A few days ago I had the great pleasure to meet the owner and head mermaid of Siren Bakery Loreli Lees. Siren specializes in gourmet granola that is so good you momentarily forget your name. Seriously. Loreli dropped by some samples to my house and I was caught sneaking away to snack several times. Check out hubby’s photographic proof:
Now on to the interview!
(Simply Fresh) Siren Bakery is new to the Ottawa food scene, producing mouth watering flavours of granola such as ‘Cranberry Almond’, ‘Blueberry Pecan’ and ‘Date Walnut’. Tell me a little bit about your background and what made you decide to start making granola.
(Siren Bakery) Yes, indeed we are very new. (And thanks for the compliment!) We started just three months ago to be exact. Well I have always loved to bake. The business idea came about after years of complaining to my husband about how much I wanted to bake for a living. Lots of whining as we passed by all of the lovely local bakeries and shops in the budding foodie district of Westboro, Hintonburg and Wellington Village.
And why did I start with gourmet granola? I set out initially to make cereal for my family. I was tired of what was on the market … cereals that had an ingredient list as long as my arm, and as Ron Eade from the Citizen remarked recently – yeah, how do you recreate these Franken-cereals from home with all the strange ingredients you find the food conglomerates using?
And so one sunny day in May, I walked into the Ottawa Bagel Shop with hat in hand and asked their lovely manager, Bella … “What would it take for me to become a supplier to you?” She smiled and said … “Bring me in some samples, dear.” That’s all I needed to hear! And I knew exactly what I wanted to go to market with … the same baked goods that I was making for my family and myself. Yummy baked goods that were healthy, low in sugar and yet still delicious and fresh. I wanted to stand out from the rest, and when you’re name is directly associated with a brand, you spend your days thinking – how can I make this product the best-in-class? How can I get the sugar ratio down as low as possible, but still have it taste wonderful? Freshness is very important to me, in fact I’ say it’s one of my key differentiators. And that’s why I only bake in very, very small quantities, and I deliver to my stores every week – making sure every bag that you pick up at any location came out of the oven less than a week ago!
It was the first stores I initially approached that gave me my start. Both the Ottawa Bagel Shop and Herb & Spice on Wellington have been wonderful, supportive, and gave me so much great advice to kick-start Siren Bakery and give me the chance I needed. I know I’m not the only local baker they support – they are just so on board with the local food movement. They’re both almost institutions in Ottawa – I think they’ve both been around for 20+ years. And they understand their customers, and what’s happening now in the local food market.
(My background is in high-tech marketing by the way. Go figure.)
All your granolas are made and sold right here in Ottawa using as many local products as possible. Why do you think it’s important to buy local products?
Yes, Siren Bakery uses as many locally sourced products as we can. It’s been a real learning experience for me, and the challenge lies in sourcing ingredients that make sense, always keeping an eye on the bottom line. I think we’ve found a great balance. We do use some ‘exotic’ ingredients so to speak, such as unsweetened coconut, dates, almonds, pecans and walnuts – so those can’t be sourced here. But we buy our honey from a local farmer, and I’m currently on the hunt for a rolled oats supplier. My grandfather was a bee farmer for most of his life (I have vivid memories of him petting bees as a kid!) … so I have a real appreciation for honouring and supporting local farmers.
Siren Bakery is an official sponsor of the Ottawa Folk Fest – what does this mean, and why did you decide to get involved?
So we’re donating over 1000 breakfasts as a thank you to all of the volunteers, artists and musicians that are participating in this year’s Ottawa Folk Festival. We value the importance of the arts and look forward to supporting more community events in the near future. We’re also pleased to give people the opportunity to try our new healthy gourmet granola line, including the introduction of a “vegan” granola which is sweetened with maple syrup. We’re hoping that all flavours become Ottawa staples!
What makes your granola unique?
And when I say low in sugar I mean low … and we only use honey and superior-grade maple syrup in our granola. So in a 250g bag of our granola we use no more than 2 tablespoons of either honey or maple syrup. That’s crazy low. We use even less canola oil in our base, relying on the good fats from sunflower seeds and nuts such as almonds, pecans and walnuts to give you that great flavour, and in the end a product that will sustain you through to your next meal. It’s very nutritionally dense. It’s about keeping your blood sugar even with a careful balance of proteins, good fats, and high fibre carbs (provided by unprocessed, old-fashioned rolled oats, and dried fruit).
Another secret I can divulge … in order to increase the ‘perceived’ level of sugar, while keeping the actual honey and/or maple syrup to a minimum we use cinnamon in every batch. It’s a fabulous spice that not only gives you a taste and olfactory throw-back to childhood, it’s also been found to reduce your blood glucose levels, and it acts as a natural preservative in our granola.
Ottawa Bagel Shop
Mrs. McGarrigles in Merrickville