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Oktober Harvest Fest 2014


On October 5th, we drove up to Eigensinn Farm, located two hours north of Toronto, to celebrate Chef Michael Stadtlander's Non-GMO Oktober Harvest Fest and enjoy the bounty from his farm.

The drive to Singhampton, Ontario is beautiful at this time of year with the leaves changing colours. Brisk temperatures did nothing to deter the happy guests who made their way through the farm to enjoy the comforting dishes prepared with care by an array of Ontario's finest chefs.


Oktober Harvest Fest 2014


Oktober Harvest Fest 2014

O&B Corporate Executive Chef Anthony Walsh
was on hand with his team - including Chef Steven Kwon (O&B Café Grill, Bayview Village).  Together, they spent the day barbequing piri piri chicken wings and spicy duck hearts and cooking up an incredible fresh corn polenta.


Oktober Harvest Fest 2014


Oktober Harvest Fest 2014

It reminded me of Foodstock - chefs cooking outdoors, the smell of smoky firepits and the sense of community amongst strangers.

Here are some highlights from an unforgettable experience.


Oktober Harvest Fest 2014


Oktober Harvest Fest 2014


Oktober Harvest Fest 2014


Oktober Harvest Fest 2014


Oktober Harvest Fest 2014


Oktober Harvest Fest 2014


Oktober Harvest Fest 2014


Oktober Harvest Fest 2014


Oktober Harvest Fest 2014


Oktober Harvest Fest 2014


Oktober Harvest Fest 2014
Posted by Cindy | Post A Comment |


 
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You had me at foie gras poutine and tourtière.

On September 30th, Chef Amanda Ray (Biff's Bistro) and her team celebrated the Québec harvest with Vive le Québec Dîner, a special five-course tasting menu.

Here are a few highlights.


Vive le Québec Dîner at Biff's Bistro
Famille Hébert - scallop ceviche with mustard cream & coriander paired with Cidrerie St-Nicolas ‘Crémant’ Sparkling Light Cider, St-Nicolas


Vive le Québec Dîner at Biff's Bistro
Foie Gras Torchon & Duck Confit Poutine with cheese curds & Biff’s fries paired with Le Trou du Diable, ‘Saison du Tracteur’ Farmhouse Ale, Shawinigan


 
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Vive le Québec Dîner at Biff's Bistro

St-Canut Porcelet & Tourtière with peach mostarda, paired with Les Trois Mousquetaires, Grand Cuvée Porter Baltique, Brossard


 
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Vive le Québec Dîner at Biff's Bistro Québec Cheese Board three types of cheeses served with fruit & nut loaf, paired with Domaine Pinnacle Ice Cider, Frelighsburg


Vive le Québec Dîner at Biff's Bistro
Maple Pudding Chômeur paired with Michel Jodoin ‘Calijo’ Apple Brandy, Montérégie

Posted by Cindy | Post A Comment |


The Food Court Social 2014

10/01/2014 | 13:57 PM
O&B Yonge & Front at Food Court Social




Eleven of Ontario's esteemed chefs gathered together on September 25, 2014 at The Food Court Social, in support of The Augmented Education Program. Chef Tom Riley (O&B Café Grill, Yonge & Front) and his team were honoured to participate in the inaugural charity event, a collaboration between George Brown College and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).


O&B Yonge & Front at Food Court Social


Hundreds of guests arrived at Wychwood Barns to support the event, hopping from one food station to the next before the speeches and auctions began.  By night's end, over $150,000 had been raised.

Here are a few highlights from the special evening.  You can see more photos in our Flickr gallery.


O&B Yonge & Front at Food Court Social

O&B Yonge & Front at Food Court Social
Chef Tom's Salt Spring Mussel Fritter with Caviar Crème Fraiche, Pickled Walnut and Crab Salad


O&B Yonge & Front at Food Court Social
Chef Michael Stadtländer's smoked fish (Eignesinn Farm)


O&B Yonge & Front at Food Court Social
Chef Rob Gentile's Live Sea Scallop, Herring Caviar, Senape Spiked Buffalo Yogurt, Smoked Ginger (Buca)


O&B Yonge & Front at Food Court Social
Chef Donna Dooher's ode to the humble pancake (Mildred's Temple Kitchen)


O&B Yonge & Front at Food Court Social
Chef Lynn Crawford hamming it up for our cameras (Ruby WatchCo)


O&B Yonge & Front at Food Court Social
Chef Stuart Cameron's Paella Del Patria (Patria)


O&B Yonge & Front at Food Court Social
Chef Mark McEwan's Rabbit Ravioli with foie mousse, corn pudding and plum compote (North 44)


O&B Yonge & Front at Food Court Social
Chef David Wolfman's Cedar Laced Elk with Wild Rice Red Fife Bannock and Black Walnut Tuile (George Brown College)


O&B Yonge & Front at Food Court Social
Chef Hiro Yoshida's sushi offering (Hiro Sushi)


O&B Yonge & Front at Food Court Social
Fidel Gastro's Bacon Explosion Cheeseburger and Pad Thai Fries (Food Truck & Lisa Marie)


O&B Yonge & Front at Food Court Social
The sweets table from Glory Hole Doughnuts
Posted by Cindy | Post A Comment |


Georgian Bay Gin

We're all familiar with all the local, craft beers and wines Ontario has to offer. But what about local spirits?

Georgian Bay Gin is among a handful of local craft distillers trying to break into an industry typically dominated by giant international brands. Following in the footsteps of the established Dillon's, Georgian Bay Gin has made its strides this past June with a couple of major milestones: landing on the shelves of the LCBO, and on the pages of Canoe's bar menu. Canoe is just one of an exclusive group of restaurants to feature the brand new spirit.

I caught up with Denzil Wadds, one of the company's founding partners, at the Canoe bar one afternoon. He had just dropped off a fresh bottle of gin - batch #1, bottle #808. At that moment, there were only six bottles of the gin left in all of Ontario, with plans to cook a second batch in two weeks. We got to chat at length about the brief yet exciting history of Georgian Bay Gin.

Wadds and his partners Timothy Keenleyside and Trace Hanlon established the company less than two years ago. Having always appreciated good food and wine, they decided to set their sights on gin. The partners had also always had a strong connection with Georgian Bay in general. Keenleyside had an island in Georgian Bay, while Wadds' father and grandfather spent their lives in the area. One day, while standing on the top of the hill at Osler Bluff Ski Club overlooking the bay, they realized that the area just seemed to fit with the feeling that they were trying to create.

While not all of the ingredients that go into the gin are local, they collect as much juniper as possible from Georgian Bay - much of which is hand-picked by Keenleyside's kids on their island - while the remainder comes from Tuscany. The water comes from Elmvale, a little town just south of Georgian Bay, which has some of the cleanest water in the world. According to Canadian Geographic, this town's water is technically cleaner than five-thousand-year-old glacial water. When I met with Wadds, he had just come from pumping 400 litres of water for their second batch.

The gin recipe is rounded out by coriander from Egypt, lemon peel from California, orange peel from Spain, grains of paradise that offer a spicy note, and angelica root that provides an earthy flavour to help bind all of the botanicals together.

"If you drink mass-produced gin you get a very strong alcohol taste," says Wadds. "I've never liked that so I wanted botanicals to be front and centre."

After experimenting with 48 different recipes over six months, the first official batch of Georgian Bay Gin was born in Still Waters Distillery, just north of Toronto. Calling on friends to help produce 1,500 bottles, the first batch was the product of a labour of love, or "sweat equity", as Wadds calls it.

Georgian Bay Gin

"We tasted it and it was a knockout," recounts Wadds. "I love it. It's a little bit floral, it's soft and it doesn't have a strong alcohol flavour."

"The hallmark of the gin is obviously juniper, which has to come through, but the junipers aren't too overpowering. It's got a nice citrus note to it, and just makes really nice gin and tonics."

We can all agree that there's nothing quite like an ice cold gin and tonic. But our team at Canoe had other plans for this gin. When Wadds' father-in-law, a long-time regular at the restaurant, mentioned the gin in passing to Jeff Sansone, Canoe's Head Bartender, he suggested bringing it in when finished so he could give it a try.

"When it was finished I brought Jeff a bottle with no expectations," says Wadds. "And then I heard nothing about it until my father-in-law came up to me and dropped a piece of paper on my lap. It was the recipe for The Muskokan."

The Muskokan
The Muskokan - Georgian Bay Gin, Blueberries, Lemonade & Nutmeg (Photo: Cindy La)

The cocktail's name perfectly describes where this summery blueberry lemonade will take you. It sums up everything us Ontarians love about going up to the cottage: purity, balance and relaxation.

"It offers a little bit of balance, nothing too harsh in terms of bitter levels or alcohol level," says Michael Bracegirdle, Canoe's Bar Manager. "The botanicals that they used went well together, and it's not too over the top in terms of any of the other notes."

When Wadds saw his gin on Canoe's menu, he was thrilled.

"Canoe is one of my favourite restaurants, so to be on the bar is really exciting," he says.

Wadds and his partners continue to face challenges with expanding their business, as Canadian laws are relatively restrictive towards crafts distillers, especially as compared to those in the U.S. Since they cannot sell their product directly to a restaurant without the markup of the LCBO, changes are needed in order for craft distillers to really take off.

"Craft spirits in Ontario right now are what craft beers were about 10 to 15 years ago," says Wadds. "We're starting to grow, starting to build and I think the laws will change soon."

Posted by Rebecca | Post A Comment |


Final Product
Osprey Bluffs pure natural Ontario honey (Photo: Hugh Simpson)

Hugh Simpson always knew that he wanted to work on a farm one day. He owned a piece of property up in Grey County, but lived in Toronto and worked in the financial services industry. After spending 25 years toiling away in corporate marketing strategy and business development, he finally decided to take the plunge.

“In 2008 the financial services environment changed pretty significantly,” Simpson recounts. “I figured it was a good time to pull the trigger and move up to my farm full-time.”

“I always knew I wanted to do something agricultural at its roots ... I’ve had a strong affinity towards farm and agriculture for a long time.”

Although he considered using his farm to become a cash cropper or beef livestock farmer, he was particularly drawn
to the idea of beekeeping. After a year-long internship for another commercial beekeeper in Grey County, 50-year-old Simpson had learned enough to set out on his own.

Honeybee Heaven
Honeybee heaven (Photo: Hugh Simpson)

The Honey Farmhouse
The honey farmhouse (Photo: Hugh Simpson)

Today Simpson is the beekeeper and proprietor of Osprey Bluffs honey farm, which includes 300 bee hives on 20 different bee yards across three counties, including Grey County, Simcoe County and Dufferin County. And he runs the entire operation all by himself.

“We could be bigger than 300 hives and I could hire three or four people,” says Simpson. “But I choose to do it small so I can do it primarily on my own and tell the story with absolute confidence because it is my own.”

Simpson also understands that many restaurant guests appreciate and enjoy the story around the provenance of their food. And if a chef can tell that story because he or she personally knows the beekeeper, the experience is all the more memorable. 

“I think the alternative is pretty bland,” says Simpson. “If you’re buying the product that’s been processed from who-knows-where, then what is really special about what you’re bringing to your guests?”

Several years ago at Michael Stadtländer’s Foodstock, Simpson met a few of O&B’s chefs, including Chef John Horne of Canoe, and began building a rapport. Ever since, Osprey Bluffs honey has been consistently popping up on our restaurants’ menus, whether it’s drizzled over warm fresh ricotta at Canoe, or glazed over roasted chicken as part of O&B Blue Mountain’s Easter brunch.

"We use Osprey Bluffs honey for tea service, drizzled on plates, infused, reduced glazes, marinades..." says Chef John. "You name it we use it for it. It's amazing."

Canoe - Summerlicious 2013
Canoe’s Torched Bread Pudding with Niagara plums and Osprey Bluffs honey sabayon (Photo: Cindy La)

Osprey Bluffs honey particularly works well with desserts, such as Canoe’s Torched Bread Pudding with Niagara plums and honey sabayon, or the Sablé Breton with vanilla-roasted plums, pistachio mousseline and caramelized honey.

As for Simpson, his favourite way of eating honey is pretty uncomplicated. He likes to spread the sweet, sticky substance on a piece of warm toast. Ultimately, when it comes to honey, he thinks it’s best to keep things simple.

Simpson is wholly devoted to his work. He sticks to a natural method and only produces raw, unpasteurized honey. Raw honey is actually solid at room temperature and looks slightly cloudy. That opaque quality means that the honey still contains bee pollen granules, tree sap, vitamins, minerals and enzymes.

“The attribute which is the most important to me, and makes the biggest difference for the people tasting it, is that it’s absolutely pure and all natural,” says Simpson. “Nothing happens to that honey except what the bees have done.”

Bees Hauling Pollen
Honeybees coming in and out of their hive (Photo: Hugh Simpson)

Worker Bees
Raw honeycomb (Photo: Hugh Simpson)


Raw Honeycomb
Raw honeycomb (Photo: Hugh Simpson)

Queen Bee
The queen bee in her cage (Photo: Hugh Simpson)

A Good Looking Frame of Bees
A good looking frame of bees (Photo: Hugh Simpson)

Lots of Bees - A Good Sign
Lots of bees - a good sign indeed (Photo: Hugh Simpson)

The only impact Simpson has on the honey is through a minimal filtering process to remove bits of bees and leaves. Beyond that, Simpson relinquishes full control over the properties of the honey to the wild card that is Mother Nature. Much like a grower of grapes for wine is dependent on a multitude of natural variables, a honey harvest is completely dependent on the patterns of the bees, flowers, climate and geography.

Simpson says he's not cultivating anything as his efforts are mostly about keeping the bees numerous and the hives healthy, and then just letting things happen naturally.

The final product that Simpson collects at the end of the summer always reflects a unique array of flavours and colours. Osprey Bluffs honey is multi-floral, representing floral nectar all the way from the early dandelions of spring to the goldenrods that bloom in late summer, as well as the basswoods, clovers and alfalfas found in between. Again, just like wine, each year brings about its own special batch.

“It’s kind of a personal product that people are enjoying,” says Simpson

Posted by Rebecca | Post A Comment |


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