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Recipe to Riches reviewed, episode 1: Mini Cheesy Bees’ Nest

RECIPE TO RICHES Season 2, Episode 1

In the Canadian reality TV family, Recipe to Riches is the responsible Dockers-clad cousin to the stilleto-wearing, alternatively shrieking and sobbing Bachelor Canada. In true Recipes fashion, the second season promises nothing if not consistency; the judges have all returned, the stakes aren’t any higher (although $250,000 is nothing to sneeze at), the contestants don’t seem any meaner and the dishes seem no more extravagant or risky (OK, butter chicken lasagna does have us a little worried). Even the format is exactly the same. Not that we’re complaining—there’s something to be said about the show’s dastardly integration of product development, marketing and sales (the winning dish shows up on Loblaws shelves the weekend after the show airs). And anyway, the inaugural episode of season two has brought out Recipes’ wild side, relatively speaking. That’s right, desserts are first. Game on.

Mini-Recap

Let’s start with a spoiler: the winning dessert has mozzarella cheese. It sounds crazy, yes, but Nerepis, New Brunswick’s Jason Keary created a Honey Cheese Tart that’s exactly what you’d think a guy in a metal band (which he is) would do when asked to make a pastry: he took ingredients lying around his house, punched them into a muffin tin, and cooked it. The metalhead approach to pastry helped him in the “batch-up challenge,” too, where contestants make larger quantities of their home recipe. While he wailed away at phyllo, the über-elegant Cherilynn Balachander’s painstaking approach—at one point her team watched her make her classic Battenburg cake by the tablespoon—slowed her kitchen down to a crawl. She loosened up, but it didn’t help: the perfectly checkered, marzipan-covered cakes looked ace but were judged as “very vanilla,” and she was dropped. This left Keary going toe-to-toe with Surrey, B.C.’s Jillianne Niver and her Chocolate Butterscotch Pot de Crème (renamed by her marketing team as Delish de Crème; hey, if you’ve got a blog, you’ve got a brand). The resulting marketing competition was an exercise in contrast: Keary rented a guitar and shredded out a jingle, while Niver’s marketing team suggested a Marie Antoinette–inspired garden party to reflect her delicate puddings (presumably they were thinking of the historically questionable “let them eat cake”). Even though Niver handily won the marketing competition, Keary’s superior batch-up performance won him the day (Laura Calder thought his dessert, which is more or less pastry filled with cream cheese, would make a good snack for some reason). In the end, “guest” judge Galen Weston boiled the standoff down to something classic versus something new, and something new won out.

Best dish that the judges passed on: Maple Dip Muffnuts

Best line: Keary, “I have no idea what I’m doing. At all.”

Number of times host Jesse Palmer said “Prestigious President’s Choice line”: 2

Tasting

As soon as we got our hands on the box, it was clear that something was amiss. The Honey Cheese Tart, renamed Mini Cheesy Bees’ Nest, has clearly undergone some changes from Keary’s kitchen to its tidy President’s Choice box. We pulled the tray of tarts out of the package, and just as the box promised, the readjustment in size was accompanied by a dollop of mixed berry coulis that dominates each phyllo-cupped tartlet. The mozzarella, the out-there ingredient that wooed the judges, is sparse. “It just tastes like Smuckers,” said one in-office taster, which is actually decent praise if you’re a fan of jam. But it got worse from there: “Oil and jam” was capsule review number two, while another lamented it as a ruined Toaster Strudel. On the show, Calder had praised the tart’s subtle sweetness; we found the coulis-smothered bite more than a little cloying. Sadly, the Nest just kept on giving in the worst way: it left a clammy film behind in all of our throats, and a stomach ache was reported afterward. A quick glance at the nutritional label reveals that a pair of mini tarts packs only 10 fewer calories than a can of Coke. One panelist put it best: “I regret it. I regret eating it.” Sorry Jason.

Perfect Pairing: Toothpaste, swiftly delivered on a toothbrush.

(Images: Keary and honey cheese tart, Food Network Canada; tasting images, Andrew D’Cruz)