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Mac’n at the Mac – Hotel Macdonald #YEGfoodblogs Cookoff

When I received the invitation to attend the Food Bloggers Cook-off, I was excited and intimidated at the same time.  Excited for the opportunity to spend time with Chef Jost and intimidated by his prestigious reputation.  Chef has been with the Fairmont group of hotels for over 15 years and trained in Strasbourg, France.  His cuisine is phenomenal.

The Mac sent out a tweet with a copy of this picture attached:

Fairmont Hotel Macdonald Foodbloggers Cook-off

There were six of us invited:

@YEGFoodie (me) @lindork (Linda Hoang) @baconhound (Phil Wilson) @kitchenmagpie (Karlynn Johnston) @cookeatenjoy (Gail Hall) @sharonyeo (Sharon Yeo)

When we arrived, we were presented with our lovely personalized Chef Jackets.

Fairmont Hotel Macdonald Chef Jacket

After we all got dressed in our fancy new duds, we split into three teams;  Appetizers, Entrees and Desserts.  Gail and Sharon were on Appetizers, Linda and I were on Entrees, and Phil and Karlynn were on Desserts.

Team Entrees:

Fairmont Hotel Macdonald - Team Entrees

We were then handed a never-ending glass of champagne and introduced to our stations.

Fairmont Hotel Macdonald - Entrees Station

Our Blogger Menu included:

Appetizers – Vegetable Tartletts.  Asparagus with poached quail egg, pan-fried Foie Gras with balsamic reduction.

Entrees – Stuffed Chicken with Duck Breast (Sous Vide).  Green Pea Mousse, Onion Petals, Hazelnut Lemon Gremolata, Mushroom Foam and Demi Glace with Black Olives.

Desserts – Strawberry Gelee with Rhubarb Compote, Strawberry Sherbet, Strawberry Tuile and Vanilla Foam.

Chef Jost introduced his team and explained how the evening was going to go.

Fairmont Hotel Macdonald - Chef Jost

Team Entree started with the Stuffed Chicken.

Fairmont Hotel Macdonald - Stuffed Chicken

For our Entrees mission, the food was pre-prepped so that we had to do minimal work.  Not so intimidating after all!  The duck was seared and the chicken was butterflied.  All we had to do was stuff it into the plastic bags, add the temperature probes and put it into the Sous Vide bath.

Fairmont Hotel Macdonald - Sous Vide Prep
Fairmont Hotel Macdonald - Sous Vide Prep
Fairmont Hotel Macdonald - Sous Vide Prep

Team Appetizer:

Fairmont Hotel Macdonald - Team Appetizer

Team Dessert:

Fairmont Hotel Macdonald - Team Dessert

Next on our “to-do” list was the Green Pea Mousse.

Fairmont Hotel Macdonald - Green Pea Mousse

That nifty little machine behind the container of peas is a “Thermo-mix”.  It cooks and blends at the same time which makes very smooth flavourful creations.

My team-mate, Linda mixing the Hazlenut Lemon Gremolata:

Fairmont Hotel Macdonald - Gremolata Prep

Our friends on Team Appetizer were starting to plate, so we were very close to being able to enjoy the fruits of our labour.

Fairmont Hotel Macdonald - Appetizers Ready

Out in the Harvest Room, we got to relax and converse with Chef Jost.

Fairmont Hotel Macdonald - Chef Jost

We were given a lovely selection of breads and a salmon aperitif before the appetizers came out.

Fairmont Hote Macdonald - Salmon Lox

Beautiful presentation from the Mac’s kitchen staff.  Plating is half the battle!

After the never-ending champagne, a virgin punch was in order.  There was a wine pairing chosen for each of the dishes that was served and my dinner companions seemed to like each of the choices.

Fairmont Hotel Macdonald - Virgin Punch

Next up was Team Appetizer.  They had prepared the Vegetable Tartlets with carrots, celery, beets and tomato.  The veggies are on a filling of Grizzly Gouda Cheese Mousse.  On the lower left portion of the plate there is pan-fried Foie Gras with a balsamic reduction and aspargus with a poached quail egg.

Fairmont Hotel Macdonald - Team appetizer

There are a lot of textures and flavours on this plate.  They all blend so very well together.  The Foie Gras melted in your mouth and the quail egg was a great accent.  A vegetable peeler is taken to the stalks of the asparagus so it is tender but firm.

The Vegetable Tartlet pastry was amazing; very flaky and delicious.   The Grizzly Gouda Cheese Mousse offset the crispiness of the pastry and the tastes paired incredibly well with the vegetables.

While everyone was finishing up their appetizer, Team Entree dashed back to the kitchen for plating.

Fairmont Hotel Macdonald - Team Entree Plating

Thankfully we were assisting Chef Jost.  The Mac’s food is always so beautifully presented.

Team Entree presented the Sous Vide Stuffed Chicken with Duck Breast.  The lovely variety of extras on the plate were green pea mousse, onion petals, hazelnut lemon gremolata, mushroom foam, demi glace and golden beet.

Fairmont Hotel Macdonald - Team Entree

Cooking Sous Vide is relatively new to Canada.  Since Chef Jost trained in France, he has had a few more years practice than the rest of us.  This method keeps the juices and aroma sealed in and allows the item to be slowly and evenly cooked.  The meat was tender, juicy and delicious.  The other various flavours presented on the plate were great accents for the poultry.

Team Dessert went back and plated their creation.

Fairmont Hotel Macdonald - Strawberry and Rhubarb Dessert

Strawberry and rhubarb are already perfect together.  How does Chef Jost improve on this?  He gives you many different textures to enjoy!  The gelee is a little firmer than your everyday gelatin.  The Rhubarb Compote was tender and so good with the gelee.  The sorbet added some chill and the Tuile a bit of crispiness.  The Vanilla Foam is much lighter than a whipped cream, beautiful for finishing off this creation.

All of us were curious as to why we had been invited out to such a creative, lovely evening to be able to have face time with Chef Jost.  Simply answered; there is a new Mac in town!

The Fairmont Hotel Macdonald has a reputation for a “suit and tie” culture.  In fact, I had traveled straight to the event from work where we dress casually and was a little worried about a dress code.  There is no dress code at the Mac.  If you would like to dress in a gown and a fascinator to attend the Royal Tea, then you are welcome to do so.  If you are more comfortable in jeans, then that is how you should enjoy yourself at the Mac.

The beautiful castle-like building is a cornerstone to our fair city.  It is over 100 years old.  The kitchen is tiny.  Chef has found many creative ways to bring the food to the patrons.  The patio off of the Harvest Room has been opened up, so you can now sit outside the Confederation Lounge, or the Harvest Room and enjoy one of the most beautiful views of the river valley in the city.

Keep your eyes open for the new Tapas menu.  You will be able to enjoy a nice seat out on the patio with a lovely glass of wine and a couple of Tapas and enjoy the sunset.  What a great way to go and try the Mac’s menu and have a very affordable night out!

**I promise to get you a picture of the breath-taking view for a post very soon.  The weather was awful this day and it was very foggy in the valley.

Imagine being able to enjoy the best Eggs Benedict in the city, or the sumptuous brunch offerings on a lovely Sunday morning on the patio, out in the fresh air being able to look out over the river valley… What a beautiful gift for the upcoming Mother’s Day!

Dietary concerns?  The method that Chef Jost has of layering flavours works very well with people that have allergies and dietary sensitivities.  Make sure that you let the staff know and you will find them to be very accommodating.

The Fairmont group has really taken great strides toward sourcing locally.  The Fairmont in Jasper has their own honey bees on the roof of the hotel to produce their honey.  The Fairmont Macdonald sources as many local ingredients as possible.  Fresh and flavourful is the goal.  The menu changes seasonally so please consult the website for the latest information.

Welcome the new face of the Mac; hospitality, quality, freshness, sustainability and all without a jacket and tie!

The culinary team at the Mac is just getting used to using Social Media.  You can follow Chef Jost on Twitter: @Chef_Jost but do be patient with him, he is still getting the hang of “hashtags”.

Many thanks to Chef Jost and all of the staff at the Mac.  It was such a pleasure to spend the evening with new friends.  Great experience, great food and lots of laughs.  #MacMemories were certainly made, it was an evening not to be forgotten! Until we meet again.

#FoieGras #DressCode #finedining #yegfood #yegfoodie #Sustainable #HotelMac #HotelMacdonald

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