Leave it to Chef John Horne
) to push the envelope and serve crunchy fried critters at one of the city’s most buzzed about food events.
The special occasion was Heroes vs. Villains, a comic book themed celebration of food. Organized and hosted by Afrim Pristine of Cheese Boutique
, the event was more than a labour of love. Afrim was bringing together his two greatest passions – food and comic books.
For this formidable task, Afrim called upon his super friends, 11 of the city’s top chefs, who were chosen to represent a hero or villain with their astounding cooking powers. “We’re all kids at heart – we grew up with comics and these are amazing chefs,” said Afrim.
Over 200 enthusiastic guests, largely comprised of industry folks and loyal customers, received the red carpet treatment. Hopping from one food station to another while wandering through the store was a euphoric experience for any gourmand.
Our very own Chef John was in his spidey-suit, complete with live tarantulas on display, serving up spider-appropriate crickets. Now, I’m not particularly fond of insects and certainly not eating them. But where else would I have an opportunity to eat a cricket?
In line with his dedication to using all local ingredients in his cuisine at Canoe, Chef John sourced crickets from New Millennium Farms, an edible insect farm in Ontario. The crickets were fried with a house-made Montreal steak spice, ‘caught’ in a delicate sugar-fennel spider web that sat atop a tall glass of ‘radioactive’ corn soup.
Donning his most prized possession, a Batman cape that he’s had since he was six years old, Afrim explained his why the event meant so much to him, “Comics are a boyhood passion of mine – it’s the little things that bring a smile to my face. This was a dream for me and the chefs made my dream come true. I’ll never forget that night.”
And the guests won’t forget it either. I ate some crickets. I went home smelling like cheese. It was a pretty terrific night.
Pinxto of 60 day ribeye, American blue cheese, mushroom, boquerone (Bar Isabel) by Chef Grant Van Gameren / Captain America
Bufala mozzarella, crushed heirloom tomato, white balsamic sorbet (The Harbord Room) by Chef Cory Vitiello / The Joker
Australian black truffle & ricotta tortellini (Splendido) by Chef Victor Barry / The Hulk
Farmhouse Ploughman Platter (Farmhouse Tavern) by Chef Tom Wade / The Flash
Cured Arctic char, horseradish, dillweed crème fraiche (Hopgood Foodliner’s) by Chef Geoff Hopgood / Magneto
Chef Geoff Hopgood / Magneto and Chef Tom Wade / The Flash
Marinated summer artichokes, goat yogurt, 100 year old balsamic (Royal Canadian Yacht Club) by Chef Jonathan Goodyear / Wolverine
Live Gaspé scallops, caviar, Prosecco shooter (Buca) by Chef Rob Gentile / Iron Man
Roasted whole lamb, Green Goblin salsa verde (Campagnolo) by Chef Craig Harding / Green Goblin
Selection of Gourmadises (Nadège Patisserie) by Chef Nourian Nadège / Catwoman
Kryptonite Snow Crab Vichyssoise (Grand Colette Café) by Chef Michael Steh / Superman
Afrim Pristine / Batman
We love the excitement that TIFF brings and this year, it's better than ever.
From August 28th to September 12th, each of our participating restaurants will be pouring a unique TIFF-inspired cocktail. Follow us @OliverBonacini and tweet
a photo of your cocktail with #ToastofTIFF14
for a chance to enjoy one of two exclusive evenings as our guest:
You and a guest will enjoy dinner for two at Canoe
at the chef’s rail, personally prepared by Executive Chef John Horne
. Sip on our cocktail "The King's Peach" as you watch the kitchen team in action. Savour Chef Horne’s newest multi-course creation, Taste 60th Parallel, featuring ingredients from the Canadian North. Next, it’s time to head to Roy Thomson Hall to view the world premiere of the opening night film, The Judge. Wrap up the evening at the biggest bash in town, the Festival Opening Night Party, at Malaparte
at the TIFF Bell Lightbox – the centre of all the action.
Close the Festival with an exclusive O&B experience. You and a guest will indulge in inspired French bistro fare by Chef Amanda Ray
at Biff’s Bistro
. Start with a toast with "The French Connection" cocktail before savouring Chef Amanda Ray’s cuisine. Allons-y! You’re off to Roy Thomson Hall to be transported to Versailles in the closing night film, A Little Chaos. Après, you move to Arcadian
for the Closing Night Party, with food by O&B Events
Here are all the delicious cocktails. Time to have a few!
Bannock - The Barberryan Invasions
Olmeca Tequila, Grand Marnier, Bar Lime, Strawberry Basil Juice, Muddled Strawberry
Biff's Bistro - The French Connection
Aperol, Beefeater Gin, Amaro Montenegro, Topped with Perrier-Jouët
Canoe - The King's Peach
Wiser's Legacy Whisky, Peach, Nectarine, Apricot & Cherry Bark, Vanilla Bitters
Canteen - Mr. Pink
Campo Viejo Rioja Rosé, Limoncello, Muddled Mint, Lemon, Lime, Topped with Soda
Jump - Maps to the Bars
Lot No. 40 Whisky, Lemon, Simple Syrup, Topped with Biff's Juicy Red
Luma - The Oxford Riot
Beefeater 24 Gin, Fresh Apple Juice, Lemon Verbena, Cucumber, Ginger Bitters
O&B Yonge & Front - Chariots & Fire
Absolut Vodka, St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur, Lillet Blanc, Vanilla, Lime, Chili
At O&B we love our mac and cheese. While it might seem like the most traditional of dishes, many of our restaurants offer their own unique spin on this common comfort food. At Canteen
, Chef Michael Hay
uses garganelli noodles, Parmesan, local cheese curds and double-smoked bacon lardons. Over at Bannock
, we add a little green goodness to the dish with peas, broccoli and mustard greens.
This week I joined Sous Chef Vida Gavia in the O&B Bayview Village
kitchen so she could teach me their twist on the classic recipe.
She begins by pouring her mac sauce (recipe below) into a saucepan on medium-high heat. Sous Chef Omar typically makes 80 litres of this sauce at least twice a week! Since it's essentially a Béchamel sauce, the restaurant also uses it on the Cheesy Pizza and Smoky Pizza, as well as a truffled version for the Poached Eggs & Ontario Asparagus served during weekend brunch.
Once the mac sauce begins to bubble, Chef Vida pours in a bit of chicken stock to loosen it up. She then adds three different blends of cheese: mozzarella, Niagara Gold and Swiss, as well as cheese curds - all sourced from Cheese Boutique
. When it comes to this recipe, there's no skimping on the cheese!
An older version of Bayview's mac and cheese opted for Parmesan, Balderson cheddar and goat cheese. But there's something about the current cheese combination that just seems to work perfectly.
"The Niagara Gold is a little bit nutty in taste," says Chef Vida. "And the cheese curds give that gooey texture to the dish."
After folding in the cheese, she brings it all to a boil, careful not to overboil in order to avoid thickening the cream too much. She then adds green peas and the pre-blanched macaroni noodles.
After a quick toss and seasoning of salt to taste, the mac and cheese is ready to be poured out into a personal-sized casserole dish. The last step is to dust the top with crushed Goldfish crackers (the cheddar flavour, since obviously there's no such thing as too much cheese) before popping it under the broiler for a quick 10-20 seconds - just until the top is golden brown.
"The Goldfish aren't just a gimmick - the kids love it and they taste good too!" insists Chef de Cuisine Steven Kwon
, who loves sneaking a bite or two of his kid's mac and cheese whenever they order it.
The final product is a deliciously creamy, oozy mac and cheese perfect for the kids and the young at heart. One of the restaurant's top-sellers, guests can choose to goose theirs up with double-smoked bacon, or even smoked salmon during weekend brunch. On Saturday nights, look out for baked lobster mac and cheese as part of the Surf & Turf dinner special. The kitchen is also happy to offer a gluten-free version of the dish, with a flour-free mac sauce made-to-order.
While Chef Steven will sometimes play around with the details of the mac and cheese recipe with Corporate Executive Chef Anthony Walsh
, he's confident the dish is immune from ever being dropped from the menu. It's as indispensable as the O&B Mushroom Soup.
Whether you choose to recreate our mac and cheese at home, or join us in the restaurant for the occasional indulgence, we hope this recipe evokes all the comforting sentiments the kid in all of us has grown to appreciate.
Mac & Cheese Recipe (Serves 4-6)
Mac Sauce Ingredients
Mac and Cheese Ingredients
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 stalks celery
- 1/2 cup onion, sliced
- 2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
- 1 tsp. white pepper
- 1.5 tsp. salt
- 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1L 35% cream
- 0.8L 1% milk
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 cup chicken stock
- 8 cups macaroni noodles, cooked
- 1/4 cup cheese curds
- 1/4 cup grated cheese
- 1/3 cup peas, cooked
- 1 tbsp. Goldfish cracker crumbs
- In a pot, melt butter. Add onions, celery, bay leaf, nutmeg, salt and pepper.
- Sweat until completely cooked. Add flour and cook the roux. Slowly add the cream, while working the roux. Add all of the cream and milk. Add the chicken stock.
- Add Dijon and continue stirring constantly until all the flour is well cooked out.
- Whisk in the Parmesan and cook out until the sauce is completely smooth. Adjust seasoning to taste.
- Add cooked macaroni noodles, cooked peas, cheese curds, and grated cheese to the sauce.
- Sprinkle Goldfish crumbs and broil.
One of the best things about summer is sipping cocktails on a patio. With the hottest days of summer upon us, here's the full selection of summer cocktails from O&B Yonge & Front
to quench your thirst.
Dark & Stormy: made with Gosling’s dark rum, housemade balsamic, citrus shrub, finished with ginger beer.
Moroccan Aviation - Beefeater gin infused with tangerine jam, Maraschino Originale Luxardo, Crème Yvette and fresh lemon, shaken with housemade Moroccan bitters.
Our Saffron Caesar is unlike any other - saffron and basil-infused gin, horseradish-infused vodka, perfectly married with habanero and cilantro-infused BBQ sauce, fresh cucumber and salt bitters.
Strawberry Basil Margarita - perfect for summer. Olmeca tequila is shaken with strawberry basil syrup, scented with salt bitters and garnished with a fried basil leaf.
Ed's Old Fashioned - housemade brown butter bourbon, cut with spiced orange syrup and house-spiced orange bitters, finished with orange zest.
She'll Make You Blush - the drink, that is. Lamb’s spiced rum and Maraschino Originale Luxardo shaken with housemade lemon chili shrub, fresh lime, pineapple juice and grenadine.
The Spooner - Beefeater gin and St-Germain muddled with fresh kumquats, topped with lemon tonic and fresh thyme.
Greyhound Smash - Absolut vodka, smashed grapefruit, agave syrup and lime, garnished with fresh mint.
Malibu Melon Mojito - Malibu rum shaken with fresh lime and crushed watermelon, wrapped with mint and cane sugar, topped with soda water.
Rosemary Gimlet - Beefeater gin shaken with citrus and rosemary cordial, finished with a fresh sprig of rosemary.
Southern Hemisphere - Olmeca tequila shaken with fresh lime, crushed watermelon and spiked with chili honey syrup, garnished with tarragon.
O&B Summer Sangria - Absolut Hibiskus vodka with O&B blossom syrup, freshened with lemon juice and white cranberry juice, topped with Jacob’s Creek Moscato, garnished with sliced lemons and grapes.
Apricot's Pimm's Cup - Beefeater gin, apricot brandy and Pimm’s with apricot juice, pineapple juice and agave syrup, topped with Jacob’s Creek Moscato and garnished with sliced limes and a sprig of dill.
Who knew that Michael Hay
, O&B Canteen
’s Chef de Cuisine, was once a vegan?
At the time, he was living in Ottawa and running a vegan co-operative anarchist kitchen that cooked for students under a pay-what-you-can philosophy. He couldn’t have been more than 20-years-old.
“I just decided I would jump in the deep end and make myself a vegan for x amount of time,” recalls Chef Michael. “I loved it.”
Truth be told, Chef Michael’s vegan lifestyle lasted just about four months –in other words, one university semester. He gave it all up for oysters when he found himself working at a French restaurant. Hey, who can blame him?
These days, Chef Michael will occasionally treat himself to a juicy steak or a seafood feast, most recently in the form of Taste Maritimes at Canoe
. But for the most part, he and his wife Laura still maintain a predominantly vegetarian lifestyle when they cook at home, drawing inspiration from Indian, Korean and Chinese cooking, as well as a myriad of food blogs.
But Chef Michael's favourite way to come up with new recipes to use both at home and at Canteen is pretty simple.
“I go to the market, I buy a load of stuff and come home and decide what I’m going to do with it,” he says. “If you just have good, fresh ingredients and you’re hungry, and you care enough about yourself and other people to want to nourish them, then it’s pretty simple.”
This past spring, during a casual nosh on dandelion greens fresh from St. Lawrence Market, Chef Michael began thinking about what other ingredients might work well together for a Dandelion Salad
on Canteen’s spring and summer menu
. Riffing on a traditional strawberry spinach salad, he decided to combine dandelion greens with fresh strawberries tossed in honey and black pepper to add both sweetness and heat. He pitched in red quinoa and sunflower seeds for a little bit of extra crunch. Finally, he opted for ricotta salata instead of a standard goat cheese to slightly elevate the dish.
“I love salads that have a ton of stuff in them. I don’t like getting a bowl of greens with a little sprinkling of two or three things,” says Chef Michael. “I want my salads to be like a slaw: chunky and full of texture.”
In the case of the Watermelon Salad
, Chef Michael was influenced by the classic watermelon and feta salad and came up with a way to make it his own. Instead of feta, he decided to use creamy avocado, radish, fresh mint and jalapeño to add a little heat. The result is a bright, refreshing and simple summertime dish.
Grilled Vegetable Focaccia with Corn Chowder
Looking for something between two slices of bread that’s still meat-free? Chef Michael’s Grilled Vegetable Focaccia
is a delicious and hearty dish that will boost your energy without giving you that midday food coma. Bursting with grilled marinated vegetables, this sandwich is made extra delicious with a roasted onion hummus and lots of feta. Paired with your choice of soup, salad or fries, Chef Michael suggests opting for a bowl of the Corn Chowder
with potato, coconut milk and fire-roasted corn.
The Forbidden Rice Bowl (Photo: @celineannmarie)
Another new veggie-friendly creation is The Forbidden Rice Bowl
with summer vegetables, shimeji mushrooms, avocado, poached egg and sunroot chips. Each mouthful offers a beautiful variety of flavours. This healthful dish is particularly popular at lunchtime or early on in the week when everyone is feeling a little bit guilty about what they ate over the weekend.
Raw Vegan Pad Thai
Guests have also been loving Chef Michael’s Raw Vegan Pad Thai
, which combines root vegetable noodles with Thai vinaigrette, peanuts, Thai basil and red chilies. This dish is vegan and
gluten-free, to boot!
To his credit, Chef Michael is constantly coming up with creative ways to nourish our guests without the help of gluten. In fact, he gave up eating gluten for a month to put himself in the mindset of our gluten-free guests. Consequently, when guests come into the restaurant and ask about gluten-free options, servers are not scrambling to the kitchen to find out what accommodations can be made. There are a dozen or so dishes on the current menu that are inherently gluten-free, and another handful that can be easily modified to become gluten-free.
As fall creeps up around the corner, Chef Michael is already conceptualizing a variety of vegetarian dishes suitable for the cold weather. Expect to see a little bit more a spice, stews and dishes that are baked. A veggie burger based in chickpeas and flaxseed is in the works, along with a beet salad that incorporates Mexican spices and chocolate.
With so many delicious-sounding options on the horizon, we couldn’t be more excited to go meatless.