Monday, January 14, 2013

James Bond & Luma at TIFF Bell Lightbox

“Bond, James Bond.” From the moment Sean Connery uttered those famous words at the beginning of Dr. No, Agent 007 captured the world’s imagination. In the five decades since, the suave screen hero has not only headlined the most successful franchise in film history, he has made an indelible impact on the worlds of art, music, fashion, technology, travel, automotive design, and lifestyle. Making its North American premiere at TIFF Bell Lightbox following its unveiling at London’s Barbican Centre this past summer, Designing 007: Fifty Years of Bond Style is the largest and most comprehensive exhibition ever devoted to Bond, featuring costumes, props, models, gadgets, concept artwork, storyboards and other fascinating artifacts from the series.

Toronto's TIFF Bell Lightbox: view of the exhibit from 2nd floor Theatre level

The entrance portal to the Bond exhibit

Actual bathing suits worn by Halle Berry, Ursula Andress, Daniel Craig and Sean Connery

Halle Berry looking fabulous in 'Die Another Day'

Video montage of each of the Bond movie intros

An extraordinary collection of original Ian Fleming book jackets from the 1950s

The original Thunderball book jacket cover, with illustration by Richard Chopping

A maquette of Jill Materson from 'Goldfinger'

Ken Adams sketch for the volcano interior in 'You Only Live Twice'

Ian Fleming, who wrote each Bond novel in about 8 weeks

Signature Bond items featured in the exhibition include the steel teeth worn by Richard “Jaws” Kiel in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977); the Anthony Sinclair overcoat worn by Sean Connery in Dr. No (1962); the poker table from Casino Royale (2006) and multiple gadgets from Q Branch. Complemented by three accompanying film programmes, special guests and educational workshops, Designing 007: Fifty Years of Bond Style is an unprecedented exploration of the distinctive design, craftsmanship and style of the world’s most famous secret agent. But the exhibit only runs until January 20, 2013, so don't miss it — you'll be both shaken and stirred!

Luma is located on the second floor of TIFF Bell Lightbox on King St. West

Ideally located upstairs from the Bond exhibit, is Luma, Oliver & Bonacini's stylish and modern restaurant featuring the consistently excellent cuisine of Executive Chef Jason Bangerter. Bangerter’s original, imaginative cooking is the perfect complement to Luma’s warm, inviting dining room, designed with rich woods, leather and stone and outstanding floor to ceiling views overlooking Toronto's King Street West. 

The über talented and fabulous Chef Jason Bangerter

There are even theme cocktails and martinis centred around TIFF's Designing 007: Fifty Years of Bond Style, that Luma has created with an innovative cocktail menu with Bondian concoctions such as The Vesper Martini, made with Russian vodka, gin and lillet served with a twist; The 'Q', made with gin, lychee, aloe nectar and cucumber; and The Moneypenny, which I ordered, made with gin, St Germain elderflower liquor, grapefruit bitters, fresh squeezed lemon juice and finished with a twist of orange. I'm usually a purist regarding martinis, but The Moneypenny was not too sweet and a bit tart with a subtle elderflower background note. Very addictive.

The long bar at Luma, which sits between the cocktail lounge and main dining room

Our bartender busy mixing a lineup of Bond-themed martinis

Pouring our two cocktails

The Moneypenny Martini, made with gin, St Germain elderflower liquor, 
grapefruit bitters, fresh lemon juice and a twist or orange, 
and the Classic Vodka Martini — shaken not stirred!

The warm and inviting interior of Luma

The menu, with all it's hidden treasures

A basket of fresh baked bread and artichoke purée

A lovely glass of Italian Salvali Pinot Grigio from Venezia

Luma is one of my favourite restaurants. From the moment you arrive and are greeted at the door, Luma's professional, friendly and attentive service staff and Bangerter's exceptional cuisine, keep me coming back over and over again. The lunch menu changes regularly according to the season, with dishes like Warm Poached Trout Salad with heirloom carrots, lamb’s lettuce and dill dressing, Bison Carpaccio with mustard greens, pecorino, croutons and horseradish cream, Marinated Tuna with crispy shallots, baby fennel, yuzu and pepper jelly, and Fresh Goat Cheese and Roasted Beets with pickled shallots, goat’s milk yoghurt and toasted hazelnuts — it's an embarrassment of riches.

Bison Carpaccio with mustard greens, pecorino, croutons and horseradish cream

Fresh Goat Cheese and Roasted Beets with pickled shallots, 
goat’s milk yoghurt and toasted hazelnuts

Entrées feature Luma's exceptional Lamb Burger with tomato garlic jam, fried onions, goat cheese and frites, Pan Seared Scallops with white beans, jerusalem artichokes, rosemary and sherry vinaigrette, Calf's Liver with buttermilk mashed potatoes, cipollini onions, watercress, bacon and apple, and the ever-popular Steak Frites with red wine braised shallots and truffle parmesan fries. There's also the Daily Flick which features the Chef's special dish of the day. A small bowl of warm marinated olives or marcona almonds with sea salt and spanish olive oil are perfect for sharing, and a lovely way to start the meal with one of the bar's signature Bond martinis.

Pan Seared Scallops with white beans, jerusalem artichokes, haricots verts, 
rosemary and sherry vinaigrette

Steak Frites with red wine braised shallots and truffle parmesan fries

The dessert menu is not to be missed, with sweet temptations offered on a plate or in glass, such as Caramel Pumpkin Tart, with spiced orange syrup and toasted cinnamon ice cream; Sticky Toffee Pudding with whisky butter sauce, apple compote and chestnut ice cream; Luma Chocolate Bar, soft dark chocolate, banana and peanut butter ice cream; or the outstanding Pistachio Financier, warm and moist from the oven, with cardamom poached pear, gianduja chocolate mousse and almond milk ice cream — our server Livka recommended this dessert and it was indeed exceptional. There's also a selection of Canadian and imported cheeses which are served with warm artisan bread and local honey, and sumptuous special coffees like Café Nanaimo which is a cappuccino spiked with lamb’s spiced rum and godiva white chocolate liqueur. Just roll me home.

Pistachio Financier, warm and moist from the oven, with cardamom poached pear, 
gianduja chocolate mousse and almond milk ice cream

A delicious macchiato was the warm end to a delicious meal

Just before we left, Chef Bangerter came over to our table to say hello. I had met him a couple of times, but more recently at the St Lawrence Market Chef Series, where he created a sumptuous 5-course meal. Two JBs in one day — James Bond and Jason Bangerter — what a killer combination!

Niagara Gold Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Serves 2
Recipe courtesy Jason Bangerter

1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch each: chopped thyme leaves, black pepper
4 oz Niagara Gold cheese, at room temperature, thinly sliced
4 thick slices sourdough, country-style or other artisan bread
2 oz thinly sliced prosciutto
1 cup packed baby arugula
2 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature 

Bring the cheese to room temperature. In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, garlic, thyme and pepper; spread mixture on one side of each bread slice. Place half of the cheese on one bread slice; top with prosciutto, arugula and remaining cheese. Top with remaining slice of bread, mayonnaise side down. Butter both sides of the sandwich. Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Cook sandwich, turning once, for 5 minutes on each side or until golden brown and cheese is melted, adjusting heat as necessary to prevent burning. Cut the sandwich in half and serve with pickled grapes, sweet grainy mustard, potato chips and fresh pressed grape juice. Transfer to cutting board. Let stand 1 minute before cutting on diagonal.

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