Swap Your Kitchen for Some Tundra (December 9, 2003)
Timing is everything, and even more important when it includes a delightful
dining experience that will be remembered and savoured for a long time.
The evening should include the right ambiance, superb service, special
people... and, of course, wonderful food perfectly paired with exquisite
wines. Imagine how thrilled we were to have such an experience recently.
And, icing on the cake, it's just steps away from our downtown Toronto
Does this sound like we're a bit over the top? You would be, too, if
you were in the middle of our seemingly endless kitchen renovation. Timing?
A special dinner out was clearly called for, and Tundra was just the place
to get away from the construction and relax with friends!
|Chef Executive Chef John Cirillo, C.C.C.
Located in the Hilton Toronto, Tundra Restaurant is tucked on one side
of the soaring modern lobby. The space is stunning, a calm landscape spread
out on different levels; all subtle colours and rich textures cleverly
suggesting our great Canadian wilderness.
Sigh, what a change from the wreckage and plaster dust at home. So what
if the electricians were delayed, for we had been invited by Executive
Chef John Cirillo to come sample Tundra's new menu, updated Canadian dishes
each paired with a Canadian wine. Matter of fact, the entire wine list
is Canadian; we were so pleased and proud to know not only that this is
now possible, but that there are so many excellent choices for the myriad
Like any good party with friends, we began in the kitchen.
Kevin Girard, Hilton's gregarious Outlets Manager, led us through the
labyrinth to the working heart of Tundra. Chef John Cirillo joined the
group and presented his starter courses, crostini topped with roasted
piquillo pepper, sundried tomato and warm feta cheese and grilled
vertical forked scampi. Over introductions, Kevin poured the aperitif,
Peninsula Ridge's tasty Ratafia 2002, a perfect match for these two appetizers.
|Kevin Girard (Restaurant Manager) on the left with Jeff Stewart
After a quick tour of the wine cellar, dinner was ready.
Our first course was Chef John's take on the Quebec classic, Tourtière,
and oh my, what an interpretation. The popular version calls for ground
pork, onion, herbs and occasionally cloves in a double crust pie - tasty,
hearty and homey. Tundra's recipe elevates this dish with veal sweetbreads,
chanterelles, and a slice of maple glazed duck breast with a Rougemount
apple compote. It's a far cry from the country farmhouse, especially when
the tourtière was paired with Cave Spring's Chardonnay Reserve,
VQA Niagara Peninsula, 1998. Somehow, we managed to resist begging for
The fish course appeared: Tundra Seafood Stew. Oh yum, a variety of fresh
fish with tender fennel, garlic aioli and a toasted baguette perfectly
accompanied by Burrowing Owl Pinot Gris, VQA Okanagan.
||Chef Executive Chef John Cirillo, C.C.C., with New Yorker Delores
Custer, who is on staff at the Culinary Institute of America (THE
CIA!!!) and a top food stylist
Then Ron suddenly lit up, for you might remember in previous columns
that we are seriously swinish about foie gras. Our dreams came true, as
the third course was presented, a seared carignan Quebec foie gras and
duck confit with egg-dipped French bread and a Saskatoon berry - chanterelle
ragout. Oooohhhh, yes thank you. And Kevin, what a marvellous choice for
the wine; an interesting and very successful Paradise Ranch Late Harvest
Merlot, VQA Okanagan. Why, thank you, of course we'd like a bit more.
At this point we didn't give a hoot about the hole where our kitchen
once existed. We were considering simply moving into the Toronto Hilton
for the rest of our lives... especially when the fifth course arrived.
Chef John presented a rich trio of sterling silver strip, deer loin,
and arctic char, all perfectly paired with Marynissen Estates Cabernet
Franc, 1997. The combination worked beautifully with the wine; the tender
sweet silver strip balanced the tempered gaminess of venison, and the
slightly salty, subtle arctic char gave each mouthful a burst of flavour
to finish. Brilliant, Chef John!
Then a still life painting appeared in front of each guest: three exquisite
cheeses from Quebec - Bleu Benedictine, Triple Crème Brie, and
a St. Augustine. Kevin served a rare and interesting choice, Château
des Charmes Savagnin, VQA Niagara Peninsula, 1998. We learned that it's
the grape of Vin Jaune in France. While it matched the cheese, it was
not an overwhelming favourite with most of the guests - but we were delighted
to have the chance to taste something so unusual.
Impossible, we couldn't possibly do dessert. But wait, Chef's Duo appeared,
Warm Chocolate Cake and Strawberry and Rhubarb Torte. Nobody, but nobody
was turning this down; every crumb disappeared, assisted by a slow stream
of Malivoire Wine Company Riesling Icewine, VQA Niagara, 2000. Nirvana,
and in our lifetimes, too.
The mysterious leak in the kitchen pipes didn't matter; the cut phone
lines weren't a problem; so what if the new fridge needed a service call.
A great evening out handsomely re-knitted the raveled sleeve, as they
say; we were restored and happy and ready to face tomorrow.
Don't wait for a crisis in your life; go have a special dinner tonight.
We're treating ourselves again soon - we've earned it! Make sure you get
acquainted with Tundra, for you'll be downtown for the Opera or a play,
perhaps an opening at the AGO... or just some good downtown shopping.
Don't go home hungry, go Tundra!
On today's menu:
Download these recipes in printable form as
an Adobe Acrobat PDF (86 KB)
Veal Sweetbread, Chanterelle
Tourtière with Sliced Maple Glazed Duck Breast and Rougemont Apple
A rich, sinful and amusing take on the traditional Quebec Tourtière.
Chef John Cirillo has mixed veal and veal sweetbreads with chanterelles
and cream for the filling, topping this rich little tart with a perfect
rare maple glazed duck breast. Vive Chef John and his magic for turning
this hearty peasant into a true designer dish!
- Olive oil
- 1 Tbsp chopped shallots (15 g)
- 1 Tbsp chopped garlic (15 g)
- 5 oz ground veal (150 g)
- 3.5 oz veal jus (or half-and-half chicken and beef stock) (100 mL)
- 5 oz veal sweetbread nuggets (cooked) (150 g)
- 4 oz chanterelle mushrooms (cooked) (125 g)
- 1/3 cup 35% cream (75 mL)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Fresh herbs, chopped, to taste (10 g)
(fresh herbs: traditionally, the Québec Tourtière contains
thyme, savory, bay leaf and a pinch of ground cloves or allspice. Use
your favourite combination; start sparingly, and increase to taste.)
- 4 4-inch pie shells pre-baked
- 1 maple glazed duck breast (or Chinese roast duck)
- 6 Tbsp veal jus (90 mL)
- 12 cups mixed salad greens (250500 mL)
- 1/3 cup vinaigrette (75 mL)
Sauté shallots and garlic in olive oil; add ground veal and brown.
Pour in veal jus and simmer for 5 to 6 minutes.
Add sweetbreads and chanterelles. Mix well, add cream, and season to
taste with salt, pepper and herbs. The mixture should be creamy and not
too thick. Keep warm.
Warm up pie shells in oven, place shells onto a dinner plate and fill
with tourtière mixture to the top.
Slice duck into 12 slices. Place 3 slices fanned out on top of each shell.
To finish, toss salad greens in vinaigrette. Place salad on top of duck
and pour heated veal jus around tourtière.
Accompanying wine? Tony recommends...
You'll need a powerful white wine with some residual sweetness
this suggests a Viognier from the Rhône, a Pinot Gris from Alsace
or a barrel-fermented Ontario Chardonnay (Stoney Ridge or Henry of Pelham).
TUNDRA, at Hilton Toronto
145 Richmond Street West, corner of Richmond & University Ave
Photos of Tourtière and of John Cirillo (standing) courtesy of
Kathleen O'Gorman; other photos by Helen Hatton.
Happily tested by Helen Hatton and Ron Morris.
Download these recipes in printable form as
an Adobe Acrobat PDF (86 KB)