Sunday, June 26, 2011

Top Chef Canada Ep. 11 - Street Food Fare: Gagnon goes goodbye

This week we saw the Chefs face off in a street food elimination challenge. Street food seems to be a big trend these days with food trucks being all the rage in L.A. Living in Montreal we can only look at this trend with envy because food trucks and street food are prohibited under Montreal municipal bylaw. Because street food is a trend we keep expecting this issue to come-to-light. We think that the prohibition of street food has had an impact on Montreal's food culture because small time businesses exist but in different forms. Street food enterprises are in operation but they just appear in different forms.
Rumour is that Montreal Mayor Jean Drapeau outlawed food trucks because they were an eyesore. This coming from the guy responsible for the Olympic Stadium. If you think about it Montreal's climate does not really lend itself well to outdoor food culture. No wonder the food truck trend is popular in L.A., al fresco is possible all year round. We have just spent the last two weekends visiting the street sales in Balconville and the Main where street food was bountiful. These food celebrations are exceptions to the city's food scape making these events more festive. These are events that we can look forward to and are worth celebrating.

Top Chef Canada: Street Food Challenge
The combination of municipal prohibition and climate has lead to the creation of a multitude of hole in the wall tiny sized joints. Think of $2 chow mein on the Main. Dollar pizza slices, Buns Hamburger House, Picks, Thali, Patati Patata... These closet size operations offer street food fare. In addition to these closet operations you can find some small time operators in food courts. Buffet Maharaja is a now a resto complex that boasts an adjoining hotel but started out as a food court stand in the Eaton Centre, their butter chicken still tastes the same. 
One of our favourite food court stops in the Downtown area is Poulet Torino. Located in the Simons food court (977 Ste-Catherine West) they specialize in Mediterranean grilled chicken. The menu offers chicken dishes in every variety, shape and form. Dishes include traditional brochettes (on a pita or a platter), grilled chicken breast, club sandwiches and chicken poutine. Also worth mentioning is the garlic mayonnaise that we love for having so much bite. They also make a delicious tangy hot sauce that is mild in taste and only adds to some of the best chicken in town. Their couscous and the hot sauce is absolutely addictive.

Torino: The Science of Chicken
On Top Canada the Chefs were challenged to create fusions street food dishes after randomly choosing countries. Francois Gagnon was voted off after getting China and Vietnam. Gagnon served up a Pho with dumpling and duck in a rice wrapper. The winning dish was Rob Rossi who served up a chorizo sloppy Joe and a grilled cheese with serrano ham.
There has also been a bunch of Top Chef rumours this week. Todd Perrin posted on his blog something that alluded to a television show. If you think about it a Newfoundland cooking show is a great idea that has yet to be tapped. Besides being interesting Canadian food programming it could also serve as a way of promoting tourism for the Rock.
Chef, Rob Rossi announced he is leaving his current position as head Chef of Mercatto group. No word of what the Chef has up his sleeve next but Rossi has thrown a bit of cog in the wheel of our theory that Dale takes the win because of the opening of his new restaurant. Naturally the online buzz is that Rob might have taken first prize but we will pose another theory. When you are voted off Top Chef it can be a time of getting some press for a new project. We are curious to see if the Chef gets voted off in the upcoming episode and what announcements will follow. Rossi has gotten a lot of camera time in the series. We heard Mark McEwan on CJAD last week saying that Rossi seemed mild mannered in person and was surprised with the Chef's behind the scenes fuuny comments when he saw the episodes on television. All this to say that perhaps the Chef also has television plans in his future.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Weekend Nosh: Saint-Laurent street sale

This weekend was the Saint-Laurent Frénésie de la Main. The St. Laurent summer sidewalk sale means street food and people watching. The best food sampled was the Cajun BBQ'd drumsticks from Lac Brome Ducks proving once again that local fresh ingredients are the best.  

BBQ'd Duck
Chips Fried in Duck Fat
Street Food Menu: no sandwiches on this board
Drag Queen Races
Schwartz's smoked meat
Street Art: Work in Progress
The People have spoken: we feel like chicken tonight
Cowboys & Chefs
Oodles of Noodles
Makeup: Fringe Fest Performer
24hr Poutine People: La Banquise kitchen staff

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Top Chef Canada News: Chef Dale MacKay Blows a Gasket

Dale Mackay's new restaurant Ensemble (Vancouver B.C.) has been forced to close after a hot water heater burst causing damage to his restaurant.

And now the good news, the closure of the restaurant comes on the heels of a 4.5 star review in the Vancouver Sun. You can read the review here.

Dale & the Deluge

Surrealist Cinéaste To Open Le Club Silencio

From, David Lynch is set to open the Club Silencio in Paris. The Club, based on his movie Mulholland Drive, will feature, a bar, concert hall, library and movie-theatre.

No word yet if Lynch is planning to open a chain of Double R Diners from Twin Peaks but we can only hope.

David Lynch Cooks Quinoa

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

No More Nicholson: Top Chef Canada Episode: 10

This week it was Chef Andrea Nicholson, from Great Cooks on Eight in Toronto, who was sent to pack her knives on Top Chef Canada. The Chef seems to be taking it all in stride, Nicholson was in the press today as the Chef responsible for creating the official birthday cake celebrating the 35th of the Tim Horton’s Timbit. The four-foot cake, link to picture and article here, featured more than 1,500 Timbits.
Chef Nicholson is also organizing a Top Chef competitor’s dinner at her restaurant on June 30. The event, that includes Nicholson, features the talents of 4 other ousted Cheftestants, Mike Stauffer (Dundas), Patrick Wiese (Toronto), Steve Gonzalez (Toronto) and Todd Perrin (Newfoundland). The all-star event featuring wine and a 5-course tasting menu costs $175. A portion of the ticket sales ($50) will go towards the establishment of the Great Cooks Young Chef Fund that will help support young Chefs with their schooling. For more information click here.

We were a bit disappointed that Chef Nicholson never pushed out a pizza during the competition. Nicholson is a certified pizzaiuoli, a true maker of genuine Neapolitan pizza. Next week’s street cart challenge would have been a perfect opportunity. We also found Nicholson’s description of Chef Dale MacKay’s epicurean speeches as “food bombs” to be hilarious.
We really enjoyed this week’s episode because there was finally some focus on regional Canadian cuisine. We were also a bit surprised to see Nicholson go home at this point in the competition because thought she would make it to the final four. On Top Chef, Nicholson demonstrated that she was a really fierce competitor, “It is not Top Team Chef.” All the Chefs in the competition have incredible skills so it really boils down to competitive spirit and focus during the competitions. As Chef Derek Bocking blogged “one mistake is all it takes on Top Chef.”
If you have been watching Top Chef Canada you may have noticed that ex-ballerina turned Chef, Connie DeSousa has been carving out a legendary reputation for herself. Chef Chris Kanka compared her to a samurai and Chef Todd Perrin dubbed her the bacon ninja. You may have heard the story that the “ballerina butcher,” Judge Shereen Arazm’s moniker for DeSoousa, can de-bone a pig’s head in under 5 minutes and now you can see it for yourself. A ballerina ninja that can butcher a pig's head in record time sounds a bit like a twisted revenge sequel to the Black Swan made by Quentin Tarantino.

With back to back victories on this week’s episode DeSousa now has some major momentum at this point in the competition. Last week DeSousa was in the bottom for the first time causing her to have a bit of a meltdown but this setback seems to have caused the Chef to push herself even harder.
DeSousa was warned by judge Mark McEwan not to make any more sausages in the competition but next week is a street cart challenge so her choice of sausage, as seen in the traile,r makes sense. We know that DeSousa's restaurant Char Cut does street food, something called alley-burgers, so we think DeSousa has a bit of an upper hand in next week’s competition. There have also been some online rumors that Char Cut is working on a Food Truck project. Chef Dale MacKay is seen in next week’s trailer complaining about having to make street food. We think he does have a bit of a disadvantage because of his cooking style but then again he did have a winning pulled pork sandwich in episode 9.
As we keep saying, unless we have a major kitchen meltdown we think MacKay is going to take the competition in a head to head battle with DeSousa. As Judge Mark McEwan pointed out this week Dale is "thinking outside the box," in other words he is on another level.
Next week on Top Chef Canada: Street Food
Note the horrified look on Rob Feenie's face below

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

In heaven they have no beer that's why we have the Montreal Mondiale de la Bière.

This weekend was The Grand Prix, and The Mondiale de la Bière in Montreal. Fast cars and beer, what else do you need? Think about the imagery in a typical beer commercial and the answer is obvious - easy women. The standard beer commercial prop besides cars is women. The idea of pimping your ride works on several levels when pimping your beer and this is evident at Montreal’s Beerfest.
The festival is a microcosm of beer culture so marketing campaigns are heavily reflected. Since there were no cars at the beer festival there is only one obvious option left in attempting to draw attention to your product. With over 609 beers available to the public, 253 of which are making their first appearance at the fest, competition is fierce. You have seen the women in beer commercials so you know what we are talking about. Using women in trade shows is apparently common practice. Remember the boat show scene in Showgirls? The beer companies must feel very comfortable and in their element in this environment.

Typical Beer Ad

You can really tell a lot about a company in their front line marketing. On the festival floor the big beer companies stick with the proven formula mentioned above. The micro breweries focus on their product, the quality of the ingredients and artisanal manufacturing. This is no fault of the big beer companies. Great beer marketing campaigns are rare and it takes a real genius to create a campaign like Rolling Rock's VP of Marketing Ron Stablehorn.

Guitars, Cadillacs, Hillbilly Music
Microbrasserie, À La Fût, located in St-Tite, has found a winning formula by combining the best of both worlds. Link to their website here. A micro brewing company that has figured out how to put the word “tite” on a beer bottle. They also use cowboys hats and dudes with big handle bar moustaches as part of their schtick. Campy western brewpub that is a joint venture of engineers, we love it. We sampled La Sir Wallace, a scotch ale at 8% alcohol, that was a deliciously dark and intensely flavoured black beer.
Welcome to Paradise
We arrived early at Beerfest because the crowds in the evening are legendary. Holding the festival at Place Bonaventure might be a smart move by the festival's organizers not only because it is a massive area but because there are no windows. If you have ever entered a Las Vegas casino you know what we are talking about. What to have for breakfast? As we entered the festival we found ourselves in a faux beach installation known as Le Plage des Biertotters. We are talking about a full size, beach volleyball court with sand, tiki bar and sandy square surrounded by beach chairs. People observe that your choice of alcoholic-beverage says something about your personality so what can we say about this area? The main vendors at the beach were Mojo, Sol beer and a vodka spritzer offered by the SAQ called Palm Bay. This was definitely meant to be the extreme fun zone. Palm Bay is available in two flavours pineapple with mandarin orange but we opted for pink grapefruit because we thought it sounded a little more like breakfast. We found it to be a light, refreshing soda pop, sweet tasting with 5% alcohol and just a little fizz. We then moved along to Mojo station. Mojo is an alcoholic-beverage with guarna for energy. We opted for a new product, Mojo shots, available in big bottles at déps but also in cool shot glasses for the bar crowd. The shooters clock in at 11.9% alcohol. Two flavours are available sour raspberry and a blue coloured sour lime shooter. If you have ever tasted sour puss liquor then you are familiar with these types of alcoholic-beverages that are both sweet and tart at the same time.
Beau's Beer
In strolling around the fest floor one stand caught our eye. First because we love B-movie posters and second because the signage said "a family run, D.I.Y. business using organic products." Welcome to Beau's All Natural Brewing Company. Link to their website here. No false advertising here these are some amazing products. We were lucky enough to speak with Steve Beauchesne who co-founded the brewery with his father Tim in Vankleek Hill, Ontario (between Ottawa and Montreal).
Tout est beau Chez Beau's
Steve started out our morning on the right foot with their Winterbrewed Amber Ale that is infused with organic Nicaraguan coffee. Beer companies often boast about the coffee notes in their dark beers but this ale has a genuine coffee flavour and 5% alcohol. According to Beauchesne their Brewmaster worked closely with their coffee provider's (fair trade) Roast Master in the creation of a perfect blend and balance of flavours. All we can say is good to the last drop.

Secret Ingredient: Bog Myrtle
Next from Beau's was Bog Water Gruit Ale (6.6% alcohol) that instead of hops uses a unique ingredient called Bog Myrtle that was a very popular beer making ingredient in the Middle Ages. With the Bavarian Purity Law of 1516 the ingredient was no longer used as the law stipulated the only permissible ingredients were water, barley and hops. No wonder big brewery beer all tastes the same. The twigs from the plant provide a woody taste, the leaves some bitterness and the cones add a little peppery taste. Overall the flavour is a combination of fruity (plum like) and bitter notes. When we tasted this beer we could only think about how good it would taste with steak. We have been craving this flavour and combination since tasting this beer. Next up was the Bog Monster that offers more intense flavours of the Bog Water beer. The fact this brewery uses such high quality ingredients really comes through in the taste of their products. These are amazing and unique flavoured beers and a perfect example of how small breweries focus on the quality of their ingredients unlike the big companies that need a gimmick.

Another zone at the Beerfest featured DJ's with beats in a club type setting. Fronting this club was a giant bar featuring Boris beer products. Boris seems to be going for the hipster crowd by making their servers wear nerdy glasses. When asking ourselves about this target audience we thought of this video...

Boris Beer: 20/20 Vision but just an empty pair of frames
Alexander Keith's and Unibroue both went with serving-wenches. Sleeman's kiosque left us scratching our heads a little because they had girls dressed up in flapper style outfits. They also had a photo booth with gangsters and someone dressed up like Jack Sparrow or Captain Morgan. We obviously do not watch enough beer commercials because we later saw that this was part of their "Notoriously Good" ad campaign that features their product in the prohibition era in the company of Al Capone. The people behind this ad campaign have obviously watched Boardwalk Empire but we have not figured out the pirate. Maybe he was at the wrong stand and looking for the serving wenches.

Serving wench
Seeing Double Chez Unibroue
Al Capone's Guns don't argue
Within this menagerie of colorful characters you do meet some interesting people.

Beerfest Mascot: We think his name is Sloshy and is BFF with Tipsy McSurly
We ran into Brewmaster Gary Lohin, Red Racer brewery (Vancouver, B.C.) who was also one of the Beerfest judges. In talking with Lohin we had a revelation, when we said that we were not beer drinkers. Lohin asked if we liked wine, of course we do, and said that beer can be paired in the same manner with food. In talking to Lohin, and tasting some of the fine micro brews, we realized we just do not like beer from the big companies. We have realized that all big brewery beer tends to taste the same, they even have the same type of carbonation. Micro brew beer can be like a fine wine with complex flavours that we have come to appreciate.
Denis Caciuc with students
We spoke with Denis Caciuc who teaches restauration services at the École Hôtelière de Laval. His students said he was the best teacher at the school and considering he takes his students to the Beerfest they have a point. The school should make an add with the Beerfest. We asked Caciuc for some of his recommendations and he said he was very impressed with the cider, mead and maple products that were also on tap at the festival. From Vinerie de Kildare we discovered Esprit d'Érable (14% alcohol). This is a beautiful tasting product. A very light and slightly sweet apéritif with maple notes. So light on the palate it seemed to dance and open up your palate a bit like tasting green apple. We also sampled a McKeown cider that was infused with cranberries and seemed to add to the tartness of the apples (6% alcohol). We would love for one of the cider producers to team up with one of a black beer producers at the festival because we have recently discovered Black Velvets. Guinness beer is poured on top of apple cider where it dances and creates a layered effect. We were also very impressed we the fine selection of meads from Miel Nature. Once-again these lovingly locally made artisanal products are outstanding.

elBulli Beer commercial with culinary students - no joke

We also took in some of the food at the festival. Montreal might boast about it's smoked meat at every possible occasion but what about Magnan and their roast beef? Magnan is long reputed to have the best roast beef in town. Magnan's was at the Beerfest offering a full range of items including an incredible roast beef sandwich that tasted well...iconic. There was also a giant shrimp cocktail that should have been called steroid shrimp cocktail and a delicious lobster roll.

We experienced a culinary first at La Face Cachée De La Pomme, another Quebec cider producer. As an attention grabber La Face Cachée was doing a culinary display with liquid nitrogen. Egg whites were whisked with their cider (12% alcohol) and then dipped in liquid nitrogen to create a "snowball" that also makes steam come out of your mouth. We have seen lots of cooking displays with liquid nitrogen on television but this was the first time tasting anything prepared in this manner. Like all Canadians, as children we have eaten snow and it you have ever chomped a tightly packed snowball it was an eerily similar experience. The outside was crisp like a meringue but when you crunch into the outer shell it was soft in the middle.

Oddly the best beer promotion that we saw that day was not at the Beerfest but on Boulevard St-Laurent that was closed for Grand Prix festivities. Sapporo beer was using image and movement capturing technology to project your likeness on a wall in the form of a giant sumo wrestler. Your reward for being sumo wrestler on their giant billboard was a free beer at one of the participating bars on the Main.

Until next year: Bangkok Psychobilly

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Chef Crumb Y’er Done: Top Chef Canada Ep 9

Stanley Cup playoffs, ‘Nucks lose and Chef Darryl Crumb gets sent to the showers on Top Chef Canada. Coincidence, conspiracy theory or good old hockey superstition? You be the judge.
Have you ever noticed that sports writers love to use clichés. The only thing better for a sports scribe is an athlete’s swan song piece. Nothing could be more fitting for Chef and former pro hockey player Darryl Crumb who was defeated on Top Chef Canada at the same time as the Vancouver Canucks but that's the way the cookie crumbles. 
We know that we are Top Chef Canada hoser-superfans but can we just make a minor correction to the National Post’s exit interview with Chef Crumb that contained some major mistakes. The regular exit interview feature (the National Post is owned by the show’s Producers Shaw Media) says that Darryl Crumb is at the “Regional Tasting Lounge in Winnipeg.” Yes, Chef Crumb was at the Regional Tasting Lounge in Vancouver British Columbia when he made his audition tape last summer. He has since returned to his home and native land, Winnipeg, and helped open a new restaurant called Brooklynn’s Bistro. Please National Post give the Chef the recognition he deserves after making it this far in the competition. We are sure this post will be corrected but it did appear online for a day.

Top Chef Canada might be known as TCC but with Chef Crumb we are talking about true Canadian Class. Our biggest complaint about Top Chef Canada so far has been the lack of Canadiana content. There has not really not been enough true Canadian spirit and cooking on the show. In-terms of choosing Chef Crumb for the show we have no complaints. Crumb is the first television Chef to combine hockey and television combined with true hoser style (ed. note hoser is a term of endearment). If you have never experienced Winnipeg hospitality then you have seen it personified with Darryl Crumb. We were unhappy with the lack of Montreal Chefs in the campaign but Derek Bocking was a great choice in personification of a Montreal Chef. We have never visited Newfoundland but this seemed to be what Todd Perrin was all about. We think the same can be said about Darryl Crumb. Great casting but not enough Canada in the challenges and show's outlook.
Food and hockey, this is a Canadian love story that has been waiting to happen. Crumb started the series by combining these elements. When engaged in a conflict with fellow competitor Jamie Hertz, Chef Crumb’s confession room statement was, "I wanted to turn around and jersey him and start feeding him right hands." Later, Crumb was accidentally sent the wrong Chef's jacket and refused to touch the garment because it had belonged to ousted competitor Clayton Beadle. Crumb’s explanation was that he did not want touch a dead man's shirt and this goes back to his hockey days. Hockey players are notoriously superstitious in their daily routines especially on game day. During Monday's blogging session Todd Perrin observed that Crumb was sleeping in his bed. We guess the puck stopped here because Crumb broke his routine and was voted off the show.
This week for the first time,Connie DeSousa ended up in the bottom and displayed some signs of being human. We are not referring to her displays of passion but just the mere fact she is finally in the bottom. Chef DeSousa has been the most consistent competitor this season. In case you have not noticed Dale MacKay gets really pissed off when he is criticized and in the bottom during the challenges (watch this week's Quick Fire Challenge). MacKay and DeSousa are extremely competitive and passionate Chefs. DeSousa’s emotional display is not unlike Dale's extreme brooding. The Chefs are in an intense environment, as the competition narrows there is only more pressure so emotions are bound to run high.
Even though the teaser trailer for next week shows DeSousa buying pre-made pie crust a Top Chef no-no we are still going to stick with our call that she will be in the series final with MacKay. The only surprise might come from François Gagnon who despite his extreme nice laid back facade, a bit like Dustin Gallagher, has been pushing out some fierce looking food.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

This week on Jazz & Fuzy: Beer Fest & Top Chefs

Monday might be the worst day of the week for some but things are really starting to heat up. We suspected something was up with Gordon Ramsay and Top Chef Canada. When the Horse Meat Scandal broke Ramsay stole TCC's thunder by eating the still-beating heart of a cobra. This time the two-hour premier of Master Chef is on at the same time as Top Chef Canada. We get it Gordon, you need all the attention.

Even though the Grand Prix is in town you can unfasten those belts because there are lots of food related events. Besides the Grand Prix glitteratzy there is the The Festival Mondiale de la Bière.

This Week on Top Chef Canada

Street Food Au Balconville

This weekend was the Verdun street sale so that can only mean one thing, street food!

The best of the bunch was the Korean food from a church group that was raising money for a mission in Sao Paolo, Brazil.

Korean BBQ
Street Food Menu

Full Spread

Lone Dumpling

Free Vitamin Water 
Plenty o' Hot Dogs, Sausages and Merguez

Hot Dog Wrapped in Bacon

Cook them Dogs
Next Stop Vietnam: Pineapples, Mangoes and other delights
Always worth stopping for:  Fromagerie Copette & Cie. They sell Arhoma bread that is the best in the city.

Brake for cheese & Baguette

Chez Copette: Stop for Belgian Waffles 
The Fresh Belgian Waffles can be purchased every Sunday at Copette & Cie

Samosas and Bhajis Chez Maggy

Friday, June 3, 2011

Hot Bar-B-Q with the Voltaggio brothers

This looked too good not to post

This makes us hungry for some Wendy Rene

More Guy Fieri merchandise on sale

This week we have seen a fury of Guy Fieri liquidations. The Food Network is trying to move some Fieri merch and Tweeted that they are having a sale on his knives.

What is going on with Guy Fieri? Is there a secret scandal about to break because everyone seems to be trying to dump his merchandise (see our previous post). Does he need the money? Is he going bankrupt?  Are they raising the price of blond hair dye, sweat bands and sunglasses?

FoodNetwork (@FoodNetwork)
11-06-03 3:02 PM
Food Network Store Weekly Goody Bag: For a limited time only, save 50% plus receive free shipping on Guy Fieri cutlery!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Next Stop the Bargain Basement on Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives

Poor Guy Fieri, we noticed his new cookbook, Food: Cookin' it, Livin' it, Lovin' it, (published May 3, 2011) is slummin' it on book shelves at Winners. This might be a new record in publishing, from publication date to discount rack in less than a month.
Is the cult of Fieri starting to wane?

Quadruple D's : The 4th 'D' if for Discount