Thursday, January 21, 2010
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
The ship may remain, but alas Captain John is set to retire. So we scurried to his boat on a blustery winter day to get a final glimpse of this Toronto institution before it closes its doors for good.
A driving force in closing Captain John’s Seafood besides the passage of time is that the city considers the ship a structure, and hence subject to hefty property taxes. The actual vessel may remain where it is, while prognosticators and potential investors speculate upon the ship’s reincarnation as a fancy club or some other extravagantly themed venue.
As we approached the boat, we noticed that it certainly had seen better days. Random patches of mismatched paint covered swathes of the her hull. Not to be deterred we entered into a kitschy waiting area loaded with marine paraphernalia.
We waited for a maitre’d and were greeted by a charming old man in a bright blue nautical blazer. He escorted us to our seats in an elegantly dated dining room that screamed old folks home. This room was surprisingly comforting, not unlike visiting your grandparents. It's as though we fell through a rift in space-time. Neither did it feel like downtown Toronto, nor did it feel anywhere near 2010. “This is nice,” we thought, as we looked forward to our meal.
On our table was a photocopied menu with the life story of “Captain” John Letnik, and the good ship Jadran.
From humble beginnings in Slovenia, Captain John escaped poverty via Austria to finally find himself alone and penniless standing outside Toronto’s Union Station at the age of 17. Luckily, a young couple sensing his dilemma struck up a conversation with him in German no less, the only language the three had in common. John soon had a place to stay and a job as a houseman at a golf club. Through hard work at various kitchens, he finally scrounged up enough to buy his own restaurant. Later on, he got caught up in the idea of opening Toronto’s first floating restaurant.
In November of 1975, the MS Jadran (Adriatic in Yugoslavian) finally arrived from her transatlantic voyage to dock at it’s current location. Purchased from the Yugoslavian government in the fall of 1975, the Jadran has 5 levels, 355 staterooms, and a capacity of 700 people. We later found out from one of our sources that the ship used to be Marshall Tito’s personal yacht! Who knows what cold war mysteries she hides?
We ordered the combination platter for two: “A delicious array of Crab Clusters, Shrimp a la Scampi, Fried Shrimp, Sole, Scallops, Chicken and baked Fish. Served with rice and fresh cooked vegetables, with soup” for $31.95.
Next up was the very satisfying Manhattan clam chowder. Unlike most chowders we’ve had, it was less creamy and very tomatoey. We loved the huge tomato chunks.
Between the rich bread and hearty soup, we were already feeling sated before the main course had arrived. And then it came... the seafood feast.
As you can see from the photo, there was an abundance of seafood, and we wound up quite full. There was a lot more crab and baked fish than we expected, and we were very happy with our meal.
Captain John’s was a good experience. It’s not haute cuisine, so if that’s what you’re looking for, we suggest you look elsewhere. It’s a cozy and laid back place for families or couples to enjoy a decent seafood meal in the heart of the city.
Too bad it’ll be gone soon. If you’re interested in carrying on the legacy yourself, the Jadran can be yours for a paltry $1.5 million here: MLS listing
Click here for additional photos: Captain John's Seafood
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Pamela Cuthbert kicks it off by asking readers to take stock of their kitchens - could you provide food for your family in an emergency? What if borders closed and the food supply was on lockdown? How would we hold up with our "delivered-just-in-time" grocery model? I agree that food security is one of those things we never think about until it presents itself as a pressing issue. Pamela outlines the importance of food security (especially among those less fortunate than us) and the work that is being done on an ongoing basis to try to keep it top-of-mind.
As if a partial answer to Pamela's story before it, Lorraine Johnson writes about urban gardening past and present - she mentions Victory Gardens for the war effort / during the Depression where food security became something the entire country focused its attention on. She also mentions the potential the city has for urban gardening, making particular note of the uproar over planting fruit trees in Ben Nobleman Park across from Eglinton W. Subway Station. I think it's a neat idea - I'm planning to make a visit in the summer to see said fruit trees.
Mary F. Williamson follows the history of the Webb family, who was well-known for their wedding cakes, their catering business, and their restaurants and bakeries. She paints a picture of lavish catered events of a bygone era, including a swanky party thrown in Toronto by the Earl and Countess of Aberdeen in celebration of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. The story even contains an old menu from one of the Webbs' catered events. Can't say I miss the aspic craze though - one of the items mentioned in the story is tongue in aspic (it's not the tongue that throws me off, it's the aspic part! I digress a bit here, but I had a Filipino dish with cow tongue at Christmas and thought it was pretty good - it's a lot softer than I figured it'd be).
Katarina Gligorijevic explores "The Toronto" - a cocktail that, oddly enough, many Torontonians have never heard of and that has no traceable connection to Toronto whatsoever!
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Chef Silvestro's Stone Soup is a dish rooted in folklore and tells the story of a hungry traveler who persuades famished villagers to work together - and contribute one item from their own food supply - to create a delicious soup which feeds them all. "The story of 'Stone Soup' is a perfect example of how a small amount from many can benefit the whole group" says Ian Sorbie, President of Il Fornello. "We're pleased to partner with Daily Bread to raise both awareness of, and funds for, the good work that they do. In addition to donating $0.75 for each Winterdelicious prix fixe dinner, we will also be donating $0.75 from every à la carte Stone Soup we sell". Gail Nyberg, Executive Director of Daily Bread Food Bank agrees. "Every little bit helps," says Nyberg: "I'm glad to see businesses like Il Fornello getting involved and giving back to their community. It has been a very difficult year for food banks and Daily Bread Food Bank is grateful for their support."
Stone Soup with pasta, beans and vegetables
Grilled Calamari with roasted red pepper coulis and basil sauce
Crostini topped with celery root purée with grana padano and truffle oil
Pizzette with potato, fontina and crispy shallots
Veal Stew with gnocchi
Papardelle with vegetable ragu finished with grana padano
Chicken Parmigiana with linguini pomodoro
Gourmet Pizza with mushroom velouté, pancetta, eggplant and mozzarella
Chocolate Zabaglione with toasted panettone
About Daily Bread Food Bank
Daily Bread Food Bank is a non-profit, charitable organization that is fighting to end hunger in our communities. Daily Bread serves people through neighbourhood food banks and meal programs in its 171 member agencies and there were over 758,000 client visits to those agencies last year. Daily Bread Food Bank fights hunger by providing food and resources for hungry people; mobilizing greater community support and creating social change through research, education and advocacy. www.dailybread.ca