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Drake Hotel

Taste of Iceland Festival

The first course seafood buffet.

I’m entirely willing to admit that I don’t know very much about Iceland. Or at least I didn’t before I attended the media preview dinner for the Taste of Iceland Festival that Iceland Naturally is putting on this weekend in Toronto. Those of you who (like me) think with your stomachs first, will be happy to read that the centerpiece of the four-day event is a four-course  $45 tasting menu meal. Judging from the preview chef Hákon Már Örvarsson has thoughtfully designed the menu and that is a very good price.

I have more information in my full story on Rickshaw—including information on the non-food events—but if you’re still unconvinced here are the photos from the delicious meal.  (more…)

Beer Cooler Chili

My entry at 86'd Monday and the thematic beer cooler (smaller than the one I used for the cooking)

I like competitions. Hell, who doesn’t? I especially enjoy opportunities to be competitive while cooking instead of having to run or throw balls which is often (though not always) a losing proposition. So I was more than happy to say “yes” when Ivy Knight asked me to participate in the 86′d Monday Chili Cook Off at the Drake.

The chili pendulum swings between two extremes. The vast majority of cooks include beans, some other protein, and a reddish-brown sauce. But while some purists won’t allow any other vegetables into their recipe, others take chili as an opportunity to empty their fridges and freezers of such diverse ingredients as eggplant, ground turkey, and peanut butter. For my entry I wanted my creation to be solidly between these two extremes.

Out of curiosity and because I think it delivers better results I cooked the three elements–beans, beef, and sauce–separately. By preparing the sauce first it’s already reduced and concentrated so the meat can be cooked in it in a closed container. (That last point and the post’s title should make for some pretty obvious foreshadowing.) The beans benefit most from the separate cooking because tomatoes and molasses contain acid that would slow their cooking. (more…)

Chili by The Numbers

Right up there with grilled cheese sandwiches and scrambled eggs, chili is a recipe that even the most hapless bachelor can handle. One pot, some ground beef, a can of tomatoes, a can of beans, powdered spices and maybe some beer as a “secret ingredient”.

When Ivy Knight asked me to participate in a chili cookoff as part  of the 86′d Mondays events at the Drake my inclination was to go in the exact opposite direction of this bare bones proto-chili. I won’t give too much away but I will say that my chili combines:


Excellent beef shoulder generously provided by Sanagan’s Meat Locker in Kensington Market,


Decoding Temaki

The rules of sushi etiquette and terminology can be mind-spinning.  Each piece of nigiri is meant, in an Olympian feat of chopstick acrobatics, to be flipped and only the fish component dipped briefly in soy sauce.  Raw before fried and–more confusing still–a lightly flavoured fish goes down the hatch before its deeply-flavoured (usually oilier) cousin.  All this is an obvious introduction for temaki the sushi preparation that throws out all of these rules in favour of a make-your-own experience.

Temaki or “lazy man’s sushi” while frequently appearing in Japanese homes for parties and family meals is only available at two restaurants in Canada and one of those places is Toronto’s own Drake Hotel.  The Drake’s temaki feast ($50, $70 with lobster) is a platter which features the usual players (tuna, salmon, and deep-fried shrimp) but also some more uncommon seafood like (butterjack and arborfish).  Diners are also given a bowl of nicely-seasoned sushi rice, a stack of nori sheets, and three ramekins of house-made sushi sauces to complete their custom hand rolls.  (more…)