Freshness, Taste and Nutrition – McEwan Celebrates Eating Local in 2014

Last month here on The McEwan Group blog we explored some of celebrity chef, Mark McEwan, and McEwan’s General Manager, George Bachoumis’ top predictions for this year’s hottest food trends.  The consensus? Us Canadians care about the quality of ingredients we’re putting into ours bodies, and McEwan wants to make sure we only eat the best. One of the most popular health-driven movements we’re seeing for 2014 is an emphasis on locally sourced meats and fish.

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Local products have long been known to have health benefits, largely associated with the reduced time between harvest and eating- the fresher the food, the more nutrients and flavour it retains! But it’s not only about micronutrients, as George points out.

Customers are also concerned about where their food comes from, how it was raised and how it was prepared.

This type of information is much easier to obtain from smaller operations that are locally grown than from massive corporate organizations with countless international plants, allowing you to feel much more at ease with a familiar local supplier.

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The McEwan process for buying local acknowledges that as a result of variable landscape and terroir, the different Canadian provinces and regions have their own specialty in what they farm and produce best. Mark describes this as the “best in show” approach to sourcing the products on his shelves. Rather than buying all from only one Canadian region, McEwan finds the crème de la crème across our delicious country. For example, Mark sees Prince Edward Island as an absolute gem for fantastic seafood- “the saltiness of the air and the natural programs make their products pristine which is why I am happy to serve them to my clients.”

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And while it may be easier to buy from just a handful of massive production facilities, the McEwan team know the value of seeking out the very best. So every day George meets with local sales representatives, and visits Toronto’s food terminal to hand-pick the freshest products. Him and his team also attend a variety of food shows throughout the year to network with passionate suppliers, farmers and food entrepreneurs.

To George, Mark and the rest of the McEwan family, buying and selling local is a no brainer, especially because it’s what you, the customer want. As George says, “Supporting local creates a relationship between the producer, us, and the customer”, and that’s what McEwan is all about.

DELICIOUSLY YOURS,

ABBEY SHARP, RD

OWNER, ABBEY’S KITCHEN

Our TOP 10 Instagrams from Winterlicious 2014

Winterlicious is an annual gastro tradition that we look forward to every year since its inception in 2003. This year we were pleased to see Bymark ranked among blogTO’s top Winterlicious restaurants and still remains a crowd favourite.

Here are our top #LiciousTO Instagrams from customers who wined and dined at Chef Mark McEwan‘s restaurants: ONE, Fabbrica, North 44, and Bymark.

Bymark Roasted Chicken Breast with white beans, parsnip, oregano tapenade and brandy braised apple. Photo by @diningdianna

Bymark Roasted Chicken Breast with white beans, parsnip, oregano tapenade and brandy braised apple. Instagram by @diningdianna

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Fabbrica Pizza Parmigiana (vegetarian) with roasted eggplant, fresh mozzarella, garlic, tomato sauce, and reggiano. Instagram by @DishMashTweets

ONE Pork Belly with Asian glaze, pickled cucumber, red onion, carrot slaw, puffed rice, yuzu aioli, coriander, panko. Photo by @diffickle

ONE Pork Belly with Asian glaze, pickled cucumber, red onion, carrot slaw, puffed rice, yuzu aioli, coriander, and panko. Instagram by @diffickle

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Bymark Organic Trout with crispy artichokes, arugula, caramelized cipollinis & dill buttermilk dressing. Instagram by @imstepho

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ONE Salmon with beluga lentils, granny smith apples, spinach, crème fraiche, dill foam. Instagram by @diffickle

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Fabbrica Strozzapreti Lamb Bolognese with cecci beans and reggiano. Instagram by @champagne_diamonds

North 44 Pan Seared Rock Fish with blistering tomatoes, mussels, coconut milk, reduced broth and basil shoots. Photo by @katielynn17

North 44 Pan Seared Rock Fish with blistering tomatoes, mussels, coconut milk, reduced broth and basil shoots. Instagram by @katielynnk17

ONE Scallops with butternut squash puree, blood orange, pain d’epice, brown butter and bacon foam. Photo by @jonjfong

ONE Scallops with butternut squash puree, blood orange, pain d’epice, brown butter and bacon foam. Instagram by @jonjfong

Fabbrica Sicilian Garlic Soup (vegetarian) with roasted garlic, focaccia crouton and crisp sage. Photo by @champagne_diamonds

Fabbrica Sicilian Garlic Soup (vegetarian) with roasted garlic, focaccia crouton and crisp sage. Instagram by @champagne_diamonds

ONE restaurant. Photo by @joyshen33

ONE restaurant. Instagram by @joyshen33

Fabbrica’s Cannoli

There are those who consider Clemenza’s memorable post-hit utterance in The Godfather— “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli”—one of those regrettable moments in popular culture that undermine the image of Italian Americans. But more enlightened types recognized it for great screenwriting—and as an incredible image boost for an already great dessert.

Makes 12 cannoli

4 tsp (20 mL) sugar

1 tbsp (15 mL) shortening

pinch of salt

1 small egg

2 tsp (10 mL) white wine

2 tsp (10 mL) dry marsala

¾ cup (175 mL) all-purpose flour, sifted

FILLING

½ cup (125 mL) buffalo ricotta, drained in cheesecloth for 24 hours

4 tsp (20 mL) fresh goat cheese

2 tbsp (30 mL) 2% milk

3 tbsp (50 mL) icing sugar

3 drops vanilla

pinch of cinnamon

pinch of grated lemon zest

½ cup (125 mL) mascarpone

To Finish

Canola oil for deep-frying

1 egg, lightly beaten

2 cups (500 mL) semi-sweet (52%) coating chocolate, warm (optional)

Icing sugar

Special equipment

Metal cannoli rounds (about 5½ by ½inch/13 by 1 cm)

Combine the sugar, shortening, and salt in a bowl. Work together with a rubber spatula until smooth. Add the egg and combine. Add half the white wine and half the Marsala, follow with half the flour, and mix thoroughly with the spatula. Repeat. Transfer the dough to a work surface and knead until smooth, about 5 minutes. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator to rest for at least 3 hours.

Meanwhile, for the filling, in a medium bowl combine the ricotta, goat cheese, and milk; work together with a rubber spatula until smooth. Add the icing sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and lemon zest, and combine again. Finally, add the mascarpone, and whip with a whisk until the mixture forms peaks. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the cannoli dough as thinly as possible, as if it were a sheet of pasta. Cut the dough into rectangles about 3 by 5 inches (8 by 13 cm). Stack the rectangles with small sheets of parchment paper in between them until needed (they can be refrigerated or even frozen this way).

Fill a cast-iron skillet to a depth of about ¾ inch (2 cm) with the canola oil and heat it to 375°F (190°C). Working with no more than 6 cannoli tubes at a time, lubricate the tubes with a little more canola oil. Wrap a rectangle of dough around each tube, brushing the inside edge of the overlap with the egg wash so that the dough stays firmly in place. Carefully transfer the tubes to the hot oil and fry, turning, until the shells are brown and crisp, about 45 seconds. Remove to a bed of paper towels to drain. When the tubes are cool, carefully slide off the cannoli. Repeat until you have 12 shells or all the dough is used.

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To finish, if desired, dip one end of the shells in the coating chocolate, and then set aside on a parchment paper – lined baking sheet until set. Transfer the filling to a piping bag and pipe it into both ends of each cannoli until it is filled. Sprinkle the cannoli with icing sugar and serve.

Substitution: You may use a top-quality cow’s milk ricotta in place of the buffalo variety.

Tip: If you have a pasta machine, do not hesitate to use it to roll out this dough—it works brilliantly.

[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.]

Groundhog Day Challenge 2014

Many little piggys rolled all the way home from #GroundHogChallenge at Richmond Station on Monday night. In the 5th year of the competition, guests were treated to a total of 9…yes 9 courses of pork, from 7 chefs vying for the glory and the trophy from this year’s event plus a charcuterie plate and a bacon, pumpkin seed tart prepared by Carl Heinrich and his team.

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The chefs battling for pork supremacy included Ted Corrado from The Drake 150, Nicholas Marragau from Bar Boulud, Alex Molitz (Farmhouse tavern), Tara Besignano (Skin and Bones), Jesse Vallins from The Saint, Albert Ponzo from Le Select and Teo Paul of Union.  They all faced an esteemed panel of judges, from Chris McDonald, the founder of the event, to Nial McCotter (Auberge du Pommier), Suresh Doss of Zagat, Karon Liu from The Grid and Liora Ipsum from BlogTO, Michael di Caro (Spotlight), David Ort (Food with Legs) as well as Chef and Owner of The McEwan Group and Head Judge of Top Chef Canada, Mark McEwan.

At 6:00pm the dishes started to come out of the kitchen, in the spirit of competition, all the chefs helped plate each other’s meals… this also made it difficult to discern which plate came from which chef in the open concept kitchen.

All the tasting was done blind, with Ryan Donovan of Richmond Station giving the explanations of the plates as they arrived in front of the diners and the judges were sequestered to maintain the anonymity of the plate’s creator.

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A who’s who of the restaurant industry devoured course after course. Judging each menu item on taste, presentation and “ham factor” (each dish was required to contain 50% pork).

By the end of the evening the judges crowned chef Nicholas Marragau from Bar Boulud as the 2014 champion! His “Black and White”, an artfully plated pork boudon blanc and blood sausage, was also voted as the crowd’s favourite.

Boudin Noir (tongue, heart, face) and Blanc (with milk & eggs) with Celeriac Puree and Croquettes

Boudin Noir (tongue, heart, face) and Blanc (with milk & eggs) with Celeriac Puree and Croquettes