Visiting the Olsons
Three intensive days in Ontario were coming to an end for Anna Hyman, but there was one final, special treat to come – spending time with Anna and Michael Olson.
It had been a fabulous, all too short trip to Niagara. We had viewed the mighty, awe-inspiring Niagara Falls from both the air and the water (Niagara Falls – Up Close and Personal). We had visited some of Niagara’s stunning wineries and sampled beautiful wines and superb fine dining (Wining and Dining Niagara Style) and discovered the best places to buy local produce including wonderfully fresh fruit and vegetables.
But there was one more very special treat in store: spending time with the TV personality husband and wife team Anna and Michael Olson. Apart from showing us round some of their favourite produce stores and stalls we were invited for meals and cookery lessons at their home.
A homely, colourful kitchen
Home is a Victorian house, set back off the road in Welland, with a wraparound porch big enough to take chairs, tables and barbeques. They had fallen in love with the old house several years earlier and by taking it back almost to a shell have converted it into a welcoming, modern home, but one filled with period charm. And in the basement Michael’s astonishing collection of restored deli-slicers.
Television viewers on both side of the Atlantic will be familiar with their homely, colourful kitchen with its wooden work surfaces, massive fridge freezer, island range and open shelves stacked with plates and bowls and equipment all readily to hand. This is no fancy show kitchen, this is a kitchen designed by two cooks who love to cook, work and entertain together.
It was a pleasure watching the two of them working comfortably side by side, one answering questions whilst stirring a pot, the other doing something a tad more technical, turn and turnabout. And supporting them Lisa, their friend and colleague, doing some prep work, washing up, ever ready to help out as necessary.
Dinner was bbq style
Dinner that night was bbq style – whilst Anna and Lisa prepared various side dishes and salads such as sweet potato salad with pumpkin seed, onion and lime, and corn blueberry toss, Michael worked between the two large bbqs out on the porch preparing grilled maple vinegar chicken wings, grilled beef with chimichurri, and his signature back ribs with peach bbq glaze. Desserts weren’t forgotten either – including Anna’s fabulous blackberry meringue tarts.
To try out some of these recipes for yourself, see here: Anna and Michael Olson’s Recipes.
We were back next morning for breakfast, Anna and Michael effortlessly switching between scrambling and poaching eggs, or maybe knocking up an omelette, slicing delicious thick slices of ham, or making breakfast breads such as maple walnut scones and bueberry sticky buns.
After breakfast we were off to Welland’s lively farmers’ market to buy some fresh produce of our choice for a cookery lesson with a difference at the Canadian Food and Wine Institute at Niagara College, Niagara-on-the-Lake where Michael is also Chef/Professor. The object of this exercise was that we were to turn whatever we had bought into either a sweet or savoury condiment or a preserve.
I acquired some okra and some small aubergines and somehow managed to turn them into a tangy condiment enlivened with the help of some stock cupboard ingredients and made colourful with some chopped red pepper and lots of fresh green herbs. Unfortunately it was one of those pinch of this, handful of that recipes which I will never ever be able to reproduce again; which is a shame, as it was actually rather good.
Toronto’s China Town
‘Rather good’, also summed up our final in day in Ontario. Anna and Michael wanted to introduce us to one of their favourite parts of Toronto – China Town. We drooled over the buns and goodies in the Ding Dong Pastries and Cafe and revelled in the Aladdin’s cave of hardware known as the Tap Phong Trading Company.
And we loved even more the fantastic banquet of a lunch we had at Luckee’s Chinese Restaurant and Bar in the city’s Soho Metropolitan Hotel – where plate after plate of delicious morsels both savoury and sweet were set before us. The table groaned under the weight of dishes which included such of talented chef Susur Lee’s delights as shrimp fritters, different varieties of dumplings and, completely new to us, taro and turnip cake. http://luckeerestaurant.com
Full and exhausted after three very intensive but wonderful days I did something I have never done before. I sat in my seat on my Air Canada flight home falling fast asleep until we began our descent into London Heathrow.
Canada : www.explore-canada.co.uk and www.keepexploring.ca
Air Canada: www.aircanada.com
Canadian Affair: www.canadianaffair.com