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In The Kitchen with Chef Shonn (Blog)

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I’m so excited about our new menu that comes out tomorrow (May 19th)! It’s been a long two month journey of preparation to perfect this new menu, but we couldn’t be happier about the results, all the hard work comes into fruition tomorrow and that’s what makes it all worth it.
I use our regulars as guinea pigs to try the new food we create & the feedback has been superb! Everyone loves this new menu which has a Korean influence; we’re cooking a lot of dishes with an open flame which I believe will become a trend within the next year.
I’ve picked up a lot of great ingredients from the Italian centre and some from planet organic, I really believe you’ll enjoy the way we’ve pickled some sides & used vinegar as a featured ingredient. I worked all of May long weekend to put the final touches on this new menu & also printed the menu’s, please come in and try some new dishes and let me know what you think on our Facebook page!
If you’re looking to try something completely different than what you’re used to, try our Octopus yakitori which is made on our new Japanese BBQ. I hope you had a great weekend with your family; I’m excited to see all of you in the restaurant in the next few weeks!
– Chef Shonn

How to cook the perfect steak

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Whether your preference is a butter-soft fillet steak, tasty sirloin or thrifty cut like bavette or skirt, care and attention should be paid when cooking your beef. With only a few minutes leeway between rare and well-done, timing is key. We’ve put together some tips to help you from start to finish.

Select your best frying pan

We recommend frying your steak, although you can grill it if you prefer. A heavy-duty, thick-based frying pan, ideally with a non-stick coating, will achieve good results, as will a heavy griddle pan or skillet. These types of pans get really hot – ideal for getting that slightly sweet, charred finish to the outside of your meat.

If the pan isn’t big enough for all your steaks, don’t be tempted to squeeze them in anyway. Cook them one or two at a time then leave them to rest as you cook the remainder of your batch.

Pick an oil

We like groundnut oil for cooking steaks – it has a mild flavour and can withstand very high temperatures without burning. Never use butter, unless you want to add a knob at the very end for a creamy finish.

The jury’s out when it comes to how you apply the oil. Some chefs like to oil the steak then add it to a hot dry pan, while others add a splash of oil directly to the pan. Once the oil starts separating, it’s hot enough to add the steak. Whichever method you use, the important thing is to get an even spread of oil.

Don’t be tempted to put your steak in early – if the oil is too cool, your meat could turn out greasy and under-browned.

Dressing your steak

Beef purists may prefer to take in the unadulterated rich flavour of a quality steak by adding nothing other than a few twists of salt and pepper. However, don’t season too early – salt will draw moisture from the meat. Gordon Ramsay suggests sprinkling black pepper and sea salt onto a plate, then pressing the meat into the seasoning moments before placing it into the pan.

You could try dry-spicing your steak with coriander seeds, or go really heavy on the cracked black pepper by adding half a teaspoon per steak.

Others like to enhance flavour and tenderise the meat with a marinadeBalsamic vinegar will reduce down to a sweet glaze, as will a coating of honey & mustard.

How do you like it?

  • Blue: Should still be a dark colour, almost purple, and just warm.  It will feel spongy with no resistance.
  • Rare: Dark red in colour with some juice flowing.  It will feel soft and spongy with slight resistance.
  • Medium-rare: A more pink colour with a little pink juice flowing.  It will be a bit soft and spongy and slightly springy.
  • Medium: Pale pink in the middle with hardly any juice flowing. It will feel firm and springy.
  • Well-done: Only a trace of pink colour but not dry.  It will feel spongy and soft and slightly springy.

Get cooking

It’s very important to consider the size and weight of your steak before calculating the cooking time. If you’re unsure, take advantage of the expert eye of your butcher who should be able to tell you how long you need to cook your meat.

We recommend the following cooking times for a 3.5cm thick fillet steak:

  • Blue: About 1½ mins each side
  • Rare: About 2¼ mins each side
  • Medium-rare: About 3¼ mins each side
  • Medium: About 4½ mins each side

We also recommend the following for a 2cm thick sirloin steak:

  • Blue: About 1 min each side
  • Rare: About 1½ mins per side
  • Medium rare: About 2 mins per side
  • Medium: About 2¼ mins per side

For a well-done steak, cook for about 4-5 minutes each side, depending on thickness.

Check your steak is cooked correctly

Use your fingers to prod the cooked steak – when rare it will feel soft, medium-rare will be lightly bouncy, and well-done will be much firmer.

Leave it to rest

A cooked steak should rest at room temperature for at least five minutes – it will stay warm for anything up to 10 minutes. Here, pure science comes into play – the fibres of the meat will reabsorb the free-running juices resulting in a moist and tender finish to your steak.

Serve up



Chef Shonn’s favourite Kitchen Knife

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Shun Knives, a popular cutlery manufacturer from Japan, has had strong and fast growth in the US market today, displaying an almost 40% growth rate per year. If you ask “Who Makes Shun Knives“, all of the shun knives are manufactured in Seki City almost for a century. This city is considered as the center of samurai sword-making. It is no surprise that Best Shun Knife models have extremely sharp blades.

ome of the significant features of shun knife lines are Pakkawood Handle, Damascus Patterning, Tsuchime Finish, Kasumi Way of Knife Making and Hammered Tsuchime Touch on The Knife. For those who do not know about Kasumi Method, it is the traditional Japanese way of producing knives. The high-carbon steel with an outer layer of another steel makes sun knives very easy to sharpen and has very sharp edges. Keep reading this Shun Knives Review to discover more useful information.

The Hammered Tsuchime Design give a feel of handcrafting to a blade, as well as a good look on the blade of the knife. Small pockets on the blades behave like hollow-ground cavities, preventing drag and lastly releasing food.

This is an important section in Shun Knife Review. The Damascus style that was boasted on many Shun Knife Review help to create a elegant-waved pattern on the knife. This special type of styling makes the blade’s slicing action smoother and gentler while protecting the hard-core. The common characteristic of Shun Knives Review are Construction and Steel. Shun Ken onion brand is well-known for its sharpness, durability and design.

Lastly, you should know while reading this Shun Knives Review that their products are made either from Pakkawood or Hardwood, that is moisture-resistant. There are various shun knife lines which are Shun Classic Knives, Shun Elite Knives Review, Shun Premier Knives, Shun Reserve Knives and The Shun Pro Knives.

Shun Classic Knives

These are the most common types of Shun Knives. In common, Long-lasting and very sharp. Shun Classic is by far the most famous cutlery line, outsmarting all other lines joined together. If you know somebody that has a Shun, odds are they own a Shun Classic Knife. It’s beautiful Damascus pattern on the blade looks very similar to a wood grain. The D shaped handles which means they have a left-handed or right-handed bias (You Can Might Buy Those In Either Ways).

The polished edges which gives the knife a good look. This line is priced reasonably and built of high-quality. This is the first line shun knife evaluation in our description on all types of cutlery lines. Comparing Shun Premier vs Classic, the opinion may differ for each based on factors such as Finish, Fit, Design, Price and so on. Most of the Shun Chef Knife Review fall under this Shun Line of Cutlery.



You should try this wine at your next meal!

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We have a fantastic wine list, and on top of that we have the best prices in the city! We have exquisite & rare wines, ask us how you can pair your wine to your meal at your next dining experience.

May we suggest to try this incredible wine from Argentina.

Domiciano 2011 Malbec

100% Malbec
Intense and vibrant violet color. Complex, rich nose with great concentration of floral aromas that intermingle with cherry, blackberry and cassis notes. A presence of black pepper and vanilla enhances its complexity. Lively yet mature on the palate, with juicy red fruit notes that are complimented by a slight smokiness. Its structured tannins have an unconventional texture that cause the wine to feel smooth and intense at the same time. A mineral finish followed by some tobacco notes lends it a silky persistence. Aged in French and American oak for 10 months.

The Perfect Lobster

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LOBSTER FEST: Is happening right now at Characters & it will last throughout all of May, come enjoy some signature lobster dishes!

The finest lobsters in the world come from the cold coastal waters off the town of Fourchu, on Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island. At least that’s what the locals—most of whom make a living catching and selling the creatures—claim. And if the determination and savvy of one resourceful woman have anything to do with it, this densely meaty crustacean might well become the next Wagyu beef, Chilean sea bass, or jamón ibérico. Twenty years ago no one had heard of these now well-known name-brand delicacies, either.

That woman is Dorothy Cann Hamilton, the founder and CEO of New York’s French Culinary Institute and a descendant of a line of Fourchu natives that stretches back to 1760, when her Scottish forebears wrested this land from the French colonists who settled it. A longtime Fourchu booster, Cann Hamilton recently realized that she could do her ancestral home a great service by inducing top New York restaurants to serve Fourchu lobster at a premium price. And so it happened that on a weekend last June I joined Cann Hamilton and a group of New York star chefs to meet this sublime shellfish on its home surf.

Though you may never have been to Nova Scotia, let alone Cape Breton Island, you’ve likely already been introduced to Fourchu. Early in the film Jaws, as the harbormaster pages through a copy of the February 1968 issue of National Geographic, he comes across an article entitled “Sharks: Wolves of the Sea” and an accompanying illustration of a great white biting into a dinghy as two terrified seamen quake with fear. This might seem like the stuff of fiction, but that encounter really happened, just outside Fourchu in 1953, the only documented instance of a great white attacking a boat.

On the evening of our arrival, Kevin Burns, the nephew of the fisherman who drowned in the incident, retold the tale. “My uncle, Johnny Dan Burns, was out shiftin’ traps,” he said. “He was with Johnny Willie MacLeod and they was in a rowboat when out of the blue, a great white rammed her. Bit a hole in the boat and knocked my uncle out. Later they found a long shark tooth in the planking.”

Colorful stories like this sad last fishing trip of Johnny Dan Burns would not only help establish the identity of the Fourchu lobster but could also go a long way toward encouraging sophisticated urbanites to pay top dollar for the stuff in fine restaurants. Similar narratives help sell Burgundy wine, as well as Kentucky ham and Berkshire pork.

But while such lyrical lore might pique diners’ interest, launching a brand entails much more than just giving something a name and telling its story. Before the public will embrace a new ingredient, that product has to prove its inherent quality. The taste must live up to the tale. And in the case of the Fourchu lobster, that taste depends on two factors: geography and bureaucracy.

First the geography. Fourchu sits straight in the path of frigid currents that dive down from the Arctic Ocean, and colder water means firmer, fuller-flavored seafood. Just think about the difference between a soft, sweetish Gulf Coast oyster from the warm Louisiana shallows and a briny, complex-tasting, firm-fleshed Belon from the chilly North Atlantic. “Because of the colder water, our lobsters are slower growing,” says Gordon MacDonald, one of Fourchu’s leading fishermen, who also holds a master’s degree in organic chemistry. “Their biological processes slow down. They become heartier with much higher blood protein, which may explain the different taste.”

As for the bureaucratic part of the equation, “We’re hitting the lobsters at the right point in their life cycle,” says Alan Reeves, a crustacean technician for the Canadian government. In Fourchu, lobster season arrives in late May, just before these crustaceans molt, shedding their shells to grow roomier garb. This is when the meat inside those shells is at its tastiest and firmest. Freshly molted lobsters, in contrast, have a taste and texture like soft-shell crabs; the flesh is flabbier, and though they may be sweeter, they are decidedly less flavorful.

MacDonald provided our lobster orientation on the evening of our arrival, when Cann Hamilton prepared lobster chowder and Atlantic salmon. Among the New York culinary contingent were chef-restaurateurs Jonathan Waxman and Anne Burrell, as well as Dan Barber, the chef and owner of Blue Hill in the West Village and its upstate outpost at the nonprofit Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture. Three later arrivals, delayed by a flat tire, were David Pasternak, who runs Esca; Floyd Cardoz, the innovative interpreter of Indian-inspired cuisine at Tabla and Bread Bar; and Tuscan transplant Cesare Casella, whose new project, Salumeria Rosi, on the Upper West Side, has been getting recent attention. After our early dinner the road-weary chefs retired immediately. We had a 9 a.m. rendezvous with MacDonald.

This, as it turned out, was rather late for the local lobstering time clock. When his boat, the Wendy Marie II, picked us up, MacDonald and his two-man crew had been out since 4 a.m.

We motored out of the harbor, and MacDonald set a direct course for his traplines, just offshore. In short, efficient order, the crew winched in two dozen cages from a depth of 30 to 50 feet. The rocky bottom, we learned, is an ideal lobster habitat. It’s full of nooks and crannies where these creatures can hide from predators, and it teems with sea urchins and rock crabs, the lobsters’ favorites.

Crewman John Martell pulled a lobster from the cage and prodded it, and the crustacean responded with a kung-fu display of claw snapping. “The big claw,” Martell said, “is called a crusher. It can smash through a clamshell or break your finger. The other, even sharper, can cut right through you.” Martell measured the lobster with a pair of calipers, making sure it met the government-mandated minimum size. Under current rules, the carapace—from the head to the beginning of the tail—must be at least 82.5 millimeters, which means the lobster is about eight years old. This strictly enforced limit helps explain why the Fourchu lobster population has remained robust while other species, like these same waters’ once plentiful but now overfished cod, have diminished.

With each lobster that passed the size test, Martell and his fellow lobsterman Neil Tonet secured its claws with rubber bands and tossed it in a plastic tub. And as the traps were emptied, the crew placed a bag of chopped-up mackerel—a particularly stinky and effective bait—inside.

The day’s 600 pounds were average for the season (though it varies widely from year to year), and at a market price of $5.25 per pound, it represented a tidy, if hard-earned, profit. There is little room for badly set traps or uncooperative weather if the fishermen hope to earn a living and pay off the cost of one of the town’s lobstering licenses. Only a few are available, and they rarely come on the market. When they do, these days they can fetch upwards of $300,000.

We brought our catch back to land for a lobster boil and hootenanny at the Fourchu Community Center later that night. Cann Hamilton had invited the whole town—all 47 residents—as well as others from nearby. As we gathered in her garage, sipping beers, Malcolm MacDonald, Gordon’s uncle, sat in a rocker and watched the comings and goings. Having once let a chef commit what he felt was a sacrilege—undercooking lobsters—the elder MacDonald was not about to allow the same mistake. “You have to boil a lobster twenty minutes,” he instructed. “Any less and it’s kind of slimy.”

The faces of the assembled chefs fell in unison. Common wisdom among gourmets is that it takes only 10 to 12 minutes to render the meat tender and juicy. But 75-year-old MacDonald is the first citizen of Fourchu, so his word, while not exactly law, commands respect from visitors.

We consoled ourselves with more beer and more cooking while MacDonald spoke almost mystically about the lobsters’ seasonal trek to and from deeper waters. This is a man whose connection to nature is both deep and poetic. “They are a mystery, those lobsters,” he said. “Even with all that we know, we still don’t know a lot about what goes on under the sea.”

As for those evergreen branches that the lobstermen had thrown in the traps earlier in the day? “It was juniper,” said MacDonald. “The old-time traps were made of the stuff, and I think that something in that scent attracted lobsters. So now some fishermen put a branch in the steel traps.”

“Sometimes,” MacDonald then confessed, taking his thought to its logical conclusion, “I do like to splash a little gin on the bait.”

By 5 p.m. dinner was ready, and we ferried the lobsters down to the meeting hall, a utilitarian barn of a building that looked like an Elks Club or American Legion in any small town. The parking lot was full; the entire village—man, woman, child—had turned out.

On the stage a local band of fiddlers launched into a round of Highland tunes. Later, keyboardist Seamus MacNeil, whose fame extends up and down Cape Breton Island, accompanied his daughter, Monica, a schoolteacher and mother of three, as she poured out ancient Celtic melodies on her soprano saxophone. The old-timers square-danced with the energy of teenagers until, by eight o’clock, the party was over. It was way past bedtime for the lobstermen of Fourchu.

As a party it was memorable, but as the chefs feared, the lobsters were overcooked. We left the meeting hall determined to prepare some up our own way and asked Gordon MacDonald if we could grab a few more of the live ones that were stored in cages near his boat.

We returned to Cann Hamilton’s with a half dozen. Barber separated the tails from the claws, boiling the former for six minutes and the latter for two and a half. The difference from a classic Maine lobster was clear and unmistakable, much like the difference between a California Chardonnay and a Montrachet; where American Chard has one note, a buttery sweetness, the Burgundian wine is complex, mineralized.

As Barber said, “If it’s sweetness you’re after, I think there are lobsters, especially softer shells from Maine, that will deliver, but maybe that’s not what we should be looking for here. The Fourchus have this rich, meaty sea flavor that is also sweet enough.”

Waxman put it more bluntly: “With a lot of lobsters there’s a sweetness I dislike. But these boys had balls. They really were toothsome and delicious.”

So the Fourchu lobsters passed the palate challenge with these experts, but does that mean we’ll soon see them on New York menus alongside Périgord truffles and Alaskan king crab? That all depends on how big the market is and how soon Cann Hamilton and the townsfolk of Fourchu can work out the logistics and the costs of transporting their catch over a thousand miles south to Manhattan.

To be sure, they will be expensive, but still they are great lobsters with a great story, and in Dorothy Cann Hamilton they have a formidable champion. Lobster is, for most of us any-way, a special-event kind of meal, so it could very well happen that the opportunity to choose these Canadian beasts over less pedigreed ones will cause our collective gourmet gene to kick right in.

I can see the bumper sticker now: “Fourchu or forget it!”