Friday, August 28, 2015

10 Things to DO at the CNE

I went to the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) on a quiet wednesday in the first week of the EX.  I prefer to go midweek before crowds of families go.  It's much easier to walk around and the lines are shorter.  The weather was perfect.  Sometimes it rains for days during the EX so you have to pick a good day to go.  I had a jam packed day of a bunch of different things to do.

Here is a list of 10 things to Do at the CNE


I didn't eat as much stuff as I hoped I could but I did manage to pack in a couple of days worth of calories from what I did eat.  I split a Collossal Onion with one of my friends and had to find the new Frosted Flakes coated chicken on a stick to try.  Anything fried and on a stick is popular at the CNE. The chicken was great and so was the onion.  Why does fried stuff have to taste so good?  I had to get one of my favourite yearly tradition foods and got the hot off the waffle press Waffle Ice Cream Sandwiches.  Cool vanilla ice cream wrapped in warm waffles. what's not to like and you can walk and eat it.  There was a couple of new things I couldn't find and then it was too late to get it so I hope I get another chance to get back to the CNE before it's over to find them.


I must admit that I was never a huge General Hospital fan so Rick Springfield as Noah Drake doesn't mean much to me but I was around for the music of the 80's plus so I remember when his hit JESSIE"S GIRL took off.  I wasn't a huge fan of his music but he has 17 top 40 hits so I was familiar with some of them.  But I became a fan when I read his book and saw the documentary about him and learned about his crazy life.  Since the shows are free at the Bandshell I had the opportunity to go see his show while I was at the CNE.  I sat in seats at the back with my friend and his friend but I got annoyed with the couple in front of us making out while standing. All I could see was them, so I got up and left my friend and moved closer to the stage and stood in the area in between the bench seating.  Because I did this I was able to take this photo and be there for when he decided to do some crowd surfing and actually walked as far as I was in the crowd.  I actually was able to touch his arm as he tried to climb down to the ground from the bench beside me.  Yeah I wouldn't have been able to do that if I had just sat in the crappy seats at the back so I was glad I did that.  I had a great time while on the other hand my friends sitting at the back had a horrible time and hated it.  I must say that my friend isn't really a fan of his music but he isn't exactly the demographic that Rick Springfield sings to either.  It's more my demographic.  By the way he is now 66 but has the energy of a 26 year old so you have to be inspired by what he has accomplished.  Heck he is starring in a movie with Meryl Streep right now where he plays an ageing musician.. not much of a stretch but his character is a good guy in the movie to Meryl's messed up character.    Morale .. don't sit back... go for it.


Everyday during the festival there are celebrity chef demos in the Enercare building.  I checked out Zane Caplansky (owner of Caplansky's Deli} and also TV personality and more.  Zane is a good Jewish Ambassador and has lot's of stories about his customers and his passion for the Deli business.  He is also featured in the documentary Deli Man which is a must see Documentary.  He was talking about brisket and burgers at the demo and then he did a trivia question giveaway after his demo.
Some chefs that I would recommend going to see are Bob Blumer, Chuck Hughes, Matt Basile and Matt Dean Pettit.  There have already been a few great ones and some new ones this year.


I won a jar of Caplansky's mustard without even trying too hard.  Zane Caplansky asked the trivia question "What's Zane's favourite condiment?"   too easy when he sells mustard for his smoked meat.  So I got a jar of mustard.  Good way to try it.  Now all I need is some good smoked meat to slather it on.


Well I didn't go on rides.  I don't do rides but I do like to take photos of them but I would have to say make sure you go on the rides before you eat any of the crazy CNE foods.


There are always opportunities to take silly selfies at the CNE.  I stumbled on a section of the Enercare building where there was a whole display of Sherlock so I took this fun selfie with Benedict Cumberbatch since I can't do this if I see him in person at TIFF.  


I need some good luck so I found this evil eye bracelet in the International building for $5 and hopefully it will drive away any evil spirits but either way it's pretty and it was inexpensive and will remind me of the CNE.   So it's a good thing.


I met up with one of my friends during the day and we shopped and ate and walked around and then I met up with my other friend after he finished work to go see Rick Springfield at the Bandshell.


Maybe having the new Coffee and donuts Shake from Fran's isn't the best way to stay hydrated but it is something new to try.  But I do recommend bringing a bottle of water because some of the building can get pretty hot, especially the food building and a bottle of water can cost about $3 sometimes.


It's only once a year so splurge.  Shop, eat, play games, go on rides and do whatever you want to try at the CNE because you only live once so go for it.

*disclosure  Entrance to the CNE was complimentary but all opinions and photos are my own.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

All about Coconuts Festival

I got an email about a Coconut Festival happening at David Pecaut Square in Toronto and was asked to get the word out so I did and was asked to come and check it out.  I wasn't sure if I would have time because it was a 1 day festival that fell on a sunday when there were about 6 food festivals in the city.  I had a Tapas festival to go to around lunch time and then decided to head over to the Coconut festival after that since it wasn't too far away.   I thought I would check it out and then either go home or if I had energy and room for more food maybe check out another festival.  

Well I went to the Coconut festival and ended up there for hours.   I went there around 2:30pm with one friend who left about 4:30pm while we were chatting with a guy I know and he convinced me to stick around.  While I was talking to him I saw another friend of mine and it turned out to be 2 of my friends so I hung around with them for a while.  An hour later another one of my friends showed up so I stayed with them.

Then while we were all sitting around talking a couple of other friends contacted me and said they were coming over to meet up with me there.   So it turned out that we had a mini impromptu party in David Pecaut Square.  Seems like that was the place to be instead of the other crowded street festivals.  I have to say that there was just enough people in the square to be comfortable and fun.  Because it was on the grass and it wasn't raining it was comfortable on the feet compared to the street festivals.  There was plenty of places to sit around the square because it wasn't over crowded.

It wasn't just coconut things even though it was a Coconut Festival.  There was a psychic, there were jewellery vendors and cosmetic products and there were a few food trucks and other types of food vendors.

I sampled a few of the food items at the festival like the Coco-Roons from Wonderfully Raw Gourmet delights which comes in various flavours. I tried the lemon ones.  They are mini coconut macaroons I believe they are vegan.   I also had two kinds of ice cream.  Mapleton's cappuccino ice cream which I have had many times before but the new one I tried was a Chocolate and Coconut ice cream from a company called Grinning Face.  They kept the ice cream cool using dry ice so it was a great consistency and rich flavour.  

I tried samples of a few things such as Titoron's Machata drink, a coconut sap from CocoVie, some great dried fruits like orange from Natural Sins, chocolate from Living chocolate, spreads from Cracked coconut and Chaga Mushroom tea from Samadhi Tea house.

 I was filled up by a full meal from Vital life Vegan a new restaurant in Kensington Market that uses fresh coconut in all of their dishes.  I had their BBQ soy or what I call fake meat BBQ that tastes like real meat and is pretty amazing,  there was also the callaloo the collard greens dish and a potato and chickpea curry and traditional rice and peas.  it was super filling so I didn't have room to try any of the other food vendors although I would have loved to have some of Pai's food if I did and there were a few other food vendors I would have liked to try but hopefully they will be at other festivals so I will get to them eventually.

It turned out to be a nice festival.  I think David Pecaut Square is a great place for smaller festivals.  It's accessible by TTC and there is underground parking if you drive and there are other things to do in the area so you can do other things too.

Admission was free and there were some free samples and the cost of food ranged from $1 to about $10.

Fore more info on the festival check out their website:

Thanks to Mark from the festival for inviting me and giving me a tour around the festival.

Monday, August 24, 2015

PinxtosTO -A day of Tapas

PINTXOS TO - A Celebration of Tapas

Who:          Spotlight City Events presented by Estrella Damm 
What::        PintxosTO
Where:       Royal Bank Plaza - Front Street
When:        August 23, 2015
Why:          A taste of Pintxos Tapas and Estrella Damm Beer & other beverages
Hashtag:    #PintxosTO
Price:         $10 admission food $3-7 each tapas

It was a sunny sunday afternoon when I headed down to the beautifully set up Royal Bank Plaza terrace to try a whole bunch of small Tapas bites.   I was invited by the folks at Branding & Buzzing to attend this event organized by them and Spotlight City who know a thing or two about attending and hosting events in Toronto.  The event was the end of a weeks event called Tapas Journey that saw 20 local restaurants host a special menu of 3 Tapas and 1 Estrella Damm beer for $20.  Some of the hottest restaurant/bars in the city participated.  This PintxosTO event hosted a few of the same restaurants but I think they changed up some of their dishes a bit.  

The terrace was set up with this lovely umbrella covered seating area and then surrounded by individual restaurant vendors on the upper terrace and the level below.  This is the kind of set up I would design if I was organizing an event like this.  The vendors were spread out with plenty of room for people to get their dishes and then there were plenty of seats to sit back and enjoy the Tapas with a beer or drink of choice.  I had some refreshing lemonade from Marben and there was also Dillon's Distills and other drinks available.  It was a most comfortable way to enjoy this one day pop up.  Music playing at the perfect level and matching the theme of the event.  They even added beautiful flowers on the tables and spread around the vendors booths.  Street festivals can't do that.

Participating restaurant vendors were:
  • Barsa Taberna
  • Carmen
  • Cava
  • East Thirty Six
  • Mamakas
  • Marben
  • Patria
  • Salt Wine Bar
  • Splendido

Out of town vendors 
  • Donostia (NYC)
  • Simply Fosh (Spain)

Beverages by:
  • Estrella Damm
  • Dillon's Small Batch Distillers
  • Zaplain Sagardoa Cider
  • Txomin Etxaniz Txakoli

While the cost of each Tapas ranged from $3-7 most were about $5.  
You would have to have a big appetite and be a pretty adventurous eater to be able to sample all of the Tapas.  There was a huge variety of cured meats, seafood, pickled items, and other assorted dishes.
Things you don't see very often that were served up included Razor clams, Snails,  Barnacles, white gazpacho, fresh anchovies, blood sausage (morcia), some of these from one very creative vendor.

Cava had a huge stand up bar booth with many different Tapas dishes spread out around the bar.  I tried the grilled chicken on a skewer and the grilled shrimp.  I would have preferred it if it was freshly grilled though.
But talk about fresh,   Mamakas had lamb on a spit roasting away and they served souvlaki in a pita.
Other things I tried included a Greek honey ball from a friend of a friend who was trying them for the first time.  They were a bit more cake like than they normally are.  
I think my favourite thing was from Carmen restaurant I had the  bacon wrapped dates with an almond inside and pork loin on bread topped with manchego cheese.  
I tried the ribs from Marben but I enjoyed their lemonade a lot more.
I wanted to eat a few more things but I was full from the 5 things I had and had to go to another food event right afterward but I wish I could have tried a few more things.  Most of the dishes were really beautifully presented and some small portions and a few things that were a bit more filling.

This event is what happens when all good things come together in a good way.

Experienced event host, high end restaurants, beautiful weather, great food and a great location.
It's very rare that they all happen at the same time.  The event organizers were very lucky to have a perfect weather day for an outdoor event.

*Disclaimer:  I was invited to attend the event but purchased all of the food and drink with my own money and all of the opinions in this post are my own.

Tapas Journey at Patria on King St.

What:       Tapas Journey
Who:        20 Restaurants around Toronto
Where:     Visited Patria at 478 King St. W.
Date:        Aug. 21, 2015
Why:        Estrella Damm Beer plus 3 tapas promotion
Hashtag:   #TapasJourney

I received a package in the mail with a $20 gift certificate and a booklet to check out one of the 20 restaurants featured in the Tapas Journey in Toronto from August 14-23, 2015.  I received the gift certificate on the 19th and tried to make plans to join a fellow blogger for lunch the next day but unfortunately it was only good for the evenings so we just ordered off their regular menu.

On the friday I met up with a friend and after seeing a movie on King St. we walked over to Patria at King and Spadina.  We walked right passed it and then walked back.  The sign is sit up on a gate that leads to the restaurant in a laneway.  It was about 8pm I think that we arrived and it was just starting to get dark.  The restaurant is inset and the lighting in the restaurant is very dim to add atmosphere.  It's nice when you want to set a mood but not the greatest for a food blogger to get great photos so excuse the quality of the food pics.  I have never been there before and we sat at the bar where the bartender was very helpful and he actually let me use an LED light which helped a bit.  I don't like to use flash for my food photos because it just washes them out and never looks great.

We ordered the special menu for the Tapas Journey which is 3 tapas plus one Estrella Damm beers from Barcelona.  I don't drink beer so I gave mine to the couple sitting next to us who really appreciated their Tapas Journey.  The Patria Tapas was Pintxo de Tortilla de Patatas, (spanish potato omelete, asparagus, romesco and goat cheese).  Albodigas con Tomate ( Beef meatballs, pearl onion and tomato sauce), and Queso Buneuelos ( Manchego fritters, spicy paquillo sauce and aioli).

Every one of these Tapas were delicious but I think I liked the Bunuelos the best.  I also really liked the teardrop shaped pearl onion that was lightly pickled.  I have never seen that before and didn't know that it was an onion.  You learn something new everyday in the food world.

It is a good deal to get the 3 tapas items plus the beer for $20 because the restaurants are pretty high end restaurants and these are special menu items.

In Spain or Europe Tapas are meant to be small bites of food sometimes served for free when people drink at different local bars.  It's a nice thing if the bars are close by and you can get a drink an tapas and then move on to the next one and try something else.  Most of the Tapas Journey restaurants were located on King Street or Queen Street with a few others in other locations.  Not so much within walking distance but streetcar accessible mostly.

We were still hungry after the tapas so we ordered one dish off the menu and a dessert each.

We shared an order of Patatas bravas with tomate sauce and a fried egg which was soooo good.  I love the simplicity of fried potatoes and a fried egg.  It always works.

For dessert my friend had the churros.  I didn't try them but I could smell the cinnamon and she liked them.  I ordered a bit fancier dessert and got the chocolate terrine which was like a mousee, and ganache type of consistency.  It was delicious and had some nice garnishes added for crunch.


 A friend gave me another Gift Certificate and I tried to use it on the last day on Sunday but the 4 restaurants I tried to go to were closed so i wasn't able to use it.

OH I forgot to mention that if you got a sticker when you ordered the Tapas and stuck it onto the Passport and Tweeted or Instagrammed a pic of it you were entered into a contest to win a trip to Miami to meet with highly regarded Chef Ferran Adria.

Sadly I didn't receive a sticker and forgot about it until I got home so I wasn't able to tweet a pic of it.

Disclosure:  The Gift certificate was complementary courtesy of Branding & Buzzing but all of the opinions in this post are my own.

Hate the long lines in the CNE food building? There's an APP for that.

Have you ever gone to the CNE (Canadian National Exhibition) and ventured into the Food Building to get food and have decided on what to get based on the shortest line?  Well what if you could just pick the food you want and skip the line?  

Well there is a NEW APP for that.  

The team at Grabb (an app that allows you to pre-order & pay for food at your favourite downtown Toronto restaurants) created the app that will allow you to pre-order your food while you are busy walking around the CNE and it will notify you when your order is ready. You can also order through Grabb's regular app.

You can download the APP for your IPHONE from the APP STORE and for ANDROID from GOOGLE PLAY.

When you place & pay for your order it goes to the restaurant on an iPad that is solely dedicated to The Food Building app orders. You will get a notification through the app when your food is ready. There is also a countdown that shows you approximately when you will get that notification so you can go on another ride, use the washroom, or continue spending time with friends until the moment your food is ready.

There are The Food Building signs at each partnering vendor so you can walk right up to that sign and get your food instead of waiting in the regular line! It's designed to make sure a lineup doesn't occur! 

The app can be used for these select vendors inside The Food Building

Vendors include:
  • Pho 88 
  • Fran's Restaurant 
  • Pull'd 
  • Epic Burgers & Waffles
  • Jake's Lobster 
  • Far East Taco 
  • St. Louis 
  • Mac N Cheesery 
  • Just Cone It 
  • Ye Olde Fudge Pot 
  • Bouchard's Poutinery
  • The Funnel Cake Shop 

This covers some of the new and most likely most popular vendors in the Food Building and foods such as  - Deep Fried Red Velvet Oreos, Pizza Cones, Double Bacon Grilled Cheese, Donut Burgers, Funnel Cake, etc.

 This is what the App looks like.

The Food Building is one of the most popular and most talked about features of the CNE. It’s predecessor, the Pure Food Building, was demolished in 1953 and the $1.5 million dollar structure, we know as the Toronto Star Food Building, was built in its place.
The building has become a hub for innovative and quirky food experiences. With local restaurants serving cuisines from around the world and vendors who return to serve traditional fair favourites every year, there really is something to suit every taste and every budget. 
I haven't been to the CNE yet this season but I am curious to see how this new APP works out for the convenience of people attending the EX.  If you try it let me know your experience with it.  I am going to try and go this week and will do another blog post on the foods I check out.
*Information provided by The Food Building Blog.  
For further info check out The Food Building website:

Friday, August 21, 2015

Encore Catering puts an end to institutional food.

Host:  Encore Catering 
Event: Blogger Bites Tasting
Location:  Encore Catering offices: 5000 Dufferin Street
Date visited:  August 20, 2015
Hashtag #encorebloggerbites
Google +Encore Food With Elegance

No more rubber Chicken!  Encore Catering does it better.

I was invited to go to Encore Catering's 10,000 ft. catering kitchen in Downsview with a few of my fellow food bloggers.  From the moment I walked into their office and then their catering kitchen no detail was left un-done.  First with this welcoming sign in their front entrance and then we were given booklets with pens to make notes and a glass of water and then promptly given a delicious amuse bouche as pictured under the sign.  A lobster Belt.  Lobster, egg lettuce tomato on an incredible brioche slider bun.  We were introduced to the staff who run this family business and then we were brought into their catering kitchen to sample some of their menu items.

photo credit: Encore Catering
We walked into a pop up party set in the middle of an industrial kitchen. Think of it as a private table in a restaurant kitchen with the chef with standup tables and chairs and a small bar set up for a few drinks.

The bloggers jumped right in and took lots of photos of the staff busily working away on the dishes we were going to be served.

Encore Catering has been in business since 1979 and started by Cary Silber, President who used to be a musician at weddings and wasn't impressed with the food he saw at the events he was working at.  He has a food science degree and also one in nutrition and felt that he could do catering better than what was out there so he set up shop and I think he loves every minute of it. He is joined by family members David Silber, VP of Sales and Ryan Silber, Director of Operations and with their Executive Chef Roshan Wanasingha they create some beautiful and fresh inspired dishes that are prepared a la minute to make sure everything is at the peak of perfection.

They are also capable of doing Kosher catering by using their other kitchen that is set up at the Beth Tzedec Synagogue.

The family and staff were so lovely and hospitable and really went out of their way to give us a taste of their best bites.

The food,  the flavours were spot on and the presentations of the dishes were spectacular.  Not your standard chicken on a stick and beef sliders but instead of the beef sliders they had Chateaubriand taco bites that were melt in your mouth amazing.

So much of the food they presented was incredibly labour intensive like their Smoking Beet Tian which was a triple layer of finely diced beets and Chevre foam and sweet and spicy cashews. The smoking part was the tian was covered with a small glass that was filled with smoke so when you lifted it the smoke wafted into the air.

One of their amazing tasty bites that I had 2 of was the Duck Confit Beignet with Rhubarb Apricot Marmalade.  OMG what a great cocktail bite of food.

There was also a dish called Eurasian Inspiration with all kinds of intricate ingredients artfully plated but the star on that plate was definitely the Braised Pork Belly Cube.

Everything was impeccable but the desserts were a work of art.  The Vanilla Semi Freddo with strawberry Rose Consomme was so smooth and light.  The labour intensive Gorgonzola and pear Pana Cotta served in an egg shell and garnished with chocolate was so different from anything you would normally see at a catered event that it was a real show stopper.

I could go on an on about every dish but I don't think there was a bad dish in the bunch that we tried but of course there are always things that you just want to go back for more.

You know bloggers can become incredibly jaded and hard to impress but I know that we were all pleasantly surprised by the whole evening and all of the food.

Much thanks go to ALL of their great staff for an incredibly evening.
I am not planning on getting married but if I was they would be at the top of my list of caterers for sure.

Don't expect a standard price list though.   They work one on one with you to select exactly what you want for your event and will tailor the budget and menu around that.  You select exactly what you want that way.

Give them a shout if you have an event coming up whether it's a wedding or a corporate event or anything else you need some great food for.  I know they will be more than accommodating and you will be very satisfied with the results.

Follow them on Twitter @encore_catering

* The meal was complimentary but all of the opinions in this blog are my own.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Coco Lezzone Rebirth

 Who:       Coco Lezzone Restaurant
 What:      La Dolce Vita - Coco Lezzone Rebirth
 Where:    137 Avenue Road
 When:     August 12, 2015
 Why:       Blogger & Event planner preview
 Twitter:   @cocolezzone  hashtag #cocorebirth

A group of bloggers & event planners were invited to Coco Lezzone's Italian inspired launch in the Yorkville area to preview their new space and sample some menu items.  Their former space was located on College Street and had a few challenges but I believe they are hoping for great new things in their new fresh space.

The event started at 5:30pm but because I had unexpected guests so I couldn't get to the event until about 7pm, so I missed the passed appetizers but arrived just as they brought out these 4 plates of food for the bloggers to photograph and sample.  There was a seafood risotto, an Osso Buco with saffron risotto, a Tagliatelle with bacon an mushrooms in cream sauce, and a Chilean Sea Bass with grilled vegetables and rice.

Unfortunately I only got to taste 2 forkfuls of the seafood risotto because there were about a dozen bloggers and only 4 dishes to try so it was pretty much gone in a second after everyone took photos.
All I can tell you is that the 2 forkfuls of tomato based risotto were ok but I prefer my own Risotto.

There were Aperol cocktails but I didn't have one.
There is a small bar at the entrance and the the restaurant is set up a few stairs from the entrance.  I never visited their former space so I can't compare the 2 spaces.  This space seems more like an evening destination space and it seems like they are looking to attract an upscale crowd.

For the La Dolce Vita Italian Inspiration they had a red Lambourghini parked in front of the restaurant and a red carpet entrance where they had an Italian Motor scooter parked for photos.

The appetizers range from $9 - $19 and the main dishes range from $18- $38 and there is a selection of Pizza's that range from $17- $19.

Hours of operation:  Mon to Sun. 4pm to close

Special "Date Night" Every Sunday - Tuesday Evenings - 3-Course Dinner Menu for $35
Available for private bookings and catering is also available.

For more information:

*disclosure:  I was invited by City Events for a media preview but all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Kultura Filipino Arts Festival

Event:  KulturaTO Festival
Location:  Dundas Square and other locations
Date:  Aug 9, 2015.

This past weekend Kultura TO a Filipino Arts Festival celebrated their 10th Anniversary with events around town including Food and Music at Yonge and Dundas Square on August 9th.  I went down to check out their Street Food Battle where their food vendors put up $3 dishes for judging in competition for the best street food.

I didn't try all of the foods that were in competition but I did try and try as much as I could from most of the vendors onsite.

I tried the Pork Belly Pao or Bao as you may know it which is a rice flour bun with arugula, torched pork belly and hot sauce in the bun.  It was pretty good but I think I would like it a little more rendered.

All of the dishes were priced at $1 $3 $5 which is very reasonable as compared to some other street food festivals.

At the media preview I tried the calamansi ice tea and the Talo which is a sweet soft tofu dish.   Calamansi is a sweet lime that is common in the Phillipines.

One of my favourite things was also one of the least expensive and fastest to get.  It was the Lechon bites.  Roasted pork that is shredded and put into cones and served with a slaw.  Really great taste on the pork.

There were a couple of really long lines, one was for the GUSHI chicken which was odd because Gushi is a Japanese thing but whatever.  I had some of the chicken and it was pretty good but I would suggest going to the GUSHI shipping container on Dundas to avoid a lineup.   The other long line was for the Sisig fries.  Sisig is made from the pork parts that are leftover that I won't go into detail about.  It's a pretty big deal for Filipinos and I have had it before at Casa Manila.  The fries were ok but I didn't finish it. I got 3 little Deep Fried Sweet Turons at the same booth.  Turon is banana wrapped wontons deep fried and coated in a caramel sauce.

I think that's pretty much all I tried and I spent about $14 in total for it all.  Pretty reasonable prices but some of the lines moved very slowly.  I think I spent about 2 hours in lines waiting for food in total.

A couple of things I would love to change if I had the power.   The design of Yonge Dundas Square.  You have to stand out in the open sun on hot cement while waiting in line for food so it get's pretty exhausting.  There isn't enough seating once you get your food and it's on the other side of the square where people just sit for hours.  I would love to see the food vendors flipped to the other side where the seating is and the other vendors to where the food vendors were and then at the back of the square the tables  close to Yonge Street so that people could stand in front and sit at the back and still listen to the music and eat their food.  I don't know how this would work but flipping the food vendors would put them into the shaded area so at some point in the front of the line you would be covered.  I doubt this will happen but that's how I envision the square.

I would also love to advise the food vendors not to make food with a million ingredients that have to be assembled at the time of service.  This slows down the lines.  That's why there wasn't a long line for the Lechon and slaw because it was made in advance and just plated quickly for service.  The deep fried items a super popular but with the small fryers that are in each booth they can't fry food fast enough to keep those long lines moving quickly.   If you are going to fry foods then have other foods that are ready to go so people have a choice and the lines can move a bit faster.

As you can see my comments aren't about the actual food because most of these vendors do a really great job with the food but it's the rest of the street festival experience that needs some tweeking in my humble opinion after spending a whole lot of time standing around in the sun at these summer street festivals.   More shaded areas with seating is always welcome on a hot day.

There were also a few arts vendors and lots of musical acts all day.  I am not familiar with any of the acts that were presented but I must say that a couple of the ones I heard while waiting in line were very good.

I like to go to these cultural festivals because it's a chance to sample foods that you may not get the opportunity to try anywhere else and also be introduced to music and culture of a different culture than what you are normally exposed to.  I always encourage people to check out cultural festivals and see what's going on in different communities.  It's like travelling in your own country and Toronto is one of the few places in the world that makes this pretty easy to do.  Get out and explore some new cultures, you never know what you will learn.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Concession Road a destination Restaurant

Restaurant:       Concession Road
Location:          760 St. Clair Avenue West
Twitter             @concessionroad
Instagram         @concessionroad
Facebook          Concession Road

Media Dinner
Date: August 10, 2015
Global French Cuisine

Chef Masayuki Tamarn & Owner Derek Valleau

Last night about a dozen food bloggers were invited to Concession Road to sample their Global French cuisine menu.  I really love having dinner with my fellow food bloggers because we all want to take great photos of the food and really appreciate the details in the dinner menu and the whole experience.

Concession Road provided a really great evening of great food in a beautiful clean and modern space.  They said they are still working on the decor.  They have only been open since April.  The name Concession Road comes from the the first road plans in Toronto as explained by owner Derek Valleau that originally it was the 3rd Concession Road in the original plans of the 1800's.  

One of the other kind of retro things they have in the restaurant is their Absinthe service which is pretty interesting to look at with the ice water dispenser on their sexy looking bar.  We also sampled on some cocktails including their "Corpse Revivor" meant to be a "hair of the dog" drink.

The menu we sampled:

  • Shrimp Bonbon, citrus salad - red pepper gastrique
  • Romaine hearts, orange, hearts of palm, olives, avocado, manchego, sherry vinaigrette
  • Beef tartare, asian pear, pickled vegetables, quail's egg yolk, toast
  • Vegetable stuffed chard, vegetable sauce, chive-oil, beet crisps, toasted pumpkin seeds
  • Sauteed calves liver, Korean bbq sauce, sweet potato, King oyster mushroom
  • "JFC" Menonite farmed fried chicken, buttermilk mash, tomato, preserved lemon mayo
  • Steamed Portuguese rockfish, tomato beurre blanc, fresh dill
  • Chilled souffle cheesecake, boozie cherries, hazelnut bark
  • Callebaut chocolate terrine, local berries, whipped cream

The food was truly beautiful and delicious and there were a few people in the group that had never had calves liver and they really enjoyed it.  My favourite dishes were the beef tartare, the juicy and crunchy JFC chicken,  the crunchy shrimp bonbons and I loved the smooth and rich chocolate terrine.

As Derek told our group that he thinks Chef Tamaru is a bit under the radar Chef who has some seriously great skills in the kitchen.  He doesn't like the word fusion food but he is classically french trained but his roots are Asian.  He is formerly from the Fifth, Crush Wine Bar and Jamie Kennedy Wine bar among other notable restaurants.

Derek Valleau is also the owner of the Indian restaurant Pukka which is a few doors down from Concession Road.  They took over the space from former Bywoods restaurant and said it was an opportunity he couldn't pass up.  St. Clair Ave. West is quickly becoming the new area for interesting restaurants and is in proximity to the great Wychwood Barns.

I really wish they had this kind of quality neighbourhood restaurants in my area.  Maybe I need to consider moving closer to St. Clair Avenue West because it seems to be becoming a Foodie hangout with restaurants like the Stockyard, the Sea Witch, Pukka, Emmas country kitchen and a host of other great restaurants.

I hope you go and check out Concession Road.  Their other restaurant Pukka is still on my to do list.

*disclaimer the meal was complimentary but content and opinions are my own.

Concession Road Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Lovin Local at Yonge Dundas Square

           Who:        Live green Toronto
           What:       Lovin Local Food Fest
           Where:    Yonge Dundas Square
           When:     August 8, 2015
           Why:       To showcase local food & music
           Hashtag:  #lovinlocal

I have gone to the Live Green Festival a few times over the years but this year Livegreen Toronto added the Lovin Local Food Fest to the mix with a 1 day festival at Yonge and Dundas Square.  I went down to check it out and got there just in time to see my fav local Chef Lynn Crawford finishing her local food demo on the main stage.  She is always fun to watch because she really engages the audience.

I was planning on sticking around to see the Spoons.. .yes a band from the 80's that I once did makeup for on a video shoot back in the day.  But I went down there at about 1:30 and pretty much checked out the whole festival in about an hour so I was getting tired of waiting around so I left.  If I lived closer I would probably just go back for the Spoons.  Jully Black is also playing a bit later than the Spoons but I am old and have things to do like write this blog so I skipped out.

But you never know what you might find at these street festivals so while I was wandering around and checking out the food vendors I was listening to the artist that was on after Lynn Crawford and then all of a sudden this guy really caught my attention.  I never heard of him before but this guy had loads of energy and was all over the stage and really rockin the stage.  I still don't know who he is but now I know his name at least,  it's Eric Zayne.  I would suggest that you keep an eye out for this guy because I have a feeling he will pop up and get some attention.

As for the Food Portion.   I waiting in the smokey big green egg lineup to get a Steak Sandwich from Bespoke Butchers for $6.  The steak was good but I really wish the bun was toasted or a bit fresher.  It was a bit dry so it took away from the juicy steak a bit.   I also tried 2 pakoras from Bindia for $2.  A nice little snack with tamarind sauce on top.  I picked up 2 cookies from Brad Long's Cafe Belong booth for $3.  I got one double chocolate and one chocolate chip.  I just ate those and they were delicious, especially the double chocolate one.  I also picked up a bacon and cheese Scone which I have't tried yet.  It was $3 from Marche 59.  I never heard of them before so I don't know anything about them but they had a nice selection of baked goods that included muffins and quiches.

There was a huge amount of corn from the corn roaster guys but I am sure they won't go through that much corn in one day.   I don't know how well attended this festival will be because everyone seems to be either doing Parapanam stuff or going to the Taste of the Danforth.  It wasn't very busy when I was there but I picked the busiest lineup for food of course.  Anything where there smoke there is usually a crowd of people.  There was lots of things for the kids to do at this small festival and I even got in on the dress up selfie pics for a bit of fun.

I always like to support local vendors and Canadian artists so I like to showcase these types of events as much as I can.  I hope you read this and have time to drop down there before the end of the night but if not I hope you look out for more of these kinds of festivals in the future.

#lovinlocal  is put on by the City of Toronto but too bad it got a bit overshadowed this weekend.

For more information:   City of Toronto website