Abbey’s Top 10′s for Your Healthy Holiday Charcuterie Spread

8b15f7e6a6eb8305344a09a614254e37

Holiday meals at my house are hectic enough so I always kick things off with a care-free charcuterie board. It’s really the perfect dish for entertaining because I don’t have to cook it, it looks impressive, there’s something for everyone (even the picky Pollys) and it keeps mouths and bellies happy while I fuss over the main meal. But let’s be honest- most typical party platters aren’t much better for you than the mini sausage rolls and fried shrimp- they’re often loaded with saturated fat and refined carbs from all the rich cheeses, fatty meats, and buttery crackers. So this holiday season, why not let McEwan help you build a better board with an assortment of lighter, more elegant bites.

The key is to choose an assortment of big bold flavours so that a little bit goes a long way- no processed diet food, no deprivation, and no Debbie Downers. Need proof? Check out the top ten delicious and balanced items you’ll be seeing on my cocktail spread this season.

Niagara Berkshire Prosciutto- Skip the well marbled salumi and go for prosciutto which is one of the leanest yet tastiest charcuterie options at the deli.

Fresh figs – Jammy and sweet, ripe figs are irresistible with salty prosciutto or cheese.

McEwan Spanish Marcona Almonds- Packed with protein, fibre and good-for-you fats, a small handful of these will keep the hunger monster at bay.

Mary’s Organic Crackers- Forgo the carb overload of the bread basket and opt for these whole grain gluten free crackers instead that deliver tons of flavour and great crunch in their petite size.

Pastrami Smoked Atlantic Salmon- Loaded with protein and healthy omega-3 fats, pescaterians and meat lovers alike will swoon over this pastrami-inspired smoked fish.

Fifth Town Artisan Cheese Co’s Bagel Chevre (Garlic & Chive)- Made simply with just some hormone and antibiotic free goats milk, bacterial culture, rennet and salt- this is a far more nutritious alternative to cream cheese.

McEwan Olive Trio- Olives are packed with heart-healthy fats and a ton of bold flavour so you only need a few to get your briny fix.

McEwan Pickled Beans- Virtually calorie free with a good bite of heat, these snappy beans are more addictive than chips.

McEwan Spiced Orange Marmalade- Try this bitter-sweet preserve on your cheese and crackers for the spicy sweet flavour of the holidays.

Beemster Slimkaas Matured Cheese- Skip the processed “low fat” cheese, and opt for a naturally lower fat offering like this Slimkaas which has 33% less fat than most regular Gouda cheeses.

To pick up my ten tasty essentials and everything else you need to pull off a healthy and delicious holiday meal, visit McEwan Foods at Shops at Don Mills.

DELICIOUSLY YOURS,

ABBEY SHARP, RD

OWNER, ABBEY’S KITCHEN

 

Life of McEwan’s Curry Bar

On October  we hosted an Instagram Chat on Twitter where we brought to life McEwan’s popular Curry Bar in a photo editorial.  Watch Chef Shen’s creation below.

This regular feature showcases the many steps it takes to put together popular dishes at our store and restaurant properties.

McEwan Thanksgiving Catering by Numbers

With summer slipped away, and a busy start to autumn, it’s almost a shock that Thanksgiving weekend is mere days away! Accepting it is challenge one, but planning for it will be a whole other hurdle. It’s no small feat to perfectly roast turkey, whisk gravy, simmer cranberries, caramelize Brussels sprouts, bake stuffing, roast veggies, toss salad, spin potatoes and bake a flaky pie, all while keeping the house in order and managing the hectic affair.  Phew!

 TMG2

Well, while you’re on your own with the family drama, McEwan can take a real load off in the kitchen with their ready-to-reheat family dinners with all the fixings. Choose from their Beef Tenderloin, Salmon, Roasted Leg of Lamb, and of course, the Classic Turkey, and forgo the time, stress and mess of shopping, chopping, stuffing, cooking, and cleaning the annual feast. Now that’s something to be thankful for! Not convinced? Check out this handy-dandy McEwan Thanksgiving Catering by Numbers.

Ready to be order # 76? Let us take on the culinary burdens so you can focus on more important things this holiday season such as spending quality time with family and friends. For more information on menus or to place your Thanksgiving order, check out their website, email catering@mcewanfoods.com or call 416 444 6262 x 228.

DELICIOUSLY YOURS,

ABBEY SHARP, RD

OWNER, ABBEY’S KITCHEN

The Business of Catering

There are three main things that you should be armed with upon your first call to a perspective caterer, DATE, VENUE and BUDGET. Calling a caterer without this information could leave you feeling frustrated as they are all crucial to booking.

_DSC2416

  • DATE: The busiest times of the year for weddings or larger scale events tend to be from May-July and September-December. If your date falls within these time frames, get on the phone and get moving on your menu planning as the dates fill up quite quickly.
  • VENUE:  Some venues have preferred caterers list. This is great as those companies have been into the kitchen and the event space numerous times, know what can and can’t be done within the confines of the kitchen and which food items can be prepared on a large scale. This is also important to know because some venues will not let outside caterers come into the space, or they tack on a fee to do so. If you are set on having a specific company design and cook your menu for that date, you might be let down if they cannot gain access to the property.
  • BUDGET: Always have either a total price or a price per person handy BEFORE you contact a caterer. Remember that some companies specialize in high end events and some specialize in more casual events. What you might receive from one for $100, might go for $150 from another. This is due to the quality of products and services that go into your event. Much like trying on a wedding dress that is over budget, to see a menu that you cannot afford will leave you with the same feeling. Be honest with yourself and your caterer and you will get the most out of the experience.

Make sure you have all you ducks in a row before you pick up the phone as it will make the exchange smoother and will leave you feeling as though you have begun to check a big “to do” off you list.

 

Refresh Your Eating Routine with McEwan’s NEW Summer Foods

Summer is here, and that means we’re busting out the grill, throwing more veggies on our plates, and finding tasty ways to keep hydrated in the heat. Summertime at McEwan also means exciting new foods to taste and explore, as General Manager, George Bachoumis has spent all spring sourcing the top hot items to refresh your eating routine this season. Check out a few new exciting products you can find on your next visit.

Bahama Mama

Freshly squeezed by the McEwan chefs themselves, this nutrient-dense juice packs both veggies and fruit with a combo of orange, celery, spinach, parsley and pineapple. A perfect sweet and tangy drink to start the day off right, or fabulous when mixed with a little tequila for a tropical party drink.

Joia All Natural Sodas

JOIA-soda

With creative flavours like Pineapple Coconut & Nutmeg, Lime Hibiscus and Clove, and Blackberry, Pomegranate and Ginger, these all-natural sodas are a crowd-pleasing summer sipper for your next BBQ or get together. Try them alone or mix them with vodka for a sweet and cheeky cocktail.

Q-Cumber Beverage

QcumberSoftDrink

A super refreshing and unique alternative to basic water, Q-Cumber combines the clean taste of cucumber with sparkling spring water. Satisfying and thirst-quenching on its own, but it’s also irresistible with a little Gin or Pimms stirred in as an adult treat.

McEwan’s Macaroni Salad with Apples, Basil, Celery, Parsley and Lemon

No time to prep those sides for the family BBQ? McEwan’s got you covered with this unique and flavourful take on the classic picnic staple.

Gazpacho

IMG_7712

Start off an al fresco meal with this chilled nutrient-packed soup topped off with a dollop of Greek yogurt, and you’ll have no guilt saying yes to dessert.

Wanda’s Pie in the Sky Mango Cheesecake

Local pie-queen Wanda can make a mean cheesecake too! Her Mango Chiffon cheesecake is lusciously smooth and crowned with a generous layer of tangy fruit puree, making it the perfect sweet treat for a summer feast!

Ninette’s Ice Cream

Ninettes_Ice-Cream_Packaging-Design1

Ninette’s ice cream features all natural ingredients with unique flavour combinations that will satisfy the kids in us all. This Summer cool down with a scoop of the Basil Lemon flavour for only 110 calories per serving!

Looking to refresh your eating routine in time for the gorgeous summer weather? McEwan always keeps your family excited with new and innovative wholesome foods, and this seasonal spread is something you’ll not want to miss.

DELICIOUSLY YOURS,

ABBEY SHARP, RD

OWNER, ABBEY’S KITCHEN

McEwan Fires Up the Grill for Father’s Day

It’s that time of year again. Father’s Day is around the corner, and he can probably do without another patterned tie, a garden hose, or a meal out at a restaurant packed with screaming kids. Instead, why not give a gift that everyone will appreciate- a delicious and healthy BBQ feast shared by family and friends at home.

This year, McEwan is out to help you nail your Father’s Day plans as your one-stop-shop for everything BBQ this summer season.

Marinated meat? Check. Rubs and Sauces? Check. Condiments? Check. Coals for the Q? Yep, they thought of that too. So here’s you’re official check list to throw an al fresco Father’s Day feast that will make any dad proud to call you his own.

Ready to Grill Meat, Poultry & Fish

_DSC0150

_DSC9617

From classic North 44 Striploin Steaks, to succulent Korean Miami ribs, Herb Rubbed Lamb Chops, Cedar-Planked Fish and Marinated Kabobs, there is plenty of tasty options. For a more casual cook-out, opt for one of McEwan’s housemade burgers or gourmet sausages available in a variety of flavours like Greek Lamb, Cheddar and Jalapeno, and Turkey.

Rubs & Sauces

_DSC0022

While McEwan’s meat can certainly hold its own, why not give it an upgrade with some of their designer rubs or sauces. Try massaging Dad’s chicken thighs with some Montreal Chicken Spice, or treat his Striploins to some R&R with the BBQ Steak Rub. Then slather on one of the tasty in-house sauces, like their Hot and Sweet Strawberry on Pork, Yellow Mustard BBQ for Ribs, Wild Blue Berry on Game, Horseradish Apricot for Chicken, and Cola BBQ for the classic Brisket. You can also opt for a fun little DIY saucing station to mix and match. Who knows, maybe Dad will create an unexpectedly tasty combination!

Condiments

TMGBlog

Some folk prefer a clean condiment smear to compliment their Q, while others pack on more add-ons then there’s meat! Whatever your dad’s gameplan, there’s no shortage spreads, sauces and toppings to dress his plate. Try McEwan’s Housemade Ketchup or Pepper Jam on the classic Bymark burger, the Lemon Garlic Aioli and Roasted Bell Pepper Escabeche on the Italian Sausage, the Eggplant Relish to accompany the Pork Souvlaki, or some Mango Salsa atop a Salmon kabobs. And don’t forget to serve it all with lots of their crunchy pickles, available in classic cucumbers, green tomatoes, okra, and cauliflower.

So this Father’s Day, swap the cheesy gifts and hectic family outings for an experience Dad will savour for years to come. And with McEwan delivering the quality food to Dad’s big day, you can focus on the quality time with people you love.

DELICIOUSLY YOURS,

ABBEY SHARP, RD

OWNER, ABBEY’S KITCHEN

Get a Sweet Start to Spring at McEwan

Thanks to our shadow-seeing groundhog, this year’s Spring thaw was a long time coming.  All the more reason to celebrate it’s triumphant arrival with extra cute rain boots, pastel blouses, strawberry rhubarb pie and of course, Easter chocolate. No matter what your age or religious beliefs, it’s hard not to get on board with this special time of year when chocolate is celebrated in all its decadence and glory. But if you’re going to indulge in chocolate, you might as well go for the really good stuff, and McEwan’s selection will never let you down. Take a tip from Celebrity Chef Mark McEwan who states,

“As with any ingredient, if you start with the high quality basics you cannot go wrong. Nowhere is that more apparent than with chocolate, and didn’t someone say that the right chocolate in the right amount can be good for you?”

The man has a point! Check out my top five favourite chocolate picks for bunny baskets, holiday dessert trays and hostess gifts this Spring.

1. Laura Slack’s Baby Easter Chick – Laura Slack’s chocolates are truly works of art. Almost too pretty to eat (key word-almost), this adorable hand-painted egg would make a stunning centre-piece for a holiday sweets spread. Eyes too big for your stomach? Check out the Laura Slack counter for smaller hand-painted bunnies, and gourmet truffles with flavours like Earl Grey Tea, Macha Green Tea, and Smoked Bacon.

Laura-Slack

2. Guess How Much I Love You Milk Chocolate Eggs- With illustrations and branding from the endearing classic children’s book “Guess How Much I Love You”, these fine milk chocolate eggs are the perfect taste of nostalgia.  Kids will love the recognizable characters and the colourful egg-carton packaging, while adults will love the clean and simple flavour and ingredient list. To satisfy smaller mouths or to hide for an Easter egg hunt, you can also check out the adorable five-pack of chocolate baby bunnies.

3. Choices Dairy Free Chocolate Egg- Catering to dietary restrictions and a sweet tooth at the same time doesn’t have to be a fruitless task. This hefty chocolate egg and mini chocolate disks are Dairy Free, Wheat Free, Gluten Free and Egg Free, making them suitable for vegetarians, vegans, and those with gluten, dairy and other intolerances or allergies. But don’t think these diet-friendly treats are rabbit food-even the hard-core chocolate enthusiasts in your house will gladly gobble them up.

4. Heidi Gourmette’s White Chocolate Egg with Orange and Pumpkin Seeds- A sophisticated import from Romania, Heidi confections are celebrated across Eastern Europe and definitely for good reason. This confection’s stunning garnish of crunchy pumpkin seeds and tangy candied orange adds a chic adult touch to the otherwise kid-favourite white chocolate. A favourite for everyone in the house!

Heidi-Gourmette

5. Vosges’ Organic Peanut Butter Bonbon Eggs– For those who love that sweet and salty combination, these eggs are a must try. The decadent chocolate shell surrounds a creamy peanut butter filling that’s then topped with a delicate hit of maldon sea salt to make the flavour pop! Worried you’ll inhale them all in a single go (hey, it wouldn’t be hard)? Why not opt for one of Vosges’ adorable single serve Peanut Butter or Toffee Bunnys topped with trendy pink Himalayan salt.

Vosges

Now that you’ve got your sweet treat shopping list in tow, hop on over to McEwan to get your chocolate fix. Because there’s no better way to celebrate the sweetness of Spring’s arrival than with a dark, decadent and delicious McEwan treat.

DELICIOUSLY YOURS,

ABBEY SHARP, RD

OWNER, ABBEY’S KITCHEN

#McEwanAllAccess 3.0

Are you a fan of the hit Food Network TV show, Top Chef Canada? Do you list Bymark, Fabbrica, North 44, and One among some of your favourite restaurants in town? Do you consult Great Food at Home and Rustic Italian cookbooks to determine your week’s meals? Well, if you’re interested in digging deep into the mind behind all of these tasty endeavours, then we’ve got some exciting news for you.

McEwan-LOGO-262-1

IMG_8571_r3

On May 6th Food and Nutrition expert, Abbey Sharp of Abbey’s Kitchen will be hosting an exclusive evening with Chef Mark McEwan.  Only 30 of the most dedicated foodies will be invited to join Mark as he takes guests on intimate tasting tours of his McEwan store at  the Shops at Don Mills.

Much like last year’s #McEwanAllAccess 1.0 and 2.0, the party will be simultaneously happening on site and online. Abbey Sharp will be curating some intriguing conversations before, during and after the event so keep your eyes on Social Media for full access to the festivities.

Hailo Logo

So what can you expect as a guest of #McEwanAllAccess? Arrive in style with the help of a $15 Hailo credit.  Go ahead and pose for a few Instagram shots with Mark or take photos of your favourite food finds. The rest of the evening will involve tasting your way through Mark’s gourmet store all the while chatting up a storm in one-on-ones with the man himself. All guests leave with a swag bag of goodies valued at over $45!

 

As described by Mark himself, “We have come a long way from our opening five years ago. Everyday I get to see how the store continually transforms and it’s a great time to give our guests a glimpse into what our team does everyday. Executive Chef Shen will be on hand creating one of our favourite recipes, and we will walk through the different departments sampling the best that we have to offer, from PEI beef, to east coast oysters, to McEwan’s Own Ice Pressed Olive Oil and such. I look forward to welcoming everyone.”

McEWAN

Start off with fresh bread & McEwan Extra Virgin Olive Oil from the Bakery, moving naturally onto Itaca Prosciutto and Parmigiano Reggiano in the Deli and Cheese departments.  Next, you can learn to shuck oysters and taste Mark’s favourite PEI Grass-Fed beef before wandering over to the catering department for more. Here you’ll find cute canapés like Lobster Tacos, Mini Grilled Cheese, and Curry Chicken Salad, as well as Executive Chef Shen whipping up Fabbrica’s famed Gnocchi.  Finish off a fabulous night with VON Doughnuts and French Macarons, all the while sipping on Vineland Estates wine and Beau’s All Natural Beer.

mcewan-bottom-image

Will you be one of our 30 invited guests? Just copy, paste and tweet the following, and then keep an eye out for a potential invite and instructions:

I want to get social with @Chef_MarkMcEwan at @McEwanFoods for #McEwanAllAccess

Space is very limited, so of those who tweet, only a handful will be notified each week with more details and instructions. Our previous #McEwanAllAccess events sold out instantly upon invites being distributed so be sure to let @AbbeysKitchen know how much you really want to come! Looking forward to chatting, sipping, eating and tweeting on May 6th with Mark and 30 of you!

Event Details

  • May 6, 2014 :: 7 pm – 9  pm
  • McEwan at 38 Karl Fraser Rd
  • $60 per person inclusive of all drinks, food, swag bag, taxes and gratuities (LIMITED SPACE)
  • There will be only one ticket available for those selected with no plus 1 option
  • Event format will be food stations with beer and wine
  • Tweets, pictures and great conversation are encouraged

 

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.

IMG_9506

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.

_DSC2810

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.”

_DSC2763

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

McEwan’s 2014 Foodie Forecast Calls For Flavour & Good Health

The New Year has always symbolized exciting beginnings, new discoveries and innovative trends. And with dieting being the number one New Year’s Resolution every year, it’s no wonder these trends so often revolve around food. Last year was the year of Greek yogurt, tacos, the Paleo diet, outrageous food hybrids (like the infamous Cronut burger), Bourbon cocktails, and Sriracha.  With such an eclectic group of foods there, it seems like a shot in the dark at what we’ll be eating in 2014.

aronia berry

The Aronia berry packs more antioxidants than Acai or Goji

Obviously, it takes a careful eye and an attentive ear to anticipate and stay on top of food trends, never mind to figure out where you can source these new foods! Thankfully, the folks at McEwan have done the work for you to make sure their Don Mills grocery store is your one-stop-shop.

_DSC2783

Every day, McEwan’s General Manager George Bachoumis scours through social media threads, food television shows, magazines in search of clues. They also take their customer’s requests incredibly seriously – “If there is a hole in our offer, or if we have missed something, they will let us know!” says owner and celebrity chef, Mark McEwan.

Both Mark and George have seen food trends come and go in the media, so they’ve developed a knack for distinguishing what consumers can actually sink their teeth into. Their predictions for 2014? Healthy foods that do just as much good for your palate as they do for your body.

As a chef and health enthusiast himself, Mark noted that, “No matter how healthy something is, if it does not taste good, it will not last. Treating your body right is no longer just a New Year’s Resolution that only lasts for a month.”

Gluten Free Almond Brownies

Gluten free almond brownies are sure to please both the sweet tooth and the health conscious.
Image source: http://carrotsncake.com

Thankfully, George has been sourcing a number of new nutritious products to hit the shelves this year- and every one of them has had to pass his rigorous taste test.  Look out for products with the Aronia berry (a sought after “superfood” with more antioxidants than Acai or Goji!), gluten free almond or coconut flour, “ancient” whole grains, prepared raw meals, and house-made green juice blends (with cheeky names like the Hulk!)

green juice

House-made juice blends are taking the food community by storm.
Image source: http://p-ec1.pixstatic.com/

So whether you’re looking for that new gluten-free bread you saw on Dr. Oz, or want to try a new juicing regime your friend posted on Twitter, McEwan has it sourced, taste tested, and ready for you to take home.  Come see what the New Year buzz is about with a visit to McEwan.

DELICIOUSLY YOURS,

ABBEY SHARP, RD

OWNER, ABBEY’S KITCHEN