Tag Archives: Lobster

Celebrating Canadian Food: Chef Michael Smith, Prince Edward Island

30 Jul

chef michael smith prince edward island

Happy Food Day, Canada! While it makes sense to celebrate Canada’s food bounty 365 days a year, it’s a great idea to set aside one day where people across the country can come together to shine the spotlight on Canadian produce, meat, fish and dairy products.

For the past couple of weeks, we’ve been running interviews with some of the chefs whose restaurants are marking Food Day Canada by offering special menus centred around local food products. In today’s final installment, we have a few words from chef Michael Smith. While chef Smith is best known to Canadians as a popular Food Network personality, he’s also been a longtime advocate for Canadian cuisine. He was named official Food Ambassador in his home province of Prince Edward Island in 2009, and in January 2011, launched a web series called Food Country to showcase PEI food and the people who help produce it. Chef Smith is also one of the food personalities on the judging panel for the various awards that will be handed out as part of Food Day Canada 2011.

Enjoy the interview, and have fun celebrating Food Day!

What do you love about cooking in Prince Edward Island?

Prince Edward Island is a giant green farm floating in the bounty of the deep blue sea, surrounded by sandy white beaches and full of the ingredients, chefs and culinary artisans that make us one of the worlds great culinary tourism destinations. We are an island of food stories that you will share for a lifetime!

PEI has really been focusing on the promotion of its food production and culinary talent in the two years since you were named the province’s Food Ambassador. What does it mean for you to be part of this initiative, and what do you think it means for PEI to have you involved?

I learned how to be a chef in PEI. I learned how powerful it is to make local food connections, to make your cooking personal. Being Food Ambassador is my chance to give back to an island that has given me so much.

How have local factors such as geography, economics and demographics influenced your cooking style?

All over the world we cook with what’s in our back yard. This is what defines cuisine, when food tastes of time and place.

How has the local food scene on the Island evolved over the years?

PEI’s food scene has grown dramatically over the last 20 years, well past potatoes and lobsters. We have cutting-edge aquaculture, farmers markets around every turn, innovative crops, culinary artisans and organic market gardens sprouting everywhere. Our chefs have kept pace and we’re blessed with a thriving local food and restaurant culture.

What are your thoughts on the idea that there is a “Canadian cuisine”?

Canada is a giant land mass and we welcome customs from all over the world, thus we have many regional and ethnic threads woven into our giant tapestry of national cuisine.

How will you be celebrating Food Day?

I’ll celebrate Food Day with a chefs reunion at The Inn at Bay Fortune. Every year, many of the chefs that have cooked at the Inn return for one great big celebration meal!

Summer School In Session at the Drake Hotel

24 Jun

Drake Hotel Hot Dog

Jenny and I make no secret of the fact we love Toronto’s Drake Hotel. It’s a great place to see a band, or meet friends for a couple of drinks, or go for a great brunch (I could eat their southern-fried chicken and waffles every day if not for the fact it would probably eventually stop my heart), or for dinner. Aside from the talented staff behind the bar and in the kitchen, the Drake has a vibe that just makes it a special place.

We’ve always loved the look and feel of their dining room. So it came as a surprise a couple months ago when they announced they were going to rip out the current dining room and start from scratch. The trigger for this drastic change was the Drake Hotel’s Dining Road Show, a series of here-and-then-gone concepts that are scheduled to be introduced throughout the rest of 2011.

I was lucky to get an invite to a preview dinner this week, where the Drake unveiled its first stop on the Dining Road Show: Summer School Dining Hall. The concept, which in true summer school fashion will run from now until September, saw the dining room completely transformed. Tables are made from old bowling alley lanes, walls are lined with old bookshelves, school photos, trophies and other academia memorabilia. I was too busy focusing on the food (and having camera issues), so I didn’t get any good interior shots, but check out this review for a look at the new digs.

Both the food and drink menus have been revamped as well. Chef Anthony Rose designed the new food offerings to remind diners of some of the food they may have eaten in the school cafeteria, but he’s presenting the dishes in the “grown-up comfort food” style he’s mastered over the years. We were served a rather shocking amount of food (I’ve actually left photos of a few dishes we tasted out of this post), and there were some definite must-order items: the rather-phallic-yet-delicious veal footlong dog pictured above; a lobster roll full of big chunks of lobster meat and substantial enough to share between two or more people; meaty dungeness crab cakes that are big on flavour and low on filler; and an insanely good 32-oz cowboy steak from Cumbrae’s that’s meant for two but easily able to feed at least double that.

Drake Hotel Lobster Roll
Chef Anthony Rose’s 1 lb. lobster roll. Awesome, if maybe a bit heavy on the mayo.
Drake Hotel Crab Cakes
Drake’s crab cakes, full of dungeness crab meat. Yum.
Drake Hotel Cowboy Steak
One piece of the massive 32-oz Cumbrae’s cowboy steak being served at the Drake Hotel’s Summer School Dining Hall. Check out that line of delicious, delicious fat. To paraphrase one famous cowboy, I wish I knew how to quit you, awesome steak.

The Drake’s talented mixology team has introduced a number of new drinks to fit the Summer School theme, from spiked juice boxes to something called The Nurse’s Office, a combination of Famous Grouse, Laphroaig and ginger honey syrup that blew my socks off and made me reconsider my “good scotch doesn’t belong in a cocktail” pretense.

Nurse's Office
This is one Nurse’s Office I’d like to visit on a regular basis.

Once September hits and the kids go back to real school, the Drake’s grown-up summer school session ends and the Dining Road Show’s next stop – Chinatown, 1940s L.A. style – moves in. Until then, check out the great grub being served in their Summer School Dining Hall. 

Tomato Alphabet soup
Tomato alphabet soup. No amount of letters could fix my hatred of tomato soup as a kid, but this one (served tableside out of an old-school thermos) may have changed my mind.

 

Drake Hotel Flaky
Nothing beats a real Vachon Passion Flaky, but chef Rose’s take is a good way to end a meal in the Summer School Dining Hall.
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