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Carlos Fuenmayor Carlos

Food & Service

Happy Earth day


“Until a man duplicates a blade of grass, Nature can laugh at his so-called scientific knowledge. Remedies from chemicals will never stand in favorable comparison with the products of Nature, the living cell of a plant, the final result of the rays of the sun, the mother of all life”.
Thomas Alva Edison

Love to you all.

Celebrating our beautiful Mother Earth


I met Mary Luz Mejia last year when she and I were asked to judge some dishes in a Latino culinary competition. Mary Luz is a Colombian-Canadian food journalist and Gemini-nominated TV writer, producer and director. One of her impressive credits is At the Table With ….. Each episode is a biography of a  well-known and influential chefs. Some examples are Rick Bayless, Douglas Rodriguez, Rob Feenie, Cat Cora and Lidia Bastianich.

As I got to know Mary Luz better, I discovered that we had a lot in common. We both have a mission in life: to promote and celebrate our Hispanics roots. And when we compared our greatest influence, we both came up with Cuban-American chef and restaurateur Maricel Presilla.

Maricel is considered to be the continent most influential Latin American food historian. She’s an author, holds a doctorate in medieval Spanish history from New York University, writes for Gourmet, Saveur, Food and Wine, and contributes a weekly column to The Miami Herald.

Out of the blue, Mary Luz calls to say that she had signed Maricel to a episode of At The Table With, that she was going to Miami to interview her, and then to Hoboken, NJ, home of Maricel’s two restaurants, Cucharamama and Zafra, where the remainder of the episode would be filmed. [The episode will air in the fall.]


Mary Luz [left] and Maricel in Miami

Then, comes the call. Mary Luz says Maricel is coming to town on business and would I like to come to dinner? Would I like to cook?

Who wouldn’t love the opportunity to cook for a culinary heroes? I couldn’t believe my good fortune. So last Monday, there we were at Mary Luz’s house, cooking for the Queen of Latino American cuisine.

We started with pan-seared scallops, dusted with annatto, and served with an avocado, cucumber and apple salsa, inspired by my wife Stephanie, who first made this dish in a similar version. We paired the dish with a pinot gris.


Finishing the scallops with Mary Luz

Next came roasted organic pork tenderloin, with a parsnip and mushroom stew, and a relish of fennel, pickled eggplant and green olives. We paired this with an Alsatian Gewurztraminer.

Mary Luz’s husband, Mario, made the main course — a Croatian-style dish of paprika sweet peppers, stuffed with beef and barley, served with a light tomato sauce and sour cream. We paired this with a Spanish garancha.

For dessert, I made sweet plantain empanadas stuffed with dulce de leche and served with vanilla almond ice cream. Mario brought out a great port from his cellar.


Sweet plantain empanadas just waiting to be eaten.

It was an incredible experience just because of the guest of honour, but it was also like dinner with old friends you haven’t seen for a while. You are having so much fun you don’t want the night to end.

Yours in cooking for new friends

Toronto’s Charcutiers

For the last four weeks I have been going around town talking to chefs to see who is making charcuterie in-house and tasting some incredible stuff. It got me thinking. Who started this charcuterie frenzy?

If memory serves, we have to go back to 1998-99, my Xango days. I just moved here from Ottawa, and to get to know the city in the way I enjoy best, I spent my days off eating out to see what other chefs were doing.

Ironically, kitty-corner to Xango was Avalon, Chris MacDonald’s restaurant that held top honours for over a decade. Perhaps many people will disagree with me, but I think it was Chris who was the first to offer his own charcuterie on his menus.

After Avalon closed, a chain reaction started. The young chefs who had worked in MacDonald’s kitchen went on to run some renowned kitchens of their own — and also started making their own charcuterie.

Pat Reilly and Chris Brown did their stuff at Perigee, Scott Woods at Lucien and Doug Penfold at Cava — as MacDonald culinary partner.

Then, at the turn of the century, Jamie Kennedy opened JK, the Rubino brothers opened Rain, and these high-profile chef-owners began putting out their own charcuterie. And the beat went on and continues today. Marc Thuet sells his own prosciutto alongside his great collection of Alsatian goodies.

Just last year, Kennedy imported Boris Coquerl, a French master chef of charcuterie, to produce the cured meats for all the JK restaurants. We have a master of our own here in Ontario. Mario Pingue from Niagara Fall is now the go-to guy for local prosciutto.

At Cava, MacDonald and Penfold make magic, with MacDonald ceremoniously slicing prosciutto at the bar.

On display: Jamon Serrano, foie gras mousse, chorizo and bison bresaola

Over the last year, Michael Steh of Reds has expanded his line of to great lengths.I sat down to his charcuterie platter one night, with no less than 20 items, from mortadella, fois gras a couple of different ways and a selection of flavours from his Slovenian roots. His inventory has nearly doubled since that memorable meal.

Micheal’s charcuterie platter:duck porsciutto, klobasa, house terrine, foie gras paté and more goodies
Scott Vivian does his curing at JK at the Gardiner, and Mark Cutrara chef-owner of Cowbell is strong on curing meats from local producers.

The year’s biggest must-go resto is The Black Hoof, where on any given night after a dinner service, chefs from across town gather to taste their way through a great long list of crazy-good cured meat. And yes, to drink beer and wine, and compare notes about their night.


Chef Grant Van Gamaren and front-of-house partner Jen Agg have really hit the city’s culinary chord. The Black Hoof is all about charcuterie, like no one else in town in.
Hanging with Gamaren one afternoon while heavy deliveries of meat and fois gras kept coming, he told me that his introduction to charcuterie was with Scott Woods at Lucien.


What I liked most about Gramaren was his humility. I’m just a guy who wanted to open a charcuterie and I did, he says matter-of-factly. He also writes about his techniques — successes and failures both — on his blog Charcuterie Sundays, where his kitchen mishaps are there for everyone to see. He clearly doesn’t care. He gets it. We owe most of our learning to trial and error.

Here’s to all the misses that made this great hits

Yours in great charcuterie

Mad about charcuterie

Charcuterie is an ancient art that started nearly 6,000 years ago. The word comes from the French chair cuit, which translates into cooked meat. For me, and many others, charcuterie is the art and science of the pig — butchery, preparation, curing and aging.

In a more modern age, this art has been the work of old world artisans, and part of the cycles of their food season. As everyone knows, the pigs are raised and fattened for slaughter in the fall, then cured and ready to eat during the lean cold winter.

As usual, the old ways have always attracted the interest of chefs, and in the last few years, a number of Toronto chefs have begun to celebrate charcuterie by making their own. And now it seems everyone is mad about it — in a good kind a way.

The funny thing is that, over the last 10 years restaurateurs couldn’t sell an antipasto plate to save their lives, but now it’s cool, which is fine by me. You see, Im also mad about charcuterie.

My Italian in-laws have been making charcuterie all their lives. Not long ago we started making it together, Pa and Ma and me [their real names are Lodovico and Messalina; my wife’s role is to enjoy the final products].

We make prosciutto, prosciuttino, lonza, sausages and now chorizo, curing it in their cantina. We also age fresh, local pecorino, cacciocavalo, provolone and fruilano cheese for our own tables, to share with friends, because as we all know, it’s illegal to make and sell charcuterie without the proper inspection, certification and licensing — which is fine by me. In the meantime, I get to learn from a master. How lucky can I get?

Quick story: during the holidays Locovico asked me if I wanted to go for ride. He wanted to show me something. He said it in a funny kind a way. If something happens to me, you will know where to get the meat for proscuitto, he said it, because I can see you want to continue the tradition. I don’t mind telling you that I got a little choked up. I love that guy.


So, there we were at Globe Meats, a couple of kids in a candy store. Honouring the pig in every possible way, the store had charcuterie hung in rows from the rafters, like an upside down forest of proscuitto, literally hundreds of them — more that I have ever seen in my life. They were arranged in various stages of curing: one month, two months. one year. You get it



Then, Lodovico introduces me to his paisanos [aka his buds], and I got the chance to talk to the floor manager — ironically someone named Carlos. He told me that they buy their fresh pork locally from Conestoga Meats in Breslau, Ont., near Kitchener.

If you want to age your own, you can buy one ready to cure [three for $99; team up with a couple of pals], but you will need to befriend an Italian family and their cold room. And don’t even think of asking Lodovico. We are chock full. Sorry.


You can also buy a professionally cured prosciutto for about $125, and just refrigerate and make your own antipasto platters. Add lovely crusty bread, pickled vegetables and plenty good wine.

La vita e bella; Life is good.
Yours in good charcuterie

Next post: Charcuterie-chefs in town [licensed to knock your socks off]

Turkey Time for Second Harvest

Approaching the holidays, everyone is getting into gear, but it’s another story for families who already have challenges putting food on the table.

Which is why it’s such good news that Second Harvest it putting on its sixth annual Turkey Drive with the help of hundreds of volunteers.Loblaws is generously contributing $5 for every turkey donated, up to a maximum of $10,000.


This year’s goal is 5,000 turkeys, purchased by those who can and want to, and then donated to Second Harvest.

Yesterday, at the Dupont and Christie store, we collected about 500 turkeys, which was a pretty good start.

Please help us reach our target by purchasing a frozen turkey for a hungry family. And Second Harvest spokesperson Jordan Mlynex is quick to point out that there’s another chance to donate next weekend.

Saturday, Dec. 13th and Sunday, Dec. 14th

(9 AM to 6 PM)

At these locations
Leslie & Lakeshore
Moore & Bayview
Queens Quay Market – Lower Jarvis
Victoria Park & Gerrard
Hoggs Hollow – Yonge & Yonge

Second Harvest volunteers will be in the frozen meat section to help you out.


Here’s an idea: become a volunteer yourself. The people are great, it feels very good and it’s a lot of fun.

Can’t make it to a Loblaws during Turkey Drive? Make a secure online donation designated for the Turkey Drive.

Donate generously. It’s the holidays.

Yours in the frozen turkey section of your neighbourhood Loblaws,


I was reading an article in the NY Times about biblio-burros, donkeys that carry a library through the Columbian jungle. Luis Soriano is the teacher who has been bringing education and hope through the books he shepperds with his five trusty burros for the last 10 years.

Luis believes that doing so he is helping to improve the lives of people who do not have the chance to go to school in one of the most impoverished region in Colombia.


Foto: Andrea Moreno / EL TIEMPO
He started out with 70 books and has grow into a traveling library of nearly 5,000 books.
This began as a necessity,” Soriano told the NY Times, “and then it became an obligation, and after that a custom. Now, it’s an institution.

The most admirable and impressive thing he does is to travel without any escort in one of Colombia’s most volatile regions. On the battlefied are Colombian national army, numerous paramilitary groups and FARC, the Spanish acronym for the Columbian Revolutionary Armed Forces.

In this environment, Soriano has been robbed, and because he didn’t have any money (all he carries is books], the theives tied him to a tree and left him there for several days, but he says nothing will stop him from doing this work.

He’s married with three children, He and his wife have open a little restaurant, so they could make ends meet and to help to buy more books. They don’t get any help from the local or national government.

Luis Sorriano you are my hero.

I just want to leave you with this quote from Jacques Cousteau, which comes to mind when thinking of Sorriano.

If we were logical, the future would be bleak indeed. But we are more that logical. We are human beings, and we have faith, and we have hope

Yours honoring an exceptional hero


Like food, peliculas are an entrance into understanding a culture. Naturally, as part of how I celebrate Latino culture through food, I’m excited about today’s opening of the 6th annual Toronto International Latin Film Festival, at the Royal Theater on College Street.


With films showing the diaspora of the Spanish language, the festival reveals an unlikely integration of Latin influence on many seemingly disparate cultures. Most interesting is Zhao, a film directed by Susi Gozalvo, about a young Spanish woman of Chinese origin, struggling between the love of her life and the compromise to the country where she was born. Another film is My Mexican Shiva, a Jewish-Mexican comedy on death and culture.

The world is getting to know a new generation of award-winning Hispanic filmmakers like Maria Novaro, Alejandro Gonzalez Irarritu, Marcelo Piñeyro, Luis Puenzo.

Thanks to festival organizers Raul Galvez and Kim Mckenzie-Galvez for bringing a little of our roots to us through film.

The Galves hosted a launch bash at the Drake on Wednesday night, featuring jamon serrano courtesy of Michael Tkaczuk from Serrano Imports.


Slicing jamon is a unique skill, and called in to do the honors was Jose Luis Atristain, who happens to be from the Spanish consulate.

Yours celebrating Latin American film in Toronto

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