May 29, 2009

Festival of Chefs 2009: Jonathan Gushue

Name: Jonathan Gushue

Restaurant: Langdon Hall

How did you get started as a chef? Food was a big hobby of my father's; he was always in the kitchen making something. He didn't have a huge repertoire, but what he did make was great... I've never worked in anything but a hotel; I initially had no intention in staying in the kitchen and had planned to move to the front.

Do you have a food philosophy, if so, what? Let the product show through and be as natural as possible.

What is your relationship with Cheese Boutique? I met Afrim and Agim when working at Truffles in the Four Seasons. The Pristines make everything an event, everything's over the top. With the Festival of Chefs, they give you all the freedom in the world, which is perfect for demo and food shows because if you run out there's always something else. Generous is the perfect word. The Pristines are very invested in what they do and have a real passion for food. They believe in it and love it themselves; they have a great deal of food knowledge, even more than some of the chefs (who sometimes taste as opposed to really eating food). If you ever have a question for them, you'll get a good, well-informed answer.

Jonathan Gushue will be at Cheese Boutique this Sunday, May 31, between noon and 4pm to demonstrate how to whip up a fabulous dish with Cheese Boutique ingredients.

May 28, 2009

The Pasta Chronicles: Part I

The pasta room at CheeseB is a veritable "Little Italy" of wall-to-wall pasta, noodles in assorted shapes and sizes. Egg noodles, squid ink pasta, assorted sauces and jarred tomatoes, it's all there.

In the coming weeks, we shall be exploring the intricacies of all things Pasta-- and with a little recipe advice from the ever-helpful folk at the store, will concoct both simple and more elaborate pasta-based meals.

The Gragnano pasta wall

Of particular interest is the La Fabbrica Della Pasta di Gragnano, a lovely pasta imported from Italy and exclusive to CheeseB.

Their basic pastas contain two ingredients: Gragnano's water and Gragnano's Durum wheat semolina. Simple. Well, the process of making and slow-drying it, not so simple, but we leave that to them.

For the recipe I am going to use only three ingredients:

First, one bag of Fusilloni.

Second, the Sugo al Pomodoro: a.k.a "tomato sauce", prepared by Chef Juan. Nice flavour of basil, and a little bit of kick.

Third, CheeseB's Ricotta. It's fine stuff.

A rougher surface that holds to the sauce

Chef Juan's tasty in-house tomato sauce: heating up in a pot, pretending that O-reagano made it.

This is as simple and easy as it gets, a satisfying comfort meal tasting more of gourmet than convenience. The pasta is boiled in plenty of water while the sauce heats up. The fusilloni does not need to be covered with too much sauce so you don't hide its subtle, nutty flavour. When added to the hot pasta and sauce, the ricotta softens and melts, and all together creates a perfect Fusilloni fusion.

Serve with some fresh-ground pepper... grating of Swiss Sbrinz optional.

Read more entries on Gragnano Pasta:
Pasta Chronicles iv
Mt. Vesuvio Mac & Cheese
Via Allegro Pasta feast

May 27, 2009

Last Weekend of Cheese Boutique Festival of Chefs 2009

The 2009 edition of Cheese Boutique’s Festival of Chefs is drawing to an end this weekend and we’ve saved some of the best for last. Mike Steh from reds bistro will be demonstrating his culinary creativity on Saturday (May 30) while Langdon Hall’s Jonathan Gushue gives gastronomic gifts on Sunday (May 31).

Come out between noon and 4pm and find out why reds bistro has gone from hotspot to solidified city favourite and how Langdon Hall earned its prestigious five diamond rating. In addition to watching the cooking demonstrations and sampling the scrumptious samples there will be wine pairings.

If you require more information or photos, please feel free to contact Emer at

Cheese Boutique | 45 Ripley Ave. | Toronto | Ontario | 416.762.6292

May 25, 2009

Fourth Festival Weekend

Saturday, May 23: Robert Bartley

The Food: Fava Bean blini (pancakes) with Époisses and smoked duck breast, topped with cherry gastric.

Bloor West Village Idiots-- Ride to Conquer Cancer

Guest vendor Berna Kilic of ADA Glass

Longtime local radio personality--Humble Howard, EZ Rock.

Wine for the weekend supplied by Tawse Winery

Sunday, May 24: Donna Dooher
Mildred's Temple Kitchen

The Food: Creamy Lemon Polenta with hot Italian sausage, foraged mushrooms
and boulonnaise Sauce, topped with Goat Cheese "Paillot de Chevre".

Comfort food for all, delivered with a smile

Donna Dooher and crew at the Chef's station

Presentation Table with Afrim, Donna and some of the cutest members of the Pristine Clan.

May 22, 2009

"Date Night" with CheeseB's Papillon Noir

Papillon Noir Roquefort, a pungent ewe's milk blue cheese, aged in mountain caves.

Stuffed into sweet, plump medjool dates.

Wrapped in smokey, delectable Italian spek.

Drizzled with a little truffle honey.

Enjoyed immensely!

Ewe-inspiring cheese "par excellence"

Spek-wrapped dates with arugula and asparagus

A wedge of the papillon noir was blended with a about 1/4 cup of mascarpone. To prepare the dates I made a slit down one side, removed the pit, filled with cheese mixture and wrapped with spek. Then they were placed directly under a very hot broiler for about 3-4 minutes. They cooled for a short time, and were drizzled with truffle-infused honey right before serving.

Along with these tasty little packages I prepared a simple baby arugula salad with vinaigrette, and baked up some thin-crust "pizza" with olive oil, rosemary, parmesan, and sea salt flakes.

Thanks for reading, and be sure to check out the Festival of Chefs this weekend: Robert Bartley on Saturday and Donna Dooher on Sunday--12-4pm. Hope to see you there!

May 21, 2009

Festival of Chefs 2009: Donna Dooher

Name: Donna Dooher

Restaurant: Mildred’s Temple Kitchen

Number of appearances at FOC: This will be my fourth appearance

Why do you enjoy participating in the FOC? I’ve been coming to the Cheese Boutique since I moved to Toronto 25 years ago. From the very beginning I’ve enjoyed the quality and selection of cheese, bread and other provisions as well as the care the entire Pristine Family demonstrates through their pride and passion for the shop. It’s an honour to be part of the festival.

How did you get started as a chef? I graduated from Culinary School at Algonquin College in Ottawa and worked my way through various kitchens in Ottawa and Toronto, unbeknownst to me at the time that I would become part of such a vibrant industry with so many opportunities.

Do you have a food philosophy, if so, what? Spend more time sourcing your food, cooking your food and enjoying your food.

Are you active in any food movements? We strive to embrace the philosophy of Slow Food. We make a concerted effort in our restaurant kitchen to source local, seasonal food and support our surrounding farming communities.

What’s your favourite way to incorporate cheese in your dishes? In most cases cheese is best served on its own. I’ve discovered cedar jelly and pickled walnuts at the Cheese Boutique and both are great complements to cheese.

Donna Dooher will be at Cheese Boutique this Sunday, May 24, between noon and 4pm to demonstrate how to whip up a fabulous dish with Cheese Boutique ingredients.

May 19, 2009

Festival Weekend #3

Saturday, May 16: John Higgins
George Brown

Chef Higgins and Chef Lee (Executive Chef at George Brown) prepared an impressive feast of pulled Ontario lamb with caramelized maple onions, herb mayo and a Quebec goat "chevre noir".

Chefs Higgins and Lee

Sweet caramelized Maple onions

Grating up some chevre noir

Exotic, delicious cherimoya fruit to sample

Saturday, May 17: Ryan Gustafson

Chef Gustafson prepared lovely Arancini for lucky attendees. They were filled with 24 hour "Sous-Vide" short ribs, local asparagus and Thunder Oak Gouda and served with pistachios and Royal York honey-cream from their hard-working rooftop bees.

Wine for the weekend was provided by 13th Street Winery.

Ryan Gustafson

Arancini for All

Chef Gustafson gesticulates over Honeycomb

A Herend Sculpture on the CheesesB patio

May 15, 2009

Fiddleheads, Wild Leeks, and Grill-Worthy Sausages

CheeseB is an excellent place to find the best of seasonal products-- and now, Spring is springing all kinds of tasty things out of the ground and into our kitchens. Things like fiddleheads and wild leeks. Recently both Anne Yarymowich and Anthony Walsh incorporated these into their Festival dishes, and I was inspired to prepare some myself.

My shopping excursion did not end in the produce aisle, however, and this was not destined to be a vegetarian meal. At the recommendation of Agim Pristine I picked up some beautiful house-made sausages from the Deli. So many mouth-watering flavours. For me, it was "Truffle Hunter", made from farm-direct Berkshire pork and fresh Truffles, and one called "El Prado", made from smoked paprika, serrano ham, capers, olives, and Berkshire fat. These sausages seemed to be calling out "Grill me! Grill me!" and by my reasoning it would be cruel to ignore them.

Wild Ramps: Soaked, rinsed, and ready to go

Spring vegetable gnocci and succulent sausages

Alternate View, with a garnish of ramp leaf and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

After cleaning and trimming the fiddleheads and ramps I prepared them to go into the final dish. The ramp has its hairy roots trimmed off and is cut into lengths of about 1.5 inches. I reserved some of the leafy part to use as a garnish. I quickly pan fried them at a fairly high heat, to get a nice brown colour and not overcook.

For the fiddleheads I took scissors and cut of the brownish tip from the stem part and steamed them for five minutes, then placed in cold water.

The sausages were simmered in a little water, slits made, then pan fried in their own delicious oils, which becomes dark and rich and too good to waste. I made sure to give them a good coating of this stuff right before serving. It's one of those "evil" little tricks that makes cooking so much fun.

Gnocchi: made according to package instructions, tossed with the Mascarpone and a little butter (or olive oil) pepper, salt, then all the veggies.

This worked out beautifully. The leeks were as sweet as candy, and the Truffle Hunter sausage had a harmonious, subtler truffle taste.

1 package Gnocchi
1/4 cup Mascarpone
bunches of Ramp (wild leeks), quickly sauteèd (about 1 cup cooked)
1 1/2 cups Fiddleheads, steamed
1/2 cup CheeseB roasted peppers, sliced
2 tbsp.Butter
Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated

House-made CheeseB Sausages:

Truffle Hunter
Berkshire pork and Truffles

El Prado
Smoked paprika, serrano ham, capers, olives, Berkshire fat.

This weekend: John Higgins and Ryan Gustafson. This will bring us halfway through Festival 2009-- already! 12-4 pm Saturday and Sunday... something tasty is promised.

May 11, 2009

Second Weekend of the Festival

Saturday, May 9: Massimo Capra

A remarkably stormy Saturday calls for something hearty: the feature was Reuben sandwiches with cheddar, Wagyu corned beef, sauerkraut and dijon mustard.

Regaling the crowds with deft sandwich-making technique

Like a carrot on a stick, Massimo waggles some Wagyu

Michael Bonacini and family with Massimo at the Presentation Chef's Table

Sunday, May 10: Anne Yarymowich

Mother's Day "Brunch", Festival of Chefs style:
Poached organic duck egg on a buckwheat, fiddlehead pancake with
asparagus vinaigrette and wild ramp hollandaise.

Fresh, Organic Duck eggs...

...Perfectly poached!

A generous dollop of hollandaise and love

Host Fatos Pristine, Anne Yarymowich and Borys Wrzesnewskyj at the Chef's station

Wine for the weekend was provided by Malivoire.

May 7, 2009

Return of the Feta and other news

Greek Feta and Watermelon

The feta is back-- that same wonderful goat's feta that I used last week in a classic Greek salad. This time I had the valuable advice of Afrim Pristine, who started off with this question, "Have you ever tried feta with Watermelon?"

Watermelon and feta? As a matter of fact, no.

Afrim's recipe, apparently a favourite to serve at dinner parties, is "simple and pure". Watermelon, feta, basil, with a drizzle of olive oil and Solai Vecchi Balsamic crema (that stuff is addictive-- put it on your ice cream! Put it on your toast and eggs!). The quality of the olive oil here is of utmost importance, and he suggested a Torres oil such as El Silencio which was featured in this post.

A cube of watermelon can have a small scoop taken out to fill with feta, or it can be stacked in sliced layers. Cut the basil chiffonade-style, place a little between the layers and on top. Here is a chance to let your inner artist come out: stack it high, make little boats, whatever, it's your kitchen.

Naturally you won't want to waste a drop of that lovely olive oil, so make sure to serve this with a good bread such as a chewy Cheese B baguette.

Oh yes, I said something about "other news", didn't I?

Take a look at Zoomer mag's excellent coverage of the Festival launch party: All Hail the Chefs.

Toronto Life's coverage of Sunday at Festival of Chefs here.

And a reminder that this weekend for the Festival you'll find Massimo Capra on Saturday (come early for this one) and Anne Yarymowich on Sunday from 12-4pm-- hope to see you there!

May 4, 2009

First Festival Weekend

Saturday, May 2: Anthony Walsh

Day one of the Festival saw an amazing turnout despite temperamental weather. On the menu for lucky attendees was organic braised brisket, flat bread, wild leek salsa verde and local fiddleheads prepared "with a touch of love".

Rolling out the flat breads

Walsh's team dishes it out

Anthony Walsh, Kristof Rubin of Herend, and Host Fatos Pristine

Christine Cushing at the Presentation Chef's table ...

...and with the Chef!

Sunday May 3: Patrick McMurray

A relaxed and sunny Sunday at CheeseB draws guests in with the inviting aroma of peat smoke from the patio. At the Chef's station sits a block of 2 year old whiskey-marinated farmhouse cheddar, which we were greatly anticipating already when Patrick mentioned it in our Starfish post here. Along with this richly flavoured cheese sits a platter of freshly smoked salmon and freshly shucked assorted oysters. And of course, a little white (or red) wine from Stratus washes it all down beautifully.

A lemon is THAT sour, explains Patrick-- but it is still yummy with an oyster!

Serving up some whiskey drenched farmhouse cheddar

Hey there, salmon, you're on Irish Turf

Patrick discusses the peat with some curious attendees

O-reagano's serving of oysters and salmon and cheese

James Chatto and family at the Presentation Chef's table

May 1, 2009

Festival of Chefs 2009: Anthony Walsh

Name: Anthony Walsh

Restaurant: Canoe

Number of appearances at FOC: 4

Why do you enjoy participating in the FOC? My history with the Store... and more importantly the Family. We are like minded people, and I want to do my part in showing how important, fascinating as well as fun cooking can be.

How did you get started as a chef? After university... I wasn't convinced academia was for me. Believe it or not, I was a waiter... and not a very patient one. Coming from a large family, food was always at the forefront, regardless of its simplicity - I learned from my mother that the intent of food and feeding people - both stangers or not so strangers, was the most important thing. Care about the people, care about the food, and things always have a way of working out... “The Art of the Possible.”

Do you have a food philosophy, if so, what? As a Chef, philosophies are "cute" when you have some sort of technical competency. Simplicity comes in the restaurant business with experience. For me, less is more; be smart with the quality and combinations of ingredients and do your research. Giver the meal the respect it deserves.

Are you active in any food movements? Slow Food, Terroir all of those sort of things.

What’s your favourite way to incorporate cheese in your dishes? Everywhere and anywhere.... Thunder Oaks with Dandelion and Lemon.

Anthony Walsh will be at Cheese Boutique this Saturday, May 2, between noon and 4pm to demonstrate how to whip up a fabulous dish with Cheese Boutique ingredients.

Anthony Walsh and team at last year's Festival