On March 1, 2009, I caught wind of a secret fine dining trend that was happening in Toronto, most notably through an organization/individual named Charlie's Burgers. I was intrigued and a little intimidated by the idea. It started to gain momentum and journalists from the Globe and Mail and Toronto Star attended these secret dinners.
On March 27, 2009, I wrote a blog post speculating about Charlie's identity. My belief was that he was Jamie Drummond, prominent sommelier for Toronto chef Jamie Kennedy. This blog post caused a lot of chatter in Toronto, getting hyperlinked by Macleans.ca and receiving cheers and jeers from food experts and other food bloggers. Jamie Drummond responded with a comment directly on my blog and I received an e-mail from the elusive Charlie, dispelling the rumour I had started. Jamie Drummond was even quoted in the Toronto Star as saying, "Despite popular rumours on the Internet, I am certainly not Charlie."
Looking back, I realize it was that speculative blog post that elevated the stature and popularity of Sift, Dust & Toss.
Later in April, I was invited to attend a Charlie's Burgers dinner, the theme of which was Your Last Meal on Earth. (Menu here.) It was an unbelievably special experience, one that I will never forget. The meal was held in eccentric millionnaire collector, Billy Jamieson's apartment, filled with dark and ancient tribal arts collections that felt more like a gallery than a home. (Pictures here and here and here - although they don't fully do it justice.) When I walked in the door, my eyes met those of Susur Lee, Canada's culinary pride and joy. I was humbled by the stature of my dining companions.
Our chef for the evening was Victor De Guzman, sous-chef of Cambridge's esteemed Langdon Hall. It's considered to be one of the top restaurants in Canada. We savoured oysters, scallops and charred octopus, a mature egg delicacy from Hanoi, cured and roasted duck breast, a Itoham Kobe beef striploin course, and, for dessert, a cashew, praline and meringue torte accompanied by mangosteen, coconut caramel ice cream.
My blog generated some debate about the authenticity of the Kobe beef, which I vehemently defended. Chef De Guzman wrote to me personally and defended the authenticity of the product. Charlie also contacted me. Naysayers and dissidents will always exist. Their jealousy did not succeed in detracting from our spectacular dining experience.
A year later, I would get the amazing opportunity to visit Langdon Hall myself and experience the delightful cooking of Chef De Guzman again with a fabulous tasting menu.
All this walking down memory lane leads my to the point of this post: I'm attending another Charlie's Burgers dinner this Sunday and I'm more excited than ever. As is the custom with these secret dinners, I don't know where it will take place, but I do know who the guest chef is and what the menu will be. Suffice to say, I'm very excited.
The menu is below. Click the image to see it up close.
And just in case that wasn't special enough, here's the optional additional course:
Recap to follow dinner Sunday evening. Stay tuned.