Utter Butter Showdown at the Drake Hotel

July 31, 2012

One of the best things about my marriage is that we're both struck with healthy doses of wanderlust. Combine that with my usual love for food, and you have me getting moon-eyed about trying out local delicacies wherever we go.

Picture from FiestaFarms.ca
In Toronto, it's kind of hard to determine what a 'local' delicacy is, because there's so much diversity, and food from all over the world is represented fairly authentically. I've asked people what I should be trying, and the answers are varied - maple syrup, poutine, steak. Nearly everyone makes a mention of desserts, and there's one dessert in particular that people in Ontario fondly turn to - the butter tart. 

The earliest noted recipe for the butter tart dates back to 1900, when it made an appearance in the Women's Auxiliary of the Royal Victoria Hospital Cookbook, published in Ontario. Since then, it's been revised and refined with each chef adding their own touch to the filling and pastry of this otherwise remarkably simple dish. Butter, sugar, pastry. What's not to love.

Tarts being set up
When I heard about a butter tart Blue Ribbon showdown at the Drake Hotel, I knew I had to go. Hosted by Ivy Knight, gastronome and food writer, the event brought together 8 delicious tarts from chefs all over TO - and let the audience judge which was the best in a blind tasting. Not only did this give me a chance to sample tarts from  ACCBestellenthe Flaky Tartthe GabardineOrigin Liberty Village, and even the George Brown Chef School, but also, it gave me a chance to fell all Masterchef-like, which is always fantastic.

The Drake Hotel itself is charming, with an ambiance that instantly has you feeling at home. I particularly loved the boxed-in flatscreen showing old cartoons, and the shelf of books/records behind the DJ. It's a theme that many pubs attempt but very few manage to get quite right. It was definitely the perfect backdrop to the decadence of stuffing your face with 8 tarts loaded with butter and sugar, all within the hour.

Some were drippy, some were caramely, and every single one screamed indulgence. My personal favorite was a not-too-sweet somewhat solid filling held in place by a melt-in-the-mouth tart shell, known, last night, as number 6. 

Heather Mordue from @BestellenTO walked away with the best tart of the night, with a well-deserved second place going to Allison Jones from @AirCanadaCenter. As for me, I walked away with a stomach full of happiness. That should really be the tagline for butter.

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