Through some of my new “foodie” friends I have discovered Chef Scott Savoie and his Culinary Adventure Company. I looked over many of the tours that Chef Scott offers and one in particular looked like something fun and exciting to take part in: Escape the City…Canoe and Beach Dining Adventure. Here is a video:
The adventure consists of Chef Scott taking people onto a canoe at the foot of Rees Street (Queens Quay) and then paddling across the lake over to Centre Island. Once on the island, Chef Scott and his team prepare a gourmet meal for the guests. You paddle back to Toronto around 10:30 pm while enjoying the amazing night-time skyline of Toronto.
But on September 4th, Mother Nature had something up her sleeve called rain. And it rained all day with some thunderstorms thrown in for good measure. But Chef Scott was right on top of his game and he called me early to say the Canoe Adventure had been cancelled, but he provided us with options: re-book the Canoe Adventure for another date or take his Chef’s Tour of “Little Italy.”
Since we had booked the Canoe Adventure to include our friends Hugh and Shanna from Chilliwack B.C., re-booking the Adventure for another date was not possible since our friends are scheduled to leave Toronto by this weekend. So we opted to join the tour of Little Italy on September 5th.
Since my wife and I plus our friends from B.C. had all grown up in East York, we were not all that familiar with much of our city’s west end. And for the record, I consider the west end to mean anything west of Yonge Street! I thought that a tour of Little Italy would be a great way to get to know the area of College Street just west of Bathurst a little bit better.
We were told to meet at the corner of College and Clinton in front of Café Diplomatico at 7pm:
Our group consisted of my wife and I, our friends Hugh and Shanna from B.C., plus a husband and wife from Sydney, Nova Scotia plus another couple from Toronto but they originally hailed from Quebec and Australia. It is worth noting that the couple from Nova Scotia had done this tour before and loved it so much that they booked it for a second time!
Chef Scott was right on time and greeted us promptly at 7 pm. Our first stop was going to be at a secret member’s only club. Out of respect for future participants of this tour I will not divulge the location or name of this exclusive private club. An unmarked doorway leads to a steep staircase and you are thrown back into a bar resembling something from the prohibition era:
We were quickly presented with a refreshing cocktail consisting of sparkling wine and a few other ingredients that I did not catch the names of. We were also presented with some excellent bread and a salumi/charcuterie plate consisting of cornichons, salami, anchovies, olives and wild boar sausage.
A second cocktail arrived which resembled a Manhattan but used bourbon whiskey with a splash of red wine. It was absolutely delicious! Another tasting course of halibut cheeks in tempura and kimchi came next and these were devoured quickly by our group:
We were ready for our next stop on the tour. Chef Scott took us along College Street and pointed out some new establishments including “hapa izakaya” which was full of people having a great time:
We proceeded west on College Street until we came upon the Italian Walk of Fame which is located between Clinton and Grace Streets on the north side of College.
Johnny Lombardi was a famous Torontonian and established CHIN radio and the annual CHIN picnic:
Another famous Italian is hockey legend Phil Esposito:
As we ventured over to Grace Street we found a statue of Johnny Lombardi which you can see in the background of this photo along with an unusual gentleman sitting with Johnny:
Soon we found ourselves faithfully following Chef Scott down a back alley and into the rear entrance of a restaurant kitchen:
This turned out to be the Hogtown Pub and Oysters restaurant:
Our server was phenomenal and she offered us red or white wine or beer. We sampled fresh oysters from the Pacific and from Nova Scotia. Both were delicious but I slightly favoured the ones from Nova Scotia:
Our next tasting was some very tasty steamed mussels presented in two variations consisting of a gorgonzola sauce and a white wine/garlic version:
Our third tasting was a truly unbelievable cheddar and bacon mac and cheese dish. This was hands down the best mac and cheese I have ever tasted:
I have to say that Hogtown is definitely a place that my wife and I will return to. I can’t think of a better dinner than having a serving of steamed mussels, some mac and cheese and an excellent Hogtown lager beer. My apologies for not getting the name of our hostess, but she was amazing. Here’s a photo of the hard-working and talented kitchen staff:
I love the subtle touches of decoration found along College Street:
Next up was Acadia restaurant on Clinton Street:
At Acadia we had a very unusual but very tasty cocktail called The Bloomer Remover:
And we also had an unusual combination of grits and shrimps which despite sounding like an odd pairing, were perfect:
By this time the cocktails we had consumed were certainly taking effect and we were all feeling quite satisfyingly full. But Chef Scott had more in store for us. Next stop was Taverniti’s Trattoria:
This is a family-run restaurant and the owner’s mother “Nona” makes the sauce and the lasagna from scratch every day. Our beautiful and lovely server Lisa looked after us and brought us three courses plus wine and a special treat. First we had Nona’s lasagna and gnocchi, followed by pizza:
And then the totally amazing Limoncello liqueur:
We were absolutely stuffed by this point. But we couldn’t finish off the evening before having some Gelato. Lucky for us, we only had to waddle next door to The Mad Italian:
The Gelato was a great finishing touch to a wonderful evening.
Chef Scott was a great host and regaled us with culinary stories and we covered many topics over the course of the evening and certainly had many laughs. It was great meeting new people and sharing some of our food adventure stories and travels from all around the world.
If you are looking for a Culinary Adventure, try the tour of “Little Italy.”
Thank you, Chef Scott!