Sunday, February 28, 2016

Recipe for Change 2016

30 diverse chefs, 3 craft brewers, 4 local wineries, 1 cause. FoodShare's seventh annual Recipe for Change took place at Toronto's St. Lawrence Market South Tent on Thursday, February 25th. For those of you not aware, Recipe for Change (#RFC16) is an annual fundraising event that supports FoodShare, Canada's largest community food security organization. Founded in 1985, FoodShare (Twitter: @FoodShareTO, Facebook: FoodShare Toronto) is a non-profit organization that works with communities to improve access to healthy, affordable, sustainably-produced food through innovative school food programs like rooftop gardens, healthy cafeterias, hands-on cooking workshops and youth-employment focused farming.

Presented by Tangerine, this year's fundraising event collaborated with chefs, brew masters, winemakers and skilled food artisans for a "Party for the Future of Food" edition of Recipe for Change. From 6-9pm, guests were served an elaborate menu from Toronto's leading lights and long time supporters of the cause, mixing in a healthy dose of new arrivals and hidden gems designed to please carnivores and vegetarians alike. 

Over 30 sweet and savoury dishes made with love by some of the city’s best chefs and 4 VQA wineries and 3 craft breweries pouring drinks all night, there's no question that Recipe for Change is one of the city's finest dining events (this year marks my fourth executive year at Recipe for Change)!

"FoodShare's Recipe for Change event so deliciously and wonderfully supports Food Literacy in schools," says Debbie Field, FoodShare's Executive Director. "It raises needed funds to teach thousands of school aged chidren how to cook, grow food, compost and more. And it reminds us all that children of all ages are delighted to eat healthy food, become food conscious, competent and literate."

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Bar Begonia

Bar Begonia is so good, guys. I had dinner there two weeks ago and I still can't think of one bad thing to say about the place. From ambiance, service, drinks to food, Anthony Rose's sixth spot gets nothing but praises from moi. Bar Begonia is killin' it.

Just down the street from Big Crow and up the street from Fat Pasha (both Rose's), my friends and I arrived at the newly opened Bar Begonia at 6:30pm sharp on Friday night. We managed to snag the last four-top. Boy, did I feel extremely lucky at that point, especially when there wasn't one empty seat left in there. To celebrate we immediately ordered a bunch of cocktails to start. Not having to wait for a table on a Friday night is a damn good enough reason to get our dranks on (note that Bar Begonia remained packed for the next three hours we were there).

Before I get to the booze and the food here's a bit about Bar Begonia. Open from 11am to 2am, 7 days a week, Bar Begonia (Twitter: @barbegonia, Facebook: Bar Begoniais a 40-seat Parisian-style cocktail bar serving craft cocktails and snacks with a French flair. The kitchen is helmed by chef Trista Sheen, formerly of the now shuttered Crush Wine Bar. Although Bar Begonia doesn't take reservations (it does but only for parties of 8 or more) I was thrilled to hear that they'll have a patio set up by this summer.

"Draw me like one of your French girls".

Behind the bar is general manager Oliver Stern and bar manager Veronica Saye. I've been a big fan of Oliver's cocktails ever since my Toronto Temperance Society days. I say it that way because I used to go to "TTS" a lot, some of my favourite cocktails from the speakeasy were their Earl Grey Sour, Whisky Sour, Petey's Muddle, Old Fashioned and La Hoja. So, when I found out Oliver was the GM at Bar Begonia I had no doubt in my mind that their cocktails would be excellent.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Cresta (formerly Pastizza)

New year. New menu. New name.

At the beginning of January, Pastizza - located on a cobblestone street adjacent to the historic St. Lawrence Market was renamed to Cresta. I was told by Cresta's general manager, Dimitri Petropoulos, that the reason behind the change was because the owners thought the name "Pastizza" was conveying an inaccurate impression of the restaurant to Torontonians. As in, the name "Pastizza" sounded like a fast-casual Italian eatery serving only pizzas and pastas. Since that was far from the case, the owners of Pastizza decided to rename the restaurant to Cresta, after Cresta Ridge vineyard of Thomas George Estates, a California vineyard owned by Cresta's co-owner, Thomas Baker.

Despite the name change and menu overhaul, the interior of Cresta (Twitter: @cresta_TO, Facebook: cresta) remained pretty much the same (I didn't see any noticeable changes anyway).

Compared to PastizzaCresta's new menu offers a wider variety of appetizers and seafood options. The menu, overall, also carries a higher price tag than before. For example, the carbonara and lasagna I had at Pastizza were both priced at $13, whereas all the pastas at Cresta are now $20+. Another example would be the entrees; the guanciale di manzo (or braised beef) I had at Pastizza before was $25, all the mains at Cresta now are $34+.

I was invited by Cresta to try their new menu. As usual, we started off with cocktails. As you may have guessed, the cocktail menu was also revamped.

Bombay sapphire gin, campari, dolin dry vermouth, sparkling brut, grapefruit
Tromba tequila blanco, bowmore 12 scotch, grapefruit, lime, grapefruit bitters

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Morton's The Steakhouse

Morton's The Steakhouse has been sizzling up steaks ever since 1978. Founded by Arnie Morton and Klaus Fritsch, the restaurant chain now has 74 worldwide locations in the U.S. and in major cities worldwide such as Toronto, Beijing, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taipei, Shanghai, and Macau. Morton's (Twitter: @Mortons, Facebook: Morton's The Steakhouseprides itself on quality service and serving the best USDA prime-aged beef (which are aged for 23-28 days and custom-cut per Morton's specifications). I've been to Morton's in the States once but never in Toronto, so when the kind folks at the steakhouse invited me in for dinner I jumped at the chance. Who can say "no" to steak?! Vegetarians, yes, but certainly not me!

Located in the trendy Yorkville neighbourhood, Morton's at the Park Hyatt Hotel offers a classic dining experience. Get ready to step into the past with their white tablecloths, wood paneling, hanging lights and booths buffed to a serious shine. 

The old-school traditional steakhouse charm at Morton's is as good as it gets.

My friend and I started the evening off with cocktails. The drinks come strong and deep at Morton's, and I love that.

Death's Door Gin, Campari, Sweet Vermouth garnished with an orange wheel and a lemon twist

Monday, February 1, 2016

New Savoury Menu at Sweet O'Clock

On January 22 the Taiwanese dessert shop Sweet O'Clock (Instagram: @sweetoclock.tor, Facebook; Sweet O'clock) expanded their menu to include savoury appetizers, snacks, rice dishes and noodle dishes. To celebrate the launch, from January 22 to February 10 Sweet O'Clock will be giving diners who have liked their Facebook page or followed them on Instagram a 15% off discount on their bill (desserts excluded) when they check in at the location.

(Photo credit: @sweetoclock.tor)

I was invited to the North York eatery a couple of days before the official launch date for a sneak peek tasting. I wrote about Sweet O'Clock last month and commented on what I personally liked and didn't like from their dessert menu (click here for my blog post) so I'll be doing pretty much the same thing this time for their savoury menu :)

My friend and I started off with wintermelon teas. We both loved our drinks. My friend orders wintermelon every time he sees it on a menu because not a lot of places offer wintermelon. Sweet O'Clock's Signature Tea Selections come in regular size ($4.2) and large size ($4.7).


There are 25 appetizers, 10 rice dishes, and 6 noodle soups on Sweet O'Clock's new food menu. Here is what we tried: