A Special Dinner Series in Toronto

What could be better than having a talented chef cook dinner? How about having five talented chefs prepare a five-course dinner? That’s exactly what I enjoyed at the first Cross Town Kitchens dinner in Toronto on June 2nd, when chefs from local restaurants Amuse-Bouche, C5, Marben, Perigee, and Torito cooked up a storm to raise money for charity. (The second dinner in the series will take place on July 28, 2008.)

When I first heard about the Cross Town Kitchens event, I doubted that I’d be able to go. While I’m always up for the challenge of dining in a new restaurant, I’ve had difficulties finding celiac-safe food at events. Hors d’oeuvres are something I steer clear of, since they’re usually set atop brioche, nested in a pastry shell, or treated with gluten in some other way. And I’ve learned from experience that it can be hard to get a kitchen to modify a set menu.

However, the five restaurants participating in the Cross Town Kitchens dinner couldn’t have been more accommodating. Not only was I treated to custom-made hors d’oeuvres (and let me say that a slice of cucumber is a fine substitute for brioche), but they managed to ensure that all five of my courses were gluten-free. Sometimes this involved reinventing a dish, so that while my fellow diners tasted a pappardelle pasta dish with morel mushrooms, fava beans, and duck prosciutto, I was tucking into a salad with identical accompaniments. Some of the dishes, including the pan-seared langoustines and the venison main course, were already gluten-free and needed no modifications.

Need another inducement? Proceeds from the dinners are donated to The Stop Community Food Centre. After the next dinner on July 28, 2008, there will be one in September 2008, another in February 2009, and the fifth (and hopefully not final) one in April 2009. If you’ll be in Toronto on one of the dates, I’d encourage you to check it out (and be sure to confirm that they will be able to accommodate your gluten-free diet when you make your reservation). The $95 per person charge is expensive, but this is a rare opportunity to have five chefs cooking for you — and raising money for a great cause at the same time. Bon appetit!

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