Howard has also been whining about eating a grilled cheese sandwich. It seemed silly to me if we went to buy just a sandwich - after all, you can grill one at home pretty easily. However, this was an exception since the grilled cheese sandwiches represented the top and bottom buns of this burger. If you're wondering what the break down is, it's:
Grilled cheese sandwich + lettuce + beef patty + breaded and deep-fried cheese-stuffed portobello mushroom caps + beef patty + grilled cheese sandwich = Tower of Babel
We also ordered chili cheese fries and a bottle of water to go with this. Since I felt that this was a gigantic burger, I told Howard we would be sharing it. The meal ended with Howard telling me he wasn't sharing next time. =P
Next stop, we headed to King West to O&B Canteen for some dessert. This wasn't because they're known for spectacular desserts, but because we wanted to relax somewhere before our main event started (see below), plus we've never been!
I ordered their fruit sorbets, which was green apple, raspberry, and lemon that day. I found that the texture was different for the green apple flavour, icier than the raspberry and lemon. The raspberry and lemon were smooth and nicely tart.
Howard picked the Gâteau Basque with lemon gelato. His only comment were the use of floral petals. Hehehe, he didn't like that at all and made a face when he accidentally ate one (after pushing them all aside, there was one hidden underneath).
Our main event was going to the TIFF Bell Lightbox for El Bulli: Cooking in Progress! We had never been to the Lightbox for a film yet, so I was pretty excited. No surprise that the staircase looked like a Bell commercial.
A view of the control booth room.
Howard and I had just watched the Kings of Pastry the week before, so when I heard that El Bulli was still playing, I quickly ordered us tickets. If you're not familiar, El Bulli was a restaurant in Spain owned by Ferran Adrià and Juli Soler, who are known for their avant-garde cuisine. El Bulli has been voted the World's Best Restaurant five times by Restaurant Magazine and had three Michelin stars. (I'm writing this all in the past tense because El Bulli officially closed on July 30, 2011.)
El Bulli used to close for six months of the year to experiment and develop new dishes, and that is how the documentary begins. We watch them clean and pack up their kitchen and travel to their lab in Barcelona. We found this portion of the film to be a bit slow, the chefs would try to find new ways of creating food, document it, file, and organize huge boards listing possible menu items. One of the amusing things was watching them grade each dish, was it worth one star, two stars, or three stars?
Things started to pick up when lab time was over and they went back to operating the restaurant. And what a beautiful location this restaurant is in! Remote and with a beach, this is surely the stuff of dreams! We were delighted to learn that they hired interns in the kitchen. It was fascinating to see how meticulous they were with preparing the restaurant for opening day. The grounds were painstakingly raked, the gardens were groomed, the tablecloths were ironed, and the glassware were spic-and-span. Truly teamwork.
The small portion of food had Howard shaking his head, but the tasting menu usually consisted of 28 to 35 dishes. We see them perfect cocktails and snacks through trial runs and a full service test in which Ferran Adrià tastes and jots down his critiques and notes. We really felt his dedication and constant desire for improvement.
After the film, we were quite hungry, so we stopped by Nota Bene for dinner. Another new restaurant for us, we had heard good things about it and Chef David Lee was a judge on Top Chef: Canada! To start, Howard and I tried the Yucatan hot and sour soup (with smoked chicken, goji berries, and coriander) and the Crisp duck salad (with green papaya slaw and cashews). Of the two, we both preferred the refreshing salad.
Howard noticed that two of his dishes were garnished with flower petals that day. First, his Gâteau Basque at O&B Canteen and then the duck salad. Does food taste better with flowers or are they simply there for looks? Both Howard and I tucked ours aside and avoid eating them.