Bits: Cava Charcuterie Challenge

Bits: Cava Charcuterie Challenge

Cava hosted the second annual ‘Invitational Charcuterie Challenge’ two days ago at the midtown restaurant. Chef Chris Mcdonald invited 8 Toronto’s chefs to come and participate in a pork smackdown. I had the honour of being a judge at the event, tasting and dissecting many wonderful plates. I apologize in advance for the photo overload..




Bits: Cava Charcuterie Challenge

Like last year, Chef Chris McDonald put out the call to a number of chefs in the city asking if they would like to participate in a friendly showdown excercising their charcuterie skills. He took the first eight responses (some repeated from last year) to create the roster for this year’s event.

Bits: Cava Charcuterie Challenge

Chris and his chef Doug Penfold hosted the friendly army of culinary masters in the small kitchen of Cava. Each team then took turns in the kitchen and sent out their creations. A palpable sense of commraderie and conviviality was in the air as many chefs offered a helping hand plating and prepping each other’s dishes. The wines were local too, from Henry of Pelham, guests started with a very refreshing glass of Pinot Blanc and also enjoyed some Gamay Noir.

Bits: Cava Charcuterie Challenge

I was a judge at the event, along with James Chatto (www.jameschatto.com), Jamie Drummond (Good Food Media) and Robert Bartley (Director of Culinary, Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment). As we sat in Chris McDonald’s candy shop next door, Xococava, drooling over all the delicious treats around us, plates arrived one by one for inspection and…well enjoyment. 

Bits: Cava Charcuterie Challenge

The prize for the winner. The ground hog plaque. A cutting board with patanegra legs mounted on it. Last year’s winner, Michael Steh of Reds Bistro, took the plaque and mounted the head of a berkshire pig  before returning it to Cava for this year’s event. I learnt later on that the head was from the same animal he used to cook his dish for the evening.

Bits: Cava Charcuterie Challenge

Amuse Bouche by chef Doug Penfold and his team at Cava. A delicious posole with all the accoutrements.

Bits: Cava Charcuterie Challenge

First dish!, “Squeeze the quail egg and enjoy” we were instructed.
A super rustic sopressata sandwich, sitting on a bed of hot habanero mayo, topped with a quail egg.

Bits: Cava Charcuterie Challenge
Really liked the crunch in the white asparagus and the medley of meats. The spiced salami in particular was sublime.

Bits: Cava Charcuterie Challenge

One of my favourite dishes of the night, and a very simple one. Perfectly cooked lentils, with wild boar head cheese, and a deliciously eggy gribiche. I could have easily enjoyed another serving.

Bits: Cava Charcuterie Challenge

Chefs Michael Steh and Matthew Swift assembled a choucroute inspired by Michael’s Slovenian background. Smokey flavours throughout, with roasted pork belly that had a slight sweetness to it.

Bits: Cava Charcuterie Challenge

When Ryan Donovan (head butcher of Marben, pictured on the left) spoke about his dish at the end of the night, he joked that he guests enjoyed choucroute twice in one sitting, first Michael’s dish, and then Marben’s. The highlight of this plate was the smoked sausage which was lightly grilled, and some really nice sauerkraut.

Bits: Cava Charcuterie Challenge

Chicken cacciatore by the team at C5 restaurant. The sauce was rich with chorizo flavours, raisins and chestnuts.

Bits: Cava Charcuterie Challenge

Albert had two distinct terrines on this plate. The larger one on the right is a terrine of arctic hare with cloves and other spices. The smaller one was loaded with cartilage, offering plenty of crunch. Great textures in the terrine.

Bits: Cava Charcuterie Challenge

Now the judges didn’t get to see the piglet when we were served our plate, but I thought it was fitting to show it as it made for a great photo (also used it in the logo in the bottom right corner of all the photos).

“One of my sous chefs Trevor who was working with me tonight had this crazy idea of cooking a Terrine inside of a suckling pig..” chef Geoff O’connor of Nota Bene.
The terrine itself had a variety of elements in it from  pickled tongue, bacon, confit of pig ear.

Bits: Cava Charcuterie Challenge

The winners!

People’s choice
3rd place – Le Select Bistro
2nd place – Nota Bene
1st place – Reds Bistro

Judge’s
3rd place – Reds Bistro
2nd place – Parts & Labour
1st place – Nota Bene (The team took home a $400 gift certificate to the Cookbook Store)

www.cavarestaurant.ca

Bits > Casually chronicling where I’m eating, and what I’m eating. If it’s interesting and if its tasty, it will be here.

Written by Suresh Doss

Suresh Doss

Suresh Doss is the publisher of SpotlightToronto.com and Rickshawmag. Founder of the Food Truck Eats festival, Suresh has been a pioneer for the Street food movement in Toronto. In 2011, He was awarded the VQA Promoter’s Award for outstanding achievement in the Media category in the promotion of Ontario VQA Wines. Suresh is also the Global Editor for Whitecap’s StreetEats series of travel guides, which focuses on the best street food across North America. Suresh also runs the newly launched Zagat Toronto site.

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