Where to host a dinner in Toronto when you lack space
Belly Catering + Kitchen Rental is the urban dweller's antidote to tiny kitchens and miniscule dining areas. So next time you're considering making a group of dinner guests balance their meal on their laps, crammed together on your livingroom floor, eating off paper plates because you don't have a dishwasher and even though you care about the environment, you don't care enough to bother washing 15 plates and glasses â know that there is a solution for your dinner troubles.
In a charming storefront on Queen West in Parkdale, right next to Parts & Labour, is Belly Catering + Kitchen Rental, a space to host dinner parties with access to a fully-equipped kitchen where guests can prepare their contributions to the meal, all without the stress of a major clean-up because Belly provides a staff dishwasher.
Owner Nicole Kruzick realized that with all the tiny condos and apartments in this city, she could rent out the space for people to host their friends. "I'm aware of all the shoebox condos being built in the city," she told me last week. "I've now lived in two apartments that were without dining areas and it was painful for someone like me who loves to entertain large and smaller groups."
Kruzick has actually found a number of uses for the space since she closed down the cafe that originally operated here. Along with the catering company she operates, it serves as a venue for cooking classes and food styling workshops. Now she'll also be renting it on an hourly basis to other caterers and fellow culinary types.
Despite these numerous practical uses, tonight it's home to a party.
Guests walk in off of snowy Queen Street to a table and seating area that looks like a cross between a cozy dining room and a trendy bistro. The eating area opens onto a kitchen and when I arrive, a couple guests are already prepping their cheese and fruit platter. This is the first dinner event at Belly and the first such customer is Nicole's friend Amelia. Amelia is the birthday girl tonight and she's invited a gaggle of lively friends to dinner, assigning a different course to each couple.
Amelia's in charge of appetizers, which include deep fried ravioli and a marinara dipping sauce, grilled gyoza dumplings that are a big hit, and some other snacks, odds and ends. One friend mixes up some bright lemon-blueberry cocktails that are sweet, tangy and creamy all at once (his secret ingredient is a touch of whipped egg to create a frothy finish). Another guests brings an incredible construction of grilled skewers pierced into the flesh of a pineapple. It's an architectural feat and wins major points for presentation.
A different friend makes rice-free sushi for the carb-conscious, with spicy tuna atop a stack of cucumber, seaweed and avocado. For the carb-craving guests, Nicole makes fried-chicken with waffles, topped with a maple syrup-drenched corn and tasty gravy. It was as good as it sounds and the waffles were shaped like little hearts. Aww.
For those with less of a culinary inclination, Belly has chefs they can bring in for your party so you can still enjoy the space for a private party without slaving in the kitchen. The place seats 12-14 people. For pricing, availability and more information, check out their Facebook page.
Correction (Wednesday, February 15): An earlier version of this post misspelled Nicole's last name as Kruziak. The correct spelling is Kruzick. We apologize for the error.
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