Tuesday, June 14, 2011

What's Your Beef, Group of 7 Chefs at Cowbell, Toronto

The tragedy is that more people in the GTA did not get to hear about this stellar event held at Cowbell Restaurant. The chefs participating at this event are a good cross-section of the creative vanguard of cuisine in Toronto. Why does Toronto not have it's own version of a Time Out Magazine that could expose this kind of event to the public at large? This is the question of the moment. 

was fortunate to be on the Cowbell email list. As soon as I heard about the event, I signed on. The theme of the evening was beef centric dishes, using conventional and offal parts of the animals supplied by regional farmers with whom the chefs had a relationship.

We began with chef Kevin McKenna's (Globe Bistro) tongue and leek terrine (Dennis and Sons Farms). Thin slices of tongue were neatly folded so that, to the diner, only a ribbon of the tongue was visible. The tongue was accompanied by wild asparagus tops and Indian celery and then a warm beef consomme derived from semmintal breed cows was poured over the ingredients. A terrific dish for tongue lovers.

Chef Rob Gentile (Buca) presented cuore di manzo, marinated beef heart cooked to rare served with wild cicoria, a slightly bitter tasting relative of the endive family, pickled ramps and preserved black figs. This dish was a triumph of flavours, the beef heart going so well with bitter leaves and the sweet fig.

Chef Bertrand Alepee's dish was hand chopped beef tartar with pickled radishes, crispy beef cheek deep fried in a tempura like batter and sauce gribiche. The pickled radishes were the perfect punch to contrast the flavours of both the tartar and beef cheek.

Chef Mark Cutrara (Cowbell) presented a dish with 2 types of beef to compare and taste: 69 day aged beef rib eye vs conventional rib eye with little aging, on the plate with celery root puree and salsa verde. For me there was no contest, the 69 day aged beef had a tender texture and a lovely complexity of flavours, that is a range of flavours with a "beginning", "middle" and "finish". The conventional beef had no finish and a very attenuated middle flavour. The salsa verde, although delicious, was too intense a flavour for the beef and overwhelmed the taste.

Chef Scott Vivian (Beast) gave us tripe "alla Beast", a delicious bowl of stewed tripe, a raw quail yolk partially "cooked" by resting in the hot stew, crispy seared chick peas and piquillo peppers.

Chef Matty Matheson 's(Parts and Labour) dish was eye of round, sourced from a trusted farmer, with sweetbread, beef tendon, black garlic and bone marrow butter, cauliflower puree, pickled carrot, sorrel, carrot tops and wild celery. As a dish, all of the ingredients came together into a flavour symphony. However, unfortunately, the meat from this animal, cooked to rare, was just too tough to enjoy eating. Truly a shame that does happen once in a while.

The dessert created by chef Guy Rawlings was raw milk and honey with smoked almond nougatine, sorrel and rhubarb served with a glass of raw milk. This was my first experience tasting raw milk. The flavour seemed to be more complex and more interesting than pasteurized milk, but from a flavour perspective not enough for me to prefer drinking raw milk over pasteurized milk. The presentation and various flavours on the plate, ranging from mildly tart to the sweet, reminded me of some of my recent Scandinavian experiences.
I was more than delighted by the creative culinary ideas expressed by these chefs. The presentation of each dish was an elevated composition of the common, basic elements of this rustic kind of cuisine, demonstrating that nose to tail eating can be an art. 

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