Saturday, May 31, 2014

Oh Geul Boh Geul, Korean Restaurant in North York

Whenever I crave something soup-y I default to Vietnamese pho (did I ever tell you that if I could only eat one thing for the rest of my life I'd choose pho?) Although it's extremely rare there are times when I just don't feel like pho especially when it's super cold outside. When the windchill makes it feel like it's -30 I long for a thick, rich soup; a soup with depth, a soup that'll warm me up from the core (does that make sense?!) Tofu stew, kimchi stew, pork bone soup...they do exactly that. I mean c'mon, they are all served steamin' hot! You literally need to sit there and wait until the bubbling dies down just so you won't burn your lips off. But man, the first sip of that hot soup is so comforting - it makes me go "Ahhhhhhhhhhhh....." every time. You know what I mean, right? You do. Korean stews seriously soothes the soul. When it's summer the hotter temperatures deter me from ordering stews but I still enjoy other Korean dishes, especially their cold noodle (mul naengmyeon and bibim naengmyeon).

Prior to this particular visit to Oh Geul Boh Geul I usually, if not most of the time, order my own thing at Korean restaurants with minimal sharing of dishes. It's an in-and-out ordeal for me; I'd sit down, order, eat my stew and go. It's safe to say that this visit to Oh Geul Boh Geul changed that because 1) there was 10 of us, and 2) the sheer number of people at the table allowed us to eat family-style, something I've never done at a Korean restaurant before (when I say "never" I'm excluding those so-called Korean BBQ joints run by Chinese peeps). So obviously, this was also the first time I've consumed so much, and so many varieties, of Korean dishes in one sitting.

Unless you've never been to a Korean restaurant you should all be familiar with the fact that you get Korean side dishes (banchan). Even if you dine alone there's still a chance that side dishes will invade your entire table. So awesome. Some restaurants are more generous with their side dishes than others but rest assure you'll always get something to munch on. 

Oh Geul Bo Geul is a Korean restaurant in North York that serves good homey Korean food. Their decor is nothing to write home about; it's casual and nothing fancy, but what it does have a 1-up on is their covered, back patio with TV which is great for summer nights.

Without further ado, let's dive right into the food. Actually, wait. I want to quickly give a shout-out to the guys at Popup Markets (Twitter: @marketspopup, Facebook: Popup Markets) for providing the booze that night. Shown below are the 905 Lager and Summertime Saison.


Deep fried dumplings served with soy sauce.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Giveaway: Starbucks Refreshers Good Energy On-The-Go Gift Pack - CLOSED

GOOD ENERGY. Ohhh, how I needed GOOD ENERGY last weekend. A lot of it too. Why? 'Cause of this little cutie! I attended Woofstock at Woodbine park last weekend with Winter, a fluffy "polar-dog" Samoyed :)

 Winter in the car (left), Winter at Woofstock (right)

Because Winter is only 3 years old she's very hyper all the time...literally all.the.time. This video should give you an idea what I mean (she was given a doggie bone in the backyard).

So imagine her excitement at Woofstock. If Winter could talk she'd probably be freaking out like this: 


So yeah. That. For 3 hours straight. Three hours of Winter dragging me around Woodbine Park (but hey that's what leashes are for right? To drag humans around?) Winter does not get tired. No sirrrreeeeee!

Normally, a good 8-hour sleep gives me enough GOOD ENERGY to last the entire day but there'll still be times when I feel sluggish in the mornings so that's when I go for my White Mocha Americano at Starbucks (been drinking WMA ever since I started working). Power naps also work wonders in bringing GOOD ENERGY but the only downfall is that I sometimes wake up with a headache :( 

Anyway, I'm getting off tangent. What I'm trying to say is that even though I felt well rested that morning I was still beyond exhausted after Woofstock. I was hot, tired and thirsty, and just when I was about to head home I passed by a Starbucks booth at the park. They were handing out free samples of their ready-to-drink Refreshers. Perfect timing for a delicious pick-me-up! I've never had Starbucks Refreshers before that day so I tried all three flavours: Raspberry Pomegranate, Strawberry Lemonade and Blueberry Açai. All three were pretty tasty but my favourite is the Blueberry Açai (I fell in love with acai ever since I got introduced to it five years ago). These lightly sparkling Starbucks Refreshers are made with real fruit juice, B vitamins and naturally occurring caffeine from green coffee extract (which comes from unroasted 100 per cent Arabica coffee beans). Best thing: it's guilt free because there's only 90 calories per can!

To help spread GOOD ENERGY, I'm giving away a “Starbucks Refreshers Good Energy On-The-Go Gift Pack” with an approximate value $150! The gift pack includes a variety of must-haves for a daily dose of inspiration and good energy on-the-go:

2 cans of each Refresher flavour (6 in total)
Lip balm
Hand sanitizer
Hand cream
Sun screen
Body mist
Yoga mat
Portable cell phone charger
Ear buds
Personal journal
Tote with fun quote!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Amaya the Indian Room

Founded by chef Hemant Bhagwani in 2007, the Amaya Group of Restaurants (Twitter: @amayarestaurant, Facebook: Amaya Restaurant) is a pioneer of progressive Indian cuisine. Steadily growing throughout the GTA, Amaya now has 15 locations, including the flagship Indian Room, as well as multiple Express food court outlets and street locations (you'll also find Amaya's gourmet sauces, chutneys and naan breads at grocery stores nationwide). With two additional locations in development, including one in Ottawa, Bhagwani's goal is to make great Indian food accessible across Canada.

Chef Hemant Bhagwani

The Indian Room has always been known for its upscale, contemporary take on Indian cuisine. Drawing inspiration from his travels and experiences in India, chef Bhagwani offers Indian cuisine made with authentic flavours, innovative techniques, and local Canadian ingredients (the use of local ingredients is more rare to see at Indian establishments). 

I had the opportunity to attend an intimate lunch with chef Bhagwani at the Indian Room several weeks ago. Bhagwani not only introduced to us his new menu, he also talked about his vision to reinvent the Amaya experience with food that blends the newest trends in fine dining and India's vibrant street food culture, with Ontario's best local ingredients and wines.


With pomegranate juice

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Pizza at Story Deli, London

What is a pizza? What constitutes whether or not something is actually a "pizza"? It seems like an easy question to answer; after all we all know what a pizza should look like and what it should taste like. So what is it? Is it the toppings? The ingredients? Or the type of dough? What exactly are the factors that make a pizza a "legitimate" one? And under what circumstances will we start questioning, or doubting, whether or not something is actually a pizza? This is an interesting discussion and I sure hope you're not expecting answers from me 'cause I don't have them! I merely wanted to pick your brain since those were some of the questions I had after my visit to Story Deli (Facebook: Story Deli) in East London.

When I was in London last month for Chowzter's 2014 Fast Feast Awards I was told that I must visit Story Deli in Bethnal Green. I didn't need much convincing - Story Deli's Margherita took home "The Tastiest Fast Feast in the World" as well as "Best Pizza in the World" awards at the inaugural Chowzter Awards last year. "Nobody can beat the Italians for making amazing pizzas that build on centuries of tradition, but Story Deli has taken that tradition and turned it on its head" says Chowzter’s founder, Jeffrey Merrihue.

From the video it should be obvious why some people, especially the purists, will argue that Story Deli's pizzas are not actually pizzas. First off, since organic certified yeast is not available, owner Lee Hollingworth of Story Deli spent almost two years developing a base that worked without using yeast. Hollingworth first flattens this no-yeast dough with a rolling pin then piles on a generous amount of organic toppings. The pizza is baked in a conventional oven at 400°C (750°F) for under a minute before being brought out to rest for another minute. After resting it is then brought back into the oven for another minute. This entire process takes less than five minutes and the result is a crunchy, wafer-thin blistered crust with heaps of super-fresh, top quality toppings. What also distinguishes Story Deli from other pizzerias is that Hollingworth only uses 100% certified organic ingredients (he won’t use anything that’s not made from natural produce). No siree there is no doubt that this modest hidden gem doesn't serve traditional pizza. 

If you passed by Story Deli you wouldn't even think to peak inside because it's too hipster for a sign. Step inside and you'll find yourself in a minimally decorated white room. A really, really white room at that. There are four long communal tables with pretty uncomfortable stools. "Organic decor" at its best?

Story Deli has 11 pizzas with limited wine options (one red, two whites) and one lager offering. Non-alcoholic options include coffee, tea, spring water and various soft drinks. For dessert there's a mixed berry cheesecake, brownie and six different flavours of ice cream. I should mention that all pizzas cost £17 each - that's a whopping $32 CDN for one pizza. ONE pizza. And bare in mind that you'll need at least one pizza each (damn that light, wafer-thin crust). Remember to stop by the ATM too because no credit or debit allowed. Cash is king here.

On top of the menu reads "served with a few leaves of rocket, freshly grated parmesan, a little roasted red pepper & olive oil" (rocket = arugula). With the four of us we ordered four different pizzas to share. It was the perfect amount of food for lunch.

Tomato passata, paremsan & parma ham served with a big heap of rocket, freshly grated parmesan, a little roasted red pepper, olive oil, fresh buffalo mozzarella & balsamic cream

Monday, May 19, 2014

Tasting Menu at Marben

Merely a few days after my Sunday brunch at Marben, I was back at the restaurant seated at the exact same table; this time around for a dinner tasting prepared by Marben's executive chef, Rob Bragagnolo (@RobBragagnolo). It was Friday night and the place was buzzing. A casual and relaxing atmosphere accompanied by the murmur of contented chatter, Marben's ambiance was warm and inviting. Not sure if I was imagining things but I remember seeing smiles all around me - everybody seemed to be having a great time. Was it because it was Friday night? Or was chef Bragagnolo's food the cause for all those smiles? Either way, I was about to find out by relinquishing all control to the Marben (Twitter: @MarbenResto, Facebook: Marbenkitchen.

Dinner started off with a couple of cocktails. Unfortunately, I don't remember what the cocktail in the background was but I loved "Tea & Sympathy" due to my obsession with ginger and egg white in my cocktails :)

Chamomile Infused Vodka, Ginger Syrup, Lemon, Dandelion Bitters, Egg White

Our 10-course menu opened with a number of snack sized plates before moving on to the mains:

Filled with avocado, cilantro, tobiko & jalapeño

Rye sourdough, ‘carta de musica’, focaccia...

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Afternoon Tea Inspired by Charlie & The Chocolate Factory at One Aldwych, London

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a 1964 children's book by British author Roald Dahl. The novel details the adventures of young Charlie Bucket inside the chocolate factory of eccentric chocolatier Willy Wonka. For those of you who haven't read the book I'm sure you would have seen, or at least heard of, Tim Burton's film adaptation of the book in 2005 with Johnny Depp as the quirky Willy Wonka. In spite of the movie being almost a decade ago I still remember it being weird on every level (a good kind of weird). The stunning visual effects and witty scenes, the lovably sweet or humorously rotten characters coupled with dark humour made this dazzling movie an unforgettable one for me. So when I found out that I'll be having an afternoon tea inspired by the classic tale at One Aldwych I was thrilled. Absolutely thrilled.

My friend, Mijune, and I were so excited about tea we didn't even bother going up to our rooms after checking in at One Aldwych (Twitter: @OneAldwych, Facebook: One Aldwych). We had our bags sent up while we made our way to Indigo Restaurant, one of the two restaurants at the hotel. 

Our table right by the railing overlooks The Lobby Bar downstairs. 

Guests can choose either the standard Afternoon tea (£34.50) or Afternoon tea with a glass of Lallier Grande Réserve Champagne or a smoking Cocktail Charlie (£45.00). Mijune and I  opted for the Cocktail Charlie and boy, it was really something else. Brought over to the table with smoking dry ice furiously bubbling from a clear glass teapot, the cocktail is then poured into a tall and skinny martini-shaped glass. I loved the effect and presentation of this whimsical cocktail because it is a spot-on portrayal of the peculiar, bizarre story. Although the concoction resembled something more like a science experiment than a cocktail it was really delicious and easy to drink. What an awesome way to start afternoon tea!

Dalmore whisky mixed with Grand Marnier Cherry, chocolate bitters, grapefruit juice and cherry syrup. Topped with Champagne.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Earth Day Canada Gala 2014


Want to support the Earth Day Gala, but can't quite cover the cost of a VIP ticket? Well, here's your chance to get involved! Purchase a DJ Dance Party ticket for only $40

Each DJ Dance Party ticket (9:30 p.m. door) will include the following
- Access to the dance party, hosted by Toronto DJ / producer Stereotronique
- A complimentary dessert prepared by legendary chef Michael Stadtländer
- A complimentary Mill Street beer or SodaStream cocktail
- Your chance to dance the night away (9:30 p.m. - midnight) in support of Earth Day Canada's important environmental programs

DJ Dance Party tickets are limited, and first-come, first-served so click here and buy your tickets today


Mark your calendars people: the 11th Annual Earth Day Canada Gala 2014 #EDCgala is fast approaching! Taking place at The Beer Hall on Wednesday, June 11, Earth Day Canada (Twitter: @EarthDdayCanada, Facebook: Earth Day Canada) will be teaming up with world-renowned chef Michael Stadtländer and innovative craft beer-makers Mill Street Brewery to host the greenest (and most delicious) party of the year!

For those unfamiliar with Earth Day Canada ("EDC"), it is a national environmental charity founded in 1990EDC partners with and supports hundreds of organizations across the country, offering free, year-round, award-winning programs to educate and inspire Canadians of all ages, backgrounds and sectors to reach local environmental solutions. Their mission is to foster and celebrate environmental respect, action and behaviour change that lessens our impact on the earth.  
In 2004, EDC was recognized as the top environmental education organization in North America, for its innovative year-round programs and educational resources, by the Washington-based North American Association for Environmental Education, the world's largest association of environmental educators. In 2008, it was chosen as Canada’s “Outstanding Non-profit Organization” by the Canadian Network for Environmental Education and Communication.

As a non-governmental organization, EDC rely on our support to keep their programs running and the Earth Day Canada Gala 2014 #EDCgala is the perfect way for us to give back and show support! Each year, the Earth Day Gala brings hundreds of the most connected and engaged professionals in Toronto’s environmental and sustainable business sectors together to network, celebrate excellence and support important Earth Day Canada programs. 

Date: Wednesday, June 11, 2014
Time: 7:00 pm
LocationThe Beer HallMill Street Brewery in Toronto’s historic Distillery District @ 10 Rack House Mews (map)
What You Can Expect: Open bar, exquisite food made by renowned chef Michael Stadtländer, a silent auction, a photo booth, a fun raffle, Rick Miller's 15-minute 'performance' and a dance party! 

VIP tickets are now available for purchase onlineEach VIP ticket includes:
- Access to an exclusive VIP reception
- Exquisite food made by renowned chef Michael Stadtländer, one of Canada’s most ardent promoters of local, organic food, and is actively involved in the “slow food” movement.
- Unlimited beer and wine
- Exclusive VIP presentation including Earth Day Canada awards MC-ed by comedian Rick Miller (7:15 - 7:45 p.m.)
- Additional 2 drink tickets after open bar closes at 9:30 p.m. for the Energy Dance Party 
- Wonderful networking opportunities with many VIP guests

VIP tickets sell out every year so get yours before it's too late! Click here to purchase your ticket.

I hope to see you there! ;)

*This is a sponsored post*

Monday, May 12, 2014

Afternoon Tea at The Royal Horseguards, London

I had the pleasure of staying at The Royal Horseguards (Twitter: @horseguardsLDN, Facebook: The Royal Horseguards Hotel) for a night during my stay in London two weeks ago. When the taxi dropped my friend Mijune and I off at the front I honestly did a double-take. Seriously? I'm actually staying here? The place was so grand, so stunning. The Royal Horseguards is simply breathtaking! It's safe to say that I've never stayed at a hotel as majestic as The Royal Horseguards. This five-star luxury hotel with its glittering chandeliers, outstanding views and fully refurbished Victorian elegance is marvelous. The interior combines the grandeur of a Victorian castle with contemporary style and design. And here's a cool fact: The Royal Horseguards actually served as the headquarters of the Secret Service during the First World War!

I know for a fact that my pictures don't do the hotel justice but hopefully it'll still give you an idea of how beautiful the place is...

Gorgeous chandeliers can be found throughout the hotel.

The Royal Horseguards' elegant lobby.

It was also at The Royal Horseguards that I had my first afternoon tea experience in London. I was really excited for it because more than anywhere else, London is synonymous with Afternoon Tea! There's no argument that the post-lunch, pre-dinner treat is a British institution.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Chowzter's 2014 Tastiest Fast Feast Awards, London

For those of you who read my blog but does not follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, I want to let you know that I'm still ALIVE and WELL :) I can't be 100% certain but I don't think there was ever a time, in the history of Food Junkie Chronicles, where I haven't blogged for an entire week :( Believe me I feel awfully guilty about it but I was in London, England, the past 8 first time ever in Europe!!!

As a Chief Chowzter representing Toronto, I attended Chowzter's 2014 Tastiest Fast Feast in the World Awards on Sunday, April 28th in London. Sponsored by Coca-Cola, the Chowzter (Twitter: @Chowzter7, Facebook: Chowzterawards aim to find the tastiest dishes around the globe. Although the tastiest dish concept may seem a bit ridiculous but it's a way of bringing chefs into the spotlight that wouldn't usually get recognition. The awards celebrate the quality and variety of authentic regional food around the globe, served at diners, street vendors rather than exclusive restaurants. 

And here are the Chief Chowzters at L'Amina Cafe where the 2014 Tastiest Fast Feast in the World Awards took place. Close to 50 of us from around the world flew to London to attend this awesome event (FYI there's close to 80 Chief Chowzters but unfortunately not all of us could make it to London).

Interested in finding out what the top 7 tastiest items in the world are? Click here for the full list of Chowzter award winners! Some press coverage on the awards:

Business Insider | The Wall Street Journal | The Daily Meal | The Guardian | Orlando Sentinel | BuzzFeed

Besides attending the Chowzter Awards, I also had a blast in London! From Friday night (April 25) to Sunday night (April 29), all the Chief Chowzters stayed at The Hoxton in Shoreditch (Twitter: @TheHoxtonHotel, Facebook: The Hoxton Hotel). This trendy new hotel is modern, comfortable and clean. The Hoxton's lobby is grand yet very cozy (note the fireplace). There were also lovely extras - free WiFi, an hour free calling to Canada/US, complimentary bottled water and milk in the fridge, and free breakfast drop outside our room with delicious yogurt/granola/berries, orange juice and a banana.

Before the awards ceremony on Sunday, some of the Chief Chowzters got to hit up Borough Market (Twitter: @boroughmarket, Facebook: Borough Market) on Saturday, London’s most renowned food market. Borough Market is a source of exceptional British and international produce and is a haven for anybody who cares about the quality and provenance of the food they eat. I have no doubt that I can spend an entire afternoon here. We only had 3.5 hours but I still made the best of it by sampling and eating a ton of food.