I’ve been writing this blog for a little over a year now and, looking back, I realize that when I started, I had no idea of how intense and deeply entrenched the foodie scene was in Hamilton. On reflection, here are a few of the more extraordinary events of 2013 that affected Go Cooking:
A couple of highlights were our Nutrition and Wellness Expo last April and our Gluten Effect Symposium in October. Both were very successful, lots of fun and well-attended. It was a surprise to me that so many people in Hamilton were interested in healthy eating and it’s an inspiration to us, here, at Go Cooking, that people are really committed to seeking out tasty plus healthy, food.
And special kudos to Hamilton’s Chris De La Rosa of Caribbeanpot.com who placed Hamilton on the map of the international dining scene when he became one of the five finalists in the “Visit Seoul”, Korean Fusion Food Competition.
A few local innovations that are worth noting:
Pop-up dining is an event initiated in Hamilton by Dishcrawl’s Dave Hanley. The concept is unusual: to have a dining experience in a location that is not a traditional restaurant. The location could be outdoors, indoors, on a bridge, in an art gallery, a parking lot, a park — wherever. Hamilton’s first pop-up dining experience was in a warehouse near Pier 8 with a view of the harbour, where Chef Ken Lefebour of Nellie James Gourmet to Go served a four course dinner with wine. More are planned for 2014. Check out <http://www.eventbrite.ca/o/pop–up–hamilton-4713020813> for more information.
Another new idea that was brought to Hamilton by Chef Matt Kershaw of Rapscallion Rogues’ Eatery is the trend to small plate dining. This is a style of dining that is expected to grow even more popular in the next year. It’s a refreshing concept in which guests are encouraged to order several different small plates of food and then share. The purpose is to make dining a more sociable experience and, not incidentally, to make limiting one’s portions a bit easier.
And in Burlington, Chef Tobias Pohl-Weary’s “Not Your Usual Wine School” tastings at the Red Canoe Bistro have been the topic of much discussion. The tastings of Canadian wines are paired with 5 – 7 courses of Pohl-Weary’s exemplary cuisine — perhaps, the most original and diverse selection of snacks in these parts.
This whole year has been enlightening and, while I’ve still got a long way to go, I’ve definitely learned a lot. Some of my more memorable lessons occurred during our Go Cooking sessions. For example:
Watching risotto being made by an expert under the supervision of Chef Manny Ferreira from the Bread Bar on Locke Street. And getting tips on how to deal with phyllo pastry with Chef Mitch Lamb from the Stone House in Burlington.
I learned to love kale with Anita Sauvé from the Waterdown Clinic of Naturopathic Medicine.
And one experience that taught me not to throw out anything before asking, happened one less than splendid evening when I tossed a pot Chef Ken Lefebour’s homemade chicken stock down the drain.
Most of my previous writing has been about art and artists and I was interested to discover that the chefs are not removed that far from the artists that I am used to interviewing. Almost all of them stress creativity in the kitchen, for instance, and despair of the fact that everyone just wants to slavishly follow instructions. I’m intrigued by the way that they structure a menu with an eye to harmony, unity and a focal point — much as an artist builds a painting. There are differences, however. The successful chefs that I have worked with have a much more careful relationship with the business side of their art and all keep a wary eye on the bottom line.
I’ve also been astonished by the generosity of the hard-working chefs that we have featured. Most believe in “giving back” to the community, whether it’s Chef Michael Gris from Romano’s preparing dinners every Tuesday night at the Mark Preece House, Chef Luigi Chiarini who gives cooking demonstrations at Mission Services or Chef Carl Dahl from Julia’s and Ritorno, who takes part in the Kids’ Culinary Community, a charitable organization in Oakville.
According to many of the articles from restaurant reviewers, food bloggers and recipe writers on the internet, 2013 will go down in history as the year of the cronut, that peculiar hybrid of croissant and doughnut which originated in Dominique Ansel’s Bakery in New York City. Not so in Canada, I think, after a bad experience at the CNE last summer when the rich and crispy pastry was used as a sort of sandwich bun. The sauce, apparently, was “off” and over 70 cases of food poisoning resulted.
A consensus of some other 2013 trends includes the prominence of “ancient grains” (things like quinoa, millet and spelt), the rise of Greek yogurt, a burgeoning interest in Korean food, the popularity of food trucks and the serious desire to find organic foods, allergy-free foods or foods that are gluten-free.
I’m mildly bewildered and bemused by some of the internet predictions for 2014:
“oodles of (Asian) noodles”:
“upgraded comfort food”;
“salt will be the new pepper.”
I’m looking forward to our up-coming cooking sessions and can’t wait to “let the games begin.”
Here’s a delicious recipe for cauliflower, to propel you into the new year.
Roasted Cauliflower with Raisins and Almonds
from Martha Stewart Living
1/2 cup golden raisins
2 heads cauliflower, cut into florets
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
coarse salt and ground pepper
1/3 cup roughly chopped raw almonds
2 tbsp. sherry or cider vinegar
1) Preheat oven to 425 F, with racks in middle and lower third.
2) Place raisins in a measuring cup, cover with very hot water.
3) Arrange cauliflower on two rimmed baking sheets. Toss with oil and season with salt and pepper.
Bake for 10 minutes.
4) Turn cauliflower and top with almonds. Bake until cauliflower is browned and tender and almonds are toasted – 10 minutes.
5) Transfer cauliflower to a serving dish. Drain raisins, top cauliflower with raisins and drizzle with sherry vinegar.