Week of Nov. 8, 2010

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Michael Smith Headlines Culinary Tourism Summit
“We’re all in the game together,” said Michael Smith, celebrity chef and keynote speaker at last week’s Culinary Tourism Summit, organized by the Ontario Tourism Culinary Association and held at the MaRS building in Toronto.

Addressing more than 250 guests attending the third annual conference, Smith spoke of the need to better target today’s travellers by promoting Canada’s bounty of products and regional experiences.

“I’m a culinary tourist at heart,” said the chef. “As consumers we’ve become so busy in our lives we’ve convinced ourselves it’s important to be busy.” As a result, we may talk about food more, we may be publishing more cookbooks and watching more food media, but “none of us is cooking.” Yet, said Smith, food is fundamental to our lives. “It’s the root core of our very souls,” he added, pointing to the age-old tradition of gathering, preparing and sharing food. “When we do that, we’re in balance with ourselves. That’s why we get a vicarious thrill watching food shows; we crave that connection.”

It’s that connection that needs to be the focus. “When we travel, anything connected to food is addictive,” he said, pointing to the countless stories he’s discovered and shared as part of his TV show Chef at Large. Smith urged operators and chefs in the audience to better promote unique stories to attract more travellers. Smith shared his own experience to illustrate his point. In 1992, when he arrived to P.E.I. to work at the Inn at Bay Fortune, there were no restaurants on the Island promoting the regional experience, let alone Canadian menus. Smith set out to change that, and after seven years at the Inn, he found 75 suppliers to highlight regional cuisine, and he helped launch the Flavour Trail, a guide to PEI’s culinary attractions.

Smith urged the audience to gain confidence in telling stories, stressing “so many of us are too humble.” Today, the province is miles ahead of where it was a decade ago, and those stories are becoming more pervasive, Smith said, pointing to various examples of entrepreneurs successfully telling their stories, such as Sam Sniderman who once owned Sam the Record Man in Toronto and now owns two distilleries on the Island. “We’ve woken up and realized culinary tourism is going through the roof,” concluded Smith, stressing that everyone should be an ambassador in their community.

Joey’s Chris Mills Preps for James Beard House
Toronto media were treated to a special dress rehearsal of sorts last week when Chris Mills, executive chef of Joey Restaurants, and his team presented a multi-course meal with wine pairings to be served in two weeks at the renowned James Beard House in New York. For Mills, this is his second trip to what’s affectionately referred to as the Carnegie Hall of cooking. “My first visit to James Beard House was an amazing experience and being invited back is an incredible honour. But, it either means they really liked it, or we didn’t get it quite right the first time,” Mills joked at the event. “I wanted to create a menu that introduces the New York audience to the bounty of the Pacific Rim but also reflects my personal experience as a chef. The practice of gathering recipes, ingredients and people has been a constant in my career, so that became the basis for this menu.”

The menu includes citrus-cured Haida Gwaii Salmon — caught by Mills on B.C.’s Queen Charlotte Islands — and paired with a spicy Asian salad with Artic char roe and a Dungeness crab flan; smoked Alaskan black cod rested atop barbecue pork belly and a squash dumpling in a Matsutake mushroom broth; licorice-lacquered duck served with a cherry conserve and a hazelnut-crusted Korean duck roll and 45-day-aged beef rib eye set against Yukon gold potatoes, braised oxtail and black trumpet lasagna with Bellman Farm carrots. Fans and regulars to the 20 Joey locations across B.C., Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Washington won’t be left out of the fun, as the Beard House dessert, a Vietnamese banana cake with tropical fruit salad and toasted coconut ice cream, debuts on the regular Joey menu this week.

Haisai Tops enRoute Best New Restaurant List
Renowned chef Michael Stadtländer is back in familiar territory atop best restaurant lists. His newest venture, Haisai Restaurant and Bakery in rural Singhamton Ont., was recently named Canada’s Best New Restaurant in Air Canada’s enRoute magazine. “Dinner here is a fairy tale, the kind with a very happy ending,” writes Sarah Musgrave of the seasonal regional restaurant, which has topped the wish list of many Ontario foodies, since opening in 2009. Rounding out the list’s top 10 are: Bao Bei, Vancouver; Cava, Montreal; Local Kitchen & Wine Bar, Toronto; Stone Soup Inn, Cowichan Valley, B.C.; Charcut Roast House, Calgary; Quatrefoil, Dundas, Ont.; The Edge Restaurant, Sooke, B.C.; Buca, Toronto; Le Quartier Général, Montreal.

Niagara Winery Chef Wins Ontario’s Gold Medal Plates
Frank Dodd, chef of Hillebrand Winery Restaurant in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., walked away with top honours at this year’s Ontario Gold Medal Competition. The Ontario competition, held last Thursday at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in Toronto, attracted 775 foodies who sampled a creative range of dishes from the tasting stations of 10 of the province’s most recognized culinary names, including Jamie Kennedy, Michael Steh, Jonathan Gushue, Frank Dodd and Lora Kirk. The event, which marries food and sport, may seem like an odd pairing of two different worlds, but, in this case, the synergies work. The annual fundraiser, which spans eight cities across the country, has raised more than $4.1 million for Canada’s Olympic athletes.

Dodd stole the show with his playful trio of pork prepared in three ways: hot, cold and frozen. The creative entry featured a broth made from ham hocks and prosciutto, served in a demitasse and topped with pastry and containing diced yellow squash; head cheese wrapped in prosciutto, contrasting light and dark meat and a scoop of bacon ice cream, artfully served on a teaspoon, to finish. The meal was paired with a Hillebrand wine — the 2008 Trius Red. The winning menu created quite a buzz in the long queue of guests, who could be heard commenting on the unusual ice cream, while the judging panel — which included foodies such as James Chatto, Lucy Waverman and Anita Stewart — tasted the food ringside.

The 2010 silver medal was awarded to chef Lorenzo Loseto of George, who won silver in 2007. His dish featured a slice of Tamworth pork belly, cooked crisp on the surface, paired with baby artichokes and Matsutake mushrooms with ricotta cavatelli. And, rounding out the top three was Michael Steh of Reds Bistro & Wine Bar whose dish highlighted rabbit served in a number of ways. Steh made a ballontine of the saddle, stuffed with a spicy blood sausage, set against a slice of firm, garlic-smoked rabbit kolbasa. A confit of rillettes, coated in breadcrumbs and then fried, completed the offerings. Chef Steh’s chosen wine was the 2007 Baco Noir Reserve from Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery in Niagara, Ont.

With the regional competitions now complete in Edmonton, Vancouver, Saskatchewan and Toronto, three cities remain to compete: Calgary, Ottawa-Gatineau and St. John’s. Each of the winners will vie for the national title, at the Gold Medal Plates Finale Canadian Culinary Championships, to be held in Kelowna, B.C, from Feb. 18 to 19.

Canadian Culinary Book Award Winners Named
Cuisine Canada and the University of Guelph recently named the 2010 Canadian Culinary Book Award winners at the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto. Winners, which were awarded in nine categories, included Laura Calder who took gold in the English Cookbook category with French Taste: Elegant Everyday Eating and Patrice Demers who won gold in the French Cookbook category for his tome Le Carte des Desserts. The Edna Award, which honours lifetime achievement, went to John Bishop of the Vancouver-based Bishop’s restaurant and the Founders Award, given on occasion to Canadians who have given a “lifetime of service” to Canada’s culinary community, went to former executive editor of Canadian Living magazine, Elizabeth Baird. For the complete list of winners, click here.

CIPHI Ontario Partners with TrainCan Inc. for 2011 Event
The Canadian Institute of Public Health Inspectors (CIPHI), Ontario Branch and the Toronto-based TrainCan Inc., which operates the annual Food Safety Forum Conference, will partner to produce a similar 2011 event. “The 2011 conference will mark the 72nd year for the CIPHI Ontario Branch, and the addition of Food Safety Forum (founded in 2004) will bring the public health profession together with industry in a unique manner,” said Ken Diplock, president, CIPHI, Ontario Branch. The 2011 theme of the TrainCan, Inc. co-ordinated event will be “Ontario Public Health & Industry Working and Learning Together.” The conference planning committee will include CIPHI Ontario members, public health and industry representatives. CIPHI Ontario represents the interest of public health professionals across the province. TrainCan, Inc. is a private food-safety company offering certifications and conferences across Canada. For more information, contact Diplock at (519) 883-2008; kdiplock@regionofwaterloo.ca or TrainCan’s Mary Sue Farache at (416) 447-9588; mfarache@traincan.com; traincan.com.

U.S. Restaurant Industry Outlook Improved
Growing optimism among U.S. restaurant operators and a more bullish outlook regarding the direction of the economy sparked a 0.8 per cent gain in the monthly Restaurant Performance Index (RPI) of the National Restaurant Association. The index rose to 100.3 in September, moving above 100 for the first time in five months. “Restaurant operators reported positive same-store sales and customer traffic levels for the first time in six months, which propelled the RPI’s Current Situation Index to its highest level in nearly three years,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice-president of the Research and Knowledge Group for the National Restaurant Association.

The RPI consists of two components: the Current Situation Index, which measures current trends in four industry indicators (same-store sales, traffic, labour and capital expenditures), which stood at 99.4 and the Expectations Index, which measures restaurant operators’ six-month outlook for four industry indicators (same-store sales, employees, capital expenditures and business conditions), which stood at 101.1. Forty-four per cent of restaurant operators reported a same-store sales gain between September 2009 and September 2010, up from 38 per cent of operators who reported higher sales in August. For more information, click here.  

New Tampa McDonald’s Prototype “Loaded with Extras”
A new prototype McDonald’s restaurant opened last week in Hernando County, Tampa, Fla. The store “comes fully loaded with extras that have been spreading across the chain for the past few years,” according to the St. Petersburg Times. Features include a double drive-thru with enough technological advancement to get motorists in and out in about 2.5 minutes and an expanded menu, including more healthy choices. In terms of design, the traditional red exterior has been toned down to terra-cotta, the golden arches are now positioned between yellow awnings and a gently curved, lit yellow line that tops the marquee. Inside, the contemporary interior offers a dark wood-like ceiling and floor, cut stone walls and Corian countertops, oversized booths, flat-screen TVs, free Wi-Fi and a 16-person communal table.

Two-thirds of the store’s business is expected to be drive-thru. The voice that takes five seconds to greet and ask for an order is recorded. Two people take orders from the middle of the kitchen while a clerk at the first window makes change. The restaurant’s Clamshell grill fries both sides of burgers at once, a machine makes a smoothie in 3.5 seconds, and beverages are poured automatically so clerks just snap on a lid. To ensure accuracy, each vehicle is photographed and matched on a TV screen as the order goes out the window.

Kid’s Meal Toys to be Banned in San Francisco
Free toys with meals containing more than 600 calories and more than 35 per cent fat will be banned in San Francisco, Calif., effective December 2011; this will make San Fran the first major U.S. city to forbid restaurants from offering a free toy. Nearby Santa Clara County enacted a similar ordinance earlier this year. Opposed by San Francisco mayor Gavin Newton, the new law passed with a veto-proof majority of eight votes. The ordinance would also require restaurants to provide fruits and vegetables with all kid’s meals that come with toys.

George Weston Ltd. Buys Ace Bakery
Weston Foods Canada Inc. has purchased the Toronto-based Ace Bakery, an artisan European-style bread company serving foodservice and food retail, for $110 million. “The Ace Bakery brand is known for its quality products and will complement our existing family of brands, allowing us to better serve our customers,” said W. Galen Weston, chairman and president of Weston Foods. “I would like to welcome the Ace Bakery employees into the Weston group.” Weston Foods, a subsidiary of George Weston Ltd. — one of North America’s largest food processing and distribution groups that operates the Loblaw brand of supermarkets — specializes in baked goods.

F&B Sales Up 3.2 per cent in August — StatsCan
Canadian commercial foodservice sales rose 3.2 per cent in August year-over-year, according to Statistics Canada’s Monthly Survey of Food Service and Drinking Places. Led by caterers (up seven per cent) and limited service restaurants (up five per cent), real foodservice sales grew 0.7 per cent after adjusting for 2.5 per cent inflation. Sales at full-service restaurants rose 2.2 per cent and drinking place sales fell 7.8 per cent. Seven provinces experienced sales gains in August: Quebec (7.7 per cent); Newfoundland and Labrador (6.8 per cent); Saskatchewan (5.4 per cent); Ontario (four per cent); Nova Scotia (3.5 per cent); Alberta (3.3 per cent) and New Brunswick (1.9 per cent). Sales declined in three provinces: Manitoba (0.6 per cent); British Columbia (3.6 per cent) and Prince Edward Island (4.4 per cent). For more information, click here.

IHG Opens Holiday Inn Express & Suites Kincardine
IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group) has announced the opening of the 70-room, Holiday Inn Express & Suites Kincardine, Ont., as part of the IHG re-launch program. Integral to the program, all Holiday Inn employees go through an extensive “Stay Real” training to ensure guests receive the level of service they expect. The hotel’s suburban site is located in the same business plaza as Tim Hortons, Sobeys, Canadian Tire, Meridian Bank and Boston Pizza. The property is accessible to businesses such as Bruce Power and Ontario Wind Generations, as well as nearby attractions such as Station Beach and Bruce Power Visitor Centre.

HR Development Award Goes to Rod Hotels & Resorts
The Charlottetown-based Rodd Hotels & Resorts has been awarded top honours for Human Resource Development at the Tourism Leadership Summit held last week in Gatineau, Que., by the Tourism Industry Association of Canada. Presented by president Wendy Swedlove of the Canadian Tourism Human Resource Council (CTHRC), the award recognizes a business that has demonstrated professionalism in the Canadian tourism workforce through professional recognition, training and excellence in human-resource management. Rodd Hotels & Resorts is Atlantic Canada’s largest privately owned hotel chain with nine properties throughout New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

Premium Parking for Hybrid Cars at Brookstreet Hotel, Ottawa
Ottawa’s Brookstreet Hotel is serving up the latest in a series of green initiatives, launching preferred free parking for guests arriving in a hybrid vehicle. The green-friendly vehicles will be parked in a secure, climate-controlled underground garage at the four-diamond hotel. “All of our partners (employees) participate in the many programs and policies throughout the hotel that reduce our environmental footprint,” said Patrice S. Basille, the hotel’s executive vice-president. “Our guests are also encouraged to consider the environment via the many options available to them, from choosing bottled water to reusing towels or linens for a second day. Guests that have chosen the hybrid route for transportation clearly deserve to be rewarded for their conscientious decision to be responsible for their impact on the environment.”

 

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