PREVIOUS INSTALLMENT: A Conscious Exercise in Over-Ordering
Amongst the roughly three dozen places we hit in Spain, there was a small tapas bar in Madrid called Les Matador
that doubled as a folk rock bar. It couldn’t have had more than 20 seats in addition to the bar and mandatory standing room area. It was always rammed. They offered a small menu, a few hot bits, lots of preserved tapas, and the requisite jamòn
stand and almond warmer.
Les Matador is run by these two dudes who are absolutely nuts about what they do. I watched them work, totally enamoured with their capitalist tenacity as well as their humour. One washed the glasses and then carved the jamòn. The other bused tables and then fried the plate of padrón peppers. All the while, they winked, sang and barked their way through with each and every guest.
In Walsh Abroad, our new weekly blog series, Chef Anthony Walsh takes us on his journey through Southern Spain and Portugal, as he experiences a multitude of different cuisines, cultures and interactions. In his own words, here’s Chef Walsh. - C.L.
Susanna (my one and only boss) and I decided to take the kids to Andalusia
and Southern Portugal
for an extremely overdue family vacation. I’d like to share some of our snippets, realizations and confirmations – they were all inspiring and motivating on different levels.
Part of our family’s background nods to this part of Europe. Some of my wife’s ancestors came from central Andalusia. She is actually Argentinian, but still has ties to this part of Spain. The Sanchez side of her family fled during the civil war to South America and Italy.
From a personal standpoint (and aside from my selfish gastro-interests), Andalusia and its culinary-cultural heritage is something that has always fascinated me. This fascination lies in its multiculturalism and how the different groups have co-habited both happily and not-so-happily for centuries - ultimately developing a single identity amongst a group of very different people.
Candy and Chocolate Shop, Madrid
Madrid was the landing point for us and the travel research came largely from my kids. As usual, the points of interest and must-visits revolved totally around their stomachs. The secondary interests - museums, shopping, sites and art galleries – were all prompted by the supposed adults.
Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid
We rented a cool apartment right in the centre of the capital, close to the Plaza Mayor and Plaza del Sol. In that area we were immediately immersed in “Tapas Land”. I was amazed at the sheer volume of bars and restaurants – outside, inside, upstairs, make-shift; pop-up patio meets music stage – all seemingly paying very little attention to traditional rules.
The restaurants, tabernas and bars seemed to be open from 12-2 p.m., then 8 p.m. - 2 a.m. (and beyond). Most of the tapas bars followed a similar schedule – only there were quite a few that concentrated on breakfast and lunch, while others focused on lunch, dinner and serious late-night dining.
Olive stand, Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid
Mercado de San Miguel was the first landing spot for us. My former sous chef, Julie (from Canoe), spent last year travelling all over Spain and suggested that the Mercado was a good way to get warmed up to the truly civilized Madrid tapas scene. Crazy-crowded from 1:30-2 p.m., patrons were a mixed bag of locals, sunbaked Germans wearing knee socks, potbellied Brits and well-dressed Italians – all of whom apparently had not received the memo about smoking being harmful to your health.
Family Dinner, Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid
Mercado de San Miguel was exactly what I’d hoped and dreamed about. Marble-topped bar rails all over – there was never enough room for the various tapas we ordered (however, it was never an issue). Things just flowed. Empty plates, beer, Fino and Cava glasses were cleared up by milling servers (90% of the time with a wink, nod or at the very least, an acknowledgment to you). Plates went down; plates came off, sometimes from different spots in the market.
As is always the case, the first visit for us was a conscious exercise in over-ordering. Giddy, teenage-type culinary lust and over-excitement were my excuses.
Garlic Toast Tapas, Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid
The tiniest eels were piled on garlic toasts with celery hearts – all cozied in a very light, lemony mayonnaise –perfectly tepid. The choco a la plancha (cuttlefish) were wildly tender: thick, white flesh topped with killer, grassy olive oil, sea salt and a lemon wedge on the side.
Pimento de la Padron, Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid
Our introduction to Madrid’s pimento de la padron came at San Miguel as well: tiny, thin-skinned green peppers that are fried in olive oil, then tossed in a flaky Spanish sea salt. They are amazing. We would continue to eat them many times throughout our trip; some were slightly spiced, some bitter, some mild – all delicious.
There were plates upon plates of jamòn: boletta, Iberico, and Pata Negra just to name a few. Unfortunately, my kids steered their tastes toward the Pata Negra which fetched a €20 tag on each plate. They would massage their lips with the gleaming, scarlet flesh and pure white fat.
The jamòn came on dry toasts that were reconstituted with very ripe, fresh tomato and amazing olive oil. Variations on the jamòn toasts had sunny-side-up quails’ eggs, salted tuna roe, palmito pickles and very spicy chopped chilies with vinegar.
Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid
There were little wax paper coronets stuffed with tiny choriços, liver sausages and intricately diced jamòn. Simple toasts like the jamòn were joined by incredibly rich, sweet, stone-like crab salad with light tomato mayonnaise and lemon. Cured white anchovies and green sauce with parsley and raisins gave me a new-found respect for the nasty dry toasts that I’ve always loathed.
The two things that struck me immediately after gorging on all that adrenaline were:
a) My wife and kids are not normal;
b) The majority of these bars serve similar things. The important differences come from the pride they have in their gastronomical history, their pride in the ingredients they use (whether they’re uniquely Spanish, Andalusian or not) and the debates in the details of their cooking (usually bestowed upon us by the host, server or adjoining table).
Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid
For the first few days, I noticed that the chefs didn’t necessarily gravitate towards the gastro-molecular movement, the culinary-Goth group, or the plaid-laden comfort crowd. Observing the scene, I saw that they are all the living, breathing definition of natural locavores.
While some Spanish chefs are perhaps better at picking the tomatoes, others are better with selecting the olive oil, or have a more stringent fish delivery. Essentially, what makes these chefs great are the details of their everyday business and the commitment (but not necessarily passion) to executing it well.
Some of the chefs we encountered are clearly nuts about the food industry and it comes across – but there were others who obviously aren’t. Yet, there is still that underlying dedication. Is it history? Do they simply feel fortunate to have a job? Or is it just sheer professionalism?
Making pie dough from scratch – if you find it intimidating, you're not alone. The fear of over-mixing and rolling out dough always has me reaching for the frozen pie crust in the freezer section for the very rare pie making occasion.
Chef Amanda Ray
sympathized with my fear of making homemade pie crust and offered to show me how to make an easy but perfect pie crust in the Biff’s Bistro
kitchen. Now that's the way to celebrate Pi Day
, which happens once a year on March 14 or 3.14
for us geeks out there.
Amanda chose to make a Pâte Brisée, a savoury short crust dough that Biff’s Bistro uses for the quiches. Not only did it seem easy, but it also went by very quickly. The scary dough beast isn't so scary after all. See for yourself.
But I still don’t own a rolling pin.
Mad props to Jess for editing this pie making madness of a video!
Pâte Brisée Recipe
This is a classic savoury tart dough recipe and is perfect for quiches, savoury or sweet tarts.
- 1450 g all purpose flour
- 2 lb butter, cold
- 445 g water
- Pinch salt
- Weigh flour and put in a large bowl.
- Cube the butter into small pieces and mix with flour, either by hand or using a food processor. Work the butter into the flour and get it to small pea sized pieces.
- Add water and mix. Don’t over mix the dough.
- Portion into 370 g balls and wrap individually in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for up to two days or freeze immediately.
Yield enough dough for 7-8 pies.
What would you do if a water buffalo was delivered to your door?
The answer for Luma
was clear: host an epic evening of nose to tail dining showcasing the all-mighty water buffalo.
On February 24th, Death Row Meals (DRM), an initiative dedicated to underground events, brought together a group of fierce chefs, including our very own Chef Jason Bangerter
for the 3rd annual Olde Hunters’ Feast, with all proceeds this year going to the Heart and Stroke Foundation. It was a reunion of sorts as all of the chefs had participated in the previous installments of Olde Hunters’ Feast past.
Chefs (left to right): Tom Davis, Rossy Earle, Trish Gill, Jason Bangerter, Nick Benninger, Scott Vivian
Adventurous food enthusiasts gathered in the Luma Lounge and the intimate evening began with a canapé reception that allowed guests to mingle alongside a magnificent roasted buffalo head. As bubbly was sipped, an array of buffalo bites, such as Panamanian-style jerky, summer sausage, liver and onions, cheek terrine and seared tongue, were devoured with ferocity, before the crowd headed into the dining room for a communal experience.
The star attraction (the water buffalo, of course) might have been affectionately nicknamed “Fred” by DRM’s organizer, Joel Solish, but the evening would not have been possible without the guest of honour, Martin Littkemann, the farmer himself. Martin and Lori Smith live on a farm just north of Stirling, Ontario and together they form the Ontario Water Buffalo Company
, which specializes in producing water buffalo milk. Martin was on hand during the evening to answer questions, as were the chefs, who each came out to present their dishes to the eager crowd throughout the interactive evening.
With thoughtfully paired VQA wines accompanying the feast being poured by DRM co-conspirator Allison Slute, guests were treated to imaginative creations involving good ole’ Fred. The energy in Chef Jason Bangerter’s kitchen was playful, which certainly showed in the dishes. And there was a lot of cell phone action going on behind the scenes.
By night’s end, we all left well fed and content, but not before receiving a takeaway – water buffalo dulce de leche with a recipe to make your own fritters. We're sharing the recipe with you so you can make your own.
Can you ever get enough buff?
You can visit the Luma Facebook page for the entire photo gallery of the evening.
"Bull's Balls" fritters
455 g flour
½ tsp salt
13 g dry yeast
250 g milk (or buffalo milk)
40 g butter, melted (or buffalo suet)
Mix all ingredients on medium speed until the dough pulls away from sides of the bowl. Rest the dough until it doubles in size at room temperature, covered. Roll out the dough to ½ inch thickness. Cut out disks with a one inch round cutter. Deep fry and roll in sugar and spices.
Dulce de Leche
4 liters of milk
5 cups sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp binnamon
1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
Pinch of sea salt
Bring milk to a boil. Add sugar all at once, as well as baking soda, cinnamon and vanilla. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture begins to thicken and changes to a caramel colour. Let cool.
Course I: Trish Gill, The Samuel J. Moore at The Great Hall (@gilltrish)
Rare heart salad, rocket, donkey sauce, buffalo Parmesan
Cassoulet with tripe, bone marrow and tails
Course III: Nick Benninger, Nick and Nat’s Uptown21 (@NNUptown21)
Jellied hoof-pickled mushroom terrine and brisket-foie sausage, with 11teen garnish
Course IV: Tom Davis, The Stockyards Smokehouse and Larder (@TheStockyards)
Hay smoked short ribs, buffalo mozzarella, pommes purée and winter berries jus, water buffalo thuringer, mostarda
Buffalo in the Mushroom Patch: roast water buffalo loin and crispy fried sweetbread with wild mushroom, celery root and truffle
Course VI: Rossy Earle, SupiCucu (@pancancooks) & Jason Bangerter, Luma (@ChefBangerter)
Water Buffalo Milk Adventure: vanilla milkshake with wild cranberry filled winter spiced fritter (Bull's Balls) and dulce de leche
serves a diverse crowd; from those who are craving an all-day breakfast to those wanting a quick bite before catching a film at TIFF Bell Lightbox
. Making the menu as eclectic as the demographic they serve is always fun, if slightly complicated – it’s a fine balance between light and healthy meal options and cream-laden comfort foods, but they do it well.
Aside from the indulgent pizzas, pastas and creamily-dressed salads, you’ll find light mains, dark leafy greens and velvety soups perfect for a working lunch or health-conscious dinner.
Vegetable Tagine at O&B Canteen (photo by Cindy La)
The Vegetable Tagine is one of the most popular items on O&B Canteen’s menu, according to general manager Ari Sefton. Vegetarian-friendly and chock full of intense flavour, the dish begins with a base of organic Ontario quinoa, perfectly cooked and seasoned with a homemade ras al hanout (an aromatic North African spice blend). The spiced quinoa is mixed with almonds, walnuts, pecans, dried cranberries, sultana raisins, dried apricots, mint, cilantro and fresh lemon juice.
Add to that all kinds of roasted, raw and pickled veggies, mixed greens and chef-inspired baji fritters, made from chickpeas, onions and an array of herbs and spices. The dish is finished with a drizzle of O&B Canteen’s hot and sour sauce, a dollop of Cheese Boutique’s
Greek sheep’s milk yoghurt and some salsa verde.
This dish is a powerhouse. It’s lactose-free, gluten-free and can easily be made vegan by omitting the yoghurt. The fritters are packed with protein; the quinoa full of calcium, magnesium and iron. And it tastes amazing.
The Spinach and Kale salad is another winner. Lightly dressed in Niagara Empire apple cider vinaigrette and topped with pickled pumpkin, roasted squash, pumpkin pie-spiced pecans and dried cranberries, this salad hits the right balance with its salty, tangy and sweet elements. It’s good for you, too.
Chef de Cuisine Jason Sheardown puts emphasis on the salad’s healthful qualities. “The greens are great for strengthening the immune system; the spinach is an excellent source of iron and the kale and dried cranberries are loaded with anti-oxidants. Dried cranberries are also great for strengthening the immune system, so it’s a really good salad for this time of year.”
Other veggie-friendly options include the protein-packed Edamame salad and the Tofu Bành Mì. The Edamame salad takes a mixture of soy and navy beans; lightly tossed in black truffle vinaigrette, lime juice, cilantro and pickled red onion and gets topped with crispy shallots, hard-boiled egg, avocado and sliced radish.
You can pair any regular sized salad on O&B Canteen’s menu with seared salmon or tuna, grilled chicken, or those tasty chickpea baji fritters. If you order a sandwich like the Tofu Bành Mì (bulgogi-marinated tofu with sriracha mayonnaise, nam prik pickled roots, cilantro and crispy shallots), you can ask for a small salad or soup on the side.
Check out this video segment from Cityline
that was shot at O&B Canteen and aired on February 27th. Dr. Joey Shulman
takes a look at the menu and pinpoints a few great, healthy options and she gives some unique tips on healthy ordering when eating out.
For more information and up-to-the-minute news on O&B Canteen, you can check out their Facebook page