Sunday, September 29, 2013

T.U.M. serves up their 2nd Year Anniversary

I finally made it out to the Toronto Underground Market (T.U.M.) as it's known as held at the Evergreen Brickworks every month or so for the past year.  They celebrated their Second year anniversary with a double event day.  They had an early day session for families and after 5 version for 19+.

In a very last minute decision while talking to a friend we decided to go and check out the evening version.  We got there pretty late, I think it was probably around 8:30pm when we arrived.

I did try and go to one other T.U.M. and purchased tickets online in advance and when I got there I couldn't find any parking after driving around the lot for 15-20  minutes I gave up and left.   This time I took a chance to get tickets at the door after I saw a facebook post that they still had tickets available. Code for we haven't filled the place so please come.

For the first time T.U.M. teams up with Gastropost/Financial Post to promote attendees taking pics for this week's Mexican Challenge for Gastropost.

It is a fun event and I met some super friendly vendors like these guys from HOLY CRAB, great name and really nice guys.  My friend tried their lobster nacho or something like that.  She thought it was great.

We both tried the Kanga (Australian) Meat Pies.
We had the Zucchini and Caramelized Onion Pies.  They were very filling,  I probably should have just had a half of one.

There were a couple of really delicious things that I tried.   One was the Arepa from Mango Pinton.  It had black beans, sweet plantains that balanced the steak.  It was a full burst of flavour in a little hand pocket Arepa.

On the sweet side I tried some Oma's Dutch Delights. Small pillows of pancake batter served with chocolate or maple syrup, icing sugar and strawberries, all optional.  I had them with strawberries and icing sugar.  It was a pancake batter and cooked in what looked like a snail pan so they were little round golden brown pancakes.  Very tasty since there was more surface that was browned from the smaller sized pancakes.

On the whole it is a fun event and a great place to go with a group of friends and to meet some new people.

My caveat is that it does get very costly since you have to either drive there and pay for parking,  I paid $3 for parking for an hour.  Then you have to pay $20 to get in.  You pay individually for each food and beverage vendor with the average price from $4-$9 per item.  Then add your drinks which were limited to some craft brewers, I saw one wine vendor and one alcohol vendor.  So if you plan on driving bring a bottle of water or a designated driver.  It's easy to drop about $40-$50 at a T.U.M. night.  They had a few tables set up in a area to the side but you pretty much stand on concrete when you are chowing down on your food. Because I went late there weren't line ups for food but I know that generally if you go early you will experience lineups to get in and for each popular vendor.

If you like to try new things and like to sample many different foods at one location then this is the place for you.   The evening T.U.M.  had a D.J. who played good but loud music giving it a very club feel and making it a bit difficult to chat with the vendors.   This is a great event for the young and hip club people that want to try the latest food trends and hang out with friends.

I wouldn't say it's a great value for the money as you generally are eating things like pulled pork sandwiches, appetizer foods and smaller portions.   I would still suggest checking it out because a lot of these vendors start at this event and build their clientele and then open up bricks and morter restaurants. Think of it like an Indie Band scene.  It kind of works the same way.  They learn their craft and see what people like at these events and they fine tune and grow their fan bases and then when they are ready they join the big leagues with their own restaurants.

Check them out and remember the ones you liked and you may have a new destination restaurant to go to sooner or later.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Top Chefs cook up a showdown to Crush Cancer

Do you know someone that is dealing with Cancer or have you lost someone to some form of Cancer?  I bet everyone that reads this is saying YES right now.  In my life I have lost my father to Cancer,  I have lost most of my aunts and uncles to Cancer and have had close friends lose their relatives to cancer as well. I also have a few friends who have either had their own Cancer challenges or are dealing with it now.

 It is a horrible disease that I would like to see disappear one day.  Chemotherapy ravages the body and makes most people suffer a number of side effects that put a strain on their quality of life.

I worked at Sunnybrook Hospital for many years and would walk into the Cancer wing to get my lunch sometimes.  You realize how much it has increased when you see a whole wing of a hospital being built to deal with the treatments.   While research has been great in detecting the diseases earlier and the treatments have been getting better, there is still an increase of people getting Cancer due to environmental factors and I believe because of our diets and stressful lives as well.   There are lot's of people that don't smoke, eat well and exercise that get Cancer so it sometimes doesn't care who it affects but we can try and do our best to try and raise money to help further research on how to manage it or better yet cure it.

This week I went to a private event of chefs and foodies that was an encouragement to get more people to sign up for the Celebrity Chef's Culinary Challenge that will be held at the Royal York in December.   I decided to take on the challenge of trying to raise funds to participate in this challenge.  I have the time now and would like to do something in honour of my Dad and the people that I have lost to Cancer and friends that are in the midst of it now.

There are several levels of fundraising goals but the main goal is to reach $2500 to be able to join a Celebrity Chef and compete with their team against other Celebrity Chef teams in a Culinary Challenge.  While I am not a trained chef I will get some Chef training/mentoring before the competition.

If you want to see me cook with some of the best Canadian Chefs like Lynn Crawford, Mark McEwen, Chuck Hughes, Vikram Vij or Corbin Tomaszeski then drop a little bit of cash toward the cure.  Tyler Florence and Dean McDermott will be the Host and Emcee for the Event.

You can donate through this link and you will receive a Tax Receipt.

Click on this link to Donate:
KitchenAid Cook for the Cure

Monday, September 23, 2013

Top Chefs stretch their noodles for a good cause

Rockstar Vancouver Chef Vikram Vij and me

I had the pleasure of being invited to an Invite Only event at Cirillo's Culinary Academy because of my Gastropost involvement.  It was a last minute invite and I didn't get confirmation until this morning but I jumped at a chance to go to this event because I knew it would be full of Chef Rockstars who are great chefs and really fun people.  I think there were only a few of the many Gastroposters in the room and it was mostly filled with people that are involved in some way with Breast Cancer Foundation fundraising.  The small but mighty group of Gastroposters were armed with camera and ready for some fun.

As we arrived we were presented with some beverages and beautifully presented and very tasty food.  You can see by the photos here that I probably spent more time photographing the food than I did eating it.  I did try the shrimp which was delicious and planned to go back for more but that never happened because I was busy taking photos and "mixing and mingling: as they called it.  After a bit of the mix and mingle there was a presentation about the Chef's Challenge happening in December and how the funds raised go toward Cancer research.  There were personal stories from a Cancer survivor and from the Chef's as well.

They encouraged everyone to sign up to raise money to join the Chef's Challenge.   I decided to sign up because I would love to go and watch,  less pressure than actually doing the cooking.  These chef's are mighty competitive.  Will see how much money I can raise.  I will post the links to the donation page in a future post.   I kind of felt like it was my way of contributing to a disease that touches everyone.  In my life it took my Dad away at 65 and most of my aunts and uncles,  and has touched a few of my friends as well.

After the speeches it was time for a little Chef Challenge.  Chef Lynn Crawford took on the reigns as Host/commentator and it was East coast vs West Coast in a Longest Noodle Challenge.   Which team could crank out the longest pasta noodle on a kitchen aid mixer machine.   It was Mark McEwen and Chef Corbin on one team and the West coast represented by Dean McDermott and Vikram Vij,  and a few recruits to help them stretch out those long noodles.  There were a lot of noodle jokes in the explanation of the rules of this challenge.  You had to be there....  Anyway at a certain point I lent a hand or 2 to the West Coast team.... they were the fun team, although Dean was taking it very seriously and trying to kick the East Coasts chef's butts.   Well the East coast won the challenge but I don't know about that since their noodle split in half and Chef Corbin was holding it together in the middle.   Oh well... no prizes but just a whole lot of fun with pasta noodles.

Dean photo bombs Vikram


                                             Chef Lynn wrangles the "Ding Dongs"

                                                                      Noodle Challenge
                                        Me and Dean McDermott with the Noodle aftermath.
                 What do you do with leftover noodles.... put them on your head of course.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

New Organic Garage Store opens in Vaughan

One of my favourite Organic Stores in Oakville - Organic Garage  just opened a second store in Vaughan.  I am super excited about this because I fell in love with Organic Garage when I filmed Heather who was the subject of a documentary I was working on about making environmental changes in diet choices.  Heather lives in Oakville so we filmed her trying to find products without wasteful packaging and also as close to local and Organic as we could find.  It was a challenge for Heather but Organic Garage had a lot of great products for Heather to switch to.  I liked how the store had a large variety of Organic products at prices that were competitive to your usual grocery store.   The Oakville store is a tiny little efficient store in a little strip mall in Oakville.   The new Vaughan store is just off Bathurst at New Westminster, it's just north of the Promenade Mall for those of you that live in Vaughan.  It takes over for a previous Organic store called Planet Organic I think that's what it was called.  I went there a few times and found the prices very high and the selection not that great, although they had a whole counter of prepared foods.  Organic Garage is a compact, efficient set up with great people running it.   They also have a huge boot at the Green Living Show in Toronto that I like to always stop by at to say hi and see what they have.  The people that run the store are really great and it's a pleasure shopping there.   On my visit today I saw Randi who takes care of all the marketing and she was surprised to see me there.  She thought I lived in Oakville near Heather I guess, I live in North York so this store is a lot closer to home.  But she was very happy to see me there.  It's always nice to support great shops with people that care about their customers.

On today's shopping trip I picked up a few things I like to get Organic and a few of my favourite things.   The things I like to buy organic are the Granny Smith Apples and the bacon and the turkey luncheon meat.   My favourite things I picked up were Camino Espresso chocolate, ShaShaBread cookies and Mad Mexican tortilla chips.  I also needed some white wine vinegar so I picked up a new kind to try and I also picked up some 100% buckwheat noodles that were on special.  I was inspired by a dish Gordon Ramsey made on tv before I left the house.    TIP:  Don't watch the food network or go to the grocery store hungry unless you want to buy a whole bunch of things you weren't planning on buying.

I also picked up a few other things like Organic tomatoes, another vegetable that is good to buy organic and I also picked up some bok choy because I could buy individual portions instead of a whole bag of them like they sell in Asian stores.  I find I use a few and then waste the rest.  This way I could buy 3 which is all I need to make a great Asian Soup.  By the way this bag of food was under $40, and I probably would have spent about $60 if I would have bought the same at Whole Foods.  I didn't even shop for deals, I just bought things I wanted.  They have a weekly flyer that they send by email to their mailing list if you are looking for the specials.

I hope that Organic Garage does well in these 2 locations and is able to open more stores in the future.  The only thing that I miss that Whole Foods has is their huge Cheese Section... yeah I am a cheesehead.    So I guess I will still have to hit more than one grocery store to fill my fridge and pantry but I hope to be able to shop at Organic Garage a lot more and get fresh Organic produce at a reasonable price closer to home now.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

My Tiff Diet

I haven't written a blog post in a while because I have been busy volunteering at Tiff (Toronto International Film Festival).  I have been doing this for about 13 years.   I work with elite team of great people that have been hand picked to form our team. It's kind of like fight club but nobody gets punched.  We do such an exclusive job that we can't talk about it.  So I can't say anymore than that except to say that I volunteered for about 8 shifts this year.  Although one was an un scheduled one.  I was in a Rush line and left when I got a text from a friend to come and help out in the theatre, which I did for the Dallas Buyers Club Screening.

My shifts were at Roy Thompson Hall and the Princess of Wales Theatre and because they started at about 5pm and ended around midnight or depending on when people left the building.   The start time of the shift made it difficult to eat dinner before a shift when you have to factor in that it took me an hour on the ttc to get there.  Who wants to eat dinner at 3pm?   Anyway, because of the shift times it is always a scramble to figure out what to do for dinner during Tiff.   Ever wonder why the celebrities are so skinny?  Follow them around for a few days of a film festival and I guarantee they don't have time to eat much.  If they are lucky they may get some popcorn and a drink.    The biggest celebrities went to a restaurant that wasn't even opened yet.   Imagine a celeb trying to go to Milestone's for dinner... yeah it won't ever happen.  They wouldn't be able to eat without stopping for photos and autographs.   So remember that the next time you see a celebrity during Tiff.  They are probably hungry.

Anyway...back to me scrounging for dinner during the 11 days of Tiff.  I have a few regular haunts that I go to because of proximity and time when I am at Roy Thompson Hall and there were a few other places that I hit when running around to other screenings.   Here's is an overview of the places I checked out from cheep and cheerful to fancy but mostly cheap and quick.

Restaurants to grab some grub during Tiff.

1. Elephant and Castle
2. The Ritz patio bar
3. Artisano Bakery
4. Canteen and Luma at the Bell Lightbox
5. New this year the Grolsch Open House Bar
6. Bakery at Bathurst Stn.
7. Burrito Boyz
8. Industry Party
9. Shoeless Joe's
10.  Closing Party food

#1 I don't have any photos except of friends at the Elephant and Castle because the room is pretty dark but we had many Sheppard's Pie's, fries and lot's of other comfort foods there.

#2  The closest place to chill out and grab some food at when you are at Roy Thompson Hall is the Ritz Hotel on Wellington St.  It's where Celebs and celeb stalkers go and tired Tiff Volunteers looking for drinks and good food.  One the best things I had all week was their Tempura Veggies with a great dipping sauce.  They were light and full of flavour with well seasoned tempura batter.  Also enjoyed their truffle fries, although not the cheapest fries they were very good.

#6  If you want fast and cheap and you are going to the Bloor Cinema to see a documentary or other film during Tiff, the quick fixes are either a Jamaican patty from the Bakery at Bathurst Station as I chose or the Bloor favourite that entices you because of the smell is a Schwarma from Ghazale.

#8  I took a couple of nights off to go see some films and to hit a couple of parties.  One of the parties I attended was an Industry Party for the Women in Film and Television.  I am a member so I get an invite to this member only party.  This is pretty typical of Industry Parties.  People are dying to crash these parties but really they are all the same after a while.   Cold little appetizers, sometimes some ok desserts like cupcakes and lot's of people trying to schmooze for work and money.   The first hour was pretty boring for me until some friends started showing up.  By the time I left I saw a bunch of people I wish I had seen when I got there.  The food not very memorable but I appreciate the fact that they host this party.

#4 The night before the Festival I hit up the Patio at Luma at the Bell Lightbox and had some Calamari, Tuna, and Frites.  Expensive but tasty and the patio is great.

#5  New this year was the Grolsch Beer Open House in a Parking Lot behind the Princess of Wales Theatre where they had 2 food trucks every day during the first weekend of the festival.  They also had bands playing and it was so loud that we could hear them inside the back door of the Princess of Wales Theatre.  Jason Sudeikis thought that was pretty funny.   This sandwich was the BBQ Butter Chicken from the Fidel Castros Food Truck.  It was really juicy and a bit on the messy side but really tasty.

#3 Artisano Bakery and Cafe is located across the Street from Roy Thompson Hall and should be a quick grab and go type of place but the service is a bit on the slow side but most of the food is pretty good and fairly reasonable.  I got the Lasagna because I figured it was already ready to go and would probably take less time than the panini's which are good but are a bit of a wait.  The lasagna was good, not great but it hit the spot and the cappuccino was really good.

#7 Burrito Boyz - By the end of the festival you are craving something that kind of has all the food groups in it and really fills you up and for those people that are skipping the films and only hitting the parties it's great hangover food.  Fairly quick and cheap and always tasty, it's closest to the Scotiabank theatre which was Tiff central for media and lot's of volunteers looking to use up their vouchers.   I stopped by on the last weekend after not getting into a screening because it was full.  I got the small chicken burrito and believe me it wasn't small.
Tip: don't wear white if you eat this.
#9 For some late night eats a friend and I hit up Shoeless Joe's while on a break at the Princess of Wales Threatre.  She wanted a drink and I was in the mood for dessert.  I thought this one was a lot smaller and only ate half but it's a great sharing plate for a couple of friends.  I can't even remember what it was called exactly but It think it was a Mexican fried ice cream type of thing.

#10 And then there is the food that you may or may not be lucky to get at a Tiff Party.  At the Closing Night Party they had Chili Cheese Dogs and our favourite pictured below was the Chocolate Fountain Bar.  Good luck if you see a piece of fruit during the festival so this was probably the most appreciated food during the festival.  Before you get too excited about these parties... Generally the food is cold.. not always that tasty and the stuff you like runs out quickly so you often don't even get seconds if any.

And Don't forget about the Starbuck's and Timmies... to get you through the week.  I was really happy when they opened a new one on Wellington behind Roy Thompson Hall.   A regular stop before I start a shift.