Batter Up: Canteen Serves Up Corn-Dog Realness

Listen up Toronto and listen up real good. I have found some legit corn-dogs.

None of this fried and disgusting stuff that makes you feel like you’re going to be sick afterwards. Oh no. This corn-dog was heaven-sent and thy heavens name is Oliver & Bonacini’s Canteen!

To celebrate the beginning of a new Blue Jays season (I wonder if my homeboy Drake has stocks in the Jays too?), the O&B team developed this fab new deal titled, Dugout Dogs. Beginning on April 4th, enjoy a blue cornmeal Dugout Dog, doubled up, for your pleasure for just $12 with a pint of Mill Street Tankhouse to wet the whistle for $5.

The Dugout Dog offers up more than just dogs & beer, which in theory you could get at the Jays game (for way more than $12, might I add). This thick and juicy realness is all beef, gluten-free served up with house-made mustard and ketchup and plated up with dem thick Yukon Gold fries.

This deal happens on every time the Jays play at home from 11AM onwards. If you don’t think you’ll be able to eat dem dogs in-house at Canteen, then don’t feel like you’ll strike out on this deal. Take them to go!

Go march your butt down to Canteen and check em out for yourself. Sports fan or not, Dugout Dogs are where its at.

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Lou Dawg’s: Celebrating 5 Years of Southern Comfort

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Photos by Yuli Scheidt

Originally posted to Ama’s weekly column on Toronto Is Awesome.

If you’ve ever been on the hunt for good Southern charm and late night eats on King Street West, then you’ve probably run into owner Daryl D’Souza at his restaurant Lou Dawg’s before. Serving down-home good ol’ Southern BBQ for the past five years, Lou Dawgs has built up a following for being cheap, cheerful, and fun. I mean, when owner Daryl tells you there is a tradition of getting “Tuesday’d” which consists of lots of whiskey and ribs, you do not question it.

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Just recently, the restaurant decided to freshen up the menu a bit. Adding some new touches to old menu items and adding some new menu items all together. One is a new take on a classic: The Angry Loutine ($6.99/8.99). The components (cheese, jalapeños, pulled pork, BBQ mayo, crispy onions) are everything and, just like the original Loutine, marry wonderfully together.

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Next up, we were introduced to some of the best chicken wings I have had in this city. The Slow Smoked Dry Rubbed Wings ($9.95) were crunchy yet tender and just plain delicious. This rub has always been at Lou Dawgs but it’s a great classic that cannot be missed.

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Yuli Scheidt Lou Dawgs

Next, we launched ourselves into the St. Louis Style Ribs which were extra saucy. Typically a half-rack of ribs are $12.95 or a full rack $22.95. For the amount of tender meat coming off these bones, these ribs were worth every penny. They were succulent and slow-cooked to perfection. Just the way ribs should be.

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Two new menu items came next: a fish taco and a pulled pork taco ($8.95 ea). The fish taco had a beautiful coleslaw on top (which was simple) whereas the pulled pork taco had a black bean and corn salad with mayo. Be forewarned: the tacos are messy. All the flavours married so well together and the meats were tender. The biggest problem was the tortilla and the condiments. The mayo seems to make the tortilla soggy and therefore eat thru the tortilla. First world taco problems.

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Finally, we were fed some delicious sliders. There were two options for the evening: The Triple B Slider, which had all the same ingredients as the pulled pork taco and my favourite slider of the evening: The Pulled Pork Slider with BBQ mayo, beans, and bacon. It reminded me of camping in the best way possible. 3 Meat Sliders are $9.95.

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Yuli Scheidt Lou Dawgs

The Big Dawg Menu offers a lot and what was showcased during our evening is just a sample of what Lou Dawg’s has to offer for the next five years and beyond.

Speakeasy 21 makes its mark in the Financial District

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photos by Yuli Scheidt

Originally posted to Ama’s weekly column on Toronto Is Awesome.

Listen up Financial District: an elegant and chic prohibition-style resto-bar has moved into the area. That place is Speakeasy 21. Located on the main-floor of the Scotiabank Plaza, this modern yet sleek venue is offering up 4,000 square feet of contemporary dining experience.

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With its 1920 inspired theme, the decor fuses together timeless features like leathers and brass with wonderful marble. An open kitchen gives what to the swell of activity within the kitchen. Outside there is promise of a large patio for District dwellers to get their liberations on in the summer heat. The restaurant is almost floor-to-ceiling glass windows bringing in beautiful natural sunlight.

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Taking the reins at Speakeasy 21 is Chef Andrew Wilson (ex-Canoe and Origin North) who has kept the menu approachable yet sophisticated. Many of the items are seasonable, like the Shrimp Burger with Chorizo. It almost seemed like an odd pairing but yet it had such an incredibly wonderful taste. Paired with one of the Liberations like the Canadian Cooler ($14.50, Eristoff Vodka, Lime juice, Simple syrup, Mint leaves, Cucumber slices) — it was love at first sip and nibble.

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Some other delicious bites were the Butter Chicken Balls ($14) and the Ground Chuck Burger ($18, lettuce, tomato, and house sauce) paired alongside a beautifully poured Rob Roy ($14.50, Dewar’s Scotch, Sweet Vermouth, Bitters, Orange Twist) — you have yourself a fine evening filled with great eats and energizing cocktails.

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The drinks menu consists of nearly 45 potions both unique and classic by bartender Dave Moore (Brant House, Easy, and The Fifth). Everything here is taken with much style and grace and if you’re not a cocktail drinker, not to worry: there is also an extensive wine list consisting of 38 varieties.

This brand new resto-bar is going to inject some serious life into the Core (espically with live music every Thursday). You don’t have to just take our word for it either.

Matt Basile is not just another Rebel without a Kitchen

For those who are familiar with the food truck scene in Canada, the name Matt Basile is one that should ring a bell. He is the owner/operator of the Fidel Gastro food truck and his most recent endeavour, a “brick and mortar with the heart of a pop up”, Lisa Marie on Queen St West.

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But in the last two years, Basile has taken on a new journey.  Thanks to the Travel + Escape Network, he now spends three months of the year on the road. His whirlwind new show, “Rebel Without a Kitchen” (airs Tuesday at 9PM ET/10PM PT) shines a spotlight on street food scenes all throughout Canada and the US.

The second season just launched a few weeks ago and I had the chance to sit down with Matt to chat about food, television, and creature comforts.  We even had time for an arm wrestling match.

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FGFS:  So how did you decide where you wanted to visit for this season of Rebel Without a Kitchen?

Matt:  The whole thing about season one was us building our business here in Toronto. What we wanted to do with season two was take what we had created and bring it to other cities and bring some of that influence to other cities and how does that reciprocate. The cities that we picked were a combination of places that we really wanted to go and that were really setting the stage for street food in North America, the cities who would let us visit and finally was there an event that we could really tap into or that made sense for us to really visit. We definitely hit some really important cities [in season two] that tell a really important food story.

FGFS: In your three-month journey, where was the most memorable and why?

Matt: Are we saying memorable or best city — because I have two for totally different reasons. I would say LA was my favourite city. It was warm and I think overall they just have everything there including an emerging restaurant scene. They are in the midst of really changing how people approach food concepts and also pushing the street food scene. There is this casual coolness with LA but it is also very business-focused as well. It has the best of all these world. I kept thinking, “You know what? I could live here.” It was very cool. It really wasn’t what I was expecting at all. The most memorable stop I would have to say was Cape Breton. From the second we got off the plane to the second we arrived in Sydney, everyone was so helpful and so lovely. Everyone loves what they produce locally there and is so proud of what they do. They are so incredibly local in what they do but are so open to worldwide culture and food. There were people at the street food event I was at from Jamaica and Pakistan and all over. The chef that I was working with was so genuine and we still text to this day. I’d have to say Philly was the biggest food surprise for me. I wasn’t expecting much from there and it was incredible. Great food scene, great bar scene, and really heavy into craft beers. The city was also very musical and historical. I wouldn’t have put those words into my preconceived notions of Philadelphia.

FGFS:  Are there any recipes or tips/tricks that you found while out on the road for Rebel without a Kitchen that you have now brought back and implemented into your own kitchen?

Matt: 100% I would say not so much recipes but more so types of cooking. So for example, our trip to New Orleans had a really big influence on our cooking. The sauces that I pushed myself to learn while in New Orleans immediately came back with us to Toronto and played a role with us in the restaurant. Same with when we went to Austin, Texas and learned the concept of BBQ. Bringing it back with Moroccan flavours (like they do there) and then making it something different here in Toronto. It was really easy to say, “Whatever dish I make in this city, I’m bringing back” but in other cases, those dishes sparked new ideas using those influences. I think specifically because I don’t have any formal training, that is how you learn — the more you eat, the more you learn.

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FGFS: You left a job in advertising to follow your dream and work in food. What made you do it since you didn’t have any formal training?

Matt: I grew up Italian, so food was always a very big part of my life. I grew up working in butcher shops to pay for school. I went to school for advertising and marketing because I loved coming up with ideas and concepts and connecting with people. I was at a point in my life where I was putting a lot of time and effort into these ideas, but I should have been doing this for myself. By process of elimination, I realized the only thing I really knew how to do was food. When I met my partner Kai, she gave me this extra push to go forward with what I wanted to do. Sometimes you need this perfect storm of the right people around you that help you believe in yourself and that help you create an extension of who you are. If you can make a living — albeit a thin one — of it, then it is something worth going for. If you can make your own job and your own path and a positive contribution, then why not?

FGFS: What prompted you to start Lisa Marie (the restaurant extension of Fidel Gastro)?

Matt: We sat down and said, “We have all this business but we aren’t capitalizing on it the right way”. So we just realized we weren’t running the business effectively and it was very fly-by-night and realized we needed to operationalize. So what that meant was: we wanted a commercial kitchen in this city. Nothing more, nothing less. We were recommended by a friend of ours that someone had a space on Queen West with a kitchen. It wasn’t until this point where it dawned on us, “Wow, are we looking to open a restaurant?”. Thanks to Kai — she handled all the negotiations — we put a bid in on our current space. Originally, our bid didn’t go through.  So we just kind of gave up and figured we would find something eventually. But the day after my grandfather’s funeral, we got a call saying we got the space. The rest is history. We didn’t have a concept, but we just knew what it would be. Keeping it on brand, we named it Lisa Marie — since the food truck’s name is “Priscilla” and Elvis is on everything. The menu is constantly changing and evolving. It’s fun and approachable food.

FGFS:  What is your idea of relaxation?

Matt: Kai and I love cooking big Italian meals for one another. We also really like going to get massages. Sometimes when we order out, we love getting Vietnamese, Korean, or Thai food and eating it in bed. This concept may or may not be called “picnic,” and may involve watching television. But so much of what we define as relaxation does not include work, as so many of our work days are 22 hours. Anything that is not work-related is relaxation.

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All photos by Rochelle Latinsky

 

Amaya Group of Restaurants take on Indian Street Food

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I am a huge Indian food fan. One of my go-to take out joints on Just-Eat.ca is Amaya Express on Ossington. So when we were invited to check out the new spring menu at Amaya the Indian Room on Bayview, I was pretty excited. This would be some OG stuff, as it is one of the original Amaya Group of Restaurant locations.

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The Amaya Group of Restaurants was founded back in 2007 by Chef Hemany Bhagwani which currently has 15 locations to date. Chef Bhagwani told us that for the new spring menu he waned to recreate the Amaya experience from start to finish with some new dishes drawing inspiration from India’s vibrant street food culture whilst dipping its toe into some molecular gastronomy.

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Chef Bhagwani started us off with a beautiful amuse bouche consisting of a Yogurt Egg filled with Pomegranate Juice. This was a light airy and simple bite that started off our meals just right.

From there, we were given another amuse bouche of sorts, which was one of their street foods inspiration dishes: Prawn Papdi Chaat with cumin and chutney. Very similar in texture to a ceviche, it was absolutely delicious and all the flavors married so well together. I could have had several more of these, if offered.

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Next up, we were served this new version of Pakoras. Now with kale and tomato chutney. Oh my glob, these were out of this world. Kind of like crispy, deep fried kale chips but little balls. Then with the chutney? Get out of here!

We were finally shown a bit of the seafood side of Amaya with some Scallops paired with pickled lemons, shallot confit and coconut snow. It was beautiful presented and a lovely light taste.

You would think that Tandoori Chicken could not be any different but this was incredible. Spicy, tender and delicious – something about it was great. Plus the foam on it that created a enhanced simple flavor.  Oh, and dem cheese balls. Need I say more?

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Back on the seafood tip, we were treated to some more Prawns (simply titled the Amaya Prawns) – which were juicy and bursting with flavour. Add a bit of beet gel to it and you have yourself a whole new dish. Plus: I am not lying that these were some of the biggest prawns I have seen in my life.

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I would have to say that my favourite dish of the evening though was the Lamb Tenderloin with the Wasabi Ice Cream on top. I was a little bit taken aback when I heard Wasabi Ice Cream but trust me: it works and with all of these flavours. I want more. Please just give me more of this dish forever and always.

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If I haven’t sold you on Amaya’s new menu or on heading to Amaya, then I don’t know what could. They have put so much heart and soul into all of their new offerings, it comes through in each of the plating’s and each of the menu offerings. All of the menu items are so innovative yet so familiar that it’s so comforting. Worth heading to the main location on Bayview! Also of note: all menu items are reasonable priced (between $12-$18) so this makes a great dinner out.

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Photos by Yuli Scheidt

Get to know: The Cutting Board at Weslodge

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Originally posted to Ama’s weekly column on Toronto Is Awesome.

It’s not hard to miss the bright yellow doors of Weslodge on King Street West with the flashy signage. I’ve always wondered what was inside those doors but never experienced it for myself.

Thankfully just the other week, I was invited to the saloon inspired restaurant to experience the launch of their meat board aptly titled, The Cutting Board.

Toronto seems to be all about shareable plates right now and well, sharing is caring. The Cutting Board consists of an impression selection of meats on meats on meats which include hen, beef, pork, lamb, and poultry. Each have been aged, smoked, marinated or slow-roasted to perfection.

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The Cutting Board has some definite hits and some misses (for sure). For starters, the hen is sous vide before being breaded and deep-fried, which makes it just crazy good. The 32-day aged ribeye? So tender that you’ll never want anything else ever again. But the lamb ribs? Such a miss as they were so dry and tough.

Does it stack up to some of the other BBQ places in the city? Absolutely, especially for the price that you’re paying. It also just depends on the type of BBQ you are looking for and the amount of meat you are looking for (example: do you want a full dish for yourself or are you into sharing). In my opinion, the Cutting Board offered more than enough food. For example, my dining partner and myself that evening didn’t finish off our portions and we were plated what would have been given to 2-people.

Available on Sunday and Mondays from 5pm onwards at $29 per person, enjoy the Cutting Board at Weslodge now.

Lookin’ Good Girl – Pat that weave girl: Toronto’s own Palm Sunday hair salon & gift shop

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Palm Sunday (384 Harbord Street, Toronto) seems more like the Internet come to life and I mean that in the best way possible. Unlike any other salon and gift shop I have ever walked into, you are greeted with beautiful white washed walls with vibrant pops of neon everywhere. It seems to whisper out, “Spring Break” in that James Franco way but less obnoxious and more fabulous. This salon and gift shop works in all type of design with kitschy cool.

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Welcome to Palm Sunday, the brainchild of Kat Marcus, Ronnie Dag and Shane Lyon.

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Just having had their re-launch party over the weekend (being re-branded and re-renovated from their former space, The Saloon Salon), the dream team decided to “turn a new leaf” for the new year and bring their guests a more fun and interactive sensory space while introducing two new members (Shane Lyon and Mark Boots). In the re-brand, they decided to team up (in the gift shop) with more artists, designers and originators who dedicate themselves to craft.

I decided to chat with them prior to their relaunch to get the scoop on Palm Sunday and find out what exactly Palm Sunday means to them!

(1) Who and what is Palm Sunday?

Palm Sunday is a contemporary space fusing hair, fashion, art, and culture. We provide an individualized salon experience that reflects your habits and your hairstyle. Our environment is inspired by radiant beaches to reflect our sunny disposition. We are your all inclusive hair retreat!

(2) What is life like at Palm Sunday?

Life is always busy at Palm Sunday. During the day, we are a full-on hair salon! Cuts, colours, beard trims, wigs and secrets! Our gift shop brings in curious neighbours to browse and get to know us better. Sometimes people stop by to just hang out for a while in our sunny waiting area, and chat with Shane.

During the off hours, we are always collaborating with artists, musicians, designers, makeup artists and videographers on producing interesting content. Some of it serves a purpose, some is to test the waters on other fashion concepts. So far, we have started dipping into photography, wardrobe styling, set design, concept design and creative direction. It is incredible how excited it makes us to then take that energy and apply it to our lives behind the chair.

It is a really exciting time for all of us, it all feels very limitless.

(3) What made you decide to re-brand from The Saloon Salon to Palm Sunday?

Our re-branding came naturally, as we are continually evolving as people, artists and a united team. The Saloon was such a success, and we were excited to create a new endeavour, combining our love for our craft with our admiration for one another. Throughout the process, our dream concept came to life – we wanted to inspire our friends, neighbors, and clients. Our new light airy persona leads to a more relaxing, invigorating experience. We feel rejuvenated and want to share that with everyone who passes by!

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(4) Who are Kat, Shane, Ronnie and Mark? Who makes up the Palm Sunday team?!

Shane Lyon is our new salon director and co-owner. He is a math prodigy, and thrives in customer service. Your Palm Sunday visit begins and ends with Shane. As our salon director, he is in charge of keeping everything flowing. He has built strong relationships with our suppliers – on the hair side and in the gift shop. We lean pretty hard on him, we call him Papa.

Kat Marcus is a vibrant master stylist and co-owner with over ten years experience transforming the way her clients feel about the way they look. She is co-owner of Palm Sunday, and her previous salon (located here) won several awards, including the NOW Magazine readers poll for Best Salon, for two years running. Always open to evolution, she formed her dream team and has finally made the exciting salon she had always envisioned.

Ronnie Dag is a gifted master stylist and co-owner at Palm Sunday. Entrepreneurship comes naturally to Ronnie – she also has a very successful bridal business, and is incredibly innovative. She is a tastemaker, a rebel, and can only be described as a true original. She brings with her a strong styling background in music, film, fashion, and television. Her ability to deliver a vision has kept her busy for over a decade, and her infectious personality keeps her in high demand.

Mark Boots is a talented stylist with a refreshing personality. A designer by nature, Mark’s roots are in fine arts and theater. He has combined his love of hair, design and theater through his work for Mirvish, Canadian Stage, Canadian Opera Company and other theatre productions. He divides his time between the chair and the stage, and is a regular fixture at Palm Sunday.

(5) What can people expect when they sit in the chair at Palm Sunday?

People can expect their experience to be all be about them. They will always be heard, and never judged. We all work together to collaborate on the perfect look for every client, and go out of our way to make sure everyone feels included. We are upbeat, friendly, and reflect a positive, sunny disposition – you are always guaranteed a laugh with the light antics taking place throughout our day. We always listen to our clients carefully to ensure everyone has the perfect look to suit any lifestyle. We want to break free from the antiquated notion that you can’t ‘cheat on your stylist’. We don’t own you, but we will love you like we do.

(6) Who are some of your inspirations

We are inspired by everyone and everything around us. We are constantly evolving as a team and using our life experiences to help one another progress. Our clients always have amazing experiences to share that keep us intrigued and wanting to grow. We collaborate with numerous, artists, musicians, and neighbors, and outside stylists who keep our creative force forever progressing.

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(7) If you could style anyone who would it be

Kat: I would love to give Leo (Dicaprio obvs) a therapeutic scalp treatment and a line up.
Ronnie: I would love to flat iron Donatella Versace’s hair
Mark: I would travel back to 1972 to style Burt Reynolds for his infamous Cosmopolitan shoot

(8) What is your #1 tip for feeling fly?

The simple truth: “always do you.” There is nothing more fly than confidence in your individuality.

Real Talk: It’s true, I’m a high-functioning alcoholic

Trigger warnings: addiction, drugs, alcohol, abuse, depression, anxiety

Before I begin this Real Talk entry, I just want to go on the record by saying that I am not a registered physician or addiction specialist. I am writing this from my own personal experiences and struggles. I am not suggesting that you follow what I have done. I am simply sharing my story and hope that I can provide some prospective and helpful information for those looking for further help.

It should be known that I have always grown up around the bottle. One of my very first memories is tugging at my father’s pant leg around the age of three begging him to make me Kool-Aid. Instead he poured beer into my Kool-Aid man cup and I took a huge gulp. I don’t think he did this intentionally but there it was – my first sip of the sweet nectar at the tender age of three.

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My father is an alcoholic. I have seen him at his best and I have seen him at his worst. I have seen him at his highest and his lowest. Because of this when I was growing up, I vowed that I didn’t want to be like him. But what I didn’t know then was that addiction was a slippery slope that I may or may not have a choice of falling down. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependencies, research has shown conclusively that family history of alcoholism or drug addiction is in part genetic and not just the result of the family environment.

When I re-kindled the flame with alcohol at age 15, I knew I had fallen in love. Alcohol gave me something — feelings, an escape, uninhibited tendencies and well, fun Yes, I had a fake ID and was going to bars and nightclubs at that age. Nobody was going to stop me from getting that ‘fix’, if you will. As I grew older, I could drink more than most of my male friends. Have you ever seen a 5″2′ girl chug an entire bottle of vodka or Jameson in one evening without throwing up? This was me and I thought like this was something I should be proud of.

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People loved inviting me out. They knew with me they would get a show (dancing or otherwise) and I’d always be the last one standing or know where to hunt down (more) free drinks. But all it really was me self-medicating through the bouts of anxiety and depression I was feeling.

Throughout my formative years, I came to realize that downers were my drug of choice. I didn’t like feeling happy and up. According to the George Mason University Wellness, Alcohol and Violence Education website, downers affect most of the basic processes that happen in your body to keep it alive by slowing or inhibiting processes causing users to experience sedation, dis-inhibition of emotions and impulses, muscle relaxation and drowsiness. Basically, I just wanted to numb the pain of the world that I was experiencing. If that meant being a functioning alcoholic then so be it.

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Over the years, friends would recommend that perhaps I should slow down on the drinking or people would even stop hanging out with me because I was “out of control” but I never thought I had a problem. All I remembered was having good times and I couldn’t understand why friends couldn’t get on board with that. Sadly, in between all those good times there are a lot of dark, dangerous and humiliating times. I want recount the stories but they happened and sadly as I hurtled myself towards my 30th birthday it seemed things got more real. What was I doing with myself and why?

Life started to get complicated when I got close to thirty. I think my mind opened up and realized that I was (by the definition) a high-functioning alcoholic. I had a full-time job and was a published freelance writer. All really truly amazing things, but I began to realize that perhaps other people were not the problem anymore and I was the problem. Perhaps my life choices while drinking were a problem. All of the dates in the first 3 months of my relationship with my current partner, I was hungover for. Suddenly, the drinking and my alcoholism started to make me feel ugly.

But from this there was regrowth and revitalization and strength. All of which I didn’t know I had within me. I should first go on record as saying, I’m not a sober person. I still drink. However for those that know me know that I barely drink a fraction of the amount that I drank in the past and now I know my limits. I started to re-evaluate my life and those in it. Were they party friends or real friends? Would they love me with or without alcohol? Some friends left me by the wayside as the less I partied the less we hung out. I realized I was just another fixture in the background of their party. For some of those realizations, it hurt immensely as you thought you were “real” friends. But for the people who stuck around to be real friends, they gave me the strength and confidence I needed to re-build myself.

Coming out of this alcoholic fog was when Yuli and I sat down and really discussed making Fat Girl Food Squad a reality. It was when I was introduced to my current partner whom I love so dearly and he’s been such a supportive person. But also when one of my other best friends promised to take me to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, if I ever wanted more support. It was from having all of these emotional stongholds in my life that happiness emerged, clarity came and I decided to put the drink down.

So why did I feel compelled to write this? I want others to know they are not alone. I came across this study that states that more women are binge drinking and self-medicating with alcohol. Other fearless and powerful women (Jen McNeeely of Toronto’s She Does the City recently spoke to how to support a recovering alcoholic) are going through this each and everyday and you don’t have self-medicate with alcohol. There is a way out and things do get better.

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Wind-Up Bird Cafe Combines all Things Education – the Literary Word and Food

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Originally posted to Ama’s weekly column on Toronto Is Awesome.

Sang Kim is no stranger to the Toronto restaurant and culinary scene. Currently the owner and operator of Baldwin Village’s Yakitori Bar and Seoul Food Co., everything he touches turns to gold. For his next spot though, he has taken his love of food, the arts and community involvement to the next level and shared with Toronto, Wind-Up Bird Cafe. This cafe and restaurant space will act as a spot to eat, learn and play.



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I had the chance to speak with Chef Yumiko Kobayashi (prior to the media opening) who told me, “I wanted a place where my vegetarian and meat-eating friends could comfortably dine together and I also wanted a place where I could feed my nine year-old daughter. Much like the way my mother fed me when I was a child, tons of love in every dish.” and each dish served that evening was presented with such love and passion.



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In the kitchen at Wind-Up Bird Cafe, Yumiko surrounds herself with all women telling me: “This was a very deliberate choice on my part. I was too used to a male-dominated kitchen- top-down, command and control, and wanted to reflect the opposite of my bad experiences in that situation. I find that women work with consensus in mind. They are more fluid in their conversation, less driven to impress, more open to others’ ideas.”

Together this female driven kitchen has sourced and produced the best in international comfort foods. First up, we tasted a juicy lamb chop with a grainy mustard served atop a bed of greens and sliced apple. Simple yet comforting. The next dish up was probably my favourite (and featured on Breakfast Television): the signature tofu with avocado gratin. With a simple pop of head and some fried shallots of a bit of crunch, this had everything my mouth was looking for. Yumiko tells me, “I like to keep things bubbling under the surface for a long time and let my food ideas express itself as naturally as possible.” Through these dishes, they certainly did speak for themselves.



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That evening Sang Kim discussed how much him and Yumiko were committed to bringing nutritional awareness to the community. As such, we were presented with an absolutely wonderful presentation as part of the Kid-Chen Confidential, which will be running out of Wind-Up Bird Cafe. Kid-Chen Confidential will have children interested in cooking (under the age of 18) teaching other kids how to make healthy food on their own. That evening the Proteen Queen (16-year old Leah Honiball) and Kim’s daughter Kiki prepared fried tofu burgers for all. I would have to say that they stole the show.



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Another program that will be introduced at Wind-Up Bird Cafe is of the literacy variety entitled, Cook/Book. Each month, a local author will share their book with the audience and we were treated to Joyce Wayne that evening who cooked up a light mango cheesecake from her novel, “The Cook’s Temptation”.



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Wind Up Bird Cafe, seats 50, plus another 50 on the side patio for the summer. They will be serving breakfast, lunch and dinner and plan to have several more programs up and running in the coming months.

Photos taken by Rochelle Latinsky

Poppin’ Bottles of Fresita in the Petite and Sweet lab

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Just the other week, I was invited out alongside my Fat Girl Food Squad co-horts to a fun and fabulous evening hosted by Fresita and Petite & Sweet Bakery.

This event was unlike any other event I had ever been to with promises of sweets, treats, some crafting and a lot of Fresita. I had never had the chance to try Fresita before and it was a pink Chilean sparkling wine that was made with hand-picked strawberries. Sound delicious? Well, it was.

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I got to share in the evening with some other radical blogger babes like Lisa Jackson (from Eat Drink Travel), Kaitlin Wright (from She Does the City) and Taylor Stinson & Nathalie Sehgal (from the Girls on Bloor) while we walked through the doors of the Petite & Sweet headquarters (who were featured on Food Network’s own SugarStars) and took in the elegant beauty of the sweets table. It had everything from macaroon chairs to Fresita-flavoured marshmallows. It was heaven.

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Bottles of Fresita were popped and we sipped and nibbled our way through the evening. The lovely ladies at Petite & Sweet gave hands-on instructions on how to frost our own cupcakes. For me, I had never used a piping bag so this was a whole new experience. For my friend Ashley who tagged alongside me, she was an old pro at this and helped me out. The results weren’t too shabby.

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For me, I am not the biggest sweets person in the world so when we were shown to make Chocolate Covered Pretzels with Icing and Toffee Bits – it was game over. It was obviously my favorite snack of the evening and so simple to make. Melt some chocolate in the microwave, double-dip (no one is judging) and then carefully drizzle icing and toffee bits on top. Let sit for 10-15 minutes and you’ve got yourself one delicious snack.

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As the night winded down, we were asked to take part in a little DIY crafting and prepare our own gift boxes. I’m not going to lie: I am not a crafty person what so ever. Thankfully my friend Rachelle who I brought alongside me was because the box she put together was off the chain! I attempted to make something myself but after getting two strands of ribbon and feeling disappointed in myself, I just gave up. Thankfully I had a glass of zee ol’ glass of Fresita to ease the pain.

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This evening was everything a girl would want: sweet and crafty and delicious. Plus: I got to make some amazing new friends in the process. Thanks to Fresita Canada and Petite and Sweets Bakery for having me out.

All photos taken by Kailee Mandel