my mom transition our farm into a successful agritourism business.  I am also a full time student in a Masters of Science in Sustainability Management program at the University of Toronto. This means that my schedule at the farm is erratic, so I often don’t meet many of the people visiting, unless of course you find me behind the bar, serving cocktails at an event or counting inventory before anyone wakes the next day. Although these are the things people see me doing, they take up the least amount of my time on the farm. I am usually at a desk somewhere, whether it’s in London, New Zealand or Toronto sending out confirmation of purchase emails, updating the website or updating wedding planners. I do the background work and projects of all kinds that make up the visible features of the farm. My latest background project is waste management.

I have a huge vision for the farm. I see it being self-sustaining, where the land is more than enough to keep the business operating successfully. Growing up here, I’ve seen this property move through major transformations. I mean major. That barn where many have their first dance? That is where I tied a rope swing to jump into the hay. The bottom of the barn is where my sister and I raised chickens as our first summer business venture. I see so much potential in the property, in my home. Out of the 60 plus acres here, we barely use a quarter of its potential. There is so much productive land that could be used to feed not just parts of the meals served at the farm, but all of them! This plan still has a long way to go before it becomes reality. In the meantime I am chipping away with smaller projects.

This year’s project: waste management. Not many people get as excited about garbage as I do. It isn’t so much about the garbage, it’s about what is produced and how we can reduce it, but better yet, how we can re-use it. With all the events we do and despite how careful we are about our waste, we generate a lot of it whether it's food waste or packaging, or even decorations and garbage left behind from guests. When my mother started this business, she always insisted on using glass and real cutlery and utensils, not allowing plastic water bottles to be brought on to the farm. We also had goats and chickens and our kitchen was pretty good about making sure kitchen waste was disposed by either composting or animal food. However, it is difficult to refute that the average Canadian generates 4 lbs of waste per day, so if 100 people spend the day at the farm, we could be looking at about 400lbs of waste just that day!

So where do I begin to reduce this statistic in our own footprint? First, I sort. I walk through an average event day and figure out how many different types of waste are produced. Here is a list of the extent of this sorting:

  • Cardboard & Paper
  • Cork
  • Liquor Bottles
  • Regular glass bottles
  • Aluminum Cans
  • Plastic
  • Plastic wrap
  • Styrofoam
  • Metal
  • Broken Glass
  • Vegetable Scraps
  • Meat, Dairy and Cooked Food Waste
  • Garden Waste
  • e-waste

Next, I figure out what I can do with it all. I called our local waste management providers, Miller Waste and ordered 2 dumpsters. One for landfill and the other for cardboard and recycling. Ordinarily, one might not be able to put cardboard and plastic together but in speaking to Miller, we are able to separate using bags for plastic and leave the cardboard broken down. Now the ultimate goal here is to send as little as possible to the landfill. This requires a little creativity.  We separate all of our cans, which means that we can actually sell them as scrap metal, along with any other metal that may be thrown out, and make a little bit of money. Bonus! The beer store is fantastic, because they will come to the property and pick up all of our empty bottles for free when they make a delivery.

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Shawn Sutcliffe, who restored and created many of the structures on this property, is one of the more sustainable people I have ever met, especially when it comes to waste. In fact, he has spent his entire life using other people’s waste, in a career of demolition. He told me that he could use our broken glass for road bedding after crushing it up. What a creative way to use a waste so difficult to dispose of! As a fully operational office, we often head to Staples for supplies. This is a perfect opportunity to drop off any old electronics so that they can be recycled or properly disposed of. Now for the cork. In the past, I have used the corks for my own DIY projects, but I am still waiting for an epiphany moment for a really great use of cork on the farm. Until then, I can compost what I don’t use, as cork is 100% natural.

Food waste is probably the most exciting part about the whole waste management plan. My goats, Tula, Eloise and Squirt as well as our laying hens will eat a lot of vegetable waste, but not everything. They enjoy vegetable skins, greens and some fruits. Because of how much we give them to snack on, they are becoming picky eaters. They do not enjoy onions, potatoes and other heavier vegetables. They also often can’t keep up with the pace that we’re producing at. Enter our new piglets. That’s right. This year, South Pond Farms will house 2 piglets for the duration of the season to help us with our food waste. The best part of this is that while they help us with waste, they can also dig up our vegetable garden for next year! Anything left that the pigs, chickens and goats won’t eat as well as garden waste can go straight into our compost pile. Another, more difficult component of  food waste, comes from table scraps. This includes cooked meats These things aren’t great for pigs on a full time basis and  they don’t compost as fast as vegetable and garden scraps. For this reason, we are looking into an anaerobic digester. This option may be able to produce nutritious fertilizer fairly quickly to be spread on our gardens throughout the growing season.

Two of these little piglets will be moving to South Pond later this spring!

Two of these little piglets will be moving to South Pond later this spring!

Overall, progress is being made. It is my personal goal to divert 90% of our waste from landfill this year. We have also committed to removing all unnecessary uses of disposable plastics from the kitchen. This includes cling wrap being replaced with beeswax wrap. That huge vision I have? It includes have 0% waste to landfill. We are not at that point yet, but one step at a time will surely get us there.

My sights for future next steps: energy footprint.

By: Carlyle Apps

Another (Tasty) Quinoa Dish

Toasted quinoa with cranberries and greens

There are times when I get tired of quinoa. There are a lot of great grains to choose from in making a grain salad or risotto-like dish but I often fall back to quinoa. It could be that it is always in my pantry. But there is something delicious about quinoa especially when it is toasted. It has a great nutty flavour and it doesn’t get mushy and flavourless after it is cooked. This dish is a great “go to” for a healthy side or main meal and as always, my barometer on making something again is: will Aubrey Rose and Shawn like it. Both enjoyed this dish even on its own with no side dish of meat.

 

I used what green vegetables I had on hand. Something sturdy that can keep its own flavour with the toasted quinoa: broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage are great vegetables. I had cabbage on hand so that is what I used.

I also used vegetable broth but chicken broth would work just as well. Heat the broth first so that you pour hot liquid into the quinoa just like you would a risotto; the reason for this is to keep all the ingredients at the same temperature. Putting cold liquid in will slow the process down.

I'll try another grain and share it with you...next time.

2 tablespoons vegetable or coconut oil
2 cups broth (chicken or vegetable)
1 cup white wine
½ onion sliced
1 clove minced garlic
1 tablespoon fresh ginger
1 cup quinoa
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups finely sliced cabbage or other dark green vegetables
1 cup fresh cranberries coarsely chopped (or dried)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped almonds
1-2 cups coarsely chopped parsley
Grated zest of 1 lemon

In a saucepan, heat gently until just simmering the broth.
Heat oil in a larger sauce pan like a cast iron pan and add the onion. Saute briefly until soft about 3-5 minutes. Add in quinoa and stir to coat all the grains in the oil. Keep stirring in the pan until you can smell the quinoa begin to toast.
Add in garlic and ginger. Stir again for 1 minute.
Slowly add in the broth ¼ cup at a time adding more as the liquid begins to evaporate. This should take about 15 minutes. Add in the wine and salt and pepper.
Add in the vegetables, berries and stir together. There should be just enough liquid to steam the vegetables. If all has evaporated, add ¼ more wine, broth or water. Let this mixture cook on a low temperature for about 5 minutes. Add almonds, parsley and zest. Serve.

John the Carpenter

Periodically we profile artists, influencers, people that make South Pond the magical place that it is for me and for others. John Matchett also known as John the Carpenter is someone that has made South Pond that special place.

Our bread boards made by John. (Agatha Rowland Photography)

Our bread boards made by John. (Agatha Rowland Photography)

I came to know John via his wife, Barb Newman who has been painting and decorating here as long as I have lived on the farm. Barb was even profiled on one of our Taste of the Country TV shows about how she turns even the most unattractive watering can into a piece of art. She introduced me to John as being able to fix and build things and in fact he does. But he does more than tinker, he creates beautiful and creative, purposeful things out of wood, metal and other discarded objects lying around. From breadboards to mobile chicken houses, John is one of those secret weapons that every business (and household) needs to have.

Chicken cork made out of wood

Chicken cork made out of wood

John was raised in Miramichi, New Brunswick and travelled west to our area to help a friend build a house. One thing led to another and he never left this area. At the early age of seven, he expressed interest in carpentry and began making things out of wood.  He was greatly influenced by his father who made all his creations with axes (no easy feat!): handles for tools, bob sleds, log dog houses, cedar darts with chicken feathers, so many things. John is like this as well. One of the things he made for me were corks made out of wood with a chicken carved in the top, candle holders made out of expired light bulbs, hangers for keys and things made out of wire, even the pot holder for my cast iron skillets is handcrafted from copper piping and then hand made S hooks. One of the more creative projects was arriving one day with a red hay wagon which he then reconstructed into a mobile chicken coop. Barb of course, painted it my favourite colours and the chickens (and the goats) love that little house. John also makes our salt and preserve spoons out of maple, walnut and cherry wood. They are delicate and lovely (and available for purchase with or without or products on our web site).

Salt & preserve spoons

Salt & preserve spoons

If you ask John what is the one thing he is passionate about, it is using his hands to create something that is personal to him. All of his creations are unique, one of a kind. Not one is like the other. His future projects, aside from coming up with ideas for South Pond, are creating live edges with his chain saw. Maybe a modern day version of what his father used to do. I’m looking forward to seeing the results.

John tackling a very large fallen tree for future creations.

John tackling a very large fallen tree for future creations.

Garlic Lemon wake me up!

One of my mom’s dear friends who lives in Germany and who is an inspiration for greeting age full on with grace, beauty and good health, recommended this drink to my mother who called me and said it made her feel pretty good. I tried it and I felt pretty good too. I made it for Carlyle recently who was feeling like she needed a pick me up for better health. This is a two times a year body cleanse and generally makes me feel good drink. It is healthy for all your organs, is supposed to help with arthritis, kidney, circulation and headaches. There are so many benefits that one can read about on line - it’s a wonder it is not bottled and packaged! Don’t worry about a horrible taste - I found it to be perfectly fine. I poured a small sherry glass full every morning. The colour is like spring and even on a dark day in early March, I know the sunshine is coming.

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Take 5 lemons - organic if possible or well washed.
30 cloves of garlic, skins on
If you have it, a 1” nob of ginger 

Cut the lemons into quarters and place all ingredients into a food processor. Pulse until you have a “salsa” of the ingredients. 

Meanwhile, put 2 cups of water into a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Put the lemon mixture into the saucepan. Allow the mixture to heat and bring just under a boil. Turn off the heat. Place a strainer over a bowl and pour the mixture into a strainer. Allow the juice to strain into the bowl pushing the ingredients into the strainer to release the juice. Cool and refrigerate in a glass jar. 

Serve yourself one shot glass full every morning until it is gone.

The 411 on Insurance

As spring approaches, and we move closer to commencing our wedding season, our couples are finalizing the logistics of their day. Menu options, bar provisions, colour schemes, flowers and …. insurance. Though insurance isn’t always a feature that first comes to mind when discussing impending nuptials, it is, in many situations, as important as the venue itself. At South Pond we require all of our couples to invest in Host or Event insurance ( commonly referred to as Party Alcohol Liability or P.A.L insurance)  to have access to our facilities. Now, you are probably wondering why you need this host insurance; in fact you might be unaware that you even need to purchase it! Fear not, we are here to help. Today are going to take a moment to break down additional insurance; what you need, why you need it and most importantly, how to get it!  

The first question I get when I bring up insurance to prospective clients is; “aren’t you covered”? The answer is, of course,“YES”!  As a licensed facility we are insured and are able to let you host your event at our venue but when when your guests walk off the property having consumed alcohol at an event that you are legally hosting, it means that you are responsible for what ensues. That is a lot of responsibility. Host or event insurance are  programs that provide protection when lawsuits are brought against individuals, organizations or companies who host single/multi-day functions with alcohol service. Host and/or event insurance does not act in place of a liquor license but rather, in conjunction with one to protect you, the host, from personal liability.  

Since PAL/ Event insurance is personal liability coverage, the insurance must be taken out by the host ( in this case, the bride or groom) and not the venue; though, most venues will asked to be named on this insurance. Premiums are based on the number of guests attending your event and the amount of liability requested ( most venues, South Pond included, request a minimum of $2 million dollars in liability coverage). Most insurance companies can assist you in obtaining host/event insurance- if you are getting married at South Pond we connect you with our preferred insurance vendor ( Stewart Morrison Insurance) to ensure that you are well taken care of! 

Getting married is an exciting time for you and your partner; you don’t want to start your journey together embroiled in a lawsuit because one of your guests acted irresponsibly and caused harm to another person or damaged property. Protect yourself from the onset and you will be able to enjoy your day knowing that you and your spouse are covered!

The Best First Lunch Ever

How exciting! I’m excited. We have a new chef and I think we are in for a wonderful season, especially if today is an indication. Chef Kevin McKenna whipped up a spontaneous lunch of homemade tacos with a cranberry and blood orange pico de gallo (salsa) and smoked duck. Smoked duck is a bit decadent and not something everyone has on hand (I accidentally had it in the fridge…) but really anything could be used instead if you wanted a meat option: sliced chicken or shredded pork, thin strips of beef. Blood oranges this time of year are in the stores and are a colourful and flavourful addition to a salad or garnish for a vegetable side dish. Chef McKenna used what was in our pantry and refrigerator which was not too much at the moment, and served Christine and me the most delicious lunch. Omitting the duck it was fully a lovely #CFF (Christine Friendly Food) gluten free and vegan. 

 

It was fresh, full of flavour so simple and seasonal. The fresh cranberries were a great touch, with the lime and onion they did not have the bitter and puckering effect one might think. The taco toppings could have been made with anything, the tacos themselves had a real corn flavour and tasted a bit like the fire they were cooked on.

I’ve been wanting to make tacos for one of our events, outside either in the pizza oven or on a cast iron pan on a burner nearby. I am imagining a taco party or even appetizers of one bite tacos with a delicious pile of brisket or fresh vegetable salsa. I’m not going to lie, the dough has been hard to master, that correct portion of water to corn flour making the dough pliable enough so it won’t stick. We may not have the mastering down yet but the result is worth another try. 

 

South Pond Farms (SPF) Smoked Duck Taco
Cranberry Blood Orange Pico De Gallo
 

1 Smoked duck breast- thinly sliced
½  C Fresh cranberries- chopped in half
½ C Flat leaf parsley - washed & picked
¼ Red onion thinly sliced and chopped
½ Jalapeño- split and seeded
1 Lime
2tsp South Pond Chocolate Chilli Salt
1 Blood orange - peeled and sliced
2-3Tbsp Oil - sunflower or personal preference

1 Package of Instant Corn Masa Tortilla Mix
(make as per instructions-about 16) 

Sour Cream / Goat Yogurt - optional
(nice accompaniment is Chef's pickled wild leeks - a very delicious treat)

Instructions: 

Chef made the tortillas in a hot cast iron pan over our wood fired cook stove with no oil turning turning after about 1 minute on each side. A regular pan over a regular stove works perfectly. 

While making tortilla’s in large pan, add jalapeño and red onion to dry sauce pan to char. In a bowl, add cranberries, parsley, blood orange, juice of the lime, SPF Salt, and oil to mix. Chop charred jalapeño and red onion to mix. Taste and adjust seasoning. 

Assemble and enjoy 

Chef's pickled wild leeks. Yum.

Chef's pickled wild leeks. Yum.

Bride Feature: Guest Blog Anica Alcide-Drake

My name is Anica Alcide-Drake, I live in Ajax Ontario with my new husband, Joseph Drake. I am a marketing professional working in Toronto, my husband is a graphic designer.  We both enjoy the outdoors, boardgames, all things vintage and tea! 

Ceremony at South Pond Farms. Photograph by Ryanne Hollies

Ceremony at South Pond Farms. Photograph by Ryanne Hollies

Joseph and I actually met at work. I was a new hire in a marketing department at corporate office in Toronto and Joseph had been with the company for some time working as a designer.  Being in the same department, over the course several weeks we made casual conversation here and there or spent our lunch hours within the same social circle.  Joseph was always funny and kind toward me.  After about 2 months, it seemed that we spent more time together as a pair, outside of the office circle. We just clicked, it felt like we knew one another for a long time and we told each other so.  Joseph asked me on a date around this time and I accepted.  On the one hand, I was taken aback as I was not expecting anything beyond friendship. On the other hand, I think I was downplaying the fact (truth) that I was secretly attracted to him but believed that any office romance would not end well.  As it happened, Joseph accepted a job closer to his home in Barrie and he left shortly after we started our relationship.  On our 3 year anniversary, he proposed.

South Pond Farms Guest Cottage. Photograph by Ryanne Hollies

South Pond Farms Guest Cottage. Photograph by Ryanne Hollies

After being to countless weddings together, we knew we didn’t want a banquet hall or country club setting. As nice as these venues were, they just aren’t us.  We wanted our guests to feel comfortable as if they were at a large family gathering and not somewhere confined or overly fussy.  We wanted something rustic, but still elegant and showcased the outdoors. We wanted something that felt like a cottage escape or weekend getaway…and we found that in South Pond Farms.  After doing a little bit of online research and great reading reviews, we thought we would come out for a viewing. The day we were scheduled to meet Amy Hall in October of 2015, we actually had another appointment at a barn venue further away later that day.  After about 10 minutes walking around South Pond, we immediately decided to cancel our next appointment. We fell in love with how gorgeous the property was and how welcoming the barn setting was. Every detail was impressive I think we said “wow” about a dozen times as we were shown each area.  Joseph and I were eager to put down a deposit as quickly as possible. South Pond just suited us to a T and we booked our wedding date within the next week.  

Alcide-Drake Wedding at South Pond Farms. Photograph by Ryanne Hollies

Alcide-Drake Wedding at South Pond Farms. Photograph by Ryanne Hollies

The planning process with South Pond was quite easy. Having the catering, recommended DJ, Reverend and ceremony site all in one place took a huge load off us, as these elements did not have to be coordinated on our own.  It was only a matter of securing a date, choosing a dinner package, etc, and reaching out to confirm availability of any individuals required.  We were not disappointed.  We were kept in the loop at regular intervals, were sent handy email reminders and this really took the guesswork out of wedding planning. All we had to do was stay on track and the staff was very helpful with all of our questions. We loved that we could visit South Pond months before the wedding to have another look around. Of course, it was as lovely as we had remembered from our first visit.

Alcide-Drake Wedding at South Pond Farms. Photograph by Ryanne Hollies

Alcide-Drake Wedding at South Pond Farms. Photograph by Ryanne Hollies

My advice for newly engaged couples would be to; 1) keep an open mind and 2) make sure that you choose a venue that suits your personality and style. Keep an open mind because we often have a very specific vision only to find that there are better or different options out there.  Don’t stress over little things or try to force everything to work because you had one idea. We kept a very open mind in our planning and weren’t rigid in our vision. Both being creative individuals Joseph and I had an idea to work toward but we were grateful for all suggestions offered and our day evolved into something wonderful.  Choosing a venue that suits your personality and style is a big one for me. Too often weddings come with the unnecessary stress of having to please everyone else when really it should be about the bride and groom.  We have been to weddings where the couple seemed out of place because the day was designed FOR them and not BY them and it felt like they were just role-playing. This is your day, and you want to look back on it with fond memories, not 100% compromise on all of your dreams and things you wished you did. 

Anica and Joseph at South Pond Farms. Photograph by Ryanne Hollies.

Anica and Joseph at South Pond Farms. Photograph by Ryanne Hollies.

Joseph and I were married on Sunday, September 18th, 2016. We were the last wedding of the season. It was a perfect day. The weather the day before was dark, dreary and raining heavily and while the forecast was favourable the next day, we were quite nervous that things might change.  Due to the heavy rain we feared that the grounds would be too wet. We knew that South Pond had expertise in plan B if the weather didn’t hold out so at least we had options. Mother nature was on our side and we were blessed to have sunny skies, and perfect weather. Our guests were absolutely impressed with South Pond Farms. Many had no idea what to expect but they were blown away. Almost every couple asked us “where did you find this place?” as they had no idea that this was so close to the city and so peaceful. They could not get over the scenery, the barn, the food.  It was nothing but praise and no one wanted to leave.  Many guests expressed that it was the best wedding they had ever been to and wished it was a 2-day affair. Everything went exactly as we had hoped and we were so happy to hear our guests genuinely express how much they enjoyed everything. Our stand-out moments were the ceremony (of course), the amazing food and the guest cottage.  It was nice to have a beautiful and quiet place to freshen up and stay after the wedding that beat any 4 star hotel. Again, like the rest of the South Pond, the cottage suited Joseph and I to a T.  We ordered a food hamper for breakfast the next day that had the most amazing freshly baked goodies for breakfast.  We really wanted to stay another day. Now, some 4 months later our families still comment on wanting to go back to South Pond. To be honest, I would not have changed a thing.

We will definitely be back.  South Pond is too beautiful a place to only visit once. We plan to attend a supper club dinner, come for lunch and take part in a few workshops.  Our plan is to see South Pond in every season. Danielle French is a wonderful and gracious hostess and the staff were very helpful and attentive to our needs. A++ experience.

 

Photography 101 - What you should know about capturing your wedding at South Pond Farms

There is a lot of work that goes into capturing your wedding day. Photographers labour tirelessly to ensure that the important aspects of your day are carefully, and beautifully, documented. To ensure that you get the best final product, there are a number of things that you can do, as a couple, to assist your photographer as they attempt to chronicle your special occasion. To elaborate on this, I have asked one of our preferred photographers, Agatha Rowland, to share some of her professional advice. 

Can places be photogenic? Because if they can, South Pond is definitely one of those places. It’s a photographer’s dream venue as far as Barn Weddings go. It’s always beautifully styled, with lots of light, and a ton of different locations for creating beautiful portraits.  Although your photographers can arrive at South Pond the day of your wedding and capture your day with some incredible photos – there are a few tips and advice that you can implement for your South Pond wedding that will help your photographer capture your day in the most beautiful way possible.

1. GETTING READY.

Getting Ready at Ironhorse. Agatha Rowland Photography 

Getting Ready at Ironhorse. Agatha Rowland Photography 

Some of my favourite moments on a wedding day happen while getting ready. To capture it the best we can, there are two things photographers will usually recommend couples think about when they’re planning this portion of their day: the location and the lighting.

The location of where you both get ready is really important. If you’re able, I always recommend being as close as possible to each other and the venue to ensure there is no unnecessary stress getting to each other on the day.

The best part about shooting brides and grooms getting ready at South Pond Farms is the gorgeous Guest Cottage. It’s not only on-location (so no worrying about coordinating getting between locations) but it’s big, bright and perfect for make up, hair and flattering photos.

South Pond Farms Guest Cottage. Agatha Rowland Photography. 

South Pond Farms Guest Cottage. Agatha Rowland Photography. 

South Pond Farms Guest Cottage. Agatha Rowland Photography. 

South Pond Farms Guest Cottage. Agatha Rowland Photography. 

Photography by Agatha Rowland 

Photography by Agatha Rowland 

Which brings me to my next point: the lighting. This is one of the most important things you can do to help your photographer take incredible photos. In fact, it’s what your photographer thinks about all day long. Lighting is the key to great photos, and so if you get ready in bright spaces – with lots of natural light, your photographer (and hair & make up artists) will definitely thank you. It’s much easier to capture each moment and create beautiful photos.

Getting ready at South Pond. Agatha Rowland Photography. 

Getting ready at South Pond. Agatha Rowland Photography. 

Getting ready at South Pond. Agatha Rowland Photography. 

Getting ready at South Pond. Agatha Rowland Photography. 

For whoever doesn’t get ready at the Guest House, another amazing space you can rent for your other half to get ready in is Ironhorse Ranch – a big timber frame log home just minutes from South Pond. Another space with big windows, lots of character (and a few goats to keep you company!). In fact, photos from Iron Horse are some of the images I show clients as an example ‘what to do’ in terms of picking a great space to get ready in.

Agatha Rowland Photography 

Agatha Rowland Photography 

2. SCHEDULING YOUR CEREMONY

South Pond Farms Wedding. Agatha Rowland Photography. 

South Pond Farms Wedding. Agatha Rowland Photography. 

Outdoor ceremonies are some of my favourite to capture and the ceremony spot overlooking the pond and rolling hills at South Pond doesn’t disappoint. There is really not much you need to do to ensure a beautiful ceremony – it’s all already there for you. You’re welcome to add any custom details to create a ceremony of your own, but those rustic log benches for guests and the beautiful backdrop of the landscape are really all you need. The only recommendation for the ceremony I have is the timing. As a rule of thumb, the closer the ceremony is to sunset, the more flattering the lighting. I know most ceremonies need to happen before dinner, so around sunset time doesn’t work for most mid-summer weddings – but if you can, try and avoid the hours between 10am-3pm to ensure you get that lower, more flattering light. This way, us photographers can capture you, the surroundings and your guests with ease (and as a bonus – you and your guests won’t be squinting through the whole thing!). As an example, The photos below are from a South Pond wedding in July with the ceremony at 5pm.

South Pond Farms Wedding. Agatha Rowland Photography. 

South Pond Farms Wedding. Agatha Rowland Photography. 

South Pond Farms Wedding. Agatha Rowland Photography.

South Pond Farms Wedding. Agatha Rowland Photography.

South Pond Farms Wedding. Agatha Rowland Photography. 

South Pond Farms Wedding. Agatha Rowland Photography. 

South Pond Farms Wedding. Agatha Rowland Photography.

South Pond Farms Wedding. Agatha Rowland Photography.

3. YOUR RECEPTION

South Pond Farms Reception. Agatha Rowland Photography. 

South Pond Farms Reception. Agatha Rowland Photography. 

Again, like most things as South Pond, your reception will be beautiful whether you add a lot of decor or leave it simple with South Pond’s decor. I find most couples like to add a few personal touches – from guest books to seating charts to extra flowers or table settings. But the one thing that can add a bit of extra warmth to your photos is lighting on the tables. Even some simple mason jars with tea lights can create a bit of that extra lighting a photographer loves in order to capture the ambient warmth of your reception.

South Pond Farms Reception. Agatha Rowland Photography.

South Pond Farms Reception. Agatha Rowland Photography.

4. SET A SLOT OF TIME FOR SUNSET PHOTOS.

South Pond Farms Wedding. Agatha Rowland Photography.

South Pond Farms Wedding. Agatha Rowland Photography.

If you want those beautiful low light photos, you’ll want to schedule a few minutes of portraits just before the sun sets. Some photographers like to shoot that warm glow just before the sun sets, and some love that soft light of just after it’t gone down. Just ask your photographer when they recommend your sunset photos be and they’ll let you know when they can get the best photos. You only need a few minutes between your speeches and sometimes it’s a nice little break for a moment ‘alone’ during your busy reception.

South Pond Farms Wedding. Agatha Rowland Photography. 

South Pond Farms Wedding. Agatha Rowland Photography. 

South Pond Farms Wedding. Agatha Rowland Photography. 

South Pond Farms Wedding. Agatha Rowland Photography. 

5. PLACE YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER CLOSE TO THE ACTION

South Pond Farms Wedding. Agatha Rowland Photography. 

South Pond Farms Wedding. Agatha Rowland Photography. 

Although there are usually no posed images during your dinner and speeches, this is prime time for photographers to capture some candids. The reactions to the speeches and interactions between guests are much easier to photograph the closer we are to you. So when thinking about seating arrangements, if you’re able to – the closer your photographer is to the head table the better.

Agatha Rowland Photography.

Agatha Rowland Photography.

6. MOST IMPORTANTLY – RELAX AND ENJOY!

South Pond Farms Wedding. Agatha Rowland Photography. 

South Pond Farms Wedding. Agatha Rowland Photography. 

Don’t sweat the small stuff: Don’t worry about the forecast (trust me – rain is romantic!) and let you’re dress get dirty. Think of your wedding as less of an event and more of a big party for you and your closest family and friends. There are plenty of traditions – from cake cutting to first dances to formal wedding parties – that the wedding industry told us at one point we needed to include. But in reality none of these are essential to the real purpose of the day (for you to get married!). So have your wedding how you want to. Include what you want to include and enjoy all of it.

You’re photographer will capture each fleeting moment so you can look back on all those little memories. I’m sure you’ve heard this enough, but it passes quickly so soak it up and enjoy every moment. You’ve picked a great venue so embrace, relax and enjoy your wedding day at South Pond.

South Pond Farms Wedding. Agatha Rowland Photography. 

South Pond Farms Wedding. Agatha Rowland Photography. 

South Pond Farms Wedding. Agatha Rowland Photography.

South Pond Farms Wedding. Agatha Rowland Photography.

South Pond Farms Wedding. Agatha Rowland Photography. 

South Pond Farms Wedding. Agatha Rowland Photography. 

Agatha Rowland Photography.

Agatha Rowland Photography.

Feeling good…..Braised Kale for a winter day.

It’s January, one of my favourite months for quiet time, learning, reading and being inspired. But boy, has it been an icy one. I’ve hardly wanted to venture outside and if I did, it would be a tough journey from the front porch to the car. I’ve poured buckets of ashes out on the path which makes for a “pleasant” mess inside the front door and will no doubt kill all the grass when it all melts away. I do love winter, I love the landscape, I love getting out for X-country skiing, and maybe it’s an age thing but I see the merits of warmer climates during these months. Climate change has altered the winter I remember as a child with high snowbanks for snow forts and so much snow that it took forever to melt in the spring. Our fields are nearly bare and sadly the beautiful trails that Ralph our neighbour lovingly groomed have melted away into ice blocks. 

We have spent our days putting another piece of wood in the cookstove and working busily in our office, answering emails, developing systems and planning for the warmer months. Most importantly, Nickel the cat helps by napping nearby.

Lounging South Pond Farm Style

Lounging South Pond Farm Style

My mom and I were sharing recipes the other day, she had just made up a hearty german side dish of kale for lunch.

South Pond Braised Kale

South Pond Braised Kale

This dish is one of her staples and when she spoke about it, it brought me back to the time when I lived in Germany and would venture down to the market with Carlyle in the buggy and pick up bunches of vibrant green kale about two feet long and bring it back to the kitchen. I spent what seemed like forever, removing the heavy stalks and washing the leaves several times to get all the sand out. I remember Renate, my godmother chastising “why would you eat that vegetable, it’s tough and needs hours of cooking and not only that, tastes terrible!” This was before the kale craze, before we ate it raw or as chips, shredded in salads and juiced. Before the kale we crave! Then, the german method was to blanch it, cook it and then cook it some more with bacon, onions, broth, add a slab of smoked pork to it and bingo! A hearty meal for a cold January day. My mom adds pears and being healthier, she most often omits the pork. She says the pears lend a sweetness and she is right. Braised kale with pears. I won’t say it’s for everyone. It has a distinct flavour and can be bitter, but it feels good to eat it - at least for me. 

Today, the baby kale we buy in the plastic box ready to go is not the kale I use for this recipe. It’s the long regular kale with the thick stems that you have to remove and feed to your compost pile or the stock pot.

Recipe for Braised Kale with Pears

1 bunch of regular garden kale
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 yellow cooking onion, thinly sliced
2 slices bacon or pancetta cut into pieces
1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
2 Bartlett pears, sliced (I do not peel the pears but my mother does - it’s a preference)
1/2 tsp sugar
freshly grated nutmeg or 1/4 tsp ground
Coarse salt and pepper to taste

Wash the kale thorough and remove the tough stems from the leaves. 
In a large saucepan, add the bacon or pancetta and cook until crisp, drain the extra oil if necessary, saving 1 tablespoon. If you are not using bacon, omit the step with the bacon and begin with the vegetable oil. 
Add the vegetable oil and on medium heat add the onions and cook for 2-3 minutes until soft. Do not allow to brown. Add 1 tsp sugar and sauté about 1 minute.
Add the kale and coat with oil.
Add the broth and allow the kale to simmer for 20 minutes or longer until the kale is soft and tender.
Add the pears and gently turn them into the mixture being carefully not to mush the pears, heat the pears through. Grate fresh nutmeg and taste for salt and pepper.
Serve warm with grilled sausages and mustard, pork chops with roasted apples, or a thick vegetable stew. 

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Ginger Root to the Rescue

Ginger Butternut Squash Soup: South Pond Farms 

Ginger Butternut Squash Soup: South Pond Farms 

It’s heerrreeee... Holiday treats, large dinners, indulgent baking and seasonal snacks- the days of rich feasting are upon us! I don’t know about you, but I am foodie in every sense of the word. I love food, especially holiday food but if you are like me, unrestricted indulgence is a sure fire way to experience gastric dissension in one form or another. Having struggled with intestinal issues for most of my adult life I know that without a bit of balance, the holidays can trigger a world of pain. Luckily, some of the best remedies for unwelcome tummy turbulence come from delicious whole foods that you probably already have in your fridge! One such food is ginger root. Ginger has long been touted for its range of medicinal properties and has been used to aid in a range of ailments from arthritis and muscle aches to indigestion and constipation. It has antioxidant, antimicrobial and anti inflammatory properties which makes it inherently “Christine Friendly”. I enjoy ginger in its many forms but hands down one of my favourite ways, is in soup!

Last week we put our heads together at South Pond and with the help of our wonderful chef, we came up with this delicious tummy taming soup. It’s seasonal, it’s vegetarian and it’s made with less than ten ingredients!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups peeled and diced butternut squash.

  • 2 diced onion.

  • 1 stalk diced celery.

  • 2 tbsp minced ginger.

  • ¼ cup brown sugar.

  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper ( reduce if you prefer less spicy- one teaspoon delivers a serious kick).

  • 500 ml vegetable stock.

  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Method:

  • Chop onions and celery; add to large pot with one tablespoon of oil  ( I recommend coconut oil as it can be cooked at high temperatures without losing its nutritional value)

  • Allow onion and celery mixture to simmer over medium heat for approximately 5 minutes stirring regularly.

  • Add two tablespoons of minced ginger root, keep stirring to ensure that ginger does not burn.

  • Once the onions appear translucent add vegetable broth, diced squash, brown sugar, cayenne, salt and pepper to taste.

  • Keep soup at a low boil for twenty minutes.

  • Mash/ puree mixture until desired consistency is reached.