Amid hanging lanterns and colourful murals, the dining rooms at Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant's two locations fill with the aromas of spicy berbere sauce, sizzling beef tips, and savoury vegetable stews. Diners scoop up each bite with pieces of injera, a spongy flatbread that combines the tangy taste of sourdough with the aerodynamism of pizza delivered by frisbee. Cast-iron pots conceal slow-simmered stews of chicken and lamb, and slices of Western bread conceal pieces of grilled chicken or kifto, a very rare minced beef. Servers celebrate the Horn of Africa's claim as the birthplace of coffee by roasting beans at the table, releasing the earthy aromas of a traditional coffee ceremony.
Claudia Gaviria-Abt's education in cooking goes hand in hand with the seasons. Growing up between Colombia and Ecuador, she ate fruits, vegetables, and nuts harvested fresh from the countries' mountainsides and shorelines. Her appreciation for each season's bounty deepened as she learned to cook under her grandmother, a woman who lived the Hippocratic ideal of using food as medicine. Claudia remembers her grandmother's refrigerator and pantry as pharmacies, stocked with homemade medicines such as cold remedies made from potato skins.
Today, Claudia continues harnessing the healing power of raw-vegan foods through Cruda Cafe, preparing a menu that spans smoothies, wraps, and entrees such as a flax-crust pizza and a burger made of wild mushrooms and nuts. Dishes even come packaged in biodegradable containers from GreenShift. She also teaches people how to make wheat- and gluten-free raw-vegan dishes—defined as food heated to a maximum of 44 degrees Celsius to keep natural enzymes intact—in her Raw Un-Cooking classes, which emphasize local, organic, and seasonal ingredients. This gusto for the raw-vegan lifestyle has gotten Claudia plenty of local press, catching the attention of media such as blogTO and Raw Candy.
To meet the needs of local herbivores, Claudia's services extend to food delivery, raw catering for events such as birthdays and shuttle takeoffs, and coaching for people interested in opening a raw-vegan business. She also posts book recommendations and tips for juice cleanses.
At Vert Catering, head chef Pedro Dos Santos leans on years of professional experience and a Mediterranean culinary mindset to create wholesome meals out of local and organic food sources. The take-out menu is offered Wednesday–Friday and changes daily, although you might find pork goulash, fried polenta cakes, beef pot pie, or maple barley salad (check Vert's Facebook page for updates).
Catering options are more predictable. Assorted danishes and scones, trays of organic fruit, and croissandwiches show up at corporate breakfasts. Luncheons come to life with vegetarian and vegan sandwiches, hot meals of shepherd's pie or roast chicken, and hors d'oeuvres of corn cakes and empanadas. Also a caterer to the environment, Vert donates untouched food to local hostels, composts organic waste, and powers its building with carbon-neutral cold fusion.
Right down to the flatware that lifts each carefully executed bite to the mouths of 10 or 1,000 guests, Treeline Catering provides its clients with everything needed to throw the perfect event––whether it's a wedding, gala, or small informal get-together. Evidenced by an impressive roster of corporate clients, the team of chefs, servers, and event coordinators at Treeline have the chops for entertaining––and feeding––big crowds. From passed hor d'oeuvres to beautifully plated entrees or a simple breakfast, menus can be customized to meet a wide range of budgets and appetites.
In Da Leonardo Bistro's kitchen, located in the heart of Little Italy, chefs use ingredients sourced from Toronto farms and organic producers to whip up fine Italian dishes. Based on time-honoured recipes, handmade dishes include pizzas with toppings such as mango and garlic shrimp as well as pastas tossed with clams and vodka-blush rosé sauce that’s always embarrassed to be seen out of its bottle. A wealth of salads, paninis, and classic desserts such as tiramisu rounds out the menu. In warmer months, patrons can enjoy their meals on the outdoor patio.
Working with one of the country's most famous artists might cause some to rest on their laurels, but for Patricia Corsini, the years she spent as a personal assistant and photographer to renowned artist Robert Bateman only pushed her to keep exploring. Robert's sweet tooth led Patricia to culinary school at George Brown College, after which she became executive chef of Cook Gourmet Inc., where culinary experts show aspiring cooks how to craft elegant dishes.
In one of the company's many cooking classes, Sunshine en Provence courses lead students through each step of creating a bistro-style meal, and Some Like It Haute! sessions focus on stylish summertime meals. Classes are taught in a gourmet kitchen with a wide assembly of tools at students' disposal.
Cook Gourmet Inc.'s crew also caters events small and large, even providing personal-chef services for clients' dinner parties.