When I heard that Good Food Revolution was putting on an intimate six-course dinner and wine pairing in honour of the late food writer Elizabeth David at All The Best Fine Foods, I knew it would be a very special evening. I simply love dinner parties in unconventional settings and although All The Best at Yonge and Summerhill is a destination for sumptuous pre-made dishes, it is not a space that typically hosts a plated feast. I invited my mom, made a reso and was delighted to bike uptown for an experience akin to no other.
Truth be told, I had no idea who Elizabeth David was before being seated at the table but after engaging in conversation with foodie guests I now understand her immense contribution to the progress of cuisine and have an insatiable appetite to research everything I can about this brazen and inspirational woman, who is credited with introducing Mediterranean flavours into boring British food. Those who have studied her work are quick to remark that she is responsible for making garlic and olive oil kitchen staples in the UK. It’s hard to imagine that there was ever a time when these essentials weren’t there, but for decades the vast majority of Britain relied on butter and salt as their predominant seasonings.
Her books, like An Omelette and a Glass of Wine and French Country Cooking, read like food eroticism; it’s difficult not to immediately want to run to the market and begin experimenting. Juicy, romantic and flavourful are also words that describe her private love life. A passionate woman, she loved great food, great sex and–we also hear–had an affinity for wine and cocktails. Hmmm, sounds familiar.
Seated around the table was an eclectic mix of food lovers who hailed from a variety of disciplines. Roberto Martello, owner of longstanding Italian restaurant Grano (26 years!) and food writer and cookbook author Judith Finlayson (who had a rare interview with Elizabeth in the 60s) were seated amongst school teachers, wine industry folk, loyal All The Best customers from neighbouring Rosedale and folks like me–who couldn’t differentiate a Beaujolais from a Merlot if I tried. The menu was inspired by Elizabeth’s writing and recipes and prepared by All The Best catering wizards; although she was British the exquisite supper felt more like we were vacationing in Aix-en-Provence.
At the onset of each course, Good Food Revolution’s Editor and sommelier Jamie Drummond turned on his charm, introducing each wine with colourful details that surfaced through somewhat bizarre tales of his sizzling love life. (We hear it is still quite spicy.) Following, Jane Rodmell, co-owner of All The Best Fine Foods, would add some notes as to how her team carefully selected each ingredient. I especially enjoyed when Jane opened up her tattered Elizabeth David books to read a line or two in a poetic fashion.
It was a magical event and at times had me wondering if Elizabeth herself was there in the room, watching us; stiff drink in one hand and ciggy in the other.
There are soft rumblings that a night like this may occur again at All The Best, be sure to follow Good Food Revolution so you don’t miss out! In the meantime, head to The Cookbook Store at Yonge and Bloor, pick up one of Elizabeth’s books and start making love in the kitchen.
~ Jen McNeely | Photos by Rebecca Feigelsohn