In the foreground, Artichoke Asiago Squares. All photos courtesy of Irene Powell.

On a cold October evening, nothing could have been more welcoming than the sight of Anna Olson's new shop, Olson Foods at Ravine; tucked amongst the vineyards of St. David's, Ontario, the windows of the farmhouse-styled store shone warmly as we drove up the winding gravel driveway.

Though a celebration of Anna Olson's new book,In the Kitchen with Anna, (Whitecap Books, 2008) the evening was also felt to be the formal debut of the three-month-old shop, the second owned by the Food Network star and her husband (in this case also in partnership with Ravine Winery). It specializes in baked goods, fine foods and condiments, artisinal Canadian cheeses, select cookware items and boasts a small café-styled menu to be enjoyed on site, or for takeaway.

The store is expansive without feeling cavernous. The vaulted ceiling with glossy exposed beams embody the rustic elegance that seems the hallmark of Olson Foods at Ravine. A generous harvest table greeted us on arrival, tastefully adorned with seasonal flowers and an array of savoury nibbles from the book, including wedges of Provençal Tarts and slices of Brandied Pork Terrine, studded with cranberries and pistachios.

To one side of the room the bakery and deli beckons; servers are standing at the ready, offering up steaming bowls of Celery Soup with Blue Cheese. The on-site wood fired oven produced the gloriously-burnished roasted chicken on display, and is to thank for the house-made breads piled generously on the counter. To the other side of the room, backed by displays of oils, vinegars and jams, delicate cake stands present a trio of Mocha Hazelnut Cheesecakes. At their feet are platters of Lemon Cheesecake Mousse Tarts and perfectly-cut rows of Chocolate Almond Toffee Bars.

Taking it all in, we wandered the shop; handcrafted cutting boards from Stratford, Ontario were of particular interest, as were the array of salts and aromatic teas. Rainbow-hued enamelled cookware gleamed brightly from the shelves.

A wonderful compliment to the lakeside location of the original Olson's location in Port Dalhousie, St. Catharines, Ontario, Olson Foods at Ravine feels earthy and lush; well-placed in Niagara's wine region, it is a wonderful addition to the area, and is surely to become a favourite for locals and visitors alike.

Almost too lovely to eat, Mocha Hazelnut Cheesecakes.

With two bustling stores, the second season of her highly-successful new show Fresh recently wrapped up, and a new book on shelves, Anna Olson has a lot going on. I was able to grab a moment of her time to chat about food, inspiration and seasonal tastes.

seven spoons: Your new show has taken you out of a white studio space into the vibrant colours of your own home; with that, you have shifted your focus from desserts alone to foods for all occasions. How have you taken to the change?

Anna Olson: I'd have to say that I'm going back to my roots; that is, I started my culinary career not as a pastry chef, but as a savoury cook. Developing my pastry skills happened about six years after [I started] cooking. I have been a chef for almost 15 years - oops! Dating myself.

I feel this latest book shows a bit more of my complete self, not just the baker in me.

7S: Your book, In the Kitchen with Anna, follows this move to homey, accessible takes on the classics. How did you approach writing it?

AO: Fortunately the approach to writing this latest book was not a stretch of the imagination. I did not have to reach far for motivation; in fact, I took a step back to see what dishes and flavour combinations I was reaching for instinctively. I find, to get through my hectic days, I was cooking not just comfort food, but dishes that spoke to classic flavour combinations - yet with a little kick or something different to keep me interested, both in cooking and in eating.

7S: What would you consider your major influences in the kitchen? Any culinary heroes?

AO: I have the greatest admiration for chef Michael Olson, my husband. Before I knew him personally, I came to the Niagara Region to work with him professionally; I [had] admired, and still do, his commitment to using local, seasonal ingredients.

7S: With your two stores, Olson Foods at Port and the new Olson Foods at Ravine, what trends are you seeing with customers tastes?

AO: I find that customers aren't necessarily seeking exotic high-end ingredients. They want products that have a story or personal connection, and without fail it has to be a quality product. With food safety becoming a more publicized issue, knowing where your food comes from is important.

7S: Are there any particular ingredients or products that are particularly inspiring to you right now?

AO: Being seasonally motivated, I am happy as can be to cook with pumpkin, squash, onions, sage and rosemary. I do a roast every weekend in the autumn and I also eat a lot more cheese than I do any other time of year.

7S: Often you will hear chefs and cooks separate what they cook professionally, and what they cook in their own kitchen. Is that the case with you, and what is your go-to recipe at home?

AO: Since the two stores feature a great deal of familiar flavours and dishes, I'm not seeking to separate myself from them. In the day when I worked fine dining, after a service of cooking lobster, foie gras and making elaborate sauces, I would need to break away. I think that, like many chefs, the roasted chicken Sunday supper is the epitome of the perfect meal.

7S: And finally, three questions in one. It would be remiss not to ask you about sweets, as you have become so famous for your decadent creations. What is your favourite celebratory dessert? Your favourite comfort dessert? Your favourite guilty pleasure?

AO: Ah, I can never give a straight answer to that "favourite" question. Yes, I am seasonally motivated, so that shapes my favourites; I wouldn't dream of making a strawberry tart in October. But, I am very much craving-motivated when it comes to sweets ... when I want chocolate, I can think of nothing else until I get my chocolate!! And sometimes that's how the best recipes happen - by pure craving!

My thanks to Anna Olson for taking the time to speak with me; please look out for my thoughts on In the Kitchen with Anna: New Ways with the Classics early next week.

From top; freshly-baked Museli Bread, delicate bites of Lemon Cheesecake Mousse, and (with Brandied Pork Terrine in the background) chef Anna Olson's new book.

Photo courtesy of my ridiculously-talented brother.

I started to think about writing this announcement this past Mother's Day; it seemed a suitable occasion to attempt to collect my thoughts and to begin to find the words to properly convey how very lucky I feel in life, especially in regards to becoming a mother for a second time.

Even though I have tried to maintain the focus of this site to be food and recipes, I have been nothing short of humbled by the excited and supportive responses I have received whenever my personal life has been made mention. The encouragement, kindness and advice has been an unexpected bonus to my writing, and I am wholly grateful to all of you who continue to visit.

Seven spoons has been, as I have said, inextricably tied to many important milestones in my life, and the life I share with Sean and Benjamin. It has brought me what will surely be lifelong friendships and expanded my culinary and professional horizons. Most of surprisingly of all though, it has brought me a new sense of perspective and purpose.

When these words are published, it will mean our perspective has shifted again. Our threesome has become four and I will be beginning to see that Ben, though forever and always our baby, is no longer the baby; he is now a full-fledged big brother.

I am sure that this new journey will bring many more adventures, lessons and memorable meals. I do hope that you all will join me in exploring this new territory and enjoy the stories to come. As the next little while will be a tad hectic on our end, I will be shifting the content of the site from original recipes to feature more book reviews as well as resurrecting my "Taste to Go" columns, spotlighting products and purveyors of which I am particularly fond. As soon as time (and a newborn) permits me, please look out for this new content. Finally, I will be featuring more of the photographic talents of my big brother Anik and his equally-gifted wife Rene; they both have skills that far surpass mine and I am thrilled to have them contribute to the site.

Until then, we once again thank all of you. We have to thank our family for always being there with the standing offer of babysitting and for being a source of constant strength. To our friends, thank you for being such wonderful Aunties and Uncles to Benjamin, confidants to us and a wealth of boundless enthusiasm.

And finally I would like to take a moment to thank my dear Sean, our bundle of boy Benjamin, and this latest addition to the family for being everything to me.

[William was born on June 11th at 12:22PM EST, and is a handsome fellow.]

See you all soon.

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For everyone kind enough to send birthday wishes to Benjamin, or to anyone interested, here is a peak at some of the birthday festivities. Thank you all for helping us celebrated our little man, and a special thank you to my brother for the above photograph.

This one of Ben's three cakes; spiced banana cake layers with carmelized banana filling, topped with brown sugar cream cheese frosting and a bit of salted mixed nut crumble.

Edited to add: For those interested in the recipe, the cake is a spiced variation on the banana layer cake with mascapone frosting from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook. The frosting I use is Ina Garten's, with a bit of the icing sugar substituted for golden brown. Finally, I top it with a salted-nut praline crumble, of my own recipe.

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I do not believe any one of us could come up with words to sufficiently express our awe and gratitude for those who contributed to the success of this year's Menu for Hope campaign. In an astounding increase of 50% over last year, Pim has reported a final tally of $91,188 to benefit the United Nations Food Programme.

So kudos are deserved to those who organized the event, cheers to those who participated with some amazing prizes, and finally thanks to all those who were generous enough to bid. Last, but surely not least, congratulations to Eriko Frank, the recipient of a box of treats from yours truly. Please contact me at sevenspoonsbaking@gmail.com so that we can organize the details.

All the best to all of you, what a brilliant effort!

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I was out with my lovely Mum the other day and we came across these little violet darlings, all tucked in a box at the back of the market. Though not on our list of things to buy, neither of us could resist their charming size; so they were bundled up to be brought home.

Yes, we were smitten by fruit.

Beyond their diminutive stature, I think I was most taken with their weeble-ish physique. Their little tops and gently bulging belly struck a chord with me, and my own recently expanding equator.

Though I am sure some some of my southern spread can be attributed to holiday excess, I do have a far more pleasing reason for the plumpness - and my unexplained absence towards the end of last year.

My dear Sean and I are ecstatic to say that our Benjamin is going to be a big brother.

Some astute readers may have noticed that my aforementioned absence spanned three months, or one trimester. I had not meant to take time off, but morning sickness struck at all hours of the day and with unexpected ferocity. When I could eat I was restricted to a few, rather dull, foods in small quantities. Oatmeal and banana. Toast with a bit of cheddar if I was lucky. Rice with lentils. Not really the stuff riveting food writing is made of.

I must take a moment to express my deep gratitude, once again, to our wonderful family and friends. They came with meals in hand to make sure that my boys were fed and with cozy sweaters to make sure I kept warm. Thank you for all your support and enthusiasm, we are so terribly lucky.

And so, while our last pregnancy was never highlighted here, I hope that you all will welcome a mention or two over the coming months. I am happy to say I am feeling much better and I have resumed my role in the kitchen. I am unhappy to say I am missing soft cheeses terribly and that it is frustrating to see the lack of interesting non-alcoholic beverages at restaurants.

Soon Ben will be two (my goodness!) and in a few months he won't be the littlest anymore. Big changes around these parts, but each and every one will be met with the same silly grin we have been wearing ever since we heard the news.

Thank you all for your patience with me and for still being here!

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It's snowing outside, and the view is so lovely that I can almost forget the fact I just set fire to my oven. The flames are out, and I'm telling myself the smokiness just adds an "open fire" note of festivity to the evening. These are the moments we remember for years to come ...

Hope your holiday season is as memorable as this has already been, without the unexpected flambé of course. All the best to you and yours.

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Blackberry jam thumbprints have been a popular tradition for us. For further information on Menu for Hope 4, a worldwide list of prizes and full bidding details, please see yesterday's post.

I am a person who gets completely caught up in anticipation. I love the planning, the preparation and underlying sense of excitement that comes with any special occasion or event. There is a specific feeling to that time, a buoyancy of spirit that carries us through our days.

As one would assume then, this is the time of year that I hit my stride. November kicks off with a spate of family and friend birthdays, then leads into Diwali; December begins with more birthdays, rushes into the holidays and we are brought, breathless, to the New Year. Did I mention that we have five more birthdays to celebrate in January?

It is a blur of celebrations and smiles; a time when somewhere in between all the tinsel and merriment we take time to reflect on the greater gifts, the intangible ones, we have received throughout the year. I think it is this realization of how truly lucky I have been that gives me an extra push as we move through the season.

The lists are made, I am actually looking forward to wrapping, and the menu for our holiday meal is shaping up quite nicely. The last thing to do is probably my most treasured, and that is my holiday baking. After the five birthday cakes I have done in the last month, the switch to cookies marks a change of pace and a turn towards tradition. My offerings, for the most part, remain the same from year to year; half as a nod to the past and half in response to the requests of the recipients.

Today I am thrilled to add another name to my holiday list - yours. In support of this year's Menu for Hope campaign, I am offering a box of homemade goodies to the winning bidder. I will provide you with a list of treats, both savoury and sweet, and the choice is yours. And if you are extra nice, I may throw in an extra surprise or two. Shipping will be included, unless restricted by law.

Bidding may only give you a chance at winning, but it guarantees a little bit of joy to someone in need this holiday season. What is more worthy of celebration than that?

To bid, go to Firstgiving; the code for this prize is CA02.