Edmonton Gold Medal Plates 2015

23 Oct

Gold Medal Plates loves Edmonton! Last night, it was clear that the feeling is mutual. The sold-out crowd of 780 (a new record) at the Shaw Centre came to party as if we were already in Rio, cheering on our Olympic athletes, our splendid chefs and their teams, and a stage-full of dazzlingly talented musicians – a veritable orchestra of rock starring Barney Bentall, Anne Lindsay, Colin Cripps, Devin Cuddy, Sam Polley and Geoffrey Kelly and Matthew Harder of Spirit of the West. Curt Harnett was the smoothest and most amusing of MCs. There was much dancing in the aisles and an eye-popping energy level that was sustained right through the auction (so many trips sold!) to the final announcement of the winning chefs.

Choosing who made it to the podium was no cakewalk for our panel of judges led by Edmonton Senior Judge, Mary Bailey, who is a food, wine and travel writer, certified sommelier and publisher of The Tomato Food & Drink, alongside world-class pastry chef and chef instructor, Clayton Folkers; award-winning reporter for The Edmonton Journal, Liane Faulder; Red Seal Chef, food writer, educator and owner of Seasoned Solutions’ Loft Cooking School, Culinary Tours, Gail Hall; chef Chris Wood; chef, author and owner of Kitchen culinary studio, Brad Smoliak; and of course last year’s Edmonton gold medal winner and reigning Canadian Culinary Champion, Chef Ryan O’Flynn of the Westin Edmonton hotel.

Chef Rakowski's beef

Chef Rakowski’s beef

It’s fascinating to see how far Edmonton’s food scene has come in the last decade of Gold Medal Plates competitions. Last night was remarkable for the imagination, sophistication and precision of so many of the dishes, as well as the wide variety of culinary styles on show. While we ended up with a clear winner, our bronze and silver medallists were separated by only 0.5 of a percentage point. We awarded the bronze to Cory Rakowski of 12 Acres, an extraordinary restaurant that exists in partnership with 12 Acres Farm in Pickardville, Alberta, and operates a true pasture-to-plate concept, self-sustaining where all ingredients except cheese are concerned. Chef Rakowski presented a triptych of beef from an animal raised on the farm, moving from cold to hot and raw to well done. The raw component was tartare of beef heart served in a miniature buckwheat tuile cup and sprinkled with toasted buckwheat groats. The warm element was sliced flat iron steak, admirably tender and seasoned with finishing salt. The piping hot moment was a crisp croquette of pulled beef cheek moistened and enriched with foie gras. All three items sat upon a bed of toothsome wheatberry and squash pilaf, decorated with rolled up ribbons of squash. A saskatoonberry gastrique finished the plate and served as a fine bridge into Chef’s chosen wine, the 2012 Castoro de Oro Estate Winery Merlot from Oliver, B.C.

Chef Cowan's silky charcuterie

Chef Cowan’s silky charcuterie

Our silver medallist, Andrew Cowan from Packrat Louie Kitchen and Bar, approached the competition from a very different direction, announcing to the judges that he wanted to do a dish that used his three favourite foods – charcuterie, bread and foie gras. The result was universally relished by all the judges, a sort of deconstructed sandwich that looked beautiful and tasted even better. The bread was a fine fresh white sourdough, torn up into ragged pieces and smothered with a mostarda made of chunks of fresh peach and soft juicy knobs of foie gras in a tangy mustard dressing. Draped over everything like a sleeve of pink and white silk were tissue-thin slices of pork loin that chef had cured, lightly smoked and then dry-aged for three months – a heavenly cold cut! Mustard seed “caviar” was the condiment and a scattering of carrot tops completed a disarmingly simple but perfectly executed dish. The wine match, Mission Hill’s 2014 Reserve Riesling from the Okanagan Valley, had just the ringing acidity to cut the fat on the plate.

Chef Trittenbach's pork

Chef Trittenbach’s pork

Our gold medallist has won Gold Medal Plates Edmonton before, in 2011 – Jan Trittenbach from Solstice Seasonal Cuisine. He chose to work with pork, offering a sensational bite-sized piece of pork belly that was delightfully lean but unctuously soft beneath its crisp surface. As a second component he made a roulade of pork stuffed with ricotta and wrapped in a skin of soft leek. Between them stood a perfect mushroom that turned out to be the cap of a cremini lightly marinated with soy, sesame and vinegar, but with a stalk made of a porcini tuile tube filled with silky bacon “caviar.” A fourth element was an elfin cup hollowed from a morsel of sweet potato and filled with coarsely puréed mushroom. There were moments of beet purée and spinach purée on the plate and a mound of “soil” made from powdered beet and pistachio from which the mushroom appeared to be growing. Microgreens added to the impression of a forest floor. Technically impeccable, the dish was finely matched with a red blend from the Okanagan, Sandhill 2012 Small Lots Three.

Et voila! Jan Trittenbach is going back to Kelowna next February, representing Edmonton. Tonight? On to Regina!












Tonight! Restaurants for Change!

21 Oct
"Where did you have dinner on October 21, Daddy?"

“Where did you have dinner on October 21, Daddy?”

Tonight is the night! Restaurants across the country are most generously donating the proceeds for the dinner service tonight to Community Food Centres Canada, an amazing cause. Please support these noble chefs and restaurateurs by making sure their establishments are sold out! Here are the restaurants involved this year:

restnts fior change


Winnipeg Gold Medal Plates 2015

17 Oct

What a way to kick off the new Gold Medal Plates campaign! It was a very busy night in Winnipeg with the Jets home opener (they won!) and many eyes on Kansas City for the Jays game (we know what happened there). But our sell-out crowd gave their full attention to the awesome show we put on at the Convention Centre, emceed by the eloquent and witty Curt Harnett. Rocking the room were our musical stars Barney Bentall, Matthew Harder from Spirit of the West, Rebecca Harder, Devin Cuddy and Sam Polley.
This is GMP’s 10th anniversary and there was plenty of talk about the event here in 2006 when chef Makoto Ono won the gold medal and then went on to win the first ever Canadian Culinary Championship. And of course anticipation of the Rio Olympics was also strong among the 15 Olympic athletes – and everyone else who showed “a splash of colour” in their finery.
Our expert judges certainly looked splendid, led by Senior Judge Barbara O’Hara (a Chef of Distinction herself and owner of Dessert Sinsations Café), Jeff Gill (a chef, chef instructor and Director, Food Services at Red River College), Christine Hanlon (journalist, food writer and co-author of The Manitoba Book of Everything), Mike Green (writer, broadcaster and top-five finisher on MasterChef Canada) and last year’s Winnipeg champion, Chef Luc Jean.

A new component of our events this year is an afternoon tasting of all the wines, spirits and beers poured during the evening, hosted by David Lawrason. It was a huge success, with David and his posse of wine judges joined by whichever culinary judges wish to be present. From our point of view it was a great opportunity to get to know the chefs’ paired beverages before encountering them in the actual competition, and a merry, casual, conversational chance for Winnipeg’s wine professionals to hobnob with the food gurus, something that happens less often than one might think. Huge kudos to David for coming up with this idea! David has more details about this in his wine report below.
I have no hesitation in saying the calibre of the dishes was higher than ever in Winnipeg – plates full of imagination and finesse – and the quality of the wines (and one whisky) chosen by the chefs was seriously impressive. It was a pleasure critiquing such talent and in the end the judges were unanimous in their decision.

Melissa Makarenko's lovely lamb

Melissa Makarenko’s lovely lamb

Taking home the bronze medal was Melissa Makarenko of Resto Gare Restaurant. She presented a duality of lamb starting with a cube of confited spare rib, perfectly textured and glazed with a sticky reduction that was pure umame. Beside it posed a slice of exceptionally tender lamb loin that had been briefly smoked with maple and birch branches. A mound of prairie millet grains spiked with mustard served as a balancing carb and a whole, toothsomely firm baby carrot brought a sweet, earthy splash of colour to the plate. Chef’s primary sauce was a lamb jus infused and flavoured with Manitoba chaga mushroom (a parasitic but delectable fungus that grows on birch trees) while the subtle coniferous theme was brought into fine focus by dabs of a super-smooth green purée of spring spruce buds, wheat grass and pea. Chef Makarenko’s wine match was nicely judged – the ripe, smooth Winnipeg Blue Bomber Premium Reserve Cabernet Reserve from Pondview Estate in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Jesse Friesen's spectacular scallops

Jesse Friesen’s spectacular scallops

Our silver medallist was Jesse Friesen from 295 York. His was the most delicate and refined dish of the evening, ambitious, requiring great balance of flavours and ultimately impeccably executed. He began with plump Bay of Fundy scallops, cured ever so briefly in salt and sugar then carved into silky, sweet slices that tasted of the sea. Chef dressed them with a few precious drops of a vinegar infused with smoked red pepper and then orchestrated the natural sweetness of the scallops with other boldly sapid ingredients – drops of chili oil that tasted beautifully of pickled jalapeño, dots of a truffle aïoli and a spoonful of local whitefish caviar. Crowning the dish was a perfect oyster, still raw at its heart but rolled in powdered blue corn and fried for mere seconds to give a fleeting moment of crunch. A garnish of cilantro seedlings and pea shoots completed the taste spectrum as a green, herbal element to the dish. Chef’s wine was the always delightful Stellar’s Jay Brut bubbly from Sumac Ridge in the Okanagan.

Norm Pastorin's sensational salmon

Norm Pastorin’s sensational salmon

Taking the gold medal, by just three percentage points, was Norm Pastorin of The Cornerstone. He created a confit of B.C. salmon, poaching whole fillets sous-vide in shallot-infused olive oil then slicing them into portions the size of two fingers. The fish was marvelously medium-rare, soft as butter and full of the salmon’s own glorious flavour, topped with a crunchy crumble of finely chopped bacon, quinoa, salmon roe and chives. A couple of judiciously placed pickled shallot rings brought a pleasant acidity and a garnish of white pea flowers and red nasturtiums were far more than mere decoration. The salmon rested on a flat disc of tissue-thin tamagoyaki made from egg yolk sweetened with soy and mirin. A teaspoonful of soy-ginger-anise glaze and a sprinkling of powdered B.C. seaweed made their own contributions and the finishing touch was a rosette of kale lightly touched with a sesame-ginger dressing. Burrowing Owl Chardonnay from the Okanagan was a smart choice, the wine perfectly enhancing the salmon.
So we’re off and running! We have the first gold-medallist who will be going to Kelowna next February. Already the bar has been set intriguingly high.

10th Anniversary Uncorks With a Winning Night in Winnipeg

By David Lawrason, National Wine Advisor

Gold Medal Plates launched its milestone 10th season at the RBC Convention Centre in Winnipeg on October 16, uncorking the city’s strongest yet selection of Canadian wine in the process. And it was very fitting that the Best of Show Wine Awards should go to a sparkling wine – Blue Mountain Brut, a traditional method, very complex brut that bristled with tension, minerality and excellent length.

In fact it was the clear winner with four first place votes by a panel of eight judges who assembled to taste through the line-up for two hours in advance of the culinary competition. We moved through a total of two sparklers, four whites, five reds and Forty Creek Copper Pot Whisky, each judge ranking their top five. In second spot came the richly detailed yet firm Burrowing Owl 2013 Chardonnay, followed by the lean, sour red fruit-laden Sandhill 2012 Small Lots Sangiovese, narrowly edging Osyoos Larose 2010 Grand Vin.

The Best of Show Wine Award is designed to highlight the generous donations of Canada’s wineries. In ten years I am estimating that about 150 wineries have donated up to 2000 cases in support of our Olympic athletes. In recent years in Winnipeg, Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries has stepped up to cover all the wine costs; the only liquor board in the Country to make this generous gesture.

This year the Best of Show judging is being expanded to include several wine professionals in each city – journalists, buyers for liquor boards and private stores and top sommeliers. The aim is to expose the Gold Medal Plates wines to key influencers as a way to thank the wineries, and to promote Canadian wine in each of the country’s major cities. Gold Medal Plates is the country’s largest consumer showcase for Canadian wine.

An impressive group of judges was assembled with the help of good friend and co- judge at National Wine Awards of Canada; Ben McPhee Sigurdson, wine columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press.

The roster included repeat visits by Aaron Albas, who guides purchasing and education for Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries, as well as Christopher Sprague , the man behind the great wine list at 529 Wellington. Christopher has joined Gold Medal Plates to help procure rare wines for our silent auction.

Sylvia Jansen, a recent WSET Diploma grad, and Gary Hewitt are key buyers and leading educators at Banville and Jones, one of Manitoba’s fine private wine stores. Sean Dolenuk, who recently joined a group of leading Canadian sommeliers in Argentina plies his talents at Boutique Del Vino. Domer Rafael who manages the wine program for the Rossmere Golf and Country Club, rounded out the roster.

Well not quite. This year the Culinary Judges are being invited to attend the pre-event wine judging. Barbara O’Hara, a leading pastry chef in Winnipeg, was delighted to sit in on the judging. “It truly allowed me to better tune into the food and wine pairings later in the evening. It also gave the culinary judges a chance to mingle with the community, which does not often happen.

“Winnipeg has a very strong and diverse wine community” said Ben McPhee-Sigurdsen, “with great people working in restaurants, private stores and the Manitoba Liquor Board. It’s very important for us to get together like this.” Many of the GMP judges are in the Manitoba chapter of the Canadian Association of Sommeliers.

Out on the competition floor, Burrowing Owl 2013 Chardonnay took a gold medal paired with a fine salmon recipe by Norm Pastorin of The Cornerstone. “ I knew what dish I would prepare as soon as I was invited to compete”, said Norm, “ but not the wine. I encountered the Burrowing Owl Chardonnay two months later and I knew that was the wine I wanted”.

The Silver medal went to Sumac Ridge Stellars Jay, paired with cured Bay scallops by Chef Jesse Friesen of 295 York. And the bronze went to a robust, rich Pondview Cabernet Sauvignon from Niagara, labeled for the Manitoba as Winnipeg Blue Bomber Premum Reserve.

On this night many eyes were on smart phones checking the progress of the home opener of the Winnipeg Jets, and on the Toronto Blue Jays as they played Game One of the American League Championship. Both favourites lost, but it was a winning night for Canadian wine in Winnipeg.



Restaurants for Change

10 Oct

Go out to dinner on October 21 at one of our Restaurants for Change and you can help change Canada for the better.

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Restaurants for Change supports organizations like the Dartmouth North Community Food Centre

The Dartmouth North Community Food Centre launched last week, and is the first of its kind in Atlantic Canada. It is located in a neighbourhood where 61% of the population lives on less than $20,000 per year.

“This is a place for the community to come together in so many different ways. We provide access to high-quality food and use it to connect people to other opportunities – cooking skills for adults and kids, community gardening, a low-cost veggie market, workshops on health and active living, an advocacy office,” says Manager Deborah Dickey.

Take a few minutes this holiday weekend to watch their inspiring video on how food can bring communities together. And then make a reservation at a participating restaurant on October 21 and support more good food work like this across the country!


Our Kitchen Builds Community

10 questions with Steve MittonSteve Mitton from Ottawa’s Murray Street loves a good roast chicken dinner and believes in supporting local farmers. Find out more about this chef ambassador who’s making waves in supporting a healthier and fairer food system.

Read more

Global News is talking about Restaurants for ChangeThanks to our sponsor Global News for helping us spread the word about Restaurants for Change! Click below to watch chef ambassadors from across the country show off their cooking and advocacy chops live on air!

Frequently asked questionsHow do I join in for the year’s Restaurants for Change? Where will the event take place and who’s participating?

Have burning questions about this year’s Restaurants for Change? We’ve got you covered with these frequently asked questions and answers!

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Book your reservation now!With less than two weeks to go until Restaurants for Change on October 21, it’s time to get reserving! Restaurants are booking up fast so make sure you check out the 59 restaurants involved in this year’s event and make your reservation today!

Book now

Thanksgiving sides shake-up!In honour of the many delicious Thanksgiving festivities happening this weekend, we’re sharing with you The National Post‘s Thanksgiving sides shakeup!

Find tasty holiday recipes from Restaurants for Change chefs and supporters like Danny Smiles, Renée Lavallée, Ted Corrado, Lynn Crawford, Justin Cournoyer, Vikram Vij, Bonnie Stern, Chris Brown and more!

Read more


Our supporters: Garland CanadaFor two years running, Garland Canada has been supporting Restaurants for Change as a national sponsor, including a $5,000 prize for one lucky restaurant participant to outfit their kitchen with some of the industry’s best supplies.

Garland Canada is dedicated to bringing value to foodservice operators by equipping them with real-world answers and solutions that enhance menus, service, profits and efficiency. Thank you Garland Canada for your support!

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Thank you to our generous sponsors!


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Canadian Culinary Championships Documentary

01 Sep

Gentle reader,

Many of you have asked me, over the years, why the Canadian Culinary Championships was only filmed once, long ago, when it is the nonpareil of Canadian gastronomic competitions. Well, last year we were blessed by a brilliant team, led by our own Peter Moscone, who created the following documentary about the event.  It captures all the stress and energy and excitement of the Gold Medal Plates Championship.  I hope you enjoy it.  Click here.


Nota Bene presents David Lee’s Taste of August menu

02 Aug

To Nota Bene, to preview David Lee’s Taste of August menu – a most elegant expression of some of the treats of an Ontario summer. The restaurant has a charming feeling of calm and spaciousness early in the evening and early in the week, though the bar is usually busy with patrons taking advantage of the generous Happy Hour (actually 4:00 to 7:00) when Lee’s delectable bar snacks are offered for a mere $4. The menu itself – five courses – costs a very reasonable $59 with matched cocktails and wines for another $36.

The first course stars the year’s first great tomatoes – a selection of different small red, yellow and purple heirlooms from Vicki’s Veggies in Prince Edward County, intense little flavour bombs of tangy sweetness. Lee dresses them with basil leaves and a chipotle vinaigrette thickened with roasted tomatillo pulp and chili oil, the prickle of peppery heat a lovely counterpoint to the perfume of the basil. On the other side of the plate, meanwhile, representing the pleasure of sin against the virtuous salad, is a slim crab melt sandwich of rich, runny cheese and crab meat inside golden fried brioche slices. Nota Bene’s sommelier (Nick Baldassari, lately of Bar Buca) proposes a cocktail with the dish rather than a wine, a Rio Cubano of muddled mint leaves, lime juice, pineapple juice and cachaça. It’s cold, tart, aromatic and utterly refreshing.

My wife’s unabashedly eager affection for chilled sweet English pea soup has raised eyebrows in the past, but her standards are high and based around an insistence on pea-purity (woe betide the potage that sluts itself up with alien flavours). Lee’s version passed her scrupulous tests. A thick, silky purée, it contained a few whole peas and, at the heart of the bowl, a small slice of creamy burrata Pugliese to add the richness of dairy to the head-filling, pea-green flavour. A crisp, golden, wafer-thin crostini, like Melba toast that’s died and gone to heaven, was served separately, to be crumbled onto the soup perhaps, or dipped into it, or used as a utensil to fish for the slice of burrata – there were no instructions… Matching a wine to a soup is often tricky – especially a soup with such a full body – but Baldassari  found a dazzling solution – “Sillery,” a white Pinot Noir from Frecciarossa in Lombardy with great weight and richness of its own.

A pasta course followed: a brace of big firm tortellini with taleggio cheese and black Australian “perigord” truffles grated on top. Zucchini blossoms had been chopped into morsels to add an intriguing, almost bitter vegetal note. This time the wine was chosen to contrast the unctuous textures of the dish – Norm Hardie’s 2013 “Calcaire,” a bone-dry, sharp and minerally ménage of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Melon de Bourgogne and Riesling.

Do you pay any attention to the prophesies of experts who claim to predict the coming trends? The next big thing in gastronomy? I have it on good authority that lamb will be the darling meat for the next little while. By a complete coincience, David Lee is offering Haldimand County lamb “three ways” as one of the two main course options on this August menu. He prepares it with his customary elegance and refinement. There is a firm piece of loin, almost gamey in its lamby-lanolin identity, a smaller chunk of tenderloin with a more delicate flavour and a texture so tender you really don’t need to take a knife to it, and lastly, a tranche of the lamb belly or “breast” as it used to be called – a cut that is rarely seen but is layered with delicious fat and, in this fine version, perfumed with rosemary. A bonus “fourth way” came with the scattering of crispy little shards of lamb crackling. Then there was a friter of peaches-and-cream corn, soft on the inside, crisp on the surface; a moment of olive tapenade (classic with lamb, of course, and justifiably so); some spinach for balance and a mustardy jus. It sounds straightforward but the quality of the lamb (and the cooking) lifted it head-high. Somm Baldassari paired it with 2013 Whoa Nelly! Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Willamette valley and a very good time was had by all.

Were we full by now? We were not. So the house slipped in an extra course of three cheeses – minute amounts of three beauties curated by afrim Pristine of Cheese Boutique: buffalo milk Fuoco, Eweda Cru and Glen Garry’s renowned Lankaaster. Taylor Fladgate was an ideal accompaniment but a cinnamon-spiked apple purée was a much too powerful condiment.

And then it was time for dessert… Years ago, I remember Michael Stadtländer’s default pud was a loose compote of wild blueberries with lemon foam – and indeed the two flavours (and the two colours) are divine together. This time, Nota Bene’s pastry chef had topped an impeccable blueberry compote with a spoonful of lemon gelato and a spoonful of lemon curd – delectable, but a bit too much for the blueberries who had to shout to make themselves heard. A fin of apricot meringue was a brilliant garnish.

There are other, heartier treats at Nota Bene this season for those with the foresight to order them 48 hours in advance. How about a roast suckling pig spread across two courses, one traditional, the other taco-style? Or a lobster boil that also involves shrimp, corn, Linzer potatoes and pork and Mexican oregano sausages? Both are offered for two or four persons.

But I urge you to drop in for the Taste of August menu. Chef’s tasting menus have been out of style for a while, which is a shame because they offer an artist like David Lee a fine opportunity to show his mind and his palate at work over a whole evening, with careful progressions and resonances all in place.


Mae Martin in Montreal July 20, 22 and 24

12 Jul

Excellent news! My extraordinarily talented and amusing daughter, Mae Martin, is coming back to Canada this month to perform at Just For Laughs in Montreal. While there she will be performing her own show on three not-to-be-missed evenings at Zoofest. Friends of mine in Montreal, you know what to do! Here are the dates…


Mae Martin Two-time Canadian Comedy Award nominee Mae Martin, as seen on Russell Howard’s Good News and heard on BBC Radio 4, comes of age in a new hour where she will consider the labels projected onto us, and those we give ourselves. ‘A natural comic talent’ ***** (Skinny). ‘She had the audience in the palm of her hand’ **** (ThreeWeeks). ‘A dizzying hour’ **** ( ‘An hour of rapier wit and cute charisma’ **** (ScotsGay). ‘A complete gem’ **** (Gay Times). ‘A very accomplished stage presence’ **** (


Monday 20   19h30

Cabaret du 4e du Monument National

Wednesday 22   19h30

Cabaret du 4e du Monument National

Friday 24   19h30

Cabaret du 4e du Monument National

Follow this link to buy tickets!



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Mae Martin performs her comedy tomorrow in Toronto

27 May


My brilliant daughter, Mae Martin, is back in Canada for a couple of weeks and performing her brand new one-woman stand-up comedy show TOMORROW evening!

The show is at The Ossington, 61 Ossington Ave, Toronto

Tickets are on a first come, first served basis and cost $10.

Doors are at 7:30pm, the show begins at 8:00.

It’s going to be an amaezing night! But don’t take my word for it. Here’s what the British media say:


Two-time Canadian Comedy Award nominee MAE MARTIN, as seen in ‘Russell Howard’s Good News’ and heard on BBC Radio 4, comes of age in a new hour where she will consider the labels projected onto us, and those we give ourselves. 

“A natural comic talent” *****. THE SKINNY.

“She had the audience in the palm of her hand”  ****. THREEWEEKS.

“A dizzying hour” ****. FRINGE BISCUIT.

“An hour of rapier wit and cute charisma”  ****. SCOTSGAY.

“A complete gem” ****. THE GAY TIMES.



In Aid of Nepal

27 May

Stadtlander Nepal

Passing on the news about an extraordinary event organized by Michael and Nobuyo Stadtlander and Paul Bohmer. What an opportunity!



J-P Challet returns to The Fifth for summer

17 May

On perfect summer evenings like this one there is really no finer or more pleasant destination in the city than the Terrace at the Fifth. You ride that old freight elevator up out of the crowded night club or the equally crowded Pubhouse and you discover that the old magic is more than intact – it has intensified – especially now that chef J-P Challet has returned there as guest chef for the summer.

Libell Geddes is the owner of the Fifth – her impeccable taste has always informed its ambience and she has a knack for getting the absolute best out of her chefs. I would argue that Didier Leroy, J-P Challet and Marc Thuet all did their finest work in the tiny kitchen at the Fifth and it was such a treat to taste Challet’s food again. After he closed Ici, his charming little bistro on Harbord Street, he went back to his old stomping ground at the Windsor Arms for a year. One feels he is happier to be at the Fifth. And his legions of fans will be thrilled to discover that he is working on a new book and testing some of the recipes in the restaurant. Should you go – and you should, you really should – and if you are very lucky you might find some of the same things on the menu as we tasted last week.

We started with excellent Italian caviar presented in three different ways – as a garnish on a spoonful of tangy, mustardy beef tartare; as the dark crown on a perfectly cooked potato and lemon raviolo; and, unforgettably, strirred with a little cream and just an unexpected drop of maple syrup into very soft-boiled egg, served in its shell.

Then there was a salad, in celebration of the first good weather of the year, made with sweet, juicy kumato tomatoes with crispy pickled ginger avocado and a goat cheese burrek that stole the show, the unctuous cheese bursting out of the little pastry pouch.

We tasted a scallop, barely cooked, dressed with asian pear and king crab, and sharing the elegant plate with white asparagus, a single potato gnocchi and a subtle harissa mayonnaise.

Our main course brought a tremblingly tender cuboid of braised beef short rib with some glazed heirloom carrots of a delightfully intense flavour and two examples of J-P’s affection for frying – a truffle cromesquis and a soft potato croquette, perfect for mopping up the moment of bordelaise sauce.

Dessert was simplicity itself – a slice of lemon tart that J-P had made that day paired with a crisp white meringue and some berries.

I think we are all aware that Toronto is swinging back a little towards elegant dining and accomplished service after so many years at the comfort end of the gastronomical spectrum. It’s great to see that the Fifth is still a leader in the field.