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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It’s All About Who You Know

It would seem that Toronto’s underground dining scene really did fizzle after its 15 minutes of fame. A few months back, Charlie’s Burgers was the name on everyone’s lips as Chowhounders and other “foodies” (note – derisive use of terminology) fought to have their applications accepted for the right to pay $150 and upwards per person to eat a meal with strangers.

Sticker shock may have made the love affair short-lived, but all the while another truly underground restaurant has been chugging along, albiet with a short break when chef/caterer Karen Viva-Haynes broke her leg.

6° is Viva-Haynes’ answer to the underground restaurant scene. The twice-monthly dinners take place in her basement catering kitchen, and you have to know Karen, someone involved with Viva Tastings, or know someone who knows them, to get an invite.

The price is usually $75 – $95  for a 5 course meal, and guests bring their own beverages. An email goes out the day before the event that provides the menu – or at least key elements – so guests can bring wine or beer to pair with the food, which is focused on seasonal, sustainable, and local as much as possible.

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Can You Keep a Secret?

It was a dark and stormy night. As the rain poured down and the wind battered our umbrellas, we opened the newspaper box and pulled out an envelope bearing our name. After opening the letter and reading the instructions, we placed $220 in the envelope, walked a block or so west and headed down a darkened laneway, then a steep flight of stairs. We knocked and a small window in the door opened. “What’s the password?” a burly face asked. “We’re here to see Charlie,” I replied, a quiver of fear and anticipation in my voice. The door swung open. The man took our envelope of cash and directed us down a hallway where we entered a room revealing a scene like something out of an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. The champagne was flowing, the band was playing, and everywhere we turned, gastronomic delights were spread across tables for the taking.

Okay… not quite. The evening was sunny and mild, the room was a brightly lit west-end gallery space, and (thankfully) no pretentious password was required to get in. Comparisons to a 1920s speakeasy aren’t far off when talking about how to get into an event in Toronto’s underground restaurant scene, but it’s actually much more subdued and cultivated – the emphasis being on great food and drink more than anything else.

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