Asparagus Season–make pesto with your spring veggies

photo by Tad Seaborn

photo by Tad Seaborn/ click to enlarge  (not to enrage)

Here’s a recent favourite for the Globe “Quick Fix” column.  The recipe is with the article HERE.

It’s so hard not eat a whole lot of pine nuts when making pesto–almost mindlessly–and then I keep reminding myself that they’re a kazillion dollars for a handful–probably worth more than Jack’s beanstalk seeds.  But so yummy.

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And a little reminder if anyone is thinking about attending the Great Canadian Cheese Festival in Picton June 1-2, you can get a discount through the blog.  Hope to see you there!

SR

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Nickel City Chef = I’m sold on fine dining in Buffalo (yep, time to forgo those wings)

The Coin Toss

The Coin Toss between Chef Forster and Chef Goetz

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 trying to beat the clock.

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.
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Challenging Chef Edward Forster of Mike A @ Hotel Lafayette has trained under chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten at Vong’s in London and been sous-chef under Chicago’s Graham Elliott.
The beautiful kitchen turned studio where the Nickle City Chef Competiton was held

The beautiful kitchen turned studio where the Nickle City Chef Competiton is held

The event took place in stunning and  fully restored turn-of-the-century warehouse on Buffalo’s west side.  My fellow judges were fellow Torontonian Chef John Horne of Canoe (@ChefHorne) and Buffalo Spree journalist/food writer Alan Bedenko  (@buffalopundit).

The judges- with John Horne of Canoe and Buffalo Spree journalist/food writer Alan Bedenko

Organized by  Feed Your Soul Productions which was founded by food writer Christa Glennie Seychew, I spoke to Christa about the food scene in Buffalo-and what she hopes to achieve through the competition.
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 picking cheese at Nickle City Cheese

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.

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Nickel City Chef Adam Goetz, Crave
Nickel City Sous Chef DJ Cook

Course 1:

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Fresh Mozzarella and OrangeAgnolotti
Braised swiss chard, tomato, pecans, brown butter

Crispy Sweetbreads
Pancetta, fine herbes, carrot mousse, peppered buratta medallion
adam 2

Course 2:

Rack of Lamb
Burrata polenta, asparagus, red pearl onion, spicy squash, beech mushroom, fried mozzarella, tomato beurre rouge, herbed burrata quenelle

adam 3

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)

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Pine nuts, herbs, hay smoked mozzarella, olive tapenade

ed 2

Course 2:

Mozzarella-stuffed Quail

Braised barley, English peas, black barley burrata, pea-stained whey broth

ed 3

Course 3:

Warm Mozzarella Tart

Rhubarb and strawberry compote, long pepper, almond

Mansion on Delaware

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.

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Best in Show: Quality Cheese Ricotta almost like eating cream–and why fresh cheese is trendy

The 2013 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix Champion

The 2013 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix Champion

Trying to spread the word about all the Grand prix winners and especially about the Grand Prix Champion, the first time a fresh cheese came out on top and a first for Ontario as well.  This really opens the door in all categories at the Grand Prix for any cheese to win and is a fantastic sign of the quality we should be looking for as all sorts of fresh cheese become more popular with all the different cultures and their cuisines permeating our country-especially as Latin American styles of cheese become more available.

Here is a bit from my article in the Globe, click on the link below to read the whole thing and please spread the word!

There was a dark horse contender at the 2013 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix. In February, I was part of an eight-member jury that blind-tasted 225 cheeses over two days with unexpected results: When the individual scores were totalled, the top prize went to a simple ricotta. This unpretentious cheese had garnered exceptional grades in technical and aesthetic evaluation, surpassing the bloomy rinds, the washed rinds and the aged Goudas.

Read the whole article to find out more about how this cheese was made from a traditional Italian recipe and the first in Canada to be sold in individual molds purchased from Italy.

You can see the basket the ricotta comes in behind the cheese.

You can see the basket the ricotta comes in behind the cheese.

If you would like to hear a little more about the judging I wrote about it in this piece.   Thanks for supporting Canadian cheese.

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Mocking food Instagrammers (me) in a Dali-esque photo display

A Tad Seaborn Creation

Notice the weird hobo doll passed out on the floor.

I am away for the weekend, and in what I can only imagine is a loving mockery of me— my photographer husband created this meal and posted it on Facebook.  FYI–it may also be mocking you if you post your meals on Instagram.  (Hey-I’m not taking the full brunt of this….. )   CLICK on the photo to see it bigger…..it’s cool.

I love the fish in the water glass!

DINNER por uno: a la pronto Tad:
Signature Cocktail:  Home carbonated soda, 15 year old blended Scotch, mayonnaise and a slice of smoked salmon.
Starter:  Celery and Ballpark mustard Gazpacho .
Protein:  Feline Soft seafood medley (the cheapest canned meat you can find in a grocery store.)
Vegetable: Ginger root.
Compliment: Half garlic Dill Pickle.
Side: Capered-Extra Smooth Peanut Butter.
Sauces: Teriyaki and honey mustard.
Desert: Sushi Herring Gelato.

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Great Canadian Cheese Festival only 40 days away! Get a 25% discount on tickets here.

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Hey everyone– just a reminder that the annual cheese festival taking place in Picton on June 1-2 is not so far away.  Perhaps farther than Spring…..but perhaps not.  Sigh.

It’s an amazing weekend where you can sample cheese from across the country (Artisan Cheese and Fine Food Fair) while sipping local wine or cider and there are some fantastic seminars about everything from pairing beer and cheese, wine and cheese, different types of milk, Quebec cheese and so on.  Plus all the dinner—Jamie Kennedy’s shin dig is sadly sold out–sorry.

Anyway–if you’re thinking of going to website has accommodation suggestions too (some lovely Inns and B&Bs in the area) and of course wineries to be toured and tasted.

As a special promotion for Cheese and Toast I can offer you a promo code to get yourself a discount on the event—just a little THANK YOU to all the people who follow the site.

 Get 25% off tickets for The Great Canadian Cheese Festival by entering the promotional code CF13TOAST before starting your online ticket order ONLINE here. Good only on tickets purchased online in advance of the Festival on June 1-2. Visit cheesefestival.ca for information on the Festival.  
Maybe I will see you there!
Sue

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Curds and Eh: TGIF at Fromagerie du Presbytère (get the scoop in Kelsie’s video)

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Kelsie is back with an amazing video about the festivities at Fromagerie Presbytere and some cool viz of cheesemaking taking place.  If you want to read more search “Curds and Eh” in the sidebar.  Or focus on Kelsie’s favourite new Canadian cheesemakers from 2012.  -SR

People often ask me what my favourite cheese is and I find that it’s such a hard question to answer. I usually change the question and respond, “Oh there are so many, but right now I’m enjoying ___________” or “well, if you were to limit my choices to goat milk blue cheeses from the Gulf Islands in British Columbia then I’d have to choose_______.”

But I wouldn’t hesitate if someone restricted all my future cheese consumption to only one fromagerie (ie. cheese factory). Before the challenge left their mouth, I’d blurt out “Fromagerie du Presbytère!”

Making cheese at Fromagerie-du-presbytere

Making cheese at Fromagerie-du-Presbytere

The aptly named Fromagerie du Presbytère is based out of a renovated Presbyterian rectory in Ste-Élizabeth-de-Warwick in the Centre-du-Québec region. It is home to two cheese companies, Fromagerie du Presbytère, maker of the multi award-winning Louis d’Or (among others); and Fromagerie Nouvelle France, producer of the multi award-winning Zacharie Cloutier.

There are three main reasons why I’d choose this fromagerie: the passion of the cheesemakers, their extraordinary cheeses and the community that comes together to support them.

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Jean Morin serves samples of Louis d’Or at the party

The Cheesemakers

Jean Morin (Fromagerie du Presbytère) and Marie-Chantal Houde (Fromagerie Nouvelle France) are always smiling. They are welcoming and playful and their passion and love of cheese is obvious. Together, they are on a mission to make the best cheese in the world and seem to be having a great time doing it.

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Laliberte cheese  triple cream cheese

The Cheeses

Between the two cheese companies, they make every style of cheese that I need. There are fresh cheddar curds, a rich triple cream, a sweet and creamy blue, a raw alpine style cheese, and a raw sheep cheese similar to Manchego. Both companies make extraordinary cheeses, the names of which often evoke the rich local heritage and culture.

Laliberté is named after Alfred Laliberté, a sculptor from Ste-Elizabeth-de Warwick who became a founding member of the Sculptors Society of Canada. Unlike his sculptures which were typically made from marble or bronze, the cheese is soft and melts in the mouth like butter. Laliberté is a triple cream with a bloomy rind and boasts flavours of vegetables, fresh mushrooms and cream. It’s a truly indulgent cheese.

Louis d’Or is named after a French gold coin and shares its name with the Morin family farm. This cheese is made in 40kg wheels, has a nutty flavour similar to a Swiss Gruyere and seems to win every competition in which it’s entered. It was crowned the Grand Champion of the 2011 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix, earned a 3rd Place (Best of Show) spot at the 2011 American Cheese Society competition, and won five awards at the 2012 Selection Caseus in Quebec.

Zacharie Cloutier

Zacharie Cloutier

Zacharie Cloutier has the same braided reed patterned rind as Manchego but lacks the wax coating of its Spanish ancestor. This washed rind cheese has flavours of nuts and hay and is one of my favourites (I have many favourites but sheep cheeses have a special place in my heart). Zacharie Cloutier shares its name with an early settler of New France who happens to be a distant relative of Marie-Chantal Houde (and other Canadian celebrities such as Alanis Morisette, Louis St Laurent, Avril Lavigne, Celine Dion and Shania Twain, seriously).

Marie-Chantal separates the curds and whey

Marie-Chantal separates the curds and whey

Recently, Jean and Marie-Chantal collaborated and released a cheese made from a combination of their milks, raw Holstein and Jersey milk from Presbytere and raw sheep milk from Nouvelle France. The resulting cheese is named Le Pioneer, weighs in at 40kg and has been aged for a year. I haven’t tried it yet but I’m anxious too. It promises to be another outstanding product from two of the very best cheesemakers in Canada.

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The Community

The population of Ste-Élizabeth-de-Warwick literally doubles on Friday evenings during the warmer months of the year. Hundreds of visitors set up tables and chairs on the yard of the rectory where they enjoy fresh cheese with wine and beer. A retired baker bakes breads and sweets on site, musicians play from the balcony of the rectory, and people make new friends and catch up with old ones.

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The Friday gatherings are, in a way, a celebration of fresh cheese. While visitors to the fromagerie eat, drink and are merry on the grounds of the rectory, Jean, Marie-Chantal and their team are busy making cheese inside. The fresh cheese is available at three stages during the production process:

4pm – Fromage de petit lait – curds in whey. To be eaten from a bowl with a spoon.

5pm – Slab cheese – unsalted, unmilled, slabs of cheese (this isn’t cheddar yet!). Customers can sprinkle salt to add extra flavour.

6pm – Fromage en grain – AKA cheddar curds. Straight from the vat to the customers! Warm curds are a real treat.

Louis D'Or at the American Cheese Society Competition

Louis D’Or at the American Cheese Society Competition

This past summer I spent a Friday evening at Fromagerie du Presbytère. Their Friday parties are, perhaps the most honest celebration of cheese I’ve witnessed. There’s no corporate sponsorship, no advertising, no pretension, and no need to buy tickets. It’s simply a bunch of cheese lovers coming together to celebrate the work of two talented cheesemakers.

Here’s a little video my buddy Ian Langohr and I put together about our experience.

Weather permitting, Fromagerie du Presbytère will host the first Friday fête of 2013 on April 19th and they will continue EVERY Friday afternoon until the autumn.

I seriously hope no one will actually restrict all my future cheese consumption to just one fromagerie but if they did I think Fromagerie du Presbytère would be a great pick.

Now, if you were challenged to only eat cheese from a single fromagerie (it doesn’t have to be French), who would you choose and why? (You can be sneaky like me and choose two if you want)

And seriously, how can you actually choose one cheese to be your favourite!?

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Homemade Ricotta, Easier than Pie (guest post by Ally Chang)

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How did I get so lucky to have two of my talented friends blog recipes on Cheese and Toast this spring?  First Johanne Durocher made Saag Paneer and now my friend Ally Chang (another cheese obsessed cohort) will show you how to make homemade ricotta–it is SO GOOD–especially warm, and Ally  also added her ricotta pancake recipe.  How good is it to live at her house?  Enjoy,  SR.

How to make Ricotta Cheese      by Ally Chang

Making ricotta cheese is so incredibly easy and it tastes so much better than store-bought too.  I have modified a couple of recipes to make it even easier – I like recipes that call for things I have on hand, not specialty items that I have to buy.  So if you have milk, cream, salt and lemons you are in cheese making business.  We eat some of this warm, fresh ricotta in the morning for breakfast with fresh fruit.  I then use the rest to make Lemon Ricotta Pancakes the next day.  The pancake actually freeze well so the left-overs go into a Ziplock and into the freezer and I have a quick and easy breakfast option for my kids during the busy weekday mornings.

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If you do not have cheese cloth is available at most grocery stores or the bulk store.

Ricotta

Bring the following ingredients to a gentle simmer:

1 litre (4 cups) of 3.25% milk (I use organic but you can use non-organic)

1 1/2 cups whole (35%) cream

1 tsp salt

Then add:

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 tbsp white vinegar

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Draining the ricotta through cheese cloth.

Let this cook for 1 minute and you will see the curds separate from the whey.

After 1 minute, drain the cheese through a cheese cloth (doubled) that has been placed in a colander.  Let it sit in the colander to further drain for a few minutes.

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Enjoy warm with fruit or let cool then store in a container in the fridge.  The next day you can make Lemon Ricotta Pancakes.

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Lemon Ricotta Pancakes 

Whisk the following ingredients together:

3/4 cups all purpose flour

3/4 cups Red Fife flour (which will add a lovely nuttiness or use all purpose)

2 tsp baking powder

Zest of 1 lemon

1 tsp sea salt

1 1/4 cups milk

1 egg

2-3 tsp lemon juice

Then fold in 1 cup of homemade ricotta.  Cook pancakes on a medium low heat (you can keep them warm in the oven set at 200).  Serve with blueberries and warm maple syrup.

**Ally has also told me that these freeze really well for make-ahead, instant breakfasts.

RICOTTA

Originating in Italy, the name “ricotta” comes from the Latin recocta or “recooked,” reflecting the fact that the whey is reheated after being “cooked” once already when separating the curds and whey.Ricotta can be made from sheep’s, cow’s, goat’s or water buffalo’s milk and is a fresh, loose cheese with a mild flavour that can sometimes have a slightly granular texture (ripened and smoked varieties also exist). Some ricottas are made with skim or whole milk, which increases fat content and makes them more moist and creamy.  (Like Ally’s recipe)

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