On the heels of yet another whine-infused Summerlicious (with the garbage strike adding fodder to the usual grumblings), Stop for Food offers a second (and stink-free) chance for prix fixe fun. Until August 31st, top restaurants like Vertical, Harbord Room and Frank are featuring locally-focused three-course menus for $35 or $50, complete with the feel-good glow of giving back to The Stop Community Food Centre.
This alterna-licious event—the first raised $14,000 for The Stop last winter—is a product of the pioneering young chef collective Cross Town Kitchens. Since 2007, chefs from C5, Torito, Marben, Amuse-Bouche and what used to be Perigee work to build inter-restaurant partnerships that support the local movement in professional kitchens and in the community at large. The month-long dinner series donates $5 or $10 per meal to The Stop. Says Amuse-Bouche’s Sarah Lyons: “We’re working together towards the common goal of changing food. When you come together you have a stronger voice.” It also gives organic sceptics a wallet-friendly chance to eat local, which Lyons says “gets a bad rap for being expensive.”
Stop director Nick Saul says the young locavores—who show few signs of instability since farm-to-table icon Jamie Kennedy faltered—“want to have politics about food, and how people access food.” That’s why some chefs, like Luis Velenzuela of Torito, opt out of the more frenzied and marketing-driven Summerlicious and Winterlicious events in favour of Cross Town’s version. “It has a very moral aspect in helping local farmers and bringing us closer to where food comes from,” he says. Velenzuela’s all-Ontario bill of fare will change weekly—look for convention-crushing white grape gazpacho next week.
We paid a visit to Cowbell for a taste of the meaty menu chef Mark Cutrara is preparing for Stop for Food: a charcuterie plate featuring boar, elk (blueberry and red wine infused), pork and cured pig fat, followed by marbled strip loin, cooked sous-vide—vacuum sealed under water for two or three days to tenderize the cut—and a rich crème caramel closer. After dinner, Cutrara takes us for a tour of his butcher room and a chat. “We wanted to accentuate the idea that -licious events are counterproductive,” he says. “This is my first instance of chefs getting together without ego.” According to him, there’s only one competition: “With Bertrand Alépée, for who has the bigger beard.”
Stop for Food runs until August 31. For a full list of participating restaurants, visit the Cross Town Kitchens Web site.