Post by Stephan Telka
Mathieu Juneau may just have the freshest nuts in town. The Ottawa native Juneau has been a roaster and the owner of his own gourmet nut roasting business, Roast’d, since autumn 2010, providing Ottawans with the closest thing to street-roasted nuts possible.
During a 2004 trip to New York City, Juneau was inspired by the nuts roasted and sold in the parks and on the street corners of Manhattan. “All it took was a two-dollar bag brimming with almonds and cashews that had been roasted and sugared to perfection,” and Juneau was hooked. Returning to then-home Toronto, Juneau set about experimenting with various nut and seasoning combinations, initially using his friends and family members as guinea pig taste-testers.
Feeling uninspired by a bilingual editing position back in Ottawa, in December 2009 Juneau decided to turn his casual interest into a full-time job. “It’s important to do something you find rewarding,” Juneau reflected. With a few workshops from the Ottawa Entrepreneurship Centre under his belt, and three seasoning recipes down pat (Brown Sugar; Maple Fleur de sel; and Cinnamon Hawaiian Sea Salt) Juneau leaped onto the Ottawa foodie scene. In November 2010 he added the delicious (I was lucky enough to be given a sample) Cinnamon-Cumin Fumé de sel (yup, that’s smoked salt!) to his ‘mix’ of offerings.
These are truly gourmet nuts. Juneau takes pride in sharing that his nuts are vegan (no butter or oil is used), and hand roasted in a skillet, allowing him to ensure that they are evenly cooked, and that only whole nuts make it into his bags. The absence of oil and butter also makes his nuts cholesterol- and trans-fat free (which explains why he’s able to keep his boyish figure!) He sources his almonds and pecans from California, while his cashews come from Brasil (“fairly traded, but without the official designation,” he says). His seasonings he tries to source locally where at all possible, including maple syrup, which he buys from the Proulx Sugar Bush & Berry Farm in Cumberland (that’s just beyond Orléans). While the Maple Fleur de Sel is the best selling of his mixes, Juneau’s personal favourite is the Cinnamon Hawaiian Sea Salt.
The best place to buy Juneau’s nut creations is through his Facebook page. Individual orders can be arranged for pick up in the ByWard Market. For orders over $30, he offers his own nut home delivery service in the National Capital Region. They are also available in the gift shops of three local hospitals (General, Civic and Riverside), not to mention events and meetings catered in those hospitals. He has been at a few fairs over the past few months, including Wed By Hand and Rouge, and is exploring the idea of selling his nuts on the streets of Ottawa, if the city ever relaxes its regulations (sign an online petition to this effect here).
In a nutshell, Roast’d is all about “focusing locally, and producing by hand as fresh as possible.” Insert your final nut joke here __________. Enjoy, Ottawa!