Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Great Canada Day BBQ tips


You don't have to spend a fortune to have a great Canada Day BBQ with friends and family.
Here are my tips for a great BBQ.

I headed over to Walmart and picked up a few of Walmart's Our Finest BBQ staples and had a low cost BBQ with friends and their new baby.  Baby Kenzie was really excited to celebrate her first Canada Day BBQ and she was literally drooling over all of the food.



From Walmart:
Our Finest Chipotle BBQ sauce                                                                               $1.78
Our Finest Strawberry Lemonade                                                                          $2,00
Our Finest Thick Cut Grilled Onion and Balsalmic vinegar chips                      $2.00
Our Finest Tzatziki Yoghurt Dressing                                                                     $2.00
Our Finest Lemon Herb Shrimp                                                                             $10.00
Coleslaw                                                                                                                     $1.47
Fresh Corn                                                                                                              5 @ .57each

Also on the Menu:
Roasted Beets with goat cheese
Taco layered dip with red and white nacho chips
Jerusalem artichoke salad
Fingerling potato salad
Cucumber and Cherry Tomato salad with the Tzatziki dressing

My friend made Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
I picked up a Walmart brand Smore's kit
I also got a fresh pineapple from Walmart that I cut into slices and we grilled it with sugar cinnamon and topped it with vanilla ice cream and dulce de leche caramel sauce
I also got a little round watermelon that we cut up into slices and then cut out maple leafs with a cookie cutter.
My friend also picked up a Red Velvet Canadian Flag Cake.

I brought over some Walter Caesar mix that I had and topped it off with celery and of course a Canadian Flag and a celery salt rim and ice.
And of course there was lot's of wine, perrier and water too along with the strawberry lemonade which tasted very refreshing.

I think we had as much dessert as we did dinner.

I spent just under $100 at Walmart and that fed 5 people and enough for 6.

We decked out the table family style so it wasn't fancy but very fun and festive.
Everything tasted fantastic and the weather was beautiful after 2 solid days of gloomy rain.  

We were really surprised on how much we enjoyed the Applewood Smoked Bacon and cheese Stuffed Burgers.  Because of the cheese inside they were moist and flavourful.  I would recommend them anytime.   I bought sliced cheese but skipped it because you could see the cheese oozing out so it really didn't need it.

We kind of had a Pot Luck style BBQ with some things I had made at home,  some things BBQ essentials that I picked up at Walmart and a few other things we either purchased or made.

You can really have a great BBQ on a Budget if you pick up a few great things like some great Burgers like the Our Finest ones we tried and get some great hamburger buns and some condiments.  We really liked the Our Finest Chipotle BBQ sauce.  Add some fresh coleslaw and some fresh corn on the cob and some cherry tomato and cucumber salad or you can even skewer them.  We also skewered some of the cherry tomatoes with some boconcini cheese that my friend had but we forgot about them until after we had everything.

Since you already have the BBQ going the grilled pineapple is also a great easy idea or just toast up some marshmallow after you finish grilling your meal.

We grilled the corn but you can also grill peppers, zucchini or even potatoes and asparagus.  These are some of my favourite things that grilling really enhances.

Get creative and find some great food and friends and spark up that grill whether you do it at home or on a campsite or at a local park.  It's always fun and the food is always better this way.
Don't forget the Canadian Flags, hats, and festive decorations.

Enjoy a safe and Happy Canada Day!

Disclaimer:  This post is sponsored by Walmart Canada, as part of the Our Finest program. In exchange this review, I have received special perks in the form of products and/or compensation. All opinions on this blog are my own.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Luminato's Pan American Festival

Luminato is just wrapping up today but I want to tell you about the little known part of the festival.  Last week at David Pecaut Square a few local vendors set up show for the Pan American Food Festival.  I attended late in the day on Sunday June 21st and although it was great for me to be able to get food from each vendor with no lineup I felt sad for the vendors that spent the day there and didn't have the crowd of people I am sure they hoped for.  There was so much going on in the city multiple road closures and runs and festivals around the city.  I think the Pan American Food event just got lost in the over abundance of things happening around town.  It's a shame because David Pecaut Square was set up beautifully with colored seating areas and the stage moved closer to Metro Hall and artificial grass added to what is normally a concrete area.  I truly with David Pecaut square was set up like that all summer so that people could enjoy it on their lunch hour or after work.   I think it would be great to have a permanent space like that.

Some of vendors you might know like President's choice who dished up one of my favourite things that I sampled with their charred corn salad and sliced beef.

Some of the vendors like Augie's Ice Pops don't have a retail location but set up shop at local festivals and farmer's markets.  I had their coconut pineapple pop.  A fitting cap to my Pan American samplings.

I also had some fabulous Yucca Poutine from Mata Petisco Bar.  I have had their breakfast poutine at their restaurant and it was similar to the Yucca poutine minus the egg.  It had pulled pork on top of the fried Yucca cubes and their own bbq sauce to put on top.  It was very filling for $5.  Most of the vendors items were $5 unless noted otherwise.

I also tried a tiacoyo from Santo Pecado which was a taco like product with blue corn tortilla and I had it with cactus and beef.  It was tasty but a bit messy. I never heard of this dish or tried it before.

It was a beautiful day in the square and very quiet.  When I attended there wasn't any music happening until just before I left the square so that was probably why there wasn't very many people but it's too bad people didn't go and sample some of the Pan American food on hand and get a taste of something different.

The event is curated by local food writer Mary Luz Mejia who has put this event together for the second year in a row.

I hope that if this comes back next year more people attend it and taste some of the great food.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Taste of Toronto returns to Fort York

Taste of Toronto Festival returns to Fort York
for the world-renowned festival July 2 – 5

Joining over 30 of the country’s top culinary talent are renowned chefs Masaharu Morimoto, Alvin Leung, Lynn Crawford and Stuart Cameron at this year's Taste of Toronto Festival.

Iron Chef and Michelin-starred mastermind Morimoto is set to debut signature dishes from his latest eponymous restaurant and highly anticipated first-ever venture in Canada, scheduled to open late 2015 in Toronto’s King West neighbourhood. Festival goers can delight in Chef Morimoto’s fusion of Japanese and Western ingredients, exemplified in his showcase dishes:

Also previewing a new restaurant at this year’s event, Rob Bragagnolo of Marben will introduce Carver at Sunday’s lunch session. Scheduled to open downtown Toronto in fall 2015, the restaurant will focus on locally-sourced Ontario and naturally-raised, slow-roasted meats. The final chefs and restaurants completing this year’s lineup include Stuart Cameron from ByblosPatria anWeslodge, as well as the Kinka Family of Guu Toronto, Kintori Yakitori and Kinton Ramen who are returning to the festival for the second year in a row. Other newcomers to the festival include “The Demon Chef” Alvin Leung, to appear alongside his MasterChef Canada protégé Eric Chong at the R&D booth.

Celebrity chefs will also lend their star power to the festivities, with Lynn Crawford performing an on-site demonstration and cooking class as an Egg Farmers of Canada Chef Ambassador, Massimo Capra presenting with Italian favourite Galbani cheese, and sustainable seafood advocate Rick Moonen appearing alongside one of North America’s most trusted producers of seafood, True North Salmon.

Some of the best restaurants in Toronto participate in the Taste of Toronto.  They sell 3 dishes that can be purchased with crown credits that you can add to a card that can be reloaded.  The average item will cost about 5 or 6 crown credits.
For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit tasteoftoronto.com.

Taste of Toronto 2015 restaurant and star lineup
  • Adrian Niman, Rasa
  • Alvin Leung and Eric Chong, R&D (Thursday and Friday only)
  • Amanda Ray, Biff’s Bistro
  • Anthony Walsh and Michael Bonacini, Oliver & Bonacini
  • Bill Osborne, America
  • Carl Heinrich, Richmond Station
  • Cory Vitiello and Robbie Hojilla, The Harbord Room and THR & Co.
  • Damon Campbell, Bosk
  • David Neinstein, Barque
  • Elia Herrera, Los Colibris and El Caballito
  • Franco Stalteri, Charlie’s Burgers
  • Jonathan Waxman and Matt Robertson, Montecito
  • Ippei Iwata, Aki Urata and Koji Tashiro, Guu Toronto, Kintori Yakitori and Kinton Ramen (Saturday only)
  • Masaharu Morimoto, Morimoto Toronto
  • Michael van den Winkel, Little Sister
  • Miheer Shete, Bannock
  • Rob Bragagnolo, Marben (Sunday only)
  • Stuart Cameron, Byblos, Patria and Weslodge
  • Ted Corrado and Matt DeMille, The Drake Hotel, The Drake Devonshire and Drake One Fifty
  • Victor Barry, Splendido
  • Lynn Crawford, Egg Farmers of Canada Chef Ambassador
  • Mark McEwan, McEwan Group
  • Massimo Capra, Galbani Cheese
  • Rick Moonen, True North Salmon

Chef Masaharu Morimoto
 It’s a pleasure to cook alongside some of Toronto’s most celebrated chefs,” said Masaharu Morimoto. “To be welcomed into the city’s vibrant and innovative food community is such an honour.” 

Website: tasteoftoronto.comtastefestivals.com
Facebook: TasteofToronto
Twitter: @TasteofToronto
Instagram: @TasteofToronto
Hashtag: #TasteofToronto

About Taste Festivals:  
Taste Festivals, an IMG event, is considered the world’s greatest restaurant festival. The festival concept began 10 years ago in London, England, and has rapidly grown into an international event with festivals in 20 cities around the world including Dubai, Amsterdam, Milan, Moscow, Melbourne, Dublin, Mumbai, Sydney, and Johannesburg, to name a few. Everywhere it goes, Taste represents a gourmand’s dream come true: delicious food created by the city’s greatest restaurants, world famous chefs, superb drink and outstanding entertainment, set in stunning outdoor surroundings.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Culinary Challenge 2015 Fundraising Launch

I got an invitation to go to the launch for the (CBCF) Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation's annual Culinary Showdown a Cook for the Cure event and then my friend sent me an email saying he wanted to go.  I have been to many of their events in the past and they are always fun but now that I don't have a car going to Cirillo's Academy is very out of the way to get to by TTC so I had to think about it.  The friend that asked me if I would go has never gone to these events so I thought it would be great for him to go so I agreed to take the TTC and meet him there along with another mutual friend of ours.  A couple of my food blogger friends also told me they were going so I was happy about that and one of them offered to give me a ride.  Even better I could skip the hour plus TTC ride.

The Culinary Showdown will be held on Saturday November 4th, 2015 at the Westin Harbourcastle Hotel.

On the day of the event I sent my original friend a text and then he told me he wasn't going.  Thanks for letting me know.  Now if I was only going with him I probably wouldn't have bothered to go because I know how the events are and wasn't planning on signing up for this year.   But because my other friends were going and I was getting a ride I ended up going.   CBCF does a series of cocktail nights at different locations just before the Culinary Showdown to get people to sign up to start fundraising and get them inspired and excited.  The night starts out with appetizers and drinks.

Chef's like Lynn Crawford might host one at her restaurant and Cirillo's Academy is always a supporter so other chefs will host their cocktail nights there.  It was Chef Corbin Tomaczeski who was the host last night.  Chef Corbin is very motivated to participate in fundraising for Breast Cancer research as he has a personal connection to this disease with 2 close friends.   He also had a 6 degrees of separation moment with a women at the event who was connected by where they live and a couple of other unusual circumstances.  This connection almost moved Chef Corbin to tears.  The woman had just lost her mother to cancer in April and has become the top fundraiser so far earning her a spot at the Culinary Showdown, she has raised over $8000 so far.
It is always emotional and fun event because there is always someone there who has gone through cancer and the Chefs always have a personal story to tell as to why they became involved.

Everyone knows someone that has been touched by Breast Cancer or other cancers.  I have lost many family members to cancer and have had a few friends go through cancer treatments.

After all of the sad stories and inspirational stories comes the fun part at these events.  This time there was a cooking box challenge with 5 teams.  I was on one team with my friend Mary (Mary's Happy Belly) and my friend Jenny (Ice Cream and Knishes) was on another team.
Our team was called team ambitious although it changed a couple of times and we were given a box with limited ingredients that we had to turn into a Chef worthy dish.
We had peas, green beans, pork tenderloin, polenta and rosemary.  We only had 15 minutes to create our dish.  Every team had a different box of ingredients resulting in a varied assortment of dishes to judge.  Our dish looked really nice but our polenta didn't have enough time to cook and it was too think.

My friend Jenny's team 1 had meatballs and wontons and they called their dish wonton nipples or something crazy like that.  It cracked Chef Corbin up when Jenny described the dish.

Unfortunately both of our teams didn't win but they chose 2 out of the 5 teams and Chef Corbin offered to pay for the registration of the teams.

The incentive to sign up that night was if you won Chef Corbin paid the fee but if you paid for yourself it was half price at $40 and they also gave you 2 tickets to the Taste of Toronto festival which are worth $50.  Normally the registration is $75 so I decided to sign up because just getting the Taste of Toronto tickets made it worth it even before trying to raise any money.

I participated in fundraising 2 years ago and only was able to raise $200 and some of that came by selling cookies.  I raised enough to get an apron but not enough to participate in the Culinary Showdown.  So this time I need YOUR HELP to raise at least $1000 to get me to the Showdown and if I raise $2500 I get to participate in cooking with the Celebrity Chefs.
There is also a cooking academy in the morning for the Top 50 fundraisers at the Showdown.

If you would like to participate in the Showdown or would like to donate to me or someone else that is participating in fundraising check out details on their website:  http://culinaryshowdown.ca/

My goal is to reach $2500 this year so that I can participate and join some great Celebrity chefs and cook up a storm.  If you would like to help get me in the game here is the direct link to my Page to Donate to help me reach my goal.

CLICK HERE to DONATE to my Personal PAGE:

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Beretta launches a better hot dog

It was a hot, windy and sunny day in Toronto and I was invited to go to a Rooftop BBQ on top of the Burroughs Building on Queen Street in Toronto.  So how could I say no to that?  
The reason for the BBQ was to sample some of Beretta Farms hot dogs with lot's of accompanying condiments. Just in time for BBQ season if the weather gets a bit warmer and a little more consistent.   Walter caesar cocktails were also on hand for people that enjoy a caesar with their hot dog.  There were 3 different hot dogs on the barbie.  Beef, chicken and turkey.  I tried 2 out of the 3 of them.  I had the Beef and the Chicken and I also had some fries that were super flavourful but I don't know who made them.

What's different about Beretta's hot dogs is what's not in them.
Beretta’s contain no nitrates, other than those naturally occurring in cultured celery juice. Their hot dogs are made from exclusively Canadian-reared animals all raised without the use of antibiotics or hormones.  Beretta’s hot dogs are made with premium proteins, and no mystery meat.

Each package contains 6 wieners, is 375 grams and is sold for $10.99. Shoppers can find Beretta’s new line of organic hot dogs at select locations where Beretta is sold.

On the way out I received a bag with a bacon glazed doughnut but I was already stuffed by that point.

Disclaimer:  The meal was complimentary but the opinions in this post are my own.  Assorted hot dog photo image provided by ButterPR.
Photo collage images by Linda Matarasso

Restaurantacular Uptown Fun

i saw posters in the subway last year for Restaurantacular and thought that it sounded interesting because it was an Uptown neighbourhood initiative but I didn't have time to go because it's only a 1 day event but this year my friend Vicky (Momwhoruns) told me she went last year and liked it and said she was going again this year so we went together this time.

Restaurantacular is an event put on by the Vendors at Mount Pleasant Village on Mount Pleasant Road between Eglinton and Davisville.  It was held on June 24 from 4pm to 9pm.
The streets aren't closed like they do at other street festivals and some participating vendors have tables outside on the sidewalk and some are just special menu items inside their restaurants.  The cost of the menu items are $2, $4, or $6 each.  No need for tickets or advanced anything.  All you need is a stack of toonies and an empty stomach.

Vicky and I found it sad that not all of the restaurants on Mount Pleasant participated and many of the stores were closed even.  I think that's a really bad business move on their part because if people from outside the area are walking down the street they might stop into the store out of curiosity and find something they didn't know was there and could possibly purchase something or return in the future.  These street festivals are meant to attract new customers and gain more exposure so I can't understand why vendors wouldn't make the effort to bring on extra staff or extend their hours for only 5 hours.  It's bad business sense to me.  There were even musicians outside some of the locations providing some fun.

The vendors that participated were marked by colorful balloons and sometimes posters outside of their restaurants and of course the vendors that had tables outside were obviously participating.

Vicky and I only had an hour to speed through as many vendors as we could and unfortunately Vicky ended up getting a parking ticket because we parked on a side street for just over an hour.

We got there at about 4 pm and had to find the organizer who was walking up the street with a handful of balloons.  Then we started to plan our attack.  Because Vicky had been there previously I let her lead the way.  We stopped into Smoked and Cracked first but I didn't want a butter tart and wasn't in the mood for gazpacho so we bounced across the street to Bread and Butter where we split a great veal schnitzel sandwich.  We went to China House next and Vicky decided to order something there.  They said they just opened and I don't think they were prepared for the event because Vicky ended up waiting about 15 minutes for her order and that really sucked up the little time that we had to hit all the vendors.

While walking down the street I ran into a guy I know from Pimenton and he said he was making Paella.  I eventually made it to his booth but was full and out of time by that point.  His paella was just ready then too.  Because I wasn't going home after the event I couldn't get any take out to bring home for later.  That would have been on my list for sure.  But I know I will see him do that again soon and he can be found at the Brickworks market on the weekends.

What I did eat was delicious.  I had some really great Butter chicken from Marigold.  Has to be the best Butter chicken I have had uptown because the ones in my area aren't very good.  I will have to go back there again.

Vicky and I also split a tiny Cherry shortcake slider from Flaky Tarts and it was fantastic.
We got free freezies from Sobeys and Vicky had an Oyster from one a small inside place but I don't know the name of the location.  She loved it.

I picked up a chicken Empanada which I took with me, it was the only small thing that I could take that I could eat later.  I ate it when I got home later that night and I really enjoyed it.  The spices were great.  They really smelled amazing on the street so I knew I had to get one.

Well that's all I squeezed into my belly in an hour and I wish we both had more time to take our time to check out all of the vendors.  I wish it was a sunday afternoon festival when you have more time to explore but I guess it's designed for the neighbourhood and people to stop in to get food after work or at the end of their day.

I wish more people were there and I hope more vendors participate in the future.  It's nice to try unique restaurants that you might not get to try normally.  They were all independent businesses except for Sobeys.

I hope that you have a chance to check it out next year and I hope I have more time to eat and explore more dishes next year.

Mount Pleasant Village also have an APP that you can download on your phone and you can get 5% rebates on purchases and it acts like a credit card with the vendors and you can use it to give gifts even.   It's Mount Pleasant Village Member rewards and you can find it on the apple store or Google play.

Find photos on Restaurantacular using the hashtag #restaurantacular

Disclaimer: Some of the food was complimentary but the opinions in this post are my own.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Red Stone Winery - NIFF Filmalicious

When I visited RED STONE WINERY last week for "Filmalicious" part of the Niagara Integrated Film Festival's programming it had only been open for 2 weeks.  The film festival group were the first group of people that they served in the restaurant so I am sure they were eager to please us.

It was a total VIP night.  The Filmalicious package includes a shuttle bus ride to the winery and a 3 course meal with wine pairing and then a screening of one of the Festival's films afterward outside in this case under a tent.  The whole Filmalicious package costs $159.  It's a bit steep but I suppose if you factor in all the elements it is worth the experience.

The first thing I must say is that when the shuttle bus arrived at the Winery I was immediately struck with how modern the Restaurant building looked.  Most of the Niagara Region wineries look very traditional or vintage.  This was a beautiful glass structure with stone foundation.  The vineyard itself does not appear to be massive but it's 38 acres and because it's new I would imagine it will grow in time.  The outdoor patio is beautiful with lovely seating and a nice water feature.  There is a BBQ area although it wasn't in use for this event.

We were greeted with Champagne from Tawse Wines.  I am not a champagne drinker but my friends loved it.

There was a 2 piece group playing music while we waited on the patio for our dinner to begin.

When all the guests arrived we were then seated in the restaurant for our dinner.

The Menu included:


Chilled Digby Scallops, Pickled Strawberries Almond, Buttermilk
Paired with 2013 Red stone Viognier


Roasted Heritage Chicken, Wild Mushrooms (they substituted asparagus for me), Sweet Peas, Lemon & Garlic
Paired with 2011 Red Stone Reserve Chardonnay


Upper Canada Ricotta Cheesecake, Glazed Berries, Lemon Emulsion
Paired with 2010 Cabernet Franc Icewine

It was a very fresh spring menu that owner Moray Tawse created that was a reflection of the Niagara Region.  His philosophy is to showcase as much local products as possible including their specially made local pottery for their dishes.  It is very farm to table with all of the farms within miles of the Niagara Wineries which makes them great for so many reasons.  Great for the local economy, great for the local community, great for the environment and great as a way for tourists to experience true Canadian meals.

I am not a wine drinker but I did take a sip of each of the wines and I think the 2013 Red Stone Viognier was the best one.

My favourite part of the meal was the dessert, it was light and fresh and creamy.

After the dinner we returned to the patio where they had fancy snacks available for purchase and more beer and wines available.  The snacks included Oysters, Maple bacon popcorn and spiced nuts.  I didn't try and of them but thought that was pretty interesting for movie snacks.

The film that screened was Match starring Sir Patrick Stewart.  I will review the film in a separate post.

I have said for a long time after going to many film festivals that there needs to be a festival that combines food into the festival.   It is only the second year for this festival so I am looking forward to seeing how it grows.

The whole Filmalicious experience was fantastic.  The most beautifully perfect weather with a fabulous sunset and it wasn't too chilly when the sun went down.   The only thing missing was comfortable theatre seats.

Red Stone Winery http://www.redstonewines.ca/index.html

Niagara Integrated Film Festival http://www.niagarafilmfest.com

*disclaimer:  I was invited as media to the dinner and screening so the meal was complimentary but the opinions on this blog are my own.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Chef Curtis Duffy & Food writer Kevin Pang on Toronto Restaurants

Director Kevin Pang & Chef Curtis Duffy
Chef Curtis Duffy
While at the White Oaks Resort and Spa for the Niagara Integrated Film Festival I had a chance to chat with Michelin Star Chef Curtis Duffy and Director and Chicago Tribune Food Writer Kevin Pang about their documentary FOR GRACE and I also asked them about the Toronto restaurants they had a chance to visit while they were in Toronto for their Canadian premiere screening.

Chef Duffy gained his 3 Michelin stars only a year after opening his dream restaurant in Chicago called GRACE.
Director Pang followed his life changes for 4 years in the making of the documentary For GRACE.

You can read more about the film in a previous post about the documentary and a look at the trailer for the

FOR GRACE film.  http://www.forgracefilm.com/

note:  the background noise was from the water feature in the garden where we filmed at the White Oaks Resort.  I used my Nikon camera so the microphone isn't the greatest for selective audio.  And I didn't bring a tripod so forgive the bit of shakiness.

There is another video about their film on my FILM FOOD STUFF blog.

Sea Witch -Just simple classic Fish & Chips

Last night I was invited by my blogger pal Vicky (Momwhoruns)  to another one of her great Media Nights with fellow food bloggers.  

This one was at SEA WITCH Fish & Chips on St. Clair Ave. West.  About a dozen food bloggers left the restaurant with very full bellies after sampling a few of their menu items.

We were welcomed by Co-owner Jacki Strahl who provided us with all of the dishes and the details of their restaurant and it's menu.  Strahl and her husband Kevin Kowalczyk have only been open for about 8 months but the restaurant is already getting a lot of great reviews including a nod from Chris Nuttal-Smith in the Globe and Mail who said it was one of the best new restaurants.

Kevin was the former fry cook at the now defunct Penrose Fish and Chips where he spent many years perfecting the art of battering and frying fish.  Jacki Strahl was also the owner of a pub in Richmond Hill where she spent many hours training staff and keeping the restaurant going.  Jacki sold her restaurant 4 years ago after having kids and wanting to change the direction of their family life.
They searched for a location in their area which they knew was a great place with lots of different restaurants with a great community feel.  They found their spot just around the corner from where they live and snapped it up quickly but took their time in creating the design of the store and the decor has a slightly nautical theme and mostly sort of an old world fish and chips shop.  Lot's of old wood in their booths and tables and chairs.  
They also thought carefully about their menu and chose to keep the menu simple and true to classic fish and chip shops from days gone by where the menu is comprised of all made from scratch foods.

They make their own hand cut fries, fresh made daily classic coleslaw.  They cut their fish and do all their prep each morning and their is a guy assigned to only chipping potatoes.  
They are an Ocean wise partner and try to get at least 20-25% of their fish that is sustainable.
They serve 5 different types of fish,  Halibut, Pickerel, Pacific Cod, Artic Char and Atlantic Haddock.


The Witch's Brew (house chowder) a very classic and simple chowder with potatoes, carrots, onions and corn and I think it was Haddock that they used.  This was really back to basics with the seasonings of thyme and bay leaf.  Not fancy but kind of what chowder originated as.

Halibut Cakes (aka Market Croquettes), They halibut cakes were perfectly seasoned with a balance of sweetness from the chopped vegetables inside.  The pan fried cake was crispy on the outside and soft and tender on the inside and served with their house made pickled onions.

Onion Rings - the onion rings are made with the same simple 3 ingredient batter that they fry their fish in.  It's just onions coated in batter and fried.  Once again simple.  No chefy tricks.

ColeSlaw - The coleslaw is a vinegar based slaw but very mild on the vinegar and not the usual punch of processed coleslaw.  It's just fresh cabbage and carrots and onions and all the things that belong in coleslaw.  

Halibut & Chips - The Chips are all hand cut daily and they go through tons of buckets of them.  The ocean wish Halibut fish is battered in a special 3 ingredient process and cooked in Beef Towel an unsaturated natural fat that makes them golden brown and very crispy on the outside and the interior is light and moist and perfectly cooked.

Sweets -  We also tried 2 of their rotating selection of cookies.  One was a pecan shortbread cookie and the other was a 3 layer bar of shortbread, caramel and chocolate.  Jacki said she started off baking pies but I guess it made more sense to have small grab bag sized treats that you can pick up from a tackle box on the counter.  A very cute idea.  The cookies were very good.

Even though Kowalczyk worked at Penrose he wanted to change some of the way he did things in his own restaurant and eliminated all the processed things like the tartar sauce and coleslaws and that's why they kept the menu short and simple and wanted to focus on just making great fish and chips and not have a million things that take away from the quality control of the fish.

If you want some great Fish & Chips from a nice little local shop then this is the place to go and support a nice family business and the nice owners Jacki and Kevin.


Thursday, June 18, 2015

Chef Curtis Duffy's FOR GRACE at NIFF

If you are planning on going to the NIAGARA INTEGRATED FILM FESTIVAL (NIFF) in the Niagara region the weekend of June 18-21 then you must try and go see the documentary "For Grace".  a film by Chicago Tribune Food Writer and Filmmaker Kevin Pang and fellow Chicago filmmaker Mark Helenowski. The story follows Michelin Star Chef Curtis Duffy.

I was lucky to have seen the film at the Hot Docs Film Festival already otherwise I would be seeing it at NIFF for sure but since I have already seen it and thoroughly loved it I can recommend it 100% for you to go and see it.  Even if you aren't a chef or foodie you will still like the film as it's more of story of overcoming hardship and succeeding and surrounding yourself with people that become family.

The story started as a short video and article project about Michelin Star Chef Curtis Duffy for the Chicago Tribune but once they realized it was more than a story about a superstar chef opening a new restaurant they decided to turn it into a feature documentary.

The film starts off similar to one of those restaurant makeover shows.  Chef Duffy is about to leave the restaurant Avenues to open his dream restaurant with his good friend and business partner.
You think you are about to watch a film about the struggles of opening a high end restaurant in Chicago and it is that but then it turns into a whole lot more.  The Chef lost both of his parents in a family tragedy just as he was beginning his culinary journey and a lovely Home Ec teacher took him under her wing and gave him support and guidance and is still in touch with him and was like a mother to him when he didn't have one.  He is newly divorced with 2 young girls at a time in his life when the pressure is on to succeed.  With his fractured family life he pours all of his time and energy into his culinary dream.  He opens his restaurant "For Grace" 9 months later than planned and a year later he receives 3 Michelin stars for the Best New Restaurant in Chicago.

Chef Duffy apprenticed with acclaimed Chef Greg Achatz and the two chefs share similar tragedies to success stories and how to work hard and still be a good person and succeed.  Chef Achatz had a mouth Cancer illness that he survived and he was featured in the documentary "Spinning Plates"

This film had many big guys in the audience shedding a tear at the end of the film.  While it had a bit of food porn it was a whole lot more than a story about food.  It was a story about working hard and overcoming life's difficult situations and how to maintain integrity and life balance in the process.

Chef Duffy's family are the people he spends up to 16 hours a day with everyday at the restaurant but it's his dream and he has sacrificed a lot to achieve his dream.

There is a connection to Toronto with Writer Pang,  who lives in Chicago now but happens to have lived in Scarborough as a kid.

I really enjoyed Chef Duffy's story, his passion and his great heart.

His restaurant serves plates at $700 each and that's why everything must be perfection.  You might not be able to afford to go to his restaurant but you can afford to get a bit of the experience by watching the documentary.

I believe the director and Chef Duffy will be in attendance at the NIFF screening.

Screenings  June 19 & 20  For Tickets https://niagarafilmfest.com/buy-tickets/

For full details about NIFF https://niagarafilmfest.com/

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Sun shined on the Stop's Night Market

Last night the Sun gods came out to bless The Stop's  Annual NIGHT MARKET fundraising event for The Stop's drop in programs.  

The Stop's Night Market is held over 2 nights and each night has different food and drink vendors and different entertainment as well.  

This year they moved to a new larger location on Sterling Road in the Lansdowne and College area in an industrial area just next the Nestle chocolate plant.  Yes it smelled delicious walking from College street to the gravel parking lot where the event was being held.

Last year the event was held in the alley of Honest Ed's where the 2 buildings are connected.  I didn't go last year because tickets were sold out as soon as they went on sale.  Last year it cost $50 for an all you can eat pass.  This year they raised the fee to $100 so that they could raise more money and allow more people the ability to attend but they were still able to sell out.
Last year even though there was a torrential rain soaking all the vendors and attendees from what I saw in photos everyone still stood in lines to get there tasty bites of food.

This year they chose their dates well and Day 1 had the most beautiful weather for an outdoor event. 
Since it was a parking lot it wasn't fancy and not the place to be wearing club wear and stilettos to.  I don't think it would be as much fun in the rain so I am very glad that mother nature was co-operating.

The Stop's programs and events are run mostly by Volunteers so I was happy that when I arrived the first person that I was greeted by was my friend Sylvia who was volunteering.  She likes to volunteer at a lot of festivals but she has been away a lot for the past year so I haven't seen her in a long time.  It was great to do a quick catch up and then we were off.  Sylvia gave me the lay of the land and told me some of the things she tried that she liked.  The first thing I tried which was right beside the Stop's booth was Fonda Lola which is one of the restaurants that was on my list of places to check out because they follow me on Instagram and I just haven't had the chance to check out their restaurant yet.  
They served up Flauta de pollo aka taquito which was delicious.  I inhaled it while the sauce ran down my hand.  

What I really loved about this event was all of the different creative carts that the vendors put together.  The Gabardine had a cart that had a spinning wheel.  There was a cart made up of tin cans.  Sullivan and Bleeker's looked like post it notes on cardboard.  Pizzeria Libretto had potato sack material.  Oyster Boy had a world theme.  It made it really fun to see all of the interesting looking displays of creativity.

In one corner they set up a photo booth and had large cardboard cut outs of things like the knife and fork that I am holding in this picture and beer mugs and funny signs.  Photo booths are always a fun thing at events.  The volunteers were ready to take a fun picture of you as you mug for the camera.  I didn't do silly but just a bit of fun as you can see.

I didn't make it through all of the food and drink.  I think I tried about a third of what was there but I did try Branca's Sweet corn empanadas.  They were crunchy and sweet.  I tried Valdez' Tuna and watermelon ceviche and I don't think i am a fan of mixing fruit and fish and like a traditional ceviche a lot more.  I tried Maizal's Esquites which was a corn salad type of thing.  I tried Delica Kitchen's corn dog but couldn't figure out what they used for the dog part because it wasn't a typical hot dog.  Sylvia liked that one but I don't know if I liked it as much as she did. What I really liked was the simplicity of Pizzeria Libretto's fried cheese and tomato sauce.  The sauce was fresh and the cheese was slightly oozy.

I tried Dailo's Smoked trout betal leaf but it was ok.  I didn't love the leaf but it was a nice concept.
I wanted to try Torito's Torta de pollo but it was a bun that they poured sauce over top of and then gave you gloves to eat it.  I didn't want it dripping all over me so I passed on that one but I think people liked it.  
I enjoyed Hawthorne's Chicken skin taco.  It had a great crunch and had a kimchi kick on top.
Oyster Boy had a huge lineup so I skipped that because I just had their oysters at the Big Night event so I tried to sample things I haven't tried before.
I also sampled the AGO's chicken tamales which were pretty good with extra condiments.
The only thing I got to drink was Just Craft Soda's cherry soda.  I tried their lemongrass soda before at the Sial Canada show and their products are fantastic.  Natural flavours and not as sugary sweet as normal soda is.  It was my wine fake out.
One of the dishes I didn't have the room to try was Smoke Signals massive Bama BBQ sandwich.  I probably would have gone for it if I was choosing for value and not trying to sample as much as I could.
I finished off my food sampling with one of Sullivan and Bleekers Smore's cookies. It would have been fantastic if it was warm and melty.  Can you see a trend here.   Oh and one of the other dishes that I really enjoyed was hot off the grill and really fresh was Gabardine's Beef Arepas.  I really like Gabardine because they always produce solid comfort food.

There was also a couple of fun bands that entertained the crowd and I have to say that I was impressed with all of the Volunteers and believe me it's hard to get great volunteers for events but not just my friend Sylvia but all of the volunteers were helpful and on top of clearing the garbage and getting people in the event quickly by scanning the passes and giving out wristbands.  The wristbands was a great thing to keep the lines moving and save people from juggling money, or tickets and their drinks and food and in my case my camera.  My friend Sylvia was even my hand model for a few of the photos as you can see.  I know that a couple of the volunteers came from TIFF and I know that's why they were fantastic.  

The organizers did a fantastic job I must say.  It was beautifully set up with the drinks and food intermixed instead of a bar on one side and food on the other.  Because it was all you could eat you could bounce around to different vendors and go back to ones you enjoyed.  I didn't have room to go back to any of them and not enough room to try them all and I even started off hungry.  You need a big appetite to sample it all.

I think the only thing for me that I would change would be the gravel ground because my feet got really tired quickly which was unfortunate and it was a little out of the way and not as easy to get to as a location like Honest Ed's so I am sure a few people may have missed it because of that but I did see a whole lot of people that rode their bikes or took cabs to the event which is probably a great thing to save on drinking and driving.   Myself I hopped on the streetcar over to the subway.  

And then there was this styrofoam cup display outside of the venue that I couldn't figure out until someone at the Stop said what it was.  "YOU MADE A DIFFERENCE".   Kind of a nice thing to thank people who participated to show that their actions in attending the event and the money raised will make a difference to the programs the Stop will be able to deliver which is what this event was all about.

The Stop really have a good thing going.  They have fabulous events but what they really do at the heart of it is help a whole lot of people year round.

To find out how you can contribute your time or to donate money please visit their website: