The Toronto Sausage League begins
On Wednesday night, Marben Restaurant hosted the inaugural competition of the first annual Marben Sausage League. The contenders: Chefs from some of Toronto's hottest restaurants. The challenge: To create the best sausage dish. The prize: The title of Sausage King...and of course, glory.
For the next five months, two guest chefs, representing their restaurant, will take to the Marben kitchen every Wednesday night to showcase their sausage-themed creations to participating diners. $25 buys a guest both sausage dishes and a bottle of Steamwhistle. After sampling the dishes, each guest fills out a ballot selecting their favourite of the two. At the end of the evening the results are compiled and the winner, moving on to the next round, will be one step closer to the title of Sausage King.
Cory Vitiello's Smoked Veal Bockwurst.
Vitiello took his inspiration from the most important meal of the day, offering a breakfast-themed dish. Smoked veal bockwurst is accompanied by a deep-fried egg yolk, crispy capers, celery heart, pickled mushrooms, and shaved fennel salad with a juniper-verjus vinaigrette. Extremely flavourful sausage is only enhanced by the added richness of the egg yolk that oozes from its crispy shell once broken with a fork. The addition of the fresh, tangy accompaniments make for one elegant 'breakfast'.
Anthony Rose's Prosciutto-Wrapped Lobster & Sea Scallop Sausage.
Anticipating that his competitor might veer toward a classic sausage dish, Rose decides to take the theme in a slightly less traditional direction. He creates a 'sausage' of lobster and sea scallops, which is then wrapped in prosciutto and fried until crispy. Sided with mashed potatoes gone green from a wild leek puree, burst cherry tomatoes with olive oil, oregano, and chilis, Rose's entry is a tasty and unexpected twist.
From our seat at the chef's table lining the open kitchen, we had prime view of the action as Marben's bustling kitchen ran regular service alongside the sausage league event, and former co-workers Rose and Vitiello had a chance to share a kitchen again and participate in some friendly competition.
After attending Cava's Ground Hog Day Invitational, an annual charcuterie competition, Ryan Donovan, butcher at Marben, felt inspired to engage some of Toronto's well-known chefs in a meaty competition of their own. When asked about the creation of the Sausage League, Donovan explains that restaurants are all about hospitality and inviting guests in for an experience, a sentiment not always easily adaptable to the kitchen. This competition aims to bring that hosting spirit into the back of house, inviting chefs and their creations into Marben's kitchen, building community amongst restaurants and getting the public involved in the fun, and fun it was.
It was a stiff competition, and though I sided with Vitiello's dish, my companion voted for Rose. The diners beside us were equally divided.
Chef Vitiello's sausage dish takes the lead, securing his place in the sausage playoffs.
SAUSAGE LEAGUE EVENT SCHEDULE
Wednesday May 11th
Pool A: The Harbord Room v The Drake Hotel
Wednesday May 25th
Pool B: C5 v. Marron Bistro
Wednesday June 8th
Pool C: La Palette v. Parts & Labour
Wednesday June 22nd
Pool A: The Stop Community Food Centre v. Table 17
Wednesday July 6th
Pool B: The Healthy Butcher v. Trevor Kitchen
Wednesday July 27th
Pool C: Torito v. Pizzeria Libretto / Enoteca Sociale
Wednesday Aug 10th: Pool A Playoff
Wednesday Aug 24th: Pool B Playoff
Wednesday Sept 21st : Pool C Playoff
Wednesday Sept 28th : A Three Chef Contest with the winners of each pool.
Photos by Taralyn Marshall