Thursday, November 20- on a supremely cold evening, Air Canada launched their EnRoute Canada’s Best New Restaurants of 2014 event in the lovely Gardiner Museum at Bloor and Avenue in Toronto. If you’ve never been to the Gardiner Museum, it’s a gorgeous open space currently showcasing some of Canada’s modern art and historic artifacts, and serves as a very classy venue for any upscale event. EnRoute’s celebration certainly was upscale; most of the guests donned suits, ties and stylish business attire. The food suited the venue well- an eclectic blend of Canadian savouries and culinary experiments, all earning these restaurants an award of Best New Restaurant for this year. Music flowed, appetites were satiated, and lively discussions of each restaurant’s chosen signature dish filled the gallery. We had the chance to try almost every single dish, and below are a few of our favourites.
Toronto culinary star Bar Buca served incredible smoked bone marrow topped with an amazingly seasoned “lampredotto”, which is actually an Italian peasant dish with the main ingredient being cow’s tripe. As strange as the combination sounds, it was incredibly delicious; so much so that we noticed guests grabbing seconds. We would pay a visit to Bar Buca just for this specific dish, it was THAT good.
What would an upscale foodie event be without oysters? These gems are from Edna Restaurant in Halifax. Deliciously fresh, guests grabbed these up as soon as they were shucked. Line ups were seen at Edna’s table all night long.
Mallard Cottage flew in all the way from Newfoundland, featuring a heavy appetizer of head cheese, beer jam and pickles. As daunting as “head cheese” sounds, it’s a term that describes the combination of meats blended from a roasted pig’s face and neck area- there is no cheese whatsoever. It was interestingly thick, like a pate or smooth meatloaf, and the beer jam was complementarily sweet. The sharpness of the pickle was a great finish. Overall an impressive tasting dish, however we did wish it was served hot instead of chilled.
Our favourite of the night was from Toronto’s The Chase – a large, buttery seared scallop swimming in a cauliflower puree. The flavours found within the simply cooked scallop was astounding. The scallop was cooked perfectly- a tad translucent inside, juicy, plump – and the cauliflower puree was just magical. We definitely came back for seconds with this dish. Texture was preserved in the searing of the scallop, which is impressive for a dish that featured no crunchy components or crudité vegetables.
Air Canada provided their select guests with lots to talk about, and even more to taste. We only hope to be invited to the same event annually; our love for Canadian cuisine keeps growing with events like these, that aim to highlight and showcase culinary talent from our own backyard.