Trout, burgers and beer

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It was a great Monday morning, with the DRC crew, heading up north to Thorbury and Collingwood for some culinary adventure. We started the day off with a visit to Kolapore Springs Fishery in Kolapore Uplands of Southern ontario.  The un-touched environment allows them to raise their trout within a spring-fed farm.  We were greeted by Andre, farm manager of Kolapore Springs. This farm is one of its kind, they are situated at the end of a steady stream of spring water from one pond to another.  Water pumps are not needed in any way, everything works with the help of gravity.  Andre took us through each phase of the life cycle, from spawning all the way to a fish that we would get at the restaurant.  With the farm assist spamming, they are able to achieve 80% success rate, compared to 30% success rate in the wild.

Each of the trays contain approx 8000 fertilized eggs.  They stay in the tray for 4 months before going into one of the indoor ponds.  They get moved from pond to pond (indoor first than outdoor) as they are growing, until they are sold off to the market.

Next on the agenda is Grandview Farm, the reason why we choose to visit this farm is that Cluny Bistro actually use their beef for our burger meat.  Mission statement for Grandview farms – using traditional farming practices, optimizing animal welfare, and delivering best in class meat that is both nutritous, and delicious and raised without the use of antibiotics and hormones.  Bruce and Nathan raise their cattle with grass and druring their last month before being processed, they are boing fed with ontario apples, around 50lbs of apples a day!  They feel this method will give a different finish to their meat and yes it does!, the winner of 2014 gold plate used their farm’s short rib to win the competition.

our last stop is northwards Brewery, where they are known to use local ingredients for their kitchen as well as for their brewery.  Last time i heard of them was at bar Volo where they carry their one off autumn brew called Red Autumn, where they used local beets and local hops.  Too bad they were out of it, but we all were able to sample their burger, as they also get their burger meat from Grandview Farm.

All in all, it was an educational trip for all, special thanks for Stu for driving the cooks around.  I hope he enjoyed as much as we did.

           – Jacky Lo – Sous Chef, Cluny Bistro & Boulangerie

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Having spent the majority of my childhood weekends on the slopes in the Jozo Weider Racing School, I was certain that I had explored all the ins and outs of the Blue Mountains. Much to my surprise, the most recent culinary excursion revealed yet another layer of Ontario’s natural wonders. Enter the Kolapore Trout Farm. We rolled into a bogged down piece of land shortly before 10am to see a property occupied by a single dilapidated shack. Andre, a managing partner of the hatchery, waddled out to greet us with a very familiar northern Ontario charm. He proceeded to give us a tour of the property, emphasizing the fact that the entire operation is built with the natural landscape in mind – each pond and tank is gravity-fed by a stream further upland. His passion and attention to detail in harvesting the tens of thousands of trout was both astonishing and inspiring. The highlight, both for Andre’s ego and my curiosity, was when he netted a tiger trout, a variety of the species I had never heard of. A hybrid between a speckled and a brown, the fish had beautiful golden scales with a bright orange marking on the underside. For a first timer, the morning at Kolapore was truly educational and memorable.
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Next up were the good folks at Grandview Farms. High up on the escarpment overlooking the blue waters of the bay, owner/operator Bruce took us on a tour to meet his cattle. Once a kingpin in the Bison market, Bruce has devoted his entire 75 acre plot to raising hormone and antibiotic-free cattle. He exudes pride when speaking of his Angus and Wagyu herd, often showing as much love as one would expect from a father speaking of his sons. His property features state of the art refrigeration facilities that would make any kitchen jealous, as well as a powerful containment apparatus that out very own Elijah can attest to.  In keeping with the tradition of northern hospitality, Bruce graciously donated 11 cases of assorted cuts for the cooks to bring home and practice their art with.
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The day was capped off with a pint of local brew and a delicious burger made from Grandview’s very own ground at a nearby brewpub, Northwinds. In all, an insightful and educational day filled laughter among friends.
– Stuart Kempston – AGM, Cluny Bistro & Boulangerie

It was such good memorable experience first field trip. We learned how grow up farm raised fish step by step. We saw different types trout such as rainbow, brown and tiger which I have never seen before. We went Grandview farms. I learned what is different looking between wagyu and black angus. We heard story about farm, what they feed and what they raised before and now.

We got some free tasting package as a gift. We went Northwids Brewry and eatery. We had a buger, they use the Grandview farm ground beef. We also tasted really good house beer which was the best. Thank you very much Chef for giving us great knowledgeable and fun experience.

– Danny Chae – Jr. Sous Chef, Pure Spirits Oyster House

I just have to take a moment and say what an amazing opportunity this is that your giving the cooks in this company. I have worked for restaurants in the past that do staff outings to visit suppliers and the staff always leave engaged and very motivated. sometimes as cooks it is easy to lose the connection to where exactly our products are coming from and who is producing them. I think I speak for everyone involved in saying that these experiences not only reconnect us with why we do what we do but also a new respect for the people who dedicate their lives to supplying us the best possible products to work with. Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of it!

– Reid Walton – Jr. Sous Chef, El Catrin Destileria

It was my first time going to a trout farm, and was amazed to see how many fish can be housed in an operation about the same size of Cluny; fish the size of an inch to 8 lbs trout. We then went to Grandview Farms in Collingwood which is Clunys ground beef supplier, and ate at Northwinds restaurant, also in Collingwood. Northwinds also sources beef from Grandview Farms, and it was great to see local businesses supporting each other.

– Steve Hoang – Apprentice Chef, Cluny Bistro & Boulangerie

….All in all the trip was great, so much to learn and it was nice to get out of the city and actually see the start of what makes it to our plate.  Looking forward to our next trip.

– Everald Nembhard – Line Cook, Pure Spirits Oyster House

Hello Chef Miles.
Monday’s field trip was yet again an amazing experience.

Visiting the hatchery had my like a kid in a candy store because I grew up in the Ontario streams fishing for the very same speckled, brown and rainbow trout Andre and his colleagues were raising. And I could only dream of pulling one of the 10lb hogs out of the river like he had there.
It was great to hear how fish from different areas as well as times of year would have a different flavours imparted due to water levels, temperature, acidity and types of food. Much respect goes out to people like Andre because it’s people like him that are keeping sport fishing alive for generations to come.

Also visiting the farm where our ground burger meat comes from, I saw the great lengths they took to produce an elite grass fed Wagu beef. Finished with apples to impart a sweet flavour and allow for the build up of intramuscular fat too take place. In term providing a quality up to the likes of prime select! This is an amazing thing and could have a huge impact on how the consumer receives and appreciates grass fed beef. Which I feel would change the way beef is raised in the future.
Chef I would like to take this opportunity to thank you once again for allowing these field trips and hands on learning opportunities to continue.

Thanks sincerely,

– Michael Stafford – Line Cook, Cluny Bistro & Boulangerie

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Sweet Tooth

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A field trip to Redpath, Cheese Boutique and Terra Cotta Maple Syrup Farm

 

 

First up was the Redpath Sugar museum.

Redpath Sugar Ltd.

 

I’ve often looked at this place in awe, a fully functioning factory in the heart of the downtown core, a throwback to a time before.  Co-existing in a plantation of 21st century condominiums.  Who would’ve guessed there was a museum here with a curator telling a 40 year tale of his life’s work.  Richard Feltoe built this museum of sugar and tells all that wants to listen, all for free.  In the days of getting nothing for nothing, it is a hidden gem for history buffs and sweet tooth’s alike.

 

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Next – Cheese Boutique for a tour with Afrim and a special pairing of his Australian blue cheese with some local brick maple sugar.

Affirm captured the imaginations of our cooks again with his passion, dedication to his craft, and his exuberant knack for the hospitality industry.  Whenever I’m at Cheese Boutique I feel like I’m part of the family – he always treats me like a brother, and that’s his gig.  A master at making people (read: the customer) feel special.

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I love taking young cooks on his magical mystery cheese tour, but I think they get just as much out of his hospitality than anything else.  Today Afrim, knowing that we were off to a maple syrup farm, wowed us with a canapé of abate pear, roaring forties blue, and the special ingredient, shaved pure maple sugar.  Cooked down to a brick like candy, like a disc of palm sugar.  Just delicious.

Terra Cotta Maple Syrup Farm

Well this was going to go both ways….  For the Canadians in the group this was going to be boring as bat shit.  For everyone else, IT ACTUALLY COMES FROM A TREE???!!!

Thankfully the majority of the group had never seen tree tapping or been inside a sugar shack so, bring it on.

Thoughts from the team

First and foremost, I would like to thank Chef Jacky Lo and Chef Timothy Miles for organizing this field trip.  We made our way to the Redpath sugar Museum and was graciously greeted by their curator, Richard Feltoe.  Having lived in Toronto my whole life, I never knew about the Redpath museum that was tucked behind the factory.  It was quite invigorating to learn about how sugar was made and understanding the historical context behind an under appreciated cooking ingredient.  An underlying theme I personally resonated with after hearing Mr. Feltoe speak and watching that manufacturing process of sugar was how efficiency plays such a key role in giving you the upper hand.  And it directly correlates to how a kitchen works as well.  Specifically during prep and service as the cooks and chefs must work together in harmony and be as efficient as possible.

Our second part of our field trip led us to the Cheese Boutique.  I found this to be the most enlightening part of the day.  Visiting the store as an aspiring chef, Afrim Pristine, our Cheese Boutique guide was passionate, knowledgeable and made the entire experience unforgettable. The myriad of spices, cheeses, salts and ingredients he discussed electrified and jump started my senses and created juices.  It became a humbling experience as it reminded me that pursuing the culinary arts is a lifetime endeavor.  There will always be more to learn and new experiences and sensations to be sought after. I will definitely be back there soon.  

The last leg of our field trip culminated in visiting a sugar shack in Halton. As the Terra Cotta Conservation site where we got to see first hand how maple trees were tapped and how a small-scale evaporator worked.  The pancakes could have been better but that maple syrup produced at this site was some of the best I’ve had.  It takes a lot of man hours to produce this golden liquid, that we just drown our pancakes and waffles in.  This first hand experience made me appreciate maple syrup farmers even more so, and I will most definitely not waste a drop ever again.  I think I will just lick my plate clean, out of respect for the hardworking tree tappers and my deep respect and love for one of the most iconic Canadian ingredients.
–  Jeremy Tang, Garde Manger – Cluny Bistro

The trip started at the Red path sugar factory which is located in Queens Quay.
It was a surprise to know that the company gets raw sugar from as far as Australia to produce sugar . The next stop was the Cheese Boutique which sells over 500 different types of cheeses. The owner supports small cheese farmers from around Canada by selling their products. We ended our trip by going to our last destination, the maple syrup factory, where they show the different stages of making maple syrup.
–  Joel De Sousa, Garde Manger – Pure Spirits

Thank you for taking me on the field trip! 
I really enjoyed the Redpath museum just because I didn’t know making sugar took a long process and to learn all the steps it goes through, raw sugar, molasses & syrup mix, to boiling, to drying, etc. was very interesting. The cheese boutique was interesting as well, like learning about how the company grew to what it is now and about cheese. I found the blue cheese on a pear with maple shavings really good that complimented each other very well from the strong flavour of the cheese to the sweetness of the pear and maple. And lastly, the maple festival, it was interesting to learn how maple was discovered by the Natives.
  –  Michele Lee, Pastry Cook – Cluny Bistro

 

 

 

The Greatest Dish Comp

So the tie in this month for our Greatest Dish Comp is Maple Syrup.  We asked our cooks from all five departments to come to the table with dishes inspired by the all Canadian great ingredient.  A strong showing this month from the pastry department at Cluny Bistro, battling it out for tickets to the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Game on!

 

 

Year of the RAM and a cold cold, -30ºc trip to Stratford, ON.

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The DRC culinary team set out on another fantastic culinary trip, this time to the birthplace of Justin Bieber.  Much to the disappointment of our minivans full of cooks, there was no sign of aforementioned #bieber anywhere, nor was there a sign.  No shrines, no monument, no banners, no fanfare – just a frigid frozen landscape of Ontario farmland.  The beauty, for sake of redneck hooligan teenagers riding skidoo’s down the sidewalk, was quaint and old world.  A beautiful little town..

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So year of the ram, what’s this got to do with the price of fish?  Nothing.  It does however relate to our monthly skills competition called “The Greatest Dish” or the GDC.  Now this year, we have decided to relate our GDC comp. to our field trip, tying the two together.  So this month we tied together the culmination of the Chinese New Year, year of the ram – and thought it a great idea to go to a lamb farm in Ontario, buy the lamb for the competition and bring it home to The Distillery.

We would then hold a butchery demo, break the lamb down to cuts and then raffle them off in a draw for the GDC competitors.  The cuts of lamb were put in a hat (not literally – that’s gross) and pulled out by the cooks.  They would then have that cut of lamb to cook for their competition.

Back into the minivans and we were off to Koskamp Family Farms to walk their facility and meet their wonderful Water Buffalo and Holstein cattle.  This little family run dairy farm specialize in water buffalo milk, something only very few farms in North America produce.

Their Water Buffalo milk is processed into Buffalo Mozzarella by Quality Cheese in Vaughan and is used on our menus here in The Distillery.  Fantastic “farm to table” moment for our cooks.
The Koskamp philosophy is simple, “We take good care of our Water Buffalo; they will take good care of us.  We provide fresh air, clean water, nutritious feed and a clean dry place to rest”

Hungry cooks – we set off to Monforte Dairy Cafe in the centre of town for some local grub.  Charcuterie boards, grilled cheese sandwiches and coffee and we were ready to roll on to the next farm.  Oh – and a surprise visit from the one and only Jose Matamoros!  He skipped class at Stratford Culinary School to come and say g’day.  Hope you didn’t get in trouble mate…

Erbcroft Farm
This little farm was literally a family business employing one farm hand to look over their sheep, ducks, pigs and dogs all under the one roof.  It was touching to see the small scale of this operation and how they are carving out a living, off the land.  Honest hard work and a love for his herd, a genuine old soul.
Here was  where we purchased our lamb for the competition and butchery demo.

Enough from me….  Here are some thoughts from our DRC cooks that came along.

“Last Thursday we went on another awesome DRC field trip.  First, we went to a cattle farm which predominantly had Holstein and Water Buffalo.  We were able to see up close both animals and learned about the milking and breeding cycles of both type of cattle.  I found this very interesting as it provides insight to the living conditions of cattle, how they eat, and how they are treated.  As a cook, it really helps us see how our product goes from farm to kitchen”
 – Steve Hoang
Apprentice Chef, Pure Spirits Oyster House & Grill

“The most interesting thing I learned on the field trip was how farmers in Canada have to manage and care for their stock during the severe winter temperatures here.  Most aspects of farming life are quite familiar to me as i grew up on a farm.  -20ºC and below temperatures are not.  Housing all of your livestock indoors for half of the year, using heat lamps to keep the young warm, and the limited feed options available are not familiar aspects.
The technology used on the water buffalo farm was quite interesting as well.  Pedometers used to count the animals steps each day, which can then be associated to events such as breeding, and then linked to the animals milk production was something I had not seen before”
 –  Travis Cropley
Chef de Cuisine, Cluny Bistro & Boulangerie

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“This week I got the privilege of visiting Koskamp Family water buffalo farm in Stratford.  It was an amazing experience, it brought a whole new meaning to the saying, “From Farm To Table”.  This trip opened my eyes on how hard our local farmers work to provide us with great quality meat, day in day out.  No matter the weather, it could be -30 to +30 degrees outside, they still put there all in to raising a great product.  Throughout the trip it was super cold, all i was thinking about was keeping my feet warm.  But once you see the proud look on all the farmers faces, being out there with them in the cold was all worth it.  It’s clear they love what they do.  It’s refreshing to know that there are still farmers that are raising animals the old fashion way.  They welcome us with open arms, and eagerly answered all our questions.  I had a great time. 🙂 ”
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Teneisha Anderson-Stewart
Grill Cook, El Catrin Destileria

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“Hello Chef Miles, I’m emailing you to thank you for allowing us to participate in the enlightening field trip to the farms last Thursday.  It was a humbling experience to be reminded of the hard work and care that is put into our food before it has even been cooked.  Also, after shaking the farmer’s hand who raised our competition lamb with love, I feel it is only right when cooking that i do justice to the protein i have at hand.  The passion that i have for food and cooking burns a little brighter with me from going on a trip like this.
So thank you on behalf of all DRC cooks and myself for allowing things like this to happen.  It not only teaches us about the story behind our food, but strengthens the bond between the DRC family.”
 Michael Stafford
  Garde Manger, Cluny Bistro & Boulangerie

“We started the day at Tenderbuff farms where they specialized in buffalo milk.  They have also fallen into selling buffalo meat.  Their first buffalo was from the US and since then they’ve been importing semen from Italy to help improve the herd to produce better quality milk, with a greater yield.
Water Buffalo are really smart.  They form ‘friendships’ with other Buffalo.  They can recognize and react to familiar people and are very curious.  As we walked through, they were jumping and clamouring over each other to get a look.  When they are young they have their horns frozen then cut off to avoid issues later in life among other buffalo.
Milk from buffalo differs in a few ways from cow’s milk.  They make a lot less milk than typcial Holsteins make but it contains a much higher milk fat percentage.  Water buffalo have a longer gestation and extra chromosomes.  The meat is a good alternative to beef due to it being a leaner animal and has a cleaner taste with low fat and cholesterol.
Next we went to Erbcroft farm to see and learn about sheep and lamb.  I noticed right away how many different types of sheep there were.  I could pick out different colours, head shapes and wool types.  Another thing I noticed was how attached to the farmer they all seemed.  Sheep get their tails removed for sanitation and to prevent other animals from biting at them.  When butchered at 6-8 months, the meat is know as spring lamb.  If butchered between 8-12 months it is referred to as lamb, 12 to 24 months 
hogget, and after that, mutton.
Once again, this display of “from farm to table” was enjoyable, and educational.”

 – Bryan Lang
   Garde Manger, Pure Spirits Oyster House & Grill

Butchery Demo

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Back home and on to phase 2.  Butchery.  Sous Chef jLo from Cluny Bistro and Chef de Partie Jeff Glowacki from Pure Spirits led the butchery demo in the Pure Spirits Prep Kitchen.
Check out the video!

Greatest Dish Comp
Competition day !
Some fantastic entries from our DRC cooks, pictures are below.  The winner though,
Aviv Moshe, Cluny Bistro – for his “Moroccan Lamb Roll”

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Honourable mention to,
Jeff Glowacki, Pure Spirits – for his “Chicken Fried Lamb & Braised Lamb collar”
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And here are the all the other GDC entries!  Fantastic work guys.

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Stay tuned for next months Field Trip and GDC.  Should be a blast.
We are visiting the Redpath Sugar Museum, Cheese Boutique for a Q&A on maple syrup and cheese pairings, and then on to a Maple Syrup Farm in Halton, ON.  See you then!

   – Chef.

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Chowder Chowdown !

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This lil piggy went to Cluny, Pure and El Catrin.

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It’s sad. But true.

Butchery is a dying art.

Today we brought in a boar from Perth County, Ontario.  Grabbed as many cooks that wanted to watch, listen and learn, then did what few do in the restaurant biz these days, a lil bit of butchery.
The rising cost of operating restaurants, paired with the small size of modern kitchens – todays Chef simply can’t afford to be the butcher anymore.  And that’s a shame.
I whole heartedly believe I only became a true cook after I slaughtered, butchered and prepared an animal for a gathering of friends and family.

Belville, Ontario – my first duck.

It’s an undertaking we cooks should all experience.
After all, food is real, all food came from somewhere.  From the bag of flour once tall stalks of wheat, the teaspoon of sugar one time a sugar cane, to our Perth County boar.
They all had their day in the sun.

– Chef

Chef Alain Ducasse – visits Toronto and the DRC !

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If there ever was a living legend, well, it’s this guy…. Chef Alain Ducasse.  The DRC culinary team were this week humbled by his presence last Friday when he toured the Historic Distillery District and restaurants of the DRC.

The night before, Chefs Benallick and Kwok from Cluny Bistro & Boulangerie cooked for Ducasse at an evening at the George Brown Culinary College.

Chefs at GBC

Here is what Executive Chef Paul Benallick had to say about the evening!

Last night Chef Walker, Chef Kwok and myself participated in an event at George Brown College.  This was an event to announce a partnership with Chef Ducasse’s culinary school in Paris and GBC.
In our lives there are several mentors and individuals that we look up to.  The people within our field who push the boundaries and challenge the norm.  Individuals who have made our chosen profession better and influenced how the entire world works and operates.  Chef Ducasse is one of those innovators.  With over 30 Michelin stars in his restaurants he is recognised as one of the giants of our profession.  So it was a great honour to be part of this.
I would like to share with you some photos from the evening and the food that Chef Kwok, (possibly the most innovative item of the night) and myself did with the help of our teams.
Chris did a “Chestnut stuffed profiterole with honey mascarpone and cotton candy”.  Crazy Kwok

As you could imagine the cotton candy machine was a big hit (even if we blew a fuse and it took 5 security and maintenance employees to try and figure out how to fix it!), but beyond that, the simplicity of flavours is what stood out.


On the hot side we did “Georgian Bay pickerel baked with banyuls vinegar & braised du puy lentils, with house cured pork belly”.
Both dishes were well received with many people coming back for seconds.


I would just like to thank Chef Walker for including us in this event, Chef Chris for his hard work, and my team here at Cluny for the effort in getting us ready, including our apprentice from Pure Spirits, Steven Hoang.

Chef Benallick with Chef Ducasse at GBC

Happy Cooking
Paul Benallick
Executive Chef
Cluny Bistro & Boulangerie

It was a great evening, the Cluny team hit it out of the park!

So back to the Chef Ducasse visit, here are some photographs I snapped while he toured.  It’s pretty safe to say our Chefs were a little star struck, Chef JV forgot all of his French language, but pulled it together and served Chef Ducasse some fine Canadian oysters at the Pure Spirits oyster bar.

I’d like to thank first and foremost the George Brown College Centre for Culinary Arts, Dean Lorraine Trotter, Chef John Higgins and our own Corporate Chef, Andre Walker for making this happen.

– Chef