...As promised after my last (and first) posting on our blog, I'm going to give some background on cafe Taste. People should know where they're spending their cash... **credit to Sheryl Kirby of www.tasteTO.com for generating this Q&A**
TasteT.O.:How did you get started? What is your background in food and wine? Are you self taught or did you train somewhere specific?
Jeremy Day: My background begins at age 5 when my parents moved me to a farm in a rural area two hours Northwest of Toronto. Being on a farm, we were self-sufficient - we grew our vegetables, raised our chickens, pigs, ducks and cows, and with everything on a small scale (no more than a dozen of any type of livestock at a time) we worked organically before a time when that meant something. We even made our own cheese, sausages, jams, bread and flour!
Everything was 'free-ranged' and we worked naturally with the land, raising crops to feed ourselves and our livestock. When I came to Toronto and began work in the hospitality industry, I at first embraced the 'big city' and its convenience - it was years before I simply felt 'ill' from being bereft of my 'natural' upbringing and went back to eating healthy and working towards sustainable local practices. This is what I bring to opening cafe Taste - local produce featured around the EXPERIENCE of treating oneself - In Europe, each cafe features local wines and cheeses. It is part of the daily ritual Europeans have to treat themselves - to live - by enjoying a glass of wine, a chunk of cheese and some bread each day. In North America, we do NOT treat ourselves each day, instead we seem to "Live to Work" as opposed to "Working to live". cafe Taste is meant to promote the latter - come by to Live.
TasteT.O: Why Parkdale as opposed to somewhere that might be more receptive to the concept of a wine bar? How does the neighbourhood respond? Is your clientele mostly local or people from out of the hood who make cafe Taste a destination?
Jeremy Day: Ah! Why NOT Parkdale??? See, my point, my vision for this place IS that wine & cheese is for everyone - they are two of the oldest portions of culinary history - growing with culture and civilization over several thousand years. WHY does North America make wine service pretentious and unapproachable? Wine should not be put on a pedestal, it should be enjoyed by the people! My concept is "opulence for the common man", great product at a discounted price. I made cafe Taste so that people do not shy away from the higher end products because of their mark-up.
The neigbourhood responds well, albeit slowly. At first people didn't know what to think, with wine bars being somewhat trendy and opening across Toronto, it was clear from the start this one was different - no high-end decor, no servers with ties, and an extensive cheese selection (up to 30 cheeses to match the 30 wines by the glass). Over the last 4 years word has spread, and even seem to have inspired other restaurants to offer more cheeses with their wines.
cafe Taste seems to straddle being a neighbourhood hang-out and a destination spot. We get lots of private bookings as an experience for groups - wine tastings, birthday parties, etc. A few weeks ago we had a group from Cambridge in for the evening. It is unfortunate that on those nights when we're closed for a private gig that I have to turn-away my neighbourhood regulars.
RESERVATIONS are STRONGLY recommended so that we can assure people won't be turned away in case of a private tasting!
TasteT.O.:Tell me a bit about your wine selections and how you came to compile your wine list? Do you update it frequently?
Jeremy Day: I update it quite often - about every 6-8 weeks. I compile based upon what I've tasted, and what Ontario has to offer. My mandate is to source locally, primarily to reduce our environmental footprint, but we have such an incredible resource with the Ontario wine regions, it would be criminal to not make use of them! I do include wines from outside Ontario, but they have to have either exceptional taste or flavour profile that the wine list requires, or have some manner of historical note that appeals to me - preferably both!
TasteT.O.:The food menu is pretty simple - is this out of choice or necessity? Are there kitchen facilities to expand the menu at some point in the future, or do you prefer to focus on the wine at this point?
Jeremy Day: Actually, it is both. Though I wished to have a more extensive menu available, it was always intended to be a cheese-based. As we were limited in kitchen facilities, it worked out to our vision of cheese trays, fondue, and cheese salads. As far as cooking philosophy, "Simple. Fresh. Tasty" is our mantra. Good, preferrably locally-sourced ingredients and uncomplicated recipes to allow natural flavour profiles to carry through and match with our wines. What I'm doing is simplicity itself: enjoy a glass of wine with a chunk of cheese and some bread, nuts & olives. There isn't too much call right now to go outside our vision, though for 2010 we're ramping-up specials crafted by Food Geek David Berman http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/696413
...Also as promised, the sappy part...As stated above, my dad raised me in a rural 'total farm' experience.
I hated it.
I had to wake-up @ 7 am to feed animals and milk cows before going to school each day, then return home just to do it again. I rebelled against dad's views about self-production when I visited other schoolkids who lived in nearby towns and saw how they bought their food from stores. Money COULD buy leisure and 'happiness' from the strife of working on the farm...
...I now find myself very much my fathers' son, and consider myself lucky to have had the upbringing I did under his tutelage. I had not seen my father for 10 years, as he had moved to BC to retire from farming. I was busy creating cafe Taste, and always had something that got in the way of a venturing out to see him...I realize now what that was:
...I visited him last weekend, as news arrived he is very ill and he will now never be able to see what I created here. I sat with him for an afternoon before he slept and told him about what I had built. I realize now that cafe Taste is an altar to everything he instilled in me, and the reason for my not visiting was my desire to have it flourish and have him come see something he inspired before he died. I am thankful and proud to have had you in my life growing-up, dad. I love you.
...As an aside, take the opportunity to tell loved-ones what they mean to you. One never knows if they may be taken from you.
Jeremy Day - Wine Geek