Oliver & Bonacini at the Bell Lightbox – Ready For Their Close-Up

The biggest opening of this year’s film festival isn’t taking place on the movie screens. Instead, it’s all about where movie stars and movie goers will be dining. Torontonians have been watching the Bell Lightbox reach for the sky for the past couple of years, and when it was announced that Oliver & Bonacini would be running the onsite restaurants, both food lovers and movie fans were excited. What a great way to have dinner and a movie.

O&B Canteen, located at street level, opened in mid-August and is already receiving rave reviews. The 3,500 square foot space, designed by KPMB architects (who also designed the rest of the Bell Lightbox) seats 90 at banquettes and communal tables and another 70 on the streetside patio.

Officially opening today [Editor’s Note – Original info indicated that Luma would open today, but a representative from O&B has informed me that it doesn’t actually open until Sunday], Luma is a more upscale destination, seating 230 with room for another 50 on the terrace. The space is huge (8,000 square feet) and boasts marble walls, oak tables, leather chairs and a wall of windows that look down onto King Street West or up at the skyline and the CN Tower.

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Market Mondays – Melons

Sometimes, I’m not so bright. Because when I made up the list of fruit and veg to include in this column, I mostly based it on what would be in season. Which is the point of the whole thing (we’ll start covering meat and dairy and spices and such in the winter after the fall harvest), except for the fact that I didn’t really think too much about recipes.

Or more importantly, that there are a few seasonal items, such as melon, that you just don’t cook with all that much. Think about it – chilled soup, salsa, a few cocktails, fruit salad… maybe some cantaloupe wrapped in prosciutto. Whoops.

So what I have for you today is two different recipes for watermelon gazpacho, both from fabulous local chefs, and (thankfully) different enough that you can pick which one you’d prefer to make based on the other ingredients. Or make them both and do a taste test.

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At the Top of Their Game

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.

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Out Standing in a Field

Yeah, I know, but I’m coming up empty in the witty subject line department today. And for those of us who attended yesterday’s Feast of Fields event at the Kortright Centre in Vaughan, we not only stood around – in a field (badum bum), but the event lived up to the outstanding part as well.

Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, the event that was created to bring together chefs and promote local organic food has become a must on the calendar of every Toronto-area chef and food lover. With over 40 chefs taking part, guests had the opportunity to try everything from local wine and beer to ice cream, spit-roasted pork, fresh bread and even pizza, most made from local and organic ingredients.

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