Passing on the news about an extraordinary event organized by Michael and Nobuyo Stadtlander and Paul Bohmer. What an opportunity!
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: no one does more for charities and good causes than chefs. Over the last six weeks in Toronto there have been four riotous culinary gatherings where a bunch of chefs – some from Toronto, others from farther afield – have cooked for highly appreciative crowds to raise funds for Community Food Centres Canada. They’ve called themselves Chefs for Change and they are another razor-sharp facet of the new movement that is energizing the country under the leadership of Nick Saul. I was lucky enough to be at one of the events, held at The Propellor Coffee Roastery on January 30. Chef Antonio Park flew in from Montreal, on his way to the Canadian Culinary Championships in Kelowna (see my last 4 postings), to join Nick Liu from DaiLo, Anthony Walsh from Oliver & Bonacini, Matty Matheson from Parts & Labour, Joel Rousell from George Brown College and Chris Brown from Citizen Catering, who is the mastermind behind these gatherings. Great to see a bunch of George Brown students also there, helping in the kitchen and gathering invaluable experience. Krystina Roman of Rosewood Estates winery donated some splendid wines, breads came from Blackbird Baking Co. in Kensington Market (I buy bread there almost every day). Other sponsors included Beau’s, Georgian Bay gin, Provender, Core, Beretta, Higgins Event Rentals and uniiverse. Singer-songwriter Jory Nash offered a musical interlude.
The food was entirely representative of the individual chefs involved. Nick Liu began it with a sturgeon fin soup, rich and textured like a shark’s fin soup but with much more flavour and much more going on, including a trembling, runny-yolked, soy-cured egg topped with Acadian sturgeon caviar. Fascinating.
Anthony Walsh wrapped a gorgeous kushi oyster from Honest Weight in a pounded beef fillet then paired it with various dainty iterations of cauliflower, dulse and mustards. Awesome.
Matty Matheson draped sea urchin roes over a stunning piece of mackerel that shared a fishy broth with two turned potatoes, then pushed the whole concept way over the top by adding bacon and brown butter. Intense!
Antonio Park’s dish was as impeccable and composed as his work always seems to be, and a reflection of his multi-cultural talents. He presented slices of unilaterally grilled dorado as a Peruvian tiradito-cum-Japanese sashimi, with ahi sauce, all topped by a pan-seared shishito pepper filled with marinated and slow-cooked baby anchovies. Ethereal.
Dessert drew gasps of admiration from our table – a round, sticky-toffee squash pudding on tangy apple purée with ginger beer ice cream, black walnuts and crumbled sponge toffee. Irresistible.
The plan is to do this again next year – maybe grow it? A brilliant idea.
And meanwhile the work of Community Food Centres Canada goes on apace. This from a recent press release:
“We organized our first national conference! Last weekend, staff from Community Food Centres and Good Food Organizations across the country — 100+ people representing 40+ organizations — came together in Toronto to share the good food work that’s happening in their communities, trade best practices, and brainstorm program innovations and joint actions. In addition to those practical sessions, our Saturday plenary session speakers, Dr. Mike Evans, farmer and organizer Damian Adjodha, and Dr. Valerie Tarasuk, leader of the University of Toronto’s PROOF food insecurity research project, explored levers for individual, community and public policy change. It was a totally inspiring weekend.
“Speaking of Community Food Centres… On March 13, we’ll launch Canada’s fifth Community Food Centre — the first outside Ontario! The NorWest Co-op Community Food Centre is located in Winnipeg’s high-needs Inkster neighbourhood, and is already increasing access to healthy food and bringing the community together through its community lunches and breakfasts, community kitchens, community action program and affordable produce market.
“And speaking of Good Food Organizations… Next week we’ll announce 36 new Good Food Organizations that will bring the total number of GFOs across Canada to 73! By joining the initiative, these organizations are committing to offer dignified food programs based in shared principles of equity, health, and respect. Having reps from most of these organizations at the Food Summit really underscored the amount of amazing community food work that’s happening across the country, and the ways CFCC can support that work, and amplify it to a national audience.”
Excellent work all round!
Read on for how to become part of this extraordinary movement in the fall of 2015!
But before you scroll down, there’s something I’d like to say, as Chair of Restaurants for Change: Thank you to the 25 amazing and committed restaurants who came together in 2014 to support local Community Food Centres and a national movement calling for a fair and equitable food system. You know who you are…
In Calgary, Charcut, Rouge and NOtaBLE
In Halifax: Chives Canadian Bistro.
In Montreal: Garde Manger, Le Bremner and Nora Gray.
In Ottawa: Atelier and Juniper Kitchen and Wine Bar.
In Perth: The Masonry.
In Stratford: Foster’s Inn.
In Vancouver: Hawksworth Restaurant and Vij’s Restaurant.
In Winnipeg: Deer + Almond and Elements by Diversity Restaurant.
And in Toronto, Bar Buca, Buca and Buca Yorkville, Edulis, Jacobs Steakhouse, Richmond Station, Ruby Watchco, The Drake One Fifty, The Saint Tavern and THR+Co.
And thank you to our national spokespeople Ryan Donovan and Carl Heinrich, co-owners of Richmond Station, for their dedication, enthusiasm, and support.
On October 22, diners gathered in twenty-five restaurants in nine cities across the country, from Vij’s in Vancouver to Chives in Halifax, to raise awareness, funds and their voices in support of equal access to healthy food. Participating restaurants and sponsors raised more than $120,000 in support of local Community Food Centre programs and CFCC’s national leadership around issues of hunger, poverty and poor health. We believe chefs and restaurants are uniquely positioned to raise awareness of the critical juncture where sustainability and food justice meet. We look forward to expanding Restaurants for Change to more cities and restaurants in the coming years, and to growing the community of people who will speak out for healthy food as a human right.
AND NOW>>> The 2015 EVENT
Mark your calendars! The 2015 edition of Restaurants for Change will be held on
Wednesday October 21, 2015.
BECOME A RESTAURANTS FOR CHANGE SPONSOR OR PARTICIPATING RESTAURANT FOR 2015!
We’re seeking to expand Restaurants for Change to more cities and restaurants in 2015. For more information on restaurant participation and media and corporate sponsorship opportunities, please contact Valerie Tibbles, Director of Development at Community Food Centres Canada.
Valerie Tibbles, Director of Development, 416 531 8826 ext 233, email@example.com
Community Food Centres Canada (CFCC) provides resources and a proven approach to partner organizations across Canada to create Community Food Centres that bring people together to grow, cook, share, and advocate for good food. CFCC also works with the broader food movement to build greater capacity for impact and to empower communities to work toward a healthy and fair food system.
To The Saint Tavern last night for the launch of a very exciting project! Let me cut to the chase. We must all go out and have dinner at one of 25 excellent Canadian restaurants on October 22. If we do that, certain extraordinary things will start to happen. Great wheels will begin to move. Social inertia will be suddenly galvanized by a spark of energy. The complicated mechanism of that splendid organisation called Community Food Centres Canada will speed up its work bringing people together to grow, cook, share and advocate for good, healthy food for all.
The CFCC is Nick Saul’s creation, a nationwide extrapolation of the amazing success he had with The Stop in Toronto. The fundraising push on October 22 is called Restaurants for Change and in this, its first year, it involves 25 restaurants in nine cities across Canada. You’ll find them listed below. It’s a list we should all print and carry in our wallets, not just to make our reservations on October 22 but so we can remember and visit these places whenever we feel the urge to eat out.
I am in awe of the chefs and restaurateurs who have signed up for this initiative, donating all or part of their restaurants’ proceeds on that particular evening to the CFCC. No people in our community are called upon more often to donate their time, money and genius to worthy causes than our chefs and restaurateurs, and it is amazing how often they answer, “Yes, okay, of course I’d be glad to help.”
They are the engine that powers the machine for social justice that was built by the CFCC. You, dear restaurant-goer, are the fortunate passenger, having a fabulous meal in a renowned restaurant, with every mouthful made more savoury and delicious by the knowledge that you are doing good.
I know, I know, it is disgraceful that in a country as rich as Canada there are still millions of people who rely on Community Food Centres for their next meal. Our politicians sit gazing into their mirrors, year after year, enthralled by their own reflections, and do nothing. So it is up to these heroes to step to the plate. Here is the list of the restaurants involved:
In Calgary, Charcut, Rouge and NOtaBLE
In Halifax: Chives Canadian Bistro.
In Montreal: Garde Manger, Le Bremner and Nora Gray.
In Ottawa: Atelier and Juniper Kitchen and Wine Bar.
In Perth: The Masonry.
In Stratford: Foster’s Inn.
In Vancouver: Hawksworth Restaurant and Vij’s Restaurant.
In Winnipeg: Deer + Almond and Elements by Diversity Restaurant.
And Here in Toronto, it’s Bar Buca, Buca and Buca Yorkville, Edulis, Jacobs Steakhouse, Richmond Station, Ruby Watchco, The Drake One Fifty, The Saint Tavern and THR+Co.
In other words, The Young and the Righteous! And the talented… Dining in these places will be a hedonistic thrill as well as a noble endeavour.
That’s all I’ll say for now. You can learn more at www.restaurantsforchange.ca | Facebook/LinkedIn: Community Food Centres Canada | Twitter/Instagram/YouTube: @aplaceforfood #foodforgood
Tell your friends! Let’s PACK these restaurants on October 22. And next year let’s grow it from 25 names to 100.
Last year, Tony Aspler’s brilliant charity, Grapes for Humanity, staged a mighty Tartare-off where professional and amateur chefs presented their most compelling tartares to a panel of judges, all to raise money to help build a school in Guatemala. The event was so successful that they’re doing it again, but this time the theme is Ontario lamb.
Baah! is the name of the game and it’s taking place at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 21st at the Fairmont Royal York, in the beautiful Imperial Room. I have no doubt it will be the lambiest fundraiser of the year and that spectacular wines will be poured alongside the highly creative lamb dishes presented by the competing chefs, David Neinstein of Barque, Ryo Ozawa of EDO, Graham Pelley of Eleven, Jeremy Dyer of L’Avenue Bistro, Alan Liu of Linda Modern Thai, Chef Michael Pataran, David Junek of Salt and Collin Thornton of the Fairmont Royal York itself.
All the details can be read on this handsome poster. What could be more deliciously appropriate than spring lamb so close to the vernal equinox? And all for such an excellent cause. Call Annette at 416 445 9920 to purchase your ticket.
International Women’s Day is just three weeks away (it’s on Friday, March 8, to be precise) and the place to be that evening is Mildred’s Temple Kitchen in Liberty Village. The occasion is Kitchen Sisters, a fundraising feast prepared by some of Toronto’s finest chefs including Donna Dooher (chef-owner of Mildred’s, of course), Lynn Crawford, Anne Yarymowich, Christine Bib, Suzanne Baby and Andrea Damon-Gibson. It’s the finale of a fundraising initiative aimed at building a new kitchen for Sistering.
And what is Sistering? It’s an agency and advocacy group that has been supporting low-income and marginalized women in the Toronto community since 1981 by providing a safe haven during the daytime hours in a welcoming, multilingual and multiracial environment. Hot meals are part of the service – indeed, in the last few years the demand for meals has increased substantially, until the Sistering kitchen now finds itself providing more than 250 meals a day, 365 days a year. In order to meet this growing need, the kitchen required a massive overhaul. Fridges, stoves, cooking and baking equipment were all needed to give the hard-working chefs at Sistering a leg up on their production. The resounding success of the past two International Women’s Day dinners has meant that much of the funding is in place and Donna Dooher hopes this ‘Last Supper for Sistering’ will help them reach that final goal.
All proceeds from the event at Mildred’s Temple Kitchen will go towards Sistering’s kitchen renovation project. Tickets are $500 for a spectacularly delicious four-course feast, served at the Temple Kitchen communal table, complete with wine pairings. Partial tax receipts (for $350) will be issued. For information or tickets, please call 416-926-9762 ext. 243.
Sistering’s twitter account is @sisteringTO and Kitchen Sisters’ hashtag is #kitchensisters13
Edmonton has a special place in the hearts of the Gold Medal Plates team. The city has been one of our loyalest supporters since the beginning, it is the first to sell out every year and the party is always exceptional. Last night, 700 guests added to the ongoing legend at the Shaw Centre, waltzing to beautiful music from Sarah Harmer, Barney Bentall and Ed Robertson and giving a standing ovation to dozens of Olympic athletes led by the evening’s energized master of ceremonies, Adam van Koeverden. The purpose of these evenings, lest we forget, is only incidentally about pleasure and entertainment – it’s to raise money for Canada’s Olympic athletes through the Own the Podium program that paid such dividends during the 2010 Vancouver games. Gold Medal Plates has raised over $6 million so far – and counting. Last night’s contribution will have a direct and beneficial effect on the way our elite athletes perform in Russia in two years time.
Certainly, the ten competing chefs also played their role in the festivities, presenting a wide array of dishes that were highly imaginative, complex and visually stunning. The judges agree that the overall quality of the offerings rose yet again this year, and while the choice for gold medal was almost unanimous, only two percentage points separated it from the silver. Joining me on the judging panel last night were Edmonton’s Senior Judge, food and wine writer and wine educator Mary Bailey, chef instructor and international gastronomic judge Clayton Folkers (who had just flown home from Germany where he was judging the culinary Olympics), catering guru and culinary educator, Gail Hall, The Edmonton Journal’s food writer Liane Faulder, chef Chris Wood and last year’s Edmonton Gold Medal Plates champion, chef Jan Trittenbach.
The bronze medal was awarded to chef Paul Shufelt of Century Hospitality Group who presented Brome Lake duck in two ways. As he introduced the dish, Chef Shufelt explained that he grew up just ten minutes from Brome Lake (near Knowlton, Quebec) and always enjoyed working with the birds. He began by wrapping a drum-shaped piece of the marvellously tender breast in prosciutto, cooking it until the full flavour emerged but the meat was still moist and juicy. A wand of the duck’s sweetly glazed skin lay across the surface and beneath it we found a drift of roasted butternut squash purée subtly spiked with cinnamon and nutmeg. The plate’s other main component was a weighty arancini of forked duck confit, wild mushrooms and shortgrain rice, fried to a splendid crust in duck fat. Some pickled sour cherries added a sweet-sour fruitiness and a sprinkling of bull’s blood microseedlings finished the dish. The wine match was one of the evening’s best – a brambly, tangy, richly extracted 2010 Old Vines Foch from Quails’ Gate in the Okanagan.
The silver medal went to Shane Chartrand of Murrietta’s Westcoast Grill – like Paul Shufelt, another regular competitor at Gold Medal Plates. He offered a most dramatic, almost art deco presentation of sablefish “Noir et Blanc.” The sablefish was the principal component (its flesh slipping apart into petals that melted in the mouth) crusted black with onion ash that added an intriguingly deep and deliciously bitter flavour. Alongside the fish was a cod tongue, slippery and rather firmly textured, that was lent a buttery flavour by a teaspoonful of foie gras-Cognac potato crème, the better to complement the sablefish. A little crab bisque served as a second sauce while lightly pickled baby pearl onions added a moment of acidity. Crunch was provided by a tall, tissue-thin fin of crisply fried mashed potato. Smoked sea salt was discreetly used to season the fish and a squeeze-bottle atomizer of fruity verjus was presented separately, to be used acording to the taste of each judge. Chef Chartrand made a successful wine match with Lake Breeze Vineyards 2011 Pinot Blanc, not just because of his noir-et-blanctheme but because its shining fruit and forthright acidity enhanced most of the components on the plate.
Our gold medal was awarded to a young chef who has won it before – Nathin Bye of Wildflower Grill – who proffered a dish he called “Breakfast for Dinner.” Many of the judges raised an eyebrow as we read the description of the creation handed to us by Chef Bye in advance of the competition. So many components! So much going on! And when we saw the dish we were still not convinced it could all come together. But it did. An intricate knot of textural and flavour harmonies provided unexpected unity. Where to begin…? With an ornamental spoon that held a creamy bircher meusli of rolled oats, apple and quinoa, garnished with a tiny marshmallow, a miniature grapefruit jelly, a sun-cured blackberry and a half-inch-high tuile shaped like the 2012 Olympic symbol. A quail egg fried sunny-side-up, its yolk still runny, sat on a plinth of potato, golden beet and cheese pavé which served as the substantial point of reference for many of the dish’s more ethereal elements. There was a mushroom pop tart made with dried, powdered mushrooms in the flour that several judges (including me) found utterly irresistible. A triangle of buttery brioche and a puddle of spiced carrot purée were there to underline similar notes that Chef Bye had found in his chosen wine. The centrepiece of the whole affair was a maple syrup and bacon-infused panna cotta that contained a surprise – a meaty heart of Texas-barbecue-style pork paté that contributed a powerful meaty hit, as did a delicate vertical ribbon of crispy bacon. Chef Bye explained that many of the choices he had made while bringing this elaborate dish together were inspired by the flavours and aromas of the wine he chose, the delicious, complex, intense 2010 Chardonnay from Tantalus in the Okanagan.
So Chef Bye becomes our third champion of the campaign. Kelowna awaits him in February!
Now here is David Lawrason’s wine and beverage report:
It Was a Tantalus Night
In a field of very solid wines Tantalus 2010 Chardonnay from B.C.’s Okanagan Valley was the unanimous choice of the wine judges to receive the Best of Show Wine Award in Edmonton. And not only that, it carried home a Gold Medal Plates gold medal with Chef Nathin Bye of the Wildflower Grill. All agreed that it had fantastic depth, structure and complexity; attributes I first noted when I tasted it with Tantalus manager Jane Stewart at the Kelowna winery in August.
The second runner-up for Best of Show was surprisingly firm and intense Sperling 2011 Pinot Blanc, kindly donated for our enjoyment during the Celebration (as we listened to amazing Sarah Harmer in her first performance for Gold Medal Plates). Sperling is a neighbour of Tantalus on thebench lands of east Kelowna, and winemaker Ann Sperling is the only Canadian winemaker working in Niagara (Southbrook) and British Columbia. The runner up was Kettle Valley 2008 Pinot Noir, another wine of considerable structure and stature, well matched to the “Heart and Sole” combo of braised beef heart and terine of sole from chef David Omar of Zinc Restaurant.
I was joined in judging of the Best of Show Award by two prominent figures in Edmonton’s free-wheeling, privatized wine scene. Gurvinder Bhatia is a wine writer for The Edmonton Journal, owner of Vinomania, a leading fine wine shop, and a judge at the Canadian Wine Awards. William Bincoletto of Vines Wine Merchants is a wine educator and consultant, and also the kind donor of several fine lots in Edmonton’s very impressive fine wine silent auction.
On the chef pairing side of the ledger, silver-medal-winning chef Shane Chartrand of Murrieta’s West Coast grill wisely selected the pristine, subtle Lake Breeze 2011 Pinot Blanc for his delicate seafood medley. Bronze medal winning Chef Paul Shufelt of Century Hospitality Group served Quails’ Gate 2010 Old Vine Foch – an intense, wild, brambly red – with terrific Brome Lake duck.
One of the most adventurous food-and-beverage pairings in Edmonton was a cocktail combining Victoria Gin with the unique Fentiman’s Dandelion and Burdock soda, matched to a venison trio of carpaccio, tourtiere and pickled tongue. Other paired beverages from B.C. included Road 13 2011 Honest John Rose, Red Rooster 2011 Chardonnay and Peller Estates 2009 Private Reserve Syrah. From Ontario, there were two lighter whites: SpeckBrothers 2010 Sibling Rivalry White and Coyote’s Run 2011 Unoaked Chardonnay.
Thanks to all the wineries that helped make Edmonton a great success.
I had an email from Marc Thuet the other day reminding that tomorrow – Tuesday March 20th – is Macaron Day! In Paris, New York and in Toronto, this is the day when fabulous French patissiers and their brilliant rivals try to out-macaron one another, when customers can score free macarons and when people who buy macarons will be actively supporting a very worthwhile cause – the Red Door Family Shelter (www.reddoorshelter.ca).
But don’t just take my word for it. Here is the press release with all the details:
Five years ago, when Michel Firanski introduced French macarons to his lineup of fine patisserie, the owner of La Bamboche located in mid-town Toronto remembers very few people knew what they were – often confusing the French macaron with the sweet, coconut based macaroon. Fast forward to today and the organizer of Toronto’s first city-wide Macaron Day will tell you that there is an absolute frenzy taking place among aficionados in anticipation of Macaron Day TO taking place on Tuesday March 20th, 2012. “Enthusiasts have been contacting me since we announced Macaron Day – some are even taking the day off work or renting cars, in order to visit all 18 locations.” said Firanski.
Coinciding with Macaron Day taking place in Paris, NYC and other cities, Macaron Day in Toronto celebrates the delicate macaron confection in support of a local charity. On Tuesday, March 20th, 2012, eighteen participating patisseries across Toronto will come together to offer one free macaron to customers who mention they are celebrating Macaron Day TO (with quantities limited by location). And, 25 percent of all additional macarons purchased on this day will be donated to the Red Door Family Shelter
The pride of France, the elegant macaron is made of two round meringue based cookie shells, held together by a soft filling, such as buttercream or ganache. Very fine almond powder, egg whites and sugar are combined with mastery, to create an initial crisp and airy experience, leading into the macaron’s filling – featuring whatever humble or exotic flavour can be imagined by the inspired pastry chef.
French chef Marc Thuet started making macarons in France 30 years ago and now offers them at his Petite Thuet locations in Toronto. “Over the years, I’ve tasted many macarons across France and the quality of the macarons prepared in Toronto is as good – if not better than any I have experienced.” said Thuet. “It’s great to see this kind of collaboration taking place among our talented Toronto based pastry chefs, not only for the love of macarons, but for a great cause.”
For further information, please contact: Michel Firanski 416-464-1587 or visit www.macarondayto.com .
Participants in Toronto’s first city-wide Macaron Day TO, 2012 include:
La Bamboche 4 Manor Road East 416-481-6735 and 1712 Avenue Road 416-224-5595 www.labamboche.ca
Petite Thuet 1162 Yonge Street 416-924-2777 and 1 King Street West 416-867-7977 www.petitethuet.com
Patisserie La Cigogne 1626 Bayview Ave 416-487-1234 and 1419 Danforth Ave 416-466-2345 www.patisserielacigogne.com
Butter Avenue 3467 Yonge Street 647-341-8686 www.butteravenue.com
J’adore Cakes Co. 3308 Danforth Avenue 416-691-4554 www.jadorecakesco.com
Rahier Patisserie 1586 Bayview Avenue 416-482-0917 www.rahierpatisserie.com
Patachou 1120 Yonge Street 416-927-1105 and 835 St. Clair Ave West 416-782-0122
Moroco Chocolat 99 Yorkville Avenue 416-961-2202 www.morocochocolat.com
Bobbette & Belle 1121 Queen Street East 416-466-8800 www.bobbetteandbelle.com
Ma Maison 4243 Dundas Street West 416-236-2234 www.ur2busy2cook.com
Ruelo Patisserie 4-6 Erskine Avenue 416-486-1800 www.ruelo.com
Cake Opera Co. 1136 Eglinton Avenue West 647-347-2626 www.cakeoperaco.com
Daniel et Daniel 248 Carlton Street 416-968-9275 www.danieletdaniel.ca
The Sweet Escape 55 Mill St. Building 47, Suite 102 416-214-2253 www.thesweetescapedistillery.com
Julio Bonilla 623 Mount Pleasant Road 647-716-3749 www.chefjuliobonilla.com
Frangipane Patisserie 215 Madison Ave 416-926-0303 www.frangipane.ca
Patisserie 27 401 Jane Street 416-762-2103 www.patisserie27.com
The Wedding Cake Shop 859 College Street 416-916-2253 www.theweddingcakeshoppe.com
Many thanks to everyone who sent such kind words about my winning a silver National Magazine Award on Friday evening. It was my 19th NMA nomination for work written for Toronto Life (this time for the Top Ten New Restaurants from April, 2010) and though I haven’t been connected to the magazine for over a year, it was gratifying to have the long-ago story recognized. Kathryn Hayward edited it (she too has left Toronto Life and now works for The Globe and Mail) and was sitting beside me at the gala so we were able to congratulate each other.
Onwards and upwards to Sunday’s Toronto Taste, held inside and outside the Royal Ontario Museum, with 60 chefs and 30 producers of wine or beer gleefully closing the northern end of Queen’s Park to Sunday traffic. This was the 21st iteration of Second Harvest’s glamorous fundraiser and the weather was benign, much better than the sweltering heat or torrential rain of years gone by. Crowds were dense and line-ups long inside the museum which made reaching or even identifying the chefs’ stations tricky but I did find C5’s spot (this is their home turf, after all). Chef Teddy Corrado had created a scrumptious taco of forked pickerel marinated in aji paste which he topped with dabs of guacamole, pico de gallo and tomatillo relish. “Tex-Mex is my guilty secret,” said Corrado with a grin.
Wandering outside, the human pressure eased. There was room to chat with chefs and other old friends in the milling throng. Every Toronto Taste has its own internal trends, and this one was no exception. There were two mighty porchettas each with suitably crunchy crackling (Sotto Sotto’s was irresistible) and plenty of pork in other guises. But this was, above all, the year of the burger, with innumerable variations of the tender patty on offer. The trouble is that that means innumerable buns and who wants to fill up on soft white bread when there are so many other delectable treats to be sampled. One burger, however, stood out from the pack – a gorgeously juicy (and topless) brisket burger, cooked rare and topped with sophisticated, crunchy house-made kimchee, made by David Lee of Nota Bene.
When there is so much to eat, a one-bite wonder often makes huge impact. That was the thinking behind a scrumptious, multi-textured mouthful from George’s Lorenzo Loseto. He sliced venison salami very thinly and skewered it against a fried lemon thyme spaetzle with some roasted heirloom beet and carrot. In typical Loseto style, it was a cunning, complex swirl of cleverly complimentary flavours. Scaramouche’s Keith Froggett was not in attendance but his team proffered a Chinese spoonful of impeccable veal tonato – a classic version that reminded me what an elegant little masterpiece of a dish v. tonato is, especially when topped by a cucumber slaw.
Finding ways to present finger food that don’t involve bread is a useful lesson for any young chef. John Higgins and the team from George Brown College’s The Chef’s House went the hollowed egg shell route, filling each one with a luxe foie gras custard, a little quinoa for structure and a cool lobster salad – a divine combination of flavours that may have been the most original dish of the evening. Another contender came in a dixie cup from Tundra – a chilled strawberry-and-rhubarb soup topped with lobster salad, celery seedlings and candied violet. Straddling the fence that separates sweet from savoury, it was a super idea.
Other notable experiences included a brilliantly old-school canoli and a juicy lamb sausage served with tzatziki at the Maléna-L’Unita station. Paul Boehmer of Böhmer mixed up a dandy venison tartare and set it beside a salad of baby herbs on a cunningly undulating tuile.
Peach Chardonnay vinaigrette liaised valiantly between the two elements. Anne Yarymowich of Frank put together a duck confit tostada topped with Monforte ricotta cheese – as delicious as it sounds – one bite and it was gone. Chef Michael Smith, representing SODEXO Canada, offered his version of a shore dinner – confited fingerling potato topped with seared Manitoba pickerel, a strip of wild boar bacon and a tarragon mustard foam. A dainty anchor fashioned from potato held things together. I loved Chiado’s monkfish wrapped in a collar of duck prosciutto and topped with tiny cubes of port jelly. Ditto Didier Leroy’s classic steak tartare (the city’s best) served either with a sweet potato crisp or on a knob of baby cucumber.
Was it possible to find favourites among all the general gustatory splendour? Rocco Agostino of Enoteca Sociale turned salt cod and potato into soft warm fritters and served one on a bed of tender tripe in tomato ragout. Topped with lemon caper aioli and a leaf or two of fresh chervil it was a total triumph, a dish you’d order over and over again if you came across it in a restaurant. Mark McEwan presented the perfect little crispy, deep-fried Lake Erie smelt he serves at Fabbrica with fennel salad. Someone spread the rumour that these were actually Lake Erie sardines which had the Museum’s icthyologists pushing their way through the crowd to glimpse such a zoological miracle. They were only your regular smelt but for a number of trusted palates they proved to be show-stealers. And Marc Thuet of Petite Thuet proved what a master he is with a variation on an open-faced pork belly sandwich. The pork had been cooked sous-vide until it was as tender as a mother’s kiss, the meat set on a slice of fried wild-rice bannock and topped with Asian slaw, peach coulis and tonhatsu mayo. Awesome.
It was interesting to see media friends and colleagues working the event. Their lovely pictures and descriptions will be everywhere by now, I dare say. Some were busy tweeting as they moved around the stations, others were assigned tweeters from the organizers, who skillfully transmitted the journalist’s impressions into the ether for the benefit of the curious planet. The auction prizes were specatcular – especially a barrel of Tawse David’s Block Chardonnay (300 bottles of wine), a 10-day food and wine trip to Portugal or a cruise to the Galapagos Islands. However, Prize #11 may have been the most meaningful, and the one that reminded everyone of why they were there, eating and drinking and talking so merrily. It had been titled “Feed a Family of Five for a Year” and promised Sun Life Financial would match funds raised from personal donations made at Taste, dollar for dollar, to a maximum total of $10,000. Twenty thousand bucks is what it costs Second Harvest to feed eight families of five for a year. So many people in this soi-disant world-class, first-world city don’t have enough to eat. Our various levels of government have not managed to solve the problem. More power to Second Harvest for stepping in and to the generosity of everyone who bought their tickets to Taste.
This is the season for festivities and fund-raisers when important and worthy charities call upon the community to do its bit for the general good. Of course, they also call upon chefs and restaurateurs, wineries and breweries to provide the necessary bait that will lure the general public into showing up and opening their wallets. It never ceases to amaze me how often and how selflessly the hospitality industry donates time and treasure and expertise to these worthy causes. In a business where profit margins are at best limited, the effort expended is even more commendable.
Now then… Here is another event behind which we should all throw our support. It’s called Recipe for Change and the purpose is to promote Food Literacy in schools. I’m all in favour of food – and literacy – and schools. And I particularly admire FoodShare and the work it does in our schools. In the past, I have looked into the sometimes deplorable state of nutrition within our education systems. There are many dedicated people working really hard to improve matters, but the problem is enormous. Anyone with children – or with an ounce of common sense – knows that hungry or malnourished children have to struggle to learn. Here is an opportunity to do something about it. What follows is the press release about the Tasting Adventure Dinner set for May 26. This one is really important.
31 Top Toronto Chefs, 8 Wineries and a Brewery Make for One Delicious Recipe for Change on May 26
Tasting Adventure Dinner Supports Food Literacy in Schools
On Thursday, May 26, 2011, an unprecedented 31 top Toronto Chefs will come together with 8 local wineries and a local brewery to serve up one fantastic meal with delicious consequences: Food Literacy in schools.
Recipe for Change is a Tasting Adventure unlike any other: a full meal with beverage accompaniments plus unheard-of opportunities to mingle with 31 Chefs seldom found in the same room, let alone contributing to the same meal.
Toronto Chef Luminaries contributing to this special night include Didier Leroy of Didier, Fabio Bondi of Local Kitchen, Martin Kouprie of Pangaea, Anthony Rose of The Drake Hotel, Winlai Wong of Spice Route, Donna Dooher of Mildred’s Temple Kitchen, Steffan Howard of Palais Royale, Adam Colquhoun of Oyster Boy, Albert Ponzo of Le Sélect Bistro, Michael Van Den Winkel of Quince, Rocco Agostino of Enoteca Sociale and Pizzeria Libretto, Luis Valenzuela of Torito, Chris McDonald of Cava and Xococava, David Garcelon & Tim Palmer of the Fairmont Royal York, Marc Breton of the Gladstone Hotel, Anne Yarymowich of Frank at the AGO, Mark Cutrara of Cowbell, Zane Caplansky of Caplansky’s Delicatessen, and more.
Recipe for Change is a celebration of food with a purpose, supporting FoodShare’s Field to Table Schools program, which returns Food Literacy to students from Junior Kindergarten through Grade 12.
FoodShare is the only organization in Toronto taking a complete, multi-faceted and creative approach to food in schools, approaching issues of childhood nutrition from all angles. The organization pioneered the model for student nutrition programs in the City of Toronto, which works hand-in-hand with its Field to Table Schools program, the educational complement that returns food education to schools delivering hands-on fun food activities and curriculum connections from Junior Kindergarten through Grade 12 to cultivate Food Literacy. FoodShare’s “Good Food Café” is a successful healthy cafeteria, which the Toronto Star has called “the future of school lunches.” And in 2010 the organization helped facilitate Canada’s first school market garden at Bendale Business and Technical Institute in Toronto.
“At FoodShare, we’re cooking up a Recipe for Change,” says executive director Debbie Field, “we’re reminding children what food is and where it comes from, teaching that healthy food also tastes good, and helping them to choose it for themselves. Now with the help of this amazing group of chefs, and the Recipe for Change event on May 26, we are taking this work to a new level: leading the charge to embed food education in the Ontario curriculum and make Food Literacy a requirement of graduation for our students. Recipe for Change will take our vision for students to new heights: healthy fresh food in schools, and students being taught to cook, garden and compost throughout all the subject areas.”
Complete details on the event may be found at http://foodshare.net/RFC2011/index.htm, including chef bios, and all food and beverage offerings. Tickets are just $100, a steal for a full meal and accompanying beverages and a fantastic night out.
Marion Kane (former Food Editor of the Toronto Star, local food sleuth and broadcaster) calls Recipe for Change “the best fundraising feast I have attended”, saying of the inaugural 2010 event that “chefs and guests all relished the fantastic food and uplifting spirit.”
When: Thursday, May 26, 2011, 6-9pm
Where: St Lawrence Market North Building (92 Front St E., Toronto’s first marketplace)
FoodShare Toronto (www.foodshare.net) is Canada’s largest community food security organization. Now in its 26th year, FoodShare works with communities to improve access to healthy, affordable, sustainably-produced food through community-based programs and policy recommendations, with a vision of Good Healthy Food for All. FoodShare’s programs, which reach over 145,000 children and adults per month in Toronto, include fresh produce sourcing and sales, childhood nutrition, hands-on food education from JK-Grade 12, a healthy school cafeteria model, gardening, composting, cooking, and urban agriculture. See a full backgrounder on FoodShare’s multifaceted work in schools and childhood nutrition at: http://foodshare.net/download/FoodShare’s%20work%20in%20schools%20backgrounder.pdf