Bymark #LiquidLab Series


Nothing sets the tone for a successful dinner party like a signature cocktail when your guests arrive. But to get creative with your liquor cabinet, you’ve first got to get the basics of mixology down; and where better to learn than at one of Toronto’s most famous after-work drinking spots?

Bymark’s #LiquidLab is a series of evenings hosted by Matt Bryan, bartender extraordinaire hand-picked by Mark McEwan to keep Bay Street’s collective glass full. Matt is one part of a partnership duo that create the cocktail list for all the restaurants in The McEwan Group, catering to the trends and traditions of classic and contemporary cocktails.


Starting with a different bottle each time, you’ll learn what makes a particular libation special, what flavours go best with it and how to think beyond the basics.


The once a month series includes evenings dedicated to:

July 13.2013 – Bourbon- “A Night in Kentucky”

September 28.2013 – Gin- “Juniper and Jazz”

October 26.2013 – Rum- “The Pirates of Downtown”

November 23.2013 – Scotch- “Scotch, I love Scotch

December 14.2013 – Tequila- “Appreciating Agave”

January 18.2014 – Vodka- “Exploring Infusions”


In addition to being greeted with a cocktail and delicious appetizers as you arrive, Matt will take you through the history of the featured alcohol, you’ll have a hands on tutorial, speak about which foods pair well with it and enjoy a third cocktail mixed by Matt during a question and answer period.



You’ll leave with the recipes for the three cocktails you enjoyed, as well as a special gift to enhance your bar at home.

#LiquidLab is great for a group of friends, a couple who like to host together or just an individual with interest in the most potent of potables. $80 includes everything for the evening right down to taxes and gratuities. Book by contacting Bymark directly at

[Photos by Paul Aihoshi]




Final Days of Top Chef Canada Season 3


Before they announced Matthew Stowe from Vancouver as Canada’s Top Chef a group of diehard fans huddled together to watch the semi-finals with Chef Mark McEwan at his Bymark restaurant.

The room was filled with previous seasons’ contestants and winners including Andrea Nicholson of Killer Condiments, Rob Rossi of Bestellen, Steven Gonzalez of the newly-opened Valdez and Carl Heinrich of Richmond Station.  And from this season Rory White, Dennis Tay, Ruth Eddolls, Chris Shaften and Jonathan Goodyear were all in the crowd.

We laughed, cheered and booed with a few “aws” and “oos” sprinkled in-between.


[Photo credit: Chuck Ortiz, Acquired Taste Magazine]


Converting Fish-Phobes into Fish-Fiends at McEwan

Growing up, the only time I ever got fish for supper it had come out of a take-out box, was served deep-fried and came with generous side of chips.  It was apparent that my family, like so many others I know, avoided cooking fish at home simply because everyone assumed it was too difficult to pull off. But with so much recent buzz surrounding the health properties of fish as a lean source of protein packed with Omega 3s, I have since decided to break generations-worth of fish-fears and work it into my dinner routine. My trick? Letting my fishmonger at McEwan take the guesswork out of fish preparation.


One of the first concerns people often have about making fish at home is that they may not know if the product they’ve bought is fresh or safe to eat.  You can rest assured that when you’re shopping at McEwan, you’ve got access to only the best quality fish. Just check out their bright red healthy gills, clear shiny eyes, fresh scent and firm elastic skin if you need reassurance.


Okay, so now, the whole fish looks good, but what the heck do you do with it now? For beginners, fish filets are definitely less intimidating than preparing a fish whole. All you have to do is tell McEwan’s incredible fishmonger your family’s flavour preferences, the size of filet you need and even your skill level, and you’ll be handed a clean, deboned, descaled, and even deskinned piece of fish that’s ready to be seasoned and cooked.

So now we get to think about the fun stuff- flavour. Saving you the trouble, McEwan offers an amazing line of delicious ribs like their lemon pepper herbs or sesame crust. You can also grab a bottle of one of their artisanal sauces like Curry Coconut, Asian Glaze or Miso, or just pick up a pre-marinated filet set on a cedar-plank that’s ready to be thrown on the grill.


And speaking of grill, we’ve finally reached the pinnacle of the most common fish-prep-fears- it’s actually time to cook. If you don’t have a BBQ for the cedar plank method, you can also bake, broil, steam or poach fish and achieve succulent results.  When I asked about Mark’s favourite fish to prepare at home, he said he likes salmon with the skin on and scales removed.

All you need is a high quality olive oil, salt, and pepper and a nonstick pan.

One of Mark’s favourite preparations is to cook salmon skin side down in a nonstick skillet heated to medium high and coated with a little olive oil.  Once you hear the fish sizzle, move it around a bit, “about a half an inch each way from it’s starting position.” Then flip it over to the other side and let it cook for another few minutes before serving it Mark style, “with peas, lemon and a lot of butter!”

The key to coming away with moist, succulent fish is not to overcook it. Mark suggested that you want to know the optimal degree of doneness for your particular fish- some fish, like Grouper, should be cooked until fully opaque and flaky, while others, like Salmon is lovely served medium rare. Ask McEwan’s fish monger how to know when your particular fish has reached its ideal state.

Voila!  Now you’ve got all the tips and tricks you need to banish your fish-prep-phobia and work it into your regular menu. Fish doesn’t have to be limited to fancy restaurant meals or battered take out- with a little help from McEwan, it will be on your family’s table tonight.

For more healthy eating tips and recipes, check out my website,  follow me on twitter @AbbeysKitchen, and visit the McEwan blog regularly to catch my next post!







Grilled Jumbo Shrimp with Charred Lemon Butter, Preserved Chilies & Parmigiano-Reggiano

It is often said that the Italians absolutely never mix seafood and cheese. One suspects that this purported rule is so often cited as much by virtue of being easy to remember as for any basis in reality. Here is proof that cheese and seafood do mingle well, even in an Italian dish.

Serves 4 as an appetizer or 2 as a main course

3 lemons, halved crosswise
12 jumbo shrimp (about 2 lb/1 kg)
2 tbsp (30 mL) warm clarified butter
½ cup (125 mL) butter, cubed, at room temperature
2 tbsp (30 mL) minced oil-preserved red chilies 1 clove garlic, minced
Leaves from ¼ bunch parsley, chopped ¼ cup (60 mL)
freshly grated Parmigiano-reggiano
salt and pepper


Grill the lemons flesh side down until lightly charred on preheated grill on its highest setting. Juice 2 of them and set aside the third.

Butterfly (or have your fishmonger butterfly) the shrimp without severing one half of the shell from the other. Devein them, splay them open flat, and brush lightly with some of the clarified butter.

Char buttered side down, brush with clarified butter, and flip them. Just before the shrimp are cooked through, remove them to a large bowl.

Add the cubed butter and toss. As the butter melts, add the reserved lemon juice, chilies, garlic, parsley, and Parmesan; keep tossing until the sauce binds and the shrimp are well coated.

Season, toss again, and serve on a warm platter with the 2 reserved grilled lemon halves.

Variation: This is a great dish all on its own, but these shrimp make a wonderful accompaniment to a grilled steak.

Suggested Wine: Fiano di Avellino

[From: Mark McEwan’s Fabbrica: Great Italian Recipes Made Easy for Home by Mark McEwan. Copyright © General Purpose Entertainment, 2011. Reprinted by permission of Penguin Group (Canada), a Division of Pearson Canada Inc.]