Many Small Treats

Many Small Treats

It’s good doing business with people who work on the Danforth because you tend to have meetings and brainstorming sessions at Allen’s. A visit there is always a pleasure but especially right now when proprietor John Maxwell is running his steak festival, an astonishingly brilliant idea that allows customers to order steaks purchased from many different farms and compare them. This is single estate beef and Maxwell makes no bones about the fact that the purpose of the initiative is to prove, once and for all, that Ontario grass-fed steak is superior to U.S. Prime (whatever that is from one month to the next). Had I known about all this before our meeting I would have made arrangements to stay for dinner but as things stood we only had time and room for one item from the special menu. On the advice of Mr. Maxwell, we chose a piece of meat from Barker Farm—grass-fed, corn-finished, Limousin-Angus cross, aged 42 days. Oh Lord, it was good—slightly crusty from the grill, medium rare as requested, the juicy pink, ruby-hearted flesh yielding into tenderness with a toothsome crunch, the flavour sweet and beefy. I believe Allen’s steak festival lasts until February 24. To forego it would be a sin.

Talking of meat, I hear that Frank Ardanaz, part-owner of Olliffe’s, the butcher shop at Yonge and Summerhill, has decided to retire after 30 years at the store. I have huge respect for Mr. Ardanaz and though I have rarely been able to afford Olliffe’s meat I have never been disappointed by anything I bought there. Good luck to the gentleman.

Last week I only went out to dinner once but that was a lovely evening—to Claudio Aprile’s new restaurant, Colborne Lane, on its opening night (February 13th) as the snow was starting to fall. There is a great deal to report (almost all of it very good news) but I fear it must wait for my May column in Toronto Life.

A much longer wait attends the debut of many delectable treats cooked by the wonderful Anne Yarymowich, chef at the Art Gallery of Ontario and of Agora-in-hiatus. She came round here to dinner the other night and brought some things she will be selling in jars and bags in the AGO gift shop when the construction is done—little ginger cookie buttons that melt to spiced butter as the echoes of the initial crunch finally subside. The most amazing Meyer lemon-vanilla marmalade that I, self-annointed high priest of all marmalades real or fictional, have ever tasted. A grapefruit-cardamom marmalade that came a close second. Other items were too delicious to describe. In 2008 they will be available alongside salad dressings, flavoured dipping oils, pestos, tapenades, chutneys, all with arty labels. Maybe even a Tom Thomson pancake mix partnered with authentic Ontario maple syrup.

And here is a good cause—Tony Aspler’s Grapes for Humanity fund-raiser dinner, to be held on Thursday, May 10th, at The Four Seasons Hotel. Stanislas Henriot, President and Director General of Champagne Henriot is the special guest and the premium wines of the Henriot Group will be featured at the dinner and auction. This is the good stuff, folks, including Henriot Souverain Brut Champagne, William Fèvre Chablis Bouguerots 2004, Bouchard Père et Fils Meursault Genevières 2004, Bouchard Père et Fils Beaune du Château 2003, Bouchard Père et Fils Volnay Caillerets 1999, Bouchard Père et Fils Beaune de L’Enfant Jésus 2001 and Chateau des Charmes Riesling Icewine 2002. Tickets cost $500 each or you can bag a corporate table for $6000. Phone 1-416-922-7776 or The funds raised at this event will be directed to the Polus Centre to help landmine victims in Colombia. Coffee workers in Colombia put themselves at daily risk in their efforts to feed their families and build up the local economy. Grapes for Humanity’s funds will help support landmine survivors with prosthetic and economic rehabilitation.