Visitors to Casa Loma don’t normally get to wander around with drinks and food. As a museum and historic site, food is generally restricted to the basement cafe area. Yes, there have always been weddings and special events in a few of the larger rooms where it’s safe to have food in a seated environment, but food stations and samples throughout the castle? Unheard of.
You might have heard the name Pegasus Group before. They run a number of restaurants in the GTA, but their hospitality division, under Executive Chef Steffan Howard, also runs the food service at the Palais Royale and Casa Loma. This normally encompasses things like weddings and special events, but as part of Winterlicious, they turned the castle into a Medieval market place.
Staff wore Medieval costumes as they greeted guests at the door. From there we were handed maps and encouraged to explore.
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.
When most people think of the Palais Royale Ballroom, they think of, well… dancing. Or the bands that have graced the famous stage. Maybe if they’ve attended a wedding or other event where they were served a meal, they’re aware that the Palais actually turns out some pretty great food.
Executive Chef Steffan Howard has worked at some of the top restaurants in Toronto (Truffles, JOV Bistro, AGO) but he also has a background in agriculture, having spent three years working on an organic farm as a product developer and initiating an organic catering company. He was also the chairman of the 15th annual Feast of Fields event.
So how does a chef with a background in organic farming bring his love of organic and local produce to a venue where most of his work is for weddings or corporate events? By opening the doors for a local food lunch, that’s how.
Each Wednesday until the end of November, Chef Howard will create a casual buffet-style lunch menu from ingredients sourced at the Brickworks Chef’s Market. This Wednesday morning market, open only to local chefs, allows farmers and chefs to connect, strengthen ties and build networks that help promote local economies.
Holidays are a little weird at our house. Both our families live down east, and being childfree, there’s usually less incentive to get into the decorating and feasting than if we had spawned. Because it’s just the two of us, we seldom end up doing anything huge for occasions like Thanksgiving or Christmas. And while we’re mostly good with not having to get on a plane to go eat some turkey (and not dealing with the potential squabbling about who “gets us” and for how long), the various holidays often seem to be missing a sense of celebration.
I always cook the traditional dinner, but it ends up being like any other evening meal, only with more dishes to wash. So this year, we decided to do something different.
We found out that the Palais Royale was serving a Thanksgiving brunch. It was over $40 per person, and we waffled for a bit over the price, but threw caution to the wind and went anyway.