Friday, November 7, 2014

The Craftmas Beer Experience

photo from

Christmas is near and if your holiday spirit-o-meter is running low then it's time to get in touch with your inner jovial spirits and celebrate the season with craft beer, food and music at the Craftmas Beer Experience on Dec 4th!

If you went to The Beer Experience this past September, then you already know how amazing these events are!  What really makes The Beer Experience events one of a kind is the fact that the breweries in attendance feature a beer that is unique to the event theme. In September, each brewery brewed something exclusive just for the event or featured something new that was not yet available in stores. At the Craftmas Beer Event, Ontario craft breweries will feature festive beers such as a one-off cask, holiday season brew or yuletide beer cocktail.

Another great thing about The Beer Experience events is that the crowd is a welcoming balance of different age groups. I know some people automatically think 'whiny drunken teenagers' when they hear the word 'beer fest' but these events are much more classy, its more of a sophisticated beer experience. Many TRUE craft beer aficionados attend these events to truly enjoy the experience of discovering new brews, not just getting wasted. The events are always well-organized, no long line-ups, clean bathrooms, good food and always a lot of fun!

Event space -

The Beer Experience always seem to pick the BEST venues for their events and this year they've chosen District 28, a new venue located at 28 Logan Ave. Tickets to the event are $25 and this includes 5 sample tokens. Additional sample vouchers are $1 each and most beers are one voucher for a 4oz sample. Tickets will be $35 at the door, so be sure to purchase advance tickets online at the following website:

To help you get into the festive spirit, The Beer Experience is kindly giving away a pair of tickets to the Craftmas Beer Experience.  Enter below for your chance to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Abbey's Kitchen Stadium at The Delicious Food Show 2014

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Delicious Food Show which is a 3-day event for foodies to experience entertainment, food and lifestyle all in one venue.  With hundreds of exhibitors, tastings, cooking work-shops, book signings and celebrity chefs, this is a must attend event for those who appreciate delicious food!

Photo by Mauricio J Calero

One main feature at the Delicious Food Show was Abbey's Kitchen Stadium which featured 8 top Toronto chefs showcasing their talents by offering two food items (one sweet and one savoury) for $5 each. Guests had the opportunity to sample these dishes and then vote for their favourite.  At the end of the weekend the top four chefs were brought on stage to compete for the best dish determined by a panel of celebrity judges. The winner of course would go home with bragging rights as the champion of Abbey's Kitchen Stadium.

Photos by Mauricio J Calero

A few of the dishes that I tried at Abbey's Kitchen Stadium incorporated a lovely Chilean sparkling wine called Fresita.  This was my first time trying Fresita on it's own and in a dish, so I was excited to experience the versatility in this unique beverage.  Fresita is made with handpicked strawberries from the Patagonia region of Chile and then mixed with a blend of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, and moscatel.  These strawberries are indigenous to Chile, making this sparkling wine beverage extra special. The flavour of Fresita was very light and refreshing and it almost had a sweet yet tart aftertaste. This is the perfect wine to pop open with desserts or hor d'oeuvres.

A few of the chefs participating in Abbey's Kitchen Stadium used Fresita in their dishes and these are the two that I tried:

Basilio Pesce - Porzia – Frestia Budino with Pistachio & Fennel

Victor Barry - Splendido – Salted Caramel Chocolate Tart with Fresita Reduction
Photo by Mauricio J Calero

Other dishes I tried:

Robbie Hojilla - Hudson Kitchen - Thai Curry Marinated Pork Belly & Coconut Milk Crepe 

Jon Hamilton - Home of the Brave - Chocolate Campfire S'mores Ice Cream Bar

The completion took place on the last day of the Delicious Food Show and the four chefs that made it to the finals were:

  • Jon Hamilton and Nathan Middleton - Home of the Brave - Smoked Cajun Wings with Buttermilk Ranch Dressing
  • Robbie Hojilla - Hudson Kitchen - Thai Curry Marinated Pork Belly & Coconut Milk Crepe
  • Vittorio Colacitti - The Good Son - Pasta e Fagioli with Berkshire Pancetta
  • Ariel Coplan - Thoroughbred - Mussel Po Boy with Comeback Sauce

Photos by Mauricio J Calero

The judges sampled all of the dishes and had a hard time deciding on which dish was the best.  After some long deliberations, Robbie Hojilla from Hudson Kitchen was titled champion of Abbey's Kitchen Stadium. Clearly pork belly is a huge fan favourite (I voted for it too).

Photo by Mauricio J Calero

I had an amazing time at the show this year and especially enjoyed discovering some great new products and dishes from food vendors across the city. 

Next year the Delicious Food Show will be partnering with Food & Wine Magazine to bring you the Toronto Food & Wine Show! This exciting news was announced at the Delicious Food Show Press Conference this year and food and drink fans in the city will be in for a real treat in 2015!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Esquinas De Argento

Last month a new Argentinian wine called Esquinas De Argento made it's debut at LCBO stores across Ontario.  Esquinas De Argento represents the vibrant city life on the streets of Buenos Aries.  The street structure is organized in a grid pattern that forms a network of esquinas (corners) that reflects the energetic sights and sounds of urban life in the city.  ‘Esquinas – where life happens.’

The winery, Bodega Argento, is situated at the foothills of the Andes Mountains in the Maipú area of Mendoza’s Central Region where the vineyards benefit from the high-altitude desert climate, strong sunlight exposure and pure glacial melt-waters. Winemaker Silvia Corti and her team at Bodega created two distinct wines from Argentina that both posses fruity notes with a smooth, mild and easy-to-drink style. 

The Cabernet Sauvignon is a versatile red that is perfect to bring to any gathering in the fall and winter months. It pairs lovely with lamb, beef and other grilled meats and is very velvety and smooth on the palette. It is full-bodied with aromas of blackberry, vanilla, earth and woody spice.

The Pinot Grigio is very crisp and refreshing with flavours of white nectarines and peaches.  It is best paired with seafood, light pastas, grilled chicken and many cheeses. It is dry and medium-bodied with delicate floral aromas.

I had the opportunity to try out both wines at the Esquinas de Argento launch last month at El Almacen in Toronto.  El Almacen Café is a small gem on Queen St West that specializes in mate which is made from the naturally caffeinated leaves of the celebrated South American rainforest holly tree.  Yerba Mate has the strength of coffee, the health benefits of tea, and the rapture of chocolate all in one beverage. The tea is prepared by steeping the dried leaves and twigs of the mate plant in hot water (not boiling). It has an herbal, grassy taste with some varieties somewhat reminiscent of certain types of green tea. The traditional way to drink yerba mate is communally from a hollow gourd with a metal straw.

El Almacen also serves some South American eats such as the popular Argentinian cookie alfajores, empanadas, chorizo dishes, and more.

Esquinas De Argento can be found at LCBO stores for less than $12 a bottle, so pick one up now and unleash the taste of Buenos Aries!

El Almacen on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Saturday Dinette

Saturday Dinette is a modern diner that opened up in the Riverdale/Leslieville area a few months ago.  The diner offers a healthier take on classic comfort foods with dishes that incorporate local and worldly produce. Owner/chef Suzanne Barr has always been an avid foodie and has spent many years working in New York as a sous chef and vegan baker. She served as the executive chef for the raw-food supper club The New Deal, worked across the world as a private chef, launched Pepper andSprout Food a platform to educate and promote healthy food choices, and now opening her ideal restaurant, Saturday Dinette.

The small diner seats 30 making the ambiance quite intimate and cozy. The space is littered with feminine art, vintage kitchen equipment, old-school vinyl and lovely hanging light bulbs strung across the ceiling. The creativity and flair is fluent throughout the diner which truly makes Saturday Dinette a welcoming neighbourhood gem. The diner has also implemented a great employment programme for staffing women from the YMCA Toronto who have an interest in the restaurant industry.

The food at Saturday Dinette ranges from ribs and burgers for the meat lovers and millet burgers and blackened tofu for the vegetarians.  Comfort foods such as beef brisket, savoury baked pies and liver & onions are some local favourites. Fries are not an option at this diner instead you can order candied plantains, polenta cakes, roasted vegetables or herbed smashed potatoes to accompany your meal.  Saturday dinette also serves cocktails, local beers and wine. 

I sampled some of the dishes during the opening of Saturday Dinette and everything was loaded with impeccable flavour. I was really impressed with the creativity that went into each dish and would love to go back to try some of the other menu items that Suzanne has created.

Tarragon Polenta Cake

Zucchini Latkes with Pear Compote and Sour Cream

Fatty Sticky Ribs with Toasted Sesame and Green Papaya Slaw

80/20 Beef Lamb Burger  – Two Patties, Beet Mayo, Daikon Slaw and Candied Plaintains

Cardamom Chocolate Bark with Sweet + Salted Popcorn

Saturday Dinette is open for lunch and dinner, with brunch service on the weekends.

Saturday Dinette on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 10, 2014

Holiday Gift Guide 2014

Christmas is right around the corner and for some of you this is the most exciting time of the year and for others it's just an added stress.  Regardless of your sentiments for Christmas, the fact remains that it's only a few months away and you need to gear up and start deciding on what to buy for the loved ones in your life.  My advice to you is to start your shopping early and if possible, do it all online.  Malls in November and December are a nightmare and I try to avoid them at all costs.  I’ll be starting my shopping within a few weeks and wanted to share with you some suggestions I came across while attending a Christmas in July event at the Beverly Hotel and a few other items I've stumbled across this year that have peaked my interests.

For your mother or mother-in-law:

Mom’s have a weird obsession with soaps so buying her a set of luxurious soaps is the perfect idea.  Don’t waste your money on the strong-scented cheap soaps from Bath and Body Works, instead spend the extra cash and wow her with beneficial soft-scented soaps made with high quality ingredients. All of the soap at Perth Soap Company are paraben and phthalate free and are gentle on the skin. The cleansing bars are enriched with Argan Oil, are pH balanced, contain more than 30% moisturizing ingredients and are infused with specialty fragrances that embody luxury. The 3 scents available are Moroccan Spice, Milk and Honey and Rosemary Mint.  All of the scents are equally wonderful and just having them out on a dish in your bathroom will make the space smell incredible.  Perth Soap Company also carries a great 100% Moroccan Argan Oil which has many beneficial properties that your mother will love. The oil is rich in antioxidants, omega fatty acids and vitamins e & a. 

When it comes to cooking, my mom continuously impresses me with her natural ability to make absolutely amazing meals. My sister and I always tell her to open up a small restaurant but of course she thinks we are crazy. For a kitchen savvy mom like mine, a good quality set of pots, pans and bakeware is an absolute necessity in the household. You cant go wrong with purchasing her some items from the newly designed Circulon® Prime collection.  Designed to be a kitchen essential, the new Circulon® Prime range combines quality and versatility to bring a refreshing new choice of cookware that delivers a superior cooking experience. This is made possible by Circulon’s Total non-stick system, a patented hi-low circular groove technology that enhances non-stick durability. The system promotes a healthy lifestyle by delivering high performance food release without the need to cook with oils and fats. Further, each pan is induction cooktop suitable, oven and dishwasher safe, and comes with a lifetime guarantee. I tested out their 10 inch skillet and absolutely loved it. 

For your father or father-in-law:

The Carnivore Club helps the Ron Swanson-type of men in our lives by delivering them boxes of quality curated meats. This genius idea is the world’s first curated meat of the month club featuring artisans from around the world. Each month members receive an impressive faux-wood box filled with 4-6 handcrafted cured meats from top artisans. Each month’s box is themed around one producer specializing in a particular style of cured meats: French Charcuterie, Italian Salumi, Spanish Chorizo, South African Biltong and Artisanal Jerky are but a few. You’ll never receive the same product twice so you can happily expand your tastes monthly with an exciting new box.

For your girlfriend:

If you want to gain mad bonus points with your girlfriend this season, then buy her some nice underwear that has a little oomph to it.  As nice as it may be to surprise her with some Victoria Secret lace thongs, impress her this season by buying her a few pairs of these super comfy state-of-the-art undies by Knixwear.  Every pair of Knix Wear features the Fresh Fix Technology™. A thin yet super absorbent gusset, it wicks away moisture and naturally eliminates odor, keeping you feeling fresh and dry all day long - without the feeling that you're wearing anything other than your most comfortable pair of undies. They come in a variety of colours and styles and really do make the perfect stocking stuffer for any lady who appreciates quality underwear. I really love that these undies come in a cute reusable tube that can be turned into a pen holder or make-up brush holder afterwards.

For your boyfriend:

Amazing Clubs

Amazing clubs is a creative company that delivers monthly gift boxes full of one-of-a-kind gourmet products. There are a variety of boxes to choose from ranging from gifts for the avid coffee lover, the hot sauce fanatic and even for those who have a deep love for peanut butter. Some of the boxes ideal for the man in your life are the beer and wine boxes.  Monthly shipments of unique brands that cannot be found in stores are sent out monthly allowing any beer or wine enthusiast to bask in obscure brews.  Just sign-up and pick the category of box that you fancy and then choose how long you want the membership for. You'll never end up with the same item twice and each item has been sought out from around the world so you'll be sure to receive only the best products out there.

For a friend:

My Beauty Tea

My Beauty Tea is an online Canadian business that specializes in high quality loose leaf teas.  All of the teas contain natural flavoring enriched with flowers and fruits for a naturally sugar-free blend.  These teas come in a variety of flavours and there are green teas, black teas, white teas, rooibos, yerba mate and herbal to choose from. You can order these online along with some pretty neat tea accessories as well.  A favourite of mine is the Mermaid Blend which is a fruit tea containing hibiscus flowers, rosehips, apple cubes, orange peels, pineapple fruit, coconut shreds, flower blossoms and natural flavor. Any friend would be more than happy to receive a new stash of Canadian tea blends to add to their collection. 

Happy Shopping!