Encore Catering's Blogger and Bites Event (Toronto)

I first heard about Encore Catering from their open house event last year. It was a magical evening where the kitchen was transformed into a glitzy event space and people mingled and feasted for hours. This time around, their Blogger Bites event was more intimate; we were able to sit down, enjoy plated creations and ask questions to our heart’s content.  I was given a glimpse of how Encore’s formal dinner or lunches would be – without the large format mains.

Surprisingly, my favourite dish didn’t have an ounce of meat: smoking beet tian and an asparagus boat. It was a dish that excites multiple sensory experiences – the intricate plating a feast for the eyes and the waft of smoke upon lifting the glass a tease for the nose.

The asparagus boat would have been right at home with dishes I’ve tried at Actinolite and Geranium. A hollowed out asparagus spear filled with a creamy truffle paste and topped with bright edible flowers, crunchy edamame & radish, and shavings of black truffle.

Not to be upstaged, the smoking beet tian had glorious layers of finely diced red and golden beets, topped with luscious goat cheese and crunchy cashews.

A main incorporating meat showcased a Eurasian fusion of pork: Spanish Serrano ham and Asian braised pork belly. The pork belly was richly flavoured having soaked up the braising liquid of beer and soy sauce studded star anise. Prior to serving, it was roasted so it developed a sweet caramelized crust. When dipped into the chili kewpie (spicy mayonnaise) then layered with pickled vegetables and a disc of steamed bao, you can imagine how amazing a larger version would be for lunch.

The seafood main featured seared ahi tuna, shrimp and scallop, paired with greens and a whimsical linguine ring. A lovely mango chipotle spice flavoured the seafood, giving the dish a tropical feel. Personally, I’d like the tuna cooked less to retain more of the lovely raw fish, but it was still tender and meaty. The shrimp and scallop were wonderfully cooked, plump and delicate.

For a diner who couldn’t eat shellfish, the plate was transformed into a trio of fish, substituting salmon and black cod for the shellfish. In speaking with Cary Silber, President and Founder of Encore Catering, managing dietary restrictions is common for them – at one event, where they dealt with 40 restrictions, a separate kitchen was used to ensure all needs were met.

Between the plated dishes, Encore kept us filled with amuse bouches and hors d’oeurves. The first occurred before we even stepped into the kitchen – a lobster BELT: a decadent bite of lightly poached lobster, hard-boiled egg, lettuce and tomato on a rich buttery brioche.

The chateaubriand taco featured the prime cut of beef at its best: cooked medium rare, thinly sliced and not overly dressed to let the meat’s juices shine. The taco theme was brought in with a crisp seasoned chip sitting under the beef.

Although I couldn’t taste the pastrami in the spicy pastrami salmon maki tempura, this warm bite would be great for parties where some may be squeamish towards raw fish. As the saying goes – everything tastes great when fried.

However, it was the duck confit beignet that made my heart flutter – how did Encore know to take two of my favourite foods and meld them together? The airy beignet was stuffed with plenty of flavourful duck confit and a dollop of rhubarb apricot marmalade gave the dish a slightly sweet and savoury feel.

Even for dessert we had an amuse: an intricate gorgonzola panna cotta served in an egg shell. At first I had apprehensions about the dish - my liking for blue cheese is akin to having gym socks incorporated into the egg mixture. Nonetheless, I tried it anyways and was pleasantly surprised - the cheese wasn’t overly pronounced and added a subtle undertone against the creamy sweet panna cotta.

The towering vanilla semifreddo was a delight to behold; I can only imagine how difficult they are to serve. The gelato and whipped cream mixture was light and the texture of mousse. It could have used more of the vanilla cake soaked with strawberry rose consommé as this gave such a lovely essence to the dessert.

Blogger Bites provided me the opportunity to speak to Chef Roshan Wanasingha, who’s been with Encore for 14 years! He started when the kitchen consisted of only a handful of chefs to the current staff of 40 that operates across two locations (Encore has a separate kitchen dedicated to kosher cuisine). He loves what he does and the autonomy provided, hence why he’s been with the company for so long.

In fact, everyone we encountered that evening was friendly and welcoming. Despite staying late that evening, the servers were pleasant and ready to address any questions or concerns. Coincidently, I learnt Encore hires their own servers, ensuring they are knowledgeable about the dishes being presented.

But, it was my conversation with Cary, Encore’s founder, which stood out. Originally a drummer in a Montreal band, he eventually went into the food industry as he was tired of being served “shit food”. So, he started catering and first ran a cafeteria at a busy Eatons location in Montreal.

When he came to Toronto, he started Encore and they’ve been in business for over 35 years! Throughout this time, he’s catered events for over a thousand people and operated during blackouts and ice storms. He prides himself for never disappointing diners, as no matter what complication gets thrown to his team, they always ensure people are fed. Perhaps it goes back to his musician days, but his mantra is, “the show must go on!”

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 5000 Dufferin Street

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