Encore Catering's Open House Event

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 5000 Dufferin Street
Website: http://encorecatering.com/

When invited to visit Encore Catering’s state-of-the-art kitchen, I was excited to see what happens behind the scenes. It’s no secret that I love food, so the event was akin to asking an art lover to watch an artist paint. I expected a utilitarian night surrounded by stainless steel appliances. But, to my surprise, Encore’s kitchen was transformed to an event space with drapery, candles, flowers and a sparkling arch (courtesy of their sponsors Divine Furniture Rental, DT Floral & Décor and Gervais).

With various stations set across their kitchen, I had no idea where to begin. So, grabbing a drink, made by Barchef, seemed to be a good place to start. Having tried the basil daiquiri and candied orange sour, they were both flavourful and refreshing. However, what blew my mind was the Sailor’s mojito: a shot of mojito suspended in a capsule which releases as you bite into it – these would work so well for parties and dessert tables.

To begin, a trio of open-faced sandwiches. First, a warm smoked turkey sweetened with cranberry jam and topped with creamy avocado and melted Swiss cheese. Followed by a delicious caprese with juicy heirloom tomatoes, a thick wedge of fresh mozzarella and a flavourful pesto oil (albeit a bit messy if ever served as a finger food). My favourite was the stuffed yorkie (pictured in the middle), where tender slices of filet mignon, meaty mushrooms and rich gruyere cheese were all placed into a crispy and light Yorkshire pudding.

Moving onto the more substantial “tapas” station, we were in for a treat with cubes of lamb confit and a surf-and-turf of scallop with parmesan crusted filet mignon. I particularly enjoyed the watercress spaetzle that sat underneath the steak which soaked up all the delicious juices from the meat. If only they were pan fried beforehand it would be even better. 

But, it was the mac and cheese stuffed chicken wing that really got me intrigued. Looking like a plump drumstick, upon breaking through the crust you’re greeted with tender chicken mixed with creamy mac and cheese. On the side, a crispy pancake, which ended up being Caesar salad breaded and pan fried. This would be a hit with adults and children alike.

The Asian station allowed guests to customize their own cold salad roll, perfect for gatherings where there are varying dietary restrictions. With numerous toppings including Peking duck, soya chicken, lobster, jumbo tiger shrimp, mango, a variety of vegetables, dry pork floss, etc. to choose from, I made a refreshing lobster, mango and herbs version.

Off to the side were pre-made spring rolls served in steamers. I tried both the pork with shrimp and the chicken with shitake. I particularly enjoyed the chicken one where the juicy meaty shitake went so well with the sauce and thin rice sheets.

You could really customize the flavours with the sheer amount of dipping sauces available. There was lime fish sauce, peanut hoisin sauce, sriracha, spicy mint mango, orange fish sauce and my favourite - lemongrass ginger soya sauce.

If all that weren’t enough, tons of hors d’oeuvres were passed throughout the night. Just when I thought I was full another tray of delicious looking eats arrives. Each time, you can’t help but think – it’s small, what’s one more bite?

The caviar cannelloni is great for parties. A bite sized crepe wrapped around gravlax and crème fraiche then dotted with briny black and red caviar.

For those who love sweet and savoury combinations, a pecan and parsley macaroon topped with foie gras pate and garnished with a sweet slice of fig and kumquat chip.

The butter chicken partha was hot and fresh, reminiscent of a samosa but with a rich butter chicken filling.

The one bite corn bread, a nod to the South, with slivers of pulled short ribs inside. A crispy Cajun onion chip is stuck in as a delicious garnish.

Not pictured, but something you need to try is the lobster clam chowder shooter. It was sinfully flavourful and creamy. Seriously something that after a sip you wanted to close your eyes and enjoy.

Encore Catering also has their own pastry department, which laid out an impressive spread of sweets that evening. Of course, there were the shower and wedding favourite macarons … sitting on and topped with chocolate pieces.

On the cake tray were a chocolate and orange torte, chestnut Mont Blanc, burnt butter cheese cake, strawberry choux caviar and kiwi sesame croquants. I loved the refreshing nature of the kiwi on sesame chip – a great combination of juicy fruit, rich cream and crunchy/chewy sesame cookies.

Pictured, but not tasted, included a coconut mango pyramids and beautiful looking opera cakes.

For those who like fruit crumble and bread pudding, Encore’s Kaiserschmarrn Emperor’s pancake is a mix of both. Instead of bread, it uses chunks of pancake mixed with a variety of warm fruit.

My favourite dessert had to be the olive oil ice cream, which was slightly sweet and rich & creamy. Flavoured with icy granite and grapefruit jelly it is just enough to satisfy my sweet tooth.

I was also lucky enough to win a bag of Encore’s colossal cookies. Everyone I gave them were marveled by the sheer size and weight of the cookie. About the size of a scone, it has a crunchy crust but a soft centre – a great combination for all cookie lovers and would also work as a party favour.

Their professionalism and delicious bites explains why Encore has been in business for 35 years and is a preferred caterer for the Island Yacht Club, McMichael Art Gallery and MaRS Discovery District (just to name a few). Who knows, I’ve likely attended a wedding or gala in the past that served Encore’s creations. And after trying their food at their open house, here’s hoping I’ll attend more of their catered events in the future. 

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