SUMMERHILL MARKET (446 Summerhill, at MacLennan, 416-921-2714) High-profile chef Chris Klugman (Karin, Bistro 990, ORO, Rosewater Super Club) takes a low-key gig in hidden Rosedale supplying takeout food for this way-upscale gourmet groceteria. Expect expert takes on comfort-food classics, with subtle new world influences. Complete takeout meals for $15 per person, including all taxes and tip. Open daily 8 am to 8 pm. Unlicensed. Access: barrier-free, no washrooms. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Following the designated bike route up Sherbourne north of Bloor, then right on Elm and left on Glen Road, we cross over the ravine into deepest, darkest Rosedale. Once on the other side, the first hydro pole cautions, "Bus Stop," "No Standing," and "Be a Nosey Neighbour, Help Prevent Theft (www.north-rosedale.org)," a suggestion from the North Rosedale Ratepayers Association.My cycle gang's plan is to pedal toward the suicide trails that lead from Douglas Park down to the Toronto Brick Works in the Don Valley. But first, we need supplies.
At the top of Glen, we turn west and steal into a very upscale enclave that includes several banks, a dry cleaner and Summerhill Market, the pricey gourmet groceteria where Chris Klugman has been doing takeout for some 20 months.
Yes, the same Chris Klugman whose career trajectory includes launching Karin, Bistro 990, Oro and Rosewater Supper Club during the 80s and 90s gold rush. No wonder the tony nabe's in a dither.
Inside, we find what looks like a tasteful IGA where the moneyed likely pop over in their BMWs to pick up Klugman's retro-correct chicken pot pie ($11.95) when it's the au pair's night off. The chef oversees a team of six apprentices upstairs and a rotating roster of friends - Dinah Koo, Millie's Gary Hoyer - who provide deluxe Asian-inspired takeout as well.
But we zero in on things more appropriate for an urban guerrilla gourmet picnic.
Both chicken - half a moist, plump bird ($4.99/lb) that's mostly breast - and braised - beefy ribs ($5.99/lb) come swimming in Diana Sweet's too saccharine barbecue sauce. Great stuff, but methinks the lady takes her lineage too literally.
A mayo-free zone, Klugman's jacketed new potato salad ($4.99/lb, like almost everything here) sees the spuds paired with thickly sliced double-smoked bacon and sweet caramelized onion strands for brilliant results. His spicy bean salad references Santa Fe, an ancho- and chipotle-kicked collision of cumin, crunchy cubed bell pepper, coriander and kidney beans in olive oil dressing.
More salads. Chopped bocconcini with a chiffonade of fresh basil leaf and a healthy grinding of black peppercorns will no doubt improve once its taste-free cherry tomatoes come into season, something I've been waiting for since 1997.
Thinly slivered (cool as) English cucumber salad comes in an even cooler medium of sour cream. And delish oversized Israeli couscous joins sultanas and a tiny dice of carrot to create a minty Moroccan side perfect for an al fresco feast.
Has Klugman abandoned our high-profile restaurant scene to cook comfort food for the moneyed class?
"It might look like I'm never happy," laughs Klugman, whose curriculum vitae includes a stint as Geena Davis's personal chef. "But every time I think I've done it all, something new comes along."
Me, too. Since I limit my off-roading to the occasional lawn, this is my first time biking in the ravine. I nearly wipe out on the steep railway-tie stairs that lead to the old Belt Line before turning south toward the overhauled brickyard.
Since it's midweek, we have the idyllic environmental site to ourselves and soon set up camp on a picnic table overlooking the reclaimed wetlands, the DVP and downtown a fading distant roar.