Sun Run Café and Sun Run Farms - A Fine Romance

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Published by Sun Media, Spring 2012

The walls of the Arlington Hotel were nearly bulging on April 7 when hoards of foodies came out to celebrate the grand opening of Maynooth's Sun Run Café. With incredible food, live music, games, prizes, an auction, fireworks, and merriment by the truckload, the grand opening was a rocking party.

"They're famous, aren't they?" said Jim Henry of Sun Run Café owners Natalie Wood and Tom Logan.

"Everybody eats there," Henry added.

Sun Run café opened its doors in January of this year, and already has a loyal and enthusiastic clientele.

"It's packed every time I go in," said Jessica Ibbitson Anderson during the celebration.

Grant Weaver described how much he loves Sun Run Café's french fries, which are cooked in organic coconut oil, in great detail, saying they are beyond delicious.

"They've just got great food! Delicious and fresh!" added Karen Mulock.

One of the reasons for the delicious fresh food is the culinary expertise of Wood, who is a certified Red Seal chef - the other reason for the delicious fresh food, lies in the delicious fresh ingredients.

Just over two years ago Wood and Logan started Sun Run Farms, with a long term plan of eventually using their produce and poultry products in their own restaurant. While Wood generated an income working as a chef at the five-star-rated Couples Resort in Whitney, Logan, an experienced farmer, got the organic farm up and running.

"Our produce is ecologically grown, which means we use no chemicals. We start all our own plants from organic seed in the greenhouse," explain the couple, who helped organize last month's 3rd Annual Maynooth Seedy Saturday heritage seed exchange.

"We grow food crops on about 1.5 acres of land. We are clearing more garden space with the help of pigs that we raise throughout the summer. They make great rototillers!" says Logan. The farm is also home to goats and cows that help clear brush and make organic fertilizer. There are also chickens.

The couple broke ground in 2009 and started selling vegetables at farmers' markets. They also began a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program at the farm, through which members receive a box of fresh produce each week during the growing season. The CSA runs for 16 weeks each year, from mid-June to Thanksgiving. The farm produces about 50 different varieties of vegetables, and the CSA box contents change depending on what's harvestable each week.

"We are trying to reconnect people to the food they eat," says Logan about the farm.

The same level of care that goes into growing Sun Run Farms' produce and poultry goes in to creating the Sun Run Café menu items.

"All the food in the café is prepared in house, other then the bread. I like to know every ingredient in the food and also be able to pronounce it," explains Wood, adding, "The most rewarding thing is to have a table full of food in front of you that is all your own.

"People really don't understand the amount of work that's required to make this type of food," she continues. "For instance I touch an onion ring a minimum of 8 times before it hits your plate, the eggs in the batter are separated; the whites are whipped and folded into the batter. Very few people realize that on that burger, I have made the relish. I have made the pickles."

After acquiring her chef papers, Wood worked in the culinary department at Fleming College, and admits that she became a "food snob" and lost her passion for cooking. But all that changed after traveling to China.

"My father married Jiali, and a month before my half sister was born, my Dad died. I felt a need to go meet this woman and my sister, so I traveled to China one week after my sister, Li Yunshi (aka Michaela) was born, and I began to have a totally new experience of food," recounts Wood.

"The food in China was fresh - like still alive fresh - and the flavors were amazing, I fell in love with food again, and upon my return to Canada had a very hard time adjusting back to heavy, full of preservatives food," says Wood. "Around this time Tom I began chatting about what food was to us. He told me that he wanted to grow vegetables and I told him that I wanted to cook his vegetables. We've been together ever since."

A year after starting the farm, Wood brought her half-sister and step-mother to Canada. They now help with the farm.

"We are still waiting to hear about Jiali's permanent residence," says Wood, "but she is the reason why we have a Chinese take-away on Thursdays, and she is also an avid farmer."

Chinese dishes are only available for take-out on Thursdays from 5-8 p.m. - sources say the Singapore vermicelli is especially tasty - but the rest of the menu is available for take-out 7 days a week. The café is closed after 4 p.m. everyday except Thursdays.

Wood says take-out is a good option for people because the restaurant has limited seating and does not take reservations. However, for those who do manage to get a table, they can expect to see friends and neighbours there, enjoying selections that include breakfast, soup, salads, classic sandwiches, and comfort foods such as macaroni and cheese, fresh chipped fries, hand cut onion rings, and panko breaded chicken tenders.

After the overwhelming support of the community at Sun Run Café's grand opening, Wood and Logan say they feel very grateful and inspired about the future. When asked what their hopes are, Wood said, "To continue to be successful, to love our surroundings, family, and friends and to remember what is important. Food is a basic necessity that has been very corrupted in my time. I just want to be aware of what we are consuming."

Logan had a short and sweet answer when asked what his hopes for the future are. He simply answered, "that Nat will marry me."

The Sun Run Café is located at 33021 Hwy 62, Maynooth. For questions or to place a take-out order, call 613-338-1001