Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Food Festival Roundup for June in TO

I had to set up a Calendar to keep track of all the food events going on in Toronto this summer. It seems like everyone is just getting ready to do a lot of eating around town.

Since there are so many different things going on I decided to just do a Food Festival and Event Roundup List for you to reference if you are interested in checking any of them out.

I will list them in order of their dates.

Big Night at the Green Barn
Artscape Wychwood Barns - 601 Christie Street

JUNE 5-7
Mac & Cheese Festival
Liberty Village
Cost: FREE

JUNE 6-7
Great Canadian Cheese Festival  
Picton Fairgrounds, Prince Edward County, ON
Cost: $50

JUNE 6-7
Toronto Raw Vegan Festival  - 918 Bathurst Street
Cost: FREE

Toronto Taste for Second Harvest
Corus Quay
Cost $250 includes food and drink

JUNE 11-19
ICFF - Italian Contemporary Film Festival
Toronto Tiff lightbox & Vaughan - Collosus theatre
Cost: Ticket packages from $60

JUNE 16-17
The Stop Night Market
181 Sterling Road
Cost: $100 plus tax

JUNE 18-20
Toronto Wine and Spirit Festival 
Sugar Beach
Cost $25

JUNE 19-21
Taste of Little Italy
College Street
Cost: FREE

JUNE 19-21
Beach BBQ & Brews Festival  
Woodbine Beach
Cost: FREE

Luminato- A Celebration of Indigenous Pan American Food   
David Pecaut Square
Cost: Free - Food and Drink starts at $6

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Food Revolution Day Thank You!


Another year of Jamie Oliver's Annual Food Revolution Day events is now over but all of the Ambassadors and everyone involved with Food Revolution Day want to continue the momentum and keep cooking skills alive and help drive more food education in schools for the rest of the year.  
If you haven't signed Jamie Oliver's Petition it's not too late.  

Take a minute to go to change.org/JamieOliver and sign  the petition.  Signatures will be collected until October and brought to G20 leaders in November.
I want to take this time to thank all of the sponsors and people that assisted in helping me make my Food Revolution Day event a very successful one.
Photos provided by my photographer friend Alex Tsang @hypebelly

First I want to thank Alissa from Hendrix Restaurant Equipment & Supplies for organizing all of the tools needed in their amazing new test kitchen and the rest of the staff for going above and beyond what I expected was possible.
Martina, Susan, Alissa, Linda, Jenny, Lisa
I would also like to thank fellow Ambassador Susan Ng (dough making machine), Jenny Roger (mandolin master), Martina Kelly and Lisa Swainston my Food Revolution greeters or supreme welcoming committee.

I would like to thank Sobeys who provided a gift card for food supplies for the event and also provided gift cards for prizes and also aprons, measuring spoons, pens and notepads for the attendees.

I would also like to thank Richa from Good Food For Good who provided the sauce that I used to make the Spicy Carrot soup.  I used the Chiltomate or now known as the Tacos sauce.  She was also in attendance at the event to provide support and speak about her line of sauces.

Fresh City Farms also helped out with fresh vegetables for the recipes and also gave me vegetables that I used for our group photo and I donated the rest to fellow Ambassador Dorothy Pang's Cooking Challenge.  They also provided 2 Gift Certificates for 1 Fresh City Farms bag of groceries to get a couple of lucky people started with their delivery program of fresh local foods.

I also want to thank Aroma Espresso Bar who donated gift cards to some lucky attendees so they could try some of their fresh healthy foods.

Jennifer from Pluck Teas also sent over a last minute bag of AFTER EIGHT teas for guest to sample during my event.

And A.Vogel Canada who provided Sprouter kits to all of the Ambassadors across Canada.  My sprouter arrived after my event so I am going to be doing a giveaway for one of them soon.

I want to thank everyone that attended.  The feedback from everyone has been great and a few people have already made a couple of things at their homes.

And Congratulations to the Winners of the 2 Gift Baskets.  Leo(I think on left and Fabian on the right).

Thank you to everyone that contributed in some way to make this a fun event and to everyone that came to participate I hope that it was inspiring and fun and everyone comes back again next year.

Photo credit for all of the above photos by Alex Tsang.  Thank you Alex for the great pics.

Farm to Fork Toronto NO GMO"S

This flyer popped up on social media and was also sitting on the seats in the subway while I was on my way downtown for another event.   I know there was March against Monsanto last year but I wasn't able to make it.  I couldn't do the long March on Bloor Street so I headed to Christie Pits Park for the Farm to Fork GMO Free Festival instead.

It really was the perfect day for this festival.  The weather really was in their favour, not to hot, not too windy, cool enough to keep the food and people fresh.

Julie Daniluk the nutritionist and TV personality was leading the charge while dressed in her Tomato fish costume.  Julie is very passionate about health and does everything she can to get people to make the right choices with their food.

Do you know if your food has been genetically modified?  Well if it has nobody is going to tell you that is.  That's what the March and festival were for, to spread the word and get petitions signed to get governments to make producers label GMO foods.  While it might be a long way away from banning GMO's because the big companies will tell you it's better for sustainability and for the future of food.  But do we really know what the long term effects to our health or the planet will be?  Would you choose a GMO labelled product?  Companies that export some products overseas already have to use mandatory labelling so why don't they just do it for everywhere?  Therein lies the problem.  The big secret that all the Monsanto's of the world hide from the public.  What we don't know won't hurt us... well actually it may be the opposite case in fact.

Anyway..  you can research more about this issue and see if you can get involved in letter writing, petitions or Marches but I just want to tell you about this event for now.

It was a lovely event with speakers like Julie and other people involved in different areas of expertise and there was also music too.

Then my favourite part, the food vendors.  Chef Brad Long left his Brickworks Cafe Belong to be there to serve up some cookies, brownies and butter tarts.  There was a nutritionist that decided to set up a booth to serve really fresh assorted vegetable and grain salad.  I had this salad for $6 it was packed with flavours, colors and a health boost.

They were also handing out Tilda rice to everyone so I walked away with a bag of free rice.  I also picked up a juice box of lemonade from Kiju.

I sampled some interesting flavoured Ghee,  some Neal brothers samples, Raw food dips and I bought some great looking tomatoes and garlic chives and one of my favourite Honey's Dutchman's Gold.

I wasn't planning on buying anything and was just there to check it out and maybe get something to eat but it's hard not to support all these great vendors who are trying to do the right thing.

You gotta support local, GMO free, and as free of anything but what real food is.

It's a GOOD THING as Martha Stewart might say.

For more info visit www.toorntoNonGMOCoalition.org  #farm2forkTO

Flavours of the Andes

I would love to travel to places around the world where I can try foods that aren't available in Canada but my bank account won't let me.  So I love it when there are events in Toronto that showcase regional flavours and culture from around the world.

On Friday May 22nd Air Canada Rouge presented Andean Flavours at 2nd Floor Events on King Street West.

It was an interesting mix of an event in a loft style space that is a bar and event space there was all kinds of things going on in the space.   When I arrived there was a backdrop of Peru outside that was then moved inside for some great photo taking.  This is what it might look like if I was able to travel to Peru.

They handed out drink tickets but they also had mango drinks and another juice that looked like grape juice that they were passing around.  As you can see from the photo I tried the signature PISCO SOUR with my drink ticket.  Tasty and refreshing.

There were tables with different vendors showcasing different products from different regions in the Andes.  You could purchase some of the products but I didn't have any cash on hand so I didn't.
There was juices, chocolate, nuts, spicy sauces, plantain and cassava chips, olive oil and a few other products.

There was a DJ pumping music and there was also a small band and some dancers came out for one dance.

On the one side of the room where the bar was there were cocktails you could purchase as well as different food vendors that were sampling all kinds of great things.

One of my favourite things that I had was the fresh CEVICHE.  I mean fresh when I say the chef just mixed it up and served it to me.  I was there early so I was one of the first people to get some before the lines got pretty long.

One of the other dishes I loved was the Chicharron with pisco cured fish on top.  One of the most interesting things was the Pisco spheres, a jello type of thing with the liquid inside. I guess there version of a jelly shot.  Another chef made a salad using Quinoa pops and a raisin type of berry, I'm not sure of the name of them but they were mixed into a spinach salad with palm hearts.  He also made a corn puree with grilled shrimp.

There was a cocktail lady making up some crazy science experiment looking pineapple carbonated cocktails and she used dry ice to make it activate.

The event was well organized but it would have been nice if a couple of the food lines weren't so long but that's the price you pay for fresh food.

You also had a chance to win a trip to Lima, Peru.. Unfortunately I didn't win so I won't be able to do a blog post about the real place for now.  I have a couple of friends that did go to Peru and loved it there so it's on my list if I ever win a lottery.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Mealshare - Buy a meal give a meal

Abbey Sharp (Abbey's Kitchen)  Registered Dietician, TV personality and blogger hosted an event at Pizzeria Libretto last night to launch a new program called MEALSHARE.  Abbey is an Ambassador for Mealshare so she invited some influencers to spread the word about the program.

Derek Juno who is Mealshare's VP of Business Develpment was on hand to explain the Mealshare program.

Mealshare is a really great initiative that makes it really easy for people to do something good without doing anything out of the ordinary in their everyday lives.  The program works when you go out to dinner at selected Mealshare restaurants and order a designated mealshare dish indicated on the menu Mealshare will donate a meal to someone less fortunate through a local or international charity.

Kathy from Parc, Derek from Mealshare, Abbey Sharp and Hilbert from Save the Children

A couple of the local and international beneficiaries representatives were present to speak about how the program benefits different charitable organizations. Kathy Allan from PARC - Parkdale Activity-Recreation Centre and Hilbert from Save the Children were present to answer questions and support the program launch.

It doesn't cost a diner anything extra to participate.  The only thing required is to choose the menu item from a restaurant that participates in the Mealshare program.  More and more are joining the program everyday.

Since we were at Pizzeria Libretto Chef Rocco presented us samples of their featured item that will be the BUY ONE GIVE ONE Mealshare menu item.  Their feature was this DUCK CONFIT pizza.  They chose it because it was one of their signature pizzas.  It's made with Duck Confit, caramelized pear, rosemary and mozzarella cheese in a Neopolitan style pizza.

To find a participating restaurant in your are and for more information check their website:

Some of the other Toronto restaurants that are participating include: Richmond Station, Terroni, Cafe Belong, Hawthorne, Glory Hole Doughnuts, Nana, Marben and many more.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Masterchef's Graham Elliot's fresh tastes

Masterchef US judge Chef GRAHAM ELLIOT was in Toronto for a special media event at Nella Cucina on Bathurst St. to promote Walmart's new changes to promote Fresh Tastes and some new changes that will be happening in Walmart stores.   The media were invited to cook up recipes from Chef Elliot's new cookbook "Cook like a Master Chef".
In teams of 4-5 people we cooked up some creamed spinach and grilled 100% Canadian Beef.   Chef Elliot's team also cooked up some grilled Salmon with a mustard vinaigrette and a fresh coleslaw.

Walmart's representative spoke about the changes Walmart are making in their produce sections and their meat departments to better suppliers and in the case of Walmart Canada that means a lot of Canadian product as a response to what consumers were requesting.   Chef Elliot and Walmart Canada want to provide fresh grocery food at an affordable price that more families can choose for their daily meals.  The chicken and pork will be supplied by Maple Leaf and the beef will be from Alberta farmers and the produce from some of the top producers.

Chef Elliot has gone through a major transformation in his life by losing 150 pounds over the course of a year after having gastric sleeve surgery to reduce the size of his stomach.  As a chef he still needed the ability to taste foods all day but a way to get his health in line for himself and mostly for the benefit of his family.  He didn't want to have his weight be an issue for his sons lives so he made the change which included changing his diet to more protein based meals and fresh vegetables and he also ran a marathon a year after his surgery.

With his new cookbook COOK LIKE A MASTERCHEF he wants to inspire people to eat better foods everyday.  He has partnered with Walmart to inspire people in this mission.

It was a pleasure attending the media event where not all the media were comfortable in the kitchen.  I didn't have that problem and enjoyed making his recipes.  I have made the creamed spinach recipe myself a few times so it was simple for me but for people without experience in the kitchen it's an easy recipe to learn and a good way to get kids and adults to eat spinach.

Graham Elliot is considered the nice Chef on Masterchef US in between Gordon Ramsey and previously Joe Bastianich who has now been replaced with Dessert queen Christina Tosi.   The new season aired on Wednesday night and I can say that Christina is a tough judge but I would say critical but precise.

I love watching Masterchef to see all the different recipes the contestants come up with and how they try to push the boundaries of what is expected.

I would suggest watching Masterchef on Wednesday nights at 8pm and you will pick up a few cooking tips and then get a copy of Graham Elliot's cookbook or even one of Chef Gordon Ramsey's many cookbooks and try your hand at a recipe you didn't think you could make.   Impress yourself and the people you dine with with your new found skills and don't forget that Walmart is now trying to provide more fresh foods that you can afford.

*disclaimer: the media event was complimentary but the opinions in this post are my own.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Food Revolution Day Cooking Demo at Hendrix Toronto


Photos credit: Linda Matarasso & @hypebelly
Food Revolution Day around the world happened on May 15th but on May 16th I hosted my FOOD REVOLUTION DAY Wonky Veg Cooking Demo at Hendrix Restaraurant Supplies & Equipment's brand new Showroom space in North York.

The Hendrix staff were amazing to work with.  I spoke to Alissa who organized things with me at least once a day for a couple of months to get things organized.  On the day before while I was in the store to drop off some things I mentioned to the manager Chip that it would be great to have big signs pointing to the store.  He said "I think we might be able to work that out" and the next morning there was a huge sign in the entrance that they took outside.  I also talked to another staff member Alex about the beverage station and she mentioned that Jennifer from Pluck Teas might be interested in providing teas to the attendees and poof a bag of After Eight teas was promptly sent over that evening.  Another staff member drew a fun chalkboard sandwich board to welcome people into the store.  Everyone really pitched in to make all the little details great.  Hendrix even offered up a $20 coupon for people that spent over $50 during the event.

When people arrived at the event they were greeted by my friends Lisa and Martina who are my volunteer pals from the Toronto Film Festival.  We are experts in greeting people as we have been a team for years so I knew that they would know what to do when people arrived.  When people arrived they collected their Eventbrite registrations for a ballot or were given a ballot to fill out.  If there were kids they were given Sobeys aprons and a cookbook by Sarah Elton called Starting from Scratch and they were also given fun straws, measuring spoons and fun things to use in photos. 
Once in the store they were able to have a tea or some iced flavoured water with fresh mint and lemon and lime and I think the staff were also making coffees on demand.  They then had a bit of time to stroll around the showroom and see all the great things before settling in for my demo.
photo credit: @hypebelly
I took over their shiny new test kitchen to grill up a lot of vegetables and we mixed up batches of fresh pita dough that we grilled on flat grills and Lodge cast iron grills.  Whatever hot surface we could use we had food cooking on it.   I also had a huge stock pot with carrots boiling for a spicy carrot soup with the flavouring from Good Food For Good's Taco sauce.  I hoped to use some crazy looking vegetables but all of the vegetables I got from Fresh City Farms and Sobeys looked perfect so it was more of a demo in options of how you could make the vegetables your own.  

I had assistance in the kitchen from 2 food bloggers.  Susan Ng is a food blogger who's blog is Susanssavourit.  She is also a Food Revolution Super Ambassador for Canada.  Susan whipped up 9 batches of my pita dough recipe on 2 kitchenaid mixers to feed everyone and grilled most of the vegetables.  Susan was my right hand while food blogger Jenny Roger of Ice cream and knishes blog was my left hand prepping all the vegetables for grilling and the citrus for the flavoured water.  She started as a novice on the Mandolin and became an expert at it after loads of slicing.
Photo credit: @toongrrl & hypebelly
Since I was buzzing around trying to organize everything and then doing the actual demo of how to make pickled onions, the carrot soup and the pita dough from scratch I needed lots of extra hands in the kitchen to make enough food so that everyone could taste the food.  I was expecting over 80 people to attend and was planning on cutting things up into small samples but because people these days don't bother showing up to things the people that did attend were able to have a full buffet style sandwich and soup.  We set up all the pitas and the different vegetables along with a tahini sauce, mint yoghurt sauce, parmesan cheese and crumbled feta and the pickled onions and some fresh mint too.  They were able to customize their pita sandwiches according to their own preferences.  That way people who were gluten intolerant or lactose intolerant or just didn't like certain things could still try whatever they liked.  I think it ended up being a good thing because we were able to have people participate in a more interactive way and get to know people better at the same time while saving us a lot of time assembling the sandwiches.  We only had from noon to 3pm to demo the food and have everyone try it.   I also gave everyone a chance to get their hands dirty by setting up the tables to roll out individual pitas which they were then able to bring home to try and cook them up at home on their own.
Photo credit: Susan Ng
After everyone had a chance to sample all of the food then we started the prize draws at 3pm.  I had 2 large prizes that included a Jamie Oliver cookbook, Sobeys gift card, apron, pens and note pads,  Aroma Espresso Gift Card, Uber Card,  and a free bag of food from Fresh City Farms

At the event I explained what Food Revolution Day was all about and encouraged people to go to Change.org/JamieOliver to sign the petition for food education and also go to www.foodrevolutionday.com website to see how they can get more involved.

Everyone had a great time and a couple of people bought some of the tools I used to make the food so I hope they try my recipes at home a lot.  I tried to choose recipes that were simple but you could customize them to make them really interesting.  Simple ingredients anyone can get anywhere.  The only thing I used that they might have to look for at certain supermarkets was the Good Food For Good sauces but I used those as a time saver for people that don't have time to spend developing flavours when making soups or other things.  Richa does the slow cooking for you so you have more time for other things.  All of the feedback that I got was great, they loved the food, they were surprised at foods they thought they didn't like and loved the Hendrix store space and kitchen and I even got feedback on how informative I was which was really great to hear.

So although I was totally exhausted and had to stop for a few minutes while cleaning up it was a very successful event overall.   Thanks to all of the great sponsors who chipped into make this event a reality and a fun day.

photo credit: Sue Kurtz
There are more photos to come from my awesome photographer friend Alex @hypebelly but for now this is a compilation from photos from what I could take and from my friends that participated.

Northview Hts Squashed it for Food Revolution Day

This week was a flurry of activities all leading up to FOOD REVOLUTION DAY on May 15, 2015.

All over the world people were hosting or attending all kinds of Food Revolution Day events.  
On this day I headed back to my Grade 13 High School  - Northview Heights Secondary School for my pal and fellow Ambassador' Susan Ng's huge event with about 1200 kids either in the cafeteria, the gym, and patched in from other classes and schools.  We were in the Cafeteria with about 500 kids and a group of kids from Wilmington P.S. who were probably the most excited about the whole thing.

Other Ambassadors on hand to support Susan were Mary Catherine Anderson and Mardi Michels.  We were assigned to try and capture the events and for support for Susan.  Unfortunately we weren't able to capture the faces of the kids so I can't show you how excited some of the kids were.

They had set up a video conference system to patch in the other classes and also a feed to speak with Jamie Oliver in London.  Unfortunately there was only a couple of minutes to speak to Jamie and the audio wasn't working so all he could do was wave to all of us while he watched Susan holding the microphone and frozen.  Sadly we weren't able to speak to Jamie but at least he could see us and gave us a big wave.

The whole cafeteria was a flurry of vegetable smashing though as the kids were set up at different tables and given ziploc bags filled with vegetables to smash for Jamie's Food Revolution Day Squash It Sandwich.  It's a sandwich of various vegetables like cauliflower, red peppers, and whatever you have on hand and bashed up into little bits and then put onto a multigrain bun that is spread with hummus on one side of the bun and a ricotta or other type of creamy cheese on the other side and the vegetables in the middle.  The hummus helps the vegetables stick on the bun.

As you can see from the photo above the kids were given step by step instructions on how to assemble the sandwiches.   After all that smashing and assembling they got to eat the sandwiches.  They all seemed to like the sandwiches because all that was left were little bits of vegetables that had fallen out of the buns.

Other than the technical problems it was a very successful event.  I don't think Susan expected it to be as big of an event as it turned into.  She certainly didn't know that Jamie was going to be doing a video conference in.  The school board members were very excited about the event and their teacher Dimitra was so excited that she couldn't stop hugging all of us.  We were just there to facilitate,  Susan and the school really did all the work and of course the students participation.  

I hope that it translates into the kids taking it home and telling their parents they want to make it at home or if the kids are ever left on their own they will remember that they can make it themselves and always be in control of what they eat.

We will see in the future how this vegetable smashing event inspires them in different ways.  I hope we see future chefs or food advocates in the future.

Great job Susan!

You can read more about Susan on her blog Susans savour it http://susanssavourit.blogspot.ca/

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Food Revolution Day at Hendrix Toronto

TODAY is the DAY for My Food Revolution!  Although the official FOOD REVOLUTION DAY  was yesterday I am doing my part by having a huge public event at Hendrix Restaurant Equipment and Supplies today.  

Yesterday was a very busy day.  It started off with going to my old high school for fellow Ambassador Susan's massive Squash it sandwich making with about 1200 kids at Northview Heights Secondary School and linked with neighbouring schools.  Then off to pick up vegetables from Fresh City Farms and over to Hendrix Equipment to get organized and then a long wait in traffic to pop over to Sobeys to pick up all of the rest of the items for my cooking demo and back home to organize and prep everything.

Today Susan and I are back in the Kitchen at Hendrix Toronto to make my own recipes.  Sorry Jamie Oliver but I didn't think bashing vegetables in a high end cooking supply shop would go down very well so I tried to adapt my veggie recipes for this event.

I will be making Flatbread or Pita, whatever you want to call it but you can call it delicious and fresh. I will also be making quick pickled onions and grilling up some vegetables and adding a herb and spice mixture for flavour.  The grilled vegetables will be packed into the fresh flatbread sandwiches for an awesome grilled sandwich.  Add a bit of feta or parmesan to kick it up and you have a vegetarian sandwich that won't have you missing the meat.  I will also make a spicy carrot soup using Good Food For Good's new Chilitomate sauce which has some Mexican inspired flavours.

Have a taste along with some fresh lemon and mint infused water or some Hot Tea from Pluck Teas.

At 3pm there will be a draw for some great prizes like a Jamie Oliver cookbook, Aroma Espresso Gift Cards, Sobeys gift cards and aprons , Fresh City Farms gift certificate  and a few other great things.

None of this would be possible without the help of my great sponsor partners.  It has been a pleasure working with all of them over the past few months.  
Sobeys, Fresh City Farms, Hendrix Equipment who I spoke with on almost a daily basis, Aroma Espresso Bar, A Vogel Canada and Pluck Teas.

I was planning on a Wonky Veg Cooking Demo but all of the vegetables I picked up look perfect but you can make these recipes with perfect looking vegetables or ugly vegetables that will turn out beautiful.

If you attended my cooking demo thank you for coming and I hope you enjoyed it and get into your own kitchen and share these recipes with your friends and family.

The goal of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution Day is to get people back into the kitchen and to get food education into the schools so that kids and their families take control of what they eat and eat real food to tackle the growing obesity and health related diseases that are making kids of this generation live shorter lives than their parents did.

You have the power and it's in your kitchen.   Get Cooking and Sign Jamie Oliver's petition on change.org/JamieOliver so that Jamie can take it to G20 leaders and show them we need food education in our schools and that it is a very important global issue.