Much delicious fun was had on Monday evening at Globe Bistro on the Danforth. Owner Ed Ho closed the place in order to allow his chef Kevin McKenna (ably assisted by Dan Sanders), together with six other talented toques, to stage the third dinner in a series collectively known as the Group of Seven. The first had taken place at Beast and had played against the reputation of the place by forcing each of the seven chefs to prepare a vegetarian dish. The second event was staged at Parts & Labour, where sustainable seafood was the theme. Monday’s plan was that every chef should do something with fowl. Lots were drawn to determine the order (leaving McKenna scratching his head about what to create for dessert) and the seven, released from the self-imposed tyranny of their menus, began to imagine the possibilities…
It’s always a pleasure to revisit Globe Bistro, one of the most elegant bistros around. There was a fair representation of the industry in the crowd, together with friends of the restaurant and fans of the chefs. Wines were generously provided by Fielding Estates of Niagara and Rosehall Run of Prince Edward County. Rosehall’s co-owner and winemaker, Dan Sullivan was most entertaining as he described the early days of the County and the lonely life of a pioneer vigneron: “If it’s one person doing it, it’s a nut in the woods; if it’s two, it’s a destination!” Then we began to eat.
First up was Mark Cutrara of Cowbell who christened his dish “Cock ’n’ Balls.” There at the bottom of a wee bowl of clear partridge stock lay a whole, exeptionally tender cockscomb, two small, firm, sweetish, flavourful balls of partridge meat, two small dice of tongue and a little brunoise of carrot. It was delicately textured and beautifully balanced in terms of flavour and rather well matched with Rosehall 2008 Cuvée County Chardonnay, a lush, ripe, barrel-fermented beauty with vivid fruit and a final flourish of County minerality.
Chef number two was Scott Vivian of Beast who introduced his dish as “a take on southern fried chicken livers.” He had taken whole chicken livers, battered and deep fried them and they were amazingly delicious, soft and offally in a crisp batter shell. A creamy ranch dressing cut the liverishness a little as did a couple of tartly pickled wild leeks, picked last week, and some small spikes of pickled fennel root. Soft beets were the third sweet-sour element but in case the livers should be overwhelmed by such a coalition, Vivian sent in a thick tranche of bacon. Heaven. With this we drank Fielding 2010 Estate Riesling, aromatic, slightly off dry but with a ringing acidity that easily stood up to the pickles.
Guy Rawlings, who recently left Brockton General, was the third artist of the evening. He chose to work with the gizzards of drakes which he confited until they were unexpectedly tender, the texture most like that of a perfectly cooked lamb’s kidney. The presentation was typically rawlings with other interesting components all hither and yon on the plate, distanced – until you put them in your mouth. Thin dime-sized slices of salted carrot waved at garlic-mustard greens foraged that morning in the Don Valley. An emulsion of duck egg yolk, olive oil and garlic mustard streaked the plate and everything was strewn with a fine powder of pork “overcured” with smoked cinnamon and smoked black pepper. Rosehall’s 2007 Cabernet Franc picked out the subtle gizzard flavour like a sniper on the roof.
The fourth chef to strut his stuff was Rob Gentile of Buca who described his dish as “zampone di pollo.” Zampone is usually a pig’s trotter stuffed with its skin but Gentile chose to work with a chicken leg. I’ve been trying to think how he did what he did. First he made a farce out of the rest of the chicken, adding a little lardo, then he must have peeled back the skin on the chicken leg, removed bone and flesh and stuffed the skin with the farce like a sausage. The result was deep-fried and set upon a bed of Italian lentils (perfectly cooked) sauced with a green purée of nettles, marjoram, mint, thyme, parsley and basil. For good measure, the clawed chicken foot was also included on the plate. Some people attempted to eat it, but I found it defied my ingenuity. The Fielding 2008 Cabernet-Syrah was most impressive.
On to course five and chef Bertrand Alépée, late of Amuse Bouche, now freelancing as the mood takes him and thoroughly enjoying his liberty. His “squab en surprise” was essentially a pigeon Wellington, the tender squab breasts moistened with foie gras mousse and wrapped in buttery puff pastry (oh, such pastry – just in case anyone had forgotten that Bertrand began his career in the sweet kitchen). A truffled celeriac purée was as aromatic and sweetly earthy as you can imagine while some local seedlings I didn’t recognize added a herbal, chlorophylous element. And chef included the late squab’s inedible claw, raised in defiance, some blades of grass clenched in its tiny talons. A juniper-infused jus completed the spectrum of flavours, most of them neatly echoed in Rosehall’s succulent 2008 Pinot Noir.
The penultimate treat came from Matty Matheson of Parts & Labour who offered a treatise on the goose. Around a mound of soft, sweet, tangy choucroute he set his proteins. First a mighty hunk of rare smoked goose breast – surprisingly sweet and delectably peppery. Then a sausage made from the bird’s heart, liver, kidney and skin, the flavours unexpectedly subtle. Some meat pulled from a confit of the goose thighs and some more from its braised neck. Around this hearty assemblage he spooned a foamy sabayon of goose fat and dijon mustard. Fielding’s Rockpile Pinot Gris was just the wine for this dish – Alsatian in its opulent texture, fragrantly fruity and with a streak of sweetness.
And then it was time for dessert… Chef Kevin McKenna, who had so generously welcomed his colleagues into Globe’s slender kitchen, sent out his “fowl dessert,” which he called a kind of Baked Alaska made principally of quail. Here was a quail egg ice cream flavoured with bacon and topped with crumbled bacon playing the part of pecans. McKenna set it on a slice of almond genoise that he brushed with maple syrup and a hint of bacon-infused whisky. Beside the ice cream he set a puck of tangy sea buckthorn jelly. To the left, as the quail flies, he put a piped meringue made out of the whites of god-knows-how-many quail eggs. Beyond that was a creamy quail egg and a ribbon of something that tasted like the most profoundly flavoured caramel made from over-reduced quail stock, caramel, spices and chocolate. So extraordinary, and Fielding’s 2007 Late Harvest Gewurztraminer took care of any missing fruity matters.
It was all terrific fun and a fine opportunity to see seven of the city’s hot young talents showing what they can do. The next uprising of this Group of Seven takes place on June 6 at Cowbell where the theme of the evening will be BEEF. I imagine a quick call to Cowbell (416 849 1095) will secure a seat. I’m not sure how much it will cost but Monday’s feast was a bargain $99 plus $29 for the wine pairings.