Monday, February 23, 2015

Splendido Tasting III

The Tasting at Splendido

Victor Barry, Chef

POPCORN, BEET AND BLOOD MACARON, FOIE TART



CAVIAR POTATO (served in caviar tin)
Northern Divine Caviar, White Chocolate, Potato Ice Cream


POTATO DASHI
Northern Divine Caviar, Potato Croquette, Creme Fraiche




Thursday, February 19, 2015

Blowfish Restaurant & Sake Bar on King West

I was invited to Blowfish Restaurant & Sake Bar recently for the opening of BarFish, their brand new cocktail lounge. Ever since 2003, Blowfish (Twitter: @BlowfishResto, Facebook: Blowfish Restaurant + Sake Bar) has been offering unique Japanese fusion plates with an impressive sake list to the sophisticated King West crowd. With the cocktail scene now as hot as ever, the restaurant has seized the opportunity and launched BarFish, an extended space to Blowfish that can comfortably accommodate up to 60 guests.


Curated by award-winning mixologist Nishantha Nepulongoda (pictured above), BarFish's cocktail menu is complete with Japanese-inspired creations such as Pomegranate Saketini, Mango Passion Lychee Saketini, and Caribou Crossing (which has a dash of yuzu.) Open every night from 5pm, the bar is ideal for after-work cocktails or anytime you feel like having cocktails and snacks (the bar serves food from Blowfish).


After drinks at BarFish, we were led to the restaurant for dinner. The Blowfish dining room is massive yet very pretty. Notice the Japanese mural on the right; it spans the entire length of the room. One thing I want to mention is the purple lighting / glow in the space. Tell me, why does the addition of purple always make a room so much more "lounge-y"? Is it just me?




Thursday, February 12, 2015

Dufflet High Tea

After 40 years in the bakery business, Dufflet Pastries' name is now synonymous with delicious and creative desserts and cakes in Toronto. The reputable bakery now boasts three retail cafés and a wholesale division that supplies over 500 restaurants, cafés, hotels, caterers, grocers and specialty gourmet shops throughout North America. Using only premium ingredients, with no hydrogenated fats or oils, no artificial flavours, colours or preservatives, each Dufflet (Twitter: @dufflet, Facebook: Dufflet Pastriesproduct is handcrafted from scratch, never made from a mix. I must say, this is all very impressive! Speaking of being impressed, I had the opportunity to try some of their gluten-free chocolate fudge tarts back in September (the Dufflet Gluten-Free line was a finalist for the 2013 SIAL Innovation Award). I mentioned in the blog post that I'm always skeptical about gluten-free products (in that they won't taste as good as the original version) but I was completely blown away by those Dufflet tarts! They were rich and decadent, and never in a million years would I have guessed they were gluten-free.

I was invited by Dufflet recently to try their High Tea. Available every Sunday from 1PM to 5PM exclusively at the Dufflet beach location (Facebook: Dufflet Beach), guests can enjoy a selection of sumptuous desserts and canapés from Dufflet Pastries paired with a premium selection of Sloane Teas.


This 24-seat café is open seven days a week and offers a wide selection of signature cakes, pastries, pies, cookies, as well as light lunches and specialty beverages for eat-in or take-out. 


They also have a lot of cute greeting cards, gourmet candy and chocolates for sale at the café.




Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Sunday Brunch at Città

Hear me out. Sunday brunch is not my forte, it's just not in my "dining-out" vocabulary. Actually, I'm the last person you should ever ask about brunch, where to go, the best spot for pancakes, etc. My answer to you would be "Sorry, I have no idea. You should ask so-and-so". I could name you a few places if you insisted but it'll be followed by the "I've never been to them myself but I've heard good things" disclaimer. What can I say? I'm just a dinnah kinda gal! So does this make this post irrelevant? No, because although I hardly go for brunch it doesn't mean I can't tell you the reason(s) why I like those blueberry pancakes. The downside is I probably can't tell you where to get even better blueberry pancakes. So, the question is, how did I find myself at Città on a Sunday? It was a blogger brunch event hosted by Città and as a food blogger, I gotta show my face. Meh, who am I kidding? It's free brunch!

Città (Twitter: @CittaToronto, Facebook: Citta Toronto) is a new Italian restaurant located at CityPlace, the condos on Spadina across from the Rogers Centre. The rustic urban Italian eatery is the newest restaurant venture by Hanif Harij, the successful restaurateur behind Patria, Weslodge, Byblos and NAO Steakhouse. Harij has brought on board executive chef Ben Heaton of The Grove and David Mattachiono of Terroni to helm the kitchen at Città.

The Città space is basically an L-shape with a dining area on each side. As you can see from the above photo, the restaurant is encased in floor-to-ceiling windows that let in a lot of sunlight. When you walk in, you'll notice the dining room on your right has a bold and majestic decor with black and gold chandeliers, gold-trimmed mirrors, tiled floors and large royal green leather banquettes.


The dining room on your left has a more laid-back, less shimmery rustic decor.


A closer look at the bar.




Monday, February 9, 2015

Discovered Culinary Competition 2015: Calling All Industry Professionals!

I'm baaaaaaaaack! After a week-long hiatus in sunny Mexico I'm now back home in chilly Toronto (blah!) Before I get back to my usual restaurant write-ups and whatnot, I need to tell you guys about Discovered Culinary Competition 2015 first. In its third year running, the Discovered Culinary Competition (@DiscoveredChefs) held at Nella Cucina gives up-and-coming competitive culinary talents the opportunity to showcase their culinary skills as they work against the clock in a high energy, black box competition (think Food Network's Chopped). All to win the coveted Grand Prize of an all-expenses-paid trip to Spain for a week long stage in a Michelin star restaurant! 

How the Discovered Culinary Competition works:

Start date: February 23, 2015

Each competition will be held at Nella Cucina (876 Bathurst Street, Toronto).
Each competition will be 2 hours long beginning at 7pm and ending at 9pm.

The competition will begin with four contestants. Each contestant will be provided with a basket of mystery ingredients as well as a stocked pantry. Contestants must use only equipment provided by Nella Cucina¸ except for the use of personal knives.  Once the timer begins the contestants will have 20 minutes to prepare an appetizer using all of the mystery ingredients. Each contestant must have a completed plate as the buzzer goes at the 20 minute mark. Whatever is on the plate will be judged by the judges.

The judges will judge each plate using the following criteria: Use of the mystery ingredients, Creativity, Skill, Visual appearance & Taste

After judging, one contestant will be eliminated. The remaining three contestants will then be given another basket of ingredients and 30 minutes to complete an entrée using all of the mystery ingredients. After the entrée judging, one more contestant will be eliminated.
The final two contestants will then be given their final basket of mystery ingredients and a final 20 minutes to prepare a dessert using all their mystery ingredients. After judging the winner of the competition will be revealed.


Starting on February 23, there will be 14 weeks of preliminary challenges where both winners and runner ups will advance from the weekly challenges, resulting in 14 semi-finalists plus two Facebook fan favourites.

A total of 16 semi-finalists will include: 14 ‘Nella Cucina’ winners & 2 Facebook Fan Favourites. These 16 semi-finalist contestants will then move on to the second part of the competition, composed of four semi-final matches resulting in four finalists.

Finalists will compete at Nella Cucina in June 2015 where one winner will be awarded an
all-expenses-paid trip to Spain for a week long stage in a Michelin star restaurant.


Lucky me, I was on the Discovered Culinary Competition 2013 Round 7 judging panel with Rodney Bowers (Owner of Hey Meatball) and Luca Stracquadino (head chef of Ovest Cucina e Vineria). It was such a fun and memorable experience critiquing food alongside two great chefs. And whaddayaknow? I'm back at it this year!


If you are a Canadian chef over the age of 19, I highly suggest you go for the Discovered Culinary Competition. The competition is an amazing opportunity to challenge yourself amongst your peers by putting your skills and creativity to the test. C'mon, you've got nothing to lose, and if all goes well you may be the one going to Spain.

The competition is in two weeks so if you think you have what it takes then click HERE to apply now!


For more information or to apply online, visit the Discovered Chefs Facebook page at
www.facebook.com/discoveredchefs. For those of you that want to be part of the audience please email events@nellaucina.ca  

Related Post:


Friday, January 30, 2015

Toonies for Tummies 2015 - "Small Change. Big Change"

With the new year upon us, I think it is important for everyone to take some time to reflect. Maybe you're wondering "But what do you mean? Reflect on what?" I know I'm casting a wide net here, but specifically, I think we should all reflect on what we can do to:

1) Be a better person; and 
2) Improve the lives of those in need. 

Not surprisingly, these two things go hand in hand. You could also start by asking yourself "Have I done anything lately to give back to my community?" or "Have I done anything last year that I'm particularly proud of? Something that made a difference in the lives of others?" If your answer is "NO" it's time to change that but hey, I get it. I really do. With the hustle and bustle of city life it's easy for us to get wound up in the nine-to-five routine, the everyday rat race. Sad thing is, once we slow down we get selfish, and all we can think about is what we want and what we think we deserve. We go on extravagant vacations and spoil ourselves with lavish materialistic things to fulfill our never-ending list of "wants". I'm not pointing fingers at anybody 'cause I'm just as guilty of this: "Oh, a new restaurant opened up? Let's go check it out! Should we do their à la carte or tasting menu? And how about wine pairings? Either way, let's do it up!Whether it's vacations, shoes, jewelry, TVs, or food, everybody has a list of "wants". However, I want you to consider these facts for a few minutes:

- 1 in 6 Canadian children goes to school hungry
- In 2012, 4 million individuals in Canada, including 1.5 million children experienced some level of food insecurity
In Canada, 1 in 7 children start the school day on an empty stomach due to a lack of access to nutritious foods.
Canada is currently the only G8 country without a national nutrition program in schools. Nutrition programs that currently exist are funded by sources including Breakfast for Learning and Breakfast Clubs of Canada.

Did your list of "wants" suddenly become incredibly insignificant? Mind did. Do you want to become a better person and improve the lives of those in need? I do! Do you want to give back? YES! If you're in with me on this, then PLEASE READ ON.


Toonies for Tummies (Twitter: @Toonies4Tummies, Facebook: Toonies For Tummiesis an in-store retail fundraising effort organized by The Grocery Foundation on behalf of food, beverage and consumer goods manufacturers, distributors and retailers. The campaign is designed to raise money to help fund nutritious breakfasts and snacks to children in various programs including school nutrition programs in Ontario and in Atlantic Canada. When you shop at participating retailers* from February 5-19, you will be asked to consider donating a TOONIE. Yes, believe me when I say your TOONIE will make a difference!

In 2013, funding from Breakfast for Learning and Breakfast Club of Canada - Canada's two largest national organizations which combined helped serve 56 million meals and snacks this school year - provided support for 355,000 children between the ages of 4 and 18 benefiting from school-nutrition programs coast to coast. According to Breakfast Club of Canada and Breakfast for Learning, the average cost of a nutritious breakfast provided by these programs is just under $2.

Toonies for Tummies raised $864,000 for kids in 2014 and if we all do our part this year, we can help The Grocery Foundation (Twitter: @GroceryFndtn, Facebook: The Grocery Foundationin reaching their $1,000,000 goal! Monies in Ontario will go to 53 regions and in Atlantic Canada, and 100% of the monies raised will go to the programs who receive funding from The Grocery Foundation like Breakfast for LearningBreakfast Club of Canada as well as the Boys and Girls Club.


It has been proven time and time again that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but there are a variety of reasons why children arrive to school hungry, including poverty, lengthy commutes, a hectic family routine in the morning, and children not being hungry when they first get up in the morning. And this is why student nutrition programs are so important in that they provide health benefits (promote good health and eating habits), academic benefits (hungry children's capacity to learn is diminished), student success (improved academic performance), social benefits (positive social skills are fostered through peer to peer relationships) and economic benefits (investing in children's health is likely to yield positive returns). And really, how can you deprive these adorable kids from their breakfast? Watch this quick video and see these kids bring the Toonies for Tummies message to life.


As a "thank you", sponsoring companies taking part in the Toonies for Tummies campaign will provide donors with a coupon booklet at the till when a $2 donation is made. This coupon booklet will give you incremental future savings off sponsoring company products**. The Grocery Foundation encourages donors to take full advantage of this booklet and show their support of the companies that are making the 2015 Toonies for Tummies campaign possible. The booklet includes coupons from participating sponsor companies and will be available while quantities last.

Ontario Booklet



Thursday, January 29, 2015

Tasting Menu at Buca Osteria & Bar (Buca Yorkville)

16-Course Tasting Menu at Buca Osteria & Bar (Buca Yorkville)

Rob Gentile (chefrobgentile), Executive Chef
Ryan Campbell (bucachefcampbell), Chef de Cuisine
Kris Lee (krisokgunlee), Sous Chef


STUZZICHINI (appetizer)

BOTTARGA - Sea urchin bottarga, senape yogurt


Look at the size of that truffle...we better be gettin' some!


YESSSSSSS!




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.