Culi­nary Road­show

Sara Wax­man goes off the (slightly) beaten path and finds the new foodie world ac­cord­ing to The Drake

DINE and Destinations - - SARA SAYS: WHERE TO DINE NOW -

I ar­rive at the Drake Com­mis­sary in the Junc­tion Tri­an­gle with the high­est of ex­pec­ta­tions, and yet I see that I have un­der­es­ti­mated its uber-cool­ness. Since day one, Jeff Sto­ber’s Drake has had its fin­ger on the pulse. Sarah Lyons, the Direc­tor of Food and Bev­er­age at The Drake ex­plains what it is about the Drake cul­ture that makes it so at­trac­tive, unique and hip.

Sarah Lyons: Our guests tell us they ap­pre­ci­ate our unique ef­forts to dis­play a va­ri­ety of in­ter­ests, every­where, whether it’s art, mu­sic, bev­er­ages or food, we have ex­perts in th­ese cre­ative fields who are en­cour­aged to be cre­ative and do what they do best.

SW: Wher­ever the eye falls, there is an in­ter­est­ing view. If you just run in to grab some­thing at the take­out counter, say a duck con­fit sand­wich or a freekeh, quinoa and broc­coli salad, take a minute, look around, you’ll see some­thing that may en­lighten you for the rest of the day. The video loop of short vi­gnettes made by lo­cal artists is fas­ci­nat­ing. The cu­rated art pieces and mun­dane ob­jects are thought pro­vok­ing and witty. And every­where, there is colour, colour, colour. It seems to me that you are cre­at­ing a so­cial com­mu­nity for chefs, bak­ers and artists; a sym­po­sium cen­tred around a core of food and drink.

SL: Def­i­nitely. The more we live in the space, the more the space is telling us what it is. Ev­ery day more peo­ple come in, and it’s like a town square. This 5,000-sq.-ft. ware­house space, de­signed by +tong­tong is di­vided by dé­cor into unique seat­ing ar­eas. At lunch and din­ner, nearby of­fices empty into the Com­mis­sary. Some come with their chil­dren who press their noses against the glass of our pro­duc­tion bak­ery to watch our bak­ing team; some are on their com­put­ers, maybe writ­ing the next great Cana­dian novel.

Our larder holds smoked fish, her­ring, duck paté, char­cu­terie, cured sal­mon—all the items you might want to have for the week­end, along with a loaf of buck­wheat sour­dough. You can pick up items at our take­out counter: a beef brisket sand­wich, or Truf­fled Bianca Pizza with new pota­toes, Tal­le­gio and a host of greens. Or you can sit at a ta­ble, at the bar, or around a cof­fee ta­ble.

SW: Drake Cater­ing is some­thing new. You cater wed­dings, meet­ings and par­ties. What dis­tin­guishes you?

SL: We re­al­ize there is a real ap­petite for cater­ing, and it was time to take the whole pack­age of the Drake and make it avail­able to peo­ple out­side of our walls. We have pro­gram­ming we can use to cre­ate a vis­ual dis­play or mu­si­cal act at any event. Ev­ery­thing that is avail­able inside our walls is avail­able out­side our walls.

SW: So this is tak­ing the show on the road—live!

SL: Yes. We are known for our show­stop­per sta­tions. At our char­cu­terie sta­tion, we bring our vin­tage slicer, and do hand slic­ing. We bring a pasta ex­truder to the pasta sta­tion along with a big wheel of Parme­san. We have built beau­ti­ful mo­bile bars, and peo­ple have come to know us as lead­ers in bar cock­tails. Gord Hanah, our cock­tail am­bas­sador, has a fan­tas­tic ar­ray of bar­tend­ing skills.

SW: Tell me about your classes.

SL: We have Macramé classes where ar­ti­sans bring their looms. Hen­der­son Brew­ing, who brews our beer, has given a brewer’s talk. We have pub­lic speak­ing classes, pizza-mak­ing classes, guest chefs, and a Pak­istani cook­ing class, for ex­am­ple. We want to be a hub in the neigh­bour­hood and share the space.

SW: The con­cep­tu­al­izer in the Com­mis­sary is Ex­ec­u­tive Chef Ted Cor­rado. He has many stamps in his pass­port. I see his in­ter­na­tional ideas in your menu. The Com­mis­sary ser­vices all the Drake prop­er­ties with Jonas Grupiljonas as chef. At lunch I eat a salad of heir­loom cu­cum­ber ce­viche made with a va­ri­ety of crisp cu­cum­bers un­known to me un­til to­day, and beef brisket, house smoked, thickly cut and spicy. This is not your mother’s brisket, but you’ll wish it were.

SL: There’s more to this neigh­bour­hood than it ap­pears. We are a cul­tural in­cu­ba­tor; a hub of ideas that be­come re­al­ity and make their way into the world—through our cater­ing. Ideas are born from other ideas.

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