Tag Archives: giveaway

S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition: A Showcase of Culinary Promise

20 Feb

S. Pellegrino almost famous chef competition

For the past couple of years, we’ve been lucky enough to attend the Canadian regional portion of the annual S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition. The competition brings young culinary students from around North America together to compete and showcase their skills as the next generation of great restaurant chefs.

This year’s Canada regional competition is taking place next Monday in Toronto. I had the chance to chat with Timothy Van Ryzewyk, a culinary student representing Toronto’s Humber College in the competition, about what drives him to create great food. You can read his thoughts below.

But first, an exciting contest: We have a $150 gift certificate, good for dinner for two at Mark McEwan’s Fabbrica restaurant in Toronto, courtesy of S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition. I recently had the chance to eat at Fabbrica and chat with Mark McEwan, and I can vouch for the food.

To win, leave a comment below telling us what your most memorable restaurant meal was in the past year. We’ll draw a lucky winner from all comments left here by 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, February 23.

UPDATE: Congratulations to Victoria, who was randomly chosen as our winner with the help of Random.org!

 

S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef

What drew you into cooking?
I have always been passionate about cooking; my mother still brings up photos of me as a child helping in the kitchen. Everyone has to eat, so my goal is to give them a dish that they want to keep eating over and over again. I love the kitchen atmosphere – whether it be the long hours, hard work and dedication everyday or the occasional stressful day, it all comes with the job and I just couldn’t see myself behind a desk.

Who is your biggest culinary influence?
From the industry standpoint I would say Chef Susur Lee is my influence. His extremely hard work throughout his career got him to the point he is at today. From a food standpoint my biggest influence is my Mom. If it were not for her allowing me to be a part of cooking family dinners and holiday meals, I never would have discovered my calling.

How would you describe your preferred cooking style?
I enjoy the fusion style of cooking because you can take bits and parts of different styles you have learned and bring them all together to make a very ”out of the box dish” using very different cooking techniques. Introducing and discovering new food combinations and preparation techniques is definitely something that really appeals to me.

How are you preparing for the S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition?
I have been practising my signature dish at Humber College and at home at least twice a week. When I sleep, I dream of my dish so that on the day of the competition, I can close my eyes and produce my dish.

You write comedy in addition to training as a chef. How do you think your creative and humourous side helps in the kitchen?
The comedy I write is based upon sketches. I am currently working with a few friends on writing and acting in a sketch comedy show that we plan to have ready to send out by the end of the year.

Comedy writing is a great utensil in the culinary world because there will always be moments when you’re in the heat of things and someone loses their cool. Being able to defuse that tension can really save the day during a busy service – especially in my case, where I am currently the head expeditor at Lee Restaurant.

Having a constant creative outlook makes it very fun creating menus for school projects or for a competition. You don’t limit yourself; at the same time you’re being logical with the food choices you make.

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Eating Raw with Doug McNish + a Giveaway!

22 Apr

Parsnip carrot pesto fettucine

Several factors have prompted me to reconsider how I eat over the past couple of years. The first thing is simple enough: I’m getting older, and if I’m going to continue to eat bacon and foie gras from time to time, I know I need to focus on lighter and healthier meals when I’m not consuming rich foods. Also, I’ve slowly but surely gotten onboard with Jenny’s fascination with vegetarian cooking. And with my sister-in-law embarking on a career as a holistic nutritionist, I’m getting healthy eating info from yet another source.

So when I was sent a copy of Toronto chef Doug McNish’s first cookbook, Eat Raw, Eat Well, my curiosity was piqued. While I can probably count on one hand the number of raw food dishes that I’ve eaten, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the flavours in most of them (If you haven’t had the jicama fries from Belmonte Raw, for example, you’re missing out.)

Raw food, in a nutshell, is vegan in most cases, and focuses on maintaining as many of the nutrients as possible in the ingredients used. That means that most of the dishes are prepared without heat, and those that do use heat are not heated beyond roughly 105 degrees. Given those parameters, someone who has never eaten raw might be excused for thinking that raw food must be boring and limited in flavour. But as I pointed out above, that doesn’t have to be the case, and the 400 recipes in Doug McNish’s book prove that. There is a wide variety of recipes for smoothies, breakfast foods, soups, mains and desserts that incorporate vegetables, herbs, fruit, grains, legumes and nuts to create flavourful and multi-textured meals.

But there are clearly some limitations for those not fully invested in the raw food lifestyle. First, the heated dishes sound interesting, but require a food dehydrator (something my cramped kitchen isn’t equipped with). I can get my oven down as low as 170 F, but only a dehydrator can cook at a controlled 105 degrees, the temperature called for in most of these recipes.

The book also doesn’t include cooking times. The recipe we tried, below, was prep-heavy. And while the 25 minutes or so that I spent preparing “noodles” with a veggie peeler was fairly low-stress work, I’m not sure I would have felt the same way on a Tuesday evening as I did on a Sunday afternoon. With cooking times listed, it would be easier to gauge which recipes one should attempt with the time they have available.

Finally, there’s no nutritional value listed for the recipes in Eat Raw, Eat Well. We were concerned with the amount of protein in the dish we prepared, so we ate it alongside salmon.

That said, this book is definitely staying in my kitchen. I can see myself working more raw meals into my diet, and I do think that a lot of the recipes here would also make for amazing side dishes next to fish or egg dishes.

Want to win a copy of Eat Raw, Eat Well? We have one copy to give away to a reader of Communal Table. Just leave a comment below, letting us know why you want to win this book. We’ll pick a winner from all comments left by next Saturday, April 28, and post the winner’s name here as well as letting them know via email. Good luck!

UPDATE 4/30: Congrats to “Onadistantshore,” who won our draw for a copy of Eat Raw, Eat Well. Enjoy the book!

Carrot parsnip fettucine McNish raw

Doug McNish’s Pesto-Coated Carrot and Parsnip Fettuccine (Makes 2 servings)

When Jenny and I made this, we decided to use just two garlic cloves instead of the three called for below, and in hindsight I think I’d use a bit less hemp seed oil than called for (maybe 2/3 of a cup). But we loved the fresh, vibrant flavour of the dish, and we’ll definitely make it again.

3 large carrots, peeled
3 large parsnips, peeled
1 tbsp (15ml) tbsp cold-pressed (extra virgin) olive oil
1⁄4 cup (60 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
1 1⁄2 tbsp (22 ml) fine sea salt, divided
3⁄4 cup (175 ml) cold-pressed hemp oil
1⁄2 cup (125 ml) raw shelled hemp seeds
3 cloves garlic
3 cups (750 ml) chopped fresh cilantro leaves

1. Using a vegetable peeler, peel carrots and parsnips into long, thin strips, dropping into a bowl as completed. Add olive oil, 1 tsp (5 ml) lemon juice and 1⁄4 tsp (1 ml) salt and toss until vegetables are well coated. Set aside for 10 minutes, until softened.

2. In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, process hemp oil and seeds, garlic and remaining lemon juice and salt, until somewhat smooth but the hemp seeds retain some texture. Add cilantro and process until chopped and blended, stopping the motor once to scrape down the sides of the work bowl. Add pesto to fettuccine, toss well and serve.

Excerpted from Eat Raw, Eat Well by Douglas McNish © 2012 www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

Holiday Giveaway #3: Win a Subscription to Style at Home Magazine

14 Dec

Style at Home

Though Communal Table is primarily a food-focused blog, Neil and I also want to share some of our other passions; the kinds of things we like to discuss over a good meal.

One of those ‘other’ passions for me is design.

I kind of fell into working in design television several years ago and it pulled me in. Though I like to dabble in different genres where work is concerned, in life I’ve become a bit of a design junkie.

I’ve got my favorite design blogs that I check daily (Design Sponge and Making it Lovely are two of them, but the list is long), but what gets me really excited is coming home to find my mailbox spilling open with the gift of a great magazine inside.

Neil and I both have a thing for magazines. Neil is a magazine editor, so he truly understands the value of the printed page. And for me, there’s just something about leafing through those glossy pages, feeling the smooth paper between my fingers and admiring the beautiful things inside. Cozying up with a new issue of a great magazine and reading it cover to cover is one of my guilty pleasures and it really does make me happy.

So, in the spirit of opening up the blog to more of the things in life that we adore, we’re giving away what I consider to be the perfect holiday gift (one that keeps on giving!); a year-long subscription to Canada’s own Style at Home Magazine.

Neil got me a subscription last year and every month I’m still excited when a new issue reaches my door. I’ve given magazine subscriptions as gifts to friends as well, and it makes me happy to know that they’ll have something wonderful to enjoy all year long, and will think of me when each new issue arrives.

Style at Home is a beautiful magazine that’s not only filled with amazing design ideas, but great recipes too. Neil has been known to read over my shoulder from time to time.

I’ve had the great pleasure of working with the magazine’s Editor-in-Chief, Erin McLaughlin and Contributing Design Editor (and HGTV celeb) Samantha Pynn, and I can tell you for certain that these women live and breathe design and truly have a passion for sharing the latest and greatest in style.

To enter for the chance to win a subscription:

  1. Leave a comment below telling us what magazines you love to read and why.
  2. You’ll also get a bonus entry if you tweet this phrase: I entered to win a subscription to @StyleAtHome mag from #CommunalTable. Enter here: http://wp.me/pJ0ov-eC

That’s it! The winner can keep the subscription for themselves or give it as a gift to someone else.

You have until next Monday evening, December 20, to enter. We’ll draw a name from all entries and we’ll announce the winner here next Tuesday morning.

This time around, our friends at Style at Home have allowed us to open the contest up to both our Canadian and American readers, though American entries will be eligible for a digital subscription, whereas Canadian entries will be eligible for delivery of a print subscription.

Also, don’t forget about Communal Table’s donation drive on behalf of the Daily Bread Food Bank. With the help of our readers, we’ve collected more than $1,100 to help feed people in need. But we’re not done yet! All donations made by midnight on Saturday, December 18 are eligible to win a $200 gift certificate to North 44 Restaurant in Toronto and a signed copy of chef Mark McEwan’s new cookbook, Good Food at Home. Click here for details on how you can donate and win with Communal Table.

Happy holidays everyone! We’ve got lots of exciting content planned for 2011, including some great stories about design of all kinds…

Holiday Giveaway #2: High-Quality Spanish Olive Oils

7 Dec

Jenny and I planned this holiday giveaway ‘extravaganza’ with two goals in mind. The first was to give a little something back to some of the people who’ve read our blog, followed us on our Facebook page, and just generally made us feel like they’re interested in what we’ve been writing (since blogging can be a pretty lonely activity when you don’t feel like anyone is reading). And the second goal was to give our readers a chance to share in some of our favorite things. As I mentioned last week, we chose to give away some PC Insider’s Report products because I have fond memories of growing up with them in my house during the holidays. And for giveaway #2, we’re offering readers the chance to win something our kitchen is never without: great-tasting, high-quality olive oils.

Jenny and I both love good olive oils. A good bottle of olive oil is like a good wine, with a flavour profile that can be spicy, or citrusy, or fruity. And like a good wine, different olive oils are suited to different foods; some taste great on salads, some are great drizzled on top of grilled meat or fish as a finishing flavour. Some, as we’ve talked about in previous posts, are even ideal to use as a main ingredient in sweet things, such as cakes or ice cream.

Our first-ever post on Communal Table was focused on olive oils, after we were invited to a fun and informative olive oil tasting event hosted by Dolores Smith at Olivar Corp. We loved meeting Dolores and taking in some of her vast olive oil knowledge, and really loved tasting the different Spanish olive oils that Olivar Corp. imports into Canada. So we were thrilled when Dolores agreed to donate a couple of amazing olive oil prize packs for our holiday giveaway.

Thanks to Dolores’ generosity, we have two prizes to give away this week, each consisting of two bottles of high-quality Spanish olive oils from Olivar Corp.

The first prize consists of a bottle each of:

  • Rincon de la Subbetica – an organic Spanish olive oil that is the world’s most-awarded olive oil, with over 70 honours since 2006. This was one of the olive oils I sampled during the olive oil tasting Dolores led earlier this year, and it ended up being my favorite, with an interesting flavour mix of green apple and peppery spice.
  • Dauro – a blend of olives including arbequina and hojiblanca from Spain, and koroneiki from Greece. This one has a delicate taste that is praised in Japanese kitchens for its ability to pair well with wasabi, and has been featured in Nobel Prize Award banquet dinners.

The second prize pack consists of a bottle each of:

  • Full Moon – produced in limited quantities, using only the best Spanish arbequina olives harvested very early, during the full moon. This creates an olive oil that is balanced and smooth, with both fruit and a hint of pepper in the taste.
  • Parqueoliva – another highly-awarded oil, with more than 40 recognitions. This is considered a sister olive oil to the Rincon, with a slightly more intense flavour profile that includes herbs and floral notes, with a slight peppery kick.

To win one of these great olive oil prize packs:

  1. First, click this link and “Like” us to join Communal Table’s Facebook Fan Page.
  2. Second, leave a comment on our Facebook Fan Page wall stating that you want to be entered into our Holiday Giveaway #2 and also telling us what your favorite use is for a great olive oil. Please note that you must complete BOTH of these steps to be entered. If you already Like us on Facebook, leave a comment on our Facebook Fan Page wall stating that you want to enter and tell us about your favorite use for great olive oil.

**While we welcome anyone who wants to join our Facebook Fan Page, this contest is restricted to Canadian entries only.

    You have until next Monday evening, December 13, to enter. We will draw two names from all entries and those lucky winners will each be sent one of our two prize packs.

    These are great bottles of olive oil, and we’re happy to be able to share them with you, whether you’re as passionate about olive oils as we are or are looking for an introduction into the world of high-quality olive oil.

    Also, don’t forget about Communal Table’s donation drive on behalf of the Daily Bread Food Bank… all donations made are eligible to win a $200 gift certificate to North 44 Restaurant in Toronto and a signed copy of chef Mark McEwan’s new cookbook, Good Food at Home. Click here for details on how you can donate and win with Communal Table.

    Holiday Giveaway #1: New PC Insider’s Report Products from Loblaws

    30 Nov

    One of the things I love most about the holidays is the excitement that builds in my mind around traditions. Over the years as my family circle evolved, our holiday traditions did too. My parents’ divorce, relatives passing away, my moving away from home and other events led to new ways of celebrating the holidays. But no matter what’s happened, some things that I’ve grown to look forward to at Christmas haven’t changed. My mom and relatives always put out far-too-indulgent feasts of delicious food, I always make sure to get in at least one viewing of A Christmas Story, and as far as I’m concerned, Christmas isn’t officially over until I get to hear The Pogues’ Fairytale of New York at least a dozen times.

    Another holiday tradition I’ve looked forward to for as long as I remember is the President’s Choice Insider’s Report. Since I was a kid, I’ve always loved reading through the pages of the Insider’s Report, with its descriptions of products reading more like stories than marketing copy. As a kid, I knew that the arrival of the Insider’s Report in the Saturday paper meant it was only a matter of time before delicious treats began making their way into our kitchen… PC Egg Nog, Chocolate Fudge Crackle Ice Cream, PC smoked salmon on Christmas morning.

    So it seems fitting that Communal Table’s first 2010 holiday giveaway is a selection of products from the latest edition of the PC Holiday Insider’s Report. We have a package of goodies that would go great with a morning of opening presents… or would make pretty good gifts themselves. Here’s what you can win:

    • A 1 lb. package of of new PC 100% single origin Hawaiian fine-grind coffee (Jenny and I are currently working our way through a package of this stuff; it’s medium bodied and flavourful – perfect for weekends!)
    • A 425 g jar of PC The World’s Best Jumbo Cashews
    • A box of the new PC Gourmet Belgian Chocolate Collection (30 chocolates in six flavours)
    • A box of the new PC Chocolate Fruit Fancies, which  are milk or dark chocolate ganache and fruit puree enrobed in Belgian chocolate

    This stuff all looks delicious, and to be honest I’d love to keep it and eat it all myself. But Jenny won’t let me, so we’re giving it all away to one lucky reader. All you have to do to enter this contest is this: Leave a comment below this post and let us know what your favorite holiday traditions are (Canadian entries only for this one). That’s it. We’ll pick a name at random from all comments left on this post by Monday, December 6, and announce the winner here next Tuesday, when we’ll also announce our next holiday giveaway prize (yep, we have more holiday surprises coming!)

    Also, don’t forget about Communal Table’s donation drive on behalf of the Daily Bread Food Bank… all donations made are eligible to win a $200 gift certificate to North 44 Restaurant in Toronto and a signed copy of chef Mark McEwan’s new cookbook, Good Food at Home.  Click here for details on how you can donate and win with Communal Table.

    Communal Table Gives Back – to the Daily Bread Food Bank and to Our Readers

    21 Nov

    Daily Bread Food Bank

    ‘Tis the season for giving, and for giving back, and Communal Table is getting into the spirit of the season with a little ‘giving back’ project of our own. Starting today, we’re going to be collecting donations for the Daily Bread Food Bank through our official Team Communal Table donation page.

    When we started this blog back in March 2010, we meant it as nothing more than a hobby – an outlet for our love of communicating, and of course, our love of food. Almost a year later, it’s still that, but it’s become so much more. Over the past several months, we’ve found our voice and told more stories about ourselves and our passion for cooking, and about people and places that we’ve developed a love for. And we’ve also found new ways to reach out, through our Facebook page and Twitter. More than that, we’ve been lucky enough to slowly gather a following of people who actually want to read what we post. It’s been a great first year, and we’re looking at new ways to build the site in 2011.

    But in the meantime, we want to use this platform and our modest but growing following to give something back, both to our readers and to our community. So, from now until December 18, we’re appealing to all of you who have enjoyed all our stories of food to help us feed those most in need through Daily Bread Food Bank, a network of food banks and other programs across Toronto. A recent report published by the Daily Bread Food Bank indicates that, over the past year, food banks experienced the largest increase in client visits since 1995. The Daily Bread Food Bank’s 174 member agencies saw 872,000 client visits this past year. The people who rely on the food banks are our neighbors, our co-workers and regular people that we interact with every day. Many people who regularly use the food bank are working people in our communities who can’t keep up with the growing costs of living. The median monthly household income of a Daily Bread Food Bank client is $980. Take a second and really think about that.

    It’s so easy not to think about these things as we go about our busy daily lives, and when you do stop to think about it, it can feel very overwhelming trying to figure out what you could possibly do to help. But here’s a chance to do something small that will definitely help people in need, right in our communities. At a time of year when most people are worried about what to buy for holiday gifts and what to cook for big family dinners, no one should have to worry about when they’re going to have their next meal or how they’re going to feed their kids.

    So, here’s our chance to make a difference. Click here to go to Team Communal Table’s donation page to contribute online to the Daily Bread Food Bank’s holiday fundraising drive. The site is set up to accept donations of $10 and above; all donations are tax deductible and all donors will receive a tax receipt from the Daily Bread Food Bank via email. Jenny and I have gotten things started, by making a donation toward our team goal of $500. Any help you can give us to reach that goal will be appreciated.

    To show our appreciation of our readers’ generosity, anyone who donates between now and December 18 will be entered into our awesome holiday draw. Celebrity chef Mark McEwan and his staff have generously donated a great culinary package including a $200 gift certificate to North 44 restaurant in Toronto, and a signed copy of Mark’s first cookbook, Great Food at Home. One of our lucky food-loving readers will get to experience culinary greatness at one of Toronto’s most renowned restaurants, and then test out  some recipes from the beautifully-illustrated book that Mark specifically developed for home cooks.

    Mark McEwan North 44 cookbook

    Mark McEwan cookbook signed

    To make a donation: Click here to go to our team page. Then, click on “Make a gift” on the righthand side next to the red progress meter. After you’ve selected your amount, you have the option to publicize your name or to donate anonymously. Either is fine with us. But here’s the really important part: in the “Personal Note” box, please include your full name and email address. This info will not be made public; it will be sent to us, which will allow us to enter you into our draw. We will randomly draw a name from our pool of donors and announce it here and on our Facebook Fan Page on Monday, December 20.

    We’re really excited about this chance to bring food lovers together to help feed those in need. Help us spread the word by sharing this post – tweet it, share it on Facebook, email your friends. The more people we can reach, the more we can raise for Daily Bread Food Bank.

    Happy holidays from Communal Table!

    And The VIP Tix Go To…

    9 Nov

    We want to thank everyone who entered the contest to win VIP tickets to The Toronto Gourmet Food & Wine Expo. (Don’t worry, if you got a bonus entry your name was entered twice)

    We wish we had tickets for all of you, but we just have the 3 pairs.

    All of the names (including bonus entries!) were entered into the pot.

    A little shake, shake, shake.

    And the rest was up to fate!

    And the winners are….

    Congratulations to Jonathan, Tracey and Carly! You’ll each be getting a pair of VIP tix. Enjoy!!

    Check back for more exciting contests in the next little while and thanks again for entering!

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