Week of Sept. 27, 2010

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Couche-Tard Board Bid Rejected
In an update of Foodservice and Hospitality magazine’s foodserviceandhospitality.com report last week, shareholders for U.S. corner-store stalwart Casey’s have overwhelmingly rejected the board nominees supported by Canadian convenience store giant Alimentation Couche-Tard. The rejection of nominees by Casey’s shareholders is seen by observers as a strong dismissal of Couche-Tard’s $2-billion, $38.50 per share hostile takeover bid. So far, there has been no indication that Couche-Tard intends to sweeten the offer, even after reports surfaced recently that 7-Eleven is also interested in purchasing the company, with an offer of $40 per share.

2010 Niagara Wines to be “Finest in Many Years”
Niagara, Ont.’s 2010 grape harvest is continuing to spark conversation about the region’s upcoming wine season, which is primed to be the best in years. The grape harvest, “has winemakers very excited about the quality of the wines, especially the reds, which have developed exceptionally well due to the high number of degree days of heat that have accumulated throughout the summer,” Donald Ziraldo, chairman, Vineland Research and Innovation Centre and proprietor of Ziraldo Estate Winery told Foodservice and Hospitality magazine during last week’s Distinguished Restaurants of North America conference. “The whites are showing strong aromatics while the reds have a full ripeness.”

What’s more, according to Ziraldo, the grape harvest is weeks early due to the ideal growing conditions of the summer, which led to the fruit ripening very well. “The current weather conditions of warm days and cool nights create the ideal conditions for a quality vintage through the harvest season,” Ziraldo said. He pointed out that the Pinot Noir is coming in with very high sugars, and if the good weather continues it will bode well for the later ripening varieties as well.

Other winemakers are equally excited about the 2010 harvest. “[We should] see some of the finest wines in many years. The number of degree growing days is very high — as good or better than 2007 — and we’re very optimistic about the whites as well,” said Bruce Nicholson, winemaker, Inniskillin Wines. “[It’s] an exceptional vintage, an early harvest with great fruit flavours [and] magical depth,” added Charles Pillitteri, Pillitteri Winery.

Matthias Oppenlaender, grower and vice-chair, Grape Growers Ontario, echoed everyone else’s sentiments. “[2010] is shaping up to be excellent in quality, while yields are lower. [It’s the] best vintage in reds for a long time.” Yields are expected to be down 10 to 20 per cent because of a relatively long dry spell in August, but as the grapes shrivelled, the flavour was concentrated in the remaining juices, adding quality to the resulting wine vintage.

Maple Leaf Takes LEED
Maple Leaf Foods Inc.’s Corporate West offices and ThinkFOOD! Centre in Mississauga, Ont., has been given the green seal of approval with news that it’s been awarded the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Core and Shell (CS) Gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. “We have a strong commitment to environmental responsibility across all our operations and activities, and this project reinforces that commitment,” says Anne Tennier, vice-president, Environmental Affairs, Maple Leaf Foods, of the certification for the rating system awarded to companies with buildings that tout sustainable design. The 152,000-square-foot building, located at 6897 Financial Dr., was designed specifically for Maple Leaf Foods and incorporates many sustainable features, including a Thermoplastic Olefin white roof to reduce the heat island effect; low-flow fixtures with greater than 40 per cent water savings; and advanced HVAC systems with heat recovery and high-efficiency boilers.

Birk’s Flagship Store Launches Café
Cut, clarity and colour are descriptors germane to many diamond transactions, but at the newly renovated Birks Montreal flagship store, customers could just as easily be discussing the cut of their meat, the clarity of their Pinot Noir and the colour of their vibrant fall soup. According to a company press release, Birks Café par Europea, another establishment by chef Jérôme Ferrer of Montreal’s Europea and Beaver Hall, has just opened at the downtown Birks location at the corner of Ste-Catherine and Phillips Square. Inspired by the art de vivre theme, the new restaurant offers a lunch menu that focuses on simplicity. The dishes, developed in collaboration with Dr. Isabelle Huot, renowned nutritionist, are high in nutritional value yet also incorporate haute cuisine. The Café offers beverages and decadent desserts, on site or to-go. “Through Birks Café par Europea, we want to offer Montreal a delicious destination, lodged in a splendid decor. Paris is home to Ladurée while London hosts the sumptuous Harrods — these were the inspiration behind our concept,” says Ferrer. Open seven days a week, the new boîte follows regular store hours.

Metro Announces Sustainability Commitment
Grocery operators continue to provide competition to restaurant operators with increasingly high-end prepared meals, and now the Metro chain is introducing a new sustainable fisheries policy. “Metro’s sustainable fisheries policy is an important milestone in its history. This initiative is proof that we want to go beyond the simple role of distributor and become a player in sustainable development,” says Robert Sawyer, executive vice-president and COO of the grocery chain. Seven threatened species of seafood products — Atlantic cod (West), bluefin tuna, orange roughy, Chilean seabass, New Zealand hoki, skate and shark — have already been withdrawn from Metro stores. The new policy ensures the following: procurement will be limited to fishing areas and species whose renewal is ensured; fisheries and aquafarms supplying Metro will be required to prove they use sustainable fishing methods; the supply chain process will be documented to allow for informative and transparent labelling; and Metro’s decisions will take into account local economic issues. The changes will take place gradually across Metro supermarkets and discount markets in Ontario and Quebec, with total implementation earmarked for June 2011. For more information and Metro’s complete sustainable fisheries policy, click here.

East Side Mario’s Thinks Pink
East Side Mario’s is ramping up its role as official restaurant sponsor of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation’s (CBCF) CIBC Run for the Cure. With the annual CIBC Run for the Cure fast approaching, East Side Mario’s has launched “great deals on great meals for a great cause.” The casual Italian eatery is mailing coupon booklets, containing four $30 coupons, to 1.3 million Canadian homes. For each coupon redeemed, East Side Mario’s will donate $1 to CIBC Run for the Cure to a maximum of $1,000 per store — which will amount to almost $100,000 in donations for the CBCF. “When we announced East Side Mario’s had become a national sponsor of the CBCF in May we knew we wanted to go much further,” said John Verdon, the vice-president of Marketing for the chain. But, the support doesn’t end with the coupon booklets, stores will also be offering diners the chance to participate in fundraising initiatives in a variety of ways, including posting pink tomatoes on their walls to mark individual donations, hosting pink drink nights, selling pink cupcakes and running car washes. East Side Mario’s team members from 67 different locations will be participating in the event itself, which takes place Sunday, Oct. 3.

Royal Winter Fair to Feature Chef Competition
Cuisine Canada’s first annual “Canada Can Cook!” (CCC!) student chef competition will be held at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair from Nov. 5 to 7. The emerging student chefs will compete for the honour of being named Canada’s “Best New Chef” on the Home and Entertainment Stage in front of the thousands of the annual fair’s attendees. CCC! is sponsored by the Agricultural Adaptation Council, Canola Info, Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, Chicken Farmers of Canada, Pork Marketing Canada, Beef Information Centre, Niagara College Teaching Winery, The Fairmont Royal York, Niagara College, Borealis Grille & Bar, George Brown Chef School, Georgian College, Liaison College, Rootham Gourmet Preserves, Harbinger Communications, Stratford Chefs School and Ontario Farm Fresh Marketing Association. For more information, you can find CCC! on Twitter and Facebook.

DiRōNa’s Toronto Conference a Culinary and Educational Success
The Distinguished Restaurants of North America’s (DiRōNa) 20th anniversary reunion, held last week (Sept. 19 to 22 ) at Toronto’s Fairmont Royal York, featured highlight after highlight of culinary and beverage achievement. It began with gourmet samplings of Canadian cuisine at the CN Tower’s 360 Restaurant, continued with a visit to Niagara Falls and was followed by a stunning lunch and Holt Renfrew fashion show at Ruth’s Chris. Next on the agenda was a spectacular gala dinner executed by chef and proprietor, Pino Posteraro of Vancouver’s Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill & Enoteca, which incorporated 10 kilos of Italian truffles (valued at $70,000) and was followed, the next day, by a Japanese lunch created on the philosophy of Oh-Kyaku-San (guest and customer are one). Another highlight was a memorable Kaiseki Dinner created by Iron Chef Japan 2002 Kimo Nonaga, Hihonbaschi-Yukari, Tokyo, and supported by chef Ryo Ozawa and his staff from EDO restaurant, Toronto. Japanese celebrity chef Hidekazu Tojo, past chef to the Emperor and Empress of Japan and chef/owner of Tojo’s Rastaurant, Vancouver, was unable to participate due to a sudden illness.

In between the aforementioned events, the DiRōNa conference featured a range of intense workshops, seminars and presentations, including a dramatic carving demonstration of a 60-kilo fresh Blue Fin tuna by chef Kimio Nonaga. Two workshops presented by Humber College (Alister Mathieson, dean, School of Hospitality, Recreation and Tourism) held the rapt attention of delegates. Emerging Trends in Canadian Cuisine was one workshop, led by Humber professors and chefs Rudi Fischbacher and James Bodanis. It highlighted new equipment and technology changing the kitchen; the other workshop was a demonstration and tasting about cooking sous-vide. According to the speakers, the equipment trends changing the industry, include Pacojet, technology used for production of savoury and sweets; GastroVac, which works like a crock pot, vacuum pump and heating plate in one; anti-griddle, inspired by chef Achatz at Alinea in Chicago, which quickly freezes sauces and purées into solid or semi-frozen consistency at -30F (-34C); and induction stoves (magnetic resonance cooking), which are used in a number of Canada’s leading restaurants, including Toronto’s CN Tower, Auberge du Pommier, Canoe and Granite Club.

CRFA’s Garth Whyte Speaks on Industry Branding
Garth Whyte, president of the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association (CRFA), was a keynote speaker at the Distinguished Restaurants of North America (DiRoNa) 20th anniversary held last week (Sept. 20) at the Fairmont Royal York, Toronto. Entitled, The Importance of Restaurants in Every Community in North America, his talk highlighted the Canadian restaurant scene and the CRFA objectives. He stated that “to create a positive image of restaurants in Canada, we have to have a united voice to gain politicians, and other’s trust.” He added, “This [positive image] is too important to have it limited by a split voice.” To this end, he described the CRFA’s current strategies as being focused on providing information; building business confidence; and “branding” the importance of the industry as a wealth creator. He cited CRFA’s recent Chef’s Survey and the decision to create CRFA’s own magazine. On the topic of business confidence, he discussed CRFA’s role in tackling credit-card fees and the B.C. HST controversy. On branding, he cited his visits with provincial premiers “to change the image of our industry.”

DiRōNa Tours Niagara Food and Wine Country
Enjoying ideal fall weather, the Distinguished Restaurants of North America (DiRōNa) conference shifted focus to a wine and cuisine bus tour of Niagara Falls on Sept. 20, highlighted by a spectacular lunch under a massive white tent at the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre (VRIC), hosted by its chairman Donald Ziraldo, who’s also president of Ziraldo Wines. In an impressive industry collaboration, 15 restaurants wineries and organizations manned service stations offering a variety of local foods, wines and cheeses. Participating restaurants included Fallsview Casino’s 17 Noir; Queen’s Landing Hotel; Treadwell Farm to Table Cuisine; and Vineland Estates restaurant. Food presentations were also provided by Niagara College, Pinque Prosciutto and the Dairy Farmers of Canada. Participating wineries featured were: Foreign Affair Wine; Henry of Pelham Family Estates; Inniskillin, Megalomaniac; Stratus Wines; and Vineland Estates Winery. Linens were supplied by Riegel Mount Vernon Mills.

In conjunction with the DiRōNa luncheon held last week at Vineland Research and Innovation Centre (VRIC), Donald Ziraldo, chairman of VRIC and co-founder of Inniskillin Wines, described the rapid advances being made at the Centre. He explained that VRIC, in partnership with the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association (CNLA), will be leading the way in developing new plant varieties for industry. CNLA has acquired the rights to a range of genetics from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s (AAFC) ornamental breeding programs at Morden Research Station in Manitoba and the Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu Research Station in Quebec. Many new plant varieties were developed with these programs, including the internationally recognized Explorer and Parkland series of Prairie hardy roses.

Pilot Green Suites Program a Success in Windsor, Ont.
The Ontario Restaurant Hotel & Motel Association (ORHMA) and EnWin Utilities, Windsor, Ont., in partnership with environmental promotion leaders, Summerhill, Toronto, successfully completed its pilot Green Suites program. “The program was a success and exceeded its target for kilowatt reductions,” said Fatima Finnegan, ORHMA’s director of Corporate Marketing & Development. Green Suites paid up to $250 per kilowatt saved for hotels that switched old equipment to new energy-efficient models. Four local hotels applied for the program, and through mostly lighting upgrades, achieved a combined 219kW reduction, which amounted to more than $17,400 in incentives, Finnegan added. Moreover, “the greatest value to these hotels/motels will be the year-over-year savings through lower energy and maintenance costs.”

Hotwire Releases Rate Report
Hotwire.com, a discount travel website, recently shared the results of its September 2010 Canadian Hotel Rate Report, featuring Canadian cities that have seen the largest drop in rates. According to the company, Calgary tops this month’s report with a 14 per cent drop, while other popular leisure destinations complete the list, including Halifax, Vancouver and Victoria. When compared to the same time last year, the top five hotel price reductions for September 2010 include: Calgary, Alta., down 14 per cent; Kitchener Ont., down 13 per cent; Halifax, down 11 per cent; Vancouver, down eight per cent and Victoria B.C., down one per cent. “It’s interesting to see how summer performance influences fall pricing,” says Clem Bason, president of the Hotwire Group. “In this case, the end result is a great opportunity for consumers to take an affordable getaway in Canada. The weather is still good and you can get in before the winter sports enthusiasts fill some of these cities and drive prices up.”

 

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