Smörgåsbord – Andrew Carter at St. Lawrence Market

Shoppers who bustle about the south St. Lawrence Market building seldom look up – they’re too busy. But if they did, they’d see that there is a fantastic kitchen and event space at the northwest corner that overlooks the market proper and offers a breathtaking view of the city skyline. Equipped with top of the line appliances, the space is often used to host dinners and cooking demos and this summer a handful of Toronto’s executive chefs are taking part in a dinner series where they’ll cook and interact with guests.

On May 12th, we attended the first event in this series with Chef Andrew Carter from the Queen and Beaver Public House (35 Elm Street). I’ve been a fan of Carter’s since he started at Q&B and he enthusiastically led Greg and I on a tour of his kitchen. That he’s been known to serve up dishes like fried cod cheeks, potted duck and a venison stew made with chocolate also don’t hurt.

His night at St. Lawrence Market featured traditional English fare, and was designed to tie in with the Toronto launch of the Billy Elliot musical.

We started with a cream of asparagus soup, garnished with a poached quail egg and bacon. Q&B smokes their bacon in-house and it’s quite possibly the best bacon ever. The people next to us didn’t eat theirs and Greg had to stop me from asking to have it.

This is a rabbit version of the potted duck served throughout the winter at Q&B. Potting was an old technique to preserve meat by covering it with melted butter, thus preventing air to get at the meat and spoil it. While the layer of butter can be removed before serving, it adds to the dish, creating a bread and butter situation for the meat to be added to. It was served with the Russian rye bread they make in house at Q&B.

These soused scallops with grapefruit and green peppercorns were also served with a garnish of samphire, a green that grows in coastal areas of England (here in Canada, it’s more commonly found in British Columbia). They missed my plate when adding the garnish, so chef brought me a separate plateful of the stuff. Which was awesome, because I love samphire.

This beautiful rolled pheasant came with a sausage made with foie gras, chicken breast and bacon. Served with a whisky and date sauce and mashed rutabaga.

You can’t have an English meal without tea, so this Earl Grey ice with raspberries served as a refreshing palate cleanser.

If it looks like this is a lot of cheese compared to oat cake, you’re right. These were seriously generous portions of English cheeses including Stilton and Lord of Punters.

Finally, the Brits love their custards. This one had lovely fragrant stewed rhubarb underneath and came with shortbread full of pink peppercorns.

And as night fell, we admired the Toronto skyline.

All early courses were paired with a selection of British beers.

Many of the dishes above (or versions of them) are available at The Queen and Beaver at some point throughout the year. Chef Carter does a seasonally-changing menu, so things do change, but these great dishes are typical of what is offered at the pub.

The St. Lawrence Market executive chef series continues throughout the summer.