Thursday, April 28, 2016

Piano Piano

Splendido, my favourite fine-dining restaurant in Toronto, had its last service on New Year's Eve last year. Almost five months have passed and I can't say I'm over the loss; after all, the acclaimed restaurant proudly holds the title of "The Most Blogged About Restaurant" here on Food Junkie Chronicles. Ahhhhh, damn it. I miss Splendido. I miss their tasting menus dearly *sigh*. I guess the saying is true, "All good things must come to an end". But must it? Must it, really?

In March, chef and owner Victor Barry re-opened 88 Harbord as Piano Piano the Restaurant (Instagram: @pianopianotherestaurant, Facebook: PIANO PIANO the Restaurant). Talk about a quick transformation. To start, the Italian trattoria is now pink and sports a bright and colourful mural. You can't miss it!

In order to achieve a work/life balance, chef Barry's Piano Piano serves simple and delicious Italian food rather than the elaborate, fussy tasting menus that Splendido was famous for. Barry's goal is to have a casual restaurant where he doesn't have to be on the line every single day. He wants a place where he can bring his two young daughters, ages one and two, and welcome other families to dine.

The newly renovated space is decorated with vases of fresh flowers, floral designs, brass fixtures, cushioned banquettes, as well as original artwork from Barry’s eldest daughter, Charlotte.

 I fully expected the white tablecloths to be gone, naturally, as well as the plush, leatherback chairs, but the most dramatic change would have to be the open kitchen (note the large wood fired pizza oven in the back corner, which I was told was made with an insane amount of of bricks, steel and cement)! I wish Splendido had these front row seats! OMG, I must move onnn...

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Grate Canadian Cheese Cook-Off: Chef Alexandra Feswick's Nutty Home-Style Mac & Cheese

Organized by Dairy Farmers of Canada, the 2016 edition of the Grate Canadian Cheese Cook-Off (#CDNCheeseCookOff) took place at the Toronto Food & Drink Market on April 8th. Four of Canada’s top chefs from coast to coast took the stage in an attempt to create the ultimate gourmet mac & cheese. The competitors included Andrew Farrell, Chef de Cuisine at 2 Doors Down Food + Wine in Halifax; Alexandra Feswick, Chef de Cuisine at The Drake Hotel in Toronto; Nicole Gomes, Executive Chef at Nicole Gourmet in Calgary; and Thompson Tran, Chef and Owner at The Wooden Boat, Port Moody.

Photo: Dairy Farmers of Canada

Chef Feswick's "Nutty Home-Style Mac & Cheese" emerged victorious in the culinary comfort food battle. Feswick's winning recipe combines the distinctive nostalgia of home-styled comfort classics such as Cheddar, sage and mushrooms, with flavours of hazelnuts, Blue cheese and Jerusalem artichokes. Check out a quick two-minute recap of the Grate Canadian Cheese Cook-Off here:

Thanks to Dairy Farmers of Canada, I was sent all the goodies needed to make chef Feswick's winning Nutty Home-Style Mac & Cheese. This is incredibly exciting because it has been a very long time since I've made, and enjoyed, a delicious gourmet mac & cheese.

Rich and cheesy with a light, crunchy topping, this Nutty Home-Style Mac & Cheese is what dreams are made of. The medley of Canadian cheeses - 7-year-old Cheddar, Niagara Gold, Blue d'Elizabeth and Alpindon - with the mushroom & artichoke infused sauce lend a depth of flavour and creaminess unlike any other mac & cheese I've ever had. Baked in a glass dish until golden-topped and bubbly, the finishing touch of breadcrumbs and toasted hazelnuts brings a delightful crunch to this guaranteed crowd pleaser. The Nutty Home-Style Mac & Cheese is certainly not the quickest nor easiest mac & cheese recipe out there, but trust me, the time and effort is well worth it!

NUTTY HOME-STYLE MAC & CHEESE - By Chef Alexandra Feswick

Photo: Dairy Farmers of Canada