Sunday, September 7, 2008

Dinner at the Drake

One of my favourite parts of being an intern at the NFP I was hired by this summer were the event related perks. As an intern I occasionally felt like I was schlepping for no good reason and that I could be making much better use of my time. I was terribly frustrated and every so often contemplated throwing in the towel. I didn't though, because whenever it felt like things were getting to be a bit too much we'd have a fabulous event that I'd get to attend gratis.

After the festival was done the staff convened for one final hurrah at the Drake Hotel in Toronto. I don't know why I'd never been to the Drake before. Compared to it's neighbour the Gladstone, the Drake always seemed a bit stuck up, and more importantly, a bit too hipster for me. However, since the Drake had contra left over, that's where we were having dinner. The menu was a lovely standard 3 course with 3 options for each.

We started with a lovely prosecco to toast our sucess - and a sexy little sushi amuse. While the tuna was cut a bit thick for me, the lightly brined ginger (white - not that shocking pink) was very very refreshing and I'm tempted to learn to make it myself. The vegetable rolls were also delicious.

While the beet salad with chevre sounded incredibly tempting - and I love beets - I opted for the charcuterie plate because I prefer salty protein to sugar, and more importantly there were olives involved. Granted when the plate came out the olives were the green variety (not my first choice) but the seasonal fruit were lovely Ontario cherries. Few things can make me happier that beautiful local cherries. The foccacia was lightly toasted and drizzled with a rosemary olive oil. The charcuterie was deliciously salty and went perfectly with the sexy red they were serving (the name of which I forgot to note)

Following the charcuterie were a standard vegetarian pasta option, or a quarter roast chicken with sweet corn and heirloom tomatoes, or beef short ribs au jus with creamy smashed potatoes and lobster mushrooms. My choice was a pretty straight forward one. Mushrooms and beef are two of the things I most adore in the world and the notion of smashed potatoes was just too much to resist. Laced with salted butter and wonderfully creamy they were perfect.

Dessert was a tough choice for me...on offer were both a blissful sounding sticky toffee pudding, which I would have picked without a thought save for the fact that of late I've had a bit too much of the Haagen Dasz stucky toffee pudding ice cream and so decided a break was in order. Thus I selected the chocolate and butter scotch pot de creme because I think pots de creme are darling. What I got, and I'll admit I was dissapointed, was a single chocolate pot de creme with a swirl of creme fraiche. While I love chocolate it seemed that this example had been sitting in the refirdgerator a bit too long and was coated with a thin layer of condensation. Further, and I probably should have said something about this, it was the butterscotch I was really looking forward to because I love the rich caramel notes it brings. Luckily, due to some concern on the part of my dining companions I got to sample the pudding.

There was talk of it being spicy - and not in a lovely ginger, clove, cinnamon kind of way. This was a hot, searing, uncomfortable kind of heat. So I tasted, and tasted and tasted some more. And then I realized - it wasn't the pudding - which was cookbook correct with dates and syrup. Instead it was the accompanying pecans - which they had candied with a little cayenne pepper. While this may make for a wonderfully interesting bar munchie - the cayenne mixed in with the heat of ginger and clove in the pudding was jarringly disconcerting.

Beyond that it was a fabulous meal in a beautiful venue. If you have the chance to dine at the Drake take it without a second thought. The service is lovely and thoughtful, the space is utterly gorgeous and the food is quite good. Maybe those hipsters are on to something.

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