On Thursday, August 27th, Alice and five of her friends were whisked away for the trip of a lifetime! Alice was the lucky winner of the O&B Patio Hops
contest, and the Grand Prize was a trip for six to Muskoka, featuring a two-night stay at Windermere House
on Lake Rosseau, a fireside dinner cooked by O&B Corporate Executive Chef Anthony Walsh
, and a tour of Muskoka Brewery
with brewmaster Gary Matthews.
"Windermere House is a beautiful destination that really makes you appreciate the picturesque scenery Muskoka has to offer," said Alice. "It truly felt like a five-star experience!"
To kick off the weekend in true Muskoka fashion, Alice and her friends were treated to an intimate fireside dinner personally prepared by Chef Anthony Walsh and his team, including Executive Chef Jamie Meireles
and Chef de Cuisine Rommel Requiestas. From East Coast cheddar oysters with crab butter hot off the grill to charred corn pozole, the menu presented an array of inspired ingredients and flavours - an unexpected twist on your typical Muskoka BBQ.
"The fireside dinner with Chef Anthony Walsh was definitely a once in a lifetime experience that we will always remember," recalls Alice.
The next morning, Alice and her friends enjoyed a buffet breakfast at Windermere House before heading off for their private Muskoka Brewery tour, led by brewmaster Gary Matthews and complete with tastings, of course! After the tour, the group grabbed a bite at the Old Station Restaurant in Bracebridge, joined by Muskoka Brewery founder and president Gary McMullen, who regaled them with stories of the brewery's past.
"The Muskoka Brewery tour was not only informative but also tons of fun!" says Alice. "Having lunch with Gary McMullen and the Muskoka Brewery family was an added bonus."
To cap off the weekend in style, the group indulged in a multi-course dinner at the Rosseau Grill. Dishes like asparagus fries, mushroom garganelli, chicken & waffles, and rack of lamb were complemented by Muskoka Brewery beers. At the end of the evening, Chef Rommel sent out a surprise dessert: s'more pudding, made with Muskoka Detour session ale! It was the sweetest ending to a perfect weekend, indeed.
"We had such a wonderful time," says Alice. "Everywhere we went the staff treated us like family."
Congratulations to Alice, and thank you to everyone who participated in #OBPatioHops this summer. Cheers!
Eight of our chefs at O&B, winners of an internal contest, were whisked away to NYC for three days of non-stop eating. Now that they've had a few days to recover, here are their reflections on their experiences.
At the end of the day, these experiences have a wide range of effect on the chefs. They promote the most important thing in our business, hands down…and that is inspiration - from new tastes to combinations, beverage execution to server uniforms, speed of service to detailed design. When great chefs are exposed to these operations, their resourceful gene comes to the forefront, and we all want to somehow expose others to the great experiences we have felt.
In addition to that, it really promotes a sense conviction and validation - a bit of a measuring stick, if you will. Seeing that we can go toe to toe with the Marios or Aprils of the world really solidifies our commitment to always push and search for inspiration in food... and of course in people.
NYC! This was one of the best trips of my life. From beginning to end, it was full of action and of course, food. I am still recovering from all that I ate - I may never be hungry again! I am endlessly grateful for being a part of this dining trip. So much inspiration came from Gramercy Tavern - a definite highlight for me. I was also very impressed by all the amazing dining rooms - the lengths they go for perfection is unmeasurable.
Due to commitments back at the restaurant, I could only make it for one day and my waistline thanks me. On that day we ate at Ivan Ramen, delicious Shake Shack (a great fast food burger - what I imagine McDonald's tasted like in the 60's), Dirty French and Nomad. Dirty French was amazing - a great concept that was executed perfectly.
NYC. What can you say? A hell of a lot. Eight chefs and 14 restaurants (give or take). I can't speak for the others but I gained at least 5lbs on the trip, and I'm still not hungry.
We gained inspiration for new menu items, ideas for flavour pairings, cool ways to plate and how to create dishes within a concept, like Dirty French and Carbone. We also learned that as chefs, we are like minded and equally ambitious. We saw great restaurant designs and compared our emotional service to what we experienced in the Big Apple.
It's great that we were able to learn, compare what we’re doing with other cities and see culinary trends for inspiration. I won't forget this trip and I hope I get to do another one!
I have never eaten that much amazing food in my life in such a short time. Bouncing around NYC with a terrific group of people really grounded me.
One of my all-time favourite meals was at Carbone. I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun around the table, and I was so full, I almost passed out. The Captain and server were so excited to have us experience their restaurant – they were truly giving us a gift.
All of the restaurants we went to were focused on the quality of the ingredients - everything was top shelf. At O&B, we’re so lucky to have so much autonomy with the menus we create. What we do on a day-to-day basis is strive to make people happy. It’s great to be in a company that expects us to serve the best and not compromise.
Gramercy Tavern sets the bar for casual dining and has the best chicken dish in NYC! Dirty French is staying DIRTY and I loved it...very inventive and fun. Carbone was both a time capsule and theatre with fun food and a great atmosphere.
#OBDoesNYC was a trip of a lifetime. Eight chefs, three days, 12 restaurants and many food & drink experiences in between. The trip was highlighted by the modern luxe of Nomad, perfect professionalism of Gramercy Tavern and old school comfort of Carbone.
My first visit to the Big Apple.
We landed in a tiny airport outside of NYC. All of the chefs were excited and tired at the same time. Most of us worked the night before to set our kitchens and sous chefs up for success before we left for the three day glutton-fest.
First stop - Pret a Manger, a sandwich chain that prides itself in making all the sandwiches in house and on the same day. Any leftovers go to shelters. Pretty cool.
Everything in NYC was big - both old and modern at the same time, with lots of character.
Eataly – wow, this place was enormous! They had anything your food cravings desired – a bakery with a wood burning oven, cheese, seafood, fresh pasta, butcher shop, produce and more. They even washed and prepped the vegetables you purchased at the store to whatever cuts you needed to prepare dinner.
10am - let the eating begin! Shake Shack – right in the middle of Manhattan, a tiny shack in a park presses out hundreds of burgers. Really good burgers. AND they serve beer!
This is how our NYC food adventure began. Over the next couple of days we conquered Dirty French, Ivan Ramen, Nomad, Balthazar, Gramercy Tavern, Dominique Ansel Bakery (Cronuts!), M.Wells Steakhouse (t-bone steaks!), Spotted Pig, a magnificent and most memorable lunch at Carbone and pre-flight snacks at Lupolo.
Every single restaurant was excellent, each with its own cool identity. Our server at Carbone had so much charisma - Mike Hay fell in love.
Good food was natural and a big part of the lifestyle in NYC. Food trucks were on every corner; restaurants were on every block. People loved to eat.
During our epic lunch at Carbone (the lunch that made all chefs throw in the towel - I have never seen Chef Walsh look so defeated), a table next to us, three businessmen, ordered the same lunch that we had. There was a single diner in the corner with a big bowl of pasta, one huge meatball and a side of truffled corn. A table of six behind us, ordered for about 5 minutes! Wow, these New Yorkers can eat.
This trip, I will never forget.
We're at the peak of produce heaven in Ontario.
One of my favourite things about summer is the incredible bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables. I love strolling through farmer's markets and seeing the bright colours of the season in the beautiful local ingredients. Naturally, I imagine all the endless possibilities of what I could cook and my excitement turns wistful for a garden of my own. Alas, such is the life of a Toronto urbanite.
Executive Chef John Horne
and Chef de Cuisine Coulson Armstrong
were similarly inspired when they created Taste 174km
, the latest tasting menu at Canoe
. 174km references the furthest distance the ingredients from the tasting menu are sourced from. "I wanted to create a tasting menu with the best of Ontario ingredients, so we called all the farms we could and asked them what their best ingredients were. From there, we started to create the menu," said Chef John.
Here's a look at the vibrant Taste 174km dishes and what Chef John had to say about each of them.
chilled corn soup - cornbread, queso fresco, soy oil + crispy pancetta: "We wanted to make a cold soup because the weather has been so hot. Corn is at its best right now."
artichokes + onions - fried artichokes, variations of onions + organic egg: "Artichokes and onions were always the last two things farmers mentioned when we asked them what they had. Because they were always such a second thought for farmers, I wanted to take ingredients that were being so overlooked and highlight them. The onion is done seven different ways and the artichoke is done three different ways. This was by far, the most conceptual dish we came up with - the amount of lists we had was insane."
great lakes walleye - summer squash, brown butter pipérade + Alliston potato: "I learned how to make pipérade in the south of France and everything in it is in season right now. For the potatoes, I wanted to make an elevated version of shore lunch potatoes. In northern Ontario, shore lunch is a tradition when you go fishing. We decided to shape the shore lunch potatoes into gnocchi. The summer squash is from Tamarack Farm."
pasture raised pork - spiced peaches, Swiss chard, verjus + bacon hominy croquette: "The pork is from Grandview Farms and is paired with summer spiced Niagara peaches. We wanted to use a grain for the croquettes so we went with hominy, which is starchy and holds firmly."
everbearing strawberry - Hewitt’s Dairy yoghurt bavaroise, vanilla chiffon, mint + yuzu: "You can call this Canoe's version of strawberry shortcake. We use everbearing strawberries, which grow from the beginning of summer to the end of frost."
- there is no other cookware that inspires as much excitement, whether you're a home cook or a professional chef. I know firsthand because I'm one of those people who oooohs and ahhhhs at the sight of Le Creuset pots. Their bright, bold colours and beautiful glazing get me a little giddy as I start to imagine all the incredible dishes I'd cook.
This past Monday, Le Creuset celebrated its 90th anniversary with an exclusive bash at Malaparte
. Guests were treated to a refreshing signature cocktail, Vintage Flame, so aptly named to commemorate Le Creuset's first colour of molten cast iron.
Our friends from Hooked
were on hand to serve freshly shucked oysters as everyone sipped, nibbled and mingled during the reception.
In Malaparte's main room, Canada's finest chefs were on hand to serve hungry guests, who wandered from station to station, while interacting with the chefs.
O&B Corporate Executive Chef Anthony Walsh
's Chef de Cuisine Michael Wilson
and the team from Luma served a unique and so very Canadian dish - Fogo Island Capelin & Crab with kedgeree molasses, sweet rice and dulse spice.
Chef Connie DeSousa from Calgary's CHARCUT
turned heads (no pun intended) with her signature Pig's Head Mortadella and hand cranked meat slicer (thanks Chef Rocco Agostino). The delicate pork was mixed with pistachios and truffles, stuffed inside a hollowed out pig's head, then shaved so paper thin, it melted in your mouth.
Chef Massimo Capra
simmered his comforting Tuscan-style Chicken Cacciatore until it was fall-off-the-bone tender.
Chef David Hawksworth from Vancouver's Hawksworth Restaurant
served a refreshing and seasonal bite of Summer Tomato with prosciutto, burrata, fermented chili on toast.
Chefs Michael Caballo and Tobey Nemeth of Edulis
brought a classic French picnic in the country to life with pâté, herring à l'huile, Dijonnaise potatoes and pickles.
Chef Dale MacKay and Christopher Cho came all the way from my hometown, Saskatoon, to represent Ayden Kitchen and Bar
. The duo served a decadent Saskatchewan Pork Belly with kimchi, turnip purée, kaffir lime and cilantro.
It is always nice to see Chef Jason Bangerter of Langdon Hall
, who served his Taste of Terroir dish - a pretty plate of burnt garden onion, black walnut, leaves, flowers and a quenelle of cider vinegar sorbet.
Chef Andrew Ellerby of The McEwan Group
presented Parker House Rolls with BBQ beef brisket, guacamole, dill coleslaw. They looked adorable in the Le Creuset dishes.
By night's end, it was time to cut the cake - shaped like the iconic vintage Le Creuset pot and so life-like that it was hard to imagine eating it. But we did - because there's always room for cake.
Happy 90th, Le Creuset!
One of my favourite things about summer is enjoying all the incredible locally grown fruits and vegetables the season has to offer. Chef de Cuisine Motonobu Nishimura
has certainly brought out the best of summer in these new summer dishes at Auberge du Pommier
. Here are a few shots from our photo shoot.
Tomates - Ontario heirloom tomato, olive oil, Monforte sheep’s milk cheese
Méli-Mélo d’Été - New Farm greens & sprouts, shaved summer squash, nasturtium, romanesco
Risotto - Northern Woods mushroom fricassée, fromage Comté, sweet corn, porcini jus
Saumon - grilled B.C. salmon, dried olive & caper tapenade, artichokes à la Grecque, basil, lemon emulsion
Boeuf - 48 day dry-aged rib eye, grilled zucchini, bone marrow & herb crusted potatoes, rosemary jus
Fraise - strawberry savarin, poached strawberries, basil parfait, vanilla Chantilly