When the Brewers Plate idea was first floated, one had to wonder what they were thinking, scheduling an event with half a dozen of Toronto's best chefs a month before any fresh vegetables are available in Ontario. But in fact, that was entirely the point; to show that one can eat well, eat local and eat green, even in April. And last Friday night, at Hart House in the University of Toronto, they proved it. Things we learned:
1. Apple Cider is probably Greener than beer.
Grant House explains that his County Cider Company makes their cider from their own sustainably grown apples, are certified by Local Food Plus, and cultivate heirloom apple breeds.
2. Coffee is better when you roast it yourself.
Cindy of Merchants of Green Coffee says that beans are like bread; after as few as five days it starts oxidizing and getting bitter. They say that by definition, over 95% of all coffee sold to consumers is stale. Cindy explains:
3. Jamie Kennedy is still a star.
While we thought the food he served last year was better than this years, he is still charming, and one of the most influential chefs in the country. TreeHugger has reported on him before:
Jamie Kennedy picks Organic Wines
A Trip to Italy and Michael Pollan, Too
Recipe of the Week - Asparagus with Classic Vinaigrette
4. It's hard to be a vegetarian at an event like this.
At Cowbell, Mark Cutrara "and his kitchen are working almost exclusively with naturally-raised, organic meat and produce, sourced from local farmers. Cutrara purchases whole animals, butchers, smokes and cures his meat on the premises. And he churns his own butter!" The tartare was probably the highlight of the evening.
Previously in TreeHugger: Seasonal Restaurants are a New Gourmet Trend
5. Brook Kavanagh is one to watch.
Not only is his food delicious, but this young chef at La Palette experiments with solar. Last year he served a three course local organic meal to a 25 people with his solar cooker, covered in TreeHugger here.
6. a) Be careful where they put you when you cook at an event like this. and b) Canadians are too polite.
Poor Brad Long of Veritas was parked right at the entrance and was worked off his feet, with a lineup that stretched across the room. And even though the lineup was clear and obvious, people would just jump in from the other side and grab his delicious pickerel on a crepe. And even though people were cutting in like mad, nobody in line did anything like try to stop them or throw a plate at them. I don't understand.
7. Young people who live a healthy lifestyle sure are cute.
Chris Trussell and Lesley Stoyan of Daily Apple sell 100% vegan, natural foods including baking, dips and nuts; they run studio classes and offer at-home training programs. "Think outside the gym: we don’t believe in hi-tech equipment or monthly memberships or the old ‘I-don’t-have-time’ excuse. Activity should be incorporated into daily life." Toss in Cooking classes, wine tastings, ‘green living’ workshops, and alternative health lectures. They look like they practice what they preach.
8. Building a business around a green and socially conscious approach pays off.
Lesia Kohut (not pictured here, whose card I have misplaced) and LPK's Culinary Groove is "deeply dedicated to using certified organic and fair trade ingredients whenever possible, and continually strive to use them in all of our desserts. We also make every effort to use seasonal, local ingredients." It shows.
8. Even something as traditional as maple sugar can be reinvented and made green.
What happens when a talented industrial designer gets into maple syrup? Dianne Broteau and Richard Brault of Studio Innova demonstrate with Ninutuk.
For several years Dianne, Richard and their young son Andre made small quantities of syrup from majestic sugar maples on protected land along the Niagara Escarpment. What started as a personal harvest soon evolved into a design exploration featuring maple syrup and sugar as the medium.
They make it as green as possible too:
Our kitchen is powered in part by photovoltaic solar panels installed on our building. Our waste water is chemical-free and occasionally diverted into a neighbouring community garden. We make every effort to reuse, recycle and reduce our solid waste in our products and processes.
All in all, a remarkable display of talent and flavour at a time of year where you don't expect it from local food. Philadelphia and Toronto do the Brewers Plate; more cities should, it is a terrific way to promote your local farmers and suppliers, and display the talents of your local restaurants. It is a wonderful experience that more people should get to try. Brewers Plate