I was right!

In case you were thinking of NOT trying that original gnocchi recipe I posted by Executive Chef Jonathan Gushue of Langdon Hall, the S. Pellegrino World’s Best Restaurants 2010 list was announced in London yesterday.

Two Canadian restaurants made the list, which hasn't happened since 2003 when Eigensinn Farm placed.

Toronto Life's The Dish puts everything into context pretty well:
Rouge, in Calgary, placed 60th, and Langdon Hall, in Cambridge, placed 77th. To put these rankings into perspective, Canada hasn’t had a spot on the list since Eigensinn Farm in 2003. Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, the celebrity chef’s three-Michelin-star flagship establishment, which in the past has always landed in the top 15, dropped off the list completely.
The moral of the story is that you should try that delicious recipe. Amen.

Beet + Ginger Gazpacho & the Perfect Pre-Summer Giveaway

Oh fortune! I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of Mireille Guiliano's new cookbook, The French Women Don't Get Fat Cookbook.

I also have three copies to give away to three lucky and cultured readers! Scroll down below for your chance to get a copy before everyone else.

I was pleasantly surprised by how simple most of the recipes are in Guiliano's cookbook. I'd argue that the bulk of them contain less than ten ingredients. I am dying to try the Spaghetti with Lime and Arugula as well as the breakfast Quinoa with Almonds, Hazelnuts, and Apricots. They also sound so simple and so fresh.

The first recipe I tried was the Beet and Ginger Gazpacho.
    Magnifique! I simply cannot get enough of beets lately. I want them every which way: hot, cold, in salads, with goat cheese, in my juicer in the morning. I ♥ beets. They add a lovely, deep flavour to this gazpacho and the recipe has a nice heat to it from the wasabi and the ginger. Je l'adore!

    The French Women Don't Get Fat Cookbook will be hitting bookshelves on April 27, but, lucky readers, you could win an advance copy for yourselves!

    To enter the contest, leave a comment on this post and give me the correct French cooking term for one of the three culture-testing phases below. Please specify that you are answering question number one, two or three and remember, spelling counts!
    1. A white stew that is typically made from poultry, meat or rabbit
    2. A mixture of fresh herbs tied together with string that is used to flavor soups and stews
    3. A baking dish partially filled with water to allow food to cook more slowly and be protected from direct heat
    The very first person to answer one of these questions correctly will win Mireille's brand new cookbook AND a Libre glass’n glass portable loose leaf tea glass. It has a thermal, double wall construction of 2 layers of health-conscious glass and a removeable stainless steel filter makes for easy cleaning. ($25 CAD value)

    Canadian Food Lovers' Dream!

    Very exciting news... TOP CHEF IS COMING TO CANADA!

    More details to follow.

    Blondes have more fun

    I recently had the opportunity to try fine beer pairing chez moi with a menu designed by none other than Grand Chef Jonathan Gushue of Relais & Châteaux property Langdon Hall.

    We're all so accustomed to pairing fine food with wine. 'Oh this is a fancy meal, it must call for wine.' However, there is a growing movement, driven by quality microbreweries that is calling for people to consider fine beers as a lovely alternative to wine.

    My first encounter with this movement took place at Starfish, when the the Great Lakes Brewing Company paired a variety of beers with different forms of seafood.  It opened my eyes to a world of rare and premium beers to be sipped, not chugged.

    This time around, I got the chance to try Innis & Gunn Oak Aged Beer from Scotland. The company is the first in the world to apply this patient oaking process to beer, one that can take up to 114 days.

    The beer was actually discovered by accident.

    In 2002, whisky producer William Grant & Sons decided to make ale-finished whisky. Brewer, Dougal Sharp, was commissioned to formulate a special beer to add character to the bourbon barrels. In turn, this would flavour the maturing whisky. (I'm told port and sherry finished whiskies are made in the same way).

    A unique, malty, Scottish Beer was produced. This was placed in the barrels for 30 days, before being discarded to make room for the whisky.

    As it turns out, the Ale Cask Whisky was a success, but the more interesting story hadn't even begun.

    After emptying the barrels and carrying out analysis of the beer, the staff at the Distillery had discovered that it had been completely transformed by its time in the oak. After being tasted by industry experts, it scored a 9 out of 9 on the flavour scale! As one would expect, the beer was launched shortly thereafter to the public in August 2003.

    The recipe below was carefully crafted by Gushue (who was Executive Chef at Truffles Restaurant of the Four Seasons before Langdon Hall) for pairing with Innis & Gunn's blonde and original beers. All the food supplied came from Longo's, which is a family owned organization.

    Brown Buttered Gnocchi with Garlic, Sage and Manchego topped with Enoki Mushroom Salad
    Ingredients (Serves 4):

    • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 500g fresh gnocchi
    • 2 garlic cloves, minced
    • 15 sage leaves, finely chopped
    • 4 tablespoons grated Manchego sheep's cheese
    In a saucepan, boil gnocchi as per package instructions (until they float to the top.) Separately, in a hot pan, melt the butter. Add the garlic and cook until you see the butter just starting to colour at the edges. Stir in the sage and pull from the heat. Pour over the gnocchi and toss with the Manchego.

    Enoki Mushroom Salad
    • 1 cup Italian Parsley, chopped
    • 1/4 cup Manchego cheese, grated
    • 1 bunch Enoki mushrooms, cut to 2"
    • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
    • 1 pinch of Fleur de Sel
    In a large bowl combine all the ingredients. Toss very gently with your hands, no more than three passes in the bowl. Serve immediately topped on pasta.

    Chef Jonathan Gushue has worked at two out of the three dining rooms in Ontario to hold the prestigious Five Diamond award. It's not every day that one gets to try a remarkably simple recipe from a chef of that caliber. I'll be sure to keep this recipe in my back pocket for simple, elegant entertaining.

    To say the Innis & Gunn Blonde (aged 27 days) paired magnificently with the meal would be a complete understatement. The beer has an unmistakably sweet aroma nose. I just loved the fruity flavour and thought it contrasted nicely with the earthy and pungent flavours of meal: garlic, sage, Enoki, Manchego. I could eat this for dinner every night for the rest of my life.

    The Innis & Gunn Original (aged 71 days) was much smoother and drier. I thought it was delicious, but I preferred the blonde to pair with this particular dish.

    Innis & Gunn is available at the LCBO for a retail price of $2.95 per bottle. Visit the LCBO site for locations and availability.

    Farms Getting Jiggy With It

    Farmers aren't the first people I would think of as natural candidates for social media, but they're doing smart things these days.

    The Ontario Farm Fresh Marketing Association (OFFMA) has launched a neat little site with a 'Find a Farm Locator.'

    You can search by region, produce, pick-your-own opportunities, attractions (e.g. mazes, rides, corporate functions, etc.) or simply browse through all the farms in the database.

    The results provide detailed information about each farm, including its location, directions, contact and hours of operation.

    Cool, eh?

    Visit the site to find information about community supported agriculture (CSAs), what's in season, and other neat stuff.

    Here's what's looking good for the next few months:

    • April - Greenhouse peppers, tomatoes
    • May - Asparagus, radishes, rhubarb
    • June - Strawberries, beans, beets, cherries, lettuce, peas

    Oh Boy!

    It's such a dreadful, dreadful cliché to blog about burgers these days. Nichey burger shops (and 'Shoppes') pop up every five minutes in Toronto and they all promise to deliver a better patty with better selection for toppings, better fries, better veggie alternatives and better customer service.

    Oh Boy!, do they ever.

    I thought Craft Burger was the cream of the crop in this burger-nouveau world, but I dare say Craft Burger has met its match.

    Last week, on one of those unseasonably warm spring days, I took my bike on a quick jaunt from King and Peter to Queen and Portland to meet my good friend Eric at Oh Boy! Burger Market for lunch.

    As I turned the corner, the smokey smell of the grill hit me. Like a soldier, ready for battle, I came armed with an ammunition of hunger and greed. (Too far?)

    After much deliberation, I opted for the classic, an 8 oz. Premium AAA & Prime Ground Chuck Oh Boy Burger. (They also have lamb, bison, chicken, a gourmet hot dog, veggie, grilled veggie, portobello, an Ocean Burger (fish), and a cutie mini burger that delivers proceeds to Sick Kids Hospital.)

    I added cheddar, and guacamole, which the cashier excitedly told me was made from scratch, in house. She also mentioned that all the buns come from Toronto's own ACE bakery.

    I appreciated the chef's care in distributing sauces. My burger already came with garlic mayo so, adding the guac could have turned into a disastrous sauce overload. Not so. I thought the patty-to-topping ratio was perfect.

    Although tempted by curry fries, sweet potato fries, poutine, onion rings, deep fried pickles and grilled corn on the cob, I (yet again) went for the classic PEI fresh cut fries.

    The fries were the clincher for me. These certainly weren't freedom friesbut more what you would happily expect from a brasserie. Moules frites! Steak frites! Delicate, crispy and perfectly seasoned.

    My far more sensible companion went for the 'Flippin' the Bird' combo: chicken breast with lettuce, tomato, pineapple and jerk sauce. His order reminded me of the burgers that were popular in Australia. (Aside: Eric did his masters degree at the same time as me, him in Perth while I was in Sydney so we both get down like that.)

    Even the side salad offered plentiful choices: house salad or Caesar? House. Toasted sesame or balsamic vinaigrette? Balsamic. We joked that the selection was like a choose your own adventure game.

    We enjoyed our lunches at a sweet, breezy little window table right beside the grill. The interior of Oh Boy! is dark and inviting, suitable for an after-dark crowd.

    If you're a burgery type, I would recommend Oh Boy! in a heartbeat. In fact, my heart is beating just thinking about it again. I want to try their lamb burger, grilled corn on the cob, their gravy and, above all else, their Irish Beer Float, comprised of stout and ice cream. Did I mention they are licensed? Indeed it is so.

    My combo came to $14 including tax and burger add-ons. The soft drinks are unlimited.

    They also have an Oh Boy! Burger Brunch on weekends from 11 AM - 4 PM with Special Breakfast Burgers, Caesars, Mimosas, and Bodums of coffee. Oh joy!

    It doesn't hurt that proprietor Joey McKirk is an Irish lad from PEI with a simple, straightforward philosophy: simple, good food and kindness to patrons. Oh! you East Coast gents, you do it to me every time.

    Rating: 4/5

    Oh Boy! Burger Market
    571 Queen St. West

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    Biting the hand that feeds

    Most of you who read this blog will know that I am a communications professional by day, blogger by night.

    These worlds collide frequently: I get to practice writing when I blog, which helps my ability to communicate with clients. Sometimes I'll meet other communications professionals and they find out I have a food blog. As a result, I may get pitched as a media outlet for their clients, which is fun.
    I practice disclosure on this blog so there's no funny business about products, venues and services that are represented. If you have concerns or questions, please visit my blogging code and restaurant review criteria and feel free to leave comments.
    Earlier this week, on Thursday afternoon, something happened in Toronto that a couple of friends flagged for me. (Thanks to Kim and Bryan for pointing it out.)

    Claudio Aprile, who is the owner of gastronomie-heavy Colborne Lane and the newly-opened Origin, wrote a snarky post on his Origin blog about food bloggers. The original post has since been deleted. Here is what is said:
    A short message to all people that have or plan on coming to Origin with huge zoom lenses and flashes that induce seizures, the food critics and wannabe food critics who end up just being lonely bloggers in front of their Mac at 3 a.m.
    1. Do your research before you arrive. Have an open mind.
    2. Understand the concept and accept the fact that Origin is not Colborne Lane.
    3. If you can do a better job than me and my staff then why aren’t you doing it?
    - C.
    The Toronto Life Daily Dish blog picked up the story immediately, as has been their gossipy (and effective) custom of late, with the rather provocative title, 'Claudio Aprile sticks it to food bloggers.'

    Shortly thereafter, the debate spilled onto Twitter with Suresh Doss of Spotlight Toronto and Brock Shepard of The Burger Bar taking opposing views. (It should be noted that Brock Shepard's initials are BS. Just kidding!)

    Read the comments from bottom-to-top to see the chronology:

    Shepard mentions that 'real' journalists call before coming, which I take issue with. 

    No they don't

    That's the whole point of neutral, objective reviews: you're not supposed to know the journalist is coming. Shepard ultimately calls for some ethical standards in reviewing, which I also feel lukewarm about. Sites like Yelp are fueled by real people.  There's no code - they can have a variety of opinions, biased or otherwise and that's that.

    Similarly, blogging is a form of citizen journalism. With certain exceptions, people do it out of passion/ interest and others relate to these blogs for exactly these reasons: they are real opinions by real people, not experts.

    Ultimately, I think it's kind of strange that Claudio Aprile or Brock Shepard would publicly criticize the food blogging community in Toronto. 

    Maybe it's the communicator in me (and maybe you can call me opportunistic), but this could be a pretty influential group of brand ambassadors, no? If I were a restauranteur, I may very well have mixed feelings about bloggers/ citizen journalists, but, would I call them out? HELL no! That's not good business.

    And by the by, I'll be going to Origin in the next couple of months with a giant chip on my shoulder. Silly Aprile is making things harder on himself than he needs to. Don't bite the hand that feeds.

    Don't Get Fat

    Exciting news! Mireille Guillano, author of French Women Don't Get Fat, has been busy at work putting together a cookbook to accompany her charmingly simple food and lifestyle philosophy.

    In case, you haven't read her first book, it addresses the French paradox, whereby French people smoke, drink tons of wine, eat creamy and decadent foods and remain rail-thin with low incidences of coronary disease. Americans, by contrast, are obsessed with exercise, low-calorie foods and diet programs, but obesity rates continue to climb.

    (As Mireille's book outlines, French people also cook foods primarily from scratch, walk everywhere they go, lead lower stress lifestyles and exercise portion control. Alas!)

    In anticipation of her cookbook release, which is slated to come out on April 27, Mireille will be making a public appearance at Indigo, in conversation with the lovely Rita Silvan who is Editor-in-Chief of Elle Canada.

    Check out the details below!

    Locavorism vs Culinary Xenophobia

    On a recent episode of Jian Ghomeshi's Q on CBC radio, he had chefs Jaimie Kennedy and Peter Gordon debate locavorism. (You can click here to listen to the podcast.)

    As we would expect, Toronto-based local food champion, Jaimie Kennedy, hailed the virtues of local harvesting. This whole movement has resulted in more farmers' markets cropping up around urban centers and a shift in cultural awareness about where our food comes from. Locavorists take ownership over their regional economies, reduce greenhouse gases and increase overall food quality. (Tree-ripened food tastes different!)

    Kiwi chef Peter Gordon took the opposition with the rather compelling perspective that locavorism is at risk of creating a kind of culinary xenophobia, echoing sentiments he had divulged in a recent article he wrote for The Independent. Gordon feels that by limiting the ingredients we permit ourselves to use, we limit our culinary imagination and potentially risk stunting culinary evolution.

    By taking locavorism to an extreme, Gordon uses a rather compelling example of a Bengal family living in London and posits: what would they do if you suddenly told them they couldn't source any of the spices they use in their family's cooking?

    The debate got my brainy juices flowing. If you had the chance to listen, I'd love to hear your thoughts. Is there a risk to localizing (and de-internationalizing) the foods we eat?