Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Great Food, Guided Tastings and The Bagel Wars at St Lawrence market

This old chef has a few strongly-held personal opinions about food (no kidding!), and one of them is about bagels. There are two kinds of bagels in this world ... Montreal bagels, and rubbish. Toronto bagels, New York bagels, all the others ... only good as pot-hole filler on the streets or feeding to voracious ducks.

Toronto (thankfully) has a few places where a really good bagel may be bought, and yesterday the MPC Culinary students spent the morning at St Lawrence market learning about good food, fresh food, local food and enjoying three guided tastings.

We started with a history lesson and scavenger hunt ... in one hour the entire market had to be covered and stall-keepers interviewed, small tastes begged for,
displays observed and questioned, prices researched. Chef and Ruby (our wonderful community volunteer) got the major tastings ready ... warm bagels from St Urbain, recently out of the wood-fired oven, three cheeses the students had never had and four kinds of cured meat.

At 10h30 after the hunt time had wrapped up we all met across from Scheffler's stall for the tasting. Ruby had laid out the fare ... Leah and Keely
had gently torn up the bagels ... and our guided tasting began.

Three cheeses were featured ... Gorgonzola picante,
aged Mimolette and La Tur (a soft cheese made from a mix of sheep, goat and cow milk). All the cheese was bought from Chris' Cheeses in the market. This was in follow-up to the tasting class we'd had in the kitchen the previous week. Everyone had a chance to try everything ... and the two favourites were the Mimolette and La Tur. Hearty gorgonzola ... not so much. I still have a goodly chunk of it in my fridge at school! (It will go into omlets next week.)
We spoke about rind and paste differences, about the subtleties of flavour and the position of the flavours on the tongue. The mimolette is very hard and the Tur is very soft, but each received rave reviews but for different reasons. "What is it about these cheeses that constitutes good?" chef asked? Each young chef had an opinion, and could bolster it with fact. the La Tur was just dreamy-creamy smooth, doing a delicious dance in every part of the mouth. Mimolette was assertive and had intention ... and the texture was enjoyed as both different from usual fare AND sharing great 'mouth-feel' at the same time.

Four cured meats were tasted ... a good quality Italian proscuitto, a proscuitto from Chef Mario Pingue in Niagara, a Jamon Serrano and Schinkenspeck.
All four share similarities (made from the same part of a pig) but there are also considerable differences. The animals' diets make for a large amount of flavour difference, then the length of time for air-curing and salting. The runaway favourite was the Spanish jamon Serrano. At the end, predictably, there was absolutely nothing left of the meat.

Two styles of bagel were on offer ... one with sesame, the other with poppy seed. No favourite ... all of them disappeared as though by hoover.

Aaand ... inevitably, a few students had to supplement their field trip with a fresh dose of poutine :)

That evening we catered to our Monarch Park School Community Council, so stayed and worked until about 19h00. A long day ... but worth it!

What a wonderful day!

Thanks Ruby for all the support of our students.


  1. I enjoyed reading your work. I'll come back for more

    Keep up the good work :) from TheStillery, a stuart bar in Florida

  2. Thank you Steve, for the support of my students.