GOOD TASTE | Summertime Potluck
LOCAL CHEFS wax nostalgic about their love for the potluck
BY Barbara Ramsay Orr PHOTOGRAPHY BY Harry Gils
Who doesn't love a potluck? There's something authentic, surprising and delicious about it. It seems to me that sharing your best dishes with friends is the nec plus ultra of dining. It is dining as it should be – no fuss, no waiters, no chefs, no stress and, at the end, no bill. There's just you and people you enjoy indulging in your best dishes, and if you ask nicely, they'll probably share their recipes. But while a potluck can be as simple as a few couples getting together to share dishes around the backyard table, these casual get-togethers are the meals we often remember when others are forgotten.
Cake & Loaf Bakery
321 Dundurn St. South, Hamilton cakeandloaf.ca
I went looking for some local experience with the potluck and found Cake & Loaf Bakery on Dundurn. Nicole Sherman and Josie Rudderham run the bakery, and their philosophy is pitchperfect. All fresh ingredients, all things made from scratch and everything sourced from local growers and suppliers, as much as possible. Believe it or not, their Nanaimo bars are totally made from scratch, including the custard layer, which even most home cooks make from a custard powder. They are one of the best things I have ever eaten.
These two young Hamilton-born ladies, who met at Niagara College while both were taking the Baking Apprentice course, and reconnected on Facebook, opened Cake & Loaf in August of 2011, and the shop has been a neighbourhood favourite since. "If I had to sum up our philosophy," says Josie, "I would say we believe in local and fresh, without messing it up too much!" They are seriously dedicated to supporting local farmers, and making everything from scratch.
Cake & Loaf does bread, cakes, squares, cookies and pies. There are fresh sandwiches, and coffee from Detour Coffee in Dundas. Savoury dishes are cooked by local chef Sarah Guinan. Both Nicole and Josie are fans of the potluck dinner. One of their best memories of a potluck was a recent dinner held locally by the business women in the area. "It was 12 women with similar interests, and with a willingness to share their ideas," explains Nicole. "The conversation was non-stop and the food was amazing. Lots of summer salads, a spinach dip, coconut curry wontons and a watermelon, feta and basil salad. It was an eclectic but delicious collection of dishes."
As summer heats up, the girls are planning to serve ice cream sandwiches at Cake & Loaf, all homemade of course, and will offer individually designed food baskets for summer dining.
Jack & Lois
301 James St. North, Hamilton jackandlois.com
For this chef, getting together with friends for potluck dining is his idea of a good time. Chef Shane McCartney cut his teeth catering to rock and roll royalty — he's cooked for Robert Plant, among others — but he is a passionate believer in the basics, done right, shared in a welcoming place. He's cooking at Jack & Lois on James North, a casual bistro café, decorated in "colonial Hawaiian," with big front windows that open on to the street. On Friday and Saturday nights, when the place is open until 3 am, it's crazy busy.
"I would describe my food style at Jack & Lois as retro diner food with a twist. Everything is made fresh, our soups are scratch, our beef is local and ingredients are top quality. We do all-day breakfast, which is popular, and we have a licensed patio out back where I will be doing brisket on a bun with cole slaw, and summer dishes. I have dreams of doing a pig roast here!" His memories of potluck dinners centre on camping trips, where friends would gather for a shared meal – with all homemade dishes, like quinoa salads, vegetarian dishes, home baking and anything that can be cooked on a barbecue.
"The best thing about the potluck," Shane tells me, "is the communal aspect – sitting at a good table with friends, breakin' bread – that's as good as it gets."
When he's invited to a potluck, his go-to dish is Boeuf Bourguignon. "It cooks slowly while you do other things, and it makes your house smell wonderful all day. And everybody loves it." The potluck removes any obstacle to entertaining. Call a few friends, invite them over with their best dishes and enjoy the communality that comes with the sharing of good food.
And if everyone wears white, you can even have your own Diner en Blanc.
Sparklers and napkin-swirling at eleven