Welcome to the revamped Lucky Dip column in which I will be bringing you a daily selection (Monday to Friday) of local food news, upcoming events and links to local and international food news stories. Quantity of content will vary by day (thus the “Lucky Dip” name – you get what I scoop up), but I’ll try to ensure a little bit of everything.
If you enjoy the Lucky Dip posts, please help spread the word by sharing the link via Facebook, Twitter, etc. And if you have info on local restaurant news or events, I’d be very appreciative if you’d send it my way by visiting my Contact Page. Cheers!
The Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen Street West) has hired Chef Michael Smith (no, not that Michael Smith) as their new Executive Chef. Smith has previously worked at C5, and is in the process of revamping the various menus at the hotel.
Coming soon – This End Up, a new restaurant at 1454 Dundas Street West that will be serving sandwiches and cocktails. What? You need more than that?? Watch for their opening in March.
Both chef Carl Heinrich and butcher Ryan Donovan have announced they’ll be leaving Marben (488 Wellington Street West) (wait, who’s left to run the place?) to open their own restaurant somewhere in the west end. Heinrich is set to take part in the upcoming season of Top Chef Canada.
The Construction Site has opened a second location in Sherway Gardens where they’re spreading the grilled cheese love.
In an effort to have this site be a place for all of my writing, I’m starting a new column that links to any other stuff I’ve written that has been published during the preceding week. I may try and go back and add older stuff, but much of it is time-sensitive, and thus not really relevant. At present, this will mostly be pieces I’ve written for Word of Mouth on Toronto.com as that is my main gig right now.
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.
It’s been a weird summer, especially for farmers, but those fruits and vegetables keep on coming regardless. This being the peak of the season, there’s no better time to enjoy a meal prepared from locally-sourced ingredients.
If you haven’t made it out to a Harvest Wednesdays event yet, it’s not too late – the prix fixe dinners continue on August 26th, September 2nd, 16th, 23rd and 30th, and October 14th. These four-course dinners are $35 plus tax and gratuity and wine pairings are also available.
The last week of August is always bittersweet. The smell of fall is in the air, the kids are getting ready to go back to school and Ontario produce is at its peak, with the abundance of the season available in farmers markets across the province.
For anyone who finds themselves at the Gladstone Hotel on a Wednesday night, the abundance of the season is also to be had in the ballroom café where Chef Marc Breton and his staff continue to serve up a seasonal 4-course prix fixe dinner featuring the best locally grown products that Ontario has to offer.
After the long hard winter we’re just now starting to see the back of, there were times when I almost believed that it wouldn’t end – that it would be perpetual winter forever. Fortunately Mother Nature takes care of things, and just like it has for every other year since the beginning of time, spring has arrived. Which turns the heads of farmers and gardeners to one thought – planting.
Since many of us city-dwellers don’t have access to a yard in which to grow our own vegetables, we rely on area farmers to keep us well-stocked with nature’s bounty. And as we become more in tune with the philosophy of eating locally and supporting local growers and producers, we city-dwellers need a quick and easy way to do that. While farmer’s markets are always a delight to visit, many people just don’t have the time, or else don’t have any way to haul their swag home.
Recently more and more smaller local farms have been setting up Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) programs in which customers can buy a share of the farm’s output for the year. Depending on the farm, customers can either pick up their weekly box of goodies at the farm, or else the farmer will make deliveries to a pre-set drop-off point a couple of times a week. But how are we city-folk who want to join a CSA supposed to find one? Drive around in the country, stopping at every farm we see?
Okay, so to be straight up honest, it’s not actually Sunday when we visit to do this review. It’s the morning of January 1st, and the oldest continually operating hotel is Toronto is serving up brunch – not to weary travellers as it did so many years ago, but to hungover locals and hipsters looking for something hearty and filling to ease them into the new year.
The high windows of the south-facing ballroom cafe normally have warm sunlight streaming through them, but today it’s a grey view of wet snow. The servers are bright-eyed and smiling, however, and water and coffee arrive at our table quickly.
Normally, the north building of St. Lawrence Market is the focus of local food only on Saturday mornings as farmers and food producers fill tables with all things edible and Torontonians descend upon the place in search of tasty treats. This past Tuesday evening, the market building was a bastion of local food again as a number of chefs and wineries offered samples of their wares as part of An Evening of Local Cuisine, one of the many events put on by The Green Carpet Series.
Autumn is undoubtedly my favourite season. It smells fantastic, the air is crisp, you sweat a whole lot less, and in terms of food, there is such a huge variety on offer. It also means the end of the harvest season, though, and I get how some people can find it a bit sad. Things are dying off, the summer is done, and it will be many long months before we can bite into a freshly picked strawberry or tomato again.
Which is why I was so excited to receive the email about one last Harvest Wednesday event at the Gladstone Hotel. Scheduling conflicts made this one a Harvest Monday, but that didn’t matter – the opportunity to sit with friends and enjoy one final meal from the CSA and Chef Breton’s kitchen was worth potentially missing Heroes (we didn’t).
Throughout the summer we enjoyed the rotating events of Harvest Wednesdays, from the cocktail-style finger food nights, to the grand buffets to the family-style passed dishes, with the bright summer sun streaming through the south-west facing windows. This final dinner definitely reminded us it was fall, for it was dark when we arrived and even darker when we left. My photos of the various dishes turned out to dark to use, even with some Photo-Shop tweaking, and I must admit that I forgot to photograph the hot dishes completely. I was too busy eating. Instead, here’s the menu with commentary.
We attended our last of three Harvest Wednesdays this past week. The schedule rotated through Tasting Nights at $12 each, which were cocktail-party style, Buffet Dinner at $38 each, which was pre-set seating and a huge buffet table, and the Harvest Dinner, the most expensive at $48 each – a family style dinner where you sit with strangers, and pass large platters of food.
The event continues every Wednesday at the nearby Gladstone Hotel until September 19th, which is the finale of a 7-course meal for $110 with proceeds of that night going to FoodShare a local organization that sells weekly boxes of produce to low income people.
The premise of Harvest Wednesdays is that the hotel works with a CSA, and Chef Marc Breton pulls together a menu with only a day’s notice. He has an idea of what he’ll be getting based on seasonality and talking to the farmer, but it’s only when the boxes of produce arrive on Tuesday that he can really put together the menu for that week’s event.