Macleans, Restaurants and Whiny Temper Tantrums

For anyone in the restaurant industry, this week the buzz is all about Maclean’s Magazine and their Canada’s Best Restaurants edition, in which a team of food critics led by Jacob Richler picked the Top 50 restaurants in the country.

Richler knew what he was getting into – the first line of his introduction makes it clear:

However much work goes into such things, they are seldom praised and always attacked – and gleefully.

What has been surprising is just how vehement those attacks are. I’ve seen no glee, just a level of childish pettiness that is embarrassing for the entire restaurant industry.

It would be idealistic to hope that food writers and the chefs and restaurateurs they write about would aspire to a level of maturity and professionalism in their interactions. That they would approach the work of the other with a realization that the “enemy” is just trying to do their job to the best of their ability with fairness and integrity, and that other factors (editors and readers in the case of writers; business partners and staff in the case of the restaurant owners) sometimes come into play. A restaurant review should never be personal, and should never be taken that way. At its best, a review is the perfect example of a symbiotic relationship where food writer and chef help and promote each other’s businesses (a review – good or bad – gives a restaurant publicity, and a popular review helps to sell copies or push traffic to a website).

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Smörgåsbord – Acadia Rocks the 7-course Tasting Menu

When Chef Matt Blondin announced via Twitter that Acadia (50C Clinton Street) would be offering a $39, 7-course tasting menu, I’m pretty sure everybody’s first thought was, “How the hell is he going to pull that off??” But it turns out that Blondin is a pretty ingenious guy. Not only did he put together 7 courses for $39, they were actually really good and some, like the catfish breaded with pumpernickel with goat’s curd, pickled egg white and yolk and onion tops (above) has recently been added to the restaurant’s regular menu.  Follow along for the rest of what Blondin cooked up…

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Lucky Dip – Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

In Toronto:

The Grove (1214 Dundas Street West) is now open. Chef Ben Heaton is offering a menu of contemporary (and very pretty) English cuisine.

BBQ joint Stack will open on March 27th at 3265 Yonge Street.

Did anyone actually think that The Saint (227 Ossington Avenue) would ever really open? Three years after local magazines and websites were writing previews about the decor and the menu (jumped the gun a little there, huh, folks?) it appears that the place will indeed open on April 9th.

Church Street icon Reither’s Fine Food International (530 Church Street) has closed its doors – owner Peter Reither has retired.

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The Grove is Gonna Be Groovy

Do not adjust your screens. I know I already wrote a preview of The Grove back in November when I attended a pop-up dinner in conjunction with First Drop Canada. At that point, owners Fritz Wahl, Richard Reyes and Chef Ben Heaton were expecting their Dundas Street restaurant to be ready to go before Christmas. As is the case in the restaurant industry, there were a few delays, and when I attended the real sneak preview pop-up dinner last Friday (also hosted by First Drop Canada, and with proceeds going to Greenest City), they were still awaiting their liquor license.

The good news is that everything else is done and that they’ll be holding their grand opening party this Saturday, March 10th from 6pm onwards. The other good news is that, unlike the previous dinner where Heaton was cooking in a makeshift kitchen in a woodshop, this time he was getting a chance to try out his own custom-built space.

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Lucky Dip – Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

In Toronto:

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.

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Lucky Dip – Monday, November 28th, 2011

Oh, hippies… Occupy Toronto protesters have taken over the basement of St. Patrick’s Market, a building owned by the city but leased out to various food shops, and the soon-to-be home of The Grove food emporium. The hippies occupiers swear to run a food strike and then a hunger strike unless they can become legitimate tenants of the space. [Toronto Star] [Globe and Mail]

Let it be noted that we are the architects of our own demise. Canada and Mexico are arguing that the US’s super-awesome Country of Origin Labelling laws violate the free trade agreement our countries have all been roped into. Which means that, besides forcing the US to stop labelling the food it sells so that consumers can know where it comes from, the chance of getting similar laws here in Canada (which local food advocates have requesting for years) is pretty much screwed. [Food Safety News]

Poor weather in the US south means that peanut butter is now too expensive to stock at food banks. [Village Voice: Fork in the Road]

You know how it just takes some people a while to figure out where they’re supposed to be and what they’re supposed to be doing? Writer Sarah B. Hood finally found her “thing”, cooking in the historic kitchen at Fort York. [Toronto Tasting Notes]

Yet again, this holiday season, Brits are in the aisles of Waitrose fighting over the last Heston Blumenthal Christmas pudding. [Independent]

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Get Into the Grove

A couple of weeks back, I got an email inviting Greg and I to a pop-up dinner called The Loving Plateful. This was the real deal, taking part in a wood shop at Dufferin and Dupont, and organized by First Drop Canada, a group run by Adam Pesce of Reunion Island Coffee, that works to improve the lives of coffee farmers and their families. The $100 donation for the dinner went to Greenest City and Food4Farmers.

What intrigued me about this particular dinner, though, was that the food would be prepared by Chef Ben Heaton (formerly of Globe), as a preview to his soon-to-open Dundas West restaurant The Grove. A sneak peek at what Heaton would be offering his customers come (hopefully) mid-December would be quite a coupe.

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