Weddings 2012 Planning Guide: Caterers
À LA CARTE KITCHEN
Founders Simon Kattar (a chef) and Brian King (a sales and events professional) count royalty and other VIPs among their clients; they move effortlessly from large-scale events (at Roy Thomson Hall, the ROM and the Ontario Science Centre) to more intimate settings. The kitchen’s roster of chefs might start a meal with a chilled foie gras–fig jam appetizer with sauternes gelée and frisée-almond salad. Kattar strives to include local, organic ingredients, and has been pursuing his Lebanese roots with Middle Eastern–French cuisine, as in speckled trout with bulgur and green-onion salad. Cocktail menu from $17.50 per person, sit-down and buffet dinner $30–$60 per person (to a maximum of 2,000 people), plus wait staff and chef’s charges. No charge for tasting if event is booked. Book one to three months ahead. By appointment. 2 Thorncliffe Park Dr. (at Overlea Blvd.), Unit 43, 416-971-4068.
ALL THE BEST FINE FOODS
When the Heather-and-Gerry crowd throws a shindig, this Rosedale mainstay is the go-to spot. Menu offerings change weekly, but expect to find such gourmet comfort foods as beef tenderloin with cracked pepper and dijon crust, vegetarian chili and mushroom agnolotti with chive cream, as well as savoury sides, such as couscous-stuffed tomatoes. Wedding banquets (for up to 400 people) are carefully provisioned with customized menus that emphasize seasonal freshness, natural flavours and local produce. An impressive collection of Canadian artisanal cheeses provides plenty of selection for after dessert. Buffet dinner $40–$95 per person, sit-down dinner $50–$150, plus wait staff, chef’s charges and buffet rentals. No charge for tasting if event is booked. Book three to six months ahead. By appointment. 1101 Yonge St. (at Marlborough Ave.), 416-467-0580.
This crew takes on events of all sizes, though in-home dinners and cocktail affairs are its specialties. Service is top-notch, and all menus can be customized to suit the client’s tastes and showcase seasonal foods. A Toronto gala meal featured a toro tuna sushi tasting plate with warmed sake, warm rosemary parmesan scones with herbed goat cheese and beet root, with a red wine–redcurrant reduction. Extravagant sweet tables are laden with crème brûlée miniatures in chocolate cups and zabaglione served over fresh berries. Parties of more than 1,000 can be accommodated. Cocktail menu from $25 per person, buffet dinner $45–$125, sit-down dinner $50–$125. No charge for tasting if event is booked. Book two weeks to two months ahead. By appointment. 416-516-3324.
As the resident caterer at the Evergreen Brick Works, Belong is the top outfit for ethics-obsessed locavores. Chef Brad Long (from the Food Network’s Restaurant Makeover) sources his product from the best sustainable producers, including Vicki’s Veggies and Dingo Farms. In addition to the usual composed plates, there are some fun options for large groups, such as a spit-roasted heritage breed pig and a bucolic crûdité table with just-pulled baby vegetables and an array of dips and pumpernickel “soil” for dipping. Even the drinking water will leave you with a clear conscience: it’s filtered on-site using a Vivreau water system. Cocktails from $80 per person, sit-down dinner from $200 per person. By appointment. 416-821-3607.
Ezra Title has become the in-the-know caterer among Toronto’s elite by being a hands-on chef. He customizes every menu, oversees every event and personally selects most of his produce at farmers’ markets. As the company name suggests, Title specializes in small, intimate affairs of up to 150 people, held in clients’ homes. At a recent wedding on a farm in Schomberg, guests were treated to a tasting menu that included Tuscan bread salad with roasted figs, drizzled with banyuls vinaigrette. Other specialties include Cumbrae’s short rib (braised for eight hours) served with an ethereal polenta cake. Cocktail menu $40–$60 per person, buffet dinner $65–$100, sit-down dinner $85-$150, plus wait staff and chef’s charges. No charge for tasting if event is booked. Book at least three to four weeks ahead. By appointment. 416-347-3609.
COUTURE CUISINE AND EVENT ARTISTRY
The name lives up to its glittery promise. Couture Cuisine pairs star chef Arpi Magyar (formerly of local landmarks Splendido and Auberge du Pommier) with a formidable team of event specialists: a sommelier, a stylist, an interior designer and several planners. The in-house caterer for Graydon Hall Manor, Couture also handles off-site functions, working with such venues as The Carlu, the Distillery District, the Royal Conservatory and the Ontario Science Centre. Though each party is customized, the company can provide plenty of starting points. At one winter feast, it offered cauliflower soup with veal meatballs followed by squash ravioli, then a main course of rack of venison with potato croquettes and steamed chestnuts and finally a dessert of caramelized quince with vanilla ice cream. Cocktail menu from $40 per person, buffet and sit-down dinner (for up to 1,000 people) $50–$70, plus wait staff, chef’s charges and rentals. Book three to 12 months ahead. By appointment. 185 Graydon Hall Dr. (at Graydon Hall Pl.), 416-449-5432.
DANIEL ET DANIEL EVENT CREATION AND CATERING
Often lauded as the city’s best caterers, Daniel et Daniel have internationally flavoured offerings, although classical French training is always at the heart of their creations. Daniel Clairet works the kitchens and develops customized menus for clients, while Daniel Megly oversees all other aspects. Their 32 years in business have made them masters of both casual sit-down dinners and formal events for thousands of guests. Recent inspirations include flavoured salts: lemon zest sea salt adds a welcome zing to torchon of foie gras atop rhubarb purée–filled won tons, sprinkled with pink peppercorns. Newly popular is the Chili Thai Bird, a chili-rubbed chicken breast with peanut ice cream—yes, cold on a hot plate—and Thai basil. Cocktail menu $20–$40 per person, buffet dinner $30–$50, sit-down dinner $35–$70, plus wait staff, chef’s charges and rentals. No charge for tasting if event is booked. Book six to 12 months ahead. By appointment. 248 Carlton St. (at Parliament St.), 416-968-9275, ex. 10.
Dinah Koo is a chef, caterer and cookbook author. Her specialty is imaginative, custom-designed menus that feature dishes from around the globe and often include wine pairing suggestions. Grazing dinners, which fall between a cocktail and a dinner party, are an increasingly popular way to entertain in small spaces; dishes might include quesadillas with Peking duck or fresh figs stuffed with chèvre and wrapped in prosciutto with a balsamic-honey drizzle. Up to 1,000 people can be served. Cocktail menu $40–$75 per person; buffet, grazing and sit-down dinner $75–$200, plus wait staff and chef’s charges. No charge for tasting if event is booked. Book at least two months ahead for weddings. By appointment. 416-483-0399.
EATERTAINMENT CATERING AND SPECIAL EVENTS
The catering package showcases 80 pages of culinary choices—from traditional to contemporary—but the chefs will tailor menus to suit any client. The team can feed up to 2,000, and small-scale events are also welcome. Event planning services, including valet parking, invitations, decor, audio-visual elements and transportation, are also available. Buffet dinner $25–$50 per person, sit-down dinner $35–$150, plus wait staff and chef’s charges. Free tasting. Book three months ahead. By appointment. 55 Bloor St. W. (at Bay), Ste. 216, 416-964-1162.
EN VILLE EVENT DESIGN AND CATERING
This event-organizing outfit counts such landmarks as Roy Thomson Hall and the ROM among its clients. Chef René Kramer leads a food services team that comes from all corners of the globe, providing expertise in international tastes. In-house fish and pork smoking is part of the repertoire, while the chocolate fountain (once created in pink for the launch of J.Lo’s lingerie line) remains a favourite among sweet tooths. En Ville can also coordinate music, entertainment, security, transportation, rentals, flowers, videography and photography, wine pairings and customized table design for wedding clients. Buffet and sit-down dinner $20–$45 per person, plus rentals, wait staff and chef’s charges. Over 1,000 people can be served. No charge for tasting if event is booked. Book six months ahead. By appointment. 165 Geary Ave. (at Bartlett Ave.), 416-533-8800.
THE FOOD DUDES
Adrian Niman has come a long way since he started catering out of his parents’ house in 2005. Along with business partner Brent McClenahan, he now handles over 700 events annually, with an average of one wedding per week. McClenahan is responsible for their stylish aesthetic, which involves crafting polished-wood burl platters by hand, while Niman pushes catering’s stodgy reputation into a new era with Modernist touches and an equal emphasis on big flavours, balanced textures and contrasting temperatures. Butternut squash soup is saved from its cliché status by first smoking the vegetable then garnishing it with a crispy pakora and an icy liquid-nitrogen sour cream. A mozzarella bar featuring cheese flown directly from Campania is currently the it item at weddings. Cocktails from $40 per person. Sit-down dinner from $60 per person plus wait staff and chef’s charges. By appointment. 647-346-0114.
Sourcing her ingredients from organic, Local Food Plus–certified producers and making everything from scratch, Evelyne Gharibian is the go-to caterer for vegetarians, vegans, raw foodists and people with gluten intolerance. The Cornucopia is a signature display of crudités, dips, veggie pâtés and crusty breads so stunning that it has been known to upstage the wedding cake. Equally comfortable with meat, she ensures carnivores leave just as satisfied as the veg heads. Cocktails from $21 per person; buffet dinner from $45 per person; sit-down dinner from $49 per person, plus wait staff and chef’s charges. By appointment. 1255 Sheppard Ave. E. (at Old Leslie St.), 416-410-2928.
JAMIE KENNEDY EVENT CATERING
Ever since he sold the Wine Bar, Jamie Kennedy has been focusing more on the catering side of his business (in addition to his Gilead Café and Bistro). He’s the exclusive caterer at the Gardiner Museum (150 for a sit-down meal; 250 for a cocktail reception), a magnificent, glassed-in event space used by stylist Jessica de Ruiter and artist Jed Lind to exchange vows (the event was featured in Martha Stewart Weddings). An in-house event planner ensures every detail is attended to. Trademark locavore dishes include rosemary-crusted lamb chops with caramelized sunchokes, sautéed greens with garlic jus and a late-night snack of mini-poutine in ramekins. Cocktail menu $24–$45 per person, sit-down dinner $70−$90, plus wait staff. No charge for tasting if event is booked. Book at least two weeks in advance. By appointment. 111 Queen’s Park (at Bloor St. W.), 416-362-1957, ext. 201.
JEAN-PIERRE AND CO.
On little more than word of mouth, this three-year-old caterer has already developed a loyal clientele of discerning foodies. It’s a two-chef outfit that includes Lyon-born Jean-Pierre Challet and his long-time associate, Jennifer Decorte. At a wedding held in the Thompson Landry Gallery, the duo received a standing ovation for their five-course extravaganza, which included salmon tournedos with maple pecans and a clementine beurre blanc. Shrimp pommes frites—crispy, potato-wrapped tiger prawns—are a crowd favourite at stand-and-mingle affairs. Cocktail menu from $25 per person, buffet dinner from $35, sit-down dinner from $55, plus wait staff and chef’s charges. No charge for tasting if event is booked. Book two months in advance. By appointment. 416-536-0079.
JONATHAN PRESKOW CATERING INC.
Classically trained in French cuisine, Jonathan Preskow applies the light and vibrant philosophy of Mediterranean-style cooking across his multicultural menus. Flavours from Europe, Asia and the Middle East are evident in such dishes as grilled Portuguese piri piri chicken, seared tuna with wasabi crème frâiche, lobster empanadas and pecan-crusted lamb chops. Sweets include mini-eclairs, bite-sized berry tarts and lavender crème brûlée. Preskow personally visits clients at home for a consultation, and can handle receptions of up to 350 people, with cocktail-style service, plated dinners, hors d’oeuvre stations or buffets. He also does kiddie menus, including mini-pizzas and grilled cheese sandwiches. Extras, such as cakes, flowers, rentals and liquor, can all be arranged. $38 to $75 per person. By appointment. 905-482-3225.
LISA SHAMAI CUISINIÈRE
The vegetarian and vegan menus here are so good that other caterers quietly send their meat-averse clients to Lisa Shamai’s east-end kitchen. At one vegan wedding, guests dined on Thai red curry with tempeh, Moroccan stew and Vietnamese grilled tofu with glass noodles. Coconut-chocolate squares and soy ice cream with fresh summer fruit round out the dairy-free menu. But Shamai also satisfies omnivores with nitrate-free meat from Walnut Hill Farm and Black River cheese from Prince Edward County. Now on the menu: Chicken Valencia marinated in herbs and wine, baked with apricots, capers and olives and Latin matambre (rolled beef filled with roasted peppers and spinach). Shamai prefers such off-the-beaten-path venues as Todmorden Mills and the Cecil Community Centre (an unlikely spot to find a glamorous domed ceiling and attractive private courtyard). Parties of up to 1,000 can be accommodated. Cocktail menu $20–$30 per person, buffet dinner $25–$35, sit-down dinner $35–$45 plus wait staff and chef’s charges. A $50 tasting fee can be applied toward the booking fee. Book two months in advance. 416-406-1101.
MARIGOLDS AND ONIONS
Requests to cater sit-down dinners for 5,000 are easily met by M&O, but they are equally comfortable with small. At a recent wedding at the Miller Lash House, they set up food stations for 130 guests in a tent with cruiser tables, bar stools, some table seating and lounge couches. The choices included a summer barbecue grill on the patio; hand-rolled sushi to order; pad Thai with flaming woks; and a “sweet endings” station with house-baked treats. Later in the evening came homemade gourmet pizzas and sweet bites (cheesecake lollipops and house-made chocolate maki). Wedding bundles $126–$175 per person, including rentals and wait staff and chef’s charges. Free tasting. Bookings are taken on as little as 24 hours’ notice. Appointments recommended. 2700 Dufferin St. (at Briar Hill Ave.), Unit 18, 416-256-4882.
Though he has worked at restaurants in London, Sydney and Los Angeles, chef and co-owner Roberto Granata infuses his cooking with the simple styles and rich flavours of his Italian childhood. He does modern takes on classics, too. Staples of the menu include peppers stuffed with organic quinoa, tofu and veggies, served with tomato sauce (also sold by the litre); and arugula salad with roasted peppers, goat cheese and mint. Whenever possible, local and organic ingredients are used. Long-time clients skip the menu and trust Granata to surprise them; many are film, TV and music biz types. Mela can cater parties with 10 to 150 guests. Dinner $25–$35 per person, plus wait staff and chef’s charges. No charge for tastings if event is booked. Order a month in advance. By appointment. 7A Yorkville Ave. (at Yonge), 416-916-0619.
NORTH 44° CATERERS
In addition to four restaurants and a gourmet grocery store, Mark McEwan owns one of the top catering outfits in the city (as seen on his TV series, The Heat). No wedding is too big (or small), and planners will arrange every detail, right down to custom invitations. Seasonal restaurant-quality food and service can be delivered to any venue. The antidote to rubber chicken dinners, Quebec-raised artisan poultry has crisp skin and moist flesh, served with squash risotto and shaved truffles. Cocktail menu from $50 per person, buffet from $80, sit-down dinner from $90, plus wait staff and chef’s charges. No charge for tasting for two if event is booked. Order two to six months in advance for peak season events. By appointment. 2537 Yonge St. (at St. Clements Ave.), 416-487-4897, ext. 3.
RODNEY’S OYSTER HOUSE
Summer weekends find Rodney’s crew making treks as far as cottage country, where they’ll lay out a spread worthy of Neptune: Nova Scotia smoked salmon, shrimp cocktail, crab and—the main event—an old-fashioned lobster boil. Of course, oysters are what Rodney’s is known for. The “whatever’s fresh” mantra means a constantly changing menu that might include Kusshis from B.C., Kaiparas from New Zealand, ROD Princes from P.E.I. and ShanDaphs from Nova Scotia. Parties of between 10 and 150 can be accommodated at the Oyster House or up to 600 off-site. Cocktail menu is $34 per person, buffet surf and turf dinner is $55 plus staff charges. No charge for tastings if event is booked. Book one day to six months ahead. Appointments recommended. 469 King St. W. (at Spadina), 416-363-8105, ext. 23.
SEQUEL EVENT CATERING
Co-owners Eric te Boekhorst and Lisa Rutland can plan your every party detail, including venue, valets, entertainment and food. The team has served hors d’oeuvre and sit-down dinners for 1,200, but can also design intimate affairs, with chefs cooking à la minute in your home. Locally sourced, seasonal ingredients make for a bevy of catering delights. Cocktail menu from $30 per person; buffet, stations and sit-down dinners from $40 per person, plus wait staff and chef charges. No charge for tasting if event is booked. Book one month to two years ahead. By appointment. 105 Vanderhoof Ave. (at Laird Dr.), Unit 8, 416-480-0996.
Few people know that The Stop, a community food centre that runs a drop-in lunch program, food bank and community garden project out of the Wychwood Barns, also has one of the city’s best high-end catering companies (which is certified by Local Food Plus). Chef Chris Brown’s canapés soar: butter-poached lobster with pickled fennel, artichoke fritters with tarragon aïoli; oxtail poutine. Cocktail parties start at $20 per person, sit-downs at $50 per person. Wait staff and alcohol are extra. By appointment. 1884 Davenport Rd. (at Symington Ave.), 416-652-7867, ext. 236.
The green credentials of co-owners Marilyn Simms and chef Pedro Dos Santos are impeccable: they’re affiliated with certification body Local Food Plus, they compost on-site at events, their delivery vehicle runs on biodiesel and David Suzuki is a fan. Staples of the menu include seared duck breast with ratatouille and vegetarian cassoulet with eggplant tempura and tamarind-chili glaze. Vert will cater cocktail receptions for up to 300 guests, dinner for up to 100. Cocktail menu $24–$40 per person, buffet dinner $35–$75, sit-down dinner $55–$100, plus wait staff and chef’s charges. Book up to a month in advance. Appointments recommended. 963 Dovercourt Rd. (at Hallam St.), 416-535-2412.
Karen Viva-Haynes works her slow food ethos into every aspect of her catering business, using naturally raised meats, artisanal cheeses and biodegradable disposables. Whether it’s a stand-up reception or a formal dinner, multi-course tasting menus are Viva’s specialty. Scrumptious signature nibbles include duck and marmalade empanadas and tomato-cashew soup shooters. Viva can cater parties of 50 to 500 people. Food stations $12–$18 per person, sit-down dinner $75–$100 plus wait staff and chef’s charges. No charge for tastings if event is booked. Book two months in advance. By appointment. 416-506-0054.