Tuesday, December 29, 2009

foodie reads

I love to eat.
I love to prepare food.
I love to read about people who are surrounded by food.

We used to do a Book of the Month feature for our scheduled classes and I have lately been considering bringing this back... Maybe on this blog? These are a few books I have read in the past month and some that were given to me for Christmas.

Making time for a book is such a treat.

Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper
-My absolute favourite read of the year. If you love Chinese food, the real thing, you must read this. I want to be Fushia, I want to buy rabbits and skin them myself, I want to scale fish as they are still alive, I want to fill my mouth with heat packed peppers and remember that special food-related moment.

Don't Try This at Home
- A great book for bedtime reading. Each chapter is a culinary anecdote from chefs around the world...

Julia Child, a Life
-I did not truly know Julia Child and had not yet seen 'The Movie' - this was an entertaining and quick read. Is it all accurate? I do not know, but it seems like a good intro for a larger than life personality.

A Year In My Kitchen
-Skye loves eating and it shows. Stunning pictures, lovely recipes that you want to try, now. If only the market was still open...

Jamie at Home
- I did not know Jamie Oliver, in fact, I avoided him as I thought he was just another of those good-looking-let's-brand-name-him chefs... This is a truly yummy book that made me want to get lost in the woods for a couple of days, catch deer, cook it with whatever I found in the surroundings.

My Year of Meat
-My current read. A Japanese television show meant to encourage beef consumption using American housewives as 'role models'. It gives me the giggles every page...


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Tis' the season to be busy...

We often feel like Santa's elves in the office at this time of year.
Packaging gifts certificates, more, more, more!

This was our pile at around 2pm yesterday. It kept growing and growing. This morning, we start over.

Kitchen is rocking, day events, evening events. Every day a new menu, another group to welcome - never the same. It is a fascinating journey each time: the initial contact, the excitement, how we all want this to be the best party ever for friends, family and colleagues. Making every detail count.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Are you chef worthy?

I get a few emails here and there about reality tv shows and competitions, and I usually send them out directly to the people that I think could apply... But today, I am putting it out there for all of you to read and consider!

Are you an extraordinary home chef? Do you watch Top Chef and think that you could be solid competition? This call for entries is aimed towards the 'every day person' who rocks in the kitchen!!! I know a few, eh Ryan???

You can email Aimee at Aimee@bigcoatproductions.com to get more details.

Go for it! What have you got to lose?


Putting Culinary Rivalry to the Ultimate Test!

Chef Worthy is a competitive new docudrama that puts amateur cooking rivals to the ultimate test; the chance to prove their salt in a top restaurant kitchen. By day these amateur chefs are bankers, teachers, lawyers, government workers and homemakers; but at night they're locked into a culinary rivalry, out to prove themselves the best cook in their social circle. In each episode two cocky cooks go head to head under the watchful eye of a Master Chef who will pull no punches in telling them how things are really done. When given the opportunity to perform in a top kitchen, which one will prove their worth and be crowned Chef Worthy!?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

from hockey sticks to spatulas...

this weekend, senators hockey defenceman chris phillips and his lovely wife, erin, traded hockey sticks for spatulas as we played host to a special private dinner with 10 lucky guests in the ue kitchen. first a bit of mixing and mingling with the group and then it was time to get down to business and whip up a fabulous tuscan-inspired dinner led by resident chef candice butler. erin was soooo impressed that her husband actually managed to whip up dessert on his own! chris, we're glad to see you managed to score some points off the ice!

thanks everyone for a great night!


Sunday, November 15, 2009

we love bel fiore

Thursday, November 12, 2009

barista challenge!

It seems like a lot of people love coffee!! We have had so many inquiries about the Bridgehead Barista challenge that we could have filled this class three times... stay tuned for the upcoming calendar, we will have a few more.

12 lucky people got the chance to smell, taste, touch, feel, observe, replicate, critique and chat about coffee. By the end of the night, they could do perfect espressos and lattes AND do beautiful latte art.

Our tiny coffee maker looked so wimpy next to Bridgehead's monster machine, at least it has only brewed Bridgehead coffee in its life so far!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Stocks, Jus, Béarnaise, Demi-Glace, Béchamel... no mysteries here!

Everyone tonight had the chance to work on classic vinaigrettes, make their own aïoli (for a steak frites, heaven!!!) and work on basic sauces for savoury dishes (a delicious Bleu Bénédictine Mac'n'Cheese anyone? How about fresh vegetable ribbons with a tomato and herb sauce then?) and some delightful desserts (Pampushky with a cranberry sauce, homemade pumpkin ice cream with a caramel sauce, strawberries and hot fudge!!!)

I send out emails to staff before each event and I have to admit that I hadn't been this excited in quite a long time...give me some more bread to finish that sauce please!

If you missed the class, keep your eyes opened for our upcoming Fundamentals, we will include a sauce workshop for you to stay away from the packaged stuff.

Some highlights...

Stock, beautiful and rich. Always roast the bones first!!

Mirepoix and bouquet garni?

Béchamel, whisk it slowly and constantly.

Garlic peeling and chopping contest!!

The vinaigrette station! So many ingredients to pick from and experiment with! We told the guests to go wild and try combinations that they had not tried before or go for ingredients that they did not have at home...

The pampushky before being smothered in sugar, spices and dipped in caramel sauce... yummy salted caramel sauce.


artisanal bread

Here are a few shots from last night's class...
Yummy bread from Aux Deux Frères Bakery in Aylmer.

This is Etienne chatting about bread. He spoke with such passion, I loved how he said: Bread is living. Makes you think right?

The blob. It kept growing in our fridge and I saw it through the glass door, gave me the giggles!

The guests shaping their dough

...and the finished product!

You can go up to Aylmer to sample their wonderful breads... or wait until Etienne comes back!


anything and everything can be done on the grill...

We had a very special visit from Ted Reader on Monday night, it was one very lively evening!!!
We took no pictures as we had enough paparazzi that night - we know when to leave it to the pros!

The Omnivore blog resumes it quite well, enjoy the pictures!

Big Teddy blows into town (don't overdo the Jack Daniel's and no one will get hurt)

Monday, October 12, 2009

how do we feed a city?

I am not one to watch television much, in fact, mine is hidden, but I do love little web capsules... I few months ago I discovered Ted Talks, talks on all subjects, always very interesting, always has you thinking some more.

Last night I listened to a talk by Carolyn Steele about how food can shape our cities, how it used to be a center and how, in the last decades, we don't even value food anymore, we throw so much away.

She was saying that 5 big corporations control the food situation nowadays - very unsustainable. 5 corporations for the whole world.

Food used to be social, we gathered to buy it, we traded, exchanged knowledge - now many people stare at the freezer section... and sometimes go to stores only selling frozen food. It makes you wonder if people going there even question where each ingredient comes from.

To quote Carolyn Steele:
We used to cook, now we just add water, maybe an egg if we bake a cake.
We don't smell food anymore, we just check the expiration date.
How sad.

Then she spoke about a certain minority, and I was quite pleased that I fit in:
You think ahead, you plan, you can actually recognize what vegetables are.

Take 20 minutes to watch and listen to this. Embrace food. Embrace sustainable.
Ted Talk by Carolyn Steele: How food shapes our cities.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

mini venison pot pie

the absolute cutest and most desirable hors-d'oeuvre ever.
introducing the mini venison pot pie

what else would you want to snack on on a chilly fall evening?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

4 hockey players, 2 pumpkins pie, no recipes!

we had the great pleasure of hosting a pumpkin pie bake-off for 4 players from the Ottawa 67's team.

these guys were actually really good!
they came in the kitchen and had access to different ingredients, no recipes and just a bit of direction: canned and fresh pumpkin, eggs, chocolate, orange, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, allspice, brown sugar, cream, milk, ganache, pecans, crushed ginger cookies + 2 different pie doughs.

after getting over the initial shock of not even having access to measuring spoons or cups, they really got into it - carefully adding ingredients a little at a time, tasting, adjusting. It was nothing like the tv show 'Just Like Mom', do you remember that???

Their mini pies came out lovely.

We had the tough job of tasting and judging, it was a close call!
We won't tell you who won, tune in next Monday on Rogers TV.
The Ottawa 67's show.

Friday, October 2, 2009

wine tastings and wine dinners and mmmmmm, wine.

obviously, wine is a an important part of what we do.

i truly hope that people attending our wine classes are less intimidated by the time they end an evening with us... there was a time when people were somewhat scared of the great big world of wines and stuck to one kind, it went in waves: merlot, chardonnay, chianti, pinot - it seemed like a trend to drink a certain type of grape, regardless of the quality of it and sadly, regardless of the meal to come.

nowadays, we tend to search for the best in each region and pair accordingly with the meals - thank goodness for both the food and wine!!! this week, we discovered a few treasures from California...

Pooch Pucilowski
is a certified wine educator from Sacramento, California... he is an absolutely stellar speaker, very charismatic, and certainly very knowledgeable. we had the great honor of hosting two events on Wednesday with him: one for trade, one for public.

for the trade event, Candice brought out her preserves

she has been working hard in the past weeks to can her own special chutneys for cocktails and wine tastings. no sad storebought pickled veggies! no lackluster olives!

along with these preserves, our lucky day guests sampled some delicious Niagara Food Specialties prosciutto, bresaola and salami. obviously, i had to sample too and can certify that they are the best.

as for the evening, i could not have described it any better than Rachelle, a lady who has now attended a few of our classes, take a peak at her blog entry.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

what chefs cook at home

we often wonder what busy professional chefs cook on their downtime for friends and family.
well, last night we got a little insight! after a brief summer hiatus, we welcomed back chef steve vardy of black cat bistro into the urban element kitchen. we peered into his mind to find out what he likes to eat and serve his guests and so and this is what we got...

we started off with a comforting bowl of roasted squash soup topped with a seared scallop & fresh sage - the soup was dotted with flavours of cardamom, star anise and cinnamon...mmm!

next, perfect roast chicken (fabulous fall sides: roasted Bryson Farm heirloom carrots, Christophe's mushrooms, farmstand parsnips & baby red potatoes, roasted garlic and onions)

...and ended the night off on the right note - decadent dark chocolate tart - so simple but oh so rich and wickedly delicious

thanks chef vardy -we'll come over for dinner any time!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

cherry pie event

cherry pie is an all-women networking event - imagine the giggles, and the chatting and the "'oh, i need this!!!"

lots of great booths... i was hoping to have more time to stop by Hush, Workshop (a lovely clothing and jewelry boutique for women by women that i need to go to more often!) and discovered cork flooring by The Healthiest Home that was to die for.

this was our second time being invited. this year, we thought it would be fun to have the ladies work for their loot, and i think they all got a kick out of it! instead of just handing out food, we had a 'pipe your own cupcake' station - some were really intimidated, some were experts, one thing for sure, we all made them smile.

Carley was kind enough to pile on the icing for me. i am very "gourmande". i love eating. no rules. never hold back.

here we go.

one bite of pure buttery-fudgey heaven.

oh i hope no one saw that.

thanks Candice, that was delicious!!!


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Mexican Fiesta!

last night's class was Celebrate Mexican with Chef Maria Amalia Garza.
i love Maria's classes.
she is so calm, attentive... and so full of knowledge.

the class was one of the quietest that i had seen in ages, Maria definitely has a calming vibe, reassuring. Everyone looked so confident in the kitchen as Maria was floating around.

i decided to take pictures of raw ingredients that were explained to the class as it started.
there is a definite depth of flavour in Mexican food - everything is roasted, toasted and let to ripen to its fullest potential. mole sauces cook for hours, and that doesn't even take into account the pampering that goes into smoking and drying the chilies...

here is the cascabel chile

the name means "rattle" and refers to the shape of the chile as well as the sound the seeds make when a dried chile is shaken. it is usually deep red to brownish in color and is grown in Mexico. you can purchase them through Chilly Chiles.

the platanos, or plantain

Maria was saying that it is always best to buy these at the desired stage of ripeness as the ripening process is quite long... if you buy a green plantain and need it for dessert, you might need to wait a month! don't be scared to buy the black plantain, that is how they should be for sweets, as long as the skin is still intact, you are good to go!

and last but not least: tomatillos

i was surprised at how many people had never cooked with these. they have always been so attractive to me in their protective little husks... if you are curious about cooking with them, now is the time to try: they are in abundance in the markets.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

prince edward county wines and... deliciousness.

last night we hosted a private wine tasting for 38 lovely women.
again, chef Candice Butler amazed us all.

they had:

roasted tomato and basil strata with creamy C'est Bon goat cheese topped with roasted Bryson Farms heirloom tomatoes and arugula.

so so very tasty pear, Bénédictine and caramelized onion tarts.

these were served with more Bleu Bénédictine and some candied/spiced nuts.
they are addictive.

a beautiful mix of frisée, Hall's apples and celeriac slaw & La Boucanerie's smoked trout.
That trout was so perfect, not too smokey, a delightful texture.

They finished the evening with some crispy polenta topped with a mushroom stew (of course from Le Coprin!). Sorry, no picture, I was listening to the sommelier and taking notes!

Mesdames, ce fut un plaisir!


Saturday, September 12, 2009

things we love...

do you remember the opening segment in 'Amélie' when you get to know the characters, their likes and dislikes?

i totally related to that (especially the raspberry fingers!!!)

we like:

opening a box of Christophe's mushrooms.

sage. velvety, soft, fragrant.

hope your weekend is filled with food moments.


Friday, September 11, 2009

rustic italian class

it started out with one class.
then two.
and now three.

for the first time, we have sold three classes of the same.
that is a total of 48 people being intrigued by the menu, the subject, the techniques being thought.

last night was the first of the rustic italian classes.
i just had to be there and see for myself, well, smell... in less that 10 minutes of cooking it smelled so heavenly.

the group worked hard as there were about 12 stations. so much to do!!!
i really loved watching the people take turns at the pasta station

they were preparing butternut squash stuffed ravioli to be served with a brown butter and sage sauce. (i am very much hoping that there are leftovers waiting for me this morning...)

they started their meal with a fun trio of crostini, my favorite was the chunky tapenade:
cooked black and green olives, roasted pines nuts, garlic, rosemary...

the creamy tuscan white bean spread

bryson farms heirloom tomatoes went into the bruschetta, such color.

our worker bees then went on to have some minestrone soup, very rich and comforting... can you feel the love? the last minute addition of watercress was genius.

after the pasta, they enjoyed a venison stew. that. looked. incredible.

chef candice started a stew in the afternoon so that the group could see and taste the difference between melt-in-your-mouth-ready and a hurried stew... it needs time.

they got the most of all worlds, preparing the stew from scratch, and tasting the result of hours of slow cooking. We put in delicate mushrooms from Le Coprin, i forgot to picture them!!!

the evening ended on a sweet note with some chocolate almond cake, not to make you jealous, but that will most probably be my breakfast!