East of Somewhere: The Rusholme Park Supper Club

I’ve been hesitating to write about my experience at The Rusholme Park Supper Club. After all, in my last post I vowed to write only about food experiences in the east end of Toronto, where I now live. But the Scrabble Player, in her inimitably rational way said, Well. Rusholme. Park. Road. Is. East. Of .Somewhere.

Ok, then! Because what delight, to just recall this meal.

I used to live around the corner. I’d seen this place – The Depanneur – (equal parts cafe, grocery store and community kitchen) open up last fall, and I’d quizzed its gregarious owner, Len Senator. That’s how I heard about The Rusholme Park Supper Club. A twist on the underground restaurant trend (where chefs host semi-secret meals for a select number of paying guests in a private home), the club allows you to pay a one-night membership fee of forty bucks to enjoy a 3-course meal cooked with love by an experienced chef.

I felt sentimental as I stepped off the westbound 505 streetcar back into my old ‘hood, and a room now crowded with a long table set for twenty guests. The Irish Foodie joined me and we uncorked my bottle of Niagara organic red wine.

The room soon filled with its twenty patrons, calmly overseen by Margaret Hefner, most recently a private chef in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Only just returned to Canada, she seemed quietly excited to share her creative take on traditional cuisine of central Mexico. We lingered over her impossibly delicious Guacamole del Huerto, studded with pomegranate.

We fell quiet as the appetizer plates appeared, passed hand to hand to hand down the table. Chef Hefner described her Tamales de Hongos, made of mixed mushrooms, chipotle, chevre, and accompanied by red chile salsa. Those tamales were delicately spiced, and made me think of spring, somehow, even though it was winter outside.

We fell upon her chicken mole (Pollo en Mole Verde de Queretaro), which surprised most of us with its lack of chocolate. It was, in fact, a fruity green sauce. There was black rice, and sauteed zuchinni with poblano strips to go with. It satisfying, homey, unpretentious – something you’d serve at a family meal. It tasted of kindness, and wistfulness, and longing.

We got to know one another as we ate. An earnestly beautiful young nutritionist on my right, an avuncular gourmand on my left, who seemed excessively delighted by the bottle of homemade seltzer he’d bought. The Irish Foodie and I exchanged glances and raised eyebrows from time to time. Sharing a meal with strangers is an oddly intimate, slightly uncomfortable and challenging experience.

Len, our host, moved gracefully from guest to guest, pouring water or coffee, taking away plates. He and the chef and the chef’s friend danced around one another in the small open kitchen as they prepared the final dish, a mind-blowing chocolate tamale with a sweet tomatillo sauce, accompanied by sweet spiced coffee.

Oh joy, oh bliss. Those chocolate tamales were symphonic.

East of somewhere. North of Mexico. Just short of heaven. Beam me up.

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