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Sustenance and Sustainable for Brunch….Think Red Fish.

Havin’ a Fish Fry at Red Fish

Last Sunday night a bunch of friends and I popped by Red Fish for a fish fry.  You can see Chef David Friedman back there (in the photo)  bringing out platters of lightly battered, crispy fish;  yellow perch, catfish and spelt all wild, all from Lake Erie.  Sides were creamy coleslaw, herb seasoned fries and a great green salad in a tasty vinaigrette (and if you think you can get a well-seasoned vinaigrette just anywhere —you’d think, right?— you’d be wrong).


Red Fish is at 890 College, west of the lovely La Fromagerie (in case you need to pick up some 14 Arpents cheese) and they also serve brunch.  All the seafood at Red Fish is seasonal and sustainable, they are a partner with Ocean Wise.

While there I perused the dinner and brunch menus which looked pretty delish.  So thought I’d throw it out there on a SNOWY (snowy!) Sunday morning.

Brunch Menu Red FIsh

Steelhead Trout rillettes, comforting fish cakes and a steamy BC Albacore Tuna Melt all sound pretty good to me.  And don’t worry, you can still get house made scones and double smoked bacon.

And here’s part of the dinner menu while I’m at it…

So now, you really only have to make yourself breakfast.  A few spoons of peanut butter straight from the jar?  Yep, that counts.

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A cocktail at Tundra may lead to….dinner at Tundra.

Tundra Launch Party (I danced my heart out… ok, its not really me just my body double)

In mid-September I was invited to drop by the re-launch of Tundra restaurant located at University and Richmond–a hop skip and jump from anywhere you might want to be downtown.  Which is what I was thinking about when I needed to pick a spot to meet some friends on Saturday night.  Afterall, why wait on a windy street corner when you could order a Manhattan at the beautiful horseshoe-shaped bar (with built in electrical plugs for workaholics!) sit back and not care how late anyone is.

The Tundra Manhattan

The Manhattan I strategically wove into my intro is pictured above– and I have been able to secure us all the recipe.  I will pause while you go make one and then we can continue together.  If you are reading this at the office at 9am I hope to God you mixed it in your styrofoam coffee cup–this isn’t Mad Men.

Tundra Manhattan

2oz Knob Creek Bourbon

1oz Taylor Fladgate Late Bottle Vintage Port

Dash Orange Bitters

Dash premium maple syrup

Shake or Stir with fresh ice and strain into chilled martini glass.  Garnish with 2 maraschino cherries

Seared scallops with celery and cilantro emulsion

While you’re sipping your drink, look around and check out the newly revamped room which was designed by Montreal firm Lemaymichaud.  What I like is that there’s space to be social in the bar/restaurant area and but there’s also space for quiet conversation  (“Great doing business with you”  or “Why does it always take you so long to order?”)

The wooden sphere by west coast artist Brent Comber (apologies for shoddy iPhone photo….)

Tundra’s warm cozy feeling comes from the wood used throughout the design and the entrance features a very cool sphere carved from one giant piece of Vancouver Island Redwood.

And then there’s the menu which you may casually pick up while you sip your drink.   May I make a few suggestions from the new Fall dinner menu; firstly the the scallops (in the Small Plates section) which featured seared scallops, celery and cilantro emulsion, chorizo, coconut curls, and crisped salsify.

House cured gravalax

Also on the Small Plate men is the house cured gravalax with rye bagel crisp, preserved ramps, mustard cream cheese, dill and radish.  It was the mustard cream cheese that called my name, but the preserved ramps were also a nice refreshing touch.

Roasted Heirloom Carrots

My main was Roasted Heirloom carrots, radish, cauliflower steak, watercress, oven dried ricotta and fig vinaigrette.  (Is there a vegetarian-steak revolution in Toronto- I just had grilled and smoked carrot “steak” at Yours Truly a few weeks previous.)  Anyway, this plate is quite lovely, no?

Northern Ontario Rabbit Confit

And then I sampled some of my friend’s Northern Ontario Rabbit Confit, which was as good as comfort food (fancy comfort food!) gets. Soft, tender and juicy.

Dessert and Cheese Sampler at Tundra

We rounded off the meal with a sample of dessert–that is the addictive pine nut brittle in the front, there were soft, chewy macaroons and a deconstructed creme brulee, mini-meringues and some lovely cheese.   And could the cheese/dessert board itself be more rustic?   I feel like that was ripped right up from an old barn and polished up.  A floor I’ll eat off of anytime.

And if you really want to hit the town and then not have to make your own bed, there are the trendy and luxurious Hilton suites.   We got a sneak peek at the launch.

Executive Chef at Tundra is Kevin Prendergast and the kitchen team sources local foods, wild ingredients come from a Quebec-based organic forager and other herbs come from the hotel’s garden.  Cheese is from that wonderful place, Cheese Boutique, in the west end.

Most importantly you can get jerk wings off the “nibbles” menu until midnight.


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Curds and Eh, Episode 4: the growing food scene in St.John’s Newfoundland

  Jellybean Row of colourful homes, St. John’s

This post is part of a guest blog series by Kelsie Parsons.   

The purpose of this trip was to learn the ways of the locals and to visit Newfoundland’s two cheese factories. Both Central Dairies and Five Brothers began production within the past 2 years and from talking with residents, no one can remember any commercial cheese factories ever existing in Newfoundland before.

Brad Quaile from Central Dairies shows off young Friulano.

Central Dairies mainly produces fluid milk but they recently decided to create value added products by making cheese. Their cheesemaker, Brad Quaile has an impressive resume with 21 years of experience split between St. Albert, Skotidakis, and Pine River cheese companies. Brad has developed their Edam, Gouda, and Swiss, which is Central’s specialty. The recipe calls for the Swiss to be aged for 50-80 days at 20˚C and flipped often. This creates an even eye (hole) formation and develops the nutty flavour typical of this style. To me, the Central Dairies Swiss is a decent cheese because it’s firmer and more flavourful than other commercial Swiss style cheeses, which too often seem to be flavourless and full of water.

Adam Blanchard of Five Brothers Artisan Cheese

Despite the name, Five Brothers Artisan Cheese, the company consists of only one guy making cheese (cheesemaker Adam Blanchard does have four brothers though). After my visit to Central Dairies, Adam and I met up at Yellowbelly brew pub to enjoy some of the best brews produced in Newfoundland. That was followed by dinner at Duke of Duckworth (as seen on Republic of Doyle), Adam’s pick for the best fish and chips.

Fish and chips and…dressing.

The fish was served with fries covered in dressing (stuffing) and gravy; a classic Newfie dish.

There are many things that are awesome about Five Brothers Artisan Cheese. Adam is a trained chef but when it comes to cheesemaking he’s totally self-taught. Not only is Five Brothers the only artisanal cheesemaker in Newfoundland but it’s also North America’s Easternmost cheese factory and perhaps the smallest. Adam actually buys up to 150L of milk per week in 2L cartons from Sobeys grocery store and makes cheeses on a stove top. Wait, what? Is that even possible? It sure is but due to the small batch size it requires a lot of work. Adam began making cheese at home it was a huge hit with his family and friends. With their support, Adam built a commercial kitchen in a rented space where he hand crafts the cheeses and ages them in a series of fridges.

Five Brother’s Mozza, goat cheddar, queso fresco, rhubarb

Adam Blanchard and I finally sat down to try his cheese a mere two hours before my flight off the island. On Adam’s desk sat a jar of bottled moose given to him by his Grandma, which he explained was a Newfoundlander specialty. I was eager to try it but due to the time constraint we skipped it and headed right for the cheese.

Handstretched mozzarella is one of Five Brothers’ most popular products. It’s firmer than Italian mozzarella but has a lovely layered texture and a flavour of cream. This is a cheese that I could just keep eating. Up next we tried the Latin-American style Queso Fresco, which has a taste of cream with a citrus tang and can be crumbled in salads or fried in oil. Five Brothers also produces goat and cow milk cheddars aged in yellow wax. I tried the goat cheddar and was amazed at the intensity of the flavour that developed after only 2 months. You sure can’t compare this cheese to your typical mild cheddar! The flavour lingers on your palate and would be perfect in pesto or grated in savoury dishes.

St. John’s, Newfoundland

Adam has a loyal following and sells out of all his cheese every week at the farmers market. His cheeses can also be found on the plates of the finest restaurants in St. John’s such as Aqua Kitchen|Bar and Chiched Bistro. I think it’s awesome that Brad and Adam are producing cheese for the Newfoundland market but the real thanks go to the people of Newfoundland for supporting these ventures.

Rocket Food cookies on display (from the Rocket Food Facebook page)

I fell in love with St. John’s. It is at the top of my list of cities to return to. With new restaurants popping up, a relatively new farmers market (this is its 5th summer) and 2 cheese companies the food scene seems to be blooming. One of my favourite foodie spots is Rocket Food, a café and bakery with delicious food and friendly staff (though I really didn’t meet anyone in St. John’s that I’d consider unfriendly). Downtown St. John’s is full of young people, hip shops, hangouts and of course the legendary George St. which boasts the most bars per square foot on any street in North America. I spent a couple of nights out on George St. but details are still a little hazy and best not recorded.

Yellow Belly Brewery and Public House

The cheese movement in St. John’s is very much still in its infancy. The local cheeses aren’t perfect and the producers are continuing to learn and experiment with new products. Customers are vital to the development of a food community and local products so please give your cheesemaker feedback and ask for local cheese where you shop and eat. There’s something special happening in St. John’s right now and I can’t wait to return. To all those supporting local cheese I raise a pint of Yellowbelly Pale Ale in your honour!

For Curds and Eh 1, click hereCurds and Eh 2, Click Here, and Curds and Eh 3 , click here.


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Joanne Kate’s First Column for The Globe- April 22, 1974

Monday, April 22, 1974

If you read the Globe this Saturday you’ll know that Joanne Kates will be retiring from her position and the restaurant critic.  Her final column will run next Saturday May 26.

If you were following the buzz on Twitter you heard the rumours days before.

I thought that if you hadn’t seen the update in Toronto Life you might enjoy reading this scan of her very first piece (or you can download it from the Toronto Life page).

And if you hadn’t heard the news (being sheltered from food critics over the long weekend)  you’d want to look for her last column next Saturday, May 26.

Joanne is passing the critical eating gig to Chris Nuttall-Smith, they will be part of a live on-line chat this coming Monday.

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The Works Danforth: Some call it a Burger Fix, I call it a Shake Stop

The Works, 888 Danforth, corner of Danforth and Dewhurst, across from Square Boy

For those of us needed a burger fix in the east end (with table service) by Friday we’ll have somewhere new to go.  The Works, a Canadian chain which originated in Ottawa and has been winning burger titles in its hometown as well as Kingston and London and is expanding to Toronto.  My burger cravings are usually satisfied on one end of the spectrum by Harveys (yep, yumm) or the burger at Allan’s (and of course Burger’s Priest, all hail) but I looked forward to checking out the competition yesterday at their pre-grand opening.

Which is when I got addicted to a mocha-oreo shake.

I ordered the shake first to give me some time to go through the massive list of burger toppings.  Even the shake selection was vast–but pretty awesome.

I have a thing with ice cream–I never crave it, never buy it, but when presented with it, can’t get enough.  So sipping my 2-CUPS of childhood nostalgia and with help from my server (if the service is as friendly and fun all the time, it may be the main reason to go) made a burger decision–decisions actually.

1. Pick a patty–ground beef, chicken breast, ground turkey, veggie burger, Portebello Mushroom Cap or Domestic Elk Meat (add $3.39 for the upgrade).  The meat is  sourced locally, hand-pressed and contains no additives.   (I choose the Elk, tender and moist it was)

2. Pick a bun–White, Whole Wheat, Gluten Free (white bun always seems logical)

3. Choose your topping:  you’ve got 70 options.  Some samples:

Leaside Burger– mushrooms, smokey BBQ, cheddar and dbl smoked bacon

Pony Express (my “next time” choice) cream cheese, horseradish, Franks’s Red Hot Sauce, cheddar cheese and ripe tomato

Royal Runner-tomatoes and crinkle-cut pickles with royal supreme sauce

Stanley Cup Burgerapparently has not been available for the last 45 years…sorry

So, the above is my Grid Burger with chipotle ketchup, Havarti cheese, 4 double smoked bacon slices (they had me at FOUR) and caramelized onion.

Other guests were having the La Ultimate FLAMME-grilled burger (below) with gouda, crispy bacon and fresh Avocado…

And here is the Teriyaki burger with the sweet potato strings…

What’s that you say?  It’s not burger night without a tower of Onion Rings and a zillion sauce options?

Breaded not battered is apparently the secret to their crunchiness.  And though I am not usually an onion ring fan, OK, I admit, they were pretty tasty.

Sauce options that I tried were the Hot as Hell, Dijon-haze, Beechhouse (a creamy veggie dip), Chipotle Mayo, Tzatziki Chill.

The Works franchises work with local charities to raise money and help the less privileged (eating a tower of onion rings means you are privileged) and in honour of their Grand Opening they are serving complimentary food tomorrow THURSDAY, MAY 3, 11am-2pm and 5pm-8pm with a “donate-what-you-want” policy, proceeds going to the Pape Food Bank.

If you head over, make sure you give a salute to Square Boy across the street.  I asked CEO Andy O’Brien if he thought they’d pull business away from this Danforth fave (open since the 60s) but he said they talked to the Square Boy folks and they feel they have different food and a different crowd.

All I can say is I woke up thinking about the damn milkshake—though FYI The Works, you need straws with the little scoop at the end of them.  Just a little customer feedback.


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Chantecler: Kitchen Party coming to Brock and Queen

Chantecler partners Jonathan Poon and Jacob Wharton-Shukster outside the new digs

Happy 2012!  Time to discover a new place to get fed in Toronto.  Racing to open in February, Chantecler can only be called a labour of love (with emphasis on the labour part).  Chef Jonathan Poon and partner Jacob Wharton-Shukster (who will run front of house) spend every moment –between full-time jobs– doing renos on their new place. When Jonathan  brings me by for a sneak peek Jacob is slightly sawdusty and torn between a dozen stain options for the long bar which will run down one side of the room.

Chantecler in the works

Chantecler in the works (Dec 2011)

This 26 seat modern bistro will have small tables opposite the bar seating and tables in the front window that can accomodate a larger group (up to 8).  Cozy with high ceilings, the 450 ft dining room is attached to a dream 250 ft prep kitchen in the back.

Moffat Stoves: A nod to the classics at Chantecler

Your first nod of appreciation will come when seeing the stove tops.  Poon and crew will be cooking not on gas burners but on electric.  Vintage electric.  Jonathan shows me where the two stoves will go.  A 1952 cream-coloured Moffat stove will be in the back kitchen and the other, a butter-yellow 1935 model will be used during service in the restaurant. When I say “in the restaurant” yes,  I mean the concept is open kitchen but even more kitchen party.  The prep area in the back will be visible but if you’re sitting at the bar you might be beside the pass, privvy to dishes being plated or sipping wine while the cook at garde manger is dressing a salad inches from your elbow.  Similar experiences can be found in the city but in this intimate space the idea is that the chef can step into the role of attentive host, even saucing your plate tableside.

Chantecler: A French Canadian Heritage Chicken

The name Chantecler comes from a heritage chicken breed from Quebec.   Most obvious is the tie in to Canada and local ingredients.  But the two partners also wanted a name that had a classic feel and longevity.  A restaurant whose cooking would be creative and dynamic enough to impress the critics and foodies while also implying a warmth of service, good food and a sense of comraderie.

As for the menu– Jacob and JP have termed their food Progressive Canadian Cuisine.   “Inspired by global influence, using modern techniques and  local ingredients,” says Jonathan– following with, “so pretty much whatever I want.”  As for the booze?  “We’re focusing on natural wines and sourcing from small scale producers local and abroad. We’ll also be doing some good old fashion cocktails.”

I met Jonathan while working in the kitchen at Colborne Lane.  It was the first place I worked in Toronto after returning from cooking school in London.  In my first week JP simply asked if I could prepare a large bowl of tomato concassé to help with his prep.  I was so paranoid of the perfection of every small cube I culled any rejects enthusiastically with the resulting concassé  having to be redone as there was barely enough flesh left to rebuild one full tomato.  Often we would ride the subway home together after service and he would tell me about his early love of cooking and baking (he’s equally talented at both).  At 16 he was preparing bread and baked goods out of his home (in the wee hours) and selling it fresh-baked to local bakeries- 170 pieces a day . (Meanwhile  I once spent a satisfying evening as a teenager putting chocolate icing on my face. I later learned to make cake.)

Jonathan Poon in the kitchen on Boxing Day at the Monday Night Dinner Series. (Courtesy of photographer: Nick Merzetti)

JP has gone on to cook in many kitchens in the city such as C5, Delux and is currently at Woodlot.  In between 15 hour shifts he and  Jacob (who currently works as a server at Origin) started organizing The Monday Night Dinner series, a bi-weekly event which gives upcoming new chefs a chance to get creative and serve their own menu.  Organizing the Monday Night Dinners is no easy task–Poon’s  found himself skinning rabbits at 2 am after a regular shift at Woodlot or riding down the street on a bike with 17 ducks on his back. (Take that Cirque de Soleil craft service).

1320 Queen Street West (at Brock)

Currently you’ll only be able to recognize Chantecler by the distinctive artwork covering the front window.  It’s courtesy of Jonathan and Jacob’s friend Allister Lee who’ll also be doing the sign design (in between helping with the reno.)  When Chantecler opens reservations will be taken for about half the space, but for myself, I’m going to offer to sand some drywall and see if it gets me onto the VIP list.

You can follow Chantecler’s progress on twitter @chanteclerto


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