Wednesday, August 17, 2011

change is in the air

as an event planner, i’m always working in the future ... and yet i can't quite believe how fast september is coming at us! we are madly booking in the ‘back-to-work’ corporate events, the private celebrations and holiday parties that keep all of us at the urban element on our toes in the peak season months.

our fall class calendar is now up on the ue website. we have some new faces coming to play in our kitchen: ottawa magazine food editor shawn wagman hosts a city bites event with toronto chef francisco alejandri in september; more interactive dinners like the ‘mix and match’ series - black cat bistro and mariposa farms in october; and the tried-and-true (four - count ‘em four!) holiday baking classes with resident chef candice butler in november and december. yes, i may scream in horror when I see that first fallen leaf on the ground in the next month or so ... but i admit, i love the change from lazy summer days to the hustle and bustle of fall.

while summer is typically a quieter time here at the kitchen, i have to say – we’ve done some fun stuff!

as i write this, we are in our final week of our kids culinary camps. running for 4 weeks this summer, chef stephen pollock (with his two energetic assists julia and maurcio) hosted over 55 kids, who busied themselves in our kitchen creating delectable plates from a different menu each day. i’ve arrived daily at the kitchen to the smells of spicy saffron paella ... fresh baked baguette ... local, grilled beef burgers with caramelized onion relish ... and cinnamon churros with goats milk caramel. these are just a few of the dishes these kids have created from scratch (and i’ve been lucky enough to enjoy for lunch)!

both the tweens and teens truly enjoyed their time with us, and we are thrilled to discover so many young, burgeoning chefs out there. kids really do care about food! it’s inspiring to know that we are helping to foster a love and respect for beautiful, wholesome food, as well as providing knowledge, skills and experience in the kitchen. i hope the parents reap the benefits at home as well!

speaking of kids, our resident chef candice butler’s son cameron got to show off his skills on the a-channel morning show on July 19th. we were invited to the studio to talk about the urban element summer offerings, and to demo a green gazpacho (a fun and healthy kids camp recipe) as well as a no-bake raspberry cake from chef candice’s summer desserts class. it was quick (we were in and out by 10am) and fun (cameron got to eat lots of 'green room' doughnuts). live television is awesome!

another memorable event in july was our beautiful, bountiful b.c. dinner with chef anna march of mariposa farms, and sommelier andrew rastapkevicius of lifford wines. we offered up a six-course meal inspired by chef anna’s time spent cooking on the west coast, paired with some of the okanagan’s best wines. chef anna and assist candice worked together seamlessly to create some seriously beautiful plates including a sockeye salmon tartar with yuzu, and a soy-lacquered true cod with baby bok choy and scallions. wine pairings featured two amazing wineries - joie farms and blue mountain (which produces my new favourite chardonnay, by the way). andrew poured, educated and charmed all of the guests, and with all that food and wine, everyone literally rolled out of here at the end of the night!

and so, it’s been another summer chock-full of gorgeous food. now that i’ve completed my wine tasting course at algonquin college, i can also say it's one that involved experiencing many new wines along with that food. I look forward to the fresh flavours the new season will bring, the Indian summer we’ll get (hopefully), and yes, even to the sight of that first fallen leaf.


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