Category Archives: Newfoundland

i8tonite with St. John’s, Newfoundland Chef Mark McCrowe & Seafood Chowder Recipe

Chef Mark McCrowe, Food Day Canada 2015
Chef Mark McCrowe at Food Day Canada 2015

I first met Chef Mark McCrowe at RANL‘s Food Day Canada event in St. John’s, Newfoundland, on my very first day in town. Held in a large ballroom, the event showcased several dozen chefs from around Canada – and some extraordinary local dishes. Newfoundland is in the middle of a culinary renaissance – so much good food, so many excellent and creative chefs, and an eat local ethic that is impressive, given the northern Atlantic locale on an island called The Rock.

I was impressed with his presentation and flavor of his dish – a salt beef and potato crusted cod with mustard pickle puree, collard greens, and a whelk beurre blanc sauce. It was the perfect introduction to Newfoundland.

 

i8tonite with St. John's, Newfoundland Chef Mark McCrowe & Seafood Chowder Recipe

Mark was born and raised in St. John’s, NL. Growing up around simple Newfoundland dishes, using fresh seafood and wild game, inspired an appreciation of the local style of food and where it comes from. After studying culinary and baking and pastry arts in British Columbia and working in some of Van city’s best kitchens, he returned home to further his own individual style as a chef. Mark opened his first restaurant, Aqua, at the age of 26 and his second more casual gastropub, The Club, at the age of 29. Mark is living his dream: cooking the food he loves to cook and doing it in the place and for the people that mean so much to him…………Happy cooking!!

i8tonite with St. John's, Newfoundland Chef Mark McCrowe & Seafood Chowder Recipe

Find him in St. John’s, Newfoundland, at EVOO in the Courtyard.

Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking?
Since I was about 13. I would record all the Wok With Yan episodes on VHS and recreate them for my family. Still my favourite show!

What is your favorite food to cook?
I’m obsessed with the wide variety of flavours and ingredients in Asian food, but I like to work my way around the globe though ingredients without ever spending the money to travel :p

i8tonite with St. John's, Newfoundland Chef Mark McCrowe & Seafood Chowder Recipe

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
I use way too much sambal olek and sriracha.

What do you cook at home?
I’m a one pot wonder kinda guy. I like simple flavourful food and dislike doing the dishes.

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
I like when customers are having fun and are just plain into what they are eating. Life is too short to be a stuffy loser.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
You never know what kind of day someone has had or what they may be going through in their personal life, but there is never an excuse for treating a server like garbage.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
I’m all about the ziplock, baby.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
All of the above, please.

Your favorite cookbook author?
Jacques Pepin is and always will be.

Your favorite kitchen tool?
My hands

Your favorite ingredient?
Pork and pork related products

Your least favorite ingredient?
Kiwi (I’m allergic)

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Inventory

i8tonite with St. John's, Newfoundland Chef Mark McCrowe & Seafood Chowder Recipe
Catching Capelin

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
I adore so many types of food. What really interests me is the simple recipes using local Newfoundland ingredients that my grandparents would use. I always like applying them to modern day cooking.

 

Beef, chicken, pork or tofu?
Pork with tofu, if I could

Favorite vegetable?
Onion

Chef you most admire?
Shaun Hussey of Chinched bistro in St.John’s, Newfoundland. He’s a good friend and the type of chef that is always pushing himself. The real deal.

Food you like the most to eat?
I like anything you have to get into and eat with your hands…like a platter of Newfoundland seafood with lobster and crab.

Food you dislike the most?
I hate food that looks to pretty to eat and is too smart for its own good. Sometimes a tomato is nicer than a tomato gel.

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?i8tonite with St. John's, Newfoundland Chef Mark McCrowe & Seafood Chowder Recipe
I do have “Jiggs dinner” tattooed on my forearm. It is the quintessential Newfoundland one pot meal that involves salt beef and root vegetables. It’s my death row last meal and by far the most popular dish from Newfoundland, but my Nan makes it the best, so everyone else is out of luck!

 

Recipe: Newfoundland Seafood Chowder with Roasted Fennel, Dill, and Evaporated Milk

i8tonite with St. John's, Newfoundland Chef Mark McCrowe & Seafood Chowder Recipe
Newfoundland Seafood Chowder

This chowder is a canvas to show off some of the Rock’s best seafood. You can use whatever you have available here. The flavors of roasted fennel, dill, and lemon really make it special – and by using evaporated milk, you really get that authentic chowder flavour.
Serves: 10-12 portions

FOR THE CHOWDER
½ cup unsalted butter
½ cup all purpose-flour
1 onion (diced)
2 stalks celery (diced)
2 heads fennel (diced)
2 potatoes (diced)
¼ cup Pernod
1 cup dry white wine
1 litre fish stock
½ litre heavy cream
2 cans evaporated milk
½ cup chopped dill
5 tbsp lemon juice
3 dashes Tabasco
3 dashes Worcestershire
Salt
Cracked black pepper
1 cup cold water shrimp (peeled)
1 lb fresh cod
½ lb mussels
½ lb clams
1 lb cooked lobster meat
½ lb cooked snow crab meat

In a large roasting tray, mix the diced fennel with 4 tbsp of olive oil, salt, pepper and roast in a 400 degree oven until lightly caramelized. In a large heavy bottomed pot, melt the butter and flour together, forming a roux, and cook for 2 minutes.

Add all of the vegetables and cook them for roughly 5 minutes or until translucent. Add the roasted fennel and deglaze the pot with the pernod and white wine while stirring constantly.

Add the remaining liquids, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer to cook slowly for roughly 30 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and the soup has slightly thickened. Season with salt, pepper and add all the seafood to cook for just a couple of minutes. In a separate pan, cook the mussels and clams with 2 cups of the chowder base until the shells open, then add back into the main pot. At the last minute before serving, add the fresh dill and adjust the seasoning.

Recipe: Lemon Pepper Smoked Cod and Crispy Britches with Mint, Lemon, and Green Pea Risotto

Lemon Pepper Smoked Cod and Crispy Britches with Mint, Lemon, and Green Pea Risotto. i8tonite with St. John's, Newfoundland Chef Mark McCrowe & Seafood Chowder Recipe
Lemon Pepper Smoked Cod and Crispy Britches with Mint, Lemon, and Green Pea Risotto

Cod britches are the roe sac of a female cod and are named for their resemblance to a pair of baggy trousers. In this dish, we smoke cod loin with lemon zest and cracked pepper, fry the cod britches till crispy, and serve it on top of a creamy mint and pea risotto. So good!
Serves: 4

FOR THE LEMON PEPPER SMOKED COD
1-8 oz cod loin
1 lemon (zested)
Sea salt
Cracked black pepper
1 cup wood chips (soaked in water)

To smoke the cod loins, put the woodchips in the bottom of a frying pan or wok and put it over a burner on medium heat. Once it starts to smoke take the cod loin and sprinkle it with the lemon zest and cracked pepper. Place on a rack that can fit in the frying pan. By this time there should be quite a bit of smoke, so you want to cover it tightly with tinfoil to capture all that smoke. Let them go for about 10-12 minutes, then take them off the heat. The cod should be flakey and cooked through.

FOR THE CRISPY BRITCHES
2 cod britches (cut into small pieces)
Sea salt
Cracked black pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
Canola oil for frying

Season the cod britches and dust them in the flour, shaking off any excess. Fry them in a household deep fryer set at 375 degrees until golden brown. Drain on paper towel and season again with sea salt.

FOR THE MINT, LEMON, AND GREEN PEA RISOTTO
5 to 6 cups fish stock
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 onion (finely diced)
Sea salt
2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups frozen peas
1/3 cup chopped fresh mint
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp finely grated lemon zest
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Heat the fish stock in a saucepan over medium-high heat until very hot and then reduce the heat to keep the broth hot.

In another heavy saucepan, melt 2 Tbsp of the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and a generous pinch of salt and sautée, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until the onion softens and starts to turn lightly golden, 3 to 5 min. Add the rice and stir until the grains are well coated with butter and the edges become translucent, 1 to 2 min. Pour in the wine and stir until it’s absorbed, about 1 min.

Add another generous pinch of salt and ladle enough of the hot broth into the pan to barely cover the rice, about 1 cup. Bring to a boil and then adjust the heat to maintain a lively simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the stock has been mostly absorbed, 2 to 3 min. Continue adding broth in 1/2-cup increments, stirring and simmering, until it has been absorbed each time, at intervals of about 2 to 3 min. After about 16 to 18 minutes, the rice should be creamy but still fairly firm.

At this point, add the peas and another 1/2 cup broth. Continue to simmer and stir until the peas are just cooked and the rice is just tender to the tooth, another 3 to 4 min. Stir in another splash of broth if the risotto is too thick. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the mint, lemon juice, lemon zest, the remaining 2 Tbsp butter, and the Parmigiano. Season with salt to taste.

Serve the risotto immediately with a sprinkling of chopped mint and grated lemon zest. Top with some crispy britches, flakes of the smoked cod loin and Bob’s your uncle.

 

-The End. Go Eat.-

From Ohio To Newfoundland: My Best Eats, 2015 Edition

What a year this has been! It started last December, when I was one of the top travel bloggers in the world to visit the White House for a special summit on Study Abroad and Global Citizenship. There was plenty of great food in DC (food trucks!  and on the way, Cleveland’s Westside Market!) – a fantastic prelude to this year.

2015 heralded many trips, including a trip to Turkey in May, with Turkish Airlines, weekends at our cottage in northern Michigan (with grilled meats and fresh tomatoes), an epic Canadian road trip – driving from Kalamazoo, Michigan all the way to St. John’s, Newfoundland!, forays into Ohio and over to Stratford, Ontario, and circling back to a cozy Thanksgiving with family that live close by. Here are the highlights. I think you’ll notice that the underlying theme is friends and family – because who else do we want to share meals with?

that popcorn mango creme brulee... one of my favorite meals this year, in Istanbul
that popcorn mango creme brulee…

Whilst in Turkey, I had many memorable meals (because, after all, Turkey is known for its delicious cuisine!). From the huge, dripping

Honeycomb at breakfast in Istanbul - one of my favorite meals this year
Honeycomb at breakfast in Istanbul

honeycomb on our breakfast buffet to freshly baked simits slathered with nutella to roasted chestnuts and corn on the cob to Turkish tea and coffee and freshly squeezed strawberry juice, we did not go hungry. I loved the meals of fresh fish, yogurts, and grilled meats, but the highlight for me was at 360 Istanbul, a rooftop restaurant that served traditional Turkish cuisine with modern twists. I had the kebabs, and a gorgeous salad, but the highlight was the dessert – a creme brulee with mango sauce, salted caramel popcorn, and a nutty caramel ice cream. It was a melange of every taste you can imagine – sweet, salty, umami, smooth, crunchy, syrupy, icy, warm. The view was pure Istanbul, wide-ranging and gorgeous; the company was delightful.

the view from the terrace at 360 Istanbul - site of one of my favorite meals this year
the view from the terrace at 360 Istanbul

 

Toronto hit my 2015 best food list because of our lunch at America Restaurant, by Oliver & Bonacini Restaurants, located on the 31st floor of the Trump International Hotel and Tower. Our daughter enjoyed a cauliflower macaroni and cheese that she said was the best she’d ever had; Ed had a delicious Wellington beef burger with brisket, slaw, and artisanal bun. I had the speckled trout tartine – this genius dish consisted of grilled piece of house made sourdough bread, with French remoulade sauce, daisy capers and elderberries and leafy greens, finished with pieces of sous vide smoked speckled trout, served rare. This dish? It is one of the best things I have ever eaten – the crunch of the bread combined with the creaminess of the trout and remoulade, and the fresh and pickled accoutrements – it was perfect. We enjoyed a great view, lovely art, and excellent company, including a new friend that felt like family.

Smoked trout tartine at America Restaurant, Toronto - one of my favorite meals this year
Smoked trout tartine at America Restaurant, Toronto

 

Newfoundland
St. John’s gets a three-fer for the nod for favorites, with a plus. The plus is an event we went to on our very first night on the Rock – Food Day Canada. There were chefs from Newfoundland, as well as from all over Canada, each showcasing the best of their restaurants and regions. I can’t even begin to say how great the food here was, but I will say that I have built a healthy respect for the chefs, farmers, and producers that work within the island and the weather to create such imaginative, delicious food. (Interviews to come!) Also, please note that while I have many favorite restaurants in St. John’s, I’ve focused on fine dining for this 2015 roundup.

Tavola
Tavola, a small Mediterranean bistro, is located downtown. What the unassuming facade hides is a treasure within. The food, mostly small plates, is a mix of Mediterranean and local. Take, for instance, a dish I’d sampled at Food Day Canada and was delighted to find on the menu: BBQ Smoked pork shoulder with Newfoundland Molasses Baked Beans, a roll of crispy chicarron, and a swoosh of arugula puree.

BBQ Smoked pork shoulder with Newfoundland Molasses Baked Beans, a roll of crispy chicarron, and a swoosh of arugula puree. at Tavola, St. John's, Newfoundland - one of my top meals in 2015
BBQ Smoked pork shoulder with Newfoundland Molasses Baked Beans, a roll of crispy chicarron, and a swoosh of arugula puree.

Now, let me tell you why this is so amazing. First, the Rock is known for its baked beans. And, as a midwesterner, I can attest to the nourishing properties of baked beans, especially in the cold winters, but also for fun in the summer. These baked beans? The absolute best I’ve ever eaten. A humble dish, elevated to the stars. Now, I must mention (because my brother is a firefighter, and you know how they love food and work hard on bbq dishes) the bbq smoked pork shoulder. There were crispy bits. The kind you long for, covet when someone else is pulling the pork, snitch when you’re pulling the pork, guard with a fork when there are poachers about. LOTS of crispy bits. Any restaurant that serves this? Immediately in my favorites list. Tavola on that list? CHECK.
The second reason why I love Tavola? It’s owned by Great Big Sea musician Bob Hallett. I was lucky enough to dine with him that day, and hear stories of growing up in Newfoundland, fish, halibut (did you know they are enormous?), community, and bringing the meals he loved while touring home. It isn’t often you dine with a famous musician – even less so, I’d imagine, one that is so down to earth, friendly, and welcoming.

Fresh oysters at Adelaide Oyster House, St. John's, Newfoundland - one of my favorite meals this year!
Fresh oysters at Adelaide Oyster House, St. John’s, Newfoundland

Adelaide Oyster House
While this happening restaurant is somewhat loud and a bit hip for this mama, I have to say that not only was the service incredible, but the food was extraordinary. Adelaide Oyster House has won many awards – and in one visit, you can see why. I had the kale salad (don’t hate – it was sooooo good!); we also ordered oysters (of course), fancy cocktails, fish tacos, charcuterie with olives, and a birthday cake/dessert plate that needed to be tripled. By the end of the evening, we’d danced in our seats (and out of them) to the fantastically curated dance music, made new friends with our servers and chefs, and cemented friendships over food – the best way, isn’t it?

Kobe beef lettuce wrap with pickled vegetables, wild rice puffs, and special sauce at Adelaide Oyster House, St John's, Newfoundland - location of one of my favorite meals this year!
Kobe beef lettuce wrap with pickled vegetables, wild rice puffs, and special sauce at Adelaide Oyster House, St John’s, Newfoundland

 

Mallard Cottage
Chef Todd Perrin of Mallard Cottage has not only restored an historic cottage in Quidi

Myself with Mallard Cottage chef Todd Perrin - site of one of my favorite meals this year! St. John's, Newfoundland
Myself with Mallard Cottage chef Todd Perrin

Vidi Village, but has brought back traditional Newfoundland cuisine – with a twist. There’s an herb garden outside, and across the alley, another garden. The fish is freshly caught, and on Sunday brunch, there’s a $10 CAKE TABLE.

Chilled lobster bisque at Mallard Cottage, St. John's, Newfoundland - one of my favorite meals this year
Chilled lobster bisque at Mallard Cottage, St. John’s, Newfoundland

Now that alone should do it for you, but let me tempt you with other things we ordered at our table, including a fresh Caesar salad with cured pork cheek and piled high with thinly grated parmesan, a fresh scallop ceviche, a chilled lobster bisque that was the best soup I’ve EVER EATEN, fresh halibut, cod, fresh Newfoundland scallops, and a dessert assortment that should be on everyone’s bucket list.

 

Mallard Cottage, St. John's, Newfoundland - one of my favorite places to eat this year!
Mallard Cottage Menu

 

New Brunswick
New Brunswick, Canada, was a complete surprise. I had no idea of the fresh seafood along the Acadian coast, the locally sourced food, the creative cuisine, the beauty of the landscapes, and the rich cultural heritage. My best meal here was in Miramichi, at 1809 Restaurant, along the Miramichi River. Yes, I loved it so much that I interviewed Chef Jesse MacDonald for i8tonite.

Divine stuffed haddock at Rodd 1809 in Miramichi, New Brunswick - one of the best meals I ate this year
My stuffed haddock – divine!

The seafood chowder was the best I’ve ever had – even with daily seafood chowder eating in Ireland – and my stuffed haddock
filet was divine. We dined out on the deck at sunset, enjoying the ambience, company, and delicious food. Our time in Miramichi was too short, but filled with great meals, excellent company, interesting conversations about place and food, and a warmth that the Rodd Miramichi so beautifully filled in our travels.

Montreal
Montreal gets two best food nominations – and I know that if we were there longer, it would have been many more. Another reason to go back…

Oh! Dumplings
Let me tell you how much we love dumplings. Wait, it can’t fit into this very small paragraph. Let’s just say top 3 foods our family loves. So when we were in Montreal, a visit to Chinatown was a must. We’d had great dumplings in Toronto, but not SUPER GREAT dumplings. Canada needed to step up to the plate and bat some excellent dumplings our way.

Dumplings and one of many scallion pancakes we ordered at Oh! Dumplings in Montreal - one of the best meals I ate this year
Dumplings and one of many scallion pancakes we ordered at Oh! Dumplings in Montreal

Meandering through Montreal’s Chinatown almost seemed sacrilegious – why weren’t we getting Montreal smoked meat? The lure of the dumpling, I answer. We found Oh! Dumplings, right next to a square where a hundred people or so were dancing. It was a sign. We ordered some of the 12 types of dumplings here, and then the scallion pancake, because the table next to us kept ordering more of them. Well, it’s a good thing the dumpling ladies were fast at making the fresh, juicy dumplings. Everyone left happy, including we three. Canada’s dumpling reputation was restored.

Making dumplings at Oh! Dumplings, in Montreal - one of my favorite meals this year
Making dumplings at Oh! Dumplings, in Montreal

 

Breakfast at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth
Often, hotel breakfasts are meh. Cold cereal, hard apples, gross coffee. The Fairmont Queen Elizabeth changed all that with their luxurious breakfast buffet. Now, the thing that enticed me most

Bread station at the Breakfast Buffet at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth, Montreal - one of my favorite meals this year.
Bread station at the Breakfast Buffet at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth, Montreal

was the bread station. LOOK AT THESE GEMS! But if you didn’t want to carb out, there were several kinds of yogurt, an array of cut fruit (11 bowls!), pitchers upon pitchers of fresh squeezed juices of all kinds, and the spacious hot bar. Here, you could get a made to order omelette – or 3 other kinds of eggs, several kinds of sausages, plenty of bacon, french toast, crepes with a brown sugar glaze, several kinds of breakfast potatoes, and, my favorite, a European-style array of many sliced meats and even more gourmet cheeses. The coffee was delicious, the environment was beautiful and elegant, and the service, well, these waiters know their stuff – and are funny, to boot. We fueled up here and were satisfied until dinner. It was the perfect start to every day in Montreal.

Guild House
Closer to home (in Columbus, Ohio), we enjoyed an incredible meal at Guild House. One of the Cameron Mitchell Group restaurants, this new restaurant is worth visiting. We loved it so much that we interviewed Chef Patrick Hofer for the Chef’s Questionnaire here at i8tonite.

the toast with burrata, avocado, pickled red onion, and salsa verde at Guild House, Columbus, Ohio - part of one of my favorite meals this year!
Toast with burrata, avocado, pickled red onion, and salsa verde at Guild House, Columbus, Ohio

The restaurant is beautiful, has outstanding talent in the kitchen, and sources locally and organically when possible. As the Guild House notes on the menu, “There’s a lot of love on every plate.” We had extraordinary appetizers (be sure to get the cheese plate with house made crackers and local sourdough toast), entrees (Lillie said that lasagna was a masterpiece, and the best lasagna she’d ever had – and she’s a lasagna connoisseur), non-alcoholic shrub beverages (swoon), and desserts. My favorite was the toast with burrata, avocado, pickled red onion, and salsa verde.

Prime rib cap, sweet onion relish, Pointe Reyes blue cheese, mustard vinaigrette at Guild House, Columbus, Ohio - one of my favorite meals this year
Prime rib cap, sweet onion relish, Pointe Reyes blue cheese, mustard vinaigrette at Guild House, Columbus, Ohio

OR the Prime rib cap, sweet onion relish, Pointe Reyes blue cheese, mustard vinaigrette. Let’s be honest – you can’t go wrong with anything on this menu. It also features in my mind as a top pick because it was here that our teen daughter announced that she was a gourmet cuisine aficionado. Now, while I’ve known this for years, it was this restaurant that sharpened her instincts for dissecting a menu, picking out the bits that attract you, and chatting with the waiters and chef to learn more.

 

Closer than Newfoundland, a visit to Stratford, Canada taught me a great deal about this well known theatre town. There is so much going on here with the food scene that I can’t wait to go back and eat. Every meal was a treat, and much of it is locally sourced. One of my favorite meals was our lunch at Mercer Hall Inn.

House smoked beef dip sandwich, seasonal slaw, fries & jus at Mercer Hall Inn, Stratford, Canada - one of my favorite meals this year
House smoked beef dip sandwich, seasonal slaw, fries & jus at Mercer Hall Inn, Stratford, Canada

The meal was outstanding – truly, some of the most clean and fresh tasting food I’ve had in a long time. We went back into the kitchen with Chef Ryan O’Donnell – and saw some of the ingredients he was working with, including freshly baked bread, wild rice crackers, and gorgeous, colorful vegetables straight from local growers. He’s an artist, with a full palette of organic, local food to create with – and an instructor at the Stratford Chef School. Mercer Hall also features tea from Tea Leaves – home of Canada’s first Tea Sommelier, Karen Hartwick – a genius at delicious, enriching teas.

 
Thanksgiving was special. I loved it for the family, for cooking

Thanksgiving Dinner - one of my best meals of 2015
Our Thanksgiving Dinner – delicious, familiar, and full of love

together with my mom and aunt and daughter, for the tablecloth and dishes and place cards we use every year, for the decorations that are familiar and the dishes that we tweak a bit each year (or not). It’s the perfect combination of tradition and deliciousness, and is always a highlight of my year.

 

 

 

 

And the coffee:
We moved to Kalamazoo this spring, although I’ve lived here before and grew up a half hour away. I am so happy that there are many great coffeeshops in town, including Black Owl (purveyors of Kalamazoo Coffee, roasted out back), and Something’s Brewing, home of delicious coffee and homemade cinnamon pop tarts. Yep.

Delicious coffee (and tea) at Black Owl Cafe, Kalamazoo, Michigan - one of my favorite places to eat this year!
Delicious coffee (and tea) at Black Owl Cafe, Kalamazoo, Michigan

 

 

When you think back to your favorite meals, what made them so great? For me, it’s a combination of company and delicious food. Luckily, I have had plenty of both this year.

 

The End. Go Eat.