Cowbell is a favourite for locally sourced, sustainable fare (photo by Derek Shapton)
It’s no surprise that some of Toronto’s top-rated restaurants are devotees of the local food movement: sourcing from nearby artisan farms and producers ensures freshness, which in turn guarantees flavour. Any discussion of “slow food” in this city begins with chef Jamie Kennedy, whose Gilead Café & Bistro serves modern Canadian fare that lets his farm-fresh ingredients shine. Tastefully simple, too, are the artisan meats butchered in-house and served at such restaurants as Cowbell and the Black Hoof—the latter’s charcuterie is legendary, as are the bone marrow–filled beignets at its sister space, Hoof Café. Slightly less meat-
centric is chef Teo Paul’s contemporary country cooking at Union—though you’d be remiss not to order the elk sliders.
Of course, using homegrown ingredients doesn’t mean a chef has to forsake global influences. Local Kitchen and Wine Bar preaches respect for one’s ingredients through exceedingly fresh Italian small plates, while amongst chef Victor Barry’s contemporary offerings at Splendido are a handful of traditional pastas plated with family-farmed accompaniments. High-end, internationally inspired cuisine made with Toronto flair can also be found at long-standing favourites like elegant George and Globe Bistro.
The movement to make eating a healthier and more environmentally friendly affair is bigger than ever. Free-range meat is sold everywhere, the 100-mile diet is ingrained in our lexicon, and even the White House has a vegetable garden. In Toronto, a number of chefs and restaurants have long promoted a more sustainable dining experience with seasonal, locally sourced ingredients in oft-changing but always delicious menus. Where presents a primer on a few of the well-regarded establishments that are giving this city’s foodies even more reasons to go green. BY ALEX HUGHES
“From farm to table, nose to tail” is the motto of popular west-end bistro Cowbell, which embraces “full boar” many of the slow food movement’s principles by sourcing only the freshest seasonal ingredients for its high-end fare. Almost all of the organic meats—from Berkshire pork to red deer—and produce served here are from Ontario farms, and it’s also one of the few restaurants in Toronto to buy whole animals, which are butchered, smoked and cured on-site. It’s no wonder Toronto diners still clamour for chef Mark Cutrara’s daily menu. An added bonus: Cowbell hosts reservation-only “Farmers Nights,” where a five-course meal is created using ingredients from a single farm. Along with chef Cutrara, the featured farmers are also on-hand to discuss their craft at the restaurant’s communal table.