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Top ‘Top Chef’ In My Books

November 19, 2010

She has a sweet smile, lovely Southern manners and killer knife skills.  As we work through a cooking class together, Chef Tiffany Derry reveals that, young though she is, she has a deeply evolved appreciation for flavour and colour.  And she can dice a veggie into perfect identical cubes so quickly it appears instantaneous. This is a chef to watch.











Chef Derry is a star on Top Chef, (Bravo and Food Network) chosen to return to star in the Top Chef  All Star Edition to air in 2011, and already a celebrity in Dallas where she is the chef at the Go Fish Ocean Club. It’s easy to see why tv loves her.  She’s got a big smile and an energy buzz that is contagious.

“I love champagne vinegar,” she tells me. “LOVE it. I use it whenever I can.” And in the vinaigrette for the Crispy Pork Salad we are making, the champagne vinegar melds perfectly with little red chilies, fresh herbs and olive oil to create a fine balance of flavours. I am an instant convert.

Chef Derry oversees the prep for the vinaigrette.


“I always have Champagne vinegar on hand” she explains, along with her other must-haves, Dijon and Creole mustard, kosher salt and creole seasoning.

An introduction to Fata Paper











She introduces me to the wonders of Fata Paper, like she’s discovered a great new toy, which it is. ( I have already ordered mine from J B Prince )  The transparent cooking paper looks like plastic wrap but you can cook with it up to 420 degrees. The transparency allows you to see the cooking progress, and serving the little packages at the table is like delivering lovely presents on a plate.  Healthy, too, as no oil or fat is needed.












This is something I will definitely use, maybe for a course for Christmas Eve dinner.









Her caramel cardamom  ice cream is a smooth deeply flavoured delight, pairing perfectly with an upside down pineapple cake.











She’s good this girl.  She has acute perception and a sense of fun, as well as charm. The kind of person you want to be in the kitchen with, and whose food you know will be innovative and fun, but down to earth good eating too.

You can read about her career here or watch her in the new Top Chef All Stars next season.   Or watch her here, in a You Tube Video, cook her famous pan seared scallops, cream corn and lobster dish.

And if you get the chance to have her cook for you? _ Grab it.


Stay tuned for the recipe for Chef Derry’s Crispy Pork salad, coming in a new post soon.


Tony DeLuca’s Wine Country Bistro – Great Eating in Wine Country

June 14, 2010

Anyone who has been around Niagara for a while knows Chef Tony DeLuca.  All of his food innitiatives have been stellar, but this new restaurant, DeLuca’s Wine Country Bistro,  is one of his best.  The small, artfully decorated resto is just outside of NOTL, right across from Jackson-Triggs Winery.  The decor is warm and inviting, the food innovative without being overwhelming.

For a recent lunch, Tony was offering his market inspired baked egg special, which varies often.  This day it was topped with smoked salmon and accompanied by an asparagus and rocket salad and fresh crostini. ($11)

His Mac’N’ Cheese is a heart-warming riff on this childhood favourite, with brussel sprouts, Niagara Gold cheese and chorizo sausage topped with shitake crumbs.($9)

This classic Shepherd’s pie is a real new twist – made with braised pork shoulder and spring vegetables, and horsradish infused cheddar mash piped on top. Rich but delicious, and not too large a portion for lunch. ($16)

Brown Bag Salmon comes in – a brown paper bag! – perfectly steamed, with a maple glaze, wild rice and spring greens. (($18)

The sandwich was a house smoked brisket sandwich served with aged cheddar, cracked mustard, cabernet pear relish and napa slaw. (($14)

Desserts change with the season, and there are many lovely Niagara wines, by the bottle or the glass, to enjoy with your lunch.

This is one of my favourite places to dine in Niagara, either as a special destination meal, or a great lunch stop on the way to the Shaw Festival.

DeLuca’s Wine Country Restaurant

deLuca's Wine  Country Restaurant address

Best Lunch in Burlington?

October 25, 2009

News Flash for Area Foodies: Mark at PaneFresco opened his new pizza bar yesterday. Fabulous – I tried the special -brie, fig jam, prosciutto, and fresh arugula with balsamic glaze ($3.95)- so good.  He will do three kinds every day, always a Pizza Neapolitan (tomato sauce, basil and EVO, $2.50) Pizza Bianco (Mozzarella, herbs EVO, $250) and a daily special that will change regularly.  They will be coming out of the oven around 11:30 daily – get em hot! Probably the best lunch in town.  The picture is of a fresh tomato pizza I made after I took Mark’s bread making class where he teaches you how to come close to making  pizza almost as delicious as the ones he serves at PaneFresco.


A Restaurant Jewel Devoted to Locality and Seasonality

July 30, 2009

It is so satisfying to find a chef/owner who gets it right.  Chef Tobias Pohl-Weary at the newly opened Red Canoe on John Street in Burlington is a thoughtful, perceptive and experienced cook whose devotion to local and seasonal food is much more than just talk.  He and his sous-chef, Phil Lalonde, actually troll though the local farmer’s market frequently, adjusting the day’s menu based on the vegetables, fruits and meat that they discover.

The Lake Huron pickerel with warm farmer’s market vegetable salad drizzled with Chimmi Churri, for example, epitomizes what the Red Canoe is all about.IMG_0863

This apparently simple dish is actually complex and layered although each flavour is distinct.  The pickerel is dusted with corn meal and quickly grilled.  Each of the vegetables, fresh from the market, is cooked perfectly and independently: carrot, purple and fingerling potatoes,globe zucchini, baby patti pan squash, baby bok choi and garlic scapes. The chimmi churri sauce is made using organic Ontario soybean oil, Niagara empire apple cider vinegar, eleven different herbs, many grown in pots in the restaurant, Canadian mustard seeds,shallots and garlic.  It is a light elegant dish, with balance, colour and fresh flavour.

This is a small restaurant with a welcoming feel, and the food is as fresh and local and seasonal as it gets – something that Burlington has needed for some time.

Check out this place – try the Ontario lamb, the Quebec venison, Berkshire pork tenderloin, or Moulard duck breast.  Everything is made in house, except for about half of the bread, simply because Chef Tobias hasn’t worked out the best kinds or managed the time to present all home made breads. Desserts are lovely – like local straberry and rhubarb shortcake, with house made citrus scone and peppered whipped mascarpone cheese.  There is a cheese board with artisanal cheeses, nuts berries and sliced breads and biscuits.

Prices are reasonable, particularly for the tasting menu which can be matched by wines chosen by the sommelier Kelly Saunter. There are five reds, four whites and one rose available by the glass.

The space is small but attractive, with warm yellow walls, a comfortable bar, and lots of light.

The Red Canoe Bistro

398 John Street



Chef: Tobias Pohl-Weary

Foraging Event Promises Hands On Lessons for Real Locavores

May 14, 2009

Looking for Lovage In All The Wrong Places? Join us for a FORAGING expedition with a local expert!

Yes, that is Jeff in the picture above, and yes, he was one of the “Toronto” chefs who took part in May 1st’s Slow Food Canada “Do It Slow” Banchetto.

Join Slow Food Hamilton for an adventure in foraging led by Jeff Crump, the Executive Chef of The Ancaster Old Mill! Learn how to find wild foods as the chef leads us over the grounds of the historic Old Mill and taste the best, freshest foods imaginable… perhaps you’ll discover these same wild foods in your own backyard. But first learn to choose the right plants and know how to harvest (or not harvest) them safely and sustainably, too.

Date: May 20, 2009, 6-8 pm

Location: The Ancaster Old Mill
Topics: Foraging, local ingredients, sustainability, delicious gourmet treats!
This event is offered FREE of charge, but please do RSVP — donations to Slow Food Hamilton are welcome. You don’t need to be a member to participate, but memberships has many benefits. Come learn about them!
PLEASE reserve by May 19, as space is limited:

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It’s Friday Night, – Time to Celebrate with an Easy Seasonal Meal

April 17, 2009
Set up dinner near the window so you can enjoy the evening light that is lasting longer, now that Spring is here.

Set up dinner near the window so you can enjoy the evening light that is lasting longer, now that Spring is here.

The light is lingering a bit longer, the days are getting warmer, and there are more and more local and seasonal things you can add to the table.  Here’s a plan for an easy supper that’s healthy and easy.  It could also be romantic.  Why not set up a small table and chairs in front of that west facing window and catch the last of the light as you enjoy this meal?

Head to your local farmer's market if you have time.  This is the chef from the Fairmont Chateau Laurier shopping for veggies in the Byward Market. Obzma made a visit there too!

Head to your local farmer's market if you have time. This is the chef from the Fairmont Chateau Laurier shopping for veggies in the Byward Market. Obama made a visit there too!

It’s Spring and somehow it feels as if the fare should be light and green.  So, if time permits, see if you can get to the local farmer’s market on your lunch hour.

Shopping For Ingredients

1. Pick up some fresh greens – there should be some first crops of baby greens available.  If not garden-grown, there’ will be hothouse. (If you have time and live in the right area, get out in the garden and harvest some garlic mustard greens to add to the salad, or to use as a wilted green on the side – see previous post on foraging.)

2.Don’t neglect the root veggies that have sustained us through winter – they can still be an important part of dins.

Chioggia beets are a colourful and healthy addition to dinner.

Chioggia beets are a colourful and healthy addition to dinner.

Grab some fresh carrots, tops on, some baby beets, golden or chioggia if you can get them, lemons, green onions and some little potatoes.

3. Next, visit the bakery and pick up a good loaf of bread, a nice rustic artisanal loaf, if possible.

Your own home made bread is a real bonus.

Your own home made bread is a real bonus.

( Stay in touch with chefdumonde for an upcoming post on how to make the best no-knead bread ever. So nice to bake your own bread, and it takes no time at all.)

4. A quick visit to your fishmonger – I go to Dave’s Fish Market on Plains Road in Burlington.  Ask for two generous pieces of Atlantic Salmon, wild if possible. (If you’re feeling flush, lobster season is at its best in Canada from April to June – two nice lobsters would be lovely but even though prices have come down, they are still pricey for a simple dinner.)

Our own Maritime lobster is at its best from April to June. This one is part blue, a rare occurence, but not one that affects the flavour.

Our own Maritime lobster is at its best from April to June. This one is part blue, a rare occurrence, but not one that affects the flavour.

5. Visit the Cheese store and get a small wedge of artisanal cheese.  My favourite these days is Upper Canada Cheese’s Comfort Cream, a rich soft brie-like cheese with a complex flavour.

This rich semi-soft cheese pairs perfectly with fruit and nuts.

This rich semi-soft cheese pairs perfectly with fruit and nuts.

6. Hit the wine store for a bottle of Niagara dry Riesling. The  2007 Semi-Dry Riesling Vineland Estates – (great value at $13.95) would be a perfect match, but you can only get it at the vineyard, or you can order it online.

This fresh Riesling pairs perfectly with the salmon and with the fruit and cheese.

This fresh Riesling pairs perfectly with the salmon and with the fruit and cheese.

The Niagara Rieslings are excellent and pair beautifully with seafood or salmon.

7. Can’t ignore dessert. It’s blasphemy to suggest, but pick up some imported strawberries.  We’re treading water here just now waiting for our own, but it isn’t a crime to indulge ahead of time. Also buy some walnuts and a handful of medjool dates.

8. If pressed for time, steps 1-7 can be accomplished with one visit to a good grocery store that also has an in-house Canadian wine store.


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Scrub little potatoes, beets and carrots, tops removed.  All you really need for a dinner for two is about four small potatoes, four beets and four carrots. (Put the tops outside in the garden for the hungry rabbits.) Cut the skinny ends from the carrots. (Place the ends in a ziplock, freeze and use in soups or stews later.) Toss the root vegetables in a bowl with coarse sea salt, pepper and olive oil. Place in a low roasting dish, cover tightly with foil and bake for 45 minutes.

2. While that’s baking, place fish side by side on a large square of parchement paper. Add four thins slices of lemon, slivered pieces of green onion and some slivered carrot to the top, add a dollop of butter and salt and pepper, and fold up into a package. Add to the oven twenty minutes before the root veggies are done.

3. Make a simple lemon vinaigrette by whisking together four tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, one finely grated garlic clove,  one teaspoon of Dijon mustard, half cup of good olive oil, salt and pepper.  Set aside.

4. Wash and dry the greens and place in a bowl.  Just before serving, toss with the lemon vinaigrette.

5. Wash and dry the strawberries and arrange on a large platter with the Comfort Cream cheese, walnuts and dates.  Set aside to come to room temperature for dessert.

6. When root vegetables and the salmon are done, remove from oven and plate up.  Start with a handful of the dressed greens in one third of the plate, add the salmon and root vegetables, and drizzle some of the lemon vinaigrette on the salmon.  Top with some fresh chopped chives from your garden.  Serve with slices of the artisanal bread and a glass of Riesling.  To Die For!

7. By now, the sun should be setting out the window.  Serve the fruit, cheese and nuts with another glass of wine, and just enjoy.

Ten Foods you Can Forage for, Right Now, for Dinner Tonight

April 16, 2009

Learn What’s Good For You, In Your Garden, and In The Wild

While Spring seems to be arriving late, things are already growing in the garden and in the forest and ravines near your home.  In fact, some of the tastiest things are available now, or very soon, and will be gone  until the next short window of opportunity arrives next Spring.

So make your next walk a foraging expedition, and collect wonderful flavor accents and tasty additions for your springtime dinner.  It’s just a bonus that they’re free.

1. Chives – This fresh and pungent herb should be up and healthy in your garden by now.  The leaves will be bright chives1green and full of flavour.  Cut them right at the base – new leaves will grow in to replace them.  Use them in everything – soups, stews,  sprinkled over a salad, or as a topping for some smoked salmon and cream cheese on a toasted bagel.  The Swedes use them in a cream sauce with herring.

2. Ramps – You’ll have to venture into the forest for these little darlings but the work will be well worth it. The ramp, or 180px-wild_leeks1wild leek, is a member of the lily family. Its long leaves rise from an onion-like bulb and  the entire plant has a mild onion taste.  They grow in rich moist woods through most of south and eastern Canada and the northern United States. The appearance of ramps in the spring are often used as an indicator to morel mushroom hunters to determine when and where the mushrooms will begin to appear.  Best way to eat them is grilled in butter, with a little salt and pepper.  The April 2009 issue of Bon Appetit has several ramp recipes, including Ramp and Buttermilk Biscuits with Cracked Coriander, Ramp and Sausage Risotto, Scrambled eggs with ramps,Morels and Asparagus and Seared Salmon with linguine and ramp pesto. (Click here for more about ramps)

3. Mint – The early leaves of fresh mint will be growing in your garden now, and these are the sweetest leaves of all.  mintsprig2You might have to dig under the old foliage to find them.  These make the most wonderful malt vinegar mint sauceto serve with Roast Spring Lamb ( check here for a recipe )  Or throw a few leaves in with your new potatoes or peas, or use the leaves in tabouli or raita.  (They’re also a great natural breath-freshener!)  If you look carefully, you’ll probably find some new thyme growing underneath last years leaves, too.

4. Dandelion Greens:   ‘Dandelion’ means lion’s tooth, ( dent de lion -fr.) so called because of the shape of the leaves. dandelion1Collect dandelion leaves in the early spring when they are the tastiest, and before the flowers appear.  The leaves can become quite bitter on the older plants, though some people like them that way. Dandelions grow almost anywhere and are full of flavour and nutrients.  Use the young leaves, well washed, as a salad, or wilt them in a pan with some butter, a bit of chopped garlic ( or wild onions) salt and pepper  and a squeeze of fresh lemon.

5. Garlic Mustard -Garlic mustard greens are very nutritional,  having good amounts of Vitamins A, C, E and some of garlic-mustard_0411133the B vitamins, potassium, calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and magnesium. Check it out here. It’s very pungent and a bit sharp in flavour.  The leaves are delicious steamed, added to soups or omelets, or used fresh in a salad. The ravine next to my house is full of them right now, and they’ll end up in the soup I’m making, and maybe in the pesto for the pasta dish.

6. Fiddleheads -Fiddleheads are the uncurled, deep green fronds of the ostrich fern and they are plentiful in Ontario ostrichfern0423woodlands. The best places to hunt fiddleheads are along river and stream banks, in open woodlands and at the edges of swamps and marshes. They are at their prime for eating while young, firm and tightly curled.  You can boil or steam fiddleheads and serve dotted with butter and sprinkled with fresh herbs and a splash of lemon juice or Tabasco sauce. You can also add them to vegetable medleys, soups, stews and casseroles.  For more recipes and instructions of how to harvest fiddleheads, look here.  They taste a bit like asparagus, but remember to make sure to cook them thoroughly.

7. Wintercress –  This is a member of the mustard family and it is an early spring green. In the southern United States wintercress-leafit’s known as “creasy greens.”  The leaves are a dark, glossy green and have a bitter taste, but are milder when they are young. It is perfect as part of a mixed salad, and also delicious done ‘southern’style, shredded, flavored with chopped green onion, vinegar, salt, sugar and topped with minced bacon. Read more here.

8. Morels – These little treasures are chefs’ gold, pungent, aromatic and delicious. The are a species of mushroom morelsharvested between April and June and are best right after a heavy rain. It’s important to be sure you have correctly identified the morels – it might be a good idea to bring along an expert on your first time out. Morels must be used immediately or else dried or frozen.  They are wonderful in an omelet, in a cream sauce or a risotto, or served with chicken. Learn more about harvesting, cooking and storing morels here.

9. Wood Sorrel – This plant has three heart-shaped leaflets with a single flower at the end of a slender stalk.  It is wood-sorreloften called a ‘shamrock’ because of its resemblance to the Irish icon, and is also very similar to clover.  Its leaves have a lovely lemony flavour and can be used raw in salads or tossed with pasta to add a lemony aromatic note.

10. Chickweed – This prodigious green is often referred to as “poor man’s spinach” and some say it tastes somewhat chcommonlike spinach when cooked. Paired leaves are a bright pale green, tear-shaped, and attached to the stems on opposite sides by a slender stalk.  It’s delicious both raw and cooked and keeps its bright green colour. It freezes well and is high in nutrients. It grows best in cool Spring weather, and can be used raw in salads, as a pizza topping, in soups, stews or even as a replacement for parsley. Learn more here.

So don’t waste those afternoon walks. Keep your eyes open for something good and healthy for dinner. You’ll be healthier, wealthier, and quite possibly wiser.

Some Things To Keep in Mind When Foraging:

Don’t eat anything that you haven’t positively identified.

Don’t devastate the plants.  Harvest carefully so that plants will return next season.

Don’t harvest from areas that may have been sprayed with pesticides.

Gather only what you will use.

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