Tastefully Tasty

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.

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Toronto Taste 2009 – Good Eats in Pictures

Fabulous whitefish sandwiches from Epic at the Royal York.

We came, we saw, we ate.

Second Harvest’s Toronto Taste fundraising event was, by our observation, a resounding success. Spread out over Cumberland Street and the Village of Yorkville Park, over 30 of Toronto’s top restaurants, as well as a number of wineries and breweries, offered samples of their finest fare. While tickets were $225 a pop, attendees were offered unlimited food and drink, plus the opportunity to rub shoulders with some celebrity chefs including Michael Smith and Mark McEwan (anyone who lingered too long at the One booth could also have earned themselves a cameo in an upcoming episode of McEwan’s TV show The Heat), not to mention event host and TV personality Carlo Rota. It was wonderful to see attendees dressing up (I was tempted to start snapping photos of cute outfits as well as the luscious food) and even a little bit of rain didn’t put chefs or guests off their game.

Here is a collection of pics taken by Greg and I throughout the evening. There wasn’t a lot of signage or a list of who was serving what, so some of the food porn doesn’t have a chef or restaurant attached to it. Apologies in advance to the chefs who I haven’t been able to match to their food. If you were there and can identify the chef/restaurant of the mystery dishes, please let me know.

Finally, thanks to the organizers for such a fabulous event, to all the chefs and restaurants who made it a true feast for the senses and to the many, many volunteers who went out of their way to ensure that guests had forks and napkins and clean plates. Congratulations to you all – truly a job well done!

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Elegant Whimsy – Food and Fun at Trevor Kitchen bar

Trevor Kitchen and Bar
38 Wellington Street East
416-941-9410

The entrance way to Trevor Kitchen and Bar reminds me of a Goth club. There’s a shiny red motorcycle situated just inside the door and dark stairs lead down into a candlelit room. Seriously, I’m expecting to hear some Bauhaus as I descend into what food critics referred to as a “subterranean grotto” when the space first opened in late 2006.

Despite the white walls, both the long bar area and the adjacent dining room are dim, with candles and ceiling pot lights creating ambient shadows across the 150-year-old stone walls. It’s a potentially intimidating space, but prospective diners shouldn’t be scared of the dark, because the team in the kitchen have prepared a seasonal bistro menu that is akin to your Mom wrapping you in a big hug and then serving you Sunday dinner. If your Mom was fancy and cooked foie gras.

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Sunday Brunch – Peartree Restaurant

peartreecake

Peartree Restaurant
507 Parliament Street
416-962-8190
brunch for two with all taxes, tip and coffee: $30

Neighbourhood street festivals are generally not a good time to visit a restaurant for a review. Like other dining events, such as the seasonal ‘Licious series, the kitchen often isn’t at its best, forced to serve even more covers than usual as the hordes of people demand to be fed. So when we walked past Peartree on Parliament Street during last weekend’s Cabbagetown Festival and saw the make-shift patio that extended into the curb lane of the street, we were a bit concerned. Inside, the place was only about a third full, however, and we figured we’d give it a go.

The brunch menu we were offered was an abridged version of what is regularly served, but still included a variety of choices from variations on eggs benedict ($8.99 – $11.99) to classics like French toast ($8.99) and omelettes or quiche ($8.99 each). Wisely including a selection of burgers and sandwiches, as well as a pasta and a fish dish, Peartree covered all the bases and didn’t exclude the folks more in the mood for lunch.

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Sunday Brunch – beerbistro

beerbistro
18 King Street East
416-861-9872
Three course brunch for two with all taxes and tip: $90

There’s an old cliché about the difference between night and day, but I’ve actually found a good example for which to apply it. I guess you could say I’m one of those “sensitive types”, or maybe my hearing is shot from too many industrial concerts in the 90s, but I hate, hate, hate loud restaurants. All that clinking of cutlery and loud music and raucous laughter. When you’re out for a quiet dinner or actually want to talk to the people you’re with, many restaurants are just not conducive to that situation.

Thus, I’ve become a bruncher. Even though I know how kitchen staff across the city, yea, around the world, hate the concept of getting up early after a night of busy service to poach eggs for those too intimidated to do it themselves, I really do prefer the usually quiet solitude of brunch over dinner.

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Wish You Were Here

You would if you could smell this bread.

Since back in November when every single person on the intarwebs went crazy for the no-knead bread, I’ve been playing a little bit. Reducing quantities, changing flours, adjusting baking times, and most recently, tossing in some lovely dried olives and some olive oil to make what is probably one of the best olive breads I’ve ever eaten. And I loves me some olive bread. This is easily better than the $5-a-loaf stuff I get from WholeFoods.

It would appear that you really can’t screw up the recipe. Everything works, everything tastes great. I was a little worried about the crumb, I initially found it a bit too soft and spongy for my tastes, but adjustments aren’t making a difference in that area. It is what it is. And last week when Greg and I had a loaf of the beer sour dough bread at Beer Bistro, we realized that the crumb is very similar to mine. So now I’m ready to accept that the crumb is supposed to be moist, that bread really is supposed to be eaten the same day its made, and my preconceptions were obviously based on loaves of generic store-bought bread meant to last for days.

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