As we reported on a few weeks back, dozens of Toronto Chefs participated in Slow Fish Month’s inaugural Roe Down AKA The Caviar Cup, attending a “caviar” making workshop at Leslieville’s Hooked with an aim to prepare their own special preserved roe and enter it into a competition held at Merchants Of Green Café in Toronto’s East End at the end of October.
Judges James Chatto, Amy Rosen, and Jim Cuddy were on hand to taste through the various roes and then announce a winner, as the crowd enjoyed wines from The Living Vine, crackers from Evelyn’s Crackers, Lugtread from Beau’s Beer, and Lustau Sherry courtesy of John Hanna and Sons.
After much deliberation the esteemed judging panel selected first, second, and third places, with Cava’s Chris McDonald taking the title, closely followed by the ACC’s Taylor McMeekin, and in third place David Friedman.
We spoke to all three of them about their respective wins…
Good Food Revolution: So what was your preparation?
Chef Chris McDonald (Cava): I wanted to use white soy for its umami and so as not to stain with regular soy. White soy is much saltier but has an almost vinous quality.
Chef Taylor McMeekin (Air Canada Centre): The preparation was water, 10% salt, maple syrup and bay leaf flavored brine for 5 minutes, then in to 110 degree water to rinse, cleaned(removed eggs from skeine sack) then returned to a fresh brine for 7 minutes strained and jarred.
Chef David Friedman (ex of Redfish): Lake Erie Whitefish roe with Wapoos cider, maple syrup and smoke. I prepared the eggs separately and them placed them in brine to infuse the flavour.
Good Food Revolution: And where did your inspiration come from?
Chef Chris McDonald: I then wanted to channel the Scottish mist; briny, smokey and peaty so I diluted the white soy with Lagavullin. This in turn diluted the alcohol of the whiskey. With the waves crashing on my tongue, I thought some something refined from the Normandy coast would help so I churned some butter from Normandy Crème Fraiche. To bring it all home, and further evoke the ocean, I made a cracker loaded with dulse from Nova Scotia – I think that means “new Scotland” or something. The buttermilk from the butter went into the cracker. Lets not get into the fact that whitefish are a freshwater species. That would be a red herring. Er…sorry.
Chef Taylor McMeekin: The inspiration for this came from a smoking brine that I use for salmon. Although bay leaf and maple are strong flavors on their own, they seem to lend very well to each other to create a nice harmony, great balance.
Chef David Friedman: Since it was Whitefish roe, I used the same flavour profile as my smoked whitefish. I had thought about smoking the roe, but I was working at Goods and Provisions, so I used a cigar tincture that they created for one of their winter cocktails instead.
Good Food Revolution: And what did you find the greatest challenges of making roe to be?
Chef Chris McDonald: My greatest challenge is now keeping all this a secret.
Chef Taylor McMeekin: I think the greatest challenge was testing the times on the second brine so that the salt didn’t take over and become too much, but with a few others tests it was more about how the eggs were affected by different combinations of acid and levels of salt. So I guess over all just finding flavor profiles and balance was the biggest challenge.
Chef David Friedman: The biggest challenge was that alcohol can effect the texture of the roe, the fact that it was carbonated as well, was twice as challenging. To compensate, I made it the day of, so infusing enough flavour in time for the tasting was also a bit of a worry.
Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And he has discovered a new love of roe.