Friday, August 26, 2011

Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF 2011) + California Strawberries + a Giveaway


And the winner is...
#2
Danny - Congratulations!

You could win two Gala Screening tickets to TIFF thanks to the California Strawberry Commission, the official strawberry provider for the event.

• Gala tickets are high profile film screenings at Roy Thomson Hall each evening at 6:30pm and 9:30pm and matinees on weekends during the Festival. Usually, the actors and talent are present to introduce the film and on the red carpet beforehand, but this cannot be confirmed.

• Opening Night will be on September 9 and closing on September 18. Non-gala films are spread out among various theaters  There are also some great high profile films at Ryerson, VSR at Elgin, Winter Garden and various other theaters.

• You will find out which film you are receiving tickets to on September 2, 2011.

• Winner must be 18 years of age or older.

• Winner is responsible for transportation to Toronto/TIFF.

• Giveaway starts August 26, 2011 at 12:01:00 a.m. Eastern Time ("ET") and ends on August 30, 2011 at 11:59:59 p.m. ET. One winner will be chosen using Random.org.

How to Enter

Post a comment here (on my main blog). Include your email in your comment so that I can reach you. If your name is selected, and your email isn't included, I'll draw another name.

Recipe for Strawberry Muddle Cocktail

Serves 1




Recipe and image courtesy of the California Strawberry Commission


2 large or 3 small fresh California strawberries, stemmed
½ -1 tablespoon simple syrup
2 slices lemon
6 ounces Prosecco
crushed ice
mint leaf

In a glass, muddle strawberries to a fine pulp. Add simple syrup to taste. Place lemon slices on top of strawberries and punch out the centers, leaving rinds in glass. Gently pour in Prosecco; do not stir. Layer top of glass with ice and garnish with mint.










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Monday, March 14, 2011

Whisk-ey

It’s not every day, or week, or even year that I get invited to a whiskey tasting. So when the opportunity recently came my way, I jumped at the opportunity.

In the interest of full disclosure: I do not profess to be anything remotely approaching a professional whiskey taster. If you’re expecting reviews that include descriptions of a nose that incorporates four different fruits, plus the smells of the ocean, together with three specific kinds of flowers, 2 herbs, and some oak to finish it off, I’m afraid you’re likely to be disappointed in my more “everyman” reviews of these fine drams. That having been said, I likewise am no stranger to either scotches or bourbons, the latter of which is in fact my favourite liquid pastime.

Also in the interest of full disclosure, I profess that when it comes to single malt scotches, I lean heavily towards the dense, peaty, luxurious tastes of Islay far more than I do their speyside or highlands/lowlands cousins. So naturally I was initially slightly disappointed that the tasting included nary a whiff of Islay. The disappointment was short lived, however, once I sampled the drams so kindly provided by the Masters of Malt. You can bet, now that I’m in the know, some of my friends will be getting wee drams in their Christmas stockings next year. I may receive more than a few myself, and they will not all come from Islay.

On to the tastings.

The samples we tried were pretty diverse, consisting of:

A Rosebank 19 Year Old 1990 - Old Malt Cask (Douglas Laing)

A 30 year old Master of Malt Speyside

A Johnny Drum Green Label 4 Year Old

Just for balance, we threw in one more of our own... a scotch with which many of us are familiar – some 12-year old Glenlivet.

They were all delightful in their own ways. To me, (and to many I think) whiskeys are each suited to a specific ambience and mood. Each of these whiskeys would be a great companion in the right setting for sure.

We began with the Rosebank. It’s hard to believe they bottled it just as I was starting my career. The color was amazing – clear, quite pale golden straw. The nose was sharp – in a positive way, with scents of both flowers (roses did indeed come to mind) and oak. Upon sipping it, I tasted sweetness, a little like honey, very rich with a bit of a sharp edge, maybe even a tiny hint of peat or smoke. The finish was what I would describe “Medium” (but then again, I love the huge finishes of Lagavulin and Laphroaig), with a definite taste of the oak casks in which it was aged. This whiskey is perfect for almost any occasion.

We next moved on to the speyside. I was expecting great things from a dram that had been aging since roughly the time I was in college, and I was seriously not disappointed. The color of this fantastic whiskey is much darker than the Rosebank, deeper golden amber, almost syrupy looking. The nose was the thing here – very strong, and fruity doesn’t even begin to cover it. Fruit explosion more like it – and clover, all infused with that beautiful earthy tannin leathery smell. I could have been happy just smelling this malt. But the taste – again was something to experience. Very full and rich, with spice and sherry. The finish was medium to long with the same fruity and very slightly smoky edge. Altogether one of the most delightful scotches I have ever run across, perfect for those cold Canadian winter nights inside by the fire. Great for those early fall nights at the lake. Come to think of it, I could pretty much enjoy this scotch anywhere anytime.

We switched gears next and flew across the pond from Scotland to Kentucky, where the Johnny Drum Green Label was waiting. I almost felt at that point it was totally unfair – to jump from a 30 year old malt to a 4 year old bourbon just seemed so – totally unfair. But as I said, I am a big lover of bourbon and in fact one of my biggest laments is that there is such a paltry selection of them available in my home province. There’s also that fact that this bourbon sells for a fraction of what you’d pay for either the Rosebank or the Speyside malts, and I have to say that dollar for dollar, this bourbon is a steal.

The colour of this bourbon is pretty different from its Scottish cousins. Much darker amber, with an almost burnished coppery glow. The nose is strong, with the typical sweet smell of most bourbons. Honey for sure, and also the fantastic smell of freshly mown hay. Not at all bad for a (relatively speaking) economical libation. The taste is smooth, deep and mellow, a slight bit fruity with some spiciness as well, with a long smooth finish. Scotch lovers might describe this as a harsh drink, but I can tell you that I will definitely be buying this whiskey when I can.

We finished the night with our Glenlivet, which had some pretty hard acts to follow, seeing as it’s often considered something of a “starter” scotch for newbies to the taste. The nose was sharp – like very strong malt, a little fruity, but almost (dare I say it!) an almost mildly soapy, slightly acrid tinge. Not promising. The color was somewhere in the middle – not the pale gold of the Rosebank or the darker amber of the speyside – but somewhere in between. The palate was spicy and oaky, just as you’d expect from a middle of the road scotch, with a sharp but short finish of oak and nary a trace of peat or smoke. All in all, not the equal of the other drams we tasted, but perhaps that’s not surprising given what it was up against.

So there you have it – musings from someone who loves bourbon and very much likes scotch as well. It was so nice to stray away from the peaty, smokey Islay plates and finishes to these other tastes and sensations. I’ll be buying more highland and speyside bottles this year. That’s one thing a good whiskey tasting will always do: it makes one realize, there is so much good whiskey... and so little time.


~Dave Kerr

=================

Background on Whiskey

Whiskey is a distilled alcoholic drink produced from fermented grain mash. A variety of different grains can be used, including, barley, malted barley, rye, malted rye, wheat, and corn. It may not sound mouth watering, but those who know their whiskies beg to differ. Whiskey is aged in wooden casks which are typically made from white oak.

The art of whiskey making begins with the distilling process and the art of distilling began with the Babylonians in Mesopotamia (now Iraq) around the Second Millennium BC. Perfumes and armomatics were distilled long before spirits. Distillation was also used to prepare treatments for medicinal purposes such as the treatment of colic, palsy, and smallpox.

Since the early 14th century, the Latin word “aqua vitae” has been applied to distilled drinks,meaning literally “water of life.”

Between 1100 and 1300, distillation spread to Ireland and Scotland, through monastic distilleries. Since grapes were in short supply in these areas, they began to use barley beer instead, which evolved into whiskey, and the rest, as they say, is history. They never looked back. As the old Irish proverb put it:

“What whiskey will not cure,
there is no cure for.”
-Irish Proverb

Unlike fine wine, whiskey does not mature in the bottle – only in the cask. The age of a whiskey is therefore calculated as the time between the distilling process and the bottling. Additional aging in a cask beyond 10 or 20 years will not necessarily make a better whiskey.

Whiskey is a spirit that is regulated worldwide. It comes from a variety of origins and includes many classes and types but the typical unifying characteristics are the fermentation of grains, distillation, and aging in wood.

Most whiskies are sold at or near an alcoholic rate of 40 percent, although the strength can vary significantly, depending on the type of cask and the amount of time spent in the cask.

"The water was not fit to drink.
To make it palatable, we had to drink whiskey.
By diligent effort, I learnt to like it."
-Sir Winston Churchill

Links

Master of Malt, a company in the U.K. with a proud heritage of over 25 years in the whiskey retail business. They have conscientiously compiled a catalog of fine single malt scotch whiskies that can be ordered online

Master of Malt Whiskey Gift Page

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Canadian Celebrity Chefs Event: Moffatt and Walsh's Drunken Squab


Yesterday, I spent 12 hours immersed in food. The day included celebrity chefs, demonstrations, tastings, and time to share this experience with other people who are just as passionate about food. The event was the Canadian Celebrity Chefs Event hosted by Chef Michael Blackie at the NAC that was developed in part to support the NAC's National Youth and Education Trust, which furthers artistic education, training and mentorship for young Canadians.

Yes, I was disappointed in parts of the day. But there was much to watch, learn and absorb.

Chefs
We saw 16 chefs of varying calibre (from Iron Chefs to celebrity television chefs to local masters) prepare eight over-the-top dishes that were not skimpy on portions (in most cases). All day, they passionately shared their skills, talent and knowledge. Each chef pairing had 45 minutes to show how to prepare their dish and then there was time for Q&A. We had a day's worth of watching and learning (in-between the frustrating interruptions from the host). The day was full and by the end of it, I was tired but happy to have been an observer.

Food & Wine
We tasted top quality ingredients that don't manage to find themselves in my refrigerator very often during the year: foie gras, oysters, veal tenderloin, bison, bone marrow, bacon foam, lobster, sweetbreads, sunchokes, and squab among others. Plus we had a wine pairing with each of the dishes. {And lunch was included too.}

We had eight appetizer dishes. It was even suggested that it would be ok to go and get another plate from the same station.

We also have eight original recipes to try in our own kitchens.

Cost
Some people complained about the cost of the event. Yes, because I am a food blogger and offered to help promote the event beforehand, during and after, I got my ticket (worth $145) for free. Recently I ate dinner at one of the best restaurants in Ottawa. The bill came to around $80 for one person, and I only had a main dish, a dessert and one glass of wine. $145 for 12 hours of food and demo is a deal, and one I would pay for next year if I don't have the opportunity to "work" the event.

First-time events give us the slightly rocky start we look back on fondly once it's all fine-tuned in years to come. (Maybe next year the chefs shouldn't bond so much the night before!) It's easy to be critical and focus on what went wrong. I prefer to pick out the sea glass and focus on the positive. We all love food. (And the sandbox is big enough for all of us. :)

Here is one of eight recipes from the event. This one is from Chef Michael Moffatt of Beckta's and Chef Anthony Walsh of Canoe in Toronto. The Tatin of Sunchoke was creamy and slightly sweet. I would add a bit of garnish to this dish for color if I ever make it at home.


Recipe for drunken squab + Newfie screech | tatin of sunchokes | foie gras crepinette

Moffatt | Walsh

Serves 4

For the Squab
2 pcs, 375-400 g Squab
Legs, back and wings detached, Breasts left on the crown, aged 3-5 days in a well-ventilated refrigerated space. Use the wings and back for a stock/jus.
The legs should be liberally seasoned with the following mixture:
Place all the ingredients in a processor or mortar and pestle and smash them to a course pulp.

2 tbsp Kosher Salt
1 tbsp Brown Sugar
1 tsp ea Fennel Seed, Coriander Seed and Star Anise.
(I like to toast them lightly prior to smashing)
1 tsp Thyme leaves, 2 laurel leaves.

Coat the legs with the mix; rest them at room temp for 2 hours. Lightly rinse the legs off in cool water. Submerge the legs in warm duck fat, cover and place in a 275F oven for 1-½ hours. The meat should easily come off of the bone. Strain the fat and chill for re use.

For the Dip
250 ml Newfie Screech
400 ml Maple Syrup A Grade
500 ml water
1 Tbsp Star Anise Pods (lightly toast all spices)
1 Tsp Fennel Seed
1 tsp Coriander Seed
½ stick Cinnamon
1tbsp Kosher Salt

Combine ingredients, simmer until fragrant approximately 15-20 minutes. With the dip at a mild boil, place the squab crowns into the pot for 10 seconds. Remove and place back in fridge immediately to cool entirely. Repeat this process on the birds 5-7 times over the period of 24 hours. The birds from that point can stay in the fridge for up to 3 days. Preheat an oven to 425F; Place the Squab on a rack on a tray and cook for 8-10 minutes rotating the tray ½ way through the cooking. Remove from the oven; let rest 15 minutes prior to carving.

Tatin of Sunchoke
4 Puff Pastry rounds, 5cm in diameter, punctured thoroughly with a fork.
Warm caramel (250 ml water, ½ cup sugar, simmered until caramel color)
4 Thumb- sized pieces of well blanched (Roast or Boiled) Jerusalem artichoke, I like them with the skin on

Maple Sunchoke Puree
½ cup coarsely chopped skin on sunchoke
½ small sweet onion minced
1 tbsp minced ginger
¼ cup each of chicken stock as well as 35% cream
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp kosher salt

Combine ingredients and simmer until the sunchokes are soft, puree until smooth,
check seasoning.

(Pam Spray is a good measure prior to the whole process.)
In a foil 4 oz oven able cup, place a small piece of parchment to cover the bottom. Place a spoon of caramel, then place the piece of sunchoke on top of the caramel. Put a nice dollop of the sunchoke puree on top of the sunchoke… and finally lay the docked puff over the choke. Make sure to gently push the pastry down the sides of the mold. Bake at 375 F for 12 – 15 minutes, pop them out while warm and reserve.

Crepinettes
Picked down Squab leg meat
½ cup ground pork
½ cup sliced Shallots
1 tsp Ginger
½ cup Panko or other bread crumbs
2 Egg yolks
½ cup blanched and julienne Swiss Chard or Collard Greens leaves
¼ cup Roast Chicken Jus
6 oz Foie Gras (season liberally with 1 tsp kosher salt, 2 tbsp Maple syrup 2 tbsp Screech… let sit for 1 hour prior to using)
½ tsp Ground Nutmeg
1 tsp each of Sage, Thyme, Parsley
Lea and Perrins

Caul Fat
Strong roast Fowl Stock for poaching

Over medium heat, sweat the shallots, ginger and nutmeg in butter until soft and fragrant, about 5-7 minutes.

Add foie gras, cook for another 5 minutes. Add the Pork and picked down Squab. Add Chicken just to moisten. You should look for a loose porridge like consistency.

Once you have this consistency, add the panko to bind the mixture; cooking it until you see a sheen and a significantly tighter texture.

Remove from heat; add the greens, nutmeg and a good dash of Lea and Perrins. Chill well. Add the egg yolks, herbs and double check for seasoning. Chill well. Form into balls, wrap in caul, sear on seam side, then gently simmer in stock for 2 minutes (the stock should not completely submerge the Crepinettes. Place in a 375F preheated oven and bake for 12-15 minutes. Reserve in liquid. Serve them warm along side the Tatin and Squab.

Links
Facebook: Follow The Canadian Celebrity Chefs Event
Twitter: Follow #CelebChefOtt or @CelebChefOtt

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Canadian Celebrity Chefs Event


Chef Michael Blackie has taken food entertainment in Ottawa to a new level. As Executive Chef at the NAC, he's launched an annual “gala event” that is a treat for all people passionate about food. This year, it started in the Studio theatre for the demos and ended in the foyer for the reception. A top chef from Ottawa was paired with a celebrity chef from another Canadian city to demonstrate their collaboration and inspiration on a plate.


It was a day-long event of food demos that allowed time to ask the chefs questions, including their favorite knives (many Japanese brands such as Kasumi for Chef Mathieu Cloutier from Kitchen Galerie in Montreal and Watanabe for Chef Marc Lepine from Atelier) and what they'd eat for their last meal (Lasagna for Chef David Rocco from Dolce Vita and Champagne for Chef Cesare Santaguida from Vittoria Trattoria).

In front of an audience eagerly anticipating the smoke and smells, these chefs shared their personalities and chef skills. A cameraman with a high def camera darted in and out to get the money shots and capture the techniques of these masters and display it on the big screen. Upbeat background music kept it fun and party-like.

Before each chef's demo, students from either Algonquin or Le Cordon Bleu wheeled in silver carts filled with food items and condiments that were ready to be transformed into over-the-top dishes. In a matter of 45 minutes, these chefs showed us how easily a dish can come together.

At the end of the day, we had a chance to go to each chef's booth in the foyer of the NAC to taste their dish and sample the wine pairing. The crowds rolled in (750 were expected) and the line-ups grew, but the waits were worth it.

Mise and preparing for an event
Chef Michael Howell from Tempest Restaurant in Wolfville, NS claimed he flew with three large styrofoam containers of salt-cured sea bass and a small bag for his underwear. Litres of beet juice were hand-made in the kitchens of Vittoria Trattoria with Chef Santaguida for Chef Rocco's dish of beet risotto. Chef Robin Bowen from Empire Grilled prepared over a 100 kilos of bison brisket that had been brining for three weeks. Chef Norm Aitken from Juniper explained that there were only going to be five or six people handling the booth to feed the crowd in the evening. There must have been a whole lot of mise going on!

Amazing ingredients
We were also introduced to some new ingredients that are local to other parts of the country. For example, the dulse seaweed in Chef Howell's that comes dried but is rehydrated in water and mixed with beetroot for his beetroot coulis.

And there was the incredible ingredients that we were all drooling over: the foie gras, the 2-ounce oyster brought in from Qualicum Bay by Chef Charlotte Langley from Whalesbone, the lobster already shucked and portioned by Chef Ray Bear of MIX Fresh Kitchen in Halifax. Chef Brad Long of Café Belong in Toronto explained how important using sustainable fish is to our environment. Chef Michael Moffatt from Beckta's used caul fat to form his foie gras crepinette. I'd heard that one chef drove veal bones from Montreal for the event. Ingredients are like Lego for these chefs.


"There's only so much you can do with a turnip." - Chef Howell

Technique and passion
Some of the techniques we were shown were fascinating. Chef Lepine showed us how to make bacon foam and explained how to dehydrate it to make shards. Chef Michael Howell showed us how to cure fish with salt. Chef Paul Rogalski from Rouge in Calgary showed us how easy it is to make hollandaise over a flame without a double-boiler. Chef Santaguida brought in a salt block that he heated over a flame and used to sear the scallops. Chef Clifford Lyness from Brookstreet Hotel explained how they'd whipped up a savoury crumble in the NAC kitchen that morning to tweak their recipe.
"Our job as chefs is to make food at the restaurant that you can't make at home. You come to Atelier to see and taste different textures like that." - Chef Lepine

Taste test
Finally, after watching all this food being prepared and teasing us all day, we made our way to the foyer for the taste test. The Tatin of Sunchoke by Chef Anthony Walsh from Canoe in Toronto was one of the best tastes of the reception. Another top taste was the breaded oyster at the Langley | Long booth. And the Sweet Corn Flan, almost shy and forgotten on the plate of Lyness | Bear, was impeccable. Chef Rocco's beet risotto was the star on the plate, perfectly al dente.

Personality and charisma
It was a day to get face-to-face with both local and celebrity chefs. Chef Langley, the only woman in the line-up, with her big personality, mismatched socks, and short shorts captivated everyone with her vibrant personality. Chef David Rocco invited audience participation by having someone help him stir the risotto. Chef Blackie and Chef Michael Lyon from Hotel Eldorado in Kelowna, entering through the fog of dry ice, entertained us with their competitive banter and successful attempt to sabre a champagne bottle. Only a minor eye injury was sustained after the sabrage due to some "spraying" antics between host Kevin Brauch of The Tasty Traveller and Chef Blackie.


It was a fun day, and one not without some hiccups. But one thing is certain: these chefs are all passionate about food.

"Playing with food is fun. We're passionate about it. It's like having three kids, we love them all. We can't pick one dish as our favourite." Chef Cloutier

Recipes
You can find the recipes for all the chefs dishes here. Warning: you'll need to add xanthan gum to your grocery list! And foie gras, sweetbreads, marrow bones, pig cheek...

But not spam.

List of Recipes

Moffatt | Walsh
Drunken squab  + Newfie screech | tatin of sunchokes | foie gras crepinette

Lepine | Cloutier
Kushi oyster | honey flavor roasted foie gras terrine | marrow bones + chardonnay viinaigrette + bacon foam

Aitken | Howell
Transverse Nova Scotia sea bass crispy seared & citrus cured | fennel + citrus salad | gold beet puree + hay brown butter | dulse and beetroot coulis | applewood smoked mussel bridge

Bowen | Rogalski
North country bison hash | Quebec goat cheese + cauliflower ravioli | preserved lemon + rendered bacon hollandaise | ancho chili plum gastrique

Lyness | Bear
Poached Atlantic lobster | beurre blanc | Le coprin mushrooms | sweetbreads + candied fennel| corn flan | watercress sprouts | black olive puree

Lanley | Long
Shiitake poached pickerel | beurre noisette | dressed grains + greens | crispy creme fraiche oyster

Santaguida | Rocco
Beet risotto | crispy pig cheek | seared Qualicum beach scallop | Granny smith slaw

Blackie | Lyon
Sweet grass cold smoked Charlevoix veal | crisp potato girdle | feta + sage infused retention | firecracker spotted prawn crisp | Cloud Horse mead-lychee sting

Links
Facebook: Follow The Canadian Celebrity Chefs Event
Twitter: Follow #CelebChefOtt or @CelebChefOtt
foodiePrints' article that includes links to all the bloggers involved

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Canadian Celebrity Chefs Event: Chef Michael Moffatt


The Canadian Celebrity Chefs Event at Ottawa's NAC is being held Monday, January 24. Eight of Ottawa's top chefs will be paired with eight celebrity chefs from across Canada. These chef pairs will be doing live cooking demonstrations followed by a time for Q&A. The day ends with an evening reception where we'll get to taste the creations from these culinary wizards, each dish paired with an appropriate wine.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Chef Michael Moffatt of Beckta's and Play Food & Wine, who recently won the Ottawa Gold Medal Plates competition and is one of Ottawa's top eight chefs who will be participating on Monday.

Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in Ottawa.
Did you eat your veggies?
I did actually. When I was very young, I probably didn't. My parents always tried to make me eat green beans. They weren't my thing. But eventually I ate vegetables almost to the exclusion of meat for a long time.
When did you know you wanted to be a chef?
I cooked when I was young, when I was a teenager. And then I got into the front of the house, bartending. I really loved to bartend. I love the connection to people. Then I took a job out of the industry for seven or eight years. In my mid-twenties I decided I wanted to go back to the hospitality industry. There were two things I loved to do: bartend and cook. Bartending would have been a bad choice. It comes with a lifestyle. So the cost would have been high. I decided to cook and see how that went. I've been at Beckta's almost eight years now. I worked in New York before this. The connection with Beckta's is the former chef, Steven Vardy. He and I went to cooking school at Algonquin together.
Do you have a favorite wine?
I'm a big pinot noir fan. But having said that, the best wine I've had recently is Organized Crime Pinot Gris from the Niagara region. Fielding Estates has a great Pinot Gris as well that we used for the Gold Medal Plates.
How often do you change your menu at Beckta's?
Over the course of a year, we'll probably make a hundred to a hundred and fifty changes. It's not wholesale changes; those are very taxing on the kitchen. But a dish here, a dish there. We try to follow the seasons as much as possible. There are times when we change a lot of things. Like come Spring we'll change the whole menu five times in three months.
Where is your favorite place in the world?
I like Italy for its regions. There's nowhere that cooks more regionally than Italy. The people in the North don't eat pasta and the people in the South don't eat rice. They harvest from their own backyard, which I respect. But I love the flavours of Asia. I love the flavours of the South. One thing about working in New York that I loved was my exposure to more South American style cuisine.
Is there one area that's influencing you more right now?
I've been thinking a lot about Latin countries lately. Not so much Americanized Mexican which we're all very familiar with but also some of the authentic Mexican cuisine like Puerto Rico. They do a fruit and a spice that I really like, especially this time of year. In the winter there's nothing I like better than something that has a bit of heat but also the fruit. For them, they have citrus all year round but for us it's pineapple time. So I think of pineapple and I think of some of their interesting dishes like a pineapple stock with chillies.
Are there any foods you just don't like?
Coconut. It still shows up on the menu. A chef has to put his personal tastes in the food, you can't be restricted. It's not that I hate it; it's not that I won't eat it; it's just not a flavour that really resonates with me. There are very few things I don't like.
What do you think is the hardest dish to cook?
Scallops.  They're either really good or really bad. There's no margin for error. Ten seconds in the pan too long and they're over-cooked. Most of the new cooks in the kitchen, what I get them to do is chop chives to show me their knife skills. Everything has to be a certain size and uniform. You get to see two things: knife skills and their attention to detail.
Do you value quality over the time it takes?
Absolutely. I had an instructor once tell me to take the time to get good and then get fast. There are a lot of fast cooks out there who aren't very good. Take the time to get good. Learn your lessons properly. Then learn to do it faster. That's the solid basis there. You can get faster and faster, but once you get fast, it's very hard to slow back down and re-learn your trade and speed up again.
Do you have turned vegetables at Beckta's?
No, but I can turn them. When I worked out West I had a chef who made us turn Chateau potatoes. 150 pounds a day. Potatoes are 10 cents a pound. This is a life skill. This is a skill you'll have forever.
What is going to be the next big thing in the food world?
More small restaurants and support for these small restaurants. We're just a couple small restaurants. It's great to see Murray Street expanding. It means the support for these places is great. It's nice to see a few more empire-building chefs in this city. Ones that don't just want that cozy 30-seat restaurant that everybody tells you they want. It's nice to see chefs try to expand and raise the stakes for everybody.
Are you thinking of expanding?
I would say that Play is doing quite well, and we're a lot farther ahead after two years than we were here. So I wouldn't rule it out, but are we actively searching? Who knows?
What do you do for fun? Do you get days off?
I get days off. I've got a family. I've got a four-year old. Spending time with him is my fun. I play hockey on Sunday nights after everyone goes to bed. The family time (that I miss during the week) keeps me going.
What do you most love about your job?
The people I work with. About 30 people work here and 50 downtown at Play.
I split my time half and half. I'm downtown every day for lunch and probably four of the five nights a week I'm here at Beckta's. The nice thing about Play is that when I work at lunch, we can iron out any problems. Go into the night and get everyone set up with my Chef de Cuisine and my sous chefs and we've had a service under our belt, we've done a bunch of changes and we just slide into it.
Beckta's demands a little more. We have a table d'hôte menu for our parties upstairs, a tasting menu, an à la carte menu that changes all the time. There's petit fours, canapés. It's much more involved. We still have a chef's tasting menu that we're potentially expanding. We're creating another tasting menu, looking forward into Spring. It's a constant challenge. My cooks are all here because they want to learn, they want to do great things. My obligation to them is to keep pushing. We change our menu so often because we get bored quickly. We cook the same thing for a couple weeks, and then we're looking for what's next.
What are you looking forward to most about this Celebrity Chefs Event?
Besides the after party? Working with the other chefs. Working with Anthony Walsh. We competed against each other at the Canadian Culinary Championships in 2008. Of all the chefs that were there, he and I were the most similar in personality. We were there to do a great job but also to have fun. Anthony is an incredibly well-established chef. Very successful. He's a corporate chef for all the Oliver & Bonacini restaurants, about 13 restaurants now. Anthony and I are fairly compatible. We have some of the same challenges.
How did you come up with your menu for the event?
We had some initial conversation and there was very little back and forth. We're similar in our styles. When I read the menu from Canoe, I see a good representation of Canadian but I also see similarities in a stylistic sense. We have compatible palates.
Menu from Anthony Walsh | Michael Moffatt for the Canadian Celebrity Chefs Event
Drunken squab + Newfie screech | tatin of sunchokes | foie gras crepinette
09 Cabernet Franc Sabrevois, Domaine Perrault, Navan, Ontario
What We Ate at Beckta's
Clockwise from top left:

Laurentian Free-Range Chicken with Filbert & Edamame “Fried Rice”, Butternut Squash, Chiffonade Peas and Smoked Shiitake Jus
‘AAA’ Alberta Beef Tenderloin with Dauphinoise Potato, Sweet & Sour Onion Jam, Thyme Roasted Carrots, Mini Sylvetta and Sauce Robert
Crème Brûlée with Toasted Cardamom, Cranberry “Yolks”, White Chocolate Curls, Fresh Fruit 
Fresh Fruit with Mango and Lemon Sorbet

Tickets
$145 for the full package (demos and reception)
$99 (demos only)
$75 (reception only)
Monies raised are in support of the NAC's National Youth and Education Trust, which furthers artistic education, training and mentorship for young Canadians.


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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Canadian Celebrity Chefs Event



What are you doing Monday, January 24? I'll be at the Canadian Celebrity Chefs Event at Ottawa's NAC where 8 of Ottawa's top chefs will be paired with 8 celebrity chefs from across Canada. These chef pairs will be doing live cooking demonstrations followed by a time for Q&A. The day ends with an evening reception where we'll get to taste the creations from these culinary wizards, each dish paired with an appropriate wine.

Some of Ottawa's bloggers have come together to spread the word about the event and the chefs involved. I will be interviewing Michael Moffatt, Beckta Dining and Wine who will be paired with Anthony Walsh, Canoe in Toronto. And watch for information and interviews at these blogs:


Rachelle Eats Food
Chef Charlotte Langley from the Whalesbone with Brad Long of Café Belong in Toronto, ON

Claire (@gadgetgirl_ca)Cesare Santaguida, Vittoria Trattoria with David Rocco, Dolce Vita, Toronto, ON
Simply Fresh
Robyn Bowen, Empire Grill with Paul Rogalski, ROUGE Restaurant, Calgary, AB
beFOODled
Norm Aitken, Juniper Dining with Michael Howell, Tempest Restaurant, Wolfville, NS
the Lemon Kitchen
lifford Lyness, Perspectives, Brookstreet Hotel with Ray Bear, MIX, Halifax, NS
Le Twisted Chef
Marc Lepine, Atelier with Mathieu Cloutier, Kitchen Galerie, Montreal, QC
FoodiePrints
Michael Blackie, National Arts Centre with Michael Lyon, Hotel Eldorado, Kelowna, BC


Tickets for this event are $145 for the full package (demos and reception), or $75 for just the reception. Or, you can just attend the cooking demos for $99.

Monies raised are in support of the NAC's National Youth and Education Trust, which furthers artistic education, training and mentorship for young Canadians.

More info: National Arts Centre event page
Facebook: Follow The Canadian Celebrity Chefs Event
Twitter: Follow #CelebChefOtt or @CelebChefOtt

* Thanks, Rachelle, for providing the details for this blog post!

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Friday, October 8, 2010

Guest Post: Contest to Cook Like a Gold Medal Plates Chef

For Gold Medal Plates Ottawa 2009, Executive Chef Carmichael's team was made up of talented chefs and cooks from his two kitchens, including Sous Chefs Jonathan Korecki (18) and Jordan Holley (Social).


Executive Chef Carmichael and his Winning Team

Their dish bested Chef Michael Blackie's of Le Cafe at the National Arts Centre (NAC) and Chef Ben Baird's of the Urban Pear. The NAC is this year's event host. Chef Baird will be competing November 16th.


Chefs Carmichael and Korecki went on to compete in Vancouver to win the Bronze Medal at the 2009 Canadian Culinary Championships. It was a surprise upset, as they managed to edge out Chef Rob Feenie, the host city's hometown hopeful.


Chef Carmichael's team's winning dish at Gold Medal Plates was a pan roasted sustainable sea bass, crispy braised octopus, and steamed rock shrimp siu mai. But, it is Chefs Carmichael and Korecki's "Black Box" competition entries from the Canadian Culinary Championships that will be the reference dishes for this contest. The reason, they demonstrate the creativity and spontaneity with which Executive Chef Carmichael's kitchens create dishes for their menus. Moreover, they demonstrate the mastery with which Restaurant 18's chefs and cooks prepare local and seasonal ingredients.


The black box competition at the Canadian Culinary Championships is not Iron Chef. According to judge and local restaurant critic Anne DesBrisay:
Each chef was given six mystery ingredients with which to create two dishes for eight judges (16 plates in total) in precisely one hour. Chefs were brought into the kitchen one by one, each had a sous chef, and the box was opened. They were given 10 minutes to declare their intentions, and then a further 50 minutes to complete the plates.
Source: "Chef Matthew Carmichael wins bronze medal at Canadian Culinary Championships!", Capital Dining
Every ingredient had to be used. The chefs were held to their declared dishes.


According to Chef Korecki, he and his Executive Chef had the ingredients laid out in 45 seconds. They then had 5 minutes to decide what to make and 55 minutes to prepare and plate.

Chefs Korecki and Carmichael Preparing their Dishes

Here are the black box ingredients:
  • Arctic Char
  • Whole Quail
  • Dragon fruit
  • Arborio Rice
  • Fennel
  • India Pale Ale (called Hoppelganger) from R&B Brewery
Their dish included boned quail (lacquered with beer and soy) on top of risotto (made with veal stock), garnished with threads of fresh thyme, lemon zest, and fried garlic; crackled skin arctic char with fennel slaw, garnished with cubes of dragon fruit.

Black Box Dishes

Quail Dish

According to DesBrisay, the dishes were well received.

Here's the challenge (effective immediately): Make your interpretations of these dishes, photograph your interpretations, write up recipes, and submit them in one email to us (including a mailing address). Email links: foodiePrints, Rachelle Eats Food, Whisk: a food blog.

Chefs Carmichael, Korecki, and Holley will review the submissions and choose one winner.

The catch: Like the black box competition, all ingredients must be used.

Here are the allowable substitutions from Chefs Korecki and Holley
  • Arctic char - Trout
  • India Pale Ale - any dark bitter ale (one suggested: Beau's Lug Tread)
  • Dragon Fruit - hard pear (preferably Asian to maintain a sweet refreshing taste, yet crunchy texture)
Both were adamant that quail, fennel and Arborio rice be used.

This contest is open to North American residents.

Entries will be accepted until Sunday, November 21, 2010 11:59 PM EST.

The winner will be announced the week of Monday, December 6, 2010.

Also, if you are working towards a culinary Red Seal Certification (or other provincial equivalent) or already have earned one, we will be happy to post your take, but your entry will not be considered in the running.

The prize: Firstly, the winner will receive a paired set of Master Chef Thomas Keller cookbooks, courtesy of Thomas Allen & Son, Ltd.

Packaged Set|


Ad Hoc at Home

French Laundry

This prize was chosen because the winners of this year's Canadian Culinary Championships will stage in a series of Chef Keller's restaurants in California.

Secondly, Executive Chef Carmichael has offered the winner an evening observing a dinner service in the kitchen of his Restaurant E18teen in Ottawa.

Canadian Culinary Championships photos courtesy of Chef Jonathan Korecki
Gold Medal Plates Ottawa photos courtesy of Chef Jonathan Korecki
Chef Matthew Carmichael photo,courtesy Restaurant 18

Aside: Besides being an award-winning chef, Korecki has a side business, called Mise En Gear (Etsy Store).

Mise En Gear

Through it, he has equipped several kitchens in Ottawa with bandannas and other printed kitchen clothing.

Mise En Gear was on display at last year's Gold Medal Plates competition.

Chef Carmichael
Chef Korecki
According to Chef Korecki's blog, storefronts are interested in retailing his bandannas.




To purchase tickets for Gold Medal Plates, contact Sue Holloway (contact information below) or click here.

Particulars:
18 York Street
(613) 244-1188

537 Sussex Drive
(613) 789-7355
Open Mon-Wed 11:45am-1am; Thu-Sat 11:45am-2am; Sun 5pm-12am

Gold Medal Plates Ottawa
Tuesday, November 16, 2010 6:00 pm
National Arts Centre
53 Elgin Street

Sue Holloway
818 Nesbitt Place
(613) 274-3107 phone
(613) 274-0851 fax


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