By Jessica Allen - Monday, October 1, 2012 - 0 Comments
A cookbook on quinoa knocks David Chang’s Lucky Peach #4 from the top sellers list at the Cookbook Store–the go-to spot for food and wine-related good reads. Meanwhile, Ottolenghi’s Plenty holds its position at number five for the second month in a row. Manager Allison Fryer tells Maclean’s what else flew off the shelves in September.
It appears the love affair with quinoa continues unabated! But the interest in single ingredient cookbooks is also compelling because it seems to indicate cooks’ desires to focus on what appeals to them more directly. Meat and vegetarian alike vie for space in on the book shelf (I think there are far more meatless eaters out there who don’t call themselves vegetarian, me included!)
The addition of Jennifer Low’s book to the list is great news for budding chefs/cooks! After all, cooking is a life skill, which should be taught to youngsters early so they can reap the benefits later on.
1. The Vegetarian’s Complete Quinoa Cookbook, edited by Mairlyn Smith (CAD)
3. The Book of Kale, by Sharon Hanna
4. For the Love of Soup, by Jeanelle Mitchell (CAD)
5. Plenty, by Yotam Ottolenghi
6. Salumi, by Micahel Ruhlman
7. Everyday Kitchen for Kids, by Jennifer Low (CAD)
8. Art of the Restaurateur, by Nick Lander
9. River Cottage Veg Everyday, by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
10. 500 Best Quinoa Recipes by Camilla Saulsbury
By Jessica Allen - Wednesday, September 5, 2012 at 1:45 PM - 0 Comments
Any gastronome worth her weight in saffron knows to make a bee line for the Cookbook Store when they’re hungry for a good read.
For the past 30 years, manager Allison Fryer has stocked the Toronto shop’s shelves for the food and wine community with the culinary world’s best cookbooks, magazines and literature. The store also plays host to events featuring homegrown chefs, like Rob Feenie and Michael Smith, and such international sensations as Thomas Keller and Nigella Lawson.
Fryer, who can smell a food trend a mile away, also tabulates the store’s bestsellers list. That’s why we’ve asked her to share the best in food books that are flying off the shelves. Here’s the August list:
2. Dearie, by Bob Spitz
3. Quinoa 365, by P. Green & C. Hemming (Canadian)
4. The Farm, by Ian Knauer
5. Plenty, by Y. Ottolenghi & S. Tamimi
6. For the Love of Salad, by Jeanelle Mitchell (Canadian)
7. For the Love of Soup, by Jeanelle Mitchell (Canadian)
8. Great Food Fast from the Kitchens of Every Day Food Magazine
9. The Book of Kale, by Sharon Hanna
10. Clueless Vegetarian, by Evelyn Raab (Canadian)
By Jessica Allen - Thursday, August 30, 2012 at 12:49 PM - 0 Comments
On a fateful evening in July I drove past the remnants of a summertime haunt on the outskirts of St. Thomas, Ont. My family and I faithfully frequented The Polar King for footlongs, french fries and always a vanilla soft-serve dipped in butterscotch.
Although the charming roadside pit stop no longer exists, it got me thinking, “Surely, this country must be busting at the seams with similar off-the-beaten-track food destinations.”
It got me thinking of some other stuff, like:
- “I could find those pit stops.”
- “I could ask readers for their help.”
- “In fact, I could build an interactive map of those spots. All readers would have to do is click on the map pin for important information.”
I invited you to submit your favourite roadside destination. Boy, did you deliver.
So let me introduce you to the first edition of the Great Canadian Pit Stop map:
*Please click on the image below to access the interactive map.
There’s bound to be more, so leave your comments below, on the map’s page, or email them to email@example.com. I”ll be sure to add your suggestions to the second edition next summer. That’s right, the second edition.
By Jessica Allen - Friday, August 10, 2012 at 5:31 PM - 0 Comments
The third annual Wild Blueberry Festival takes place this Saturday at the Evergreen Brick Works in Toronto, which is fitting because August is wild blueberry month for starters, and also Canada produces plenty of them, especially in Quebec, and the Maritimes. It’ll be a day packed full with family activities, live music, a children’s hands-on baking workshop, and, perhaps most importantly, a wild blueberry pie bake-off. One of the judges is chef Carl Heinrich. And although he’s never judged a pie-baking contest before, he knows a thing or two about having his comestibles judged: He won Top Chef Canada last season. The 27-year-old chef, whose new Toronto restaurant Richmond Station is slated to open in September, spoke with Maclean’s about the intricacies of pie crust pastry and his game plan before the bake-off begins.
Q: What kind of pie did you make [on the second last episode of Top Chef Canada, season two]?
A: It actually had wild blueberries in it. It was a peach and wild blueberry pie and then there was a sort of quiche, made with a duck fat pastry.
Q: Pie-makers are pretty serious about pastry and there are many schools of thought, as you know, about what sort of fat should go in to making the best crust. Do you have an opinion on that?
A: Absolutely. I’ve made all of them and I’ve tasted all of them–there are very few pie crusts that I’ve had that I don’t like. You can’t just say, “This is the one pastry that I’m going to make for the rest of my life,” because they’ve all got their place. In my opinion you need to know how to make all of them properly. You need to know how to make a short crust, a proper lard pastry, a proper pâte brisée and all of these go with a different pie. Let’s say you want to make a nice lemon tart. Well, that requires a pâte brisée–something that is light and stays crisp, you can roll it really thin and acts sort of like a cookie. With a cheesecake, you want more of a flakey–but not too flakey–crust, sort of like a graham cracker crust, that’s more tender, a little bit more crumbly that will stand up to the moisture of the cheesecake. Whereas if you’re going to make an apple pie, you want to use a super flakey lard crust, or shortening, but butter doesn’t even stand up in my opinion.
By Jessica Allen - Monday, July 30, 2012 at 9:33 PM - 0 Comments
People continue to tweet, email and comment about their favourite road side food stops in Canada. (Here’s the original post that invited readers to submit their suggestions.) Many have included fantastic photos (see above)–even a video or two. I think a few radio spots Maclean’s did with stations across the country–you can have a listen to my chat with Gary Doyle on 570News in Kitchener right here–helped to keep things rolling.
The most recent suggestions come by way of Manitoba, British Columbia and Nova Scotia: Special thanks to Justin Linck, who was responsible for four suggestions: Ye Olde Towne Pub in Annapolis Royal, Tastee Freeze in Bridgewater, Fletchers in Truro and A & K Lick-A-Chick in Little Bras D’Or.
By Jessica Allen - Friday, July 27, 2012 at 7:16 PM - 0 Comments
Beer aficionados cooled off on Monday night–one of hottest days of the year so far–at Bellwoods, a brewery housed in an old auto garage that opened up on Ossington Ave. in Toronto. The occasion? “The mother of all collaborations,” says the Bellwoods website, with Evil Twin Brewery, whose beers are coveted by microbrewery nerds the world over.
Evil Twin is the mastermind of brewmaster Jeppe Jarnit—Bjergsø. He’s Danish. Once he came up with a beer after changing his son’s diaper–there were hints of vanilla. It’s called Soft Doofie, or Soft DK. There is actually no Evil Twin brewery, making Jarnit—Bjergsø a bit of a gypsy. He currently brews beers, of which there are about 20, everywhere from South Carolina and Scotland to Holland. And now, in Toronto.
Guests paid $25 for a glass of the collaborator’s finished product: “a pale ale brewed with aromatic hop varieties from New Zealand, apricots and mango to compliment the heat of summer, and finished at a solid 6.8% ABV.” They were also treated to food prepared by Daniel Burns, “The best Canadian chef you’ve never heard of,” according to a fantastic profile in the Globe and Mail by Chris Nuttall-Smith. The Halifax-raised 37-year-old chef worked at Noma in Copehagen for three years, not before finishing degrees in mathematics and philosophy at Dalhousie. Burns also worked at the Fat Duck in England and at Susur back in 2003. And he was the head of research and development at Momofuku. Back in February, he said he was hoping to open up his own restaurant but he couldn’t confirm where in the world it would be. While Burns was preparing little crostini topped with a cabbage and cucumber slaw in a horseradish dressing topped with a slice of grilled veal heart, I asked him if any decisions had been made. “My plan is to move to Denmark and open up a place there,” he said. “I like Europe a lot.”
By Jessica Allen - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 at 11:54 AM - 0 Comments
My instincts were right: you’re eager to share the fantastic road side food destinations that dot this country. The best part about Great Canadian Pit Stops so far has been the little anecdotes you’ve been sending along. Tim Louman-Gardiner, for example, tweeted about The D Dutchmen Dairy in Sicamous BC: “Great ice cream and cheese curds. And a zoo. Unfortunately their llamas have recently died.”
And someone emailed me about the poutine at Grumpy’s, just outside of Ottawa: “The best part about Grumpy was if he was in a bad mood, the food was somehow that much better. Maybe that’s why they called him Grumpy. Either way, I have no idea if he’s still around or where he sets up shop, but he was amazing.”
You even tweeted photos. Keep those coming!
Weber’s, not surprisingly, the much-beloved burger place in an old train car located en route to cottage country on highway 11, was mentioned again and again. There were also other repeat shout-outs, including a chip wagon under the Bluewater Bridge in Sarnia, Ont., Peters’ Drive-In in Calgary for the best everything else, particularly the milkshakes, and La Boulangerie Aucoin in Chéticamp on the Cabot Trail, which sells amazing cupcakes for 50 cents each!
By Jessica Allen - Tuesday, July 24, 2012 at 7:09 AM - 0 Comments
When I was a kid there was this place called–actually, I don’t know what it was called. We always referred to it as The Doggy Place. I think that was because on top of this roadside stand on the outskirts of St. Thomas, Ont., was a 12-foot painted plywood wiener dog dressed up like a footlong.
The Doggy Place, with the railroad tracks out back and a few picnic tables in front, was a summertime staple. I’m talking hot dogs, cheeseburgers, french fries and soft serve, preferably dipped in butterscotch.
It was torn down maybe 20 years ago, but the tall grass and weeds have never grown in over the U-shaped driveway where cars would park.
By Jessica Allen - Thursday, July 19, 2012 at 12:47 PM - 0 Comments
The Hollywood Reporter announced that the Oscar award-winning actress is in negotiations to star in the movie adaptation of chef Gabrielle Hamilton’s food memoir, Blood, Bones and Butter. (You can read the 2011 Maclean’s review of the book here.)
Paltrow, who recently wrote a cookbook and also traveled around Spain with pal Mario Batali for a PBS TV show in 2008, knows her way around the kitchen. But she doesn’t immediately come to mind when I think of Hamilton, the owner and chef of Prune restaurant in New York, who by most accounts seems slightly rough-around-the edges, with a flair for using expletives poetically. Imagine Jodie Foster’s character in Taxi Driver–minus the prostitution bit–metamorphosed with Tatum O’Neal’s in Bad News Bears and grew up to be an accomplished chef with an MFA who writes beautifully.
Who, then, does come to mind? Right off the bat, maybe Meryl Streep, but at 63 she might not be able to pull off playing a part that will no doubt require portraying someone in their twenties through to their forties–no matter how extraordinary a performer she is. (Hamilton is 46, while Paltrow is 39, soon to turn 40.)
Francis McDormand perhaps? She’s 55 though. Maybe Tatum O’Neal? She’s 48. What about 43-year-old Rene Zellwegger? Martha Plimpton? Or Jennifer Lawrence of The Hunger Games fame! I like that one. But she’s just about to turn 22 (Maybe a flash-back scene?)
Maybe I shouldn’t resist this casting. Besides, I’m willing to give Paltrow–who had the acting chops to pull off the brooding Margo in The Royal Tenenbaums and Sylvia Plath in Sylvia–a chance. And I’ve always loved her in Emma. We won’t talk about Shallow Hal.
I think this could work.
By Jessica Allen - Tuesday, July 17, 2012 at 5:36 PM - 0 Comments
Several minutes ago, TV personality, chef and author Anthony Bourdain tweeted this:
Intriguing! But he didn’t include the Twitter handle for John Curtas, who is a food reviewer for Eating Las Vegas, or a link to his story, so I Googled it because I’m working.
Here’s the article. If you’re interested in the mysterious, and sometimes dark, underworld of social media, please read it.
In short, Curtas says that he knows that Bourdain and his wife Ottavia, who was blogging for New York’s Grub Street at the time, were eating at Mario Batali’s restaurant Carnevino in Las Vegas because no one else there serves riserva-style steak, which isn’t charred, and that’s how Ottavia described her beef, along with: “It looks boiled. I cut into it and it’s hard, and gray inside; it’s well done.”
By Jessica Allen - Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 6:12 PM - 0 Comments
Did you hear that a museum is opening up in September outside of Bologna in Italy solely dedicated to gelato? That sounds like a magical place. Curator, and gelato historian, Luciana Pollioti, has even secured the first-ever recipe of the confection dating from the 17th century for the museum’s collection, which will also feature 10,000 documents and photos, plus 20 old-timey gelato-making machines.
Pollioti told the Telegraph that primitive methods of making gelato in Italy began about 3,200 years ago when snow and ice would be gathered from mountain tops.
Anyway, this time of year I always remember that I can never remember the difference between gelato and ice cream and, seeing that I like them both, I always forget to follow up. Not today: I don’t have my Harold McGee here, but according to Bon Appetit, it comes down to two things: the amount of fat and the amount of air whipped into the ingredients. Ice cream usually has more of both, which is why gelato tends to be denser.
But you know what I would choose in a heartbeat over either gelato or ice cream? A cup of almond granita from Carabé in Florence, a stone’s throw from the Accademia museum. They specialize in Sicilian treats, including granita, which is essentially just sugar, water and a flavour that’s blended and semi-frozen. I think about their creamy almond offering nearly once a week. It wasn’t too sweet, and its texture occupied this enchanting netherworld between smooth and crunchy.
I’ve never had anything like it since. I suppose I could make it myself but there’s something quite pleasant in going out at sunset for a passeggiata, even outside of Italy–although it’s not quite the same–and securing a frozen treat.
With the number of artisanal gelato shops that’ve opened up in Toronto over the last few years, surely a shop dedicated to good granita must be next.
Weekend wish list: All the things that I want to read, buy, eat, drink, make, watch and laugh at, if there’s time.
By Jessica Allen - Friday, June 29, 2012 at 5:30 PM - 0 Comments
Fridays, especially ones kicking off a long weekend, are for daydreaming about all the wicked-awesome stuff you’re going to get done while you’re off work. If I’m lucky, here’s what’s in store for me.
Buy a pair of these sandals.
Make this for my work-week lunches.
Bake these for my breakfast.
Drink this red wine.
Read this again, because I like both of these women.
Go see this show by artist Balint Zsako, whose heavily collaged journals used to mesmerize me over a decade ago. He’s all grown up now: In fact, his work is featured in Sarah Polley’s new movie, Take This Waltz, as the work of one of the character’s.
Go see Sarah Polley’s new movie, Take This Waltz.
And watch this again. Maybe it’s just me, but I couldn’t stop laughing. I think it was this dude’s fake “vrooming” on the Bat-motorcycle.
Oh, and also this. Maybe it’s just me, but I couldn’t stop laughing. I think it was everything about it.
By Jessica Allen - Tuesday, June 26, 2012 at 1:09 PM - 0 Comments
I love a California sandwich, with provolone, peppers, mushrooms and onions please. I do not share the mammoth thing. I eat it on my own. But last week, Megan Ogilvie, who has been exposing the often heart-breaking caloric, fat and sodium contents of popular take-out foods in her Toronto Star column, The Dish, for over two years now, revealed that the chicken cutlet version has 1,240 calories, 53 grams of fat and 2,520 mg of sodium. Despite this, I will still eat my veal version, albeit maybe less often.
Today, Ogilvie’s new book, Menu Confidential, which reveals the nutritional breakdown of over 100 of dishes from across the country, comes out. Warning: some spirits will be stricken. But the book, her first, doesn’t just deliver mind-boggling stats and informative tidbits–a Costco blueberry muffin, for example, has roughly one third of your day’s worth of calories–it also gives readers options. And there are pleasant surprises, too. A Harvey’s hamburger, for example, is a pretty good option when it comes to burgers on the go. And it’s not about denial, either. Have your ice cream. But maybe skip the whipped cream and toppings. Megan, 33, had a chance to talk with me about her new book and some of her own indulgences.
Q: You must have broken a lot of hearts by exposing the caloric, fat and sodium contents of so many favourite take-out foods. You broke my heart on occasion, but at the end of the day, it’s a good thing.
A: I think so. I learn stuff every time I get lab results back and spend some time looking at the numbers but I feel that once I know, then I know.
By Jessica Allen - Friday, June 22, 2012 at 12:09 PM - 0 Comments
Like a 14-year-old boy at the Mandarin, I started tasting foods in no particular order: Torito’s steam buns packed with pork shoulder and belly; Hey Meatball’s wild boar meatball with Ontario garlic scapes, green onion, asparagus, sweet peas and salsa verde; Paulette’s doughnuts flavoured with garam masala; Bushwick’s shrimp cocktail; Sullivan & Bleeker’s mini cupcakes; the Bellevue’s oxtail tacos; the Tempered Chef’s pulled pork and coleslaw on a little bun and somebody’s cookies.
I was one of the first to arrive on Wednesday evening to the Stop’s night market; an all-you-can-eat feast provided by some of this city’s most exciting restaurants with proceeds going towards the community food centre’s anti-hunger programs. The event, which sold out in three days, paired 27 food and drink vendors with 27 design teams–from established designers like 3rd Uncle Design and Brothers Dressler to Ryerson’s Department of Architectural Science– who created whimsical food booths that transformed the alley and parking lot beside Honest Ed’s into a spectacular market space.
Nick Saul, The Stop’s Executive Director, got there early too. He was already lined up at Hawker Bar’s booth to sample one of their son-in-law eggs before I began my indulging. “Tonight is going to be wild and awesome,” he said, waiting for the deep-fried soft-boiled egg with chili jam.
Although that pretty much sums it up, indulge me while I share a few details.
By Jessica Allen - Monday, June 11, 2012 at 6:16 PM - 0 Comments
Late on Sunday morning some 200 food lovers paid $30 a piece to hear Calvin Trillin and Adam Gopnik talk about Canadian comestibles. If there was anyone counting on a weighty discussion on the state of food in this country, they would have been sorely disappointed. Trillin, 77, and Gopnik, 56, were like old friends sitting on a porch catching up, telling tales and throwing zingers. And from the sounds of the applause and belly-shaking laughter from the mostly silver-haired audience that punctuated the 80-minute talk, everyone left fully satiated.
What gives these accomplished writers–Gopnik is the author of eight books and has been a New Yorker contributor since 1986, while Trillin will celebrate his 50th anniversary as a New Yorker contributor next year–the know-how to discuss this country’s food affairs? Well, explained Gopnick, ”we are both greedy guys who like to eat, and we’re both semi-Canadian.” He was raised in Montreal, while Trillin has spent the past 39 years summering at his Nova Scotia home.
That’s precisely where Trillin, who grew up in Kansas City, had his first real Canadian food experience: “Being able to get fresh fish off the boat. You either learn to clean the fish or not eat the fish.” Nova Scotia is also where Trillin does a little cooking. An abundance of good ingredients means he can do it simply. Take his smoked mackerel pâté–one of the three to eight dishes, “depending on how you count,” Trillin can prepare. All you have to do is blitz the fish in a food processor. (On special occasions, like Canada Day, he might add a little mayonnaise and a perhaps a squeeze of lemon.)
By Jessica Allen - Thursday, June 7, 2012 at 12:07 PM - 0 Comments
Did you hear about those Grade 8 kids in Manitoba who got tricked into eating moose poo on a school canoe trip? One young man had to run to the river and rinse out his mouth, once he realized it wasn’t the delicious trail mix-like snack of berries and grass that AN ADULT promised it to be. Another victim, a girl, had trouble getting the poo out of her braces.
Getting tricked into eating poo could happen to anyone. One time Stevie Hancock up the street told me that those little tasty looking nubs in the cage of his pet rabbit were chocolate-covered raisins. “Why not?” I thought. Another time, someone tricked me into eating tempeh, a soy-based protein source popular among vegans. Gross!
What I’m trying to say is that I hope these kids don’t feel so bad. People have always eaten pretty crazy stuff throughout history. The Romans? Whatever! I’m talking peacock tongues and flamingo brains!
And in modern times, too. Like duck fetus eggs and bird’s nest soup, like donkey penis and bull testicles, like rodents and tarantulas. Like tuna eyeballs. TUNA EYEBALLS! They’re as big as a tennis ball!
So buck up, kids. Next to escamoles–the larvae of giant black ants that are often stuffed into tacos, with a little “guac”–moose poo doesn’t sound half-bad.
By Jessica Allen - Friday, June 1, 2012 at 6:31 PM - 0 Comments
1. I’m not crazy about sous vide anything.
2. I’d choose really good butter over foie gras, if those were my two dessert island options.
3. Quinoa recipes always tell you to rinse the quinoa before cooking it. I have never done this. Wait, that’s a lie: I did rinse quinoa once and then spent an hour trying to clean my mesh strainer. I will never do it again. Also, I have never had black quinoa.
4. Eggplant recipes always tell you to sprinkle slices of the vegetable with salt, layer them up and then put something heavy on top–in order to remove bitter juices or something. I have never done this either. Wait, another lie: I did it once and thought, “why would anyone do all this work in order to prepare an average-tasting vegetable for consumption?” I think my eggplant parmigiana, caponata and ratatouille all taste fine despite skipping this step.
5. I don’t wash fruit before eating it. Lemons, grapes, apple, doesn’t matter. I am especially opposed to washing strawberries.
6. I don’t like sweet breads. (I just heard millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror.) But I keep ordering them in restaurants. You know why? BECAUSE THEY ARE ALWAYS COVERED IN DELICIOUS BREADCRUMBS AND THEN FRIED IN BUTTER AND SERVED WITH DELICIOUS SAUCES. People who say they like eating thyroid glands and pancreases are probably lying. They just like eating stuff that’s breaded and fried.
7. I don’t care for chicken like everybody else does. But I do like a quarter chicken dinner (with fries) from Swiss Chalet about twice a year. I love pork chops.
8. I don’t like it when restaurants advertise “zucchini carpaccio” or ” beet carpaccio” on their menus. Those things aren’t carpaccio. Carpaccio is raw beef tenderloin, sometimes gently seared. Zucchini carpaccio is raw zucchini.
9. I like showing off at dinner parties and on dates by boldly deboning whole fish and whacking off the head and the tail. I’m not actually very good at it, though. But if you do it with vigour and confidence, people won’t notice that you just mangled a perfectly good whole fish.
10. I will not buy cheap olive oil or “parmesan.” I will, however, stock up on Dr. Oetker’s frozen pizza when they go on sale, sometimes as low as three for $10.
11. Despite them being on the cover of magazines, the subjects of endless blogs, Tweets and print stories, I have never seen one of these new Toronto food trucks.
12. I have never eaten at a “pop-up” anything.
Whew! That felt great. Feel free to get your confessions–preferably just food-related ones–off your chest too.
By Jessica Allen - Friday, May 18, 2012 at 2:13 PM - 0 Comments
It’s the long weekend. You don’t own a cottage. Neither do I. But friends have asked you to join them at their lakeside abode. Pay heed to these 10 tips and rest-assured, you’ll be invited back.
1. Offer to make one meal
You can’t expect your hosts to cook you breakfast, lunch and dinner every single day. Maybe you make a killer Caesar salad, or you’re known for your freshly baked pies. Whatever it is, bring it. One time I made an interpretive version of huevos rancheros–tortillas topped with black beans, scrambled eggs, avocado, salsa and sour cream–for a Sunday brunch that went over really well. Or you could bring up a batch of homemade salsa (dump one can of plum tomatoes, one clove of garlic, half a red onion, juice of one lime, a jalapeño, a whack of fresh cilantro and salt to taste into a food processor and whiz it up) with tortilla chips. Also, get a pot of coffee on before everybody else wakes up.
2. If you’re not making a meal, help with the dishes.
Like, without being asked. This will really get you points, especially if you’re a man because in my experience it’s women who jump up to help first. Show the ladies what you’re made of by beating them to the punch. This would be a good move if you’re a single man and there’s a single woman you’re trying to impress, too. And go the extra mile by asking your host for directions first because maybe their taps are all wonky or there are special rules or something.
By Jessica Allen - Monday, April 30, 2012 at 6:42 PM - 0 Comments
The world’s 50 best restaurants, as determined by Restaurant magazine and sponsored by Italian beverage emporium San Pellegrino, were announced today. 2011′s top three–Denmark’s Noma, and Spain’s El Celler de Can Roca and Mugaritz–have kept their respective first, second and third positions. Restaurants in the U.S., London and Italy round out the top 10, with eight new restaurants added to the list that have never made it before. And, once again, there’s not a Canadian place in sight.
By Jessica Allen - Thursday, April 26, 2012 at 10:17 AM - 0 Comments
The annual hospitality industry symposium Terroir has been bringing together chefs, restaurateurs, food and wine writers–and eaters–for the last six years in order to encourage community and share ideas. This year’s theme? The New Radicals. The day-long event, which took place on April 23 at The Arcadian Court in Toronto, featured a choice roster of speakers–from former music executive turned restaurateur Ken Friedman who spoke on taking chances to Tama Matsuoka Wong, official forager for Daniel Boulud’s three Michelin Starred flagship restaurant in New York, who discussed how chefs can integrate wild plants into their dishes. Word on the street is that Barton Seaver, a Washington D.C. based chef, author of For Cod & Country–and a bonafide National Geographic Fellow–roused the crowds with his poetic oration on harvesting fish responsibly–and making them taste good.
The following day many of the speakers and chefs, plus a handful of media, were invited on a culinary tour of Grey Bruce Simcoe County to see how radical, gastronomically speaking, this sprawling pocket of Ontario that stretches west of the 400 and south of Georgian Bay has become. The tour, which had the whimsy of a school bus trip–complete with rain boots and knapsacks–didn’t disappoint.
By Jessica Allen - Thursday, April 5, 2012 at 5:27 PM - 0 Comments
I can’t remember how I first became interested in food writing. But I think it might’ve had something to do with reading Nigella Lawson’s How to Eat. I bought it after seeing her TV show, Nigella Bites, in 2000, thinking it was a cookbook. And it is, but the tome ended up on my night table for weeks because amongst the recipes are beautifully written anecdotes about all that stuff that happens in between mealtimes: you know, life.
Nigella led me to Elizabeth David and M.F.K. Fisher. And over the next several years I plowed through the pantheon of usual suspects, both old and new, including Alice Waters, Ruth Reichl, Craig Claiborne, Bill Buford, Anthony Bourdain, Nigel Slater, Gabrielle Hamilton and Calvin Trillin. I may have bought a food writing anthology or two, just to make sure I hadn’t missed anyone. And then I decided that I’d read everything on the matter. Call it the cockiness of youth. Or just laziness.
I saw the error of my ways last November. I was going through my mom’s copy of Edna Staebler’s Food that Really Schmecks, a collection of Mennonite recipes from Waterloo County, looking for the banana bread recipe of my youth. And there, amongst the shoo-fly pie, Marje Moyer’s noodle casserole and pigs knuckles and sauerkraut, was more of the prose that I’ve come to associate with my favourite food writers; writing that’s never fussy, just honest, warm, sometimes humourous, and usually oozing with nostalgia. (Coincidently, Staebler frequently wrote for Maclean’s in the 1950s.)
By Jessica Allen - Thursday, March 29, 2012 at 2:13 PM - 0 Comments
Claudia Bianchia, 38-year-old culinary producer for the Food Network and Toronto’s most sought-after food stylist, and her husband, Justin Cournoyer, a food consultant for the Food Network who sources ingredients and creates and tests recipes, are the gastronomic dream team behind nearly every food show in town. And for the last five-and-a-half years, they’ve been busy renovating a two-storey building they bought at the corner of Ossington and Hallam in downtown Toronto. On the main floor? Their restaurant, Actinolite, named after Cournoyer’s home town in eastern Ontario along the Skootamatta River, and up above, their digs that they share with their two-year-old son, Toby. “Before we moved in we actually went around in a three kilometre radius knocking on everybody’s door, introduced ourselves and said we were hoping to open up a restaurant,” says Bianchi. “We wanted to make it clear that we wanted to preserve the integrity of the neighbourhood, even restore it.”
Have a peek inside Actinolite (photos courtesy of our very own Andrew Tolson), followed by a few interview excerpts that didn’t make the Maclean’s print story, but were too tasty not to share.
By Jessica Allen - Monday, March 26, 2012 at 1:20 PM - 0 Comments
Two years ago my doctor told me I was overweight—not in a Karl Lagerfeld to Adele sort of way—but in the privacy of his office, during an annual physical, and in a sensitive manner. The result? After calling him terrible names in my head, I lost 20 lbs over the course of five months. And the next year, I weighed in just about right. It’s been the most effective weight-loss tool I’ve ever encountered because every year I know I have to get back on that medical scale, and I don’t want to disappoint the doctor, or myself.
But recent results from a national survey published in the journal Chronic Diseases and Injuries in Canada show that few of our doctors (one in three) are advising obese patients to lose weight. But if 59 per cent of Canadians are either overweight or obese, and being fat causes God knows how many health problems, and our doctors aren’t measuring waistlines (fewer than one in five of the survey’s participants, the journal reports) and 40 per cent of overweight or obese Canadians describe themselves as just, “about right,” than that’s a fat problem. If we can’t count on our doctors to call the kettle fat, then who can we count on?
By Jessica Allen - Thursday, March 15, 2012 at 12:29 PM - 0 Comments
You don’t need me to tell you that southern cooking is dominating the minds and filling the stomachs of serious gastronomes everywhere; the variations of grits and fried chicken populating trendy restaurant menus alone could have tipped you off. But there have been plenty of other harbingers, literary in nature, including an October 2011 New Yorker profile of Sean Brock, the Charleston chef extraordinaire who goes to great lengths to preserve the south’s indigenous produce and livestock; the February issue of Bon Appetit, which featured 41 “soulful recipes from American’s new food capital,” plus a fried chicken leg in all it’s battered glory on the cover; and a great piece in the Globe and Mail that focuses on another star chef of the southern cooking movement, Ottawa-raised Hugh Acheson. It’s actually pretty exciting that a North American regional cuisine is front and centre, stealing some thunder from the Italians. (Personally, I hope that Maritime cooking, from both Canada and the U.S., is next!)
But I’ve also noticed another contender for southern food supremacy: Antarctica. In the third issue of Lucky Peach, the magazine launched by chef and restaurateur David Cheng in collaboration with McSweeney’s last year, there’s a charming interview with the dinner production line cook for the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. (In fact, the entire issue is a keeper.) And in the current issue of CityBites magazine, there’s mention of a limited edition book about to be published called, The Antarctic Book of Cooking and Cleaning. It’s the story of a Russian-Canadian clean up project told by the two women in charge of the well-being of the volunteers, who culled their journals, recipes, menu plans and photographs for the book.
Of course, the south needn’t actually worry about Antarctica stealing their status. The continent has a population of zero permanent residents; most food can’t actually grow there (although, according to the website Cool Antarctica, “some stations grow fresh vegetables on a hydroponic system where the plants grow in slowly circulating water with nutrients dissolved in it,”); ice makes it hard to harvest whales, seals, fish and birds for dinner, and The Antarctic Treaty forbids the import of soil because of the risk of introducing non-native insects, fungi or bacteria. So the chance of the South Pole coming up with a regional cuisine that could compete with southern cooking is, well, nil.
Still, because there are 4,000 plus people from 30 different nations who man the permanent stations and field camps, it’s safe to assume that there have been some fairly interesting dinner parties held on the continent. And perhaps one or two concluded with a siphoning of scotch—preferably from the century-old cases left behind in the Antarctic ice by Ernest Shackleton.
By Jessica Allen - Friday, March 9, 2012 at 4:27 PM - 0 Comments
THAT HAM UPDATE
In a Maclean’s interview from 2007, Picard mentioned his desire to create a Québécois ham on par with France’s Bayonne—a project that could take 10 years to realize. When we asked Picard for a progress report, the chef got up from his seat and invited Maclean’s to have a peek in the Sugar Shack’s drying room, just off the staff quarters, where a meat haven of cured hams and cured sausages was hanging. “Those are our pigs who live in the forest for a year and then I slaughter them. This is our first try,” he explained. “I don’t want to do any commercial. I want to do it just for the fun and that’s all.”
WHAT DOES PICARD EAT ON, SAY, A MONDAY NIGHT?
“I love to take des restes. How do you say, des restes [leftovers]? When you take everything in the fridge and you cook it? I like to pick a lot of things and make something. I love that more than anything now. It’s crazy and I don’t know why, but I have fun. It’s very easy to do, you know. You don’t have to spend two hours to prep—it’s bang bang. You know, my girlfriend, she’s cooking very well, but sometimes she’s missing a little something so I love to take that from that and I’m doing something…well, I won’t say better, because that’s not polite, but something different. I love it.”