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.


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.


 Adapted from a Marion Kane recipe. 
·         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

·         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.

Friday, June 23, 2017

"Fake News Ale" at Toronto Craft Beer Festival

Northern Maverick’s “Fake News Ale” to debut at 
Toronto Craft Beer Festival

Torontonians can finally try the viral sensation, along with the craft brewer’s signature lager, at Ontario Place on June 23-24

TORONTO, ON – Artisanal Toronto craft brewerNorthern Maverick Brewing Company is debuting its first ever charitable beer, “Fake News Ale” at the Toronto Craft Beer Festival, happening June 23 and 24 at Ontario Place, West Island.

Northern Maverick broke onto the scene earlier this year with the announcement of the tongue-in-cheek craft beer, “Fake News Ale”, which generated interest not only in Canada, but all over the world. Craft beer lovers will finally get a sneak peek of this much anticipated product this weekend.

Toronto craft brewer, Northern Maverick, debuts “Fake News Ale” at Toronto Craft Brew Festival

“Fake News Ale” will be available for purchase in the Bathurst brewery/restaurant and onsite beer shop, slated to open this summer, and through direct delivery in Ontario.

The Toronto Craft Brewery Festival takes place June 23-24, 2017 at Ontario Place, West Island.
For tickets,

Instagram: @northernmaverickbrewing
Twitter: @NorthernMavBeer

About Northern Maverick 
One of Toronto’s newest craft breweries, Northern Maverick is set to launch summer 2017 with an 11,000 square-foot brewery/restaurant on King West (115 Bathurst Street, Toronto, ON M5V 2R1). Once complete, the facility will feature a 10—hectolitre brewhouse with eight 20-hl fermenters, a 400-seat restaurant, a bar and a retail store offering their latest brews. The restaurant will have a fiercely local menu, offering an elevated gastropub experience with an oyster bar, house-made charcuterie and curated food that pairs well with the nine beers they will have on tap. Northern Maverick will also house a beer school where they will offer the fine art of homebrewing, beer tasting courses, food pairing sessions and recipe development.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The STOP Night Market a perfect night.

There are a handful of really fun events that I really look forward to.  The Stop's Night Market is one of them.  It's my 3rd year in a row attending this really fun and tasty event.  This year they surpassed the fundraising goal and raised over $300,000.  That will go along way for many programs but they still need your help to do more.

It was previously held in the laneway of the old Honest's Ed's store.  I never got a chance to go to those ones because they would sell out instantly.  

For the past couple of years it has moved to a parking lot in the Junction.  There are a whole host of restaurants that reside within a short distance of the new location making it easy to attract some fantastic restaurants to this event.   This is where all the fun and creative Chefs with big hearts go to one up each other creating fantastically designed booths and amazing little bites of food and beverages.  Chefs on hand included Dustin Gallager (Top Chef All-Stars) (416 Snack Bar) and Trevor Lui (Kanpai Snack Bar), Ricky Casipe (Hawthorne Food & Drink), and restaurants included Carmen, Momofuku, Branca, The Drake Commissary, Pizzeria Libretto, Lasa, Nana and a lot more.  Over 30 restaurants and a dozen beverage providers each of the 2 nights.  Only a few vendors there for both nights.  Last year I was able to go to both nights and it was great because the food was very different both nights.

The food was really fantastic this year.  A couple of my favourites were Pizzeria Libretto's Cauliflower Arancini, The Tempered Room's short ribs, Carmen's Ropa Vieja, Ascari Enoteca's Broccolini Fritti, The Broadview Hotel's, Bay Scallop Ceviche., Abokichi's Tsokune and The Oakwood's Hardware's German potato cake.

What makes this event so fun as well as a great charity event is the fact that because it's held outside in a parking lot it's very casual and has mostly a younger audience looking to have some fun with their friends.  It runs over 2 separate evenings and the tickets are $100 for all you can eat and drink.
It starts by welcoming you through the gates with the Samba Squad drumming you into the event to get you in the mood to have fun.

If you arrive early you are given a wooden palate plate shaped like a fish.  It's fun and helpful to place your food and drinks on.  It's a lot of fun checking out all the different custom designed stands that are in competition for best design.  It adds a super cool factor and fun vibe to the event.

This year was the best so far for me because all of my foodie pals were there and even a surprise fill in by Denise who filled in for Food Fables who couldn't make it.  It's very rare to have us all at an event at the same time.  You have so much fun hanging out with friends and chatting with Chefs that you forget that it's actually a great charitable cause.  The Stop is a fantastic Charity that provides great programs including:
  • A drop in program
  • Urban Agriculture
  • Youth Engagement
  • Food bank
  • Community kitchen
  • Family beginnings
For more information visit their website:

See how you can help by donating, volunteering or attending one of their events.

*Disclaimer- The ticket was complimentary but the opinions and photos are all my own.

Toronto Taste 2017 - A feast for Second Harvest

I was really fortunate this year to be able to attend the TORONTO TASTE Charity Event at Corus Quay on Sunday, June 4, 2017.  A culinary event where the proceeds go to Second Harvest.

Tickets were $260 for all you can eat and drink and lot's of entertainment.

This 27th edition with the help of many Chefs, top restaurants and over 400 volunteers they were able to raise $925,000 for Second Harvest, Canada’s largest food rescue charity. Funds raised will provide 1.8 million fresh and healthy meals to people facing hunger across Toronto. It accounts for 20% of Second Harvest's annual revenue to help provide meals to those in need in our ever growing city.

Guests sampled spectacular dishes and drinks from over 90 of the most sought-after restaurants and beverage purveyors, including Baro, Lavelle, McEwan Group, Antler, Hawthorne Food & Drink, Kanpai Snack Bar, Bar Reyna and Ufficio.

Michelle Jobin, John Catucci and Eric Chong - Masterchef Canada winner.
This year Top chefs Guy Rawlings (Montgomery’s), Anne Sorrenti (The Oakwood Hardware Food & Drink and Chopped Canada winner) and Eric Chong (R&D and MasterChef Canada winner) entertained guests in the Chef Challenge.  Guy Rawlings was crowned the winner.

At the live auction, attendees could bid on chef dinner packages, such as dinner at Bob Blumer’s LA home or the opportunity to join Chef Roger Mooking for an action-packed food tour of New Orleans. The exclusive live auction chef packages from Michael Smith, Michael Hunter, Roger Mooking and Bob Blumer raised a total of $46,000. Notably, Bob Blumer, Second Harvest Ambassador, raised $165,000 towards the purchase of a truck for Second Harvest and an anonymous donor came forward to top up his fundraising. With a long history of supporting Second Harvest, Purolator Inc. stepped forward to donate an additional truck, a valuable asset as Second Harvest transports food to hundreds of social service agencies across the GTA daily.

There were so many fantastic dishes that I tried to eat my way through the large outdoor tented event by the lake, but I think I probably only tried about half of the food before getting really full.

One of the favourite dishes for me and my foodie friends was the Scallop crudo from Buca.  They are one of the top restaurants in Toronto for good reason.

(left, Michael Hunter - Antler - r?

El Cabalito's Elia Herrera made a great pulled pork slider.  Hawthorne food and drink made their signature Schmaltz Carbonara.  Michael Hunter from Antler made really flavourful Duck skewers.

Trevor Lui - Kanpai Snack Bar
Pork Belly

It's great to see Chefs you know having some fun and creating great dishes at the same time.  Trevor Lui from Kanpai Snack Bar having a little fun with us and he created an amazing crispy pork belly dish with a slaw on the side.
Ivana Raca - Ufficio

All of the Top Chefs in Toronto were there and Bob Blumer from the West Coast and Michael Smith from the East Coast.  

They all really like this festival because it's organized really well and they are all fairly close together and they can do something they don't always have time to do because they work crazy hours,  something most of us take for granted.  Social time.  Yes they get to catch up with their peers and see what's new and actually try their food sometimes.  The Chefs in Toronto are mostly a tight knit group of very generous and hard working people.  I know this because I have gotten to know a lot of them at a lot  of these events and they are long days standing in the heat mostly.  I know that I don't have the stamina to do this everyday for a living.  So I have a lot of respect for their hard work and for pitching in their time and creativity to raise funds for Second Harvest and other local charities.

They got really lucky with the weather this year.  It was perfect.  The sun was out and the temperature was perfect by the lake.  Everyone was in a great mood and there was lot's of musical entertainment with live music inside Corus Quay.

This was only my 3rd time attending Toronto Taste.  The first time I was a volunteer and I can tell you that they couldn't do this event without volunteers.  The second time was years ago when I was writing event listings for B Magazine.  It was more about the overall event then.  This time with the knowledge of many years working on my Blog and getting to know who most of these chefs are and what kind of food they make I can honestly say I really enjoyed every minute of it and the best part was that I was able to spend the time with my 2 fellow blogger buddies (Cooking Quidnunc & Mary's Happy Belly)  so it made it that much more fun to run around and sample and compare dishes and hopefully between the 3 of us were were able to taste almost all of the different dishes.

I hope to be able to go back for more again next year.  I hope you can attend or at least try and donate to Second Harvest or buy raffle tickets or bid on one of their auction items and help them to keep doing great work.

Disclaimer*  The ticket was complimentary but the photos and comments are my own.  Some information was provided by Second Harvest.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Not just cheese - Great Canadian Cheese Festival 2017

I really love cheese and I really love going to Prince Edward County once a year to try all kinds of Cheese from mostly Ontario and Quebec along with all kinds of other Artisan products.  Picton is a small town that is becoming a Foodie paradise.  With so many wineries and cheese makers in the region it's a perfect place to visit.  This is my 3rd year going to the Great Canadian Cheese Festival and it's now quickly becoming a yearly tradition with some other stops made along the way.
It's held at the Crystal Palace Camp Ground which houses 2 buildings and exterior booths and food trucks and other stands.  Tickets are $50 per day or $75 for a weekend pass and that includes free parking and all the cheese samples you can stuff in your face.  There are a lot of wineries there as well sampling their wines. There are even a couple of goats and Water Buffalo to see and pet.

But of course the Star is the Cheese.  Almost a whole building full of cheese.   I picked up 2 cheeses this year.  This semi soft Artisan Cheese and Bothwell's Horseradish Cheese.  I just need to pick up some Roast Beef to create a fantastic sandwich.

There are hard cheeses, flavoured cheese, soft cheese and these spiced cheese curds.  A cheese for everyone.

I sampled lots of other things besides Cheese.  I tried preserves, special beverages, shortbread, Oils, sausages, nuts and a lot more.

I fell in love with these bottles of Gut Shots.  It's fermented Cabbage and vegetable juice.  I didn't pick up one at the Festival because I picked up the Vegan Kimchi but couldn't stop thinking about it so I picked up a bottle at Whole foods a few days later.  I got the Kimchi flavour Gut shot.  You only need to drink a tablespoonful a day to fix your gut bacteria.  It even tastes good and you could even use it in a dressing or marinade.

It was great to have some of Jamie Kennedy's JK fries while chilling on a park bench chatting with new friends.  A bit of Toronto in the country.

We went on the most perfect spring day.  The weather was hot but not unbearable.  It was great to bounce in and out of the buildings and sit outside and take a break while my friend petted this little Water Buffalo.

I kind of did a bit of grocery shopping while I was there with a mixed bag of stuff including the Kimchi and the Artisan Cheese I picked up some Red Pepper Jelly,  Lemon Olive oil and some Jewels Under the Kilt Chipotle Maple Pecans.  I would say a nice variety for sure.

We got very lucky because it rained the next day but we were blessed with a perfect day and even the traffic there was good.  The festival ends about 4pm so I now have a new tradition of going to Slickers Ice Cream and getting some of their fantastic Ice Cream.  I got the Roasted Marshmallow flavour.  Yes it was more dairy but it's so easy to eat on a warm day.  The next stop was Giant Tiger,  there isn't one in Toronto so it's always fun to see what they have on sale.  I picked up some water and some coconut chocolate sticks. The other stop was a chilling stop at the Drake Devonshire Inn right on the lake.  It was a bit chilly next to the water by that time but we sat on the patio and ordered some fantastic veggie appetizers while they provided some nice yellow fleece blankets to keep us cosy.  I really love that place.   We ended with a little ping pong and then we headed back to Toronto.  Such a fun day.  I hope we can have a repeat of it again next year.   Thanks Great Canadian Cheese Festival for organizing a great event.