Wow, talk about synergy!
An ensemble of Toronto’s top women chefs collaborated to prepare a celebratory feast called Kitchen Sisters to help homeless women on March 8, 2011, the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day!
And what a feast it was. Mildred’s, located in Liberty Village and co-owned by husband-and-wife team Donna Dooher and Kevin Gallagher, was the gorgeous venue where 120 guests gathered for hors d’oeuvres followed by dinner that lovely evening.
Things kicked off in the lively bar at the front of the restaurant where tasty canapes prepared by Deborah Reid, chef/instructor at George Brown College, star of TV show Pitchin’ In and co-owner of stellar eatery Ruby Watchco Lynn Crawford, and Donna Dooher showed how delicious one bite can be. Deborah’s dainty Salt Cod Fritters with creamy Aioli were divine. Likewise for Lynn’s luscious cubes of Pork Belly with Rosemary Honey and Donna’s Vegetable Bahji with Tamarind Glaze. Henry of Pelham’s Catherine Cuvee was the stunning sparkling accompaniment.
Next, it was over to the two huge, long harvest tables beautifully decked with flowers where a four-course repast, each course with a matching wine, was served amid the hubbub, to happy diners.
I introduced the evening by telling how the seed of an idea mushroomed into this lavish splendour thanks to the enthusiasm of our stalwart chefs who worked for several months with me and Joanne Abbensetts, Deborah Barretto and Sheryl Lindsay of Sistering, a downtown Toronto drop-in for homeless women. Sheryl, executive director of the grassroots non-profit group that does such important front-line work, was emcee.
Then came the food and wine – a meal that was delivered with smooth precision and perfect timing by volunteer servers under the brilliant supervision of Lindsey Thomsen, a young, dynamic event co-ordinator at the AGO who offered her invaluable help pro bono to plan and orchestrate the dinner.
Quail Egg en Cocotte with Maitake Mushroom on Celeriac Tartar came first, the work of chef Suzanne Baby of the Gallery at Hart House, U. of T. Helping her was Sistering chef Trish Beard. Elegant, delicious and inspired, this was a great match for 13th Street Premier Cuvee sparkling wine.
Next up: caterer Christine Bib, together with Sistering chef Maureen Watson, barbecued Cedar-Planked Ontario Rainbow Trout with Flageolet Puree. Aromatic, juicy and superb with Southbrook’s luscious 2008 Triomphe Sauvignon Blanc.
The entree, prepared by Anne Yarymowich of Frank at the AGO and Lora Kirk of Ruby Watchco, was a hearty serving of two big Braised Beef Short Ribs with Bone Marrow Jus and Horseradish Beef Chutney atop baby root veggies and Sweet Potato Gnocchi. The wine: a full-bodied 2008 Merlot, Rosewood Estates, Creek Shores VQA.
Last but not least, Joanne Yolles, formerly of Scaramouche and Pangaea and now of George Brown College, together with Colen Quinn of Pangaea, dished up three out-of-this-world little desserts lined up on one plate: Brown Butter Pistachio Cake with Citrus Cream and Pistachio Meringue; Lennox Farm Rhubarb Tart and Meyer Lemon Sorbet on Graham Cracker Crust. Its tasty sidekick: Porto Riserva Quinta de Ventozelo NV, B & W Wines.
The beauty of this meal was its synergy of taste, texture, goodwill and great vibes. Each chef introduced her course. Each vintner said a few words about the wine – so you can add educational to that list.
An ad lib, impromptu singing duo was a highlight of the evening as, just before dessert, Lynn and Donna channelled Patsy Cline (or was it Loretta Lynn?) in a sweetly harmonized ditty about a Garland stove and other culinary themes I can’t recall.
The bottom line: Ticket sales, a kitchen registry and donations to Kitchen Sisters yielded more than $60,000 in aid of Sistering to expand, renovate and re-furbish its kitchen. These funds are badly needed so this stalwart group that’s been helping homeless women in Toronto for 30 years can continue to feed hot meals to more than 200 women a day, seven days a week.