Monday, June 11, 2012

St Lawrence Market Chef Series: Jason Bangerter

One of the best kept secrets at Toronto's St Lawrence Market is its Executive Chef Series where participants can "eat, mingle and dine with the city's top local chefs" and enjoy a five-course meal complete with wine pairings. The first chef to kick off the Market's 2012 season was Chef Bangerter, Executive Chef of O&B Canteen and Luma at TIFF Bell Lightbox. One of my favourite restaurants and chefs in Toronto, I signed up immediately and was one of the lucky few fortunate enough to get tickets to the event.

The new loft-style Miele Gallery at the St. Lawrence Market's mezzanine level kitchen, is the venue for the Chef Series. A fabulous urban loft-style space with exposed brick walls, dark bamboo flooring and soaring ceilings, the kitchen is equipped with a sexy state-of-the-art Miele kitchen. Chef Bangerter and his staff arrived early to set up the kitchen and prepare the evening's spectacular 5-course dinner. Matthew James was also on hand to discuss the evenings wine pairings, as well as Toronto historian and local celebrity Bruce Bell, who provided fascinating stories about the St Lawrence Market area and Toronto's early days when the Market was on the shore of Lake Ontario and an apple orchard stood where Berczy Park now stands.

Chef Bangerter organizing the kitchen and his staff before the dinner begins

Celebrated Toronto historian Bruce Bell told fascinating stories about the 
St Lawrence Market and the city's early days

One of Chef Bangerter's Luma staff composing the first of five courses,
the Watermelon, Tomato and Buffalo Mozzarella salad for 40 people!

Chef Bangerter's five-course menu started with a fabulous Watermelon and Tomato Salad with a perfectly ripe ball of Buffalo Mozzarella, garnished with wild leeks, aged balsamic vinegar and baby basil leaves. The second course was a memorable Poached Duck Egg served with a summer smoked duck breast, garnished with fried croutons and wild flower honey. Chef Bangerter took the time to explain his technique for smoking the duck as an infusion of sugar, salt and chamomile tea, and proceeded to pass around the aromatic mixture to let us all inhale its delicate fragrance.

The delicious Watermelon, Tomato and Buffalo Mozzarella Salad

Chef Bangerter explaining his special aromatic blend for the Duck Breast

Chef Bangerter's special smoking mixture for the Summer Smoked Duck Breast

Poached Duck Egg with Summer Smoked Duck Breast & Wild Flower Honey

A perfectly poached duck egg

The third course was a gorgeous filet of west coast Lingcod, served on a colourful carrot and pea purée, along with a succotash of fresh peas, fava beans and turnip. Chef Bangerter and his staff's finesse in the kitchen was extraordinary. I had to admire their skill. Serving 40 people a five course meal that included dishes like poached duck eggs and roasted Lingcod that requires perfect timing and attention to detail, and they were faultless. The meal was beautifully presented, perfectly cooked and wonderfully flavourful.

Roasted Lingcod with Braised Beef Short Rib and Vegetable Succotash

Dessert came in two courses: the first was a delicious slice or ripe chevre from the Loire Valley served with a stalk of poached rhubarb, sweet rhubarb coulis and crisp lavender shortbread, all garnished with dried lavender, a sprig of organic baby basil and a macadamia nut. The second dessert course was a silky smooth Lemon Tart that had been sprinkled with sugar and caramelized with a blow torch to give it a crisp crust much like a creme brulée. Garnished with a wild blueberry preserve and sour cream ice cream, and served with a Peller Estates Ice Cuvée Rosé, the meal was outstanding from start to finish. Bravo.

Chevre with Rhubarb purée and lavender shortbread biscuit

Chef Bangerter and his sous chef preparing the Lemon Tart

Lemon Tart with blueberry preserve and sour cream ice cream

A wonderful end to a wonderful evening

For any food lovers who'd like to have an opportunity to interact with talented chefs while dining on a magnificent five-course menu, the St Lawrence Market Chef Series is the place to go.  The 2012 session features Jason Bangerter from Luma, Mike Crockford from Oro, John Horne from Canoe and Jason Rosso from the Boiler House. Although the series sells out quickly, I do know that there are seats still available for Jason Rosso, but take note — keep your eye on this event for next year and grab your tickets early. It's a great way to meet your favourite chefs, meet some interesting people and enjoy a fabulous meal.