Chowing Down for Change

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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.

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The Group of 7 Chefs – Go Fish

I’m not sure how I failed to attend a dinner by the Group of 7 Chefs up until now. Timing, finances, their predilection for odd bits of the insides of animals… all may play a role. But when they announced they would be doing a fish and beer dinner, teaming up with Bellwoods Brewery and serving sustainable fish, Greg and I knew we had to go.

The Group of 7 Chefs is actually comprised of more than seven local chefs. Scott Vivian (Beast), Rob Gentile (Buca), Mark Cutrara (Cowbell), Kevin McKenna (Globe and Earth), Matty Matheson (Parts & Labour), Chris Brown (The Stop), Bertrand Alepee (The Tempered Chef), and Marc Dufour (Globe and Earth) are the main crew, but they have been joined occasionally by local chefs Nick Liu (GwaiLo), Guy Rawlings and others, depending on the specific dinner and individual availability.

The premise is that the chefs get together once a month, on a Monday, when they’re all off from their regular gigs, and work together to create a multi-course dinner. There are a few sous chefs helping out, but most of the work is done by the chefs themselves, with everyone helping to cook and plate each others’ dishes, and a grand sense of fun and camaraderie, despite the stress and hard work.

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Lucky Dip – Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

In Toronto:

Keriwa Cafe (1690 Queen Street West) had updated their website. All the better to see their monthly menu updates.

Chef Justin Cournoyer’s new restaurant Actinolite (971 Ossington Avenue) opens to the public tomorrow (Wednesday, March 28th) serving up a menu with Spanish, Portuguese and Italian influences.

Basilio Pesce of Oliver & Bonacini has left Biff’s Bistro (4 Front Street East) to open his own restaurant in Parkdale.

Mabel’s Bakery (323 Roncesvalles Avenue) is expanding with a new location coming to 1156 Queen Street West.

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Lucky Dip – Monday, March 19th, 2012

In Toronto:

Roving chef Matt Kantor has announced plans to settle down, specifically at a space at 1256 Dundas Street West (at Dovercourt), where he’ll be cooking up Spanish-influenced cuisine. Plans are for Bakio to open in about 12 weeks, but maybe double that to allow for delays and a potential CUPE strike.

Oliver & Bonacini Cafe Grill at Bayview Village (2901 Bayview Avenue) is closed for 4 weeks starting today for renovations.

Angelo’s on King (791 King Street West) is no longer open for lunch but will continue to open for dinner.

The Golden Apple Confectionery (warning – flash and music!) is coming soon to Liberty Village. They plan to open in April at 171 East Liberty Street, unit #142 where they’ll be offering various types of caramel apples and chocolate delights.

Porchetta & Co. (825 Dundas Street West) brings back the uber-popular porchetta and waffle dinner, this Thursday and Friday after 5pm only.

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Lucky Dip – Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

In Toronto:

It’s Pi day and Sadie’s Diner (504 Adelaide Street West) is giving out free slices of pie with every meal.

The line-up has been announced for Luminato, Toronto’s annual culture and arts festival. Watch for the 1000 Tastes of Toronto event to take place on June 9th and 10th at The Distillery District.

April is looking to be all about dining out for charity with Stop For Food running at various restaurants from April 1st – 30th ($5 added to your bill will go to The Stop) and A Taste For Life taking place at restaurants all over town (and the country!) on April 25th (25% of the cost of your meal will be donated to Fife House). Best to start planning now.

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Lucky Dip – Monday, February 27th, 2012

In Toronto:

Kensington Market icon European Quality Meats and Sausages (176 Baldwin Avenue) will be closing down on April 7th. Full story at the Toronto Star.

Also in Kensington, Thirsty and Miserable has opened at 197 Baldwin Street. With a “culinary team” listed as Swansen and Deep Freeze, maybe don’t go expecting anything more than booze and great local craft beer.

Chef Greg Couillard is back in town, serving up Nonya cuisine tonight at The Depanneur (1033 College Street). There were still tickets left as of this morning.  Couillard revealed to guests at last night’s dinner (which was fantastic!) that he plans to open a restaurant in Toronto’s west end, to be called Pink Slip. He’s also doing a guest stint from March 4- 6th at the Fox and Fiddle at Cityplace (25-17 Fort York Boulevard). (Yeah, I know, but that’s what the man said.)

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They’ve Got Sausages at Marben and They’re Happy to See You

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.

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At the Top of Their Game

I am generally sceptical when being served game meat. Having grown up eating wild caught stuff, the flavour of the game meat served in Toronto restaurants is generally subdued. Ontario law dictates that wild game meat cannot be sold to the public, so most of the venison, rabbit, elk, kangaroo, etc., that we eat here has been farmed. Farming has its pros and cons, of course, but one of the the most noticeable differences is the lack of a gamey taste because the animals are eating controlled feed instead of foraging in the forest.

This is a good thing, in a way, because it means that people will try game meat and not be put off by the strong flavour. But folks like me, who expect the strong flavour, often find game meat lacking. What is needed, then, is for the meat to be prepared at the hands of a skilled chef who knows how to nuance, accentuate and tease out the flavours. Last night, 9 sets of those skilled hands took on the challenge.

The Ontario Game Dinner at Hank’s was a benefit for Slow Food Toronto – money raised went towards sending Toronto chefs to Slow Food’s bi-annual conference in Italy.

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What’s On the Table – In Pictures

Okay, so I know you readers are divided on the topic of event recaps. Some of you hate them, preferring an event preview instead so you can actually buy a ticket and go – and for the most part, I agree. Who wants to hear about all the fun they missed? But others of you love the food pr0n, the piles of photos of gorgeously executed food and drink, particularity at events with higher ticket prices that might not be affordable to most.

Here’s our take on this – since the fancy events are usually charity fund-raisers we have no problem running a photo-essay after the fact, because it raises more awareness of the issues and the charity (even though the event is over, I’m sure The Stop would be happy to accept any donations our readers might want to make). And it also helps to promote the many wonderful restaurants that donated their time and product to such a worthy cause.

So if you hate the recaps, look away, and we’ll use the same images when we write the event preview article next year! But if you want to see the tasty treats offered to What’s on the Table guests, click on through and enjoy.

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Taking a Walk on the Green Carpet

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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.

Attendees had the opportunity to wander the space sampling food from local restaurants that had been paired with wines from Ontario wineries. Participating chefs and restaurants included Chef Ben Heaton from Globe Bistro, Chef Marc Breton from the Gladstone Hotel, Chef Nathan Isberg from Coca, and Chef Anthony Rose from the Drake Hotel. Participating wineries were Henry of Pelham, Frogpond Farm, Flatrock Cellars and Vineland Estates Winery.

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