Friday, November 27, 2009

Firkin Pubs Raise Money in Support of Ontario's Food Banks

Friday, November 27, 2009
On November 23rd, Molson Coors Canada, the Firkin Group, and the Ontario Association of Food Banks (OAFB) launched the 5th annual Raise a Pint of Glory campaign at the Owl and Firkin Pub to get Ontarians engaged in fighting hunger this holiday season.

“This has been one of the most difficult years on record for Ontario’s food banks... Food and financial donations are down in many communities, while many food banks are reporting that record numbers of Ontarians are turning to them for assistance. We need the support of our neighbours more than ever before, " says Adam Spence, Executive Director of the OAFB.

375,000 people turn to food banks every month in Ontario, and 37 percent of the province's food banks do not have enough food to serve the needs of their community.

Beginning November 25th, you can support the OAFB by visiting your favourite Firkin Pub for a pint of Rickard’s Red. The Firkin will donate 25¢ to the Ontario Association of Food Banks for every pint of Rickard's sold through December 26th, 2009.

For more information, visit:

The Firkin Group of Pubs:
The Ontario Association of Food Banks:

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Coffee for Connoisseurs

Saturday, November 21, 2009
High end coffee has hit Toronto. For coffee connoisseurs who are not only particular with how their coffee is brewed but also with how and where it is sourced, Stumptown coffee is now available exclusively at Lit Espresso Bar, in Roncesvalles. Stumptown Coffee Roasters from Portland, Oregon is the pioneer in direct trade coffee. Stumptown founder Duane Sorenson was in Toronto this past November 10th to showcase his company's premium beans at a cupping event.

Monday, November 16, 2009

"The Edible City" Book Launch

Monday, November 16, 2009

Last night Mark and I attended The Edible City book launch hosted by Coach House Books and This is Not a Reading Series at The Gladstone Hotel. Mark will be posting a review of the book itself soon, so stay tuned! This is my quick rundown, with photos of course, of the evening.

A few of the fabulous contributors to The Edible City made up the panel (they have many other accolades and excellent works too numerous to mention here. They are the cream of the crop when it comes to the Toronto food scene - Google them!): Sarah B. Hood, Joshna Maharaj, Lorraine Johnson, Sasha Chapman and Steven Biggs. The panel was moderated by Dick Snyder, who also happens to publish CityBites magazine.

I found that children and their relationship to (and education about) food was the most common theme throughout the panel discussion and the Q&A session. Sasha noted in her child's JK/SK split class only half the kids could correctly identify an onion, and many thought it had seeds. There's definitely a need to bring food education into schools and other institutions (summer camps, etc.) - I agree totally, but I also think it's a parent's responsibility to have kids help with the little things in the kitchen. Getting hands-on helps give them a real appreciation of their food. The panelists noted kids would even eat stuff that they had picked or harvested themselves even if it was a food they usually turned their noses up at - I think that even kids who are too young to fully understand the concept of pride must still feel that special something, you know, that pride we all feel in picking an apple or digging up a potato ourselves. Garden patches on schoolyards and in public parks was another hot topic, which really ties into making these kinds of experiences and connections to food accessible for everyone.

After the panel discussion and Q&A, a cookie decorating competition started up. The super delicious sugar cookies (baked just perfectly, might I add!) were courtesy of Wanda's Pie in the Sky and I couldn't help but eat an extra one as I decorated mine with the Toronto flag for the competition!

On that note, I'll leave you all with some fun facts (courtesy of Coach House Books' site) about Toronto and the food it produce(s)/(d), along with titles the book itself almost got named:

- In 1934, a community garden on St. Clair Avenue west of Keele provided food for about 5,000 unemployed families.

- David Garcelon, the executive chef at the Fairmont Royal York, has a garden atop the fourteen-floor hotel. But it's not your typical garden: Aside from herbs, fruit and vegetables, he has six hives (that's about 300,000 bees).

- More than 16,000 Mexican and Caribbean agricultural workers come to Ontario each year. Some stay a few weeks, some stay as long as 8 months.

- The Edible City could've been named any of the following (these were all book names tossed around before they settled on The Edible City): Eat TO Live; Chowtown; Food 401 Thought; A Gastronomical Guide to Toronto; CornuTOpia.

Yours in food,

Click here to read our reviews of the book's sections (antipastiprimosecondocontorno, and dolce)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Food Fun on Facebook: FarmVille and Cafe World

Saturday, November 14, 2009
If you're on Facebook and you haven't heard of FarmVille and Cafe World by now, chances are you haven't logged on in a while or are choosing to ignore your requests section. More likely than not, you know someone who plays FarmVille (if you're not already playing it yourself), and they've requested to add you as a neighbour.

FarmVille and Cafe World are definitely foodie games. The former deals with food production, and the latter deals with food preparation in a restaurant setting. From "farm to fork," so to speak.

To the uninitiated: what is FarmVille? It's a farm simulation application on Facebook where you can plant various crops and trees, raise animals, construct farm buildings and decorate. It's the most popular social media game with 62 million members, 22 million of whom log on at least once a day, according to its publisher Zynga.

FarmVille's appeal to me lies in its exploitation of the basic human drive to start something and see it to fruition... in this case literally, as you can plant trees that bear fruit in a few days. I say exploitation because although it's all fun and games, the game can be wildly addictive. FarmVille allows its player to express their creativity on a relatively simple and cute platform with many options that can be purchased for in game "coins." This currency is free in the real world and is earned through proceeds from the sale or harvesting of crops and other items in the game. The devious part is when the game teases you with the possibility of decorating with a prettier or more functional item that you can purchase for "FV" cash. The problem with FV cash is that it is incredibly slow and difficult to earn through game experience, and would require you to actually pay for it with real world money via credit card or PayPal.

Now you can't really blame Zynga for wanting to make money. They do have to pay all their game developers. Just hope that there are enough other players with money and the inclination to jazz up their farm so that Zynga can continue its quality work. It's up to you to resist the temptation to splurge .

These games are addictive to their players, and annoying to non-players. I've even heard a story of someone in-transit who couldn't make it in time to serve his French Onion soup (cooking time: 4 hours), before it spoiled. He desperately tried to get his girlfriend at home to log on to his Facebook account to serve his soup. People sneak in some harvesting time at work, and conversations on the bus include the need to harvest strawberries or plant sugar cane. Who plants sugar cane in Toronto? It must be a Farmville player!

FarmVille uses 3D-like isometric perspective, allowing it a feeling of depth when setting up your farm. If you're really good, this view allows you to have the illusion of elevating portions of your farm depending on how you line things up.
The "market" has a wide variety of crops that can be chosen for time-to-harvest, XP points, cost, or selling price. Trees, animals, buildings, and vehicles like tractors are also available. Items are unlocked as your experience level progresses through the game.

Cafe World is Zynga's restaurant simulation, with game play characteristics similar to FarmVille. You get to customize your chef, decorate your restaurant, and choose food items you want to cook and serve. You can also "hire" Facebook friends as your waitstaff.

Hiring friends, like adding neighbours in FarmVille, adds the social dimension to these Facebook games. They create interaction with people you normally wouldn't be too engaged with. You can exchange game gifts with them and visit their farm to just check it out or fertilize their crops. Alternatively, you could visit their restaurant to see how they've decorated, and try their food and leave them a tip. This characteristic of social media games in a way forces interaction and helps the games go viral.

Cafe world has an extensive menu of dishes you can prepare based on how much time you'd want to wait, cost, number of servings, and selling price.

A variety of options are available for decorating your restaurant from chairs and tables, to walls, floors, windows, and other items.

Zynga has also released a fish tank simulation called FishVille. Although I wouldn't call this a foodie game per se, you do get to feed your fish. It's relaxing and almost therapeutic to watch and feed the fish in your aquarium to the sound of some soothing in-game music.

I'd be amiss not to mention that Zynga isn't the only developer of these kinds of games out there. There are other farm and restaurant simulations, though I don't find them as visually appealing and dynamic. As well, network effects lock you into the Zynga games as chances are you already have a lot of friends playing them.

Like little pets, these games take a lot of time and attention. But arguably, it's time well wasted.

Posted by: Mark Rodas

Friday, November 6, 2009

The 16th Annual Venetian Ball

Friday, November 6, 2009
The 16th Annual Venetian Ball is one of the marquee Toronto society events that draws the city's movers and shakers to a night of fine dining and entertainment, all for a good cause. All funds raised at the event help the Villa Charities to provide culturally sensitive care to improve the quality of life for seniors. This year's ball, held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on October 30, 2009, raised $1,008,000.

We have lists of the high-calibre establishments involved with this alluring event of beautiful masks and ball gowns, as well as a copy of the Venetian inspired menu from the award-winning Trattoria do' Forni in Venice.

Even without the masks, the charity, and the fun, the who's who list of food providers would make any foodie wish they were there.

From left to right: Co-chair James Di Luca, Don Novello (Father Guido Sarducci from SNL) and Co-chair Steven Muzzo

Il mercatto del Venetian Ball

Antipasto stations courtesy of:

Centro Restaurant & Lounge

Culinary Studio 2000

Da Gianni e Maria Trattoria

La Bruschetta Restaurant

Lago Ristorante

L'unità Restaurant

Nota Bene Restaurant

Ristorante Boccaccio

Romagna Mia Italian Restaurant

Sotto Sotto Ristorante

The Menu


Deluxe bread basket


Antipasto del Doge

Mista di mare accompanied by a caprese salad


Filetto ai porcini con polenta bianca al profumo

di tartufo e flan all’italiana

Grilled filet mignon in a Porcini mushroom sauce

Served with white polenta and parmesan with essence of truffle

accompanied by a spinach, cauliflower and carrot flan


Tiramisù Do’ Forni

Traditional tiramisu served in a chocolate cup accompanied by a

tuile cup of seasonal berries


I dolci di mezzanotte

Late night dessert stations courtesy of:

10tation Event Catering

Barcaffe Canada Inc

Caliber Fine Wines & Spirits Inc.

Dufflet Pastries

Flour Fancies Inc.

Madeleines, Cherry Pie and Ice Cream

Petits Sweets Inc.

Prevedello and Mathews with the support of Mazzetti D’altavilla

The Country Kitchen Catering & Quality Cheese

We Bake in Heels Limited

Surprise musical guest, Frankie Valli

Rick Campanelli, Host, ET Canada and Angela Smith, Producer, ET Canada

Photos courtesy of George Pimentel

Posted by: Mark Rodas

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Bake Batter & Roll!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

I can fully appreciate the pop-up bake shops Robin Hood flour is taking across Canada for its 100th anni-versary because I am certainly the baker of the two of us. Let's put it this way: Mark is the head chef, and I consider myself more of the sous-chef and pastry chef. Basically Mark doesn't measure ANYTHING and I measure pretty much everything, so it makes sense that I'm the resident baker here, non?

The place looked great - it honestly looked like a permanent fixture on Eglinton West rather than a pop-up store. I'm told the space they used was a salon that closed down. Mark said the decor reminded him of his childhood and I totally agree - I fell in love with the cupcake chairs provided by custom furniture maker Jellio.

It was a really fun place to be and for anyone with kids between the ages of 4 - 12 I'd highly rec-
ommend visiting
it as it tours across Canada. It's open here in Toronto until Nov. 22 but it appears it's in demand - the site currently says 0 seats are left. But it also appears people can cancel their bookings which would free up seats, so keep an eye out - the site also has listings for where Bake Batter & Roll will be travelling to next.

A couple fun facts courtesy of Robin Hood:

  • Baking has been around since ancient times, but the first modern pastry chef appeared in Roman civilization around 300 B.C.
  • "Cookie" comes from the Dutch word "koekje" which means "little cake."
  • Storing soft cookies in the same jar as crisp ones will help the crisp ones become softer.

Oh and P.S. - that "pizza" below is actually a cookie. I think that'd be really fun to make!

Yours in food,