A decadent seven-course tasting menu with Lauren Mozer of Elle Cuisine

We first came across Elle Cuisine back in October at the Toronto Underground Market. Chef Lauren Mozer’s delicate lobster churros — served with lemon aioli and lime salt — stood out from the pack and left us wondering what other sinfully good concoctions she could come up with.  

With luck on our side — not to mention plenty of holiday spirit — we managed to throw a dinner party exclusively catered by Mozer. While events like TUM have helped promote Elle Cuisine (her personal chef and catering company), Mozer wished to show us the true extent of her abilities. Since her days at McGill, when she was known for her almost nightly dinner parties done amongst friends, her forte has been private events. Following graduation, she turned her obsession with food into a full-time commitment, receiving a degree from George Brown’s renowned culinary management program and creating her company while still in school.

For our party of eight — which included a smattering of artsy types — Mozer put together an elaborate seven-course tasting menu, complete with suggested wine pairings that we wholeheartedly embraced. With a culinary background in French cuisine, Mozer enjoys incorporating French elements — lots of butter, cream and sauces — into her cooking, before adding some unexpected international touches.

Our diverse menu featured influences from South America, Italy and even some east-meets-west Torontonian flair. Sourcing her meat from Black Angus Fine Meats and Game and her fish from New Seaway Fish Market in Kensington, Mozer keeps her focus on price and quality, buying local whenever possible.

The night began with a first course of braised lamb nachos, which we paired with a cava. Homemade corn tortilla chips were topped with a warm tomato salsa, a cilantro and cumin crema, queso fresco and roasted jalapeño hot sauce. Mozer opted for lamb due to her love of meat — game meats in particular — which she believes are underrated. “I’m a huge carnivore,” she laughs “I can’t go without meat!”

Up next was a strong contender for the dish of the night: popcorn-encrusted sea scallop. The scallops were pan-seared, allowing for natural caramelization, and garnished with crispy shallots. They were then perched atop an avocado and charred-corn salsa, drizzled with smoked paprika oil and chive oil. A dry Riesling complemented the dish, ensuring that even the subtlest flavours were able to come through. Mozer notes that she is “obsessed” with scallops, featuring them frequently in her cooking.

Duck confit cannelloni made up the third course. As Mozer noted during her introduction of the dish, this was her very first time serving it. As far as we were concerned, it was executed perfectly. In addition to the Muscovy duck, the homemade pasta was stuffed with sautéed spinach and triple-cream Brie. A medley of sauces — rosemary brown butter and cranberry port reduction — added richness, while crispy parsley introduced another texture. Glasses of Malbec coupled well with the robust flavour of the dish, another favourite of the night.

Our palates were then given a brief respite thanks to a soupçon of homemade lemon and basil sorbet, refreshing our taste buds before we moved onto some lighter fare.

The fifth course was a rainbow beet tartare sprinkled with crumbled goat cheese and honey-caramelized walnuts. An aged balsamic reduction and mint and basil puree made up the sauces, before the dish was garnished with some micro-arugula.

Our final dish before dessert crossed comfort food with indulgence. A medallion of dry-aged beef tenderloin was nestled into a bed of lobster mac ‘n’ cheese, garnished with crispy leeks and served with a side of sautéed baby bok choy. Merlot was our wine of choice for both the beet tartare and the macaroni dishes. The gourmet mac ‘n’ cheese was yet another frontrunner for dish of the night, though the grand winner was never actually decided upon. By this point we were all sufficiently stuffed, with just barely enough room for the final course.

The evening was brought to an end with servings of a luscious dessert: a delectable dark chocolate truffle tart with layers of sea salt caramel drizzled with dark chocolate ganache. Its chocolate shortbread crust added just the right amount of crumble while the sea salt gave each bite a bit of a crunch. Some fresh raspberries and a scoop of homemade chocolate raspberry ice cream balanced out the rich textures of the tart, sending everyone into gastronomic heaven. And on that divine note, the merry night came to a close.

Elle Cuisine, 647-931-6444

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