Sunday, August 13, 2017

Pan American Food & Music Festival



Festival:     Pan American Food & Film Festival
Date:          August 11-13, 2017
Location:   Yonge & Dundas Square
Website:     http://panamfest.com/
Twitter/Instagram @PanamFestTO

It's Food Festival season in Toronto and there were at least 5 food festivals happening in Toronto on August 12th but I dropped by the Pan American Food & Music Festival.  Celebrating it's 4th year and moving to Yonge and Dundas from the former Daniels Spectrum venue.

I went to check out the Chef's Challenge and had a chance to chat with Chef Jagger Gordon.  Chef Gordon has an organization called Feed it Forward where he utilizes his skills as a Chef and an activist to feed people in need.  He has recently opened a Soup restaurant that feeds people in need using tokens paid for by other customers.  He is looking for a space to be able to set up cooking meals for more people and wants to open a grocery store to share donated food.   At the Pan American festival he set up a Chef's Challenge using some of the produce from his farm and other donations and had 3 local chef teams competing to create some great dishes using the food provided.  In 45 minutes they had to test their creative skills and feed the people in the audience for a $5 ticket.  Chef Gordon operates using skilled and non skilled volunteers and is always looking for more help to expand.  He would also like to get people to sign a petition to get the government to make it illegal for grocery stores to throw food out but have to donate it to charities and food banks.  
You can sign the Petition CLICK here:

The Chefs competing in the Chef's Challenge included local Chefs Devan Rajkumar, Doris Fin and Nick Vorlicek.   I don't even know who won because it was chaos afterward with the audience jumping to the front to get their food.  They got to try all 3 dishes for $5.   Chef Devan was the first to finish using his Ninja knife skills to make his version of a vegetarian Ceviche.  Chef Doris also made a salad and Chef Nick made a pasta dish.

Chef Devon

Chef Doris
Chef Nick
           
 


Here is my quick interview with Chef Jagger Gordon on Feed it Forward and the Chef Challenge.




After the Chef Challenge there was also a butter tart challenge.  For $10 you could try 6 different versions of butter tarts.  The 2 people i knew put a creative spin on theirs.  Vanessa from Holy Cannoli made butter tart Cannoli's and Olivia Simpson from Hawthorne Food & Drink made Coconut charcoal activated crusted butter tarts.  Another competitor added beer and another one added peach bits and there was a pecan one and a gooey traditional one which was the winner the previous year.  I really like that one.

 


 There is also a few food trucks and vendors at the festival to sample things from BBQ'd meat to Corn on the Cob and more.


I was there for the food mostly but heard the music in the background and a lot of the chefs  were even dancing to the music.  I saw a little bit of one of the dance groups but I couldn't stay late to watch more.   But everyone had a great time and even when it rained nobody left and it didn't seem to bother anyone.

It was also nice to see my festival friend Pamela volunteering at the program table.  She volunteers at a lot of the festivals around town and I run into her at both film and food festivals all the time. I used to volunteer and now I write but it's always fun to be at a good festival.



Saturday, August 5, 2017

Food Day Canada- Easy Caesar Dressing Potato salad



Today is FOOD DAY CANADA  #FoodDayCanada - August 5, 2017.

Anita Stewart

It's a day created by ANITA STEWART, C.M., LLD (Hon), M.A (Gastronomy), P.Ag (Hon)
President of Food Day Canada and Member of the Order of Canada among other distinctions.  

Stewart created the term "culinary tourism" and has been a tireless Champion of Canadian Foods, Restaurants and the talent Chefs who showcase our great products.

I was lucky to be able to spend an afternoon with Anita on a Lentil tour of some amazing restaurants in Toronto.  It was one of my favourite experiences.  She really has her hands on the food pulse of Canada.

You can Join the Party by visiting a Canadian Restaurant that showcases Canadian products or you can visit your local Farmer's Market or Cook something yourself to celebrate our own diversity of delicious food. In honour of Food Day Canada I thought I would use some of my Farmer's Market produce to make a great Summer Salad.

EASY CAESAR DRESSING POTATO SALAD  



RECIPE

Ingredients
1 pt or a small container of Farmer's Market New Potatoes  approx 2-3 pounds depending on size.
1/3 Caesar dressing,  a good ready made one or make your own.
2 Green Onions
1 stalk of celery
1/4 lemon slices
4 hard boiled eggs
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 green pepper chopped
salt, pepper and Paprika to taste and garnish

Directions

Rinse the new potatoes and cut in half and boil in salted water for about 15-20 minutes or until a knife cuts through easily.  To cook your eggs place in a small saucepan and cover with cold water.  Place on the stove and cook on high heat until the water boils rapidly and continue to cook for about 2 minutes.  Turn the heat off and let sit for another 5 minutes and then run under cold water and peel.

Chop the green onions into small pieces.  Dice the green pepper and slice the celery into 1/4 inch pieces.  Finely chop the parsley.

Peel and cut the boiled eggs into halves or quarters or slices depending on how you want to place it into your potato salad.  I just sliced mine in half and placed on the sides.

Once the potatoes are cooked drain and place them in a large bowl and add the Caesar dressing and toss while they are still warm so that the dressing can penetrate the potatoes and add more flavour.  Add the celery, green onions and green peppers and toss.  Squeeze a bit of lemon on top and add the parsley and dress your plate with the eggs and lemon slices and add salt, pepper and paprika on top to season and garnish.

*Optional,  Add some crumbled bacon on top.  I didn't have any or I would have.

Serve at room temperature or place it in the fridge to cool.  Do not let it sit out too long because of the mayo based dressing.

This recipe is a bit of a potato salad twist and inspired by the ingredients I had in my fridge from my Farmer's Market purchases this past week.

Show Food Day Canada what has inspired you and don't forget to add the Hashtags #FoodDayCanada and CanadaisFood to your photos so that Anita Stewart can see your Canadian Food Love.



Thursday, July 27, 2017

Vaughan Pizza Fest 2017



I received an invite to attend the Vaughan Pizza Fest at the Woodbridge Fair Grounds held from July 14 to 16th.  The festival is in it's 2nd year.  There aren't many big festivals in Vaughan but I think a few people are trying to create some new ones.

It's about a half hour drive from me but without a car it's a bit of a trek.  I thought it might be fun to check it out on a quiet sunday and a friend suggested taking the Vaughan Mills Shuttle to get there.  Good idea maybe.  It's a free shuttle.  But the thing is that it only leaves at 2 times from Front Street.  At 8:30am and 1pm.  There was no way I would go at 8:30 so I opted for 1pm.  Well I wasn't sure how it worked so I left my house at 11:30am and got there early so I had a drink at Starbucks while waiting.  There are 2 buses.  By the time I found out what the procedure was I missed the first bus but I got on the second bus and we left about 1:10pm.  It takes about 45 min to get to Vaughan Mills which is great because there are no stops on the way.  Traffic was good luckily.
It's a free shuttle so that was great.  I wish it left earlier so that I would have had time to wander around Vaughan Mills for a bit.  But I had my friend who lives in Vaughan come and pick me up from there to get to the Woodbridge Fair Grounds.  

We got there about 15 minutes later.  We arrive at the parking lot and the attendant asks us for $10 for the entrance fee.  We tell him that we are supposed to check in for Media but he doesn't know where that's supposed to be so he directs us to park behind the stage area.  We walk in from there and proceed to try and find somewhere to check in.  Nobody seems to know where we are supposed to go. We finally go to one of the ticket stations and one of the organizers happened to be walking by so he gave us some food tickets.   We had 10 each.   Most of the pizzas were from 8 to 10 tickets.   A little while later the organizer got us a slice of the pizza that Philadelphia Pizza King Joe Beddia made from Pizzeria Bedia.  He is a big deal apparently.  He only makes 40 pizzas a day and has lineups around the block for his pizzas.  I don't know why they go crazy for them but the crust was really good.  It had a crunch and didn't flop from the weight of the cheese.  The sauce and cheese were ok.  He sprinkles some herbs on top too.

We only tried one other pizza and that was from Bestia Food Truck.  I heard that they made good pizzas but I hadn't had a chance to check it out before.  I liked the simple sauce and the cheese was good fiore de latte cheese.  The crust good but a bit flimsy in the middle as most Neopolitan crusts are but I really liked the authentic Italian taste of it.



 


We only tried one other Pizza and that was from Bestia Pizza Truck.  I heard they had good pizzas so I got the Margherita pizza.  It was a good traditional Neopolitan pizza.  Fresh tomato sauce and basil with Fiore de Latte cheese.  Not too much toppings and the crust tasted good but like most it got soggy in the middle after a few minutes but I really liked the taste of it. 

               

It was great to see Festival regular vendor Holy Cannoli at the festival.  I used my last tickets to get some Cannoli's for the road.  

Besides the food vendors there was a ferris wheel and Carnival games and things for kids and for the Adults there were several high profile acts.  Stevie B packed the festival on the Friday night.  I left a couple of hours before David Usher was supposed to perform on the sunday night to close the festival.  

It was super hot that day so it was probably the slowest day of the festival and the weather reports threatened rain the whole day while black clouds loomed above.   Luckily we missed the rain.
It was great to hang out in Vaughan with my Vaughan resident friend and after the festival we went for some Italian Gelato to top our Italian themed day.

While the journey there took me a while about 2 1/2 from home to the festival.  I probably won't do that again.  My friend gave me a ride back to Wilson Station so that I didn't have to rush to get the shuttle at 6pm and go downtown again.  I think if I go again I would just get a Zipcar to go for a few hours.  I think it would save me a whole lot of time.  But the good thing is that since it's in Vaughan there is Free Parking.  That doesn't happen at Toronto Festivals anymore.

This festival is a bit green to me.  They need a bit of festival experience under their belt and staff that are trained a bit more but I still had a good time hanging out with my friend.

For more information check their website:  http://vaughanpizzafest.com/

Instagram:  @vaughanpizzafestival 
 Twitter https://twitter.com/allaboutvaughan
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/vaughanpizzafest



Sunday, July 23, 2017

Captain's Boil Pirate Ship Party

AYE Matey!

FEAST LIKE A PIRATE, DINE LIKE A CAPTAIN


Event:               Captain's Boil Pirate Ship Party
Location:          Queen's Quay
Date:                July 5, 2017
Reason:            Lobster Roll & Bisque Launch
Website:           https://www.thecaptainsboil.com/


Have you ever been on a Pirate Ship?  No,  well I can say I have now.  I got a chance to board a Pirate Ship for a party hosted by the Captain's Boil to launch their new Lobster Bisque and Lobster Rolls in their restaurants.  The Captain's Boil Chain have 22 locations in Canada and 16 in Ontario.  I haven't had the chance to dine at one of the restaurants yet but I hope to soon, so this was my first taste of their food.

If you are not familiar with their restaurants their concept is to choose your seafood choice and then you choose your flavours, the heat and add ons and sides and they take your seafood choices and boil it in a bag and serve it to you with the bag and all the juices from the boiled seafood and flavours.

They also have a sizzling plate combo that you can order.

The items that I tried on the Pirate Ship were their new Lobster Bisque.  I enjoyed the bisque, it was very mild though.  They also served up bags of drinks with straws.  I had the Soju lemonade.   There were also mini Lobster rolls with bacon.  They were ok but I think a little lemon and a squirt of mayo and some seasoning would have boosted the flavour.

It was a perfect night to hang out on a Pirate Ship though.  It's too bad we were just docked because it would have been fun to cruise around Lake Ontario in a Pirate Ship.   Although their locations aren't on a boat so if you want to try their food you will have to check out one of their restaurants soon.  There are a few more opening soon to check out.  


*Disclaimer- The food and drink was provided by the Captain's Boil but the opinions and photos are my own.


Saturday, July 22, 2017

Hot Summer Night at St. Lawrence Market


Event:          Summer Series Season 2
Location:     St. Lawrence Market
Date:           July 20, 2017
Tickets:        $30
Website:      www.stlawrencemarket.com


It's not often that you will hear me say that an event went off without a hitch.  It almost never happens.  But I can honestly say that the stars aligned for the Summer Series at St. Lawrence Market.

Because it's held on the Patio on the Upper Level of the St. Lawrence Market the success of the event is really contingent on the weather cooperating.  After a quick rain around lunch time the weather cleared up and the sun came out just in time for this spectacular event.  I think it would have been a very different outcome it had happened during the lunch hour.

The Summer Series is a way to celebrate the St. Lawrence Market vendors with help from the Food Dudes caterers.  The Food Dudes are quickly becoming caterers who do full entertainment events like this one.  It's all about Food, Music, Art, and interactive entertainment.



This event got so many things right that I need to really highlight them.

1.  Amazing FOOD,  a great variety of really fresh food for everyone.  From fresh Ceviche to Vegan Ice Cream and things that anyone could eat and it was all fantastically delicious.  Healthy and light dishes like Jhal Muri to decadent Banquet burgers and Paella.

2.  Music and Entertainment,  there were live artists who were great and didn't overpower the conversations people around them were having but still noticeable to people interested in listening to them.  There was also a DJ and the music really complimented the chill patio vibes. There were also a couple of stilt walkers wandering around and posing for pictures.

3.  The Art,  I really loved the live artists painting huge mural paintings as people strolled by.  There was also a guy doing body painting on some models.  There were some sand creations and lovely touches of artistic decor.

4.  Decor,  It was beautiful.  They rented a nice mix of couches, high tops and tables so that people could be comfortably seated in groups, or couples or singles.  I am sure someone carefully thought about the placement of the decor because there was a nice flow.  It made the normally picnic table studded patio look elegant.

5.  The STAFF,  fantastic staff all around.  I have been noticing this a lot lately and everyone delivered in spades.  The food vendors were on top of things and served quickly.  The clean up staff were on top of things.  The security were present but not overbearing.  The check in staff were very efficient.

6.  The TICKETING,  The invites went through Eventbrite which made it pretty quick to get in.  I entered and checked in with the media desk quickly and was presented with a lanyard with tickets for food and drink tucked into the plastic lanyard.  This was a really smart way to do it.  No fumbling with where you put your tickets.  I wish everyone would adopt this system.  It's so much simpler.

7.  DRINKS,  this was really important for me.  They had many large iced self serve water dispensers on the many bar stations with cups beside it for people to quickly help themselves.  There were great bar servers providing an assortment of alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks.   Not the standard just beer and wine and maybe some soda.  I really loved the Kahlua and Hennessy Iced Coffee.  That really did it for me.

8.  PRICE,  I thought the $30 price was really reasonable for the amount of entertainment that was provided and the quality of the space and the food.

9.  EXTRAS - A couple of excellent extras were the lovely Fun Flower Stand girls handing out flowered hair clips and hair bands.  Even some of the boys got in on this little cute touch.   There was also an amazing woman doing Henna tattoos on peoples hands.  Two of my friends did this.  It was a long line to get it done because she was really good at it.


10.  PEOPLE and VIBE - There was a really great mix of people.  Not the same people that go to every event but people who enjoy a night out with friends.  From young professionals to old friends.  My 3 blogger friends and I were the only bloggers there and the Instagram invasion were nowhere in site and it really made it more about hanging out and enjoying the food and the people you were with.  We really enjoyed it because it's rare that we can all attend the same event and just hang out and not be rushed to just get photos for our blog content.  It was one of my friends birthday the day before and another the week before so it was a great way to hang out and celebrate their birthdays.  We had a really great time and the fantastic weather really made the whole thing really pleasant and enjoyable.


I had 4 food tickets and a few drink tickets so with my food tickets I got the Ravioli with meat sauce and pesto and alfredo sauce.  This is one of my favourite things at the market on a usual day.  We all went crazy for the Sea bass ceviche on a tostada.  They were perfection.  One thing I have been wanting to make and find around the city and was really happy to see was the Indian spiced Jhal Muri, a mix of freshly diced vegetables like onions, cucumbers and tomatoes mixed with spiced crunchy chickpeas and lentils, puffed rice and a few other things served in a cone.  Super portable for an event like this and it was light and refreshing with loads of textures.  There was a big smokey lineup for the Banquet Burgers.  It was the first thing I tried and probably the most filling.  Nice and juicy and great flavour.  I also tried my friends Polenta fries and Buffalo Cauliflower.  I was too full to try the Paella and arepas, the oysters, the Brie Quesadillas and the Vegan ice cream sandwiches and the frozen yoghurt and a few other things but my friends tried everything I think.   I also sampled the sweet bbq ribs that were being passed around.  
My favourite thing of all was really as I mentioned above was the Booze infused Iced Coffee.  it was dessert, coffee and refreshing at the same time.  It really was the finish to all of the great food I enjoyed at the Summer Series

Have to give a shoutout to all of the vendors and food providers:

Menu
Items prepared by The Food Dudes:
Banquet Burger
Brown Brothers Meats prime beef, Olympic Cheese sharp cheddar,
Enjoy with a selection of Kozlik's Canadian Mustard
Buffalo Cauliflower
Fried cauliflower, buffalo tahini, pickled carrot & celery, black sesame, mint scallions from Urban Fresh Produce.
Ceviche Toastada
St. Lawrence Fish Market sea bass, avocado puree, pickled watermelon, grilled corn, yuzu chili aioli. Fresh produce from Urban Fresh Produce.
Jhal Muri Salad
Rube's Rice crispy rice, cucumbers, tomatoes, pickled ginger, shallots, cilantro, thai basil, smoked peanuts, puffed lentils, tamarind. Fresh product from Ponesse Foods.
Di Liso's Smoked Chicken Quesadilla
Di Liso's Fine Meats chicken smoked Al Pastor, aged cheddar, pineapple relish, sambal crema, crispy leeks. Fresh produce from Ponesse Foods. Johnny Di BenedettoOlympic Cheese Brie & Mango Quesadilla - Fresh produce from Urban Fresh Produce.
Polenta Fries
Semolina, Parmesan, aged cheddar, caramelized garlic, San Marzano sauce, pickled chilies, basil puree, pea shoots. Ingredients from Olympic Cheese @ Domino Foods.
Oli's Froyo
Grapefruit vanilla frozen yogurt, grapefruit caramel, shortbread crumble. Fresh dairy from Sheldon Creek Dairy, grapefruit from Ponesse Foods.
BBQ Ribs Carnicero's  
Spicy Salmon SlidersMike's Fish Market 

St. Lawrence Market merchant prepared items:
PIZZA Scheffler's Delicatessen & Cheese barbecued pizza featuring Black Cow cheddar and with samples of Black Cow vodka.
Vegan gnocchi carbonara & raw vegan tarts. - CrudaCafe 
Everyday Gourmet Coffee Roasters "The Founder" iced latte with Hennessey & Coffee Liquer. Also serving hot & iced espresso based beverages.
Traditional Spanish Paella (seafood & vegetarian) and Arepas  & agua de jamyca
Fresh Pasta - St. Lawrence Pizza & Pasta
St. Lawrence Fish Market - Freshly shucked oysters

It was a fantastic event.  The only thing I think I would add would be some lighting to the vendors stations for when the sun went down to make it sparkle a bit.  Because it was a beautiful night there was a huge turnout so it got pretty busy most of the night and people did stay and chat so the tables were all full so we did a lot of standing but that shows the success of the event that it completely filled the space.
Congratulations to the organizers.  I almost don't want to share this for fear of it getting too big for me to attend again in the future.   We need more summer events like this were people can connect and enjoy some great food and entertainment.
Thanks very much for all of the attention to detail. 
There is another one coming up in August and I am sure the tickets will go fast.



Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Friday afternoon Krispy Kreme Donut Party

DONUT PARTY


It started out as a simple idea.  Krispy Kreme were celebrating their 80th Anniversary and to celebrate this BIG Milestone they had a deal for each Dozen donuts you purchase you could get another dozen for 80 Cents.  WOW that's a great deal.  But I had a feeling there would be a long line around the block and I wouldn't have the time to wait to get some but I mentioned it on social media to another friend who works closer to the location in our area.  To my surprise someone from Krispy Kreme contacted me to have some boxes set aside for pickup and to contact their team to arrange it.

I requested 2 dozen and the other 2 dozen at 80 cents each.   I thought it would be a great thing to share with my co-workers on a Friday afternoon when energy and patience wares thin.  I couldn't leave the office so I asked one of my coworkers if he could pick it up and he agreed.

We arranged for him to go to the store at 11am and speak to the contact person provided by their Social media people.   My coworker arrived and then called me to tell me that they didn't have enough donuts but he paid for 2 boxes and they gave him vouchers for another time.   I told him to take the donuts in the meantime and we would figure things out.   2 Dozen isn't much for an office with staff of about 70 people.   What was I going to do.   I contacted the person I had been dealing with and he said that they still had the 4 boxes originally set aside and there must have been a mixup at the counter.   By this time my coworker had gone for his lunch break but I managed to reach him by cell phone and he was about half way between the office and Krispy Kreme so he went back to pick up the rest of the donuts.  Now he had 4 boxes of donuts to bring back to the office and they didn't charge him anything for those donuts.   I should say that our Director agreed to pay out of his own pocket to cover the cost of the donuts for everyone because he is a super generous guy and I thought this would make everyone happy.   OH YES it DID.   When my coworker returned for the second time he almost got jumped for those donuts.   He barely got them to my desk before the hungry masses started circling my cubicle.   I let him choose first since he really went out of his way and didn't even get lunch because of returning the second time.   I told the hovering hungry people to wait until I at least sent out a mass email to let everyone know.   This was supposed to be my surprise for everyone.

I must say that those Krispy Kreme donuts really had a great impact on the happiness of the staff.  They perfumed my cubicle for a little while until I decided to move them to a table outside of the kitchen which is sort of a free for all to share table.

I walked by a few times checking the status of the boxes and slowly we whittled down boxes one by one.  At first I was worried that 6 dozen donuts would get wasted because I originally only planned for 4 dozen.  But by the time I left the office at 6pm they all disappeared.

I must say my coworker must have worked up a big appetite running back and forth because he scarfed down a total of 8 donuts that afternoon.   We went through 6 dozen donuts from about 2pm to 6pm on a friday afternoon.

Do you think we have a bit of a problem?   All I know is everyone enjoyed it and it put a smile on a lot of people's faces.  I am not sure they would have had the same reaction if I brought in a bushel of apples.  We did that before.  Much different reaction.

Well even though it's not the healthiest thing, I looked at it more as a mental health break which people over look but we are leading the way in trying to find ways to deal with it.

Thank you Krispy Kreme for sorting out your customer service and taking care of our office.


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Summerlicious 2017 tips.

It's Summerlicious time of year.  I have mixed feelings about Summerlicious and I think a lot of people that go to restaurants regularily probably do to.

All of a sudden everyone decides that they want to have a fancy dinner at a bargain and they descend from all over for Summerlicious lunches and dinners.  It's great business for the restaurants, right?  Yes it is, but at the same time certain restaurants get slammed with so many people they can't keep up and there are others that still don't fill their spaces.  I don't know how many staff actually like working during Summerlicious,  probably not many, so you need to take that into consideration when judging the food and service you receive during this time.
I was invited to the Summerlicious preview at the fairly new O & B restaurant Lena on Yonge Street just south of Queen.  All of their Summerlicious dishes were on display but we only sampled 4 of their dishes.  I have been wanting to go to this restaurant for a while since I work not too far away but haven't had the chance to go yet.  It's a beautiful restaurant.  The dishes on display looked gorgeous.  I can say that I really liked 3 out of the 4 dishes I sampled and would like to go back and choose off their menu sometime soon.

I also organized a lunchtime Summerlicious meal with my co-workers as part of our Healthy Workplace Initiative.  We walked down to Batch on Victoria St. on a cold, windy and rainy day.
Batch makes their own beer so it's a Craft brewery space which is open and airy.  There were 7 of us for lunch which isn't too bad.  The staff were friendly but we waited at least a half an hour before we got our appetizers and this is pretty long when it's supposed to be our lunch HOUR.
I ordered the salad, the Burger and fries and the sticky toffee pudding.  The salad was over dressed and a soggy but it tasted ok.  The Burger and the bun were very dry but the fries were fantastic.  The sticky toffee pudding was cold and dry and nothing special.  I only actually took 1 bit of it and took the rest back to the office because we took so long.  The food was a bit hit or miss but I am told by a friend who has been during regular times that their food is good.  So this is a case in point where it might be better any other day or different meals.

But then there are the GREAT places like JI on St. Clair Ave West.  The same owners as Pukka on the same street.  It's Indian Street Food but on a higher level.
It's a lovely bright space and we were able to get reservations easily on a saturday afternoon.   We went to celebrate my friends birthday and he likes Indian Food.

I ordered the Vegan Caesar salad, it has coconut bacon and chickpeas for croutons and a vegan cream for the dressing.  I really enjoyed it.  My friend had the sweet potato chaat and he liked it.  We both ordered the Butter Chicken Cavatappi.  It was Indian spice flavoured Mac and Cheese but it was a nice creamy sauce.  I thought the portion was good but my friend was really full, maybe that's because he ate the sweet potato before it.  For dessert I had the spiced Brownie which tasted a bit like Mexican chocolate cake.  My friend had the pistachio flavoured Kulfi in the shape of what he called a Christmas tree.   He enjoyed that and said it had an interesting flavour.
Our server was a lovely friendly young Irishman.  It did take a while to get our bill but it was a lazy Saturday afternoon so it was ok.  We were in no hurry then.

My advice regarding the Summerlicious meals is to find out the reputation of the restaurant year round and then decide and at the same time if you don't have a great experience take it with a grain of salt and maybe try the place again another time and you may have a different experience.

But it's a great way to sample new restaurants that you may not have thought of and try things you might not have ordered normally.    It's only food,  so you might as well enjoy it.

Check out #liciousTO to see all the drool worth photos from fellow diners to see where you want to dine and don't forget to share your Instagram and twitter photos with them @liciousTO

For more info on each restaurant and their menus click here:  SUMMERLICOUS 

And don't forget to make reservations well in advance.

Enjoy.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

National Ice Cream Day - July 16th

Did you know that July 16th is National Ice Cream Day?

Back in 1984, President Reagan had officially declared July as National Ice Cream Month and July 15th as the National Ice Cream Day. Since then, it is celebrated on the third Sunday of July in Canada!

Summer days are to be celebrated with your favourite frozen treat, which is why Baskin-Robbins has gone ahead and shared its Top 5 Flavour Combinations, so that Canadians can get the most out of their National Ice Cream Day!

Which pairing would you try first? See below for delicious inspiration!



Saturday, July 8, 2017

A Taste of Toronto at Fort York



Festival:  Taste of Toronto
Date:       June 15-18, 2017
Date visited:  June 15th
Location: Garrison Common Fort York
What:      Culinary Festival
Website:  https://toronto.tastefestivals.com/
IG:           @tasteofToronto
Twitter:    https://twitter.com/tasteoftoronto

Although this is a bit late and the festival has already ended a while ago I wanted to write a post about my experience this year at Taste of Toronto.

This year I only went once on the Friday night.  It was a very HOT muggy sunny evening when we arrived for the Festival.  The weather really affects these outdoor festivals.  It probably wasn't the best time for me to go to the show because it was after work on a friday after a very busy week but since my friend and I both work downtown it was easy to meet up after work and head over to Fort York.  I have to say that Fort York is not my favourite venue for an event because it's very hard to get to.  This time since I went from work I took the Yonge subway to Harbourfront to take the streetcar which dumped me at Lakeshore and I had to walk up to the entrance which moved to closer to Bathurst.  I probably should have waited for another streetcar going north on Bathurst but I walked and remember it was hot outside so by the time I got to the event I was pretty tired and hot.   TIP if it's in the same location next year take the streetcar from Bathurst station if you can.  It's easier.

Well this should give you a glimpse at my energy level and why I didn't fully participate in all of the Festivals attractions this year.  For the past couple of years I have tried to get into the Metro masterclasses and they have been filled up but this time we got the last 2 spots for Rob Gentile (Buca)''s Pasta making demo.  Hosted by Abbey Sharp while Gentile demonstrated a very simple pasta made from Semolina and water.  The dough was pre made but we rolled it out and cut it and cooked it and the sauce and were able to eat our spoils of the demo.  It tasted great but without the egg it was a bit tough. It really filled us up though so we weren't hungry enough to try all the food booths and by that time the lines grew pretty long.

 

We walked around checking out the menus and tried some of the samples like this Brie Grilled Cheese S'mores which was stuffed with Nutella and as soon as I took a bit it oozed out and landed on my white shirt.  Big Thanks goes out to Richmond Station's staff for trying to help me get the stain out with soda water.  it helped a bit but this white shirt seems to like food as much as I do.
We also went to one of my favourite returning Sponsors the huge Nespresso booth smack in the middle of the festival.  This year they had this fun little boat set up for pics.  I didn't even realize that we matched each other and the whole display.  We really enjoyed our Iced coffees so thanks Nespresso for always being there with delicious beverages and snacks.


The trend of the Festival this year was HOT BBQ's and pits.  I really felt sorry for these super hard working chefs who were in charge of manning the meat pits all weekend long.


We didn't sit in on any of the roundtable discussions or the cooking stage demos, although I caught a bit of Chef Carl from Richmond Station while I was at the Uniqlo booth.  It seemed strange for Uniqlo to have a booth there but they were giving out free under shirts that are supposed to keep you warm or cool, new super tech.  They also had something I really enjoyed,  they were making Hibiscus cocktails.  It was so refreshing.

Normally I spend a lot more time and get to chat with some of the Chefs I have met over the years but I didn't have the chance to see them this year.  I did wave to Chef Mark McEwan and I had a great chat with my friend Nancy who is an Ambassador for Blue Goose Pure Foods who had a booth set up there.  What I like about this festival is the fact that all of the best chefs in Toronto go there and I usually sit in on the demos and get to see what's up in the Toronto food world.  Every year new trends emerge and it seemed that this year it was all about meat and doing different things with it.  Chef McEwan's booth had crispy pigs ears, compared to year 1 where they had insane lines for their fried chicken that sold out.  There were some booths with really long lines and some didn't have any lineups so I think that's pretty telling about our discerning Toronto palates.

I would love to see this festival have a free admission so that there is more money to spend for the food booths or have a one price fee.  This year they got rid of their crown cards and you had to pay with credit or debit cards.  I had cash which wasn't accepted.  I understand the no cash policy but maybe there's a better way to accommodate all kinds of payments and maybe if it moved to a more accessible venue and I think people would hang out longer and try more food and attend more demos.
 










Pizzaholics head to Vaughan's Pizza Fest


Pizza fans... Assemble! 

Vaughan Pizza Fest is bringing a living legend in the pizza making world to their 2017 event. Joseph Beddia, "Philadelphia's Pizza King," (Munchies) and the man who is credited for making the
"The Best Pizza In America" (Bon Appétit) will be serving up his delicious pies at the Woodbridge Fairgrounds (100 Porter Ave) in Vaughan, Ontario on July 15 and 16.

Beddia is famous for only serving 40 pizzas per day at his 300 square-foot shop in Philadelphia, Pizzeria Beddia. Fans line up for hours each day just to get a taste of his sacred pies. He will continue that tradition when he sets up at Vaughan Pizza Fest in just a few short weeks when 40 lucky ticket holders/day will have the chance to taste his handmade master-pieces on Sunday, July 16.

Prior to this though, fans will have a chance to purchase his new book: Pizza Camp: Recipes from Pizzeria Beddia; and meet the renowned pizzaiolo. This exclusive meet and greet and book signing will take place on Saturday, July 15.

Tickets for Beddia's pizza epiphany at Vaughan Pizza Fest, go on sale July 6th at 11:00am and are valued at $100.

These tickets include: One copy of Pizza Camp: Recipes from Pizzeria Beddia, One personal sized pizza prepared by Joe Beddias Pizzas (Chefs Choice) and two VIP tickets which offer front stage viewing of performances by David Usher,

About Vaughan Pizza Fest:

Vaughan Pizza Fest is a celebration of the great dish of pizza! It is also a festival of Craft Beer! The 2017 edition of the event takes place on July 14 to 16 at Woodbridge Fairgrounds in Vaughan, ON and features main-stage performances by David Usher, Stevie B, Men Without Hats, Spookey Ruben, Rusty, Mully Jackson, JOÉE, and Elissa.

For more information, please visit: www.vaughanpizzafest.com

Friday, June 30, 2017

Great Canada Day Party ideas for Home or Office



I helped organize a Canada Day lunch event at my office this week to get everyone ready for the long weekend.  We brainstormed a host of ideas and then broke it down to things that were doable for an office environment.   I will break down some of these ideas and then give you suggestions for more things you can do at home for friends and family.




OFFICE CANADA DAY PARTY

1.  We sold Canadian Flags for our designated charity for a $2.
2.  We put together a Canada swag gift basket that we auctioned off, also for the charity.
3.  We had game stations with little yellow rubber ducks floating in water,  mini bowling set,  Canadian Food Trivia,  Canadian Trivia Pursuit, Word find of Canadian Provinces.  Winners would receive little Canadian dollar store prizes.
4.  We put up a huge laminated map of Canada and had people bring in photos of important Canadian destinations to them.   We will keep the map up in a designated location in the office.
5.  We posted the Flags of different provinces and asked people to think if they knew what they all were.

6.  We set up a Canadian Food Station and a Canadian Treat station.
     We had the following:

  • Iced Tea
  • Montreal Bagels with cream cheese, peanut butter and maple butter
  • Ketchup Chips
  • Maple bacon popcorn
  • All dressed chips
  • Nanaimo bars
  • Maple Leaf cookies
  • Butter tarts
  • Maple marshmallows
  • Maple leaf cake
  • Blueberries
  • Apples


7.  We also had everyone dress in either Red or White or Canadian inspired outfits.
8.  We had a Canadian Flag cake and had our Boss cut the cake and afterward we took a group photo with everyone in their Canadian gear.
9.  Even though it might not be the right thing to do we decided to have all of the attendees sign a large Canadian Flag which we will also keep in the office as a commemoration of the Canada 150 celebration.  I found out later that it is defacing the flag but we didn't mean any harm we wanted something as a time capsule item.  We wrote the year and 150 on the Maple Leaf.
10.  We also created a slideshow presentation of images either submitted or from each Province from coast to coast to play on the screen during the event.


HOME PARTY for friends and family ideas:

1.  You can do all or any of the above ideas and more.
2.  Set up some Muskoka chairs in the backyard and toast some of the Maple Marshmallows and Make Maple S'mores.
3.  Set up an Oyster bar with Oysters from coast to coast.
4.  Set up a Caesar station with all kinds of things to top the Caesar
5.  Set up a Poutine Bar
6.  Make some Peameal on a bun sandwiches
7.  Make a Cheese platter with all Canadian local cheeses.
8.  Make Maple candy with crushed ice and hot maple syrup
9.  Get Tim Horton's and Tim bits for everyone.
10. Create a Montreal Bagel bar and other foods from different provinces


I could probably keep going with ideas but you can pick and choose which ones work for you.

We also set up an umbrella and a Dock space in our office for a relaxing scene.  We had Canadian Flag plates, napkins and table cloth.  I tried to inject as much red and white into the accessories and serving platters and containers as possible.   Just stick to a red and white theme and you can add on some other things like a red and black lumberjack theme or a Canadian tuxedo (denim).

Since Canada Day falls on a Saturday this year there are lot's of things to do in Toronto.  I am told that even Rabba foods will be open for all your last minute BBQ Party needs and a few other select grocery stores mostly downtown.

You might want to grab some friends and check out the Big Redpath Waterfront Festival where you can see the World's largest Rubber Duck in the Lake.

There are all kinds of Firework displays around Toronto or you can take a drive to our Nation's capital, Ottawa for a huge celebration but I heard security will be very tight so you will be doing a lot of walking around because of many street closures.

So if you want to stay close to home and just hang out with friends at home or even at a cottage you can still use some of these ideas for a great Canada Day experience.

For our work party I made mini butter tarts.  I modified a recipe to make them a bit more Canadian.

THE BEST MINI BUTTER TARTS

 Adapted from a Marion Kane recipe. 
Pastry
·         750 ml (3 cups) all-purpose flour
·         1 tsp salt
·         100 ml (1/2 cup) cold butter, cubed
·         100 ml (1/2 cup) cold lard or vegetable shortening, cubed
·         2 large egg yolk
·         10 ml (2 tsp) white vinegar
·         100 ml (1/2 cup) ice-cold water
·         1 tbsp sugar

Filling
·         125 ml (1/2 cup) packed dark brown sugar
·         125 ml (1/2 cup) maple syrup or golden corn syrup
·         2 large egg
·         5 ml (1 tsp) vanilla
·         5 ml (1 tsp) maple syrup
·         10 ml (2 tsp) white vinegar or lemon juice
·         60 ml (4 tbsp) softened butter
·         1 tsp 
·         100 ml (1/4 to 1/2 cup) raisins or coarsely chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts)

Preheat oven to 190 C (375 F).
Pastry: In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Using wire pastry cutter or a food processor cut in or pulse butter and lard until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Using fork, stir in yolk, vinegar and water until dough holds together.
Wrap in plastic wrap; refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Filling: In a medium bowl, vigorously whisk together all ingredients except raisins until combined. (This can be done in food processor.)
Roll out dough on lightly floured surface, being careful that it is not too thin.
Using a  (2-inch) round cookie cutter, cut into 24 rounds to fit a mini muffin tin.
Divide raisins among each pastry shell; spoon filling over raisins.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until pastry is golden brown.
Let cool in pan for about 2 minutes. Run knife or small metal spatula around edge of each tart; transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 24 butter tarts.

Pan American Food & Music Festival

Festival:     Pan American Food & Film Festival Date:          August 11-13, 2017 Location:   Yonge & Dundas Square Website...