Wednesday, September 30, 2015

15 Reasons why you should try Xyla!


I was invited to the beautiful Toca Restaurant at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in downtown Toronto for a special Healthy Holiday Lunch presented by Xyla® an "un-sugar" sugar replacement that is made from 100% Xylitol. It looks, tastes, cooks and bakes just like sugar.

It has so many benefits that it's hard not to take notice and consider it as a reason to ditch all of the other sugars you normally use.

Here are some of the benefits of using Xyla® (Xylitol)

  1. 40% less calories than sugar.
  2. 75% less carbs than sugar.
  3. Alkaline enhancing
  4. Anti-aging properties
  5. Aids in weight loss
  6. Maintains hormonal balance
  7. Slows steady release of energy 
  8. Increases absorption of B vitamins and calcium
  9. Inhibits plaque and dental cavities up to 80%
  10. Diabetic friendly
  11. Low- glycemic
  12. Natural insulin stabilizer
  13. Diminishes sugar and carbohydrate cravings
  14. 100% Sustainable
  15. No GMO's and not derived from corn or manufactured in China.

The great chefs at Toca created a Healthy Holiday Menu that used Xyla® instead of sugar in the recipes.  Xyla can be used the same way as sugar but there might need to be adjustments to make it work the same way as it doesn't caramelize exactly the same way.

This is the menu of the food we sampled.  I can tell you that each dish was amazing and you don't even notice that anything is different.  I especially loved their sticky toffee pudding.  We were given copies of the recipes so I hope to try some of them this holiday season.


  • Banana Bread French Toast accompanied with fresh berries
  • Eggplant Caponata with sweet and sour sauce and pine nuts

Mains (1)

  • Tacchino Turkey, chestnut and mushroom stuffing, medley of potato and cranberry sauce
  • Organic Salmon vegetable teriyaki
  • Dolce Sticky Toffee Pudding, sour cream gelato and chai anglaise

I am not a big fan of products like Aspartame or Stevia because they are either chemicals or they just don't taste good or really aren't great products but I think Xyla is a great alternative to sugar.  

Xyla is made from 100% naturally source xylitol – it goes through a natural steam ion exchange process to extract the xylitol from the birch wood pulp  ( similar to how when a popcorn kernel is heated and goes pop) and aspartame is a chemical.

Other products available as seen in the photo above were gum, mints, mouthwash and toothpaste, jam, xyla packets for coffee or tea and sauces.  I was given a few products to sample so I hope that I can get used to them and adopt them and replace some of the things I normally use.

For more info check out their website at or

Disclaimer*  Lunch and a few product samples were provided gratis but the opinions of the products provided are mine.  I was not compensated for this post. 

Lamesa's gives Filipino food a new spin.

What:     Fall/Winter menu Media Dinner
Where:  Lamesa Filipino Kitchen (669 Queen Street West) 
When:   September 28, 2015

Twitter: @LamesaTO // Event Hashtag: #kamayanTO


I was invited with fellow food media people to try out Lamesa's new modern Filipino food menu.  After a recent Toronto Star article about the journalists unpleasant view of some Filipino food owner Lester Sabilano wanted to show people what elevated modern Filipino food could be.  Food is executed by the very talented Daniel Cancino who is classically French trained.

Dinner included:

Ø  Welcome cocktail: Boracay Breezy - dark rum, coconut rum, banana liqueur, house made peach liqueur, macerated strawberry syrup
Ø  Chef Daniel's take on the classic Ensaladang Talong, or roasted eggplant salad. He combines roasted eggplant, a common vegetable side in Filipino cuisine, with eggplant caponata, crème fraîche, salted egg, puffed wild rice and sweet soy. This dish was selected by Zagat Toronto as one the best dishes of 2015. 
Ø  Tuna Kinilaw-  a Filipino style ceviche made with albacore tuna, a coconut calamansi vinaigrette, fresh chilies, and coconut guacomole served with shrimp chips.
Ø  Beef cheek sinigang is traditionally a sour broth dish, often made with pork or shrimp, that includes vegetables such as radish, bok choy, eggplant, and long beans.  Most home cooks admit to using flavour packets to achieve the correct flavour. Chef Daniel has created his interpretation of this classic dish using local vegetables such as radishes, mustard greens and tomatoes and he's created the sour broth using only tamarind and citrus; No flavour packets required!
Ø  Dessert:  Ube leche flan- a Spanish style custard made with sweet purple yam served with puffed wild rice and apple tapioca.

My favourite dishes were the Tuna Kinalaw but if you know me you will know that I love tuna with avocado and citrus so this had my name on it.  The Lumpia were also great little crunchy meat filled bites.  The Beef Bulalo short rib and bone marrow in a broth had the most amazing aroma of star anise and the meat just melted.  
The mind blowing dish of the night was the dessert though.  It was Ube Leche Flan a smooth purple creamy consistency with Green apple tapioca, ground cherry, concord grape jelly, fig and puffed rice. 

Lamesa has reached out to Filipino artist and Sabilano wants Lamesa to be an ART HUB for the Filipino Community.

Our lovely host Mary Luz Meja gave us all some in house made ketchup to take home.  I had a lovely evening with some food blogger friends and some new ones too.

Drop into Lamesa soon and try some of their great dishes and spread the word.
Chef Daniel Cancino
Mary Luz Meja

Lamesa Filipino Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, September 28, 2015

Food Truck Festival Ontario - #FTFO

Even though it's officially Fall it felt like an end of summer sunshine filled day at Downsview Park for te FOOD TRUCK FESTIVAL ONTARIO #FTFO today.  There were a whole lot of last days of summer events happening on this end of September Sunday but I headed over to Downsview Park to shoot some pics of all the food trucks and as much food as I could.

FOOD TRUCKS present were:

Bacon Nation, Bake Three Fifty, B.good, Beavertails, Brewing Bean, Busters Sea Cove, Chimney Stax, CORNehCOPIA, Dine Alone Foods, Dolcella Gelato, Fit To Grill, Food Dudes, Funnel Cake Express, Great Canadian, Jerk Brothers, Kevins Burger Obsession, Koi, La Novela, Luchador, Made in Brasil, Me.n.u, Meltdown Cheesery, My Sticky Rice, Prince Edward Fries, Raw on Location, Sweet Spot, Tdots Naansense, The Egg Man, Tiny Toms Donuts, Untamed Chef, Wickedly Sinful

There were also other attractions like:
-Artisans Market
-Drinks Garden
-Kidzone (corn maze, hula hoop workshop,)

-$15 at the gate and the food averaged between $6 to $10 a dish.

I tried a few things such as the People's Chicken Sandwich $10  from Untamed Chef.  This sandwich pretty much filled me up.  It was buttermilk breaded chicken with bacon, lettuce, cheese, fried jalapenos and fried onions.  It was good and filled me up so much that I couldn't try a whole lot of other things.

I started off with (Made in Brasil) Mata Petisco Bar's Chicken Croquettes.  Two for $6. They were really good.  A nice size I think for this kind of festival where you want to try a bunch of different things.  

The first thing I actually got was an Iced Coffee from Brewing Bean. Cheaper than Starbucks at $3.50 but a bit pricey for a food fest but it was good and I needed it standing out in the sun and chowing down on all the fried foods.

I was pretty much full after that even though I wanted to try more I opted for some Tiramisu Gelato from Dolcella Gelato.  It melted pretty fast in the hot sun and I wish it had a stronger coffee flavour.  I could hardly finish it even.  It was $4 for a small one.

It's funny that I don't eat as much as I used to but you wouldn't know it by looking at me.  Getting old isn't fair is all I can say.  I am smarter now but my body can't keep up with me.

After that I had to resort to following people around and taking pics of their food since I didn't have room in my stomach or the money to keep buying more food.  It adds up pretty quickly.  Since it was at Downsview Park none of my friends were there.  Even my food blogger friends were absent surprisingly but there were so many other events happening that they were probably all over the place.  So I didn't have anyone to share food with otherwise I might have been able to try more things.

Overall I think it's a nice event for families if you pack the whole family in the car and bring a blanket or chairs to sit on because the chair situation isn't enough sometimes and there is lot's of grass to spread a blanket on.  

Another tip.  There is either grass or gravel so leave those spiky heels at home and bring the sneakers.  I was wearing flat shoes but still found it uncomfortable standing around on the gravel.  
And then there is the porta potty situation.  Not my favourite thing so just so you know that's the deal with this type of event.  

I would really love to see a developer build a Food Truck Mall like a lot of places in the U.S. have.  We don't have any suitable locations for these types of events.   Yes I would create one if I had the money to do it.  I think Downsview Park would be great if they built a permanent type of event area to accommodate these types of things.  

Make sure you bring lot's of cash because you need to pay to get in and at each vendor but they do have ATM machines on site.

The Food Trucks also competed for a Trophy that attendees vote online for and the Winner was BAKE THREE FIFTY.  Too bad I didn't have room to try something from their truck.  Here's the Trophy they won.  Congrats!

For more info go to their website:

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Taste Canada Awards 2015

The Taste Canada Food Writing Awards took place recently at the Arcadian Court in downtown Toronto recently and I was invited to attend the event as a Red Carpet Correspondent with a few fellow food bloggers and other media.

The awards were hosted by Celebrity Chefs Ricardo Larivee and Vikram Vij who were previous Taste Canada Award winners.
Ricardo, Donna Doeher, Vikram Vij
It was a great night that celebrated Canadian cookbook authors and for the first time Food Bloggers were also given awards which were sponsored by Food Bloggers of Canada.   
Food Bloggers of Canada Team
This was the first time they had a red carpet for the award nominees and having been there for the first time last year when they didn't have it I think it added a lot of fun and excitement to the awards and hopefully we made everyone feel like VIP's on the red carpet.  

The Awards were presented and afterwards everyone moved to a Gala Reception where local restaurants and caterers had a lovely set up of some brilliant food.  My favourites of the night were Rock Lobster's Bisque and freshly shucked oysters by owner Matt Dean Pettit.  I also enjoyed the amazing array of chocolates from Cocoa Berry.  Dufflet had delicious tiramisu and lemon cake squares.  There was also a lot of different kinds of pork dishes it seemed with Matt Basile (Lisa Marie) making a pork lettuce wrap and there was also Ted Reader with pork belly and barley risotto.  Vanessa Yeung (Aphrodite Cooks) had a dumpling in braised beef broth is what I think she said. 

 Martin Kouprie (Pangea) had a pretty complicated dish of pheasant I think with a sausage and blanched brussel sprouts and green puree and a few other touches.  The most complicated dish of the night for sure.  It was very lovely and so fun to see so many fellow bloggers and local chefs and Industry people that I know.  Last year there were only a couple of food bloggers there and I only knew one of them and a couple of other people.  After attending a whole lot of events this past year this year was different with a whole lot more familiar faces and new friends to chat with. It turned out to be a really fun event.  Here are the winners.
Taste Canada Award Winners

Culinary Narratives/Narrations Culinaires
Secrets of a Hutterite Kitchen: Unveiling the Rituals, Traditions, and Food of the Hutterite Culture
Mary-Ann Kirkby
Penguin Canada Books, Toronto

Ainsi cuisinaient les belles-sœurs dans l’œuvre de Michel Tremblay : Une traversée de notre patrimoine culinaire 1913 – 1963
Anne Fortin
Flammarion Québec, Montréal

General Cookbooks/ Livres de Cuisine Générale
Family Meals
Michael Smith
Penguin Canada Books, Toronto

Ensemble : Cuisine gourmande et colorée
Christelle Tanielian
Les Éditions La Presse, Montréal

Regional/Cultural Cookbooks / Livres de cuisine régionale et culturelle 
The SoBo Cookbook: Recipes from the Tofino Restaurant at the End of the Canadian Road
Lisa Ahier and Andrew Morrison
Appetite by Random House, Vancouver

La récolte
Bernard Dubé
Bernard Dubé, New Richmond
(Mention Spéciale)

Single-Subject Cookbooks/Livres de Cuisine Sujet Unique
Duchess Bake Shop
Giselle Courteau
Duchess Bake Shop, Edmonton

Soupes-repas gourmandes
Anne-Louise Desjardins
Guy Saint-Jean, Éditeur, Laval

Food blog – Best Post / Blogue culinaire – meilleure publication
“Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Hazelnut, Orange, and Saffron”
Allison Day
Yummy Beet

« Pizza 3 minutes : saucisses italiennes, épinards, tomates cerises, cœurs d’artichauts et mozzarella »
Christelle Tanielian
Christelle Is Flabbergasting

2015 Hall of Fame Inductees

Rose Murray (1941–) From writing, to teaching, to television and radio appearances across Canada, over a long career, Murray has shaped our perspective of Canadian cuisine.

Nellie Lyle Pattinson (1879–1953)  Pattinson wrote the Canadian Cook Book, published by Ryerson Press in 1923 and reprinted twenty times up to 1949.

Helen Wattie (1911–2009) and Elinor Donaldson Whyte (1926–) These two women updated Pattinson’s text to reflect Canada’s prosperity and changing food habits after World War II, with an  innovative 1953 edition, that included – for the first time in Canada – a chapter of “Regional Dishes”.

For more info about the Awards go to

All photos by Linda Matarasso ©2015

Cochon 555 Pig Out in Toronto

Cochon 555 started over 7 years ago in the U.S. as a travelling Culinary Event.  It's a culinary competition and tasting BBQ event that brings together local farmers, Top Chefs, distillers and pork lovers from all over.

Cochon comes to Toronto for the first time for the 1st Toronto Food & Wine Festival held at Evergreen Brickworks.  It was held on Sept. 18th and I was lucky to get an invite to go since it was a separate ticketed event apart from the festival weekend event.

Celebrity judges were on hand to sample all the tasty food and choose a winning dish from a great array of some of Toronto's top restaurants and chefs who skillfully prepared and some original creations of pork and accompaniments.

Evergreen Brickworks Heritage BBQ
Imagine Pork products and BBQ's spread out all around the open air Brickworks structure.  Fire and pork mostly but there were a couple of exceptions.  There was some great True North Salmon grilled by Michael Hunter (TheHunterChef) which was one of my favourite things I tasted that night.

And one unusual thing that was there were Cannoli's from Holy Cannoli.  But it was nice to have something different for dessert.

Roger Mooking

Another one of my favourite dishes was Roger Mooking (Twist) massive Ribs.  They were served with a dipping sauce but the sauce wasn't even needed they because they were flavoured so well.
Roger himself was stoking the fire on an incredibly humid night so I am sure he worked up some good meat sweats that night.

Some of the participating restaurants included P&L Catering, Twist, Lisa Marie, Beast, The Good Son and their Chef owners were all present busily preparing things like sausages, ribs, pork belly, bao's, fried things and even some empanadas.

With so many it's hard to eat that much pork dishes in one sitting but I think I tried at least 6 dishes but I know the judges probably had very full stomaches.

There was even a pop up butcher shop and the butchered a whole pig and sold off the different parts of it .  See first picture on the left.

Overall it was a big Chef Bro Fest with most of the Chef's being male and most located in the downtown hipster areas of town.  They had a chance to cook together and try each other's food all in the same place so I am sure they appreciated the fact that there was some play with all their work.

I think having it on a friday night around Jewish holidays limited the attendance but hey I guess they  figured there were enough Pork fans to fill the event.  It wasn't full and there weren't any long lineups which was nice for a change but I am sure they probably expected a lot more people.
Overall a good concept and I enjoyed the fact that there were large iced water dispensers on hand for those people that needed a non alcoholic refresher.

Overall it was a good event but friends of mine paid for VIP tickets and thought that it was pretty expensive for what they received.

For more information
And for future Cochon 555 events

*Disclosure:  My ticket was complimentary but the opinions and photos are all my own.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Toronto Food & Wine Heats up Brickworks

The Aspen born Food & Wine Show is now a thing in Toronto with the 1st Canadian Show held at Toronto's Everygreen Brickworks on the Bayview Extension.

The Toronto Food & Wine Festival brings in some of the Top Chefs in North America and a lot of the best chefs in Toronto were present with booths or to do Chef talks or food demos.  There was a lot of Chef love in the air and it attracts a lot of high profile chefs because they get to hang out with each other and try each others food.  There was a lot of chef hugging going on all weekend.  It's kind of a nice thing to see them all get along so well since in a lot of other industries they would be competition but in food you can have 10 chefs all doing different things so you really only compete against yourself to produce good food.

The show took place over 3 days from September 18-20th.
I spent 2 days doing as much as I could at the show.

Although the main part of the show takes place at Brickworks it is also broken up into different events at Brickworks and also offsite at different restaurants like a special dinner at Mark McEwen's Bymark with Chef Curtis Stone.  There was also 2 brunches at both Buca and Cafe Boulud.

There were ticketed Chef workshops held onsite but I didn't attend any of those but I did attend the Cochon 555 Heritage BBQ on friday night.   I will do a separate post about that event.

Some of the Celebrity Chef demos that I sat in on included Top Chef's Gail Simmons who hails from Toronto but left at 18 to pursue her culinary career in New York and worked with Food & Wine Magazine.
Gail Simmons
Highly regarded Montreal Chef's Antonio Park and Chuck Hughes were also on hand for informative and entertaining demos.

The handsome and fun Aussie Chef Curtis Stone had the whole audience laughing and shaking their asses in his crazy cocktail, chocolate and salsa and chips demo.  He pulled a few people from the audience to play a hilarious game of chocolate love.
Curtis Stone and friends
There was also ahead of the Tech Curve West Coast Chef Tyler Florence on hand for a demo of the best fried chicken recipe I have ever tasted.  He also introduced everyone to a new recipe app that he is a part of that will be introduced in a couple of weeks that will change the cookbook game.

Tyler Florence
Besides the Celebrity Chef Demos there were Chef Talks where Chefs like Jason Bangertner from Langdon Hall, Matt Dean Pettit from Rock Lobster, and Roger Mooking from Twist and Antonio Park chatted about their careers and their food philosophies.

Amy Rosen & Jason Bangertner
There were plenty of well known Chefs heading up food boths in the Tasting Pavillion too.
David Rocco was on hand to promote his wines and well known Brickworks regular Doug McNish also had a booth.  Other popular restaurants represented included Beast, Cluny Bistro, Dirty Bird, Tabule restaurant, Pizzeria Libretto, El Catrin, Carver and a whole lot more.

David Rocco
The quality of the food was fantastic.  There was a lot of food to try but I couldn't eat as much as I would have like to try.

A few of the things that I did try that I loved included Carver's porchetta sandwich which was pretty popular with the Chefs and food bloggers.

I was also blown away by Tori's bakeshop's smoked beet and cashew cream crostini's.

Gail Simmons was also sampling her bread pudding recipe with little bites of both sweet and savoury bread pudding.  I only tried the sweet apple and it was delicious.

I also shared a Vegan pad thai dish but the vendors name unfortunately but they were set up in the area where the Brickworks regular vendors were.

I got a chance to sample some of Chef Antonio Parks amazing fish demo with a citrusy fresh herb vinaigrette pesto.  It was fish seared with a nice crust on the one side and then raw like sashimi through the rest.  It was sliced like sashimi and placed on top of the citrus pesto.  It tasted like ceviche.  I have never had that fish before but it's a mild light fish. I could have eaten the whole plateful but i got 2 pieces of the fish.

Antonio Park
I also got to sample the unbelievable fried chicken that Tyler Florence made.  He marinates it in fresh herbs and then cooks it low and slow and then breads it in seasoned flour and fries it in herb infused oil.  The result is flavour throughout ever bit of it and a super moist chicken even the chicken breast and that crunchy skin that makes fried chicken so good.  We need a TFC joint in Toronto I think.
This is the second time I have seen Tyler Florence and he really impresses me with his industry savvy on where things are going.  He headed up the food truck craze before there was one.  He shot his last cookbook using his ipad.  He is gearing up to launch a social recipe app and who knows what's next.  And he is a nice guy and handsome too.

Well it was a Food and Wine show but I didn't drink any wine but one of my friends enjoyed one of the tutor tastings.  There were other beverages on hand that were great too.  I had some of Pluck Tea's Ice tea in berry berry flavour.  My friends at Craft Soda were there sampling away.  I also tried a refreshing Milagros tequila cocktail.

There was a huge Magnum ice cream booth that had mini magnum ice creams.  I think that was one of my friends favourite stops.  It was appreciated on the hot and humid days.

There is usually a Farmer's Market every saturday and sunday at the Brickworks but it was held at another location but some of the vendors rotated in a smaller market set up on site.  I'm sure sure it was very helpful as it wasn't really a shopping event but more of an eating event.

The best part of the show was seeing all my blogger buddies wandering around and trying to scarf in as much food as they could muster.  And all the friendly Toronto Chefs like Roger Mooking, Brad Long and more just chilling and having fun.  Even my foodie dentist and his wife were there enjoying themselves.   This show is really for serious food lovers, people that will spend money on a good meal.   If you are looking for a food bargain this isn't the show for you.

Mark McEwen, Brad Long & Roger Mooking
I enjoyed myself but there were a few glitches as there always are in a festivals first year.  Theirs came from the venue and the timing of the event.  The venue is a mostly open structure with a couple of buildings in the middle that are air conditioned but the open ones are not.   So rain, heat and cold can play into the success of the event.   The location.  It's not very accessible because there isn't enough parking on site and the off site bus shuttle locations are very inconvenient.

Also affecting the commute was the TTC shutdown of the subway from Lawrence Stn to Bloor Stn. which didn't help people that live north of the city get there very easily.  

The first day of the show was mostly media types and by the afternoon when they all went back to their offices it was much quieter but on Saturday when the buses and shuttles were more available it was busier.

The cost of the show can get pretty expensive.  You buy a pass to the show and then receive a wristband that has a computer chip that you top up to pay for food and drinks.
Abbey Sharp & Mark McEwen
You also have to pay for many of the extra ticketed events both on site and off site.  Private chef workshops and dinners.  The dinner collaboration with Mark McEwen and Curtis Stone was $350 or equivalent air miles.  It can get pretty expensive if you want to see a lot and go for all 3 days.  There are some samples but most of the food is ticketed at various amounts.

Afrim Pristine -Cheese Boutique
I asked one of the Chefs about the location and he said it was really hot for them and they were having some electrical issues and said it was difficult to have staff get there.  One of the guys helping him was told to go and park at Lakeshore.  It was a friend helping him out so that's a bit off putting to the vendors.   We also talked about how in the U.S. they have much better venues for these types of events.  This has become one of my pet peeves of this city.  We really don't have a great event space where it's easy for vendors to attend and easily accessible for people to attend.    I would love to have the money to design one and build it from the ground up and make it a user friendly flexible space.  I need to win a lottery.

Well unfortunately at the time of writing this the show is now over but hopefully you can check it out next year and some of the venue kinks will be worked out a bit better.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Bake Code opens in North York

I woke up to Breakfast Television's Jennifer Valentyne saying that she was at the new Fusion Bakery Bake Code at Yonge and Sheppard this morning.  I knew it was opening this September as I have walked passed it and have seen the signs in the past couple of weeks.  It's taken over the former Second Cup space on the west side of Yonge Street.  I got up quickly and got ready to pop over for some fresh buns.  That's always a good thing.  They gave out $5 and $20 gift certificates to the first 100 people to get there during the BT live eye.

I got there just in time and used my $5 gift certificate to get a Brulee croissant and had that for breakfast and I got a Pork bun for my lunch.  I also picked up a passion fruit ice tea.

Bake Code is a European and Asian fusion bakery where you can find soft Asian buns with all kinds of flavours from sweet to savoury and also croissants and other baked goods.

They had samples of each of many of the different kinds of buns and the food was flying off the shelves.  They couldn't keep it stocked fast enough for all the BT viewers like me that dropped into the store.

I live in this area so I can tell you that there isn't anything like this in this area.  There are no bakeries so the only bread you can find is at grocery or convenience stores so there is never anything bakes fresh around this area.  This place is a great addition because you can grab a bun for breakfast, lunch or dessert and they are joined with Chatime so you can get a tea or coffee too.

It's similar to a Furama but a a touch of Dominique Ansel with French techniques and creativity.  I tasted a few really great things like the Brule croissant and a Pizza bread and a herb buns and a bunch more.

Their GRAND OPENING is September 17th at 10am.

I don't know if I will have a chance to be there for the ribbon cutting but if you can I think it would be worth checking it out.

Bake Code Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato