All stories by Renée Suen

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Openings

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Introducing: La Créole brings refined island cuisine to a romantic room on St. Clair West

Introducing: La Creole

Name: La Créole
Contact Info: 810 St. Clair Ave. W., 416-651-8228, lacreole.ca
Neighbourhood: Humewood
Owners: Ben Cherette and Paterson Louis-Jean of Manje Kreyol Catering
Chef: Manje Kreyol chef Magda

The Food: Six months after Jen Agg opened Rhum Corner, her laid-back Haitian hangout on Dundas West, the city has a second refined island kitchen. La Créole serves a mix of French Caribbean, Créole and Haitian dishes in a fabric-swathed room on St. Clair West. Appetizer platters come heaped with cod fritters, fried plantains and chunks of marinated beef served with plenty of picklese, a pickled condiment made with shredded cabbage. Main dishes include stewed snapper with black-bean sauce and a roasted quail glazed with guava.

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The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Speakeasy 21, a new Bay Street cocktail bar with a soon-to-come 3,500-square-foot patio

Introducing: Speakeasy 21

Name: Speakeasy 21
Contact Info: 21 Adelaide St. W. (main floor of Scotia Plaza, North entrance), 416-601-0210, speakeasy21.com, @speakeasy21
Neighbourhood: Financial District
Chef: Andrew Wilson, former chef de cuisine at Colborne Lane and Origin North
Bartender: Dave Moore, who’s worked the bar at Brant House, Easy and The Fifth

The Food: Sandwiches, tacos and small plates, including beef tartare with prawn chips and a Niçoise-inspired tuna crudo with black olives and anchovies. Lighter snacks, like buttermilk potato chips and cauliflower hummus, are designed for nibbling with a drink.

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The Dish

Trend Watch

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Trend Watch: Is Toronto seeing the slow death of the destination restaurant?

(Image: Renée Suen)

(Image: Renée Suen)

When Scott and Lindsay Selland announced that they were turning Acadia, their lowcountry kitchen on Clinton Street, into a family-friendly snack bar called Red Sauce, Toronto food lovers were flummoxed. Throughout its run, Acadia had been revered as one of the city’s most exciting kitchens. Why take something so special and transform it into something relatively run-of-the-mill?

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The Dish

Drinks

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A low-key dive bar and veggie café opens on the Queen West strip

A low-key dive bar and veggie café opens on the Queen West strip

Situated smack in the middle of one of Toronto’s most self-consciously cool bar zones, Lipstick and Dynamite—the name is an homage to a 2004 documentary about female professional wrestlersis an anomaly. It feels like the kind of rec-roomy dive that might have stood in its place ten years ago, before exposed brick and barn board became compulsory bar decor. The floors are plain white tile, the walls plastered with 80s album covers and garage-sale art, and the bookshelves stuffed with paperback novels and second-hand board games. Owners Celeste Toledo and Steve Cann, who met and worked together at Kensington’s Exile, wanted to open a place that felt comfortable and lived-in: an unpretentious spot where locals could grab a low-key drink (beer, standard spirits and simple cocktails), or fill up on comforting vegetarian food, like chipotle-yam burgers and Reuben sandwiches made with mushrooms instead of meat. A recent post on the bar’s Facebook page sums up the bar’s ethos well (and suggests rowdy revelers may want to take a pass): “No assholes allowed, please.”

Lipstick and Dynamite, 992 Queen St. W., 416-535-4554, facebook.com

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Openings

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Introducing: The County Cocktail, the Queen West diner’s new Riverdale café and snack bar

Introducing: County Cocktail

Name: The County Cocktail and Snack Bar
Contact Info: 798 Queen St. E., 416-781-4743, thecountygeneral.ca/cocktail, @countycocktail
Neighbourhood: South Riverdale
Owner: County General owner and former Splendido partner Carlo Catallo
Chef: The County General’s Danai Hongwanishkul, formerly the sous-chef at Canoe

The Place: The County General’s new east-end spin-off is a café, snack shop and cocktail bar in one. (It opens its doors at 7 a.m. on weekdays, in time for morning commuters to get their caffeine fix, and stays open until 11 p.m.—or later on weekends.) The space is bigger and sleeker than the original, but it conveys the same country-style spirit with bright red bar stools and discrete touches of gingham.

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People

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Q&A: world-famous chef Ferran Adrià on decoding food, the magic of Canadian cuisine and where he sees himself in 50 years

Ferran Adria

Earlier this week, legendary chef Ferran Adrià—the guy who invented food foam—gave a sold-out talk at CBC’s Glen Gould Studios on Front Street. Adrià’s now-closed restaurant elBulli was often referred to as one of the best restaurants in the world. The Toronto event was organized to promote Adrià’s new projects: his seven-volume, 2720-page, $625 tome, elBulli 2005-2011, for one, and the soon-to-launch elBullifoundation, a culinary think tank and research facility, one component of which is a massive gastro-encyclopedia project called the BulliPedia. (Another is elBulli 1846, a museum housed in his former restaurant.)

The key takeaway from the talk was this: despite Adrià’s reputation as the “father of molecular gastronomy,” his culinary philosophy isn’t actually about foams, chemicals and test tubes. It’s about “decoding”: creating a complete gastronomic taxonomy by organizing and classifying foods—something Adrià believes is necessary to allow the culinary arts to flourish. During his brief Toronto visit, we sat down with Adria to speak with him about this and other misconceptions about his life and work. Here’s what he told us.

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Trend Watch

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Food Trend Watch: the 11 top food trends at the 2014 CRFA food show

Food Trend Watch: the seven top food trends at the 2014 Canadian Restaurant and Foodservice Association show

Each year, the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association hosts a massive trade show. The event is one of the year’s most important industry gatherings for chefs and other professional foodies. It’s also a great venue for trend-spotting. (Last year, we were dead-on with our prediction that food trucks and Mexican food were going to be huge.) This year, we once again perused the stalls and made our best guesses for 2014. Here, 11 food trends that we predict will hit your plate before next year’s show.

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The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: District Oven, a new “Middleterranean” restaurant from the owner of 93 Harbord

Introducing: District Oven

Name: District Oven
Contact Info: 842 College St., 416-901-7717, @DistrictOvenTO
Neighbourhood: Dufferin Grove
Chef and Owner: Isam Kaisi, who also owns 93 Harbord

The Food: District Oven is one of several Middle Eastern/Mediterranean restaurants to open in Toronto this year, including nearby Rose City Kitchen and Anthony Rose’s soon-to-open eatery, Fat Pasha. (Chef Isam Kaisi describes his restaurant’s cuisine as “Middleterranean.”) Traditional dishes get contemporary updates, like tabouleh made with quinoa instead of barley, and shawarma re-imagined as a spring roll. All meats are Halal, 12 plates are fully vegetarian, and pitas and flatbreads are baked in the restaurant’s authentic stone oven.

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The Dish

Coffee and Tea

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Afternoon Tea Guide: nine places in Toronto to spend a perfectly civilized afternoon

Afternoon Tea GuideBourbon cocktails and bar snacks have their place, but there’s something pleasingly civilized about afternoon tea. The social ritual doesn’t have to feel stodgy. At some of Toronto’s poshest hotels and restaurants, tea sommeliers are curating encyclopedic herbal collections, and big-name chefs are prepping luxe midday spreads stocked with finger sandwiches, tartlets and petit fours. Champagne is optional, but highly recommended.

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The Dish

Must-Try

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Must-Try: The Black Hoof’s drop-in, heart-obsessed Valentine’s Day feast

Must-Try: The Black Hoof Animal Hearts

For those whose Valentine’s Day plans haven’t quite panned out, take heart—literally. For this weekend only, the offal experts at The Black Hoof are devoting their kitchen to the blood pump. Head chef Jesse Grasso is turning cow, chicken, duck, pig and horse hearts into delicate tartares and crudos, classic bistro plates and even smoked meat. The restaurant doesn’t take reservations, so it’s first-come, first-served while heart supplies last. Here, a sneak peek at the iron-rich feast.

The Black Hoof, 928 Dundas St. W., 416-551-8854

The Dish

Must-Try

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Must-Try: colourful, two-bite cream puffs that say “I love you” better than a card

Must-Try: Nadege P'tit Choux

Translated literally, “petit chou” means “little cabbage”—a quirky French pet name for kids and intimates. At Nadège, the Trinity Bellwoods patisserie, the name applies to owner Nadège Nourian’s darling, two-bite cream puffs. Each airy shell comes topped with a pastel-pretty icing hat and an edible garnish: a sprinkle of candied violets, perhaps, or a single espresso bean. Once cracked, the crisp exteriors give way to creamy centres spiked with exotic flavourings, like lime-coconut and tart cassis. With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, the pastries make a thoughtful alternative to flowers or chocolates—provided you’re strong enough to share. $2.30 or $13.50 for 6.

Nadège Patisserie, 780 Queen St. W., 416-368-2009; 1099 Yonge St., 416-968-2011, nadege-patisserie.com

The Dish

Food Events

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Grilled Cheese Festival Preview: a sneak peek at 12 of the gorgeously gooey sandwiches available at Grilled Cheese Fest

Toronto Grilled Cheese Festival

When cold weather strikes, there are few things more comforting than a gooey grilled cheese sandwich. In recognition of this basic truth, Toronto start-up Joylister—the same team behind last summer’s wildly popular poutine fest—is hosting Grilled Cheese Fest 2014, the city’s first festival dedicated entirely to the classic after-school snack. On February 28th, the 19-plus event will bring dozens of the city’s top sandwich talents to Roy Thompson Hall, where they’ll be griddling gourmet variations on the bread-cheese-bread equation. For $40, attendees get bottomless bowls of soup, three samples of Creemore beer and all-you-can-eat sandwiches stuffed with inventive ingredients—everything from barbequed pork to Nutella. (You can purchase tickets online here.) We trekked across the city to bring you a sneak preview of the glorious, golden lineup. Try not to lick the screen.

Toronto Grilled Cheese Fest, Roy Thompson Hall, 60 Simcoe St., torontogrilledcheesefest.com

The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Greenwood Smokehouse, a surprisingly vegan-friendly barbeque joint on the Danforth

Introducing: Greenwood Smokehouse

Name: Greenwood Smokehouse BBQ
Contact info: 673 Danforth Ave., 416-469-2270, greenwoodsmokehouse.com, @Greenwood_BBQ
Neighbourhood: The Danforth
Owner and Pit Boss: Warren DeSimone

The Food: DeSimone has been finessing his Southern barbecue recipes for over a decade. He sticks to the Memphis and Carolina schools of barbeque technique. That means slow-smoked pork, beef and chicken doused with a puckery, vinegar-based sauce (as opposed to Kansas City’s thicker, sweeter glaze). The treatment isn’t limited to meat: wood-smoked veggies feature in soups, chilis, stews and a vegan burger.

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The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: El Caballito, a new tequila bar and taqueria on King West

Introducing: El Caballito

Name: El Caballito (which means “the little horse” in Spanish)
Contact Info: 220 King St. W., 416-628-9838, elcaballito.ca, @elcaballito220
Neighbourhood: Entertainment District
Owner: Andreas Antoniou, who also owns Richmond Street restaurants Little Anthony’s and Estiatorio Volos
Executive Chef: Elia Herrera (formerly the pastry chef at Canoe)
Chef de Cuisine: Gerardo Quintero, who has worked in the kitchens at AOK Foods and Yours Truly

The Place: El Caballito is just one half of a larger project: come summer, an upscale Mexican restaurant called Los Colibris will be opening in the space directly above it. The basement bar was designed to feel like a moody Mexico City cantina: it’s big, dark and decorated with graphic Jose Posada-inspired murals and miscellaneous Mexican tchotchkes.

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The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Red Sauce, the Italian-American snack bar that replaced Little Italy’s Acadia

(Image: Renée Suen)

(Image: Renée Suen)

Name: Red Sauce
Contact info: 50C Clinton Ave., 416-792-6002, redsaucetoronto.com, @RedSauceToronto
Neighbourhood: Little Italy
Owners: Acadia owners Lindsay and Scott Selland

The Food: The simple menu is stocked with Italian-American staples: hero sandwiches, miniature calzones and veal parmigiana rolls—all prepped by scratch with ingredients from local sellers like The Butcher Shoppe and Hooked. The restaurant’s dedicated clam bar serves raw, steamed and baked shellfish.

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