A Dinner in Gairloch Gardens with Chef Mark McEwan

On Thursday, September 10th, 2015 Oakville Galleries & PCM – Project and Construction Management Inc. presented Botanica: A Dinner in Gairloch Gardens in support of Oakville Galleries. The evening featured a five-course meal prepared by our Chef Mark McEwan along with Executive Chef Andrew Ellerby, and ONE Restaurant’s Chef de Cuisine Darby Piquette & Pastry Chef Amy Tenn-Yuk. Dinner was paired with the exceptional wines from New Zealand’s Stoneleigh Vineyards.

Guests were served at a single communal table among the 15,000 blooms of Gairloch’s trellised rose garden, bringing together community members, artists and art enthusiasts under the open skies.

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Proceeds from the Dinner in Gairloch Gardens provided much-needed funds for accessible, high-quality educational and artistic programming in the Oakville community.

A special thank you to the following event partners Chubb Insurance Company of Canada, Forget Me Not FlowersThe Mermaid and the Oyster and more who helped make the dinner a success.

Scroll through the gallery below for a closer look at the enchanting evening.

 

[Photography credit: Corina V. Photography]

Chef on Board at PEI Fall Flavours

Every September Prince Edward Island puts on a month long festival showcasing all of the wonderful products that the island has to offer. Over the years Chef Mark McEwan and team have taken part in the Beef Festival, the Shellfish festival, Applelicious and much more. This year however the team took to the “high seas” and hosted a dinner for 350 lucky guests on the car deck of a massive ferry, the Confederation.

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Upon arrival on the island, Mark, Executive Chef Andrew Ellerby and Assistant Jordie McTavish were treated to an amazing dinner at Terre Rouge (if you are ever in Charlottetown, do not miss this spot) and the next day the fun began.

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They were given the opportunity to speak with students of the Holland College culinary program and then headed out to the boat (which was like nothing they had ever seen before). The first comment out of Chef Andrew’s mouth was “Feeding 350 on a ferry eh? Check that of the bucket list!”

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The evening was filled with great music, great food a dose of healthy competition, wine from Stoneleigh Vineyards and a little bit of dancing. It was a huge success and could not have been pulled off it weren’t for the culinary students and their ability to cook and plate food for the masses!

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An early evening flight on Sunday meant that the team had their first opportunity to relax and enjoy the sights and sounds of the final day of the festival. Farm Day on Queen Street gave them the opportunity to meet local purveyors of fantastic products, from cheeses, to beers, to smoked salmon. In the afternoon they headed to a beef farm half an hour out of the city and met with the Drake family of Steerman’s Meats for a tour of their 125 year old farm.

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The weekend was a fantastic mix of everything that PEI has to offer. We highly recommend heading to the Fall Flavours Festival next September and we will see you there!

Lights! Camera! Action! Barbados Food, Wine & Rum Festival

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For the past three years we’ve been lucky enough to participate in the Barbados Food, Wine and Rum Festival. It is something we wait for all year.  From stepping off the plane into the warm Bajan sunshine, to unpacking our bags in the beautiful rooms at The Tamarind Hotel and to spending our days working side-by-side in the kitchen at the Pom Marine these are experiences that stay with us throughout the whole year.

We spend our days working with local ingredients, pumping music from our iHome players and drinking Banks Beer.

Each year we tackle something new with our dishes, last year it was making fresh ricotta, this year it was making over 1,000 tortillas from scratch. We are known for the long hours we put in, but also for the way we are able to make friends and tackle obstacles….if there were an award for Team Congeniality, we would win hands down!

Above all else it is a great bonding experience. We meet local Bajan chefs and our favourite ones from the States, and we get to spend time away from the office together. Bymark‘s Executive Chef, Brooke McDougall, Executive Chef Andrew Ellerby from One, McEwan and Fabbrica as well as Mark McEwan and myself spent time conceiving new plans for the year ahead on the beach instead of in the office. We have lunches and dinners together rather than heading our separate ways at the end of the work day, reminiscing and laughing at stories from the night or years past while waiting for swordfish sandwiches from roadside grill.

Chef Mark McEwan, Anne Burrell, Chef Garces, Marcus-Samuelsson, Aaron McCargo, Jr. and others at Barbados Food And Wine & Rum Festival in 2012. File Photo: Barbados Tourism

Chefs Mark McEwan, Anne Burrell, Garces, Marcus-Samuelsson, Aaron McCargo, Jr. and others at Barbados Food And Wine & Rum Festival in 2012. File Photo: Barbados Tourism

Below is a home movie of our trip, it follows our antics inside the kitchen and outside, prepping for Ambrosia, the party at the polo club with 1300 guests as well as what we did on our days off.

We hope to be invited back next year…and we hope you will join us!

Written by,

Jordie McTavish, Executive Chef to Mark McEwan

McEwan Touches Down at Pearson Airport

In 1927, the first in-flight meal was served on Imperial Airways (now British Airways) – a luxury sandwich served between Croyden Airfield in London and Le Bourget in Paris.

Since then, the food/flying relationship has been one of opulence like the 5-star in-flight dining experience of the Mad Men era;  and also one of mediocrity like what most passengers have come to expect from airlines today.

The responsibility to live up to travellers’ tastes has now fallen to the terminals, and Toronto Pearson took a huge step in that direction when they hired us to raise the bar. Reaching back into history, we started with the luxury sandwich. And like the relatively inexpensive 1 shilling/3 p Imperial Air was charging, our sandwiches are affordable for most people. 

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Packing the night before

Every piece of food is hand-made at the McEwan flagship store in the Shops at Don Mills under the careful eye of Executive Chefs Andrew Ellerby, Shen Ousmand and Brooke McDougall. And with 71 items on the menu, it’s quite the operation.

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The assembly line forms around 5 PM with some people on sandwiches, others on salads and others still on fruit cups. The key to keeping it moving, says Ellerby, is preparation. The ‘YYZ Run’ has its own cold storage area (designed by Mark specifically for this partnership) where all the freshly made ingredients, mixes and sauces wait for the airport shift to begin.

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There’s also an elaborate schedule on the wall that looks like hieroglyphics to most people, but seems perfectly clear to everyone on the floor.

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By 1 AM, 700 individual items are prepared, packed and ready to ship. At around 3 AM, they hit the road and they’re on the shelves at YYZ by the time the first bleary-eyed travellers show up.

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“We’re there to up the game of airport food,” says Ellerby. “And we started with upping our game”.  75% of the recipes are brand new, and there’s no shortage of options. The tandoori chicken breast is an early favourite, as is the cous cous salad. (ed. note: We were there during the making of the tuna sandwiches which looks positively scrumptious).

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Got time for a meal?

Traditionally, sit-down airport food has been disappointing at best. Not so anymore at Pearson. A concerted effort has been made to improve the options and we’re proud to be a part of the transformation there as well. We’ve recently done the menus at Fetta panini shop in T1 and soon-to-open Nobel Burger in T3; and that’s just the beginning.

“We’ve been so happy to be able to offer McEwan tastes to a larger audience,” says Jordie McTavish, Executive Assistant to Mark McEwan. “And to be able to finally deliver tasty, fresh food options to travelers from all over the world; that’s pretty special”.

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As the Pearson/McEwan relationship continues to grow, we expect to be sending over 3,000 items across the 401 every morning. And whether you’re heading out of town or arriving after a long flight, the hope is that you leave the airport with a satiated appetite.

McEwan’s Microgreens Have Big Flavour

It was a long time coming, but finally, Spring is here. It’s in our wardrobes (yep, it’s time for that pedicure), our work schedules (extra long patio lunch hour anyone?), and of course, it’s in our lunch bags. Spring to me embodies freshness. It means I get to take a long-awaited hiatus from hearty casseroles and stews, and shift over to healthy light fare! Which is particularly important with bikini season on the way!

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Well, this month, I wanted to help you get excited about your Spring lunches, and maybe stir up a little lunch-room jealousy while you’re at it. So I made a B-line to McEwan’s exceptional selection of fresh artisanal microgreens for inspiration.  And if the word “microgreens” automatically makes you think of a science experiment, than my Microgreen tutorial is for you!

Sprouts vs. Microgreens

It’s a common misconception that sprouts are the same thing as microgreens- but when you consider how they’re cultivated, you can easily spot the differences. Sprouts are simply germinated seeds that are produced entirely in a contained water environment with low light conditions. There isn’t actually any soil, planting, or sunlight involved. Unfortunately, the dark moist environments are a potential breeding ground for bacterial, which is why Health Canada suggests that people with compromised immune systems (i.e. children, elderly, pregnant women) avoid eating sprouts to be safe.

In contrast, microgreen seeds are planted in soil in an environment with ample light, low humidity and good air circulation. After about 7-14 days, the sprouts are harvested with a sharp knife, and the residual roots and soil are composted for another planting. These growing conditions are far less conducive to bacterial growth.

Microgreens Nutrition

Microgreens are a guilt-free snack that are virtually free of fat and cholesterol, are low in carbohydrates and sodium, contain only 8-38 calories per cup and depending on the variety, are packed with Vitamin’s A, C, E, and K. What’s even more exciting is that early research is suggesting that microgreens can have up to 40 times the nutrients of their mature “big vegetable” counterparts.  It just goes to show that even the littlest, cutest foods can be nutritional powerhouses!

How to Eat Microgreens

Like all vegetables, the flavours of microgreens can range from sweet to peppery to nutty to herbaceous, depending on the variety. And not only do they add distinctive pleasant flavour, but they also lend a satisfying light crunch.  You can add microgreens to merely any salad, soup, sandwich, pita or wrap.

Check out Executive Chef Andrew Ellerby’s Roasted Garlic Steak Salad recipe.

So there you have it- some delicious and nutritious uses for microgreens that will help you power through to lunch hour in anticipation of what’s waiting in the fridge.  I think these dainty greens are a great way to transition out of your comfort-food winter routine, and into something fresh, healthy and light. And considering that McEwan’s incredible selection of Canadian microgreens are available all year round, you might never want to transition back!

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

DELICIOUSLY YOURS,

ABBEY SHARP, RD

OWNER, ABBEY’S KITCHEN