Friday, July 27, 2012

Boxed Toronto

Pop-ups. It is all about pop-ups nowadays. They may sound a little gimmicky to some but I personally don't mind them. I really enjoy the thrill of not knowing what is being served and letting the chef do his or her thing. So yes, pop-ups are similar to tasting menus in a sense that they both give chefs creative freedom, but unlike tasting menus at a restaurant, the location of pop-up dinners is usually kept as a secret up until the day of the actual dinner. With all communication done on Twitter and email, it genuinely makes me appreciate having a smartphone that much more.

The Boxed (@BoxedToronto) pop-up dinners are run by chef Matthew Sullivan (@GastroMatthew). A former executive chef at both Maléna and l'unita, chef Sullivan has also staged in some impressive restaurants such as Gramercy Tavern in New York and the Fat Duck in England. 

Last Monday, July 16, I finally attended my first Boxed dinner ("finally" because I've always wanted to go). Held at BruDa (@BruDaRestaurant) in Little Italy, guests were pampered throughout the night with fine wine and chef Sullivan's seven-course creation.

The open kitchen at BruDa

Sommelier Christopher Sealy (@ChristopheSealy), co-owner of Midfield Wine Bar and Tavern, paired each course with wines from Coyote's Run Estate Winery

Vodka infused tea (with ice! So refreshing)

COURSE ONE: Lobster and Chicken Crackling
Charred sushi rice, lobster ceviche, lobster and corn sauce, chicken crackling.

COURSE TWO: Gazpacho and Lardo
Jalapenos, cucumbers, cherries, onion, red peppers, tomatoes, and garnished with deydrated olives, smoked lardo and fried breadcrumbs.

COURSE THREE: Monforte Hallumi and Smelts
Monforte hallumi, cured smelts, almonds, and burnt honey

COURSE FOUR: Toro, Watermelon and Pork Fat
Toro marinated in sweet soy and lime, served on pickled watermelon rind with pork fat and wasabi.

COURSE FIVE:  Alphaghetti's 2.0
Rabbit braised in fish sauce with fresh peas, alphabet pasta, liver, and kidney and heart butter

Chef Matthew Sullivan

 I started salivating at the sight (and smell) of these beauties

COURSE SIX: 90 Day Aged Beef and Peaches

COURSE SEVEN: Cherries and Buffalo Milk
Olive oil and almond cake served with Ontario cherry preserve and Monforte buffalo milk ice cream. 

My friend Ed (@PrettyBoyLarge) and I both thought the dinner was sensational. Each course had elements that were very intriguing and stimulating to the palette. The gazpacho packed a bit of heat (from the jalapenos) but also had savoury and sweet elements to it (from the dehydrated olives and strawberries, respectively). The hallumi, too, replicated these fabulous sensations to the palette; the saltiness of the smelts worked beautifully with the hallumi, which was coated with burnt honey. The toro, with hints of soy and lime, was elevated to another level once you dabbed it in a little pork fat + wasabi. Very good. Leaving it simple with fresh peaches, the intense "beefy" flavour of the dry-aged beef really shined through (that was a horrible description but I don't know how to explain it any other way). Two thumbs up for the buffalo milk ice cream (so creamy!) I can say for certain that this will not be the last Boxed dinner. Excited for the next one!

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