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Carlos Fuenmayor Carlos

Food & Service

Luminato was so great this year, I’m still thinking about it, even thought we wrapped it up over a month and a half ago. The first year, at the Distillery, was fantastic, but the organizers topped their best efforts this year. We had a little bottleneck situation with ticket sales, but luckily, organizers sorted that out.

The President’s Choice 1000 Tastes of Toronto meant that there were more chefs showcasing their food. Luminato also welcomed more artists, musicians, filmmakers and dancers from all over the globe. And let’s not forget Cirque de Soleil, which performed for free for the crowd once the chefs tore down their tables. “One City One Table” was done serving food by 8pm.
With Kelly at our table

My team and I decided to make something simple and great. We went 80 per cent local, as in corn tortillas, queso fresco, onions and greenhouse tomatoes. We made an onion confit and used it as a sweet note. We made a loose coronet with the tortilla and stuffed it with queso fresco, the onion confit and a sexy avocado relish, and we handed to our happy customers in a banana leaf. I’m happy to report that it was a hit with all of our vegetarian friends.


Single tortilla; Vegetarians loved us.

Ready for the crowds

It was great watching people enjoy the food, particularly our groovy organic vessel. Let’s hear it for composting.

Special thanks to Adam McDowell of The National Post for mentioned me in his blog, as his favorite taste that day. It’s good to be notice.

Looking forward to be back next year!!!
Yours from the Luminato.

My cool good friend Jane Hayes [aka Garden Jane] introduced me to this exciting thing that’s been going on in High Park, just a couple of blocks from my house.
For the last 11 years, what Jane and some of her cohorts did was to establish The Children’s Garden, a program that provides kids and families an opportunity to learn how to grow organic fruits, vegetables and flowers from seed.

And we’re not talking small potatoes. The garden grows 110 fruits and vegetables, including tomatillos, okra and 10 kinds of Latino beans. That’s fantastic in my books.

Last summer harvest

Grand forces of good have also recognized the garden. Last year, the garden won the “David Suzuki Digs my Garden” award, beating out nearly 600 gardens from across the country.

For the last four years, Jane, city staffers Robin Salt and Keely Forth, and devoted volunteers like, Michael Nevin and Frank Iacobucci, have all been lobbying the city for permission to build a teaching kitchen, because they don’t stop at planting, growing and harvesting. There’s a Youth Cooking Program for 11 to 16-year-olds in July, and in August and October the garden hosts a feast bounty from its garden, cooked at the Masaryk-Cowan Centre and then schlepped over to the park and served to the community.


Showing up some tomatillos

This is where the teaching kitchen comes in. Putting it right next to the garden will open up a lot of new opportunities for connecting kids to where their food comes from and what it’s like to grow from seed and what to do with it once it’s ready for picking. It would also help with hosting the community festivals where the food picked from the garden will be cooked and served.
It’s important to note here that extra food harvested in the garden is given to shelters and soup kitchens all over the city.


The building is going to be as eco-positive as possible, beginning with the structure itself, to be made of straw bales, which get plastered and become great insulators. Solar panels will provide heat for water and running energy- efficient appliances and lighting. Fall 2010 is the projected unveiling, but in the meantime, the garden is campaigning for community support with their Adopt a Bale program.

Beautiful spring asparagus

But don’t wait to introduce your kids to the garden. It’s a perfect time to bring them to the park to see the beginning of a magical experience.You cant also check their website for dates and activities.

For all the staff and volunteers it’s like a miracle after all these years. The kitchen is finally opening here!!

Yours from High Park

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,


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