By Anne Kingston - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - 0 Comments
A Vancouver graphic designer wants you to judge the bottle by its label
Maclean’s tells the story of Canadian wine from coast to coast in words and pictures in Wine in Canada: A Tour of Wine Country. Look for it on newsstands now. Or download the app now. In the meantime, here’s a sneak peek:
For more than a decade, Bernie Hadley-Beauregard has been rattling the fossilized cage of the Canadian wine establishment while cementing his name as the go-to guy for provocative and distinctive wine labels. His Vancouver-based consultancy, Brandever Strategy Inc., exploded on the scene, so to speak, in 2002, when Evelyn and Chris Campbell hired him to rebrand Prpich Hills, the difficult-to-pronounce Okanagan Valley winery they’d just purchased. Hadley-Beauregard had his “Eureka!” moment researching in a local museum when he came across a reference to the town’s “dynamite church,” so-called because explosives were used to loosen its nails before it was moved from another location in 1929.
Thus the Blasted Church brand was born, though not before labyrinthine regulatory hurdles gave the competition a peek at the whimsical, ecclesiastically themed labels—and a chance to tsk-tsk. “The powers-that-be forecast it was never going to happen,” Hadley-Beauregard says. “They didn’t like the name, or the aesthetics.”
By Rosemary Westwood - Monday, May 13, 2013 at 10:45 AM - 0 Comments
Vintners from British Columbia, Ontario and Nova Scotia are embracing effervescence
Maclean’s tells the story of Canadian wine from coast to coast in words and pictures in Wine in Canada: A Tour of Wine Country. Look for it on newsstands now. Or download the app now. In the meantime, here’s a sneak peek:
Break out the made-in-Canada bubbly. Champagne isn’t just for drenching champion athletes, New Year’s revelry and the French anymore. Producers at home are challenging the famed region’s monopoly on the finest sparkling wine.
Nestled among the rolling green hills of Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley near the Gaspereau River, Benjamin Bridge is part of the new wave of Canadian vineyards creating a buzz with high-calibre bubbles.
Last year a $75 bottle of its 2004 brut reserve stunned some of the country’s most discerning palates in a blind tasting—they preferred it to a $250 bottle of Louis Roederer 2004 Cristal (yes, that Cristal, from one the world’s top champagne houses).
In 2011, L’Acadie Vineyards—also from the Annapolis Valley—won a silver, the only medal awarded to a North American vineyard, at an international competition for sparkling wines held, where else, in France. And the Okanagan’s Summerhill Pyramid Winery won the “best bottle fermented sparkling wine” at the 2010 International Wine and Spirits competition in London. With a growing list of Canadian wineries chasing that bright and delicate zing, competition for the top national sparklers has become fierce. It may not be champagne, a name reserved for wines made in that region, but it sure tastes like it. And Canadians are lapping it up.
By Jessica Allen - Tuesday, April 30, 2013 at 8:43 AM - 0 Comments
Spoiler alert: Canada is shut out….again
The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, an “annual snapshot of the opinions and experiences of over 900 international restaurant industry experts” sponsored by S. Pellegrino, was released on Apr. 29.
El Celler De Can Roca restaurant in Girona, Spain moved up from being ranked second last year to first place, while the Copenhagen temple of foraged food, Noma, fell to second place after placing first for the last three years in a row. Rounding out the third position is Osteria Francescana, which has secured a spot in the top five for three years in a row making it the highest ranked Italian restaurant for the past five years.
Rounding out the top 10 are restaurants from the U.S., Austria, Brazil, Germany, Spain and England.
Once again, Canada did not make the cut–not even placing in the top 100.
Have we ever? Yes: Michael Stadtländer’s Eigensinn Farm came in at number nine in 2002–the list’s inaugural year–and dropped to number 28 the next year, while Susur Lee’s Susur, which closed in 2008, came in 49th place in 2002. But for the last 10 years, this country’s finest eateries have been shut out of the top 50.
There’s a bright side, sort of: The list’s organizers “believe it is an honourable survey of current tastes and a credible indicator of the best places to eat around the globe,” but ”it can never be definitive.”
By Jessica Allen - Tuesday, April 30, 2013 at 7:16 AM - 0 Comments
I didn’t watch Monday night’s episode of Top Chef Canada, now in its third season, so I have no idea which of the remaining 10 chefs won the honour of creating “our new national dish”.
To be honest, I haven’t watched reality food TV in about a year now. But there was a time when it wouldn’t be uncommon for me to plan an evening around an episode of Top Chef or Hell’s Kitchen. In fact, the 2011 season finale of Top Chef Canada, which was the highest rated episode in Food Network Canada’s history, is the last time time I remember making an effort to tune in.
I may not be the only enthusiastic-turned-apathetic reality food TV viewer: The Emmy and James Beard-award winning American Top Chef on Bravo is the number one rated food show on cable. They just crowned their 10th winner (and only the second female to win) at the end of February. But their season premiere ratings peaked during 2008′s fifth season with 2.7 million viewers and has declined every year since. (Season 9′s premiere in 2011 had 1.6 million viewers.)
By macleans.ca - Sunday, April 28, 2013 at 9:40 AM - 0 Comments
The Almost Famous award offers a glimpse of what the chefs of tomorrow can do
The cachet of the annual S. Pellegrino “world’s best restaurant” list has apparently rubbed off on its baby sibling competition for up-and-coming North American cooks: the S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Awards. Seated at the judging table for the finals last month at the Napa, Calif., campus of the Culinary Institute of America, awaiting the first contestant’s plate, I noticed something odd in my scoring guidelines. None of a possible 50 points was set aside for evaluating the way food was presented on the plate, while 10 were earmarked for assessing how candidates performed at the microphone, explaining their dishes and answering questions.
“I didn’t realize all that chit-chat was key to being a good chef,” I remarked to fellow judge Tony Mantuano, executive chef of Chicago’s Spiaggia, the Michelin-starred Italian restaurant. “It is now,” he replied. Most chefs I know of Mantuano’s generation entered the profession without sparing a second’s thought as to their communications skills—unless it was to congratulate themselves for choosing a trade in which they did not matter a whit. By contrast, most young cooks I meet now seem to regard cooking school as an inconveniently long audition for the Food Network.
But you could not make such a generalization of the Almost Famous finalists. The 10 contestants—nine Americans and one Canadian—were each winners of regional competitions. They were all about to complete culinary school. And the paths that had taken them there were as diverse and unexpected as the places they hoped to go next. Ryan Trinkofsky, a Floridian of Russian Jewish extraction, had been studying music and giving private lessons on the side, when the South Asian mother of a pupil offered him cooking lessons in lieu of payment. So it came to pass that Ryan discovered a passion for samosas that he had never experienced for knishes.
Kristen Thibeault, meanwhile, was a decade into a career in marketing when she was diagnosed with cancer. She emerged from the gruelling treatment with her health restored—and as a vegan, committed to her original dream of being a chef. Another contestant just wanted a way out of bartending. Few expressed a desire to own a restaurant. The most conventional was our own Jean-Christophe Comtois, who attends École hôtelière de la Capital in Quebec City, cooks at a good local bistro (Clocher Pencher), and is male—one of just three in the competition.
“I’ve never been in a kitchen with so many women,” remarked Mark McEwan, one of two Canadian chef judges (along with Susur Lee), as earlier that day we watched the contestants scramble about the kitchen. Their challenge had been to put together a spontaneous dish from a black box of mystery ingredients: flawlessly fresh fillets of Atlantic cod, some pasta clams, a cluster of top-quality blue mussels. Everything else that could possibly be desired—from fish stock to galangal—was readily available from the pantry. Thibeault’s dish of poached cod with gnocchi and sauce verte was up first. She had clearly tasted it just before serving it. And that was impressive not just because she had to temporarily shelve her vegan principles to do so, but rather because tasting what you serve is apparently no longer taught at culinary school, or shown in enough dramatic slo-mo on the Food Network—because the plates that followed featured fish that was cold, or raw, or overcooked to mush, or underseasoned. None of that happens when you taste before you serve.
Unless of course you do not know what fish is supposed to taste like—and in the U.S., where the most widely consumed seafood is frozen shrimp, followed by tinned tuna, this is a possibility. That seafood was outside our contestants’ comfort zone was confirmed on day two: when challenged to prepare their “signature dish,” only one contestant cooked something that swam. The eating improved immeasurably. But it was Thibeault, the vegan, who won the day and the competition with an exceptional dish of porcini-crusted mock-sweetbreads with wild mushrooms and crisp-fried vegetables. Nicely explained, too. She may not be headed for the real S. Pellegrino list—but she is one to keep an eye on all the same.
By Jessica Allen - Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 1:00 PM - 0 Comments
Faith Wallis, a professor at McGill University, was looking through a manuscript in Cambridge when she came across a series of food recipes. Realizing that they predated the previously earliest known Medieval recipes by about 150 years, I’m guessing she–an expert in medieval history and science–was ecstatic.
The latin manuscript consists of both food recipes, like “hen in winter”–essentially chicken with garlic, pepper and sage–along with ointments. “Some of the medical potions in this book seem to have stood the test of time,” Giles Gasper, a professor at the Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies at Durham University told his institution. “Some emphatically haven’t! But we’re looking forward to finding out whether these newly-discovered recipes have done so and whether they also possess what you might call a certain Je Ne Sais Quoi – or Quidditas, to use the Latin.”
“The sauces typically feature parsley, sage, pepper, garlic, mustard and coriander which I suspect may give them a middle eastern, Lebanese feel when we recreate them,” said Gasper. “According to the text, one of the recipes comes from the Poitou region of what is now modern central western France. This proves international travellers to Durham brought recipes with them.”
On his website Eat Medieval, Gasper said that the recipes “would appear to date from the mid-later 12th century, which makes them amongst the earliest in the western tradition.” They were compiled and written at Durham Cathedral’s priory around 1160. (Footnote to film fans: interiors of the Romanesque cathedral were featured in the 1998 movie Elizabeth, starring Cate Blanchett.)
Gasper and his colleagues will attempt to recreate some of the recipes on Apr. 25 at Blackfriars, a restaurant housed in a 14th century Dominican friary. And if you live near Newcastle, you can taste some of the dishes yourself on the following Saturday when a lunchtime Medieval-style feast will take place, along with a lecture on “Food in Medieval England”.
The rest of us will have to wait for the cookbook, which is in the works.
By Edward Riche - Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 5:00 AM - 0 Comments
Neither surf nor turf, seal challenges expectations of taste, but feeds a culture
My family has been involved in sealing for more than five generations. Few of us were actual “swilers,” hunters risking the ice floes to harvest animals. We are instead devoted eaters of seal, phocid gourmets. In the Riches’ love affair with seal cookery my great-grandmother, whom I never met, stands out for her passion. A formidable woman with a striking resemblance to Winston Churchill, she was the go-to midwife in the east end of “Sin Jahns” at the turn of the last century. Uncles told how, when the sealing vessels returned to St. John’s she would dispatch a grandchild to purchase the first, dearest flippers brought ashore. She would sample the flesh the moment it came in the door, blood running down her chin. Great Grandmother was, after a hard winter, likely suffering from a vitamin or mineral deficiency that compelled her to such behaviour.
My wife is from Nova Scotia; some of her ancestors are Palatinate Germans, and she is not a fan. My theory is that one cannot, later in life, make seals’ distinctly fishy taste jibe with its intense—the red of the flesh veers to black—meatiness. The common murre, the migratory sea bird known here as turr, is another delicacy that challenges this expectation of taste. With a diet consisting primarily of capelin, their flesh takes on a piscine attribute. To the tongue, turr is neither fish nor fowl, seal neither surf nor turf, but rather both at once.
When I was a boy, the meat was purchased from sealers off the large vessels at the harbour apron. That seal [was] “seasoned” during the return to port, the blubber coming to possess a funky rancidity. These days the boats involved in the much smaller hunt possess such sophisticated refrigeration that the raw meat has a delicate scent. While the smell of seal cooking is distinctive, it doesn’t linger in the house like it used to. The white-coats, the dew-eyed “baby seals” that attracted so much misplaced pity, and drew the outraged likes of Brigitte Bardot to our shores, are no longer taken. The meat now comes from the older, less camera-ready Raggedy Jacks. I buy mine at one of two local seafood shops or at Belbin’s, a grocery in the east end. It’s sold on Styrofoam trays wrapped in cellophane.
By Sarah Elton - Monday, April 15, 2013 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
… conservationists on alert
If you know where to go in Toronto, you can shop for the most exotic of African bush meat: rodents from the forests of West and Central Africa, bats, even cuts of gorilla meat, an endangered primate. “It’s like a mini farmers’ market with tables set out,” said Justin Brashares, an associate professor of wildlife ecology and conservation at the University of California at Berkeley, describing the makeshift markets he has visited in Toronto that are specifically set up to sell bush meat. “Animals are in boxes, some things in coolers beside the table. They sell it often in precut quantities,” he said. Small mammals such as bats, as well as fish from the continent, are the most common offerings but Brashares said that as much as 30 per cent of the meat sold can be primate. A vendor sitting at an empty table is a sign that there is more expensive primate meat for sale.
For the past 10 years, Brashares has been running an international study on the bush-meat trade, for which he has monitored the species of wild animals from West and Central Africa sold each month at dozens of underground markets in 40 cities across Europe and North America, including Toronto and Montreal. At every market, at least two locals record what is for sale, along with the quantity available, and send the information to Brashares, who plans to publish the findings. He has an ecologist’s interest in bush meat that grew out of his doctoral research in Ghana, where hunters kept killing a species of antelope he was studying. By examining the global bush-meat trade, he hopes to gain insight into why humans use wildlife the way we do—and the consequences.
The study is international in scope because what was once a staple food for a local population in West and Central Africa has become a globally traded commodity, just like quinoa or chocolate. This one just happens to be illegal in most countries in the world. According to the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada, the global bush-meat trade is estimated to be at least $1 billion annually. While most wild animals smuggled into the West from all over the planet—not only Africa—are destined for the pet market, a significant number are headed for dinner plates. It is estimated that 25 million kg of bush meat arrives in the United States each year.
By Jessica Allen - Tuesday, April 9, 2013 at 9:03 AM - 0 Comments
I always imagined that the cabbage rolls my mom and her sister make–the best, in my books–hail from some recipe that my grandmother’s ancestors brought to Canada from Germany’s Alsace-Lorraine region some 150 years ago.
Nevermind that cabbage rolls and Alsace-Lorraine have little to do with each other. More importantly, it turns out the Vi Moffat, the English woman who lived across the street from my mom and her siblings in Strathroy, Ont., was the one who shared the recipe with my grandmother.
Memories can be tricky.
The 7th annual Terroir hospitality and food industry symposium on Apr. 8 in Toronto, was dedicated to the stories, memories and culture that surround food. The impressive roster of speakers, with nary a French, Spanish or Italian representative in sight–an observation that Scandinavian chef and author Trine Hahnemann pointed out as being indicative of the changing of the guard, so to speak, all had narratives swathed in nostalgic memories to share.
By Martin Patriquin - Thursday, April 4, 2013 at 11:50 AM - 0 Comments
Made with crowberry, cloudberry and Labrador tea, the Quebecois spirit is grabbing global attention
Gin drinkers, so the stereotype goes, are strong in personality, stiff in the upper lip and, above all, British to the bone. They write about the travails of the poor, diseased masses (Charles Dickens) when not ruling over them (Queen Elizabeth II). They drink it before, during and after sex and/or fisticuffs (James Bond), or bombing Germans (Winston Churchill). In other words they are so much the personification of their preferred tipple: dry, cold, faintly medicinal.
Strange, then, that the recently declared best gin in the world is made across the pond from Mother Britannia—way across the pond, in the hinterland of French North America. Since 2010, Quebec-based Domaine Pinnacle has produced Ungava, a gin made with botanicals harvested exclusively from the Ungava Peninsula, the province’s northernmost point.
It is a difficult gin to miss. When Ungava won a Best of Show award at the prestigious World Spirits Competition last week, a judge noted its “unusual colour that helps grab your senses.” It’s perhaps the most polite way of drawing attention to Ungava’s yellow tint, about which Pinnacle president Charles Crawford is slightly more blunt. “It’s a bit like morning’s vitamin-enriched urine,” he says. His PR people prefer “sunshine yellow.”
By Pamela Cuthbert - Saturday, March 23, 2013 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
So reviled that it’s at risk of vanishing, this pungent fish deserves a second chance
Next time you order a pizza, you might want to tell your server not to hold the anchovies. The time is now to champion this little stinker, or risk losing it altogether. “We’re asked all the time for anchovies,” says Dylan McCulloch, co-owner of the Daily Catch in Vancouver. “I’ve called all my suppliers, but we can’t get them.” And that’s not because of a run on anchovies in the culinary world. Millions of tons of this oily, bony fish are caught each year, yet instead of getting served up freshly grilled on toast, or salted and cured in olive oil for making fragrant tomato sauces for pasta, they are being turned into fish meal to feed livestock and farmed fish and, given their very high omega-3 content, are being processed for fish-oil supplements.
It’s no wonder; there’s not much competition from the human market. In a world dominated by bland farmed salmon and insipid shrimp, most of us have forgotten to enjoy the anchovy, with its full-flavour impact. But now, a small group of believers is trying to resurrect the pungent anchovy. Some, like chef Lee Humphries of Vancouver’s C Restaurant, who grew up in northern England, have had to overcome a childhood hatred of the tinned fish. Each year during the brief local midsummer harvest season, Humphries exerts considerable effort to get all the anchovies he can. It means cleaning, processing, curing and packing the year’s supply as soon as the catch is in. “It’s a labour of love,” he says of the tedious task of boning the minuscule fish, “but the anchovy is the perfect seasoning.” Humphries uses it in myriad ways: as a pasta-sauce base, with salads such as the house Caesar, in a winter classic of lamb seasoned with mint and anchovy. “It’s not fishy, but clean tasting.”
By Julia McKinnell - Saturday, March 16, 2013 at 8:00 PM - 0 Comments
For the faithful, the Bible offers a wealth of wisdom, including nutritional advice
Christine Andrew, a nutritionist from Vacaville, Calif., has a pet peeve: obese preachers who rail against the sin of adultery while ignoring the sin of gluttony. “They’re quick to talk about licentiousness and alcoholism,” Andrew said in an interview on the phone. “But how come they don’t talk about food and health? Churches want you to pray for [parishioners’] kidney disease and diabetes complications—and they continue to eat their cakes, cookies and pies. I think they’re in denial. That’s why I wrote the book.”
Andrew, who was raised Presbyterian, is a devout churchgoer and author of a new diet book for Christians called Food Isn’t What It Used to Be: A Biblical Approach to Health. Gluttony, lack of self-control and junk food are the main reasons people are getting sick, she says. “The Bible says to deny yourself. Gluttony brings consequences.”
In 2008, Andrew began researching her book by sifting through the Old and New Testaments for references to food and teachings on self-control. “Christians are to bear the failings of the weak,” she writes. “If someone who is overweight eats at our table, we shouldn’t put soda and doughnuts before them any more than putting wine in front of someone who is struggling with alcoholism.” There are examples in scripture of those who go astray, she points out. Samson in Judges 13:24-25 gave in to his weakness, lust, leading to his downfall. “If doughnuts or soda are your downfall and you know this, apply the principle of self-control.”
By macleans.ca - Friday, March 15, 2013 at 11:00 AM - 0 Comments
Jason McBride reports on the Canadians competing to win the title of Best Sommelier in the World
To be the best sommelier in the world you must be able to do several things, and to do them swiftly and perfectly. You must not only be able to blindly identify thousands of different kinds of wine, you must comprehensively describe their flavour profiles, pinpoint where and when the grapes were grown, and state the most appropriate foods with which to pair them. You must do all this in two minutes, and in a language other than your native tongue. Your knowledge of every other kind of spirit, from absinthe to vodka, and even non-alcoholic beverages like tea and mineral water, will be similarly tested. In a simulation of fine-dining service—timed, like everything—you must demonstrate you can efficiently and smoothly pour a bottle of wine to one, two, possibly a dozen guests. A single spilled drop, or the incorrect fold of a napkin, may cost you points. And you must do it all with an audience of 5,000 watching.
It was in preparation for this, the Best Sommelier in the World competition, to be held in Tokyo later this month, that a handful of the country’s top sommeliers were gathered at Momofuku Toronto on Valentine’s Day morning. It was only 9:30 a.m. and the restaurant was technically closed, but its beverage director, along with master sommelier Bruce Wallner, had transformed its upstairs bar into a boozy boot camp. A half-dozen decanters filled with various red and white wines, along with 12 glasses, were arrayed on a table in front of Véronique Rivest and Will Predhomme. The 47-year-old Rivest, who lives in Wakefield, Que., and works at Les Fougères in Chelsea, 15 minutes north of Ottawa, is currently considered the finest sommelier in the country—she won both the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers (CAPS) competition and the Pan-American competition in Brazil in 2012. Predhomme, 31, is the head sommelier at Canoe, routinely ranked as one of Toronto’s best restaurants. They are both representing Canada in Japan—the first time we’ll have two candidates in the competition, one of the trade’s most prestigious events.
By Cinda Chavich - Monday, March 11, 2013 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
Dense, indestrctible treat powers triathletes, hikers and skiiers
The Canadian triathlete Gillian Clayton is an ambassador for B.C.’s Powered by Chocolate Milk campaign, but she may soon be packing something else on her winter workouts: fruitcake. Clayton, winner of the 2012 Ironman Canada pro women’s title, says the best winter-training regimen for the gruelling 225-km running, biking and swimming event is cross-country skiing. And “cross-country skiing is about as hunger-inducing/calorie-burning as any sport can get,” writes Clayton in her blog. “It flattens you, in a good way.” The power bars that many skiiers and winter hikers take along in warmer weather freeze solid. Hearty fruitcake, though, is the perfect antidote, and she’s not the first to discover it.
Fruitcake is routinely maligned for its heavy character and mythical shelf life, but that’s what makes it the perfect food to stuff into your pack on a long expedition. It may be rooted in the British and German heritage of our early climbers, but hauling along heavy cakes and breads studded with dried fruits and nuts is a backcountry tradition. Long before Clif bars and Larabars, it was old-fashioned fruitcake—or a dense derivative known as Logan or expedition bread—that routinely went to Canada’s highest peaks.
B.C. mountain climber and filmmaker Pat Morrow, the first person to summit the highest peaks on the world’s seven continents, calls it “the worthy predecessor of power bars” and says he ate it on all three of his expeditions to Mount Logan in Yukon. Mountain guide Sue Gould recalls the 40-day trek with Morrow and 11 others to Logan’s summit in 1992, to officially measure the height of Canada’s highest mountain. “We took 221 portions of fruitcake, or 22,100 grams,” she says. The bread they packed came from Suat Tuzlak’s Alpine Bakery in Whitehorse. It’s legendary stuff, once named one of the best fruitcakes in North America in a Wall Street Journal taste-off, and still carried into the wilderness by weekend hikers and epic adventurers alike.
By Jacob Richler - Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 6:00 AM - 0 Comments
In cooking with wood, the oldest form of cookery, a chef finds sublime new flavours
Park a giant trailer-mounted wood-burning pizza oven in a driveway on a sub-zero January afternoon, fire it up to raging so that it billows sweet wood smoke into the frigid breeze, and you are bound to attract attention from the passersby—even in Stratford, Ont., at the dead-quiet corner of Albert and Nile. And as this scene unfolded a few weeks ago, those who stopped for a closer look found it even stranger than at first glance.
For starters, the man in charge was not cooking pizza, but wood, and so opened the brick oven only to add more logs to his fire and to transfer some of the smouldering coals and embers to a neighbouring set of open, stainless steel grills. He also spoke with an Australian accent, and while the Canadians gathered around were all bundled in winter coats, hats and gloves, he saw fit to carry on in nothing more than jeans and a T-shirt.
The man impervious to the cold was Lennox Hastie, an English-born chef who, after successive stints working for some of the best in Europe (the Roux brothers, Raymond Blanc, Marc Veyrat, et al.) found his calling at the smoky side of the legendary Victor Arguinzoniz at his restaurant, Asador Etxebarri, in a small town in the Spanish hills above Bilbao. Together they developed a unique cuisine that seems self-contradictory—for it is simultaneously entirely new, and the oldest form of cookery there is. They cooked by fire—but not over a flame. They used the heat of smouldering embers of white oak and local fruitwood, carefully selected for the subtly different purpose at hand. And they applied its pure heat with previously unattained finesse to raw products that no one had ever cooked that way.
By Manisha Krishnan - Friday, February 22, 2013 at 4:40 PM - 0 Comments
Charitable event pays homage to Canada’s national delicacy
In a recent editorial, the Chicago Tribune mused that Canada, “boring, eager-to-please Canada, is taking Chicago by storm.”
It seems they were right.
This Sunday, the windy city will be paying homage to our national delicacy with the debut of Poutine Fest.
The charitable event, which features the slogan “Fry away with us, eh?,” will set 11 of Chicago’s best chefs against each other to see who can whip up the most delicious fry-gravy-cheese-curd combination and take home the title of King of Poutine. Tickets sold out within half an hour.
By Anne Kingston - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 7:00 PM - 0 Comments
The Japanese dish’s alchemy of humble ingredients is only beginning its culinary ascent
In December, the first issue of Lucky Peach, a quarterly food journal produced by Momofuku mogul and chef-of-the-moment David Chang, sold on eBay for $162.50 to $152.50 more than its newsstand price in June 2011. Crazy? Not to anyone up on food trends: the issue is devoted to ramen, the Japanese broth-noodle combo once best known as a mainstay for starving students. But that was before forces—cultural, economic, primal—transformed it into the new cosmic chicken soup for the soul, metaphorically and culinarily speaking.
We’re currently in the grip of ramen mania, as illustrated by thousands of Instagrams of wheat noodles in glistening hot broth topped with sliced pork, mushrooms, egg, corn, seaweed, green onion, pickled bamboo shoots—you name it. The dish’s Vancouver toehold has increased and migrated east, with shops opening up in Toronto and beyond, seemingly with the frequency of Starbucks. Chatter on Chowhound message boards has turned to critiques of tare, the seasoned sauce that defines ramen type: miso, fermented bean paste; shoyu, soy-sauce based; shio, salty seafood and seaweed essence; and tonkotsu, creamy pork-bone broth. Studying ramen-making in Japan has become a chef’s bragging right, the way training at former molecular cuisine mecca El Bulli used to be.
Ivan Orkin, a New York chef turned ramen celebrity in Japan, sees the trend only beginning in North America. The self-described “Japanophile” moved to Tokyo in 2003 amid a ramen renaissance. His two Ivan Ramen shops, which offer a “Mexican” and a “BLT” ramen, were big hits; he also gained fame selling high-end instant ramen. Orkin is about to open his first U.S. outpost in Manhattan’s Lower East Side this spring. He’s publishing a book in the fall.
By Jessica Allen - Monday, February 18, 2013 at 2:34 PM - 0 Comments
The cookbook star on food, travel and the virtues of vermouth
By Jessica Allen - Monday, February 18, 2013 at 2:25 PM - 0 Comments
Bestselling author and TV personality Nigella Lawson visited the new Chatelaine test kitchen powered by GE this morning to talk about her new book, Nigellissima, a collection of 126 Italian-inspired recipes. We had a chance to speak with Lawson about food writing, the pressures of a non-Italian tackling Italian recipes and the virtues of vermouth.
A: I will, and do you know what I love most of all? Seeing a really old, used, beloved copy. It always warms my heart.
Q: This book is actually the way I came at the discourse of food writing 16 years ago, and via you I was introduced to other food writers, namely Elizabeth David and Anne del Conte and so on. So I’m curious to know how you arrived to the subject.
A: Completely by mistake. It was a long time ago so I was relatively young and I always thought that I wanted to write a novel. And then one day my late husband John said to me, ‘You think everyone is as confident in their attitudes towards food as you are–you should write about it.’ This [How To Eat] isn’t really a recipe book–there are lots of recipes in it–but it’s a different sort of book. It’s about talking about food and why it matters. So I spoke to my agent and asked what he thought and he said let’s do it. And I said, ‘I don’t really know if I want to do a food book.’ And he said, ‘Before you write a great symphony just do a few chords. This will be it.’ Of course I wrote this book and realized I didn’t want to be a novelist. I’m not a novelist. I felt I found my voice through food. So it was just an accident. At the time I was journalist–not even a food journalist; I’d write about anything–but you see the thing is food is not to be left to the experts because we all eat. We eat everyday and food is such an important part of our lives, not just in terms of giving us all sustenance but emotionally it explains so much about us. So I wanted to write about food in its context–sometimes historically and sometimes I suppose sociological, and sometimes just purely personal. So for me it’s just the biggest subject in the world and I love every aspect of it.
By Melissa Martin - Sunday, February 3, 2013 at 7:00 PM - 0 Comments
What cooler antidote to winter than an upscale pop-up on the frozen Assiniboine?
Last Thursday night, Winnipeg was in the grip of a vicious cold snap that faded streets into a silent filmstrip of grit teeth and shuffling, Sorel-booted feet. As the waxy winter daylight faded, the temperature plunged to -31˚C—and out in the middle of the frozen Assiniboine River, 16 people in parkas were tucking into a delicate dish of raw scallop, albacore tuna and rich foie gras. This was the first course ever served at Raw: Almond, a pop-up restaurant risen on the ice at the confluence of the Red and Assiniboine rivers. Something between a tent and a temporary shack, it squatted in the shadow of an old steel rail bridge, its whiteness reflecting the ice all around.
The dinner guests arrived huddled in pairs, among them an artist, a teacher and a medical student. Instead of chairs, they sat on tree stumps covered with a faux-fur throw. The walls of the restaurant are canvas. The floor is ice. It feels a little like a campsite, with sleek lamps in place of a fire. “We’re not rolling out the gold leaf,” jokes Joe Kalturnyk, director and co-founder of the Raw architecture gallery, who put on the event. The menu is left to glitter on its own. Continue…
By Jessica Allen - Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at 3:57 PM - 0 Comments
“The only thing I can liken this meeting to would be the DeNiro/Pacino scene in Heat,” writes Soto, who is actually Taylor Clarke–a screenwriter who started impersonating as a chef of a fictional restaurant called Gravitas on Twitter in January, 2012. (Routine tweets include making fun of Chef Susur Lee’s ponytail, McEwan’s curls, pop-ups, tacos, chefs tables, ramen and generally ridiculing the fictional-or-not-lifestyle of the Toronto restaurant industry.)
But Clarke/Soto thinks “it’s important for two Canadian culinary giants to come together finally in a symbolic showing of unity.”
The place doesn’t need to be fancy, insists Clarke, just “somewhere where I can where my Teva sandals and seashell necklace and not feel frowned upon.” And although Clarke has no interest in paying for the lunch, he has offered to pay for parking: “One of those $10 dollar lots though, not one of those fancy car park places,” he writes. “It’s just a car.”
Clarke, who first revealed his identity to The Toronto Star’s Amy Pataki in June of 2012, told me in an email that he’s eager to pick McEwan’s brain on the Toronto food scene and how it has evolved–not for jokes, but for actual research: Clarke is currently developing a television show with Just For Laughs called…wait for it…Chef Grant Soto.
“I’ve wanted to sit down with him for a while and interview him,” he said. “This guy has been around. I bet he has some good insight that would be very helpful.”
No word yet on whether or not McEwan will accept Clarke’s offer to go for lunch–and pay for it. But prospects are looking good: just moments ago, real chef Mark McEwan began following fake chef Grant Soto on Twitter.
By Sarah Elton - Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at 3:00 PM - 0 Comments
Pickers say the lacterius indigo is under threat
Once, when high on LSD, recounts the author and neurologist Oliver Sacks in his new book, Hallucinations, he was obsessed with the colour indigo. “It was the colour of heaven,” he writes. Sacks was desperate to see it—so much so that he began to conjure up a blob of indigo in his mind.
The lacterius indigo could have saved him a trip. The mushroom’s whitish cap looks deceptively plain, but if you flip it over, the gills are a brilliant blue. Slice into it, and the mushroom bleeds indigo-coloured milk. Cook it, and the flesh turns a greyish green. “It’s a green you’ve never seen in cooking,” says Fidel Brochu, a Quebec-based wild mushroom distributor who picked the lacterius indigo in Saskatchewan’s Torch River Provincial Forest last summer. When chef Gilles Herzog at F Bar in Montreal served them as a garnish, simmered in olive oil and cider vinegar, he made sure to explain what they were to his diners. “Sometimes clients find them bizarre,” he says. The mushrooms can be as small as a toonie or as large as dinner plates. Take a bite, and “it’s extraordinary,” says Elisabeth Poscher, who also harvests the mushroom. “It has a peppery taste. It’s—I don’t know. You have to try it.” Continue…
By Peter Nowak - Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 9:43 AM - 0 Comments
McDonald’s Spam platter is a delicacy in Hawaii. And the new star of my nightmares.
I’ve eaten a lot of crap for this blog. As a guy who wrote a book that’s one-third about how fast food has contributed to technological advancement, I’ve strangely felt it my duty to keep up on the latest developments in the field. That includes sampling a lot of weird, unique and often gross fast-food concoctions.
In Sex, Bombs and Burgers, I spend some time explaining the origin and spread of Spam – the canned meat, not the email – and its ties to food technology and the history of war. The product was invented in the 1930s by Jay Hormel of the Hormel meat empire in an effort to use up the unwanted parts of pigs. Surprisingly, this canned Franken-meat didn’t sell well – until the Second World War broke out, whereupon it became the perfect food for troops: high in calories, completely portable and virtually indestructible (and unperishable).
Spam was shipped by the ton to the Pacific Islands, where American troops ate it up. It also filtered into the general populace and has since become enshrined as local cuisine. Islanders have come up with numerous new ways of eating the canned meat – small slices are placed on top of rice in a sushi-style musubi, or it’s cooked like sausage and served along with rice and eggs in breakfast platters.
As such, they eat lots of it. In Hawaii, where I spent the past two weeks on vacation, the average person eats the equivalent of six cans a year.
Having written about all this, I felt duty-bound to try it, even though the very thought of Spam sends waves of revulsion through my belly. I haven’t had it since I was a kid and really, the idea of meat in a can still seems like one of humanity’s most unnatural inventions.
Nevertheless, earlier this week I sauntered into a McDonald’s for breakfast and boldly ordered the Spam, eggs and rice platter. The cashier didn’t bat an eye. Obviously, a lot of people do this on a regular basis.
At a glance, the tray didn’t look too dissimilar from a regular McDonald’s breakfast. The differences only became apparent upon closer inspection. The yellow, square dollop of “scrambled eggs” were normal enough, but the round scoop of sticky white rice was new. Of course, the real star of the show were the two small rectangles of cooked Spam, which could easily be mistaken for ham or sausage.
I bit into the eggs first. Yup. Standard-issue McDonald’s eggs: flavourless, with a bit of rubberiness to their texture.
The rice was next. Yup, it was rice alright. Not even Mickey D’s can screw up rice.
At last, I cut off a piece of Spam and gingerly took a bite. And then the revulsion hit.
The sensation is hard to describe. It was salty and slightly warm, with a texture sort of like squishy leather. At best, it tasted like dirty ham. Or old ham. Or just nasty, nasty ham.
I hadn’t actually noticed the smell until I bit into it. It was similarly pungent, like someone had cooked ham that had been left out on the counter for a few days. After that first bite, I was forevermore wary of that stench.
I quickly doused the rice with soya sauce and shoveled it into my mouth, hoping to kill the horror that lingered therein, followed by a large gulp of my Fanta Fruit Punch (which is awesome, by the way). The queasiness subsided somewhat.
After mentally regrouping, I reluctantly came to the conclusion that I had to take another bite, if only to confirm that the first wasn’t just a fluke. I had to confirm that the cooked Spam was indeed disgusting. I steeled myself and cut off another chunk, then stabbed it with my fork and slowly raised it to my mouth.
The second bite sealed it: still horrible.
I took another nibble of the “eggs,” a few more fork fulls of the rice and then chucked the whole thing in the garbage, followed by a thorough palate cleansing via Fanta. I’m sure I’ve had worse breakfasts, but I was hard-pressed to remember any.
I understand that Spam in all its forms is an acquired taste that’s enjoyed by millions of people, but there’s simply no way I’ll ever get it. If anything, my inborn revulsion to it has only been strengthened by my Hawaiian adventure. Now, even the thought of it is enough to unnerve me. I think I’ll stick to writing about it.
The things I do for this blog…
By Jessica Allen - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 at 12:28 PM - 0 Comments
For someone whose arm hair goes up like a cat when she walks into health food stores lined with ineffective vitamins and overpriced supplements, not to mention highly processed “health food”, choosing to go on a cleanse might sound as hypocritical as an atheist praying to God before bed.
Still, I started one on Jan. 5, 2013. To be fair, a good friend was going to do it and I wanted to be there for her, to feel what she would feel. And I desperately desired a sort of “restart” after weeks of eating gingerbread cookies for breakfast and entire cheese plates for snacks, not to mention the wine, which flowed plentifully in December.
I chose the Wild Rose Herbal D-Tox cleanse, mostly because it isn’t a liquid cleanse, which most reasonable people (not including Gwyneth Paltrow and Salma Hayek) are suspicious of, and because it doesn’t eliminate food; only wheat, dairy, sugar, tropical fruits and anything that’s been fermented, including alcohol. That leaves a great deal of good things to eat. Certain foods are to be consumed in moderation, like meat, beans, coffee, eggs and most grains. But others–like brown rice, quinoa, fish, green vegetables and berries–can be eaten in almost unlimited quantities.
There’s one catch, though: The Wild Rose kit comes with four “herbal formulas” in the form of three types of tablets and one liquid extract that must be consumed twice a day, preferably with meals. As far as I can tell, there’s nothing unnatural about them: they are filled with all sorts of roots, barks and herbs. The catch is that one of these is a “laxaherb”, and this guy is responsible for the often vigourous, around the clock elimination of everything evil in your intestines, including, presumably, good things, like water.
By Rosemary Counter - Monday, January 21, 2013 at 3:00 PM - 0 Comments
The social network can help you lose weight, but are you willing to be honest with your followers?
If you’ve been lucky enough never to find yourself at a Weight Watchers meeting, it goes something like this: a dozen dieters, mostly women, sit in a circle. In turn, but only if they want to, they share their weekly progress. “I lost 0.4 lb.,” someone might say. The rest of the room claps.
To encourage an appearance the next week, peppy leaders reiterate one staple statistic of the 50-year-old program: people who attend meetings regularly lose three times the weight as those who do not. Nonetheless, just two years after its last relaunch, Weight Watchers is revamping again (with its online 360° program) in an effort to keep up with the times.
Some dieters are already a tweet ahead. “I love a good meeting, but there wasn’t always a meeting when I needed it,” says 43-year-old Rebecca Regnier, a television reporter from Ohio. For her—and 58 per cent of Canadians who Weight Watchers says tried to lose weight in the last year—Twitter is always there. “When it’s 2 a.m. and I’m fighting a snack craving, it’s not 2 a.m. in Australia. I have friends there to talk me out of it.”
To her ever-expanding network, Regnier’s tweets include healthy humblebrags (“An apple handled some pre-lunch cravings for me today. Yay apple!”), support for her followers (“Don’t quit! Restart”), and admissions of gluttony (“I had a candy-bar-in-the-car moment”).
Despite periodic transgressions, all documented on @LaughItOff to almost 9,000 followers, Regnier lost 20 lb. How she did it—in short, choose any diet that works for you, follow experts in the field, connect with followers for support—became the ebook Your Twitter Diet, one of many that marries dieting with social-media oversharing.
Web options include Tweet What You Eat and Tweet Your Weight. GQ correspondent Drew Magary, down 60 lb., tweets his weight every morning in what he calls the “public humiliation diet.” With just the push of a button, an endless series of websites (Lose It, FitDay, SparkPeople) and apps (My Diet Coach, Thin Cam, the Eatery) can broadcast every bite into cyberspace.
Doing so isn’t always as easy as it seems. Meegan Dowe, a 33-year-old education coordinator from Halifax, who used to blog about her weight struggles anonymously, used the MyFitnessPal app to track her 90-lb. loss. “It tweets both the food I eat and the calories I burn,” she explains.
Though she hates to admit it, Dowe doesn’t think she could have lost the weight without Twitter. “It gave me a community I didn’t have; people at a similar weight as me and with the same frustrations,” she says. While people are almost always positive, sometimes they’re nasty. “I’ve heard things like, ‘You only burned 300 calories in 60 minutes? I could do it in 20.’ ”
Unlike Weight Watchers, Twitter is far from a private place. For those who thrive on aggressive competition, like GQ’s Magary, this might be “its own incentive anyway,” he wrote.
Others, not so much, says Weight Watchers’ chief scientist, Karen Miller-Kovach. “Social dieting is probably great for some and terrible for others.” The research is mixed, she says. It’s generally accepted that obesity is socially contagious, and that more and better support is associated with long-term weight loss. If social media are part of your support system, reported the Archives of Internal Medicine in December, then they can certainly help your progress. But they can’t be your only trick. “You’re not going to tweet yourself to thinness, but if you’re following a program and also tweeting about it, you may see more success,” says Miller-Kovach.
If a public weigh-in feels akin to modern torture, the Twitter diet could be detrimental. “It can reinforce shame. It can be embarrassing, humiliating and not at all helpful,” she says.
Regnier admits to feeling the shame “just a little bit.” For binge eaters like her, food sessions are often solitary and shameful, and a midnight Twitter confession forces an accountability she might otherwise not have. “But seriously,” she asks, “if you’re not willing to share with someone what you’re eating, then why are you eating it?”