Ford X Actinolite Sustainability Feast
I was invited to a Sustainability Feast hosted by Ford (the motor company) and Toronto based restaurant Actinolite. At first these two could not be any more different from the outside. Actinolite is a restaurant that features freshness, seasonal, local, and sustainable food. Current ingredients available are what causes the menu to change weekly and seasonally. When I think Ford I see big inefficient American Cars that scream pollution. As the night progressed, I learned why this event was taking place and how these two came to collaborate. Ford has been using and is researching more natural ingredients to use in the vehicles. Whether it be the fibers to use in a seatbelt or foam materials in a car seat, Ford can reduce weight and costs by using readily available materials straight from nature.
A 7 course meal showcased a certain ingredient per course. Chef Justin Cournoyer of Actinolite and a Ford representative in the research side explained what each ingredient themed course meant to them. The ingredients were, and in order, Tomato, Wheat, Soy, Bamboo, Corn, Rice, Cane Sugar, Birch, and Coconut. Each dish being simple and straight to the point with each ingredient. Nothing fancy, just raw taste and focus.
This appetizer was Tomato three ways. One of them was dusted in algae (also another ingredient Ford is researching) and the tomato flavour. There wasn’t an explanation of this dish until later but it was overall really good.
Everything in this dish was Soy based. The Soy Custard on the bottom, covered fried soy crumb, topped off with soy foam. All the different textures of the dish was best enjoyed in one bite. Soy is used in the foam materials in cars.
This was an interesting dish. In a mini La Creuset pot came a tiny loaf of bread for two to share. The chef explained how he used the spent wheat from Burdock Brewery (Toronto) and created something edible. The whey butter that went with this dish was unreal, but the bread itself I was definitely not used to.
Showcasing Bamboo, the chef used mushrooms and kelp to make a dashi like broth that intensified the natural flavours of each ingredient. The broth was quite oily, but If you like kelp and shiitake, it’s like a flavour punch to the face.
Probably my favourite dish of the night, the layers and textures of this stack just worked perfectly. Starting from the bottom with hot stewed corn, to a soft crab salad, a room temperature crunchy corn crisp, topped with a cold scoop of corn sorbet and tarragon. The intensity of the corn flavour off of this was amazing and the different textures and temperatures of this stack just made the dish more interesting.
Rice| Barley| Parsley
At the top was popped wild rice, a turnip and kelp flake, and pickled seaweed, over a bed of barley in parsley juice. This dish was surprisingly acidic and contrary to the presentation, kind of boring. It didn’t work for me.
All local ingredients but the cane sugar, the caramel glazed organic and local beef short-rib was extremely tasty. The chef kept saying the word “beefy” to describe the flavour. There was no other word to describe it. I’ve never had beef taste so natural and intense ever. There was local broccoli and garlic on the side which were both also extremely flavourful. It was so simple, not much was added, but the taste was so amazing. This dish would convince people to go organic and locally sourced.
First dessert came out topped with a leaf you would see in any fall neighbourhood in Ontario. The story behind this is what made the dish so special. The leaves were from the chef’s childhood planted tree, where he dried and candied them for the dessert. From the bottom was pebble looking chocolate crumble, roasted pear in birch leaves, pear sorbet, and then the candied birch leaf. I tried the birch leaf first and it tasted a bit bitter but full of tea flavour. The dessert just looked so natural and was tasty from top to bottom.
I’m not sure what lichen should taste like so I couldn’t exactly find if it made this dish better or not. These were a white chocolate fudge ball dusted in coconut and reindeer lichen. The fudge was not too sweet, very creamy, and full of white chocolate flavour.
Actinolite was a great experience where I personally learned more about ingredients than I think I would through just eating. Ford’s science behind using natural ingredients were interesting and looks like they’re stepping in a positive direction for vehicles in the future. The dishes showcased each ingredient extremely well and I would go back if I had the chance to see what Actinolite has each season.