A top-secret location, unveiled only moments before the evening’s start by meeting a mysterious stranger on a street corner. An exclusive dinner party for 15-60 complete strangers, with one thing in common: Charlie’s Burgers.
Haven’t heard of it? Good. We don’t want the word to get out.
Billed as an anti-restaurant, a private supper club and a hot new cultural trend, Charlie’s Burgers is one of Toronto’s few underground gastronomic experiences that take place at a myriad of undisclosed locations such as wine cellars, art galleries and private homes.
Sidewalk Hustle was recently privy to a night with Charlie – a six-hour foodtopia featuring guest chef Jamie Kennedy.
We arrived promptly at 5:30 p.m. to meet a mysterious young gentlemen waiting for us beside a wine barrel beneath a notable public monument downtown. Upon greeting, we are presented with an envelope detailing directions to the clandestine location.
We reach our evening’s destination: a gorgeous, historical locale previously unvisited wherein we cocktailed for an hour sampling two delectable Ontario wines and an array of amuse bouche including a delicious slice of smoked pork belly placed on top of a crisp apple slice.
We were later led to the basement and directed into one of two dining rooms where a rustic fireplace burned aromatic all evening. The first three courses were themed around the Great Lakes – Kennedy wowed us with a rich and hearty fish chowder, a tripod of three local fish’s prepared in three uniquely flavorsome ways, and a Gefilte fish plate, expertly paired with delicate beets and coins of potatoes.
The beef course (we’re on course four of six) blows us all away – the meat is beyond tender – surrounded with marrow and horseradish and seasoned to perfection, prompting sensual sounds from around the room. All-knowing and attentive, our servers seize the opportunity to pass around a hearty, bucolic bread to soak up the extra sauce. Making a slow denouement from the beef, the cheese course featured 3 unpasteurized selections from Quebec. From a sharp, hard-hitting blue cheese to a subtler, serene white cheese, tiny fruit compotes, and a full-bodied red from the ‘lost barrel’ create perplexing, saliva-inducing satisfaction in our mouths.
Finally, the last course arrives – a warm, flourless chocolate cake snuggled between two egg-shaped curls of cherry and caramel gelato, paired with a rare local Shiraz ice-wine.
By then, we were old friends with our fellow dinner guests – bonded by the acknowledgment of the rare privilege and our common love for food and wine. The magic of Jamie Kennedy (anyone well versed in Toronto’s cultural scene reveres Kennedy and is respectfully in awe of his influence in shaping the Toronto food landscape), who casually strolls around the table throughout the evening detailing the idea and origin behind each course and our sommelier, a laid-back Aussie whose knowledge and love for Ontario wine, coupled with an un-pretentious attitude towards it and a reverence for the alchemist-like making of wine, elevates the night to complete perfection.
As the evening draws to a close, we reflect: 9 exclusive, local and raw wines (all of them are still in the barreling stage – about halfway ready to hit the shelves), paired solely to complement Jamie’s six course mind-blowing creation of locally-sourced, gourmet fare in a shadowy, romantic antique dining room with 60 new friends, can only be described as a dream. We have no doubt this is hands-down the rarest and heavenliest food experience of our lives.
The only lingering question remains: who is Charlie? Maybe he’s the sommelier? Or perhaps the gregarious ginger-bearded dinner guest beside me? One of our dapper servers? There have been suspicions. No one knows. We’d like to keep it that way. This is one great secret we don’t want getting out.
(To get on the list, potential diners can go here. You’ll be sent a questionnaire which determines your suitability to get on Charlie’s invite list. Once approved, you wait to receive an invitation for dinner – act quickly or you’ll miss out!)
*Special thanks to our guest-contributor Orsolya for writing this fabulous piece!