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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 |

PREVIOUS INSTALLMENT - The Noma Intern: Hello from Noma!

The Noma Intern

Hello From København!

Strandgade 93
1401 København

Working at Noma as an intern or stagier involves time consuming tasks every single day - that's a guarantee. It's what it takes to make a world class restaurant run.  In order to serve 20-24 courses per guest, 90 guests per day, 1800-2200 dishes per day, it takes a lot.

You can grind it out with your head down OR you can grind it out, focused but showing interest, pushing a little harder, asking the questions no one is asking and above all, getting involved whenever possible. That is exactly what I've done.

The Noma Intern
Picking leeks at the Noma farm!

After only a couple weeks into my internship, I caught wind of a trip to the Noma farm and asked the kitchen coordinator, Leo, if he needed volunteers.  A picking, we shall go!  There is a farm about an hour away from Noma, outside of Copenhagen, run by a gentleman named Søren. His farm isn't quite what you would expect – it doesn’t look pristine; it's old school and natural – where you'd want your food to come from. We arrived to pick leeks for Noma’s famous grilled leek dish with trout roe emulsion. It was cold; the ground was frozen and had no intention of yielding leeks to us. For two hours, the five of us (Canadian, American, Portugese, Spanish, Bulgarian – from all around the world) pried leeks from the frozen landscape. 

At one point, I looked up and saw a flock of birds flying by – they weren’t geese, but I had a feeling of being home in a farm on the outskirts of Toronto.  I miss Canada.

The Noma Intern
Trying to get Georgi's boots off after leeks!

Then the fun began with a blizzard.  Unfortunately you can't just pack up and call it a day, because we needed those leeks!  We pushed into the blizzard and got seven different kinds of cabbage, which is all that the farm had left to offer.  After we finished with our cabbage, we packed up and headed back.  Exiting the farm, I surveyed the empty fields, wondering what it will look like next time the Noma team returns in the spring.

During my second week on Thursday, Chef Dan asked to speak to me in the staff area. I can't even begin to tell you how scared I was. Once the four of us interns were in the staff area, Chef Dan said we would dining at Noma that night as guests.  He told us to get changed and to come through the front door. Whoa! I was in total shock. I was told that almost all interns get a lunch at Noma, but normally near the end of your time.  So, we got dressed in clothes that we were sure were nowhere nearly decent enough to dine at Noma in.  As we made our way around to the front of the building, everyone looked at each other. So much excitement, nervousness and great joy. Who goes first?  Well, I walked in first and was greeted by the entire kitchen team with Chef Dan at the front. It was a feeling I will never, ever forget. We had the entire menu paired with juice pairings - 24 courses in total.  Unbelievable.  It was like seeing the Toronto Symphony play - a careful balance of an amazing experience that was completely composed and executed flawlessly.

The Noma Intern
Making epic staff meals!!

At Noma, it is almost guaranteed you will have to make staff meal one of the weeks you’re there.  Usually, you’re paired up with someone of similar cultural background as an opportunity to show a staff of 70 what your country’s food is like! I had my week during the third week – the highlights were BBQ pork ribs, roasted root veg, garlic roasted potatoes, maple baked beans, salad, pickled onions and radish for the table, candied peanuts for the table and birch ginger ale! It was a smash hit!

The following week, one of the interns in charge of staff meal had a death in the family and was having trouble coping. Chef Sam, the previous chef de cuisine of Noma (who left to work at Faviken for a year before moving back to Noma in between planning a restaurant in Australia) approached me to jump in. I did and for the remainder of the week, helped execute another awesome week of staff meals.  I saw it as an opportunity to really push hard, hit the timelines perfect every day and make fantastic food.  I think it's paid off.

Tomorrow, I start on my new station, BBQ - the famous outdoor charcoal grill BBQ station.

Tomorrow, Chef René returns.

Hello to everyone at O&B from Noma.

Arron Carley, The Noma Intern, 2014

The next installment of the Noma Intern - René Returns. - C.L.

Posted by Arron Carley | Post A Comment |

The Noma Intern: Hello from Noma!

02/19/2014 | 15:45 PM
In The Noma Intern, our new blog series, one of our sous chefs, Arron Carley, takes us on his adventures while he stages at Noma for the next three months.  In his own words, here’s our Noma Intern. - C.L.

The Noma Intern

Hello from Copenhagen!

Noma: #1 restaurant in the world for three years in a row and currently #2 in the world with two Michelin stars.

There is a feeling at Noma that can't be reproduced, like you’re part of a movement in the culinary world - always striving to think outside the box, looking for new techniques and new creations.  There is an overwhelming feeling of striving to be the best - #1 in Denmark, #1 in Scandinavia, #1 in the world again and pushing for three Michelin stars. To be a part of a restaurant like this is a once in a lifetime experience and I am thrilled I pushed ahead with this.

Me on left, second in (photo courtesy of brendenbdarby (http://instagram.com/p/jFzpfbtUTf/)

Is working at Noma easy? NO! It's hard, hard work, long hours and extremely intense. In order to keep things feeling great we've got tunes blasting in the background, giving us the energy to push all day.  The chefs are great and driven individuals – no question goes unanswered and they always find time to explain anything you ask (there are a lot of questions to ask!)  The food is beautiful and there are many things I've never seen - a ton of very modern techniques!

The Noma Intern

The Noma Intern

There are four kitchens at Noma - test kitchen (off limits!), production kitchen, prep kitchen and the beauty – service kitchen. It's a magnificent kitchen with amazing equipment and this unique feeling - it runs like a perfectly composed musical piece. Everyone works in perfect unison with call backs to Chef from the entire kitchen at the same exact second – “YES!”  Everyone is focused on producing the best experience in the world.

Working at a top tier restaurant isn't for everyone. I've already seen three staigers leave and two others just never showed up again. You need to commit your mind and body to doing something like this and even then it's challenging. You have to know in every part of you that this is what you want - otherwise the challenges will outweigh the benefits. The knowledge you gain from staging at a restaurant like Noma will last you for the rest of your life and is easily worth three months of commitment. You miss your life, your friends, your coworkers and mostly your family - and on some days it's a lot.  But you've got to keep pushing; that's what drives me - my family and coworkers.

To everyone at O&B - hello from Noma!

Arron Carley, the Noma Intern, 2014

Our Noma Intern's next installment: Hello from København!  - C.L.

Posted by Arron Carley | Post A Comment |

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