Apr 30, 2010

Silent Auction: the "VIP Table" awaits you

...A multi-course Tasting Lunch for 4, prepared by a Festival Chef, paired with wine, at our ornately exotic VIP table section in Cheese Boutique.  How's that for a culinary adventure?
If all this sounds like your cup of tea, make it yours by participating in our charitable Silent Auction.

In-store only! Find the station in the foyer of the store entrance. Funds raised will benefit the Toronto Zoo and endangered species around the world (fortunately for us, cows, chickens, and pigs are not among those).

You also have the chance to bid on two VIP tour packages at the Toronto Zoo, or a "Chef Hat"
Collectible Porcelain Trophy from Lladro. One of a kind, custom-design direct from Lladro’s Spain headquarters.

The Festival begins tomorrow-- hope to see you there!

May 1: Anthony Walsh of Canoe

May 2: Anne Yarymowich of Frank

Cattail Creek Winery

12 to 4pm.

Apr 29, 2010

Festival of Chefs 2010: CAVA

Chris McDonald
At the Festival of Chefs on May 22th

Tucked away in Delisle Court at Yonge and St Clair is Chef/owner Chris McDonald’s cozy restaurant CAVA. This seasoned Chef makes sure his eatery has a menu boasting a fusion of flavours from various areas such as Spain, Mexico, and even Japan. With so many exotic-sounding dishes, I was excited to dig in.

The very warm and helpful serving staff (who patiently deciphered the menu with its intriguing and unknown ingredients) seated us in a coveted corner. The location was prime as it allowed us to check out the dishes being served at nearby tables, and vice versa, opening up easy streams of epicurean conversations.

To begin, we were treated to a scrumptious glass of Cava Codorniu Cuvee Raventos. A fun and bubbly way to begin the CAVA experience, and one I highly recommend.

Next up, a salad of juicy roasted beets and watercress,  topped with marcona almonds. The sweet almonds matched excellently with the sharp Valdeón Cheese:

Bouncing to another continent for inspiration, out came a bowl of deep fried Japanese eggplant with Queso Fresco (fresh cheese), honey and tomatillo sauce, sprinkled with bonito flakes (tuna):

Contrasting with the light flavor and delicate texture of the previous dish, the fun named (yet super fishy) “Supergildas” arrived. These were a duo of plump sardines on baguettes skewered with candied tomato, guindilla pepper, green olives, and anchovies. Apparently the history to the dish’s name comes from the 1946 film noir Gilda,
set in Buenos Aires (we have an affinity for Argentina) and starring the ravishing Rita Hayworth.

Esparragos a la plancha (roast asparagus) with lemon-pepper aioli paired nicely with three minute skirt steak, which was thinly sliced and layed atop white puree and chimichurri. The meat was so delicious the photographer popped out of a twelve-year vegetarian run to try it (and, I might add, enjoyed it):

The roast sablefish with escarole and wild black rice may now be my new gourmet comfort food, as it almost literally melted in my mouth:

The dessert de resistance was a molten lava chocolate cake that was simply to die for! Warm chocolate cake with a luscious liquid chocolate centre left my tummy and taste buds quite content.

~Written by Brieemer, Photography by Gorgonzibla

Apr 27, 2010

Festival of Chefs 2010: Tutti Matti

Alida Solomon
Tutti Matti
At the Festival of Chefs on May 9th

To follow our tradition of last year's ramp up to the Festival, we will be posting a profile of the participating Chefs and their establishments. For your reading pleasure, Big Cheese, Briemer, and O-reagano are once again having amazing meals, taking pics, and sharing the whole delicious experience on this blog.

This year we begin with Alida Solomon's Tutti Matti-- a little Italian oasis on Adelaide near Spadina. It's the place with a boar sign hanging above the door-- and yes, boar is on the menu.

Known for its dedication to seasonal and regional Tuscan cuisine, this is a kitchen that introduces a different flavour of Italian more or less unfamiliar to many people, myself included. As the story goes, Ms. Solomon decided to make this style of cuisine her focus after a few (apparently fabulous) years of living in Tuscany, and makes regular visits (with staff) in search of ingredients to bring back here.

I noticed that the menu included a number of dishes that used humble-but-ever-versatile cabbage in various dishes, and a couple that incorporated chestnuts. House-made pastas are, as you would expect, prominent on the menu, as well as less-expected ingredients like chickpeas and lentils. Hearty, deceptively simple ingredients, intense flavours. This would be my first impression of the cuisine of the region, and what I would consider quite a compelling introduction.

The meal:

Antipasto Plate:
~Traditional Caprese Salad of organic heirloom tomatoes, Bufala Mozarella, olive oil, and fresh basil
~Fresh figs wrapped in prosciutto with balsamic reduction
~House-made rosemary poundcake topped with telegio cheese, sauteed black cabbage, speck, and a balsamic reduction.

I am such a fan of Bufala mozerella-- it's always a treat, and that crunchy black cabbage was unusual and satisfying.  I have to say my favourite from this plate was definitely the prosciutto- wrapped figs. I could eat an entire platter of them. It was a heavenly marriage of textures and flavours in a perfect bite-sized morsel.

Chickpea Crepe with three cheeses, vegetable medley, and truffle honey:

This was brought to us unexpectedly, and was a most welcome surprise. Filled with three cheeses and a hearty, rustic vegetable medley, the whole concoction was brought together with a drizzle of truffle honey-- an accent of sweetness and aromatic pungency.

On to the Mains...

Pan-seared scallops with pancetta, lentils and 9 year-old aged balsamic:

For a seafood fiend like myself, you can't top a soft, silky, sweet, seared scallop. This was paired, at the suggestion of the server, with a white wine that would offset the acidity of the lentil mixture.

Quince-stuffed Berkshire pork chop with chestnut, white wine, balsamic cabbage, prosciutto and roasted parsnips

The Berkshire pork was juicy and flavourful, combining marvelously well with  stewed chestnuts and the tang of the balsamic cabbage. Quite the massive hunk of meat too! It was clearly very popular, judging by how many of them we saw carried past our table.

As for desserts-- well, you saw the above pictures--there was so much food we couldn't dream of eating another bite. Of course I studied the list anyway for future reference, and there are some options (Lemon tart with pine nuts, Vanilla Cream of the day) that I'm determined to sample.

My plan for return? Dessert first!

Last year, our first "Chef Profile" post started with Anthony Walsh and Canoe Restaurant.  He is also the first Chef to appear at the 2010 Festival -- this Saturday, May 1.  Read our Canoe profile from 2009 here.


Apr 26, 2010

Cheese Boutique at the Toronto Zoo

Saturday, April 24, CheeseB set up at the main gates of the Zoo with an information kiosk and plenty of cheese and lemonade for all. It was the perfect venue to promote our partnership with the Zoo for the Festival of Chefs!

A nibble of Cheese before seeing the Lions, Tigers, and Bears:

Fatos Pristine meets an unusually affectionate Hornbill:

The Festival kicks off this weekend with the following:

May 1: Anthony Walsh of Canoe

May 2: Anne Yarymowich of Frank

Cattail Creek Winery

12 to 4pm.

This year, it's a $5 donation per plate, which includes a glass of wine. Help raise funds for the Zoo, taste some delicious food, and meet the Chefs!

You can have a full-service tasting lunch for 4 with any Festival Chef if you participate in our Silent Auction! Go to this page for full details, and come to the store to make a bid.

Apr 22, 2010

2010 Festival of Chefs Launch Party

Cheese, 10 Chefs, Champagne and a Camel....when was the last time you went to a party like that?!??!!

There are parts of the world where a camel really wouldn't be a... "is-that-what-I-think-it-is" traffic stopper. But in Toronto, mobile lines were most likely overloaded around 6 pm last night with people sending pics to friends and family a "believe it or not moment", Ripley Avenue had a camel walk. Michael of Arabia (Bonacini) launched last night's Festival of Chefs along with 'Alice' the Camel from the Toronto Zoo which set the tone for this year's month long event.

Michael Bonacini and Alice the Camel

Alice arrives at Cheese Boutique

Sophia with Explorer Bear

The gorilla took a trophy. No one argued.

Escorted inside by the Cheese Boutique Girls Hockey Team

MC Michael Bonacini and Canoe's Anthony Walsh

Patrick McMurray of Starfish

Soprano Laura Albino

The launch will be extended this Saturday, April 24, CheeseB will be at the Toronto Zoo to promote the May-Festival of Chefs.

Thanks for all that came out to party and we hope to see you regularly throughout May weekends and sample the mystery dishes to come. Don't forget there is a $5 donation entrance for each sampling that includes wine.

Apr 20, 2010

"The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men"

....Oft go awry-- especially when Mother Nature is involved.

We announced a few days ago that Helen Dallimore would be visiting from the U.K to lead an "English Cheese-tasting" in the store.

Unfortunately that has now been canceled due to Icelandic volcanic activity and waylaid flights!

We hope to have the chance to reschedule, in the meantime you can come down to Cheeseb and see.... a camel.... tomorrow at our Launch party. 6-8pm, hope to see you there!

Apr 16, 2010

COC au Vin... et Fromage!

Opera, wine, and cheese assembled under one roof last night for The Canadian Opera Company's 11th Annual Fine Wine Auction at Crush Wine Bar. It was wild and rowdy as one usually expects from these soirees, and auctioneer Stephen Ranger's vocal range was indeed put to the test.

Our "cheese ambassador" Afrim Pristine was kept on his toes assembling delectable sampler plates for cheese-loving attendees. With all that nice, pair-able wine circulating around, it's not surprising that every crumb was eaten up! Sorry, mice of King St. West, no cheese left for you.

If reading this has you jonesing for a cheese/wine/opera event, then here is a reminder that you will find all three at our 2010 Festival of Chefs Launch Party. Wednesday, April 21, 6-8pm, at CheeseB-- hope to see you there, and wishing all a great weekend!

Apr 14, 2010

English Cheese-Tasting

******UPDATE: Canceled due to that Icelandic volcano disrupting flights from Europe!
We invite you to come to the store to see Helen Dallimore, the cheese expert from Coombe Castle
International, with an array of fine English cheeses. This is a rare opportunity for a "guided tour" of specialty cheeses from the U.K.

Sampling encouraged!

Apr 9, 2010

A Launch Party of Operatic Proportions

We have discovered from past experience that Cheese does pair nicely with Opera, and so we're  excited to announce a very special guest for the 2010 Festival of Chefs Launch Party.

April 21 at about 7pm,  Canadian Opera Company soprano Laura Albino will regale us with what will no doubt be a stunning performance of 2-3 arias. This will be one of her last before the season end in May.

Here is your chance for a "taste" of Opera without having to get all dressed up.

Laura Albino 
courtesy of Domoney Artists

A photo from last year's launch party:

Chefs await their introductions at the 2009 Festival of Chefs Launch party

We would also like to announce that our silent auction in benefit of the Toronto Zoo has now started. Bidding is in-store only-- no emails!  Full details can be found on our information page.