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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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. 🙂 ”
 – 
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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