By Kylie Meyermann
North Vancouver-based Earls opened their downtown Toronto flagship restaurant on February 9 with a special dinner. Food and wine critics from across Southern Ontario arrived at the University and King location, curious to see what the West Coast import had in store for Bay Streeters. Leroy Earl “Bus” Fuller, the man responsible for opening the first Earls in 1982, welcomed the intimate dinner party that included food and wine writers Amy Rosen (Canadian House and Home), Claire Tansey (Chatelaine), Margaret Swaine (National Post), Tony Aspler (wine critic and author) and Steve Thurlow (wine critic).
The restaurant recently opened a branch in the heart of Toronto’s financial district, and has allured thousands of Torontonians to sample their menu that boosts a menu inspired by their West Coast Casual attitude. Earls places emphasis on cooking from scratch. Each morning the restaurant bakes its own breads and buns and all of the soups, dressings and sauces are crafted fresh on site. The 95,000 lbs of salmon Earls served in 2010 was given the thumbs-up from Ocean Wise and Earls strives to collaborate with local farmers and producers whenever possible. Their seasonal menus are served in a comfortable yet stylish environment that leaves guests free to be themselves. Surrounded by looming skyscrapers filled with the business elite, Earls can anticipate a high volume from lunch through to the late hours.
The party was assigned the envious task of sampling a nine course tasting menu. It started with a Rocket Beet and Pear Salad, moved on to the Clam Chowder, and then samplings of everything from the Spicy Seafood Linguine to the Jeera Chicken Curry and the Porcini Crusted Filet with Truffle Butter. Earls prides itself on offering a diverse menu of authentic flavours from Thailand, France, Spain, Belgium and beyond. The menu also features some more down-home flavours like the strips of bacon, generous portion of cream and dill in Earls’ Warm Potato Salad. Hickory Back Ribs, Cajun Chicken and the Angus Beef Bronx Burger with Onion Rings were also served.
George Piper, Earls’ Director of Wine Experience matched each of the nine courses with a harmonizing wine or ale. Earls is making a special Ontario version of their signature ‘Albino Rhino’ ale with Muskoka Brewery. Earls King Street has also constructed an innovative approach to pairing menu items with spirits. Their avant-garde Menu + Wines for Safe, Adventurous and Revelation Pairings is designed for both novice and reverent connoisseurs of wine. Ipads with both wine and food menus uploaded on the systems’ hard drive were passed around the dining room all evening. Patrons can use the iPads to match their orders with a selection of wines all at the same price – another Earls innovation.
At the end of the night guests were invited to move the party from the dining room to the bar and lounge. Many wines were sampled and guests were allowed a sneak peak into the open-concept bar lounge. The lounge is constructed of floor to ceiling windows that overlook King Street West. Bus Fuller told the crowd that in warmer weather there will be an outdoor bar and patio facing King Street. He expects it, along with the rest of the restaurant to be busy.
UPDATE (by Malcolm Jolley)
Nearly two weeks since Earls King Street’s opening, reported above, Ontario Regional Director Mark Hladik told GFR that the company’s new downtown Toronto location had broken every record for sales and patrons served. Things are going well. When I came to meet Hladik at 3pm on a weekday, I expected a near empty, quiet restaurant in between services. Instead both the bar and dining room were full of people. Sme were extending a leisurely lunch, some were by themselves on laptops, drawing free Wi-Fi, others had snuck off for a beer with colleagues. I asked Hladik how it was going in the vide below…
Kylie Meyermann is the intern at Good Food Revolution. Malcolm Jolley is the Managing Editor of Good Food Revolution and Executive Director of Good Food Media, the non-profit organization that publishes GFR. Follow him at twitter.com/malcolmjolley.
This video was made possible through the kind support of Fortessa Canada / Schott Zwiesel.