While Canada’s eyes were directed at Barack Obama’s trip to Ottawa last week, an Essa farmer’s gaze was directed a little further – to the president’s lunch plate.
Cookstown Greens has been providing vegetables for the meals of visiting dignitaries for about two decades, and it was no different for Obama.
"Almost every time they (dignitaries) come to Canada, we get chosen to feed them," said farm owner David Cohlmeyer.
Cookstown Greens supplies vegetables to both the prime minister’s chef and the Governor General’s chef. Since most visiting foreign dignitaries will have a meal with one or the other, it’s just a matter of time before they feast on produce plucked from Essa’s soil.
Cookstown Greens has provided vegetables for visits from Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and both Bushes. Produce from Cohlmeyer’s farm has also been on the table for visiting monarchy, including Queen Elizabeth II.
As might be expected, it’s no run of the mill meal when dignitaries come to town. With the prime minister’s chef cooking up a special meal for Obama’s visit, the recipe called for some very unique ingredients.
Cohlmeyer said he isn’t yet sure exactly which vegetables made it to Obama’s plate, but said there were several woven throughout the chef’s planned meal.
There were red and green flesh radishes that were part of a Pacific Coast tuna appetizer. Red, white and black carrots, as well as amber and red turnips, were part of a warm root-vegetable salad that was served with Arctic char. Three different varieties of beets were used for a relish. The main course of bison had a side of fingerling potatoes, titan leeks and crosnes.
But as colourful and unique as vegetables may sound, they really deliver when it comes to taste, said Cohlmeyer.
"Everything we do we choose for exceptional flavour," he said.
When it comes to determining taste, Cohlmeyer has the right background. He was originally a chef in Toronto, before deciding on a career change.
In 1988 he opened Cookstown Greens, in Egbert, and he hasn’t looked back since.
His background gave him the knowledge, and also the connections, and it wasn’t long before Cookstown Greens was providing produce for many of Toronto and the surrounding area’s high-end restaurants and hotels.
Part of Cohlmeyer’s success has been carving out a niche. He has selected different vegetables that aren’t found in the average garden or on grocery store shelves. In doing so, he’s discovered that newer isn’t always better. By looking into the past, Cohlmeyer has discovered some forgotten flavours.
"People think the reds, the whites, and the black (carrots) are new, but they’ve been around the longest," said Cohlmeyer.
It has only been in the past few centuries that orange carrots have come into prominence, and that is mostly because of their suitability to certain soils, he said.
"So everybody is up with the latest when they’re eating the orange carrots," said Cohlmeyer.
While Cohlmeyer has list of consistent customers, he still does have produce available for those that want to make presidential meals out of their own kitchen.
He sells out of the Brick Works Farmers’ Market in Toronto, but vegetables are also available directly from the farm.
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