I’d heard a lot of buzz about Ruby Watchco, the latest hot-spot on Toronto’s restaurant scene, and was waiting for the hubbub to die down before I went for dinner.
However, I had reason to seek out its co-owner and my longtime buddy Lynn Crawford (she taught my daughter Ruthie to play pool many moons ago) for an event involving women chefs that I’m heading up to raise funds for the drop-in for homeless women called Sistering and, after much telephone tag, I caught up with her one mid-morning at her fledgling eatery located on Queen St. just east of Broadview.
I love dropping in on chefs especially when I wind up in the kitchen. Naturally, that happened on this mid-week day and soon I was embroiled in chatting with chef Lora Kirk as she was roasting some over-sized, decidedly delicious-looking beef ribs for that night’s menu.
Talking of menus, the clever concept at Crawford’s comfy, 60+-seat eatery is a four-course card that changes nightly – they’re only open for dinner – and that is the menu for everyone that night. Vegetarian and other options are available upon request. Menus are posted on their web site ahead of time. The price, about $50, is right.
The following Saturday, Ross and I had a dinner date at Ruby Watchco with a reservation for two at my favourite spot in any restaurant and definitely here: the bar.
And what a meal it was. It started with two of the house specialties: a knock-’em-dead salad and crispy, tender-in-the middle, warm cornmeal muffins for which I am trying to sleuth the recipe – so far no luck. I’ve been trying to duplicate the salad or at least come up with a facsimile for the past couple of weeks. After several phone calls and a bit of experimenting, I’ve figured out the secret to the superb one we ate that night. It consisted of a few chunks of roasted butternut squash, small wedges of blanched brussels sprouts, endive, mixed baby greens, candied pumpkin seeds (haven’t tried to make these yet) and parmesan crisps. This sumptuous medley of contrasting flavours – sweet, sour and savoury – was acompanied by a bevy of texture combos – crispiness, crunch and tenderness – and came doused in a minimal amount of slightly sweet, aromatic shallot confit vinaigrette. Divine!
Our main course was a mixed grill of flank steak, pork sausages and brick chicken – all toothsome and served in varying sizes of Le Creuset casseroles. Sides of veg were skillet potatoes and green beans with mushrooms in a yummy sauce. The cheese course was amazing and included Glengarry Barely Blue and three others that were excellent – I was too busy eating and chatting with Ross to take notes.The chocolate cake posted as dessert online was missing in action but who cared? A baked apple served with a scoop of vanilla-ish ice cream was the best I’ve eaten: melt-in-the mouth, tangy and a taste sensation.
Kudos to Lynn Crawford and team for a wonderful evening out that had all the key components: efficient, friendly service, mouthwatering food and a happy ambience. It’s more proof that nothings succeeds like success and this place, at the height of its popularity, is really cookin’.
Kudos to the celeb chef herself for not letting TV fame (Restaurant Makeover, Pitchin’ In) go to her head. Instead of swanning about the room basking in her new-found glory, this salt-of-the-earth woman with cooking in her blood stood at the kitchen portal almost all evening with partner Laura stalwartly plating salad – the piece de resistance of my soiree and a dish I shall be emulating until I get it right.