Tag Archives: Connie DeSousa

Terroir 2012: Making mouths water like crazy

Terroir 2012, proving you can never have too many cooks...

Slushy wet snow, smokey, wood-burning smells in the air and a warm packed room accented with aromas of cooking, scattered  beer cans and people unravelling themselves layer by layer from their outdoor gear.  Could have been an afternoon anywhere in Canadian cottage (or cabin) country.  Aside from the iPhones filling up with photos of just-foraged plants being sliced, fresh sausages being filled and local trout being smoked.

Connie DeSousa making sausages (yes, Top Chef Canada lovers, celebrity sighting!)

Plus the fact that the whole feast was being prepared by some of the most talented chefs in Canada (and some outside of Canada). It was a fantasy Thanksgiving-doppelganger afternoon at Mad Maple Inn in Bruce County this past Tuesday, April 24.

The dining room at Mad Maple, this is the view from the open kitchen.

The event was part of The Terroir Symposium 2012.  The day before had been a full house at the newly renovated Acadian Court, now run by Oliver and Bonacini (more on the symposium in another post).   I was fortunate enough to be invited on the following day’s tour of Grey Bruce Simcoe county–complete with bus ride, April flurries and a more moments of awesome than even the Book of Awesome could come up with (lunch featured wood-fired pizzas and was hosted by Michael Stadtländer at his Haisai Bakery and Restaurant.)

Check out Renée Suen’s photos for Toronto Life where she gives a preview of The Singhampton Project, Michael Stadtländer’s upcoming visual and edible feast at Eigensinn Farm.

We were hosted by Miriam Streiman who is opening Mad Maple Country Inn in this summer.  Above is the side table which served as the appetizer hang-out (if you weren’t stealing nibbles from the main kitchen.)   The yellow wax encased cheese is from Best Baa Dairy and the two cream cheeses came from newish producers Steacy and Scott den Haan of Primeridge Pure Dairy Products.

But let me get to the heart of it–the meal.  The formidable menu was posted on the wall after dinner was served and I had to take it in three pictures to get it all, as it reached down to the floor.  For more of the chefs and the food, check out Jessica Allen’s piece for Maclean’s.

THE CHEFS, THE FOOD AND THE LOCAL PRODUCERS

Beer Bread and birch plates

BRENT LEITCH, Two Kinds of Beer Bread, Creemore Springs and K2 Milling

CARL HEINRICH, RYAN DONOVAN, JULIA AYEARST, Trout on Kale with Mustard Vinaigrette, Kolapore Springs and The New Farm

So tender, so beautiful, so trouty

CARL HEINRICH, RYAN DONOVAN, JULIA AYEARST, BBQ Pork belly and trotters on baked beans, Blue Haven and The New Farm

CONNIE DESOUSA, Lamb organ Kielbasa with Brassica mustard, Twin Creeks Organic Farm and Forbes Wild Food

CRAIG FLINN, Black chicken soup with Jerusalem artichokes and wild mushrooms, Blue Haven, Creemore Springs and Wylie Mycologicals

JEREMY CHARLES, Wild Newfoundland Rabbit with Red Tail Flour pappardelle, wild mushrooms, speck, wild mustard and fresh herbs, K2 Milling, Forbes Wild Foods, Michael Stadtlander

JEFF CRUMP, Spit-Roasted Lamb with sauce gribiche, Twin Peaks Organic farm

BEN SHEWRY, Grated Potatoes , The New Farm, Tama Mutsuoka Wong

The grated potato salad with foraged greens and poached egg

Ben Shewry of Melbourne, Australia's much accoladed Attica restaurant, working on potato salad

Forager for Daniel NYC, Tama Mutsuoka Wong, talks about her finds which are going into the salad

JAMES ROBERTS, Potatoes gratin with wild garlic and shallot confit, The New Farm, Frobes Wild Food, Harmony Organic

PETER BURT, Fire-roasted beers and carrots and (and I can’t read the rest of the list, damn), The New Farm

CONNIE DESOUSA, Fresh Cheese Cheesecake with Rhubarb and almond Crumb, Harmony Organic

And finally my Cinderella…I never find out who she was, but man, was she a beauty!

And if you’re thinking–where was the bar?  It was there, in a cozy back room, the wine provided by Georgian Hills Vineyards.

And if you’ve been waiting to see a picture of Ivy Knight, woman-of-all-trades (and a back of the bus fun person–I am a front of the bus read a book person, it makes me sad sometimes) here she is.  Check out her awesome new website all about foodstuffs at swallowfood.com  and ask for an I SWALLOW sticker for your iPhone.

See the glee, the fun that was had?  She’s laughing because she just swore at me.  But then, I did cut off most of her face in this picture.  Even?

Fun was had, food was had, Tuesday’s will never be the same.   Though I might start eating off  birch plates (even sturdier than paper and disposable in the wood pile).

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Top Chef Canada: The Final Episode 13

The final three as summed up by Rob and I:

Dale, “I’m crazy high-end cooking–your hot dog will be be plated after being carved into a pig sniffing a truffle”

Connie, “I’m sausages and home-cooking, your hot-dog will be made from a pig I’ve slaughtered, butchered and shoved into the casing myself.

Rob, “I do a bit of everything, I think I’ll make snarky comments about Connie and Dale while I whip up a homemade sausage served with ballpark mustard and yes, you’ll love it.

Its going to be a tough call hot-doggers.  I’m stuck between Connie and Rob.

Quickfire

The chefs are taken  somewhere in the beaches on one of those “bikini-model” days where you want it to look warm and steamy outside but actually there’s a brutal wind and it’s bloody cold.  Connie looks miserable with a red nose and the sniffles.

They each have two hours to prep/cook/plate a BBQ meal for 20 volleyball players using Rickard’s red/white and dark beer and brand new Weber BBQs.

Rob is the only one appearing to have fun as he knocks back a few Rickard’s white and checks out the female volleyball players.

Dale is getting snarky-er, “Clearly the judges love Rob’s comfort food.  So whatever. He could put shit on the grill and they would love it”  This while Rob merrily kisses ass , clinking beer bottles with the judges.

Connie is shocked that Dale has lowered himself to making plain ol’ chicken wings which still turn out kind of “fancy pants.”  She’s working on ribs which usually slow-cook for hours but she’s going for it.

Rob makes a flatiron steak and citrus-spiked corn on the cob.  Dale serves ribs and chicken wings with veggies on the side  and Connie takes the win with white-ale chorizo burgers and dark ale ribs, served with  white-ale coleslaw.

Connie you rock.  And you need some serious soft Kleenex.

Then from out-of-the-blue (or whatever hotel room all the eliminated chefs were locked in) come Todd, Andrea and Dustin.  Since Connie won the Quickfire she gets to choose who will be on her team for the final Elimination.  Not surprisingly she picks Andrea (I would totally have gone for Dustin).  Andrea looks  a little too excited to be back.

In a Connie-esque unstrategic move Connie the assigns Dustin to Dale and Todd to Rob’s team.  They are all way too happy.  But Connie–that’s just the sweet gal she is.

Elimination

Each Chef will be serving a three-course meal of their choice at Peller Estates.  The meal should “showcase who they are as Chefs”.  Finally a challenge everyone is excited about.  Chef David Hawksworth and John Peller (owner of  Estates) join.

Dale is already complaining that three courses is not enough to show of his greatness and plans to serve two dishes for the second course.  You sly dog Dale.

The twist is thrown in by Jason Parsons the Chef at Peller Estates.  He informs the three chefs they will have to serve an amuse as part of their dinner which includes the use of a Cabernet-Franc Ice Wine.

AMUSE

Connie, in a move previously perfected by Todd, pulls out a large Himalayan brick of salt that she’s been hiding under her pillow “just for an occasion like this”.  She uses it to cure albacore crudo and the presentation is impressive.  Dale goes with a “Quebec Brie” (why can’t they ever say the name of the cheese–for God’ s sake!!!!)  paired with some foraged greens and frozen grapes.  But it’s Rob who takes the Amuse round with his goat cheese (from Salt Spring Island), frisee and a Cab France Ice Wine reduction.

1st Course

Connie goes with charcuterie making a smoked pork hock terrine with late-season rhubarb compote (pulling out the seasonal card–Jason Parsons loved it)–which everyone enjoys even though Chef MM thought it was a bit large.

Dale presents a plate of raw fish which was so beautiful I wanted to shellac it and put it on my mantel.  “Others” thought it was too “precious”  (Chef McEwan) and looked at it with disdain.  Everyone else looked pretty damn impressed.

Rob makes everyone say “mmmm” in delicious satisfaction with his foie gras boudin blanc with cauliflower purée and snap peas.

1st course goes to Dale but it’s close.

2nd course

Rob keeps the fatty richness coming with his oxtail and bone marrow which everyone agrees is scrumpalicious but the progression is a bit heavy.  Connie comes out serving lamb two ways–the winning way being the lamb neck croquette which is the most memorable part of the meal.  But here’s where Dale pulls ahead, way ahead…by cheating…no, wait, by “taking a big risk” according to the judges.  I mean, really no one said each course had to have only one dish, right?  (perhaps ask Connie and Rob what they think of that.)

He pulls out black cod with barbecue pork consommé (poured at the table)  and roast lamb with onions done four ways.  Chef MM says the fish dish is the best thing Dale’s done all season and overall no one gives a  crap what the rules were.  They’re eating this up.

Dale kills the second course.  At some point Dale says, “90% of people, 90% of chefs couldn’t replicate my meal.  That’s not arrogant, that’s just reality.”  Then he high-fives himself.

Course 3

Rob makes beignets just to round out the fatty meal.  Despite being downers on how much rich food Rob’s putting out, the judges are all sad little kids when they realize the doughnuts have no fruit filling.

Connie brings out a perfect plate of the cutest desserts ever….chocolate pot de crème with salted peanut brittle (which the judges all agreed could be crèmier), a divine salted-peanut caramel ice cream and a peanut butter- chocolate cupcake. Everyone is dying over the ice cream.

Dale goes so simple it’s actually “complex simplicity” according to consensus. It’s strawberries melted down and re-birthed to create a new, improved strawberry over a lemon custard (with basil custard and rosé sauce). Ok, it sounds kind of awesome.

No one seems to be a clear winner in this category (except Connie’s ice cream perhaps).

Judges Table

Too close to call.  I am still thinking Rob or Connie.  All the chefs are receiving praise such as ” technically skilled” “bold and bright flavours” and “great abs”.

The chefs are called in for the final assessment.

Connie’s food is declared, “robust and honest”

Rob “technically great”

Dale”thinks of the meal as an experience”.

Thea looks at Connie and says, “Connie” loooong pause..”you are NOT Canada’s Top Chef”.

Connie leaves and falls into big hugs in the arms or her mom and husband already waiting in the loser area (back room).

Then, Thea looks between Rob and Dale.  “Dale”  PAAAUUUUSE.  “You are Canada’s Top Chef!”

What! Really.  I actually am kind of happy that Dale (rather than Rob) won.  And when he turned around was surprised by his son, well, not a dry eye in the house!

Well, that’s it.  First season of Top Chef Canada over.  (I’m sure the Food Network’s Top Chef Canada web page will be updated by the Fall for further detail of this last episode.  Man, they work slower than the post office.)  And maybe the Loblaws people can come up with a better angle on their chef-o-mercials than that terrible side shot they cut to all season.  Film school bad.

And please, please, no more of those paper towel ads.  I’ll talk! I’ll say anything you want to hear just to not see that orange juice being knocked over in slow motion ever again.

Blogger out.

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Top Chef Canada- Episode 12

Connie, Rob, Dale and Dustin.  Last Chefs Standing.  They put on their civvies and are picked up in a limo and Dustin makes a funny, “should have worn my suit-street clothes!”

The limo takes them to One, Chef McEwan’s restaurant in Yorkville for breakfast.  The most uncomfortable “let’s all relax and have waffles” that I’ve ever watched. No one looks relaxed, everyone (rightly) looks like they’re trying to figure out why they’re here and how this is going to show up as part of the elimination round.  Chef M talks a lot about his favourite way to eat which is “family style” using  ingredients that are super expensive and unattainable for most families.

I guess he likes to eat, “families with a butler-style”.  I’m just kidding.  Some of those families only have a maid and nanny.

Quickfire

Gale Simmins is the guest judge. GS is a former Top Chef America judge and current host of the new Top Chef: Just Desserts series.  She introduces the challenge: each Chef will pick a knife (this is getting dull, what about pulling swords?) with the name of a Canadian film and base their dish around it.

Dale- Gingersnaps

Connie- Naked Lunch

Rob- Bon Cop/ Bad Cop

Dustin- My Big Fat Greek Wedding

Dustin decides to work some “secret love” into Greek Food and Dale reveals his idea for a “murder plate” based on the Goth girls.  I have to admit, I’m having fun though at first I thought it sounded kind of lame.

Connie turns in a plate of “addictive foods” serving peanut brittle, truffle pop corn and chips sprinkled with lime.  Thea and Gale can barely tear themselves away.

Dustin makes a Danforth-style Greek plate of grilled octopus with some shrimp (?) hidden under a tomato (hidden crustacean love).  All the other chefs are laughing their ass off.

Dale makes the coolest plate pairing blood-red salmon and Goth black squid ink risotto.

Rob does shrimp two ways–spicy (bad cop) and mellow (bon cop).

Ultimately, Gail Simmons gives the win to Dale, she loves the violence on the plate says he showed the best technique.

Elimination Challenge

The chefs must create a menu for a “family-style” dinner party for Mark McEwan and his judge friends.  From a pantry stocked by Mark McKewan.  Since Dale won the Quickfire he has a head start of 5 minutes to take whatever he wants.

As Rob says, “everyone else gets his leftovers”.

Connie is freaking out that he might take the chicken.  C’mon Con, you think Dale would ever cook chicken?  Not unless it was flown in fresh from Bresse. (Fresh Chicken of Bresse Air– Food Network development people are you listening??)

We cut to some “we have extra time in the show” shots of the chefs.  Dale and Dusty are “so happy together” in their little bunk-home that Dustin admits there may be a bit of a bro-mance brewing.

The guest judges this week are David Lee (of Nota Bene), Jacob Richler (who comes across as a guy who would sneer at his own grandmother’s chicken soup) and Amy Verner– trend spotter. (The woman is everywhere.   She trend spots everything.  I think she must duplicate herself like clever Michael Keaton does in Multiplicity.  All versions looking stylish and cool. Unlike clever Michael Keaton.)

Course 1:

Connie kills course 1 with her lipsmacking beet salad and home-made cheese.  Chef Lee and Gail Simmons are much impressed.  Dustin’s fresh made pasta is sticky and flavourless while Dale’s oysters and mignonette is considered clumsy and “totally unlike Dale’s style”.

Course 2:

Course 2 is overshadowed by Connie’s family-style disaster “the roast chicken is rare!”.  She throws it into the deep fryer while Rob looks on amused, “Connie’s a little Texas today,  Shooting some stray bullets.”  But adds in typical smart-ass style, “but who am I too judge?”

So Connie squeaks by with her chicken and potato dish.   Dale serves Diver scallops with asparagus two ways.

Robs stomps all over Dustin’s “amateur” grilled lake trout with his seared perch, gnocchi and peas. One a hit , one a miss.

Course 3:

Dale makes steak, Jacob Richler sneers–or maybe he’s just breathing.  Rob makes a mouth-watering braised lamb neck with roasted mushrooms and baby beets which is loved by all.  Connie comes back from deep-fried chicken with a gorgeous chocolate ganache tart that no one can get enough of and Dustin…serves a composed fruit plate.  What?  For you last dish before the finals? (You even managed a strawberry shortcake for Milestones dude!)

Gail Simmons sums up everyone’s shock, ““I’m totally confounded by the fruit plate. This is your last chance to wow us….I actually think it’s absurd.”

Judge’s Table:

Rob takes the win, essentially he was the only one not too have screwed up some element of the meal.  Everyone looks pretty nervous as Connie is declared safe (YESS!!! Go Connie!!!!) and it is down to Dustin and Dale.  The Bromancers.  You know that Dustin must be the one to go, but man, it must have been hard for Thea to say.  He’s still smiling and completely gracious.  (I spend 5 minutes gushing to my husband about how sweet Dustin is only to discover he really doesn’t care.)

Dale actually looks stricken. Absence makes the heart grow fonder bromancer.  Or sometimes peach schnapps have the same effect.

Next week:  A winery, a kitchen and the first Top Chef of Canada revealed.

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Top Chef: Episode 10

I have a suggestion for the opening sequence.  Let’s add visual effects.  So that when we see the same boring morning shots we can capture Francois‘s toothpaste glowing like kryptonite or Dale folding socks in “bullet time” like Keanu Reeves in the Matrix.  Or just have the same stock sound effect of an alarm going off.  That’s good too.

The recap: essentially puts Connie through the meat grinder again-just like her much criticized sausage of last week.  Meaning, we want you to think she’s going home but probably not.

Quickfire

Lynn Crawford is our guest chef today.  She steps up to the plate as Thea announces that the challenge will be to make two meals for Porter Airlines.  A morning and evening snack.

A gaggle of cute stewardesses stop just short of forming a Porter Pyramid as they pose with the tiny cardboard boxes each chef must fit their mini-meal into.

Francois comments “cute girls” as his and Dale’s eyes seem to pop out.  They are like a men who have just served a life sentence seeing a woman in high heels for the first time.  What is this horrible place they call the GE kitchen?

Poor Lynn Crawford was obviously asked to shed some wisdom before the start of the challenge and maybe what she wanted to say was, “good luck squishing food into those boxes and don’t even bother trying to make it good, the airline will screw it up” but instead she had to say something generically bland , “be creative, do something different.”  Like her lipstick–very Gwen Stefani with a bit of craziness happening with the lip liner.

Dustin gets to work on a smoked trout crepe for his breakfast snack and he’s making a prosciutto sandwich for the afternoon.

Sandwich being the theme of the day.  Francois is working on egg salad (which ends up being a chopped omelette) and a tuna sandwich and Connie goes for chicken salad with pasta salad on the side.

Andrea dares to be different (oh oh, she’s following the generic advice) and says, “screw the sandwich” I’m going grilled salmon and couscous.

Judging:

Andrea and Dusty’s dishes come out on the bottom–or in airline hilarity–“didn’t fly”.  Dustin’s smoked trout crepe is too strong for a morning flight unless Porter is adding an East European route and Andrea’s salmon was dry and Chef Crawford didn’t like the chimichurri sauce.(though wouldn’t you be impressed to get chimichurri sauce on a flight to London, Ontario?)

The dishes that (wait for it) SOARED were Rob’s chicken club with a Grand Marnier chocolate fondant on the side.  Also a hit was Dales’ pepper-bacon sandwich with apples tossed in cream cheese.  But the big winner was Connie for overall “taste and visual appeal”.  Chef Crawford loved her homemade blueberry yogurt and called the granola alongside “fully loaded”.

She wins a trip for two to Chicago with the caveat that she had to make yogurt for the whole plane.

Elimination Challenge

Using the “terroir” philosophy the chefs must make three meals that represent a day in the life of the province they pull from the knife block.

Connie pulls “belle provence” and is pretty sure it’s in Quebec….

Rob lucks out and pulls Ontario (he’s from Toronto).

Dale get interior BC which is also great as he knows it well.

Andrea pulls the Praires.  Which I admit, kind of sucks.  Steak and Saskatoon Berry pie anyone?

Francois gets the Maritimes.  He is raring to go using seafood knowledge he learned in BC since he’s never been to the East Coast.

Dustin pulls Wild Rose Country.  I admit, I didn’t know that was Alberta.  I thought he would be cooking with Avon’s latest perfume.

The chefs have 5 minutes to put together a menu, 20 minutes ot shop on a $100 budget and three hours of cooking time.

Francois helps Connie by giving her the ol’ “When in Quebec eat Tortiere” schtick.

Dale is telling Andrea to go “comfort food” for the Praires. (As in, Oh God I live in the Praires. Give me some cheese cake NOW)

Cut to the “shopping” portion of our programme.

Cut to out “coming up clip” where people (Andrea) freaks out that Connie is using store-bought pastry. “I would feel like a douche bag doing that” says Andrea.

Cut back to the kitchen where the chefs run around setting up smokers and opening fridges.

Dale is pretty chill as always, ” We have three hours for three dishes–the point is to make it be difficult”

Andrea, slightly panicky,, “Three hours is not enough time to make Top Chef food.”

She then mocks Dale for being Mr. Food.  What a loser for being a chef and being on the show Top Chef and knowing a lot about food!    Dale then predicts the final four will be all the guys, “the girls are running out of ideas”.  See, I find that more annoying than the vast food knowledge part of his personality Andrea.

The kitchen is exceptionally hot.  Shockingly we don’t see anyone wiping sweat of their brow with Sponge Towels which seem to be featured at every commercial break.  Due to the heat Connie and Andrea forgo making ice cream and Andrea gives up on pie crust.  This is where Connie goes for it and just uses store bought (also acknowledging the time pressure).

Judges

Other than the usual judges and Chef Crawford  guest judge Jonathan Gushue of Langdon Hall is seated in the dining room.

First up is Dustin (Alberta) who’s dishes are beautiful to look at. And they start off well with his “steak and eggs” take on breakfast called, “well executed” and “perfectly cooked.  Lunch goes a bit down hill when his stew is not “viscous” enough and the stuffing of his chicken is too salty.  Plus the stuffed chicken leg makes Chef Gushue feel like he’s in a “banquet hall”.

Francois is next with his Maritime line-up.  His first dish is totally doused in Hollandaise sauce and looks messy.  It’s downhill from the start, “confused flavours” “soggy beat foam doesn’t let the mussels sing” “too many products” and “it’s like he’s never been to the East Coast”.  Well, yah….

Andrea is plating and comments “I’m pretty happy with everything” meaning the editors have just bestowed her with the kiss of death.  Sure enough her Bison Barley soup  (you can get bison at Loblaws?) has a film of fat on it–the comment summary is “no skill” “no Praires” and “no flavour”.  Even the crumble she made instead of the pastry is not well done.  The bulgur wheat is not broken down.  (But then you can taste the Praires- right?)

Dale fares much much better. In fact he pulls it off.  The judge are drooling over his dishes and his knowledge of inner BC. He started with breakfast of poached eggs with morel mushrooms and hollandaise, then roasted B.C. salmon and peas cooked three ways, and dinner was venison loin with bannock ( a Native style flat bread).

Connie, who knew nothing about Quebec cuisine, sure could’ve fooled the judges. She presented  a smoked trout and potato salad, a venison and veal tourtière and wild blueberry pie. The tourtière got knocked for authenticity but the flavours were great and the judges loved her pie crust (thanks Tenderflake!)

Rob’s Ontario menu, inspired by his grandmother’s cooking left him sitting in the middle. It wasn’t the flop that Francois’s meal was but it was “uninspired”.  Sorry Gram.

Judges Table

Dale and Connie (who’s run out of ideas-right Dale?) get the top two spots.  And despite Connie admitting to buying her pastry the judges seem impressed at her ability to “make a situation work” for her.  Kind of surprising but OK.  (Maybe she should have heated up a PC Tortiere too?)

Ultimately Connie takes the top spot. She’s back (to back) winning both the Quickfire and the Elimination.  YES!!!

Not surprisingly Francois and Andrea are crowned worst of the day.  The judges go hard on Andrea who gets defensive and blames the short amount of time she had and the hot kitchen– she gets a jab in again at Connie’s use of the premade pie crust.  Chef Crawford tells her that is was not the circumstance but her execution that failed her.

Francois gets beat up a bit but the judges seem almost amused at his fumbling. “He’s like a mad scientist.”

It’s clear who’s on the cutting block–So long Andrea.   You were feisty.  I liked it.

My favourite outgoing line so far, “Today I regret not ever being to the Praires.”  Andrea tackles Connie in an “I hate you-I love you” kind of hug and departs.  One woman left.

NEXT WEEK:  Food carts!  The mystery is what sponsor will we showcase?

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