Contrary to popular opinion, my favorite phrase is not “Happy Hour”. Nor is it “Shoe Sale at Barney’s!”. Or even, “Anybody want these Beyonce tickets?” No, my friends. My very favorite phrase, the sentence that makes me start salivating instantly and jumping for carnivorous joy is: “Pig Roast”.
Maybe it’s all those years spent on Maui attending luaus and local BBQs, scarfing down mounds of juicy salty pig with grease dripping down my sunburnt little arms that just makes me think of a pig roast as the food equivalent to happiness. So can you imagine my delight when I found out that a good old fashioned pig roast was happening just a few short blocks away from my new home?
For those of you that don’t follow me on Twitter (fools!), I’ve temporarily relocated to Toronto to begin production on a new television series that’s tentatively called Highland Gardens. The scripts are juicy enough that I’ve been sworn to moderate secrecy, but what I can tell you is I don’t fly in a spaceship of any kind, there are no alien battle sequences, and I don’t have to make out with David Hewlett (thank you, Oprah. Or God. I get them confused). But it does mean that most of my blogging is going to be coming out of Toronto for the next couple of months, which, lucky for me, is a city teeming with some pretty incredible restaurants.
My new favorite is Marben, a farm-to-table type of restaurant specializing in and showcasing all things local. The menu can change weekly, depending on what’s available or in season, which means you probably won’t ever be eating the same thing twice if you go as often as I’ve been going. On my first visit, the chef Carl Heinrich (who trained under superstar Daniel Boulud at DB Bistro in Vancouver, not to mention cooked at the fabulous Le Comptoir in Paris!!) was hosting a “Sausage League”, where he and several local chefs were competing to see who has the best… um… sausage. Moving right along, there was also a burger on the menu piled with braised short ribs, aged cheddar, and a smearing of Branston Pickle relish that was so gosh darn divine I’ve been craving it ever since, as well as a “crispy egg salad”, a caramelized onion-dressed plate of fresh greens topped with a breaded and deep fried egg. Plus, their wine list is delightfully obscure, and they’ve got a cocktail list that’ll make your liver spin. It can’t get any better than that, right??
Well, apparently it can…. In the form of a fat little pig making an appearance at the joint. But enough about me. We’re here to talk Pig Roast, and oh man was it delish!
As mentioned, Marben’s whole M.O. is to shine a light on local farmers producing top product, and about once a month (check their calendar on their website for updates), they showcase a 150 lb Berkshire hog with all the fixin’s. For a measly $25, you get a helping of beautifully roasted, caramelized pork with homemade BBQ sauce and two sides of your choosing. On the day we went, we were given the choice of crispy french fries with truffle aioli for dipping, sweet and zesty baked beans, green beans sautéed in brown butter, swiss chard braised in pork drippings, and of course a light and creamy coleslaw. Sound outta control? Oh, it was. And I loved every crazy minute of it.
For dessert, we had a warm apple pudding with caramel sauce, as well as a gorgeous citrus Panna Cotta with rhubarb and strawberries and sprinkled with pie crust “crumbs” that was the perfect end to a perfect meal. Except we caught the chef doling out portions of “pommes Kennedy” for service the next day, and my crazy/genius friend Chelan decided since our diet was blown, we might as well go all-out and have a secondsies dessert of friggin’ scalloped potatoes. Unnecessary? Yes. Also? AMAZING.
Marben’s also got an off-the-hook brunch menu on the weekends with bread pudding french toast (!!) and ginger rum apple “shandies” to wash it down. I’m telling you, these people have Inception’d my brain!
See ya there.