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.
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.
There’s an old cliché that goes “there are plenty of fish in the sea”. This is meant to convey options and opportunities, but nowadays, it’s not a particularly apt analogy. Because fish stocks are dwindling due to poor husbandry and overfishing, and there aren’t a lot of fish in the sea anymore.
SeaChoice is a program by Sustainable Seafood Canada designed to mobilize consumers and industry to buy sustainable seafood, which is caught or farmed with consideration for the ocean’s ecological balance and the long-term viability of the fish. SeaChoice offers guidance to restaurants and consumers on what to buy and what to avoid.
872 Queen Street West
Brunch for two with all taxes, tip and coffee: $55
Walking along Queen West on a sunny morning heading to Oyster Boy, a car passed us blaring a tune that was predominantly accordion music. We couldn’t really tell if it was a Newfoundland jig or some “welcome to the swamp” zydeco music, but fittingly enough, it set the theme of our brunch visit.
Oyster Boy offers a Maritime Pub Lunch on Saturdays and Sundays with a selection of items that are available all day such as fish and chips ($14.95), fish cakes ($11.95), or chowder of the day ($6.95). They also have lunch-specific specials from noon – 4pm with the likes of little jig’s dinner ($14.95) – aka corned beef and cabbage, and omelettes ($10.50).
We started by sharing a serving of clams steamed in white wine with roasted garlic and tomatoes ($14.95). More typical of steamed mussels, this flavour combination actually worked quite well, despite the lack of seawater and a big stretch of beach. A basket of fresh bread came in handy for sopping up the broth left behind after we had devoured the sweet juicy clams.
What does local food look like in April? When the larders are getting bare and the first bright shoots of asparagus and lettuce are still just a twinkle in the farmer’s eye? Would it even be possible to put on an event and feed 300+ people on local food at this time of the year?
Turns out it’s not just possible, but really quite fabulous. The result was a delicious evening of not just local food but local beer, as the first annual Brewer’s Plate event paired some of Toronto’s top chefs with local craft breweries to come up with a dish that paired with and incorporated the selected beers.
872 Queen Street West
Dinner for two with wine or beer, plus all taxes and tip: $100
I’ve never been a fan of claiming you know about something because you’ve lived in close proximity to where it became popular. I once worked as a barista in a tourist area where a customer dissed my cappuccino because, “we’re from Seattle, so, you know, we KNOW coffee.” Apparently just by standing in the original Starbucks people are able to absorb absolutely everything there is to know about the beans, the production and the roasting of coffee. The same goes for people who have lived in London, England, and claim an expert-level knowledge of Indian food.
So it makes me feel like a bit of a hypocrite to write a review of a seafood restaurant and pull out the old “I’m from Nova Scotia, so I know seafood” line, but if the cliché fits, you’ve got to wear it. See, we made two visits to Oyster Boy on Queen Street West; one with another Bluenoser who had a similar opinion of the food, and once with some friends from Moscow for whom many of the dishes on the menu were a completely new experience. Seafood appears to be a matter of perspective.