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Trend We Love/Hate: ever-longer tasting menus

Trend We Love/Hate: Tasting Menus

Engaged in a never-ending game of friendly one-upmanship, the city’s chefs started launching ever-more elaborate tasting menus this year. Don’t get us wrong: we love the creativity on display. But when a tasting menu lasts four hours and costs $200, dinner feels like a hostage situation that ends when we pay our own ransom. Below, Toronto’s longer tasting menus, ordered by the number of courses.

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Restaurants

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The Dish Power Rankings: Top Chefs and Bieber power

Toronto Life’s weekly assessment of the restaurants with the biggest buzz, the longest lineups and the toughest tables to snag.

On Monday, the contestants for season three of Top Chef Canada were announced, catapulting their respective restaurants onto this week’s power rankings. Meanwhile, the mighty power of the Biebs bumps up the hype for an Annex diner, and the depth of Toronto’s appetite for brunch tacos is revealed.

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Restaurants

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10 most romantic Toronto restaurants—good for everything from popping the question to illicit affairs

Cabbagetown’s F’Amelia (Image: Renée Suen)

Whether you’re hoping to impress a new flame or celebrate with a long-time lover, the right restaurant can be the difference between a memorable evening and this. Of course, not everyone’s idea of romantic dining is the same—some prefer rooms buzzing with energy, while others opt for serenity and luxury. So, we rounded up some of both. Below, the ten most romantic Toronto restaurants.

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People

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The 15 Toronto restaurants recommended in Where Chefs Eat, a new culinary guidebook

Where Chefs Eat is a new 633-page collection of answers to a very simple question: where to go for a good meal? Those answers are from some 400 of the world’s top chefs, including Ferran Adria, Daniel Boulud, David Chang, Fergus Henderson and Rene Redzepi, as well as Toronto chefs Michael Steh, formerly of Reds, and Claudio Aprile, chef and owner of Colborne Lane and Origin. The guidebook is edited by Guardian critic Joe Warwick, who also co-founded the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. It’s not only an inventory of the flashy big-name places in a city, but also of regular neighbourhood and cheap eats spots. There’s even a category for places the chefs wish they opened. We flipped through the tome to pull out the 15 restaurants in and around Toronto recommended by the world’s top chefs.

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Food Events

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GALLERY: The Stop’s annual What’s on the Table fundraiser brought out Toronto’s top chefs—and their biggest fans

What’s on the Table 2012

(Image: Jenna Marie Wakani)

For philanthropists with a gourmet bent, What’s on the Table, the big annual fundraiser for The Stop, is kind of a big deal. Every year, a slew of the city’s top chefs come out to support the community food centre and hobnob with some of their biggest fans. The 2012 edition, which took place on Wednesday at the Artscape Wychwood Bars, featured chefs from Beast, Cava, George, GwaiLo, Hooked, Nadège, Noce, Parts and Labour, Paulette’s, Pizzeria Libretto and The Harbord Room, among many others. We spied former mayor David Miller enthusing with Cava’s Chris McDonald over their shared love of Spanish cuisine, and GwaiLo’s Nick Liu politely fending off nosy questions about where his still-not-yet-open restaurant will be located. In the end, after two auctions (one live and one silent), The Stop came away with $270,000 to support their mission of increasing everyone’s access to good, healthy food. The 500-odd donors, meanwhile, left with full bellies and rosy cheeks, having kibitzed with their chef-idols for a few hours.

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Food TV

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Top Chef Canada recap, episode 11: Italian stallions and KD virginity

A bevy of guest judges showed up for an Italian feast at Fabbrica: Lorenzo Loseto, Carlo Rota, Rick Campanelli, Lidia Bastianich and Franco Stalteri (Image: Top Chef Canada)

TOP CHEF CANADA Season 2 | Episode 11

Last night’s episode of Top Chef Canada kicked off with a little sentimental reflection by the chefs at their digs—the condo that is finally living up to its “luxury” billing now that there are only five occupants (cramming the original 16 contestants in there probably violated some kind of occupancy regulation). Trevor Bird hoped to God that he wouldn’t have to do dessert again (foreshadowing alert!), while David Chrystian announced to all of Canada that he was set to go home and propose to his girlfriend (good luck, David!). This week’s twists and turns, including guest spots from an R&B star, a former MuchMusic VJ and a legend of Italian cooking, in our recap below.

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Food Events

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We dropped by the Great Toronto Tartare-off to discover a meatetarian frenzy

Luma’s Jason Bangerter predicted the event was going to be a meat fest, so he opted for a tuna tartare instead.

Last night, Grapes for Humanity corralled some of the city’s top culinary talent under one roof (that of the Fairmont Royal York Hotel) for RAW! The Great Toronto Tartare-Off, an event to raise funds to support a high school in Guatemala. A panel of judges, consisting of John Higgins, Amy Rosen, Josh Josephson, Corey Mintz and, to the delight of many, Geddy Lee, was tasked with crowning one chef the King—or Queen—of Tartare. Those chefs included Jamie Kennedy (Gilead), Didier Leroy (Didier), Lorenzo Loseto (George), Jason Bangerter (Luma), Mark Cutrara (Cowbell), Brook Kavanagh (La Palette), Albert Ponzo (Le Sélect), Patrick McMurray (Starfish and Ceili Cottage) and, most impressively, Luke Wood of Thornton’s Wine and Tapas Room who flew in from Yellowknife specifically for the function.

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Food TV

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Top Chef Canada recap, episode 3: the craving games

A very pregnant Thea Andrews returned for a guest spot (Image: Top Chef Canada)

TOP CHEF CANADA
Season 2 | Episode 3

Last night’s episode of Top Chef Canada accomplished a couple of rare feats: it brought last season’s host Thea Andrews onto the same set as this season’s host Lisa Ray without any sparks flying; and it managed to theme an entire episode around the appetites of pregnant women without being grossly offensive (even if it couldn’t escape being deeply corny). So, to the fine people at Insight Productions, we say: good on you. Oh, and the cooking? Actually, it was a few notches up from last week’s construction-site rigamarole, although it did include enough you-just-can’t-make-this-stuff-up bombs to keep us amused.

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Random Stuff

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Six things we learned about how chefs are dealing with rising food prices from today’s Star

The prices of many agricultural commodities are determined by traders at the Chicago Merc (Image: Matt Griffin)

Though the proliferation of exorbitantly priced hamburgers may make it hard to believe, most chefs hate passing the high price of food onto their customers. In the face of rising costs, Toronto chefs are taking steps to ensure that more expensive food doesn’t necessarily lead to more expensive meals, according to a piece by Tony Wong in today’s Star. After the jump, six things we learned from it.

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Food TV

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Top Chef Canada reveals the rather stacked list of guest judges for season two

Remember last year when Chris Cosentino, one of the pioneers of the offal revival, visited Toronto for undisclosed reasons and claimed he could smell Chinatown from three blocks away? Or when Richard Blais, the molecularly inclined winner of Top Chef All-Stars, tweeted about the interesting tasting menu he’d just lunched on in Toronto? Or when Italian food legend Lidia Bastianich dropped in at All the Best Fine Foods? Turns out they weren’t here just because they love us—they’re all guest judges on season two of Top Chef Canada. Other notable judges and tasters include—and let us be clear, this is a bit of a spoiler for those who really like to keep their Top Chef Canada viewing pure—east-coast chef Michael Smith, season one host Thea Andrews (no hard feelings, we guess!), chef-about-town Matty Matheson of Parts and Labour, Leafs assistant captain Colby Armstrong, Susur Lee and his soon-to-be restaurateur sons Kai and Jet Bent-Lee, Toca’s Tom Brodi, Roger Mooking, Top Chef Masters winner Marcus Samuelson, last season’s winner Dale MacKay and his adorable son Ayden, Keisha Chante, Rick the Temp Campanelli, Lorenzo Loseto of George, Charlie’s Burgers mastermind Franco Stalteri, husband-and-wife dynamos Marc Thuet and Biana Zorich, Odd Bits author Jennifer McLagan, Vancouver Indian restaurateur and chef Vikram Vij and assorted competitors from last season, not to mention the somewhat bizarro guests we already told you about, like Alan Thicke and Mike Holmes. (Whew!) Not bad.

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Food Events

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Top Toronto restaurants to go head to head in Dish Duel, a new foodie tournament

The latest addition to the spate of Internet-based foodie happenings in Toronto is Dish Duel (not to be confused with Dishcrawl), a bracket-style tournament pitting signature dishes from Toronto restaurants against each other. The project is the invention of Restos in TO blogger Jacob Younan, who has managed to convince the likes of Acadia, Cava, George and Cowbell (among 12 others) to gird their (tender)loins and head into battle beginning February 18.

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Restaurants

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GALLERY: All the chefs and dishes from last night’s Gold Medal Plates gala

Langdon Hall’s Jonathan Gushue with his gold medal–winning dish

Toronto’s annual Gold Medal Plates gala took place last night at Metro Toronto Convention Center. Celebrated in nine cities across Canada, the event brings together some of the best chefs and wineries with the city’s well-to-do to raise funds for Canada’s Olympic and Paralympic athletes. Last night, Langdon Hall’s Jonathan Gushue took gold while Buca’s Rob Gentile got the silver and Michael Steh of Reds finished with bronze. Gushue will go on to compete in the Canadian Culinary Championships in Kelowna, B.C. next February. For those who didn’t manage to score one of the $400 tickets, we’ve got you covered.

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People

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GALLERY: At this year’s What’s on the Table benefit, Toronto’s top chefs came out to support The Stop

(Image: Jenna Marie Wakani)

On Wednesday, 550 Toronto foodies and philanthropists gathered in the Wychwood Barns for What’s on the Table, the annual fundraiser for The Stop Community Food Centre. The sold-out event featured 35 food and drink stations representing a staggering array of top Toronto restaurants, including Canoe, Scaramouche, Niagara Street Café, Parts and Labour, Jamie Kennedy Kitchens, C5, Ruby Watchco, Noce, Cowbell, George and the Gabardine, with desserts from Frangipane, Nadège and Soma, and drinks from Steam Whistle, Henry of Pelham, Frodpond Farm and Château des Charmes, among many others, not to mention two contestants from season one of Top Chef Canada.

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Restaurants

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Toronto’s best five restaurants to go for a business lunch

The top five spots to break bread, dent the expense account and sign a deal while you’re at it

Best for a Business Lunch
No. 1
A $1 million facelift loosened the tie of Oliver and Bonacini’s flagship Canoe, while the breathtaking view from the 54th floor never fails to awe. It tops our chart for the expertly executed haute Canadiana and service that’s as polished as the silver. 66 Wellington St. W., 416-364-0054.

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Food Events

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This year’s What’s on the Table fundraiser for The Stop features over 30 top chefs from Toronto and beyond

Eat well and feed the hungry along the way—that’s the concept behind the annual What’s on the Table benefit being held this year on November 2. Since 2005, the fundraiser has gathered $1.5 million for The Stop, the innovative community food centre whose goal is to increase everyone’s access to healthy food (check out our interview with chef Chris Brown from shortly after he joined The Stop). Dining stations open at 6:30 p.m., and patrons won’t be starved for choice; the event features offerings from over 30 chefs, including Lynn Crawford of Ruby Watcho, Anthony Walsh of Canoe and pâtissier Nadège Nourian (see below for the very impressive full list).

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