Monday, July 28, 2014

The Taste of Toronto - Pt. 2. last day

I had a bit of a frustrating experience going to the Opening Day of the Taste of Toronto Festival so I decided to go again on the last day to try and get the things that I missed and see if I would have a better experience.

The first day that I went I took the TTC.  I drove to Wilson Station then subway to St. George, transfer to Bathurst and streetcar to Fort York Blvd and walk around an uphill street to the entrance of the festival.  The weather was warm and then cooled down a bit.  There were very long lines and vendors ran out of some of their menu items.

My experience was a lot different on the last day.  I drove down to the festival by myself from home and met my friend who rode her bike there.  My friend's challenge was trying to find a place to lock up her bike.   My challenge was finding somewhere to park.  I drove through the Garrison Gate and was told the parking lot was full and to drive around and go to another parking lot.  I drove around and found nothing so I went back to the first lot and he said I could look and see if there was a spot if I wanted to.  I drove in and within a minute found a spot.  I wasted about 15 minutes driving around when I could have probably just parked right away and went in.   I still had to walk up the long uphill winding street to the entrance but it took me half the time to drive there than it did taking the TTC.

I went through the entrance and there wasn't a lineup for the media box office and I got my pass right away.  There were only a few people in line to get their Crowns topped up so my friend purchased $20 in crowns and we went in.  The good thing about the pass was that it didn't have to be scanned so there weren't any technical slow downs to walk through.   The first day I used a paid printed out ticket that had to be scanned to get in.

The day,  the last sunday was a very sunny and hot day.  There was a threat of rain but it didn't happen which I am sure the vendors were very happy about.  Everyone was hot and sweaty including Chef Mark McEwan who did a demo in the Electrolux Tent which was very warm because it didn't allow for much of a breeze to get through.  His demo was very well attended.  I stood through the demo as all of the seats were taken.  In my previous post I mentioned that I thought that there should be more seats for the cooking demos as that was the main attraction of the festival.

I didn't sign up for any of the Master Classes because I didn't feel that I needed to do a hands on demo for scrambled eggs and I would have taken the knife skills one but I wasn't sure if it was a beginner or advanced.  I think I have all the basics down and have taken a basic knife skills class already.

My friend had to leave early so we tried to make out seeing as many booths as we could and I tried to check out all the stuff I missed on the first day.

I was disappointed that I couldn't get fried chicken from One but this time there were only about 4 people in line when I walked up and was happy to see Chef Mark McEwan there again dishing the plates out.  I told him I came back just for the chicken.   The chicken was delicious and I really liked the coleslaw and the sauce but I have to say that I can make better biscuits.  They were a bit tough.  But I did feel like it was a nice portion, although my friend got a tiny piece of chicken.   I bet Mark would have made sure I got a decent piece after he knew that I was disappointed that I didn't get one on the thursday night.

The other thing that I didn't get on the first day was the Barque Smokehouse Barque O rama ribs or something like that.  They were very tasty and had a great light rub of bbq sauce on them.  We also sat in on owner David Neinstein's smoked chicken demo in the Electrolux theatre.  I asked him how to make decent smoky ribs at home without a bbq.   I am going to try his suggestion and do another post in the future on that.

The one thing on the last day is that everyone wants to sell all their food and not have to cart it all back or throw it out.   San Pellegrino had cases of canned juice and water and just left them out for people to pick up as they wished.  I saw a few guys carrying full cases of water around.  I thin they were left with a lot because there was an abundance of difference beverages at the festival.

There was a real ginger ginger ale that had difference natural flavours added,  my favourite was the Pure Leaf lemon ice tea and also the Nespresso bar.  I had both a hot cappuccino and an iced latte from Nespresso.  They also had a juice called BLOO which was a blueberry juice.  Very tasty.  There were a number of tea booths as well and there were a couple of beer stations and there were wine tastings set up.  I was happy to see a variety of drink options available which a lot of other festivals don't have.  On a hot day like sunday I was bouncing around trying a lot of the drinks.

Another dish I finally got to was the Ice Cream Sundae from Chef Carl Heinrich's restaurant Richmond Station.  I thought their booth was very cute.  It was craft papered walls and red and white checked table cloths on the booth with paper cut out of the Richmond Station name.   I took a photo of Chef Carl and the booth and the staff member asked if I wanted to take a photo with Carl.  I said no because by that time I had been sweating for about 3 hours so wasn't about to be in a photo.   I didn't get the ice cream on the first night for a few reasons.   First i didn't have time to stand in line, second I didn't think it would be that interesting and I was full by the time I could have eaten it.   On sunday I was so hot that it ended up being the last thing I ate and it filled me up and cooled me off at the same time.  It wasn't super special but it was nicely presented and tasted good.




I would have liked to try the Paella which was an amazing thing to watch them make in the giant paella pans that they had timers on display.

The other interesting thing that I tried was the liquid nitrogen mango ice cream that was demo'd in the American Express tent.  It's a really cool thing to watch the liquid nitrogen fog.

After the sampling I was pretty much done with the Ribs, chicken and the ice cream so I wasn't able to try anything else.

I ran into a friend there and my friend and the one I ran into left at 3pm and I still had crowns so I stayed for a bit longer and that's when I had the sundae.  I was ready to leave at about 4pm and ran into yet another friend who had just arrived.  I gave that friend my last 3 crowns but I don't know what they were able to get with it as I left right after that.

I had a bag full of San Pellegrino and a Bloo juice in the bag they handed out and walked back on the long road to the parking lot.  I have to say I felt a whole lot better on sunday then I did after thursday night.   I was so exhausted after the standing and the ttc haul on thursday that I was too tired to do anything on friday.  I feel fine after the last days visit, although the heat and the ice cream and coffee's didn't sit in my system for too long afterward.   I wish I could have gotten a few dishes to go to take home for dinner.   Maybe I should have picked up some Blue Goose or Baretta farms food to take home but I knew I probably wouldn't have wanted to cook but ended up making some sort of concoction bowl at about 8pm when I finally got hungry again.

So overall I still feel that there are good parts of the show,  the good being the caliber of chefs it attracted and the demos and the sampling was fantastic.  The tents were nice but it wasn't very weather friendly if it's really hot/cold or rainy.

Getting there and parking was my biggest issue.  Out of my 3 friends,  1 drove and had to park near the beer festival, 1 rode her bike and couldn't find anywhere to lock it up and the last one walked over from their condo nearby which is the best way to get there but that's not much of a reach for a festival like that.  On sunday I drove for a half an hour and paid for parking.

I think that they could have set up a free public parking spot just before the entrance since there was a pretty high entrance fee and cost for each dish.   It makes for a very expensive festival.

For me I paid $55 for 2 tickets and received 12 crowns with that and then topped up my card another $30 on the first day and then another $10 on the last day.  I didn't have to pay to get in again because I got a media pass after I had paid for the first night.   I paid $7 for parking on the last day and $6 for TTC on the first night.  I didn't buy anything else at the festival but I also didn't really eat a tonne of food but it does add up pretty quickly.  They were also selling cookbooks from Roger Mooking and Mark McEwan.  I already have the McEwan book and probably wouldn't have purchased it there having to carry it around and juggle food, drinks and books.  

Metro also had a virtual store where you could scan from 3 items and pick it up from a truck on the way out.  I don't think anyone did that.  I didn't see anything worth doing that for.

So if this becomes an annual festival I will be curious to see how it changes for next year..   The location, the logistics, the system or the vendors.  I will be prepared for whatever happens if they do it again next year.


Friday, July 25, 2014

Taste of Toronto - Where do all the chefs go?

The Taste of Toronto have been promoting their new Restaurant Foodie Festival for a long time so I went to check out their opening night last night.  I ventured out to Fort York down by Lakeshore Blvd for the first time.  It seems to be a new event destination lately.

Here's where I do a good/bad list again.

There were things I really liked and things that really turned me off.











First I will start with the GOOD:

1.  Being outside on a nice day was great.

2.  All of Toronto's top chefs were around at either a Booth or doing a demo or just wandering around checking out all the food and their buddies.

3.  Lot's of great samples,  I ate a lot of cheese, some delicious ceviche and San Pelligrino clementine drink and some Bloo juice too.  I even had the last little bit of Braised Bison meat.

4.  The tent space looked really nice and lots of booths were set up really well.

5.  There was a great Master Class Tent where you could do a hands on demo.

6.  The Electrolux Stage where there were cooking demos and chats.

7.  The Nespresso Booth giving away great coffee drinks and dessert treats free.

8.  Metro had a tent with fresh fruit, fruit flavoured water and they were also giving out yoghurt bars.


and on to the BAD

1.  NO PARKING and getting there.   I would have driven if there was a place to park.  I had to drive to Wilson Station and take the subway to St. George then transfer to Bathurst and take the streetcar to Fort York Blvd.   then haul it up a long uphill winding road up to the entrance.

2.  The ticket prices and what is involved in the ticket process.  I paid $55 for two people for thursday evening.  Time was only from 5:30 to 9:30 and it took so long to get there that I didn't arrive until way after 6.   The ticket included 6 crowns which translate into about $6 worth of tickets.  Each vendor sells one small dish for between 6-10 crowns or $6-10  most are around $8.   So that means you can only get one of the smaller dishes from one vendor if you stick with that package so you have to top up your crowns before you start.

3.  Lineups,  I got a media pass after I had already purchased a ticket so when I arrived I had to line up for the media pass and then line up to purchase more crowns and then line up to get the actual printed ticket which I printed at home scanned before I went in.   Then you had to line up for a lot of the vendors to redeem your crowns and get your food.  I could smell some great ribs and we finally went to stand in line to get some and after about 10 minutes we found out that they sold out of wings.  We wandered around to see what else we could get.  We got a couple of things from the both next to the ribs and waited a few minutes for them to make it.



Then we really wanted to get some of Top Chef Judge and Restaurant owner Mark McEwan's ONE restaurant's Fried Chicken and Biscuits and the line had at least 40 people in it.  It moved really slowly.  We finally got up to the front of the line just about 9pm and found out that they ran out of chicken.  Bear in mind that we just spent about 30 minutes in line.  So I opted for the Lamb Bolognaise and Lobster poutine after wining to Mark McEwan.. he appologized and said I was going to love the Bolognaise.  Because it was already after 9pm that was pretty much it for getting food from anyone else.  The only thing we were able to get was some great coffee from the Nespresso tent.

4.  The Crown card.  I don't know but I had to make sure I didn't lose the card and juggling food and the card and maybe a drink.  When you have the paper tickets you just hand them over and you are done with it.  If you wanted more you would have to top it up and if you didn't use it the value was donated to Second Harvest.  It's great that it goes to Second Harvest but with the short time you can attend and the long lines it's hard to have enough time to use up all of it if you want to try a few things.

5.  Seating.  There was a large sectioned off VIP section that nobody was in and then there were a few stand up tables and very few seated tables.  A few around a few booths but generally nowhere to sit if you had your hands full of food and had just spent at least a half an hour standing to get it.   I know it's small portions but in the case of the food I got from McEwan's One/Bymark I got 2 dishes because I knew that would be it for the night.   It's hard to juggle 2 dishes when you have a bag to carry and a drink and you have to do it standing up.

6.  The seating area around the Electolux theatre wasn't enough.  David Chang from Momofuku & Lucky Peach Magazine is a very popular chef and there were a lot of people that wanted to see him and there wasn't enough chairs for half of the people.

7.  Back to David Chang.  We were going to try and do a masterclass but it was full so we went back to see David Chang and waited and finally he appeared to just sit down in front of the cooking set up and have a chat with some other guy.  That's not a cooking demo people.  Have another area for chats and leave the kitchen area for people doing food demos.

8.  The Masterclasses.  While I think it's an amazing idea to have these master classes I couldn't get into any of them because they were all booked for the evening.  We were told if we waited 5 minutes before and if people didn't show up we could get in... 10 minutes after and nothing so we left.  It was for Donna Dooher who as it turns out was making some Blueberry pancakes I think.  Not really a master class in my books but a beginner class.  I know kids that can make pancakes.   I am sure they were tasty but it would have been nice to see creative innovative things in these classes.

9.  The first impression.  I guess I should have put this one first.  Just walking there from getting off the street car didn't feel like they paid much attention to the experience of people getting there.  Then you arrive and there is a humungous TASTE sign on the lawn which might have been better served placed before you walked in.  The multiple ticketing booths  and then security going in.  All felt like a bit of a hassle and wasted a bit of time too.

10.  What if it rained?  I was lucky that the night was beautiful but the whole event rested on grass but the booths were tented.   But if we got one of our recent monster storms you would have had to be walking around in a pair of galloshes and umbrellas to get from tent to tent.  I am glad that didn't happen but it's supposed to rain tomorrow.  It would be a totally different experience.

Summing it all up.

I can say that I really enjoyed Chef Roger Mooking's cooking demo because he was funny, personable and provided great information and passed around cardamom pods even to check out.  I was one of the lucky ones that got to sample the sauce of the dish he made and it was delicious and I would have loved to have more of it but apparantly he wasn't allowed to sample his dish even.    I would have paid 10 crowns for that dish.  After we left the demo and were wondering around I kept bumping into him.  I guess we wanted to check out the same booths.  He was gracious enough to let my friend snap a photo with him.   So I would have to say that was the most fun of the night.

There were so many chefs around the place.  Claudio Aprile from Masterchef was wondering around chatting with all of the chefs and there were a whole bunch from different restaurants around town bouncing around too.

I know there were a whole lot of bloggers around that may have had different experiences than I did but I can tell you that by happenstance a blogger I follow happened to be behind us waiting in the 30 minute long lineup to get the sold out McEwan fried chicken and had the same experiences but she got there earlier and was able to try a lot more food.

I tried the Spicy Rice from Khao San Road, the flavour was good but I found it a bit too salty for my taste.  My friend got the Shrimp salad and we shared our dishes.  The shrimp were good but a little more dressing on it would have given it a bit more flavour.

The McEwan Lamb Bolognase that I waited in line for was a bit awkward to eat because it was on a toasted bread. I think it would have been better with pasta.  You couldn't cut the bread so it was a bit like eating a sloppy joe's without the top bun.   The Lobster Poutine didn't have enough sauce.  It was ok but it didn't blow me away.

This is my honest feedback from Day 1 which I paid for but I am going to return using my media pass to see if I can try some more food and hopefully spend less time in lineups and have a better experience and will post an update to my next day's experience after this one.










Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Good & Bad of Toronto Summer Farmer's Markets


FARMER'S MARKETS

I have a love / hate thing going on with some of Toronto's summer farmer's markets lately.

While I believe in Farmer's Markets and buying local and supporting our farmers I have been frustrated by a few of our local Toronto Markets.

Why?

I have been trying to go to as many different markets around town as I can over the past couple of years to see what the different ones offer and to see what different markets happen on different days.

While I haven't gone to all of the Toronto Markets I have gone to a lot of them.


Let's start with the GOOD.

1. I love to wander around a market and see new things and new vendors different markets.  A lot of the small vendors come from either storefronts our are working their way towards brick and mortar shops and restaurants.   I love to support that.

2.  It's so nice to shop at an outdoor market on a bright and beautiful sunny day and get some much needed fresh air.

3.  It's great to see who is getting your money as the money you pay generally goes to pay the farmer or vendor or the person you are giving your money to as apposed to a long chain of people.

4.  Supporting farmer's and small vendors grows the economy in the city as they are able to directly spend it back into our economy or invest in the future of their businesses.

5.  Generally no line ups.   Not always.. I have lined up for a fish taco or something like that on occasion, but generally you can pick up stuff fairly quickly without going through a football field of processed foods.

6.  Generally No processed foods, although some things creep in when it's prepared food that is sold.  But if you are buying straight fruits & vegetables there isn't a processing plant dumping more stabilizing chemicals into the food.

7.  You can get away with a lot less wasted packaging.  Things aren't shrink wrapped and triple wrapped.  If you buy potatoes you still get a plastic bag if you need one but that's it.  It's not a container in a bag in another bag.

 And now the BAD.

1.  Recently I went to the Leslieville Farmer's Market which I love.  It's a great sunday market with music and stuff for kids.  Lot's of local shop vendors and a great variety.  Very high quality food.  Sounds good right?  Yup it was great until I got back to my car and got a $40 parking ticket after I just spent $80 on all the vendors at the Market.   As I was lifting off my ticket from my windshield I saw the  parking officer stopped with a man speaking to the driver.  My friend and I walked over to complain and found the gentleman was already doing a good job of complaining for us.   The parking officer was doing everything to get away from us before more people surrounded the car.   The man was very angry and called the parking office right away and complained and then gave the number to my friend who also called and got a lady on the phone that said she had already received a lot of calls from the market.  She told my friend to call back the next day.  She couldn't do anything.  I should point out that there wasn't a sign on the street and the market is at a little park off of Eastern Ave.   There isn't a lot of public parking there.   I had gone to that market before as it's near where my friend lives.  I parked in about the same spot as I had done previously when I didn't get a parking ticket.   So why did I get one this time?  My friend was more angry than I was and she called the next day to see if she could get the ticket cancelled.  She was just told that it had to go through the court process.   Talk about a waste of taxpayers time and money.  Come on people.   What's wrong with this city?   The other man that got a ticket said that he came from North York as I did specifically to go to that market.  It's a lovely way to spend a sunday afternoon but the cities greedy ticketing ruined the experience.   Why would I want to go there again and spend money and then drop another $40 on a parking ticket and the added hassle?   The people that lose are the vendors who aren't making a wad of money and people like myself who like to support them and have a nice time at the same time.  Ok that was a big one.  On to the next bad thing.

2.  I picked up some fruit at another market closer to home the other day and went to wash the fruit and pulled off one of those supermarket stickers.   In case you didn't know about the codes on those stickers; anything that starts with a 9 is organic and anything with a 4 is conventional.   Ok.. so here's what got me upset.  I am willing to pay more if it comes directly from a farmer and it's Organic.   But when it's just conventional fruit that I can get at a supermarket for less money then what's the incentive other than a sunny day to go out of my way to a farmer's market.   My closest grocery store is a loblaws that is a 5 minute drive away from my house and I can walk to a small Asian Market around the corner.
How would I know if it was just a vendor that went to the Food Terminal and just picked up a case of fruits and vegetables from who knows where around the world.   I go to the markets because I am looking to support local and keep the fruits and vegetables off of the trucks driving down the highways for miles and miles or getting shipped days in advance on planes etc.

3.  Let's go back to the parking.  A lot of the markets around town don't have anywhere that you can park.  They are assuming everyone that shops at the market is within walking distance.   Well what if you are shopping for a family of more than 4 people?  Can you carry a watermelon, potatoes, apples, tomatoes etc home on a bike or walking a distance?  No I think not.   I can walk to the thursday farmer's market in North York but I can't buy more than 2 bags of things because I have to walk it back blocks to get home and it gets too heavy to carry.  

4.  Let's talk about the hours.  The farmer's market hours are all over the place.  Some start at 8am and go until 2pm..  some start at 3pm and end at 7pm...  there's one I would like to go to on saturday but it starts at 8am and ends at noon and would take me at least 45 min to get there and there isn't much parking so unless I leave my house at 7am it's not worth going there.

5.  What's available.   You can't control the weather so the one factor in going to the markets that wastes a lot of time is the fact that if the weather is bad some vendors don't go to the market or they go to other markets on other days.  If the seasonal weather is bad then it's unpredictable what you will find at the market.  It's tough to shop for what you want to make if you can't find the ingredients you need.  I understand this but I have had to go to multiple markets to get the things I need because they either don't have a vendor that sells lettuce or whatever or they have sold out.  Then I have to go to a grocery store after all of that to get my missing ingredients, defeating the whole purpose.

6.  Buying market foods don't last as long as supermarket foods which is probably a good thing because that means they are more natural products but it's bad because unless you run home and start cooking you don't get much shelf life before they rot as most are picked at the ripest point.  I have had to throw out a few batches of strawberries and cucumbers etc before I was able to use them up.  That's bad.  

7.  Getting to the markets in Toronto.  It's becoming like an obstacle course or something from Amazing Race to get to a farmer's market in Toronto with all the constructions and street festivals and charity runs around town.  You can't bike there, you can't drive there so unless you live across the street be prepared to waste a whole lot of time getting there.










Ok.. so that's my list.  It seems as though the Good and the Bad are pretty evenly divided.   So you have to make your own decision as to where you are going to shop this summer.  I will continue to explore the markets in search of a market that has more good than bad reasons to give them my money.

Here's my pick of some of my favourite markets.

1. Leslieville - if you can bike or walk there it's a great market.

2. Brickworks is really nice but it's a pain to get there.

3. St. Lawrence Market has that saturday market feel with regular vendors and the option to go to north and south buildings and get all kinds of things.

4. East Lynn Market is a lovely compact little market with parking available and really great produce vendors.

5.  St. Jacob's is the ultimate Farmer's Market and worth the drive to Elmira/Kitchener area and there is parking.  Lot's of mennonite farmer's selling straight from their farms nearby.


You can get a list of the markets from the Toronto Farmer's Markets website.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Summerlicious Fun in the Sun

I have been Blogging for about 3 years now and sometimes I think nobody is reading my blogs and then I get an invite to something fun like a Summerlicious lunch event and realize all those photo taking moments are all worth it.

I got invited by the very lovely Mary Tang @TheMary_Tang
( maryshappybelly.wordpress.com)  who I met at a Mark McEwan special event recently to join her and a bunch of fellow food bloggers and foodies for a lovely friday afternoon Summerlicious tasting menu sampling at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on King Street.  I have been to the King Street Social room for Film Festival parties before but have never seen so much food presented to me ever before.

We arrived at noon and were greeted with a French Martini beverage.  So lovely even if I am not a drinker I can appreciate the beauty of this and so much lovely food prepared by Chef Wesley.

I was happy to see another blogger that I had met at the McEwan event there as well but other than her and Mary these were all new foodies to me.  But the one thing that all foodies, bloggers and writers have in common is the love of good food.  It didn't take long for all of us to mingle and chat about restaurants and events around town.  It was lovely to spend the afternoon with a bunch of people that totally understood why I do this.  Most of my friends aren't foodies and just know to wait for me to take a photo before we eat but they really don't appreciate food and food photography the way I do.  My food love and photography comes from an early age when i got my first camera in my teens and took photos of everything I could.  Mostly my friends then but I am sure there were food photos in there somewhere.   Anyway back to the event at hand before I start rambling on about other things.

We were seated in a private dining area with a massive sunlight.  It was an extremely sunny day after a week of rocky weather.  I don't know if it was the best for food photos as it was noon on a clear day.  Think direct sunlight and hot.  I was wearing black.   Not such a good idea.  If you understand photography you will understand that food on white plates on top of black table cloths in direct sunlight is a bit of a challenge then you will understand why my photos look like they do.  I used my compact camera so no sunglasses filters on these pics.

First we had about 45 minutes to sample some of the Summerlicious Summer menu items:

Menu:

Chilled Casaba Melon Soup 
with fresh mint, 10 year old balsamic vinegar

Apple and Watercress Salad
Soft Ontario's goat's cheese,
grape tomatoes, toasted walnuts and pomegranate petals

Toasted Portabello and Brie
Grilled fungi, toasted brie, asparagus, cold pressed Olive Oil

Polenta and Short Ribs
Soft creamy polenta, shaved asiago, grilled forest mushrooms, rosemary reduction

Captain Jack's Classic Fish and Chips
Fresh halibut, home style fries, signature tartar sauce

Pan Roasted Rock Snapper
Fresh snapper filet, watermelon radish salad, galette potatoes, martini aioli

Fire Charred Rib Eye Steak
Red chili and tarragon butter, roasted fingerlings, crimini mushrooms and arugula salad

From the Garden
Coconut sweet potato mash, summer grilled garden veg, red pepper and parsley oil


I am not a big mushroom fan so there were a few things that weren't on my radar.  My 2 favourite dishes were the Captain Jack's Fish and Chips and the Coconut sweet potato mash with vegetables.   The fish was lightly battered and crispy, flavourful and not at all greasy.   The vegetable stack was beautiful to look at and was cooked to bring out the peak of flavours of the vegetables.  Yes I love me some grilled vegetables and the addition of the coconut to the sweet potato mash was delicious but be prepared for the sweetness.

After all of these plates of food came all kinds of desserts from cupcakes, macaron's to tarts and cakes.  We were all stuffed and there was so much food left over that we could have had a few more bloggers join us.

After all of this food we were then brought up to the Rooftop Pool Bar where there were glasses of Sangria waiting for us and a whole array of their new Summer poolside menu of lighter fare dishes.  Although I am not sure the cakes would be a big hit for women in bikinis lounging by the pool.  Most of us didn't have enough room to sample the food so a few lucky girls in bikinis that were poolside were invited to dive in to the lovely spread of food.  They were very happy girls.


It was the most beautiful sunny friday afternoon and everyone was wishing they could just stay and enjoy the lounge by the pool, especially after a very rainy week, but unfortunately everyone had things they had to do so we parted with full bellies and some new friends.

As it turns out it was the lovely Mary's birthday the next day so I think this little get together was a nice little pre birthday gift for her and we all enjoyed being her guest.

I look forward to seeing Mary and the other fellow bloggers again soon.

This was a nice reward after working the past 6 months in an office on a contract job and not having the time to be available for events like this.  I hope to enjoy more summer food events like this before I get back on the working schedule again.

If you want to do a bit of Pool Lounging you can spend the day there whether you are a guest of the hotel or not with their NEW Pool Program.

Here is some information about Hyatt's pool deck program: 

The pool program runs from Thursday to Sunday. For anyone staying at the Hyatt Regency on King, the pool program is complimentary. For outside guest, the pass is $39/person per day. The price includes a complimentary glass of Hyatt's Signature Sangria, towels and locker for the day. 
It is best to make reservations due to the capacity. 






Thursday, July 3, 2014

Southern Accent Restaurant Cookbook Launch

Southern Accent Restaurant in Toronto is one of those hidden gem type of restaurants that is tucked away on Markham road or Mirvish village in the Annex in Toronto,  but has been around for 30 years.  Staying open 5 years in Toronto is a huge accomplishment but let alone a long standing career of 30 years is a miracle in this city where things that were around for a long time and are iconic are all disappearing.  That's why I am so happy that Southern Accent is still around and hasn't changed a thing except maybe adding a few recipes here and there.

 I received a special invite from Toronto Film Critic Richard Crouse to attend a secret Cookbook Launch.  I didn't know who's cookbook it was for but I was game to find out.  I knew it had to be something that Richard had a connection to because he was going out of his way to find the right people to attend the cookbook launch.    I used to do makeup for the Rogers show Real to Reel when Southern Accent.  We had filmed Real to Reel there a few times.   I would squeeze my makeup into some corner of the restaurant and try and put it on in the very darkened restaurant.  But it was always fun being there.  The restaurant has a certain energy.  Richard's connection to Southern Accent goes way back to when he was a bartender/server there.  At that time the now chef/owner was just a bus boy but his partner was still his boss back then.  Frances hired Richard after a 5 minute interview and he has been connected to the restaurant ever since then.
Richard Crouse, Geoff Pevere and Katrina Onstad were the hosts of the show so I have known Richard for a long time.   I have stopped doing makeup and have spent that time working on this blog instead.   I was happy to find out that the Cookbook Launch was for

This was no ordinary book launch.   It was a real fun event.  There were fresh oysters being shucked, a Nawlins  dixieland style band playing on the patio,  Beers on tap, Sangria and very tasty Bourbon Sours which is what I sampled.
Then the food started coming out.  Shrimp Po'boy sandwiches, crab cakes, brisket and mashed potatoes, hush puppies and there was a huge pan of Jambalaya being made just when you walked in through the patio.  Drinks were flowing and everyone was enjoying the food and the music.


Andrea, owner Frances and Richard Crouse
Richard Crouse


















Then came the little desserts,  Bourbon glazed bread pudding and Pecan pies.   MMMM goood.

Like a trip to New Orleans.   And speaking of trips to New Orleans, this whole cookbook started 20 years ago when Richard went to Louisiana with Frances the owner and found some crazy locals including the Mayor that gave them some of the tried and true recipes that went into the restaurant and the end result of this cookbook.   Richard and Frances and the now partner chef owner have lot's of stories of their experiences in Southern Accent over the years.   Maybe Richard will write a book of the stories of working and hanging out at Southern Accent.  Although it sounds like it might be a good documentary.  If I had some cash and a good crew that would be something I would be interested in doing for sure.

And the bonus of the evening for me was a complimentary Tarot Card reading with Kim.  My life sound interesting through those Tarot cards so I will have to wait and see what transpires over the next 12 months.   In the meantime I will be flipping through the pages of the Southern Accent cookbook and reading some of the stories included in the book.

Check out the photos of the Launch.  It was one of the most fun Cookbook launches I have ever attended and the food was great too.

Drop by during Summerlicious and get your Cajun on and sip a nice cool drink and some spicy food.   

Pan American Food & Music Festival

Festival:     Pan American Food & Film Festival Date:          August 11-13, 2017 Location:   Yonge & Dundas Square Website...