Hola de México!

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A semi-formal dining event at George Brown College to execute a seven-course dinner, showcasing El Catrin’s Mexican fare executed by Executive Chef, Olivier Le Calvez, Chef de Partie Leonardo Olvera and myself, Sous Chef Donovan Gomes, in collaboration with George Brown College students.

The opportunity to provide hands on experience and educate students to the real-life culinary world. To exhibit through them the motions of planning, preparation and execution, while experiencing the intensity of focus, discipline, efficiency, respect and reward for both the food and themselves.

The day started at six a.m., I was going over the notes from the previous few days, making sure I gathered and prepped all that I needed. Chef Olivier joined me around nine a.m., singing something in Spanish, his usual jolly self, walks past me and hands over an Americano & Chocolate croissant. Much needed boost in the morning. We came together and went over the day ahead once again, just to make sure, exchanged a high five and started to load the van.

The El Catrin Chef’s pulled up by noon to the double doors on Frederick St. that led into the beautiful restaurant “The Chefs House” at George Brown College. They were about to commence lunch service. We quietly creeped down the side stairs to the basement like silhouettes where we about to prep for the next three hours or so, but first the calling for yet another fresh cup of brew.

The prep area downstairs was well maintained and intimate, where everything was at arms reach. The three of us worked through the menu with precision, with no stone unturned. Having organized lists leaves almost no room for error. We were focused and determined to give the students and our guests an amazing Mexican culinary experience, showcasing all the vibrant flavours of which some took days to prepare.

During our time spent preparing for dinner service, we were greeted by an array of chefs, managers & faculty from George Brown College. Needless to say, the were unbelievably kind and thoughtful with their presence and hospitality. Chef Rusin, a professor at the college, came by and informed us that we would be accommodating five to six students that would be our “hands” for the next couple of hours.

This was the best part of my experience, to be able to see the innocence yet eagerness of these students embracing the idea of working with ingredients of a cuisine which may be foreign to them. Before you know it, the cutting boards were down, sharp knives were out and off they went with specific tasks assigned to them, overseen by us chefs.

screenshotTo give them a sense of what real world kitchens would expect of them, we treated them just like any of our cooks with respect & professionalism, showing them where they were going wrong and how to improve, setting timelines on assigned tasks to feel the sense of discipline and urgency. This along with getting to bond with them through short conversations about their background and future culinary interests. Time flies when your having fun doing what you love and with a few blinks of an eye, it was time to take our prepared foods upstairs and get ready for dinner service.

“Chef please take your food up the elevator!!” exclaimed Chef Rusin. Elevator I thought?? This was quite the privilege, these students have it made. State of the art facility, from combi-ovens and smokers to blenders, mixers, dehydrators and much more. It is great to know that these future Chefs are trained to use modern, state of the art equipment to create beautiful food with efficiency and accuracy.

The dining room upstairs was well lit, tables and chairs aligned, serviettes and utensils all squared up, wine glasses absolutely transparent and glistening, all this with the smooth sound of Mexican Mariachi in air. The kitchen was handed to us immaculately clean and polished from lunch service. It was time to get down to business.

The students for the nights service were assigned specific stations as per their instructor and we were to work with them accordingly. Two to three per station, so I took a moment and divided the remaining final touches of prep and distributed them accordingly, with Chef Leonardo, to oversee. All was going as planned. It was now time to discuss plating options and final presentations with El Jefe, Chef Olivier.

With forty minutes left before the arrival of our guests, we decided to plate one of each dish to accomplish many things, giving the students, servers and managers alike an idea of how the ingredients come together on the plate, allowing them to visualize, smell and eventually taste but not before Chef Olivier has the opportunity to tell the story behind the food, the purpose of the event and last but not least the appreciation of the students and chefs joining forces to bring everything together and to respect the efforts put forth by all that came through to make this night happen.

The food was well received by all partaking in the service. The servers seemed confident with explaining the dishes after having tried it. All questions handled with grace by Chef Olivier. Guests are slowly trickling through the doors. Its Showtime.

These students showed nerves of excitement more than fear of not being able to perform. Looked like they may have done this a few times now, which was great for me. Everyone had their game face on, Chefs Olivier and Leonardo keeping eye contact with me at all times so that we are on the same page come what may. We split the students equally amongst us three and moved them around depending on where we could expose them to the food and service, the most.

We also had the company, brains and brawn of our very own Corporate Executive Chef, Tim Miles. His keen eye from a drone like – panoramic view allows room for no mistakes. Not to mention his attention to every little detail during service from plates to food to people involved, always questioning the next move, three steps ahead. Keeping quality control and being hands on with cutting, cooking, tasting and plating, this man does it all. Gratifying to say the least.

I made sure that all the students had their hands involved with the food throughout the nine courses, from canapes to dessert. The Chefs demonstrated one or two plates and let the students do the rest, with us guiding their every movement. Every student took charge of at least one element that went on a plate. Their faces so intense and eyes focused to the details from the example set for them.

There isn’t a single service in my entire culinary career, where there a curveball is thrown at you and because of those repeated past experiences, what came next was handled with ease. After years of practice, the ability to think on your feet with what you have in front of you becomes second nature.

Out of forty-nine guests of which originally none had any allergies or restrictions to a pre-fixed menu previously viewed, there happened to be three of them that night with particulars, two with shellfish allergies and one with a fish allergy. We whipped up delicious alternatives for them, a corn and ancho chili risotto, a couple of Red snapper ceviche’s and a Confit heirloom tomato and Charred tomatillo ceviche. All was received well and appreciated by those guests. This was also an eye opener for the students to see what can change during a planned service.

After the desserts were out, we all came together for a swift clean up whilst our Chef Olivier said a few words of gratitude to the guests and student for making this night a successful event, and plan for more to come. We all took pictures and exchanged contact information with the students, with hopes to run into each other again someday. It’s a small culinary world after all.

Back downstairs again, packing up all of what was left from the night. I was out the door to bring the company van, when I thought to myself I’m sure the chefs could use a nice cup of brew, so I stumbled next door and picked up three Americanos, it was now approaching nine-thirty p.m. We said our goodbyes once all packed up and headed back to the mothership.

Driving home I thought about the day and how productive, educational and memorable it was to share my experiences with students who will one day turn out to be amazing Chefs, as long as they keep at it. I would do this all over again to be able to give back from where I once started. It is now midnight. Zzzzzz.

by Chef Donovan Gomes.

CUMBRAE’S – from farm, to butcher shop, to table..

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Chef Craig Madore,

Sous Chef @ Pure Spirits Oyster House

The day started off great as I volunteered to drive and don’t get the opportunity very often anymore. I was already giddy with excitement being able to chauffeur some of the cooks around for the day.

 

After meeting up at the car rental place and having a bit of a confusion there, we were on our way to pick up the crew. Once settling on a route we took to the road on our way to Hagersville Ontario to see some lamb and cattle.

The drive was pretty good other than one of our colleagues lagging behind a bit due to the fact he drives like an old man on Sunday’s. It’s really nice being out in the country. The rolling hills and trees. You don’t get to see many trees in the city, or grass for that matter. Everyone in the van was more content being out there looking over the landscape. The drive even took an unexpected turn when we had to stop for a crossing of what I think was either wild turkey or partridge. A neat little experience that had everyone in the vehicle pressing their faces against the windows remarking how “cool” that was.

We had to make a quick pit stop at a gas station because the rental agency clearly lied about how far we could get on half a tank. That, and the fact that the cooks have bladders the size of young children. After about an hour and a half we came across an unassuming little barn house on a county road in the middle of nowhere. The smell of manure and hay filling the air was welcoming and not overwhelming. We pulled in the driveway next to a giant green tractor that people immediately started taking pictures next to. City folk are funny sometimes – “Hey look at me next to this tractor which we rarely come across in cement jungle land”.

 

The farmer came to meet us and was what you’d expect from such. A large towering man, dirty overalls, hadn’t shaved in a while, but surprisingly soft spoken. untitled-224We did our introductions, took a few photos, and got warned by the Chefs to stay away from the electric fence.

Walking in to the sheep barn we were greeted by some baby lamb being fed by their mothers. untitled-39untitled-68We were then spoken to about how the sheep get impregnated and the selection process in which animals are kept and allowed to mature to sheep for wool or sent off as lamb to be produced. We also learned about the adopting process in which female sheep can only really care for about 3 lamb, so if they have more than 3 they need to “orphan” the lamb to a sheep who has less. We then got to go into the sheep pen where there were well over 100 animals. They were frightened at first but quickly came up to us for a bit of affection.

The wool is so soft and pillowy. No wonder everyone seems to like wool stuff. We learned about the type of hay they like to eat which is mixed with silage, the breeding process, and how they interact with one another. It was really interesting as the operator was incredibly knowledgeable about his animals.

Afterwards we took off to the cattle farm. This was more like the farms you read about in books. It had the big red barn of course, the hockey pond out front, and large grain silos lining the side of the property.

 

untitled-198We were given a quick tour of the equipment and the feed, then introduced to the Black Angus and Wagyu breeds. untitled-266There was also a cross breed which the name now escapes me. We were informed again on processes such as breeding, selection for meat, and feed. The cattle were surprisingly friendly as well, coming up to us in general curiosity.untitled-185

untitled-152untitled-245Shortly after the farm tours we were back on the road toward Dundas Ontario for a wonderful lunch at Quatrefoil restaurant. The town was small and quaint, and the restaurant was a little cottage style house with a really great look to it. The interior was very classy but welcoming, with a nice looking patio that would be a good spot to spend a sunny afternoon. The restaurant staff did an amazing job setting up a nice private room for us outside the kitchen.

Food was spot on at this place. The bread all made in house was unreal, with a sourdough, cheese twists, little popover style gougers, and a sweet bread which I think was some kind of molasses rye. Either way they were all delicious, with nice salty butter. For lunch we had sun choke soup, Cumbraes meatloaf with squash and Brussels sprouts, and a chocolate banana bombe. Nice spread and a well spent lunch hour which I’m sure everyone on the trip would agree with. We all left wanting to take a nap after that filling meal, which a few of the people not driving happened to do. Nice life!

The drive home was a bit of a mess. Our van happened to somehow go from half a tank to nothing in a matter of 5 minutes. This unfortunately made us have to get off the highway and find a gas station. Topping it all off it started to downpour on the way back into the city, slowing everyone down. We unfortunately didn’t make it to Cumbraes in time for the tour, but we got to see the shop which was beautiful. The selection of dry aged beef, pork, chicken, prepared foods, condiments, pies, etc. was mind blowing. I definitely didn’t expect them to have as much of a selection, but one can only assume that is why they’re one of the most popular butcher shops in Toronto.

Departing back to the Distillery everyone was in good spirits and a little bit more educated from the day’s activities. Smiles all around and happy cooks. Definitely a great way to spend a day when you live and breathe food. I would recommend a visit to these places to any cook I know.

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David Semotiuk, Line Cook @ El Catrin Destileria
 Hey Chef Tim,
 I just wanted to thank you again for the field trip to Cumbrae farms. It was an interesting place to go see, and a stark contrast to see the fourth generation farm being so old and being surrounded by so many windmills. That seemed to be how he chose to raise his animals, by combining the best of older techniques and modern ones. I was surprised they fermented the hay but from a storage and animal health point of view I think it is a really good solution. It was funny seeing him talk about portion control by weight, when feeding his cows. It is a good reminder that any waste you can cut is profit.
The main thing I took away from the trip though is the idea that as chef I think we have to pay for flavor not weight of beef. That can mean little things like not misting at the abattoir, breeding for a smaller eye or taking the time to dry age like they do. When you have the opportunity to work with someone as knowledgeable about animals you really can get a premium flavour as well as the product you want.
Lana Golub, Cluny Bistro
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Chef Reid Walton
Sous Chef @ Pure Spirits Oyster House

First let me say thank you again for the opportunity to attend the last DRC field trip. In my opinion its outings like this that set us apart from other restaurant groups in the city.

Cumbrae Farms was amazing,  but smaller than I imagined. I have shopped with Cumbrae’s for years and to get the opportunity to speak directly to the person responsible for raising the meat I have been purchasing was a unique and rare opportunity most Chefs do not get. I found it very interesting to physically see the difference in build and temperament between the breed of cattle on the farm.
Highlight of the trip for me was our stop for lunch at Quatrefoil! Absolutely stunning room with great food in small town Ontario. The Menu far exceeded expectations and the company was pretty good as well! Its really great to get the opportunity to share a meal sitting down with my co workers!

These type of trips are important and I would like the opportunity to be more involved in the planning process moving forward. Im currently looking into the possibility of Sylvania Farms having a group of us out to see their facility. They are raising Mangalitsa Pigs as well as goats, cows, and chickens in the Niagara region. I believe they are running a small scale charcuterie operation as well.

Stella Jang, Snr. Line Cook @ Pure Spirits Oyster House

▪ Location : Cumbrae’s Lamb/sheep Farm and Black Angus and Wagyu Beef Farm -> Lunch at Quatrefoil restaurant (Local farmers restaurant) -> Cumbrae’s Butcher shop in city

I had never been at farm like here before, it was the first time to be there. It is incredible how they raise their lamb/sheep and beef, and they grow their feeds as well. The farms are not huge operation, but it is 4th generation’s farm and well-maintained farm and honest. The animals are going to the local butcher shop. That means we can buy the meat which are we can know where they from and how they raised. This idea is remarkable.
It was such a great time ever and the experience gives me an idea that in some points, it is really exciting to know about your food; where they from, how they grow, who done by,,, so on.

Thank you chef for giving me the opportunity and this was so impressive and awesome!!

Pig in the City

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When we arrived at seven and change on a warm summer morning for this edition of the field trip, I didn’t know it would forever change the way I look at food.
Chef Tim’s spread of breakfast Sammies helped kickoff the morning, then off to Stratford and Montforte Dairy, what a place of smells!
When we arrived the scent of warm whey was everywhere. Talking to the cheese maker was awesome.  I have seen him many times at the St. Lawrence market and I felt I knew the skinny on some of his cheeses, until I walk into the “Wild Room”. The amount of ammonia in the air grabs your nose like a smack to the face.  Very special things happen in that room.
It was the first time I had seen cheese mites.  We get Mimolette at Cluny Bistro and they are waxed for shipping, however the cheese mite is celebrated in that cheese.IMG_7610
Then to lunch and what a lunch!  The people in that town get the best from every farmer, all things we ate you would see on a high end chalk board in the west end of Toronto, or on a high end tapas menu. The roma tomatoes were so perfect as if they were grown just to be paired with the fresh Monforte Toscano.

Now when it all changed we rolled up to a log drive way and pulled in. We were greeted by the dogs first then the owners of Perth pork .
I got to talking with Fred about the pigs and he’s showed me the boars I got to butcher with Chef O and Chef Reid a long time ago when I was a cook at The DRC, but I sure didn’t look at it in the same light back then.
Fred told us about how he got the Tamworth breed and how they thrive in that Ontario air.

After meeting the people that produce this pork I realized I had to do everything I could to make this man’s life work into very tasty products, trying not to waste a thing.

His method of letting the pigs rest before slaughter reminded me of the Japanese way for dispatching fish called “ikejime”, all of the care is in making the sure the latic acid is as minimal as possible.
As was the same with Fred’s Perth county pork. So before I arrived I already had a plan how I was going to butcher it.  I would try to get the most market cuts out of the hog and sell them on feature at Cluny, making back the investment on the pig before turning a bit into some tasty charcuterie.IMG_0010

The leg.
Cured in salt for one month at 4% by weight then hung for 1 year.
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For the shoulder.
Mortadella IMG_0116
The front belly.
Air drying with salt & then double smoked when we get some wood for the smoker.IMG_0085
For the neck.
Spicy copa to be hung 6 months.IMG_0086
The rear belly.
I cold smoked it and served in surf and turf style with line caught big eye tuna.IMG_0007
The bone in chops.
I featured the seven bone in chops with roasted baby spuds, garlic scapes and fresh peas with a sherry jus.IMG_0053
The T bone chops.
TBD – after we get through Summerlicous!IMG_0002
The front foot/hock.
Staff meal – braised and fried by Sammy and  served with a spiced vinegar dip.  It was awesome.
For the cheek.
Guanciale in green salt mixture.  
As well, all the bones were turned into en croute aspic and the large amount of fat is being used up in en croute as well. There were two small handfuls of blood stained meat I could not use everything else has been used from the entire hog.IMG_0009
I sold the tuna dish at $35 and sold 30 of them allowing for $5 of that to cover the pork belly and sold 30 so = $150
Also sold the 7 bone loin chops at $25 (one went to Sarah for her ’employee of the month’ meal) = $175

So the the pig’s cost is covered with more than 50+ pounds of it still to be sold off.

I feel very proud of what I have done with a mans life work and I will never look at food the same again.

Always cook happy!
Chef Jeff Glowacki
Cluny Bistro & Boulangerie
35 Tank House Lane
Toronto, ON
M5A 3C4

Perth County, Ontario.

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Hi chef,

The trip was awesome, and that sounds fair to me! Brevity has always been something I have struggled with, and I don’t think one can do justice to a whole day of experience with one paragraph, but I hope you enjoy my summary nonetheless!IMG_7760-Edit

After a nice drive and a quick snooze, we found ourselves at the Montforte dairy, in Stratford. The dairy is out in the boonies, where you can buy stuff like fireworks or pineapple flavoured Crush from the gas stations. The space was clean and industrial, but we got a warm welcome from the start. Although they used professional, modern equipment in their work, they still put personal attention and care into each piece of cheese. Their hands, as they put it, have touched everything that they sell. 

It was interesting to see the different rooms and their purposes: a white mold room for aging cheeses like camembert, or the wild room, where the yeasts and cultures are not controlled and anything can happen to the cheese. It was here that we also started to learn about the challenges that an artisanal cheese maker must face.. One rack of cheese had suffered from “blow”, which inflates the cheese before it finishes aging, making it worthless. A single rack, smaller than a rolling rack in a kitchen, was worth more than $10,000, and there was nothing they could do to recover that product, they just had to watch it blow up!IMG_7629

After the tour, we went to their restaurant in town and got to sample many of their products at lunch.. Everything was delicious; the goat queso fresco, fenugreek-studded tohm, taleggio, Camembert, cheddar,  chèvre, the list went on and only got better. We also got to meet Ruth, who runs the operation. Ruth is a hard-talkin lady who worked her way up in kitchens before getting into the cheese game, and she doesn’t have time for bullshit. She told us the truth, that her business, and other independent businesses like hers, are in trouble. She said we need to tell each other this so we can help each other to continue. Because it’s important to have someone making wonderful products, especially when we live here! There won’t be such a thing as an Ontario terroir without people who care about what they are doing using the gifts of the land to make delicious food. IMG_7727-Edit

Our other stop of the way was at Perth Pork, the top supplier of high quality hogs for the entire GTA. The reason for their status became clear pretty fast.. The husband and wife who run the operation are perceptive about how to appeal to their market. Appreciating that the industry is driven not only by quality, but also by novelty, they are constantly coming up with new ways to offer something that nobody else has. After they brought heritage breeds like Tamworth and Berkshire to their farm, they added wild boar. Then they started creating their own cross-breeds with unique and desirable properties! Although they had another new project on the go at the time of our visit, it was a closely guarded secret, not to be revealed until it was ready for the market, and vice versa… Something to look forward to!

Many thanks for the opportunity, Chef.

Matthew – Line cook, Distillery Events & Archeo Trattoria

Another great DRC field trip. First stop was Monforte Dairy in Stratford Ontario; an artisanal cheese company. It was interesting to hear about their production process, but more so of the challenges they face from regulatory bodies and their supply chain. I think its a key lesson for future chefs to understand that its not just about what happens in the kitchen, but that so much of an restaurants success is dependent on the external forces that affect what happens in the kitchen (supplier relationships, regulatory changes, labour trends etc) and how that is managed.IMG_7717

We then went onto Perth Pork in Sebringville just north of Stratford Ontario. We met owners Fred and Ingrid Martines who were quite charming and I can see why they are known as the people to go to if you want whole pork. They provided an informative tour of their farm and its operations. They also spoke at length of environmental factors such as flooding and invasive pests which was a informative conversation.

Steve – Apprentice Chef, Distillery Restaurants Corp.

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First time  visiting a factory or farm in Canada, was great opportunity to learn for me.
I could feel, and it made me think about people who made cheese through the tasting the cheeses. They take so much time to make each of an amazing cheese for customers.

It was great time to see and know about piggies,how they grow up by the farmer and how have the former started.

I really thank to a farmer and piggies through this field trip.

Miri – Garde Manger, Cluny Bistro & BoulangerieIMG_7610

Hi-oh Chef,

This is my fed trip report. Thank you for your skillful driving, chauffeuring us safely to and from. Montforte dairy was both informative and entertaining. Being sworn under the table by someone’s mom is always a hi-light! The spread provided by Montforte was both generous and delicious. Perth Pork was also very informative showing us how a farm is tended from grain to feed and animal to compost, nothing is misused or wasted, and love and care are the focus for a tasty product. Thanks again for the trip!

Julien – Chef de Partie, Distillery Events

Waiting in the small front room of Monforte Dairy, full of old and mismatched furniture and knickknacks, there wasn’t  much to suggest the level of order and cleanliness we were about to encounter. After covering our shoes and hair (and beards if we had them), and being asked not to touch anything, we were led into a series of almost too-white rooms. We were told, from the first, that the most important part of what they did there, what took up most of their time, was cleaning. Their real and most tangible priority as food producers is the same as ours as cooks, to feed as many people as they can, as well as they can, without making anyone sick.IMG_7646-Edit

At the same time, as the tour went on, the contrast between the rural hominess of the exterior and the sterility of the interior softened.  We got glimpses of the passion and real affection that went into making these cheeses. It almost seemed like Daniel saw the cheeses he showed us, not as a product they were manufacturing, but as living things they were caring for.IMG_7652

At the end of our first tour we moved on to a family style lunch at their restaurant in town.  We ate course after course of delicious, simple food while Ruth Klahsen talked to the group about her work, her experience, her ideas about food and community. She was clearly passionate about what she was doing and eager to improve on what she had done so far.

The last part of the trip was possibly my favourite. When we arrived at Fred and Ingrid’s pig farm, Fred shook hands with each of us and told us matter-of-factly about how they had come from Holland to start their own farm more than thirty years ago, built up a successful business, which they marketed themselves, and then, looking for more of a challenge, had started raising wild boars.

With the same sort of quiet excitement they showed off the hot water heating system they had developed to heat their barn, and the viewing room they had built. They told us how they used the waste from the farm, fertilizing with manure, even composting the carcasses of their dead pigs. They showed us their fields and told us about how they rotated their crops. My favourite story of the day was of how they had started sending their pigs to the abattoir earlier, so they could adjust to their surroundings, after Fred had learned from a chef the importance of letting meat rest before serving it.

Although the dairy and the pig farm were different environments in many ways, what connected them in my mind was the love that we saw, whether it took the form of Ruth’s passionate ideals or Fred and Ingrid’s subdued, farmerly pride in their work and accomplishments. That, coupled with the ambitions they all had to improve on what they had built and challenge themselves, was what excited and inspired me about our trip.

Morgan – Garde Manger, Pure Spirits Oyster House & Grill


Hi Chef Tim,

As an aside, I wanted to thank you and Chef Michael for organizing this trip and driving us around. 
    Fred and Ingrid Martines, of Perth Pork Products, cultivated 100 acres of land, bought in 1979, and raise Tamworth and Berkshire herds in open pastures on natural feed. Although the farm is not certified organic, the herds are raised on principles of quality over quantity. The fields of wheat, corn and soy beautifully surround the pens and make for a picturesque farm, which vastly differs from the modern mechanics of factory farming. Fred and Ingrid’s care extends to the abattoir, where they purposefully bring the pigs two days before slaughter in order to reduce the stress on the pig and thereby yield a better product; a point which struck and stayed with me. The ideals of sustainable production, as I learned, are applicable to community programs, such as the collection of vegetable clippings from local restaurants (which the Martines then feed to the pigs, specifically the boars who really enjoy it), as well as the ability to refuse to lower prices and thus lower standards in order to appease some clients.

  Ruth and Daniel of Monforte Dairy amazed me with their knowledge and passion, not only for quality cheese production, or for their incredible perseverance in an industry which values the middle man, low prices and bulk production, but mostly for their genuine regard of sustainability. This passion translates into amazing dishes served at their Monforte restaurant, located in scenic downtown Stratford, where we ate lunch. The cheeses, all made on the farm, were the delicious theme carrying through every dish, from the charcuterie board to a fluffy, light cheesecake. 

 It was an invaluable trip which encompassed the beauty of artisanal production. Can’t wait to try the the cheddar souvenir. 

Sivan – Line Cook, El Catrin Destileria

Breaking Bread

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The inspiration was a full circle trip, trying to make brioche.  Huh?? you say…

Well lets take the main ingredients and go find them on a field trip.

Flour – K2 Milling, Beeton Ontario.  Where we source some of our specialty milled grains at Cluny Boulangerie.

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Eggs – Eisses Farm Fresh Eggs.20150825-IMG_4664-Edit

Milk / Butter – Miller’s Dairy, Creemore, Ontario (unfortunately they don’t manufacture butter comercially)

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The New Farm – Nothing remotely to do with the whole brioche idea but it’s close by and AMAZING organic produce so why not…20150825-R0040142

Chef JLo’s awesome idea was to mix all the ingredients we gathered together and leave in a bowl on top of the rental cars engine block.  Should be ready by the time we get home…..

I called executive decision not to move forward with this one……..

This is the trip thanks to Google Maps.  No thanks to Siri who was clearly sick of listening to Howard Stern and lead us to a different flipping town.The Distillery District, Toronto, ON to The Distillery District, Toronto, ON - Google Maps (dragged)

Going to leave the field trip report to Cynthia Latella from Pure Spirits, thanks for a great write up Cindy!

We arrived at the Distillery just as the sun was coming up, grabbed coffees and we were on our way. A few hours and a nap later we pull up to
farm #1: Miller’s dairy. We are greeted by clusters of adorable kittens and John Miller. He tells us a bit about his life and families history. He explains that jersey cows are smaller and yield less milk but their milk has a higher percentage of protein and fat and therefore tastes better. 20150825-DSCF4946

As he is giving us a tour of the equipment used to seperate fat from skim, pasteurize and bottle the milk, I look up at the pipes and there isn’t a single crumb of dust. Anywhere. It is clear this man cares about what he is doing. Out to the barn we go! I can smell the cows and the little kid in me is getting excited. Mr. Miller goes on to explain how they use well water to cool the milk down before its refrigerated so they use less electricity. Very efficient.  On to the cows! Not yet, first we see where they get milked. Their activity levels are also monitored to see which ones are in heat. And now out to the cows! Rows of extremely calm cows just hanging out feeding, licking our hands leaning their huge heads on us. They really are pretty animals. Okay now back to the car.

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After a bit of a detour, no thanks to Siri, we pull up to
stop#2: the New Farm, a small family farm run by Brent Preston and his wife Gillian Flies.20150825-R0040150

We missed the tour so Brent gives us the abridged tour. He starts by showing us his mustatd greens which he keeps under a tarp because of a type of beetle that likes to eat them. Then he explained that the have a system of fertilizing the soil that doesnt involve manure or pesticides.  They plant a summer assortment of plants catered to give the soil back the nutrients it needs. Then they plants a winter mix that contains rye and other grains to deter weeds the following season. Very ineresting stuff. Gill, his wife, joined us in the vegetable garden where Brent was plucking fresh beets from the soil for us to taste. Chef jv pulled out his pocket knife and shaved off bits for everyone.20150825-R0040152 Possibly the sweetest beets I’ve ever tasted. Gill said it took them ten years to get the soil to what it is now. I guess patience and hard work is the motto here. They spoke about how they did not want to expand yet because it might compromise the quality of their produce. And how they would rather have their hands in the soil than on a keyboard. we ate our lunch on their porch where they brought out some baby salad greens that were picked that day and possibly the best cucumber i have ever tasted. We packed our full bellies back into the car and were on our way again.20150825-R0040157

Another nap later we arrive at stop#3 the egg farm. This could not be more different than the first two stops. Huge aluminum sided barn, no windows, no people completely surrounded by tall corn fields. It was actually a bit eerie. The feeding system was completely automated as well. This was a stricly profit operation. No labour costs, just timers and chickens. After being slighty creeped out by the silent egg farm, we hopped back into the car.

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Stop #4 K2Milling. Before we even walk in this place looks interesting.  Pieces of old barn wood leaning everywhere, large parts of mill equipment on the driveway,  and an old red porsche carrera right out front.  20150825-DSCF4976Inside, a random collection of old mill cogs, antique fans and an assortment of jars with grains decorate what i think is the storefront. In the next room a man is making custom furniture out of old barn wood. Mark Hayhoe tells about how he is changing the way people think about flour and milling. While they do lots of wheat, corn and oats, they also do really weird stuff like blueberry flour, tobacco flour (aka smoke-stick) ed. and chardonnay grape flour. While we were there he had cranberries that had been pressed for juice, then their pulp was dried and he was milling it up. Such a bright red color and super tart tasting, I can’t wait to use it. He took us out to the mill and explained that between milling different product they clean the mill. The biproduct of cleaning the mill goes to local farmers for their feed. In fact, a local pig farmer came by while Mark was talking to us to collect the corn they had cleaned out that morning.
We also learned that way back when The Distillery was still in the distilling buisness, they used to purchase they grain from his grandfather.20150825-DSCF4992-Edit-Edit-2

Our long day had come to an end, I really enjoyed the whole comunnity feeling, you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours. And the bottom line was always quality not quantity. These people work really hard but they’re doing something they love and believe in.

And so after meeting some really great people, and being overstimulated with new ideas it was back to the big city for us.

Cynthia Latella – Senior Line Cook @ Pure Spirits Oyster House

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Danny Chae’s Big Game…..

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An amazing experience for the cooks and chefs alike. Yesterday we brought in a whole Nova Scotian Swordfish, 80lbs minus the head and tail.  This guy would have been in and around 100lbs. on the boat.  The fish was harpooned, the most eco-friendly way of fishing this species.

Chef JV giving it the “all clear”

The fish came from a cape island style 50 foot boat called the “Spoiled Brat”.  These are small boats, generally a 4-5 man crew.
This small family boat operated by father, son and friends is as small town as you can get.
I love supporting this small industry, very few restaurants do.  We are all to consumed by large companies all vying to sell for the cheapest price, with small margins, and large volume.  This kills the small guy; the families trying to sustain what their forefathers did for generations, the East Coast Canadian fisherman.
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The Atlantic Canada wild swordfish are deemed a great choice by Ocean Wise if hand line or harpoon caught.  The international swordfish fishing idustry is poorly regulated and should be avoided.  Go Canada!
Chef Danny Chae from Pure Spirits took on the task of breaking this guy down and did a fantastic job.
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taking off the collar

We will be featuring this beautiful fish through Cluny, Pure and El Catrin through out the weekend.
Mike Stafford from Cluny Bistro has an old mate that is a fisherman on a similar boat in the waters our fish came from.  Here’s a picture from his boat to show you the scale of these big game fish.

Nova Scotian Swordfish fisherman

A few weeks prior we took down a whole Canadian East coast Yellowfin Tuna.  Here’s a couple of pics.
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These fish were brought in by our supplier Fisherfolk. image001Who focus on supporting fisherman who are closest to the source and use fishing practices that maintain the balance of healthy ocean, lakes and local fishing communities.  They are committed to providing the freshest, highest quality, natural Canadian fish and seafood and in doing so respect the oceans, lakes, and fishermen.11214083_10152809441315947_3135877236462613354_n

Summer produce, Rosewood Honey & wait…. was that a ROBOT?!

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I am very grateful to be given this opportunity to go on a field trip with my colleagues. It is important not only for bringing our Distillery team closer but learning more about our industry as well.
I have never been in a Food terminal and that’s where we started our trip. 20150622-R0030615I felt like a kid in a chocolate store where I was able to see, smell and touch all the beautiful produce and had a chance to talk with people who grow them.

I had a chance to ask questions, had a real conversation with farmers taking pride in what they do. Which made me even more proud to use their beautiful produce in our kitchen.

Once we came into Bondi produces warehouse I was impressed how clean and organized everything is. It was a pleasure to see such a high respect for every single piece of fruit or vegetable, to see people taking pride in what they do, see all high hygiene standards being used in the warehouse to assure that we would get only the highest quality products.20150623-R0030626

My favourite part of the trip was the winery because I never had a chance to visit winery before. I was surprised how much care grape wines need, I was happy to learn about different ways of making wine, using different barrels, aging… And the fact that this winery has its own bees means a lot. The wine we got to taste was amazing and the honey itself was great. We got to see unpasteurized honey, the little factory where it gets portioned and we got to try it! You could almost taste that the bees are really happy in there.
After all I am very happy that i had a chance to go on this trip. I learned more about produces in general, the way they are grown, how long is their shelf life, I got a chance to see the real way that produces travel to reach our kitchen and I enjoyed this little journey so much.

Indre Ramanciuckaite – Distillery Events

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“…I see Riga Farms kale at work in the walk in all the time.  I had the chance to meet the man from my home town that produces it. ….”

Jeff Glowacki –  CDP @ Pure Spirits Oyster House

“…I definitely will not only appreciate more, but respect our produce differently whenever using them in our kitchen due to this eye opening experience….” “..This trip was so informative, I can’t wait to do this again..”

Henry Ng – Line Cook @ Cluny Bistro

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“..Next stop was St. David’s Hydroponics where they grow red peppers and eggplants.  It was surprising to see the level of automation used in their picking and processing.  They even had a self driving robot that carted product from the greenhouse to the sorting warehouse.  It stole the show…”

Steve Hoang – Apprentice Chef @ Cluny Bistro

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“..Last stop, Rosewood Estates, they are our wildflower honey and honeycomb supplier for the Distillery Restaurants.  The flavour of their honey is so distinctive compared to the regular pasteurized store bought honey.  The winery itself was operated by mostly family members, with additional expert help for wine making.  I really like small wineries like Rosewood, because they put their heart and should into the products that they are selling, it’s like going to a Mom & Pop diner in a small town, you know it’s going to be epic.

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It was my first time trying mead, a fermented honey alcoholic beverage.  It was interesting, but aI still prefer wine over mead, I fell wine is more balanced in flavour, acid and sweet, where mead was just sweet.
It was a fantastic trip down to the southern part of Niagara region, and I know our cooks learnt a lot from each stop we visited that day.  Cant wait for the next one..”

Jacky Lo – Sous Chef @ Cluny Bistro

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