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Spring Cocktails at Canoe

03/20/2014 | 13:19 PM
Spring has finally sprung! Well, technically. Flowers may not exactly be blooming outside, but we'd say this beats ice storms and polar vortices. After a thoroughly miserable winter, we all think it's about time to reward ourselves with big ol' drink. Here, Canoe bar manager Michael Bracegirdle shares his inspiration behind these eight new spring cocktails to help us usher in the longer days and warmer(ish) nights.

Rhubarb Smash
Rhubarb Smash - Maker’s Mark Bourbon, Rhubarb, Basil & Lime

Add a shot of spring to your glass with a Rhubarb Smash.

"We use rhubarb juice, basil and lime with Maker's Mark bourbon and simple syrup to give the drink a refreshing balance between sour and sweet. The rhubarb is in focus because it's in season during the spring. And you will see a beautiful red piece of rhubarb doubling as a stir stick in each smash that is made."

Spring Flower
Spring Flower - Dillon’s Rose Gin, St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur, Vanilla & Chamomile

Green thumbs will love the Spring Flower, which features Dillon's rose gin, infused with rose hips and petals and made in the heart of Niagara wine country. The cocktail is rounded out by St-Germain elderflower liqueur, vanilla and chamomile. Garnished with fresh green herbs, a sip of this drink is the perfect way to embrace the new season.

"The rose gin was going to find its way on this cocktail list, no matter what. All together it is light and refreshing."

Screech Manhattan
Screech Manhattan - Newfoundland Screech Rum, Dolin Vermouth de Chambéry Rouge, Orange Bitters

At the heart of the Screech Manhattan is the Newfoundland Screech, a Jamaican-style rum that offers dense notes of spice, brown sugar and caramel. Evened out by Dolin Vermouth de Chambéry Rouge and orange bitters, this cocktail goes down smooth, so you don't need the tolerance of a sailor to enjoy this feisty libation.

"Screech is identifiably Canadian and something that is typically drank in pubs on the East Coast. The term has been used to describe many styles of rum, including moonshine and is the centerpiece to the 'screech-in' ritual started by sailors."

Maggy Rose
Maggy Rose - Tequila Tromba Blanco, Grapefruit, Cuvée Catharine Sparkling Wine, Agave

A cocktail fit for the late princess herself, the Maggy Rose is classic and graceful, with a dash of royal sass. It pairs Tromba Blanco with grapefruit, Cuvée Catharine sparkling wine and agave.

"Maggy is bright in flavour, but not too sweet - a spring grapefruit margarita with a premium twist. It's so well-balanced that people will sip it not caring about the consequence of having a couple in a row."

Ol’ CDN - Lot No. 40 Rye, Maple Bacon Syrup & Celery Bitters

Combining Lot No. 40 rye, maple bacon syrup and celery bitters, it really doesn't get much more locally inspired than the Ol' CDN.

"The cocktail pays homage to the old cans of maple syrup and is a play on an old fashioned that we've jazzed up by garnishing it with celery dipped in lovage seed. Lot 40 is a robust 100% rye-based whisky that is starting to get critical acclaim. The name comes from the Kingston lot that the whisky-maker originally had his copper pot still. The cocktail is savoury and bold in alcohol.  It's well-balanced and easy to drink because of the maple bacon syrup, which is made in house by combining bacon stock with maple syrup."

Nouveau Blush
Nouveau Blush - Grey Goose Vodka, Pink Guava, Prosecco & Lime

Many of us tend to equate spring cocktails with light, colourful and refreshing concoctions. Shake off the winter frost with the elegant, simple Nouveau Blush, which features Grey Goose vodka, pink guava, Prosecco and lime.

"This is a spring martini that has everything that one could want in a fruity drink - bubbly, sweet fruit, acidity and premium French vodka."

Cidre Mousseux
Cidre Mousseux - Cidre de Glace, Vin Mousseux & Pommes Amères

As a tribute to Taste Québec, Chef John Horne's latest tasting menu, Canoe's bar is also serving up a delicious Cidre Mousseux, one of Québec's most celebrated culinary creations. Since apples that are made into ice cider are left on trees until mid to late January when the temperatures dip well below freezing, and the fermenting process takes up the winter months, the cider is not ready to drink until the spring. But the payoff is certainly worth it.

"Our cocktail is not overly sweet, but has a definite apple taste to it. The Cava leads the way with its bubbly crispness and acidity, followed by the obvious hint of apple."

The Dill Pickle
Dill Pickle - Dillon’s Gin, Grand Marnier, White Cranberry, Lime & Dill

While the Dill Pickle is admittedly not a cocktail designed especially for spring, it has managed to maintain its status on Canoe's bar menu due to its fresh taste and ability to light up one's mouth with dill.

"This odd mixture of Dillon's gin, Grand Marnier, white cranberry, lime and dill leads one to believe that they are consuming a liquid dill pickle. It's been winning over guests and competitions since its conception in 2008."

Michael recommends pairing the Dill Pickle with seafood. Canoe's Mini Raw Bar, perhaps?

Now is the time to shake off those winter cobwebs and join us at the Canoe bar to try out these lively libations for yourself. So pull up a chair and raise a glass to above freezing temperatures and 7:30pm sunsets. It only gets better from here, folks.

Photos by Cindy La

Posted by Rebecca | Post A Comment |

The Noma Intern: Time and Place

03/19/2014 | 16:14 PM
PREVIOUS INSTALLMENT - The Noma Intern: René Returns

The Noma Intern

February in København and averaging five degrees Celsius - not the norm at all!  During the last week of February, the wild spring herbs and vegetables began to sprout...

Hello from the fields and woods of Denmark!

It was February 27th and at 9am, we headed out to Roakilde County, where we would find what awaited us. Myself and three other stagiers headed out to pick black currant shoots, something that for all intents and purposes has never been used. Before blackcurrant bush flowers turn into berries, they sprout tiny pink and green shoots.  This is what we were trying to collect five kilograms of before they flowered. The hours required to collect all of that is in the range of 300 hours!  So, you may ask "how on earth do you use this?" Mikkle, the forager for Noma is always on the hunt for anything edible - anything!  Last year, he saw the little shoots, picked one off, noticed it had a very wild, spicy berry flavour, brought it to Chef René…then bam! - he loved it. It went into the test kitchen and calculations were made for what would be needed for the season.

The Noma Intern

It may be only be five degrees but after seven hours in an open field, it gets cold - very cold. Your mind needs to focus on the task. It's simple - run your fingers down the branches and collect the little shoots in your bin. Eventually, your hands get numb, so you warm them and remember that you’re collecting an item that's possibly never been used and you’re doing it for Noma!

We broke for lunch, warmed our hands and feet and filled our bellies.  Next, we were off to the woods!

Mikkle has been doing this for years. He's researched, studied and tasted everything he sees and touches. He's dedicated to a craft that is beginning to take shape around the world - wild foraging. It's challenging, always on the hunt and researching new, undiscovered items.  In high season (spring and summer), he works from sunrise at 5am until sunset at 10pm. He is always racing against time - trying to catch the ramsons at exactly the right moment, or the fiddleheads before they begin to open. His mind is mapping the woods and fields of Denmark all day, year round! During high season, he brings crates and crates of wild ingredients for Chef René and the test kitchen team, who race against the clock to find the best ways to add them to the complex menu at Noma.

The Noma Intern

In the woods, we picked ground elder, young dandelions, ramson (ramps), stinging nettles and the most tender pine branches. It's a hand and knees kind of job.  With big rubber boots, you roll your sleeves up and pick.

It was amazing that we were on the forest floor in Denmark on February 27th and picking beautiful, sprouting young wild herbs. I know back home in Canada, the landscape is as frozen and cold as possible.

We collected the amount required, brushed ourselves off and headed back to Noma. It's a good 40 minute drive and the other three stagiers dozed off into lala-land. I picked Mikkle's brain about being the forager for Noma.

When we arrived back at the restaurant, René was so happy and thrilled that his prediction pulled through!  He said three weeks ago that he could feel winter was over and spring would be early and bountiful! As a man in touch with the terrain and landscape, he was as right as possible. He picked up a ramson, peeled back the outer layer, closed his eyes and inhaled a deep breath, waiting a moment before exclaiming, "smell that guys; that's spring in København!" The test kitchen didn’t wait for more than a moment to dig in to smell, touch and taste the early spring bounty. They were all thrilled with smiles abound and ideas floating around the room immediately.

This is the culture. This is Noma. In touch with the land and season. They ebb and flow with the climate and the earth. This is where we as a human race need to strive towards – building a culture based on what's here now and local, and being in touch with our land and farmers.  This is iconic.

This is...

Time and place.

-Arron Carley, The Noma Intern, 2014

Stay tuned for Arron's next blog post - an adventure with bugs. - C.L.

Posted by Arron Carley | Post A Comment |

Canoe - Taste Québec

03/18/2014 | 17:03 PM
Every time Chef John Horne visits Montréal, he leaves in a food coma.

Montréal is near and dear to John’s heart – a fun city to cook, eat and play in, especially following his stint at  Omnivore World Tour’s first Canadian event.

“Québec has always been one of my favourite places to be inspired by food, because of its European feel and the way the Québecois think about food - always using local and foraged ingredients,” says John. 

Taste Québec is the first of Canoe’s tasting series on the diverse regions across Canada.

“We’ve always used ingredients from all across Canada, so I thought it would be fun to focus on different areas of Canada this year.”

Taste Québec will be only be available until mid-April; like the changing seasons, the next tasting menu will move into British Columbia’s early spring. So come in before it's gone - reserve online or call 416.364.0054.

Until then, what better way to end Taste Québec than with a classic Québecois touch – maple taffy, made tableside on a bed of ice.  I had three on this photo shoot and it wasn’t enough. 

There is never enough maple taffy.


Canoe - Taste Quebec
Split Pea Soup - Smoked Sturgeon, Bagel Crumbs, Canton-de-l’Est Ricotta 

“Split pea soup is about as Québecois as you can get – it’s usually served family style.  But this dish was actually inspired by my love of Montréal bagels, which we pulverize and dehydrate.  The smoked sturgeon has been smoked so much that it tastes like ham, which pairs well with the split pea soup.  Our ricotta is made fresh in-house on a daily basis with milk from Canton-de-l’Est, an Eastern township of Québec.”

Canoe - Taste Quebec
Wild Rabbit & Foie Gras Terrine - Wild Plum, Chokecherry Jelly & Pain d’Épices

“The wild rabbit comes from Northern Québec.  It’s extremely hard to get wild animals but it’s worth the effort – the flavour is intense.  It’s layered with foie gras – a classic Québec ingredient and garnished with spice bread, another classic Québecois staples, especially around Christmas time.”

Canoe - Taste Quebec

“Hot house rhubarb at this time of the year is crazy good.  It’s a great little pick-me-up intermezzo – a spring fling.”

Canoe - Taste Quebec
Gaspésie Monkfish - Montréal Smoked Meat, Sauerkraut, Bacon, Spicy Carrot Ginger Purée

“When I think of Québec, I think of meat.  This is a meaty fish dish. The monkfish is wrapped in prosciutto; pork is such a big part of Québec’s food culture. We couldn’t do a menu without Montréal smoked meat, which we’ve made in-house along with some sauerkraut.”

Canoe - Taste Quebec
Chantecler Chicken Poutine - Cider Braised Navet, Cheese Curd Stuffed Leg, Pommes Maxim & Smoked Mustard

“We had to do poutine.  The Chantecler chicken is bred in Québec, which is amazing because this heritage chicken is native to Canada and it comes from Québec. The turnips are braised in apple cider, which is also popular in Québec.  The Pommes Maxim is like a layered potato crispy – two layers with mashed potatoes, cheese curds and smoked mustard gravy.  It’s like a French fry – goeey and chewy on the inside and crispy on the outside.”

Canoe - Taste Quebec
Sugar Pie Filling - Crispy Rye Berries, Coffee Foam & Chestnut Purée 

“We didn’t want our take on a sugar pie to be too sweet, because of the maple taffy that finishes the dinner.  Chef Robert took the filling of classic sugar pie, toned it down and paired with classic Québec flavours using rye berries, coffee foam, crème fraiche turnovers and almond cake.”

Tire sur la Neige

“At this time of the year, maple syrup will start running soon.  Classic cabane à sucre – it’s interactive and fun.”

Posted by Cindy | Post A Comment |

The Noma Intern: René Returns

03/11/2014 | 15:13 PM
PREVIOUS INSTALLMENT - The Noma Intern: Hello from København!

It's the middle of one of the most important services since Christmas break.

Chef Ren
é turns to me and looks me dead in the eyes as I'm passing by him and flatly asks, "Chef, you have control of the grill, yes?"

I know that deep down inside, I barely have control because of the intensity and extra courses coming off my station.  But I know I've got this. I have to and calmly respond with, "Yes, Chef!"

The Noma Intern
Chef Rene returns

Hello from Copenhagen!

Week six was one of, or was the most intense week I've ever seen at any restaurant in my life.

For now, I’m Noma’s official "BBQ" chef. What makes me suited for this weather and intense, dirty, mega-hot position? Chef Dan says I'm Canadian and not a skinny toothpick like the others. Sounds good.

The Noma Intern

Working on the grill means standing outside in Copenhagen’s winter weather – rain, wind (we are right on the river) and snow (seldom). It means working with the hottest grill I've ever seen – it cooks the skin on your hand in two seconds flat, so move fast! It means being covered in charcoal dust most of the day. Every day, people say I look like a chimney sweeper. It also means that six dishes, at least partially, come off of my station - that's a lot of pressure. Sea Urchin Toast (I do toast), the ever famous Charred Leek (I do the vessel and separately during service, cook the inside), Grilled Onions with Ants, Pike Head with Kelp, Wild Duck, and Turbot with Spring Onions (I do onion).

- Rise and shine.
- At work.
- Light oak charcoal grills start to heat up. Back to Boy Scouts – kindling cardboard and old-fashion fanning the flames.
- Cook toast on a grill pan over the fire, very carefully and very, very fast.
- Get fires ripping hot to start the charred leek vessels. Clean up.
- Starting cooking charred leeks - the fire is so intense and the heat is so extreme.
- Starting cutting open charred leeks, very carefully!!
- Staff lunch, ya, like I've got time! No!
- Meeting - I don't go.  Not possible.
- Deliver leeks into service kitchen.
- Get fires ripping hot again. This is done with more oak charcoal and mixing hot coal into it.
- Service begins. Not being ready isn’t an option.
- First leek is fired. I carefully char the inside of the leek, toss in a barley koji soy, re-grill, toss in porcini mushroom oil and run into kitchen. This is repeated for every order of leeks.
- It gets going.

The Noma Intern
The grilled leeks - it's hot!

Leeks firing. Charred onions.  I have to keep rocking but they haven’t been called yet, so I just have to keep an eye open and never fall behind. Pike heads are called and they have to be cooked over the hottest of coals - ones that are the colour of the sun.

The Noma Intern
Pike heads and leek cores

Char the pike heads covered in kelp sediment but DO NOT burn them. Amongst all this, the private dining room often has a function and I can hear the sous chef’s calls from the window above. After pike heads, I have a period for cleaning up before rolling into wild duck and spring onions for the turbot. Duck is like pike; the heat has to be mega-intense. It's a breast of wild duck, sous vide for 13 minutes at 56 degrees; then the skin is grilled until it’s super crisp.

As soon as service finishes, we wash up and start again for dinner service.

This past Saturday, we had one of the most important judges from the World’s 50 Best Restaurants dining with us and a film crew filming in kitchen for an upcoming movie about René Redzepi.

Right from the second that we started, you could feel the pressure in the air.



Lunch service was very rough. Chef was raving mad. Lunch crashed. People running on fumes; tension was through the roof. By the end of lunch, there had been at least three screaming matches outside and Chef Dan exploded at least twice. If tonight went like this, Chef René would do unmentionable things. We were all rallied; we all had to focus.

By late afternoon, all of us were in the service kitchen, smashing back food as fast as possible for dinner.

The Noma Intern

I was running on time, but just. I was shaking, cutting and handling the VIP leeks like they were new born children. Just as I finished up the leek vessels, a chef de partie walked up to me, got real close and cooly stated, "If you fuck up tonight, I'll be fired and if that happens, I promise it won't end well for you, Arron."  No pressure, eh?!

Early evening - Chef René can be seen pacing in the service kitchen, eyes scanning all the stations, tapping the counter with his pen rapidly. He remains in silence until 6:45pm - first guests are greeted.  6:46pm – the first call is in. I hear "ya!" from entire kitchen. Game time.

Service is moving at a very good pace. They have spaced tables very well on purpose. Then the private dining group of 20 is fired. I start getting very busy - fires are raging hot, but I must work through the pain and push faster!  The extra courses for the VIP group are fired for me. I'm moving as fast as possible, sprinting in kitchen at every drop off. That's when Chef René turned to me and posed the question that felt like it hung in the air for an eternity. I responded with "Yes, Chef!" and bam, the heat is on even more.

The Noma Intern Cooking a leg of lamb for a new dish!

We get through service. The film crew loved the excitement, as they worked in the comers of kitchen during this service. It went beautifully. By 10pm, Chef Dan had a relieved smile – proud, you could even say. Moments later, I enter the kitchen and at the same time, Chefs René and Dan are confronted with the dining room manager. You can feel electricity in air.

He looks at René and says, "Last time, he was here when we were #1 in world and he said it was the best meal ever. Tonight, he says it's the best meal he's ever had." Smiles all around.

The judge stays for the Saturday night projects and watches in amazement.  After long hours, cooks are still pushing barriers just for the pleasure of culinary love. Halfway through, he interrupts and says he thinks that Noma is pushing barriers in completely new ways.

Project is over. Chef dismisses us, but the judge wants to add one more thing. He says, "All night, I've heard you respond with YA. Can you give me a big loud ya after I say something?"


"Alright, you are all amazing, keep pushing.  Now fuck off!!"


Time for a cold Calsberg!

Noma inspires. It has a culture.

Noma is iconic.

Arron Carley, The Noma Intern, 2014

The next installment of the Noma Intern - Time and Place. - C.L.

Posted by Arron Carley | Post A Comment |

Mardi Gras at Biff's Bistro

03/05/2014 | 11:21 AM
Mardi Gras at Biff's Bistro

Last night, the team at Biff's Bistro held a special sold-out dinner event to celebrate Mardi Gras!  With an inspired menu created by Chef Amanda Ray and more than 14 ounces of paired cocktails, we let the good times roll. 

A few highlights from the evening!

Chef Amanda's menu notes

Mardi Gras at Biff's Bistro
Oyster Po' Boys and Natchitoches Meat Pies

Mardi Gras at Biff's Bistro
Blackened Catfish with red beans & rice Shrimp & Okra Hush Puppies

Mardi Gras at Biff's Bistro
Chefs Amanda Ray and Paul Brans hamming it up for the camera

Mardi Gras at Biff's Bistro
Sous Chefs Paul Senecal and Patrick Forest plating the first course

Mardi Gras at Biff's Bistro
Chicken & Andouille Jambalaya with Tasso

Mardi Gras at Biff's Bistro
Crêpes Bananas Foster

Posted by Cindy | Post A Comment |

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