Simcoe Hospitality Awards 2015

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The Simcoe Hospitality Awards were off to a marvelous start with Chef Michael Smith in the house. What a wonderful and timely coincidence that Chef Smith was visiting Orillia for a fundraising dinner to benefit the food banks, and that he is a personal friend of Chef Derek Mayes, Executive Chef at the Mariposa Inn where the Third Annual Simcoe County Region ORHMA (Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association) Awards were being held. The evening is a major fundraiser in support of student scholarships for those on a career path in Culinary, Tourism, Hotel and Resort Programs at Georgian College. The industry gathers to pay homage to their own, and while the goal is to raise money, everyone from students to CEOs and guests had a wonderful time tasting and talking. Having a Food Network star in the house, giving impromptu oyster shucking lessons, was the proverbial icing on the cake! Chef Daniel Clements assured me the honoured guest was quite approachable and indeed he was. Chef Smith charmed the room, conversations and photo ops created a buzz of energy in the venue that will long be remembered.

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The Culinary Students created the appetizers for the cocktail portion of the evening. Ryan Traversy, a familiar name for many in the restaurant industry in Barrie, was there with Peller Estates, pouring red and white wines for our sipping pleasure.

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The dining room was a blast of colour, the charcuterie plate a flash of flavour, our entertaining hosts for the evening were Melanie Case and Will Nash from Rogers TV.

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The food stations for the Chefs nominated for the Silver Plate Award were positioned on the periphery of the room; guests, flavours and opinions mingled as we tasted the diverse dishes.

  • Prime Angus California Strip Loin, Caramelized Onion, Aged Cheddar Potato Arrancini, Natural Glace with Currants and Truffles, Handmade Gnocchi, Sweet cherry Heirloom Tomato fennel salad.
  • Duck Confit, Pan Seared Butternut Squash Ravioli, Asparagus Tips & Madeira Jus
  • Juniper Spiced Monkfish, Corn & Wild Rice Pudding, Petit Pois, Shimeji Mushrooms, Pancetta, Port Wine Jus
  • Sous Vide Sadle of Rabbit, Roasted Red Pepper Confit Stuffing, Smoked Fingerling Mash, Broccolini Espuma, Butter Fried Lima Beans & Pearl Onions
  • “BBQ and Bonfire” was a crowd pleaser and proved to be the winner. Presented on a hand sanded board was Slow Braised Back Rib and Frenched Chicken Drumette, twice baked mini red potato with seven year aged white cheddar, Napa cabbage slaw and Blazin’ Kraken Rum Smore.

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Dessert was a very rich cheesecake. I am sure I heard the sound of a collective loosening of belt buckles. Ballots and pens were on the table for guests to vote for their favourite dish for the Silver Plate Award. I voted for Chef John K. Cordeaux’s fish dish, it was simply delightful and in my humble opinion stood out in presentation and flavour, a spring plate personified.

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It was Chef Erika Brouwer of Elegant Edge Catering who won the Silver Plate Award; my photographer and I captured her on camera, taking a selfie with her award, grinning ear to ear, congrats!

Online voting was done again this year for the majority of awards. Simcoe Hospitality Awards 2015 is on Facebook and has a twitter account @SHawards2015. A tremendous job was done leading up to the event reminding their followers to vote.

The Industry Award Winners were as follows:

Hospitality Manager – Don Buckle – Cranberry Golf Resort and Living Water Resort

Local Chef – Derek Mayes – Grape and Olive Wine and Martini Bistro

Industry Recognition – Helen Cooper – Casino Rama

Food Service and Hospitality Supplier – Kari Smith -Elite Party Rentals

Heart of House – David White – Holiday Inn Barrie Hotel and Conference Centre

The People’s Choice Awards, which were chosen by consumer votes included:

Favourite Server – Lisa Dilworth – Big Chris BBQ

Favourite Bartender – Ryan Zaroski – The Ranch

Favourite Restaurant – Big Chris BBQ

Favourite Accommodations – Casino Rama Hotel

Hospitality & Tourism Ambassador Award – Sara Thorogood, Best Western Plus Mariposa Inn & Conference Centre

Favourite Recreational/Tourism Facility Award – Casino Rama

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I am an advocate of local and for independent restaurateurs. I had hoped this would be the year Chef Andre Sanché of Ciboulette et Cie would be recognized for his outstanding support of all things local and for his kitchen mastery.

Chef Michael Smith addressed the room, sharing his philosophy on what it means to be in this industry; “To gather, to prepare and to share”. He elaborated and reiterated, but the simplicity of his message summarizes why we were there. While the organization of the event and the preparation of the food took time, his six simple words said it all. We gathered as a community and shared in a wonderful evening.

I am honoured to have attended this gala event that recognizes the extraordinary abilities in our County; the emerging talents, those that teach them, and the well-seasoned Chefs.

Congratulations to all!

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Written by: Penelope Morrow

Penelope Morrow is a writer, editor and local food aficionado from Barrie, follow her tweets @penelopejmorrow

Photos by Celeste Morrow-Bailie – CMB Photography

Il Buco Ristorante

Music and lighting is soft and flattering. The view of Kempenfelt Bay is stunning and the chalk board assures diners that this venue is event friendly; accommodating communions, confirmations, weddings and baptisms.

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As co-owner Enrico Angelucci tells me, the Italian Community in Barrie will have every Sunday booked during the spring and summer months to celebrate joyous family occasions which makes the owners of Il Buco Ristorante very happy! The winter holiday season is another busy time at Il Buco, with family and business Christmas parties booking well in advance to assure their function is accommodated.

The Dunlop Street entrance is somewhat inconspicuous, but there is ample parking and wheelchair accessibility when entering at the rear of the building from the Simcoe Street parking lot.

I suspect that the condo dwellers nearby frequent Il Buco regularly given the location and the view! Enrico Angelucci, his wife Sue Varga and part owner Karl Sawyer have proudly operated from this second floor spot for seven years. They are most ably assisted in the kitchen by international Chef George Silva. With photographer daughter eager to accompany me, we each took a different approach to the menu, as at lunch there is the option of ordering a la carte or enjoying the three course Prix Fixe.

Beef Carpaccio is a favourite of mine and I was pleased to see it makes an appearance here; this thinly sliced rare beef tenderloin is served with mixed greens, drizzled with olive oil and topped with grated fresh Parmigiano cheese. Delicious.

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From the three course Prix Fixe, the Classic Caesar Salad was darling daughters choice to start. While substitutions aren’t generally offered, our server, owner Sue Varga, was most accommodating and graciously allowed the switch of gnocchi instead of Penne pasta, in the “Funghi Penne with mushrooms in a rosé sauce”. While the gnocchi is not made in house, it presents with a rich flavourful sauce.

I asked Sue Varga to choose lunch for me, her recommendation of Pork Scaloppini in a lemon white wine sauce with Italian salad was sized well, the light lemon zip of the pork was refreshing. Dessert is included with the Prix Fixe lunch and while I wouldn’t usually have sweets at lunch, Sue strongly suggested that I try the Tiramisu. I am glad I did; the portion size was just right and the coffee flavour a great ending to the meal.

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While a working lunch doesn’t lend itself to wine sipping for me, nor does my editor recommend this, the wine list selections complement the foods, although I always like to see more of our fine Ontario VQA wines represented.

I returned to talk with Enrico Angelucci and learnt just how committed he and Sue Varga are to the restaurant. Not many folks would commute from Muskoka to Barrie daily, but they do! When a friend showed them the location, they knew it would be ideal for a restaurant and the daily drive is taken in stride. The family is considering a move south to Barrie, as they have grown attached to the community that supports their restaurant and the waterfront at the doorstep too!

Il Buco supports local where possible, shopping for produce at Cancilla’s, Flying Monkeys brews are on tap, poultry and eggs from a Stayer producer and my personal fave Local Foods Mart, Enrico fondly referred to as “our emergency store, you need something you run out down there, and most of the time you find it”.

Menu changes are small and subtle as their regular clientele, who tend to come every week or two expect tradition, the “simple plates”. There are four or five specials added to the menu each weekend. “Osso Buco and Chicken Parmigiana will always be offered as people get attached to it.” “The day we stop, people complain”.

“Business is good; it has been growing steady since we opened”. As Enrico Angelucci proudly tells me, Il Buco Ristorante has been named as one of The Best 100 Restaurants in Canada, according to Open Table.

In his own words; “Food is part of life, if you enjoy it with a glass of wine, there is nothing better really to end a day of work, you have a good day, a good meal at night, if everything was good for dinner you go to sleep happy, and a good glass of wine is always good, good wine makes good blood”.
I’ll drink to that!

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http://www.ilbucoristorante.com
dining@ilbucoristorante.com
31 Dunlop Street E. Barrie, Ontario
705.735.9595

Written by: Penelope Morrow

Penelope Morrow is a writer, editor and local food aficionado from Barrie, follow her tweets @penelopejmorrow

Photos by Celeste Morrow-Bailie – CMB Photography