What happens when a top Toronto chef and a top Ontario winemaker team up? We hosted an exclusive dinner to find out
Brandon Olsen is the soft-spoken chef behind La Banane, a refined yet rambunctious dining room that serves classical French dishes with a decidedly modernist bent. Norman Hardie is the gregarious winemaker who has become the most recognizable name in wine-crazed Prince Edward County. They’re both inimitable talents. Wouldn’t it be cool if they planned a special one-night-only dinner?
That’s exactly what they did in November, with a little help from Toronto Life and Drink Toronto. Olsen and Hardie collaborated on a contemporary French menu that featured six courses paired with some of Hardie’s best handiwork, including his VQA chardonnay and pinot noir, and Cuvée Discotheque 2016, an all-Niagara riesling custom-bottled for the hip Ossington restaurant.
Olsen’s got a knack for Gallic cuisine’s greatest hits, which meant seriously jacked frog’s legs, supernaturally fluffy omelette bites topped with caviar, a bold bouillabaisse rippling with Spring Island mussels, thoroughly immodest bricks of foie gras and a savoury duck pithivier wrapped in a burnished pastry crust. No meal at La Banane can properly end without one of Olsen’s iconic Ziggy Stardust Disco Eggs, a tie-dyed dark-chocolate ovoid shell that’s cracked open with a golden spoon to reveal a clutch of chocolate truffles. Olsen moonlights as a chocolatier, running Kensington Market’s CXBO, which is one of the all-time great side hustles. Hardie runs a side hustle of his own, baking pizzas in the summer months in a wood-burning oven at his winery. Based on the success of this one-off dinner, one can only hope that an Olsen-Hardie pizza-chocolate sequel is in the cards.
HEAD BARTENDER CHRISTOPHER WEAVER
DUCK PITHIVIER WITH SULTANA RAISINS
NORMAN HARDIE AND BRANDON OLSEN