Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Berrylicious. Farm Fresh - An Interactive Culinary Workshop with #CanolaConnect

Last Wednesday, I was invited to Berrylicious. Farm Fresh., one of eight FARM TO FOOD canola oil inspired culinary workshop series presented by Canola Eat Well, a joint partnership between Alberta Canola and Manitoba Canola GrowersThe interactive event, hosted by Joey Salmingo and led by chef Cory Vitiello of The Harbord Room and Flock Restaurants, provided guests with an opportunity to connect to the farm, learn more about canola oil, and get inspired in the kitchen. This #CanolaConnect culinary workshop took place at the Bosch Luxe Studio on 334 King St. E., a beautiful, posh kitchen featuring professional Bosch appliances.


Chef Vitiello (right) uses canola oil everyday in his roast chickens and salads at Flock, as well as in his famous burger served at The Harbord Room (click here for recipe). Chef Vitiello taught us two recipes that evening: romesco sauce and hush puppies.


Romesco is an almond and red pepper-based sauce that originated from Tarragona, Catalonia, in Northeastern Spain. Ingredients include tomatoes, roasted red peppers, shallots, onion, espelette pepper, almonds, garlic, paprika, sherry vinegar, salt and canola oil. Placed in groups of two, we were encouraged to make the sauce without a recipe, so we all just went with it. We used our instincts, experimented with the flavours along the way, and hoped for the best. After chopping up all the ingredients, we placed everything into a pot to simmer away. I was happy to learn that there is apparently no right or wrong romesco sauce because many variations of the sauce exist out there. Whew!


A friendly competition among us naturally occurred since the winner of the best romesco sauce wins a dinner for two at The Harbord Room! Despite learning that there are many variations of romesco, I also learned that an excellent romesco sauce is one that balances the following three flavour components the best: smokiness (paprika), heat (peppers), and acid (sherry vinegar).




Sunday, July 24, 2016

Tasting Menu at Canoe

Canoe is so good it's ridiculous.

To be fair, my last couple of visits at Canoe were all tasting menus at the chef's rail, which is, in my opinion, a very different experience than ordering a la carte from their dining room. The thing is, if I'm at Canoe, I'm gonna go all out since I'm most likely there to celebrate a special occasion anyway. Needless to say, I do hope that I can call Canoe a "regular spot" one day. I'm definitely not there *yet* but one day :) #Lifegoals, am I right?


 Canoe's tasting menu blows me away every single time, and I feel like the Canadiana-focused restaurant just keeps getting better and better. Sounds almost impossible given that Canoe (Twitter: @CanoeRestaurant, Facebook: CanoeToronto) has been around since September 1995, which is more than 20 years ago! But I truly believe that one can never get bored of eating at CanoeThe restaurant is so innovative, and constantly strives to create new and ambitious plates. It's contemporary Canadian cuisine at its finest.


 This post is, regrettably, two months late. I contemplated just not blogging about it but I wouldn't be able to forgive myself if I didn't since the food was so good. The one reason why I thought of not writing about the dinner is because Canoe changed their tasting menu like two days after my visit, which means most of the dishes you see on this post is not even served at the restaurant anymore :( Oh well, bad timing. I still hope you guys will enjoy this post, though!


 My boyfriend took me here for my birthday and we reserved two seats at the chef's rail. Seriously, why would anyone want to sit in the dining room when you can get front row seats to the kitchen? The only "bad" thing I can think of was my constant urge to reach over the counter for oysters the entire night.




Saturday, July 23, 2016

Lbs.

Pronounced "pounds" - also an acronym for "Lobster, Burger, Salad" - Lbs. opened its doors last month on 100 Yonge Street at the ground floor of Scotia Plaza


There are two entrances to the restaurant; one is from Yonge St., and the other from the Scotia Plaza's atrium, where there's also an indoor patio.


Lbs.' 3,700 square-foot space seats 140 guests. This is the main dining room. It's casual yet sophisticated.


Lbs.other dining area, this one facing Yonge street.




Friday, July 22, 2016

Azure Restaurant & Bar (2016 Summerlicious)

There are two more days left of Summerlicious! This year, the citywide restaurant event began on July 8th and will end on July 24th, so you still have this weekend to check it out. With over 220 restaurants participating, including 24 new participants, I'm confident that you'll find a 3-course menu to whet your appetite. Summerlicious (Twitter: @LiciousTO, Facebook: LiciousTO) prices range from $18 to $28 for lunch, and $28 to $48 for dinner.

Lunch:  $18  |  $23  |  $28
Dinner:  $28  |  $38  |  $48

Thanks to Azure Restaurant & Bar, I was invited back to the restaurant once again to try their Summerlicious menu (this visit marks my fourth time at the restaurant!). Located in the open lobby of the InterContinental Toronto Centre (Twitter: @ICTorontoCentre, Facebook: InterContinental Toronto Centre). Azure's floor-to-ceiling windows never fail to 'wow' me. I love how their open space and glass canopy can give the ambiance of outdoor dining all year long.


Drinks are not included in Summerlicious but they are a requirement for me :) Azure serves VERY boozy drinks (note the bold, italics and caps for "very")!

MAPLE MAHATTAN ($14)
Knob Creek bourbon, maple syrup, sweet vermouth, Dillon's DSB bitters
OLD FASHIONED ($14)
Canadian Club Rye, cane sugar syrup, angostura bitters, water


For SummerliciousAzure is featuring a $28 lunch and a $48 dinner (both with vegetarian option available). My boyfriend and I dropped by for dinner last night, and before I talk about what we had, I want to let you know that I'm quite sad that Azure got rid of their bread basket. If you take a look at all my previous Azure write-ups (links at the end of this post) I always made it a point to mention how great their bread basket was. However, during this visit, we were given two pieces of bread each. It's better than nothing, of course, but I do miss that bread basket very much. When I asked my server, Coco, she told us that it was more economical and less wasteful this way because the restaurant always end up throwing out a lot of bread (since most diners do not consume all the bread in the basket). Totally makes sense but I can still be sad :(

APPETIZER
TRUFFLE HONEY FIG & PROSCIUTTO TARTINE
Focaccia, mascarpone, balsamic & baby watercress
Azure substituted figs with blackberries because they ran out of figs. Boo. I was disappointed because I love figs, and the entire time I couldn't stop thinking about how perfect truffle honey figs would go with the savoury prosciutto and the sweet-tartness of the balsamic. Thankfully, the blackberries worked well too. The baby watercress added a very welcoming "lightness" to the appetizer. I also thought the presentation was very pretty.


CRAB & SWEET CORN FRITTERS
Pea shoots, shaved fennel & rémoulade
These fritters tasted much better than I expected, not that I thought they would be bad but they certainly exceeded my expectations. I couldn't taste much of the crab itself but the sweet corn flavour really came through. Fried to golden brown, the crispy fritters were delicious with the cool and creamy rémoulade underneath.




Friday, July 15, 2016

Té: Asian Fusion on Ossington

Serving Asian fusion share plates, the newly opened  on the Ossington strip combines traditional Asian ingredients and flavours - specifically those from Korea and Taiwan - into popular North American comfort foods. The result is a very whimsical and innovative tapas-style menu.


 (Instagram: @te_toronto, Facebook: ) is open for dinner, late night and weekend brunch. Served on Saturday and Sundays from 11am - 3pm, 's brunch focuses on classic breakfast/brunch favourites with an Asian twist; think Kimchi and Pork Belly Eggs Benedict, Dark-Spiced Taiwanese Fried Chicken & Egg Waffle, and Bulgogi Burger.

The restaurant is divided into three sections: a round banquette up front, several tables towards the back, and a long bar that separates the two. I admire the decor because I love the use of retro colours and hip style, but at times it could feel a bit too polished and bare. My boyfriend and I picked the coziest spot at  for dinner, which was the cushioned banquette by the window. Check out this cool light fixture above us.


From the Spanish word for tea,  offers cocktails that are tea-inspired.

THE CHAI MILK TÉ ($13)
Vodka + amaretto + vanilla chai tea + cream + cinnamon stick + mini tapioca pearls


MANGO BLACK TÉ ($12)
Scotch whisky + assam tea + mango syrup + teapot bitters + dried mango + mini tapioca pearls




Friday, July 8, 2016

Touring The 6ix #FiestaFoodie [VIDEO]

Follow me as I embark on an urban foodie adventure touring The 6ix in my 2016 Ford Fiesta! Thanks to Ford Canada, I had the opportunity to take the #FordFiesta out over the Canada Day long weekend to visit some of my favourite spots in The 6ix:



1ST STOP: CHEESE BOUTIQUE - 45 Ripley Ave. Etobicoke, ON.

The Cheese Boutique has it all. Where do I begin? Actually, I think their website says it best:

"At Cheese Boutique the epicurean wonders never cease. Prosciutto hangs from the ceiling, truffles are available in season, foie gras is a staple, beef is dry aged a minimum 40 days, olive oils are available from 80 different terroirs, jams are made with green walnuts, pastries are baked in-house and chocolate truffles are flavoured with chipotle and bacon. But above all one must visit to experience our astounding selection of cheeses from around the globe, for which “best before” dates do not apply."


I love this place! Every time I'm at the Cheese Boutique I pick several new cheeses to try. My boyfriend and I chose three different cheeses for our wine, cheese & salumi dinner that evening, which looked something like this:

Valdeon - A Spanish blue cheese
Applewood Cheddar - A dense smoky cheddar
Delice de Bourgogne - A French cow's milk cheese


2ND STOP: RANDY'S TAKEOUT - 1569 Eglinton Ave W. York, ON.

Anyway, after our stop at the Cheese Boutique we headed to Randy's Take Out for some beef patties.


We shared one chicken patty and one beef patty at the store, and purchased 12 frozen beef patties to go. So YUMS.




Thursday, July 7, 2016

Le Baratin - French Fare on Dundas West

You don’t need to use your line of credit to eat french!” - Chef Jean Regis Raynaud, Le Baratin

True, that is if you're eating at Le Baratin! Opened nearly two months ago, Le Baratin - which stands for "Smooth Talker" in French - is a small French bistro on Dundas West. Helming the kitchen is classically trained French chef, Jean Regis Raynaud, formerly of Le Paradis. After 18 years of cooking in France, UK, and St. Martin, Jean Regis finally realized his dream of running his own restaurant, where he is able to share his "food philosophy, L’art de Vivre- the art of life, a touch of France here in Toronto”, Jean Regis explained.


Quite often, when people hear the words "French food" or "French restaurant", they immediately think of white tablecloths, pretentious service, lavish menus, and $$$$. So, I'm thrilled to tell you that Le Baratin (Twitter: @LeBaratinYYZ, Facebook: Le Baratin) is anything but those things. The atmosphere at the small bistro is casual and relaxed, and the service is prompt and friendly. Le Baratin is a cozy French bistro, and it's somewhere I see myself going back again and again.


Le Baratin serves classic French fare, with some modern elements incorporated by chef Jean Regis. It is opened for lunch/brunch, seven days a week from 9AM - 5PM, and dinner five a days a week from Tuesday to Saturday, 5PM - 10PM. During the Day, Le Baratin serves dishes such as the Farcou (French spinach pancake), the Croque Monsieur, and the Tartifete (baked gratin with potatoes). The lunch menu offers a selection of salads, omelettes, and original sandwiches such as the Boeuf Bourguignon on a bun.

I visited Le Baratin for dinner last week, and let me tell you right off the bat that it exceeded my expectations. So much so that I've already recommended a handful of my friends to Le Baratin already.

ELDERFLOWER GIMLET (left)
SIDECAR (right)
Armagnac, Cointreau, lemon
All their cocktails are priced at $10. Cheers to that!


TORTE PROVENCALE ($9)
Baked tomato torte with goat cheese & "herbes de Provence" served w/ mixed green salad
This baked tomato tart is the perfect summertime fare, especially when paired with the light green salad. Unlike some other tarts with custard or cream, this torte really showcased the seasonal tomatoes. The crust is nice and flaky, and the goat cheese is superb; I enjoyed the crusty-brown parts on top and the warm and creamy soft inside.




Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Diwan's Patio at the Aga Khan Museum

Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Fumihiko Maki, the Aga Khan Museum at Don Mills is dedicated to the collection, research, preservation and display of works of art, objects and artifacts from various periods and geographic areas of the Muslim world. Opened in September 2014, the Museum's mission is to provide visitors with an understanding of the artistic, intellectual, scientific and religious heritage of communities, both Muslim and non-Muslim.



The McEwan Group, which manages four critically-acclaimed restaurants (North 44, Bymark, ONE, and Fabbrica) and two gourmet grocery stores, oversees the menu at Diwan, the restaurant at Aga Khan Museum (Twitter: @AgaKhanMuseum, Facebook: Aga Khan Museum). At Diwan, chef Mark McEwan offers a wide-ranging menu that showcases his innovative approaches to Middle Eastern, North African, and South Asian cuisine. 

Diwan is participating in the upcoming Summerlicious from July 8-24. For those who are interested, feel free to click here for their Summerlicious lunch menu.


I was invited by Aga Khan Museum to dine one the Diwan patio a few weeks ago. Diwan’s patio has the capacity to accommodate 140 people with comfortable lounge seating and a view of the Aga Khan Park. New this summer on the Diwan's fully licensed patio is an added an outdoor grill, and a new summer menu featuring a variety of grilled meats, salads and a number of lighter entrees for summer, focusing on fresh and aromatic foods that explore the tastes of the Middle East.

MALIVOIRE PINOT NOIR 'MOIRA' NIAGARA 2014 ($14)
SAUVIGNON BLANC STONELEIGH MARLBOROUGH 2014 ($13)


MEZES PLATTER $28
Basturma, kalbas, labneh, olives, pickles, hummus, and naan
A generous mezes platter of Middle Eastern and South Asian delights. My favourites here are the hummus, labneh, and basturma (cured beef slices). Naturally, I was very happy to see all that naan on the platter!




Monday, July 4, 2016

The Winner of the Toronto's Festival of Beer Tickets Giveaway is ...

@E_Penman

Congratulations, Elaine! You've just won a pair of tickets to Toronto's Festival of Beer taking place at Bandshell Park, Exhibition Place! Your winning tickets are valid for Sunday, July 24, only. Please email me at foodjunkiechronicles@gmail.com to find out how to redeem your tickets.


A big THANK YOU to the 31 contestants who participated in this contest! 

Here's a snapshot of the Excel spreadsheet where I tracked the #fjcTFOB 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've entered for a chance to win a PAIR of @TOBeerFestival tickets from @foodieyu & you can too! http://bit.ly/28ZtRUm #fjcTFOB #tasteTFOB". 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 followed me (@foodieyu) on Twitter. Below are the 56 valid entries:


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




Sunday, July 3, 2016

Being a Roving Twitter Reporter for Toronto Taste 2016

On Sunday, June 12, 2016, Toronto’s legendary culinary fundraiser, Toronto Taste, took place lakeside at Corus Quay. The 26th anniversary of Toronto Taste, presented by The Daniels Corporation, featured sumptuous dishes and drinks from over 90 of the most sought-after restaurants and beverage purveyors. Since 1991, Toronto Taste has raised over $11 million to support Second HarvestCanada’s largest food rescue charity. This enabled the organization to rescue enough fresh, surplus food to support hundreds of social service agencies across the GTA with more than 27 million meals for children, adults and seniors experiencing hunger in the city. This year, the event raised a whopping $850,000 for Second Harvest (Twitter; 2ndHarvestTO, Facebook: Second Harvest), enough to provide food for 1.7 million meals to people facing hunger across Toronto.


This year marks my sixth year as a social media committee member and my first year as social media lead for Toronto Taste. Till this day, I'm still very honoured to be part of this incredible event. The sheer number of people and hours dedicated to make this one-day fundraiser happen is simply astonishing!


Much like the past five years, I arrived to the venue several hours before doors open to reacquaint myself with the site and to make sure that all the media equipment is good to go. I also did a walk-through to check out what each chef and beverage station was serving.


New this year at Toronto Taste is the Delta lounge. Comfy seats are always welcomed!


Not only do guests at the annual fundraiser get to enjoy food and drinks from some of Toronto’s top restaurants and beverage purveyors, they can also bid on rare and fine wines (the wine auction this year had the most selection it has ever had). If guests aren't into wines, the silent auction was the next best things with hundreds of items from cookware, appliances, jewelry, and art to restaurant gift certificates, tickets to sporting events and memorabilia.