tasteUS website launch

A couple weeks ago, there was a about a dozen food/produce reps and a handful of food bloggers who gathered at The Chef Upstairs for a very special event: the launch of the tasteUS website!

I hope you all have had wonderful Christmases/Hanukkah celebrations! Family / friends time is really the greatest. Now that we've all had our fair share of turkey over the past few days, I thought I'd post my coverage of a food event. :)
Such an inviting kitchen at The Chef Upstairs. Can this be my second home?!

What’s tasteUS” you ask? 

The creation of tasteUS! and the site was in response to the agricultural partners - the cooperators. Many of them felt there was value in promoting and distinguishing a U.S. origin from the competition. The concept tasteUS! was conceived in 2003. It took time get it off the ground and several focus groups were conducted to arrive at a logo and message that would work in Canada. Consequently, tasteUS! was launched in 2005.”

First, I wanted to thank Sang (owner of Yakitori bar and writer of Woody Allen ate my Kimchi) for referring me to Maria Arbulu (Marketing Specialist for FAS/USDA) to cover the event! And of course, to Maria for having me there as well. I wasn’t too sure what I was getting myself into but I had a great time, learned a few new things, all while meeting some hilarious people along the way. 
Most of the ladies! This was a small and intimate event. Mingling as more pepole arrive...

The Chef Upstairs is a rentable kitchen space in midtown (on Mt. Pleasant off of Davisville) Lunch was to be in the form of a cooking class using American ingredients that can easily be found at the grocery store. 

As people arrived, we sipped on mimosas (not too shabby a way to begin the afternoon!) and chatted. Needless to say, food was the major topic of conversation.

There were a couple of iPads on the table for us to browse the new site on. Also, flatbread (from Longo’s!) and a “watermelon fire and ice salsa” to top it with.

You know what I’m thinking? A certain cookbook with a pig on the cover should come home with me…sure it may be a bit bulky in my bag but that’s ok! Most of the cookbooks on the shelves are from chefs who came to Chef Upstairs.

I’d love for this to be my future kitchen!! Besides myself, everyone here was either a representative of an American food product or a food writer.

After everyone arrived, Scott Reynolds (Minister-Counselor of Agricultural Affairs at the USDA/FAS) introduced himself and welcomed us all to the lunch. He talked about this initiative to bring more attention to American products in Canada. Acknowledging that many Canadian consumers a fiercely loyal to Canadian products when available, he assured us that the goal is not to take away from the sales of local products but rather to highlight those that fill the gap in between growing seasons.

Time for lunch!! This is exciting! The long bar space perfect to watch the kitchen action. I sat beside Kelly (Canadian rep for California Cling Peaches) and Racheal (@RachealMC) ; both warm and hilarious women!

Here our chef for the day, Chef René Brunet explains the intent behind the menu. He also mentioned that we’d be taking turns preparation ingredients and cooking. YES! Get me in that kitchen now!

Up first, Racheal and Nicole prepare the chicken for our main course. Olive oil, salt, pepper, paprika, thyme all went in. Lunch was a celebration of food!

Here, David’s (@ortdavid) slicing up the baguette for our appetizer. And the pancetta to the left, all me! ;) 

At one point, there were almost more people in the kitchen than there were spectators. It was great. Lots of laughs and everyone got along well. There’s food involved so how could you not?!

The men plating the appetizer. I believe the pears are from the States. If the kitchen wasn’t “nut-free”, René mentioned that he would’ve used Californian almonds instead of pine nuts.

Paired with the appetizer was a semi-sweet Riesling from the Keuka Spring in Finger Lakes New York.

Finishing touch, a balsamic glaze.

Appetizer: Balsamic-Glazed Pear and Goat Cheese Crostini

When I heard that this would be a cooking class, I imagined multiple kitchen stations and set recipes to follow. It was great that everyone took turns helping out in the kitchen. It made conversation easier and the entire experience more memorable! 
Expertly rolling out rounds of pastry for the dessert. :D

 Time to fill the pastry with beautifully cooked peaches. 

Two reds to pair with the main course. In our goodie bag that everyone got to take home at the end of the event, was a bottle of the Sterling Pinot Noir. Great surprise! If only all goodie bags were loaded with good booze...I'm kidding! 

Main: Thyme scented Chicken with Roasted Apples, Pancetta and Garlic
 The chicken breasts were HUGE. I do not know how it was still moist. After all, the only heat applied was in the oven, no searing, no sous-vide, just the oven. 

Dessert: Mini Peach Pocket Pies
These were really simple to make and the result was delicious! How could you say no to pie? And on top of that, FRESH pie? 

Thanks again Sang, Maria and Scott for having me cover the event! Busting at the seams, I leave happy. I not only had a wonderful time, but I learned some new things, some great recipes (that are super delicious but deceivingly easy), met some new people and on top of all that, now have a source to go to for American food info! 

We know about our local farmers/grocers/purveyors, what about the American ones? 
Check it out: tasteUS.ca!