Five inspiring ideas from my recent trip to Toronto for home or professional cooks.
A welcoming cheese plate
You know how some hotels give you a ‘welcome plate’ in your room when you arrive? Well the Park Hyatt in Toronto left a mini cheese plate of Blackburn cheese, a semi-soft cheese from Quebec served with a little pot of red wine and grape jelly and Lavash (seed and spice-crusted flatbread). A great idea for any hotel in a cheese producing area - or for a simple cheese plate if you don’t want to go to the expense of a full cheese board.
Salmon and microgreens
Finding new ways of presenting salmon is always a struggle but this attractive idea from chef Joan Monfaredi of the Park Hyatt not only looked original but provided a fresh counterpoint to the rich, slightly oily taste of the fish. If you didn’t want to make rolls you could toss together some rice noodles and microgreens with an Asian dressing.
Rich savoury tartelettes
Tarts are normally reasonably plain affairs like quiches but I came across two more elaborate ones that would make a great centrepiece for a meal. The first (right) which would appeal more to the professional chefs and restaurateurs among you was a suckling pig and boudin noir tart with maple-smoked bacon and truffle vinaigrette at Nota Bene (a great dish for a good Pinot Noir). The second, the Breakfast Tartlette at the Niagara Street Caf, had an outrageously rich topping of scrambled eggs with chorizo, sweet caramelised onion (possibly some maple there) and melted goats cheese. You could easily do a big version for a brunch.
You’d expect an art gallery to be good at presentation and Anne Yarymowich of Frank, the cafe at AGO (the Art Gallery of Ontario) doesn’t disappoint. This was called, appropriately enough, Study in Reds - a combination of blood orange, red onion and red watercress, with shaved fennel, sheep’s milk feta, dry-cured Moroccan olives and citrus vinaigrette. It tasted as good as it looked.
Open-faced hot beef sandwiches
A Torontonian spin on a steak sandwich from Scott Vivian of Jamie Kennedy at the Gardiner, another gallery to offer high-end lunchtime eating. Instead of using quickly seared steak he uses slow-braised short rib slathered with BBQ sauce on bread spread with apple butter (a nice idea in itself) served with a celery root (celeriac) slaw. Very, very tasty.