Toronto has been under the spell of Grant Van Gameren for nearly a decade and it’s not ready to quit him. The restaurateur with a magic touch has been the force behind many of the city’s most beloved eateries, from The Black Hoof, which he founded alongside Jen Agg in 2008, to his first solo venture, Bar Isabel, in 2013, to this summer’s addition, a Polish-inspired pierogi palace, Tennessee Tavern. He’s not ready to quit Toronto, either, which is why he’s chosen to cruise into 2018 with the opening of yet another establishment: Quetzal, a Mexican restaurant featuring a more authentic take on south-of-the-border cuisine.
“I love tacos and guacamole, but the goal is to showcase different aspects of Mexican food and culture that have the potential to be lost,” he says. A husband-and-wife team, Kate Chomyshyn and Julio Guajardo (formerly of Van Gameren’s El Rey Mezcal Bar), will head up Quetzal’s cooking. A 28-foot open flame, the key to many of Mexico’s most traditional dishes, will anchor its kitchen. It helps that the couple has travelled with Van Gameren to Mexico, Argentina and Uruguay. “We’ve been back many times, mainly to the Oaxaca region of Mexico, learning old world techniques and recipes,” he says.
Suffice to say, Van Gameren is a busy guy. So much so that when it comes time to eat at home, he often orders in. “My wife is an amazing cook and she works from home, so she handles the food most of the time,” he says. “When it’s my turn, it’s either pizza or Taste of China. It’s pretty pathetic, I know.”
But let’s pretend we didn’t hear that, because here, Van Gameren curates a selection of his own kitchen essentials.
1. Munchies: Late Night Meals from the World’s Best Chefs book
“I just got it in the mail the other day and it’s awesome. I’m in it – I didn’t even know I was in it, but it’s cool.”
Munchies: Late Night Meals form the World’s Best Chefs, $40 at Indigo (chapters.indigo.ca).
2. Alhema olive oil
“We’ve spent years trying to find a good olive oil that’s versatile and unlike a bitter Italian olive oil. This is very clean and the best one I’ve ever tasted.”
Alhema olive oil, $16 at Pasquale Brothers (pasqualebros.com).
3. Canned anchovies from Lola and Miguel
“Lola and Miguel is an online store that specializes in Spanish products. [These are the] anchovies that we serve at Bar Raval. Everyone should have them in their dry storage. To understand the difference between a regular anchovy and one of those will cost you $20, but it’s a really amazing product.”
Don Bocarte achovy fillets in extra virgin olive oil, $16.99 through lolaandmiguel.com.
4. Cumbrae’s aged ribeye
“I’m about to cook three tonight! Anything Cumbrae’s does is amazing.”
Ribeye steak, price on request at Cumbrae’s (cumbraes.com).
5. A good frying pan
“If you are a serious at home cook, a key piece of equipment is a good, solid frying pan. Get yourself a thick-gauged stainless steel pan [such as this KitchenAid pan] to achieve the best caramelization and versatility when cooking. A cast iron skillet is another great home kitchen investment to achieve a similar effect.”
KitchenAid frying pan, $79.99 at Hudson’s Bay (thebay.com).
Courtesy: The Globe And Mail