An unfulfilled ambition for the long weekend was to get out of the city, preferably to Bloomfield in Prince Edward County to check out a new café that opened there on May 19th. It’s called Saylor’s Café (274 Main St., 613-393-5387) and is rumoured to serve a particularly delicious soup of local asparagus, potato and roasted red onion. I have never met the two women who own and run the place—Marnie Woodrow and Eliza Clark —but I have been a longtime fan of Woodrow’s writing since I first read her book of short stories, In The Spice House. It sits on my small shelf of indispensible food writing and, like her online journal can be read and re-read for pleasure and inspiration.
I am an inveterate rereader. This has probably held me back in life but I can’t seem to be able to break the habit. It’s not that I never go exploring new countries of the imagination, just that I prefer to travel with a treasured collection of familiar words around me—not so much racing and leaping ahead into the unknown as trundling carefully forward, pushing a squeaky-wheeled supermarket trolley full of old and favourite books, talismans, much-polished memories, a snuff box containing one joke (the only one I can ever remember), a cabinet of verse, a broken accordion, all festooned with flags and lances, found objects, feathers, shells and taxidermical specimens—a weighty amount of mental lumber.
On top of it now wobbles a new memory from last Wednesday when I did get out of town, driving up to a place near Creemore where Jonathan Forbes lives. He is the forager and wild foods expert whose jars full of 80 kinds of esoteric Canadiana such as balsam jelly, spruce tips, cattail hearts, birch syrup and pickled milkweed pods have been such a feature of gourmet stores and Dufferin Grove farmers’ market for much of this century. With enormous generosity, Forbes took me out foraging for the afternoon, visiting miles of favoured patches in the wild woods, meadows and abandoned farmsteads along the top and bottom of the escarpment. I must save the detail for a future column in Toronto Life but it was a brilliant day even though it never stopped raining. We might as well have been swimming but we filled baskets with blonde morels, pheasant’s back mushrooms, fiddleheads, toothwort, wild leeks, wild garlic and wild ginger. My head is still full of the smell of the wet, dripping woods and the dazzling vibrancy of the greens. The first growth of spring in Ontario just punches right up through last year’s detritus with unstoppable, pulsating energy and speed. You can see it all grow before your very eyes.
In other news, Michael Pataran has resigned his position as Executive Chef at the Windsor Arms as of June 1st. The new restaurant promised him never materialized. “I will be turning my full-time efforts towards getting ‘Kappo Izakaya and Sake Bar’ going,” he tells us, “as well as working on the advancement and promotion of sake with MP Sake Consultation.” Best of luck to him.
And June 10th is Toronto Taste, the 17th iteration of the extraordinary fundraiser for Second Harvest that generates around half a million bucks to help keep that admirable and sadly necessary not-for-profit organization running. This year, Taste takes place at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre, an architectural gem nestled in the Don Mills/Eglinton area. Tickets are $225; guests receive an income tax receipt for $125. For tickets call 416-408-2594 or go to www.secondharvest.ca for more information about the live and silent auctions, wineries and breweries and chefs who are scheduled to appear. Around 60 top toques will be there, each offering a small, edible manifestation of his or her particular genius.