If you get sweaty palms watching the cooking intensity of Iron Chef you’ll know how excited I was to be part of the 5th annual Nickel City Chef cook-off in Buffalo this year. Taking place over four weekends, I was asked to be a judge for the final competition on April 14th.
Chef Adam Goetz and sous-chef Adam Cook trying to beat the clock.
The chefs in the challenge both wield impressive resumes of training and cooking internationally and across the US. Chef Adam Goetz who was days away from opening a new resto called Crave has previously been Executive Chef Saucier at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
What do you want people to know about the food scene and chefs in Buffalo?
I want visitors to understand that while we may be known for chicken wings, limiting the understanding of our food scene to a common bar snack is not unlike assuming NYC is made of nothing but pizza. We share the same terroir as Ontario, so those restaurants that focus on local, seasonal fare are as adept and capable as a good Toronto restaurant. We also have more independent restaurants per capita, than many other cities our size, with very few chains located within the city limits. An abundance of young, engaged, well-traveled chefs have returned to open their own restaurants here, and while it may not obvious to those who come to Buffalo to see a game or shop at the mall, there is a groundswell of passion here for the excellent dining experiences that can be had.
What frustrates you about people’s perception of the Buffalo culinary scene?
It makes me sad to think that visitors choose to eat at chain restaurants. If I thought that Toronto was only the few blocks surrounding the Air Canada Centre or the inside the Eaton Centre, I’d have missed out on so many amazing, delicious meals! And while it would be wrong of us not to embrace the Buffalo chicken wing as part of our city’s edible history, it is not the summation of our region.
What is your goal with Nickel City Chef?
Nickel City Chef seeks to showcase Buffalo’s culinary talent, giving a proper stage to our hardworking chefs and skilled farmers.
The secret ingredient was fresh cheese: mozzarella and burrata from Nickel City Cheese and Mercantile
Felix making choices at Nickel City Cheese
As for the menu, here it is. Both were outstanding, especially given the limited time but Chef Edward Forster won the competition…this time.
— Nickel City Chef Adam Goetz, Crave
Nickel City Sous Chef DJ Cook
Fresh Mozzarella and OrangeAgnolotti
Braised swiss chard, tomato, pecans, brown butter
Pancetta, fine herbes, carrot mousse, peppered buratta medallion
Rack of Lamb
Burrata polenta, asparagus, red pearl onion, spicy squash, beech mushroom, fried mozzarella, tomato beurre rouge, herbed burrata quenelle
Course 3: Cheese Course
Buratta, wild mushroom crostini, tomato strawberry chutney, herbed parmesan shortbread, balsamic, fresh mozzarella, pine nut brittle, compressed watermelon, kalamata powder —
Challenging Chef Edward Forster, Mike A @ Hotel Lafayette
Challenging Sous Chef Scott Crombie Course 1:
Fresh Mozzarella Salad ( I LOVED THIS)
Pine nuts, herbs, hay smoked mozzarella, olive tapenade
Braised barley, English peas, black barley burrata, pea-stained whey broth
Warm Mozzarella Tart
Rhubarb and strawberry compote, long pepper, almond
The Mansion (of my dreams) on Delaware
And one last thing–for an amazing weekend getaway, book some dinners in this emerging culinary destination and stay at the Mansion on Delaware. So beautiful, so comfy, so luxurious….the service impeccable but relaxed. Amazing buffet breakfast and lovely happy hour in the beautiful sitting rooms. We will be back as soon as we can. Leaving is not easy.
This week’s gourmet in a flash recipe in Globe Life. Avocado and truffle salt on toast.
How did I not discover truffle salt before? It was in California visiting my brother that I got slightly obsessed. Dave and Erin had received some for Christmas from Erin’s food loving brother Chris. Soon we were sprinkling it on everything– on eggs to finish pizza (amazing–why have any other toppings in fact) and even on our steak fajitas and what better on popcorn? And you can always just go with plain Tuscan butter, baguette and truffle salt.
This week we featured it the weekly quick gourmet recipe for the Globe. My new favourite lunch, see above.
Truffle salt from Williams- Sonoma
Not all truffle salts are created equal I have discovered, some taste more like salt with some black specs that might be truffle– but the one I got from Williams Sonoma is amazingly earthy and rich–the smell is fantastic. Keep it in your bag–smelling salts for foodies. Not cheap–about $35.00 but you really don’t have to use much at all. Maybe a nice host or hostess gift even, if you really the people. Otherwise stick with the Yellowtail….kidding! (Unless you always bring Yellowtail and it works, then yah, def stick with it.)
Pass on any good truffle salt uses you have found if you like it too. Because you know, using it a zillion times a day just isn’t enough.
We drove to the Zuni Cafe straight from the airport with loads of time to get there. Or so we thought since we allowed not too much thought for finding parking (you’d think coming from Toronto…) but I suppose we were in vacation mode.
Anyway, 40 minutes later, many one way streets and devastating parking spot “sightings” that were not parking spots because the street cleaner has priority wed between 12-2pm we found a place. And headed down to the Zuni Cafe
The famous made-to-order Caesar salad and house cured anchovies.
“Billy West opened Zuni Café in 1979, with a huge heart and exactly ten thousand dollars. In the early years, the restaurant consisted of a narrow storefront with a creaky mezzanine, roughly one quarter of its current size. To capitalize on the neighboring and highly visible corner cactus shop, (where Billy had been a partner, until it became clear cactus sales wouldn’t support three partners), he hand-plastered the walls and banquettes of his new space to give it a southwestern adobe-look. He chose the name Zuni, after the native American tribe, and decided to offer mostly simple and authentic Mexican food, drawing inspiration from Diana Kennedy’s cookbooks. A Weber grill was an important early investment, and was rolled on to the back sidewalk for each day’s service. Next came an espresso machine, which doubled as a stove since you could scramble eggs with the milk steamer.”
Tad’s lunch: roasted quail…
I started with a glass of white wine (my actual request was local and not excessively oaky) and ended up with a lovely glass of minerally Zuni Chardonnay which hails from a vinyard in Santa Cruz. Felix has the best apple juice he’s ever sipped-organic, fresh pressed. Tad had an Anchor Steam beer. His main was the Wolfe Ranch quail with quail egg, pan-fried sweet potatoes, kale salad and harissa.
It looked a lot less phallic when it was on the table in front of me I promise you.
I really was torn about posting my lunch photo which was described as house-made Llano Seco Ranch fennel sausage (so juicy and delicately flavoured it was heavenly) with escarole, roasted Yellow Finn potatoes, cracklings, watermelon radish and caper-shallot vinaigrette— but somehow my photo has turned it into something phallic. Avert your eyes if you have to.
So while Felix used the best manners at his disposal to finish his pasta and tomato sauce (with a side of fennel sausage) Tad and I decided we made the wrong decision by skipping the fresh oysters and remedied the situation.
We shared a pair of Pacific Hog Island Oysters (bottom, from Tomales Bay just north of San Fran) and Marin Miyagi’s (top, also from Tomales Bay). Here is a great blog piece about the Tomales Bay oysters and area. We liked the Hog Island the best, lighter and a little sweeter but both were lovely–the ocean in your hand.
And then dessert. Meringue crisps, coffee and chocolate whipped cream with chocolate sauce and toasted almonds. With a coffee. And Felix only ate a bit–too full. Spoils for me.
Moe proof we were in San Francisco–Felix watching the cable car being turned.
Anchor and Hope on Minna Street
Our second day we went for lunch at the Anchor and Hope (thanks Janice!) Here is their lunch menu-there was definitely a business lunch scene happening but the overall atmosphere is casual, open and funky space with huge nautical ropes strung around the ceiling beams.
Kettle Chips and garlicky aioli arrive when seated.
And would have been nice had we all been there at the same time–again not knowing the parking secrets, it took Tad about 35 minutes to park and finally Felix and I had to order without him. I had the Cubano, roasted pork, jamon de paris, swiss cheese, pickles, Dijon, taro chips and Tad had their extremely juicy burger. Felix had their fries, aioli and ketchup. (yes, I just gave in to maintaining calm child while people negotiated business around us.)
The beer menu was impressive and long and a satisfying read in itself if you like beer.
S’long San Francisco…..may we only ever take the amazing vintage style trolley next time we visit.
Swoon before you even take a bite. Xococava’s milk chocolate with espresso bean, candied lemon and fleur de sel.
Remember that old Blondie song “Rapture”? Well, I think it was written about the above hand-made chocolates from Xoxocava. (Also, my friend Rina and I won a lip-sync contest in high school singing that song–my hair was big and that was pre-perm.)
Usually when I buy some good chocolate to keep squirreled away in the cupboard I buy a bar of something delicious like the salted dark chocolate from Stubbe (when I can get a west-end friend to pick it up). Somehow buying individual pieces like this for myself never occurred to me until I was knocking these back……like the lady I am.
Drool! Dark chocolate with sour cherries, pistachio and candied rose petal. (xococava)
Beautiful, individual chocolates have been fortuitously dropping into my lap lately. A friend of mine gave us a box of nine caramel-themed chocolates from Soma (Distillery District) which contained morsels such as Fleur de Sel, Caramel Kiss and Pecan Butter Crunch.
Honestly, you cannot ever eat a Smartie again after that kind of delicious. Now that Xococava and Soma have spoiled me and made me a xoco-snob I may head to the Belgian Chocolate Shop on Queen East to check out chocolate making in my hood. (anyone been there?)
The above gorgeous chocolates come delivered in this cute, witty package ($14.75/bag and there are over a dozen pieces)
I think an easy but spectacular finale to a romantic dinner (for those non-bakers) would be a plate of the above chocolates served with a beautiful, creamy cheese.
Neufchatel with red pepper jelly
And if you want to be thematic with your Valentine cheeseboard you’ll grab this heart-shaped Neufchatel from France’s Normandy region. It’s a Camembert style cheese that’s creamy, decadent and perfect for sharing.
Or you can get a few petit fours to accompany your cheese fetish.
If you would like to bring a gift to your cheese lover, I adore my stainless steel cheese markers (you stick them into your cheese to identify them–sometimes I just write “back off” on my favourites). This set from Lee Valley comes with a set of 6 cheese knives and a cool case.
Cheese Tiles-write on, wipe off
I was also sent an email about this cute little guys. Same function as the stainless steel markers but they’re called cheese tiles.
They come in a variety of styles such as Fleur-di-Lis, Shell, Vine and more. Retails for $29.95 for a set of 4, they can be purchased online at www.placetile.com
And finally, what you’ve all been waiting for, give the ultimate in S&M themed foodie gifts….
I mean, it’s pretty hilarious right?
I got in touch with Toronto’s Cookbook Store and asked what they would recommend and apparently this 50 Shades of Chicken was a hot stocking stuffer for 2012, but if you didn’t grab it then, now is your chance. (I took this picture from amazon.ca where you can also order it).
And they also recommended these two options……(it’s going to be a long winter right?)
So, I think you’re set for gifts and food for this coming February 14th. (FYI, the xoco cava chocolates are great bites while you wait for toast to brown in the morning, just sayin’)
How is that lady pigging out at the fridge so skinny?
I am totally pumped to have been invited to be a Chef’s Challenge social media reporter for this Saturday’s event.
If you haven’t heard about it, the Chef’s Challenge is an amazing fundraiser for Mt. Sinai Hospital focusing on women’s health and raising money for breast and ovarian cancer research.
He’ll totally be meaner than this on Saturday.
Picture a kitchen stadium where celebrity chefs Lynn Crawford, Chuck Hughes, Mark McEwan, David Rocco and Michael Smith work with foodie fundraisers to battle it out during a three-course meal service under the eagle eye of Guy Fieri who will be commenting through the event (hopefully there will be some yelling and mockery even). Each course must be delivered to a set of celebrity judges that will score the plates on taste, presentation and the crew’s work style and skill. There will be cameras, there will be commotion.
To attend the event you have to qualify by raising a minimum $2500 each. The Top 50 fundraisers get to test their kitchen skills on stage with one of the above Chef’s as team leaders.
Personally this sounds beyond stressful and I’ve worked in a kitchen, so I am eager to see how everyone fares under pressure. It was a love/hate deal for me. Maybe more hate.
Chef McEwan with Chef’s Challenge co-chair Simmie Antflick (photo courtesy of Nick Lee)
There were several pre-events leading up to this Saturday, one was hosted by reigning champion Chef McEwan. Click here for more deets.
The hour of judgement for Chuck Hughes (photo courtesy of Nick Lee)
Then there was the cookie battle judged by Chuck Hughes (cookies! Chuck Hughes! can this be a monthly thing? Or even daily?)
It’s a kitchen party… (photo courtesy of Nick Lee)
And the very first event was at Chef John Cirillo’s Culinary Academy where some aspiring chefs got a few lessons in the kitchen.
Hopefully I have peaked your interest and you can follow my tweets Saturday night (@sueriedl) and also sign up to follow @chefschallenge for daily updates. The radiant Ivy Knight ( I was torn between radiant and luminescent) is part of the team organizing this event and you can follow her @ivyknight or at @Swallow_Food
Last Sunday night a bunch of friends and I popped by Red Fish for a fish fry. You can see Chef David Friedman back there (in the photo) bringing out platters of lightly battered, crispy fish; yellow perch, catfish and spelt all wild, all from Lake Erie. Sides were creamy coleslaw, herb seasoned fries and a great green salad in a tasty vinaigrette (and if you think you can get a well-seasoned vinaigrette just anywhere —you’d think, right?— you’d be wrong).
14 Arpents cheese from Fromagerie Médard in Quebec
***NOTE: I am retweeting this as the 14 Arpent article was not yet out when first posted. Enjoy. La Fromagerie on College also now carries the cheese.
The creamy and luxurious 14 Arpents cheese from Fromagerie Médard is the subject of The Wedge today (with recent changes to the Globe Arts and Life section, The Spread is now The Wedge). Other than promoting this lovely cheese all over the place the blog allows me to give a shout-out to a great new artisinal product I recently tried,Vicky’s Flatbreads.
Made in Toronto, the flat breads are named after the wife of creator Richard Bedford. They come in two flavours: Original and Rosemary.
Quite addictive, you first experience the crisp CRUNCH followed by great flavour– I can taste the sesame seeds, poppy seeds and olive oil that go into them.
Yet, the flavour is not so pronounced that they wouldn’t make an excellent showcase for cheese, dips, or pates.
And considering they’re healthy (low in salt, no sugar, no preservatives or trans fats AND Kosher) you can eat as many as you want! Or so I tell myself.
Look for them at small retailers in Toronto such as Alex Farm Products on Bayview Ave., Culinarium, Harvest Wagon, Summerhill Market and Pusateri’s, Olympic Cheese and Scheffler’s Delicatessen in St. Lawrence Market. You’ll also find them at The Village Grocer in Markham and Vincenzo’s in Waterloo.
Tundra Launch Party (I danced my heart out… ok, its not really me just my body double)
In mid-September I was invited to drop by the re-launch of Tundra restaurant located at University and Richmond–a hop skip and jump from anywhere you might want to be downtown. Which is what I was thinking about when I needed to pick a spot to meet some friends on Saturday night. Afterall, why wait on a windy street corner when you could order a Manhattan at the beautiful horseshoe-shaped bar (with built in electrical plugs for workaholics!) sit back and not care how late anyone is.
The Tundra Manhattan
The Manhattan I strategically wove into my intro is pictured above– and I have been able to secure us all the recipe. I will pause while you go make one and then we can continue together. If you are reading this at the office at 9am I hope to God you mixed it in your styrofoam coffee cup–this isn’t Mad Men.
2oz Knob Creek Bourbon
1oz Taylor Fladgate Late Bottle Vintage Port
Dash Orange Bitters
Dash premium maple syrup
Shake or Stir with fresh ice and strain into chilled martini glass. Garnish with 2 maraschino cherries
Seared scallops with celery and cilantro emulsion
While you’re sipping your drink, look around and check out the newly revamped room which was designed by Montreal firm Lemaymichaud. What I like is that there’s space to be social in the bar/restaurant area and but there’s also space for quiet conversation (“Great doing business with you” or “Why does it always take you so long to order?”)
The wooden sphere by west coast artist Brent Comber (apologies for shoddy iPhone photo….)
Tundra’s warm cozy feeling comes from the wood used throughout the design and the entrance features a very cool sphere carved from one giant piece of Vancouver Island Redwood.
And then there’s the menu which you may casually pick up while you sip your drink. May I make a few suggestions from the new Fall dinner menu; firstly the the scallops (in the Small Plates section) which featured seared scallops, celery and cilantro emulsion, chorizo, coconut curls, and crisped salsify.
House cured gravalax
Also on the Small Plate men is the house cured gravalax with rye bagel crisp, preserved ramps, mustard cream cheese, dill and radish. It was the mustard cream cheese that called my name, but the preserved ramps were also a nice refreshing touch.
Roasted Heirloom Carrots
My main was Roasted Heirloom carrots, radish, cauliflower steak, watercress, oven dried ricotta and fig vinaigrette. (Is there a vegetarian-steak revolution in Toronto- I just had grilled and smoked carrot “steak” at Yours Truly a few weeks previous.) Anyway, this plate is quite lovely, no?
Northern Ontario Rabbit Confit
And then I sampled some of my friend’s Northern Ontario Rabbit Confit, which was as good as comfort food (fancy comfort food!) gets. Soft, tender and juicy.
Dessert and Cheese Sampler at Tundra
We rounded off the meal with a sample of dessert–that is the addictive pine nut brittle in the front, there were soft, chewy macaroons and a deconstructed creme brulee, mini-meringues and some lovely cheese. And could the cheese/dessert board itself be more rustic? I feel like that was ripped right up from an old barn and polished up. A floor I’ll eat off of anytime.
And if you really want to hit the town and then not have to make your own bed, there are the trendy and luxurious Hilton suites. We got a sneak peek at the launch.
Executive Chef at Tundra is Kevin Prendergast and the kitchen team sources local foods, wild ingredients come from a Quebec-based organic forager and other herbs come from the hotel’s garden. Cheese is from that wonderful place, Cheese Boutique, in the west end.
Most importantly you can get jerk wings off the “nibbles” menu until midnight.
Lobster’s from Wayne’s World. Really. Keep reading, eh.
We were on holidays in Nova Scotia and PEI for 10 days and had an outstanding time. I was disappointed to be such a terrible blogger in the last couple weeks as I had so many delicious moments, but between problems uploading pics and just travelling with child, I kind of gave up. But, I will now start sharing. One huge thing for me was my conversion to beer over wine for most of the trip. You would switch sides too if you tasted how good the local brews were. Perfect with our food and the sunny, hot weather.
Like a fish to water, Tad and Propeller IPA
I had planned on branching out ever since Heather Rankin at the Obladee Wine Bar in Halifax (along with beer and wine writer Craig Pinhey) organized a local cheese/beer pairing post on this blog which featured Canadian brews (and Canuck cheeses), three of them from out east.
In Halifax Garrison’s brewery right beside the Seaport Market was our second stop after a quick bite of some amazing, and well spiced, Indian food in the market itself. Tasting glasses were only $2 each and we tried several, leaving with bottles of the Tall Ship Amber Ale and Raspberry Wheat Beer (very subtle in fruity qualities, which I liked). We drank these with some spicy tapenade that evening before donning old T-shirts to dig into the lobster fest (see the first picture) on a backyard patio. Butter, white wine and nothin’ else. Well, a lot of paper towels.
The Eastern Passage, Nova Scotia
Which brings us to Wayne’s World via the Eastern Passage (where the weather is apparently really different than nearby Dartmouth-sweater vs T-shirt I hear, on some days). It’s a little fishing community with many “I must take a picture…or 20” worthy little coves and piers. We were there on an especially beautiful evening as the sun was on its way down.
Wayne’s World—of Lobster!
But enough sightseeing. Back to Wayne’s World. This is where the locals go for lobster. They don’t cook it themselves–heck no. They do take-out. Truthfully, I don’t know about all locals, but I do know about at least two locals who have Wayne on speed dial….we had some damn good lobster at their house later that night.
Fish cake and beans at Henry House.
I’m getting all ahead of myself talking about lobster when the first meal I had on the east coast was fish cakes and beans. And here’s a good laugh for you Atlantic natives, when I saw this I thought, “how novel! Beans with the fish cakes”. Ha ha ha ha. Only to see this on every menu everywhere. This delicious plate was eaten on the patio of Henry House in Halifax.
Henry House in Halifax
Henry House was built in 1834 and has some great pub food and quite a beer menu (see how easily my beerification began?)
Uncommon Ground, Halifax
Right across the street I had steaming after-lunch coffee from Uncommon Grounds. Felix was a little boisterous and may have pissed off some customers but I just smiled in embarrassment and looked at him as if he was the cutest imp I had ever seen. Denial works.
Halifax Seaport Farmer’s Market
Which bring us back to the Seaport Farmer’s Market (I know, I’m too excited and jumping all around!) we visited on a weekday so not quite as bustling as it must be on Saturdays but still–wild blueberries for $3/pint! And truthfully, tonnes of great food to be looked at, admired and purchased when you’re a tourist like me. And when one has a stroller–NOT CROWDED is awesome.
Butcher Seaport Market
I checked out the grass-fed steaks at the butcher…
And veggies to go with the steak..
Or maybe you just want to grab some lobster poutine to eat by the water?
Lemon Ginger lovely-ness.
And wash it down with this locally made soda (grandma’s recipe!).
Forget chocolate and peanut butter.
And I found this at the Garrison brewery. And we hadn’t even gotten to the sno-cones we had after the Theodore the Tugboat tour. (Man, sno-cones aren’t as good as I remembered them.)
So what did I learn in my first 24 hours in Nova Scotia? Fishcakes come with beans, the beer out East is great and don’t take the light pink crayon if you want to properly mark anything on your Theodore and Friends map.
Wondering why there’s a rake lying in a bathtub? Time to go to cheese school.
The Cheese Education Guild (where I took my first cheese classes) is back up and running and offering an introductory Cheese Appreciation course starting September 11, 2012 and running 8 weeks until October 30, 2012. (hey, you can give out cheese for Halloween! With a little note that says, “Eat the rind scaredy pants!”)
I went to cheese school and look–(messy) counters full of cheese greet me every day!
My colleagues and the new owners of the school, Lisa McAlpine and Marla Krisko are both graduates of the 3 level certificate program (originally run by Kathy Guidi who created it as the first certified cheese program in Canada) and will be teaching the course. They are excellent and experienced instructors who are also a lot of fun.
Hmmm, bloomy rind, buttery paste, ripe interior and gorgeous manicure.
You may or may not do all three levels but this first course is eye-opening and inspiring for anyone who has a love or learning and a love of cheese. It’s a lot of fun–but you also have to study a bit….which may mean putting out a cheese board. (hmmm, my first degree was in film which involved studying by watching movies…am I lazy? or genius? )
Here is more info: Time and Location: 6:30 – 9:30 p.m. at University of Toronto Faculty Club
Cheese Appreciation 1 Classes include 8 weeks (Tuesdays) of training, 3 hours per evening, course curriculum materials, tasting of 8 – 10 cheeses per class, testing, and final certificate.
These classes allow the student to discover the vast knowledge surrounding the production of cheese, its history, cultural influences and the nuances of terroir. In addition, the student is taught how to actually taste and categorize cheese and to appreciate its subtle qualities.
Cheese Appreciation classes are casual, but extremely informative, allowing the student to relax while learning about cheese and enjoying the company of other like minded caseophiles (cheese lovers!). Students attending these classes range from pure enthusiasts to retail and culinary students wishing to specialize in the exciting World of Cheese.
Established in 2005, the Cheese Education Guild has trained hundreds of cheese lovers, ranging from enthusiasts to food and wine professionals, and has played a significant role in encouraging the production and distribution of artisan cheese across Canada and the U.S.