GETTING TO KNOW: DANA SHORTT GOURMET AND GIFTS

INTERVIEW & PHOTOS BY CAI SEPULIS

IF YOU’VE NEVER TAKEN THE OPPORTUNITY TO VISIT DANA SHORTT GOURMET AND GIFTS ON BRIDGEPORT IN WATERLOO, IT’S HIGH TIME YOU MAKE THE TRIP. FROM READY-MADE AND PACKAGED MEALS (INCLUDING ‘NEW PARENTS RESCUE’ AND ‘THINKING OF YOU’ MEAL PACKAGES) TO CONFECTIONARIES AND GROCERIES (‘AGED CHEDDAR + CAYENNE SHORTBREAD’ AND ‘BLACK MISSION FIG BALSAMIC VINEGAR’, ANYONE?) TO GIFTS (‘THE PAIN RELIEVER’ AND ‘LITTLE SPROUT’ GIFT BASKETS ARE ALWAYS A HIT), DANA SHORTT HAS MUCH TO OFFER – NOT TO MENTION A WEBSITE THAT’S FILLED WITH FANTASTIC RECIPES, INCLUDING DIRECTIONS FOR ‘WILD MUSHROOM RISOTTO’, ‘TOFU WITH LEEKS AND PEANUT SAUCE’, ‘BANANA CREAM PIE’, AND MORE.

TOQUE’S CAI SEPULIS SAT DOWN WITH DANA SHORTT HERSELF TO FIND OUT WHAT THE CULINARY VISIONARY’S SHOP AND BRAND IS ALL ABOUT. HERE’S WHAT CAI LEARNED:

CAN YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR GOURMET FOOD SHOP ON ERB STREET? When we opened in 2004, we wanted to create something that didn’t exist in Waterloo Region – a place that offered everything from prepared meals and gourmet products to curated and thoughtful gifts for everyone you love. Over the years, we have continued to add products and services such as giftware, gourmet gift baskets, chocolates from local suppliers, and an olive oil and balsamic vinegar tasting bar.

WHAT IS YOUR MANTRA WHEN IT COMES TO FOOD? Be adventurous. Try everything at least once.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR STYLE OF COOKING? It totally depends. At home I like to incorporate fresh and simple ingredients. Very Mediterranean-inspired. At work, we focus on elevated comfort food; that is, food that warms the soul.

YOU CARRY A WHOLE LINE OF INFUSED OLIVE OILS. CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT YOUR BUTTER-INFUSED OIL? Using all-natural vegetable extracts, butter olive oil offers both the health benefits of extra virgin olive oil and the delicious flavour of sweet butter – without actually using butter. (It’s vegan.) You can use the oil as a substitute wherever you might use melted butter – including on popcorn, rice, vegetables, corn on the cob, and more.

WHAT’S THE BEST COMFORT FOOD ON A COLD DAY? Our ‘Macaroni & 3 Cheeses’ dish with aged cheddar, parmesan, and swiss. Who doesn’t love mac and cheese?

ANY TIPS FOR NOVICE COOKS? Keep it simple. Start with the best ingredients and don’t fuss too much with preparation. What grows together goes together – cooking in season makes this easiest. And visit us here in the shop. We can set you up with essential cooking tools that make any recipes easy as pie, no matter your skill level.

CAN YOU THINK OF A RECIPE THAT ALWAYS IMPRESSES GUESTS BUT IS SURPRISINGLY SIMPLE TO MAKE? One of my favourite recipes is my risotto – made with butternut squash, maple bacon, and sage.

THE BEST PART OF YOUR JOB? There are too many to count, but I really enjoy engaging with my customers. I also enjoy the tasks that satisfy the ‘type-A’ side of my personality – including merchandising and buying for the store, and setting targets and plans for growth.

A FEW OF YOUR FAVOURITE PLACES IN THE REGION TO DINE WHEN YOU’RE NOT THE ONE COOKING? Some of my recent favourites include Red House, TWH Social, Gilt, and Bhima’s Warung.