I’m late to the game in posting my recap of Chef Matt Kantor’s tribute to El Bulli dinner series. Initially, I decided to hold off posting until the 3-night series was done, so as not to potentially ruin the surprise for people who were attending on the 2nd and 3rd nights. Then I got busy with other stuff, and here we are, a full week later.
The dinners took place at The Cookbook Store, with the dining table set up in the middle of the shop and Kantor and his crew cooking in the brand spanking new deluxe kitchen in the back. The space is way swank, and it required knocking out a wall at the back of the shop, but it’s quite beautiful and allows The Cookbook Shop to host many more events and demos than they have in the past.
We were greeted by Cookbook Shop owner Alison Fryer and she introduced Matt who explained a bit about the premise of the meal.
It should be noted that while the menu is considered to be 23+ “courses”, every course was actually just a taste, ranging in size from a single piece of popcorn to a sea scallop with garnish. So while we left at the end of the night sated, we were not, by any means, too full. We started with a cocktail…
I was just about haggised out after putting together last week’s round up of Robert Burns activities and dinners. Then Chef Martin Kouprie of Pangaea (1221 Bay Street) sent me a message on Twitter. He was holding a haggis competition for his kitchen staff; the winning dish would be served in the restaurant on Robert Burns Day. Would I like to come and be a judge?
I was of two minds; my experience with offal – all organs and all animals (I’ve only recently learned to like foie gras) – hasn’t been good. But then I remembered the advice of Vogue food writer Jeffrey Steingarten, that you must try a food at least ten times before you can determine that you truly don’t like it. I’d had haggis once before and found it repulsive, but here was an opportunity to try seven additional versions of the dish, created by seven different professional cooks who would be pulling out all the stops to make the lowly stuffed sheep’s stomach into gourmet fare.
We got an email from a reader last week asking about where to find cookbooks, specifically older vintage ones, and I have to say, I didn’t really have a good reply. “Used bookstores” seemed like a really patronizing answer, but that’s about all I could come up with.
After a bit of research, my answer would be dependant on the disclaimer of “what do you want to do with it?” For some people, the hunt is the best part of the process, and if you’re not cursed with asthma, an afternoon spent digging through dusty stacks and boxes of cookbooks at the back of a used bookstore might be sheer heaven. If it’s the having of the book that is the goal, then online resources might be a better bet, and if the plan is simply to view, copy and try out the recipes, then I’d head to the library to dig through their treasures.
The Cookbook Store (850 Yonge Street) offers an extensive collection of older titles, as do most of the big chains. Amazonoffers many titles at new or used prices, and it’s possible to find vintage or rare stuff in the used section here. Alibris specializes in used and rare books, but it helps to know the title of what you’re looking for in order to search effectively.
Newer titles – published in the past couple of years – can often be picked up at those remaindered bookshops that tend to pop up in malls or empty storefronts on main shopping stretches. I actually do most of my own cookbook shopping at these places, and my favourites include the one in Dufferin Mall; the one on Yonge Street, south of Bloor on the east side; and the one on the corner of Front Street East and Church. I don’t know the names of any of them, but everyone’s been to them, I’m sure.