Friday, August 29, 2014

End of Summer at East Lynn Farmer's Market

A friend of mine asked me if I wanted to meet her at the Farmer's Market near her house.  I said yes because I was already thinking about going to get some fresh fruits and vegetables to restock my fridge before I get crazy busy during Tiff.  This year I want to try and stock grab and go foods in my fridge like cut up melon, carrot sticks, apples, cheese and just easy and quick stuff that I can grab before I head out the door for a long day of film stuff.  So we met up at the East Lynn Farmer's Market at the East Lynn Park near Woodbine and Danforth Ave.

It was a beautiful day for a farmer's market.  Always better to shop at a farmer's market on a nice day then to be stuck inside a grocery store with long lineups.  Natural sunlight is always a good thing, especially when you are armed with a camera.

I took a few shots using my barely used Nikon camera.  I usually just have my point and shoot Canon or my cell phone camera when I am out and about but I want to bump up my photo skills and get better at figuring out all the digital controls on the Nikon.  I am an old school camera user who learned to take photos when there was negative film and manual controls on cameras.   Now there is a ton of stuff you have to figure out and I haven't been able to keep up with all the technology and the cost of new equipment, although I try but haven't succeeded as much as I would have like to.

I have to say that sometimes it's a whole lot easier just to take pics with my cell and use Instagram filters to mess around with the photos.  But I need to step up my photography skills so I hope to work on that more.

Every market is different as I have mentioned in previous posts.   The Easy Lynn Market is a small but very nice market.  As I was taking photos when they were setting up their booths I spoke to a couple of the vendors.  One of the vendors was Lina from Lucifer Loaves.  She was very curious to see if I was media because she said she was new to the market and would like to spread the word.  She had a lovely selection of all kinds of Artisanal breads.   My friend and I picked up one of the fig and honey breads and I dug into it as soon as I got home.  It was delicious and had a nice crunch on the outside and a nice chew with a ton of flavour.   She had herb and cheese breads and other assorted breads.

Sometimes you find things at some markets that you generally don't find at other markets.  In this case I found some beautiful Tomatillos and purple carrots.  You don't always see purple carrots at markets because I suppose not all farmer's grow that variety.  You don't often see Tomatillos probably because most people don't know what to do with them.  The produce at this market was beautiful and when I stopped to take photos of the strawberries I could smell the sweetness of them so of course I had to pick some up.
Apparently there is an Arancini vendor who wasn't at the market that day and I would have gotten one of those for sure if he was.  There was also a meat vendor and the same french fry guy that I see at the Tuesday market at Mount Pleasant was there too.  The people from Triscuit were there doing some sampling of their new flavours as well.

I picked up a lot more things than I expected to.  The variety was so good and it all looked like it was at the peak of freshness so I couldn't resist.  Plus I didn't have lunch and was starving and you what happens when you shop hungry.   I actually had to take some bags to the car and go back again because it was getting hard to juggle money, cameras etc. My final tally of the food I picked up was the fig and honey loaf of bread, some purple carrots, 6 tomatillos, nectarines, some new variety of apples that I have never had before, tomatoes from Food Share, blueberries and strawberries,   and I had stopped at the North York market already earlier in the day and picked up kale and melons from there.
Mostly foods that I can prep and have in the fridge that should last for part of my crazy tiff schedule.
There was a lot of stuff I wanted to get but knew I wouldn't have time to eat it.  I probably should have picked up some artichokes.  My mom used to make them all the time but I get lazy and don't buy them as much as I probably should.  They are super healthy and low in calories too.
And then there is the parking which is usually my farmer's market aggravation.  I was lucky because I went early I got a nice close spot on the side street and didn't have to pay.  But there is meter parking on the Danforth, although I am not sure if you can park on both sides because this market runs from 3pm to 7pm and you know what parking is like from 4-6pm in Toronto.  I was there at 3pm so I knew I would be OK.  If you go early you get the first pick of stuff too.
This market gets my thumbs up for the quality of the products.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Event - Buskerfest on Yonge Street

Toronto Buskerfest the annual street event benefiting Epilepsy just wrapped up this past weekend.  I dropped by the first day to check things out before the weekend crowds showed up.  It also started raining when I got there so I am sure that drove a few people away.  It rained, it stopped, it rained, it stopped and then it seemed ok for the rest of the night.

Buskerfest used to take place around St. Lawrence Market but it grew so large that they had to move it to a bigger spot so they moved it to Yonge Street.  It runs from about College down to Richmond Street on Yonge Street.   While it makes it a lot easier to get there by subway for people it's not so great for drivers trying to get around the area.  I do prefer it to the St. Lawrence Market area though as you can pop into other things like coffee shops or other along the way.

I strolled the full Yonge Street route looking for interesting things to see and food to eat naturally.

Some of the usual street eats were hot dogs, lemonade, fries, blooming onion, funnel cakes etc.

I have seen the Saucy Pierogi booth at a couple of events but didn't have a chance to try their food before.  I can only eat so much at one time.  I would never win a food eating contest that's for sure.   The rain just stopped for a minute so I got an order for pierogies with bacon, sour cream and onions with a gruyere sauce.  I just got my order when it started raining again... I ran for cover under a glass overhang at the Eaton Centre and chowed down on the pierogies.   Kind of a weird buskerfest eat but it was dinner for me.  It was very good.  I really liked the cheese sauce.

The only other thing I had other than 2 trips to Starbucks was a stop at the Funnel Cake Booth.  This was the first time I ever had a funnel cake believe it or not.  I never had enough room to squeeze one in after eating savoury foods.   This time since I only had pierogies I had the room.   I kept it simple though and only had the standard icing sugar and added caramel sauce and cinnamon.   I guess it's similar to a churro when you think about it.  I sat and ate that on the side of the street while watching one of the performers who called me and a few others out for not clapping because we were eating.  Uh huh... gotta eat.   It was really good but considering the calories it's something that I wouldn't have very often but it's probably less calories than the blooming onion I bet.   That was enough food for me..  time to walk around and take photos.   It was kind of a nice easy workout for me walking back and forth on Yonge street at my own pace.   I chose to go by myself this time so that I could see everything and walk around at my own speed and leave when I had enough.   I sometimes find it stressful to go to these things with a bunch of friends because everyone has a different attention span and interested in doing different things.  I have been to Buskerfest in the past with friends.  This was probably the least stressed way to do it.   Minimal crowds and room to walk around and loads of time.

Buskerfest is a great street festival to bring kids because it's like a roving circus with lot's of entertaining things to see.   For someone like me that likes to take photos of colorful and interesting things it's also a great destination.  Lot's of photographers out taking photos of all the colorful costumes and fire jugglers etc.

Buskerfest advice:   Wear comfortable shoes,  bring an umbrella, make sure you have lot's of change for buskers and donations and for the food eats too.

Ditch the strollers if you can on busy days.....   and don't forget the sunscreen on the sunny days.

If you are looking for healthy food this is the wrong place to go but everything in moderation as they say.

Have fun and enjoy the Buskers.

Event - Taste of the Hill

After all of the jam packed Toronto street festivals I have visited this summer I decided to visit one more in the GTA and see if there was a difference.   I decided to go to the TASTE of the HILL after seeing my friend Denise who owns the Petits Chefs Academy in Vaughan was going to have a booth set up there.  It was a sunday afternoon and the subway was closed from Eglinton to Bloor and street closures happening for Buskerfest and the South Asian festival on Gerrard, the Taste of Manila on Bathurst and all the other construction blockages in town so I decided to high tail it away from all the blockages and traffic jams in the city and headed up to Richmond Hill for a change.  To be honest it was a whole lot easier getting to this festival for me than it was getting to any of the other festivals in Toronto.   I went from the 401 East to the 404 and north to Elgin Mills and poof I was there.  I think it took less than 1/2 an hour to get there.  It takes a lot longer for me to get downtown on a normal day.

This festival was all about the multi-cultural family in Richmond Hill and they had activities for kids such as my friend Denise's mini cooking class for kids and there were Watermelon eating contests and lots of varied cultural musical acts.

Before I get to the food I have to mention that when I got there I found that there was FREE PARKING because it was held at a community centre but the festival was held outside.   Not only was it free, it was easy to get in and out and they had young cadets managing the traffic flow.  I wish more festivals did this.

The festival was totally free except for the food vendors.

The Food.

What I had was very good.  I got a skewer of pork from Liko's for $2.50 when I first got there.  It was delicious.

After wandering around and hanging out with my friend Denise for a while I went back to get more food.  Unfortunately since I drove all highway to get there I didn't have a chance to stop at a bank machine to get more cash so I only had just over $10 left for food.   I had just enough to get a combo meal from Touro Brazilian Streakhouse but it was totally worth it.  A full and healthy meal of Brazilian Beef that is roasted over coals and black beans, rice and the bbq'd pineapple which has become one of my favourite things lately.

Other food vendors on site were the Caplansky's food truck, Kettle Corn vendor, an Italian vendor, an Indian Food Vendor, fries, ice cream truck, and a few others.  It was a nice variety.

There were plenty of chairs in front of the two moveable trailer stages and picnic tables behind them.  Lot's of room to sit down and eat or watch the entertainment for a change.   The food was spread out around the whole area instead of crammed in one place so people could wander around through the whole event.

It was all held on the grass outdoor space of a community centre so it was easy to walk around and not as hot as concrete would have been.  There were a few shade trees that a few people huddled under as well.

I only found one thing that was missing.  There was a booth set up for Scotiabank but there wasn't a bank machine in site.  Because I had limited cash I would have liked to hit up a bank machine and pick up some vegetables at the little farmer's market that was set up there.   Since it was cash only for everything I had limited funds to spread around.

The only sad thing was that it didn't have a huge turnout.  It was respectable but they could have had room for a lot more people.   I have seen worse festivals with more people in Toronto.

It was a nice event though.  Very chilled and still great for a family.   Probably not of interest to teens and young adults though.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Getting Veggilicious at BENT with Chef Susur Lee

I spent a delicious afternoon today with Toronto's own Celebrity Chef Master Susur Lee at one of his 3 restaurants in Toronto called Bent which was named after his wife Brenda Bent who had a hand in designing all of Chef Lee's restaurants.  It's located at Dundas near Bathurst in the heart of a burgeoning chef scene.   Susur welcomed myself and a bunch of fellow food bloggers and made us feel like he was welcoming us into 'his home" as he said when he greeted us. We were there for a special preview of a new Veggielicious Menu tasting of some new items that will be at Bent from Sept 9 - 20th. He truly went out of his way to demonstrate the making of the meringues and all the other food that was presented to us. He was also curious to know our thoughts about a bunch of different things and also to know about our blogs and what we do.  It felt like a mutual appreciation society.   I have read that there are many chefs that don't like bloggers but that isn't the case with Chef Susur Lee.  He loved having us all there snapping photos of everything.  I think Susur is a very smart man not only in his cooking genius but in how to treat people and build your clientele.

When we first arrived we were handed a glass of champagne and then Susur explained what we were going to be doing.   First up he took us on a little walk down the street to where one of his neighbours grows a garden of special vegetables like special garlic chives and a special cucumber and other Asian specialties that Susur uses in the food at the restaurant.  Now that's what you call LOCAL.  Then it was back to the restaurant where he showed us how to make meringue nests and let us pipe our own nests..  I need to work on my piping skills... a bit shaky...  Then the food started to roll in one by one we all stared at the beautiful food while each of us got in close to take our blog photos.  If you want to eat in a hurry don't hang out with a bunch of Food Bloggers or you will have to wait.  My friends know that they can't eat until I take my pics.  It's kind of like my lord's prayer... I pray to the food gods that I get a great picture and the food is good.

On the Menu was:

Dip Three Ways

1. Hummus of Romano Beans w/ salted chilis and sherry vinegar, roasted olive w/ sumach and preserved lemon.

2. Spicy mustard seed tomato stew w/ walnut and curry leaf.

3. Caribbean eggplant babaganoush w/ cilantro

Tingly Chili Soba

Shredded local vegetable and soba cake, confit of shiitake, shiso leaf, nori crisps in a Taiwanese vinaigrette.

Chickpea Tempura Tofu

Pickled Brassica and Fish Mint, Shisito peppers, Korean sweet chili sauce, braised burdock root.

Wild Mushroom Quinoa Risotto

Roasted cauliflower, romano parmigiano emulsion & tempeh crouton

Dessert - French Meringue with Golden Licorice

Lemon curd, wild blueberries, peaches, passion fruit syrup & raspberry coulis.

Other items that we tried were:

Goat cheese Tacos
Chorizo chicken dumpling
Susur's famous Singapore Slaw Salad

Susur explained some other unique things in the restaurant like the really cool and kitchy back wall of tiny little momentos that his wife collected from travels and their kids childhood.  A legacy of little things that probably have a lot of sentimental value for their family.

He also talked about their Raw bar and then we had a couple of demos from their drink menu by their bartender Manuel.   He made a Karate Kid 2 cocktail using Sake and an Asian Ceasar drink that was really flavourful.  I am not even a drinker and I tried these drinks and liked them.  They had subtle and big flavours if that makes any sense.

Chef Lee is the master when it comes to striking a great balance of big flavours and you taste flavours you might never have had before but may look like a common thing and you still can't put your finger on how it's made.  That's the delicate balance of different flavours working together to create great dishes.  Susur Lee is highly acclaimed throughout the world but he is still learning and trying new things all the time.  That's the sign of a Master.  Most of the chefs and a lot of A list celebrities know how skilled he is and he has a large following of devoted Susur Lee restaurant fans.  I can now say that I have been to 3 of Susur's restaurants.  I have been to LEE, Luckee and now Bent.  They are a bit out of the way for me and somewhat out of my budget to frequent often but if I was able to I would be going for a visit often even if it was only for the delicious Singapore Slaw.

I was very blessed to be included in today's workshop/tasting session and I hope that I can be included in more of these in the future.

Bent also has a lovely outdoor patio and a great staff including Susur's own sons.   If you love high quality, interesting food and you might even be a vegetarian, then this is the place for you.

Susur said he would like to focus on more flavourful vegetarian dishes in the future and you need to go and try them and let him know that you like them so that he will continue to create great new dishes.

And here's some of Toronto's great Food Bloggers with Chef Susur Lee and a couple of staff members.