All Photos by Brooke Wedlock / brookewedlock.com
In a city like Toronto, unique dining experiences are not hard to come by. However, unforgettable events that seamlessly pair the perfect venue and menu are not nearly as common. Monday evening’s second annual Almanac Dinner was a perfect orchestration of service, ambiance and local flavour.
Hosted by Provisions and Pass The Table in support of The Stop Community Food Centre, the event was held at The Burroughes Building on Queen St. West. A slightly rickety elevator, exposed brick and lots of natural light added to the charming, intimate feel on the sixth floor of this historic building.
The evening began with seasonally inspired mixed drinks featuring Dillon’s and Tequila Tromba along with delicate canapés (the steak tartare in particular was outstanding). The cocktail hour stretched lazily until we sat down for our meal.
Each of the six courses we enjoyed was created by a Toronto chef with an Ontario farm ingredient and paired with a distinct local beverage. Our first course began with melt-in-your-mouth raw albacore tuna surrounded by apple and potato with flavours of citrus, cilantro and chilies. Delicately plated in a glass dish evocative of a fish bowl, West Avenue Cider’s “Gold Dust” complemented our first taste of the night.
Our second course, prepared by Provisions’ own Kevin Castonguay, was a refreshing salad with bufala ricotta, dried scallop and surprisingly rich radish cakes paired with Izumi Shiboritate Sake.
During the meal, I had the pleasure of sitting next to Pauline Joicey and Gilbert Provost of Redtail Vineyard in Prince Edward County. Their 2013 Pinot Gris was the star of our next course along with a maitake consume featuring Marc’s Mushrooms. “On certain days, I taste ground pepper in our Alsatian-style Pinot Gris,” says Provost. “Other days I get notes of clove or cinnamon. The flavours are always changing along with Mother Nature’s biorhythm.”
The senses used to experience wine, he tells me, are heavily impacted by memory. “Taste and smell from one person to another are so completely different, but what matters is whether or not you like what’s in your glass. The rest is irrelevant.”
We then shifted our palates towards a 2012 Rosewood Estates Pinot Noir. The wine’s simple flavours were matched with a celeriac-based dish on grits created by Beast’s Scott Vivian. This was followed by an impossibly tender pork sinigang, rhubarb and sweet potato main with notes of apricot and ginger.
Our meal finished with a classic dessert plus a whimsical twist: chocolate cake topped with smoked honey ice cream and dusted with grated rainbow sprinkles. Despite the five preceding courses, very few plates were not scraped clean.
The 2015 Almanac Dinner was an intimate gastronomic adventure that took every guest on a diverse culinary tour of Ontario. Most striking was the palpable camaraderie of the event, not only between the local chefs, farmers and beverage producers, but also among the patrons. Though there were dozens of guests in attendance, sharing such an inspiring, creative and thoughtful meal together made us feel like friends with a shared history.