Showing posts with label Event. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Event. Show all posts

Have you heard about Chef to Chef with Mark McEwan?

Getting to know a Torontonian chef isn’t the easiest endeavor. Usually, any details about them are captured in written media and center around their restaurant and its food. Sometimes these articles will include some tidbits about their past resume, but infrequently anything about their career journey or personal life.

Enter Chef to Chef, a new video documentary series by Mark McEwan where he interviews Torontonian at their restaurants. While there are the requisite food porn shots and discussions about the chef’s restaurant(s), a lot of the conversation is dedicated to their life – how did they become chefs, what are the highs and lows, and why they chose the food they use on their menus.

McEwan explains that in each interview he wants to get the interviewee to open up and honestly tell viewers how life is like being a chef. After all, with numerous restaurants, a catering company, and a luxury grocery store to his name, he has gone through the journey and knows it isn’t all roses. At the same time, he isn’t there to pry into personal details and wants them to feel comfortable.

The chefs he’s interviewed so far are very different: Grant van Gameren at Bar Isabel, Antonio Park at Pick 6ix, and Amanda Cohen at Dirt Candy (former Torontonian even though her restaurant is in NYC). Without giving up too much, there seems to be a common thread around all the interviews – that success is dependent on the people.

Whether it’s Chef van Gameren wishing the Toronto media would give his partners more credit when covering his joint ventures, Chef Park humbly giving credit to the teams that run his many restaurants, or Chef Cohen explaining why she chose to do away with gratuities at Dirt Candy and pay everyone a fair wage.

In November I had the pleasure of attending a party announcing Chef Suzanne Barr as the next chef Mark will be interviewing. Chef Barr is someone I’ve been hearing a lot about lately: she advocates for diversity in the kitchen and food security for all. From this, she has won so many accolades and to think she started out as an executive producer at MTV. I can’t wait to hear her conversation with McEwan!

You can find each episode on Amazon Prime or on their website. There’s no set schedule of when videos are released as this is a passion project where sponsors for each video must be found before it’s produced.

Maybe it has something to do with the interviewer being a fellow chef, but McEwan seems to know what to ask to tease further details out of everyone. It’s a program that people who love food should watch, it’ll help you grow an appreciation of how hard it is to open and run a restaurant. It’s also a great resource for those who want to become chefs and/or entrepreneurs, it’ll give you a small taste of the roadblocks to overcome.

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What's better than Cena in Famiglia?

It seems like every culture has a tradition or holiday that gathers families for a meal. Whether it's to celebrate or instill a custom, everything is better amongst loved ones and with food. That’s why Villa Charities Foundation is launching their Cena in Famiglia event (translates to family dinner) to help raise funds to continue their promotion of Italian heritage and everything that embodies the culture.

Villa Charities was first established in 1971 to provide affordable and quality long-term care to elderly Italian-Canadians. Villa Colombo, a long-term care facilities steeped with Italian culture, was created and soon expanded into four more facilities. As the charity grew, so did their mandate and in later decades they’ve added a community centre and now strives to be the voice of the Italian Canadian community.

Having grown up with a number of Italian friends, the Sunday “suppers” are an impressive and warming affair. On Sunday, August 25th, Villa Charities will throw their own Sunday meal where guests will dine outdoors at Sala Caboto Gardens. The event begins at 2pm with a cocktail reception complete with food stations where you’ll get a group photo to commemorate the occasion.

Don’t fill up at the stations as a 3-course meal follows where you’ll be sure to get a taste of the Italian culture. If that weren’t enough, you’ll be entertained with music during the whole affair. For the brave, it’s your chance to polka!

The event ends by 5:30pm so there’s plenty of time to relax, nap, and digest all the food before the weekend is over. So whether you go with one person or gather a full table of eight, Cena in Famiglia will leave you full and satisfied knowing you’ll be supporting Villa Charities Foundation programs.

Thanks to the folks at Villa Charities Foundation, Gastro World is giving away a pair of tickets (valued at $200) to the event!

Entries will be accepted until August 18, 2019 at 12:00 AM. Sometime the following day, I will contact winners through email with further details. Accordingly, please make sure you enter a valid email address in Rafflecopter contest site. Good luck!

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How To Find Them
 Address: Sala Cabato Gardens
                 40 Playfair Avenue

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The Feast of St. Lawrence (Toronto)

Just imagine dining outdoors on Front Street with two hundred fellow guests. That's two long tables tucking into a six-course meal prepared by some of the best restaurants the St. Lawrence neighbourhood has to offer. Better yet, indulge in all this food and drink and support Second Harvest, a leading charity that rescues food that would otherwise go to waste and diverts it to shelters and food banks. A noble foundation that not only helps the hungry but also helps the environment.

If this sound like a cause you can get behind, than you can't miss out on the Feast of St. Lawrence. Taking place on August 9, 2019, the evening begins with oyster and charcuterie stations to wash down drinks as you mingle and listen to a jazz band performing in Berczy Park. 

Restaurants will also be serving hors d'oeurvres, such as Hawthorne's sous vide trout with Ontario saffron velouté topped with caviar. The bit of smokiness in the fish with the salty finish from the caviar makes this a great pairing with white wine. And yes, you heard right, there is a farm in Ontario that cultivates saffron!

Batch's beef tartare arrives in its own container, a crunchy shrimp chip that's deep fried until fluffy. Inside, the Korean inspired tartare is mixed with kimchi and Asian pear so that you get a bit of heat and sweetness. They say it's the perfect bite to pair with their IPA, which cuts the fat from your tongue. Wine, beer, and that cute dog fountain? What a way to begin.

Afterwards, the feast consists with six courses, all paired with Ontario wines. Having sampled four of the six dishes, there is certainly variety as chefs pay homage to the local ingredients Ontario offers in the summer.

Farm'r starts their salad with thick slices of roasted peaches that will just be hitting shelves in August. The bits of mint, salty feta, and peppery arugula helps balance out the sweetness and makes a delicious combination with quinoa. 

Trust me, you're in for some good food. Having tucked into a sample of Cantina Mercatto's smoked corn sugo cavatelli, the light cream base with chewy pasta, which is almost reminiscent of a tiny gnocchi, is absolutely delicious. There’s meaty chanterelles, a bit of heat from birds eye chilies, sweet corn kernels, and refreshing pea shoots. The dish is so good I went back for a second sample.

Having done a quick preparation of Cirillo’s Academy’s grilled octopus, it seems like such an easy dish to create …until Chef Cirillo actually describes how they make the octopus: slow braising it with stock mixed with its own liquids, breaking it down to remove the inedible pieces, and then finally finishing sections on the grill. You’re left with meaty bites of octopus mixed with quickly seared tomatoes, chickpeas, and arugula. It’s a nice bridge between the pasta and the heavier main.

Normally, serving 200 guests lamb done two ways would be quite the feat. But, the Omni King Edward Hotel has served large numbers of guests for decades. While I would have liked the lamb belly fat rendered a bit more, the meat was so tender. Meanwhile, the lamb chop was done a perfect medium and has a lovely salty rub.

To keep the dish summery, they finish it off with a lovely pea puree and sweet charred leeks. And if you’re hesitant about having lamb due its potential gaminess, the salty spiciness from the accompanying andouille and crouton side will surely balance it out.

The night continues with whisky cocktails from CC Lounge's onsite whisky bar and if you're too full, you can just dance throughout the evening… it’s not often you can dance along Front Street.

And if you need a little post-dinner activity, try to find the birds that are part of the dog fountain. Hint: the cat is looking at it. Once you discover this hidden sculpture you'll be a St. Lawrence insider. 

Disclaimer: I attended a media event to try the dishes above, but I'm am not being paid to promote the event. Rest assured, as noted in my mission statement, I will always provide an honest opinion.

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada

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The Toronto Life Garden Party (Toronto)

Toronto Life’s Garden party is in its fifth installment and continues to sellout as guests descend on the Toronto Botanical Garden for an evening celebrating summer. We were so lucky: the day began with rain, but stopped just before the event… even Mother Nature wanted us to party!

Quite frankly, with so much booze flowing from Belvedere, St-Germain, London Dry Gin, Diplomatico Rum, Storyteller lager, and wines care of NZLighter, most likely no one cared about the weather anyways. 

Having made my way through the vendors sampling the refreshing vodka cocktail from Belevedere; just sweet enough mojito from Diplomatico; and the crowd favourite, the St-Germain spritz, they were perfect concoctions for a garden party. As a keepsake, drinkers went home with a metal straw / stirring spoon from St-Germain.

The giddy feelings were balanced by delicious eats from Eatertainment where I indulged in panko crusted tofu in a colourful steam bao, fried chicken sandwiched between chive biscuits, and even a poke bowl.

The beef brisket with veggie mash definitely hit the spot and was my favourite bite of the evening. If there wasn’t so many things to try, I would have definitely gone back for seconds!

Aside from more drinks, the evening ended with beautiful desserts from The Tempered Room. At first, I was going for a scoop of gelato from Love Gelato, but after hearing the gentlemen describe the various tarts and puffs, I ended up trying the Love-in-idleness potion (a light lavender crème brulee tart) and the fantastic Mad Hatter, a dessert that’s magically fluffy and tasty.

The night wasn’t all about the food and liberations. We also were serenaded by Honey Jam and Jesse Gold and watched Passmore from ZimSculpt painstakingly turn a stone into an artform.

I also took way too many pictures amongst all the beautiful flora and in the photobooth, a crazy RV from Betty Loop. 

As an attempt to burn off calories, we challenged each other to beanbag tossing in the garden games area. Plus, the endless supply of sparklers to end the evening left me feeling like a child.

My friends and I left full and slightly tipsy, but not without a book of our choice from the Penguin Random House. Thank you, it’s sure to come in handy at the cottage weekend in August and remind me of a lovely evening partying in the gardens.

Want to become a Toronto Life Member? If this event sounded great, don't miss out on the fun. Toronto Life is providing Gastro World readers a $15 off discount code to become a member!

Just use discount code GASTROWORLD at the Toronto Life Member checkout and the discount will be automatically applied.
Email me if you join and let me know the next event you'll be attending. Maybe we can meet in person!

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    Good In Every Grain Dinner

    Let’s face it. I could never join the keto craze. Eliminating carbohydrates and not eating delicious bread and pasta? No thank you. Hence, when the Grain Farmers of Ontario threw their first of a series of Crop Up dinners to feature the bounty – barley, corn, oats, soybeans, and wheat – they were preaching to the converted.

    It was an evening of discovery. Firstly, realizing that tucked behind Bar Raval was Woodlot, a small cozy restaurant. With their rustic décor and wood-fired oven, it was a smartly chosen venue to showcase grains. After all, they already make sourdough bread on site to serve during dinner – the kitchen knows their stuff. A piece of crusty bread with butter … see why I can never go keto?

    Chef Mike explained the premise of the menu: to keep things simple and let the grains speak for themselves. The salad was hearty using large chunks of roasted beets that were lightly cooked so that it still retained a slight bite. An herbed barley lay beneath to soak up the beet juices, but it’s such a versatile side that it’d work equally well with meaty or saucier dishes. Topping the salad was a soy nut and sunflower crumble, giving it some crunch – almost like a really flavourful nutty crouton.

    Most guests were presented with a mammoth lamb shank, but being a flexitarian during the week, I was treated to a vegetarian main: confit white turnip stuffed with oats, green onion, dandelion and pistachio then cooked in their wood-burning oven and glazed in a surprisingly savoury apricot glaze. With all the roasted vegetables on the side, it was certainly a vibrant and healthy dish. But, I must admit… I was jealous for the lamb shank (note to self: go back to Woodlot on a weekend).

    With all the plentiful hearty dishes, it was a shame I couldn’t finish the corn flour chiffon cake… it was just so large! Despite being thick, it was fairly fluffy and the sweetness of the corn was augmented with vanilla and a light touch of lavender. The blueberry compote and chamomile lemon curd were both not overpowering. Chef Mike was true to his word – I could enjoy the natural flavours of the ingredients.

    Of course, there were educational aspects to the evening like introducing the Grain Farmers of Ontario and explaining their representation of over 28,000 farmers in Ontario. I also learnt that not all wheat is the same and depending on the farm’s soil different flours are grown – Ontario wheat is largely used for pastry flours.

    What made the evening special was there were farmers in attendance. It provided the opportunity for discussions and they very candidly answered our questions.

    So, it was nice to learn the personal stories. Both individuals I spoke to grew up on their family farms and when starting their own families purchased land near their parents, which is how a lot of businesses expand. You can hear the passion in their voices and the burning desire to ensure the survival of the family farm. Indeed, they admit, that like any other business, they have to operate economically. Yet, they have to ensure their practices are sustainable since the farm is also where their families live and eat and the asset they want to pass to generations to come.

    In an era of change, it wasn’t surprising to hear the comment that a well-educated farmer is paramount for ensuring the farm survives. As families shrink, they also need to rely on technology to help manage the hundreds of acre of land. Big data and satellite imaging to create a map for variable fertilizer application – is Google Farm a thing?

    What I didn’t except was the frankness on some the less rosy aspects of farming, such as the mental health issues some farmers face. It’s a stressful industry where so much of their livelihood is dependent on weather (their favourite topic) and politics (their second favourite topic). With the low margins, a bout of extreme weather can have devastating financial impacts.

    A lot of work needs to be done, especially at the beginning of the season, so lack of sleep and burnout can augment the stress and anxiety. The humanity of the profession was sadly not something I thought about previously, but was glad for the opportunity to break bread over dinner to have these conversations. We often take for granted the humble grain and the nourishment they provide. It’s nice to be reminded that behind all the grains, there’s are families of farmers, who have passion, stresses and dreams like everyone else. 

    Disclaimer: The above meal was complimentary. Rest assured, as noted in my mission statement, I will always provide an honest opinion.

    How To Find Them
     Location: Toronto, Canada
     Address: 293 Palmerston Avenue 

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    Dinner With a View (Toronto)

    If you asked me 5 years ago if I’d like to eat dinner under the Gardiner Expressway, a look of confusion and an adamant no would have followed. Yet, the underpass space is undergoing a revitalization, starting with this winter when it was transformed into a skating trail. Now that the ice has finally melted, a small portion of the space near Fort York plays host to Dinner With a View.

    Let’s start with the latter half of the title - With a View. As you first arrive, it’s an underwhelming feeling when you find the view consists of black gauze and the metal and concrete highway. But once you settle into one of the domes ($149 and seats from 4-6 people) you start to get into the spirit.

    The décor and furniture vary in the domes. As I relaxed into the comfortable wooden chair (which felt like I was getting a hug) and pulled a blanket over my legs, that feeling of experiencing something different added a sense of excitement. Interestingly, the cozy enclosure makes the dinner feel intimate, but being able to peer out into the Bentway also ensures you don’t feel claustrophobic.

    I just wish they didn’t keep harping on how the items within the dome weren’t complimentary and that staff members conduct an inventory count before and after the meal. Were guests really pilfering the pots of fake plants? Way to ruin the experience.

    Now the first part of the title – Dinner. After reserving a dome, guests are required to select a dinner option (additional $99 per person) within 48 hours and can choose between meat, fish and vegan mains.

    Let’s just say you don’t come for the food. The quinoa salad with ranch dressing was something I could have easily whipped up myself. Moreover, the random boring garnishes thrown in – chickpeas, pitted black olives, and frisee – felt like someone was cleaning out their fridge and decided to throw a bunch of ingredients together. Seriously, is it that difficult to at least roast some beets?  

    I left hungry as the paltry portion of whitefish (with many soft bones left in) barely made a dent in my appetite. Sure, they could skimp on the protein but at least load-up the plate with more sides (slivers of mushroom, turnip puree, and roasted vegetables). At the very least, give out a bread basket. Note, the beef is slightly larger – although my friends complained it was too salty.

    Dessert was a minor improvement with a fancy sounding rosemary vanilla crème brûlée topped with pear tuille. While the actual dish didn’t resemble the name – there was no brûlée and somehow the rosemary was chocolate instead. At least it tasted decent.

    I’m sure Chef René Rodriguez tried his best with the challenging outdoor conditions. But, the meal was a flop. They should really stop touting his accolade of being a Canada’s Top Chef winner. I’ve had better meals attending conferences.

    Nevertheless, our 7:30pm dinner was the perfect seating – at the start there’s plenty of sunlight so you’re able to navigate easily into the dome; we’re treated to the descending sun for the first half of the meal; and after it gets dark, the lighting and illuminated domes creates a dazzling back drop. I loved the night-time experience and couldn’t believe the one and half hours was over … I didn’t want to leave and felt like I could party all night. You’re definitely here for the experience, not the food.

    I can’t finish this post without correcting a piece of fake news – no homeless people were forced to vacate the site to make room for the domes. During the opening weekend of the dinner, OCAP made a lot of fuss that a homeless camp was demolished and people were evicted in preparation for the event. In reality, that camp was located 2km away and the City of Toronto removed the tents for safety reasons; over the winter fires have broken out killing people in the process.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not disputing there’s a growing homeless problem in the city. It’s a visible issue that’s not only confined to downtown Toronto and something that has to be addressed. What I can’t agree with is how OCAP reacted to the event. Instead of protesting something that supports the Bentway and adds tax dollars into system, they could have approached the organizers to donate a portion of the proceeds to their cause or alternatively set-up a booth outside to raise awareness and solicit donations.

    In a city where there’s a growing divide between the rich and the poor, do we really want to make the chasm even larger? Instead of pointing fingers and throwing insults, wouldn’t it be better to work together to enact positive change? 

    How To Find Them
     Location: Toronto, Canada
     Address: 250 Fort York Boulevard

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    Get Ready to Dine Under the Stars!

    On for its third year, the Feast of St. Lawrence kicks off on Friday, August 10th with a huge outdoor dinner. 250 guests will dine together on Front Street (between Scott and Church Street) rain or shine! Don’t worry, if Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate, guests are protected under long beautiful tents to ensure the 5-course meal is comfortable regardless of the climate.
    With the number of notable restaurants in the St. Lawrence area, diners will be well fed. A glimpse of the menu suggests:
    • Hors d’oeurves to start including an oyster station from Pearl Diver, Biff Bistro’s chicken liver parfait, and falafels from the Sultan’s Tent;
    • Cool appetizers of chilled melon soup from the House House and pickled watermelon salad from Farmr;
    • Tagliata di Spada from ARDO, which is Nova Scotia swordfish with their signature sourdough bread;
    • A main of seared petit tender beef with roasted summer vegetables (a vegetarian alternative of squash blossoms also available) made by The Omni King Edward Hotel; and
    • Two desserts courtesy of George Brown College: a tonka pavlova with peaches and a s’mores tart with smoked chocolate.
    This is all paired with every alcohol you can imagine including whisky from CC Lounge, beer from Creemore Springs Brewery, and wines from various Prince Edward County producers (Stanners Vineyard, Broken Stone Winery, Rosehall Run, K. J. Watson, Karlo Estates, Keint-he). While dining, guests are serenaded by the 18-piece JAZZ.FM91 Youth Big Band.
    Yours truly was lucky enough to get a preview of some of the items from this year’s menu. We started at Pearl Diver where Chef Malycha taught us how to shuck an oyster – he makes it seem so easy with a wiggle, pry, and wiggle motion. For me, I’ll leave it to the experts, especially if they’re going to make a refreshing onion mignonette to go with it. The oysters will go perfectly with CC Lounge’s Toronto cocktail, which mixes J.P Wiser’s Deluxe whisky, Triple Sec, Lillet liquor and tons of fresh lemon. Bright and citrusy, it’s an easy-going drink.
    In fact, everything we sampled was season appropriate. Farmr’s salad combines watermelon and tomatoes, two things that normally aren’t served together but works. Chef Benny Chateau aims to showcase produce at their peak in August, allowing the ingredients to shine. The watermelon is pickled in its own juice with red wine vinegar, the tomatoes getting a similar treatment with lime, and it’s all tossed together with micro basil and cucumber ribbons. The watermelon’s sweetness is balanced by pickling and the vinegar’s acidity neutralized by the cucumber and tomato.

    Even Omni King Edward’s beef is lightened by using a petit tender cut (from the shoulder of the tenderloin) so it’s lean. In lieu of the traditional heavier red wine sauce and potatoes, the steak is paired with a bright chimichurri crema and tons of roasted summer vegetables sourced from Urban Fresh at the St. Lawrence Market. Ancient grain and hazelnut clusters add a bit of carbs to the plate and some crunch as well.

    Tickets are available online or by calling 416-410-9242. A portion of the $200 ticket will go towards Second Harvest, the largest food rescue organization in Canada. The charity prevents surplus food from farmers and retailers from going to the landfill by picking it up and distributing the items to over 250 social service agencies across Ontario. It’s a great organization that not only provides 30,000 meals a day, but also makes a positive impact on our environment.
    Organizers note that Dinner Under the Stars is a well-staffed event - even with 250 guests everyone is served in about 5 minutes. Moreover, speeches are kept to a minimum… they know people are there to eat, drink, and mingle! If dining alfresco with a group of people to support Second Harvest sounds amazing, get your tickets before they sell out and in no time, you’ll be eating under the stars.
    Disclaimer: The above tasting of select dishes from this year's event was complimentary. Rest assured, as noted in my mission statement, I will always provide an honest opinion.

    How To Find Them
     Location: Toronto, Canada
     Address: Front Street (between Scott and Church Street)

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    You can Taste the Season in NOTL this November with this #contest!

    As Mother Nature gives it bounty, you can enjoy what the land has to offer with wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake with their annual Taste the Season event. Twenty wineries across the region are serving up holiday appropriate bites with a taste of their VQA wines.

    Having attended a similar event in the spring, Sip and Sizzle, it was a great time - hiring a touring company to bring my husband and around as I ate and drank the day away. Here are some of the highlights of what we sampled, you can get the complete re-cap here.

    Since Peller Estates was one of the first stops, we were spoiled by the full-sized wild boar sausage – you’re not leaving hungry. The gaminess of the wild boar was mellowed with grainy maple Dijon mustard and the salty crispy shallots were an excellent addition. With an equally generous pour of the 2015 Private Reserve Gamay Noir ($19.95), which pairs nicely with the meatiness of the dish, we could have stayed at the winery longer if they had tables to lounge in.

    Château des Charmes had the most optimal pairing, in my opinion. Their 2016 Sauvignon Blanc ($14.95) was not quite as tart and mellow in a refreshing way. The creaminess of the citrus aioli on the cold sweet grilled shrimp and the strong herbs in the shoot and sprout salad went nicely with the light wine.

    I even discovered something new while making return visits given the Sip and Sizzle tastings were often held in areas separated from the traditional tasting rooms. The best location goes to Ravine Vineyards: guests head downstairs to cellar’s private dining area where curing meats hang in a climate controlled room and barrels filled with aging wine line the walls.

    You can experience a similar tasty day every weekend in November (Friday, Saturdays, and Sundays). Pick up the touring passport for $45 (plus taxes and fees) or a designated driver’s version for $25 (plus taxes and fees) that includes non-alcoholic drinks and you’re entitled to a taste of food and drink at each of the 20 participating wineries, valid all month long.

    The Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake want to give a Gastro World reader a chance to experience it themselves. The winner will receive two passes (valued at $90 plus taxes and fees) to use anytime during the event. Please note, transportation and accommodations are not included. Simply enter below.

    Entries will be accepted until October 28, 2017 at 12:00 AM. Sometime the following day, I will contact winners through email with further details. Accordingly, please make sure you enter a valid email address in Rafflecopter contest site. Cheers!

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    How To Find Them
     Location: Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada

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