Tag Archives: supper club

Authentic Greek…and Beyond

13 Dec

Of the many popular cuisines of the world, I am admittedly uneducated about Greek cuisine.  I can tell you the basics, but beyond that I am sadly ignorant. A little while ago I came across a great Greek-centric blog, Kalofagas – Greek Food & Beyond. I had the chance to chat with Peter Minaki, the man behind the food, about his passion and his wonderful new cookbook, Everything Mediterranean.  Over espresso-boosted drinks, Peter told me about having to fend for himself in the kitchen when his parents would go on vacation to Greece and that while barbecuing was all well and good, it got repetitive after a while.  He started experimenting with Greek classics and discovered he had a real talent for it.

Fast forward to the 2000’s and Peter is ready for a change from the world of finance. His blog is already up and running with a solid following. He gives up his job in 2011 to cook Greek food full-time. He begins to set up supper clubs for 30-60 guests per event in the GTA that become increasingly popular and lo and behold, a cookbook publisher comes calling! Over a summer, he and his partner test and draft a few versions of 300+ recipes and Everything Mediterranean is born.

The book is a thorough and detailed journey through Greek cuisine ranging from the popular dishes (souvlaki, moussaka, grilled octopus, baklava) to the less obvious pistachio-crusted halibut, bianko, pastourma pie and, a dish that aroused my curiosity, feta cheesecake. Each recipe has an easy, step-by-step guide and, should you want it, nutritional information. I made the slow-cooked pork chops in white wine and they came out fabulously. I’m told the maple-crusted lamb and olive oil fries are must-tries. Meanwhile, that feta cheesecake is calling to me…

Would you like to get your own copy of Peter’s book? Check it out over on Amazon! It would make a great Christmas gift for the foodies on your list!


Death Row Meals: Olde Hunter’s Feast II

3 Apr

Created by the fab duo behind Living.Loving.Local, the Death Row Meals Supper Club put on interesting, delicious, fun dinners that bring together the food lovers in Toronto. My first go ’round was at the Taco Madness meal. I had such a great time that I was hooked, knowing I had to make it to as many of these meals as possible. When the email arrived with the title “Old Hunter’s Feast”, I was in.

On April 1 & 2, hungry collections of people gathered at Beast Restaurant, eagerly anticipating the promised hunter’s feast. They were not disappointed. Let’s call it what it was: Meatapalooza. We sat down in the cozy room at the communal table and got to know our neighbours. As expected, everyone came from different backgrounds, but food was the common denominator. To help stimulate conversation, tiny little plastic animals were placed on the tables and it took no longer than 10 minutes before said animals were…providing entertainment.

Perusing the menu, I was glad to have made the executive decision to not wear tights. That would have been uncomfortable by the end of the night as there were seven amazing courses to ingest and I wanted to savour every bite. First up was Nick Benninger’s “Hunting Trip Gone Wrong”: a slow-poached duck egg, trail mix, “boarsciutto”, foie granola, crab apple verjus and forest edibles. The duck egg was just lovely, and the yolk ran all over the plate as soon as my knife touched it, mixing with the other elements on the plate. The salty boarsciutto (boar prosciutto, a by-product of the first Hunter’s Feast dinner), the savoury crab apple verjus and the creamy yolk were a fabulous combination and something I’d like to have for breakfast. (Hint, nudge.)

Next up was the creation from Beast’s sous chef, Trish Gill. To a lovely, light boar prosciutto brodo, she added confit of sturgeon belly topped with caviar, wild leeks and scrumptious dumplings. If the slurping and spoon-clanking sounds were any indication, the rest of the diners enjoyed it as much as we did. Knowing it was going to be a large, meat-heavy meal, it was nice to have a lighter dish. And hey…there was caviar!

Third on the menu was Tom Davis’ prosciutto “spamstrami” with smoked bean pureé, Canadian Club-infused kimmel crumbs and sage oil. The Stockyards chef explained that he isn’t much for hunting, so if he were out in the woods, he’d need to take some basic provisions like Spam, beans and maybe some bread. Out of that, he created what I thought was a playful take on, basically, a sandwich. The kimmel and pastrami were a natural pairing (pastrami on rye, anyone?) and the smoked bean pureé was fantastic. If you haven’t made it out to Stockyards yet, get there now!

Several dishes – and glasses of Coyotes Run and Sandbanks wine – in, the restaurant was positively buzzing. There was much laughter and merriment as the fourth course arrived: a duo of green and yellow French Canadian split pea soup with boar prosciutto, pheasant sausage and duck spiedini. The chef, Steve Wilson of the Summit Golf & Country Club, referenced his Native Canadian heritage for this dish and it was beautiful. The soup was creamy, smooth and rich and the pheasant sausage was absolutely fantastic. For me, this dish was so wonderful to see (and eat!) as it reminded me of my mom, who used to make split pea soup herself. In fact, it has inspired me to make some of my own.

On to the fabulous Rossy Earle’s dish: the gator, duck liver and boar prosciutto boudin ball with sweet corn pudding, cracklin’, sofrito criollo and ramp coulis. Magic. As anyone who has eaten it can attest, Rossy’s food is incredible. Creative and delicious, this dish was no different. People were literally scraping their plates. The sweet corn pudding alone would have been sufficient, but the rest of dish came together beautifully. I considered proposing marriage, much to J’s confusion.

The final dish before dessert came out was courtesy of Luma’s chef, Jason Bangerter, clearly in his element here. The menu read, “Wild game ragout” with semolina, sour cream and (much to everyone’s delight) crispy tasty bits. Gee, I thought, that’s an awfully vague menu item. I wonder what kind of wild game he has in store. What went into this aromatic dish? Venison, moose and…beaver. Yes, beaver. It was fabulous. Extremely rich, pungent and tender, this dish was a delight to eat. When we were warned that we’d be “uncomfortably full in a great way” at the beginning of the meal, I suspect that this dish in particular was the cause for the alert. The crispy hazelnuts and garlic were a nice counterpoint to the velvety texture of the ragout and, once again, I scraped my plate clean.

It was with mixed feelings that the last course arrived, also concocted by chef Bangerter. This was the “Hunting Trip Gone Right”: homemade marshmallows, mini beaver tails and a Kahlua-infused cream with little graham cracker-like pieces at the bottom, all served in a mason jar. Un-be-lievable. I love dessert: I have a real sweet tooth and this hit the spot. Several spots, really, as I dug down into the jar to get a bite of everything on my spoon. Satiety and good sense be damned, I was going to finish this dessert!

What a wonderful way to spend a few hours: stellar food made by excellent Ontario chefs; great Ontario wine; wonderful company; and friends old and new. If you’re interested in checking out one of these meals for yourself, head on over to Living.Loving.Local’s Facebook page and sign up for their mailing list! For some great pics of the night, head on over to the If Looks Could Fill site!

Death Row Meals Supper Club: Taco Madness!

16 Jan

Two hours.  Six creative, delicious tacos. Six alcohol pairings. One most excellent afternoon.

Created by the fine folks at Living. Loving.Local, Death Row Meals Supper Club brings together great chefs  in our fair city to produce their version of a particular dish. This month was hosted at Milagro Cantina, where the chefs crafted their own versions of a taco, showcasing their considerable talent and creativity.

We settled in about 15 minutes before the event was to begin and there was already a great buzz in the room. Upon signing up for it, no one knew exactly what theyd be feasting on and the anticipation was palpable. We sat at long tables, chatting with those we’d come with and those we had just met while wonderful smells wafted forth from the kitchen. Everyone curiously perused the score sheet we were given that listed all the tacos we would be sampling, as well as spots to score the tacos on taste, originality and presentation. There was also a spot reserved for a bonus point should we feel the desire to award it.

After a quick welcome from the host, out came the first round! Large plates of Rossy Earle’s gorgeous braised & pulled chipotle-smoked duck topped with chayote & tomato pickled slaw, culantro lime cream and duck skin chicharrons on top of green plantain tortilla tacos arrived in front of us. One bite in and the 60 or so people in attendance went quiet and a simultaneous, “mmmmmmmmmmmmmm” could be heard. What a fabulous way to start off this competition! Not only did this taco look great, the combination of flavours and textures hit all the right notes.

Next up was Steve Gonzalez’ grilled adobo pork with tomatillo and corn relish, roasted garlic and lime crema on top of a  refried bean tortilla.  While the idea of the refried bean tortilla seemed fabulous – it was certainly something we’d never seen – it did make it a little tough to eat the taco itself.  The tortilla didn’t hold together all that well and many of us found ourselves trying to trying to eat the tender pork medallions while holding everything together with our fingers. The pork did go nicely with the cold Corona, though.

Third on the docket was one that most of us were really looking forward to from the description: braised beef cheek and smoked beef tongue taco with avocado crema, pickled red onion, cilantro, and duo of house smoked hot sauces. Yes, please! The cheek was melt-in-your-mouth good and the smokiness of the two hot sauces came through loud and clear. This was messy deliciousness, folks. Chef Tom Davis did a nice job on this one and it paired beautifully with the Trapiche wine served. Definitely one of our faves.

On to the fourth – and to the dreaded tequila! (Tequila and I used to be amigos. Now, we are civil at best.) Charlies Burgers put forth their offering of a carne asada taco using smoked and grilled marinated kobe knuckle, fresh flour tortillas, salsa taquera garnished with grilled scallions.  This particular taco got mixed reviews at our table. It seemed that some diners got a nice, tender piece of meat while others had pieces that were chewy and tough to bite through. That’s a real shame considering the calibre of chef and how much others were enjoying theirs.

Chattering away with my table mates, I looked up to see that taco number five, created by Nick Liu, was arriving on those giant platters, along with some Steamwhistle. The platters were lowered on to the table and we all “oohed” and “aahhhed.” Ten perfectly round jicama “tortillas” with crispy octopus, smoked paprika caponata, chorizo bacon, spicy tomato aioli were gazed upon with nothing less than awe. We all dove – we were past politeness now – to grab one. The taco’s crunchy, crispy textures were an unexpected delight. The octopus was perfectly cooked and the hot sauce, while not tongue-searing, provided some nice spice. Pencils scribbled furiously when this one was finished up.

Finally, Arturo Anhalt delivered a taco de longaniza (a spicy stret style chorizo) en salsa verder, with onion and nopales (cactus). This particular taco definitely had the most depth of flavour, almost like eating a rich chili. It reminded me a bit of a molé: lots of rich flavour with notes of heat, citrus and chocolate. I also quite enjoyed the tortilla which had a great char on it. This was probably the most technically accomplished taco of the afternoon and felt like the chef was quite comfortable making it: like he’d been eating it all his life.

At the end of the day, most of us agreed that the octopus and duck tacos were our favourites. (In fact, during the post mortem with my dining companions, we decided the ultimate taco would be a combination…a “ducktopus” taco if you will.) Clearly the rest of the fine folks in attendance felt the same way as chef Liu and chef Earle’s offerings took the top two spots. Regardless of who won, it was such a fantastic way to spend an afternoon! Fabulous food, wonderful people, great vibe: no way to go wrong. Keep your eyes peeled for the next installment featuring up-and-coming sous chefs from around the city!

For some great photos, check out The Food Junkie Chronicles.

%d bloggers like this: