Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Winner of The Whisky Cabinet Giveaway is...

@philistweeting

Congratulations, Phil! You've just won a signed copy of The Whisky Cabinet plus personalized whisky recommendations from author Mark Bylok! Please email me your first and last name along with your mailing address to foodjunkiechronicles@gmail.com to claim your prize.


I also want to say a big THANK YOU to the 59 contestants who participated in the contest

Here's a snapshot of the Excel spreadsheet where I tracked the #fjcwhisky hashtag from day one of the contest. The tracking was done using chronological order, as in, #1 was the first person to enter the contest. To enter, the person had to tweet "Hey @foodieyu I want to win a signed copy of @whiskybook + whisky recommendations from @markbylok! http://bit.ly/1yChD9Y #fjcwhisky". Each person could tweet once a day for the duration of the contest. Once the contest was over and everybody's entries were accounted for I checked to see if they follow me (@foodieyu) on Twitter. Below are the 131 valid entries:


.I used "True Random Number Generator" from random.org to pick the winner for me.




EDO-ko

I was invited to EDO-ko (Twitter: @EDORestaurants, Facebook: EDO Restaurants) last week for their mid-January media event. If my memory serves me right, this visit marks my first time ever at an EDO restaurant (little did I know the first EDO opened in 1986!) So when I received this exclusive invitation I thought it was the perfect opportunity to check it out. EDO has a total of four locations: EDO-ko on Spadina, EDO on Eglinton, EDO at Bayview Village and EDO at the Hilton. 


The dinner event was hosted by EDO CEO & Founder, Barry Chaim, and EDO Executive Chef Ryo Ozawa:

BARRY J. CHAIM - CEO and Founder
Barry Chaim, a graduate of McGill University in Montreal, received a Japanese Government Mombushu Research Fellowship to study at Tokyo University in Japan in 1973. In 1986 Chaim made a financial investment in founding EDO, a Japanese restaurant in mid-town Toronto, while in the spring of 1996 he took over direct management. In 1998, EDO received recognition as one of Gourmet Magazine's "America's Top Tables". A Fellow of the Ontario Hostelry Institute since 2002, Chaim was named Asian Restauranteur of the Year in 2012 by the Cambridge Food and Wine Society, the first non-Asian to receive this recognition. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre, Toronto.

RYO OZAWA - Executive Chef
Born, raised and educated in Fukuoka, Japan, Ryo Ozawa, after 10 years of training and work in Japan, specializes in classical French cuisine (Seiyo-Ryori). Ozawa attained the senior rank of Teaching Chef and has won national and international competitions, including first place in the Canadian Culinary Cup (2002), a Gold Medal in individual competition at the IKA/World Culinary Olympics in Erfurt Germany (2012), and a Glenfiddich Award from the Cambridge Food & Wine Society as Asian Chef of the Year (2013). Ozawa combines Japanese essence and western influences in EDO's menu, and excels when challenged to present his omakase (chef's choice) menu.

Executive Chef Ryo Ozawa and CEO & Founder Barry Chaim

At the dinner, Chaim explained to us that EDO is not a sushi restaurant but a Japanese restaurant that offers sushi. He told us that cuisine in Japan is divided into two streams - Washoku and Seiyo-Ryori. Wa-Shoku is the traditional method of cooking that includes tempura, teriyaki, kaiseki, sushi, oden, and sukiyaki, etc. Seiyo-Ryori is the combination of European (mainly French) sauces and influences on Japanese methods and standards, evolving constantly into new dishes with the same or different ingredients. Chef Ozawa was trained in Seiyo-Ryori, never having professionally prepared sushi in Japan. Chaim described chef Ozawa's approach as not fusion but a "careful consideration and combination of an ever-evolving unique style".

We were treated to many dishes that evening, from cold and hot appetizers, tempura, to sushi, specialty maki rolls and grilled mains.

KYU- MAKI ($7)
Avocado, cucumber slivers & sweet inari wrapped in delicate cucumber skin, rice vinaigrette


SALMON TAR-TARE ($13)
Avocado, Tem-bits, cucumber, tobiko, green onion, nori squares, Dynamite Sauce




Friday, January 23, 2015

Pukka: Modern Indian One Year Later

I loved Pukka a year ago and I'm still loving it. The talented chefs at this contemporary Indian restaurant on St. Clair West have an uncanny ability to consistently deliver bold, immaculate flavours on every plate. And when I say "bold flavours" I don't mean just spicy; I mean layers upon layers of delicate spices and seasonings that magically come together, creating unforgettable flavours on your palette. The inventive twists at Pukka (Twitter: @pukkatoronto, Facebook: Pukka Toronto) are done tastefully with a purpose and never gimmicky, all the while paying homage to classic Indian dishes. Pukka is certainly "Not your mother's Indian".

At the media dinner on Tuesday, co-owners Harsh Chawla and Derek Valleau, and sommelier Peter Boyd led us through a tasting menu accompanied by wine. Yes, Indian food with wine pairings! An unfamiliar concept to most but I assure you it works really well.


Here's a look at what I had:

BRITISH RAJ
Gosling's rum, lime, almond syrup, pineapple juice


STRING CHAAT
String vegetables, sprouts, rice crisps, pomegranate, mango, chutneys + yoghurt
Wine pairing: '13 Muller Thurgau, Nals Margreid. Alto Adige, Italy. 


TANDOORI CHICKEN TIKKA
Herb-infused + tamarind chutney
Wine pairing: '13 Muller Thurgau, Nals Margreid. Alto Adige, Italy.


GUNDPOWDER PRAWNS
Tempered moong bean salad
Wine pairing: '13 Muller Thurgau, Nals Margreid. Alto Adige, Italy.




Thursday, January 22, 2015

Pastizza

Pastizza (Twitter: @PastizzaTO, Facebook: Pastizza) is a stunningly beautiful restaurant. The 5,000 square foot two-story Italian eatery at the corner of Market Street and The Esplanade in downtown is home to a magnificent 30 foot tall custom wine chandelier, a massive open kitchen, and a 100-seat patio in the summer. What's even more attractive (to me at least) is its location; Pastizza is conveniently located across the street from one of the world’s greatest markets, the St. Lawrence Market. With over 120 vendors, the St. Lawrence Market is my favourite place to shop for fresh fruits, meat and seafood. It is an awesome place to grab a quick bite (i.e. the world famous Peameal Bacon Sandwich from Carousel Bakery) but if you're looking for a nice, relaxing sit-down place for lunch or dinner, the Market is not the place. What you need to do is head over to Pastizza which is literally just a few steps away.

Co-owners Paolo Paolini (founder of Splendido and Mistura) and Thomas Baker (proprietor of Thomas George Estate winery) opened Pastizza in August of last year. Their vision for the restaurant involves serving Italian comfort food with a strong focus on using local ingredients.

Look at this space. It's gorgeous, ain't it? I'm not feeling those large TV screens though. They can go.


This majestic and elegant wine chandelier is not just for looks; the tower can hold up to 600 bottles.


Exclusive, one-of-a-kind Pastizza branded bottles from Thomas George Estate in Sonoma, California




Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Whisky Cabinet Giveaway - CLOSED

I'm giving away ONE SIGNED COPY of The Whisky Cabinet plus PERSONALIZED WHISKY RECOMMENDATIONS FROM THE AUTHOR!

Value of this amazing prize? PRICELESS.

(Photo from The Whisky Cabinet)

For those of you who follow me on Instagram and/or Twitter, you may know that I'm a whisky enthusiast. Although I love whiskies I'm far from being an expert (to be honest it was only last year that I started getting really into it.) There's so much to learn about whiskies, from it's history and how it's made, to why certain whiskies tastes different than others. The part I enjoy the most is obviously tasting different whiskies and finding out which ones I like, which ones I dislike and why. I don't have a huge whisky collection yet but I'm working on it :)

My whisky collection

Over the Christmas holidays, I had an opportunity to read The Whisky Cabinet from front to back, literally. I spent hours on the couch with my head completely immersed in the book...I couldn't stop! I learned so much about whiskies from The Whisky Cabinet and I'm so glad I got my hands on it. The book is really well written in that it's approachable and easy to understand without all the technical jargon and frills. I personally love the book and would recommend it to anybody. Not surprisingly, The Whisky Cabinet became the #1 Best Seller in Whisky and Buyer's Guide (Spirits & Wine) Categories on Amazon last week.


Mark Bylok (Photo from The Whisky Cabinet)

Not only will the winner receive a signed copy of The Whisky Cabinet, he/she will also receive personalized whisky recommendations from Mark Bylok. When writing The Whisky Cabinet Mark has tasted many of hundreds of whiskies, and based on this experience he will personally recommend the next whiskies the winner will enjoy purchasing. The winner will be in contact with Mark via email, and provide Mark with a list of whiskies he or she enjoys and the sort of recommendations they’re looking for (price point, region, etc..). Based on this information, Mark will provide buying recommendations to round on their personal whisky cabinet. New to whisky? Not an issue, Mark will offer great starter whiskies too.

(Photo from The Whisky Cabinet)

HOW TO ENTER
1) You MUST be following me (@foodieyu) on Twitter

AND
2) Tweet the following sentence, exactly as shown, nothing before or after it: 

Hey @foodieyu I want to win a signed copy of @whiskybook + whisky recommendations from @markbylok! http://bit.ly/1yChD9Y #fjcwhisky

1. For your entry to be valid, you need to tweet the above sentence exactly as shown
2. You may tweet once a day for the duration of the contest. Re-tweeting others do NOT count as a valid entry
3. Contest is tracked by the #fjcwhisky hashtag. If you don't see your tweet in the hashtag stream it means there is no entry from you. Read this to find out the possible reasons why your tweets are not showing up
4. Contest is open to all Canadian residents.

CONTEST DURATION
Contest starts on Tuesday, January 20 and ends on Tuesday, January 27 at 12PM. 
One lucky winner will be chosen randomly from www.random.org and I will announce the winner shortly after.

GOOD LUCK!!! ^_^



Friday, January 16, 2015

Byblos: Eastern Mediterranean in King West

One of my favourite spots right now, one that I can't wait to go back to, is Byblos (Facebook: Byblos, Twitter: @ByblosToronto). Serving Eastern Mediterranean cuisine in the heart of Toronto's Entertainment District, the upscale 120-seat Mediterranean restaurant by Charles Khabouth and Hanif Harji of Icon Legacy Hospitality and Ink Entertainment was recently ranked #5 in Globe & Mail's list of "Top 10 new Toronto Restaurants of 2014" (the restaurateurs also own NAO Steakhouse, Weslodge, and another one of my favourites - Patria). Byblos' Executive Chef Stuart Cameron (@chef_stucameron) focuses on making ingredients in-house and sourcing as many products as he can from the Middle East. 

"Using time-honored classic cooking techniques and modern methods, Executive Chef Stuart Cameron has created dishes that showcase the regionally-specific spices and flavours of the Eastern Mediterranean seaboard. The menu is a true coastal and cultural mosaic, served family style in a convivial atmosphere."- Byblos


The 2,000 sq. ft restaurant opened its doors in March of last year in the 170-year-old Storys Building. I was eager to sit in the main floor dining room (which I heard is gorgeous) but unfortunately, the main floor was closed off. Upstairs, the large dining room has shiny gold and copper panels, aged white walls, and oiled wooden floors flanked by Persian style rugs.


The large bar area.


The Byblos menu is divided into "small", "large", "sides" and "rice", and they are all meant to be shared family-style. The four of us shared five small plates, two large plates, one rice dish and five desserts:

CRISPY EGGPLANT ($12)
Tahini Aioli + Bayildi Sauce + Basturma




Thursday, January 15, 2015

Schnitzel HUB on Yonge

Can you name a few popular Eastern European dishes? I can. Schnitzel, beef goulash, bratwurst, cabbage rolls, perogies, blinis, beef stroganoff, borscht and vodka (yes I said vodka) It's certainly not an impressive list, especially coming from a self-proclaimed "foodie" but what's even worse is that I've had very little experience eating any of those dishes. I think unless your family is from Eastern Europe, it's safe to say that most Torontonians have very little exposure to Eastern European cuisine in general. Aside from the perogi, where we have a handful of popular downtown restaurants (i.e. The Saint tavern and Richmond Station) serving their take on the Polish dumpling, it's not an easy feat to find traditional or modern twists on Eastern European classics. So, does that mean we have to make a trip to Australia, Hungry or the Czech Republic for some wiener schnitzel? Nope. All you gotta do is venture north of Bloor to Yonge and St. Clair. You can do it, guys.


Aside from my meal at Hungarian restaurant Country Style on Bloor Street more than three years ago, Schnitzel HUB (Facebook: Schnitzel HUB, Twitter: @Schnitzel_HUB) is most likely the only Eastern European restaurant I've been to since then. I know, it's sad but did you know, my Country Style post is the third most popular post of all time on my blog? Amazing.


With its first location in Thornhill, owners Yan and Rita Khalfon opened their second Schnitzel HUB at 1415 Yonge Street in November of last year. I visited the new midtown bistro during the Christmas holidays.




Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Winner of the Truvia® Baking Blend Prize Pack Giveaway is...

@becannee

Congratulations, Rebecca! You've just won a Truvia® Baking Blend Prize Pack! This amazing prize pack has tons of baking goodies in it including a 680 g bag of Truvia® Baking Blend, cookie sheets, a mini cupcake pan, pastry cutter, a set of whisks and a two-tier dessert tray. Please email me your first and last name along with your mailing address to foodjunkiechronicles@gmail.com so I can send it off to you right away :)


I also want to say a big THANK YOU to the 117 contestants who participated in the contest

Here's a snapshot of the Excel spreadsheet where I tracked the #guiltfreebaking hashtag from day one of the contest. The tracking was done using chronological order, as in, #1 was the first person to enter the contest. To enter, the person had to tweet "I want to win a @Truvia Baking Blend Prize Pack from @foodieyu! http://bit.ly/1IqdaK5 #guiltfreebaking". Each person could tweet once a day for the duration of the contest. Once the contest was over and everybody's entries were accounted for I checked to see if they follow me (@foodieyu) on Twitter. Below are the 307 valid entries:


.I used "True Random Number Generator" from random.org to pick the winner for me.





Thursday, January 8, 2015

Crêpe & Co. European Café

Crêperies. Very limited number of them in Toronto. Having said that it's still not too too hard to find the classic French dish in the city - a number of dessert places come to mind actually, such as Caffe Demetre and Spin Dessert, as well as Crepe De Licious which you'll find in various shopping malls. However, when it comes to stand-alone crêperies that specialize in both sweet and savoury crêpes, I can only think of three: Café Crepe, Crepes A-Go-Go, and Millie Creperie (which serves French crêpes with a Japanese twist).

Anyway, unbeknownst to me, Crêpe & Co European Café (Twitter: CrepeCoCafe, Facebook: Crepecocafe) opened last summer across the street from the Gladstone Hotel on 1167 Queen St. W. So make that four crêperies. I visited the cozy European-style café for an early dinner during the Christmas holiday. 


Inspired by their travels and the delicious thin pancakes found throughout Europe, husband and wife Andrey and Natalie were determined to open a café, one specializing in the traditional French crêpe, both sweet and savoury, with Eastern European influenced fillings (i.e. "My Big Fat Greek Crepe", "Chicken Kiev", "Polish Sausage & Mushroom") 


There are a total of 14 savoury crêpes and 16 dessert crêpes. It shouldn't be hard to find one you want to try; the real problem is choosing only one.




Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Truvia® Baking Blend Prize Pack Giveaway - CLOSED

Are you an avid baker? Or know someone who is? If your answer is "YES" then this is the contest for you.

I'm giving away a Truvia® Baking Blend Prize Pack! The prize pack includes a bunch of baking goodies: a 680 g bag of Truvia® Baking Blend, cookie sheets, a mini cupcake pan, pastry cutter, a set of whisks and a two-tier dessert tray (desserts not included).


Designed for easy, at-home baking, the new Truvia® Baking Blend is a blend of calorie-free sweetener and sugar. It provides a sugar-like taste in recipes but with 75% fewer calories per serving than sugar (i.e. 1⁄2 cup of Truvia® Baking Blend has 190 calories and provides the same sweetness as 1 cup of sugar that has approximately 760 calories.) In case you missed my post yesterday, I substituted sugar with Truvia® Baking Blend when I made my favourite Carrot Pineapple Muffins on the weeknd. The result was fabulous; the muffins looked and tasted identical to the ones made with sugar, but by using Truvia® Baking Blend each muffin now had 50 less calories


Is Truvia® Baking Blend the answer to guilt-free baking? I think so! But here's a chance for you to find out for yourself.


HOW TO ENTER
1) You MUST be following me (@foodieyu) on Twitter
AND
2) Tweet the following sentence, exactly as shown, nothing before or after it: 

I want to win a @Truvia Baking Blend Prize Pack from @foodieyu! http://bit.ly/1IqdaK5 #guiltfreebaking

1. For your entry to be valid, you need to tweet the above sentence exactly as shown
2. You may tweet once a day for the duration of the contest. Re-tweeting others do NOT count as a valid entry
3. Contest is tracked by the #guiltfreebaking hashtag. If you don't see your tweet in the hashtag stream it means there is no entry from you. Read this to find out the possible reasons why your tweets are not showing up
4. Contest is open to all Canadian residents.

CONTEST DURATION
Contest starts on Wednesday, January 7 and ends on Wednesday, January 14 at 12PM. 
One lucky winner will be chosen randomly from www.random.org and I will announce the winner shortly after.

GOOD LUCK!!! ^_^