Toronto may not be included in the Michelin guide, but we’re the only North American city to be part of the Taste Festival series, which visits 22 cities each year, bringing together some of the best local food businesses and restaurants for a weekend-long celebration of cuisine.
Last week I had the chance to attend a fantastic dinner event called Chefs For Change. Yes, there are a variety of these types of events taking place throughout the year, many of which are formal with a high ticket price. However, this very reasonably-priced event ($75, drinks extra) not only directed funds to a very worthy cause, it was one of those great occasions when guests got to see a gang of local chefs from different restaurants all working together. Food was mostly served family-style with all the chefs and a team of students from George Brown College creating the dishes.
This series of events (there are three more – Jan 30th, Feb 20th & Feb 27th – all sold out) all take place at Propeller Coffee, a spacious coffee roastery on Wade Avenue (Bloor/Lansdowne) that has both a huge prep area and event space.
Chef Anthony Rose announced yesterday via The Grid that he’ll be leaving The Drake Hotel(1150 Queen Street West) at the end of the month to open a place of his own. Darren Glew, who has been at The Drake for the past five years, will take over the kitchen.
Simple Bistro (619 Mount Pleasant Road) had rolled out a new spring menu. Chef Matthew Cowan is offering up lots of tasty local fare such as rainbow trout, Grey County rabbit with prunes (put this in my belly now!), venison tartare and mushroom crepe. And brunch offers something called “The Cure” which is not Fat Bob singing Lovecats, but looks instead like the ultimate fry-up with eggs, bacon, sausage and duck confit hash.
Emma’s Country Kitchen (1108 St. Clair Avenue West) is not open yet, but hopes to be serving salads, sandwiches, soups, brunch and pastries to the folks of Corso Italia within the next couple of months.
The folks at Slow Food Toronto are looking for volunteers to help out at The Green Living Show (April 13th – 15th) at the Farm Fresh Fare area they run each year. People who help out and work a 3-hour shift will get a free pass to the show and some food tickets to try some of the food prepared by local chefs.
The response to Jennifer Bain’s request to visit people’s homes for dinner was so overwhelming, the Star has turned it into a regular column. The first article (and I suspect the rest will be as well) is a voyeuristic look into one couple’s cupboards. [Toronto Star]
Okay, so let’s be honest, it’s like no school cafeteria you’ve ever been in before; the tables are made from old bowling alley floors, the wall are covered in kitsch, and the juice boxes are spiked. But if you’re going to convert your hotel restaurant dining room into an ongoing art project, one in which the whole thing, including the menu, changes up every few months, school cafeteria food is surely a fun place to start. And of course, the food has got to be memorable too.
Chef Anthony Rose and the staff at the Drake Hotel (1150 Queen Street West) have a winner on their hands with the first instalment of the “Dining Roadshow”. Recent popular culture is rife with grown-ups wanting to act and look like children, so an opportunity to return to summer school for an evening and reminisce goes over like gangbusters with the crowd at the media preview earlier this week. We flipped through a menu presented in duo-tangs (menu order forms look like those dreaded fill-in-the-circle test sheets) and pulled condiments out of lunchboxes on each table.
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.
It seems as if every chef worth their weight in pork belly has been playing around with sausage-making lately. And with sausage and hot dog restaurants showing up as the next big trend, we’re all going to be eating many more of the things in the near future. So why not pit local chefs against each other to see who truly makes the best wurst.
Ryan Donovan and the gang at Marben (488 Wellington Street West) have decided to do just that. Throughout the spring and summer, select Wednesdays (2 each month) will see Sausage League take over the restaurant. While Marben’s regular menu will still be on offer, guests will have the option of ordering the sausage special for $25. What they’ll get is two dishes – one prepared by each chef – and they’ll get to choose their favourite. The chef who gets the most votes each night will move on to the next round of competition.
Word spread like wildfire last week when the Drake Hotel (1150 Queen Street West) announced they would be shutting down their Drake Scoops + Tees ice cream shop located a couple of doors east from the hotel proper and replacing it with… the Drake BBQ shop. Featuring sandwiches made with Carolina-style pulled pork and Texas-style beef brisket, and open Thursday to Saturday only from 6pm (starting October 22nd), the shop will offer counter seating and is geared towards the club crowd looking for a quick bite. Although I fully expect that, living a few blocks from the hotel, it will also become a quick and easy dinner option for Greg and I when we don’t feel like cooking.
The first root vegetable of spring is also the most under-used. Besides putting them in a salad, what do you DO with radishes anyway?
Related to the mustard plant, radishes come in several varieties, ranging from sweet to spicy and peppery in flavour and from white to vibrant red, and even grey and black in colour. They are a favourite of the home gardener because they’re easy to sow, grow quickly, and offer an early sense of accomplishment. Cultivation of radishes dates back to Roman times and records suggest that the plants were domesticated somewhere in Europe.
Which begs the continued question – why do we mostly eat them raw in salads? A perusal of the Internet led to me recipes for pickled radishes, roasted radishes and one in which the roots are boiled until tender and then tossed with butter and brown sugar, much as you’d do with carrots or parsnips. Having tried this, I think I know why we prefer to eat the things raw – boiling saps out all of the lovely crisp peppery flavour.