Yeah, I know, I’m a slowpoke these day when it comes to getting event reviews up. Life overwhelms me, what can I say?
In any case, last Wednesday (November 2nd) was the 2nd annual Chowder Chowdown at the Royal York Hotel. Sponsored by Oceanwise, the premise is simple, restaurants create a chowder made with sustainable seafood, and pair it with a beer from Mill Street Brewery. A panel of judges chooses their favourite, but the crowd also gets to vote for a people’s choice selection.
And while Pangaea easily took the prize for both awards last year, there were a couple of upsets this time.
There is no reasonable excuse I could give for not getting around to posting these photos earlier, because the dinner at Great Cooks on Eight with Top chef Canada competitors Andrea Nicholson, Todd Perrin Steve Gonzales, Mike Stauffer and Patrick Wiese took place on June 30. I know, I am a deadbeat.
And despite knowing a couple of the chefs involved from eating at their restaurants or interviewing them for TasteTO, I have to admit that I’m not a huge Top Chef fan. I lost interest in the middle of the 2nd US season, so while I kept track of who was doing well in the Canadian competition, I was not a weekly viewer. I joked on Google + recently that I’d happily watch “Top Chef Historical” where modern chefs had to cook Careme-style banquets without gas or electricity, but my reality-TV watching does lean towards the historical stuff anyway. (And I suspect potential competitors would have my head if such a show actually came to fruition.)
In any case, 5 of the Canadian competitors got together to do a dinner – here’s what they cooked.
Greg said it best on Twitter: “sweet merciful crap, there’s more food inside!”
Celebrating its 20th anniversary, Second Harvest’s Toronto Taste fund raiser upped its game substantially this year, doubling the number of chefs involved (from 30 to 60) and taking over part of the Royal Ontario Museum and Queen’s Park (the street, not the park itself). With tickets going for $250 (half of which garnered a receipt for tax purposes), it wasn’t an event for everybody – a fact that won Toronto Taste the teeniest bit of flack over on Torontoist, where they pointed out the irony of having a fancy food event in order to help raise funds to feed the hungry. Especially one where some people would take a bite of something and then pitch it. Yikes! (Next year I’m going with a doggy bag to bring people’s half-eaten leftovers home to my dogs! Can I get away with that at the swankest food event of the year?)
But the fact is that every $250 ticket will buy 250 meals, and Second Harvest delivers over 15,000 meals every day (that’s 6 million pounds of food each year!), mostly from donated perishable food that would otherwise go to waste from restaurants and cafeterias.
And while the following photos are most definitely food porn, we’d like to encourage you to consider the bigger picture. Second Harvest will happily accept your donations – in any amount – even though the big event is over. The Toronto Taste online auction, which runs until June 23rd, includes cool items at every price point. As well, please consider supporting the participating restaurants if you possibly can – they all worked incredibly hard and donated their time and food to the cause.
We’d also like to offer hearty congratulations for a job well done to everyone at Second Harvest – and that amazing army of volunteers. You guys rock.
Shown above: Ontario perch with chorizo, pickled heirloom tomatoes and fava bean puree from Chef Andrea Nicholson of Great Cooks on 8.
When we last talked to Chef Andrea Nicholson back in late November, she was at the helm of a sinking ship. Despite her best efforts at creating an accessible, locally-sourced menu of classic Canadiana with a fine dining twist, 35 Elm Street, the restaurant where she worked as the executive chef, was failing. In fact, only days after we ran a profile on Nicholson and her work at 35 Elm, the place was abruptly shuttered.
“We were told while we were prepping for dinner service,” the chef remembers. “It was such a slap in the face. It breaks my heart.”
Thirty Five Elm Restaurant
35 Elm Street
The stretch of Yonge Street north of Dundas is an odd mix of family dining establishments, peppered with pizza and falafel joints. Turn the corner onto Elm Street and the restaurants are slightly more upscale, but predominantly Italian. And while Barbarian’s Steak House is a long-standing fixture on the block, most people wouldn’t know there’s a little gem of a space serving upscale seasonal and local cuisine just down the street.
Thirty-Five Elm fills the space on two floors of a 140-year-old Victorian mansion. The layout is mostly intact from the building’s original floor plan with a wide hall and massive staircase along with high-ceilinged rooms. The bar sits nestled in the front bay window with additional seating where a porch might have once existed. Through the dining room, guests can catch a glimpse of the pizza oven that was installed when the location was an Il Fornello franchise a few years back. Originally owned by Weir Ross of Barbarian’s fame, the restaurant is now run by his son, Chris, who wanted to turn it into something fun and cool.
That oven is both a blessing and a curse to Executive Chef Andrea Nicholson, who inherited not only the oven but a demand for Italian food from the restaurant’s clientèle, and who is trying to find a balance between the type of food that sells along this stretch and her fine dining background.