I’m not sure how I failed to attend a dinner by the Group of 7 Chefs up until now. Timing, finances, their predilection for odd bits of the insides of animals… all may play a role. But when they announced they would be doing a fish and beer dinner, teaming up with Bellwoods Brewery and serving sustainable fish, Greg and I knew we had to go.
The Group of 7 Chefs is actually comprised of more than seven local chefs. Scott Vivian (Beast), Rob Gentile (Buca), Mark Cutrara (Cowbell), Kevin McKenna (Globe and Earth), Matty Matheson (Parts & Labour), Chris Brown (The Stop), Bertrand Alepee (The Tempered Chef), and Marc Dufour (Globe and Earth) are the main crew, but they have been joined occasionally by local chefs Nick Liu (GwaiLo), Guy Rawlings and others, depending on the specific dinner and individual availability.
The premise is that the chefs get together once a month, on a Monday, when they’re all off from their regular gigs, and work together to create a multi-course dinner. There are a few sous chefs helping out, but most of the work is done by the chefs themselves, with everyone helping to cook and plate each others’ dishes, and a grand sense of fun and camaraderie, despite the stress and hard work.
Kensington Market icon European Quality Meats and Sausages (176 Baldwin Avenue) will be closing down on April 7th. Full story at the Toronto Star.
Also in Kensington, Thirsty and Miserable has opened at 197 Baldwin Street. With a “culinary team” listed as Swansen and Deep Freeze, maybe don’t go expecting anything more than booze and great local craft beer.
Chef Greg Couillard is back in town, serving up Nonya cuisine tonight at The Depanneur (1033 College Street). There were still tickets left as of this morning. Couillard revealed to guests at last night’s dinner (which was fantastic!) that he plans to open a restaurant in Toronto’s west end, to be called Pink Slip. He’s also doing a guest stint from March 4- 6th at the Fox and Fiddle at Cityplace (25-17 Fort York Boulevard). (Yeah, I know, but that’s what the man said.)
I am generally sceptical when being served game meat. Having grown up eating wild caught stuff, the flavour of the game meat served in Toronto restaurants is generally subdued. Ontario law dictates that wild game meat cannot be sold to the public, so most of the venison, rabbit, elk, kangaroo, etc., that we eat here has been farmed. Farming has its pros and cons, of course, but one of the the most noticeable differences is the lack of a gamey taste because the animals are eating controlled feed instead of foraging in the forest.
This is a good thing, in a way, because it means that people will try game meat and not be put off by the strong flavour. But folks like me, who expect the strong flavour, often find game meat lacking. What is needed, then, is for the meat to be prepared at the hands of a skilled chef who knows how to nuance, accentuate and tease out the flavours. Last night, 9 sets of those skilled hands took on the challenge.
The Ontario Game Dinner at Hank’s was a benefit for Slow Food Toronto – money raised went towards sending Toronto chefs to Slow Food’s bi-annual conference in Italy.
Last Wednesday evening, the line-up outside the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art stretched as far north as Bloor Street. People had come prepared; many had snacks, drinks and umbrellas to shield them from the warm May sunshine, because to be first in line meant having the dedication to wait for hours to get in. But being first in line also meant having first choice when selecting a bowl, as well as getting to the variety of soups from the participating local chefs before they all ran out. And they would run out.