From French Bistro to Molecular Cuisine – October Cooking Classes & Workshops at Nella Cucina!

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Learn the art of French pastry and more at Nella Cucina!

From French bistro fare to molecular cuisine and gastronomy, the cooking classes at Nella Cucina on Bathurst St. in the Annex is anything but boring!  I’m so excited to finally feature their cooking classes and workshops on the Food Calendar and I’m even more excited about the prospect of attending one of these classes!  I’ve never actually signed up for a real cooking class before and with so many options in the city, it really wouldn’t be difficult at all to find something that strikes my fancy.

I thank my walking feet for this particular foodie discovery!  I found out about Nella Cucina and their classes simply just by walking.  I had made plans to meet a friend for weekend brunch around Queen St. and Spadina and had made the trek to Wychwood Barns for the Saturday morning farmers’ market earlier on.  After my market fun, I walked back to St. Clair, looked down the road at Bathurst and thought, “ah, what the heck?  Let’s walk the whole way down!”  And you wouldn’t believe all the nifty food discoveries I made just by walking that stretch of city!  Nella Cucina was one of them and I’m so delighted because their classes sound really fun and engaging.  Aside from offering workshops and cooking classes, Nella Cucina is an actual culinary retail shop selling cookware and equipment for restaurants and food service establishments.  Here’s a sneak peek at part of the October Cooking Classes Calendar and the Nella’s October line-up of cooking classes!

Enjoy the bounty of the fall harvest and seasonal ingredients

Molecular Cuisine Workshop #1: The Professional Series at Nella Cucina, October 1.  10am-1pm.  $150/person (receive a $100 Nella Cucina gift card when you sign up for all 4 workshops!).  Love science?  Fascinated by molecular gastronomy?  Simply want to learn about awe-inspiring professional techniques used by Iron Chefs?  The Molecular Cuisine Workshop series is perfect for you!  In collaboration with John Placko, culinary director of the Modern Culinary Academy, this workshop is designed to introduce participants to the scientific processes behind many professional culinary techniques.  At this workshop, learn and practice spherification, reverse spherification, rapid freezing, and carbonation.  http://www.nellacucina.ca/component/jevents/icalrepeat.detail/2012/09/27/242/-/-.html

Classic French Fare at Nella Cucina, October 4.  6:30pm-9:30pm.  876 Bathurst St.  $95/person.  The kitchen transforms into a French bistro at this three and a half hour cooking class devoted to French classics and Parisian fare.  Create a 5-course feast as you travel through France via food!  Menu includes pan-seared chicken breast with tarragon and dijon cream sauce, gougère (classic French choux pastry with cheese), an apricot and almond tart with whipped cream, and more!  http://www.nellacucina.ca/component/jevents/icalrepeat.detail/2012/09/27/225/-/-.html

The Making of a Chef Series: The Making of a Pastry Chef at Nella Cucina, October 6.  12pm-3:30pm.  876 Bathurst St.  $125/person.  At this intensive three and a half hour hands-on class and workshop, learn the foundations and skills necessary for pastry culinary art from industry professionals using the basic ingredients in French desserts (sugar, eggs, butter, and flour), and create lovely desserts that are as beautiful as they are delicious!  Menu includes chocolate soufflé, mille- feuille (napoleon), crème brûlée, and more!  http://www.nellacucina.ca/component/jevents/icalrepeat.detail/2012/09/27/232/-/-.html

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It’s Soup & Sammie Time at The Depanneur! Sweet Potato, Kale, & Bacon Soup With an Egg Frittata Sandwich

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It’s soup and sammie time at The Depanneur!  I hadn’t been back to the cafe since Christmas and I really missed their soup and sandwiches so I made a return trip last month and had myself a warm and yummy comfort meal.  Not only do I enjoy noshing on the good eats here, but I also love just being amidst the hustle and bustle in the commercial kitchen.  On any given day, you would find either Lisa (@afoodgypsy) cooking up one of her fabulous soups, Sara of Nice Buns kneading and baking fresh fougasse, sourdough, and buns for her bakery and the farmers’ markets (and brushing olive oil and herbs onto the mouthwatering finished products!), and local musician Laura Repo making her homemade family recipe granola.  It’s so much fun being a part of the cooking atmosphere and watching homemade food from scratch come together right before your eyes. 

Soups and sandwiches are The Depanneur’s forte and while it’s one of the simplest meals in the book, the crew keeps things interesting and delicious by using simple ingredients and just combining them in different and delicious ways.  At The Depanneur, you get to see food in all its various complexities.  They break out the big guns for the supper clubs with unique interpretations of North American classics (a vegan tv dinner supper club that encourages you to think about the historical and social construction of food?  Oh, hell yes) and plenty of ethic flavour, and they keep their daily cafe menu simple yet insanely scrumptious.  Eggs, bread, potatoes, green vegetables, smoky meats, and a lot of love!

Sara of Nice Buns hard at work baking!

Brushing olive oil and herbs onto the fougasse!

 My breakfast sandwich was a soft, warm, heavenly green pea, red pepper, and potato egg frittata sandwich on St. John’s sourdough with miso aioli.  I think I loved this one even more than the first sandwich I had here.  It was so good.  My favourite parts of the sandwich were the peas, the chunks of potato, and the miso aioli.  The peas and potatoes gave the soft eggs, and the sandwich as a whole, a delicious “meaty” starchiness to it that was totally kicked up a notch by the miso aioli spread.  It was so creamy and savoury and it complemented the bread and the potato chunks so well.  Imagine dipping starchy, potatoey fries or soft-on-the-inside, crunchy on the outside wedges of bread into a creamy garlic mayo.  It’s that, only better because every bite and mouthful is a party of egg, potato, veggies, bread, and creaminess!  I really loved this and I only wish I could have a foot-long baguette sandwich of this.  

The Depanneur takes pride in using as many local ingredients as possible from the city and province and the sandwiches are a prime example of that.  Bread will normally come from St John’s Bakery and Nice Buns, organic eggs from H.O.P.E. Eco Farms (and according to Len, specifically from brown hens kept on grass), and some vegetables from Fiesta Farms here in Toronto. 

The wonderful thing about The Depanneur is how resourceful they are with their food.  They always think big and they always consider, “how can we make the most of the ingredients we have and how many different dishes can we create using these items?”  The vegetables they use for their breakfast sandwiches might make their way into a soup, into that night’s drop-in dinner, or into a weekend cooking workshop or supper club.  It’s exactly how their sweet potato, kale, and bacon soup was created and as soon as I saw it on their menu board, I knew it would be the perfect savoury soup partner for my sandwich and that it would be just as delicious as it sounded!

It’s a combination that I had never encountered before and I was immensly intrigued to try it out.  With onions and red peppers to round out the bowl of soup, it was a bowl full of hearty, feel-good goodness.  The sweetness of the sweet potato balanced out the smoky savouriness of the bacon pieces (yes, that’s right, PIECES) and the kale was very mild in flavour which was perfect because it didn’t interfere with the other two flavours.  Instead, the kale gave the soup most of its body and an aspect of leafy lightness, lifting the soup a little so that the heartiness of the sweet potato and bacon wasn’t overwhelming.  One of the best things about it?  It didn’t need anything.  You know how some soups are too bland and others are too spicy and others are too salty?  Nothing of the sort with this one.  I love cracked black pepper and I always sprinkle some onto my soup (and food, when appropriate), but I found that I didn’t need it or even want it.  The flavours of the soup were bold and spoke for themselves. 

The whole meal was the embodiment of warm comfort food with hearty starches (potatoes and sweet potatoes), smoky flavour from the bacon, and full body from the leafy kale.  There is so much great food to look forward to at The Depanneur and given how the menu is always evolving, this is just the delicious beginning.  

*****

The Depannuer is located at 1033 College Street between Dovercourt Rd. and Dufferin Street.  They are open from Tuesday to Sunday (closed on Mondays) with a number of cooking classes, food workshops, drop-in dinners, and supper clubs throughout the month, which you can keep up with on the Food Calendar or on their Twitter @TheDepanneur.  You can view The Depannuer’s Facebook page here.

The Stop Community Food Centre and Wychwood Barns – Farmers’ Market, Food Programs, and Accessibility, Part II

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One of the most rewarding things about food exploration is the infinite number of ways we can engage in it.  It’s about cooking from the heart, cooking at home, with family, with friends, for survival, passing down cultural traditions, dining out, experimentation, food cultivation, food history, economic and environmental stability and sustainability, and most of all, accessibility.  When we immerse ourselves in food culture, we essentially investigate the question, “how does a community feed itself?” 

The Stop Community Food Centre is one of Toronto’s culinary cornerstones, offering food programs in an effort to increase accessibility to healthy food.  These food programs take into account the very different lifestyles, family structures and situations, incomes, and aspirations of Torontonians, and are tailored to different age groups and levels of culinary experience.  Its mission is to build awareness and accessibility to nutritious food and food pathways.  It’s about knowing and understanding the different socioeconomic positions people occupy in our societyand finding ways to lessen the burden, to increase the knowledge of food systems, to spark a new-found interest, and to nurture those who take pleasure in cooking and food exploration.

 

Food programs offered by The Stop include a food bank; an after school cooking and learning workshop for elementary school children; a drop-in program for those who need a healthy meal, food counselling, and access to information and resources around the city; an urban agriculture program that is comprised of several community gardens in and around the community, all of which produce fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs for The Stop’s food events, kitchen, and cooking workshops; food and cooking programs for both new parents and seniors; a community cooking program which strives to increase accessibility and awareness of healthy living and eating habits, build cooking and social skills, and to bring people together through food and cooking.  Finally, The Stop offers a weekly farmers’ market year-round, every Saturday from 8am-12pm, in conjunction with the Wychwood community and Artscape Wychwood Barns.

The Stop and Wychwood Barns are a fusion of culture and art, bringing together local businesses, farmers, entrepreneurs, and artists (culinary and otherwise) under one common goal and umbrella.  We may not all be locavores, but the The Stop Farmers’ Market at Wychwood Barns emphasizes the importance of providing support for local, Ontario growers, producers, farmers, retailers, and independent food businesses who strive to grow, create, and prepare organic, sustainable, healthy food.  The market fully endorses market vendors that provide food that is gluten-free, vegan, raw, dairy, meat-centric, and organic, so long as the food has been cultivated through ethical and sustainable practices.  Market vendors have information plaques attached to their booths informing market goers of the business’ history, mission, goals, and information.

The mission behind The Stop Farmers’ Market isn’t to necessarily “convert” our community into becoming a locavore one or to “push” the locavore doctrine onto people.  We know the benefits of using seasonal ingredients and buying local, but we also know that many of us don’t wish to subscribe to these principles and/or face limitations, so we need ways to negotiate through the various foodpaths that are made available to us.  And one of these ways is through a community market like this one.   

Its goal is to show support for local businesses while at the same time building awareness in and around Toronto (and beyond!) concerning the food options we have in our cities and province.  The concept of accessibility is based upon the notion of choice.  Without choices and without options, accessibility cannot exist so it is through accessibility that we can begin to make informed purchasing decisions and healthy lifestyle choices.

The Stop Community Food Centre and Artscape Wychwood Barns provides our city with so many opportunties to engage with food and I’m so looking forward to being more involved in this community and taking advantage of the many food programs that are offered.  I hope you’ve all enjoyed the first two parts of the Wychwood farmers’ market series because the third and last will be featuring the raw and vegan delights of Earth & City tomorrow!

*****

The Stop Community Food Centre Farmers’ Market at Artscape Wychwood Barns is held year-round on Saturdays from 8am-12pm.  The market is currently being held indoors for the winter.  The park and historic community centre complex is located at 76 Wychwood Ave. just off of St. Clair Ave. West, east of Christie St. and west of Bathurst St.  http://www.thestop.org/green-barn-market

Cooking Classes, Kitchen Adventures & Frittata Sandwiches With Black Bean Soup – Foodscapes at Depanneur, Part II

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I love all the various food options in the city and the myriad of ways I can whet my appetite for food exploration, but there are few places like The Depanneur that are as all-encompassing.  Themed supper club and dinner party events, hands-on cooking classes and foodie workshops, cooking, business, and career opportunities for enthusiastic foodies, and weekly breakfast and lunch menus full of healthy, homemade food are all part of the mix.  Now that you’re up to speed on the fabulous supper clubs The Depanneur hosts multiple times a month from yesterday’s Part I post, it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty cooking classes and delicious daily food!

The Depanneur holds regular cooking and baking workshops and classes taught by independent business owners, chefs, and passionate, knowledgable folks who love and excel at their food craft.  Prices vary depending on the cost of ingredients and the type of food involved, but generally speaking, you could totally find reasonably priced classes for as little as $30!  Classes and workshops in recent past include Italian panforte, vegan rougelach, World of Truffles mushroom workshops, and Mai Ha’s I Love Puffy Love marshmallow making!  These classes and workshops are open spaces meant for anyone and everyone with any level of experience and knowledge, and they encourage thoughtful, open discussion, questions, and of course, FUN!  It’s about learning from one another, learning about where our ingredients and food comes from, opening yourself up to new experiences, tastes, and techniques, and enjoying the wonderful world of food amongst other excited and eager foodies.

Sara of Nice Buns making fresh bread!

Speaking of cooking, The Depanneur also rents out their commercial kitchen space!  If you love to cook and bake and want and need an outlet for your creativity and food products, this could be the space for you!  Independent food entrepreneurs can use the kitchen to make food and sell it in the cafe on a consignment basis.  Rental rates will depend on how long you intend to use the kitchen, but if it’s definitely worth a look-see so just shoot them an e-mail and the staff would be happy to answer questions and work out an arrangement. 

Sara of Nice Buns is a frequent Depanneur crew member who uses the kitchen to bake her famous bread for the CSI markets and other market events, and Lisa of A Food Gypsy creates homemade soup for The Depanneur’s lunch menu.  This is such a great arrangement because chefs and foodies can use this space and outlet to showcase their love embodied in food and expand their business and clientele, and at the same time foodies like myself can get to know about independent food businesses around the city.

Their breakfast and lunch cafe menu is one that changes every week in terms of ingredients.  The one thing that is constant is the format of the menu and the type of food you can expect.  The weekly menu will always include a breakfast item (for example, a frittata sandwich), two kinds of grilled cheese for lunch with a side of coleslaw or salad, and a homemade soup.  Their menu also includes a number of drinks (hot or cold apple cider, hot or cold chocolate or maple milk, coffee, teas, soy lattes, flavoured sodas, and more) and homemade desserts lovingly made by bakers and chefs who use the kitchen and/or who are part of The Depanneur crew and staff.  Sara of Nice Buns has been selling her cinnamon buns and biscotti here!

I love sandwich and soup meals so I had me their breakfast frittata sandwich and a bowl of their weekly soup which happened to be southwest black bean with sweet corn.  Each item was $4 and the nice thing about the breakfast and lunch food at The Depanneur is the nice rounded price.  Simply put, whatever price you see is the price you pay.  NO TAX TACKED ON.  This part deserves a nice shiny star!  Their frittata sandwich was made with fresh baked sourbread bread from St. John’s Bakery (which The Depanneur also sells!), peameal bacon, herbs, and chipotle mayo, while the black bean soup was a hearty mix of corn, red kidney beans, black beans, diced pepper, and a dollop of delicious sour cream with cilantro with crunch bread crisps on the side!

I loved my meal, especially the warmth and crunchiness from the egg and peameal bacon frittata and the creamy deliciousness of the mayo, but if I had to choose a knockout, it had to be the black bean and corn soup.  This was SO DAMN GOOD.  I was thisclose to ordering a 2nd bowl!  I could have eaten all of it too.  I might be a little person, but I can pack in the food!  The soup was just so well-balanced in flavour.  It wasn’t too acidic from the tomato base, it was too runny or too thick and goopy, and I LOVE the fact that I got sour cream with it!  I can’t wait to try their other soups and I’m so looking forward to chomping on some grilled cheese.  Oh, and maybe some maple milk.  I can eat and watch people cook at the same time.  It’s a lovely thing.      

*****

The Depannuer is located at 1033 College Street between Dovercourt Rd. and Dufferin Street.  They are open from Tuesday to Sunday (closed on Mondays) and they are currently closed for the holidays but will be back with yummy food in the new year on January 10th!  You can view The Depannuer’s Facebook page here.