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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School’s In For Summer at the Drake Hotel

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.

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BBQ and Temaki Too – Fall Food Promotions at the Drake

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.

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Hanging in the Garden at the Drake

I’m back! We broke down and bought an air purifier and it’s reduced my crazy mold allergy symptoms by about 90%. Definitely working better than any of the meds I was taking. Well, until this morning when it was cool and 14C and we opened the windows to let the cool, “fresh” air in, which of course was full of mold spores. In any case, I haven’t been venturing outside much but one of the things I did do a couple of weeks ago when the mold count was low was to head over to the Drake Hotel (1150 Queen Street West) for their annual garden party.

The garden is actually behind a storefront a few doors down where the Drake has their General Store and ice cream shops. So we got there by heading down a back alleyway. It had rained earlier (rather a torrential downpour) so things started a bit late, but once the rain subsided, it was a decent night.

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Market Mondays – Radishes

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.

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Sunday Brunch – The Drake Hotel

The Drake Hotel
1150 Queen Street West
Brunch for two with all taxes, tip and coffee: $50

I have no idea why I’ve been obsessed with fried chicken lately, some cold weather comfort food craving, no doubt. But when perusing the online brunch menu for the Drake and discovering that Executive Chef Anthony Rose was serving up fried chicken and waffles, I knew I had to check it out.

A confession – despite living under 10 minutes away, I don’t get to the Drake that often. In part because the Gladstone is closer, and also because, after living in Parkdale for 15 years, I still can’t quite shake that “Drake! You ho!” attitude. Back in my day, part of the basement of the Drake had a dirt floor – and that’s how we liked it!

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The Official Dinner

Living just a couple of blocks from both the Gladstone and the Drake hotels, it’s not uncommon for me to be strolling along Queen Street West and come across something that sets my eyes rolling back into my head in annoyance. More and more often, my neighbourhood is too damned pretentious for its own good.

So it was an ominous feeling in the bottom of my gut as Greg and I headed to the Drake hotel on Wednesday night and a block away we could hear bagpipes. As we approached, we could see that the sidewalk was blocked with a carpet and red velvet ropes. In the curb lane in front of the entrance were two Royal Mounted Police officers in the full dress uniform worn when presented to royalty (black serge and pith helmets as opposed to the traditional red serge and stetson), atop two gorgeous horses.

We stood on the sidewalk; confused, embarrassed and guiltily gleeful. If those officers and bagpiper weren’t actually there for us, I’d have growled about how pretentious the neighbourhood is getting. But all I could actually do was give the horses a scratch on the nose, and smile self-consciously as the piper piped us in to the Official Dinner.

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