Rodney Bowers

The Dish

Food TV

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Diners, Drive-ins and Dives recap: Hey Meatball edition

(Image: Food Network Canada)

Ever since Guy Fieri came to town to shoot segments for his cult Food Network show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, we’ve been curious about how Toronto would come off. The verdict: not at all badly. The first Toronto segment aired on Friday in an episode on “Eurocentric” restaurants, with Hey Meatball getting the most screen time (the other two places were in Syracuse, New York and Tacoma, Washington). Fieri was his usual over-the-top self, spouting cheesy one-liners (e.g.: “Hey Meatball uses fresh, local ingredients and meats to make…wait for it, wait for it…exactly. Little round orbs of joy!”). But for our money, he got out-Fieried by Hey Meatball chef and owner Rodney Bowers, himself no stranger to food television. Below, a quick recap of the segment:

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The Dish

Food TV

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Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives airs its first-ever Toronto episode tonight

(Image: Food Network Canada)

Guy Fieri’s visit to Toronto at the end of last year bears fruit tonight when Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives stops at Rodney Bowers’Hey Meatball (the show is at 10 p.m. on Food Network Canada). Next week, DDD features The Lakeview, followed by The Ace on March 29 and Caplansky’s on April 5. Stay tuned for a recap of the first episode next week.

The Dish

People

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Rodney Bowers of Hey Meatball! is launching a meal token program to feed the hungry 

This spring, Rodney Bowers, the chef and owner of Hey! and Hey Meatball!, is starting a new program aimed at helping the underprivileged in Parkdale. Patrons at Roncesvalles’s Hey! will be able to buy low-cost tokens to give to people in need, who can then redeem them for a freshly made sandwich. The idea, which takes inspiration from a similar program in Vancouver, has been criticized by anti-poverty activists for undermining the dignity of the homeless and inadequately addressing the systemic problems underlying hunger in Toronto. Still, it’s at least an attempt to negotiate the rapid gentrification that’s been going on along Queen West and Roncesvalles, with a flurry of trendy restaurants pricing many people out of the dining market. [Toronto Star]

The Dish

Food Events

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Weekly Eater: Toronto food events for November 12 to 18

The Gourmet Food and Wine Expo kicks off on Thursday (Image: Courtesy Food and Wine Expo)

Monday, November 12

  • Monday Night Dinners at Local Kitchen and Wine Bar: Every Monday night, Local Kitchen serves a $40 prix fixe menu of Italian fare with half-price wine bottles and no corkage fee. 1710 Queen St. W., 416-534-6700. Find out more »
  • 86’D With Ivy Knight: Fourth annual Pickle Battle. Bring in your best professional or amateur brined cuke. The Drake, 1150 Queen St. W., 416-531-5042. Find out more »

 

Tuesday, November 13

  • Mario Batali’s Fall Classics: Learn the basics for great Italian meals, like tomato and grilled zucchini stacks and Batali-inspired tomato sauce from scratch. The Chef Upstairs, 516 Mount Pleasant Rd., 416-544-9221. Find out more »
  • From Wing to Tip: Chef Rodney Bowers presents new and exciting ways to prepare family-style chicken dishes using only the best local, organic chicken. He’ll also demonstrate how to make chicken stock and a quick fall soup—not to mention Shanghai chicken thigh lettuce tacos. LCBO Summerhill, 10 Scrivener Sq., 416-922-0403. Find out more »
  • GE Café Chef Series—Pasta Party With Fabio Bondi: A series of workshops connecting eaters to the unique terroir, chefs and food culture of southern Ontario. This week, chef Fabio Bondi of Local Kitchen and Wine Bar and Bar Salumi shares his knowledge and experience in pasta making and Italian cuisine. Evergreen Brick Works, 550 Bayview Ave. Find out more »

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The Dish

Food Events

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Weekly Eater: Toronto food events for September 17 to 23

Join Ben Heaton at the Canadian Beer News dinner at the Grove on Tuesday (Image: Renée Suen)

Monday, September 17

  • 86’D With Ivy Knight: Eat, swap and buy preserved goods, and learn about home preserving from Sarah B. Hood, author of Sure We Can, who will be available to answer all your canning questions. The Drake, 1150 Queen St. W., 416-531-5042. Find out more »
  • Piola’s Monday Night Mixer: Piola’s weekly aperitivo Italiano, with cocktail and beer specials and complimentary snacks. 1165 Queen St. W., 416-477-4652. Find out more »
  • Preserving the Harvest: Chef Paula Bambrick focuses on different preserving methods, using mostly local ingredients to prepare sweet and savoury specialties like wild blueberry jam, cranberry-raspberry chutney, pickled wild mushrooms and rosemary dipping oil. Kingsway LCBO, 2946 Bloor St. W., 416-239-3065. Find out more »
  • Rock the Danforth—Pub Crawl: Part of the third annual Toronto Beer Week, Troy Burtch of Great Lakes Brewing Co., along with Sam Corbeil of Sawdust City Brewing and Cass Enright, founder of The Bar Towel and Brewers Backyard, will lead a pub crawl along the Danforth, stopping at five of the neighbourhood’s favourite spots. Starts at 417 Restaurant and Lounge, 417 Danforth Ave. Find out more »
  • Highland Park Whisky-Tasting Series: Join Highland Park ambassador Marc Laverdiere at The Caledonian for an exclusive whisky tasting. All proceeds go to support the Canadian National Trust for Scotland. The Caledonian, 856 College St., 416-547-9827. Find out more »

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The Dish

Features

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Eastern Promises: hearty, meaty, carb-heavy Eastern European food is Toronto’s next big comfort cuisine

The Way We Eat Now: Eastern Promises

Wvrst Sausage Hall on King West

In the ’60s, Toronto had a bustling Eastern European food scene. Polish, Hungarian and German immigrants opened up humble cafés and grocery stores along Schnitzel Row (the stretch of Bloor between Spadina and Bathurst), in Kensington Market and on Roncesvalles Avenue, servicing mostly the expat community, and a few WASPs who fancied themselves adventurous for ordering fried chicken livers or cabbage rolls. By the ’80s, much of that first wave of Eastern Europeans had retired to the suburbs, taking their goulash and spaetzle with them (RIP Hungarian Goulash Party Tavern). The remaining downtown restaurants, like The Prague on Queen West, have turned into haunts for hungover students scarfing cheap smoked salmon palacinky or doughy pierogies.

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The Dish

Food Events

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The Stop Night Market recap: the alley behind Honest Ed’s becomes a sweaty, delicious mess

Last Wednesday, the Stop decided to throw a summer solstice party in the alley behind Honest Ed’s—the by-day parking lot was transformed into a nighttime carnival with lights, lanterns and balloons spangled overhead. The 27 food vendors were paired with 27 design teams, adding an extra injection of whimsy to the event, as the vendors dished up their wares from custom-built food stalls. While every stall had its own unique details, there were a few standouts, including the Brockton General’s cardboard Pegasus and Cowbell’s ice-block stall (the envy of every sweaty attendee).

The sold-out fundraiser, which raised over $57,000 for The Stop’s anti-hunger programs, was a huge success: 1,000 lucky Torontonians celebrated the summer in true bacchanalian style, indulging in a bounty of treats from some of Toronto’s most celebrated restaurants (including Woodlot, Yours Truly and Ursa) and breweries (including Lake of Bays, Steamwhistle and Muskoka).

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The Informer

Culture

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Luminato 2012 guide: 20 must-see events at this year’s arts festival

Einstein on the Beach (Image: courtesy of Luminato)

Luminato begins this Friday, and it can be a bit of a whirlwind. Everything from a Philip Glass opera about Einstein’s life to a gigantic food festival are on the card from June 8 to June 17, so both mind and body will be nourished. There’s even a huge cast of international guests coming through Toronto, like New York artist Terence Koh and New Yorker editor Deborah Treisman. But there’s so much to do, and we couldn’t possibly see everything, so we’ve created an easy-to-use guide that lists all of Luminato’s best bets.

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The Dish

Restaurants

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Weekly Lunch Pick: the creamy, comforting mac-and-cheese at Hey Meatball

(Image: Andrew Brudz)

From the CNE to Pride, Rodney Bowers’ meatballs have won him followers throughout the city. Since last summer, he’s had a more permanent home to call his own in Little Italy—the lighthearted Hey, Meatball! On the menu, naturally enough: a meatball sandwich, pasta dishes with meatballs and even a mushroom risotto with vegan meatballs.

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The Dish

Random Stuff

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Jessica Pollack explores pljeskavica, the “Balkan burger” (now at Hrvati) 

Over at the National Post, Jessica Pollack digs deep into an unlikely 2011 food trend: pljeskavica, a meat patty–based dish common to various parts of southeastern Europe. Armed with a copiously annotated graphic, Pollack deconstructs the “Balkan burger,” spending a full fifth of the article on the lepinja, its unique, spongy bun (a sample: “the doughy bun has a spongy quality that lends an unexpected lightness, the closest references that come to mind being naan or the crust on Toronto hotspot Pizzeria Libretto’s pies.”). After tasting an authentic raw onion pljeskavica in Ottawa, she turns to a more Americanized smoked-mozzarella version at Toronto’s Hrvati Bar, the new Croatian watering hole with a menu by Rodney Bowers. It’s worth a read—not only will you learn what kajmak and ajvar mean, but you’ll also know how to pronounce them when you order. Read the entire story [National Post] »

The Dish

Random Stuff

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In a bid to stop the “mega-quarry,” Michael Stadtländer rallies (nearly) every chef we’ve ever heard of for Foodstock


Michael Stadtländer has rallied 100 of the best chefs from across Canada to participate in Foodstock, an epic, pay-what-you-can public food event on October 16 to raise money to fight the construction of a huge limestone quarry in the town of Honeywood, Ontario. The Highland Companies’ plan aims to span 2,316 acres of land and run 189 feet deep (deeper than Niagara Falls), and will have to pump 600 million litres of groundwater out of the pit each day (about the same amount used by 2.7 million Ontarians), all to extract crushed stone known as amabel dolostone.

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The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Hrvati Bar, Koreatown’s new Croatian watering hole (with a menu by Rodney Bowers)

A little slice of Zagreb in Koreatown (Image: Karolyne Ellacott)

Rodney Bowers is a busy man. In addition to launching his Little Italy meatball shop, Hey Meatball!, a couple weeks back, he’s designed the menu at Hrvati Bar, a Bavarian-style beer hole with a Croatian twist. Standing out from Koreatown’s bulgogi and soon tofu houses—in part thanks to a giant standing sign with Glagolitic script—the bar has a pared-down food menu, keeping much of the focus on the beer. The interior was designed by Brenda Bent (a.k.a. Susur Lee’s better half), who’s created a space that’s both lively and intimate, with nods to Croatia spotted on the walls, beer barrels dotted about and a 14-foot, custom-made communal table in the middle of it all.

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The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Hey Meatball!, Rodney Bowers’s new Little Italy mix ’n’ match meatball joint

Kyle Brown and Rodney Bowers outside Hey Meatball!’s College Street storefront (Image: Caroline Aksich)

On a wall in Rodney Bowers’s new College Street venture Hey Meatball!, there’s a photo of a bandana-clad Bowers holding up a sign that reads “You’ll love the taste of our balls.” Bowers’s name is usually associated with more elevated dining—he worked at Mistura, opened The Citizen and The Rosebud and consulted for The Gabardine—but after getting married and having a daughter, he wanted a break from the high-stress world of $45 entrées.

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The Dish

Restaurants

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Weekly Lunch Pick: The Gabardine’s hearty black cod

A refined black cod in a neighbourly space (Image: Matthew Fox)

Four weeks in, this friendly gastropub is already a downtown favourite. With its cream-hued walls, antique light fixtures and white tin ceiling, it summons a refreshing neighbourly vibe in Toronto’s corporate epicentre. 

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The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: The Gabardine, a neighbourhood gastropub in the middle of the financial district

(Image: Gizelle Lau)

For over a decade, Katherine Rodrigues and Alison Mackenna worked in many of Toronto’s busiest Bay Street restaurants—white-tablecloth affairs where the food sometimes played second fiddle to the atmosphere. So when the two got together with chef and restaurateur Rodney Bowers—of Rosebud, Citizen and Le Petit Castor—the result was bound to put the focus where it belonged. Enter The Gabardine: a cozy yet sophisticated mom-and-pop neighbourhood gastropub smack dab in the middle of Bay Street (true to its location, The Gabardine is closed on weekends).

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