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#FoodiesInIsrael: The A-Team

02/03/2016 | 19:28 PM

Chef Amanda Ray (Biff's Bistro) had the wonderful opportunity of traveling to Israel last year for an unforgettable food and wine trip.  Here is the first installment of her thoughts and photos from her trip. - Cindy

The A-Team

When my good friend Natalie asked me if I’d be interested in being part of a food and wine mission to Israel, I didn’t hesitate.  I knew it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience the real Israel. Looking back, it was one of those trips that was so unbelievable that I was pinching myself long after.

The trip had been organized by David Cooper, who works for The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) in Ottawa. CIJA’s mission programs aim to educate Canadians about the people and land of Israel. CIJA generally takes politicians on these mission programs, so when Natalie suggested to David a mission focusing on food and wine, she wasn’t sure he’d agree (but thankfully, he loved it!).  Natalie curated a great group of well-seasoned travelers, foodies and adventurers. We were known as “The A-Team” - Arlene Stein (founder and chair of Terroir Symposium), Amy Rosen (food journalist and cookbook author), Alejandra de Miguel (urban winemaker), myself as the token chef, and Natalie Goldenberg-Fife (Culinary Program Director of IDMG Culinary Marketing and editor of City Bites magazine).  Okay, so Natalie’s name didn’t quite fit, so she renamed herself “Aladdin” for the trip. Our group was rounded out by David and his cousin Alan (or “Cousin Al”, as he soon became known as), who hadn’t been to Israel in 25 years!

Our trip was a unique mission to explore Israel’s vibrant, exciting culinary and wine culture. The week-long trip was dedicated to consuming Israel’s unique food and wine, visiting food and spice markets, as well as meeting Israel’s top chefs and visiting their restaurants.  It was any chef, winemaker or foodie’s dream! We documented all of our experiences on social media using #FoodiesInIsrael.

On June 23rd, we took off for Tel Aviv on a 787 Dreamliner (for all you plane geeks, this is a sweet plane!).  Following long lineups, false alarms, and delayed boarding – it was pure bliss to finally relax in our premium economy seats. For those of you who are tall like me, you’ll understand that those extra few inches of head and leg room make a real difference!  

Fast forward 10 hours and a seven hour time change - we landed at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, where we were met by our ground handler, who got us through customs with ease. Once we made it through the various checkpoints, we were met by our guide Elad Bar Ilan and driver Egal. We boarded our tour bus and were given a warm welcome by Elad and our final itinerary books for the week. I was beyond excited. It wasn’t even 11am, but it was hot and sunny in Tel Aviv. I was taking in all the initial sights and smells, experiencing the rush you get from visiting a country for the first time.


We drove directly from Ben Gurion for an hour to Zichron Ya’akov. We arrived at Elma Luxury Hotel & Art Centre, where we were met by Hedai Offaim, who is the chef, farmer and co-owner of the Ofaimme Farm. She is also a food columnist for Haaretz magazine.    


Opening lunch at Elma Arts Complex Luxury Hotel at Oratorio @elma_arts_complex_luxury_hotel #foodiesinisrael

A photo posted by Amanda Ray (@chefaray) on


The view of the Mediterranean from Elma Arts Complex luxury hotel in Zichron Ya'akov, Israel #foodiesinisrael

A photo posted by Amanda Ray (@chefaray) on

Located atop the hills of Zicheon Ya’akov, Elma has breathtaking views of the Mediterranean.  Designed by architect Yaakov Rechter, the hotel is a work of art. The building won the Israel Award for Architecture in 1973.  The wave-like structure follows the curve of the mountain on which it sits. We were given a tour of the hotel and then went with Hedai to have lunch at the hotel’s restaurant, Oratorio.  Our first meal was, naturally, a tasting menu custom prepared by Chef with wines pairing – our first introduction to Israeli cuisine and agriculture!


Our first taste in Israel at Oratorio - Amberjack ceviche with citrus #foodiesinisrael

A photo posted by Amanda Ray (@chefaray) on

After lunch, we headed to the Sea of Galilee, the largest freshwater lake in Israel. We stopped in Capernaum, an ancient fishing village and visited The Mount of Beatitudes, the hill where Jesus is believed to have delivered the Sermon. We also stopped inside the Church of Beatitudes, an octagon-shaped Roman Catholic Church built on the site of the ruins of a small Byzantine era church from the 4th century.

Capernaum National Park is one of the most moving places in Israel for Christians.  The house of Saint Peter is also located here, where Jesus is believed to have lived for three years.  Aside the ruins is an ultra-modern Franciscan Church that almost resembles a spaceship! Also on this site are the remains of a 2nd - 3rd century Synagogue built with imported limestones.

We then drove for 30 minutes to Tiberias to check at Europa hotel. The hotel was gorgeous and my room made me feel like I was staying in a castle.   


Chef Yosef Hanna of Magdalena talking about local cuisine in the Galilee @Magdalena #foodiesinisrael

A photo posted by Amanda Ray (@chefaray) on

That evening, we enjoyed dinner at Magdalena Restaurant, owned by Chef Yosef Hanna (from season two of MasterChef).  Magdalena features Galilean and Lebanese cuisine merged with western cooking. Chef Hanna also opened K-BAB, the first Galilean fast food restaurant in Israel.  


Mezes at Magdalena- Roasted Eggplant, roasted tomatoes, caulifower & tahini #foodiesinisrael

A photo posted by Amanda Ray (@chefaray) on

As soon as the mezes arrived, we dove right in, and then realized that we had many more courses to go. We quickly learned after our second meal that pacing yourself is key to surviving meals in Israel.  This was our first taste of Galilean and Lebanese food and it was delicious.  The sommelier paired up some fantastic wines to go with our dinner.  

After dinner, we went for a stroll in downtown Tiberias to walk off some of the food before returning to the hotel to crash. I was completely wiped out from our first day, but also excited for the rest of the week to come!

Stay tuned for the next installent of Chef Amanda's #FoodiesInIsrael blog! - Cindy

Posted by Amanda Ray | Post A Comment |

Winterlicious 2016 at O&B

01/29/2016 | 15:00 PM
It's that time of year again - Winterlicious begins today, running from January 29th to February 11th.

We're also very excited to be hosting two sold out Winterlicious Culinary Events - our Four Hands Dinner with Chefs Vikram Vij (Vancouver, B.C.) and Miheer Shete (O&B Bayview Village) and Savour São Miguel with Chef Jamie Meireles (O&B Corporate Events Chef).

Keep an eye out for contest ballots when you dine with us - and enter for your chance to win a $1000 O&B gift card! Also, post photos of your O&B Winterlicious dishes on Twitter and/or Instagram with #OBlicious for your chance to win one of the $25 O&B e-gift cards given away daily during Winterlicious!

America Restaurant

$28 lunch / $45 dinner.  Call 416.637.5550 or reserve online.

Winterlicious 2016 at O&B Dillon's Gin Pickled Mackerel - beet & horseradish dip, caraway crisps, sea buckthorn gremolata

Winterlicious 2016 at O&B
Roasted Bradford Bay Chicken Breast - potato pancake, baby cellar vegetables, rosemary gravy

Auberge du Pommier

$28 lunch / $45 dinner.  Call 416.222.2220 or reserve online.

Winterlicious 2016 at O&B
Poulet - pan-seared chicken breast, lentil stew, truffled salsify, chestnut jus (photo by Allison Woo)

Winterlicious 2016 at O&B
Loup de Mer - Mediterranean sea bass, braised tomato & fennel, clam couscous, spinach (photo by Allison Woo)


$18 lunch / $25 dinner.  Call 416.861.6996 or reserve online.

Winterlicious 2016 at O&B
Ten Vegetable Slaw - chickpea croutons, pickled onions, sunflower dressing (photo by Allison Woo)

Winterlicious 2016 at O&B
General Joel's Chicken - egg fried manitoba wild rice, sunchokes, snow peas, spicy sweet red sauce (photo by Allison Woo)

Winterlicious 2016 at O&B
Northern Woods Oyster Mushroom Pizza - mushroom and thunder oak gouda mornay, arugula, onions (photo by Allison Woo)

Biff's Bistro

$23 lunch / $35 dinner.  Call 416.860.0086 or reserve online.

Winterlicious 2016 at O&B>
Roulade de Porc - Honker's Ale jus, cabbage, lentils, prune & sausage ragoût, Biff's moutarde

Winterlicious 2016 at O&B
Sea Bream - fennel, olives & orange, semoule, rapini, yellow beet & orange compote


$28 lunch / $45 dinner.  Call 416.364.0054 - phone reservations only.

Winterlicious 2016 at O&B
Haida Gwaii Albacore Tuna Crudo - sumac jelly, sweet onion slaw + black garlic tartar sauce (photo by Allison Woo)

Winterlicious 2016 at O&B
Cider Brined Ontario Pork Loin - mustard greens, prairie rye spaetzle + niagara apple relish (photo by Allison Woo)


$18 lunch / $25 dinner647.288.4710 (Phone reservations for parties of 6 or more).  Walk-ins welcome.

Winterlicious 2016 at O&B
Onion Bhaji - tamarind & mint chutney

Winterlicious 2016 at O&B
Lunch Thali - served with black-eyed peas masala, yellow dal tadka, rice, vegetable salad, papadums, pickles


$23 lunch / $35 dinner.  Call 416.363.3400 or reserve online.

Winterlicious 2016 at O&B
Char-Grilled Brisket - cabbage, potatoes, spinach, smoked jus

Winterlicious 2016 at O&B
East Coast Haddock - cranberry bean purée, salt-baked onion, mushrooms, parmigiano-reggiano foam

Winterlicious 2016 at O&B Roasted Squash & Endive Salad - blue cheese dressing


$23 lunch / $35 dinner.  Call 647.288.4715 or reserve online.

Winterlicious 2016 at O&B
Roasted Trout - celery, beans, legumes, lemon crème fraîche, cashew brown butter

Winterlicious 2016 at O&B
Braised Beef Short Rib - kale, spiced pepitas, smashed carrots, orange purée

O&B Bayview Village

$18 lunch / $25 dinner.  Call 416.590.1300 or reserve online.

Winterlicious 2016 at O&B
Blackened Haddock - red beans & rice, sweet peas, preserved tomatoes

Winterlicious 2016 at O&B
Fried Chicken & Cornbread - jalapeño white gravy, slaw, stewed mustard greens

Winterlicious 2016 at O&B
Smothered Pork Loin - stone-ground grits, pearl onions, collard greens, honey mustard

Posted by Cindy | Post A Comment |

All of the dirty bits!

It was a ton of fun shooting the new Biff's Dirty Bits bar menu (PDF), a collection of eclectic bites for the adventurous.  Imagine your happiest moments involving deep fried, cheesy, saucy and meaty bites.  Don't forget about our dirty bits daily specials, where you can get your deliciously filthy fix for $5 or less in the bar or on the patio.  On Tuesdays and Saturdays, get our our famous buck-a-shuck oysters, from 5pm until we are all shucked out.

Chef Amanda Ray (Biff's Bistro) was kind enough to bring out every single dirty bits bar bite on the menu.  Here's your first look.

Fondue Croquettes with three cheeses, breaded & fried

Fogo Island Cod Brandade with preserved lemon & fingerling potato chips

Mini Lamb BLTs with house lamb bacon, spicy currant mayo, O&B Artisan brioche

Dirty Poutine with lamb kofta, cheese curds, lamb jus & harissa drizzle

Fish, Chip & Pickle with beer-battered white fish, fingerling potato chip, house pickle & Espelette tartar

Crispy Pigs' Ears with charred tomato aioli

Chicken Crackling with Scotch Bonnet mayo & candied peanuts

Pork Spring Rolls with carrot nuoc cham dipping sauce

Duck Nuggets with sweet & sour sauce

Crispy Lake Huron Smelts with saffron aioli

Posted by Cindy | Post A Comment |

Last month, three of our chefs and cooks traveled to Italy to learn how to make pasta from the masters. Here are their reflections on their incredible experiences.  You can see more of their photos on Instagram: #OBDoesItaly.

They will be bringing what they learned in Italy to a special four-course dinner with wine pairings (many thanks to
The Vine) at Jump on January 15, 2016 at 7pm. Tickets are $85pp (tax and gratuity are extra).  To make a reservation for the Cooks' Tour of Italy, please call 416.363.3469 or email jump@oliverbonacini.com.

Buon appetito!

Geoffrey Cruz, O&B Canteen

Going to Italy has really taught me a lot about food and how they approach it. It is very simplistic and traditional.  The way the people talk about food and how they prepare it shows how passionate they are about it and how it plays such a big part in their culture. And as a chef, it is something that I can also relate to.

IMG_20151119_230955 IMG_20151119_113558

Visiting the prosciutto and Parmigiano-Reggiano producers was one of the highlights of the trip.  Learning about and understanding how they produce such beautiful products, while sticking to their old traditions was really insightful.


My favorite dish was from Antica Corte Pallavicina. It was tortelli pasta stuffed with house-made ricotta and spinach tossed in butterand parmesan cheese. It was hands down, the best pasta I've ever had. Very simple, but everything was just perfect.

This trip to Italy is one I'll definitely never forget - the food, the people and the history.

Anthony Figliano, Jump


Grazie Amalda Cuka for the best tours I have ever been on. #buonobuono #OBdoesitaly @geof_cruz @_jennga #chefsweekoff

A photo posted by Anthony Figliano (@chef_figliano) on


Certified D.O.P. #buonobuono #OBdoesitaly @geof_cruz @_jennga #chefsweekoff #OGstatus

A photo posted by Anthony Figliano (@chef_figliano) on


Strolghino, prosciutto di Parma, pancetta, pancetta cotto. #buonobuono #OBdoesitaly @geof_cruz @_jennga #chefsweekoff

A photo posted by Anthony Figliano (@chef_figliano) on

Jennifer Reyes
, O&B Bayview Village


From November 16th – 20th, I had the opportunity to travel to Parma, Italy for a food tour experience with two other chefs, Anthony and Geoffrey.  From the moment we arrived in Italy, you could tell culturally, it was going to be different and intriguing. We toured the town, exploring different historical places, from 900 year old buildings to landmarks.


For most of the days we were there, it was pretty gloomy and foggy looking in comparison to Toronto, but it was relaxing and calm - you could feel it in the air.  I learned a lot about their culture, food and history, even though I was only there for a short amount of time.


Wine, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and Parma Ham are three things you must like in order to fit in (not really but I felt like I had that every single day). I thought all I would see and hear about in Italy was pasta, but there is so much more to experience.

One of the best things was when we went for lunch at Taverna del Castello.  It was a polenta dish that consisted of just polenta, pancetta and white truffle.   It was so simple and it was so GOOD. I will definitely re-create that dish one day.


One of my favourite things about this trip other than eating the amazing food was meeting the people that lived there. They made me realize how much passion they have for what surrounds them and for what they do as a living. The way they talked to us, showed how much love they put towards things.  You could hear and feel it coming from their voices - how humble and excited they were to share all of their knowledge. It made me look at things with a different perspective in life.  And it inspired me to take something I have a passion for more seriously, in a much more free way.

Wines for the Cooks' Tour of Italy Dinner supplied by:

Posted by Cindy | Post A Comment |

Twenty years ago, we opened the doors to Canoe at the top of the TD Bank Tower and it's truly been an honour to serve each and every guest.

On November 21, 2015, Canoe celebrated its 20th anniversary with Canoe Twenty, a commemorative multi-course dinner that welcomed chefs both past and present.  Click on the video above to see all the highlights from the incredible and emotional evening.

Here's to another twenty years, Canoe.  Thank you to all of our guests for dining with us and the members of our incredible back of house and front of house teams over the years, many of which who are still with us today.

For more photos, please view our Flickr gallery.

Canoe Twenty - 20th Anniversary Dinner
Snaps from the past

Canoe Twenty - 20th Anniversary Dinner
Chefs Amanda Ray, Anthony Walsh and Julie Marteleira

Canoe Twenty - 20th Anniversary Dinner
A gift from Cheese Boutique

Canoe Twenty - 20th Anniversary Dinner
Chefs Markus Bestig and Amanda Ray

Canoe Twenty - 20th Anniversary Dinner
Kusshi Oysters with Nori Meringue

Canoe Twenty - 20th Anniversary Dinner
Whelk on Seaweed Brioche with Tarragon Aïoli

Canoe Twenty - 20th Anniversary Dinner
Caviar and Crème Fraîche on Potato Blinis

Canoe Twenty - 20th Anniversary Dinner
First Course: Fogo Island - tanner crab + ‘Tim-Bucked-Two’ beer battered jigged cod (Todd Clarmo)

Canoe Twenty - 20th Anniversary Dinner
Second Course: Cheezy Spuds - PEI clothbound cheddar + Canadian potatoes (John Horne & Coulson Armstrong)

Canoe Twenty - 20th Anniversary Dinner
Third Course: Québec Rabbit Bone Broth - rabbit sausage + foraged mushrooms (Doug Penfold)

Canoe Twenty - 20th Anniversary Dinner
Fourth Course: Squid Ink Corzetti - B.C. honey mussels + ‘nduja (Basilio Pesce)

Canoe Twenty - 20th Anniversary Dinner
Fifth Course: Maple Miso Glazed Sablefish - watermelon radish slaw + dinosaur kale (Tom Brodi)

Canoe Twenty - Celebrating Twenty Years
Sixth Course: Tea Smoked Duck Breast - duck leg farcie + Holland Marsh onion jus (Matthew Robertson)

Canoe Twenty - 20th Anniversary Dinner
Seventh Course: Cerf de Boileau Venison - black walnuts + black pudding tourtière + parsley root (Anthony Walsh)

Canoe Twenty - 20th Anniversary DinnerCanoe Twenty - 20th Anniversary Dinner
Eighth Course: SOMA Chocolates + sticky toffee - Glen Breton whisky sauce (David Castellan)

Canoe Twenty - 20th Anniversary Dinner
Back of House team

Canoe Twenty - 20th Anniversary Dinner
Front of House team

Posted by Cindy | Post A Comment |

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