Tuesday, October 28, 2014

St. Andrews Poultry..not just chicken

What do you get when you mix a Toronto Dentist,  a young fresh Executive Chef and a Poultry Shop?

...........An updated new gourmet food store and catering shop in Kensington Market.

 St. Andrew Poultry was founded in 1962 by Jewish European immigrant Isaac Jesin. It was originally a processing plant but they expanded to add a retail side for their poultry products.  Jesin handed down the operation to his son Dr. Jerry Jesin in 2012.  Dr. Jesin a Toronto Dentist and foodie decided to kick the place up to a more modern shop and expand on the food products available.  Since he was a dentist and not a chef he needed to find someone to help him with the vision that he wanted for the store.  He asked around and was told to try Chef Bernadette Calpito's food.

Chef Calpito worked for many great upscale dining establishments including Roger Mooking's Kultura.  She drew from all of her restaurant experience and kicked it into high gear to create some great upscale fast food dishes that people could drop into the shop to pick up and take home for dinner.
Together they created a "Foodie Bar" with hot meals like fried chicken, brisket sandwiches, ribs, fries and their own signature Shawarma's.

They also have updated their Meat Counter to include aged Beef and vacuum packed already seasoned chicken, brisket and beef items.

There is also a counter with prepared foods like fingerling potatoes in a lemon vinaigrette, heirloom tomato salad, malta ribs, salmon and various salads.

They also created a new Supper Club Membership where people could join for $20 for a lifetime membership that allows them to pick up food to take out between the hours of 5pm to 6:30pm and receive a 20% discount on their prepared food.

They also have a Delivery and Catering service that will deliver to downtown offices and cater your events.  Chef Calpito noted that she is willing to provide whatever you need for your event, not limited to the items sold in the store.

Additional specialty items available in the store include some baked goods made by their in house baker and also a line of cheeses, fresh eggs and salads in Mason jars and a lot more.

I sampled a few things from their Foodie Bar.
I tried the Joy fried chicken which is a special process of cooking the chicken which keeps it crispy on the outside while being juicy on the inside.  Try it with their hot sauce.

Their Shawarma's are a signature dish that have their own unique blend of spices that are a global fusion of flavours.  I detected a bit of turmeric in the seasonings which gave the chicken shawarma a nice golden color. They have a nice selection of toppings for the shawarma's and they topped mine off with some of their vanilla infused french fries.  You don't taste the vanilla but the fries are crispy on the outside and soft in the middle and are delicious.

Chef Calpito wanted to make tacos but didn't want to do the same tacos everyone else was doing so she used Beef Cheeks and changed the tortilla shell to a wonton wrapper shell and added toppings like a cabbage and pineapple slaw and feta crema to the top.  Very flavourful taco with a great crunch.

They worked on many different combinations to get their burgers the way they wanted them.  They were so juicy that the napkin that I was holding was soaked in juices.  They used a beef brisket mix for the burgers and had them stacked with all kinds of toppings.

I also tried their Chicken Pot Pie.  It tasted like homemade chicken soup with a nice puff pastry top on it.  They have them uncooked and frozen ready to heat at home.

I tried a sample of their fingerling potato salad with lemon and herb dressing and loved the nice subtle flavour that enhances the potatoes.

I didn't have enough room to try the pistachio crusted lamb pops and their banana breads but the people I was with loved them.   I tried as much as I could and picked up some chicken to take home for dinner as well.

The staff are all super friendly and helpful.  Dr. Jerry loves food and wanted to make sure everything was the best it could be.  Chef Calpito has an abundance of energy and charm and a passion for making the products in her own unique style with flavours from around the globe.

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Eat to the Beat 2014

Sixty of Canada's Top Female Chefs got together at Roy Thompson Hall this week to share some fantastic food for a good cause.   They provided the food for the 19th Annual  EAT TO THE BEAT Fundraising Event that supports WILLOW a support centre for anyone touched with Breast & Hereditary Cancers.

I am sure there is someone in your world that has been touched with Cancer so this is a fun way of supporting something that isn't so fun.

If you have ever been to Roy Thompson Hall in Toronto you know that it is a great big open hall with an area that surrounds the interior of the building that has hosted many private parties and lot's of events during the Toronto International Film Festival.  I spend many days there during the Film Festival and have seen many parties set up there but nothing as grand as this one.  There were tables setup the whole way around the hall with all of the 60 Chefs delicious treats for everyone to select and try.

There were additional tables of sweets in the centre of the larger portion of the hall and there were also tables set up for a Silent Auction and a table for a Surprise $20 bag that you could purchase.  I purchased one and got a Bourgeois Makeup Kit, Starbucks Ice Tea package and a candle holder.  There were all sorts of different things in the bag.  I was shooting for the Ipad mini or movie tickets but I will take the makeup gladly.

To add a lot of fun and attention to some of the Cancer Survivors while celebrating them they all dressed up in original food inspired corsets that they created and proudly wandered around the venue.

They also had raffle tickets for sale for some other great prizes.

It was a jam packed event that was a lot of fun and a lot of attention to detail was paid to everything at this event.  It flowed seamlessly which is something I appreciate in an event.  Because it flowed around the hall people had room to stroll through the building sampling little bites along the way.

When you arrived at the venue you were given a wine glass so that you could get wine, beer, tea, water Limonana or soft drinks.  This simple action was really nice because it kept things green and you could get refills at individual wine vendors, or even soft drinks and water so everyone was covered.  I can't tell you how many events that I have gone to where the only options were beer and wine, both of which I don't drink and sometimes the only other option is soft drinks, which I prefer not to drink.  I like to drink water at an event like this so that I can taste the food and keep myself hydrated.  Makes for a better recovery the next day too.  But what I really loved is that Starbucks had a huge table of all kinds of coffees with free reusable cups you could take with you.

Now to the food.   Some of the notable Chefs that participated in this event were Rose Reisman, Nettie Cornish, Emily Richards, Vanessa Yeung from Aphrodite Cooks, and some of the notable restaurants and vendors included the Inn on the Twenty, The Drake, Bonnie Gordon College of Confectionary Arts, Beretta Farms, and Wanda's Pie in the Sky.   There were 60 so too many to mention.


Some of the food that I really liked included Nettie Cornish's Quinoa chili, Beretta Farms Asian Beef on a rice cracker,  Limonana juice, Paintbox caterings Jerk Arancini, Tilde's smoked duck taco, and Emily Richards Roasted red pepper crostini and I would have liked to try a whole lot more of the desserts but I just didn't have room after all the savoury bites.
This was the first time that I attended this event and I really enjoyed it and ran into a lot of people I knew there who were volunteering or who were vendors so it was nice to see everyone united for a great cause.

I think they will raise a lot of money from this event so I think these kind of events are a great thing for everyone from the Chefs who get exposure to people that may not have ever tried their food and the money raised helps people who need assistance during difficult times.    It's a good thing as Martha Stewart would say.

I hope that one day they have events like this just for fun and not to have to raise money for Cancer initiatives but in the meantime go to these events and have some great food, fun and do something good at the same time.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A&W goes back for the FUTURE


A&W has given their menu an overhaul after receiving a lot of customer response about what's in their food and requesting better environmentally friendly food products.

A&W is the first and only fast food restaurant to give Canadians what they really want: 

 Almost three-quarters (73%) of Canadians prefer to consume beef raised without the use of hormones or steroids 
 A full 75% of Canadians prefer to consume chicken raised without the use of antibiotics 
A&W are the first fast food chain to bring their food back to the way it was first made at the inception of fast food.  It's real food made without antibiotics and produced with ethical practices the way food was made over 30 years ago.  

At the beginning of the fast food generation there was a hamburger patty that was put into a hamburger bun and topped with real lettuce and tomatoes and condiments.   The french fries were cut fresh on site and fried from a raw state and all of the vegetables were free from pesticides and other things that didn't belong in them.   Fast forward to the industrial generation where food is produced in a lab warehouse and shipped thousands of miles to sit in freezers and on shelves for months on end.

In September 2013 they introduced beef raised without the use of hormones or steroids and this September they introduced eggs from chickens fed only a vegetarian diet without animal by-products and this October they are introducing chicken that is raised without the use of antibiotics.
They are rolling this old is new style of better food in all of their 819 Canadian locations.

It doesn't sound that groundbreaking does it?  But it really is in our bottom line the faster, cheaper the better generation where profits and efficiency came before taste and the health of the consumers and the planet.  

As one of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution Ambassadors I know that Jamie fought hard to get "Pink Slime" taken out of the processed beef that was made in America.  In Canada our Beef processors do not use "pink slime" a by product washed in ammonia product used to kill bacteria and stretch the meat products.   But because of Jamie's efforts people started asking restaurants and food processors what's in their food.   A&W listened to their consumers and have gone out of their way to bring the most ethically treated food that they can get.  It's a win win for consumers and the planet.

Some of the big changes include:

100% pure beef, raised without the use of hormones or steroids, with no additives, preservatives or fillers. 

Chubby Chicken®” burgers, wraps, strips and dinners.  All feature chicken raised without the use of antibiotics. Plus, A&W chicken strips and sandwiches feature 100% real seasoned white chicken breast. 
A&W chicken comes from Canadian farms where the chickens are raised using the best farming practices in large barns where they are free to roam with constant access to fresh water, feed and fresh air. 

Canadian Grade A eggs, gathered from hens who are fed a fully vegetarian diet without animal by-products 

Classic onion rings are made in A&W restaurants daily with fresh onions from Gills Onions – one of A&W’s key produce suppliers. Gills is the first operation in the world to produce ultra-clean, renewable electricity from onion waste left behind from the fresh-cut process. 
The delicious A&W sweet potato fries are orange, but they are also green. A&W suppliers preserve and protect natural resources by controlling energy and water usage and by reducing waste and pollution. Their sweet potato processing facility is the first frozen food manufacturing plant worldwide to earn LEED Platinum certification, the highest distinction available to green buildings. 

A&W works with farmers who use greenhouses to grow tomatoes. They can grow 25 times more tomatoes than on traditional farm fields – all while conserving land, heat and water and allowing the tomatoes to ripen on the vine longer. This process provides efficiency and sustainability 

A&W has also changed to more environmentally friendly packaging including compostable paper bags for burgers and steel trays and serving baskets for fries and onion rings in restaurants. And they have brought back the famous A&W frosty mugs which is a more responsible way of packaging it's products. 

What does all of this mean for you the consumer of the food?  Well I can tell you it tastes a whole lot better than the chemical laden fast food people have become used to.  I tried their Chicken Fingers, Teen Burger and the Onion Rings.

The Chicken Fingers were real white meat that was juicy and not greasy or over salted like many fast food chains serve.  I would go back for these anytime I am craving a quick chicken fix.  I also like the crunchy Onion Rings that had a light breadcrumb coating on them.  I tried the Teen Burger and liked that the vegetables were freshly cut and the burger was very tasty.  
Then there are those frosty A&W mugs that they serve their Root Beer in.  Wouldn't you prefer to drink your soft drinks from an Ice Cold Frosty mug than a paper cup?  Yup, I thought so.   While I am not a big soda pop drinker I appreciated that they brought these back to their stores.  It keeps the drinks colder longer and just think of all the cups they keep out of the landfills.   I have visited a landfill where I saw a whole lot of Tim Horton cups.  

While there aren't as many A&W locations as there are other fast food chains I hope that the changes they have made will sway the rest of the industry to change their practices as well.  

They are moving in the direction of local and more sustainability which is a good thing.

The key to changing the planet is for A&W's changes to become successful and for other restaurants to follow suit.

One burger at a time.

Disclaimer:  The tasting of the items I sampled and the key information was provided by A&W but the opinions of the taste and quality of the food are my sincere opinions.

Taste Canada Book Awards 2014

2014 Taste Canada Winners
On October 20, 2014, Taste Canada–The Food Writing Awards announced the winning entries in its four categories for both English and French language books.

The winners were announced at the Award Ceremony and Gala Reception on October 20th, 2014 at Oliver & Bonacini’s Arcadian Court in Toronto, hosted by Ricardo Larrivée, cook, author, television star and lifestyle entrepreneur.


Culinary Narratives/Narrations Culinaires
The Stop: How the Fight for Good Food Transformed a Community and Inspired a Movement
 Saul, Nick and Andrea Curtis
 Random House Canada
Les saveurs gastronomiques de la bière
Lévesque Gendron, David et Martin Thibault
 Éditions Druide 
General Cookbooks/ Livres de Cuisine Générale
The Flavour Principle: Enticing Your Senses with Food and Drink
Waverman, Lucy and Beppi Crosariol
 HarperCollins Publishers
Dans la cuisine de Danny St-Pierre
 St Pierre, Danny 
Les Éditions La Presse
Regional/Cultural Cookbooks
Toronto Star Cookbook: More Than 150 Diverse and Delicious Recipes Celebrating Ontario
 Bain, Jennifer

Appetite by Random House
Single-Subject Cookbooks/Livres de Cuisine Sujet Unique
Gastro Grilling: Fired-up Recipes to Grill Great Everyday Meals
Reader, Ted 
Penguin Canada Book 
Les Règles d’or des épices 
De Vienne, Philippe et Ethné
 Éditions du Trécarré
2014 Hall of Fame Inductees
Taste Canada’s Hall of Fame Award for 2014 was conferred upon Michel Lambert, author of the multi-volume tome: L’Histoire de la cuisine familiale du Québec.
The Hall of Fame Posthumous Award went to Mona Brun (1920-2013), the British Columbia-born cookbook author and television personality.
Taste Canada acknowledged the great contribution to the culinary community of Toronto’s Cookbook Store, which closed its doors this past winter after 31 years in business. 

New National Chair

Taste Canada also announced the appointment of a new National Chair, Donna Dooher, a chef, cookbook author, restaurateur and industry champion who will be assuming her new duties immediately stepping in for Karen Gelbart, who is departing the role of National Chair after serving for the last three years.  

Taste Canada also announced the creation of a new award, The Food Blog Award, to be presented and administered in partnership with Food Bloggers of Canada for 2015.

There was a lovely reception with some great food provided by:
Chef Joshua Dyer (EPIC, Fairmont Royal York Hotel)
Chef Matt Dean Pettit (Rock Lobster)
Chef Brad Lomanto (Cambridge Mill Restaurant, Landmark Group)
Chef Michael Robertson & Chef Jamie Meireles (Oliver & Bonacini)
Chef Ted Reader (Ted’s World Famous BBQ)
Chef Vanessa Yeung (Aphrodite Cooks)
Chef Tawfik Shehata (The Toronto International Centre)
Chef Andrew Richmond (La Carnita)
Chef Dufflet Rosenberg (Dufflet Pastries)
Cheeses by The Cheese Boutique, breads by Fred’s Bread, wines by Niagara College Teaching Winery and beers by Samuel Adams.