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Six ways to eat gooseneck barnacles, the weird sea creatures that are all over Toronto’s haute menus

(Image: Renée Suen)

At Marben, percebes are steamed in white wine and herbs. (Image: Rob Bragagnolo, Marben)

Gooseneck barnacles, also called percebes, are crustaceans that cling to rocks in places that have a strong crashing surf. In Spain and Portugal, they’re considered a rare and wonderful delicacy, thanks to their sweet flesh, which tastes a bit like a cross between lobster and clam. They’re also impossibly ugly (they resemble some type of prehistoric clawed beast) and extremely expensive, largely because gathering them is such risky and controversial work. In Europe, a single kilo of percebes can fetch almost $500. Their Canadian counterparts, which are hand-picked off the coast of Vancouver Island by the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation, cost over $20 per pound—if you can get your hands on them at all, which regular consumers generally can’t. Luckily, some of Toronto’s best restaurants are doing wonderful things with these odd-looking shellfish. You’ll want to hurry, though: percebes are only in season until the end of May, and once they’re gone, they’re gone.

1. Bar Isabel
At his Spanish restaurant in Little Italy, chef Grant van Gameren serves percebes over thinly sliced raw artichokes with lots of butter and garlic. $20.
797 College St., 416-532-2222

2. Canoe
On Canoe’s spring menu, percebes are paired with pasta, shellfish mousse and sea asparagus in a coastal-inspired take on cannelloni. $26
66 Wellington St. W., 416-364-0054

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The Dish

Restaurants

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Top Five: Toronto’s best Caesar salads

toronto-best-caesar-salads-intro
Toronto menus are filling up with luxe, light and irreverent takes on the classic starter. The basic components are the same—romaine lettuce, crunchy croutons and a yolk-thickened sauce—but the add-ons, ranging from flower petals to pine fronds, are anything but standard. Here, our five favourite reinventions.

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The Dish

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Friday Night Bites: tables for two at Ruby Watchco, F’Amelia and Marben

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: Ruby Watchco, F’Amelia and Marben.

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Flavour of the Month: delicious reinventions of the classic Caesar salad

The vintage salad has endured all manner of permutations since its birth in the ’20s, but none as luxe, light and irreverent as the versions currently on Toronto menus

Flavour of the Month: Hail Caesar

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The Dish

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Friday Night Bites: tables for two at Chantecler, Marben and Bestellen

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: Chantecler, Marben and Bestellen.

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Trend We Love: Quail eggs, pickled, smoked, fried, boiled and raw

The pickled quail eggs at Skin and Bones (Image: Gizelle Lau)

Quail eggs have two principal virtues that distinguish them from chicken eggs: they’re tiny and they’re cute. They don’t taste all that different (though the yolk-to-white ratio is a little higher), but they make adorable snacks and appetizers, and come in handy when a whole chicken egg would overpower a dish. And while they’re by no means new, they’ve been popping up all over Toronto menus recently—fried, hard-boiled, pickled, smoked and raw. Here’s where we’ve spotted them of late:

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Friday Night Bites: tables for two at Marben, Auberge du Pommier and The Harbord Room

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: Marben, Auberge du Pommier and The Harbord Room.

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The Dish

Where to Eat and Drink

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Where to eat and drink near the 2012 Grey Cup

(Image: George Socka)

With 52,000 rabid Argos and Stamps fans crowding the streets around the Rogers Centre on Sunday, you need a game plan for pre- and post-game eating and drinking. Sure, you can pack into Loose Moose or Lone Star Texas Grillbut there are other, better dining options within a 20-minute walk of the dome. Here, your 15 best bets.

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Weekly Lunch Pick, TIFF edition: one last taste of summer at Marben

For TIFF-goers in need of between-screening sustenance, Marben is within walking distance of TIFF central (i.e., the Bell Lightbox), but just far enough to provide for a quiet recharge away from the hubbub. The patio is especially quaint, and it’s the perfect setting to enjoy what’s left of the warm weather. Menu items are given a personal touch with the names of staff members and suppliers (see: John’s Burger, Zac’s PLT, and Maya’s Papaya Colada).

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Friday Night Bites: Nota Bene, Marben and Scaramouche

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: Nota Bene, Marben and Scaramouche.

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Best of the City 2012: Toronto’s top tacos, brunch, pampering service, pickling classes and more

Best of the City, Best of the City 2012

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Best of the City 2012: the top 10 places to go and things to do for a good time in Toronto

Best of the City: fun

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The Informer

Features

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How a small group of farmers and wealthy weekenders made the Melancthon mega-quarry protest a cause célèbre

An unexpected casualty of Toronto’s building boom is the sleepy southern Ontario township of Melancthon, where an American hedge fund plans to excavate $6 billion worth of limestone.

How a small group of farmers, and wealthy weekenders, made the Melancthon mega-quarry protest a cause célèbre

Fight Club: The farmer-chef Michael Stadtländer helped organize Foodstock, a quarry protest attended by 28,000 people (Image: Jason Van Bruggen)

How a small group of farmers, and wealthy weekenders, made the Melancthon mega-quarry protest a cause célèbreMelancthon’s windswept highlands spread out like a grand table underneath the sky. At 1,700 feet above sea level, southern Ontario’s highest point, the air is different: cool and often foggy, it’s a world away from smog-suffocated Toronto, which lies 100 kilometres to the southeast. The climate is ideal for raising crops, and tens of millions of kilos of potatoes are grown each year in the township’s rich, silty loam. The karst, or fractured limestone, that lies beneath the soil delivers an almost perfect drainage system—no matter how much it rains, crops never flood.

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The Dish

People

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Chef Grant Soto outs himself as…an aspiring screenwriter

Chef Grant Soto, the resident Twitter troll of the Toronto restaurant scene, has come out to the Star’s Amy Pataki. His real name: Taylor Clarke. And his real profession: screenwriter. The Soto persona, it turns out, is the basis for a one-hour TV series called, naturally enough, Chef Grant Soto, which Pataki reports has drawn interest from HBO Canada and Showcase. Clarke himself is not a cook, but he did at one point wait tables at Marben. So now you know. Read the whole story [Toronto Star] »

UPDATE: Turns out Pataki’s report of interest from networks was a little premature; a correction has been appended to the Star’s story.

(Images: Soto, Twitter; screenplay, marioanima)

The Dish

Restaurants

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All-Beef Party: Toronto’s 25 best burgers ranked in order of heart-stopping, messy magnificence

25 BEST BURGERS

Nine years ago, Mark McEwan scandalized Torontonians with his $35 truffled Bymark burger. That was before words like “grass-fed,” “heritage” and “dry-aged” entered into the burger lexicon. The city is now crammed with craft burgers, and carnivores no longer flinch at steep price tags. Competitive chefs bring in whole cows from nearby farms, bake their own buns, smoke their own bacon (twice), replace ketchup with tomato chutney and source the most pungent cheeses they can get their patty-flipping hands on. Thankfully, the mom-and-pop shops haven’t been artisinalled out of business—there are still plenty of sublime greasy-bag burgers around, as well as a few new-school diners ironically replicating them. Here, the very best of the city’s boundless burgerdom.

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