By all accounts Toronto Beer Week was a resounding success. Many beers were consumed, and there were some outstanding beer dinners and other food pairing events that took place at restaurants across the city. Greg made it out to more of them than I did (stupid allergies), so many of the photos here are his (which explains why they might get a touch out of focus as we go through each course, as pretty much every one of these dishes came with an accompanying beer pairing.)
Jesse Vallins is a native of Toronto and has spent the last 12 years working in some of the city’s best restaurants. He has spent the last four years as the chef at Trevor Kitchen and Bar (38 Wellington Street East).
What inspired you to become a chef?
For as long as I can remember I’ve fallen asleep and woken up thinking about food. I love eating and sharing food with people and the experience of restaurants. I don’t care if it’s Canoe (66 Wellington Street West) or a dive in Chinatown, all restaurants are as much about experience as eating. I’ve always loved that and wanted to be a part of it.
What is your favourite dish at the restaurant where you cook and why?
The bacon and tomato salad with avocado ranch and crispy shallots. I love it because it’s got a great mix of different flavours and textures that really work together…and it’s absolutely lousy with bacon.
If you’re wondering why you’d never heard of ramps prior to a few years ago, you’d be in good company. While the allium tricoccum is native to Ontario, it’s only in the past few years that this member of the onion family has become popular. So popular in fact that the foodies are flocking to buy them and the anti-foodies are casting them aside. Which, while the things are darn tasty, may not be a bad idea, given that they’re considered to be a “threatened species” in Quebec and parts of the US.
To many people ramps signal spring – the first bits of edible greenery after a long hard winter. Ramps are considered a special delicacy in the southern US states, particularly in Appalachia where ramp festivals attracting thousands of people take place every spring in Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina. The popularity in local, seasonal and foraged foods means that many high-end restaurants are now serving them as well.
With this many people freaking out over ramps, it’s no wonder they’re considered exploited or threatened in various places. Quebec bans restaurants from serving them, and individuals in that province may harvest no more than 50 bulbs for personal use. Harvesting a ramp means pulling the whole plant, including its roots, out of the ground. Unethical harvesters can clear a whole patch of ramps, leaving nothing behind to propagate for the following year. The recommended harvest per season is no more than 5% to 10% of a wild patch.
Trevor Kitchen and Bar
38 Wellington Street East
The entrance way to Trevor Kitchen and Bar reminds me of a Goth club. There’s a shiny red motorcycle situated just inside the door and dark stairs lead down into a candlelit room. Seriously, I’m expecting to hear some Bauhaus as I descend into what food critics referred to as a “subterranean grotto” when the space first opened in late 2006.
Despite the white walls, both the long bar area and the adjacent dining room are dim, with candles and ceiling pot lights creating ambient shadows across the 150-year-old stone walls. It’s a potentially intimidating space, but prospective diners shouldn’t be scared of the dark, because the team in the kitchen have prepared a seasonal bistro menu that is akin to your Mom wrapping you in a big hug and then serving you Sunday dinner. If your Mom was fancy and cooked foie gras.