When I was invited by Longo’s to be a Taste Ontario Ambassador in August I started working on Taste Ontario, Taste the World. I wanted to showcase Ontario ingredients from a World Cuisine perspective by hosting a cooking demo/dinner for some of Toronto’s foodies, bloggers, influencers and twitterati. A perfect fit for the range and flexibility of the great ingredients that Longo’s offers from Ontario farmers and producers
Approval was easy and once we confirmed a date, I worked with Chef Matt Kantor to develop a menu that would feature the best of the season, which at the end of November can be an interesting challenge. But Ontario doesn’t just produce leafy greens and fruit, and eating local doesn’t mean only during the summer.
I wanted the menu to be comprised of dishes and cuisines that aren’t commonly available in Toronto, highlight at least one Ontario product and easy for our guests to make for themselves at home. 5 dishes, all from a different cuisine, all featuring Ontario ingredients. Then I threw in the last condition – all ingredients must be purchases at Longo’s.
We developed an exciting and flavourful menu that features many of the oft-forgotten Ontario products – chicken, dairy, squash, eggs, lamb, trout.
Bring together the skills of one of the hottest chefs in town, fresh quality ingredients and a room full of Toronto’s vocal and interesting foodies, bloggers and influencers made for a fantastic evening!
Since nothing was prepared in advance, Matt and I arrived around 10am to shop for ingredients. While some of the ingredients are certainly not from Ontario, it was great to find them on Longo’s shelves. (I had made sure they’d be there before we relied on it for our dinner though!) Couscous to fish sauce, lemon grass to Moroccan dates, chiles to finishing salts – it was all available.
All the ingredients for the dinner were bought at Longo’s Maple Leaf Square store and all the food for this 6-course dinner for 20 was purchased for just over $400.
Once the shopping was done, it was time to get down to work.
The Corks team did a fantastic job setting up the Loft and making sure everything was perfect before our guests arrived.
Once our guests arrived,
We started with a Swedish dish that featured Ontario Trout, beets and honeycrisp apples.
The Lightly Cured Trout with Beet & Apple Salad was a delight. After curing Matt hit the trout with a gentle bit of heat. This is a great technique if you don’t have quite enough time for a full curing process, or if your guests are a little timid about eating cured fish rather than cooked.
Paired with Stratus Tolgate White 2007.
Following the trout we featured Ontario Butternut Squash in a Thai dish.
Thai Red Curry Squash using a fresh-made red curry paste and using some of the trimmings from the trout as well. One of the interesting techniques used in this dish was the poaching of the squash in coconut milk before combining the elements of the curry. Fry the curry paste in the thicker coconut milk and then add the coconut milk and squash and finish the dish to meld the flavours.
The curry was paired with Duggan’s #9 IPA.
Up next, Ontario Chicken alongside Ontario honey, parsley and butter.
prepared in a Moroccan Chicken Tajine with couscous. This is also the dish Matt prepared for his Ghost Chef photoshoot for MacLean’s magazine.
The Tajine was paired with Tawse Grower’s Blend Pinot Noir 2008
The next featured ingredient was Ontario lamb. We think the sheep’s yogurt was Ontario too but can’t confirm it.
The lamb was used in Run-e Bareh, a fantastic spiced roasted lamb dish from Iran. It was served with roasted sweet potatoes and sheep’s milk yogurt. Paired with Tawse Grower’s Blend Pinot Noir 2008 which was also poured for the previous dish.
Next up we featured an entirely Ontario dish: a cheese plate including Devil’s Rock Creamy Blue Cheese from Thornloe Cheese served on slices of Ontario honeycrisp apple, and a chunk of Niagara Gold from Upper Canada Cheese.
Paired with Cave Spring Indian Summer Late Harvest Riesling 2009. (which was a surprise pairing because this was a surprise addition to the menu. However it still worked very well.)
And finally, we featured the often overlooked Ontario milk and eggs in a Creme Catalana a traditional dish from the Catalan region of Spain.
Matt demonstrated how home chefs can overcome difficulties like a slightly wonky broiler on the fly by making a quick stove top caramel.
The Creme Catalana was also paired with Cave Spring Indian Summer Late Harvest Riesling 2009.
Each course was paired with an Ontario wine or beer available at Longo’s Corks Beer & Wine Bar which is right beside the Loft. Yolande from Corks did an excellent job of selecting and presenting the pairings.
We also had Marni helping with everything from finding Taste Ontario Signs to service, wrapping up by helping hand out the swag bags that Longo’s provided (and I suspect she was actively involved with Katie in stuffing them with goodies too.)
I also had help in our planning stages from Katie, Brad, Fazela, Becky, Steve, Elizabeth and the rest of the Longo’s MLS crew. Thank you all.
Thanks to everyone who joined us at the event as well.
Note: this post and this event were both part of my Longo’s Taste Ontario Ambassador series. For more information on my relationship with Longo’s read about my Foodie Adventure: Longo’s Taste Ontario Ambassador! and my disclosure statement