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The Top Food Trends and Who Does Them Best: French Cuisine

It’s time to rediscover buttery, sublime Gallic cooking

The Top Food Trends and Who Does Them Best: French Cuisine

Ici chef J. P. Challet sneaks booze into every other dish, including this billowing dessert soufflé with Grand Marnier custard

Traditional French restaurants never went away, but they certainly lost their appeal in the last decade, eclipsed by fusion cooking, molecular gastronomy, the tyranny of artisanal versions of Kraft Dinner and a thousand other fads. Now it seems every other cook is back to simmering sauces for eons, perfecting the timing of a soufflé and paying homage to Escoffier. I suppose there were only so many communal tables and foraged salads we could stomach before we craved rich terrines and formal service again. Even white-linen establishment standbys like Scaramouche, where I spotted Maple Leaf magnate Michael McCain and family silently dining one recent weeknight, and Auberge du Pommier, where the chef, Marc St. Jacques, has reinvigorated the menu with complex preparations of game and foie gras, are packed once more.

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The Top Food Trends and Who Does Them Best: Late-Night Dining

We’re dining around the clock and the options for a midnight feast are suddenly excellent

The Top Food Trends and Who Does Them Best: Late-Night Dining

Drake One Fifty serves lofty comfort food and smart cocktails well past midnight

At some point over the past year, around the time Rob Ford was smoking crack in a drunken stupor, we became a city that eats at all hours. It now takes weeks of planning to get a table at 10 p.m. at the hotter spots. And if you want a meal after midnight, there are finally options other than greasy all-night diners and those Chinatown backrooms where the only thing anyone orders is “cold tea.” After a three-hour Scorsese opus at the Revue, I’ll go to La Cubana, Corrina Mozo’s new restaurant on Roncesvalles, where the cooks make a mean medianoche, the traditional Havana sandwich stacked with roasted pork, ham and gruyère—they also have versions with chorizo, or guava-glazed short rib, or avocado and queso fresco. The kitchen at the County General, the Queen West gastropub, officially closes at 11, but the place is usually full until last call, patrons scarfing down pork buns and devilled eggs while sipping bourbon cocktails. (They’ve expanded to Riverdale and Bloorcourt.) Even the owners of the prim Nota Bene wanted in on the fun, opening Carbon Bar on Queen East. They serve perfectly smoked southern-style barbecue, fried chicken skin, and intricate cocktails with citrus oils and rare tinctures until late-late-late.

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The Top Food Trends and Who Does Them Best: Ramen

An invasion of specialized noodle spots feeds our slurpy obsession

The Top Food Trends and Who Does Them Best: Ramen

Ramen obsessives line up for tangles of chewy noodles in rich pork broth at Kinton

Ramen is now Toronto’s preferred midday fuel. A wave of noodle restaurants began to open a year ago, prompted by the arrival of Momofuku’s Noodle Bar, and never stopped. There’s a hipster factor behind ramen’s popularity (a video circulated last fall of a guy who shaped his beard into a bowl, which he filled with Sriracha-doused noodles), but a major part of the appeal is the dish’s egalitarianism, combining cheapness with a gourmet sensibility.

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The Top Food Trends and Who Does Them Best: Seafood

Last year’s lobster roll craze has escalated into a full-blown love affair with fresh platters of tentacles, claws and other watery delights

The Top Food Trends and Who Does Them Best: Seafood

The raw bar at The Chase downtown serves up an orgy of seafood to its deep-pocketed clientele

There’s only so much red meat a person can consume. I’m happy to announce that Toronto, for too many years a city resigned to High Liner fish sticks, has turned a pescetarian corner. Quality seafood stores like Hooked and De La Mer are multiplying, and we’re no longer ashamed to serve a locally caught perch at a dinner party. For a few months there, it seemed like every elegant restaurant had a rainbow trout from Kolapore Springs on the menu.

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Five food fads we love

Five food fads we love: Cloakroom
The Return of the Cloakroom

After recessionary years of hanging our puffy coats on the backs of chairs (and inevitably seeing them trampled by wait staff), new places like The Chase, Café Boulud and Drake One Fifty graciously check them at the door.

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Five food fads we loathe

Five food fads we loathe: Bread
Places that Charge for bread

Yes, we’re looking at you, Drake One Fifty ($9), Electric Mud BBQ ($3.75) and Hudson Kitchen ($4).

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Friday Night Bites: tables for two at Canoe, Drake One Fifty and Geraldine

FRIDAY NIGHT BITESIt’s 4 p.m. on Friday, and you don’t have a dinner reservation. Still, there’s no need to fret (or waste your night waiting for a table). We just called some of the city’s hottest restaurants and found three that can squeeze in two for dinner tonight. Now it’s up to you to get dialing and snag a table before they’re all gone. Today: Canoe, Drake One Fifty and Geraldine.

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Slideshow: Côte De Boeuf’s Game of Thrones-inspired dinner party

(Photo: Jackie Pal)

(Photo: Jackie Pal)

On Wednesday and Thursday, Ossington haute butcher Côte De Boeuf and The Kitchen Bell hosted A Feast For Kings, a Game Of Thrones-inspired supper (or, as the menu put it, “degustation”). Union chef Teo Paul (along with chefs Mark Sullivan and Chris Matthews) served up a multi-course banquet fit for the fictional king of an imagined medieval fantasy realm from a popular book series and television program, which by the way premieres on HBO on April 6. Dishes were accompanied by locally sourced ciders, wines, beers and even some mead. Yes, mead! Just like in Norse and Germanic myths! (Or, sure, Game of Thrones.)

Over the clinking of antique glassware, guests spoiled Game of Thrones plot points for one another and indulged in the sort of nerdy conversation you’d expect at this sort of thing: why the Green Lantern movie sucked, when the superhero drama Heroes fell off, the difference between a “flagon” and a “tankard”—that kind of stuff. A gentleman even played violin, or “fiddle”!

If you couldn’t pony up the $175 ticket price, or couldn’t e-mail an RSVP fast enough when we wrote about the event a few weeks ago, here’s some dripping-wet fantasy-gastronomy food porn.

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The Dish Power Rankings: Keep on Truckin’ Edition

The-Dish-Power-Rankings

In this week’s roundup: food truckers rally, and Susur Lee’s dim-sum shop goes live.

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Food News

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Food tastes worse when it’s raining, according to 10 years’ worth of TripAdvisor reviews

Trip AdvisorThe democratic process is great for lots of things, but a reliable trove of restaurant reviews may not be one of them, according to researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology and Yahoo Labs. They looked at ten years’ worth of reviews on sites like TripAdvisor and Foursquare and concluded that people who go online to opine about restaurants are a fickle and untrustworthy bunch.

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New food-truck rules are a go! Kind of

(Image: Metro/Google Maps)

A map showing all the curbs where food trucks can’t park. (Image: Metro/Google Maps)

Thanks to the valiant efforts of Toronto restaurant-industry lobbyists and skittish city councilors, Toronto will not become a lawless frontier town, ruled by roving bands of sandwich artisans.

This morning, Toronto awoke to a new world of slightly improved mobile-vending possibilities—“slightly” being the key word. After two days’ worth of hemming and hawing over the fate of Toronto food trucks, city council finally cast their votes. On the plus side, they agreed to adopt a set of new rules designed to make the city more hospitable to roving food vendors. That said, they also voted to nix a batch of truck-friendly reforms to the proposed policy, which were recommended last month by the city’s licensing and standards committee.

That means that trucks will be allowed to park in pay-and-display parking spaces downtown, but will have to abide a three-hour time limit and stay at least 50 metres away from operating restaurants—a restriction that, judging by Metro’s quick-and-dirty analysis in the map above, makes much of downtown core off-limits. (The 50 metre rule doesn’t apply to private lots, where trucks will be able to operate more freely.) BIA management boards will also be able to apply to have food trucks banned from their territories.

According to the Globe, councilors who voted against the reforms were worried that too many food trucks on the roads may lead to literal fistfights. It’s always a little alarming when Rob Ford’s opinion stands out as the sole voice of reason. “Let ‘em sell what they want and let the customer decide,” he said. We have to agree.

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QUOTED: a market analyst on the LCBO’s questionable investment in its own supermarket-booze plan

(Image: garret_fick/Flickr)

(Image: garret_fick/Flickr)

“It’s astounding. I’m very, very surprised. It sounds like the LCBO doesn’t want them to sell booze in grocery stores because that’s a lot of space to have to give and a lot of restrictions.”

Kevin Grier, a market analyst at the George Morris Centre in Guelph, speaking to the Star about the suspiciously intense list of requirements for grocery stores wanting to get their very own LCBO booze kiosk.

Earlier this week, the LCBO invited stores to apply to take part in its new year-long pilot project, which Ontario finance minister Charles Sousa spun as a good-faith effort to appease “Ontario consumers asking for more convenient options.” From the beginning, though, the plan seemed a bit half-hearted: the Liberals were only committing to installing ten kiosks—a pretty small number considering it applies to the entire province—and the eligibility requirements basically eliminated smaller independent grocers from the running.

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Introducing: Tavern by Trevor, a new spot for brunch and bar snacks (deep-fried foie gras!)

Introducing: Tavern by Trevor
Name: Tavern by Trevor
Neighbourhood: Entertainment District
Contact Info: 147 Spadina Ave., 416-546-3447, tavernbytrevor.com, @tavernbytrevor
Owners: Mike “Yuker” Yaworski (owner of Wide Open) and Trevor Wilkinson, the man behind Trevor Kitchen and Bar on Wellington
Chef: Trevor Wilkinson

The Food: Wilkinson calls his food “new Canadian cuisine.” Menu-wise, that translates into over-the-top comfort dishes drawn from a bunch of different global cuisines: Japanese-inspired shrimp tempura, for instance, and Cajun po’boys, plus a handful of rejigged Canadian classics, like bison-and-pork tourtière and pork-belly poutine. In an extremely haute take on the jalapeño popper, hunks of foie gras are deep-fried and served with ice-wine grape jelly.

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Recipe to Riches Season Three: And the winner is…

Recipe to RichesIn the season-three finale of Recipe to Riches, the Loblaws-frequenting public revealed an unsurprising predilection for deep-fried carbs. On last night’s final episode, all five contestants returned to find out which product the voting public had chosen to reward with $250,000 and semi-permanent shelf space in participating Loblaws freezer aisles. The contenders, in case anyone needs a refresher, were Jesse Meredith’s Mini Raspberry Cheesecake Chocolate Cups, Winslow Taylor’s Jammin’ Jamaican Lobster Bisque, Alcide Desveaux’s Grandpa’s Acadian Meat Pie, Elisa Hendrick’s Italian Lollipops and Cyra Belbin’s Mexi Mac ‘n’ Cheese Bites. After a tense-ish hour of eliminations, the mac ‘n’ cheese bites were crowned the winning dish.

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QUOTED: Susur Lee on revolutionizing the dim-sum experience

Susur

“I want Luckee to change the way Toronto experiences dim sum. You won’t have to drive all the way to Markham. The lighting won’t be too bright and we’ll have a good wine list.”

—Celeb chef Susur Lee, speaking to Now about the differences between Chinese restaurants in Markham and Luckee, his swank dim-sum palace at the Soho Met, which opens this Friday (that is, April 4). Aside from booze and decor, the Susurized version of dim sum doesn’t sound too different from the classic Cantonese style: it apparently includes staples like har gow and cheung fun rice rolls (albeit glammed up with yuzu and “crispy rice tuiles”), and even traditional point-and-eat trolley service. As for differences, though, we can think of one more: it’s not going to be cheap.

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