Recipe For Change Recap

Foodshare‘s fabulous Recipe For Change event migrated to the North St. Lawrence Market this year, allowing for more space, which in turn allowed for more chefs and more guests. I love that organizers make a point of not overselling the event, so it’s never packed; line-ups at food stations are short or non-existent and there is no sense of frenzy involved.

Recipe For Change is FoodShare’s annual fundraiser in which they raise monies directed toward their Field to Table Schools program which teaches school children about where their food comes from. Everyone I talked to on Thursday night considered the event a great success; hats off to Adrienne De Francesco and everyone at FoodShare for a fantastic time.

Below, check out some of the offerings from participating chefs. We didn’t try everything (and I somehow missed most of the desserts, which has got to be a first), but everything we did have was wonderful.

Above: Chickpea polenta topped with ratatouille and fresh mozzarella from Chef Marc Breton of the Gladstone Hotel.

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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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Subday Brunch – The Academy of Spherical Arts

The Academy of Spherical Arts
1 Snooker Street
416-532-2782
Brunch for two with all taxes, tip and coffee: $42

I am of the firm belief that no restaurant is worth waiting in a line to get into. That’s not an attitude issue – I’m not saying that I personally am too good to stand in line, but rather the fact that our expectations of a meal rise in direct proportion to the amount of time we are forced to wait for it. So while there are any number of great restaurants in Toronto that serve fantastic food, including brunch, there’s nothing that I’ve come across in my extensive eating career that would be worth standing in line for. You leave me out in the cold for 2 hours, you had darn well be be serving me the meal of a lifetime when I get my ass in a chair.

Down in Liberty Village, both School and Mildred’s Temple Kitchen are fortunate enough to have line-ups at weekend brunch. People will wait an hour or more to be seated. But how many of those people would stand in line if they knew that only a block or so away, there was a place that was spacious, stylish and affordable, offering a really decent brunch?

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Changing It Up

This past Thursday night, 250 lucky people trekked through the snow to attend Foodshare’s Recipe For Change fundraising event. I say lucky because the event sold out and many people found themselves on a waiting list, but also because some of Toronto’s top chefs were on hand with delicious treats for guests to enjoy.

The event raised funds for the Field to Table Schools program which brings food literacy back to students from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 12.

Held in Foodshare’s warehouse at their Croatia Street offices (the same space where the weekly Good Food Boxes get packed), the room was simply but elegantly decorated, with plenty of seats (no, really, there’s usually never enough seats or tables at these things – I always threaten to come wearing a toolbelt to hold my camera, notebook, wineglass and cutlery) and plenty of good stuff to eat. Our only minor complaint was the lighting, which, while it made the room look fantastic, was not so photo-friendly. As such, I don’t have photos of everything that was offered (the full menu is available on the Foodshare website), but hopefully these will inspire readers to support both Foodshare and the great work they do as well as the many chefs and restaurants who donated their time and product to this event.

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Don’t Count Your Chicken Before You’ve Tasted Them

The phrase “tastes like chicken” is beyond cliché. We use it for any whitish meat that we can’t accurately describe any other way – frog’s legs, alligator, lizard – guaranteed someone trying any of these for the first time will compare them to chicken.

But what, exactly, does chicken taste like? The specimens we get in supermarkets or most restaurants are all the same breed (White Rock), probably fed with some mixture of GMO corn and other grain, raised in a barn for optimum growth in a minimal time frame, and likely pumped full of a saline solution during processing to make the meat look plump and full and heavy.

But chickens come in different breeds, and like beef and pork, those different breeds have different characteristics, in the kitchen and on the plate.

At a recent tasting event at Victor Restaurant, participants got to clearly see the difference between breeds, and the phrase “tastes like chicken” no longer applies.

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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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Sunday Brunch – Mildred’s Temple Kitchen

Mildred’s Temple Kitchen
85 Hanna Avenue
416-588-5695
Brunch for two with all taxes, tip and coffee: $50

I am a student of the theory of dressing up to go out. Maybe it’s because I work from home and yoga pants and a t-shirt are my regular uniform, but I always find it appropriate, when going out into the world, to make a bit of an effort. Some make-up, a cute outfit, polished shoes. It makes me appreciate a nice place so much more, and there are some restaurants, whether because of the architecture and design, or just the food and service, where it feels that one should dress up.

Not everyone shares my philosophy on this issue, however. So while I’ve pulled together a groovy 60s inspired-outfit to have brunch in the gorgeously cool Mildred’s Temple Kitchen, the rest of the clientele is still arriving in ugly flip-flops and cargo shorts. People in Toronto really don’t dress up for brunch, do they? At the very least, most of the gentlemen wearing hats have the courtesy to remove them when they’re seated – all except for one hipster douchebag who continues to wear a brown wool toque (it’s August, buddy, come on!) throughout the meal. Even the little boy who came in wearing a baseball cap has removed his headgear at the table. Stupid hipsters, making life ugly for the rest of us.

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Housewarming at the Temple

templeprofiterole

Mildred’s Temple Kitchen
85 Hanna Avenue, Suite 104
416-588-5695

Moving house can be a stressful time, but ultimately one of renewal. It can be hard to leave a place where so many great memories were made, but it’s also invigorating and inspiring to start with a clean slate in a new space.

Such is the case for Donna Dooher and Kevin Gallagher with their new restaurant Mildred’s Temple Kitchen. So etched in Toronto’s culinary history was the couple’s previous restaurant Mildred Pierce that visitors to the newly opened Mildred’s Temple Kitchen seemed to be expecting the new space to be exactly the same. But after 17 years running Mildred Pierce, as well as a catering business and a cooking school, it’s understandable that something different would be desirable for the couple and their dedicated team.

templedecorWhile the old restaurant was romantic, with wall murals and swaths of gauzy fabric suspended from the ceiling, Mildred’s Temple Kitchen is an ode to 60s modern design and feels like something out of a Jacques Tati film.

The space is big and bright with the entire north wall comprised of floor to ceiling windows that look out onto the train tracks that cut through this west end neighbourhood. Diners seated along the plush upholstered bench with their backs to the window can sense the change of energy in the room as the trains soundlessly whisk past and their companions look up. It’s a surreal moment that ends with the window-facing diners staring across the train tracks at the old Mildred Pierce location.

Back in the restaurant itself, the open kitchen is set three steps above the main dining area, and acts as its own form of entertainment. Chef de Cuisine Tyler Cunningham directs a team of six in a gleaming open kitchen while servers, bussers and other staff members enter the “stage” from doors to the right and left. This interactive design stems from a trend started at Mildred Pierce where regulars sat at the bar to be as close to the kitchen action as possible. At Mildred’s Temple Kitchen, Dooher and Gallagher have actually designed the open kitchen with  that idea in mind and have provided a row of stools and a bar along one end of the kitchen which acts as a chef’s table for diners who enjoy watching the cooks at work.

templekitchen
The remainder of the space is made up of two- and four-top tables – comprised of light cream coloured chairs and a warm wood that is carried throughout the room on tables and cabinetry. As an homage to an especially popular table at Mildred Pierce, one round banquette called “Table 12” was placed at the back of the space, and two harvest tables sit up on the level of the kitchen to accommodate larger groups or to act as a communal table when the place is busy. Gallagher says he and Dooher were inspired by communal dining restaurants in Chicago, and hopes people will use both the harvest tables and the kitchen-side bar as well as the bar at the entrance to strike up conversations with fellow diners.

templetartDooher and Gallagher’s son, Rory, who worked with them at Mildred Pierce and spent the last few years working in various restaurants in the UK, explains that the raw space provided all sorts of inspiration, and combining the practical necessities of a restaurant and a little bit of whimsy, the team came up with a design that was not only fun but responsible. The delay in the renovations occurred as they searched out clean, efficient building methods and eco-friendly materials.

This philosophy translates to the food and drink as well. In place of bottled water, Temple offers reverse osmosis filtered water in either sparkling or still versions. One of the first such systems in Canada, the onsite filtration allows the restaurant to lower its eco-footprint while still accommodating customer demand for non-tap water.

The menu is also a clear dedication to local and seasonal, with a blend of old favourites and some new dishes as well. At brunch (it’s quite possible Mildred Pierce was solely responsible for making Toronto the brunch-loving town that it is), much-loved dishes such as black currant scones, huevos Monty, Mrs. Biederhof’s pancakes, and green eggs and ham have all found a spot on the new menu.

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The lunch and dinner card are the same, and old favourites such as the chicken biryani and Mildred’s classic burger are sure to make regulars happy. This is a carefully thought-out collection of dishes, with a lentil stew and a BBQ eggplant and silken tofu in black bean sauce dish on offer for vegetarians and vegans respectively, with other local and seasonal dishes such as lamb pot pie, pan-seared Ontario trout or a Berkshire pork chop sure to please the more omnivorous guests.

templetofuStarters include Georgian Bay whitefish fritters with pickled spruce tips, Italian bread soup, and a divine roast vegetable puff pastry tart. Meanwhile, dessert sees the return of Mildred’s classic profiteroles, as well as solid – and tasty – classics such as a variety of tarts (apple with tamarind ice cream, lemon or chocolate praline).

We’ve yet to try the wine or cocktails; Dooher and Gallagher spent last Friday running around to various government offices encouraging inspectors and administrators to complete th
e long-promised permits that would allow them to finally obtain their liquor license. But son Rory explains that the drinks menu will be modest, classic and seasonal, designed to complement the dishes but also continue the overall theme of sleek and classic with a touch of fun.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the washrooms, because they continue the same theme, while managing to feel like a completely separate entity. An unmarked door near the entrance in the same warm wood found throughout the restaurant leads to a row of unisex stalls. A motion sensor triggers a recorded loop that includes the Price is Right theme song, a French-accented pilot advising patrons that they can unfasten their seat belts and then Nancy Sinatra singing “These Boots Are Made For Walking”. It’s another jolt of 60s-inspired surrealism that again makes me think of French director Jacques Tati and his film Playtime (well, except for the disastrous restaurant opening scenes), but no one we spoke to has actually seen the movie.

templeappletartWhile it’s taken a while to come to fruition, Mildred’s Temple Kitchen has managed to tick all the boxes and should offer something for everyone. There’s enough of the old Mildred’s to keep long-time fans happy, while acknowledging changing trends in both food and design to keep the restaurant current and forward-thinking. The food remains solid and well-presented and the room reflects Dooher and Gallagher’s love of dramatic spaces, but is fun and beguiling and not at all intimidating. Sleek, but also welcoming, the restaurant makes dinner more than just a meal, turning it into an event.

At their first official “open to the public” brunch yesterday, the energy in the room was busy but not chaotic. Old regulars returned, joy on their faces as they dug into long-missed stacks of pancakes. Just as if they were moving house for real, Dooher and Gallagher have managed to take everything people loved about their old restaurant and combine it with something fresh and new. And Toronto diners are set to offer them the best housewarming party they could ever have.

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