The ultimate goal for Second Harvest is to combat hunger and promote a healthier environment for folks in need here in Toronto. They do this by diverting perfectly good food from landfills and making sure that the food gets into the hands of those who need it- absue and homeless shelters, and 200 other agencies that gratefully accept the food Second Harvest works hard to deliver. Ensuring no one in our community goes hungry is at the very core of what Second Harvest does.
This past Sunday, at their much-anticipated annual Toronto Taste event, no attendee, whether an omnivore or a vegetarian, walked away hungry. Three covered marquee tents, one live auction/live music stage and an entire corridor of silent auction items and more treats inside the Royal Ontario Museum’s main entrance meant there was literally something for everyone!
A few culinary themes emerged-- sustainably sourced fish dishes, an array of sliders from pulled pork to tofu and wild game were seen in many incarnations. With more than 60 of the finest food producers, beverage purveyors and chefs in the city preparing artfully crafted bites, it’s a tough job to choose some of this year’s highlights- but someone’s got to do it. This is by no means an exhaustive list; it’s a reflection of what tickled our taste buds and piqued our gustatory interest. Bon Appetit!
• One of the highlights for us at this year’s Toronto Taste was Buca’s Chef Rob Gentile’s cured elk leg slivers, shaved in thin ribbons, beautifully presented with pickled radish slices, mustard greens, a spiked mascarpone dollop and Tuscan olives. An Italianate, edible still life on a plate.
• Chef Mark McEwan’s lamb Bolognese with chickpea and fennel served over a sturdy crostini and a generous smear of fresh citrus-nuanced ricotta. Like Tuscany in Toronto courtesy of Bymark.
• The team at Woodlot decided to craft a perfect little bite out of a firm rectangle of marinated tofu, topped with grated carrots on a toothsome brioche bun. The woman next to me was grabbing one saying, “My husband, who hates tofu raved about this- so now I have to try it.” Good thing we followed suit.
• Rodney’s Oyster House didn’t disappoint with their signature R.O.D “Dukes”, PEI-grown oysters that are meaty, salty up front and sweet on the finish. Oyster discussion with Rodney himself- invaluable. His culinary team got busy with Sea Dogs- composed of lobster and shrimp wieners, crowned with a smoked ketchup, a tequila mustard, wild Haliburton ramp relish on house baked buns.
• Three kinds of crudo from which to choose at Scarpetta’s table. I opted for the fluke crudo with yuzu and cucumber, the husband for the yellowtail with radish and pickled ramp. His was the winner of the pair. There was also a fresh looking trout tartare with fiddleheads for the taking but by then, we were beyond sated.
• For dessert, Anne Yarymowich wow’ed us with her take on the Latin American favourite, the churro. Rolled in a traditional cinnamon sugar, the team at the AGO’s Frank restaurant, took the deep fried dessert to a new level by adding a splash of dark chocolate sauce, salted dulce de leche and a sprinkling of fine sea salt flakes. Balanced and addictive!
• Reunion Island Coffee- the roaster based in Oakville, Ontario prepared fresh cups of delicious blends á la minute in individual drip stations – like the folks at San Francisco’s Blue Bottle Coffee. We opted for the 100% Colombian (of course!) and were rewarded by a full flavoured, bitter-free, mellow cup of java. Buenisimo and the perfect way to end our tasting tour with those crisp churro fritters!
• Other noteworthy mentionables: Gelato Fresco’s dark chocolate sorbet with cocoa nib flecks- you’ll swear there’s a carton of cream in there but there’s not a drop! Try his Valencian orange sorbet too with candied peel to transport you to the Mediterranean. BeerBistro’s pulled pork slider on a buttermilk bun was the best porky offering of the night and Ruby Watchco’s chicken liver parfait with the cherry preserve on top was picture perfect!
by Mary Luz Mejia and Mario Stojanac