The partnership between chef J.P. Challet and the Windsor Arms has come to an end…again. Last spring, Challet closed up Ici Bistro and transplanted the popular Harbord Street spot, along with its French fare, into the swanky hotel. Now, after seven months as the executive chef for Ici by J.P. Challet, Challet has called it quits. In a press release, Challet said he has left the Windsor Arms, citing a “divergence in vision” between himself and the hotel. George Friedmann, the owner and president of the Windsor Arms, confirms that Challet chose to leave and that the hotel’s restaurant is now serving guests from a “new comprehensive menu that features components of previous menus” (including some selections from Challet’s French bistro-style menu). Meanwhile, Challet himself is taking a one-month leave (in France, naturally) to “recharge his batteries” and “come back to something he feels great about attaching his name to.” Our guess is that the “something” won’t be the Windsor Arms, but it seems the history between these two does have a way of repeating (three-peating?) itself.
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After decades in the blintz business, Daiter’s Fresh Market, the much-loved deli on Bathurst, will close its doors for good on April 2. “My kids and my brother’s kids aren’t interested in the industry, so it was just a matter of deciding whether to do it today, or in five years, or in ten years,” says co-owner Stephen Daiter, whose grandfather Harry Daiter opened the first Daiter’s—a dairy in Kensington Market—in 1937. At its peak, eight family-owned stores kept cravings for traditional Jewish fare like schmaltz herring and gefilte fish in check. The uptown location, which opened in 1964 and is now run by Stephen and his brother Joel, was the last of the chain. “It’s been bittersweet for us,” says Stephen Daiter. “We have tears in our eyes and our customers have tears in their eyes, and I’m not exaggerating about that.” Daiter says the family-owned building has been leased to a “non-food business,” so neighbours won’t be graced with a replacement any time soon. If all goes according to the brothers’ plan, though, customers can at least look forward to purchasing some of Daiter’s products, like their soups, in other stores.
1 Chef Andrew Carter offers a traditional beef roast at the Queen and Beaver pub near Yonge-Dundas Square. But with a few days’ notice, the kitchen can also prepare a family-style meal for five or more people that might include a loin of Ontario pork presented bone-in for tableside carving, golden beets, roasted root veg, mashed potatoes and house-made applesauce. $22 per person. 35 Elm St., 647-347-2712.
Contact Info: 92 Fort York Blvd., 416-623-9662, cittatoronto.com
Owners: Charles Khabouth (Patria and La Société), Hanif Harji (Weslodge and Storys) and Adam Brown of the local Fox and Fiddle
Executive Chef: Ben Heaton, formerly of The Grove
The Food: Heaton’s seasonally inspired menu of Italian comfort food is filled with bright and rustic flavours—the roasted cauliflower dish, for instance, has the vegetable prepared three ways (sliced raw, roasted and pureed), then topped with crispy capers and wine-soaked raisins and an emulsified dollop made of those same two ingredients. Wood-burning ovens on both ends of the restaurant fire out pizza, sourdough, ciabatta and baguettes, but Heaton likes to throw mussels, fish and bacon into the flames for a kiss of smoke, too. Almost everything is made in-house or locally sourced, with one big exception: dry pasta from Afeltra. Says Heaton: “when you can get a superior ingredient somewhere else, you go for it.” The restaurant also serves a weekend brunch that offers breakfast-inspired pizzas and panini, as well as porchetta and eggs. A pizza delivery service is in the works.
The Drinks: An Italian wine list features reds and whites from Northern, Central and Southern Italy. Byblos‘s bartender Clayton Cooper has crafted a cocktail list that stars Italian ingredients like orange blossom, espresso and pink grapefruit.
The Place: Co-owner Hanif Harji found everything in the space, mixing ornate pieces like high-backed green leather banquettes and a wall montage of gold-rimmed mirrors with more casual wood tables and farmhouse chairs. And because it’s CityPlace, ground floor or no, it’s all surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows.
The traditional method of making éclade, a dish from the southwestern coast of France that was introduced here by Samuel de Champlain in 1605, involves burying mussels under a giant heap of flaming pine needles. Evelyn Wu and Wayne Morris, the husband and wife team behind the new Ossington restaurant Borealia, have discovered how to make the dish indoors—and, more importantly, without burning down their kitchen.
“You normally do it outside on the beach,” says Morris, “They usually use a big wooden plank and arrange the mussels downwards so when they open up the ashes don’t fall into them. Then you just pick them and eat them.” Borealia’s method, inspired by Wu and Morris’s fascination with Canada’s wealth of classic immigrant cuisine, involves a little less fire and a lot less tree. Oh, and a gun that shoots smoke. Here’s how they do it.
Name: CC Lounge
Neighbourhood: St. Lawrence
Contact Info: 45 Front St. E., 416-362-4777, cconfront.com
Owner: The St. Lawrence Bunch, a business partnership fronted by Costa Kosilos
Head Chef: Brent Richardson, formerly of Glas Wine Bar, La Carnita and Beerbistro
The Food: The menu is heavy on share-friendly versions of old favourites, like mac n’ cheese topped with crushed Goldfish crackers and kale, and fried quail on bacon pancakes. For the real carnivores, there’s also a 12-ounce bone-in aged ribeye that comes on a wood cutting board with a dollop of whiskey ketchup.
1 Briotett Crème de Chataigne (that’s French chestnut liqueur) and aged rum are the boozy additions to Colette’s hot chocolate made with unsweetened Valhrona. The nutty mix is poured into a tall beer glass and topped till overflowing with freshly whipped cream. $16. 550 Wellington St. W., 647-348-7000.
2 Soma’s cinnamon-spiked Mayan elixir combines dark Venezuelan chocolate, Australian ginger, Madagascar vanilla, orange peel and chili. It can be served as an intense, tingly shot, or blended with milk or water for a spicy drink to linger over. $3.33. 32 Tank House Ln., 416-815-7662; 443 King St. W., 416-599-7662.
3 Sweet freak Nadège Nourian imports rare Illanka chocolate from the Piura region of northern Peru for a special line of truffles, bonbons and sublime hot chocolate. Her house-made lemon marshmallows melt into the cocoa-infused hot milk, highlighting the chocolate’s fruity notes. $5. 780 Queen St. W., 416-368-2009; plus two other GTA locations.
4 Imagine churning Reese’s cups into molten goo and you’ll understand how outrageously good Delight’s peanut butter hot chocolate is. Organic PB, Harmony cream and Camino chocolate are whisked together for an over-the-top mug. $3.75. 3040 Dundas St. W., 416-760-9995.
5 The subterranean tapas restaurant Barsa Taberna serves up a spiked hot chocolate goosed with arak (an anise-based Lebanese spirit), star anise, Chinese five spice, and lemon and orange zest. It’s dessert and an aromatic bedtime tonic rolled into one. $10. 26 Market St., 647-341-3642.
Name: Duggan’s Brewery Parkdale
Contact Info: 1346 Queen St. W., 416-588-1086, duggansbreweryparkdale.com
Owner and Brewmaster: Michael Duggan
Consulting Chef: Rene Chauvin, culinary instructor at George Brown College and former National Golf Club of Canada executive chef, with sous chef Eric Snidal
The Food: This successor to Duggan’s Brewery’s previous incarnation on Victoria Street serves approachable, familiar comfort food. The rotating menu consists mostly of shareable snacks made with local ingredients. Main dishes include a peppered, braised beef brisket, served with sides of corn bread, green beans and chimichurri.
1 Ceili Cottage’s giant plastic-wrapped yurt is low on curb appeal, but inside, the 35-seat rotunda is steamy and intimate. The latticework walls that support the colourful, intricately painted roof spokes are insulated with swaths of sheep’s wool. Servers deliver heaping plates of comfort food (bangers and mash, say, or mac and cheese with ludicrous quantities of double-smoked bacon) and hot toddies to candlelit tables while patrons rifle through crates of classic ’70s vinyl and play DJ on the old RadioShack turntable. 1301 Queen St. E., 416-406-1301.
Fluffy biscuits are everywhere. Here, the most ingenious twists on the trend
1 At Fika, his Scandinavian-style café in Kensington Market, Splendido chef Victor Barry makes the city’s sweetest scones, with cranberries studded throughout and Swedish Dansukker sugar across the golden top. $3. 28 Kensington Ave., fika.ca.
Our favourite stinky, small-batch works of art
1 Margaret Peters of Glengarry Fine Cheese makes Lankaaster, a firm, buttery gouda-style cow’s milk cheese that took top prize at the Global Cheese Awards in Somerset, England, in 2013. $6.50 for 100 grams. Cheese Boutique, 45 Ripley Ave., 416-762-6292.
The very best of the Sunday bunch
1 At Bar Buca, pictured above, chef Rob Gentile mixes fresh pig’s blood into the batter for his crêpes, then slathers them with dark chocolate, cream and a spiced liquor. It’s wacky and ridiculously indulgent. 75 Portland St., 416-599-2822.
These nightspots nail the trendy Boardwalk Empire vibe
1 At the Parkdale gin mill Geraldine, pictured above, the retro cocktails are a safe choice, but the absinthe fountain is more fun: the emerald elixir is available straight or in a slushie with fig syrup, crushed ice, bitters and fresh mint. 1564 Queen St. W., 647-352-8815.
There’s nothing like French bubbly for swank luxury, but for everyday enjoyment, these international labels deliver great fizz
A midnight coupe on New Year’s Eve is champagne’s shining moment. But bubbles can bring levity and refreshment to more mundane occasions, like toasting the end of a bad day at the office. There’s no need to spend wildly. The quality of sparkling wine from regions around the world—Italy’s fast-rising prosecco, Spain’s staunch cava and Canada’s new generation of cool-climate sparklers—is dramatically improving. Here are my favourites, and they’re all under 50 bucks.
In 2014, it happened: after three out-of-control years, Toronto’s tacoverse started to contract. (In 2013, we profiled 10 new taquerias. This year, there were only four.) Then, just as the tequila hangover was beginning to subside, a new wave of food obsessions rushed in to fill the void. Menus exploded with za’atar-dusted hummus plates and gourmet falafel wraps; with gargantuan seafood sandwiches and artfully skewered Spanish hors d’oeuvres. Suddenly, “bar snacks” were the new code word for “dinner,” and not just in Parkdale—hangouts around the city were plying diners with smart riffs on the junky dishes that go best with booze. Next year will bring a new batch of food fixations. (“Souping,” apparently, is going to be huge.) In the meantime, here are the 10 restaurant trends that defined dining in Toronto in 2014.