TABLE 17 is rated number one in the top 10 'farm to table' restaurants in Toronto - so on that basis we definitely thought it ought to be worth a dinner reservation…and it was. The interior was eclectic in decor, and intimate, the food was delicious, and chef made a much-appreciated effort to provide the vegan half of the party with a delicious and well-presented veggie plate. There are times that it feels as a non-carnivore my meal orders are treated a little contemptuously by chefs (but that’s for another blog).
My omnivore dining partner ordered the house made ham hock terrine, which was delicious (the starter actually had two slices of terrine but the by the time we took the photo one had already been devoured).
The 'country-style' terrine was chunky, flavorful and with just enough saltiness from the curing process to make it a perfect start to the meal. This was followed by a main course of local Lake Erie pickerel, so things were looking good for getting the answers to my questions about the farm sources. Chatting to our waitress about the suppliers she proudly announced that chef knew exactly where all his meat came from and that she would have no problem in getting the information for me. Turns out she did (have a problem getting the information) and chef said he didn't know the individual farms that supplied his meat. Disappointed and feeling somewhat cheated (remember - “number one farm to table”) I wrote to the restaurant the following day expressing my dismay. Within a short while I received an apologetic email from the manager saying that the chef had been too busy to list the meat suppliers during dinner, however he went onto say this was no excuse and my contact information should have been obtained and the required information provided out of restaurant service hours. In response to my email it had been the job of the commis chef to put all the information together and the manager provided me with a detailed list of their suppliers - from the duck all the way to the elk.
To get an idea of the raising methods of the farms which supply Table 17 I am relying on Internet searches (not being a Toronto resident) and importantly reading between and behind the 'blurbs' on the various websites. My findings and interpretations can be found below, but in summary Table 17 gets top marks for taste, ambience, supplier knowledge and now of course transparency.
The lesson learned for me as a consumer is whenever possible try and extract the farm information outside of a busy dinner-time - however, PR is indispensable for the reputation of a restaurant and I believe every effort should be made to take care of the customers' questions in a professional manner without resorting to dismissive tactics, especially in this new dining era of ‘know your farmer know your food’.
The dining experience, which this page is hoping to exemplify, is that dining-out is a series of relationships, from the farmer to the chef to the customer - history has shown us that it is no coincidence that the break down of these relationships has accompanied the general demise in food production in the last half century. However, what is very exciting is that just a few years ago a network like Farm 2 Belly could not have existed - but in our new ‘food intelligence’ epoch there are many restaurants to shout-out about where transparency and a respect for the grass-roots ingredients are linchpins in the final dishes on the tables of restaurants.
THE FARMS & SUPPLIERS
THOSE MEETING THE F2B HUMANE PROTOCOL
KUNAN FARMS (pork)
SECOND WIND, (elk)
BEVERLEY CREEK (lamb)
CUMBRAE'S (lamb only )
THE OTHER SUPPLIERS AND PRODUCERS
CUMBRAE'S (ham & bacon)
ONTARIO HARVEST (pork)
GEORGE MCGEE (beef)
KING COLE DUCKS (duck)
We were unable to find the website for Kunan Farms and have gleaned the information through third party Blogs - however it would appear that this is a Mennonite farm raising free-range heritage Duroc pigs. All the grain fed to the pigs is grown on the farm.
Cumbrae's a Toronto butcher, opened it’s doors 10 years ago by third generation butcher Stephan Alexander whose aim was to supply Toronto consumers and restaurants with local quality meat.
It has become a co-operative of 70 farms. All the spring lamb as far as I can ascertain is raised on pasture. Beef is also supplied to Table 17 from Cumbrae’s but for the most part the beef cattle are finished in barns on grain and silage at age 14 months…bearing in mind that under the industry's standards calves are shipped out to feedlots straight after weaning.
A Farm 17 supplier worth mentioning is ONTARIO HARVEST (although more research is needed to itemize and investigate the individual producers) which specializes in Ontario meat produced under the following guidelines:- “Naturally & ethically raised, hormone & antibiotic free, specializing in game meats & game fowl, heritage breed products”.
GEORGE MCGEE Stirling ON is a beef supplier for the restaurant - however we couldn't find any information on this cattleman.
Manager David Upper