Vegan and Vegetarian News: Acorn Brownie Bites

Raw Tibicos / Fizz Kitchen, at 25 Keefer Road in St Catharines, is in the middle of Ontario’s Greenbelt!   The greenbelt was set up to protect some of Canada’s best growing areas; those famous vineyards and peach trees are on our doorstep, so close that I can almost reach out of my office window and pick a peach . . . !  All credit to the farmers here, we have a front-row seat for seeing first-hand how hard farmers work, and how many supplements are necessary, to grow healthy peaches and grapes in this area.   

A big part of what we do, is to develop products that use raw ingredients that can be grown in this area, with less, or no chemical inputs — not only to give the farmers a break — but perhaps more importantly —  to give the environment —  the soil microorganisms, insects, worms, and all those essential players —  a break from agricultural chemicals.  Acorns are a star performer in this category —  here in the middle of the Carolinian forest zone, Raw Tibicos / Fizz Kitchen consciously use as many ingredients as possible, from what could be our natural environment.  Please read the link below, for more about this wonderful, and beautiful, feature of nature, Ontario’s Carolinian forest.

The most recent addition to our “tastes of the Carolinian Forest” team, is a definite MVP:   Acorn Brownie Bites.  I was aware that acorns had been a much-loved staple of the First People in North America, and, as food designer, I was very interested in including acorns in our modern fast (healthy, delicious) food.  It took me a little over half a year of experimenting to come up with a process that worked in a commercial facility, to leach the tannins out of the acorns.  

Once that was accomplished, how to use the acorn flour?  My first desire was to use the flour in wraps, however, at this time, we cannot source enough acorns to supply traps!  Working with limits on acorn supply, and the innate nature of the flour, what emerged from the Raw Tibicos / (test) Fizz Kitchen is a moist, dense, chocolaty, European-level sweet.  So far —  so familiar —  however — there is a difference — as one might expect — when a minimally-processed acorn nut is used as a base — rather than processed-and-bleached white flour.  Here is how the acorn-flour brownie bite differs from a traditional brownie:  the acorn brownie has a tremendously clean mouth feel.  There is no feeling of a coating clinging to one’s teeth, and no soapy aftertaste.  Plus, since our processing method leaves the natural oil in the acorn flour, not only there no need for added fat, but also, the resulting batter tastes richer and “fattier” at a lower fat and calorie ratio than normal brownies —  all in a vegan, gluten-free package.

Please do come by, or call for delivery, to try the Acorn Brownie Bites. When biting into it, I hope that you feel part of the natural world, and most especially, by eating this, we are taking the first step on a road to a more sustainable agriculture.  Additionally, we are joining a millennia-long tradition of ecologically-friendly acorn-eating.  How often can we say that, when eating dessert?  As mentioned, these Acorn Brownie Bites have the added benefit of being vegan, and gluten-free.

Unlike our other menu items, which are either every-day, or on a five-week rotation, Acorn Browne Bites availability is based on our ability to source either intact acorns, or acorn flour.  Please do call (905) 646-1110, or email, to check for availability of this item.  A weekly email is available, which gives discounts, specials, and the week’s special menu items.   God bless, and God speed, in all you do!

chocolate-covered brownie bites made with acorn flour, pictured with glasses, for scale, and a Raw Tibicos customer loyalty card
Dark chocolate covered Acorn Brownie Bites, a healthy, sustainable-agriculture (semi-) sweet treat

Vegan and Vegetarian News: Spotlight on Hearty Lentil Grain Bowl

Those of you who buy our take-home, litre containers, know that (for food) we have a two-week expiration from date of preparation.  People don’t know that I, (and many who work at Raw Tibicos/ Fizz Kitchen), take the product home after expiration, to eat, enjoy, and of course, quality check!   Last week, Hearty Lentil Sarrasin Bowl was on the menu; this week, that’s what is on my menu —  as I was heating and eating —  it occurred to me that this particular menu item could use a little explanation.    

Traditionally, food was divided into taste categories:  

  • sweet
  • sour
  • salty
  • savoury
  • bitter.  

These are the taste palates that chef’s work with; how the tastes are combined, turns out to be strongly influenced by culture and history.   Throughout most of history, chefs aimed to have each of these tastes in every bite.   Desserts would stress sweet — of course — but salty, sour, savoury and bitter should be there, too.  For example, think of a lovely pound cake flavoured with lemon peel, and topped with fruit.  The generous amount of butter provides savoury, sour comes from the fruit — hopefully the chef didn’t skimp on salt — and the lemon peel provides just that extra oomph of bitter — everything wrapped up in a delicious wash of sugar!  

For some reason historians have not identified, Western cuisine turned away from the ideal of many tastes in one bite, to single flavours, intensified and showcased.  The revolution began in France, where chefs began to take a food, such as roast duck, and intensify the duck flavours by using drippings, organ meats, and perhaps bones, to make sauces that intensified the duck flavour.  Duck, stuffed with fruits and spices, served with a bitter, salty, relish, came to stand for “grandpa’s” meal; sophisticated diners demanded a slice of duck, separate from fruit, in a gravy of duck.  I think this style of eating is familiar to most of us today, as the French concept took Western culture by storm!

As food designer at Raw Tibicos/ Fizz Kitchen, I appreciate both food traditions; both the all-in-one, and the single flavour; however, I have noticed that in the world of single flavours, one flavour is hard to isolate and eat alone:  bitter.  We can eat sweet alone —  savoury and salty, certainly —  sour, in small quantities, is delightful — but a mouthful of pure bitter is —  honestly —  bitter!  What a shame this is!  Bitter flavours are famous for waking up, and balancing our immune systems, and doing the same for digestion.    No one ever ate too many calories of a food with bitter in it; however, when the stomach is a little off —   when one is thinking about junk food —  rather than healthy — bitter is a hero.   Some may find calling bitter a hero an exaggeration —  for those few, I suggest, when you are feeling slightly “off”, try bitter’s brawny, virile, rugged style, and see how you feel now! 

Therefore, after a very long introduction, I present:  Hearty Lentil Sarrasin Bowl.   This lentil, sarrasin and olive oil meal is turned into a hero, with the addition of grapefruit peel.  The green lentils, sarrasin and olive oil provide a rich, savoury, salty taste, with a satisfying, almost meat-like mouth feel.   Flashing in-and-out, like sunshine sparkling on the lake, is the light, fresh bitter taste of grapefruit peel, giving that extra twinkle that makes it all beautiful.  Paired with our water kefir/ Tibicos drink, one has the sweet and sour flavours that are missing from the Hearty Lentil Bowl:  and what does a meal with all five flavours equal?  Correct!    Feeling full and oh-so-satisfied, on less calories.  Delicious!

Hearty Lentil Sarrasin Bowl is one of our rotating feature menu items.  Fifteen menu items are on a five-week rotating schedule of three in each week.   For a weekly emailed update of which items are on the menu each week, please subscribe to our one-a-week email, at, or call (905) 646-1110.  We look forward to seeing you, at our facility at 25 Keefer Road, St. Catharines, ON, Canada, or delivering to you,  in the Niagara Region.  God bless, and God speed in all you do!

Lentils and Sarrasin, in a bowl, with a topping of candied ginger
Hearty Lentil Sarrasin Bowl, topped with Candied Ginger .  Sarrasin is a starchy seed, and is gluten-free.

Vegan & Vegetarian News: Fossil Fuels & Our Sustainability Mission

Remember when the milk man used to deliver fresh milk to our doorsteps, every morning?

Neither do I!  However, for one of my good friends, delivering milk was her father’s first job —  put out of business by the cheap and plentiful oil (and gas) of the 1960’s and early 70’s.  

It’s hard to believe now that gas prices have retreated from the highs of a few years ago, that we are actually living in a time of increasing oil and gas scarcity.  The true price of oil and gas has been covered up another recent invention —  savings accounts that don’t pay anything to savers.  Back when banks had to pay us for the use of our money, investors couldn’t afford to put money into gas exploration that spills more money than carbon!   To read more on the topic, please read this excellent summary.  

Returning to Raw Tibicos Delivery, we try hard to learn from the past.  One of the practices, back when gas was expensive and rare, was simple —  food got delivered!   

Imagine a village, with the C–, F–, P–, R– and W– families.   Rather than each of them making a separate trip to pick up grain bowls, hot soup, vegetable blends and tibicos drink, the delivery van makes one trip, bringing exactly what is needed to each family, for a fraction of the miles driven!   We have been following this model since October 2018; and a tremendous amount of credit for Raw Tibicos Delivery’s ability to spare the planet goes to you, our customers, for working with us on the timing of your deliveries, and buying bulk!  Your delivery choices have been saving huge amounts of gas miles!  I could say, “thank you for making us look good”, but honestly, the credit, and good looks, belong to you.

Currently, Tuesday is the day we deliver to Welland, Monday and Wednesday in St Catharines, and Fridays in Niagara-on-the-Lake.   We have more vans on the road, so please do save some gas miles, and call to set up regular delivery service to your community!

Thank you, again, for helping our air!

Raw Tibicos Delivery


Vegan & Vegetarian News: You Will Be Full!

Introducing the first of our standard “grain” bowls: Chickpea fritters in a spicy tomato sauce, on a bed of sarrasin. Shown here, with a side of our home-made pickles (tibicos culture, of course!), and the optional nut topping. As always, a refreshing glass of tibicos drink; in this case, Hops, on the side.

The high fibre, protein, and dash of olive oil — as well as the high nutritional content — is what makes this so filling. Additionally, our palates crave the extra nutritional boost of fermented foods. Alcohol packs on the pounds — not a problem for this meal — fermentation without guilt or added weight!


Vegan & Vegetarian News: Growler Returns Support Bees!

Now, for every growler returned to our facility, or to our vans, we donate $.50 toward Ontario Beekeepers Association’s bee protection and advocacy fund! Together, we are making a difference!

This growler has been around three times, raising $1.50 for Ontario’s bees, just this one bottle! All bottles are washed and sterilized before reuse. This survivor is shown with our latest thank you — a thank you to every one who returned bottles — !!


Vegan & Vegetarian News: Canada’s New Nutrition Guidelines Look a Lot Like Raw Tibicos

Vegan & Vegetarian News: Eating Niagara, St Catharines Standard: Fermenting a New Niagara Beverage Business

9 °C Partly cloudy| TUESDAY, OCTOBER 30, 2018

EATING NIAGARA: Fermenting a new Niagara beverage business

LIVING 12:00 AM by Tiffany Mayer Special to The St. Catharines Standard


Leslie Payne-Zimmer, owner of Tibbev, a St. Catharines company, and her brewer Hilary Hauck make water kefir, a fermented beverage touted for its health benefits. – Tiffany Mayer , Special to The St. Catharines Standard


Water kefir grains, known as tibicos, are a clusters of yeast, beneficial bacteria and polysaccharides. – Tiffany Mayer , Special to The St. Catharines Standard

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The cavernous production facility tucked behind Leslie Payne-Zimmer’s office in a northeast St. Catharines industrial park smells faintly of a winery.

That undeniable luscious funk caused by sugar and yeast tag-teaming to ferment something fills the air in a way that encourages long and full breaths to drink it all in.

But Payne-Zimmer, owner of Tibbev on Keefer Road, isn’t brewing up Niagara’s next big thing in boozy beverages. Instead, the Toronto transplant is adding to the bevy of alcohol-free, fermented drinks flooding supermarkets and gullets of the health-conscious with her Raw Tibicos brand of water kefir.

And she’s willing to bring it right to your front door with a growing fleet of mobile kitchens delivering growlers of the fizzy drink that’s akin to pop for grown-ups.

“In the food world, it’s predicted to be one of the big trends,” Payne-Zimmer said about water kefir and other fermented drinks.

Think of water kefir as the more sedate cousin of kombucha, a fermented tea product that’s become as common on store shelves as cola.

It’s less sweet and doesn’t boast the caffeine content of kombucha. But like the fermented tea, water kefir is gaining ground with the thirsty because of its touted health benefits.

Fermented foods have been billed as good for the gut, providing beneficial bacteria and certain B vitamins, including critical B12, linked to healthy blood and nerve cells, and preventing certain types of anemia.

Research is sparse, but scholarly articles argue water kefir contains high levels of antioxidants and shows promise for improving health.

Payne-Zimmer started drinking the stuff 10 years ago as an alternative to alcohol. It was about the time actor Lindsay Lohan was spotted sporting a bottle of kombucha, setting off a craze expected to have a market value of US$1.8 billion by 2020, according to industry reports.

Payne-Zimmer dabbled in DIY kombucha at home but that went sour thanks to the slimy mother, called a scoby, necessary to ferment tea.

“The issue I find with kombucha is it’s an incredibly strong culture. It invades everything,” she said. “I’d open my fridge and find kombucha mushrooms.”

Water kefir, by contrast, is made with a starter called tibicos, which looks like coarse sea salt. Tibicos grains are clusters of yeast, beneficial bacteria and polysaccharides co-existing peacefully to produce a low-sugar, caffeine-free beverage that, depending on the flavour, tastes like alcohol-free beer.

Water kefir’s fermentation process happens faster than kombucha — sometimes in as little as two days versus one week to one month.

It also boasts another benefit that kombucha doesn’t: a long shelf life.

“Because it’s not pasteurized, it doesn’t go flat,” Payne-Zimmer said. “If you leave it in the fridge a while, it will maybe turn more sour but that’s it.”

Friends knew she was on to something with her homemade water kefir and so did she, thinking the market for it would develop alongside kombucha. Her instincts were bang-on. In 2016, PepsiCo acquired KeVita, one of the largest water kefir producers on the continent.

In the meantime, Payne-Zimmer launched Ann Payne’s Caveman Foods Ltd., selling her version of water kefir in Toronto health food and grocery stores.

Earlier this year, she moved operations from North York to Niagara, rebranding as Tibbev (pronounced Tib-Bee-Bev) and selling some of her dozen flavours of Raw Tibicos, including rose, beet and chrysanthemum, at the Niagara-on-the-Lake and Pelham supper markets. She also has a version flavoured with hops for a worthy beer substitute.

“People kept coming up to us (at supper markets) saying it reminds them of beer. Well, we can make a hops one, then,” Payne-Zimmer said.

She’s launching a fleet of food trucks this fall to sell her water kefir on street corners in Niagara Falls, St. Catharines and anywhere else city bylaws permit. Payne-Zimmer will do catering, as well, and plans to partner with community organizations to offer the locally made health drink on location, which will be posted online each day.

Her “Fizz Kitchen” vans will also offer her homemade vegetarian and vegan soups, made at Tibbev. Fermented vegetables, such as cucumbers and garlic, made with the water used to store her tibicos grains, will be offered on the side.

The line of 15 soups is made without thickeners and commercial broth, she said.

“There’s nothing on the label I can’t read,” said Tibbev brewer and soup maker Hilary Hauck, who graduated from Niagara College’s culinary innovation and food technology program. “That’s one of the things I liked about Leslie. This is homemade and it tastes good.”

People who can’t make it to a Fizz Kitchen location can text a truck to deliver a minimum $20 order, which is a litre of soup and a growler of water kefir. A retail outlet at Tibbev’s Keefer Road headquarters is also in the works.

“(Water kefir) combines really well with food,” Payne-Zimmer said. “As long as we’re doing the vans, it makes sense to have a total solution in terms of eating and drinking. Also, I like the challenge of developing foods. It’s just a healthier version of a food truck.”

Tiffany Mayer is the author of Niagara Food: A Flavourful History of the Peninsula’s Bounty. She blogs about food and farming at




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