Small-batch food purveyors cook up holiday treats

There was a time, not so long ago that words like ‘gluten-free,‘ ‘healthy‘ and ‘sugar-free’ also meant taste-free.

Check out tasty offerings at weekend holiday sales

Andorah's Feast, a small batch food company in Winnipeg, make vegan, gluten-free and raw sweets, like these walnut cookies. Andorah's Feast.jpg (Andorah's Feast)
Omega Me Crazy Brekky Booster, a granola-esque addition for yogurt and cereal, is one of a dozen vegan, gluten-free and raw sweet and savouries made by Andorah's Feast. The Winnipeg small-batch food company is the work of Andee Penner and Deborah Hosaki. (Andorah's Feast)
There was a time, not so long ago that words like ‘gluten-free,‘ ‘healthy‘ and ‘sugar-free’ also meant taste-free. 

A cadre of new Winnipeg-based small-batch food makers are determined to change that reality with their sweet and savoury lines of cookies, macaroons, jams and preserves and pickles. 

And this weekend, the women behind Andorah’s Feast and Flora and Farmer will put their tastes to the test at separate sales in the city.

“We really just want people to enjoy what they’re eating. We want it to just be about good food, about feeling good about your food,” said Andee Penner, co-owner of Andorah’s Feast.

Andorah’s Feast

Dec. 21 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Holiday Pop-Up Shop at Frame Arts Warehouse (318 Ross Avenue).

Flora and Farmer

Holiday sale Dec. 22 from noon to 6 p.m. at 209 Lipton Street.

Admission is free to both sales.

Penner and her business partner Deborah Hosaki joined forces in late August after realizing they both had ‘stomach issues’ and many food sensitivities. 

They wanted to make delicious snack foods without using ingredients like gluten, refined sugar, dairy, eggs and soy. Using their home kitchens (with the blessing of the health inspector and with food safe courses under their belts), the pair came up with a dozen products including flax-based crackers, hybrid macaroons, buckwheat ‘granola,’ walnut cookies and pecan tarts. They use organic ingredients wherever possible and don’t heat any of their raw treats over 118˚F.

Today, they’ve developed a loyal and growing following of their line, which they sell at indie markets and sales across Winnipeg. 

Entrepreneur Kim Bialkoski, owner of Flora and Farmer, makes small batches of jams, preserves and pickles six times a month inside a commercial kitchen in Winnipeg. Her artisanal foodstuffs have become an instant hit on Winnipeg's farmers' market scene. (Sara Bennet)
Kim Bialkoski’s ascent in the small-batch world has followed a similar trajectory. But the 33-year-old owner of Flora and Farmer started her company after a serious cycling accident in May 2012 left her unemployed and restless. 

“I was so bored. I am just a go, go, go kind of person,” said Bialkoski, who already knew how to preserve food at the time of her accident. 

She sprung into action, hit her kitchen and made her first batch of preserves using her one good hand. In late 2012, Bialkoski began expanding her repertoire from jams to artisanal pickles, relishes and beets. She has since become a popular feature at farmers’ markets and makers’ sales.

“I don’t make anything ‘normal.’ It’s part of my history of cooking. I’ve just kind of winged it,” Bialkoski said. 

Single mom Kim Bialkoski started her small-batch pickling and preserves company Flora and Farmer after a serious cycling accident left her unemployed. (Kim Bialkoski)
That winging it has produced Szechuan sesame pickled beans, boozy star anise, ginger and citrus beets, hot and drunk horseradish dill pickles and mojito gin pickles, among other culinary concoctions. 

She doesn’t use pectin, a compound used to gel jams and jellies. Instead, she reduces her fruit down so it becomes a “super-concentrated fruit, rather than a jam,” Bialkoski said. She uses honey and maple syrup as sweeteners rather than refined sugars. 

“Everyone else uses pectin. I feel like it cheapens the flavour,” she said. 

As for her ingredients, Bialkoski is all about creating memorable taste combinations. “I like rich, full and bold flavours.”