The organic movement is growing in power and presence in Toronto. NOW's special supplement puts the spotlight on the people committed to increasing the availability of organics and the places where shoppers can get their healthy fix. Rating: NNNNN
Michelle Bellerose has little time for convention. The improvisational artist and iconoclastic cook named by NOW as best emerging chef of 2004 at the now closed restaurant of the year, cleverly dubbed the Restaurant, has just resurfaced doing organic weekend brunch at the Old Nick (123 Danforth, at Broadview, 416-461-5546), of all places. "Organic is political," says the visionary chef. "You're putting money into a system that operates in variance to the status quo and creates change."
Since conceptually closing her experimental Kensington Market café on New Year's Eve, she's entertained offers from the UK's Gordon Ramsay , who wanted her to help launch a vegetarian eatery right around the corner from Buckingham Palace, and from equally volatile local Greg Couillard before deciding to focus on her improvisational combo Zoulous instead.
Over the summer, Bellerose hosted a series of underground after-hours performances in the downtown warehouse space she calls her "micro-theatre," serving up sets of pan-global trance alongside tapas of wild black trumpet mushroom pâté and her signature raw organic chocolate truffles. Check out her website (www.michellebellerose.com) for info on her next covert event. Recipes, too!
For now, she's doing the Old Nick gig, a move that's certainly Bellerose's most unorthodox yet.
"I stand on wet newspaper and get splashed by a cruddy deep-fryer full of McCain frozen mozzarella sticks and jalapeño poppers and I fucking love it," she explains. "I'll leave the high concepts to the fashion-conscious."
That's not to say her short, mainly organic card - littered with flaky messages like "no fear," "no envy" and "no meanness" - is any less adventurous. The Lilith Torte sees thick buckwheat flapjacks layered with wild chanterelle 'shrooms, sweet yellow Japanese-style pickled daikon, strips of seaweed caviar and a final splash of tangy yogurt.
Evoking a Southwest campfire breakfast, Cactus Daybreak finds organic cornbread alongside eggs scrambled with salsa, sided with a fabulous hash of organic white beans, diced 'n' spiced pork and pine nut (both $14 with organic greens in an agave Thai vinaigrette).
"I'm not looking to reinvent gastronomy," Bellerose laughs. "If you want to tuck in, fine. If not, get the fuck out."