Win a Trip to Mark McEwan’s Georgian Bay Cottage
We sit down for a candid chat with the legendary Canadian Chef
Have you seen any particular new trends in food or ingredients for fall?
It’s very funny with trends; I find that the more we talk about trends the less they seem to be trends. I think where the industry landed, and I’m really happy to see this, is it has matured nicely and we don’t just go off on trendy little tangents anymore, it’s all about skill and refinement and respecting old-school traditions and old processes. I’ll tell a funny story which really sums it up—if you go back 25 years all my Italian friends in Toronto would put up tomatoes in their garage and make sauce and salumi and roast peppers, very old-school and everyone, most of my young friends, were almost a little bit embarrassed by it and a lot of people would look at it and think “oh look at these people cooking in their garage.” Now, there’s a tremendous appreciation for the fall-season and the harvest of the tomatoes and peppers. It’s become sort of a badge of honor for some people to say that they actually do this. So it’s run full circle, and again it’s all about communities becoming mature in terms of their intellect of food.
Tell us about the B.C. Halibut recipe
Which is actually a very old recipe of mine, that recipe was born, I conjured that recipe up, almost 20 years ago, long time ago and the interesting thing is it still has stood the test of time and clients still love it and demand it on the menus. It’s what we call a recipe in our “classic” category.
Was there any inspiration behind it?
Sort of a Thai. At that point in time Thai food was very much on the forefront, it was the trend if you want to call it that. I took that and refined it and did sort of a French version. It’s just big on flavours, textures and also has sort of a “wow” presentation when you open it up. The steam rises and, if you cook it perfectly, when you unwrap it you have this beautiful coconut base sauce on the bottom with aromatics, coriander seed, chili and cilantro. So all of that comes together and then we do sort of a Middle-Eastern spin on our rice with sumac, cumin, lemon, olive oil and sweet potato. When you put that all together it’s still one of my favourite things to eat.
Is there a wine you specifically enjoy or recommend with this dish?
I think a sauvignon blanc goes really, really well. I always have a case of Stoneleigh sauv blanc in my fridge or in the back. I think that acidity and tropical aspect of that wine works perfectly with this dish; it’s a really nice pairing.
You own a cottage in Georgian Bay, do you go there often during the fall?
It’s really one of the only places I cook home meals anymore. You get very relaxed up there. I have a big garden so I grow a lot of heirloom and organic vegetables. So all I have to do is go and buy fish or protein and spend an hour or two in the kitchen and whip up a great meal and I love it, I have a wine cellar there.
Do you host many dinner parties out there?
Oh, we do dinner parties all the time. We have lots of friends up there and they all love to drink good wine and share food. We take our turns. I tend to have more turns than most it seems but that’s okay, I enjoy it.
Do you have a certain go-to item if you’re throwing something together last minute to put on the table for everyone?
For having a cottage and having friends drop by, I always have interesting cheeses; hard cheeses will hold better, maybe I’ll have one soft cheese. I have a variety of different salumis and I always have great olives. I have walnuts I can toast at the last minute and various pickled vegetables from the garden. Things like bacon jam, you put a bowl of that out and cook grilled bread. Then I put everything on these great big boards. People will give me 15 minutes notice and I can fill it with great food. You open two bottles of wine and you’re pretty much ready for it. So you can actually entertain on a moments notice, and I would recommend through the fall, you take that spin and it’s a really easy way to get a meal started. If you overfeed people in that category then you don’t have to have as many courses on your menu, right? A great way to do it too for holiday entertaining is to do an amazing soup, like a mushroom soup. Even if you’re just using crimini mushrooms and oyster mushrooms and shitakes, like standard mushrooms you can buy, it’s very simple to make a mushroom soup. You make it in the afternoon, you have the bowls out, you heat it, your first course is on the table, you’ve done salumi and cheese and pickled veg ahead and you do something for main course. So, it makes those dinners actually feel a lot easier.
Do you have any fall-time comfort food favourites?
In the fall you have the black plums that come off the trees, or late late summer. They’re amazing doing open-faced tarts, do a crustada. Apple season, I still love a perfectly made apple pie. Pumpkin pie if you know how to make it, and you can do it well with peaked cream with almost no sugar in it, a little bit of sweetness, more to the savory side, so delicious. And then rosemary ice cream. We’ll make ice cream and rather than just take the traditional, you do a vanilla base, little light on sugar, and you toast the rosemary and then steep it in milk and then strain it through cheese cloth and then freeze it. That is outstanding. You have that with apple pie, it’s a little bit of die and go to heaven.
Enter to win a trip to Chef Mark McEwan’s Georgian Bay cottage, where he will cook for you and five friends, at stoneleighvineyards.ca