Shortly after Amanda Ray
was appointed as Chef de Cuisine at Biff's Bistro
in April 2012, she stopped at Rose's Vietnamese Sandwiches
in Chinatown East for a bá
. That's when she started to think about introducing a Vietnamese twist to the Biff's menu.
"The light went off!" Chef Amanda recalls. "I thought we could do a sexy bá
at Biff's too, and so we did."
Biff's Bánh Mì (Photo by Cindy La)
The result? Biff's Bánh Mì
with shaved pork shoulder, duck confit, parfait, veal tongue and pickled carrots. It was a huge hit with guests, and Chef Amanda even went on to feature the sandwich
as part of the Terroir Symposium 2013
This past August, Chef Amanda finally had to opportunity to visit beautiful Vietnam for three weeks, where she fell even deeper in love with Vietnamese cuisine. Between her daily bánh mì,
Chef Amanda developed a deep passion for Vietnamese coffee.
"It was one of my favourite things," she says. "You can have it cold. You can have it hot. You get addicted. I had it every day, sometimes twice a day. It was definitely a staple in my day-to-day regime."
One of the many Vietnamese coffees Chef Amanda enjoyed on her trip (Photo by Amanda Ray)
So when Chef Amanda designed the menu for Biff's Taste of Vietnam dinner this past November, it was no surprise that she included Trung Nguyên
Vietnamese coffee to be served at the end of the evening.
"It's special because when they roast the coffee beans, they roast it with chicory and sugar, which gives the coffee a very aromatic and sweet smell," she says. "It's awesome. It's really strong and thick coffee."
So why not introduce a Vietnamese coffee element to the menu?
Chef Amanda was in the process of replacing the Peach Bavarois
with something else and thought she would try to swap the fruit for coffee beans to create Vietnamese Coffee Bavarois
. Bavarois ('Bavarian cream', in French) is a classic cold dessert with a cream anglaise base made from either milk or cream and flavourings - in this case, coffee!
Chef Amanda's recipe brings milk and coffee to a scald in a saucepan before whisking in eggs and sugar and straining out the coffee beans. She then places the saucepan back on the stove to thicken, later folding whipped cream into the mixture to lighten up the custard. On top, she adds tuile with cocoa nibs. The final product is a rich yet delicate dessert - a perfect way to finish a meal.
Vietnamese Coffee Bavarois (Photo by Rebecca Spence)
The Vietnamese Coffee Bavarois isn't the only evidence of Vietnamese influence on the new Biff's menus. The new Frogs' Legs
with peanuts, tamarind and ginger is a twist on a delicious crab dish Chef Amanda had in central Vietnam with a tamarind and ginger sauce. She is also working on a few new Viet-French dishes that might find their way onto future Biff's menus.
"I love bún chả
[grilled pork and vermicelli noodles] and chả cá lã vọng
[fried fish with dill and turmeric, a Hanoi speciality]," says Chef Amanda. "I think they would be perfect dishes to serve at lunch."
We'll be sure to keep you in the loop on any new additions to the Biff's Bistro menu in 2014. For up-to-the-minute news, 'Like' Biff's Bistro on Facebook
While weekends are often best spent sleeping in, sometimes it's worth waking up early to take part in one of Toronto foodies' favourite pastimes: brunch. Among our restaurants that dare to participate in this city-wide ritual are Bannock, O&B Canteen and both O&B Café Grill, Bayview Village and Yonge & Front. From Bannock's hearty Brunch Poutine with curds, corned beef brisket and duck egg, to O&B Bayview Village's Fried Chicken French Toast with O&B Artisan brioche and mandarin maple syrup, we offer plenty of ways to shake off your morning (or early afternoon) grogginess.
"It's a lighter way to start your day," says Chef Zuzana. "It's not necessarily a hangover breakfast."
O&B Yonge & Front's Chef de Cuisine, Zuzana Harsaghy, knows a thing or two about satisfying the fevered downtown brunch crowd. Expect to find a tailored selection of both classic brunch staples and inventive dishes on this menu.
Chef Zuzana's Beef Short Rib Hash is a great example of a dish that unites fresh, quality ingredients with simple, straightforward cuisine. A bed of crunchy, crispy potatoes is full of with sweet corn, roasted peppers and tender bits of braised short rib, making it the ultimate hangover cure.
"It's loaded with carbs and lots of hearty stuff: caramelized onions, a little braising liquid, poached eggs and some chipotle ketchup." says Chef Zuzana.
The Eggs & Lox, on the other hand, is "more for the carb-conscious" guests, says Chef Zuzana. The beautifully plated dish combines Heritage Atlantic salmon gravlax from Eastern Canada, cured in house, with mixed pickles and poached eggs. Rested on top is crostini with a perfectly yellow lemon aïoli made from lemons preserved over six months ago.
If you're looking for a little kick in the pants, the Huevos Rancheros might be just the ticket. Between two grilled flour tortillas is a generous portion of maple beans and fluffy scrambled eggs, smothered in super-ripe avocado, sour cream, pico de gallo and pasilla pepper to provide the often-needed hangover-subduing power of spice.
This Mexican breakfast classic provides a fantastic combination of rich, creamy and fiery flavours. If you are a fan of runny egg yolk, ask for your eggs over-easy or soft-poached so you can mop up the eggy gooeyness with any leftover tortilla.
Beyond these à la carte highlights, Chef Zuzana and her team also love to draw new inspiration by coming up with inventive takes on old favourites. Last Saturday's thoughtful combination was Pork & Beans, which featured maple-glazed crispy pork belly with bourbon-baked beans and poached eggs.
"I had some leftover pork belly this week and I figured, 'Hey, why not?'" says Chef Zuzana. "I love getting super creative with brunch and playing around with spins on classic brunch dishes and doing all kinds of funky things."
And because one brunch special isn't enough, Chef Zuzana also offered a sweet alternative to the savoury pork and beans.
"I like to start with savoury and finish with sweet," she says.
Chef Zuzana's Strawberry-Filled Steamed Buns proved to be a delicious tribute to her Slovakian roots.
"It's a strawberry-raspberry compote with sweet crème fraîche, toasted sweet breadcrumbs and loads of brown butter," she explains. "You've got to have the brown butter."
You may need a good long nap after some of these decadent brunch options, but at least your hunger should be satisfied until dinnertime.
For more up-to-the-minute news, "Like" O&B Yonge & Front on Facebook!
Pumpkin. Chestnut. Sage. Does it get anymore seasonal than that? All it takes is a little dicing, scoring and chopping, and you're all set to enhance a standard bowl of pasta with these beautiful autumn flavours.
's new Pumpkin & Fire-Roasted Chestnut Rigatoni
, available at both lunch
, is a "local, seasonal dish that's true to its Italian roots," says Chef de Cuisine Michael Wilson
. And, vegetarians take note, this dish is free of any meat!
The simplicity of the dish echoes its rustic Italian influence. As we learned from Chef Matthew Foote
of O&B Oakville
, rustic Italian cooking
tends to incorporate only a few ingredients in the recipe, executed with precision and care.
Chef Michael begins by scoring (making notches or incisions) his chestnuts before placing them on the grill to roast over a flame. Yes, chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping on your nose
... we can barely contain our excitement for the holidays!
"I love that smoky, roasted flavour," he says. "I always associate chestnuts with winter and Christmas and street vendors who would roast them outside the ACC during hockey games."
While chestnuts are cooking, Chef Michael grabs one of his 100km sugar pie pumpkins and begins to split, scoop and dice. He suggests saving the pumpkin seeds for soups. Or roast them on their own, add a little butter and salt, and you've got yourself an awesome snack!
After dicing his pumpkin into inch-sized cubes, Chef Michael throws them in a saucepan with a little bit of oil and pan-roasts them until they gain a little bit of colour. At that point, he reduces the heat and adds his pre-minced shallot, roasted garlic and chopped sage.
While those flavours blend, he dunks his pre-blanched pasta into hot water to reheat, and then tosses the pasta and a bit of pasta water into the saucepan. For this, he uses Bartolini rigatoni, but he insists that any short pasta (like penne or fusilli) would work with this recipe.
At this point, Chef Michael peels and chops his chestnuts, which have now split open from the heat of the grill. Once they're peeled and chopped, add them to the saucepan. They'll add a rich texture to the dish.
He also adds a tablespoon of sherry vinegar to cut through the sweetness of the rest of the ingredients and his premade brown butter, which adds a nutty, caramelized flavour.
Once everything has been seasoned to your liking, you're ready to plate your pasta and garnish with shaved Manchego, a firm buttery sheep's milk cheese from Spain. To add a bit of colour to the plate, add a bit of chopped sage as a garnish as well.
If you prefer eating pasta to cooking pasta, join us at any one of O&B's restaurants for a seasonally inspired noodle dish. From Jump's classic Truffle Ricotta Gnocchi with Northern Woods mushrooms and porcini cream, to O&B Yonge & Front's Butternut Squash Ravioli with Swiss chard, brown butter, sage and toasted pine nuts, there is a seemingly endless number of combinations to choose from. After all, low-carb diets are overrated, aren't they?
Pumpkin & Fire-Roasted Chestnut Rigatoni (Serves 4-6)
1 lb. rigatoni (or any short noodle)
2.5 cups of chestnuts, scored (can substitute hazelnuts)
1 pie pumpkin
2 cups unsalted butter, browned
2 tbsp. sherry vinegar
1 shallot, minced
6 garlic cloves, roasted
1 bunch of sage, chopped
2 cups grated Manchego cheese
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1. In a pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta for 10 minutes. Drain in a colander and reserve.
2. Pre-heat oven to 350F. Score chesntuts with sharp knife and roast in oven (or on a grill) for 10-15 minutes. While the chestnuts are still hot, peel, chop and set aside.
3. Peel pumpkin, cut in half and scoop out the seeds. Dice pumpkin into quarter-inch cubes.
4. Place butter into a pot and turn on high heat. The butter will melt and begin to foam. As the bubbles lessen, remove from heat and add one tablespoon of sherry vinegar. Cool and reserve.
5. In a saucepan on medium heat, add oil and roasted diced pumpkin. Once it starts to get colour, reduce heat. Add shallot, garlic and sage.
6. Return pasta to water to reheat. Add pasta and a splash of pasta water to the saucepan.
7. Add chestnuts, one tsbp. of sherry vinegar, brown butter and season to taste.
8. Plate and garnish with shaved Manchego and chopped sage.
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Not even surgery could keep Chef Paul Benallick
away from What’s on the Table
The 9th annual charity event brought together Toronto’s top chefs to raise over $250,000, in support of The Stop
’s anti-hunger programs. What originated as one of Canada’s first food banks has evolved into one of the city’s most important fixtures – a community food centre focused on healthy food.
It is an initiative that Corporate Executive Chef Anthony Walsh
has been supportive of from the very beginning - he has participated in every WOTT event since its inception. Last year, he brought his son, Noah
on Take Our Kids to Work Day
. This year, we captured him with the affable Afrim Pristine from Cheese Boutique
For Chef Paul, Jump
’s fearless leader, the reason for participating was simple: “The Stop’s programs are sustainable and education-based - giving people tools to prepare for the future.”
Over 500 generous guests were in attendance, enjoying a variety of savoury and sweet bites and indulging on beverages from seven different wineries. For the first time, the event was held at Daniels Spectrum
, a newly built cultural hub in Regent Park, a change from the event’s usual space, Wychwood Barns
Personally interacting with guests was a rare opportunity for the Jump team. “It’s been wonderful seeing people’s reaction to the food, especially for cooks Justin and Morgan. Because we’re always in the kitchen, we may hear ‘compliments to the Chef’, but it’s a different experience all together speaking directly with the guests,” says Sous Chef Ash Moghe.
Chef Paul’s inspiration for Jump’s dish came from a very well-known craze in New York City - mini savoury donuts stuffed with roasted pumpkin, buffalo ricotta and sage. “When I was planning the dish, Cronuts had just come out, so I wanted to create a savoury donut. In the past events, everyone’s always done pork so I thought I’d go with a vegetarian dish that was fun and seasonal.”
He was also motivated by the evening’s main initiative - to raise money, “I also wanted to make a dish that didn’t require any cutlery or plates because the rental of cutlery and plates takes away from The Stop’s budget.”
Chef Paul Benallick, Morgan Bellis, Justin Roberts, Chef Ash Moghe
And with a strong team alongside him, Chef Paul most certainly wasn’t going to let an arm sling get in the way. Now that’s dedication.
To see more photos from the event, visit our full Flickr gallery
Chef Jamie Kennedy was delicately slicing this steamed gefilte fish served with dill sauce (Jamie Kennedy Kitchens)
Chef Basilio Pesce's dish from Porzia was refreshingly light - Zuppa di funghi with chicken liver crostini
Richmond Station's dish was rich all-around - duck liver pate was piped onto melt-in-your-mouth, toasted brioche, topped with allspice chutney
From Momofuko - flavourful chicken mushroom dumpling with consommé; steamed fluke with black xo; pumpkin custard with chocolate and caramel
A perfect bite from Woods - smoked duck ham with caramelized red onion and goat gouda
Recent Gold Medal Plates Toronto champion Chef Lorenzo Losento’s dish from George - carrot and goat cheese potato croquettes
Beautiful display of smoked oysters with crème fraîche, crostini and apple (Geraldine)
Six hour, fall off the bone, smoked paprika braised baby back ribs with Salt’s house-made adobo BBQ sauce (Salt)
Skin + Bones' truffled gnudi with roasted squash, hazelnut and caraway
Vertical Restaurant served albacore tuna “cotto crudo” with ginger emulsion, black ink bread crostini and nasturtium
Soma's wild fennel caramels and buttered corn truffles had guests coming back for more
Ruby Watchco's elegant chocolate peanut butter mousse cups
A selection of p’tit choux by Nadege Patisserie
The Tempered Chef's buttermilk pie with caramelized apple cream and coffee nougatine
No breaths in between bites – Beast's sticky toffee pudding is that good
A beautiful display of sweets - lavender lemonade, lavender shortbread; selection of “tea sandwiches”; hot chocolate chai and adorable macarons that deserved their own seats from Pluck Teas and Petite & Sweet
- an important month for all Mo Bros and Mo Sistas. At O&B Artisan
, Chef Paul Brans (our own Willy Wonka) has been moulding chocolate moustaches - available in dark and milk chocolate for $3.25 each. For each chocolate 'stache sold, we'll donate $1 to charity.
You can find O&B Artisan at Hudson's Bay Queen Street on the Lower Level.
Eat some chocolate for the sake of men's health.
Chef Paul Brans - chocolate moustache selfie