By David Silverberg
I’m eating farm-fresh food on the second floor of a hipster boutique hotel in Toronto’s Parkdale district. Something doesn’t feel right. My plate is crowded with three-colour slaw with flaxseed oil vinaigrette, roasted beets mixed with toasted walnuts, eggplant confit with tomato, garlic and parsley, and a wild pilaf dotted with fresh-picked corn. Downstairs at the Gladstone Hotel, sex professionals (read: workin’ girls) are staging a celebratory cabaret night.
This dichotomy of wild party below and organic greeneries above is undoubtedly a unique night for any health-conscious foodie. I’m indulging in the Gladstone’s Harvest Wednesdays, a “farm-to-table experience” featuring bountiful produce and locally grown meats and cheeses. By showcasing “in season” fruits and vegetables brought straight from Chick A Biddy Acres in the Trent Hills to downtown Toronto, the Gladstone is trying to draw the green consumer hungry for an immediate connection to cooked food. Tonight, the buffet – which ran from August to October – attracts 45 paying urbanites who are curious to sample what rural farmers create daily.
The food is unlike anything I’ve experienced in the city. The confit works wonders on my taste buds as eggplant swims in an olive oil and cinnamon sauce. Although only the size of a fist, the salmon wrapped in a Savoy cabbage roulade is so fresh it should steal the motto from the Dominion grocery stores.
And as the Gladstone chef, Marc Breton, serves me peach and blackberry cobbler for dessert, I recall what he told me only moments earlier in a quick interview: “Everyone loves food but how many people know where their supper comes from?” Thanks to 72 acres outside Peterborough, several-hundred city folk can now answer that question with confidence.