Monday, September 29, 2014

Café Bourgeois at Farmers' and Artisans' Market at Western Fair

Café Bourgeois

Farmers' and Artisans' Market at Western Fair

Please see my updated Post on May 8, 2015

Farmers' and Artisans' Market at Western Fair
Saturdays 8 -3pm.,
519 775 9917

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Springs Restaurant on Springbank Drive - One of London, Ontario's Top Restaurants

The Springs on Springbank Drive - One of London Ontario's Top Restaurants


The smartly appointed Springs Restaurant, housed in a beautifully refurbished church consistently receives rave reviews. Chef Andrew Wolwowicz’s innovative menus, list dishes crafted from local, regional and quality seasonal ingredients. The gastronomic scope of Wolwowic's repertoire is influenced by a commitment to a steadfast philosophy that advances the economic, ecological and social values of our local culinary and agricultural communities

Local entrepreneurs and Wolwowicz's collaborators, Tim and Laura Owen wanted to integrate as much of the original church as they could into the new restaurant. Unfortunately, they learnt the church’s foundation was disintegrating. Instead they levelled the church except for the original front vestibule, and rebuilt the structure from the ground up using 6,000 of the existing yellow bricks and a slew of additional identical bricks from 2 houses that were being demolished on Riverside Drive.

During reconstruction a worker unearthed a time capsule in the northeast corner of the church almost 100 years to the day it had been buried. The windows are proportionally large, letting in light that floods the restaurant exquisitely. The dining room seats 70, the beautifully appointed patio 32 and the downstairs banquet room 40. The patio is an oasis unto itself.

A proponent of the open kitchen, Wolwowicz wanted to put a public face on the people behind the food. “You know it's a good party when you end up in the kitchen” says, Wolwowicz. In collaboration with the Owens, Wolwowicz was instrumental in helping to design every detail of the restaurant and kitchen to create a welcoming and accessible environment. There is an additional kitchen in the basement.

Wolwowicz has established himself as a prominent figure in London’s culinary community. Wolwowicz cooks at the full degree of his capability, with finely tuned instincts, skill, dedication, precision, creativity and passion. The Springs procure the finest locally grown products from farms specializing in sustainable agriculture, organic growing practices and ethically raised livestock.

At lunch, The Carnivore (one of the best sandwiches ever) consists of sous-vide pork cheeks combined with perfectly braised duck leg confit, creamy soft Riviere rouge cheese, skillet baked between rye bread, then, finished with a wild boar bacon & date demi and then, garnished with a sunny side up egg.

Wolwowicz’s culinary repertoire has included: luscious panko-crusted Crab Cakes made with flaky back fin and delicate lump crab meat, and accompanied with a spicy sweet chili sauce. The Wild Mushroom Tart with chorizo and caramelized shallots is otherworldly.

Delectable Duck Pierogies & Kung Fu Cabbage with shredded duck leg confit, sheep’s milk cheese, Yukon gold potatoes served with Kung Fu Riesling braised Wakefield cabbage and a pancetta cream reduction are the talk of the city.

Other memorable menu winners include: Pan-Spanked Chicken served in a cast-iron skillet then baked with a fruity extra virgin olive oil, lemon zest, pancetta and fresh aromatics and served with a saffron scented cauliflower puree; Cider-glazed Willowgrove Hills Farm’s Pork Tenderloin with an apple-mustard-maple velouté, green apple marmalade and parmesan potato dumplings; and Dijon Braised Rabbit with roasted pear arancini (panko crusted risotto balls).

The signature Teriyaki Prawn Penne is a menu staple, with jumbo prawns and forest mushrooms sautéed with a julienne of peppers and sweet onions tossed with a spicy sweet teriyaki cream sauce. Served mild, medium or yeow.

Wolwowicz regards Monforte Dairy’s artisanal sheep’s milk cheeses as “exceptional.” One of Chef’s preferences is Nica. Comparable to chèvre, it is amplified with lavender and fermented organic garlic flower tops. This delicious cheese show ups on both his Bruschetta Fajioli (white bean puree with seasoned tomatoes), and his Wildwood Greens Duck Salad (medium-rare, pan-roasted, melt- in- your mouth Magret of Duck with a medley of crisp seasonal greens, roasted beets, hemp seeds and a citrus-wolfberry vinaigrette). The Harrar Espresso and carved loin of  Crusted Venison served with a Jerusalem artichoke mash, chili & wild arugula greens finished with a dark chocolate pomegranate gastrique is to die for.

The restaurant has one of the best wine lists in the city

310 Springbank Drive; 519-657-1100

Monday, September 22, 2014

Tamarine by Quynh Nhi's Modern Vietnamese Cuisine

Championing Local, Feast ON, and the Farm to Table Movement in Ontario

Championing Local, Feast ON, and the Farm to Table Movement in Ontario


I am a dedicated reader of Sarah Elton, who tracks the culinary zeitgeist for CBC Radio’s Here and Now, and has written for The Globe and MailThe New York TimesMaclean’s and Her book, Locavore: From Farmers’ Fields to Rooftop Gardens, How Canadians are Changing the Way We Eat, was an award-winning treatise on the local food movement in Canada.

Elton’s book, Consumed: Food for a Finite Planet, champions the movement away from global food production and presents an intelligent and engaging argument for the sustainable food movement and alternatives to the factory farming model. She travels to rural farming villages in India and China, to France, and to Detroit’s inner-city to document the transformative nature of food. This is an up-to-the-minute account of the politics and issues surrounding sustainable food production, food security and locavorism that offers some solutions.

When I go out to eat, I am drawn to restaurants that support local farmers and food artisans by procuring and featuring local ingredients, products and VQA wines. Patronizing farm-to-table restaurants makes sense because it supports and sustains economic activity on a local level.

Ontario has developed the Local Food Strategy to help increase the profile, access to, and demand for local food. The foundations of this strategy are the Local Food Act, and the Local Food Fund. 

The Local Food Act is part of a strategy to build Ontarios economy and agri-food sector by making more local food available in educational institutions, cafeterias, grocery stores, markets and restaurants. Its objective is to improve local food literacy, and encourage the demand for homegrown food, by requiring the Ministry to establish aspirational local food goals and targets in consultation with stakeholders that have an interest. The Act creates a non-refundable tax credit of 25 per cent for farmers who donate their surplus harvest to eligible community food programs such as food banks. The policy also proclaims a Local Food Week that will take place annually, beginning the first Monday in June.A reference point for defining local was created with the passing of the 

Local Food Act and when the Ministry of Agriculture and Food committed funding to support the development of Ontario’s new Foodservice Designation Program (OFD) in partnership with the Ontario Culinary Alliance (OCTA). 

The program entitled Feast ON has similarities to the former Savour Ontario Dining program, which brought together diners and restaurants who share an interest in choosing and serving locally grown and produced foods in Ontario.

The new OFD Program is a criteria-based designation system, designed to increase the profile and demand for local food by identifying restaurateurs and foodservice operators dedicated to procuring and serving Ontario foods and beverages and whose particular attributes qualify their commitment to local food. Feast ON has engaged Community Connecters to support the objectives of the program by working with OCTA to gather data required to implement, manage and safeguard the OFD program criteria.

Feast ON recognizes foodservice businesses committed to showcasing Ontario grown and produced food and drink. Restaurant operations in all their incarnations — from food trucks to fine dining — sourcing a minimum of 25% Ontario food products and 25% beverage products will be certified with the Feast ON seal, assuring consumers an “authentic” taste of Ontario.

In addition to the Feast ON strategy, the ministry is determining how they can differentiate, classify and market Ontario’s terroir and authentic regional products. It seems a new provincial designation system will likely include a geographic indicator certification.

This type of certification is an assurance that products possess certain qualities, are made according to traditional methods, or possess particular characteristics, due to terroir or geographical origin. Ideally, certification would be similar to the European Union-adopted systems of geographical indications and traditional specialties, and our existing VQA structure of classification for wine.

The purpose of certification is to safeguard the character and reputation of authentic foods, promote rural and agricultural activity, help producers obtain the best price for their regional products, and eliminate the misrepresentation to consumers by imitators and counterfeit products.

Asiago, Feta, Fontina, Gorgonzola and Munster are the five new cheese names that that Canada has recently approved to identify for its geographic indications as part of a trade agreement between Canada and the European Union. Existing producers won’t be affected but any new cheese names introduced will need to be qualified with descriptors such as “style,” “kind” or “type.”

It seems to me that several of Ontario’s premier artisanal cheese makers have successfully differentiated their distinctive products with names based on each cheese’s unique characteristics, geographic, and cultural attributes by thinking in terms of terroir.  

In Italy, certification laws require that Parmigiano-Reggiano be made according to a specific recipe and production methods, and only within specific geographical regions. The Parmigiano-Reggiano Safeguarding Consorzio pursued a company in Mexico that blatantly named its product Parmigiano- Reggiano and affixed on it identical symbols and indications to those registered as collective marks by the Consorzio.

I have witnessed first-hand the perfect example of the certification process from start to finish. I arrived early to tour one of the cheese dairy co-operatives in the countryside of the strictly designated “zona tipica” of Parmigiano-Reggiano in Italy, to watch the cheese being crafted.

The milk from the previous evening had been left overnight to separate and a portion of the cream had been skimmed off. The remaining milk was mixed with the morning’s whole milk, and then poured into large, temperature-regulated copper cauldrons. Fermenting whey from the previous day was added and the mixture heated and slowly stirred.

When the desired temperature was achieved, calves rennet (a natural coagulating extract) was added. The coagulated milk became cheese curd, the leftover liquid whey. (The remaining whey not used in the next production will be used to imbue local pigs with the unique flavour that has distinguished this region for its exceptional variety of protected Italian air-cured meats, most notably Prosciutto di Parma).

Next a large, ball-shaped thorn brush was employed to fracture the curd. Again the curd was heated and stirred. With the heat shut off, the curd set. This mass was maneuvered with paddles and cut into two identical pieces, each with enough curd to make a wheel of cheese.

The curd was then wrapped in hemp cloth and suspended above the cauldrons to dry. Later the curd was lowered into a circular wooden form, where it was pressed into a wheel.  With the cloth removed, a stamp with teeth was inserted between the cheese and the mould. The teeth form a series of impressions, denoting authenticity with date and the designation Parmigiano-Reggiano.

After resting, the cheese is immersed in vats of brine and left to float. It is rotated daily for 25 days and briefly exposed to the sun before being stored. The cheese is warehoused on vast wooden shelves in climate-sensitive aging rooms, and turned over mechanically while it matures for a minimum of 18 months.

Watching this process convinced me that there is a need for geographic indicators and certification to help protect, differentiate and authenticate our distinctly unique and traditional products now and in the future.

Read more about Feast ON

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Homage to Toronto's Yorkville Landmarks the Coffee Mill and Le Trou Normand

Homage to Toronto's Yorkville Landmarks the Coffee Mill 


Le Trou Normand

Up until just a few months ago, Le Trou Normand remained the oldest operating fine dining restaurant in Yorkville. Coincidentally, The Coffee Mill a venerated European-style cafe which recently celebrated 51 years in business closed earlier this month.

Martha von Heczey’s Coffee Mill opened in May, 1963, in the now-demolished Lothian Mews, on Bloor Street. In 1973, von Herczey  moved two blocks north to a mini-mall with Yorkville Avenue on one side, Cumberland Street on the other. There was a secluded terrace with an expandable awning in the event of rain. The Coffee Mill was practically right across the street from Le Trou Normand and it was one of my Yorkville haunts for over 30 years.

Ms. von Heczey’s late husband Laci, a well-known wrestling champion, liked to wander around Yorkville with a tame cheetah on a leash.
Interestingly, in 1984, von Herczey even managed to regain the UNICEF fountain — the centrepiece at Lothian Mews, which had been placed in storage and relocated it to her new location. 

Among those luminaries whose autographed photographs hung on the restaurant walls like they do at Sardi’s in New York were: Al Waxman, Barbara Amiel, Gordon Pinsent, Tom Kneebone, Edward Greenspan, Anne Mirvish, Dusty Cohl (who co-founded TIFF), Pierre Berton and Anna Porter The cafe was frequented by such Canadians luminaries as Norman Jewison, Margaret Atwood and Leonard Cohen, who loved the cafe's secluded patio and plates of Hungarian goulash, liverwurst and schnitzel.

Original Location of the Coffee Mill in the Lothian Mews

Coffee Mill Terrace August 2014 

Both businesses were tucked away from the beaten path, anomalies with retro-charm but relics of a former era. In their heyday, Yorkville was a bustling place to be. It has been years since the restaurants lost their cachet but both businesses have long been celebrated as a throwback to gentler times when the world was a simpler, kinder place. 

In recent years, the 41-year-old Le Trou Normand attracted prospective diners – and tourists – with a weather battered sign hanging on the right side of the street entrance and a framed menu box listing the specialties of the house. You had to climb a few short steps under a decorative wrought iron archway decorated with the restaurant’s name and coat of arms and follow a cobblestone terrace to the front door. In recent years, the entrance to my mind was like a portal in time leading to a style of restaurant that is all but obsolete in Toronto. The restaurant also attracted its fair share of celebrities in its day. 

 The restaurant which had been operating since 1973, had always reminded me of the rustic French country bistros or the small working class restaurants situated on the Left Bank and Latin Quarter of Paris when I was in my twenties. The name Le Trou Normand referred to the traditional Norman palate cleansing shot of Calvados between courses which is supposed to restore the appetite.
Le Trou Normand is the restaurant where I first became acquainted with a young Susur Lee in 1984, who has gone on to inhabit the top echelon of world chefs. My path crossed Susur’s again at Lela restaurant, where he began to pioneer his ground-breaking fusion of traditional French and Asian cuisine.

On my last visit to Le Trou Normand a few months before it closed the dining rooms with their stuccoed walls, washed-out upholstery, antique porcelain in farmhouse hutches, and worn Persian rugs over the tiled floors had all but faded into to obscurity.

 Le Trou Normand Terrace

A Memory of Le Trou Normand

There was always a look of disbelief in the eyes of new waiters after working their first shift at Le Trou Normand. As quick as Babette (not the real name of my esteemed former colleague) hired them, Chef would fire them. Sometimes waiters would go out to sweep the terrace and never return. Babette, who for all intents and purposes ran the front of the house, realized it was foolhardy to form attachments with the staff.  When she hired someone capable and compatible with Chef, she held on to them for dear life, knowing they could soon tire of the histrionics. Or worse, she might spend weeks training someone, and Chef might fire them for some minor infraction or simply because the weather was bad. It was a revolving door of staff. And that’s pretty much what happened over a period of many years that I was acquainted with the restaurant.

On my first day of work at Le Trou Normand, there were two other waiters besides myself starting that day. Both were affable and experienced and had been culled from a cattle call of prospective employees. At the end of a very busy lunch shift, Chef came out of the kitchen and into the dining room to survey his kingdom. With fists on hips, Chef gave a cursory glance at the dessert table and his benevolent countenance melted into a spitting-mad fit when his eye landed on the tarte aux pommes.The names he called us were nothing I hadn't heard in restaurant kitchens before, but Chef leveled an allegation and demanded an immediate explanation; the accusation being that there was a slice of apple tart unaccounted for and therefore must have been eaten or not recorded on a guest check by one of the three “bimbos” standing before him. When a confession was not immediately forthcoming and the litany of malevolence had run its course, he shouted, “The three of you are all fired!” Bewildered and outraged by the unfairness of the Chef, I was at the same time miserable. I had been depending on the job, having just returned from a summer in France. Knowing myself to be a conscientious employee, I guess I had expected Babette to speak up and come to my defense. During the job interview Babette had warned me, “Chef is difficult, tightly-wound, a master and true scholar of the French kitchen.”

My mistake was that I assumed that because I had impeccable references and had developed a good rapport with her, that I was above suspicion. I was stunned when she seemed to ignore the situation altogether. Putting my jacket on, I started to head for the subway in a huff. No sooner had my shoes hit the pavement when I heard my name being called. I turned my head and saw Babette running down the cobblestone terrace after me. She asked me to return to the restaurant at 5 o’clock for the dinner shift. It was a gentle but practiced request she had learned to pose as a statement. She did not make any apologies for Chef’s behaviour, nor did she acknowledge it.

For the remainder of the afternoon, my pragmatism and principles collided. I found myself stewing and vacillating about returning to the restaurant. Chef greeted me with smug indifference when I returned to the restaurant that evening. After a couple of weeks Chef’s outbursts became old hat, as I learned to take them in stride. Chef soon began to acknowledge me. The gratuities were excellent. We all fell into a routine. Babette who was a force to be reckoned with in her own right never confessed to giving the apple tart to one of the restaurant’s regulars.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Kingston’s Culinary Culture and the Rosemount Inn an Spa

 Kingston’s Culinary Culture and the Rosemount Inn an Spa


With a diversity of annual festivals and events year-round, Kingston is known to celebrate its renowned culinary culture. In downtown Kingston, history comes alive in the architecture and distinguished limestone buildings that have been preserved and enhanced and now house numerous stylish cafes and unique restaurants. The downtown has over 100 restaurants in a 9 block area. In fact, I have been told that there are more restaurants per capita than anywhere else in Canada.
Rosemount Inn and Spa

 A get-away to Kingston is made all the more appealing and relaxing when you stay at Innkeeper, Holly Doughty’s welcoming Rosemount Inn and Spa, an 1850’s Tuscan-style villa located in the heart of the downtown. The Rosemount is the personification of hospitality and comfort. Flare magazine once referenced the Rosemount Inn the “best B&B experience in Canada.” The inn’s 11 rooms and chalet-style coach house, all with ensuite baths and comfortable beds —are well- appointed with period antiques, decorative castings and arched, leaded windows. The recently restored ornate cast iron fence on limestone base, frames the villa and the extensive gardens. Interlocking paths and driveway are in tumbled stone.

A good gourmet breakfast at the Inn might comprise a selection of fresh fruit, seasonal salad and perfectly-done omelettes or a seasonal quiche served in the dining room. The signature house speciality of Welsh toast with fresh berries, warmed local maple syrup and crème fraîche will help fortify you to discover the nearby 1000 Islands and Kingston’s many cultural venues. Doughty and her team also serve an afternoon tea in the dazzling front parlour.

Kingston's Farmers' Market

In the summer, Kingston by Fork offers two culinary walking tours or they will customize one for 12 participants or more. On Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, to coincide with the days the Market Square open-air market is open, (established in 1801 it is the oldest continuous market in Canada) it guides guests on a tour of the market and a few other local venues.

 Le Chien Noir Bistro

What draws us to Le Chien Noir (besides a knowledgeable recommendation from Holly Doughty and front of house manager, Gary Rowsell) is its idiosyncratic take on farm- to-table cuisine, accompanied by a sturdy list of VQA wines, many from nearby Prince Edward County. Located steps from the Kingston's historic Market Square (established in 1801) just a few blocks from the waterfront, the Le Chein Noir is located on the Brock Street Common. Lower Brock Street has been an established commercial area since the 1820's. Le Chien Noir is situated in stylishly refurbished and renovated Victorian premises. A diverse clientele frequents the vibrant, engaging, comfortable restaurant with faux tin ceiling, retro art deco lighting fixtures, exposed brick walls, wood surfaces and mirrored accents. The long and spacious zinc bar at the entrance is a focal point with its large crystal chandeliers.
 Chef Derek MacGregor has a reputation for referencing both the local terroir and the quintessence of French county fare for inspiration. MacGregor is a proponent of Kingston's Local Food - Local Chefs initiative which raises awareness of regional food products, producers and farm-to-table chefs in the area.

Read my review here:

Chez Piggy's Courtyard 
Rose Richardson and Zal Yanovsky (formerly of the rock band, “The Lovin’ Spoonful”) restored an abandoned limestone livery stable, tucked away behind old brick buildings off a quaint courtyard and launched the iconic Chez Piggy, a dining experience that helped make Kingston a  culinary destination. "the pig," as it is known locally, plus its nearby bakery: Pan Chancho, with its hospitable staff attracts an enduring, faithful clientele. We love al fresco dining on the private courtyard.
Cooke’s Fine Foods and Coffee
No visit to downtown Kingston would be complete without a visit to Cooke’s Fine Foods and Coffee a local culinary landmark. This gourmet food specialty shop and coffee roastery, founded in 1865, retains its old world ambience with its original wooden counters, pressed metal ceiling and intelligent staff.

Close by, Prince Edward County with its proximity to Kingston makes for a perfect day trip. Travellers from Kingston can access Prince Edward County by way of Glenora Ferry on picturesque Highway 33 East. A stunning island adventure, Prince Edward County is a mecca for artists, nature enthusiasts, wine lovers and culinary tourists.

Rosemount Inn & Spa, 46 Sydenham Street South, Kingston, Ontario
Celebrating 25 years in business with the best guests in town!
Founding member of the Historic Inns of Kingston 2003
1- 613-531-8844  /   1-888-871-8844

Chez Piggy, 68R Princess St, Kingston ON 613-549-7673

Cooke’s Fine Foods and Coffee, 61 Brock Street, Kingston, ON 613-548-7721


Five Fortune Culture Restaurant’s “Pure Chinese” Cuisine

Five Fortune Culture Restaurant’s “Pure Chinese” Cuisine


Although the ethnic cuisines of Yunnan province may not be particularly well known in the West, they are touted as being among the best regional eating experiences in China. There are 26 ethnic groups in this southwestern Chinese province, all contributing within their cultural cuisine subgroups. Agrarian by nature, Yunnan is the birthplace of tea. Yunnan’s northwest corner is said to be the inspiration for Shangri-La, as described in James Hilton’s utopian classic, Lost Horizon.

A recent surge of interest in ethnic and regional Chinese cuisine is reflected in the growth and popularity of Yunnan restaurants in both Beijing and Shanghai. Encouraged by an explosion in cultural tourism the boom is a result of China’s modernization strategy which has put Yunnan on the gastronomical map.

In downtown London Five Fortune Culture Restaurant proprietors Wenbei and Jie Liang Yin (Jeff) are part of the groundswell of restaurateurs offering a true ethnic dining experience. This is not the formulaic Chinese restaurant serving Anglo-genres conceived by old-style Taishanese and rural Cantonese immigrants who adapted traditional Chinese recipes to suit local tastes and available ingredients. The cuisine, as prepared by Jie Liang and interpreted by Wenbei is, “Pure Chinese," Yunnan with Sichuan and Guizhou influences.

Many Yunnan dishes are typified by bold flavours, particularly the pungency and spiciness resulting from liberal use of chili peppers and garlic of bordering Sichuan province. Southern Yunnan takes its influences from Vietnam, Laos and Burma and many dishes have a similarity to Thai cuisine. Meat commonly plays a supporting role as a mere seasoning to the vegetables.

Aromatic steamed pineapple rice is popular among Dai people and the perfect side dish to soothe the heat of spicy offerings. In Jie Liang’s hands the fragrant rice has a stunningly delicate balance of sour and sweetness. A ripe pineapple is scooped out and the flesh is cut in small cubes and mixed with the scented rice and other aromatics. It is served in the hollowed pineapple shell with the leaf crown acting as a lid to keep the rice hot.

Yunnan is the home to a vast range of fresh rice noodle soups and stir fries. Mixian or fresh rice noodles are gluten-free with a silky texture which absorbs flavours efficiently. Yunnan's best known dish, Crossing Bridge Noodles is a bowl of extremely hot broth served with a range of ingredients supplied raw to the table, including rice noodles, thinly sliced pork, poultry and fish, leaf vegetables, bean curd, aromatics and cilantro to balance out strong flavours, much like a hot pot. If you’re not familiar with these flavours, it’s an assertive dish. If you are, it’s simply enjoyably comforting.

A trio of fish are offered whole, with head and tail intact. The choices were salmon, tilapia and a deep- sea fish with an untranslatable name. We chose the untranslatable-named fish. Jie Liang’s grandmother provided the recipe which is a thirty-six hour process from start to finish. The fish is wrapped in foil and steamed on the grill which keeps the firm interior moist and intact, the outer skin of the fish was candy-sweet and caramelized with green onion, soya, ginger and garlic.

Spicy Tom Yum seafood pot has a sharp freshness and briny meatiness, deriving its pungency from lemongrass and pepper. Other specialities include thick, soft and chewy Udon noodles made from wheat. The green onion pie is flavoursome and reminds me of the Japanese savoury pancake, okonomiyaki. Try the jiggly iced congee and glutinous dia bao (steamed buns). You will never need Sriracha again, once you’ve tasted Wenbei’s homemade, hot and spicy, red pepper dipping oil. She jars it and sells it in the restaurant.

Chinoiserie and other decorative arts and imagery decorate the dining room, giving personal expression to Wenbei and Jie Liang’s former lives in China. The purpose of a “culture restaurant” is to be an emissary and to facilitate the exchange of Eastern and Western cultural values. On selected evenings there is traditional song and dancing on a small stage that flanks the dining room. Wenbei, a former fashion designer, has an excellent singing voice.

Wealth, health, longevity, love, and virtue are the five good fortunes. Five also happens to be the name of their former business portfolio in China which they wanted to extend to include this restaurant. The investment projects included Five Fortune Herbal Cuisine (herbal cuisine restaurant), Five Fortune Very Ethnic (traditional embroideries and clothing), Five Fortune Arts (Chinese art and paintings), and Five Fortune Clothing (clothing design and production of ramie cotton produced from the nettle plant).

Hoping to live a more peaceful life, the couple travelled nearly eight thousand miles to start a new life in a strange land. Wenbei, who comes from a lineage of doctors, cites Norman Bethune, who is enshrined as a national hero in China, as an influence on their decision to immigrate to Canada. Famously, Bethune’s accidental death from septicemia evoked Chairman Mao Zedong's essay "In Memory of Norman Bethune," which urged all Chinese to match his spirit of responsibility and humanitarianism and  became required reading for the entire population.

Jie Liang, who studied to be an art designer belongs to "Dai" a Tai cultural group from Yunnan that traditionally adheres to Buddhist principles.

In the future, Wenbei plans to establish a restaurant franchise that focuses on cultural cuisine and create a culinary school dedicated to Yunnan cuisine. At Five Fortune the Chinese servers are intelligent and hospitable students that understand her vision and speak English fluently. The service is welcoming and helpful with the kinds of detail about the dishes that can be hard to find in some ethnic restaurants.

There is a saying in Yunnan, “We will eat anything with four legs except for a table,” says Wenbei. Jie Liang’s translation of Yunnan cooking both pays respectful homage to the culture and, in the hope of making it more accessible, takes the most minor liberties with it. An epigram on the menu states, "The fragrance always stays in the hand that gives the rose..." 

Five Fortune Culture Restaurant
368 Richmond Street
Wednesday–Sunday 11:30 AM – 10:30 PM
Closed Mondays and Tuesdays

Friday, September 12, 2014

Edgar and Joe’s Café Helps Lead the way in SoHo’s Burgeoning Restaurant District

Edgar and Joe’s Café Helps Lead the way in SoHo’s Burgeoning Restaurant District


 Since London’s beginning in 1840, the district of SoHo has existed within the same confines. Originally named St. David’s Ward, this community is flanked on the north by the CN railroad tracks, on the east by Adelaide Street, and on the south and west by the Thames River. The SoHo acronym is geographic in origin as most of it is situated south of Horton Street but I imagine it is also meant to evoke the vitality of the cultural and restaurant neighbourhoods in Lower Manhattan and London, England’s West End.
SoHo is in fact a burgeoning restaurant district and home to many interesting dining options and bakeries including: Organics Works Café, Razzle Dazzle Cupcakes, Kambie Chinese Restaurant, Enat Ethiopian Restaurant, Hong Ping, El Ranchito, Walker’s Fish and Chips, Family Circle, The Soho Diner and Edgar and Joe’s Café.
Striving to foster an economically vibrant neighbourhood renewal, projects like the 1872 Red Antiquities Building and The Roundhouse, a 19th-century railway roundhouse are virtuous examples of the power of revitalization of the area.  ATMOS Marketing and rTraction (a full service digital agency) will share the refurbished Roundhouse a few blocks east of the Goodwill Social Enterprise Abilities Centre on Horton Street. Incidentally, The Roundhouse has sat empty since November 2007, when the Great West Beef, once a popular landmark London steakhouse, closed its doors after 31 years in business. Peter Cuddy and Kate Gielen’s Organic Works Bakery in the former Ming’s Restaurant on Wellington epitomizes just how outmoded buildings can be retained and brilliantly repurposed with design savvy and intelligence.

Having a long-time presence in the district, Goodwill wanted to invest in delivering more urban character in the evolving SoHo neighbourhood and built the Goodwill Social Enterprise Abilities Centre in 2011. The stylish and minimalist 70- seat Edgar and Joe’s Cafe opened last July in the $12-million centre. The Centre features a 50 seat town hall, 160 seat community hall and various other gathering spaces. With an excess of 100,000 shoppers visiting the Goodwill Centre annually and a staff of 120, the café quickly garnered great word-of-mouth, becoming a favourite daytime destination with a diverse clientele from all over the city.

Edgar and Joe’s Café offers an affordably-priced menu featuring nutritious food made from scratch with locally sourced high quality ingredients from purveyors like Las Chicas Del Café and Metzger Meats. Hand-crafted bread and baked goods are freshly-baked daily; condiments, preserves, soups and daily features are made from quality raw ingredients. The in-house baking, eclectic salads, breakfast features and a variety of exceptional sandwiches have become particular standouts. The all-day breakfast is elevated by homemade jams and breads, and the particularly tasty addition of sweet potato to the homefries and with the addition of house-made ketchup is bliss. A recent lunch special was charbroiled Ontario lamb with balsamic roasted cipollini onion, tomato and spicy mayo on fresh baked bread with soup and salad for $6.50.

On one occasion, speaking with Le Cordon Bleu trained Chef Danny Galinou he made it clear that the café is about focusing on collaborative principles and goals and did not want to be singled out in an article about the café. So I will resist commenting on his exceptional abilities in the kitchen.

Galinou and Neil Burnett, manager of hospitality and food services, lead the staff by overseeing food production and service, culinary and hospitality training, nutrition and food security programs, community and catering and community cooking initiatives. The Café’s now up-and-running Hands on Hospitality program is eight weeks in length and provides participants with the skill set required to work in a restaurant, including a two-week co-op with a partner of the program and a closing segment devoted to resume building and interview techniques.

Edgar and Joe’s Cafe offers training and mentorship by giving program participants the skills they need to secure meaningful employment in the hospitality industry. By fostering collaboration and community initiatives that embrace diversity and inclusion, with an emphasis on health and wellbeing, the program allows participants to build confidence and have a vision of their successful future. The organization aims to educate the larger community about, and help break down the stigma surrounding, mental illness and social disadvantage.

The name Edgar honours social innovator Dr. Edgar J. Helms a Methodist minister, who founded the Goodwill movement in 1902, with the philosophy of "a hand up, not a hand out." The Goodwill became a registered charity in 1935. The name Joe is a reference to the "average Joe", who faces barriers such as mental health issues, homelessness, developmental disabilities, or LGBTQ status, when working towards education and employment. Edgar and Joe's brings leadership, social innovation and community collaboration to the forefront in a neighbourhood that prides itself on a vibrant arts and culture scene, heritage and urban renewal.


255 Horton St East,

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Canadian Culinary Stars at Savour Stratford 2014

Canadian Culinary Stars at Savour Stratford 


Since its inception six years ago, Savour Stratford Perth County Culinary Festival has been a hands-down triumph. The event is an opportunity to meet and engage with a genuine fraternity of talented tastemakers and culinary advocates. A mecca for food enthusiasts and professionals, it has become one of Ontario’s most prestigious culinary festivals – if not Canada’s. In many ways Savour Stratford has become as much a cultural celebration as it is a gastronomical one.

By changing the date of the festival from fall to mid-summer, the organizers hoped for increased accessibility, inclusivity and better weather. With two official days of sipping, sampling and taste education the festival again celebrated farm-to-table ideology and what modernist chefs are calling the “new culinary regionalism”.
“Coast to Coast to Coast”, was the theme of this year’s festivities, as the chefs visiting the festival from Newfoundland to British Columbia shared their regional food culture and their own long-standing traditions and culinary expertise. Children’s programming included worm composting, earth sundaes and dessert
veggies, as well as chef Jeff Stewart’s informative teachings on the benefits of eating bugs.

Food and wine enthusiasts once again flocked to the riverfront festival, which was located along Veterans Drive and York Street, with the Toronto Star Culinary Stage occurring at the former Nancy Campbell building and tastings being held at the Knox Presbyterian Church amphitheatre. The area was bustling with participants taking in the artisan’s market vendors, tutored talks and the gourmet tasting tents that are a signature draw.

On the back terrace of Monforte on Wellington, the festivities began with a welcoming reception. It was the perfect summer evening for alfresco dining. The staff proffered a pair of lavish cheese and charcuterie boards and provided guests with an intelligent tutorial about the provenance of each item.
During Saturday’s GE Café Series, we attended a five-course lunch prepared at Stratford’s Local Community Food Centre by chefs Dale Mackay of Ayden Kitchen and Bar in Saskatoon, and Derek Dammann of Maison Publique in Montreal, and featuring winemaker Dan Sullivan of Rosehall Run in Prince Edward County.

This lunch was perhaps the most indulgent of the events being offered and was moderated by Claudia Bianchi co-owner of Toronto’s venerated Actinolite restaurant. Coincidentally, Actinolite was recently decreed by Toronto Globe and Mail dining critic Chris Nuttall-Smith as “one of the most essential places to eat in Ontario, if not in Canada.”

We were presented with an amuse-bouche of spot prawns with marinated radishes, cherry tomatoes and chilli, which was followed by extravagantly thick slices of raw and immaculately firm British Columbia sockeye salmon, complemented with a tomato gelée vinaigrette, salmon roe, and basil seeds. This was followed by pan-roasted, melt-in-your-mouth loin of British Columbia halibut (sourced near Haida Gwaii) and served with cucumber yogurt, dill, fava beans and salty, crunchy sea asparagus.

The next course was smoked and charcoal-seared Frost Village pork belly, served with braised kale and plums. Dan Sullivan described the 2011 JCR Pinot Noir he’d chosen to pair with the pork belly as “the purest iteration of what (his) land does”. Chef MacKay, explained that our dessert, a small dice of firm-to-the-bite strawberry poached rhubarb with vanilla crémeux and pie crust crumble, had been prepared with rhubarb he’d picked from his Saskatoon neighbour’s backyard.

Sullivan’s description of how the wave of agriculture and wineries has turned around the Prince Edward County economy was a compelling case for culinary tourism.

Several of the guest chefs that returned to Stratford this year, including James Walt of Whistler’s Araxi, and Northwest Territories’ chef Rich Francis, who strives to raise the profile on modern aboriginal and Northern Canadian cuisine, are graduates of the Stratford Chefs School.

This year the festival supported a variety of educational and enrichment activities that made the events programming its most welcoming and informative ever.

Chef Derek Dammann of Maison Publique in Montreal (co-owned by British celeb-chef Jamie Oliver) who is known for his charcuterie and dishes like lamb tartare, seal-lami (salami made with seal) and duck testicle pasta, took to the Toronto Star Culinary Stage twice. He demonstrated how to prepare the delicious raw sockeye salmon and the pork belly he’d made earlier for the GE Café Series.

Chefs Carl Heinrich and Ryan Donovan of the ingredient focused and technique driven Richmond Station in Toronto devoted their segment to the tenets of nose-to-tail cuisine and whole animal butchery. With tongue-in-cheek the chefs demonstrated how to make presskoff (headcheese) and charcuterie.
Chef Todd Perrin of Mallard Cottage, in Quidi Vidi Village on the outskirts of St. John’s, is known for using Newfoundland ingredients in non-traditional ways (like re-imagining seal flipper pie) showcased his sustainable sea-to-table repertoire with a boudin blanc (white sausage) of cod fish and pork.

Two-Michelin-star awarded, youngest Grand Chef in the world and Top Canada winner Dale Mackay, a protégé of chef Gordon Ramsay, paired Saskatchewan produce with locally sourced walleye, black beluga lentils, tomato butter sauce and basil oil.

Chef Rogalski, of Calgary’s Rouge and Bistro Rouge, gave a lengthy and humorous riff on how to prepare a collapsed Gouda soufflé.

Chef James Walt of Whistler’s Araxi presented Ocean Wise approved sustainable west coast seafood. Chef gave his thoughts on aquaculture and showed the audience how to cure salmon, and followed that by demonstrating how to make a ceviche of geoduck clams, spot prawns, octopus, wild scallops and wild salmon.

Another high point of the weekend event was the poignancy and passion of the pioneering “Women in Food” breakfast panelists at the Church Restaurant. A stellar line-up of inspirational women in agriculture was moderated by The Cookbook Store’s stalwart Alison Fryer. They shared anecdotes on the challenges of cheese-making, shepherding, heritage breeding, organic farming and innkeeping.

The panelists included Susan McDonough of Smokey Creek Farms, who had the audience in stitches with her references to a hypothetical 1-800-Farmboy. Culinary innovator and cheesemaker Ruth Klahsen of Monforte Dairy made the observation that “food needs to be valued in a different way and consumers need to step up and pay for it.”

The panel was rounded out by other agricultural and ecological activists including Ingrid de Martines, a well-known heritage pork producer; Pam Rogers of Kawthoolei Farm Organics; Miriam Streiman of Mad Maple Country Inn; and Gillian Flies of The New Farm. All the women came to farming, in part, from the standpoint of improving the world through access to food.

The pièce de résistance was the Grand Tasting, a stylish garden party in two elegant marquees fronting the Avon River. The tasting showcases chefs and producers who are paired to create a truly terroir-driven regional tasting experience. Besides the tasting samples there were VQA wines, craft brews and locally-created beverages.

Savour Stratford and its partners continue to successfully link food to place with the still emerging modern cuisine du terroir. Coast to Coast to Coast one can see that the local food movements are regional culinary revolutions in the collective mindset of innovative chefs and farmers across Canada.

Savour Stratford Toronto Star Culinary Stage

Fanshawe TV On Demand

2014 Savour Stratford Culinary Festival Taste Education and GE Café People's Choice award and Grand Tasting Awards

2014 Savour Stratford Culinary Festival Taste Education and GE Café People's Choice award and Grand Tasting Awards   

The seventh annual Savour Stratford Perth County Culinary Festival supported a wide range of interesting and enriching activities that made the events programming the most accessible and inclusive ever. The festival celebrates farm-to-table ideology and “new culinary regionalism” with three days of sipping, sampling and an innovative approach to taste education. Cathy Rehberg, Marketing Manager, Stratford Tourism Alliance, said the festival has strict rules on local content. Vendors are not allowed to sell non-local soft drinks. Instead, complimentary water is provided.
This year the theme of the festival was “Coast to Coast to Coast”, as the chefs visiting the festival shared their regional food culture with their own long-standing traditions and culinary expertise from across Canada. Food and wine enthusiasts descend on the festival, which is one of Ontario's foremost culinary celebrations. This year, all of Savour Stratford was located along Veterans Drive and York Street, with the Toronto Star Culinary Stage occurring at the former Nancy Campbell building and tastings held at the Knox Presbyterian Church amphitheatre. The riverfront area was alive with participants taking in the artisan's market, tutored talks and the gourmet tasting tents that are a signature of the event. Entertainment was provided by buskers and riverfront stage. By changing the date of the festival from September to July, Savour Stratford anticipated a higher attendance and better weather this year. 

The wide-ranging creative children’s programming, which included worm composting, earth sundaes and dessert veggies, as well as chef Jeff Stewart’s lessons on the benefits of eating bugs, made it more accessible and welcoming to families. The interactive programming makes learning about food fun and instills a desire in attendees to buy, eat and cook local as much as possible.   
Since its inception, Savour Stratford has been a unique opportunity to discover and meet with a genuine fraternity of some of the most talented tastemakers in Canada. It is an opportunity to connect with like-minded colleagues and professionals who are committed to shining the light on the explosion of boutique ingredients and create an awareness of regional foods both locally and across the country. 2014 celebrates the 30th anniversary of the creation of the Stratford Chefs School (SCS), by co-founders Eleanor Kane and James Morris, which Eugene Zakreski, Executive Director of the Stratford Tourism Alliance, states was “important as establishing Stratford as a great place to dine.”

The weekend’s festivities began with a welcoming alfresco reception on the back terrace at the osteria, Monforte on Wellington. It was the perfect summer evening. The hospitable staff delivered a pair of sumptuous cheese (including sheep, goat, and cow and water buffalo varieties) and charcuterie boards and provided the guests with an intelligent tutorial about the provenance of each item. Wine was provided by Reif Estate Wineries, the official sponsor of Savour Stratford.

Later in the evening, chef Rogalski joined us and spoke about his intuitive quest to locate his grandparent’s old farm. In a rented car, with no map, no address and no recollection how to get there, Chef was able to find the Durham farm with some help from the locals.

During Saturday’s GE Café Series, we attended an interactive five-course lunch prepared at Stratford’s Local Community Food Centre by chefs McKay and Derek Dammann of Maison Publique in Montreal, and featuring winemaker Dan Sullivan of Rosehall Run in Prince Edward County. The lunch was moderated by Claudia Bianchi co-owner of Toronto’s venerated Actinolite restaurant.
This lunch was perhaps the most indulgent and special of the events being offered. An amuse of spot prawns with marinated radishes, cherry tomatoes and chili  was followed by extravagant slices of immaculately firm raw British Columbia sockeye salmon complemented with a tomato gelée vinaigrette, salmon roe, basil seeds, heirloom cherry tomatoes, Maldon salt  and fresh basil leaves. This was followed by pan-roasted, melt-in-your-mouth, loin of British Columbia halibut (sourced near Haida Gwaii) and served with cucumber yogurt, dill, fava beans and sea asparagus (glasswort).

The next course was smoked and seared, Frost Village pork belly, served with braised kale and local plums. Dan Sullivan, described the 2011 JCR Pinot Noir he’d chosen to pair with chef Dammann’s pork belly, as “the purest iteration of what (his) land does”. Chef MacKay, explained that our deconstructed dessert, a small dice of al dente strawberry poached rhubarb with vanilla cremeux and pie crust crumble, had been prepared with rhubarb he’d picked from his Saskatoon neighbour’s backyard.
We really enjoyed Sullivan’s description of how the wave of agriculture and wineries has turned around the Prince Edward County economy. It was a compelling case for culinary tourism. I was particularly impressed by the G.E. Cafe at the Local Community Food Centre and how sustained sponsorship helps them enhance the experiential and educational aspects of their food programming. The continuing series is a great platform to hone culinary skills while combining a passion for the culinary arts with inspiring conversation and VQA wines.
Many of the guest chefs that returned to Stratford this year, including chef James Walt of Whistler’s Araxi, and Northwest Territories’, chef Rich Francis, who was on hand with his contemporary take on modern aboriginal and Northern Canadian cuisine, are graduates of the SCS. 
The programming of “Intimate Tutored Talks and Tastings” had culinary heavyweights and tasting presenters discussing emerging gastronomic trends, everything from foraged wild edibles with sustainable forager, Peter Blush of Puck’s Plenty, to fundamentals with fermentation by Ryan O’Donnell, instructor at SCS and chef at the Prune Restaurant.

The stellar line-up of inspirational women in agriculture was moderated by Alyson Fryer of The Cookbook store. The panelists included Ingrid de Martines, a well-known local heritage pork producer who raises wild boar commented, “connecting directly with consumers carries a powerful marketing punch.” Acclaimed Monforte Dairy cheesemaker and fledgling farmer Ruth Klahsen, stated, “food needs to be valued in a different way and consumers need to step up and pay for it.” The panel was rounded out by other agricultural and ecological activists including, Susan McDonough of Smokey Creek Farms, Pam Rogers of Kawthoolei Farm Organics, Miriam Streiman of Mad Maple Country Inn, and Gillian Flies of The New Farm. All the women came to farming, in part, from a political standpoint of improving the world through access to food. That something so inspirational could express itself so intimately was extremely powerful. One  male audience member commented, “that it would truly be women that save our world.”  

The pièce de résistance was the Grand Tasting, a stylish garden party in two elegant marquees off historic York Street and fronting the Avon River. The event is dedicated to chefs and local producers who have paired to create unique and innovative hors d’oeuvres-sized tasting samples for ticket holders. Local partnerships allow Savour Stratford to create a truly terroir-driven  regional tasting experience. Besides the tasting samples there are VQA wines, and craft brews and locally-created beverages. This year, Puck’s Plenty effervescent nettle beer was among my favourites.

Savour Stratford and its partners continue to successfully link food to place with the still emerging, modern cuisine du terroir and its fidelity to origin and season and taste education. Coast to Coast to Coast one can see that the local food movements are not trends, but transformations in the collective mindset of talented chefs across Canada.

Susan Dunfield of Down the Street and Antony John of Soiled Reputation at The Grand Tasting

GE Café People's Choice award and Grand Tasting Awards

Winners include:GE Café People's Choice Award - Mercer Hall (Stratford), Chef Tim Larsen and Sean Collins paired with Church Hill Farm, Owen and Eva Lass; A Taste of Church Hill Farm, A Bloody Bun.

Bloody Buns
 Best Meat Dish - The Bauer Butcher (Waterloo), chef Matthew Kendrick paired with Yorkshire Valley Farms (Peterborough), Krysten Cooper; Chicken and Wild Mushroom Terrine

Best Vegetarian Dish - Pazzo Taverna (Stratford), chef Yva Santini paired with Shallothill Specialty Vegg (Sebringville), James Harrison; Agniolotti with sweet peas, carrots and beets

Best Dessert Dish - The Stratford Chefs School (Stratford), chef Margaux Whillans-Browne and Maple Morning (Sebringville), James Harrison; Maple Candy Floss, Maple Marshmallow, Maple Taffy, Maple Macaroon

Best Beverage - Tea Leaves Tea Tasting Bar (Stratford), Tea Sommelier Karen Hartwick; Three Mint Enhanced Tea
Best Beverage Containing Alcohol - Dillon's Small Batch Distillers (Beamsville), Whitney Dillon; Strawberry Agua Fresca with Dillon's Method 95 Vodka, strawberries, rosemary, simple syrup and lemon bitters
Most Creative Dish - The Prune (Stratford) chef Ryan O'Donnell paired with Chris Meeuse Farm (Union), Chris Meeuse; Seabuckthorn Rocket; seabuckthorn, raspberry, crème fraiche 

Alyson Fryer, Grand Tasting host commented "The Grand Tasting is by far one of my favourite events at Savour Stratford, a gem of a culinary festival in Ontario's farming heartland. Ingredients and tastes come together in such a satisfying way; care and respect is given by the chefs to the farmer's products. Drinks are a standout, and not just alcoholic, but non-alcoholic as well."

The Tasting awards judging panel included: chef Bryan Steele from The Prune (Stratford), Top Chef Canada's Dale MacKay (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan), sustainable seafood chef James Walt (Whistler, British Columbia) and our host Alyson Fryer (Toronto) of The Cookbook Store.