Tyler Cunningham and Frank Romano go spatula to spatula in Liberty Village booze-off

Tyler Cunningham and Frank Romano go spatula to spatula in Liberty Village booze-off

(Photo by backpackphotography) 

Mildred’s Temple Kitchen is staging a battle (Crown) royal tomorrow. House chef Tyler Cunningham and Frank Romano (of Far Niente) will face off in an Iron Chef–style cook-off to launch the LCBO’s What’s Your Whisky Festival. The chefs will compete during the preparation of four rye-soaked courses, each based on a Canadian brand of booze, to prove that whisky is—wait for it—the next, next red wine.

Hosted by TV foodie Kevin Brauch (The Thirsty Traveller, Iron Chef), the showdown will feature a cocktail of judges, including Food Network chef Lynne Crawford, jazz crooner Matt Dusk and weatherman Frankie “Flowers” Ferragine. We can see the connection between whisky, chefs and jazz, but for the link to meteorology, we had to ask Ferragine himself. The Breakfast Television host explained, “Whisky is like the weather—the odd time, it can bite you.” Tenuous, but point taken.

The panellists will score the booze-infused dishes: a Canadian Club app, a Crown Royal appetizer, a Forty Creek main and a Wiser’s dessert. Romano tells us that he’s anxious for the game time performance—“It’s like going down for a penalty—you only get one shot”—while Cunningham admits that he’s a little camera shy. Though the opponents disagree on how the drink should go down (Cunningham says on the rocks, Romano neat), both enthusiasts want to spread the whisky word.

That’s just what the LCBO’s director of spirits—yes, such a title exists—Chris Robertson, plans to do with What’s Your Whisky. He contends that whisky is making a comeback, spurred by bar chefs and Mad Men nostalgia. “We feel pretty bullish that whisky is enjoying a resurgence. It’s our most popular category, at 35 per cent sales and growing.” The promo shows tipplers that the drink’s not just for grandpas and Brooks Brothers devotees. “We want to make whisky more approachable,” says Robertson. His team is enticing with such icebreaker events as Rediscover Canadian Club (touted as the tipple of Queen Victoria), Glenfiddich tastings and chocolate pairings.

This is not a bad way to start the cold season. We even asked Ferragine how nasty this winter’s going to be. His answer: “If you don’t like winter, it’s gonna suck.”

Pass the CC.

What’s Your Whisky Chef Challenge, Oct. 20, 6 p.m., $85. Mildred’s Temple Kitchen, 85 Hanna Ave., tickets 416-365-5767, official Web site.