Monday, April 1, 2013

Toronto Popup with Chef Peter Pietruniak

Toronto Popup,"a culinary creative lab that connects people and innovative talent through their passion for locally grown, seasonally produced organic food" is a monthly popup dinner series created by Juliana Conceicao. Promoting healthy, conscious eating with a focus on using seasonal and locally sourced ingredients, Toronto Popup's inaugural dinner took place on Sunday, March 24th. Chef Peter Pietruniak (formerly junior sous chef at Ten Restaurant & Wine Bar now dinner sous chef of the newly opened The Guild Restaurantcreated a beautiful five course seafood tasting which featured a variety of fresh and sustainable Ontario lake fish. Committed to making sustainable choices and already a true advocate of local food, Pietruniak's seven course Coast to Coast "C2C" Dinner last year also paid tribute to fresh local produce, meat, and food ingredients. 

When I asked Petruniak if there was anything that inspired his Toronto Popup menu, this is what he said:

"I wanted to again highlight the great Ontario produce in an environment that allows me to create, push myself, and get my mind going. Even if there is a mistake I learn, grow and become a better cook. I like cooking for people, it makes me happy."

After several trial runs with friends and family, Toronto Popup's held their first ever dinner at The Monarch Tavern (Twitter: @MonarchTavern, Facebook: Monarch Tavern).

For $40 per person, this Toronto Popup (Twitter: @Toronto_PopUp, Facebook: Toronto Popup) dinner was an absolute steal! Optional beer or wine pairings were also priced very reasonably at $2 or $4 per course.

I had a couple of cocktails before dinner:

MARE CAESAR - Mare Gin: Infused with Olives, Rosemary and Basil; Lemon Juice, Worcestershire, Tabasco, Lemon Pepper Rim
DARK & STORMY - Spiced Rum, Ginger Beer, Soda, Lime, Ginger 

Christina (@ChefXtinaTodd), Kerry, and Peter (@Chef_PeterP) in the kitchen.

Micro greens, Kozlik's, Sour Cream

Shots already? ;)

Celeriac, herbs, walnut

Pietruniak at the pass.

Cabbage, Apple, Radish

Carrot, Parsnip, Ham Hock

Butternut, Hazelnut, Yogurt

Another wonderfully executed dinner by chef Pietruniak. Everything was well-thought-out: each and every component of every course was put on a plate for one reason: to enhance, showcase, and elevate the natural flavour of the fish. Pietruniak did this extremely well.

The refreshing first course was an excellent start to the evening; the airy, smooth sour cream and the assortment of fresh, crisp micro greens gave the pickled smelt dish terrific texture. The sharp pop of grainy mustard was a fun touch. Next up: the Lake Huron white fish. An all around outstanding plate, it was my favourite course of the night. The white fish's naturally mild (yet delicious) flavour was enhanced by the sweet, buttery celery root puree resting underneath. The bits of crunchy walnut complemented the tender and flaky white fish beautifully. Pietruniak continues to impress in his third course; the rainbow trout's fattier texture and nuttier flavour was cleverly balanced by a fresh array of crisp cabbage, sweet apple and slightly spicy radishes. Although the ham hock broth in the following course could have used a bit more flavour, the Lake Erie pickerel, wrapped in carrot was a very pretty dish. Dessert was surprisingly delicious (I say "surprisingly" because I'm usually all for the rich and heavy, chocolate desserts). I really enjoyed the pairing of the light, tangy yogurt and the naturally sweet butternut squash.

If you are a conscious diner and wishes to support locally grown, seasonally produced organic food, make sure you follow Toronto Popup (Twitter: @Toronto_PopUp, Facebook: Toronto Popup).