Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Taste of Toronto 2014

Summer is heating up this weekend with the Toronto Festival of Beer 
and the Taste ofToronto!

Taste of Toronto, an IMG event, runs from July 24th to July 27th at the historic Fort York grounds and is a must attend event for foodies in the city.  The Taste festival concept actually began 10 years ago in London, England and has now grown into an international event with festivals being held in over 20 cities across the world.  The Taste festivals represent a  culinary haven for foodies where excellent renowned chefs and restaurants come together to bring you exquisite dishes alongside drinks, music and a wonderful outdoor setting!

At Taste of Toronto you will have a chance to participate in cooking classes, chef Q&A’s, book signings, staging demonstrations and of course EAT excellent food from local top chefs and notable Toronto restaurants.  Visitors can purchase CROWNS which is the official dining currency at the event and each crown purchased is worth 1 Canadian dollar. The average dish is between 6 – 10 Crowns.

Operating much like a restaurant with lunch and dinner services, Taste of Toronto will be comprised of six half-day sessions lasting anywhere between 4- 5 hours (session dependent) to give you time to enjoy your pick of restaurant dishes, browse the artisan stalls and enjoy some of the many attractions including the Electrolux Taste Theatre, Cookery Master classes, the Tasting Room, a VIP Lounge and a Music Stage.

Session Times
  • Thursday July 24th 2014  5:30PM – 9:30PM
  •  Friday July 25th & Saturday July 26th 2014  12:00PM – 4:00PM & 5:30PM – 9:30PM
  •  Sunday July 27th 2014  12:00PM – 5:00PM

The line-up of restaurants and chefs are very impressive and include some of my favourite places to dine. This year’s lineup features:
  • Barque Smokehouse, David Neinstein
  • Bosk, Damon Campbell
  • Guu Izakaya, Ippei Iwata / Kinton Ramen, Aki Urata / JaBistro, Koji Tashiro
  • Hudson Kitchen, Robbie Hojilla
  • Khao San Road, Chantana Top Srisomphan
  • Los Colibris, Elia Herrera / El Caballito, Gerry Quintero
  • Patria, Weslodge and Byblos, Stuart Cameron
  • Richmond Station, Carl Heinrich
  • Rose and Sons, Big Crow and Fat Pasha, Anthony Rose
  • Splendido, Victor Barry
  • The Grove, Ben Heaton
  • The Harbord Room and THR & Co., Cory Vitiello
  • The McEwan Group, Mark McEwan
  • Momofuku Noodle Bar, Sam Gelman (Thursday only)
  • Yours Truly, Lachlan Culjak (Friday only)
  • Hopgoods Foodliner, Geoffrey Hopgood (Saturday only)
  • Valdez, Steve Gonzalez (Sunday only)

You can conveniently find out the dishes that the above restaurants will be serving up at Taste of Toronto by viewing the Menu here or downloading the menu card here which includes very useful information about the event and programming.

There are a number of great programming highlights happening at Taste of Toronto from real-time cooking classes in the Metro Master Class with expert chefs such as Steve Gonzalez from Valdez, Richard Brault from Ninutik and Robbie Hojilla from Hudson Kitchen. 

The Tasting Room will host a panel of sommeliers and wine experts that will guide you through 30 minute interactive sessions that include tutored tastings, tips for pairings and how to cellar wine.  Session are $6 crowns and are on a first come basis.

There will also be top chef’s hosting live demonstrations in the Electrolux Taste Theatre.  Chef’s like Shereen Arazm (Terroni), Damon Campbell (Bosk), Victor Barry (Splendido), and Donna Dooher (Mildred's Temple Kitchen). They will engage the audience with gastronomic delights that will be sure to make you hungry.  The theatre is free but seating is limited so be sure to check out the schedule and arrive early.

Among all the wonderful attractions at this event you can also sip, sample and shop from the boutique food and drink market where over 70 artisan producers and premium brands showcase their finest.

Lastly with any outdoor festival, you need music and it just so happens that Taste of Toronto will have superb Canadian talent such as Jason Collett, The Treasures, Emilie Mover, Jane’s Party, Shadrack Jackman, Bellows, Grounders, Dirty Frigs, Tim Moxam, Rival Boys, as well DJ sets by Brendan Canning, The Darcys and Eon The Soul Proprietor.

Don’t miss out on one of the best foodie events this city has to offer! Tickets are still available and can be purchased here: Tickets

All photos are from the Taste of Toronto Website

Friday, July 18, 2014

Mata Petisco Bar

Mata Petisco Bar brings South American petisqueria (shared-plate dining) to Parkdale thanks to the expert culinary team of Felipe Faccioli, Tulio Lessa, Patrick Fraser, Steve Fernandes and Sharath Dwarkanathan. Each of the men bring their own unique flair to the menu from having worked at such notable Toronto establishments such as Salt Wine Bar, Chiado and Fishbar. Some of the men also hail from South American countries so their knack for authentic cuisine is deep-rooted.  The restaurant pays homage to Brazilian culinary traditions by using staple ingredients like catipury cheese, chorizo and picanha and then combining them with local ingredients to evolve the cuisine in an enticingly creative way.

A few weeks ago I was invited to the Media Launch at Mata Petisco Bar to sample their South American tapas-style menu.  The menu had some items that I knew I would love such as the Beef Cheek Poutine and Lobster Pastel. There were also some items that were new to my palate such as the Smoked Crispy Chicken Hearts.  Although I am a foodie,  chicken hearts fall into the 'peculiar'  category for me and are not high on my priority list of new things to try. However, I will try anything once and I like to save my adventurous tastings for times when the food is prepared in a way that is appetizing to my fastidious ways.  Luckily for me, the hearts were prepared crispy and smoky so this was my opportunity to try the little organs out.

We started the menu off with a creamy Lobster Pastel and Brazilian Cheese Bread (Pão De Queijo) with a side of Requeijão Cheese Sauce.  I have had the crowd-pleasing cheese bread before at South American restaurants so I was happy to taste the authenticity in these puffs. The pastel, which is a popular Latin fast-food dish was crispy but not oily and had a rich and flavourful creamy lobster filling.

Next was the Corvina Ceviche with maple candied sweet potato, celery and lime marinade, red onion, cucumber and fresh cilantro.  This ceviche was very mild and refreshing thanks to the small chunks of cucumber and sweet potato. The fish was very tender but the pieces of fish were quite large. I personally would've preferred smaller pieces but I still enjoyed the freshness of this ceviche.

Now on to the hearts! I know you all are dying (ha ha) to hear about my first experience eating a chicken heart so here it goes.  The dish came out beautifully prepared with the crispy hearts thread through skewers and placed on top of cauliflower purée with ancho chili oil and smoked pecans.  I picked up a skewer and carefully inspected the hearts.  They were small and reminded me of a Kalamata Olive. I dipped one heart into the purée and ancho oil and popped it in my mouth.  The first few chews were interesting as the texture was very new to me. I still can’t pinpoint what the heart tasted like after eating two but I do know that they were a bit springy and chewy and had a musky offal flavour. Needless to say I didn't love them but I didn't hate them, but according to the heart-eating experts at my table, they were top-notch!

The Picanha Sliders were next and I was ready to dig in.  Picanha is a popular Brazilian cut of beef that encompasses wonderful flavour and tenderness. These sliders were topped with cachaça (a spirit distilled with sugarcane juice) caramelized onions, house made catupiry cheese and malagueta pepper aioli. The toppings paired perfectly with the juicy beef and every bite was irresistible. 

The sliders were followed up by the Grilled Octopus served with heart of palm puree, raspberry/balsamic reduction and taro root chips.  The octopus was grilled perfectly and the char on the outside gave the octopus a light smoky flavour that really made this dish wonderful.  The heart of palm puree was quite tasteless so I didn't really feel the need to slather it over the octopus.  The balsamic and raspberry reduction however paired lovely with the octopus and I wished for more of it on the plate.

The last main dish was the Beef Cheek Poutine and boy did this hit the spot.  Cassava was always around the dinner table growing up so I was excited to see it being used in a Canadian inspired dish.  The cassava frites were crispy and had a lovely chewy centre and the generous amount of cheese curds, beef cheek and scallions brought this dish together in a blissful manner. I tried to be lady-lake with this dish but overly helped myself with the servings.

At last there is always room for dessert and it was an Avocado Crème Brulee.  I immediately knew that this would be a hit or miss for me and unfortunately it was a miss.  I found that the creamy avocado filling was exceptionally sweet and lacked flavour. This was just a bit of an odd dessert to me and next time I visit Mata Bar I'll be ordering their other dessert that sounds more suited to my tastes, the Dulce de Leche Cheesecake with Sailor Jerry Caramel!

The two cocktails I tried was the Pisco Sour (pisco, egg white, lime, simple syrup, lemon grass) and Classic Lime Caipirinha (cachaça, lime, simple syrup, sugar cane) both of which were crafted perfectly and made me wish I was laying on a beach in Rio.

Mata Bar is located at 1690 Queen Street West and opens at 5 pm Tuesday to Sunday. There are also plans to open for weekend brunch in the future.

Mata Petisco Bar on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Toronto's Festival of Beer 2014

It’s that time of year again for the Toronto Festival of Beer.  This will be my 9th year attending TFOB and it really is one of my favourite summer time events.  This year TFOB runs from July 25th to July 27th at Bandshell Park, Exhibition Place. 

Here are my top 5 reasons why you should attend the Toronto Festival of Beer.

1. OUTDOORS –  Outdoor festivals mean fun in the sun and Bandshell Park is the perfect venue for this beer-drinking festivity. The venue is also conveniently located near the GO train and TTC which makes getting there and stumbling home easier

2. BEER – The Festival boasts over 60 brewers featuring more than 300 brands from all over the globe. This is your chance to try those dark stouts you were always curious about or to indulge in some of the fruity beers that are new for the summer. You’ll probably end up leaving the festival with a new favourite beer and hopefully some free swag to ensure you don’t forget about your wonderful experience. There will also be other alcoholic beverages such as wine, cider and ready-to-go drinks for those who want to switch it up.

3. FOOD – Where there is good beer there is good food and this year some of my fav food vendors will be present! The line-up is: Rock Lobster, MELT Grilled Cheese, Smoke’s Poutinerie, Thomas Hinds Tobacconists, Hot Bunzz, Brock Sandwich, The Pie Commission, Rashers,  Porchetta & Co, The Pie Commission, Oyster Boy and many more.

4. MUSIC – Music is an essential part of any festival. It brings people together and in this case, drunk people.  Bandshell stage will be hosting some amazing artists this year and it’s all included in the price of your ticket; no extra charge for singing your wasted little hearts out.

           Friday July 25th – K-OS & The Planet Smashers
           Saturday July 26th – The Trews
           Sunday July 27th – Matthew Good and Wide Mouth Mason

5. ATTRACTIONS – For those of you who want to learn more about beer, you can join in at one of the many attraction at the festival this year.

Beerlicious Grilling Experience – Drop by this tent to check out some grilling demos with Ted Reader and friends. Schedule can be found here.

Brewmasters Sessions – Created in partnership with Prud’homme Beer Certification, this experience hosts sessions with brewmasters and experts from around the world. Schedule can be found here.

World of Beer Pavilion - The World of Beer Pavilion was launched in 2012, and will continue to feature a host town, region or country each year. For its debut, suds from the neighbouring province of Quebec were featured along with regional food. Featured breweries included Charlevoix, Dieu Du Ciel, Les 3 Brasseurs, Cheval Blanc, Le Trou Du Diable, Les Trois Mousquetaires, Hopfenstark, Brasserie Dunham and William Premium Cider.

TFOB Trails – This is a new interactive tour program hosted by beer education specialists Ginger Johnson and Crystal Luxmore.  Some of the trail’s include: gluten free trail, cider lovers trail, extreme beer trail and women’s TFOB trail.

TFOB tickets can be purchased on the website at: http://beerfestival.ca/tickets/ and don’t forget to download the Toronto Festival of Beer App to help navigate your way around the festival.

I’m also giving away a pair of passes to the Toronto Festival of Beer Sunday Session! I will also be attending on Sunday which is actually my fav day because it’s a little less busier than the Saturday. Each pass gives you entry to the festival on Sunday, a commemorative sampling glass and 5 sample tokens.

Enter below for your chance to win!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, July 14, 2014

Jelly Modern Doughnuts

I get a little weak in the knees at the scent of a fresh doughnut. The aroma is just so inviting and irresistible that I salivate at the thought of biting into those round puffy fried dough treats....It's a blissful experience and I probably sound like a sugar-addict at this point but I seriously have a deep love for doughnuts. Luckily for my senses and not my waist-line, I stumbled across this wonderful Calgary-based gourmet doughnut bakery a few weeks ago!

Jelly Modern Doughnuts opened up it's Toronto location in June 2013 and offer up a large selection of gourmet doughnuts that come in over 20 different creative flavours. The inventive team at Jelly Modern are passionate about crafting Canada's favourite confectioneries by always creating fresh doughnuts on-site daily with fun flavours and local ingredients to tempt your sweet-tooth and mine ;)

Upon entering the College street shop, my eyes took a couple of seconds to adjust to the glossy white interior with hot pink lettering and design. The store had a very 'girly' vibe to it but of course my main focus was on the large display of doughnuts.  There were many different flavours to choose from and each doughnut came in a regular size and a smaller 3-bite size. Maigi was extremely knowledgeable and friendly and offered up generous samples of the doughnuts for me to sink my teeth into.  It was hard to decide which flavours I wanted to try but I went with some of the more popular flavours, s'mores, salted caramel, coconut, peanut butter cup, seasonal fruit and red velvet. 

All of the doughnuts were fresh, light and scrumptious but my favourite doughnut was coconut.  The coconut flavour was powerfully present and the whipped creamy coconut centre was drool-worthy. I also really enjoyed the red velvet doughnut which is one of their ‘cake’ doughnuts. The peanut butter cup was another winner with a creamy PB centre and delectable chocolate icing exterior.  My least favourite was the s'mores doughnut although visually it looked appetizing,  I just found that it was quite bland and it didn't really taste like s'mores. On the weekends you can find a larger variety of flavours on the menu such as crème brulee, maple bacon and skor bar! 

Jelly Modern also offers catering options for weddings, birthdays, baby showers, corporate events, or just about any gathering that requires confectioneries.  The doughnuts can be customized by size, flavour and colour for your event needs. For more information on delivery and catering you can call the store directly or check out the catering page here: http://jellymoderndoughnuts.com/events/

If you're a doughnut lover like me, I promise that you'll find a flavour at Jelly Modern that will satisfy your belly. If you can't make it in to the College Street shop you can also find Jelly Modern Doughnuts at Pusateri grocery stores.

Be sure to stay up to date with all the new happenings at Jelly Modern Doughnuts on twitter and let them know which flavour you’re eager to try out! 

Jelly Modern Doughnuts on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Summerlicious 2014 - My Top 5 Picks

Summerlicious is here Toronto and the best restaurants in the city are showcasing their delicious cuisines with an affordable 3-course prix fixe menu! Summerlicious has already started but you have up until July 20th to enjoy a lunch or dinner at one of Toronto’s culinary hot spots!

If you’re visiting Toronto or have never experienced a Summerlicious or Winterlicious before I’m going to give you a quick run-down.  Over 200 restaurants in Toronto participate in the event and create an exceptional  3 course prix fixe menu for lunch, dinner or both. The lunch menus range from $15 to $25 and dinner from $25 to $45.  All summerlicious restaurants are located throughout Toronto and offer a cuisine for every palette. Here is a list of the participating restaurants .You can view all of the set menus of each restaurant online which will allow you to see which food offerings suit your appetite.  Reservations are HIGHLY recommended and can be made online or by calling the restaurant directly.

Here are my top 5 Summerlicious picks!

Photo taken from STOCK website.

STOCK® is situated on the 31st floor of the Trump International Hotel & Tower and offers guests a sophisticated dining experience. If you wish to dine outside, STOCK has a wonderful sky-patio with absolutely stunning views. STOCK will be offering up a lunch and dinner prix fixe menu featuring a creative and appetizing menu created by Executive Chef Markus.  Some of the highlights include: 100 KM Spinach Salad, Chilled English Pea Soup, Roasted Royal Sea Bream, Roasted Corner Veal Loin, Strawberry Pavolva. Menu for STOCK

Photo taken from the Oliver & Bonacini Website

LUMA is one of the Oliver & Bonacini restaurants and is located inside the Tiff Bell Light box.  Luma’s menu features global and Canadian artisanal cuisine using fresh local and regional ingredients. Some of the highlights include: Tossed Octopus Salad, Slow-cooked Beef Short Ribs, Black Pepper Tofu, and Chocolate Parfait Sundae. Menu for Luma

Photo take from the BENT website

BENT brought to you by Master Chef Sursur Lee is a bright and cozy restaurant that offers modern fusion style Asiain-cuisine.  Chef Lee also owns the famous Toronto restaurant, Lee, which also has a summerlicious menu this year.  The BENT summerlicous menu is for dinner only and some of the features are: Fried Jerk Chicken, Asian Marinated Strip Loin Steak and a Tropical Dessert Trio. Menu for BENT

Photo taken from www.thestar.com

Café Boulud is located in the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto and offers a French inspired menu created by Chef Daniel Boulud.  Chef Boulud and his team execute memorable French cuisine with an international flair. The menu is for dinner only and offers: Terrine of Lamb Leg, B.C. Pink Salmon, Ricotta Gnudi and Chocolate gateaux. Menu for Café Boulud

Photo taken from http://www.hg2toronto.com/

Splendido has such a lovely space located in the Annex.  Splendido offers a creative menu that features a combination of contemporary, French and Canadian cuisine. Owner Chef Victor Barry strives to make sure that guests have a welcoming and imaginative dining experience so you will leaving satisfied.  Spelndido has a lunch and dinner menu for summerlicious that features: Watermelon Gazpacho, Black Truffle Agnolotti, Yorkshire Pork Chop, and Apricot Mousse. Splendido Menu

I hope everyone gets a chance to experience Summerlicious in the city! 
Which restaurant are you trying out?
 Let me know below or on twitter @cookingquidnunc