Category Archives: Chefs

Look Who Turned 5! FoodShare’s – A Recipe For Change

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Look who turned 5!

A Recipe For Change Event

February 27th,2014

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Last year I was very fortunate to be invited to attend ‘Recipe for Change‘ and felt extremely honoured to be invited to return again this year. This annual event, held at the St. Lawrence Market north building , is a community filled celebration of food with a distinct purpose that supports Food Literacy education & FoodShare’s innovative and timely work in schools.

A staunch supporter of Food Literacy is Sang Kim of the newly opened Wind Up Bird Cafe who got a chance to promote his restaurant’s contribution to #RecipeforChange this year on Breakfast Television the morning of the event. See the interview here.(via @BTtoronto) Below is the dish and its creator Chef Yumiko Kobayashi.

Chef Yumiko

Chef Yumiko Kobayashi

Tofu-Avocado Gratin and Sweet Potatoe Mille-Feuille from Wind Up Bird Cafe (Vegetarian)

Tofu-Avocado Gratin and Sweet Potatoe Mille-Feuille from Wind Up Bird Cafe (Vegetarian)

The Recipe for Change Initiative

Foodshare believes the following:”How children eat when they’re young lays the foundation for life-long patterns, but integrated good food education is not the norm in Ontario schools. Students are not regularly provided the tools to make healthy decisions to sustain themselves, nor are they taught how to garden, cook a healthy meal, compost or understand where their food comes from on an ongoing basis.”

“Childhood obesity and diabetes are global pandemics and, in Ontario, major health risks. Barring electives, and a few sporadic science or health lessons, healthy eating, hands-on Food Literacy skills and physical activity are not as regularly integrated into the school day as they should be.” – taken from “Why Recipe for Change”

This year brought together some of Toronto’s all-star chefs for a night of culinary delights with complimenting beverage selections from local vendors:

The amazing Recipe for Change Chefs

The Recipe for Change VQA Wines, Breweries, Coffee,Tea and other Beverages

Crema Coffee Co

Crema Coffee in the making

Maple Bacon Crema

Maple Bacon Crema

Frida Restaurant and Bar, Chef Jose Hadad – Tacos de Pescado en Salsa Verde, pan fried and then finished in Salsa Verde Haddock and garnished with Sour Cream, Coriander and Onion

My Little Dumplings, Chef Bashir – Mushroom Bao
(Vegetarian)

Annona at the Park Hyatt, Chef Joan Monfaredi – Pulled Buschbeck Braised Lamb Slider with Spicy Mustard Glaze, Crunch Slaw Sesame Tooney

Lisa Marie/Fidel Gastro, Chef Matt Basile – Agrentinian Lamb Meatball

Urban Acorn/The Depanneur, Chef Daniel Holloway & Marie Fitrion – Haitian Goat Griot & Banana Peze

Accra and Banana Peze

Urban Acorn/The Depanneur, Chef Daniel Holloway & Marie Fitrion – Haitian Accra & Banana Peze (Vegetarian)

SOMA Hot Chocolate

SOMA Chocolate from Chocolatemakers , David Castellan & Cynthia Leung – Hot Chocolate Mix Spiced with Ginger, Madagascar Vanilla, Orange Peel, Chili and Soma Blend Spices

Reuben Caraway Rye Gnocchi

The Beverly Hotel, Chef Eric Wood – Reuben Caraway Rye Gnocchi, Pastrami Lambs Tongue, Dill Pickled Mushrooms with Red Cabbage and Apple Mostarda, Fresh Tarragon and Gruyere Snow

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Wild Boar Ragu

Le Select Bistro, Chef Albert Ponzo – Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Wild Boar Ragu

Foggy Sunburst Morning Earl Grey Mocktail

The Love of Tea, Carol Mark – Foggy Sunburst Morning Earl Grey Mocktail with infusions of Bergamot and Citrus

Citrus Financier with Chestnut Mousse and Coffee Nougatine

The Tempered Chef, Chef Bertrand Alepee – Citrus Financier with Chestnut Mousse and Coffee Nougatine

Whole Wheat Scones with Goat Cheese and The Chef's House Preserves

Whole Wheat Scones with Goat Cheese and The Chef’s House Preserves

Whole Wheat Scones with Goat Cheese and The Chef's House Preserves

Whole Wheat Scones with Goat Cheese and The Chef’s House Preserves

Whole Wheat Scones with Goat Cheese and The Chef's House Preserves

George Brown Chef School, Chef John Higgins – Whole Wheat Scones with Goat Cheese and The Chef’s House Preserves

Moroccan Inspired Cauliflower Soup with Crispy Chick Peas

Good Earth Food & Wine Co., Chef Therese De Grace – Moroccan Inspired Cauliflower Soup with Crispy Chick Peas, Pickled Vegetable Micro Salad and Tahini Drizzle (Vegan)

Ice Wine Jelly Appetizers

Bernadin, Chef Emerie Brine – Ice Wine Jelly Bite-Size Appetizers

Mini Raw Pumpkin Tarts on Pecan Salted Date Crust

Cruda Cafe, Chef Claudia Gaviria – Mini Raw Pumpkin Tarts on Pecan Salted Date Crust
(Raw Vegan)

Mini Raw Cashew French Herbed Fermented Cheese with Sweet Potato Crackers

Cruda Cafe, Chef Claudia Gaviria – Mini Raw Cashew French Herbed Fermented Cheese with Sweet Potato Crackers (Vegan)

Mixed Ceviche (Seafood)

T.O. Ceviche Bar, Chef Alvaro Valencia – Mixed Ceviche (Seafood)

Ham Hock Terrine with Home-Made Branston Pickle and Quail's Egg

Table 17/Ascari Enoteca, Chef John Sinopoli – Ham Hock Terrine with Home-Made Branston Pickle and Quail’s Egg

Atlantic Salt Cod Fritters with Cilantro and Watercress Pesto

Culinary Students of Bendale Business & Technical Institute/Eastdale Collegiate Institute – Atlantic Salt Cod Fritters with Cilantro and Watercress Pesto from Bendale Gardens

Apple Fruitcake with Caramel Yogurt

Culinary Students of Bendale Business & Technical Institute/Eastdale Collegiate Institute – Apple Fruitcake with Caramel Yogurt

Arroz Caldo

Lamesa Filipino Kitchen, Chef Rudy Boquila – Arroz Caldo (Meat and Vegetarian options)

Duck Tamales

Valdez, Chef Steve Gonzalez – Duck Tamales

Walter's Caesars with Tromba Tequila

Walter Caesar – Caesars and Virgin Caesars

Shucked Oysters

Hooked, Kristin & Dan Donovan – Fresh Shucked Oysters – Shan Daph, Pictou County, Nova Scotia, Cooke’s Cove, Ellerslie, PEI

Gulab Jamun with Masala Chai

416 Snack Bar, Chef Mark Ota – Gulab Jamun with Masala Chai (Vegetarian)

The collection of Chefs will ensure that there is great, amazing food for all guests so that even vegetarians, vegans, and those with other food considerations are accommodated.

The tasty evening at #RecipeforChange is composed of small plates allowing each chef to present their own creative vision, surprising us with their combining of foods and flavours.

Having chefs were on hand to personally prepare, plate, and serve their food, be available to discuss their inspiration with us gave us the rare chance to get up close and personal as a guest with some of the city’s prominent culinary minds  – a rare treat for many and for me a chance to say hello to many of my culinary friends and personal chef inspirations.

Culinary Students of Bendale Business & Technical Institute/Eastdale Collegiate Institute

Culinary Students of Bendale Business & Technical Institute/Eastdale Collegiate Institute

Lamesa Filipino Kitchen, Chef Rudy Boquila

Lamesa Filipino Kitchen, Chef Rudy Boquila

Valdez, Chef Steve Gonzalez

Valdez, Chef Steve Gonzalez

My Little Dumplings, Chef Bashir Munye and Crew

My Little Dumplings, Chef Bashir Munye and Crew

Hooked, Kristin & Dan Donovan

Hooked, Kristin & Dan Donovan

Grilled Tofu and Edamame Salad

FRANK at the AGO, Chef Jeff Duek – Grilled Tofu and Edamame Salad, Pipian Sauce, Coriander Spouts in a Palm Leaf Boat (Vegan)

Crema Coffee Co

Two of my favourite guys! Crema Coffee Co. – Amazing Maple Bacon never tasted so good.

Chicken Chilaquiles Mexico City Style

Santo Pecado, Chef Paola Solorzano – Chicken Chilaquiles Mexico City Style

Frida’s Chef Jose Hadad

Chopped Canada Season 1 Episode 7 Winner Brianne Nash with Tania Daviduke of The Culinary Adventure Company

Everything that Foodshare Toronto does is centered on the power of food to connect, to inspire and to ultimately transform. Their work is so impactful because of this important and sometimes neglected act of sharing. The power of caring and sharing truly does work and their work clearly shows that every little bit counts.

The Recipe for Change Super-Supportive Sponsors

Supporting FoodShare is easy, and you can be part of its impacts and help it grow and grow. Easy ways to show your support can be found here.

I truly love the opportunity to mingle and chat with the chefs, the beverage partners and many of my writing colleagues, dear foodie friends and general public who are in awe of each culinary expedition from table to table. There are also all the amazing things that FoodShare has been able to do and will do for Food Literacy and creating a healthier future for our future generations.

The opportunity to taste bites from over 30 Chefs, 20 VQA wines, 6 local beers, and so much more, the event was an amazing value for attendees and a wonderful opportunity to support FoodShare’s work to create a healthy future.

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A Culinary Night of Celebration – Toronto’s Recipe For Change

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A busy schedule and lots of travel put my writing on standby for a while but I had to make sure I got this tasty article up and readable to share!

Back on February 28th, Toronto’s historic St. Lawrence Market looked like a stage set for a culinary celebration! The event – Toronto’s Annual Event – Recipe For Change

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I timed my arrival to the North Market Building for the 6pm door opening and before I could reach the inner sanctum of the market building, I experienced a taste-bud explosion by way of an amazing Smoked Duck Tostada by @FidelGastros – Matt Basile, star of “Rebel Without A Kitchen”.

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The evenings’ event was a market done in complete transformation! This building is generally left to those farmers and craftspeople selling their edible bounty to the public of fresh fruit, eggs, vegetables, cheeses and many other tasty little bits of flavour. That night the team at FoodShare designed a map through a garden of flavor overload put forth by those who rise to the top, sometimes are seldom seen by the general public, and have a deep love for their craft, for their annual Recipe for Change fundraising event.

Over the course of the next few hours, with fork, napkin and wineglass in pocket, the room filled to capacity with over 400 Toronto eager food fans supporting such a good cause and sampling  culinary delights from over 30 chefs and students, 8 wineries from Niagara and Prince Edward County, and a few breweries as well. I eagerly sipped, nibbled and photographed as many tasty tidbits as I could. This year’s FoodShare event was presented by GE Cafe Appliances and students from both the Bendale Business and Technical Institute and Eastdale Collegiate presented some tasty offerings that they cooked in their culinary programs that are in collaboration with FoodShare.

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Some of my most memorable bites were: Brisket Steamed Buns from Momofuku Toronto, Yakitori Bar/Seoul Food’s vegetarian Bibimbap, Torito Tapas & Monforte Dairy’s collab of Dates stuffed with Toscano Cheese, Orrechiette with White Pork Shoulder Ragu by Ascari Enoteca, Savoury Bread Puddings by the George Brown Chef School, and the Luscious Beet Root Chocolate Brownies from Pimenton.

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It was a joy to see that Toronto’s culinary community spotlights the collaborative efforts for such an amazingly good cause. It was fun night to be out and about as many enthusiastic chefs served their very best and  I had a chance to catch up with some of my favourite restauranteurs, chefs, bloggers and food writers. From the culinary schools to top chefs, breweries, wineries and to my love…the Detour Espresso Bar, Recipe for Change certainly gave those of us in attendance, an honest testimony to the talented and creative culinary industry in this city I now call home.

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Food Share empowers and enables Ontario children to identify what good food is, where it comes from, not only teaching them that healthy food also tastes great, but educating and helping them learn to choose it for themselves. The organization is leading the challenge to create a healthier future for our children by working with students from JK to Grade 12 ,parents and educators to ensure that good food education is an included part of the Ontario curriculum and make Food Literacy a requirement for graduation. Children across Ontario are being taught how to plant, tend, harvest, prep ,cook and compost – something I took for granted growing up when I was a child, having a family involved in food and backyard farming.

Foodshare Video

This year’s event also marked the launch of FoodShare’s first cookbook – “share:Delicious Dishes from Foodshare and Friends” which showcases affordable, healthy, and culturally-diverse cooking that is a joy for the palate and the eye.  Just $24.95 + HST at your favourite bookstore or available on www.foodshare.net

ShareCover

“A delight for the palate and for the eye, share showcases the joy of healthy, affordable culturally-diverse cooking and highlights the power of good food to bring people together. Celebrate home-cooked meals with Adrienne De Francesco and Marion Kane as they guide you through recipes that are thoughtfully selected, carefully tested and thoroughly delicious. Feast on contributions from FoodShare’s chefs, staff, volunteers and program participants, along with local celebrities who all share their favourite recipes in this beautiful full-colour cookbook.”

Take time to support the Foodshare community on any level ! I came with to Recipe for Change with an appetite on full tilt mody,  ready to be amazed and flavour – challenged by  the 30 chefs works in food and I left satiated with an even better appreciation of the chefs I know and new wonder from all the ones I met for the first time and what the Culinary Culture of Ontario truly has to offer. A delish food adventure  experience that I would highly recommend all of you look out for next year and make certain you have tickets as soon as you can.

A Night of Fun, Flavour and Flour with the Urban Italian Sauce Maker

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A couple of weeks ago the talented duo of Sizzling Communications invited myself and a wonderful collection of writers, bloggers, chefs and more to a new product launch for Louise Prete Foods – Michael Malleau’s new Sugo Pomodoro e Bailico. From stockbroker to a food and catering entrepreneur, Michael is truly the Urban Italian Sauce Maker working out of his industrial culinary loft creating modern twists on old world tastes.

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The stage was set  for Michael’s bespoke experience – “Cafe Roma for One Night Only”and off in the corner…a proper Vespa sat looking like it was ready for one of us to speed off on it but we were in a space that had an amazing panoramic vista of downtown Toronto at night.

toronto by night

Jars and jars of sauce teased us all evening! We all hoped we would be taking at least one home with us after tasting some amazing goodies throughout the evening showcasing just what we could do with the sauce.

jars of sauce

The diverse uses for the sauce were showcased in some tasty temptations such as Nonna’s Homemade MeatBalls, Individual Lasagna’s layered with fresh pasta,grilled eggplant, zucchini and sweet red peppers, Slow Roasted Tomato Brushette and Mini Whole Wheat Pizza Margheritas.

Nonnas Meatballs

Lasagna

tasty treats

Pizza prep

Although I missed out on some of the tasty treats, I did get to share some spotlight time with fellow blogger and foodie Alexa Clark. We had been chosen to be the pasta makers for the night!

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An honour for sure but also a fast trip down memory lane for myself as I remembered days as a child when my own grandmother and I used her new hand-cranked pasta machine. Sometimes mistaken as having Italian heritage, my Ukrainian grandmother (my Baba) used that lovely machine only once to make pasta and many times to make perogy dough and verhuny. That said its been many years since I have attempted anything but ravioli by hand.

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This was a fun time and my old skills prevailed as I mastered the dough and made some glorious noodles to be shared with Michael and that glorious sauce.

pasta making

To compliment the tasty nibbles of the evening –  Niagara,Ontario based 13th Street Winery was there to showcase some complimentary wines. We had the chance to taste both their Red Palette and White Palette wine blends and I definitely favoured the reds of course! On its own or with the amazing food served I would definitely feel comfortable taking a bottle of either to a dinner party or gifting to a friend or colleague.

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An amazing evening of Feast and Festa put on by Michael and his crew!

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Some wonderful biscotti and bags of treats went home with us all to further tantilize our tastebuds some more!

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Louise Prete Foods offers their Sugo Pomodoro e Basilico pasta sauce at many retail stores. They also offer prepared meals, catering, and delivery! So you can get your Louise Prete fix without leaving the comfort of your home!

http://www.louiseprete.com/shop.html

Check out a great feature on CBC featuring Michael Malleau and other start-up entrepreneurs Self-Employment on CBC

13th Street Winery // Logo

13th Street Winery

Many fabulous locations carry the wines of the 13th Street Winery and here is the link for Toronto and many more!

Book your private group tasting at the 13th Street Winery. Call 905-984-8463 or Email Ruth Peters at events@13thstreetwinery.com

All Things Food: A Little Pimentón Anyone ?

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Pimentón – translation – Spanish Paprika

Getting an invite to joing a group of foodie bloggers for a short form visit to local resto shop Pimentón, brought the flavours to start this foodie traveller’s senses aflame. The décor of the lime green and hot tamale red walls entice you to feel a little caliente and ready to consume some Mediterranean and Spanish taste pleasures. One must give immediate thanks to Mary Luz Mejia and Sizzling Communications for the invitation to come and enjoy such an amazing experience on a blustery night in Toronto.

“Venezuelan-born Jose Arato started his professional career as an accountant. One bite (or two) of sumptuous pastries lead him to reconsider his career choice. Upon completely switching gears and diving head-first into the culinary world, Jose interned at the Fairmont Royal York, worked as a chef de partie the Park Hyatt Hotel in Toronto and created ethereal pastries at some of the best shops in Toronto including Rahier, All the Best Fine Foods and Dessert Trends. He later staged in a prestigious chocolate program with Chef Sander Koenen in Caracas, Venezuela allowing him to gain a wealth of experience in various pastry styles and techniques. Approximately one year ago, he took over the Pimenton business from friend and mentor Lola Csullog-Fernandez who left Jose with her coveted Spanish recipes that he makes today, proudly in her memory and with a lot of amor.” ~M.L. Mejia

Imagine the people gathered for the class were writers and bloggers – all who share a passion for food! Our teacher – Chef José Arato who actually became a chef by way of accounting, then the pastry route. Follow him at @PimentonTO or check out the website at www.pimenton.ca .

We started the class then with a demo of how to make our dessert, best things first but you don’t get to eat until last because of preparation time : Ice Cream Turrón. The base of the ice cream was a simple vanilla custard and Chef José, who has worked as a pastry chef, did something so obvious that it made most of us gasp at the simple brilliance of it. While he was scraping the vanilla pods, he did what you would normally do and then well here it comes – ahh the simplicity of it – to ensure all the little seeds were used, he agitated the pod with the same sugar that vanilla was going into. As part of the finale of the end of the night, the ice cream was served with a drizzle of Tuccioliva Olive Oil and Sal de Ibiza. Delicious beyond belief!

We all participated in some of the prep work for the Paella a la Valenciana. There was about eight of us were stationed at cutting boards with knives ready waiting on our instructions from Chef Jose. Some diced juicy red peppers while others chopped the tear-making onions. Inch by inch pieces chef instructed and I did so diligently but not everyone did exactly as chef asked throughout the prep time stuff but it all worked out in the end as we had 3 pans of Paella to be making and sorted sizes of peppers ,onions and chicken between them all.

Frequent dashes to the hand washing station to make sure we were food safe was a bit of a dance move in between sampling all of the yummy appetizers that had been made in anticipation of our arrival. When it came time to clean the squid it all had a bit of a sensual nature to it and perhaps reminded some of us of things better left until after a wonderful meal! Chef taught us to clean the squid tubes by turning it inside out  – a trick I need to ensure I tell my mother about for future reference when she gets a notion to try something new.

An unforgettable cooking tip from Chef: Soak the mussels in water with a little flour first while they are still fresh and alive. The mussels will eat the flour and excrete a lot of the sand they contain and this will prevent getting a lot of sand in your paella dish or anything else you are using mussels for.

When we moved into the kitchen and hovered around the range it became clear paella isn’t exact cooking science; you eyeball it and guesstimate when it comes to the Bomba rice. Watching with both the naked eye and behind the lens, we all followed Chef José showed us when to put liquid in the pan, how to agitate – not stir – and how to finish the dish with a slightly crispy bottom.

Bomba Rice: A Spanish short-grain rice that when cooked, expands in width, which differs from most rice varieties that expand in length. It is able to absorb three times its volume in liquid, so it is one of the best rice varieties for the preparation of popular Spanish paella recipes. When cooked, the grains remain separate and do not stick together. Bomba rice is expensive compared to other rice varieties due to the care required in cultivation and the length of time required for it to mature. It is most often available in specialty shops and through mail order and you can do either at Pimentón.

RECIPES:

Sofrito: A basic classic tomato sauce that is made all over Spain.

Ingredients:

Good quality Olive oil

1 onion chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1x 28-oz tin crushed tomatoes

2 tbsp sugar

1 tsp salt

Directions: In a saucepan, heat olive oil, onion and garlic. Sauté for 6 minutes until fragrant . Add the crushed tomatoes, sugar and salt. Cook over medium heat until some of the liquid has evaporated. Purée with an immersion blender. This recipe freezes amazingly well.

Chicken and Seafood Paella (Paella a la Valenciana) by Chef José Arato (Serves: 6-8)

Ingredients:

2 cloves garlic, peeled
3 tablespoons parsley, chopped coarsely
Pinch saffron, infused
4 chicken breasts cut up
2 squid, cleaned, cut into rings
16 small clams, soaked to remove sand
16 shrimp, shelled and deveined
Spanish Oil as needed
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 red pepper, finely chopped
Sofrito * see recipe above
3 cups Bomba rice
6 1/2 cup Chicken or Fish broth, hot
1 tablespoon salt (or more as needed)
1/2 cup green beans
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 lemon
2 sweet roasted red peppers
2 dozen mussels, steamed
Lemon wedges for garnish

Directions:

1. Place 1/2 cup of stock in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat, and add the saffron and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside. This step is only necessary if your saffron is not dried enough.

2. In a mortar and pestle or small food processor, mash the garlic, parsley and some course salt to a paste. Set aside

3. Heat 6 tablespoons of oil in a paella pan and add the shrimp. Cook briefly and then add the clams and squid. Remove from paella pan. Add more oil if necessary, as dry paella can result if there isn’t enough oil. Add the onions, pepper and when these are soft but not brown. It’s time to add the sofrito, and the garlic/parsley & saffron mixtures. Add enough stock to come up the rivets of the paella pan. Bring to a boil. Squeeze the lemon and season the paella at this point. Add the rice in one line and then stir to mix with the stock. Allow to boil hard for 8 minutes.

4. After 8 minutes, add the green beans, peas and nestle the shrimp on top. DO NOT STIR, as this releases the starch in the rice. Continue cooking at a high roll for another 2-3 minutes or until the rice is no longer soupy but enough liquid remains to continue to cook the rice. Now, turn the heat to low. Place the mussels on the top of the rice and arrange strips of roasted red peppers on top of paella. If your paella bottom does not fit properly on the stove burner, continue cooking in a pre-heated 350F oven for another 10 minutes. Remove from the oven when the rice still looks a bit wet. Cover with foil and let the paella rest for 5 minutes. Garnish with lemon wedges and parsley and serve from paella pan.

When all was said and done and we were all salivating, we were allowed to dig into our hard work – the Paella was amazing and Chef Arato prepared an Escalivada (grilled eggplant and pepper salad)  in advance and paired it all with a nice fruity Sangria, a squeeze of fresh lemon and all was set for a wonderful meal with new friends sharing a common bond in the kitchen.We finished off the meal with our amazing Ice Cream Turrón with a drizzle of Tuccioliva Olive Oil and Sal de Ibiza and Santiago Cake -Gluten Free Almond Cake – delish!

We all left with a little memory of leftovers and a sweet little gift from Chef to take home to get us started on our own versions of Paella.A huge thank you to Chef José for his patience and teachings with our group of eager learners in the kitchen!

Stop by for a visit to tantalize your tastebuds, share a little humour and enjoy the shopping experience to come home and create your own Spanish & Mediterranean themed food experiments at home. Or put together a group of friends, family or colleagues and take a cooking lesson on your own and learn the simple pleasures of the tasty meal we enjoyed on your own and know that you are in great hands with the staff at Pimentón. Look for an upcoming Sip N’ Learn session with AYA Life and Chef José soon! Learn about the wonders of Spain and the Mediterranean from a travel perspective while learning how to taste your way through a country.

Pimentón Spanish & Mediterranean Fine Food

681 Mount Pleasant Road

Toronto, ON

Tel: 647.343.4870

© Deborah Peniuk 2012

All Things Food: Tastes of Tuscany Brought to Toronto

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When foodie travel dreams take people to Italy – a little of Italy comes to Toronto

When foodie travel dreams take people to Italy, Tuscany is often their first stop. There’s something almost seductive & intimately charming about the region and its rustic good living. There is a lot to see and do in Tuscany; the true difficulty really, is where to start. Certainly most travelers should start with Florence, and then continue on to other top spots such as Siena and Pisa. The amazing list of “città di arte”(cities of art), is daunting: Arezzo, Cortona, San Gimignano and Lucca are all striking places to explore and the more you come to know the region, the more extraordinary Tuscany appears.

One mere kilometer from Siena immersed in a pristine countryside you’ll find a XIV century Carthusian monastery built in 1314, La Certosa di Maggiano. Among the first hotels in Italy to join the Relais et Chateaux Association, it turned into a Relais et Chateaux Hotel in 1978. This enchanting place which is dressed by light and natural luxury, carefully designed & interpreted by the famous architect/interior designer, Renzo Mongiardino.http://www.certosamaggiano.com

Immersed within 6 acres of parks and gardens, the Hotel Certosa di Maggiano offers to its visitors all the typical amenities of a luxury hotel with the addition of a gourmet restaurant, Il Canto, which it has been inducted since 2010 among the World’s Best 50 Restaurants.

The “art of the table” at Il Canto of Le Certosa di Maggiano brings people together throughout the pleasure of eating well while enjoying the beauty of the surrounding nature and the quality of the food ingredients that the chef Paolo Lopriore carefully selects and transforms enhancing their true essence and flavors.  “Il Canto” restaurant or “the chant” in Italian is home to one of Italy’s most noted courageous and innovative culinary artists, Chef Paolo Lopriore.

A mere kilometer away from the spectacular medieval city of Sienna, sits the Hotel Certosa di Maggiano- a 5-star, Relais et Chateaux property that was once a Carthusian monastery built in 1314. “Il Canto” is the hotel’s much lauded restaurant (considered one of the best restaurants in Italy, according to the Gambero Rosso Guide which awarded Il Canto its “Three Forks” title) where Chef Paulo Lopriore helms the kitchen.

A one-time student of Italian culinary master Gualtiero Marchesi (Milan), who has given title to Lopriore as his best pupil, the chef has also honed his craft in Florence at Enoteca Pinchiorri, France’s fabled Maison Troigros and at the Bagatelle in Oslo, Norway with Eyvind Hellstrom. These days, Chef Paulo Lopriore is known for creating a symphony of flavours by taking simple ingredients and elevating them to an art form, a modern twist on traditional Italian. By experimenting with textures and consistencies, using some of the raw, seasonal ingredients of Tuscany’s fertile countryside, it’s said a meal at Il Canto is a “multi-sensorial dining experience”. In 2002, he took over as Head Chef of Il Canto, moving up in ranking 39 in the S. Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2011.

So imagine – the Stratford Chef School’s “International Celebrity Chef in Residence Series” brought Italian Culinary Maestro- Paolo Lopriore from Tuscany’s “Il Canto” to Ontario, Canada. Your tastebuds just might be tingling about now – if only you were a student chef – oh the enjoyable work you would be set upon in that kitchen! http://stratfordchef.com/

“According to the Stratford Chef School’s co-founder Eleanor Kane, bringing global culinary stars to Stratford is a key program that sets this culinary school apart.  “Providing first contact with international restaurant chefs is important in our recruitment strategy. During his 2010 visit to the Stratford Chefs School, Paolo’s creative use of ingredients, his exacting approach and attention to detail made a huge impact on students and our culinary instructors. We anticipate another exciting immersion into Italian cooking and culture” says Kane.”

Some of the dishes Chef Paulo Lopriore created and taught while in Stratford included:

  • Beef Carpaccio with Black Truffles
  • Riso al Nero di Seppia (Risotto in black squid ink)
  • Squab with Vin Santo
  • Lobster with Sweet Peppers

And the Desserts:

  • Meringata… Che Passion! (Meringue… What Passion!)
  • Semifreddo with Smoked Sugar

After a list of menu items like this -how can you not want to try and get in on the amazing talents that the Stratford Chef School brings in, but also hop on a plane and heading to Tuscany to visit Chef Paulo at Il Canto and enjoy a stay at Le Certosa di Maggiano – you definitely won’t be disappointed.http://www.relaischateaux.com/certosa

© Deborah Peniuk 2012

Photo Credits of Chef Paulo Lopriore to Terry Manzo of Zenfolio www.zenfolio.com

Passion + France = LOVE (a foodie crush)

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Foodie Love

There is nothing like meeting someone who is as passionate about what they do as you are and this was the case when I was invited to interview Michelin star Chef Alexandre Gauthier this January. A favoured choice by Alain Ducasse and Gordon Ramsay, Chef Alexandre Gauthier of La Grenouillère participated in Stratford Chefs School’s Chef in Residence for the second time bringing Pascal (his maitre d’ hotel) and Nicholas (his sous chef).

As a week long event at the school(from January 24 through January 28, 2011), this allowed Chef Alexandre to work closely with the students, shopping daily for the evening’s menu and being a passionate mentor to the students for the evening services. The Celebrity Chef in Residence program offers students and staff of Canada’s premier culinary institute the opportunity to expand their culinary repertoire while learning from, and cooking with, the finest international chefs.

The family restaurant La Grenouillère, in Montreuil-sur-Mer, France is currently closed and experiencing a massive transformation into Chef Alexandre’s new vision and I for one am extrememly excited to see the final outcome. Not only will this be a reborn restaurant keen to a highlighted patron experience but also a 12 room Auberge with herb and flower gardens. (For those not in the know, an auberge is by definition: an inn or tavern providing overnight lodging for travelers) What an amazing experience this will become for those enjoying the new décor and the rustic, etheral setting with a small castle atop the hill in the backdrop and his fantastic cuisine.

Chef Gauthier has been the chef at La Grenouillère since 2003. The family restaurant is located in Montreuil-sur-Mer, France (a village mentioned in Victor Hugo’s novel Les Miserables). He has worked with chefs Régis Marcon (Au Clos des Cimes), Michel Roth (Lasserre), and Grégory Coutanceau (Les Flots). In 2007, Chef Gauthier received his first Michelin star and brought back the star that had been missing from La Grenouillère since 2001.

The iconic chef Alain Ducasse encouraged Chef Gauthier’s talent early on in his career, inviting him to the famed Plaza Athénée to make two dishes (including an notable appetizer of soft & hard-shell clams- C’est tres bonne!). Chef Gauthier defines his cuisine as Cuisine Délurée (“smart”, “subtle”,”forward”,”impertinent and pertinent”), using French & Japanese techniques(offset plating) to create his distinctive dishes.

Amongst the many words that come across the many articles about this noteworthy chef – “radical”, “authentic”, “pertinent”, “provocative”, “wild”, “and “robust”.Chef Alexandre is the Ultimate recycler when it comes to ingredients and pays homage to all the food sources on his menu. He promises that there will be no “frontier” between the chef and the customer including lots of glass and open spaces with iron, leather and large fire pits to complete the new experience.

I would challenge anyone to not agree that this young chef, who has already accomplished so much, is an example of a Spiritual Entrepreneur who is following and actioning his dreams – making them a reality – great energy to be aligned with as a fellow entrepreneur myself.

When I asked this amazingly talented man to choose one word to describe him, he paused, challenged to find just one word and then said “PASSIONATE” et “UNCONVENTIONAL”. Certainly two words that make the tastebuds tingle in anticipation of the next outpouring from this extremely talented chef.

I will be taking a group to France later this year and will encorporate the short 2 hour drive from Paris to visit to the newly renovated resto & auberge to experience Chef Alexandre Gauthier on his own homefront stage.

Look for more about this amazing chef and upcoming trips designed by AYA Life.

Best dishes til then travellers and foodies alike.

Links::

Alexandre Gauthier

La Grenouillere www.lagrenouillere.fr

Alexandre Gauthier and William Elliott

Froggy’s Tavern www.froggystavern.com