Sustainability is the catchword of the times, and it’s important for people to fling it about wildly, as if they actually know what it means. Cowbell, a Queen West-West French bistro with profoundly globally conscientious leanings, genuinely does—and has just been officially recognized for same.
Leaders in Environmentally Accountable Foodservice (LEAF), an independent certification program that rates restaurants and foodservice facilities for their adherence to strict environmental criteria, has granted Cowbell the distinction of becoming Toronto’s first-ever eco-friendly restaurant.
Cowbell passed the rigorous LEAF evaluation on all fronts, including environmental performance in energy, waste and water usage; food purchasing and menu items; and building supplies and furnishings. Across the board, the auditors were looking for evidence of operational choices that support the environment and the local community. LEAF granted Cowbell a Level 2 certification; Level 3 is the highest of three possible scores.
Cowbell, much celebrated for its rich focus on farm-focused charcuterie items, sources the majority of its food from within 200 kilometres of its Parkdale digs. Executive chef Mark Cutrara, who opened Cowbell to critical acclaim in 2007, picks naturally raised, organic meat and produce from farmers he takes the time to know. He butchers, smokes and cures his meat on the premises. He even churns his own butter.
On regular “Farmers’ Nights,” Cutrara creates five-course meals whose ingredients (which stray deliriously from ho-hum cuts into the realm of pig’s head stuffed with cotechino sausage and elk tartare seasoned with juniper berries) derive from just a single farm, pairs them with an Ontario wine and serves them—in the invited company of the featured farmer himself—at a communal table.
Foodstuff aside, the interior design of the place demonstrates a preference for the reused and recycled, with salvaged building materials serving as tabletops, and discarded church pews providing seating.
At Cowbell, the clarion call of sustainability rings loudly.