Mar 30, 2009

Honey, You're Special: Part II

The Art of the Beekeeper!

Savannah Bee Company award-winning artisanal honeys have arrived at Cheese Boutique. These honeys comes from small beekeepers who care for their bees, which is good, because-- what else can I say?-- Bees are really cool. And good honey is amazing.

Available are several varietals of the purest quality and each with their own unique properties-- the essence of the flowers they were made from.

Tupelo
Organic Acacia
Sourwood
Orange Blossom
Black Sage
Raspberry
Winter White (from Northern wildflowers)

Best of all is the raw honeycomb, of which Cheese B possesses several immense slabs for delicious purposes-- and also sold in smaller quantities, nicely boxed, for the general public.

In-store selection of Savannah products, featuring one of CheeseB's honeycomb slabs


Honey and Biscuits

It is a box of this honeycomb that I brought home. Savannah's brochure suggested serving it on a hot biscuit, or with cheese, and I did a little of both. I rolled out some butter biscuits, sliced up some of the beautiful honeycomb with a hot knife and placed it on the biscuit with a dollop of quark. The wax, in case you are wondering, is entirely edible!

Little hands can't resist a sweet honeycomb treat!



To make something more elaborate, as seen in the picture above (provided by Savannah Bee Co.) , one of these boxed honeycombs makes a stunning centerpiece for a cheese and fruit plate.

Visit savannahbee.com for more information on their story and their products. And contact Cheese Boutique for more information on pairing cheese and honey!

Mar 26, 2009

Festival of Chefs 2009: EPIC

Located on the main level of the Fairmont Royal York Hotel is the restaurant EPIC, whose chef, Ryan Gustafson, was next on Breemer and O-reagano’s Festival of Chef checklist.

When Breemer's mother first came to Canada (many decades ago), the Royal York was the tallest building in the Commonwealth. Though now dwarfed by taller neighbours, the hotel still maintains its sense of history and presence. These days the hotel also connects with commuters (due to its convenient location across from Union Station) and hungry sports fans on their way to or from the ACC, Rogers Stadium or the Hockey Hall of Fame.



Though there are a number of restaurants in the building, we were there to sample the food from Gustafson's kitchen at EPIC. Upon entering we noticed an overall serene blue theme to the open room. Comfy blue banquettes lined the perimeter of the dining area, in which each table was set with decorative blue floral plates.

We began by devouring the spread du jour, a wonderful puree of white asparagus and mascarpone cheese (plus we think we tasted a hint of truffle). It was so good we couldn’t contain ourselves and kept nibbling on it nonstop.

The first break from the spread came with the arrival of an amuse bouche for each of us, a pleasant surprise. Breemer was given a crab salad with chive fresh cream while O-regano had a buffalo mozzarella with tomato and balsamico.

Stuffed medjool date, tangerine, baby arugula

For the starter we opted for Pingue’s Niagara prosciutto, which came with BC tiger Blue cheese stuffed medjool dates, fennel, tangerines, arugula and a pink peppercorn-truffle vinaigrette. The pungent cheese and sweet dates fused wonderfully, especially when tasted with a little bit of everything from the plate. And this inspired a plan to pick up some plump medjools and a good Blue from CheeseB at some later time.

O-reagano opted for the Vegetarian main which consisted of a presentation of fuseau artichoke, celeriac strudel, fifth town chevre, northern woods mushroom, soy beans, corn fricassee and a sage-galeux squash sauce.

Celeriac and chevre strudel


Breemer chose the Ontario natural char that had the Ocean Wise seal of approval from the Vancouver Aquarium. The dish came with celeriac purée, autumn beets, fine beans and a truffle-port foam. This was the second time on the Festival of Chefs restaurant tour that Breemer had truffle-foam, and this one was equally enjoyable.


Char, beets, beans, truffle-port foam


On the dessert menu there was an option of cheese paired with rooftop honey which happens to be a main attraction on the EPIC menus. However, as much as we love cheese and adored the idea of trying honey fresh from the hotel roof, there was no room for cheese after all we ate (especially with all that spread!) so we opted for the dessert platter. This is the perfect choice for the indecisive. It came with dainty portions of lemon financier, sticky toffee pudding, molten lava cake, apple tart, chocolate soufflé and, our favourite, chai brulée. The latter alone could be reason enough to return.


Feather-light chocolate souffle, sticky toffee pudding oozing in background

Mar 19, 2009

Festival of Chefs 2009: George Brown

We initially intended to visit Festival star Chef John Higgins, director of the George Brown Chef School, at The Chefs’ House. However, by delicious coincidence, the school’s "Marriage of Food and Wine" gala took place this week, on March 18th. With one golden gastronomic ticket you got the chance to cruise tables laden with bite-size savory treats created with a specific wine pairing in mind. The sight of a room overflowing with food filled us with Willy Wonka-like excitement (not that it was dessert and pastry event, though there was one delicious dish that was drizzled with a cocoa sauce – cocoa and Sichuan peppercorn crusted duck breast on crispy taro root chip - I was originally timid to taste a combination of chocolate and meat, but it was scrum-diddily-umptious).

Student cooks mingle with the crowd in the George Brown foyer

The Promising future-chefs were out to impress with their eye-catching displays of appetizers. With so much selection it was really tough to choose what to nibble, especially when some were so very good that we had to have two of them…maybe three...ok finnnne, four.

Seared Ahi Tuna and Avocado Aioli


Fresh spring rolls


Pulled pork in a boat

A glimpse of student chefs hard at work in one of the kitchen facilities

Bison Carpaccio with Root Vegetables puree (thinly sliced Bison cured with Juniper berries)


Chef John Higgins stops to chat with Breemer

The atrium was filled to the brim with hungry foodies who bustled from table to table. We fought our way through the crowd and ate and ate until we were completely stuffed (I’m talking after a large Thanksgiving meal full!). While we were buzzing around we had the pleasure to run into Chef John Higgins. We stopped to chat while tasting succulently sweet honey ginger chicken skewers. Between bites he told us how proud he was of all the students. And of course he should be. Almost every morsel that entered our mouths caused a reaction of “ooh”, “mmm” or “ohmygawd, you have to try this!”

Crunchy, creamy balls of goodness.


Spicy pork dumplings with water chestnuts and sesame and tasty dipping sauce

It was an event we will keep our eye on in the future and one that’s revving us up for the Festival, mouths watering with anticipation of what Higgins will create.

CheeseB has a Crush...

"Fromage & Wine Voyage" with Afrim Pristine at Crush Wine Bar, 455 King Street West. It's six exciting cheeses from around the world, paired with wine. The next events are Thursday, March 26 at 630 PM, and Thursday, April 23, 630pm.

To reserve a spot please contact Carla Mundwiler at (416) 977-1234 or privatedining@crushwinebar.com

Mar 13, 2009

Festival of Chefs 2009: Frank

The next stop for Breemer and O-reagano on their tour of Festival of Chefs restaurants was Frank, located in the newly renovated Art Gallery of Ontario. The Chef is Anne Yarymowich, who makes her appearance at the Festival on May 10th.

courtesy of Dean Tomlinson © 2009 ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

The space is bright and multi-leveled, with an open kitchen at the back and a stylish bar area by the front. It is here the bartender mixes up such aptly named cocktails as the "Picasso Sting" (a spicy mixture of mandarin vodka, freshly squeezed lemon, orange and cranberry juice topped with a Serrano chili), the "Joan Miró Margarita," and the "Emily Side Carr."

















courtesy of Dean Tomlinson © 2009 ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO


The whole North facade is floor-to-ceiling glass, giving a good view of the street and passers-by, and the West end features a vast, back-lit open concept wine rack filled with the best of Ontario wines.

An interesting feature spotted in the menu was the "Stop for Food" prix fixe three course lunch special (running until March 28). One would be hard pressed to choose from the delicious sounding options, but can rest their social conscience at the same time as enjoying a fine meal, as $5 from every order is donated to The Stop Community Food Centre.

But alas, we opted (this time) for the regular menu: starting with the silky, salmon-like arctic char gravlax with Meyer lemon relish (deeelish!) served with crème fraîche and crisp poppy seed crackers. And just as we were remarking on what that interesting garnish might be, Chef Anne Yarymowich herself came to our table and answered that it was baby red kale from Soiled Reputation in Stratford. One of many sprouted plants provided to the restaurant, and part of the emphasis placed on local ingredients.

And then (naturally), we asked her about cheese. She expressed her fondness for Cheese Boutique, saying she is enamored by their level of knowledge and willingness to help. Whenever she wants a certain type of cheese, or a certain quality in a cheese, she calls them up and they do the research for her and source whatever she’s looking for. And after a brief and interesting chat she left us to the difficult business of deciding on our main courses.


Chef Anne Yarymowich

After some amount of pondering and discussion, ever on the look-out for that "cheese" angle, we opted to share two mains: a goat cheese soufflé and a grilled bison cheddar burger.

The soufflé, in proper soufflé fashion, was wonderfully light and fluffy, and while tempted to say it melted in your mouth like butter that’s not an airy enough description. It was accompanied perfectly by colourful, sweet baby beets and Soiled Reputation micro-greens with candied walnuts.

The bison burger, laden with Niagara Gold cheddar, came with a side of frites and house made apple/pear ketchup . There is nothing like sinking your teeth into a thick, juicy burger, oozing with all that melted cheese. No need for further description!

And then... the dessert. There were various options, all sounding delicious, but no need for discussion on this one. Hands down, both Breemer an O-reagano had eyes only for the baked bittersweet chocolate pudding with warm Malden-salted caramel sauce and sweet whipped cream. The rich, dark pudding was a great mixture of near liquid and lightly baked, and when combined with the sticky-sweet caramel sprinkled with granular salt, created a masterpiece of flavour. Truly, art you can eat!

~Breemer
~O-reagano


courtesy of Edward Pond © 2008 ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO


courtesy of Edward Pond © 2008 ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

Note: Materials within the gallery are sensitive to photography! Pics kindly provided by AGO.

Mar 9, 2009

Inspiration #223


Afrim Pristine, official Cheese-keeper, pictured in a moment of Inspiration. What he has here are several sheep's milk cheeses made in Ingersoll, Ontario, exclusively for Cheese Boutique.



He drowns it in olive brine from Peruvian Alphonso olives...



Authentic olive branches are also placed in the Italian ceramic jug, imparting a fresh olive aroma.



The lid is put in place, and in the olive bath the cheese shall stay until it is time.

How long, you ask????

As Afrim says: When Mother Nature tells us it's ready, well then it is ready....

Mar 6, 2009

Festival of Chefs 2009: Mistura

Breemer and O-reagano's quest for Festival of Chefs continued with a visit to Festival regular Massimo Capra (who appears on May 9) at Mistura...

Sitting unassumingly on Dupont between Bedford and Avenue Road is Mistura. An elegant establishment, open only for dinner, it offers a warm and intimate atmosphere that was perfect for a cold night. Nice dark wood was accompanied with many mirrors. A great thing about the large mirror spanning the entire back wall was that it allowed people who were seated with their backs to the room an opportunity to still see the space… and people watch.

A cast of super friendly staff, all of whom beamed wonderful smiles and stopped for friendly banter. Perhaps the friendliest of all was Executive Chef Massimo Capra who not only came to chat with us about his adoration of Cheese Boutique, but also stopped at many of the other tables to check in on how everyone was enjoying their meals.

We began with splitting the bufala mozzarella appetizer. This ultra-fresh cheese (from CheeseB, naturally) simply melted in your mouth, while we were both caught off guard by the enjoyable crunchiness of the fried chickpeas.


Fresh Bufala Mozzerella and the concentrated flavours of baked tomato



Next we had the sardine “in saor” with soft pickled sardines, sweet and sour onions and endive salad. Massimo told us this dish was a traditional Venetian recipe.


Sardine “in saor”: sweet, sour, and salty!


For a tentacle treat we tried the grilled octopus-- served with two magnificent looking tentacles draped over a bed of potato salad with olives, capers, sweet white onions and a lemon dressing.


Tender grilled octopus


O-reagano had a scrumptious black truffle gnocchi dish, a hearty yet delicate pasta humming with the subtle aroma of truffle.


Creamy bowlful of comfort


Breemer opted for a pasta dish as well, however this one was with hand-cut spaghetti, Nova Scotia lobster and garlic and topped off with a generous sprinkling of parmesan cheese.


Hand-cut Spaghetti and Nova Scotia Lobster


Offered on the dessert menu was a cheese board with specialty cheeses selected by the chef and served with mustara di cremona, truffle honey, preserved fruit and walnut bread. But this night we opted for chocolate over cheese…

The pièce de résistance was dessert. A warm chocolate cake overflowing with rich flavour, our jaws dropped when it was brought to the table. Cascading on top of the cake was a silky espresso white chocolate sauce, while infused inside was liquid chocolate that gushed forth with every bite. To the side lay a pretty arrangement of feather-light meringue stick and a chocolate tower filled with whipped cream and capped with a raspberry coulis.


Chocolate, chocolate, rivers of chocolate goodness



We floated out of the restaurant completely satisfied and with a bit of a chocolate-induced rush (even the coffee came with a chocolate coated spoon, genius!). A nice walk to take the time to reflect over every savoured bite was an excellent end to an excellent evening.

Mar 5, 2009

Ravioli Duo and Torta Mascarpone


This week, we have two kinds of Ravioli from Bertagni, the "oldest filled pasta producer in Italy", products you will not easily find in Canada-- unless you go to CheeseB of course. They are fresh, refrigerated, and ready to eat within minutes.

Ravioli #1 is Gorgonzola and Walnut. To go with this it was recommended that I get some of the Torta Mascarpone-- layers of Gorgonzola and Mascarpone that fuse into heavenly, creamy goodness.





Torta Mascarpone

The idea was to melt this and thin it with some milk to coat the Ravioli. And I did do this, but--confession-- the cheese was just so amazing when I tasted it, a good deal of it ended up consumed long before it went anywhere near the pasta-- with some of the still-warm sweet balsamic onion, all washed down with some Chianti... yeah, that could have been dinner all on its own. Mmmm.

Ravioli #2 is the Pumpkin, which I made with a simple sage butter and garnished with roasted pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds). These are big and soft and filled with sweet, flavourful pumpkin.


Pumpkin Ravioli with Sage Butter and Gorgonzola Walnut Ravioli with Torta Mascarpone and Balsamic onions

To prepare the sage butter melt with chopped fresh sage and leave on low heat to mingle flavours for a few minutes, add some lemon juice to taste, and toss in the Ravioli.

For the Torta Mascarpone sauce, melt it over low heat, slowly whisk in milk until thinned enough for your liking and toss in the Ravioli. The onion garnish was red onion gently sweated over a low heat in a dash of olive oil until lightly caramelized and translucent, then tossed with a splash of balsamic.

I served it with a tossed green salad and that was dinner, ready within minutes. The hard part was choosing a picture!

Ingredients:
Torta Mascarpone
Bertagni Gorgonzolla and Walnuts Ravioli
Bertagni Pumpkin Ravioli
Milk
Butter
Fresh Sage
Lemon juice
Red Onion
Balsamic Vinegar

Alternate Recipe idea:
Large slab of Torta Mascarpone
Bottle of Wine