By Jamie Drummond

Last night The Drake Hotel revealed their plans for the coming year of their Dining Roadshow concept to a select group of Toronto’s food folks.

Notable faces included The Cookbook Store‘s Alison Fryer and Josh Josephson, Bonnie Stern, Lucy Waverman, Amy Rosen, Jacob Richler, and err.. CBC’s Jian Ghomeshi.

The Drake plans to change to the concept (decor/menu/ambience/philosophy) of their main dining room space quite drastically, and repeatedly, over the course of the next 12 months… expect Chinatown and Mexico to appear somewhere along the line.

Right now the theme is comfort food, Canadian Summer Camp stylee… something that could easily be a disaster in less-experienced hands.

And how on earth does one  successfully combine comfort food and what many refer to as “fine” dining?

Many stumble and falter when taking on this challenge.

But I think that The Drake, for the most part, nails it.

I have been an insatiable fan of Rose’s cooking for a long time… and yes, transparency here, The Drake are one of our sponsors.

I thought that the food was good, and in some cases it was exceptional… the menu was certainly playful.

Chef Rose knows his shit, and the way that he chooses to address fine dining in his particular situation is something that many a Toronto Chef could learn from.

Hotel XXXXX and their ilk are going to have to raise their game if they want to garner any dining customers outwith that sad geriatric (albeit monied) hotel crowd… oh wait, I forgot about all those professional athletes.

Follow the Cooks and Servers… if you see them hanging out in a place then it’s normally a good sign.

Living close to The Drake, I hang out there a lot… you should too.

I promise I won’t bother you… unless you come over and ask me to.

The Drake's Dining Room is re-imagined as a Summer Camp/Schoolhouse

Some pretty cool naive/native art courtesy of Toronto's Gary Taxali

The Drake's Chef Anthony Rose and Bill Simpson welcome the Toronto foodster glitterati

And the soups are served from a cute wee Thermos flask!

Probably the best garlic bread I have had in decades... saying that, I havent actually had it in decades

A most comforting Chili Con Carne with Crisp Fried Tortillas

1lb Maritime Lobster Roll with just a touch too much mayo IMHO

Foot Long 100% Veal Cheese Schlong courtesy of The Cheese Boutique... loved the pickle

Blackened Fried Fish Sandwich a la Vancouver's Granville Island... very tasty indeed

Buttered Mushy Peas... now that's comfort food

One of my highlights... Crab Cakes made with Hand-picked Dungeness Crab. Inspired by Ingrid Bengis, a Chef who worked alongside Chef Anthony Rose under John-George Vongerichten in NYC

Showing his usual restraint, Chef Anthony Rose

"Pork 'n' Beans" Heritage Pig and Chipotle Bean Ragout... a well composed dish

Eggpant Parma... not usually my favourite dish, but this hit the spot. Homegrown Aubergine with Fresh Mozzerella and Stewed Tomatoes. A Winner!

The Cowboy Cut 2lb Cumbrae's Aged Rib Steak is bloody huge, hence the suggestion that it be shared by two folks

Perfectly cooked P.D.T. Steak... well worth waiting the extra 30 minutes

Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… and he looks forward to the coming incarnations of The Drake’s Dining Roadshow