Hogtown Throwdown Part Deux: Toronto vs Montreal

29 Jul

The Group of Seven Chefs are, well, a group of 7 Ontario-based chefs who celebrate local sustainable ingredients, farmers, artisan winemakers and craft beer brewers.  They also believe that through the creation and consumption of food, friendships are forged.  If Facebook would let me, I’d select “The Group of Seven Chefs” as my religion.

These folks have been hosting events around Toronto and when I found out that I was going to (finally!) be around for their Hogtown Throwdown Part Deux, I rushed to grab tickets.  Four Toronto chefs were going to battle it out against four Montreal chefs at Evergreen Brickworks?  There were going to be two heritage pigs, brews from Spearhead Brewery and wines from South Africa?  All for only $50?!  Yes pah-lease!

Guys, I feel like I should tell you upfront right now that the Montreal chefs dominated this evening.  But you know what, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  In my amateur opinion, Toronto is still in a teenage stage of developing and refining its culinary identity.  This is an exciting time to live through!  We can tell our grandkids! Anyway, we’re totally on the right track but we sometimes need a reminder that we still have a ways go to.  And sometimes that reminder is a kick in the pants from Montreal.  Montreal, don’t be fooled.  We’re fast learners and we hold a grudge.  I hope we bring your fine gars back for a re-match.

I also need to share what a beautiful evening it was.  Evergreen Brickworks is one of my all time favourite venues in the city (for a variety of events).  There was also a nice cool summer breeze which is always appreciated, but after a incessant heatwave, it is worshipped.  The sun set left the sky a lazy dreamy purple red haze.  Gorgeous.

Now, on to the fine food:


My Favourite Station:

Pork Heart Satay (Toronto competitor)

Grilled Pork Heart Satay (Toronto competitor)

One of my favourites that evening was the grilled pork heart satay by Chef Vivian of Beast Restaurant.  The pomelo and garlic scapes used was reminiscent, for me, of char siu.  The saltiness and crunchiness of the dressed nappa cabbage balanced it out nicely.  It was a perfectly cooked simple statement yet it was something different and totally Beast.

Fried Pork Belly (Montreal competitor)

Fried Pork Belly (Montreal competitor)

Right next to Chef Vivian, was Chef Derek Damman of Montreal’s Maison Publique, Jamie Oliver’s first North American venture.  Now, this was of course a Hogtown Throwdown and the star of the show were these fine heritage pigs from Cumbrae‘s farms.  I have to say, Chef Damman created for us the best representation of pork’s natural flavours.  He created a perfectly fried cube of pork belly.  Moist tender pork layered between indulgent flavourful fat.  Crispy dusted coating with just a rumour of seasoning so that the meat could really shine.  Contrasted with cool watermelon cube.  Crowned with cilantro, chilies, basil and mint – a nod to Vietnam.  I think S and I didn’t speak for a good 10 minutes after.  Bravo, sir.  We’re renting a car soon and heading straight for your restaurant.


What I called the Asian Fusion Station:

Pork Lettuce Wrap (Toronto competitor)

Pork Lettuce Wrap (Toronto competitor)

An interesting lettuce wrap of shredded/pulled pork accompanied by kimchi and kelp.  The kimchi really stood out for me and the pork was probably the supporting actor.

Pork Takoyaki (Montreal competitor)

Pork Takoyaki (Montreal competitor)

This was a neat experience because I had tried my first real takoyaki the other day (usually made with octopus) so I got the twist.  I liked the play on contrasts – dense pork filled ball against thin crispy plantain and wasabi cream sauce against animated sweetness of fresh corn.  Chef Anthony Park, you’ve intrigued me.  You’re also on my roadtrip list.


Everything Came In Cute Boxes Station:

Trofie with Pork, Lobster, Lima Beans (Toronto Competitor)

Trofie with Pork, Lobster, Lima Beans (Toronto Competitor)

The handmade pasta was very well done.  The lima beans really stood out for me, and I’m not a huge fan of them.  I wasn’t a huge fan of this but strangers we spoke to raved about it.  Different strokes for different folks!

Pork Bar (Montreal competitor)

Pork Bar (Montreal competitor)

THIS was a LOT of fun.  You picked up your own small take out container, fill it with pork, and then slapped on these fun toppings that included spicy beans, pickled radish, pineapple salsa and whole grilled baby cucumber.  I felt like I was at a family picnic and had a great time laughing with strangers as we created our own mini masterpiece.


Pate Station:

Pork Wellington (Toronto competitor)

Pork Pate en Croute (Toronto competitor)

The crust was really well made and the rustic pork pate was very conservative.  I liked the duck jelly that was dalloped on top.

Creton (Montreal competitor)

Creton (Montreal competitor)

This guy was like a big mischievous kid – I caught him twice showering other competitors with rose petals and bestowing a small bloom to random men and women and then running away.  His creton, served on hearty rustic bread, was extremely decadent and well seasoned.  I felt like I was ready to tap some maple trees in my snowshoes.

It was a great evening and other than the opportunity to try some awesome food (and wash it down with reliably refreshing Spearhead beer – they featured their Hawaiian Pale Ale and Stout:  the former excellent with pork and the latter I plan to try with oysters soon!), I really loved watching the camaraderie between the chefs. Everyone was so supportive of each other and had great things to say for the next stations over.   This is what I love about food in YYZ.

Seriously guys, if they host another Hogtown Throwdown, you need to get on it quick.


2 Responses to “Hogtown Throwdown Part Deux: Toronto vs Montreal”

  1. magali August 1, 2013 at 9:47 am #

    go Mtl! what what!

    • aliceyyz August 14, 2013 at 11:17 pm #

      They are a worthy contender!

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