Thursday, July 2, 2015

4 to 7 Bar Snacks at Nota Bene

You know I'm always looking out for you guys, right? In terms of food-related stuff like where I went to eat, if I liked the food or not, what my favourite dishes were, whether I would go again, etc. Well, last week Nota Bene (Twitter: @NotaBeneToronto, Facebook: Nota Bene Restaurant) invited me to try out their new bar snacks menu "4 TO 7" and long story short, I liked it! It's a steal and I would definitely want to go again.

Offered Monday to Friday from 4PM to 7PM, Nota Bene's "4 TO 7" menu offers a variety of bar snacks for $4 (they become $7 from 7PM till close). The "4 TO 7" menu consists of 10 snacks.


The 10 snacks from Nota Bene's "4 TO 7" menu look something like this:

TRUFFLE POPCORN
Parmigiana 


SALT COD FRITTERS
Kimchi mayo


BURRATA PUGLIESE
Grilled miche, olive oil 




Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Dandylion

Three starters, three mains, three desserts. A total of nine dishes make up the entire menu at Dandylion. Short and sweet. This is perfect because it has never been about quantity with me; actually the more options there are on a menu the more indecisive I get (I believe this applies to most things in life.) In any case, what's more important is quality and no word of a lie, Dandylion (@DandyLionTO) has completely won me over and in doing so, it has now become one of my favourite restaurants in the city. Yep, it's that good.


Just like its menu, Dandylion on 1198 Queen St. West is small, intimate and comfortable.


The 30-seat restaurant is casual and welcoming. The potted plants are such a lovely touch.


Opened in November of last year, chef / owner Jay Carter - who worked under Susur Lee for 10 years (Susur, Lee, Madeline's) and was exec chef at the now-closed Centro - focuses on vegetables at his restaurant; he treats them not as a complement but rather the star of his dishes. But don't worry, carnivores, Dandylion is not a vegetarian spot...just don't expect huge slabs of meat there anytime soon (or ever).

The bar menu features whites, reds and beer. There's no cocktail program.

MUSCAT OF ALEXANDRIA, TERRA LEMNIA 2012. LIMNOS, GREECE ($48)




Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Being a Roving Twitter Reporter for Toronto Taste 2015

Often referred to as "Toronto’s most talked about culinary event of the year", Toronto Taste, presented by The Daniels Corporationcelebrated its 25th anniversary on Sunday, June 7th, at Corus Quay. The legendary culinary fundraiser in support of Second Harvest’s food rescue program attracted over 1,400 food lovers. Guests had the opportunity to mingle with celebrity chefs, sample offerings from 60 of Toronto’s finest restaurants and over 30 beverage purveyors, watch chefs go head-to-head competing in the Chef Challenge, win extraordinary raffle prizes, and bid on rare wines, epic culinary and travel experiences, and luxury goods and services in Toronto Taste’s wine, live, and silent auctions. 


Second Harvest (Twitter: @2ndHarvestTO, Facebook: Second Harvest) is a charity that rescues fresh, surplus food, that would otherwise go to waste from grocery stores, manufacturers, distributors, farmers, restaurants and hotels. The food is delivered daily to more than 200 social service agencies feeding people experiencing hunger across Toronto. Since 1985 Second Harvest has rescued and delivered 100 million pounds of good food, thus preventing 50 million pounds of greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere. Second Harvest’s vision: No Waste. No Hunger. 

Funds raised at Toronto Taste keep Second Harvest trucks on the road, every day, rescuing good food and delivering it to social service agencies feeding children, adults and seniors experiencing hunger. The event is critical to the success of Second Harvest’s food rescue program and accounts for 20% of the organization's annual revenue. This year, Toronto Taste raised $850,000 for Second Harvest, enough to provide 1.7 million meals to people experiencing hunger across Toronto. This makes Toronto Taste 2015 the most successful fundraising event in 25 year history.


2015 marks my fifth year as a Toronto Taste Social Media Committee Member and trust me when I say that I still feel extremely honoured to be part of this amazing event. And much like the past four years I arrived to the venue several hours before doors open to reacquaint myself with the site and to help set up.


A shot of the main stage area. This is where the Live Auction and the Chef Challenge will take place. The Live Auction features big-ticket items and unique culinary experiences, and the Chef Challenge is where three up-and-coming chefs compete to whip up the tastiest dish with a mystery box of ingredients.




Thursday, June 18, 2015

Discovered Culinary Competition 2015 Round 1 Semifinals

Here is a quick post on what went down at the Discovered Culinary Competition Round 1 Semifinals on June 1st where I was on the judging panel with Giacomo Pasquini (Executive Chef at Vertical) and Adrian Forte (Chef at The Dirtybird). I was on the judging panel two years ago (see post hereand it feels great to be back!

In its fourth year running, the Discovered Culinary Competition (#discoveredchefs) gives up-and-coming Canadian talents the opportunity to showcase their culinary skills. Competing chefs work against the clock in a high energy, black box competition in front of a live audience and a rotating panel of judges. The competition began on February 23rd at Nella Cucina (@nellacucina) with 14 weeks of preliminary challenges where both winners and runner-ups advanced from the weekly challenges, which resulted in 14 semi-finalists plus two Facebook fan favourites. These 16 semi-finalist then moved on to the second part of the competition composed of four semi-final matches and four finalists. These finalists will then compete on June 30th where one winner will be awarded an all-expenses-paid trip to Spain for a week-long stage in a Michelin star restaurant.

ROUND 1 SEMIFINALISTS


Each competition begins with four contestants. There are three rounds: Appetizer, Entree and Dessert. Each contestant is provided with a basket of mystery ingredients as well as equipment and a stocked pantry. 





Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Spoke Club

Dinner at The Spoke Club does not happen everyday for me. The reason is simple: The Spoke Club is a members-only establishment and I'm not a member. So yeah, I'm not gonna lie, it felt pretty great when Executive Chef Rob Klunder invited me there for a tasting the other night because let's be real, I don't think I'll ever be able to afford a $1000 annual membership fee there, at least not in the near future. One day perhaps? Never say never? *Fingers crossed*

Even if you haven't heard of The Spoke Club (Twitter: @TheSpokeClub, Facebook: The Spoke ClubI'm pretty sure you have walked by it if you frequent the King West area. It is discreetly nestled in a hundred-year-old building on the corner of King and Portland (the same building as the bier markt if that makes it any easier). The exclusive club has four floors where members can host private functions / dinners, business meetings, enjoy casual drinks and nibbles at the lounge or a nice meal in the dining room. It even has a rooftop patio with a panoramic view of the city and a screening room where members can preview films. Pretty cool, huh? I should also note that when you become a member at The Spoke Club you'll also get access to their reciprocal clubs in New York, Dublin, London, Budapest, Shanghai, Tokyo and Hong Kong. 

Once I arrived at The Spoke Club I took the elevator to the 4th floor. As much as I would like to visit the gorgeous rooms and art galleries the restaurant is really where it's at (in other words I was starving so nothing else matters).



This simple yet elegant space is cozy and welcoming with large gallery windows letting in ample sunlight. The 50-seat restaurant is open for lunch and dinner on weekdays, and dinner on Saturdays.

Rather than serving what's normally on the menu chef Klunder (Instagram: @rkbones) prepared a special tasting menu for us. I'm pretty confident that after seeing my dinner you'll agree that it's a shame that we can't all dine at The Spoke Club:

GUANCIALE CROSTINI
Porter Stout Cheddar, Preserved Brandy Cherries and Triple Crunch Mustard


RACK OF RABBIT
Beet Salad, Blue Cheese, Celery and Candied Walnuts


SNAILS AND SHRIMP IN FILO
Garlic Butter and Pickled Red Cauliflower




Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Winners of the French's Summer Giveaway are...

@Prairiebelle
@nbellotoronto

Congratulations, Belinda and Nicolas! You have each just won a French's prize pack! Each prize pack includes one French's Tomato Ketchup and two new mustard variations: French’s Sweet Yellow Mustard and French’s Spicy Yellow Mustard, as well as grilling tools and a wicker picnic basketPlease 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 109 contestants who participated in the contest

Here's a snapshot of the Excel spreadsheet where I tracked the #fjcfrenchs 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 1 of 2 French's Summer Prize Packs! http://bit.ly/1KCwE0v #fjcfrenchs". 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 252 valid entries:


.I used "True Random Number Generator" from random.org to pick two winners for me.




Thursday, June 4, 2015

La Cubana Ossington

After eight years, Delux - a bistro serving Cuban food by day and French food by night - closed and re-opened as La Cubana Ossington in February of this year. At the time Delux owner Corinna Mozo had already opened her first, and very successful, La Cubana in Roncesvalles Village in late 2013 (I have not been to the Roncesvalles location but I always hear good things about it). A bit about Mozo: She grew up with Cuban food because her father, who spent much of his childhood at his father's diner in Cuba, would often cook Cuban food at home after emigrating to Canada. Mozo eventually became a chef and opened Delux on Ossington Avenue in 2007.

Fast forward to 2015 to La Cubana #2 or La Cubana Ossington (Twitter: @lacubana_oz, Facebook: La Cubana Ossington). The seafoam green walls, patterned tile floors, camel-coloured banquettes and brightly lit signage all give a very retro look to the Cuban snack bar.


Similar to the Roncesvalles location, La Cubana Ossington serves casual Cuban food. The difference between the two locations is that the Ossington menu is much more condensed than the one at Roncesvalles; it has a smaller selection of sandwiches and Cuban plates. Roncesvalles also offer an appetizer/snacks menu which Ossington doesn't (you can compare the menus here: Roncy menu vs. Ossington menu).


Order at the counter then take a seat. Your food will be brought to your table when it's ready.


LA CUBANA BEER ($4)
RASPBERRY LIME RICKEY ($5)




Wednesday, June 3, 2015

French's Summer Giveaway - CLOSED

To celebrate the grilling season and longer, sunnier days, I'm giving away TWO French's prize packs! Each prize pack includes one French's Tomato Ketchup and two new mustard variations: French’s Sweet Yellow Mustard and French’s Spicy Yellow Mustardas well as grilling tools and a wicker picnic basket!


Crafted with only simple, quality ingredients, including stone-ground 100 per cent Canadian mustard seeds, French’s Classic Yellow Mustard has been Canada’s best-loved mustard for more than 100 years. In May, French's introduced two new mustard variations with exciting, on-trend flavours: French’s Sweet Yellow Mustard with a touch of brown sugar (great for roasted vegetables, salads, sauces and marinades) and French’s Spicy Yellow Mustard with cayenne pepper (perfect addition to tacos, wraps, dips and dressings). Like French’s Classic Yellow Mustard, both new mustards are fat-free and gluten-free. 


Responding to requests from French's consumers, the new French's Tomato Ketchup is made without preservatives, artificial flavours and colours, is gluten-free, and starting this summer, French's ketchup will be made with 100 per cent Canadian tomatoes grown by local farmers. Additionally, French's have partnered with Food Banks Canada and with every bottle of ketchup sold, they will donate $0.10 to Canadian food banks to fight hunger in the local community.


Beyond the bun, French's ignites new flavour possibilities in dips, salads, dressings, marinades and more. French's new ketchup and mustards are available now in stores nationwide but as always you can WIN them hear instead!


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 1 of 2 French's Summer Prize Packs! http://bit.ly/1KCwE0v #fjcfrenchs

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 #fjcfrenchs 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

CONTEST DURATION
Contest starts on Wednesday, Jun 3 and ends on Wednesday, Jun 10 at noon. 
Two lucky winners will be chosen randomly from www.random.org and I will announce the winners shortly after.

GOOD LUCK!!! ^_^



Monday, June 1, 2015

Mr. Tonkatsu

Hailed as one of the most popular “western style” Japanese food in Japan, "tonkatsu" are thick slices of pork that are breaded and deep-fried in a manner similar to German schnitzel. The term "tonkatsu" comes from the word "katsu" meaning cutlet and "tonkatsu" meaning breaded and fried cutlet (not to be confused with “tonkotsu” which is pork bone broth). In Japan, tonkatsu are usually served as a set meal with shredded cabbage, a bowl of rice, miso soup and pickles. The slices of tonkatsu is accompanied by tonkatsu sauce - think Japanese BBQ sauce - which can either be drizzled over the tonkatsu or poured on the side for dipping. Tonkatsu is a very common dish that can be found at a variety of restaurants across Japan because 1) it's tasty, and 2) a regular tonkatsu dish typically cost around 800 to 1500 yen (or $8 to $15 CAD). Very affordable. Tonkatsu is also very popular in Korea as the dish was brought to the country when it was under Japanese rule from 1910-1945. Over time, Korea developed its own styles and interpretations of tonkatsu (i.e. cheese katsu, kimchi cheese katsu, sweet potato katsu, etc.)

With the basics out of the way, let me now introduce you to Mr. Tonkatsu.


Opened earlier this year at 520 Bloor St. W., Mr. Tonkatsu specializes in *surprise* tonkatsu! While tonkatsu is by far the most popular katsu dish on the menu, Mr. Tonkatsu also serves other katsu variations made of chicken, fish, and beef. Also available are katsudon (tonkatsu and eggs cooked in seasoned dashi over rice) and katsu burgers (sandwich with tonkatsu as filling, weekday lunch only) as well as fried chicken and tempura.


A few shots of the Mr. Tonkatsu space. At the front are two large communal tables occupying the right side of the restaurant.





Thursday, May 21, 2015

The One Eighty (formerly Panorama)

Renowned for its spectacular panoramic north and south views of the city, what used to be Panorama on the 51st floor of the Manulife Centre has now been re-launched as The One Eighty, a sophisticated restaurant and cocktail lounge offering specialty cocktails and an innovative food menu. I remember back in the day when I was still in school Panorama was the place for a guy to take a girl on the first date. I remember the last time I was there I was on a date too...like 10+ years ago. I wasn't really into food nor cocktails back then but man, I remember feeling so "grown-up" just being there. The place was so chic and fancy, you know? Downtown Yorkville, Bay & Bloor, 51st floor, pretty desserts and drinks. Yep, 'Sauga girl in the big city! Oh, how times have changed...


Anyhoo, let's not get off track. The decor at The One Eighty (Twitter: @the51stfloor, Facebook: The One Eighty) is a mix of classic and contemporary. Modern lines with shades of grey, touches of wood, and gold/bronze accents all evoke a sense of luxury in the revamped 2,500 sq. ft. space. Actually, I'm really loving those glossy white arched ceilings.



The restaurant accommodates over 90 guests for sit-down dining and up to 250 guests for cocktail receptions and events. The One Eighty also has a 1,500 sq. ft patio offering breathtaking views of the city.


A nice semi-private nook for a small group of friends