September 2004 Edition
Flavour of Canada

Executive Chef Mario Julien

Club de Golf Le Mirage

by Louis-Martin Bedard

Nestled in the beautiful region of Lanaudiere just twenty minutes from the island of Montreal, Club de Golf Le Mirage is home to two of the most beautiful golf courses in Quebec: the Arizona and the Carolina. Just driving down the private lane that leads to the Le Mirage can cause golf fans to start to salivate. And that's good! They'll be ready to appreciate Executive Chef Mario Julien's cuisine.

The Club de Golf Le Mirage is owned by René Angelil and Céline Dion, and is in its 11th year of operation. Le Mirage is a private club which has 600 members including businessmen, media & TV personalities, and artists.

The restaurant facilities can accommodate 500 people with seating in two dining rooms; a terrace, and a snack bar called the '9 ½', located between two 9 hole courses. The cuisine at the Le Mirage is varied and includes everything from fast food for busy people eating quickly before or after a game, to the more elaborate dining room cuisine which offers table d’hôte recipes that change weekly. Fridays are BBQ nights on the terrace and an express lunch is served every weekday. Smaller brunches are served on weekends and on Sunday a complete brunch closes the week.

Le Mirage distinguishes itself in the industry by the quality of the products used and the research that is undertaken before any new product is added to the menu. 'That's what keeps us one step ahead of everybody,' says Chef Mario Julien. 'We do not skimp on quality. If quality is there, we do not hesitate to pay a couple of dollars more. What is important to me is that the customer leaves saying: We were at the Mirage!'

Julien tries to use locally produced Quebec products as much as possible. In this respect his Sysco Marketing Associate Alain Bouchard has been particularly helpful. When Le Mirage was offering Italian jams, Alain suggested they try the Piedmont-Dora jams, produced in nearby Ste-Anne-des-Plaines and now Le Mirage offers this favoured local jam which is a hit with locals and visitors alike.

'Sysco products are quality products. They're reliable one day to the next and we always know their origin. It gives us security to know that we're buying local products and to see an international company that encourages local products so much. The relationship with our Marketing Associate is important. I can call Alain any time - we can count on Sysco people,' says Julien.

And at the Club de Golf Le Mirage fostering a strong relationship with their members is equally important. It gives Chef Julien great pleasure to stroll through the dining room greeting customers, providing a unique and friendly dining experience.

'We welcome our members in a friendly atmosphere so that they really feel at home. They have the opportunity to discuss with me what they'd like to see on the menu the next day, or ask me to come to their table during an important meal with customers,' says Julien.

Executive Chef Mario Julien is in his second year at the Mirage but it is his 34th year in the restaurant and foodservice industry. He has worked in many different foodservice venues including caterers, brasseries, and gourmet Italian restaurants. He has been the spokesperson of the Fédération des producteurs de porc du Québec for three years and is a member of numerous chefs associations. In 1999, he was named Eastern Canada chef of the year by the Canadian federation of chefs and cooks and, in 2001, Quebec chef of the year by the Société des chefs et pâtissiers du Québec.

Julien is often associated with a daring combination of sweet and salty cuisine because he often marries fruits and proteins. He likes to play with contrasts: sugar and acidic combinations, or peaches and olives for example. At the Sysco Québec golf tournament, which was held at the Mirage last June, he designed a plate of Angus Butcher's BlockTM strip loin served with a butterscotch sauce and butterscotch cookie chips for garnish.

Chef Julien also enjoys introducing rare or unknown products such as Hawaiian sea salt that comes from a salt mine invaded by volcanic lava, or a different species of mushrooms or wild herbs gathered by a mushroom hunter. This doesn't mean that prices for meals at Le Mirage are outrageous - rather table d'hôte meals made with these products come at a very reasonable price.

This fall Chef Julien is hosting a conference in Casablanca, Morocco; and this won't be his first international adventure - he was part of four economic missions to represent the province of Quebec outside the country in Tai Pei in 1998.

The success of the Club de Golf Le Mirage is a result of the combined efforts of Chef Julien and the dedicated staff. Foodservice excellence has always been paramount and requests from non-members to hold banquets or meetings at Le Mirage are numerous. Rumors are circulating that a new reception hall may be added to the main building which would double the facility's capacity. Good news for Chef Julien and his team, and a strong testament to the superior level of foodservice at the Club de Golf Le Mirage. ¨

 

Cafe Brio

Greg Hays & Silvia Marcolini, Owners

Chris Dignan, Chef

by Sarah Phillips

Located a few blocks away from the Inner Harbour in Victoria, British Columbia; Café Brio is a bistro-style, fine dining restaurant that serves exceptional West Coast contemporary cuisine in an atmosphere of Italian charm.

Owner's Greg Hays and Silvia Marcolini established Café Brio in 1997, and Marcolini lent her considerable gift for interior decorating to the dining areas, including the outdoor patio which features hand forged wrought iron railings, a distressed concrete floor, and cascading vines and flowers - simply delightful alfresco dining.

"In the colours and décor, we were looking for a neo-renaissance feel that was spirited, yet also comfortable," says Marcolini.

Bi-fold doors on each side of the main entrance invite the outdoors in, and here patrons can enjoy a cozy dining atmosphere. Tables are nestled beneath flower arrangements and terra cotta walls provide a warm backdrop for the gallery of artwork and gilt framed mirrors that Hays and Marcolini have collected.

The restaurant itself seats ninety indoors and another sixteen on the patio and has a staff of twenty-five. About half of the staff work in the kitchen preparing food.

The focus at Café Brio is on high quality in-season, locally produced and organic ingredients. The menu changes regularly depending on what is available locally and Chef Chris Dignan's philosophy of "what grows together, goes together" captures the essence of Café Brio perfectly. The mandate has always been to use regional, local and in-season products blended with traditions found in classical cooking.

"I enjoy the braised short ribs in the fall, and during summer I favour the fresh seasonal seafood dishes with lighter sauces," says Hays.

Other favourites are the charcuterie selections such as house-made Duck Ballotine and imported Sopresatta.

Café Brio is open for dinner seven days a week and most of the clientele are tourists thanks to the restaurant's exceptional web presence and prominence in travel guides such as Fodor's and Frommer's. However, many locals have also discovered this treasure and the restaurant has received many accolades over the years. Hays and Marcolini won the BCRFA BC Restaurateurs of the Year Award in 2003.

Chef Dignan has been with Café Brio for five years and is inspired by the opportunity to work with high quality ingredients.

"From land to sea, Café Brio's menu focuses on regional products," says Dignan. "Flavour pairing comes naturally when using products that originate in the same region. Sauces are often kept simple or light so they do not mask the natural flavours found in the ingredients."

Guests are treated to a wide range of choices from pasta dishes such as Tagliatelle: braised chicken leg, tomato confit, green olives, pancetta and mustard greens; to fish dishes such as Braised Pacific Rockfish with Lebanese cous cous in a tomato clam broth.

To ensure guests experience BC dining at its best Café Brio also has an award winning wine list, including over 300 wines from all over the world, and an excellent selection of rare wines from British Columbia vineyards.

Cross promoting with other Victoria attractions has proven to be very effective for Café Brio. For example, in conjunction with a Leonardo Da Vinci exhibit at the Royal BC Museum, they offered a coordinating menu.

"We plan to continue doing this kind of cross-promotion, as it gives the customer a full BC experience at our restaurant," says Hays.

Café Brio has been working with North Douglas Sysco Food Services for the past four years.

"It is one-stop shopping for us and the level of service is outstanding," says Hays. "And, we really enjoy dealing with our Marketing Associate, Nadine Padur-Rose. We rely on her expertise to locate special, hard-to-find products."

Says Padur-Rose, "The winning combination of a talented chef and creative owners has made Café Brio a unique one-of-a-kind find in Victoria - a place that will be enjoyed for years to come by food and wine aficionados alike."¨

Sautéed Halibut with Butter Braised Radishes, Fava Beans and Watercress

Serves 4

Ingredients:

Halibut fillets, 4 oz (100g)     4

Radishes, halved 500 mL or 2 cups

Fava beans, peeled and blanched 125 mL or 1/2 cup

Vegetable stock 250 mL or 1 cup

Cider vinegar 10 mL or 2 tsp

Unsalted butter 45 mL or 3 Tbsp

Honey 5 mL or 1 tsp

Vegetable oil 15 mL or 1 Tbsp

Salt and white pepper, to taste

Method:

  • Put radishes, vegetable stock, cider vinegar, honey and 2 Tbsp (30 mL) butter into a saucepot and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to a gentle simmer and reduce until sauce thickens. Add fava beans. Season with salt and pepper and keep warm.
  • Heat oil in a sauté pan until almost smoking.
  • Season fish with salt and pepper and sear until golden brown, reduce heat and add remaining butter. Turn fish over and allow to cook to medium.
  • In a bowl, toss watercress, lemon, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon radishes and sauce into a bowl, top with fish and garnish with watercress