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Carlos Fuenmayor Carlos
Fuenmayor

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Food & Service

I Love Avocados.

The earliest record of the avocados existence was an archaeological dig in Peru that uncovered avocado pits buried with a mummy in the eighth century BCE. One theory was that the avocado was believed to have aphrodisiac qualities valuable to this culture even in the afterlife.

As the story goes, in more recent history, when Hernando Cortez conquered Mexico in 1519, he found that the avocado was a staple in the native diet and fell in love with it as soon as he tasted it and brought it home. Who wouldn’t have? Because it reminded him of a dessert pear, he ate it with cheese, which is a disturbing notion “ maybe too much of a good thing — but his countrymen were more inclined to season it with salt, pepper and olive oil, like me.

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They are many kinds of hybrid avocados all over the world, but the three main strains in the Americas are the Mexican, the West Indian and the Guatemalan. Avocados are also a staple food in the tropical regions of the world. Check out Saveurs handy avocado identifier, to see which one you’ve got ripening in your fruit bowl today.

Although its old news that avocados are being used in cosmetics, producers have recently started marketing organic avocado oil for epicures, a sexy elixir with a ridiculously high flash point [500F], which makes it ideal for high-temperature searing. Chile, Mexico, California, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa are revving up their export engines, but chefs aren’t in a big hurry to use them. The flavours too strong. Unless other elements of the dish are going to be a nod to those avocado flavours, this oil tends to get used raw, as a drizzle, where its best qualities and reshness and richness — can be enjoyed.

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Olympic Cheese Mart in the St. Lawrence Market sells Chilean and Californian avocado oils [on the main floor, half-way down the left-hand aisle]. At Whole Foods and Brunello Imports.You can find avocado oils under the Pucara, San Pietro and La Tourangelle brands.
And Finally from my repertoire, but inspired by my wife Stephanie.

Annatto pan-seared sea scallops with a salsa made with avocado, apples, cucumbers and mint.

Yours in good food
Carlos

A Year for Hidden Treasures

Potatoes are serious business. First cultivated by the Incas over 6,000 years ago, potatoes found Europe in the 16th century. Spanish explorers found the potato in its native Andes region, a treasure that would soon spread throughout the globe.

Today, the potato produces more nutritious food more quickly, on less land, and in harsher climates than any other major crop. Up to 85 percent of the plant is edible human food, compared to around 50% in cereals. In an age of food shortages and troubled time for farming, this is good news.

Last fall, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Peru’s proposal to focus world attention on the importance of the potatoes role if fighting world hunger and poverty, and also to examine the agriculture methods that create threats to the environment. The result: the UN declared 2008 the International Year of the Potato.

Working closely with the UN is Centro Internacional de la Papa, whose work is strongly influenced by humanitarian goals, particularly combating famine.

On the science side, the Centro has largest collection of potato biodiversity in the world and pursues research for agricultural sustainability and protective management of natural resources in the Andes region.

Over 28 countries worldwide are participating in the festivities. Here in Toronto, the Peruvian-Canadian Camber of Commerce joined forces with Doña Luz Restaurant, on St. Clair Avenue West, for a recipe competition honouring the potato. I was honoured to be asked to be one of the judges, which made me very happy.

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Here’s how the rest of the world is celebrating the potato

Here’s the Centro and it’s venerable work

Here’s the competition mapped out

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Some of the winners recipe dishes at Doña Luz
Yours in good food

Carlos

Potato factoid:

In October, 1995, the potato become the first vegetable to be grown in space, a joint effort by NASA and the University of Wisconsin. The goal of the new technology was to be able to feed astronauts on long space voyages and to eventually feed future colonies in space.

Spending five days in Montreal cooking at Pullman Restaurant with Torito Chef Carlos Hernandez was exciting enough, but that pleasure only skimmed the surface of our time there. There was so much more.

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Pullman’s Executive Chef Eric Dupuis and Carlos Hernandez
The Wine and Dine portion of Montreal’s Festival of Lights also hosted a delegation of Latino chefs thanks to Peruvian native Mario Navarrete Jr, chef/owner of Montreal’s two distinguished Latino restos, Raza and Madre.

Raza is Spanish for race, but it’s also a colloquialism one Latino would say to another, intending to mean, We are one race, no matter where we hail from. Madre linguistic significance may seem pretty obvious, but the idiom implies a motherland.

Navarrete invited five Latino chefs, mostly from Chile, but also from Spain and the U.S., to help him spread the culinary gospel and generate more understanding of Latino food during the Montreal festival.

The cherry on top of Navarrete’s special party invitation. Special guest chef Douglas Rodriguez.

Rodriguez is considered to be the father of Nuevo Latino, a cuisine and sensibility formalized by his 1995 book by the same name. His style of cooking married his childhood roots learning to cook Cuban fare at his mother side while growing up in Miami, and then adding the modern twists and turns of developing his skills as a young cook who traveled extensively. Today, Rodriguez is a hugely successful restaurateur. He owns Alma de Cuba, De La Costa, Deseo and Ola. All these restaurants are located in US.

Getting Rodriguez was a coup for Navarrete, who is bright and knowledgeable, and very passionate about where Latino food is going. We spoke at length about how the previous generation of Latinos resettled in North America to build new lives, and they cooked traditionally and for sustenance for family and friends.

Then, when their offspring found themselves called to cooking as a career, as Rodriguez was, as Navarrete was, and Carlos and I were, they would train alongside their North American peers, and more often than not, travel to broaden their knowledge, explore other cultures for inspiration and move Latino cuisine further along in its evolution.

To get a feel for Next-Gen Spanish food, on Navarrete’s recommendation, we went to Raza for a taste of the work of Alex Ureña, chef-owner of New York City’s Pamplona restaurant . Carlos and I are of like minds when it comes to simplicity in cuisine, so when we sat down to this extraordinary six-course meal, where the flavours and presentation were outstanding, we came to the same conclusion: The food was too modern for our tastes. To many foams. I guess we just don’t believe in foams.

When we weren’t cooking or lined up to try yet another Montreal resto like; M Sur Masson, Tapeo, Pintxo, Les trois petits bouchons, M:brgr, La montee de lait and Le Express Bistro.
We checked out the Cuban Art and History exhibit at the Museo des Beaux-Arts with Anne Yarymowich, who have been invited to the festival to cook at Cuisine & Dapendance, and Annick Le Goaix, her Sous-chef in Montreal, and also in the AGO kitchens for many years.

Finally, respectfully, a few words of thanks for our Montreal hosts, Pullman restaurant and the brilliant culinary team led by Executive Chef Eric Dupuis. Their hospitality was warm; their professional executions were stellar, producing beautiful work, and their camaraderie during prep and service made our Montreal adventure great fun.

Till next time beautiful Montreal!!

Yours in good food and cooking with great chefs
Carlos

cheeks & tongue stew


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Terroir: The Taste of Place

Last year was a first.

Never before had restaurant leaders sat down to a professional event with such a high-minded name as Terroir, A Sense of Place. Essentially, terroir means that you can taste a place because the land and meteorology imparts unique flavours to the food that emerges from it, the animals who feed from it and the byproducts of those animals. Like cheese. A brie made in Lyon won’t taste like a Normandy brie. Each area produces milk that is different and unique.

Terroir is the work of Arlene Stein and a collective of hospitality professionals known as Eau De Vie, a group dedicated to advancing the business of running great restaurants. Arlene is also Hart House’s Director of Catering and Events.

Gremolata’s editor Malcolm Jolley, Eau De Vie’s Arlene Stein and Veronique Peloquin
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She hit an exciting chord with the industry. Tickets sold out in flash, and over 200 restaurateurs, wine makers, chefs, writers and aficionados gathered in the great hall of the University of Toronto’s Hart House for a memorable day.

The panels were superb, particularly the wine discussion about Niagara’s sub-appellations, because nothing personifies terroir better than wine.

Besides that, the food was spectacular. Lunch was the work of Jason Pearson from Peller Estates.

I met some wonderful people, like Sommelier Tammy Dopson, with whom I developed a great friendship and professional alliance throughout 2007. We did great work together, including our infamous Sherry Dinner, and we currently got a new project in the works. I was also introduced to Charmaine Baan, with whom I have crossed paths many times before but had never actually met. I got to see her action doing a Dish Cooking Studio class as a preparation for doing a future class myself.

This year, Terroir [March 4] has added meaning for me.

Thanks to Gremolata‘s Malcolm Jolley, I have been asked to join the panel to discuss Southern Ontario food. I’m humbled to be in the company on that day of such accomplished bright lights as Chef-Entrepreneur Donna Dooher, Vertical Executive Chef Tawfik Shehata, Dish Cooking School Maven Trish Magwood, CBC Broadcaster Matt Galloway, Kultura Executive Chef Roger Mooking and AGO Executive Chef Anne Yarymowich. I’ll be need to be on my toes.

Yours in good food and the taste of place
Carlos

The Chorizo King

One of my favourite places in Kensington Market is Segovia Meat Market [aka Casa del Chorizo], where I have been buying my chorizo for years.

Leonardo Segovia is the proprietor and a friend, and I like to think of him as the Chorizo King because he runs the first Latino butcher shop in Canada, makes 18 varieties of chorizo in the styles that are popular all over Central and South America.

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The Segovia’s Josue, Filomena and Leonardo

Leo is a second-generation butcher and sausage-maker. His father, Leonard Sr., started the business 32 years ago next June. The Segovias are from Rancaqua, a small town outside Chile’s capital, Santiago, and they came to Canada as part of the first wave of South American emigrants in the 1970’s.

As a family business, everyone is involved. Filomena is the matriarch. She overseas the marinades, seasoning and cooking of whole pigs, from sucklings of 10 to 70-pounders, all of them custom-ordered. Leonardo’s brother Dario Alfonso and their cousin Josue Ramires help with the day-to-running of the shop, but also run El Gordo, the shop next door, which specializes in empanadas from all over the Americas and has sells over 30 different styles.

Leo’s chorizos are renowned, and city chefs praise them. The shop is also known for its cochino asado [whole roasted pork]. Most recently, Leo introduced choriso brazileño, courtesy of Graziela, Leo’s Brazilian girlfriend, who got the recipe from her grand father.

I love talking to Leo about how he makes his sausages and his techniques for roasting whole pork, but no matter how much I flatter him, he won’t talk divulge his methods or recipes.

Dude, forget it. Nice try, he says.

Last week I went to see him for some chorizo that I’m going to use for a cooking class, and we got onto the subject of Jason Chow’s article in The National Post on the new provincial Food safety and Quality act.

Karl’s Butcher Shop & Grocery on Roncesvalles that has been open nearly 47 years, and according to Chow’s piece, the owner decided to close down because it would be too expensive to make the necessary changes to their operation to comply with the new regulations.

The new act changes Karl’s status from being in the municipal system, overseen by the Public Health Unit, to being regulated by the provincial Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. Karl’s is now classified as a meat plant and has to be treated like a meat processing facility, because the store makes its own sausages on the premises.

It’s really too bad about Karl’s. When in lived in the neighbourhood, I was a regular customer and really liked the place.

Leo says the stringent guidelines are a good thing. We have to be responsible in our safety. It’s in the interest of our customers, and that who is keeps our business alive, he says.

Well put, Leo.

Yours in good food, with The Chorizo King
Carlos

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How lucky can you get?

My friend and Torito Chef Carlos Hernandez has invited me to cook with him at the Montreal High Lights Festival.

This year’s ninth annual winter festival includes 14 Toronto chefs strutting their stuff in key Montreal restaurants.

We’re going to be in very esteemed company. The other invited chefs are Honorary President Susur Lee, Bertrand Alépée et Jason Inniss of Amuse-Bouche, Christopher Brown of Perigee, Jason Carter of Lee, Jean-Pierre Challet of The Fifth Grill, David Chrystian of Chez Victor, Keith Froggett of Scaramouche, Jamie Kennedy, JK Kitchens, Lorenzo Loseto of George, Gabriele Paganelli of Romagna Mia, Marc Thuet of Bistro & Bakery Thuet, Anthony Walsh of Canoe and Anne Yarymowich of the Art Gallery of Ontario – some serious heavy-hitters.

It’s a tremendous honour that Carlos has asked me to cook with him. I’ve admired his work for years. He has a beautiful, deceptively simple style, where flavours rule and sing. His ingredients are always the best, and his execution is highly skilled. I’m a regular patron of Torito, because there’s nowhere else in the city that can make simple food with such finesse.

Carlos just got back from Montreal yesterday, where he met with the culinary team of the Pullman Restaurant, our hosts for two evenings of cooking, and he was very excited about our trip next month.

He also told me to keep our first night in Montreal free so that we can go to Pied de Cochon, the illustrious restaurant that got so much acclaimed attention last year.

“Keep the whole evening free,” he insisted. “It’s not the kind of place to drop in to for a taste of this or that. We’re going to be there for the night.”

Sounds good to me.

If you’re going to be in the neighbourhood, come by to see us at Pullman Restaurant on Wednesday, February 27 and Thursday, February 28.

Yours in good food in Montreal
Carlos

Rosa Maria Tortorici and I are ecstatic to report that our collaborative project was a huge success.

Together, we devised a way to pull together a Spanish language lesson — with a nod to Rosa’s Living Spanish language school — while simultaneously conducting a Latino cooking class, which was my contribution.

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We sold out to a very happy crowd of Hispanophile foodies hungry for knowledge. They also got a lot of laughs, a little talk on wine, courtesy of Anne Theunissen of Pacific Wines and Spirits, and some great Latino food.

The evening was successful for us on another level too. We had some media in attendance, which resulted some great coverage. Canadian Immigrant magazine profiled us in a feature article in the January, 2008, issue, which gave us national exposure.

Sun TV was also there and invited us onto an episode of Canoe Live a few weeks later for a dual live-to-air interview, while also broadcasting the photos we took of our class that night.

So much fun and so many great outcomes have to be followed up with even more, so we’ve decided to do another four classes this year, the first being in the spring.

Stay tuned for further notice.

To all the attendees, from both Rosa and myself, thanks for a great night.

Yours in good press,
Carlos

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*Spanish for: "Mmm. Wow. That's good!"