What came next was our invitation to serve re-imagined takes on the recipes Jenn and I submitted to Praxis Public Relations and Matchstick Inc. as part of their Courvoisier Collective Culinary Masterpieces Program. Two of three chosen finalists, we would serve our dishes to hundreds of actual people in Toronto.
This summer, while Jenn and I were planning our wedding, I needed an escape, so I developed a recipe based on a predicament I found myself in after the most recent Celebrity Chefs of Canada (CCOC) event, which was hosted by Executive Chef Michael Blackie at the National Arts Centre. You see, all attendees of the annual event receive a booklet of recipes, essentially paired down versions of techniques and product lists the chefs used to prepare their event plates.
When I went to attempt Chefs Jason Duffy’s and Jason Bangerter’s plate, “Braised Elk Ribs with Creamy Polenta and Tasty Crispy Bits,” I discovered they had cleaned out the city’s stock of elk side ribs. Duffy is the executive chef behind The Lounge at Ottawa’s Arc the Hotel (140 Slater Street). Bangerter is the chef behind Toronto’s Oliver and Bonacini’s Canteen and Luma restaurants. Both Canteen and Luma are situated at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) Bell Lightbox (330 King Street W.) in the entertainment district.
Only able to source beef side ribs, I had to find a way to augment their flavour, compensating for the lack of elk “gaminess.” So, I reached for the miso and some maple syrup. I added cognac to the cure as an after thought. A cognac-infused “pan” sauce followed.
During a grocery run, Jenn remarked to me, “Hey! What was the liqueur you brought home to cook with?”
“It’s got fruity notes, right? Floral? Citrus?” she asked, picking up a tray of cross-cut beef short ribs from the meat display.
“I’m going to kick your *$$ with something Korean-inspired!”
In the end, neither one of us won. For the home-cook stream of the program, Steve Cylka’s dish of grilled duck breast with duxelle ravioli was chosen by a team of chef judges: Chef JP Challet of ICI Bistro, Chef Ben Heaton of The Grove, and Chef Michael Kirkwood of TURF Lounge. Cylka is a fellow food blogger. He blogs for The Black Peppercorn.
For the culinary student stream, judges chose Doug Burke’s dish of lobster corn chowder, he recently finishing the culinary program at Conestoga College. His fellow Conestoga classmate Holly Bruce competed with a marinated duck breast. Erica Guidi of Niagara College competed with a glazed pork chop with “forest mushroom quinoa.”
It was an experience Jenn and I could not have dreamed of. Originally fearing of poor turnout, we pooled our allotted guest list spots and called upon Toronto friends to join us. They were strictly instructed to pretend to enjoy our contest entries.
foodiePrints’ Toronto correspondent Abby Li (@AbbyLi_36) worked tirelessly with the caterer, Daniel et Daniel, whose staff prepared all the competition dishes for the event. She critiqued flavours and textures, making sure the reference dishes tasted as our recipes meant them to. She attended the event to check out the competition as well.
Ottawa expat and dear friend Bonita Mok (@boneats) of Bon Eats dropped by to visit and catch up. We finally met Stella Yu (@foodieyu) of Food Junkie Chronicles. We met the man himself, Suresh Doss (@spotlightcity); he who spearheaded Toronto’s street food revolution. Doss owns and publishes Spotlight Toronto.
We would learn invitees to the evening at Maison Mercer (15 Mercer Street, Toronto) were mostly media, both traditional and new media.
With some trepidation, I watched as Mary Luz Mejia (@MaryLuzOnFood) and her husband walked into the room. Mejia is quite the accomplished food writer (Toronto Life, City Bites, Toronto Star) and food TV producer and director.
Thankfully, I was sequestered in the corner of the dance club that was the venue, fittingly below one of the two Twitter walls. However, my station was very busy. People came back for seconds and thirds. My dish was first, and one of the few, to run out of the prepared 200 portions.
Said Nicki of View the Vibe,
Don Chow’s red miso beef ribs were outstanding with deliciously strong flavours. Felt like he deliberately combined a French inspired cognac sauce with the Asian beef ribs and it just worked.
Jenn’s station, which was located with the chef judges’ stations, likewise saw heavy traffic. She noted one person came back 5-times.
Exhausted after the evening, our friends ushered us out to Luma for drinks and desserts. Chef Bangerter generously treated us to some bubbly.
Thank-you to Courvoisier, Praxis, Matchstick, and Daniel et Daniel for quite the event.
Praxis and Matchstick wanted to encourage culinary creativity with Courvoisier cognac. Though there was much duck, given the variety of dishes served, both sweet and savoury, I think the program was a delicious success.
And, thanks to Meija’s suggestion, I know how to better my dish: serve it on top of freshly-made pappardelle.
Tags: beef short rib, Celebrity Chefs of Canada 2012, cognac, Courvoisier Collective, featured, ribs