Eating-up Stratford
Bite by Byte

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Duck Off!

This week can be summed up in one word:


 Yesterday on Twitter the hash-tagged word "#duck" was among the top Trending Topics of the day. The reason? On Thursday, someone somewhere issued a challenge (Twallenge?) to all Tweeters:


 I guess it "went viral", because for nearly forty eight hours the Twittersphere has been flooded by a flock of duck calls, a deluge of quackery ranging from the corny to the clever (you can decide which category the following fall into):

Don't ask what your #duck can do for you, but what you can do for your #duck.

Frankly my dear, I don't give a #duck.

Everything that happens, happens for a #duck.

I find your lack of #duck disturbing.

Utilizing duck at every single opportunity imaginable was more than just a Twitter trend this week - it was also a dining concept that Lisa and I were invited to experience on Monday! 

We both absolutely love duck [does anyone not love duck? Please comment... I'm experiencing 'comment envy' from never-ending debates that seem to always be raging over at The Chew]. So the "Duck Off" dinner at our friends Jessie and Tim's lofty nest this week was like a dream come true - ten courses of duck, duck, duck, duck, duck, duck, duck, duck, duck and... what was it again that we had for dessert? Oh right: DUCK!!

The Duck Off! dinner introduced me to a whole new undiscovered side of the Stratford culinary scene. Jessie, Tim and a bunch of other food lovin' folks (many of whom work in the Stratford restaurant industry) have been getting together every now and then for a themed dinner (not all that unlike the Charlie's Burger anti-restaurant phenomenon in Toronto). 

The theme this time around was (as mentioned twenty two times above) duck. The rest of the concept was: two of the most talented lights cooking in the kitchens of two of Stratford's best restaurants would mentor two highly motivated industry non-chefs through the execution of an all-duck menu. I think the idea originally was also to have the sixteen diners rate each dish to determine a winner, but honestly everything was so superb it would have been an injustice if one pair had been discredited for anything to do with this incredible meal.

The first chef/apprentice team was Kaya - a graduate of the Stratford Chefs School of Turkish nationality who currently cooks at Rundles - and Pazzo's upstairs fine-dining-front-of-house star Amanda.

Their "Duck Nacho" set the tone for the alternating series of dishes they would be presenting us with: delicate, composed, commendably creative, and, most importantly, off-the-hook tasty.

The other kitchen team consisted of our host Tim -  of The Church kitchen fame  - and Sasha, who also works at Pazzo's.

What I really liked about the evening was the contrast between the two teams' approaches... Tim and Sasha were deliciously different in their comforting, rustic style when compared to the other team, which we immediately appreciated upon seeing and tasting their indulgent salute to the just-past Canada Day weekend: the Confit Duck Leg & Seared Foie Poutine (above). Do you even have to ask if the fries were cooked twice in duck fat?

The Foie Terrine and Scallop Sashimi with Salmon Roe and Sauternes Jelly was a perfect summertime dish and a great illustration of Kaya's attention to visual flow. 

Our host Jessie (who's also part of the stellar Pazzo's team) was holding down the service side of this spectacular duck-fest, which included a series of universally wonderful drink pairings for each dish (I know I'm supposed to support Ontario VQAs but go get a bottle of Pinot Noir from Oregon's A to Z from 2008 - best glass of wine I've had in ages).

Tim & Sasha's Vanilla Scented Duck Breast with a Confit Potato Croquette (above) was at once exotically fragrant and down-on-the-farm homey.

We had the pleasure of dining with a few of Chef Kaya's friends/fellow Turkish nationals who had come up from Toronto just for this dinner; they told me that while the flavours of the open-faced wine leaf dolmo and Turkish coffee rub from Kaya and Amanda's entree did remind them of the food from Turkey, the use of duck took Turkish flavours to a level of fusion they had never before experienced.
The dessert was, as promised, a Duck a la Orange featuring Orange Candied Duck and a Duck Fat Crumble over orange scented caramel and cream. 

On our way out we were also all treated to a piece of Foie Gras Bubble Gum - who knew?

I want to thank Jessie and Tim for inviting us to take part in this special mid-summer meal. The food was above-and-beyond in every way but somehow the holistic combination of meeting great new people and hanging in a such a hip and laidback scene added a whole other level to the experience.

To conclude, please allow me to misquote Jack Nicholas and Tom Cruise from the Oscar-winning film A Few Good Men:

You want answers?!?
I want the #duck!
You can't handle the #duck!!

No comments:

Post a Comment