Friday, April 29, 2011

On Your Mark, The Table is Set: Royal Wedding Celebration!

We are so proud of our Royal Wedding table setting that we just had to post it on our blog

Absolutely Fabulous!
Kidding, this was a table display at the Bay Department store in Montreal

We're singing for England
Should you grow tired of all the Pomp and Circumstance we offer you some peaceful respite

We are so sorry about posting that previous video. What a mistake, please accept this display of British patriotism as our sincere apology.

AP Photo: Alastair Grant
The British Invasion Continues: In case you forgot Hell's Kitchen is on tonight!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Dog Blog: Ralph the Poodle Interviews Fabio Viviani

Dog Blogger, Ralph the Poodle has an exclusive interview with Top Chef All Star Fabio Vivani who talks about his pet turtles. 

P.S. We are extremely jealous that these turtles have Fabio as their own personal Chef. 

Read the interview here: Ralph the Poodle: My First interview with Fabio Viviani!

Read this: Interview with Nathan Myhrvold

Vanity Fair article featuring the author of the 6 volumed, $500, cookbook, Modernist Cuisine, that is on the science of cooking. 

We have hard so much about this book but we found out that one of the volumes is "spiral-bound and printed on washable, waterproof paper so that it can be propped up amidst the splatter and heat of the kitchen, as cookbooks traditionally are." We think this is a great idea.

Link to the full article here: Out to Lunch: Nathan Myhrvold

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Going, Going, Gonzalez! Steve Gonzalez is sent packing on Ep 3 of Top Chef Canada

Episode 3 of Top Chef Canada, "From Vodka with Love," should have been called what's a zakuski? The Russian food concept seemed like a bit of a stumper to most of the Cheftestants. Previews for episode 3 revealed the zakuski challenge in addition to celebrity Dan Aykroyd. This formula would mean a few things to us and episode 3. An appearance of Aykroyd's, Crystal Head Vodka. A perfect opportunity to play ousted Chef, Rebekah Pearse's, Unofficial Top Chef Canada Drinking Game. The preparation of our very own Top Chef Canada zakuski feast.

TCC Zakuski: Note the Maple Leaf shot glasses
A bottle of Crystal Head Vodka will set you back $60 bucks. The product is not available in Ontario because the liquor board thought the bottle was just too cool. In our experience the premium vodka trend seems to be more about marketing, fancy bottles and little to do with taste. For a little over $20, think of the money you are saving for food, you get a bottle of Russia's finest, Stolichnaya or Moskovskaya. We have not tasted Crystal Head Vodka but judging from the ornate skull shaped bottle this is a great marketing campaign. The bottle is the perfect gift/keepsake for your Goth family member or friend. We have tasted quite a few premium vodkas, our fave being Poland's Chopin, but we highly recommend sticking with our Russian comrades, Stoli and Mosky. The Russian bottles might be less spectacular than the premium competition but their contents get the job done. In keeping with the skull theme we decided to dust off our plastic souvenir glasses from Treasure Island Casino in Las Vegas. In comparing our cheap souvenir glasses with the expensive Crystal Head Vodka bottle the word gimmick pops to mind.

In case you missed it zakuski is basically food (bites) and vodka. When doing a shot of vodka your bite acts as a chaser. Strong flavours, like dill pickle, cut through the taste of alcohol. Who wants to do shots on an empty stomach? I have seen Russian friends sniff a piece of bread after taking their shot. This ritual was explained as coming from times when money was tight with little budget for food.  I doubt this would fly with the Top Chef judges. The presentation and food items found on a zakuski platter are not unlike those found on a pikilia or antipasto plate. Obviously food and drink is not unique to Eastern European culture. Zakuski inspired platters are a great way of enjoying food and drink. There are so many cultures that follow this tradition you can enjoy bites and shots from around the world.

Dumplings, pirogies, piroshky, Russian Dim Sum here we come. Both Russian food stores that we visited sold kimchi. We do not want to get into an essay about the cultural exchanges between Korea and Russia but kimchi is a perfect item for any zakuski platter. The reason is simple Korean liquor, Soju, is consumed with pickles (Kimchi) so it is a natural accompaniment to vodka. How about Tequila? One Korean restaurant we go to uses pickled Jalapeños as part of their pickle and brine mix so why not? How about Sake and sushi as another way of mixing things up. Ever heard of the Kimchini Martini? This cocktail was created by Bobby Beaton of the legendary Montreal garage band the Gruesomes. One time when mixing martinis the tyrant of teen trash realized he had no garnish but he did have kimchi. A sliver of kimchi is not unlike a pearl onion but the spicy chilli adds some kick to your cocktail. We were a bit disappointed that the Top Chefs' dishes did not feature more shots or cocktails as part of the service since mixology is popular food fashion these days.

The full spread
Our zakuski buffet consisted of borscht with ushki (mini-tortellini). Moscow salami, cheese, prosciutto, it was in our fridge and Italian food has been very influential on Polish cuisine (remember the tortellini?). Polish Queen, Bona Sforza, was an Italian and had a major influence on Poland’s cuisine. Other items included fresh pickles, radishes, green apple, grapes, black bread and bagel pretzels. We also had coleslaw, zucchini salad, aubergine salad, potato salad (it had peas, carrots and ham), devilled eggs with caviar and fried smelts. Last but not least there was a meat pie and a second item that was like a potato pancake but stuffed with a meat filling (delicious). Of course sour cream and dill was used throughout as the main condiments.

With the exception of the prosciutto all items were purchased at Russian food stores in Montreal.
The Sprit of Europe
Ella's Deli, 5555 Westminster Avenue, in Cote-Saint Luc. A huge Russian grocery store with amazing baked goods, charcuterie and pre-prepared foods.

St-Petersbourg Russian Delicatessen, 5584-A Sherbrooke Street West
The St-Petersbourg operation is much smaller than Ella's so there is a bit more of a homemade feel to the pre-made dishes. 

Just across the street from St-Petersbourg, the corner of Girouard and Sherbrooke, there is a Wawel, Polish Deli. 

Chef Gonzalez was sent home in episode 3 of Top Chef Canada for his "bland" mini potato salad with bacon foam. We think the potato was rather fitting in an Eastern European themed menu.  We are very disappointed that we will not get to see more Gonzalez in the competition. We were really looking forward to seeing some great Latino food. There are so many Tex-Mex Canadian culinary crimes we were really hoping Gonzalez could show people  a thing or two about Latino food. Hopefully Gonzalez will stick to his mission as Canada’s Latino culinary ambassador. If you are interested in cooking Latino food we have tested a few of the recipes on Rick Bayless’ website.  The Roasted Beet Salad with Red Onion Poblano with Lime, is a perfect zakuski dish.

In other Top Chef Canada news, Rebekah Pearse literally packed her knives after the airing of episode 2 where she was voted out of the competition. The Calgary Chef left her hometown for a summer position as a Pastry Chef in Kelowna, B.C., at Mission Hill Family Estate vineyards.
Next week on Top Chef Canada: 1,2,3, Look it's Susur Lee!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

From our Kitchen: More Sensational Sweet Seasonal Desserts

We had so much fun baking last week using Top Chef Canada's Rebekah Pearse's book Sweet Seasonal Desserts that we made Passionfruit and Mango Tarts. We drizzled them with a bit of leftover Whisky Caramel Sauce.

Here comes the sun: Passionfruit and Mango Tarts

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Who Will be Canada's Next Top Chef Villain?

Forget the glory of competition and agony of defeat what we really want to know is who will be Canada's next Top Chef villain? The name Mark McEwan might come to mind but we are talking about the Cheftestants. The popularity contest is there, you can vote for your favourite Canadian Top Chef online but who wants to be the fan favourite in the company of such notable personalities as Rupert from Survivor? True, the winner of Top Chef gets the dough, pimping kitchen swag and the bragging rights but the role of anti-hero is vital to the drama and soul of the series. The villain tradition is also a great way to make a name for yourself. The all-time Top Chef villain in our books is Chef Marcel Vigneron. Look at Vigneron, he is doing okay with his own TV show even though he looks like a grown-up version of Eddie Munster.

After only 2 episodes of Top Chef Canada we think it is somewhat official that Jamie Hertz  is fit for the role. We blogged out loud about Hertz's possible role as villain after the first episode but now the evidence seems clear. We noticed that someone stumbled across our blog using the keyword "Chef Jamie Hertz stinks." Thankfully, we would never write such things but it did confirm our thoughts. It only took us a couple of days to figure out that this search was not a character reference but instead someone fascinated with Hertz's public displays of flatulence that have been well documented in the annals of the Top Chef dormitories. Wait a minute the smell of brimstone does sound characteristic of a maniacal character after all.

After each episode of Top Chef Canada, Chef Hertz has gone on Twitter with clarifications about what really happened. After episode 1, it was "clunky. Come mark is that a professional opinion. Salmon and pancakes is clunky. Weak." In case you need some context, Hertz is talking to Mark McEwan who called his dish "weak." The salmon reference is directed at Chef Derek Bocking's dish. Hertz described Bocking's dish as "inedible" even though it was deemed one of the best by the judges. We guess that Chef Hertz has never heard of smoked salmon with blinis because this was essentially what Bocking prepared. After episode 2, Hertz's Tweet made sure there were no accusations of him throwing his partner, Chef Darryl Crumb, under the bus at the judges table. "Just for the record out there I wasn't trying to use daryl as an escape. I wanted to have time to fix my crap dish."

More context, Hertz's comments at the judges table really pissed Crumb off. Crumb, a former pro hockey player, went NHL on Hertz saying, "I wanted to turn around and jersey him, and start feeding him right hands." First, can we just say that this has to be one of the greatest lines in Canadian television food history. Hockey and the drama of the kitchen are together at last. Thank you Top Chef Canada. For our American readers to "jersey" someone is when you lift your opponent's hockey sweater over their head, rendering them helpless, in order to pummel them. As mentioned in our Top Chef bios, we think that Crumb has enough Top Hoser Charm to be a Canadian Food Network star. Producers again take note of our pitch for a show starring Crumb, we call it Rock 'em Sock 'em Kitchen. Okay back to the drawing board (boards get it? - another hockey joke) but anything with Chef Crumb, hockey and food is a winning combination. With Top Chef Canada and the playoffs on at the same time how about a tie-in?

Unlike Vigneron, who has mad Chef skills, Hertz has been in the bottom on both episodes. Perhaps this is why we find Hertz less likable. Then again Chef Hertz does wear those nerdy glasses so maybe the other Chefs pick on him and none of this is his fault. Also, we might be jumping the gun a little. There is still plenty of time for the other Chefs to prove themselves and become Canada's next Top Chef villain. All we can do is wait and see.

In case you missed it the first time this is our tribute to Chef Hertz

Rock those gecks Jamie!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Top Chef Canada Episode 2: So long Rebekah, it was short but sweet

There is bittersweet irony with the fact that Chef Rebekah Pearse was given the chop on this week’s episode of Top Chef Canada because it featured a Canadian cheese challenge. Chef Pearse, the Calgary based cupcake Queen of the now defunct Nectar, was immortalized in the Top Chef Canada previews with her catch-phrase cheese as the punch-line to "we stand on guard for...” Coincidently we have just spent the entire weekend testing recipes from Chef Pearse’s recently published cookbook. Quite simply, Sweet Seasonal Desserts is sensational!

It is Sunday evening, I am exhausted from baking but excited about tomorrow's episode of Top Chef Canada. Resting on the couch with my copy of Pearse’s, Sweet Seasonal Desserts, I see that it looks a little worse for wear. The back cover is sticky from the Keegan’s Spiced Pecans. A few pages are soggy from where I made the Whisky Caramel Sauce that we drizzled on the Sweet Potato Pecan Tarts. We also prepared, without any literary collateral damage, the Fromage Blanc with Lemon Lavender Shortbread. Despite the exhaustion and maimed cookbook it was all worth it. All recipes were delicious and garnished rave reviews from our co-workers who reaped the benefits of our weekend experimentation.
Some were speechless when they tried to explain why their Happy Monday treat tasted so good. Others were fascinated with the levels of flavour. A few demanded recipes. High praise for people that have never been ones for cooking dessert let alone pastry. Our basic repertoire consists of cookies and squares at the Pilsbury Bake-Off level. Pastry has always seemed like an enigmatic art to us. Pearse’s recipes produce great results and we are definitely more popular at the office as a result.

Market Inspiration
Sacre Bleue, I mean Black Biere
We started our weekend baking marathon by making Keegan’s Spiced Pecans. We made a trip to Atwater market for inspiration but also to find pecans and special beer for making the spiced nuts. We were also on the lookout for fresh cheese for the fromage blanc and silicone moulds that are required to make the dish. For the spiced pecans, Chef Pearse recommends a "Hazelnut Nectar Beer, or any dark nutty beer" Are you starting to get a picture of the taste? Pecans infused with liquid sugar hazelnuts and the deep taste of porter beer. We opted for a La Noire Soeur (the expression is a homophone for darkness in French), The Black Nun, from Le Grimoire Microbrasserie. This dark beer has really strong chocolate notes so we knew it would be perfect. When cooked the pecans had a sweet sticky caramel coating. We were so excited with the delicious results we mentioned it to Chef Pearse on a Facebook thread. Chef Pearse responded, suggesting that we use our pecans to make her Sweet Potato Pecan Tart. Oui Chef, we thought and added this dish to our list of weekend pastry projects. Our pastry guru's advice arrived just in time because we were devouring the nuts, they really are that good, but we had just enough left over to make the tarts.

Sweet Potato Pecan Tart: Our Taster Can't Wait
The Sweet Potato Pecan Tart is comparable to pumpkin pie but the combination of spiced pecans (that taste like nutty caramels), roasted sweet potato, vanilla tart shell and Whisky Flavoured Caramel is the creation of a unique tasting experience. Besides the levels of flavours there are also pleasing contrasts in textures. The nuts add soft bite to the silky, creamy sweet potato filling. Each bite is slightly sandy and crisp with the taste of vanilla from the pastry shell. This was the first time that we ever tried making any kind of pie dough. The recipe produces a dough that was very easy and forgiving to work with even when fixing rips and tears.
Fromage Blanc with Lemon Lavender Shortbread
Fromage blanc, this recipe is surprisingly easy to make. The result is visually appealing with a taste like cheesecake. The fromage blanc itself has a slight citrus taste and the combination with the Lemon Lavender Shortbread only enhances this flavour. Both, the Vanilla Tart and shortbread doughs smelled sweet and delicious even before being cooked. Lemons and Lavender, need we say more?
After reading a few books on the art of pastry this was the first time at attempting some of these feats. As pastry newbies going into a weekend adventure we were able to produce some outstanding desserts. Across the board all the recipes we tested were extremely successful so Pearse's book offers you a little taste of life as a Dessert Queen. Following the recipes in Sweet Seasonal Desserts will make you more popular with your friends so if you would like to purchase a copy it is available at Amazon.
Chef Pearse posted on her blog her thoughts on being ousted on episode 2. You can read Pearse's post "Robbed" here.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

More Behind the Scenes: Top Chef Canada episode 1

Newfoundland Cheftestant Todd Perrin has a new post about episode 1 of Top Chef Canada.

You can read Chef Perrin's blog here.

Since we are on the topic, Chef Perrin deserves major props for serving seal flipper to the judges. First,  Perrin honestly chose an ingredient that spoke from his heart and soul and represented who he was. A few of the dishes felt like they were chosen because the Chefs thought they would be winners and inventing reasons why the dish represented them. Second, the dish seemed to blow the judges minds because none of them had ever tasted seal flipper before. We look forward to seeing more of Perrin's creations from the Rock and are waiting for him to break out a bottle of Screech in the stew room after a particularly rough challenge.

Here is the preview for Episode 2: The Great Canadian Cheese Challenge

Daniel Boulud to open Montreal eatery @ The Ritz

The Montreal Gazette has reported that Chef Daniel Boulud will be opening a restaurant at the newly renovated Ritz-Carlton on Sherbrooke street.

Take note that Boulud's Vancouver project, Lumière, closed in March. Despite rave reviews from critics there was just not enough diners to keep the restaurant afloat. You can watch Lumière's former executive Chef, Dale Mackay, in action on episodes of  Top Chef Canada that airs Mondays on the Food Network.

Our sources have told us that hotel rooms at the Ritz will start at $450 dollars per night. If this is an indication of the price range of the restaurant we we wonder what business will be like. At Lumière you could get a three course meal with petit-fours for $65.

Read the full article here.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Behind the Scenes: Top Chef Canada episode 1

In case you missed it, Cheftestant Rebekah Pearse has a new blog post with behind the scenes tidbits from episode 1 of Top Chef Canada. You can read Chef Pearse's blog here.

P.S. Our copy of Pearse's, Sweet Seasonal Desserts, arrived today. At first glance all we can say is WOW, this is an in-depth text on the art of pastry and sweets. We will be testing some of the recipes over the next few weeks - waistline permitting - as part of our TCC coverage so keep checking in.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I scream, you scream... we all line up for free ice cream

 Montreal - April 12, 2010 - A sure sign of summer, we hope, free cone day at Ben & Jerry's. 
As you can see, people are more than willing to line up for a free sample of Vermont's finest.

The Bock Rocks Top Chef Canada: Montreal's Derek Bocking dishes up pancakes with salmon

Montreal's only Top Chef Canada competitor, Derek Bocking, fared well on tonight's series premier. In fact, Chef Bocking's dish made it to the top four in the elimination challenge.

Chefs were asked to prepare a dish "that shows us [judges] a little bit who you are." Bocking prepared a smoked maple glazed salmon, buckwheat pancake with maple brandy, "I really wanted to bring as much Quebec as I could on the plate as possible, basically it's maple syrup and pancakes, that's the kind of guy I am." The dish was a bold move because it seemed to draw ridicule from some of the other Cheftestants, in particular Jamie Hertz who described the dish as "a pancake with a piece of fish, the skin was left on the fish it's not edible." At the judges table Mark McEwan said that Hertz's dish was "clunky" and "landed with a thud," needless to say his dish was in the bottom four. Funny comments from a B.C. chef where salmon reigns supreme. When we smoke our salmon at home we sear the skin before putting it in our smoker and get nice crispy results.

During the tasting, judges described Bocking's dish as interesting and beautifully cooked. Judge Shereen Arazm said, "I loved the idea of fish and pancakes, I'm a chicken and waffles girl, I love mixing things up like that, it's a surprise, I thought it was bold, I thought it was cool, I would have liked little more maple syrup." We hope to see Bocking's creation on his Blog because we will try this at home.

Bocking's dish reminded us a bit of Au Pied de Cochon's, Plogue a Champlain, that consists of buckwheat pancake, potatoes, maple syrup, thick cut maple smoked bacon (might be pork belly) cheese and of course foie gras.

We caught up with Chef Bocking outside the CBC studios, where he had just finished doing a segment for HomerunWe asked the Chef to recommend his favorite Montreal eateries. In the category of best late night eats, and also places to grab a drink or pint, Chef Bocking goes to Le Chien Fumant because the kitchen is open until 2 am so it is perfect for a Chef that has just finished their shift. Also, they import special bark from trees to make their own tonic water for their cocktails. For high end dining Chef Bocking praises the cuisine of Derek Dammann at DNA, but also recommends Joe Beef and La Salle a Manger.

The other best dishes of the elimination challenge were from Francois Gagnon, who ran out of time and could not put the sauce on his dish, and made a pan roasted lobster with sweet corn ravioli, coriander and orange battered squid. We were amused by the fact the Food Network did not bleep out Gagnon's joual curses when all the English swear words have been censored. Andrea Nicholson, who made a pork tenderloin with chanterelles, black truffle pierogi and cipollini mustard. The winner was Rob Rossi with a seared B.C. halibut, butter poached lobster, crushed potato, black trumpet puree.

The Top Chef Canada trailer for next week reveals a Canadian cheese challenge and some drama between Jamie, who seems to be the new Marcel Vigneron Top Chef nerd villain, and Chef Darryl.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Review: Despite Appearances Le Claremont Café Disappoints

Le Claremont is about appearances, a nice place, in a nice neighbourhood, uber friendly service staff, visually appealing food with romantic table settings and ambiance. Despite the perfect formula and exterior veneer the food tastes like it was made by people more concerned with appearances rather than taste.

Located at the border of Westmount and N.D.G. (5032 Sherbrooke West) the restaurant offers convenient dining for people living in both neighborhoods. If Westmount and N.D.G. are Anglo-Quebec enclaves then the food plays true to the stereotype that English people eat bad, boring and bland food (blango-food) despite the restaurant's claims as an "eclectic, urban, bistro." Overall the food was well presented but fell short in the taste department and reminded me of bad pub food from Ontario.  

We started with 2 appetizers, the food is not cheap at the Le Claremont but they make up for this with the size of their portions. We selected the calamari ($9) and the baked Brie ($14). We tend to prefer quality versus quantity with our food and Le Claremont could learn from this credo. The dishes are listed as appetizers but offer copious sustenance for two people.

Baked Brie
The Brie, hockey puck in size, had grill marks on the outside and could have been cooked just few seconds longer for the centre to achieve maximum ooziness. A small detail but where the dish really missed the mark was was with the accompanying bread (rusks) and fruit. The rusks were taken from a loaf that was shaped like baguette but tasted like plain old white bread. The bread tasted like President's Choice or the Our Compliments line of supermarket baguette. These breads taste bland and dry, even before toasting, despite being made that day and in house. The fruit selection to accompany the cheese was impressive, consisting of strawberries, sliced pear and fresh figs but the fruit was bland because it did tasted hard and unripe. The garnish on the cheese was chives and it seems odd to serve an ingredient that tastes like onion with fruit.

Fried Squid
The calamari were good, then again just about everything tastes good when it has been deep fried, a nice big bowl of golden rings with only one of the coveted tentacled bites. The dipping sauce was a very peppery ailoli and one of the highlights of the meal.

The Leaning Burger of Claremont
Feeling stuffed we decided to share the signature "Claremont burger" that consisted of pancetta and Swiss cheese. Staying true to their concept the BIG burger platter looked appetizing but fell short of being tasty. 

The taste that lies beneath
The patty was too big and thick to be any good, perfectly cooked it was really just a big ball of meat that seemed under seasoned and dry. The bottom of our bun was wet and soggy, so much so that it fell apart and this left me perplexed because the meat was dry so where did all this liquid come from? Because the burger was so big and the fact it was falling apart, maybe because we were in Westmount we were supposed to use a knife and fork, we tasted the individual components so there was no place to hide with the ingredients. When we ate the complete burger we noticed a very crispy bacon taste, we thought this was the pancetta but it must have been the charring on the burger because the pancetta was really bad and tasted overwhelmingly of salt and bad luncheon meat. Overall the big ball of tasteless meat with soggy bun and weird salad dressing on the lettuce was disappointing because it clocks in at $17.

The winner on the plate was the fries, judging from the calamari, the deep fryer seems to be the star of the kitchen at Le Claremont. The fries were a crispy allumette cut, skins on with  and nice dark color. 

Despite the food there was redemption found in the drama of the dining room. The dinning room itself could use a little touching up. The faded velour on the seats seem to have worn out their welcome and look like they contain a multitude of dirty little secrets. At our table we overheard great gossip about Westmount's upper-crust and this made for great dinner theatre. Delinquent youth, divorce were just a few of the juicy topics we overheard. The rest we will not get into. Despite their appearance some of these people are leading rather sad lives, perhaps even more so because they seemed to be enjoying this food. 

At Le Claremont everything looks like it should be good but the food is lacking in the flavour department. The combination of chives with fruit proves our point. Although this might seem like just a small detail this is most important aspect of cooking and this is where Le Claremont really needs to focus their attention. 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Tour the Top Chef Canada Kitchen

ET Canada takes us on a tour of the Top Chef Kitchen

Top Chef Canada : Chef Todd Perrin interview

Video interview with Cheftestant Todd Perrin. As the only Chef representing the east coast and the Maritimes we are big fans of the Newfoundland Chef.

Unofficial Top Chef Canada Drinking game

Top Chef competitor, Rebekah Pearse has posted on her blog. Once again, the Tesla quoting Chef is keeping us entertained, this time with the unofficial Top Chef Canada drinking game.

Link to blog here

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Top Chef Canada News

ET Canada covers the Top Chef Canada Photo shoot

Chef Rebekah Pearse has posted a funny story on her blog about the photo shoot.
Read about her experience here.

Fellow competitors Patrick Wiese and Andrea Nicholson were cooking on Marilyn Denis.
Watch the video here.

Chef Jamie Hertz was profiled in the Nelson Star.
Read the article here.

Darryl Crumb was featured in the Winnipeg Free Press.
Read it here.

Last but not least Whistler's Clayton Beadle got a write up in Pique newsmagazine.
Read the article here.

In case you missed it, Jazz & Fuzy wrote complete profiles of the Chefs last month.
Read our article here.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Top Chef Canada Chefs are in the news

With the premier of Top Chef Canada less than one week away, the first episode airs April 11, on Food Network, the competitors seem to be everywhere in the press. 

Reader's Digest food editor Valerie Howes confesses to being a Connie DeSousa fan. 
Read the article here.

Montreal's Derek Bocking will be on CJAD this Saturday at noon. 

The Vancouver Sun did an article featuring B.C. Chefs, Clayton Beadle, Jamie Hertz and Dale MacKay. Read the article here.

The B.C. boys were also featured on Shaw TV's Urban Rush and The Edible Vancouver Blog.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Review: Classical Greek treasures at La Cava

La Cava impresses by sticking to the fundamentals of Greek cuisine: rustic food, simple fresh ingredients (meat, potatoes and olive oil) while still managing to innovate. La Cava uses the best of quality ingredients so naturally the result is classic winning taste.
La Cava is a project from Costa Spiliadis of Milos fame who has just opened a branch in Sin City at the Cosmoplitan of Las Vegas. The new restaurant got an amazing review in the Eating Las Vegas blog. The focus at Milos is fish but at La Cava attention is paid to mainland cuisine. The master hand of Spiliadis seems evident when you consider all the restaurant’s perfect details. It is therefore no surprise that La Cava was one of En Route magazine’s best new restaurants of 2010.
We went to La Cava to celebrate (Opa!) a friend’s birthday and were with a large group of almost 40 people. Our friend who is a Chef, arranged the menu so all we had to do was sit back order some wine and enjoy the food. Our food came from the late night menu, after 10 pm, and is a great discovery because you get 4 courses for $55.51 (plus taxes).
Greek treasures on display
Immediately you notice the pantheon of great ingredients that are proudly displayed like artifacts in a museum’s display case. The food exhibition nearly takes up an entire wall of the restaurant only to be broken by large fenestration that serves as the pass offering a view of the kitchen. The spectacle of the kitchen is made even more grand with a massive mirror sitting above the pass. 

The ingredients wall, view of the kitchen and Chefs demonstrates simple logic but makes for a great idea in restauration. There are so many great elements in this operation that we would love to talk about but that would take away from the food. Some quick highlights include the building (an old bank that looks like a fortress from the outside), hospitable staff (they wear blue jeans, white Converse high tops and angelic white dress shirts), the interior (floor tiles from an old church) and warm lighting that to makes everything and everybody glow. La Cava was a noisy with voices and chatter but we were there to celebrate and after all it was Saturday night on the Plateau. The only drawback of the noise was that it made it difficult to understand the staff’s explanation of our dishes and the Greek words. 
Organic dry-aged beef
Say cheese
The Alpha Feta
La Cava uses ingredients that are best described as beautiful and this is probably the reason that they are on display. Consider the olive oil, that first makes an appearance as a condiment for your bread, emerald green in color the smell was fragrant, like flowers, as was the taste. Our meal started with a surprise from the kitchen but all we understood was lemon and egg. The dish, served in an espresso cup, was a warm and comforting milky broth with some added tang from the citrus. Overall the flavor was peppery but is a great way of waking up your palate. 
Amuse-bouche: lemon and egg
Baked Feta
Next came the bougiourdi, feta cheese baked in parchment paper topped with green peppers, cherry tomatoes and spices. The warm cheese offered more comfort and was coupled with the aroma of oregano. The sharp herb flavors have even more-punch because it is a spicy dish.
Miniature souvlaki platter
Another surprise from the kitchen arrived at our table, a miniature souvlaki platter with pork shoulder and belly, pita triangles, tzatziki, onion and tomato salad. A classic Greek dish with tender fatty morsels that melt in your mouth. 
Stuffed Phyllo, fresh greens, charcuterie and tzatziki
Our next course was a spanakopita type dish served with tzatziki, we assume this is the menu’s hortopides that is described as homemade “phyllo pastry, wild herbs, and feta chesse.” The phyllo was a standout, a light, crisp, golden brown shell that cracks under your fork before hitting the soft filling. The filling tasted like watercress, spinach and dill. The dry aftertaste of the spinach and watercress balance nicely with the crisp pastry shell and the tzatziki that is a cool and refreshing contrast.
Meat Masterpiece
Our showcase dish arrives and this time we could hear our waiter’s explanation. Organic beef from Kansas that La Cava has the exclusive Canadian rights. The meat is dry-aged at the restaurant and is served with a rosemary and thyme topping. The beef is served with potato puree, grilled asparagus and yellow peppers. We were also brought fries cooked in olive oil that were thick cut and resembled English chips. The meat was deep red with white marbling causing a stained glass, mosaic effect. The sirloin is cut into large cubes, charred on the outside and rare on the inside creating a glorious, carnivorous experience. The meat is extremely satisfying and filling, so much so that you feel stuffed after a few bites and we ascribe this to the high quality of meat.
Potato puree made with olive oil
The taste of the mashed potato seemed peculiar at first. Instead of being cut with butter the potatoes are flavored with olive oil. In fact, the kitchen does not use any butter because olive oil is favoured instead. The intense flavor of olive oil makes even a small bite feel like a mouth-full. As mentioned, the combination of mashed potato and olive is a strange combination, but it is an amazing accompaniment to meat and vegetables, so delicious and silky we even dipped our fried potatoes in the puree. Think of a potato and olive oil sauce. The fact the kitchen can take the most basic dish, like mashed potatoes, and create something innovative using another simple ingredient (olive oil) demonstrates La Cava's greatness. 
Potatoes fried in olive oil
Okay, one last look
Our desert was svigous (fritters) with Kaimaki ice cream and sour cherry compote. The ice cream is flavoured with a sap from plants that grow in the Greek mainland. The starchy fritters, creamy light ice cream and intensely flavored cherries were a perfect finish to a great meal.
Final moment
La Cava offers classic Greek food made with the highest quality ingredients. This formula to great food seems simple but it means that every bite is a treasure to be cherished.