By: Jason Finestone
With a fork in one hand, wine glass in the other, and a napkin stuffed into my back pocket, I set out to tour the floor and taste the food at FoodShare’s Recipe for Change. Held on February 28th in the north building of the St. Lawrence Market, 30 chefs, 8 wineries and three breweries assembled. The atmosphere was all smiles; whether vendor or attendee, we all knew we were here for the right reasons – as if great food and drink weren’t reason enough.
FoodShare Toronto was established in 1985 to address hunger in local communities and has since created the model for student nutrition programs across the city. Through their Field to Table Schools program, FoodShare promotes and develops food literacy, fresh produce programs, and healthy cafeteria models they call “The Good Food Café”. A partner in the Toronto Partners for Student Nutrition, FoodShare does field work to support almost 800 student nutrition programs across the city of Toronto, in 550 sites across all school boards, and are currently feeding 139,000 students daily.
With all money donated directly to FoodShare’s work on food literacy in schools, some of the best chefs in Toronto showed up to lend their support. Even before stepping in the doors there was tasting to be had, as pop-up king Matt Basile of Fidel Gastro handed out his PeKing Elvis Sandwich: a butter grilled pita with spicy orange duck meat, green onion and the king’s secret sauce.
Check out all the event photos in our Facebook gallery!
Inside, the booths were calling my name and the people were hungry. It was quite the juggling act at times to balance the wine glass, the edibles and my camera amidst the crowd, but the challenge did little to stymie my progress as I hopped from boot to booth. From Donna Dooher’s (Mildred’s Temple Kitchen) robust veggie tagine with couscous and preserved lemon, to John Sinopoli’s (Table 17/Ascari Enoteca) handmade orrechiette and white pork shoulder ragu with brussel sprouts and orange zest, the offerings were entirely on point.
One of the brightest presentations of the evening, Albert Ponzo (Le Select Bistro) made perfectly seared rare albacore tuna with radicchio, black olives and walnuts.
Fit for the chill that was in the air, there were many earthy, warm flavours that helped me forget the biting wind of the outdoors. Jose Hadad (Frida Restaurant) put out a soul-satisfying quesadilla with roasted poblano peppers as well as a pescado al mojo de ajo (roasted garlic with butter kissed grouper on brioche).
Dave Nienstein’s (Barque) smoked brisket parfait with barbeque sauce, mashed potatoes and crispy onions melted in my mouth and the Momofuku team of Sam Gelman and Hans Vogels threw down one of their fusion steamed buns with Momofuku brisket, grainy mustard, cabbage and horseradish.
Always a favourite of mine, Sang Kim (Yakitori Bar and Seoul Food Co.) offered up mini vegetarian bibimbap bowls with watercress, bean sprouts and enoki mushrooms to round out the vegetarian options.
More photos in our Facebook gallery
Another excellent veggie offering was the mini mushroom crepes done by Dewey Truong (Chococrepe), though their savoury pulled pork crepes were also off the chain.
Keeping with the theme of educational programming and healthy eating, it was nice to see culinary students from Bendale Business and Technical Institute and Eastdale Collegiate Institute on hand. Using hydroponically grown ingredients from their school garden, they doled out fresh gazpacho into light, crisp phyllo bowls with a watercress salad.
Always a sucker for a shucker, over 550 fresh oysters were shucked on site by Dan and Kristen Donovan (Hooked) and paired nicely with Frogpong Farm Organic Winery’s 2009 Organic Cabernet Frank Rose or the honey-sweet 2008 Mead Royale from Rosewood Estates.
A special mention must be given to Aaron Foster (LA’s Italian + Bar) for taking me back to Thailand with his smoked beef tongue and si krong moo tod kratien: fried Thai pork ribs with fresh cucumber salad. These little ribs were crispy, salty and jacked up with nostalgia.
In the end, however, there were three standouts for me, and go figure, two of them contained cheese. Odysseas Gounalakis (Scheffler’s Deli) served up melted raclette and speck slivers over rustic bread which was quite a treat, however, his less-promoted wheel of tete do moine (monk’s head cheese) is a favourite of mine and deserves a mention.
Always a fan of meat in tube form, Aaron Joseph Bear Robe (Keriwa Café) made magic happen with his venison kielbasa with cabbage and onions.
Finally, the outright winner in my opinion – and apparently the opinion of the rest of the crowd, as it won the GE Café People’s Choice Award – was Luis Valenzuela and Ruth Klahsen (Torito Tapas Bar and Monforte Dairy) with their dates stuffed with toscano cheese and roasted almonds wrapped in double smoked bacon. Smokey, crisp and salty on the outside, sweet and creamy on the inside with a perfect crunch from the roasted almonds – despite my bursting belly, this was the one thing that I made sure I came back for twice!
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No matter what the favourite, the true winners of this event are the schools and students who will benefit from the funds. Well executed and wickedly delicious, Recipe for Change was one of the best food fundraisers I’d attended in a long time.