Reflections After a Toronto Visit

Wow – back home in Kansas City this evening after three weeks on the road.  Two in BKK, one in Atlanta and Toronto.  I’ve been quite busy and have had minimal personal email access so haven’t had the time to update the blog.

Toronto is always a favorite place to visit because I think the food scene is vibrant.  Lots of good eats for a good value.  The city is widely recognized as the most diverse city in North America with more than 80 languages spoken by its residents.  The diversity influences the cuisine and I made sure to get dim sum and jok (congee – rice porridge) while there.

 

The best eat in terms of food was the Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar.  This “small plates” restaurant is overseen by the hottest chef in Toronto.  No reservations are accepted and it is one of “the” places to eat.  Nonetheless, it has a reputation for great food.  We headed down there on Saturday night, fully realizing that the wait would be long.  There is a lounge so we figured we could drink and nibble our way through the wait.

Sure enough – “ninety minutes to two hours” greeted us at the hostess stand.  Not disuaded one bit we entertained ourselves with a bottle of the 200 Alizan Tempranilla from Spain and an order of Yukon Gold Potato Fries (amazing!), olives and spices pecans.  We noticed that tables and seats at the bar regularly opened up and were left empty for long periods of time – unusual if the wait was really 90+minutes.

Thirty-five minutes later the hostess came over and told us that she had space available for us at “the chef’s table” (pictured above) – a secondary open kitchen area where some of the dishes are prepared that is surrounded by a high bar with seats.  So our 90 minutes evaporated and we were soon seated and enjoying what could best be described as a “leisurely” pace of service.

While the place was busy, the friendly server seemed rushed.  But it was never a problem, allowing us plenty of time to watch the action in the kitchen.  The small dishes we tried included Braised Beef Cheeks with Soft Polenta; Sautéed Duck Livers with Apples and Sherry Sauce; Rabbit and Duck Rillettes with Prune Compôte, and an Entrecôte of Beef with Sweet Potato Pavé. 

With dinner we had an Edmeades Zinfandel from Mendocino, California.  An old favorite, hard to find sometimes, and a brilliant wine.

The beef cheeks were the best of the lot, tender and flavorful.  The duck livers were nice but veiny.  The rillettes – essentially a paté of duck and rabbit – were tasty and nicely complemented by the prunes, but we were getting full.  The roast of beef had been finished on the grill when we arrived and we watched it resting in all its glory, so had to try it.  It was excellently flavored, just a touch too rare (and I love my meat red, so I do mean “rare”), and the sweet potatoes were a nice addition. 

For dessert, despite an absence of space ini our bellies, we tries the Marscapone and Sugar Pear Shortcake.  This was a flop, because the pear was completely raw and the spoon and fork were inadequate for slicing it.  In fact, it nearly slid out of the bowl more than once. 

We accompanied dessert with a serving of the 2004 Bonny Doon “Viogner Doux”, an amber dessert wine that smells of nothing so much as candied apricots.  It was nice in and of itself and would have done better on its own without the over-crunch pear.

So it was a fun time.

But now it is time to get back to reality in KC.  I have bags to pack, magazine subscriptions to modify, and much to do in the ten days or so I have left.

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