Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Maple Leaf Tavern gets a makeover

If you have lived in Toronto for a long time you may have heard of the 100 plus year old Maple Leaf Tavern.  It had a bit of a reputation in the city and had rooming houses above the street level restaurant/tavern.  Yes you can say it was a dump for sketchy regulars.  But things have changed.  The Maple Leaf Tavern is located across the street from Gerrard Square.  It's not in the fanciest part of town and more notably in a bit of a neglected area that is close to areas that have been changing so there is hope for the future when there is no space to do anything but renovate what's long overdue, like the Maple Leaf Tavern.

I spoke to one of the partners who said his family was in the construction business and he said it was quite the project with everything from plumbing to rework and to uncover original brick and redo the floors.  They basically stripped it back and kept some of the original while bringing it into the future.  I have never been there before but it was probably not a place I would have gone to in the past but I can honestly say it's the kind of place that I would be happy to go to now.  Too bad it's way out of the way from where I live.

It was 3 local well known chefs, Jesse Vallins, Binh An Nguyen and Jonny O’Callaghan that got this project off the ground.  Nguyen and O'Callaghan were formerly at the Beverly Hotel were they produced some beautiful food. I know this because I tasted it when they were there. Jesse Vallins is formerly from the Saint he is now the Executive Chef at Maple Leaf Tavern.

I attended the media preview although the official opening date is Tuesday, May 3 at 5pm.
I had to do a little of chasing food around the room to finally sample the sliders that immediately disappeared as soon as they left the kitchen and after finally trying one I can see why.  They were juicy and had a great sauce on it that was packed with flavour and served on a nice brioche bun.
The first thing out of the kitchen was their fantastic fries with ketchup and a housemade aoli.  They really put a lot of attention into the burger and fries. I think people expect to get a burger and fries at a tavern but these were really great. They also put a spin on fish and chips with a potato flake crusted ground fish cake.  

They had marinated olives and also some spicy I would bet housemade or local sausages that were fantastic served with a pineapple glaze mayo.  Not what you would expect.

They had a couple of bartenders that had quite the workout shaking up all kinds of interesting drinks including a Stealth Margarita with cucumber, lime and jalapeno,  the Nacional a pineapple flavoured cocktail that was my favourite drink of the night. Also pictured was an orange foam drink.

The set up is a little different.  The kitchen is at the back and it's open and I am sure the chefs will quickly get tired of people staring at them while they are prepping foods.  The centre of the room is the bar which splits the space into 2 rooms.  It's a fairly large wrap around bar that is the first thing you see when you walk in.  On one side of the bar is more of a sit down formal restaurant while the other side is the bar with intimate booths along the wall.  It was a heck of a lot more crowded on that side and it's also the darker side of the space while the restaurant side has huge windows.  There is also a private room downstairs but we didn't get a chance to see it.  I think they said it would hold 30 people.

I hope I get a chance to be in the area again to sample some stuff off the menu and see what else they have in store.  The quality of the food is great and I hope this is the start of a new destination area for future restaurants to open.  

Good luck to the Maple Leaf Tavern Team.  You have done a great job of turning this place around.

The Tavern will be open 7 days a week, from 3pm - 12am.
*Please note for the first week of opening (May 3 - 10), hours begin at 5pm.

Maple Leaf Tavern
955 Gerrard St. East, Toronto, ON

Social media handles: 
Maple Leaf Tavern Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
and of course some Maple Leaf cookies for dessert.

Pearl Diver introduces WeChat Wednesdays

Pearl Diver TO
There's another Social APP that originated in China that is rapidly becoming the new thing and it's being introduced to the Toronto market.  I attended a fabulous media dinner at Pearl Diver seafood restaurant for WeChat Wednesday.  I have been to Pearl Diver before but we were introduced to some new special menu items that will be on the menu this spring.  The Pearl Diver restaurants originated in Asia and is fairly new to Canada, there will soon be 7 restaurants in total.

Let me explain We Chat first.  WeChat is a new app that is also a loyalty program. It's a hybrid type app like whatsapp, twitter, instagram and facebook combined.  It was developed in China and has over 600 million users.  A lot of the users in China use it to communicate for free to family members in Canada so this is why they are looking to expand to North America to grow the number of users and therefore grow the benefits of using the app.   Unfortunately because my cell phone is so jam packed with images I didn't have the storage space to load the app but all of my fellow diners did and they were able to connect with each other in the room with the location feature.  I wish I could tell you what the experience using it is like but I won't be able to until I get a new phone that can keep up with me.  So you will have to check it out for yourself but my foodie friends seemed to like the features they were playing with.


  • 1 point for every $1 spend at PD (not including tax & tip)
  • Points are transferable – $20 per transfer
  • REWARD POINTS (valid until March 31st of every year)
There are multi levels and you can even earn a trip to Shanghai or Beijing. You can make free calls and have group chats and also post moments which are like instagram/facebook posts is how it was explained to me.

Pearl Diver will be introducing a series of WeChat Wednesdays where you can get 10% off your bill if you use the WeChat app.  They will also teach you about oysters with a special of 3 oysters, a glass of beer or wine or a highlighted cocktail for $8.88. They will also have an Oyster special for $28.88 which has 4 different kinds of oysters which change every week.

The dinner we had on WeChat Wednesday was delicious.
The Menu:

  • A selection of oysters from the East Coast and the West coast.

  • Seared Diver Scallops with watercress, house smoked pork belly, rhubarb and brown butter vinaigrette

  • Atlantic Lobster tiger salad, PD ponzu sauce

  • Menonite Pork Chop with summer potato bacon hash, braised red cabbage with blackcurrant glaze

  • Steelhead Trout with avocado, edamame, broccollini & tomatillo

The flavours are fresh and bold and you can get a really great selection of seafood dishes from this Steelhead trout to a bowl of mussels to their huge selection of freshly shucked oysters.  I think I like the tiny little oysters from the East Coast the best.


  • Dark Chocolate Delice with cherry compote, passion fruit coulis, cocoa nib & peanut brittle
  • Hibiscus Poached Peach & Hazelnut cake with mascarpone, blueberry compote and toasted pine nuts.

This Dark Chocolate dessert was my favourite thing.  I could have eaten 2 platefulls it was so good.
The pastry chef has been working on trying to use less butter and sugar in desserts while retaining full flavour from natural ingredients.

For more information about Pearl Diver
Pearl Diver 100 Adelaide St E, Toronto, ON M5C 1K6
Reservations 416-366-7827
WeChat: PDToronto
Twitter:  @PearlDiverTO
Instagram: @pearlDiverTo

Hours of Operation

Mon to Wed - Noon to 12am
Thurs & Fri - Noon to 1am
Sat - 4pm to 1am
Sun - 11am to 12am

Pearl Diver Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Novotel Vaughan celebrates 5 years at Trio Restaurant

Location:   Novotel Hotel Vaughan
Event:        Media cocktails at Trio Restaurant
Reason:     Trio Restaurant's 5th Anniversary
Date:         April 14,  2016
Hashtag:   #NovotelVaughan5
Website:    Novotel Trio Restaurant

I was invited by my fiend Mary (Maryshappybelly) to join her for Trio Restaurant at the Novotel in Vaughan's 5th Anniversary event.  They invited a few bloggers and others to sample some of the food available at the restaurant.

They want to remind everyone that you don't have to stay at the Hotel to enjoy the Restaurant and Lounge.  The Novotel has a really bright and open space that is perfect for lounging with friends over a drink and some appetizers.  My fellow bloggers and I enjoyed the food and the atmosphere very much.

We sampled the following foods:  
Addictive Coconut Shrimps,  Ooey gooey Oka Cheese Fondue,  Freshly Shucked Oysters with various sauces,  Pulled Pork and Pulled Duck Tacos, my fav was the flavourful duck taco.  There was also mini crab cakes and crostini's.
Then to top it all off there was a massive assortment of mini pastries and a fruit platter.

The staff were so hospitable as you would expect from a Worldwide Hotel chain.
The food was amazing and we really enjoyed ourselves that evening.  It felt like a private party with close friends even though we didn't know everyone there we all had the love of food and beautiful spaces in common.

I wish I still had my car because it's really close to where a couple of my friends live and it would be the kind of place that I would love to meet up with them to chill and catch up.

It's a hop skip away from the Vaughan Mills Mall so if you go there to shop and are hungry and exhausted afterward I would suggest instead of hitting a packed so so food spot in the mall, head over to Trio and unwind over some delicious food and drinks.  You will love it.

*Disclaimer:  I was provided food and drinks at this event but was not compensated for writing this post and all the opinions are my own.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Gluten Free Pop-up market kicks of Celiac Awareness Month on May 1st

The Gluten Free Garage is a pop-up farmer’s market event with a gluten-free twist that kicks off Celiac Awareness Month on May 1st at Artscape Wychwood Barns.  

It offers one-stop shopping for local and artisanal gluten-free food, creates awareness about this pain-in-the-gut disease, and proves that gluten-free food can be super tasty. This foodie event is built for people with celiac and gluten intolerance but everyone on the gluten-free spectrum will want to indulge.

The event was founded by Toronto mom RonniLyn Pustil - mom of a 10-year-old daughter who was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2009. RonniLyn’s  family life forever changed when her daughter Lily was diagnosed with celiac disease at age 3. To ensure that her daughter (and the rest of her family, since they made their entire house gluten free to ensure no mistakes or cross-contamination would happen at home) would have delicious food to eat, she combed the city in search of fresh gluten-free food that was made locally. Eventually, she came up with the idea for the Gluten Free Garage to share her finds with others who are gluten free and to create awareness about the disease.

This year’s 5th pop-up features more than 60 local and artisanal vendors handpicked to showcase the city’s tastiest gluten-free eats and drinks—from pastries to pasta to pirogies. Highlights include fresh food prepared onsite, food trucks, beer and cider sampling, free tote bags (for the first 1,000 guests), and five awesome guest speakers speaking to different aspects of living gluten free.

I went to this event last year and even though I don't have celiac disease I found it interesting and went with a friend who is diabetic who found some of the items interesting for him

To get you started they have provided a recipe for Mac & Cheese and Chocolate Chip Cookies, which I know is something that people miss when they have to switch to gluten free foods.

Mac & Cheese
Serves 2 to 4 people.
 It’s ideal for a weeknight meal: the sauce is a snap to make, and if you’re in a real rush, you don’t even need to bake it. 
Throw in some chopped greens like kale or broccoli, or add a smoky kick with a little bit of chopped chipotle. 

8 ounces brown rice elbow pasta
2 tablespoons Earth Balance Buttery Sticks 
1¼ cups coconut milk beverage
6 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1½ teaspoons onion powder
1½ teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
Ground black pepper
1 tablespoon arrowroot starch
1 cup Daiya mozzarella-style shreds
1 15-oz can puréed butternut squash (or 1½ cups roasted and puréed squash)
½ cup gluten-free bread crumbs
½ to 1 teaspoon paprika
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions.
In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter. Add the milk, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, mustard, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Whisk briskly to combine. Slowly whisk in the arrowroot starch. 
Simmer until the sauce begins to thicken, about 5 minutes. Add the mozzarella shreds and slowly whisk until melted, about 5 minutes. Add the squash and whisk until everything is combined and heated through. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce, stirring gently to combine. Season to taste.
Pour the mixture into an ovenproof baking dish—either a 9-inch (round) glass pie plate or a 9- × 9-inch square dish works well.
In a saucepan, melt the remaining butter. Add the bread crumbs and toss to coat well, then sprinkle evenly over the pasta. Top with a sprinkling of paprika. Bake for 15 minutes or until the sauce begins to bubble. Serve hot with a side salad and ketchup or hot sauce.


Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 18 cookies

2½ cups brown rice flour
½ cup potato starch
2 tablespoons arrowroot starch
1 teaspoon gluten-free baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon sea salt
¾ cup + 1 tablespoon organic sugar
¾ cup agave nectar
1⁄3 cup melted coconut oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon organic blackstrap molasses
2⁄3 cup vegan semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. 
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, both starches, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, and salt. Whisk to combine. 
In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, agave nectar, oil, vanilla, and molasses. 
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix well using a spatula. Fold in the chocolate chips until evenly distributed. 
Using your hands, roll the dough into golf-ball-size pieces and place on the prepared baking sheets. Press down to flatten each ball to about ¼ inch thick and 2½ inches in diameter, being mindful to keep them spaced about 1 inch apart. 
Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden. Let sit on the baking sheets for at least 20 minutes, to firm up. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely, or eat them all right away.

There are lot's of products to sample and also talks by experts in the field.
I am hoping to go and try lots of stuff again this year.  see ya there.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Rene Redzepi's Ants on a Shrimp

Denmarks' Rene Redzepi is considered to be one of the most influential Michelin Star Chef's in the world.  His Denmark restaurant NOMA was chosen as one of the 50 best Restaurants in the WORLD.  If you aren't a jet setting rich gourmand then you might not know who he is but a lot of people around the world do and they flock to eat things like his "Ants on a Shrimp". Ut is also the name of a new Documentary that is being screened at this year's Hot Docs Film Festival.  

Eatable Films is bringing this intense look into the inner workings of creating a NOMA restaurant in Japan after closing down his Denmark restaurant temporarily.  This film isn't for the Kraft dinner or takeout pizza  crowd.  It's for people who take their food seriously and want to know where it comes from and who's making it.  

Redzepi gained his reputation from foraging for his ingredients near his restaurant in Denmark and then transforming them using modern techniques while still keeping it simple and clean.  The film focuses on Redzepi and his team of Chef's who look to Japan's native foraged ingredients to create a new menu that has Japanese roots while using his technical spin. You can see the toll it takes on the lives of Redzepi's team as they put their whole life into the new Noma restaurant  It's focus is laser sharp.  Look at this photo of Ants on a Shrimp.  Placed there one by one and making sure that the shrimp are alive when presented to guests.  Are you a food risk taker or a food conservative?  

Redzepi is the ultimate risk taker who is always looking for the unknown to become known.  


Eatable Films dinner to celebrate Canadian premiere of Ants on a Shrimp.
Featuring ‘The Canadian Landscape in five courses’by Chef Justin Cournoyer of Actinolite.

On May 1, 2016, in celebration of Hot Docs’ Canadian premiere of Ants on a Shrimp, the hottest food documentary of 2016, Eatable Films, Toronto’s first food film festival, curates an exclusive dinner featuring one of Canada’s most celebrated restaurants, Actinolite. Inspired by the seasonality of the Canadian landscape, Chef Justin Cournoyer will present the essence of our Canadian spring. 

THE IMMERSIVE DINING EXPERIENCE: Enter the world of culinary creation inspired by the Canadian landscape. In celebration of the film Ants on a Shrimp, Chef Justin Cournoyer of Actinolite will tell the story of seasonality and the Canadian landscape. This unique 5 course dinner will include; wild foraged ingredients, locally grown vegetables, meats, fish and grains. The dinner is a combination of highs and lows, expected and unexpected, familiar and unfamiliar. The exclusive experience, limited to 160 guests, includes film tickets and dinner with wine/alcohol pairings, served steps from the Isabel Bader Theatre screening, in the hundred-year old, neo-gothic Burwash Hall. The film’s director, Maurice Dekkers, will be in attendance. Eatable Films invites you to Eat. Drink. Think.

Sunday, May 1, 2016
Screening at 6:45pm Isabel Bader Theatre, 93 Charles Street W., Toronto
Dinner at 8:45pm at Burwash Hall, Victoria College, University of Toronto, 73 Queens Park Crescent E., Toronto
Featuring Chef Justin Cournoyer, Actinolite
With special guests, including Maurice Dekkers, Ants on a Shrimp
Tickets $190pp, including screening, dinner and wine/alcohol pairings
Tickets now available at

Chef Justin Cournoyer is an advocate for the culture of food - the inherent wisdom of our ancestors in following the land to cook with what you have around you at the moment, within our Canadian Seasons. One of the most important connections is to the source of the food itself. Actinolite Restaurant works directly with farmers, fisheries, mills and vintners to pull together the best they have to offer and craft the journey of the meal. When you turn yourself over to the journey, the sum is so much more than the parts. Cournoyer’s meals are beautifully choreographed to be memorable and to make you want to come back and be taken by the hand once more. 

In January 2015, the food world holds its breath while renowned chef Rene Redzepi temporarily closes Noma, considered the world’s best restaurant, and transports his entire team from Copenhagen to Tokyo for a five-week pop-up. Known for translating the essence of Denmark's unique flavours into one-of-a-kind dishes, now neither Redzepi nor his staff know anything of the local food resources. With Redzepi’s international reputation hanging in the balance, filmmaker Maurice Dekkers delivers a once-in-a-lifetime behind-the-scenes peek inside the intense pressure, determined artistry and impossible challenge of life inside a kitchen of unparalleled ambition.

ABOUT HOT DOCSHot Docs, North America’s largest documentary festival, conference and market, will present its 23rd annual edition from April 28–May 8, 2016. An outstanding selection of 232 documentaries from Canada and around the world will be presented to Toronto audiences and international delegates. Hot Docs will also mount a full roster of conference sessions and market events and services for documentary practitioners, including the renowned Hot Docs Forum, Hot Docs Deal Maker and The Doc Shop. In partnership with Blue Ice Group, Hot Docs operates the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, a century-old landmark located in Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood.

ABOUT EATABLE: An innovative and immersive experience, Eatable Films is the first film food festival in Toronto. Its mandate is to provide audiences with a new way to get excited about food. Eatable satiates the hungry viewer and inspires the food-obsessed mind.

Website and Social Media:
Hot Docs
Eatable Films
Actinolite Restaurant

*photos provided by Eatable Films

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Green Living Show highlights

The Green Living Show is back again at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and I checked it out on Friday afternoon.  Here are some of the highlights of the show and a few things I picked up.  I wasn't planning on doing any shopping,  just lot's of sampling and seeing what's new.

When I first got there I decided to start at the Food End of the show of course and walked by my friend Richa's booth for Good food for Good but she wasn't at the booth so I walked through the aisle and stumbled on one of the stages and who was on stage doing a presentation but the energetic and funny nutritionist Julie Daniluk.  I always learn something new every time I listen to her speak so I plunked myself down in the front row so I wouldn't disturb anyone since she was midway in her talk.  Julie was speaking about hugging and the power of touch and walked over to me and said hi and used me as the example to connect to someone.  I think she knew I would be a safe bet to get her message across but it was nice that she used the moment as the perfect time to say hi.  She had talks scattered throughout the weekend.  As I write this it's the last day of the show. I wanted to write this post earlier to get the info out but didn't have a chance to.   I hope a couple of you get a chance to stop by before it ends or plan to go next year.
The show did seem a little different this year. It was very quiet on the friday and it seemed like there were less food companies this year.

But returning again with a huge booth were my other friends at Organic Garage.  They have the best booth at the show since they have a whole bunch of their vendors set up sampling.  I liked a couple of the samples so much that I bought them.  I picked up Organic Garlic Coconut Oil which they sampled on popcorn.  It was amazing and I think it would be amazing for bread dipping or garlic bread or in dressings.  No more garlic hands from peeling garlic.  I also picked up Organic chocolate covered almonds because they were just so good.

I wandered around by myself for a while then a couple of my friends joined me after they finished work.  We saw Chef Rodney Bowers and my friend got excited and got a selfie with him.  He was in the ticketed food section.  We didn't end up getting anything there and just tried a lot of the samples around the show.

This year they were giving out Powerbars and free entrance to attendees that brought in e-waste.  You know if everyone at the show brought in e-waste or walked away with an eco power bar that would make a huge difference in energy and also in landfill waste.  Great initiative.

Besides all the food products including food using insects as the protein ingredient, there was also beauty products.  I stopped to check out one booth and was impressed by the creator who said she created it for her own use.   I was struck by the packaging.  I saw Mature to Dry Hotty Balm.  When do you ever see that stand out on a beauty product?  They always cater to young skin even though everyone wants anti ageing which is usually what it says.  But I liked the idea of a balm for your face because my skin has started to lose it's youthful glow. Yeah I know I lost it a long time ago but let's see if this can bring some of it back.  It made my skin feel soft without being sticky or smelly.  It's made with beeswax and jojoba oil and shea butter and host of other natural ingredients. I like that it's a balm so that I can carry it around in my bag without worrying about a mess.

This show is all about Eco in any area of life.  There were sections for kids with a sandbox even.

There was a row of wood home decor products, jewellery, clothing, cars, bikes, healthcare products, suppliments and beauty products and even things like a lightbulb that lasts for 40 years.  So while everything might not interest everyone, there is something that will help everyone that attends.
My friend picked up hot/cool silicone packs for himself and his mom.

If you are interested in finding products to swap that help the environment instead of harm it then this is a good place to check it out.  And even if you don't want to buy products it's a great place to listen to people like Julie Daniluk and other health and business experts speak about interesting topics.

Go Green.... save the planet and check out the Green Living Show.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Green Living Show celebrates 10 years

The Green Living Show
returns to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre from 
April 15-17, 2016 for it's 10th year.  

I think I may have attended at least half of those 10 years of shows.  

You don't have to be a super Ecoholic to go to the show but if you want to see a lightbulb that will last 30 years or you like to grow herbs and forget about them for 2 weeks then this is the show for you.

The show is packed full of good for you and the planet foods such as honey, and various snacks from granola to kale chips as expected to local restaurants who are leading the way in local, organic and good for sustainability products.  

The show is divided into different areas from wines and the large food section to home products, to beauty and fashion products, health products, vehicles of all sorts, and an area for the kids.  
It really is a show for everyone that is looking for things for the future.

I got a chance to attend the Media Preview this week at the Merchants of Green Coffee and sampled some of the foods and check out some of the products that will be at the show.

I can now say that I have tried crickets and mealworms because of one of the vendors doing a taste test to guess from 3 plates of pasta which was made with crickets, mealworms or beef.  I guess the beef but I can honestly say that the one with the mealworms had the most robust flavour.

Beet cheesecake
Smores poptart
Duck Riette
squash and apple soup

Cauliflower au gratin
Grits and chickpeas

You can check out these cool things at the show too.  This little e-bike and a personal washing machine.  There will be a humungous Flag that you can sign too.

There are lots of samples and interactive things to try at the show and it's a great place to bring kids to learn about doing things that are good for the environment and educating them why they should consider what they do in their futures.  It can be a little thing like eating mealworm spaghetti sauce to reduce the methane gas that cows produce and the amount of water needed to grow cattle.  To supporting companies that produce products that don't end up in landfills because we will run out of room to put all this garbage if we keep up on the level of consumerism that we are experiencing now.

You can even get into the Show for Free if you bring Electronic waste that they will collect to be recycled.   You can also possibly walk away with an eco power bar too.

For more information check the Green Living Show Website: 

Here is some ticket info:

FREE 3-Day Entry
  • When you bring in e-waste for recycling
  • For all WWF CN Tower climbers
  • When you show your GO Transit ticket valid for the day of admission
  • Show your PRESTO Card
  • Show your Live Green Card
Adult Admission                  $15.00
Seniors (65+)                      $10.00
Students with photo ID       $10.00
Children under 12               Free with an Adult present
School Group Rate             $8.00 pp (10+)
Box office special               Friday evening $10 after 4 p.m.
Re-Admission                    Buy 1 adult, student or senior ticket and return to the show free all weekend.

 *disclaimer:  I attended the media preview and was given samples to try but the opinions in this blog are my own.