Have you ever heard of Qualifirst? I hadn’t. But turns out the company’s been around since the ’80s, and before that it was a family-run import company called Far-Met, which brought some of the first foie gras, Burgundy snails, Portuguese sardines and Belgian legumes – basically everything you’d need for a posh Western European dinner party – to Western Canada.
This was not your grandmother’s pineapple-lime jello pudding.
Over the years, the company has kept up with the demand for exotic foodstuffs, roaming the world in search of small, artisanal businesses selling things like vacuum-packed French chestnuts, white balsamic flakes and sauces, spices and specialty oils galore.
Qualifirst’s mission is now to help Canadians chefs, retailers and the average consumer find great gourmet ingredients at affordable prices. That’s why they do a good business with caterers and restaurants, but there’s got to be a market with gourmet foodie at-home cooks like me who are dying for black truffle paste and white soya sauce, right?
I’d never actually ordered food online, whether that’s jars of cuttlefish ink, caviar, kombu for sushi rice, or authentic devon cream. Actually, I’ve never even ordered dinner online. So receiving a bottle of yuzu juice, those freeze dried lychees and some incredible whole Italian marinated artichokes was a treat.
Yuzu is the flavour of the moment, it seems. The Japanese citrus is something that more and more restaurant are calling for and we just don’t grow here in Canada.
The Yakami Orchard yuzu juice is something you might find in fine food grocers in big cities, but happy hunting! And if you’re outside a metropolitan area, good luck! So if you’re planning an Asian fish dish or bright and sunny summer cocktail in the future, this is where you get the yuzu.
And since you’re already getting the yuzu juice, you might as well top up your order with some artichoke hearts. I love artichoke, but you mostly find the vinegar-heavy canned ones or sliced ones marinated in oil. They’re often over-cooked and mushy or too pickled or bland and smothered in oil. These Italian artichokes with stems were coated in high quality olive oil and herbs and kissed with just enough vinegar to bring out the natural sweetness of the vegetable. Plus, keeping them whole made them juicier and better for chewing. This was a real treat and a perfect addition to an appetizer platter or antipasti.