Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Specialty cheeses, local produce, and more: Longo's Taste Ontario, Taste the World event

Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Ever been to a grocery store where it's more of an experience than a chore to shop at? Longo's at 15 York St. is one of those. Highlights: the cozy seating area (and fireplace!) where you can eat food from the freshly prepared section (which I did recently when I had lunch with a friend), and Corks Wine Bar right inside the Longo's (yes, there's a wine bar inside where you can have a drink and a bite to eat). They have a great cheese section (believe they will order cheese in for you if they don't have what you want on hand) and carry some really interesting salts.


We also visited the Longo's Loft for their Taste Ontario, Taste the World event, and with Chef Matt Kantor at the helm and Alexa Clark as our host, I knew the food and company would be good. I was not disappointed!

Matt's red curry with Ontario butternut squash was by far my favourite dish, and we also liked the Niagara Gold cheese that was served so much that we went back and bought a wedge (even though there was a free one in our media kit - we ate that in two seconds flat and needed MOAAAAAR! Ahem. More, I mean). Seriously good cheese, thank you Upper Canada Cheese Company! It was also a hit with friends who tried some when they came over later that week.

I have to give them major kudos on the wine and beer pairings with Matt's food - they were done by a very knowledgeable lady from Corks Wine Bar. A beer that I didn't really love on its own (Duggan's #9 India Pale Ale - not terrible by any means, and I think it's pretty cool that it's brewed over on Victoria St., but a bit bitter for my liking) was TRANSFORMED when I had it with the spicy red curry. We also had a killer late harvest Riesling (Cave Spring's Indian Summer Late Harvest Riesling 2009) which was, of course, not quite at icewine stage yet but was niiiiice and sweet. Yum!

Check it out if you're in the area - just wander the aisles and gawk at everything in complete wonderment like I tend to do whilst grocery shopping in a place like that! It's fun, and we all need to slow the hell down once in a while and smell the curry, so to speak. Try it, and look for Ontario meats and produce while you're at it!

Yours in food,

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Brassaii holiday menu

Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Recently we were able to preview Brassaii's holiday menu. The 7-course (or 9 if you count the seafood tower and soup) spread demonstrated the wide gastronomic repertoire of Chef Chris Kalisperas, complemented with tableside cocktails by resident mixologist Jordan Stacey and desserts by Pastry Chef, Mark Cheese.

Our table started off with a seafood tower featuring Nova Scotia lobster, Alaskan king crab, shrimp, and oysters


The Amuse was Potato Leek Soup + whipped creme fraiche + caviar.
Keep in mind that some of the serving sizes in the photos below are smaller than individual portions you might order so that we could go through more items to sample.


Course 1: Burrata
Roasted beets + endive + walnut vinaigrette + basil

The mozzarella was so moist, with a dreamy, creamy centre; it's softness texturally complemented by the beets.


Course 2: Steak Tartare
housecut beef tenderloin + foie gras torchon + quail egg + pickled chanterelles + crostini

Some people are quite squeamish with the thought of eating raw meat, but this version of steak and egg was quite a treat. Oh and I love chanterelles!


Course 3: Gnocchi
housemade pasta + lamb ragu + ricotta salata + mint


Course 4: Scallops
Qualicom bay scallops + beluga lentils + Iberico chorizo + roasted pistachio vinaigrette

I'd have the crispy chorizo topped scallops over the bacon wrapped kind anytime.


Course 5: Duck
roasted breast + confit leg + braised cabbage + leek puree + chestnuts + grape mostarda


Course 6: Venison
peal barley + pomegranate + sweet potato


Course 7: Black Forest
crunchy black forest gift box + cherry red wine sauce + pistachio ice cream



461 King Street West Toronto, ON M5V 1K4
(416) 598-4730

Posted by: Mark Rodas

Monday, December 5, 2011

Gourmet Food and Wine Expo 2011

Monday, December 5, 2011
A couple of weeks ago we made our way down to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre South Building for the annual Gourmet Food & Wine Expo.

There we sampled delicious food and drink from all over the world including some paella, venison ribs and yummy desserts!
Our favourites were macarons from Ruelo Patisserie and petit fours from the Windsor Arms Hotel.

A "Ruelo" (chocolate praline) and a "Fleur de Sel Caramel" macaron from Ruelo Patisserie




petit fours from the Windsor Arms Hotel

Posted by: Mark Rodas

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Eat to the Beat - Celebrating female chefs and lending support for a good cause

Sunday, November 20, 2011
Eat to the Beat is a fabulous fundraiser for Willow Breast Cancer Support Canada - this was our second time attending. Over 60 female chefs hand out tasting samples from their restaurants while you listen to live music, participate in the silent auction, and enjoy the "corset art" being worn by women at the event (check the pictures, you'll see what we mean).


First time we went to this, we had to sit in the park beside Roy Thomson Hall until we felt less full before we could get into a moving vehicle to get home! It was THAT good and we were THAT full! I'll never forget it. Mark and I just sat there laughing at how indulgent the evening was, and we had so enjoyed ourselves. One of my favourite memories for sure!

Food-wise, it was incredible again this year. These ladies know what they're doing, and we'll list a few standout chefs/items at the end of this post. Only thing I'd say is that the layout keeps you bouncing from sweet to savoury if you do what we did to cover the most ground, which is taste table after table in a straight line rather than perusing each table and picking and choosing appetizers, then soups, then hearty dishes, then dessert. The latter method, for us anyway, takes too much time (there is no way you'll get around to tasting everything anyway - time nor stomache room will allow it!). Might've been more sensible to the palate to organize them by savoury, sweet, and maybe even have the beverage vendors separate so it's more intuitive as to where you can go to get what. All those suggestions are just that - suggestions - the set-up still worked for us and we got around to most of the chefs.


Some standouts:
  • Squash cheesecake from George
  • Woodbine Entertainment Group blew me away - I wasn't sure what I was expecting with their sweetbread and Berkshire pork stew with sundried cranberries and blueberries simmered in Colio Estates wine and served in a puff pastry voulovant, but I was BLOWN. AWAY. So delicious. Messy to eat, but a complete joy for my tastebuds!
  • Queen B Pastry's flourless/butterless chocolate walnut cookie served atop a little mini "shot glass" of milk - so clever and the cookie was delicious
  • East & Main Bistro's (Prince Edward County) braised Highland Beef and mushroom ravioli - The ravioli was good but the smoky tomato cream was the standout - it was unlike anything I'd tasted before and I had to say I liked the contrast of trying to make something as opposite as "cream" and "smoke" go together - it was cool and refreshing but very savoury and rich all at once
  • Khao San Road's Mae Hong Son Loong (Northern-style Thai meatballs served in a refreshingly-bright pomelo nest)
  • Our friend Vanessa Yeung did a "Chexican" (yes, Chinese Mexican!) take on little mini taco from Aphrodite Cooks
  • Our friend Preena Chauhan from Arvinda's did a healthier take on Indian street food Pav Bhaji

Also gotta love the array of crazy and amazing corsets on display! This is one of the best food fundraisers there is in Toronto, hands down. Always a good time for a good cause. I urge you guys to check it out one year.

Yours in food,

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Chef Matt Kantor's Argentina

Thursday, September 22, 2011
Chef Matt Kantor's Little Kitchen hits the road. For 12 nights in 4 neighbourhoods, 12 people will enjoy 1 special menu. On the night we picked last week, Matt served up an Argentinian menu at La Merceria. Yummy photos below:





Wednesday, September 14, 2011

La Soirée One Drop

Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Last Wednesday (September 7), Guy Laliberté's ONE DROP Project India hosted a dazzling benefit event at Cirque du Soleil's Tapis Rouge to create awareness of water issues in the poorest areas of India.

RBC's president and CEO Gordon Nixon (left), and Guy Laliberté, chair of ONE DROP and Cirque du Soleil founder.




Food and Beverage partners for the event included:

Banjara Indian Cuisine, Chocola Chocola, L’Auberge sur la route, Blowfish Restaurant, King West Kitchen, Spectrum, Ernest & Julio Gallo, Stella Artois, Nespresso and Aqua OvO

Posted by: Mark Rodas

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Crossing it off the bucket list: Niagara winery tour, and my challenge to you to share your favourite local wine!

Saturday, September 10, 2011
Hang onto your hats, folks - Ontario does so much more than just icewine!

This past week I had the good fortune of experiencing my first-ever wine tour as part of LCBO's goLOCAL month, which runs from Sept. 11 to Oct. 8. The fact that it was my first wine tour, might I add, elicited gasps from my foodie friends. ;) Needless to say, and 8:30 am be damned, I think I was definitely the most excited person there! There I was, in all my nerdy glory, tweeting all the new tidbits of knowledge I was picking up, and I found three new favourite local wines to boot!

We took our own private VIA Rail train on the way up, which I loved (I love trains! Such a fun way to travel) and had a pretty tasty breakfast of oranges and grapefruit, orange juice, and a bacon quiche served with grilled sausage, Lyonnaise potatoes and scorched tomatoes - not bad for train food at all, I quite enjoyed it. We first visited Hillebrand Estates Winery (where we drank Trius, Vineland Estates and Peller Estates wines); then proceeded to Creekside Winery (for a food truck lunch courtesy of El Gastronomo Vagabundo and Gorilla Cheese, paired with Creekside Winery wines); and our last stop was Angel's Gate Winery (which *might* just be the most beautiful place on earth - you can see Toronto from across the water, and the building itself looks like a beautiful old church to me). There we tried wines from Angel's Gate obviously, as well as a couple of Dan Aykroyd's wines from Diamond Estates (no, he was not there!) and Henry of Pelham.

My favourite wines (most-favourite from top to bottom) were definitely:

2010 Trius Sauvignon Blanc
2010 Henry of Pelham Riesling
2008 Creekside Estate Winery Shiraz

And now it's time for some nerdy wine observations, facts and figures I learned along the way:

  • What struck me instantly is how supportive the winemakers are of eachother. It really seems like a beautiful community to be part of.
  • I also learned a lot about the terroir and geography of the region. I had no idea that the reason why bench regions are so good for grape growing is because they often are on a slant, meaning water drains away from the vines (which is good as they don't need a ton of water).
  • I also didn't know that most of the bench regions and the other areas suitable for grape growing in and around Niagara have already been fully planted, so it's unlikely there will be much more planting there.
  • Wine Country Ontario is between 41° and 44° North, which is the same latitude shared by Burgundy and many other cool climate wine regions of Europe.
  • Wines from cooler climates tend to be more aromatic, lighter in body and higher in acidity than those from warmer climates.
  • Core red varietals in Ontario are Baco Noir, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Gamay Noir.
  • Core white varietals in Ontario are Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Vidal Blanc, Gewurtztraminer, and Chardonnay.

Now get out there and find your favourite local wine OR if you already have a local favourite wine, share it with me, I'd love to try it so flip me your suggestions!

Yours in food,


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Food Truck Eats - Part 2

Thursday, September 8, 2011
The wildly successful Food Truck Eats - Part 2 had a lot more people, a lot more trucks + food tents, and lots and lots of food!





Posted by: Mark Rodas

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Vintage Ink

Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Last month we were at the launch of Vintage Ink wines at Brassaii. Vintage Ink features blends of select Niagara wines for their Chardonnay and Merlot-Cabernet. Veteran wine artist Keith Bown brings his 25 years of experience to bear in selecting the optimal combination of each wine. Of note is the Merlot-Cabernet that uses mostly Cabernet Franc instead of more of the typical Cabernet Sauvignon. See the wine tech sheets below:


Vintage Ink Chardonnay Tech Sheet

VintageInkMerlotCabernet Tech Sheet



Posted by: Mark Rodas

Friday, September 2, 2011

Veganism on the brain

Friday, September 2, 2011

I've been thinking a lot about veganism lately - I met up with a friend for dinner the other day who went vegan for a while, and she told me it truly did take more thought, preparation and cooking time to make vegan meals compared to meals she made in her pre-vegan days. And, on top of that, making sure each item is organic is an extra thing to think about as well. She also has kids, so throw that into the mix and you can see how she'd get pretty pressed for time.

That said, there's something awesome about having someone else cook for you, no matter where you fall on the spectrum (but it's especially awesome if you happen to be wanting to cook both organic and vegan - and eat it in the comfort of your own home).

The folks at The Organic Supper Club, which has personal chef services and also does vegan/organic prepared foods and catering, was kind enough recently to send us a few vegan organic treats to try. We had their fiesta dip, summer vegetable ragout, and pineapple chipotle chili.

I've got to be honest - I wasn't too thrilled with the pineapple chipotle chili, Mark actually liked it more than I did (I found it too tomato-y and the pineapple had lost its flavour) but I immensely enjoyed the fiesta dip and the summer vegetable ragout. The fiesta dip was impressive, using various nuts in place of sour cream, and it totally worked! It was delicious, with layers of black bean, tomato salsa and avocados. Yum!

It'd actually be a pretty unique gift to give someone a week of vegan cuisine to try. And that's something they actually offer - I thought that was pretty clever. I think pricing is fairly reasonable for a gift, you can head to their website for more info. You can order online or you can also find their products at the Distillery's Sunday Market and the Organic Dufferin Grove Market on Thursdays.

Have a great long weekend everyone! (yay, Labour Day!)

Yours in food,

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Memory #1 in our new condo: The first meal!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011
chimichurri sauceI think most of us would agree that there are few moments in life that are more exciting than becoming a homeowner for the first time.

Back in July, Mark and I had our counter-offer on a condo accepted and we took possession yesterday - Even though we don't officially move 'til August 14, naturally we wanted our first meal for our first evening at our condo to be special! Pizza and beer would be easier, yes, but we are saving that for our friends when they help us move. Cooking was also a great way to test that all our appliances were in working order.

We decided to tackle making homemade chimichurri sauce - which turned out amazing and which we are now addicted to (we have had it before, but only in restaurants - it was so simple to make!) We spooned it over a steak that we cooked in our cast iron skillet.

We also just cooked up some quick gnocchi (admittedly not from scratch - it was late and we were hungry!) with lots of parmigiano reggiano on top.

We also baked some simple zucchini slices on stoneware with a bit of salt and olive oil in the oven. They were delicious.

Then for dessert we made my mom's simple recipe for apple crisp, or apple crumble as some call it. So delicious! And we forgot oven mitts so umm we had to be creative :P But we made it work!

Memory #1 in our first home: MADE. And it was a delicious memory indeed!

Yours in food,

Monday, July 18, 2011

Food Truck Eats - Part 1

Monday, July 18, 2011
Ontario's first food truck rally was a huge success. Food writer Suresh Doss rounded up some fabulous food trucks at Toronto's Distillery District on July 2nd for Food Truck Eats - Part 1. The huge crowd was able to feast on tacos, cupcakes, grilled cheese, wood fired pizza, wings, porchetta sandwiches, kulfi, churros, and many more.




There were trucks from:

El Gastronomo Vagabundo
The Cupcake Diner
Gorilla Cheese
Bonfire Catering
Steamwhistle Brewery

There were other food vendors as well:

Simple Fish and Chips
Buster Rhino's Southern BBQ
Augie's Gourmet Ice Pops
Baker Street Bakery
Distillery District Restaurant Group
Tiffin Day
Geoffrey Hopgood
Rossy Earle
Joshna Maharaj

This event was part 1 of 3, so look forward to a couple more chances to relish great food outdoors.

Posted by: Mark Rodas

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Joey opens at the Eaton Centre

Sunday, July 17, 2011
Joey Restaurants has opened a brand-spanking-new location at the Eaton Centre. Something was needed in that space, and I will happily welcome another restaurant - I like to shop too, but there are enough shops there - bring on the new restos! (We had also just hit up Trattoria Mercatto, another brand-new resto in the Eaton's Centre, a couple weeks before).


Let's talk design for a second: the interior is beautiful, there is a section that is open-air, and there are huge big-screen TVs that were playing vintage movies while we were there. It's a large restaurant with an upper level as well. I did hear the bathroom was awfully far away from where you dine, but meh. When it comes down to it, it's really mostly about the food and drink!

Since food was more pass-out style rather than a sit-down dinner menu, I can't say for sure that everything we ate was on the menu - but everything was pretty solid. I checked the menu and my favourite item, the Phanaeng or Penang or Panang curry (which is typically mild in spice but is still nicely flavoured) is on the regular menu. Was disappointed not to eat any of his seared Ahi tuna tacos at the event like we had at Shops at Don Mills, but I did check the menu and they are available. Yum!

If you want to know more about Joey Restaurants and Chef Chris Mills, check this out: we've covered Chef Mills both at his restaurant opening and patio opening at his location at Shops at Don Mills. We also were lucky enough to taste-teste the Pacific-Rim-inspired menu he created right before he went to cook it at the prestigious James Beard House in New York.


Yours in food,

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Bowery

Thursday, July 7, 2011
Located at 55 Colborne St., The Bowery, a new ‘punk meets farm’ restaurant and bar (and soon to be live music venue) opened its doors on June 27th. Executive Chef Tawfik Shehata (currently also Executive Chef at The Ballroom and formerly of Vertical Restaurant) along with Chef de Cuisine Jason Maw (formerly of Starfish Oysterbed and Grill; Boba) have crafted a wonderfully local inspired menu heavily utilizing the five foot long custom charcoal grill situated in the open kitchen.




Posted by: Mark Rodas

Monday, June 27, 2011

Trattoria Mercatto at the Eaton Centre

Monday, June 27, 2011
Looking for a patio after shopping or a long day at work? Trattoria Mercatto at the Toronto Eaton Centre may be the spot for you. Serving classic Italian comfort food in a smartly designed space, it's a welcome addition to the three other Mercatto restaurants: Toronto St., Bay St., and Elizabeth and College.

Interior design by: Munge Leung
Identity, signage, menus and uniforms by: Device222




Posted by: Mark Rodas

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Toronto Taste: THE food & beverage event of the year (and for a good cause to boot!)

Sunday, June 19, 2011
Mark and I were lucky enough to be Official Roving Twitter Reporters for Second Harvest's largest fundraiser, Toronto Taste, and it was a BLAST! If you do only one charitable thing next year, make sure it's Toronto Taste - it was a ton of fun for a great cause!

IMG_2132 Toronto Taste 2011

IMG_2026 Toronto Taste 2011

Since the first Toronto Taste 21 years ago (then known as Taste of the Nation), the event has raised over $4 million, enabling Second Harvest to secure enough fresh food to deliver over 8 million meals to those in Toronto living with hunger. That’s enough to feed almost every one of Regent Park’s 2,045 families with children three square meals a day for a whole year.

As it's held at the Royal Ontario Museum, the ambiance was great - with the way it's set up, you get the best of both worlds - food and drink were served up by 60 top chefs and 30 beverage purveyors both inside and outside the ROM. There was live music plus a ton of opportunities to win great prizes through a raffle as well as via live/silent auctions.

IMG_2007 Toronto Taste 2011

While we certainly didn't get around to every chef and beverage purveyor (you couldn't possibly in just one night!), we had a couple stand-outs to share:
  • Brisket burger with kimchi from Nota Bene
  • Cider-braised pork belly from Epic
  • Mushroom polenta from Scarpetta
  • Chicken lollipops in a mayo-spice sauce covered with Indian rice puffs from Roger Mooking which we paired with a Rickards White with the help of our friend Steve Riley from Better Beer.com
  • Salty Chocolate Caramel from Xococava (served by men walking around with old-style candy boxes strapped to their chests no less!) and washed down with a Henry of Pelham 2008 Riesling
  • Ricotta orange donut with candied orange and cardamom orange smoothie shot from Pangaea
  • White chocolate mascarpone meringue with strawberry sauce from Baker Street
We also learned, again from our friend Steve Riley at Better Beer.com, how to taste beer. Check out the diagram to the left or visit his site to find out more!

Food and beer pairing

Roger Mooking drops in

Like I said, if there is just one charitable thing you do next year, make it Toronto Taste. You will not be disappointed!

Yours in food,