Thursday, May 29, 2014

Chef Movie review and inspired Sandwich.

There has been a lot of hype about the Jon Favreau Movie  "CHEF" lately.  I have seen many pop up ads, tweets, tv spots etc.   It seemed to be getting massive attention.  Sometimes when a movie is overly hyped it turns out to be a disappointment when you see it but not this time.  I may be biased because I am a food blogger and a film lover but this film just made me smile the whole way through.   Something that doesn't happen a lot these days with all the blow em up films.  Jon Favreau is the jack of all things in this film and has his heart all over it.  He writes, directs and is the star of the film.

Chef is about a guy that is an executive chef in an upscale but dated kitchen and is tired of making uninspired food.  He tries to switch up the restaurant menu when he hears that a big blogger critic will be coming to the restaurant but the owner (Dustin Hoffman) of the restaurant digs his heels in and demands that they make their usual menu.   They have a huge blowout that is filmed by patrons of the restaurant and posted on youtube and the Chef leaves and the critic shows up to the same old menu which the remaining staff are forced to make.   The critic is not impressed with the food and writes a scathing review blaming the Chef.   In the meantime the video of the Chef's rant goes viral on youtube and he finds that he can't get hired anywhere else.   He is forced to start over but his ex wife (Sophia Vergara), has an idea.  She creatively plans on getting him and their son to Miami and cooks up a plan for her 1st ex husband (Robert Downey Jr), to hook up the Chef with a run down food truck.  The Chef has no other choice but to embrace the truck and go back to his culinary roots in Miami when his glowing career started.  With the help of his tech savvy and hard working son and his former sous chef partner from the restaurant they embark on a cross country trip selling food out of the food truck in cities like Miami, New Orleans and Texas and customize their menus to the towns they visit.  With the genius social media tweets and vine videos his son has been sending along the way they build up a huge following of customers and the food truck is a hit but the real winner is the relationship between the Chef and his son as they bond during their culinary adventure.  This film has a great lineup of the best comedic and A-list celebrity actors such as Dustin Hoffman, Robert Downey Jr., Sophia Vergara, Scarlett Johannsen and John Leguizamo and Oliver Platt plays the hated food critic.  The whole cast were perfect in their roles.

In the end the Chef gets exactly what he needs to be happy and makes a friend and partner out of what he thought was an enemy.

This movie has great actors, food porn, great music and a whole lot of heart.  I enjoyed it on so many levels.  I heard Jon Favreau talking about how he did a lot of research with the food truck scene and it shows with the inclusion of how social media is really a huge part of the success or failure of a food truck or a restaurant in these days of the viral video.

It opens in Canada on June 6th.  I was lucky to get to see an advanced screening thanks to Gastropost/The National Post team and saw it with a lot of fellow Gastroposters.   As I said I may be biased but I dare you not to like this film.  As an older man in front of me said after the film.  "It was a feel good film".   I must agree with him.

 I felt so good afterward that my friend and I went down to the grocery store in the Manulife building and I picked up the ingredients to make a Cuban sandwich like the one Jon Favreau made in the movie.   So here is my version of a Quick Cuban Sandwich:

Quick Cubano Sandwich


2 slices of Porchetta deli meat
2 slices of Smoked Black Forest Ham
Smear of Yellow mustard
Baguette split
2 slices of garlic pickles
2 slices of swiss cheese
1 slice of melting cheese


Split the baguette bread into about 6 inches long piece.  Spread some yellow mustard on the bottom of the bread.   Add the ham and porchetta and then the pickles and then add the Swiss cheese.  I added a couple of slices of a soft melting cheese on top of that.   Put the top on and then slather the top with softened butter.   Butter the bottom of a hot Panini press or grill press and add the sandwich and press tightly so it squeezes the sandwich down.   Cook until the cheese melts and the crust is golden brown.

A good pairing for this sandwich is a nice cold Mojito.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

McEwan's All Access foodie's sip and nibble.

photo by Linda Matarasso
I have been so busy lately that I haven't had a chance to post anything about my evening recently attending Top Chef Canada head judge Mark McEwan's All Access 3.0 at McEwan's Grocery Store at the Shops at Don Mills.   Hosted by Abbey Sharp of Abbey's Kitchen.  A bunch of select foodies and bloggers were in attendance sampling donuts from Von Donuts, some excellent tender beef from Prince Edward County.  Mark McEwan's own pillows of love Gnocchi, Macarons from MAKARON, some amazing grilled cheese sandwiches and spring rolls, wine, specialty soaps and some Hot Bunz too.

photo McEwan group

Here's a photo from McEwan's Group website where you can see Top Chef Mark McEwan and me behind him and a bunch of other foodies listen to him talk about his experiences.  Chef Mark talked about how to make his excellent Gnoochi recipe and after giving everyone a chance to ask questions I spoke to him about my Food Revolution Day Workshop event the following week where I was planning on making potato Gnocchi but after tasting Chef Mark's Ricotta Gnocchi and speaking to him I decided to change it up and make them with Ricotta.  Chef Mark suggested that I should show my Workshop attendees how to make the Ricotta cheese from scratch and then make the ricotta gnocchi.   I made a batch of the ricotta cheese the day before but had a store bought on hand in case I failed.  I picked up Chef Mark's Rustic Italian cookbook and followed his recipe to make sure I had the right measurements for a recipe and then I doubled it up.   I made a huge mess in my kitchen but it worked out perfectly.  The next day I did the demo at the workshop and it was a lot less messy and it turned out great and everyone was amazed at how easy it really was.  I ended up using the store bought Ricotta cheese as a comparison to the freshly made one.   It was unanimous that the fresh one was 100% better.

 It was a fun night with people that all have a love of quality food and appreciated all the treats we sampled and we got to take home a goodie bag full of great stuff provided by Brands and Buzzing.

I am grateful for the excellent timing of this event even though I was exhausted from work and getting ready for my own event it was incredibly helpful chatting with Chef McEwan about tips for my gnocchi in my workshop and I provided recipes to the attendees so they can now all make their own Ricotta cheese and know how to make fresh gnocchi from scratch but there is always Fabbrica and McEwan's if they don't want to mess up their kitchens and still get the great quality Gnocchi.   I have to say that I have been to Fabbrica just after it first opened and had the gnocchi then and it was the best gnocchi I have ever had in a restaurant in Toronto.   The sauce is just the way I like it.   Classic simple Italian tomato sauce similar to the way I make mine.  I like to add a few chili flakes to mine but otherwise it's pretty much the same thing.

Besides the great food I got to meet fellow food bloggers and one that I have been communicating online with that I have never met face to face before.   So it was like a great cocktail party with friends.

I didn't get to sample the skull chocolates but I had to take a photo for a certain movie critic that I know who wears a skull ring.

I didn't have any wine but the rest of the food was really great.   I especially liked the grilled cheese and the beef.  Both melt in your mouth.

If you haven't visited McEwan's grocery store before because you thought it was too far away, you will be happy to know that he is opening another one in the TD Centre downtown soon.  The Bay streeters will be all over that place.

Thanks to Chef Mark and his team, Abbey Sharp and Brands and Buzzing for a fun event.  I hope there are more like it to come.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Food Revolution Day Toronto 2014 Part 2

I hosted 2 Food Revolution Day events this year.  The first event was an Italian Cooking Workshop that you can read about in a previous post to this one.  My second Food Revolution Day Event was a Potluck Challenge Dinner Party with friends at my home.  I hosted this event on the actual Food Revolution Day on May 16th and decide to make Jamie Oliver's Rainbow Salad Wraps as the main food of the Potluck so that everyone attending could participate by contributing an ingredient for the recipe and also getting hands on and getting their hands on the graters and grating all the vegetables for the salad.  I planned the Potluck after speaking with the people from Sobey's who had assisted me with my Italian Cooking workshop and were trying to encourage people to host or attend a Potluck dinner during the week of Food Revolution Day to coincide with the the Food Revolution Day Events.  Sobey's is one of the Jamie Oliver Foundation sponsors and are very supportive of all of the events that everyone is doing in Toronto.  

Canadians from coast to coast are invited to cook and share a meal together with family and friends. When participants share a post or photo of their potluck on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtags #PotluckChallenge and #FRD2014, Sobeys will donate $1 to the Children's Aid Foundation's Cooking Toward Independence Project, up to a maximum of $25,000.

For the Potluck Challenge I challenged my friends to bring one of the ingredients from Jamie Oliver's Rainbow Salad Wrap.  I chose this recipe because it's the recipe that he was using to teach kids around the world to make in a massive online class that he was doing to try and break a Guinness World Record for teaching the most amount of students and kids around the world to make.   Since it was meant to teach kids I thought it was a good recipe to use to keep things simple, easy and hands on.  Although a bit on the messy side it didn't need a lot of fancy tools.  I could have used a bigger table though.   I wanted to get everyone grating at the same time but I didn't have enough graters or space to line everyone up.  If the weather was warmer it would have been a great thing to make outside on a big picnic table.   Everyone had their hands in on the making of the salad part for the wrap and then when it was all mixed up we all rolled up our own wraps.  Super healthy vitamin packed wraps.  Since it was a dinner party we also had some of Jamie Oliver's Gangnham style chicken wings; the recipe was from Jamie's Save with Jamie cookbook.  I have made them before and they are super easy and really pack a punch of flavour.  We lost the healthy part a bit when we got to dessert though.   Since my Cheery Amaretto parfait was a hit at my cooking workshop I decided to do it again for the Potluck.   I made so much of it though and we also had Chocolate Covered Strawberries that my Joanne made and my friend Adam brought a small birthday cake for my belated birthday since I was teaching my workshop on my actual Birthday.  Talk about chocolate overload, but that wasn't all....  I also decided to use the leftover ricotta that I had made to experiment and make some chocolate chip Cannoli's.  I had the cannoli shells and just made the filling.   Well the important part was to cook it from scratch and share with friends and that's what we did.  And we tweeted away as many photos as we could.  It's hard to tweet and eat but I managed to snap a few shots as you can see.  We ate very well that night.

One of my lucky friends Cliff Fernandes won a a special raffle prize draw for a surprise Gift Box from
Amazing Clubs Canada.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Food Revolution Day Toronto 2014

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution Day Global Day of Action just took place around the world on May 16th but there were year round events leading up to the big day and a week full of local Toronto Events including the 2 events I hosted for Food Revolution Day this year this is about the 1st of the 2 events.

This year I wanted to host a public Workshop Event where I could open it up to parents and their kids to learn how to make a complete meal from scratch.  Something that had simple ingredients and wasn't complicated to make but required a little time and patience.  I decided on Italian this year because it uses the freshest most simplest of ingredients with the biggest flavour impact and generally keeping in mind people's tight budgets these days.
I hosted my Italian Getaway Cooking from Scratch Workshop at the Depanneur in downtown Toronto and kids under 12 were able to attend at half price. 

With the help of fellow Ambassador Chef Mary Hubert and one of the Depanneur's resident chef's Emily Zimmerman and a couple of my friends Linda and Martina to help me get things set up and ready for an educational and fun night where I was able to teach a group of people how to make fresh Ricotta cheese, a classic Italian Tomato Sauce and Ricotta gnocchi which everyone participated in hand rolling to produce enough for everyone to sample with the tomato sauce.  I also showed them how to make a quick grilled asparagus side dish and options for making the asparagus.  And to complete the meal I set up a quick Cherry Amaretto dessert bar where everyone could make their own Cherry Amaretto Parfaits in Bernardin Mason Jars.

In a fast paced 3 hours everyone was able to learn how to make a complete meal and enjoy their efforts at the end of the Workshop.  I also had a raffle draw where a lucky winner received a basket of Jamie Oliver items and some things ready to take home to continue their culinary skills.  Each participant also took home a Jamie Oliver cookbook which was generously provided by Harper Collins Canada and there were also some kids packs that included Sarah Elton's cookbook Cooking from Scratch and some great little Sobey's aprons and measuring spoons that were provided by Sobeys. Everyone was also able to take home a Bernardin Mason jar of some freshly made Tomato Sauce and if they didn't eat their dessert on the spot they were able to take their Parfait's home as well.

Everyone had a great time and learned a few new culinary tricks as one participant said he wanted to learn.

They were very interested in attending more Culinary Events at the Depanneur in the future and I think some will take the recipes that were provided at the Workshop and continue to make them on their own at home for their families.   That's what Food Revolution Day is all about.  Getting inspired by food and learning new things and passing them on.  

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Easy Mother's and Father's Day Gifts

Are you one of those people that wants to something great for your mom and dad on Mother's Day & Father's Day but just don't know what to do or you go to the store and walk around blind because you just don't know what to buy?  You leave it to the last minute and then grab the first thing you see?

Here's some great ideas that you don't even have to leave the house to get and it's the gift that keeps on giving for as long as you want it to.   No you don't have to donate your organs.   It's a Box of the Month Club gift.

Amazing Clubs has all kinds of different boxed gifts that you can have delivered to your mom & dad.

I tried out the Breakfast of the Month Box and it had Coffee, specialty Jam, a Cinnamon Roll Mix and a couple of other things.  This is a good one if you like variety.  I haven't tried a couple of them yet.  I will when I have a bit more time to experiment.

Here are a few boxes that would be great for MOM

Does you mom need to take more time for herself to relax and put her feet up and reflect on her busy life?  Does she need a little break now and then?  Does she like to try different teas?  Does she get together with friends for tea to unwind?  This box would be perfect if she does.

A Tea of the month box is great for trying new teas all the time and teas you may never have tried before.

They also have a Chocolate Box of the Month and a Cookie Box of the Month.


Is your Dad the King of the BBQ?  There's a Box for that.  How about a BBQ sauce of the Month or a Hot Sauce of the Month.

Does your Dad hate shopping for clothes but he works in a business office everyday and has to dress to impress the Boss?  Save him the shopping stress and send him the TIE of the Month Box.  He will never have to go shopping for Ties ever again.

And some of these boxes will be the kind of gift you can share with your parents when you spend time with them.   Have a tea and cookie when spending time with your mom.   You can spark up the Barbie with Dad and test out some of the BBQ sauces on your favourite Chicken or Ribs and there's even a Beer of the Month Box to go with it.

You don't have to go to the store and haul anything home.  Just order online and in a few days your box arrives at your parents home.  All you have to do is send a card and you are done.  Skip the mall parking lots and the stress.  Be unique and get the kind of gifts they will actually use.

It might be too late to get it in time for Mother's Day this year but you can always give your Mom a card and say it's coming in a few days and you have lot's of time to order a box for Father's Day.   So what are you waiting for?  Pick a Box... any box.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

My Food Revolution Revelation

When I was a kid it was normal for kids to have stay at home moms who cooked meals from scratch and all of the kids were a normal weight.
This is a photo of my class in 1969.   I'm the one with the bad haircut in the orange sweater, my mom probably made it.

Things have changed a lot in the last 30 years.  
Now parents sometimes work 2 jobs and spend hours commuting to work and have less time to prepare sit down meals with their families. It’s the fast food generation.

This is the first time in history that parents are expected to live longer than their kids.

Over 3 years ago I started watching Jamie Oliver start his mission to bring back nutrition into schools in the U.K. and the U.S.  I watched his struggle to teach people about the importance of eating real food and how the cheap processed foods are affecting kids and it made me sad to see kids struggle with their weight and parents that didn’t know any better.

I became a Food Revolution Day Ambassador after seeing something on social media about it.  I wanted to see what I could do to help. I grew up watching Julia Child on TV and any cooking shows I could find to learn about all kinds of food.
I have also had the experience of gaining weight; losing weight and gaining it back.  I worked at a hospital for many years where I learned about the food and health connection and saw first hand my father struggle with Cancer and Heart disease before passing away at 65.   I read all the books, watched all the documentaries and have been cooking with my mom since I was a kid. I know what to do and still struggle with eating healthy.

The one thing I realize is that it’s a struggle to stay in control of food because sugar, fat, salt and the chemicals that are added to our food are addictive.  We are the generation of Food Addicts.

3 years ago I started my 1st Food Revolution Day event by having a dinner party at my house with a few friends.   Last year I had a Mexican Fiesta hands on cooking experience at a Cooking Studio. This year I’m teaching a hands-on Italian Cooking from Scratch Workshop at the Depanneur in Toronto.  I will have kids and parents this year and will try to get them excited about real food.  They will learn how to make a basic tomato sauce, fresh ricotta and handmade ricotta gnocchi with grilled asparagus as a side dish and an easy no bake cherry amaretto dessert.

I will also be participating in Sobey's Potluck Challenge and will have friends over and will share in making Jamie Oliver's Rainbow Wraps and tweet photos to help the Children's Aid Society.

About the Author:  Linda Matarasso lives in Toronto, is an Administrative Professional, Filmmaker and writer of Starving Foodie - a blog about all things related to food. She’s a member of Food Bloggers of Canada, and a Food Revolution Day Ambassador for Toronto.  

Follow Linda:
Twitter: @integrityfilms
Instagram: @lindamatarasso
Facebook: LindaMatarasso