Last Friday, local food enthusiasts packed Hart House’s neo-gothic hall for the second annual Brewer’s Plate. Despite the medieval decor, there was nothing dark ages about this party. The Green Enterprise event paired six cutting-edge chefs with local brewers and artisans to showcase the region’s burgeoning locavore fare. And though rooted in the slow food tradition, the event had all the trimmings of a red carpet do, including a suited swing band, tiny portions, food celebs and backlash banter.
It was a far cry from last year’s more modest showing at the Berkeley Kitchen—there was a 20-minute wait for specialties by chefs like the Gladstone’s Marc Breton and Cowbell’s Mark Cutrara (they don’t call it slow food for nothing). Amid the stylish masses, familiar foodie faces included Globe editor Domini Clark, blogger Greg Clow and TAPS magazine’s Mirella Amato.
For longtime locavore Jamie Kennedy, Toronto’s local food scene has arrived. “We’ve gone through our childhood—imitating other cultures—and then the awkward teenage years, and now we’re celebrating our own produce, our own potential.” His crispy potato and apple doughnuts with pork fricassée (served with Steam Whistle brew) were the talk of the crowd.
Part of the new guard, La Palette’s bubbly young chef Brook Kavanagh—who served Everspring Farm Muscovy duck two ways—was also impressed by the culinary display. “We’re showing people what we can do, even in April—our toughest month,” he says. For green thumbs looking to capitalize on the DIY gardening trend, his tip is simple: “Seedlings. If people are growing good seedlings, I’ll buy them. Call me up.”
But the evening wasn’t without a naysayer or two. “Not that organic shit again,” groaned one guest who had nabbed an amaranth seedling form Veritas Brad Long’s station. Said another: “It’s not marijuana? What a shame.” Long was anything but offended: “I couldn’t stop laughing,” said the first-time participant, who loved the spirited atmosphere. “Celebrating good food and good booze is not so much a decision. I mean, yes!” When Long ran out of filling for his auburn ale–poached Lake Erie bass crêpes, there might have been a problem, but fortunately, there was plenty of amaranth left to stimulate conversation.