Lucky Dip – Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

In Toronto:

The Grove (1214 Dundas Street West) is now open. Chef Ben Heaton is offering a menu of contemporary (and very pretty) English cuisine.

BBQ joint Stack will open on March 27th at 3265 Yonge Street.

Did anyone actually think that The Saint (227 Ossington Avenue) would ever really open? Three years after local magazines and websites were writing previews about the decor and the menu (jumped the gun a little there, huh, folks?) it appears that the place will indeed open on April 9th.

Church Street icon Reither’s Fine Food International (530 Church Street) has closed its doors – owner Peter Reither has retired.

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Lucky Dip – Monday, March 5th, 2012

In Toronto:

The big food news this past weekend was that chefs Michael Caballo and Tobey Nemeth will be taking over the Niagara Street Cafe (169 Niagara Street) as of April 1st, renaming it Edulis. Caballo was the chef at Niagara Street until a few years ago when he and partner Nemeth (she was the chef de cuisine at Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar) left Toronto to travel. After working at restaurants around the world, including in Tuscany and California, they’re returning to the city to run their own place.

Ici Bistro (538 Manning Avenue)  is closed until March 21st for staff vacations.

Dark Horse Espresso Bar has taken over the old Smokeless Joe’s location at 125 John Street and opens today.

Greg Clow got the scoop about Mill Street Brewpub opening a location in Pearson Airport. Basically, there will be no beer brewed onsite, but there will be a 130-seat pub with 10 Mill Street brands on tap. Get the full story at Canadian Beer News.

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Death by Turkey

I am spending this week watching holiday specials. Not the cartoons and tired old movies of yore (Come on admit it, It’s a Wonderful Life is three hours of tedious, sentimental schlock.), but holiday food and cooking shows, specifically of the UK variety.

As it turns out, holiday cooking shows are the big thing for UK chefs, and anyone with an existing series, or a cookbook, or a well-known restaurant, is there on the screen, setting fire to booze-soaked puds and making the holiday hassle look easy. But because there are so many shows, so many chefs competing for viewers’ attention, they’ve all got to do something different, to jazz up the traditional Christmas dinner in some way to make it unique.

Stuart Heritage of the Guardian sees the mass of holiday cooking shows as a as testament to gluttony in the “so… much… foooooood” vein. Because, he claims, it’s all about the watching and not about the cooking. But isn’t that really the saddest part? By which I mean, I bet that your Christmas dinner this year will be exactly like the Christmas dinner you had last year, and the year before that, and the year before that… there will be no trying of new dishes from Jamie or Nigella or Gordon. It’s fun to watch, sure, but hey, don’t fuck with Christmas dinner.

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Lucky Dip – Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

The more warts, the better the flavour. Why you should be considering funky-looking heirloom pumpkins for your Thanksgiving cooking. [Toronto Star]

The two flavours of hogtown – might meaty and virtuously vegan. [NOW]

Could you eat for just $30  a week? That’s the equivalent that an American on food stamps is working with. [KETV Omaha]

How sweet it is. Mostly from amounts hidden in processed foods, Canadians consume 26 teaspoons of sugar every day. [Globe & Mail]

Foods that should be aphrodisiacs, but aren’t. [Funny or Die]

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Lucky Dip – Monday, August 22nd, 2011

When you hear about the CNE’s “30 food on a stick”, you never really consider eating all of them. Or do you? My hero Jennifer Bain and the lengths she’ll go to for a story. [Toronto Star]

Did you know that Alex James of rock band Blur owns a farm and makes cheese? It’s so popular, he’s signed a deal to sell it in UK supermarket ASDA. [Orange News]

Crinkly bag = crunchy potato chips. Not that simple? It could be to our brains. [Good]

Biscuits, waffles, pickles and red velvet cake batter. The sometimes wacky things served with and done to fried chicken. [Eatocracy]

Food that fight fatigue. For when the 3pm coffee and donut and the 4pm crash and burn just aren’t on the schedule. [Toronto Star: Health Zone]

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Lucky Dip – Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

Good things grow in Ontario, and now the Provincial government is giving local growers and distributors a boost. [Globe and Mail]

Dear vodka companies… no, just no. Nobody needs “wedding cake” flavoured vodka. If they tell you they do, they’re lying with the intention of making you look foolish. [Village Voice: Fork in the Road]

Sorry Gordo, if it comes down to a choice as to who can be the face of anything, especially gin, my boyfriend Phillip Glenister wins every time. [Daily Mail]

Let’s hope they love Ramsay more in Montreal where he’s taken over the old Laurier BBQ. He’s going to have to fight off all the folks with nostalgia and convince them that the place still has life, even without Trudeau and coconut cream pie. [National Post: The Appetizer]

Okay, let’s see how long it takes Toronto to jump onto the trend of teeny tiny restaurants. They’re doing it in NYC, we’d better do it too! [Wall Street Journal]

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Lucky Dip – Monday, August 8th, 2011

Dear restaurants, please don’t go thinking that hundreds of posts about your restaurant in the matter of a few hours, all using the same hashtag and (if you retweet every single tweet) flooding the twitter feed of everyone who follows you, is necessarily a selling point to make your place seem hot and vibrant and trendy. In fact, it’s annoying as hell and a real turn-off. Although that hashtag does make it easy for the rest of us to mute all the tweets and never have to see anything about your tweet-up (and possibly your restaurant) ever again. Social media can be a fabulous tool, but only if you use it judiciously. [The Grid]

It’s almost CNE time. You can tell because the ubiquitous (and horrifying) food-on-a-stick articles have started. Seriously, fudge? Why do you need a stick for fudge?? [National Post: Posted Toronto]

Fish-eaters – you know that all of these great promotions to get us to eat more sustainable species of fish really only work if you switch from the typical cod, salmon, tuna, right? Eating more fish overall, because you’re still eating just as much cod, but now are also eating mackerel, really defeats the purpose, yes? [The Guardian]

This will get your goat – Ontario’s goat industry (milk, cheese, tasty curry) is booming. [Toronto Star]

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Lucky Dip – Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

Some Toronto bars have taken up brewing their own beer - with great results. [Open File]

I gripe sometimes about living in a building where I have no yard and no balcony. But then I read pieces like this and remember just how gross it was to live in a house and have to smell someone else’s BBQ stink wafting over the fence. [CNN Eatocracy]

Looking to lose weight – avoid the diet soda. [Toronto Star]

And this is what happens when you sign a contract with a discount coupon company and then ignore all the clauses – like the one that says to not do the same deal with another company for 90 days. I don’t think anybody has any sympathy for The Butchers and the coupon mess they got themselves into. [Toronto Star]

Okay, seriously, what restaurant manager doesn’t know that they have to allow service dogs? That’s always the excuse trotted out in situations of discrimination – and, no, you can’t know the law and then discriminate because there are too many dogs, either. [The Consumerist]

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Lucky Dip – Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

But, everybody’s doing it! Supermarket listing fees and why that competitive nature means hard times for small independent food manufacturers who can’t afford to pay them. [Toronto Star]

Allergies, special diets, concerns about sustainability… have we all become impossible to please when eating out? [Boston.com]

The best eats of the coming summer, from burgers, BBQ and brunch to Thunderin’ Thelma. Use it as a to-do list and hit them all. [NOW]

10 restaurant trends that are dead in NYC. Which means Toronto can still beat some life out of them for another couple of years. [Eater]

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Life Beyond the Kitchen – Chefs Build Their Brands with Chef Network Inc.

The food scene in Toronto is abuzz this week with distress over UK chef Marco Pierre White’s decision to become the face of Knorr bouillon cubes. Disregarding the fact that White has been the face of Knorr in the UK for a few years, food writers and chefs seem genuinely distressed that White has “sold out” for the corporate big bucks.

Known as one of the best chefs in the world, White’s decision to become the face of Knorr (and his insistence that all of his restaurants use the product in place of real stock) is confusing, amusing, and to his fans, especially other chefs, understandably upsetting.

The world may never know White’s real reasons for taking the endorsement, but in an era when even successful chefs don’t make a lot of money from cooking, branding yourself has taken on a much greater importance, especially for chefs coming to a point in their careers when it’s no longer enjoyable to work the line every night.

Chefs everywhere are in big demand – for cookbooks, personal appearances, television shows, and yes, endorsement deals. But it’s not as easy as one might think to hook up with the big players, and it’s not always a good idea for chefs to try and broker deals on their own.

That’s where Carmen Correia and Chef Network Inc. (CNI) come into play.

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Buried Treasure – The Hidden Gems of the Food Network and Why You Can’t Find Them

It’s no secret that I would rather watch UK food shows than anything made in Canada or the US. Chefs like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Jamie Oliver, Valentine Warner and even Gordon Ramsay do a lot of good work for Channel 4 and the BBC when it comes to promoting seasonal, local, sustainable foodways. For years, Greg and I have had no choice but to download these from online file-sharing sites (shhh!!) because they seldom get shown here and there’s few, if any, domestic equivalents.

Except, bit by bit, Food Network Canada has been picking these shows up. Heston Blumenthal’s Big Chef Takes on Little Chef series that ran last year recently got aired here. Likewise his feasts series in which he recreates (with his own twists, of course) historic meals. Jamie Oliver is a big commodity on this side of the pond, so most of his stuff eventually shows up, but sometimes up to a year after its original air date.

This delay is annoying enough, but makes sense – Channel 4 wants to rerun these shows before selling the rights to anyone else. My frustration is that when Food Network Canada finally gets them, they do very little to promote them.

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Mr. Ramsay Has a Cupcake

Reputation is an odd thing. By making sweepingly asshatted pronouncements (SAP), Chef Gordon Ramsay has gotten himself a reputation for saying really stupidly elitist things that piss people off and show a real lack of common sense. Last week it was his SAP that restaurants should all be fined if they don’t serve seasonal food. As bloggers and mainstream media jumped to point out the hypocrisy (Ramsay owns a restaurant in Dubai – where absolutely nothing served is seasonal or local), Gordon Ramsay Holdings was forced to issue a statement.

Because of this reputation, any similar SAP attributed to Ramsay will be believed.

Today while reading the blog Cupcake Takes the Cake, I came across a post that indicated Ramsay had made a rather inflammatory SAP against everyone’s favourite treat, the cupcake.

The whole cupcake thing has been done to death. I thought we were through the woods, done hearing about how fucking cool and “retro” cupcakes were. I thought we were finished with interviews with the bakery proprietors telling mind-numbing stories about how they found their grandmother’s old recipe box in the attic and dusted one of the recipe cards off and lo! there was a glorious cupcake recipe and they just jazzed it up a bit to make it “cutting-edge” and it is the perfect marriage of great memories and contemporary cuisine.

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I’ll See Your Organic Free-Range Chicken and Raise You a Tin of Lamb Mince

While the name Delia Smith is familiar to me, I’ll have to admit that I’m not especially familiar with her cookbooks. Given the recent fuss about her newest cookbook How To Cheat at Cooking, I sort of assumed she was one of those slack-assed Rachel Ray types with the canned goods and bagged greens, teaching fans how to spread salmonella in three easy steps.

But it turns out that Smith is more well-known for being the UK’s answer to Martha Stewart. She spent years teaching Britons how to cook real food, teaching them basic cookery techniques and classical dishes. How to Cheat at Cooking is apparently a rewrite of her first book published in 1971, but from there, her work was all about cooking with real, fresh ingredients.

Any new book sells better with a wave of press, and there is some speculation that Smith’s recent public comments about Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s campaign against battery chickens might simply be desperate publicity spin. Smith claims that her recipes are designed to feed the poor, especially the chyllldrunnn (who will think of them?), but even poor kids are likely to turn up their noses at some of the stuff in her new book.

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Slave to the Kitchen

 

You’ve gotta have a lot of respect, and a healthy does of fear, for someone who can make Gordon Ramsay cry. Anyone who has spent hours watching Hell’s Kitchen wondering where the hell Ramsay learned to run a kitchen like THAT can look no further than his teacher and mentor, Marco Pierre White.

The original enfant terrible chef, White tells his tale in an autobiography entitled White Slave. The product of an Italian mother who passed away when he was very young and a perfectionist father who was also a chef, White was driven early on to become the best chef in the UK. He racked up Michelin stars, wives and restaurants.

White Slave details White’s childhood struggling with dyslexia (the book was “ghost” written by James Steen), his early days in the kitchen, his various romances and his philosophy for running a kitchen. He became notorious for kicking out customers who complained about any aspect of their meal, often with a system in which the front of house staff completely cleared the table, including tablecloth, and left the customers sitting there, speechless. His drive and perfectionism were passed on to his proteges such as Ramsay, Mario Batali and others.

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Chefs!

I’m working my way through a stack of books received as Christmas presents, and while different both topically and stylistically, all seem to have one underlying theme; They’re all about chefs.

The United States of Arugula – How We Became a Gourmet Nation by David Kamp is less the history of gourmet food as it relates to the home cook, and more the evolution of fine dining in the US. Kamp traces the progression of the modern restaurant from the first Escoffier-trained French chefs brought to the US to the current trend towards Food Network “celebrity” chefs and the debate over their validity in the kitchen. Touching on every 20th century food icon from Julia Child to Alice Waters (about whom Kamp seems to have little good to say), he intertwines the history with the development of the careers of two major food writers, James Beard and Craig Claiborne. The book gets more than a little dishy at times (oh, those crazy kids at Chez Panisse!), but that’s part of its charm.

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