The Black Hoof

TIFF 2014

TIFF Red Carpet

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Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace Drop by the Princess of Wales Theatre

GCiampini_TheDrop-9873-top

(Image: Giordano Ciampini)

In the gritty crime drama The Drop, living meat man Tom Hardy plays a Brooklyn bartender drawn into the seedy Chechen crime underworld. (Side note: why are crime dramas always “gritty” nowadays? Whatever happened to the squeaky-clean crime dramas of old? And why are people always “drawn” into underworlds? Why can’t they ever be sent a formal invitation?) The Brit hunk was scrubbed free of any screen grime when he took to the red carpet on King Street yesterday, alongside co-star Noomi Rapace (the original Girl With The Dragon Tattoo). Hardy greeted fans arriving with plenty of Dark Knight box sets to sign, while also fielding questions about working with the late James Gandolfini, who makes one of his last on-screen appearances in The Drop. Also: I heard through the ol’ grapevine that Hardy dined post-premiere at The Black Hoof on Dundas. That’s cool, because the Hoof’s a great restaurant. But frankly, it’s a bit disappointing that a guy built like Hardy doesn’t source his horse carpaccio from an Anadolu Pony he chases, tackles and consumes alive.

The Dish

Restaurants

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Summerlicious: dignified dining program or “cash-grabby food factory”?

(Image: Winter/Summerlicious/Facebook)

(Image: Winter/Summerlicious/Facebook)

The idea of dining out on the cheap is nice, but what is Summerlicious like from the restaurant’s perspective? Sure, bargain meals help bring in business, but there are not-so-great tradeoffs, like stress, boredom and uncertain financial rewards (it costs over $1,150 just to participate). So, is it worth it? We got in touch with some chefs and restaurateurs to find out.

The Loyalist

image“The Fifth has enjoyed a long relationship with Summerlicious. It has been very beneficial to us, because it exposes the restaurant to a new group of dinner guests. With the backing of the city and the media exposure, we get a chance to reach out to guests who may under normal circumstances not join us.”

—Brad Livergant, chef at The Fifth


The Pragmatists

(Image: Nota Bene)“At Nota Bene, we never felt that we had to create such a program. But then we had a conversation about Summerlicious and thought that maybe we were missing out on opportunities. It’s more about promotion for us, and in that regard I think it has worked very well. We’ve introduced a lot of people to the restaurant. The profit margins aren’t as great as they could be, but we consider it an opportunity for people to discover Nota Bene.”

—Yannick Bigourgan, co-owner at Nota Bene

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The Dish

People

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Bro-y chef culture, and four more things The Black Hoof’s Jen Agg dislikes about Toronto’s dining scene

The Critic: Jen Agg strikes again with the city's first haute Caribbean restaurant, Rhum Corner

Jen Agg and husband Roland Jean at Rhum Corner, Agg’s most recent restaurant venture

Toronto restaurateur Jen Agg, the woman behind Dundas West restaurants The Black Hoof and Rhum Corner, was interviewed by tech expert Jesse Brown on his latest Canadaland podcast. The talk basically devolved into a mutual rant about all the things that aren’t great about Toronto’s food scene. Here, five things Jen Agg can’t stand.

1. Kitchen Machismo
Some might hold Jen Agg indirectly responsible for the swaggering, thugged-out boys’ club that currently characterizes much of Toronto chef culture—it was the Hoof’s novel mix of grungy irreverence and great food that heralded in the era of too-cool-for-school dining, with all its gritty, tat-sleeved, testosterone-soaked insouciance. Like Frankenstein, Agg seems to have grown to loathe her inadvertent creation. “It’s mega-bro-y, man. It’s crazy,” she told Brown. “It’s crazy, crazy, crazy. And it’s, like, all bros before hos, 100 per cent.”

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The Dish

Must-Try

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Must-Try: The Black Hoof’s drop-in, heart-obsessed Valentine’s Day feast

Must-Try: The Black Hoof Animal Hearts

For those whose Valentine’s Day plans haven’t quite panned out, take heart—literally. For this weekend only, the offal experts at The Black Hoof are devoting their kitchen to the blood pump. Head chef Jesse Grasso is turning cow, chicken, duck, pig and horse hearts into delicate tartares and crudos, classic bistro plates and even smoked meat. The restaurant doesn’t take reservations, so it’s first-come, first-served while heart supplies last. Here, a sneak peek at the iron-rich feast.

The Black Hoof, 928 Dundas St. W., 416-551-8854

The Dish

Must-Try

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Must-Try: The Black Hoof’s apple skillet cake has a surprisingly salty topper

(Image: Renée Suen)

(Image: Renée Suen)

The Black Hoof, the Dundas West bistro from restaurateur Jen Agg, is famous for amping familiar dishes with unusual, offal-centric additions, like calf brains stuffed inside ravioli or hunks of foie gras served over banana bread. Chef Jesse Grasso, who took over the Hoof kitchen last year, continues to deal in offbeat culinary creations. His apple skillet cake starts conventionally enough: sweet Royal Galas and tart Granny Smiths are caramelized in a cast-iron pan, baked into a fluffy pancake with crunchy, burnt-sugar edges, and sprinkled with buttery, homespun peanut streusel. The curveball comes, appropriately, in spherical form: a scoop of cheddar cheese ice cream that’s as savoury as it should be sweet. Rich, creamy and startlingly salty, it lends a cool punch of umami to the cozy dessert.

The Dish

Closings

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Hoof Raw Bar, The Black Hoof’s pescatarian offshoot, is closed

Hoof Raw Bar

(Image: Renée Suen)

If there’s one thing Toronto restaurateur and power-tweeter Jen Agg knows, it’s how to keep things interesting. Since the launch of her game-changing snout-to-tail restaurant The Black Hoof in 2008, Agg has rapidly expanded her brand along the once-dingy stretch of Dundas just east of Trinity Bellwoods, producing a brunch destination with lineups that would make today’s most in-demand breakfast spots envious; a cocktail bar that sparked the $18 Manhattan trend; and, most recently, Hoof Raw Bar, the pescatarian ying to The Black Hoof’s carnivorous yang. Now, despite rave reviews, Hoof Raw Bar and its weekend brunch pop-up Hoof Café have closed, to be reinvented come September as a restaurant called Rhum Corner. The new spot was inspired by Agg’s Haitian husband Roland Jean and will serve Haitian staples like fish, pork belly and rice and beans, and quality rum by the quarter, half and full bottle. [The Grid]

The Dish

Trend Watch

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Trend We Hate: lineups

Trend We Hate: LineupsEver since the late aughts, when Pizzeria Libretto, The Black Hoof and Guu opened with strict no-reservations policies, lineups have become a normal part of eating out. In a new restaurant’s buzzy first weeks, waits can last three hours (see Electric Mud BBQ). Whether it’s the dead of winter or the dog days of summer, we loathe lining up.

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The Dish

Restaurants

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The Dish Power Rankings: muddied waters edition

The-Dish-Power-Rankings

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

After four weeks in the top spot, Edulis gets bumped for a red-hot new barbecue restaurant. Meanwhile, OddSeoul continues its steady rise.

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The Dish

Restaurants

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The Dish Power Rankings: brunches and bans

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

Momofuku Shōtō loses the top spot this week to the perennially buzzy Grove (see last week’s rankings). The Black Hoof drops off the list, but is replaced by the Hoof Raw Bar, which is hosting the return of Toronto’s favourite brunch service circa 2010. Also noteworthy: a new restaurant opens in Parkdale, likely the last until the ban is lifted, and a new tasting menu from one of the city’s top Italian restaurants.

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The Dish

Restaurants

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The Hoof Café’s popular brunch service is back—at the Hoof Raw Bar

Over the weekend, Black Hoof owner Jen Agg tweeted a piece of news that Toronto brunchers have been waiting to hear since the cult Hoof Café closed in 2011:

The brunch service actually launched over the weekend (early reports are already flooding in), and will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday to Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. We expect the 2010-style lineups to reappear along Dundas West this weekend, sub-zero temperatures be damned.

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The Dish

Restaurants

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The Dish Power Rankings: feasting menus and Maple Leafs edition

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

The biggest movement this week was lower down on the list, where over-the-top feasting meals at Catch and Dyne managed to knock off a few restaurants that weren’t quite buzzy enough (see last week’s rankings). Café Boulud took the biggest hit, slipping three places after Jared Bland took the New York superchef’s bistro to task for its lack of ambition in our February issue. Real Sports Bar and Grill makes its entry in the list thanks to the long-awaited return of the Leafs this Saturday.

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The Dish

Restaurants

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The Dish Toronto Restaurant Power Rankings: game on

Toronto is in the middle of a great restaurant boom. Over 150 restaurants opened in the last year alone, most of them hyped on Twitter, deconstructed on blogs (like ours) and ranked in countless year-end roundups. Tracking the ups and downs—the praise and the pans—has never been more entertaining. That’s why we’ve decided to launch our first-ever Power Rankings, a list of the restaurants with the biggest buzz, the longest lineups and toughest tables to snag. Below, the 20 restaurants that are dominating the foodie conversation in Toronto right now.

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The Dish

Food TV

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The Layover in Toronto: Anthony Bourdain’s favourite spots and best quips

Anthony Bourdain taking bone luge shots at The Black Hoof with Ezra Title; Bourdain with Scott Vivian at Porchetta and Co. (Images: Courtesy of Travel Channel)

For last night’s episode of The Layover, Anthony Bourdain and his merry crew squeezed as many of Toronto’s culinary delights as possible into their 30-odd hours in the city (we covered his trip back in July). And while he seemed genuinely impressed with some of what he saw, we’re not gonna lie: it was pretty much Bourdain by the numbers. Quirky store owner? Check! (Olivia Go of Tosho Knife Arts). Local punk band? Check! (Fucked Up). Over-the-top feats of on-air gluttony? Check! (Bone luge at The Black Hoof, expertly administered by Jen Agg). Still, there’s nothing a Torontonian likes better than to be acknowledged by an outsider—from New York, no less. In this respect, the show was a complete success, with Bourdain delivering his trademark razor-sharp backhanded compliments with relative abandon. Below, a roundup of where the Kitchen Confidential author stopped and, more importantly, what he said about it.

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The Dish

Restaurants

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Chef swap: Jesse Grasso replaces Brandon Olsen as chef at The Black Hoof

Grasso’s Twitter profile pic (Image: Twitter) 

In a note posted on The Black Hoof’s blog, owner Jen Agg announced today that chef Brandon Olsen (who took over from Colin Tooke, who took over from founder Grant van Gameren) was leaving his post after a year and a half “to travel and take a little break.” (Olsen told the Dish’s Renée Suen that October 29 is his last service, after which he’ll be “driving across America for a while. Then heading back to TO.” In other words, Toronto is, thankfully, not losing the man who brought it Foie and Nutella.) His replacement: Jesse Grasso, who previously worked at La Quercia and “modern Chinese brasserie” Bao Bei in Vancouver. Agg writes that the young chef “knows his offal” (surely a requirement for the gig), and that he has the “requisite tattoos, beard and hipster glasses, but don’t judge him on that.” [The Black Hoof]

The Goods

Street Style

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Street Style: 18 looks at the bartenders and servers of Dundas West

The spate of new bars and restaurants on Dundas West has turned the area into a magnet for the young and stylish (although the odd Portuguese sports bar or garage still bravely sticks it out against the tide of gentrification). On a recent Friday afternoon, we stopped by to check out what the new tribe of bartenders, servers and restaurant managers wear for a long night of drink-slinging and order-taking. Alongside the ubiquitous skinny jeans, we found plenty to like: a Ryan Gosling-like hair flop, a pair of floral-print ankle boots, polka dots worn two ways. The staff at the Lakeview, which has an all-black dress code, still found subtle ways to express their personal style (a blue tanktop under a sheer blouse, a pair of deliberately mismatched ear spacers). Most of the other joints on the strip are steadfastly anti-uniform—though everyone we talked to agreed there’s one unbending requirement: comfortable shoes.

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