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
If anyone deserves to be called Toronto's organic guru, it's Jamie Kennedy of the eponymous wine bar and recently launched resto (9 Church, at Front, 416-362-5586).
Since the 80s, the perpetually boyish chef has been the pioneer of an indigenous cuisine based on seasonal ingredients grown on local farms, much of it organic. Together with Michael Stadtländer , another forward thinker in those conservative times, he formed Knives and Forks , the advocacy group of chefs, farmers and educators that produces the annual Feast Of Fields organic food fest.
"We'd reached the point where conventional sources of supply weren't turning us on, so we started to look outside Toronto for people who were doing interesting things," Kennedy recalls. "That search lead us to organic growers. There was a feeling that we were doing something new and viable yet old at the same time."
Now that organic potato chips can be found in corner stores, has Kennedy noticed any changes in the scene over the past 20 years?
"There's an increased awareness and consciousness about sustainable agriculture," says Kennedy, who's ready to harvest his first organic test planting on his farm in Prince Edward County this fall. "It's not so much about organics, because that's an elusive term. For the farmers, it's about good stewardship practices. For consumers, it's knowing the providence of the food they eat."
For Michael Guenther , the brash young cook at Big Mamma's Boy (554 Parliament, at Prospect, 416-927-1593), it's all about the love.
"I know it sounds hokey, but it really is," the first-time chef admits. "I just love the sense of community and spirituality of organic food."
Guenther has shares in Chick-a-Biddy Acres www.chickabiddyacres.com), the Peterborough CSA (community shared agriculture) farm owned by Sherry Patterson , who also started the CSA on Stadtländer's Eigensinn Farm.
"This week alone we received 24 pounds of heirloom tomatoes, 12 zucchini, three cantaloupes and loads of fennel, basil and leeks," Guenther gushes.
At the Cabbagetown bistro, the impossibly ripe and intensely flavoured veggies show up on BMB's spectacular bruschetta spread with chipotle mayo, as toppings in herbed butter over spaghetti squash and in the organic baked beans he pairs with the Mennonite smoked pork ribs he gets from Fresh from the Farm (350 Donlands, at O'Connor, 416-422-3276).
"I think its important to work with local farmers because it means they'll make a livable income for their efforts," says the Big Mamma's Boy, who's neither overly attached to his mother nor particularly large, for that matter. "And by cutting out the middle men, we pass the savings on to our customers. Everybody wins!"