Monday, July 20, 2015

Niagara-On-The-Lake with GO Transit

Woohoo! With the summer season in full swing it is time to take advantage of the glorious weather and the great outdoors. Weekends are jam-packed with so many things to do, people to see and places to explore. It is also the perfect time to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the big city and plan a weekend adventure. Not sure where to go? Well, if you love visiting places with a "small-town" feel, enjoy shopping, appreciate good food and wine, world-class theatre and beautiful scenery, then I highly recommend that you visit Niagara-on-the-Lake. Situated on the south shore of Lake Ontario at the mouth of the Niagara River, Niagara-on-the-Lake is a one of the loveliest, if not the loveliest, town in Ontario. So, after checking the weather forecast, I decided to do a fun day trip out to Canada's premier wine region last Saturday.

Instead of driving, I ditched my car and took the GO. I never knew it was so convenient! With stops on the Lakeshore West line at Union Station, Exhibition, Port Credit, Oakville and Burlington GO Stations, and St. Catharines and Niagara Falls VIA Stations, GO makes it easy for anyone looking to do a weekend getaway to Niagara.



Since I live in Mississauga, I hopped on the GO Train at Port Credit Station, got off at St. Catharines, then took the GO bus shuttle to Niagara-on-the-Lake. You have no idea how great it feels to not have to drive and deal with traffic (driving in Toronto has permanently scarred me). I also love that I could relax and sneak in some precious zzz's on the train. 


I, unfortunately, don't own a bike but if you do, make sure you take it with you because getting around by bike is a great way to explore wine country. GO has made it extremely convenient for you to bring yours, with two special bike coaches on their Niagara-bound trains. All you have to do is lock up your bike and enjoy a worry free ride. All GO Buses are also outfitted with bike racks.


The GO Bus dropped us off at the corner of Picton and King, right in front of the prestigious Prince of Wales Hotel. Once I got off the bus I realized the historic town was packed! I guess everybody was taking advantage of the beautiful weather. I was so glad I didn't drive as it would've been really difficult to find parking.




Wednesday, July 15, 2015

TABASCO® - Feed Your Original With The Original

TABASCO® - the hot and spicy legendary pepper sauce that's made exclusively from tabasco peppers, vinegar and salt. I don't think there's anyone on earth that haven't heard of the household name; it's almost like saying you haven't heard of McDonald's, or Coca-Cola, or Disney. Yeah, I went there, only 'cause I see TABASCO® Sauce as the king of all hot sauces. It may not be the hottest hot sauce out there but TABASCO® is the real deal. It's the "original" pepper sauce that everybody knows of and I bet that almost every single home and restaurant owns a bottle of it in the kitchen. Damn, the fact that TABASCO® was founded over 100 years ago in 1868 is incredibly impressive too. That in itself says something, right?

When you think of TABASCO® Sauce, or even just hot sauce in general, it's usually an afterthought in that one would usually add a dash of it to a dish that's already been prepared and ready to eat. However, that perception went straight out the window when I was invited to the exclusive TABASCO® Feed Your Original With The Original event last week.


Here, let me put all this into context for you. It all started when TABASCO® (Instagram: @tabascocanada, Facebook: Tabascosent Canada's hottest Chef collective, The Group of 7 Chefs, down to Avery Island, Louisiana, the birthplace and home of TABASCO®, to immerse them in the culture and heritage of the island, and inspire them as they planned their original dish, one that uses TABASCO® Sauce as an ingredient. I suggest you take a few minutes and watch this short film documenting the Chefs' amazing adventure in Louisiana!



The Chefs returned truly inspired, and on Tuesday, July 7th, each of the seven chefs prepared a dish using TABASCO® Sauce in the most creative way, and guests that evening had the opportunity to be first-to-taste and savour these original creations. 

The #feedyouroriginal Group of 7 Chefs:





Monday, July 13, 2015

Kabuki Sushi Lounge

Now that summer is finally here I'm feeling very motivated to hit up Shops at Don MillsOntario's first open air shopping centre (shopping outside in the dead of winter has never appealed to me). As a matter of fact, even if you're not much of a shopper the outdoor mall is still a very fun spot to just hang out - it's a nice place to take your significant other and if you have little kids they'll probably enjoy playing at the Town Square too (the Town Square is essentially a big patch of grass which converts into a skating rink in the winter). You can also walk your dog, grab coffee, get your dry cleaning done, have lunch, have dinner, or go see a movie... basically you get a lot of things done there. And if you are finally down for some shopping you can shop your heart out at over 70 retail stores. I should also mention that Shops at Don Mills is an awesome place for people-watching and car-watching.

Here's a tip from me: Never go shopping with an empty stomach. Shopping is hard work so having a proper meal before hitting the shops is crucial (feeling exhausted after two hours of shopping is unacceptable ladies). If you're looking to fuel up before your shopping sesh at Shops at Don Mills I suggest you check out Kabuki Sushi Lounge (Instagram: @kabukisushilounge, Facebook: Kabuki Sushi Lounge). Treat yourself to some delicious sashimi before conquering the shops (no carbs = no bloated tummy) and if you can't fit in a sit-down lunch then make sure your grab a drink or dinner at Kabuki afterwards. Why? For the marvelous job you did snagging those Louboutins, of course! What I'm trying to say is there's always time for tasty Japanese food. And you know what's amazing? Kabuki offers complimentary valet, which just means more time for eating and shopping!


First, a bit of background on the restaurant. Kabuki Japanese Resturant first opened in 1999 at Bayview Village Shopping Centre as a family business operated by Philip Yam and his two sons, Carson and Jason. For more than 15 years, the casual 60-seat restaurant served traditional sushi and Japanese dishes to its local clientele. In February 2015, the Yam family made an executive decision to relocate the restaurant to Shops at Don Mills. Now operating as Kabuki Sushi Lounge, the new location promises a new and exciting menu that serves both authentic and modern Japanese plates.


The new Kabuki's lofty interior is chic and contemporary. There are tables against the two walls, by the large window at the front of the restaurant, as well as booth seating in the middle of the room (this is unique since booths are usually off to the side). Kabuki can accommodate up to 80 people inside and 24 people on the patio.


I noticed that the flatscreens above the Kabuki bar are always showing news, sports and Japanese anime (one screen each). The TVs here definitely contributes to the "lounge" aspect of the restaurant.




Wednesday, July 8, 2015

New Dinner Menu at Mildred's Temple Kitchen

I made my way to Mildred's Temple Kitchen (Twitter: @mildredstempleFacebook: Mildred's Temple Kitchen) several weeks ago for their newly launched dinner menu. Hidden in the heart of Liberty Village, the restaurant prides itself on serving flavourful dishes cooked simply and using the freshest locally-sourced ingredients whenever possible. 


"Mildred’s Temple Kitchen opened with a heartfelt philosophy. We’re here because we love food, people and the simple pleasures of life: our temple is the place where we practice our devotionHere you’ll find seasonal fare, prepared with reverence for its source, and served with pleasure." - Mildred's Temple Kitchen.


Mildred's Temple Kitchen used to be my go-to place for lunch when I worked in the area, and I didn't realize just how much I miss the place until this very visit! That high ceiling, those beautiful floor-to-ceiling windows, the super spacious room, and the casual and relaxing ambiance...yeah, not many restaurants in Toronto can claim they have all these elements (actually a lot of restaurants these days are crammed, dark, and loud).


Mildred's open kitchen.




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.