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Summer Cocktails at Canoe

07/22/2014 | 09:35 AM
Well, we've officially entered the dog days of summer. And what better way to cool off after a long day at the office than with one of Canoe's refreshing summer cocktails? We spoke to bar manager Michael Bracegirdle about the stories behind five of his new seasonally inspired concoctions, which represent some of the finest ingredients from Ontario as well as the rest of Canada.

Representing the East Coast of Canada is The Haskap Sour, which highlights Nova Scotia's haskap berry. The haskap originated from Japan and was first introduced to Canada in 1967. Part of the honeysuckle family, the haskap is a great source of antioxidants, vitamin C and potassium.

Since bourbon is classically used within the sour, Bracegirdle chose Bulleit, which contains a high content of rye for bourbon. The sour is rounded out by egg white, which "gives the cocktail a more luscious texture and pushes through the sweetness from the berries and spirit," says Bracegirdle.

"The sour is a perfect cocktail for the summer," says Bracegirdle. "It goes well with salty food as well as fresh-tasting dishes."

Mixing Dillon's Method 95 vodka and rose gin with Tromba Blanco tequila, screech rum, ginger and peach, the Spicy Peach is inspired by a traditional boozy Long Island Iced Tea.

"This cocktail takes its roots in the classic, but has traveled far away in terms of its flavour profile," says Bracegirdle. "We've used Thomas Lavers ginger beer to add spiciness and locality. The peach smooths out the booze and spicy ginger, and allows for this punch to be a party starter. Who doesn't love an Ontario peach in the summer?"

Beat the heat with an Arctic Summer, which features Arctic rose, Tito's vodka, Pisco brandy and citrus flavours. This cocktail perfectly marries north (Arctic rose, brought in from northern Quebec by Société-Orignal) with south (Tito's vodka from Austin, Texas; Pisco brandy from South America).

"We take the dried rose and brew it like tea, turning it into a simple syrup," explains Bracegidle. "The blossom, in its dry state, is also broken up and incorporated into the salt rim. The result is a libation that looks and drinks like a margarita."

Can't get away to a cottage this weekend? Enjoy a taste of Georgian Bay with The Muskokan, which puts the spotlight on Georgian Bay gin. This gin's recipe includes wild Georgian Bay juniper, Italian juniper, Egyptian coriander, orange peel from Tuscany and lemon peel from California, among a few other botanicals. Using water from Ontario's Springwater Township, this product aims to embody everything Ontarians love about cottage country: purity, balance and relaxation.

"Georgian Bay gin is brand new to the market. It gives this drink a splash of alcohol in its end note," says Bracegirdle.

"The cocktail's name completely describes the place that we think this drink will take you. It's a summer-style blueberry lemonade with savoury notes of nutmeg sprinkled on top."

The last Canadian-inspired summer cocktail is the potent Cherry Bomb, which takes sweet Collingwood rye and balances it out with Aperol, cherry Luxardo, grapefruit, cranberry and muddled cherries.

"Collingwood rye has a built-in sweetness from the maplewood barrels used to aged it," says Bracegirdle. "The Aperol balances its own sweetness of orange with more bitter notes. The cherry Luxardo works in a similar way, but with cherry being on the sweeter side. We mix grapefruit and cranberry with a couple of muddled cherries, which continues the balancing act while maintaining a colour similar to that of a sour cherry. This cocktail, too, has a surprising amount of alcohol in it - hence the 'bomb'."

Interested in trying these cocktails out for yourself? Join us at the Canoe bar during the week and treat yourself to a sip while soaking in the vibe. Between the fresh local flavours and priceless Lake Ontario and sunset views, you might almost feel as though you've brought the cottage to the city. Almost.

Click here (PDF) to browse our full cocktail menu.

Photos by Cindy La
Posted by Rebecca | Post A Comment |

Summerlicious 2014 at O&B!

06/24/2014 | 15:48 PM
Sunny skies, beautiful patios and that time of year - Summerlicious (July 4-20)!

We are launching another fun contest this year.  Follow us - and tweet or Instagram your O&B Summerlicious photos with the hashtag #oblicious. Every day, Michael Bonacini will be awarding a $50 O&B gift card for the winning photo!  You have 16 chances to win!

Keep reading for a sneak peek of some of our menu highlights.

Auberge du Pommier

Enjoy the exquisite French offerings at Auberge du Pommier. $25 lunch or $45 dinner.  416.222.2220 or reserve online.

Summerlicious 2014
Salmon & Peas à la Française - English peas, braised romaine, sorrel & sweet onion broth


Bannock is participating in Summerlicious for the first time this year with Canadian comfort food. $15 lunch or $25 dinner416.861.6996 or reserve online.

Summerlicious 2014
Buckwheat Soba Noodle Bowl with mushroom fauxlognese, garlic mustard greens, chili ponzu (photo by Allison Woo)

Summerlicious 2014
Smoked Salmon + Salt-Baked Beets, split and sweet pea hummus, grapefruit, grenadine (photo by Allison Woo)

Biff's Bistro

Biff's is bringing modern flair to classic French bistro dishes. $20 lunch or $35 dinner.  416.860.0086 or reserve online.

Summerlicious 2014
Salade Vietnamienne, julienned 100km roots & greens, spiced carrot ginger dressing

Summerlicious 2014
Chicken au Pistou with tossed green beans, tomato & basil pistou bouillon

Summerlicious 2014
Bordelle de Fraise with French meringue, Ontario strawberries, rhubarb compote & Chantilly


The best of Canadian cuisine can be enjoyed 54 floors up in the air.  $25 lunch or $45 dinner.  There are currently no Summerlicious reservations available at Canoe. Stay tuned for openings...

Summerlicious 2014
Bison Bavette & Short Rib with heirloom tomato, watercress & crushed Alliston potatoes


Canteen is also participating in Summerlicious for the first time this year. $15 lunch or $25 dinnerYou can now reserve online for the period of Summerlicious!  Walk-ins are also always welcome.

Summerlicious 2014
Beef Tostada with beef escabeche, refried black beans, tomatillo relish, queso fresco, avocado (photo by Allison Woo)


Jump is offering a hearty menu with Mediterranean influences at the forefront.  $20 lunch or $35 dinner416.363.3400 or reserve online.

Summerlicious 2014
Heritage Salmon Tartare with smoked caviar, plantain, tomatillo relish, maple ponzu

Summerlicious 2014
Peach & Passion Fruit Trifle with vanilla meringue, tarragon syrup


You can enjoy Luma's elegant and seasonally inspired Summerlicious menu.  $20 lunch or $35 dinner.  647.288.4715 or reserve online.

Summerlicious 2014
Tossed Octopus Salad with chickpeas, tomato, eggplant purée, almonds and harissa

O&B Bayview Village

You can find the finest ingredients in these refined dishes.  $15 lunch or $25 dinner. 416.590.1300 or reserve online.

Summerlicious 2014
Spalla Di Vitello, simmered veal shoulder, farrotto primavera, prunes & asparagus (photo by Allison Woo)

Posted by Cindy | Post A Comment |

After this long winter, we've certainly deserved a nice summer and some patio weather!

Feel the love - throughout the summer, enjoy $3 Caesars and mimosas at O&B Café Grill, Yonge & Front every Saturday and Sunday before 4pm.

Share the love - $1 from every eggs Benedict will be donated to Fife House, a provider of supportive residential programs and housing services to men, women and families living with HIV/AIDS in the Greater Toronto Area.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram and post your photos with #obbennyfits.

Reserve your table online or by calling 647.260.2070.

O&B Cafe Grill Yonge & Front Brunch with Bennyfits
Posted by Cindy | Post A Comment |

The Noma Intern

It's -6 degrees Celsius. The wind snaps its cold whip upon my cheeks. I wince and put my shoulders forward into the forces ahead. No weather can pull the smile from my face though....

Hello from Toronto!

It's the end of March and I step out of the warm plane into the chill of the cold Canadian evening. I have been lucky enough to avoid the vicious winter Canada has had. Copenhagen has an unusually warm winter with only one day of snow. I miss the crisp air of our nation and the buzz of Toronto. It’s good to be back.

My last week at Noma was one I will never forget - an end to a chapter in my life that concluded absolutely perfectly.

The Noma Intern

Final week: Test Kitchen

Before any dish is served to a guest at Noma, it has to pass through the test kitchen team – Lars, the head of R&D, Sous Chefs Thomas and Rosie and Chef René Redzepi. The test kitchen is where Chef René resides at most points during the day.

It starts with a clear glass board and a white board marker. Often on Saturday, near the evening, is when the next week begins. Chefs René, Dan, Lars, Thomas and Rosie huddle around one of the two islands that make up the test kitchen and reflect on last week’s ideas - what worked, what might be time to set aside and sometimes the "no's". Next in line is brainstorming new ideas and what is coming up seasonally. Once a rough list is compiled, it's filled out on the glass board. Perhaps it’s a protein that hasn't been used at Noma, seasonal wild ingredients, fermentation ideas and/or new techniques. Every week is different, always shifting with the seasons and the Earth. If spring is as early as it was this year, they shift into spring testing faster. Once a board of ideas is created, they discuss where the focus has to be and part ways.

Tuesday is when the tasks begin to take shape into the next great dish. I arrive and set up the test kitchen with towels, c-folds, little dish area, spoons and basic mise en place. Lars arrives and likes to start the day with coffee and some really hard rock music. Why not?!

We take a moment to discuss the tasks that Jeremy (the other stagier working in test kitchen) and myself will be doing, the week’s game plan and then we dig in. Today, we are butchering 15 heads of monkfish for their cheeks, breaking down 40 pounds of herring that have been curing for months, pick through all the foraged flowers and herbs that come in (wash and sort), try different techniques on sea cucumbers, prep sea snails, wash dishes (they pile up!), dry dishes (they must be bone dry), keep the test kitchen spotless and gather mise en place as needed. If you have any ideas that pertain to the ingredients that are being tested that week, you can try them out.

The test kitchen is its own world at Noma - often it has a very zen feeling. You can go hours without speaking, focusing just on the tasks at hand and music. Lars is one of the calmest people I have ever met and considering the task that the test kitchen has – creating all dishes at Noma, I couldn't admire and respect anyone more in the culinary world. Thomas and Rosie are both very busy this week, helping run the service kitchen as well as operate in the test kitchen. It’s a very big weight they carry on their shoulders.

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday are similar - continuing techniques on monkfish cheeks, sea snails, more herbs, with new ones coming in every day, cooking octopus with eight different ingredients, cooking monkfish cheeks several ways - lots of dishes, always keeping the test kitchen immaculately clean, tasting lots, all this while the sea cucumber mystery continues. The sea cucumber has been worked on at Noma for the last year, maybe even before then – a long time now. It's an enigma.

Often prepared by drying out in sun and rehydrating followed by a long simmer, it yields a fairly soft and unflavoured product, which is not ideal for Noma. We try several techniques, burning on the grill, boiling, baking, and freezing. Right there - that's what makes Noma! Always pushing, never giving up, trying anything and everything new and being unafraid. Unafraid is Noma. The thing is...Lars did crack it - the "Sea Cucumber Code". It was amazing, seeing something you didn't think could exist and possibly something that has never been produced ever. This is the life in the test kitchen at Noma - lots of ups and even more downs.

Wait…you didn't think I was going to tell you the great sea cucumber discovery, did you? No way, my friends. Once you become that unafraid and driven to discovering, you will and can achieve amazing things.

The Noma Intern

Saturday is project night. My last day at Noma. I am presenting a project with a young chef, Akino. We have been testing and toying around with different ingredients for several weeks. We settled on Citrus Cured Mackerel, chervil purée, citrus "roe", carrot pickles, kumquat pickles, sea asparagus in a sea asparagus oil, wild flowers and lemon verbena. Watching Saturday night projects on someone's social media stream or videos posted online don't do justice to the pressure you feel - it's incredibly intense. We prep through the evening, focused on making sure everything is as perfect as possible, with everything laid out in containers, tasted and re-tasted. Around 11:45pm we make our way to the service kitchen and begin setting up, making sure to place our mise en place within arms’ reach. At 12:05am Chef Dan says, "first team, Arron, Akino, 10 minutes until plate up". "Yes, Chef" we respond and rapidly begin to assemble our plates for tasting.

Our friend Justin, previously of Corton and Per Se, jumps in without us even muttering a sound.  It's just what we have been doing for the last three months - having each other's backs. We hit the pass with two minutes to spare. Countless faces surround you, all eager to dig in and taste the creation you are presenting. Around the beautiful marble pass are cooks, sous chefs, servers, chefs and guests who have waiting around to experience the buzz surrounding Saturday Night Projects and last, but definitely not least, Chef René.

Chef René and Chef Dan always taste first. Once they have tasted, mayhem erupts - spoons and forks pop out from behind others, moving fast but carefully taking small tastes, always saving a bite for the person behind or beside you. René is on the fence - feels the fish is out of season (it is), likes the idea of creating a feeling of Florida with the dish (Akino is from Florida) but hates "pearls" (saw it coming). After some discussion, Chef says it's a very good dish and thanks us. Amidst the shifting onto the next project from other stagiers, we clean up from ours.

Just like that and it's over. Three months of intense hard work, incredible teamwork and a story to tell for the rest of your life. A finish to this part of my culinary journey that couldn't have been better.

I am left with a feeling that something is missing.

Noma is a restaurant unlike any other on the planet. It has a buzz about it that could never and will be reproduced. Noma pushes you to be the best chef you can be at all times, every day. Every chef and stagier at Noma is there because they want to be part of a culinary journey that very few take. It can't be easily described but Noma feels like it works in a bubble - a glass dome that separates it from the rest of the world. In this dome, you see teamwork unlike any other, you see chefs and servers truly working as one unit, all with a goal in mind - achieving the best and giving every guest the best restaurant experience in the world. This bubble holds every chef to the highest standard; there is no room for excuses. You feel a sense of pride that pulses through everyone; it’s not ego driven, but instead the positive energy of achievement. Chefs help each other and the smiles are frequent, with music helping to keep the pace and rhythm high. Not every day is perfect; this is reality still, but you often go home ready and excited for the next day. To work at a "World’s Best Restaurant" challenges you emotionally, physically and mentally, but rewards you with a feeling of accomplishment that little on Earth can rival.

Arron, the Noma Intern...

Yes, Chef.
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PREVIOUS INSTALLMENT: The Noma Intern - Time and Place

The Noma Intern

I hear a low-pitched deep snort come from the bushes ahead.  I think nothing of it, but it comes again, a bit louder and a bit closer. I ask Mikkel, "What could that sound be?"

He answers, "Wild pigs. I've been chased by one. Maybe the most I've been afraid in my whole life."

"Can we stop picking the flowers and get out of here then?” I ask, hoping he will see my viewpoint of not wanting to be trampled by wild pigs.

"No, no, I think they are far away. If we hear them closer, we go. Keep picking; they are beautiful!"

As always, Mikkel is correct and we are completely fine.  There are no wild pigs, just beautiful wild viol flowers on the side of a hill in Sweden!

Hello from the hills and forests of Sweden!!

This was near the end of our day in the Skåne region of Sweden.  Let's rewind back to a few hours earlier...

The Noma Intern

We arrived at a secluded forest in Sweden, just over the bridge connecting Sweden and Denmark. The weather forecast says the weather is better in Sweden and we need sun today. No, we are not tanning! We are collecting red wood ants for Noma.

Formica rufa red wood ants.

August 2011 - Mad Food Symposium in København, Danmark. One of the headlining guest speakers, DOM Chef Alex Atala, gave everyone in the crowd a translucent gel containing one single ant.  The only flavouring was ant. It shocked the crowd.  It invigorated Chef René.

Currently, the ants are used in three dishes - ant paste and ant salt.

Ants taste like ginger and lemongrass. Unique. Amazing. It's about being unafraid of anything. As stated in the latest Noma cookbook, René is unafraid.

First, we wander the forest trails to establish where the ants will be active midday. Once we establish our route for the day, we start! We are looking for ant hills that have a lot of ants on top that are not moving. They are collecting sunlight to bring heat into the nest. The nest can contain 100,000 to 400,000 ants and 100 queens.

The Noma Intern

We gently place firm cardboard in various spots of the ant hill. They become very intrigued and wander onto the cardboard. Once the cardboard is full, we shake off ants into a container. Once the ants start getting upset, we leave. Mikkel is very focused on making sure to never upset the entire hill. Once he sees signs of defensiveness from the ants, we move on to another hill.

The Noma Intern

They ants have large mandibles and are able to spray formic acid from their abdomens. That is exactly why we wear gloves for protection. We also wear large rubber boots and tight fitting clothes…they like to find their way in and they aren't friendly.

We progress through the forest and Mikkel is always on the hunt for more ingredients to forage - always stopping to get close to the ground to see what's on the forest floor. He has keen eyesight and often catches many things that even a trained eye would easily miss. His passion to find the next great undiscovered ingredient for Noma and René is amazing.

After a few hours and sore legs, we pack up. A good day.

The Noma Intern

As we head home, alongside a country road, Mikkel suddenly slows down and tells me to follow him. We cross the road to a hill covered in purple flowers – viol, or violets as we call them in Canada. Wild violets. I eat one and it blows my mind. This is why foraging is important. This is connecting to the earth and the wild ingredients at our fingertips.

Then we hear the pigs.

Now we head back to Noma. Precious cargo - ants, ramps, wild ground alder and viol.

I bring the treasures to the test kitchen. René immediately spots the viol and opens the lid, inhaling deeply and smiling. Right then, a kitchen tour is going through and René gets them all smelling and tasting, sharing in the Time and Place of Noma. The guests can't even control their smiles. They are in heaven.

As I watch this from the background, I can't help but smile. We are harvesting the earth responsibly, taking care, sharing our treasures with the world and building a better tomorrow. The effect you can have when you are as passionate as René is unimaginable. Every guest walking through Noma can feel it and see it.

Go grab a book or find a local forager in your city who is doing guided tours of the edible landscape we have. Embrace the land that we call Canada. Embrace what's around you. René embraces Scandinavia.

From Noma, I don't only stop and smell the flowers now - I wonder, can I eat them?!

Edible landscape of our land.

Arron Carley, The Noma Intern

Stay tuned for Arron's next update - his stage at Noma is wrapping up! - C.L.

Posted by Arron Carley | Post A Comment |

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