Lucky Dip – Friday, March 23rd, 2012

In Toronto:

Canadian Beer News reports that the Mill Street Airport Pub will open on Monday, March 26th at Pearson’s Terminal 1.

Happy Anniversary to Centro (2472 Yonge Street), the restaurant celebrates 25 years in business this year. Plans are in the works for a blow-out party in November – get yourself on the mailing list.

Corks at Longos (15 York Street) will be tapping their first cask on April 13th. The brew is reportedly a hop bomb from Black Oak Brewing.

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Lucky Dip – Monday, November 14th, 2011

Cooked versus raw – or – maybe this is why people on raw food diets are so slim. [Globe and Mail]

More than 30 years after his death, Colonel Harland Sanders will become a published author – online no less. KFC plans to publish a recently discovered manuscript written by Sanders in the 60s. Part-autobiography, part cookbook, it sadly does not contain THE secret recipe. [Philly.com]

Black Creek Pioneer Village makes a one-mile beer, made with ingredients grown on the museum grounds. [Toronto Sun]

A dirty restaurant bathroom doesn’t necessarily mean that the kitchen is disgusting too. Also, door knobs aren’t that dirty, stop being so paranoid!) [Chow]

I’m a big fan of returning old buildings to their former grandeur, so the plans by Oliver & Bonacini to return the Arcadian Court at The Bay Queen Street to its original art deco elegance get a big thumbs up. The room (along with the sad little cafeteria-style restaurant) will become an event space in 2012. [Oliver & Bonacini blog]

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Chowdah!

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.

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They’ve Got Sausages at Marben and They’re Happy to See You

It seems as if every chef worth their weight in pork belly has been playing around with sausage-making lately. And with sausage and hot dog restaurants showing up as the next big trend, we’re all going to be eating many more of the things in the near future. So why not pit local chefs against each other to see who truly makes the best wurst.

Ryan Donovan and the gang at Marben (488 Wellington Street West) have decided to do just that. Throughout the spring and summer, select Wednesdays (2 each month) will see Sausage League take over the restaurant. While Marben’s regular menu will still be on offer, guests will have the option of ordering the sausage special for $25. What they’ll get is two dishes – one prepared by each chef – and they’ll get to choose their favourite. The chef who gets the most votes each night will move on to the next round of competition.

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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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Souped Up

This past Wednesday was sunny and warm – not a day you’d typically consider eating soup. But 400 people lined up at the doors of the Gardiner Museum to take part in Empty Bowls, an annual event featuring local chefs, local pottery artists and of course, great soup.

For $45, attendees not only got to sample soups from 20 different restaurants at the Jamie Kennedy at the Gardiner restaurant, they also got a beautiful, hand-made bowl to take home.

This fantastic event is based entirely on donations – from the chefs donating their time and food, to local potters donating bowls, many made especially for this event. With bread donated from Ace Bakery and crackers from Evelyn’s Crackers, plus water from Gaia and cups from Green Shift, all proceeds from the event go towards Anishnawbe Health Toronto, a charitable organization that provides food to homeless people. Volunteers and Gardiner Museum staff also donated their time, and props, kudos and huge piles of thanks and appreciation must go to organizer Siobhan Boyd who pulls this thing together every year with aplomb.

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Why We All Need to Wise Up

Ocean Wise celebrated its 5 year anniversary this month by announcing a number of new restaurant partners across the country. Readers who haven’t heard of the Ocean Wise program need not feel out of the loop – it’s only been a year since a handful of Toronto restaurants signed on, and while this anniversary celebration included some of the newest Toronto-area restaurants to join, the total still numbers under a dozen.

Created as a conservation program by the Vancouver Aquarium, it makes sense that the majority of restaurants involved in the sustainable seafood program are in British Columbia. While Torontonians have been on the sustainability bandwagon for a few years now, that same diligence seems not to apply to fish, an item that regularly hits our plates without any concern as to how it got there or where it came from.

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What’s On the Table – In Pictures

Okay, so I know you readers are divided on the topic of event recaps. Some of you hate them, preferring an event preview instead so you can actually buy a ticket and go – and for the most part, I agree. Who wants to hear about all the fun they missed? But others of you love the food pr0n, the piles of photos of gorgeously executed food and drink, particularity at events with higher ticket prices that might not be affordable to most.

Here’s our take on this – since the fancy events are usually charity fund-raisers we have no problem running a photo-essay after the fact, because it raises more awareness of the issues and the charity (even though the event is over, I’m sure The Stop would be happy to accept any donations our readers might want to make). And it also helps to promote the many wonderful restaurants that donated their time and product to such a worthy cause.

So if you hate the recaps, look away, and we’ll use the same images when we write the event preview article next year! But if you want to see the tasty treats offered to What’s on the Table guests, click on through and enjoy.

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Wise Up – A New Way to Choose Sustainable Fish

We hear more and more news stories about how fish stocks are dwindling world-wide. Consumers are told to search out sustainable fish, but most of us don’t really know what that means. Even if we are conscious of the problem and make an effort – carrying one of those wallet cards, for instance, or grilling our fishmongers as to the origins of their wares – it’s still tough to know exactly where our fish dinner is coming from. And when it comes to restaurants, it’s even tougher.

Restaurants have small profit margins, and the temptation for a chef to serve something cheap and cheerful is often high. The fish we love to eat the most are the ones that are most at risk, and restaurants play an important role in teaching and encouraging customers about choosing sustainable options.

Ocean Wise is a programme created by the Vancouver Aquarium to do just that. Working directly with restaurants and markets, Ocean Wise is a non-profit association dedicated to the education of consumers which allows them to make sustainable choices. The Ocean Wise logo next to a menu item or in a shop is an assurance that the item is a good choice for keeping ocean life healthy and abundant for generations to come.

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One City, One Table

It could have been, truly, a clusterfuck, but the weather gods and organizing gods shined down on the One City One Table event today at the Distillery District. Part of the Luminato arts festival, this food fair took over a whole block with one long table down the centre, and local restaurants offering tastings and street food items for $5 a pop along one side.

While it was busy, it wasn’t stupid packed, and there was very little wait time at each booth to get the food. Most chefs had put some thought into their offerings so it was mostly hand-held stuff like sandwiches, tacos or things that didn’t need a fork and knife.

Enamoured of the food as I was, I completely missed getting a shot of the 500-seat table, although it was never all full at once as people kept getting up and moving around as they tried new things. I missed photographing a few things that we tried and really enjoyed like the baked perogies from Chef Nathan Isberg at Coca, and the braised hangar steak sandwich from Chef Ted Corrado at C5.

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C5 and the Food Studio – Hungry at the ROM

romgazpachoFirst of all, apologies to Royal Ontario Museum CEO William Thorsell, architect Daniel Libeskind and Michael Lee-Chin whose name is on the place, but I just can’t bring myself to like the new Crystal addition. I’m one of those silly people who really like old buildings, and standing both outside and inside the lobby of the addition, I get an odd sense of uneasiness and vertigo, and feel very much like I’m in some sort of 1960s spy movie. I kept expecting Bond villain Ernst Blofeld and that cat to come strolling around a corner.

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