Bymark

The Dish

People

9 Comments

McEwan tapped to be head judge on Top Chef Canada—plus, hilarious questions from the contestant application form

Not surprisingly, Food Network Canada tapped charismatic Toronto chef Mark McEwan (Bymark, One) to be the Canadian Colicchio on the Canuck version of Top Chef.

It makes sense to choose McEwan (we called it in a previous post), since he’s no stranger to the network, and his upcoming Fabbrica restaurant at Shops at Don Mills needs all the promotion it can get. We still expect to see other cross-promotion opportunities for other Food Network hosts, like Lynn Crawford, Bob Blumer, Chuck Hughes, Michael Smith and Laura Calder. But that’s still up in the air.

The application for the show is also now up on the site. After the jump, interesting tidbits from the 19-page application.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Dish

Drinks

10 Comments

The Rebirth of Booze

At the hottest restaurants, cocktails are as sophisticated as the food. Bartenders are playing with liquid nitrogen, concocting infusions, and changing the way we drink. It’s the most exciting gastronomic development in years

Smoke and firewater: Barchef, on Queen West, serves a $45 haute manhattan, a mix of whisky, vanilla cognac and bitters that arrives in a bell jar filled with hickory smoke (Image: Finn O'Hara)

There are only two kinds of cocktails—those that are dead and those that are alive—and the only way to tell them apart is to taste them. A dead drink is at best two-dimensional, merely a mixture of liquids; a living cocktail is full of motion as its flavours unfold on the palate. It’s like the difference between a paint-by-numbers canvas and a true work of art. And in this city, the dead outnumber the living by about a thousand to one.

But not for long, thanks to a handful of determined pioneers. Frankie Solarik at Barchef, Moses McIntee at Ame, Jen Agg at the Black Hoof and Bill Sweete at Sidecar make up the new avant-garde, along with Christine Sismondo, the author of the influential book Mondo Cocktail, who is opening her own place on College Street in July, wryly called the Toronto Temperance Society. Each one has a different view of what constitutes a great cocktail, but they all share a single belief: it’s high time the age of the crantini was over.

The most extreme place to observe this revolution is Barchef, the dimly lit temple of mixology on Queen West where Frankie Solarik is the celebrant. Tall, slim and bearded, wearing a black porkpie hat, he works behind a bar crowded with more than 30 spiced infusions and subtle elixirs in various flasks and jars. I’ve never seen such a set-up—like an alchemist’s laboratory, complete with the molecular foams, flavoured airs and gelatinous transubstantiations that are Solarik’s specialty. His masterpiece is a smoked vanilla manhattan, a $45 cocktail set in a bell jar filled with hickory smoke until it smells like a campfire and tastes like heaven.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Dish

Openings

28 Comments

A peek inside Parts and Labour, a new Parkdale restaurant that unites owners of The Social, Oddfellows and Castor Design

Parts and Labour: under construction (Image: Karon Liu)

First Cowbell, then Local Kitchen, and now this.

With the arrival of Parts and Labour, a hardware store transformed into a restaurant, the tail end of Queen West takes another step from weekend antiquing destination to social hub. Parkdale locals are excited about the new spot, and with good reason: it represents a new partnership between the owners of The Social, Castor Design and Oddfellows.

During a tour with Richard Lambert, one of the owners, we’re told that Parts and Labour is designed for “Social graduates who want to be more mature and don’t go out to clubs as much anymore.” He adds with a laugh, “We also have a no-electronic-music policy.”

Read the rest of this entry »

The Dish

Neighbourhoods

11 Comments

The Path Guide: 24 spots worth getting lost for

(All photos by Karon Liu)

Even those who were born and raised in Toronto have a hard time navigating the city’s underground labyrinth, with its dead ends, identical food courts and utterly useless maps—not to mention the complete lack of sunlight, which can drive a person mad. Still, the world’s largest below-ground shopping complex is like a city of its own, with lots of unique shops, restaurants and attractions that are worth the slight possibility of getting cabin fever. An added incentive for people going to a game or a concert: most of the restaurants offer free parking. Here are 24 places to check out.

The Dish

Openings

5 Comments

Just Opened: El Almacen brings authentic yerba mate to Queen Street West

(Photo by Catherine Hayday)

A slice of Argentina on Queen West (Photo by Catherine Hayday)

Along the still-evolving stretch of West Queen West between Dovercourt and Ossington, Silvio and Estela Rodriguez have quietly opened El Almacen—“the general store”—a café specializing in the South American infusion yerba mate. Made from an evergreen holly of the same name, the drink has a distinctly earthy, barn-ish flavour. Natural food lovers are likely familiar with prepackaged options, but this is Torontonians’ first chance to have yerba in context: served in a cured gourd, drunk through a bombilla (a filter-tipped metal straw), and passed between friends over a lazy few hours of good conversation.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Dish

Random Stuff

Comments

Menus trick diners into spending more, $26.50 brownie mix, the manliest cooking magazine

corks

The brownie mix from Bouchon

Amy Pataki taste-tests a $26.50 brownie mix from the bastion of expensive cooking supplies, Williams-Sonoma. The mix, modelled on Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery chocolate “corks,” fared better than the Duncan Hines and Betty Crocker mixes she also baked, but the brownies were a pain to make, and so buttery they stained the photographer’s table, and overall were not worth the money. A $26.50 jar of powder rarely is. [Toronto Star]
Globe restaurant critic Alexandra Gill turns the tables, so to speak, when she takes up a waitress gig at one of Vancouver’s hottest restaurants, Cioppino’s. Spoiler alert: it’s harder than she thought. Gill struggles with the Saturday shift, incorrectly calls the chef by his name (in kitchens, the chef is always referred to as “chef”) and has trouble memorizing the daily specials. Perhaps after these new life lessons, Gill will have a few memorable posts for the myriad angry waiter blogs. [Globe and Mail]

Read the rest of this entry »

The Dish

Licious

8 Comments

Winterlicious 2010: the list of restaurants is out

(Photo by John Hritz)

(Photo by John Hritz)

It’s that time of year again, when sniping begins over the dozens of menus featuring new (and often unexciting) ways to prepare house salad, chicken and a trio of sorbet. That’s right: the Winterlicious list is out, and it’s 150 restaurants strong.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Dish

People

Comments

David Lee and his chicken cartilage take home top honours at the Toronto edition of Gold Medal Plates

David Lee's dish

Crisp chicken skin and chicken cartilage: David Lee's winning dish at the Toronto edition of Gold Medal Plates

The bar was raised mighty high last night for the city’s haute cuisine scene with a head-to-head cook-off between some of Toronto’s most dazzling chefs. Mark McEwan (Bymark, One), Jason Bangerter (Auberge du Pommier), John Kwan (Lai Toh Heen) and seven other star cuisiniers battled it out at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre for the Toronto title of Gold Medal Plates—a national fundraiser for Canada’s Olympic and Paralympic Athletes.  Held in seven cities across the country, Gold Medal Plates selects, by jury, each city’s top chefs, then asks them to create a medal-worthy meal. With plating assistance from Olympians (like dishy rower Adam Kreek), the meals are then judged by a panel of tough-to-please palates, which included food writer James Chatto (who is also GMP’s National Culinary Advisor) and last year’s Toronto winner, chef Patrick Lin.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Dish

Openings

7 Comments

Just opened: Buca

Rob gentile hangs with his meats (Photo by Karon Liu)

Rob Gentile hangs with his meats (Photo by Karon Liu)

The brains behind Brassaii, Jacobs and Co. and soon-to-be-opened The Saint are adding yet another restaurant to their empire, this one tucked away in the alley beside Cheval on the ritzy King Street strip. The week-old Buca is serving Italian fare by executive chef Rob Gentile, a former sous-chef at One, Bymark and North 44°.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Dish

Restaurants

4 Comments

Riding the gravy train: Smoke’s Poutinerie plans new locations and a poutine truck

Smoke's

Smolkin shows off his triple pork poutine: bacon, pulled pork and sausage atop fries (Photo by Karon Liu)

Fries, curds and gravy—three simple ingredients that, when combined, create a dish as Canadian as hockey. Toronto’s love affair with poutine started years ago with haute incarnations from Jamie Kennedy and in restaurants like Bymark (it’s hard to go wrong when both lobster and fries are involved). When Café du Lac opened in 2008, we swooned for its foie gras–topped version. It was perhaps inevitable, then, that poutine-focused restaurants would soon follow, and the first was thanks to Ryan Smolkin, an ex-advertising exec with no hospitality experience.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Dish

Licious

Comments

Final throes: Where to find a table during the last weekend of Summerlicious

Follow the orders of this menu from Mildred's Temple Kitchen and indulge in the last days of Summerlicious (Photo by jbcurio)

The menu at Mildred's Temple Kitchen orders us to indulge (Photo by jbcurio)

The dog days of Summerlicious are here, and with reservations down at top restaurants across the city, many tables are sitting empty at some of the city’s finest spots. This might be the first and last time anyone will be able to walk into North 44 without a reservation, eat for under $50, and walk right out. After the jump, all a hungry diner needs to know about how to nab a last-minute seat at the 10 most popular restaurants from our Best of Summerlicious list.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Dish

Random Stuff

Comments

Supermarket heap: Gourmet grocers colonize the city

Grab and go: Prepared foods and high-end food shops are taking over downtown (Photo by Davida Aronovitch)

Grab and go: high-end groceries and prepared foods (like these at Market Longo) are suddenly everywhere (Photo by Davida Aronovitch)

There has been a sudden influx of gourmet grocers and grab-and-go eateries in Toronto. Many have been—or will be—created by the city’s elite restaurateurs and chefs in an effort to attract foodies who want to slash dining budgets without resorting to KD. Earlier this week, we reported that Oliver and Bonacini will offer a take-away service in the Bell Lightbox and that suburban staple Longo’s recently expanded its downtown holdings with a second Market Longo near Bay and Dundas. Sobeys opened another Urban Fresh store amid the condo forest surrounding Fort York, and top chef Mark McEwan is planning a downtown version of his eponymous grocery store at the Shops at Don Mills.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Dish

Licious

5 Comments

Summerlicious restaurants announced

Get those dialing digits ready: the city has released its list of the 150 restaurants participating in the seventh edition of Summerlicious, running July 3 to 19. Price points have increased over last year (as they did for Winterlicious), so expect to pay between $15 and $30 for a three-course lunch and between $25 and $45 for dinner.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Dish

Random Stuff

23 Comments

Recessionary gratuities: Is 2009 the year of lousy tips?

Thanks for the tip (Photo by Wade From Oklahoma)

Thanks for the tip (Photo by Wade from Oklahoma)

What to tip at recession time? This is the latest question in the never-ending gratuity debate; and since the market went south, it appears to be striking a nerve in Toronto and elsewhere. The New York Times‘ etiquette authority, Frank Bruni, wrote about it on his blog recently, sparking chatter about servers getting stiffed during hard times. Apparently diners are not just ordering less food, but they are then dialling down the percentage of their cheques left for gratuity. The recession effect—Bruni calls it a “double whammy”—is being felt closer to home, too. Toronto servers have been reporting paltry pourboire during the downturn. “Before the crisis, money was getting thrown around, but now people are more careful,” says France Salmon, who has been serving for over 10 years at celeb sanctuary Bistro 990. It seems even stars can be guilty of skimpy tipping (we’re looking at you, Madonna). With everyone else getting their bonuses trimmed and salaries frozen, is it all right to be less generous with the gratuity?

Read the rest of this entry »

The Dish

Licious

Comments

The most popular Winterlicious menus of 2009

With data collected from Torontolife.com’s “Best of Winterlicious” feature, we’ve figured out the fan favourites of this year’s dining festival. After all the hoopla attached to 2009’s Winterlicious, it’s nice to know that some things never change. From an Oliver & Bonacini institution to one of city’s beloved boutique hotels, here are the top 10 Winterlicious menus viewed by Torontolife.com readers.

Read the rest of this entry »