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The Top Food Trends and Who Does Them Best: Tasting Menus

They take twice as long and cost twice as much as the average dinner—and we’re smitten

The Top Food Trends and Who Does Them Best: Tasting Menus

Meticulously constructed, wildly diverse plates from the tasting menu at Actinolite

In the months after David Chang opened Shōtō, every semi-ambitious chef in the city became a tasting menu convert, serving a dozen small courses, plus intermediary amuses or “tastes”—a pervasive foodie noun. It’s the dining equivalent of a marathon: you rarely make the finish line in under three hours. The best of them are usually at pocket-size places where a chef-proprietor riffs on seasonal ingredients, flexing his culinary muscles—tasting menus are almost exclusively a peacocking male chef thing.

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Recipe: The Grove chef Ben Heaton’s elegant take on scalloped potatoes

Toronto Life Cookbook 2013: Scalloped Sweet Potatoes
Toronto Life Recipes | Appetizers
SCALLOPED SWEET POTATOES
By Ben Heaton
The Grove

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Must-try: The Grove’s chilled pea soup packs a sweet, herbaceous punch

The Grove Pea Soup

(Image: Renée Suen)

For a few short months at The Grove, Ben Heaton does magical things with simple, peak-season peas. On the current menu, he blends them into a weightless emerald froth and pours it tableside over tangy pickled rhubarb and coral slabs of poached lobster. On top, he sprinkles tart sorrel leaves and fragrant purple violets plucked from the restaurant’s rooftop garden. Each spoonful is light, fresh and herbaceous, like the sweetest-smelling summer nights. And, like summer, you should enjoy it while you can. Available on prix fixe menus, from $45.

The Grove, 1214 Dundas St. W., 416-588-2299

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Superchefs Matt Blondin and Ben Heaton are bringing bar snacks to a Dundas West cocktail spot

ChurchillEggs

(Image: Twitter)

If you follow Toronto chefs on Twitter, you know there’s a lot of love between them—they exchange more shout-outs and props than Kanye and Jay Z. Now social media BFFs Matt Blondin and Ben Heaton are taking the love-in offline to serve brunch and bar snacks at Churchill. Blondin, who recently left Momofuku, is using his newfound time to help Heaton, who runs Churchill’s Dundas West neighbour The Grove, to make playful bar snacks, like devilled eggs with bacon jam, and brunches, like duck confit French toast. The prices just might be the best part: nothing on either menu costs more than $15.

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Food Porn

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Slideshow: Claudio Aprile hosts a farewell dinner for Colborne Lane with six of his top alumni

Colborne Lane Reunion dinner

Claudio Aprile closed Colborne Lane in February with little notice in order to focus on his growing stable of Origin restaurants. Last night, at Origin Liberty Village, Aprile enlisted six of the top chefs who’ve passed through Colborne’s kitchen—Matt Blondin (Momofuku Daishō), Steve Gonzalez (Top Chef Canada), David Haman (Woodlot), Ben Heaton (The Grove), Jonathan Poon (Chantecler) and Andrew Wilson (Colborne Lane’s final chef de Cuisine)to join him for a tribute to the pioneering modernist restaurant. Each chef created one hors d’oeuvre and one course, revealing the ways they’ve diverged since their time at Colborne but also betraying debts to Aprile’s style—right down to his idiosyncratic way of describing dishes on the menu.

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Trend We Love: tableside ceremony

Trend We Love: tableside ceremony

Chefs are perfecting their tableside manner and bringing a bit of ceremony back to dinner. We heartily approve.

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Trend We Love: freebies with the bill

Trend We Love: Freebies with the bill

Nothing takes the sting out of a hefty bill like a plate of treats on the house. Below, four places that soothed our end-of-meal anxiety this year:

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Flavour of the Year: Five tips for preparing vegetables from the city’s top chefs

A miracle has occurred in this meat-obsessed city: vegetables have shown up on menus. Here, five top chefs offer easy tips for home prep.

Flavour Craze: Garden Party

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Restaurants

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Best New Toronto Restaurants 2013

Best New Restaurants 2013

One thousand three hundred and eight. That’s how many restaurants opened in 2012—more than triple the year before, and the year before that. Toronto is in the middle of a restaurant boom that’s changing the way we eat, drink, date, schmooze, celebrate and generally revel in the city. The shimmering Momofuku triplex has dignified business execs devouring pork ssäm with their hands, and couples happily—gratefully—shelling out $400 for 10-course tasting menus. Downtowners are piling into rowdy izakayas for after-work sake and Sapporo, while Brit pubs are, to the amazement of every Firkin-going anglophile, becoming destinations for refined dining. Canadiana is no longer just a term for moose-print sweaters and maple leaf mittens, but a bona fide big-city cuisine borne of chefs obsessed with heritage meat and wild plants, preferably foraged in the Don Valley. Yes, Toronto is so flush with new places to eat that keeping up with them has become a full-time job. This year, Toronto Life’s critics were busier than ever, stuffing our faces, snapping photos on the sly and analyzing every last aspect of the dining experience. After much debate, we winnowed down 1,308 establishments to the top 10. Here, our annual ranking of the most innovative, interesting and delicious new Toronto restaurants.

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Recipes

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Recipe: Parsley root soup from The Grove, an earthy and richly textured starter

Toronto Life Cookbook Recipe: Parsley Root Soup
Toronto Life Recipes | Appetizers
PARSLEY ROOT SOUP
By Ben Heaton
The Grove

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Restaurants

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Five new pubs that push British comfort food beyond pigs and puddings

Gastropubs: a new crop of pubs is pushing British comfort food beyond pigs and puddings
Toronto Gastropubs: The Grove

1. The Grove

Ben Heaton’s restaurant has upturned all our Brit pub expectations by putting modern spins on stodgy classics. His black pudding combines a crumble of blood sausage with freshly shucked peas, a duck egg yolk and lemon-butter foam. 1214 Dundas St. W., 416-588-2299.

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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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The Dish Power Rankings: The Valentine’s madness edition

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

Edulis’s charming (and tiny) dining room propels the restaurant to the top this week on the strength of its Valentine’s bookings. Lower down, a couple new sold-out tasting menus debut, as does College Street’s next hot brunch destination.

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The Dish Power Rankings: buzzing diners and taco insurgents

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

The Hoof Raw Bar steals the top spot this week, now that Jen Agg has revived the mega-popular Hoof Café brunch (see last week’s rankings). Over in Parkdale, a new southern Italian restaurant is gaining ground and in The Junction, there’s a new contender for Toronto’s top taco.

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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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