Staycation night in Toronto: Olympics & Men in Grass Skirts!..Jim's Deals of Day
One of the advantages of a relatively high profile job like being Travel Editor at Canada's largest newspaper is that you get invites to all sorts of things. Last night was a great example, taking me from the finest dining in the city accompanied by storied Canadian athletes to a night spent dancing with guys in grass skirts and women with plastic sharks on their heads.
I'd committed to attending the Gold Medal Plates Olympic fundraising event a week or so ago, and it started around 5:30 at the Convention Centre. Incredible, it was, with everyone from storied rower Marnie McBean (pictured here with star chef Mark McEwan) to canoeing medallist Adam Van Koeverden and Sydney gold medallist Simon Whitfield. We got to wander about and taste dishes cooked up by some of the biggest names in Toronto, including McEwan, Marco Zandona of Via Allegro, Lorenzo Loseto of George and Jonathan Gushue of Langdon Hall, which I've never been to check out but should.
I had some remarkable dishes: Zandona made a lovely dish of rosemary braised lamb ribs on a bed of Baco Noir risotto with horseradish, Ontario blueberries and Quebec Bleu Cheese. Yum.
Gushue made, and I'll simply quote this directly from the press release as I'm a little over my head once you get past gourmet cheeseburgers, a "torchon of rouge foie gras and Black Bow Farms Pig Cheek Lentil du Puy, Lobster Pudding with honey-pickled chanterelles and a parsley root with Warsaw Apple Cider Jus." Whew.
I hadn't had pig cheek in weeks, and I'd never HEARD of lobster pudding. But it was smashing stuff.
David Lee of Nota Bene served up a piece of fried chicken skin smeared with plum hoisin sauce and a bit of sour apple compote flavoured with ginger and coriander, with a small piece of chicken cartilage on top that he had pressure-cooked for 24 hours to make it soft. The guys took to it like, well, guys take to things like chicken skin and cartilage. It was really tasty. Probably not on my doctor's list of top things to help reduce your weight and cholesterol, but pretty cool.
The dish was paired with a 2007 "June's Vineyard" Riesling from 13th Street winery in Niagara.
Patrick Lin made a great duck breast served in a spring roll cone with shredded cucumber and scallion and house-made hoisin sauce.
Best Peking Duck I've had since the Olympics last year, that's for sure. Dynamite stuff, and really cool presentation. Anyway, the point of the evening wasn't for journalists to get fat and taste fabulous Canadian wines but to raise money for Canada's high-performance athletes. Since 2004, Gold Medal Plates - which pairs top chefs with top athletes in a competition to win a gold, silver or bronze medal in a culinary competition - has raised more than $2.8 million for Canadian Olympic and Paralympic athletes. The goal is $3.6 million by the start of the Vancouver Olympics next February.
Canadian hockey player Sami Jo Small told the assembled crowd how much athletes depend on and appreciate events like Gold Medal Plates.
Don Lowry, president and CEO of Epcor, a main sponsor of last night's event, said it's a pleasure to help the cause.
"Canadian athletes need us to help them get to the next level. We've seen how they have to live in people's basements and all that, so we felt we had to do something.
"Toronto's always been a strong supporter of this event, even during tough economic times. It's a real credit to the city," Lowry said.
In the end, the bronze medal was awarded to Chef Anne Yarymowich from Frank, at the Art Gallery of Ontario, who served a roasted/glazed pork belly with a gentle sauerkraut. The silver medal went to Gushue (good call) and the gold to Lee for his chicken skin and cartilage, and it's a pretty bold move. Chef Lee now has a few days to prepare for the Canadian Culinary Championship in
where he will go head-to-head against our champions from the other Gold Medal Plates regional events. Vancouver,
I was all over that faster than you can say "last shaker of salt," as I've been a Jimmy fan for some time.
I walked home in dress pants and dress shoes and a big overcoat, with my Hawaiian shirt and shells and my Panama Hat. Not a look I'd advise folks to try....
Two more deals!
$497 - Jamaican vacation (includes air + oceanview room + meals & drinks)http://www.travelalerts.ca/ccount12/click.php?id=1644