[GIVEAWAY] Toronto Festival of Beer’s Spring Sessions

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Toronto’s Festival of Beer (TFoB) announced its new Spring Sessions festival slated for March. Because who needs to wait until summer for an ice cold brew?

The Spring Sessions will take place at the Evergreen Brickworks on Friday March 28 and Saturday March 29. The entire area will be filled top to bottom with ales, lagers and ciders from some of Toronto’s top craft brewers: Left Field Brewery, Mill Street, Steam Whistle, Great Lakes and Brickworks Ciderhouse.

With entrance fee a measly $30 and providing you with 5 sampler tickets and a mug, it’s a weekend date that can’t be missed. To date, the Saturday session is sold out. But fear not, our fellow Fat Girl Food Squad readers! We have tickets… to give away… for free.

As mentioned, we are giving away 1-pair of tickets to the FRIDAY MARCH 28 date of Spring Session. So how do you enter?

1) Like Fat Girl Food Squad on Twitter or Facebook.

2) Tweet the following: Spring is here & I want beer! @FatGrlFoodSquad, please send me to the @TOBeerFestival Spring Session! #FGFSlovesSpringSession

3) This contest will run from Friday March 21, 2014 until Tuesday March 25, 2014. We will announce all the giveaway winners via our Twitter and Facebook, so check back there!

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3, 2, 1, DRINK!

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Coke vs. Pepsi

Beatles vs. Stones

Athens vs. Sparta

Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning

These are some of the greatest rivalries known to the world. We’d like to add one more:

Beer vs. Wine

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Restaurant International at Algonquin College is offering the opportunity for this rivalry to finally be solved, over a five course dinner specially prepared to match with five beers and five wines. A resident beer expert and sommelier will be on hand to help the diners decide on the ultimate food pairing winner.

The showdown occurs on February 27th, and Fat Girl Food Squad has ringside seats. Get your tickets and join us for the epic battle.

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Friday Foodie Five

Every Friday we bring you our favourite foodie sights and sounds. Everything from food packaging and food inspired art, to recipes and reviews. 

1. Food Art – Fresh Baked Goods

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2. Pretty Packaging – Buck O’Hare Sunshine Beer

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3. Little Bites – Fried Ravioli Hearts

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4. Food Words – Sorry For What I Said When I Was Hungery

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This one has been making the rounds, but it is so-so accurate.

5. Sweets – S’more Donuts

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[VIDEO]: Drunk Cooking with Simon & Ama – Episode 1

Introduction written by Simon Gilbert

“Some of my most liked things on Instagram are just us being stupid,” Ama confided in me one night.
“Well, yeah. We’re kind of hilarious,” I replied, half joking.
“Do you want to film us getting drunk and making food?”
“Um, obviously?”

And that was the inception of Drunk Cooking with Simon and Ama.

If you’ve ever hung out with Ama and me together, you’ll know exactly what to expect from Drunk Cooking with Simon and Ama. If you haven’t, you’re in for a night of bizarre segways, strange noises, and delicious foods.

Basically, on every episode we’re going to be cooking with booze and making some kind of cocktail. We don’t have many kitchen gadgets (we currently don’t know where the corkscrew is), so this is going to be stuff you can make yourself too!

Because this is the kind of stuff we do on a nightly basis, you can expect an episode on the reg. Ama’s day-job is going into crunch time at the moment, so the next episode won’t be until mid-March, but after that you can expect them on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.

Finally, we want you guys to be involved with this. Is there something you want to see us make? Do you want the shopping list before hand so you can cook along with us? Do you want SEXY NAKED COOKING?! Let us know in the comments or on Facebook. It would also help us out if you like/favourite/subscribe, but we don’t want to be those people. So do what feels right!

(For the sake of full disclosure, Sobeys gave us a $25 gift certificate if we talked about their app. That being said, it was pretty easy to use, and that’s where we found the shandy recipe. Give it a shot if you’re a regular Sobeys shopper and don’t like using paper shopping lists. We’ll keep you posted if we get any sponsorships in the future.)

Real Talk: Health vs. Diet – what is the difference?

Written by Basil Andrews

“…people think I eat too many chocolate bars…”

You may recall this accented line spoken by a young man in an easily ridiculed 90s commercial about acne. I remember making fun of the commercial myself and even after a continuous battle with cystic acne from the age of 14 to now at 26 that has included three and a half stints on the heavy-duty Isotretinoin (at the time marketed as Accutane now going by the gentler-but will still make you have deformed babies if you get pregnant while taking it-Claravis) I still find the commercial humorous.

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It’s too lugubrious for the words “chock-o-late bars” to be spoken and for me to not laugh. But its legacy as cheesy 90s Canadian nostalgia aside, the commercial’s content has merit. It takes acne; a disorder often dismissed as being trivial due to its teenage onset (despite its known damaging psychological effects) seriously and refutes the unsupported notion that acne is caused by junk food. While I could go on about the effects of acne on ones self-esteem ad-nausea, the latter is the focus of this post.

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There is a pernicious cult-like obsession among certain groups and individuals that believe diet to be the cause of nearly every disease, disorder and ailment. All one has to do is pull up the Dr. Oz Show’s episode guide to find that nearly every other episode is about miracle foods that will solve your health problems or dangerous foods that are causing your health problems. A quick glance at the top 10 most popular books about diet on Amazon shows that if they’re not about ones vanity they’re about how food can solve your health problems. Some of them obviously ridiculous like Eat Right 4 Your Type: The Individualized Diet Solution, that posits that you cater your diet to your blood type in order to be healthy, while others like Foods That Fight Cancer: Preventing Cancer through Diet are a bit more specious.

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It is true that there are foods that help prevent cancer, but should we base our diet around them? The American Cancer Society states that if do so we do so warily: “…it is rarely, if ever, advisable to change diet or activity levels based on a single study or news report“. Food is intrinsic to our health and I am not disputing that.  But do we require a book to tell us that vegetables will help us remain healthy?

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But to blame shows and books like these would be misdirection. What they are is a reflection of a cold and calculated attitude towards food that has become too utilitarian for our most basic pleasure. Kilojoules and calories, cell-binding and flavonoids, they’re useful to know, but I pity anyone who makes them the focal of their diet. I’m reminded of Gertrude Baines, who died at the age of 115 in 2009 and ate a steady diet of bacon, fried chicken and ice cream. Ambrosia, the ancient Greek food for the Gods, was supposed to grant immortality for those who consumed it, and to me Baines diet was closer to Ambrosia than any contrived health-centric one. Food needs to become more pleasure-oriented and less health-oriented. A beer isn’t going to give you cancer anymore than a piece of broccoli is going to save you from it and chocolate bars did not give me acne. It’s always wise to apply the Aristotelian golden mean to what you consume, but less dietary masochism will make you happier and I read somewhere that happy people live longer.

The (not so secret) Society of Beer Drinking Ladies of Toronto

Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, I came across a fabulous group of ladies who were taking their love of craft beer and doing something about it. It was a craft beer support system by ladies and for ladies and the group was called The Society of Beer Drinking Ladies (SOBDL).

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With their first event coming up Friday January 31, 2014 – I decided to chat with The Society (including Jen Shute, Erica Campbell, Magenta Suzanne and Jamie) to give me all the “hops” on what people can expect and just exactly who they are and what their take is on the craft beer scene here in Toronto.

FGFS: Let’s start from the beginning, why was the Society created and how did it come to be?

SOBDL: We started because we are a bunch of beer explorers who want to create a community of women in the beer industry and those who love craft beer to connect, network, celebrate and enjoy craft beer and to cheers lady awesomeness. 


FGFS: What kind of potential do you see for craft beer in Toronto?



SOBDL: It has gotten so exciting in the past five years and there is so much to discover. The home brew network has grown so much with Brahaus events and Toronto Brewing opening up a store. We have a female master cicerone living in Toronto and some amazing female beer personalities writing for Toronto publications. 

The Toronto beer bars are exploding and every night of the week you can try something you have never heard of.

From Cask Days, Roundhouse, and Session there are so many sweet Toronto Events and Festivals to bring the craft beer community together. 


FGFS: How did you all get into craft beer?



Magenta: I got into craft beer because I am from the Maritimes and it is in my blood! I am passionate about all things local, sustainable and low impact manufacturing.



Jaime: Through my cupcake company (The Sassy Lamb), I started making beer cupcakes for events and that opened my eyes to all the craft beer out there. I started working at McAuslan Brewery doing tasting events and now I find myself promoting many local breweries at an array of festivals.



Erica: I really started exploring beers while living in Montreal for school. Coming back to Toronto I decided to leave the teaching industry and dove into the wonderful world of craft beer and haven’t looked back since.



Jennifer: It started for me when I realized how much I liked porters. That opened me up to trying different beers at the LCBO. Now I love to try anything new I can get my hands on, the stronger the better!



Renee: I got into craft beer by accident, a friend had come over with a beer that just didn’t taste like what the “big guys” were putting out on the market. After that one beer, I was hooked! Who knew that beer could be that amazing?!?!?!

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FGFS: How are you ladies looking to change the landscape of female craft beer drinkers?



SOBDL: We are looking to take away the stigma that drinking beer is masculine. Women have always played a key role in beer production. We want to explore the possibilities of beer, food and cocktails. We hope to provide a space for women who love beer who wouldn’t have the opportunity to get together otherwise. 



FGFS: What are some challenges people have with craft beers (getting into them, appreciating them, etc.)?



SOBDL: Price, selection and choice. People have to be open to spending a little more money on something interesting and different.

There is a large selection of craft beers to choose from and it can be intimidating for someone who doesn’t have the knowledge about types of beer to figure out which ones to choose from. 

We are hoping that with our group we can introduce ladies to a large selection of craft beer to help them figure out what they enjoy. 


FGFS: Tell us more about your first event and what it will entail!



SOBDL: Our inaugural event will be held on January 31. It is a causal evening to introduce our group to each other. 

In the future, we plan on teaching women about beer through guest brewers, home brewing sessions and plenty of other things. 


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FGFS: How important do you feel it is for women to have their own group to learn and become friends over a frosty glass of brew.



SOBDL: We think it will be great to give women a space to hang out and chat about beer, however with all of our events, men are welcome after midnight.

FGFS: What does the future hold for the Society? 



SOBDL: The events will take place the last Friday of every month from beer and food pairings, home brewing, new friends and a chance to interactive with people in the industry. We have a lot of great ideas so check into our Facebook, Twitter & Instagram to find out what is happening next!

Get Hop and Heavy at Jack Astor’s Winter Fling

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

Let’s be honest: who doesn’t love Jack Astors? It was one of my go-to restaurants when I was growing up as a kid. As I’ve grown up, it seems like the cheeky and playful Jack’s has done a bit of that as well.

Just recently, Jack’s introduced their Winter Fling festival (taking place until January 19) which introduces delicious craft beers and three crush-worthy new dishes onto to the menu. This Winter Fling was introduced to get you out of your stay-at-home winter beer drinking mode and come out to experience some new suds.

So off I went to Jack’s to partake in some of these dishes and beers. First up, I decided to partake in a Granville Island Lions Winter Ale ($6.48), which tasted of delicious chocolate. It was like dessert in a glass without being too heavy or overpowering.

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We started off with the Cluckin’ Chicken Dippers ($9.82), which were not your average chicken bites. First things first, we were introduced to the three in-house sauces that came with them: strawberry bacon, Korean BBQ and pineapple ‘boss’. To make the experience even more interactive, we were asked to use different salt shakes of flavours with the sauces as well, which added even more to the taste. They consisted of maple bacon, thai chill and lemon chill. My favourite had to be the Korean BBQ mixed with the thai salt shake. But in a close second was the strawberry bacon with maple bacon on top. I know what you’re thinking: strawberry bacon. But trust me: it works on so many levels.

Next up we tested out the Muskoka Cream Ale ($5.66), which was smooth and had some caramel tones to it. Plus the best part: not too hoppy or overly creamy. It was a great second (craft) beer choice for the evening.

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Which lead to our inhaling of their two main dishes: Creamy Asiago Shrimp & Smoked Mozza Ravioli ($16.74) and Holiday Brie Chicken ($17.97) which is served with mash potatoes and sweet onion gravy. Both had a hearty winter feel to them, with classic comfort twists. The juicy plump shrimp in the Ravioli with the cheesy ravioli were to die for. Whereas the huge chicken breasts glazed in a honey Dijon sauce and topped with spicy pecans, toasted almonds, diced cranberries, apricots and creamy brie cheese were large, in-charge and serving up winter goodness. I am still craving that sweet onion gravy. I wouldn’t be able to choose a clear-cut favourite between the two because they equally left my tummy happy.

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If you’ve saved enough room for dessert, you can always top it off with a Cherry on Top Chocolate Trifle ($3.97) which is very much like Black Forest Cake and which would pair well with the Granville Island Lions Winter Ale.

Like I mentioned earlier, it is nice to see that while Jack Astor’s is still playful and cheeky – it has taken a lot of thought and consideration into their menu selections and beer offerings. Join the Winter Fling and go on and get hoppy!

[CONTEST] – Steamwhistle presents The Roundhouse Winter Craft Beer Festival

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Nothing says winter like being warmed up with a solid craft beer. Thanks to our pals at Steamwhistle and the success of the Roundhouse Craft Beer Festival (in August), they have announced a sibling event happening on Saturday January 25, 2014 titled the Roundhouse Winter Craft Beer Festival. Break outta those Polar Vortex blues and head on down to the Steam Whistle Brewery to try out some suds.

This outdoor event will feature beer from a number of Ontario’s top craft breweries including Flying Monkey Brewery, Left Field Brewery, Beau’s Brewing, Lake of Bays Brewing and Grand River Brewing – along with many more.

Advance mugs are on-sale for $20 and mugs will also be available at the door for $25. All drink tokens are available for sale on-site. But that’s not all: the first 500 people through the gate are set to receive a signature Winter Roundhouse Craft Beer Fest toque.

So if you feel like getting your craft brew on with some of the finest craft brewers in Ontario, then do we have a prize for you! Steamwhistle has provided us with a pair of tickets to the Winter Craft Beer Festival and it’s pretty easy for YOU to win.

The contest runs from Monday January 13 and closes on Sunday January 19 at 5PM EST.  Winners will be notified of their win 24 hours after contest close.

Contest Rules:
1. Like Fat Girl Food Squad on Facebook
2. Follow Steamwhistle Brewery on Twitter
3. Tweet the following: Warm me up @FatGrlFoodSquad with some craft brews at the RoundHouse Winter Craft Beer Festival. #GetCraftedwithFGFS

The Canadian Artisan Tasting Fair wakes restful foodies from slumber

Written by Leigh Van Maaren
Photos by Mike Sirois

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Sunday mornings are not my forte. As somebody who regularly finds themselves unable to get out of bed until 3pm on Sunday afternoons, I’ve long been relegated to all-day brunch places as my only option. When we heard about the Artisan Food Fair at Wychwood Barns on December 1st, however, the promise of a load of delicious cheese a mere 10 minute walk from my front door would get me out of bed on a Sunday morning.

They were already off to a good start – Artscape Wychwood Barns is a real gem of a venue – it opened in 2008, and is a bit under the radar still – but they’re artist-friendly and very food-friendly, along with just being a beautiful heritage space for an event. My only qualm with the space is that it can be a bit tight – when we arrived around 1:30pm, the space was very full. It was difficult to move through the crowd and even more difficult to find a place to put our bites down to eat, but as time went on the crowd thinned a bit and we were able to move around and sample without issue.

First and foremost, we needed coffee – and Pig Iron was there to provide us with our caffeine fix. I know the glory of the beans from Pig Iron after being treated to it a couple of weeks ago at Yuli’s place, so I’m excited. I went for the cappuccino because I can’t live my life without dairy, and Mike, my partner/photographer, opts for the Americano. Both are exceptional, and with coffee in tow we’re ready to pick up some doughnuts from the vivacious ladies manning the Glory Hole doughnuts booth. There was also a wide selection of beer available, but I’m still feeling the effects of Saturday night far too much to enjoy a beer at this hour, so we skip this part of the fair.

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Glory Hole came prepared with huge stacks of yeast-risen doughnuts; cinnamon-sugar, glazed, and chocolate dipped – probably because they know that once you try one of their doughnuts, you’re hooked. Even better, they’re armed with toppings. I got my glazed doughnut with whipped cream and raspberry sauce, and Mike opts for his cinnamon sugar donut unadulterated. I enjoy my glazed doughnut so much, I strongly consider just camping down in front of the booth for the rest of the afternoon.

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When we get to the table shared by Sanagan’s Meatlocker and Blackbird Baking Co. I’m glad that I decided to move on. I thought that having a shared table to showcase both products was one of the best ideas at the fair – Sanagan’s pork cretons and chicken liver mousse are prepared in to fantastic bites on Blackbird’s bread. I am always a huge fan of both cured and spreadable meats, and the varied and expertly prepared selection at the fair will have me in to Sanagan’s in the future.

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While many of the booths at the fair fell were Artisans in the downtown, hipster sense of the word – my favourite booth at the fair was definitely not. Crossroad Farm, based on Oxford County, which offered up two varieties of Sheep’s Gouda. We chatted with farmer, cheese maker, brand ambassador and social media manager, Dan McMillen, who told us that he started making the cheese as a use for the excess sheep’s milk that the farm couldn’t sell in 2012. Both varieties of Gouda wow me – and as a Dutch girl, Gouda flows through my veins. I prefer the exceptionally nutty old variety, although the tangier, more floral mild was extremely tantalizing as well. Since Crossroad Farms isn’t based in the city, you can find their cheese at the Leslieville Cheese Market, where we finish up our trip by trying way too many amazing blue cheeses.

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Overall, the Canadian Artisan Tasting fair was a success – we left with our bellies full of delicious samples of breads, meats, cheeses, and treats from around Ontario. I would have felt inclined to enjoy some of the delicious beer offered by a myriad of local breweries as well, had the event taken place a little bit later in the day. Ultimately, however, we left very satisfied and with a roster of new artisans to seek out in the city; which I imagine is what the tasting fair hoped to achieve. I’m looking forward to the next installment of the fair, and you should be too.

Winter is coming to Spin Toronto

Originally posted to Ama’s twice-weekly column on Toronto is Awesome.

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When one thinks gourmet, high-end food – one does not think: ping pong club. But Executive Chef Jon Lovett has taken to changing the minds of King West ad execs and ping pong lovers with his beautifully crafted and inventive table treats specifically with his new Fall/Winter offerings.

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With an in-house meat and breads program, one of the dishes that Jon prides himself on is the Charcuterie Plate ($12). All the meats are cured in-house for perfect smoke and great flavouring. Included was a delicious terrine, which made this just a bit fancier than your normal board and some classic crisps with preserves.

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Next up, we were treated to an array of beautiful and fresh Oysters (3 for $8, sourced from Rodney’s Oyster House) and served with a molecular gastronomy technique of hot sauce caviar pearls. This served as an extra little kick but also made for a stunningly gorgeous dish. I mean, how can you go wrong with freshly shucked oysters?

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Now this could only be a treat your grandmother would love but something that the adventurous and willing will try: beet-root flavoured deviled eggs (6 for $9) and let me tell you: they were probably one of my favourite items. But if that wasn’t up your alley (are you crazy) then these lightly battered in-house preserved pickles, deep-fried (of course) would be more your speed. $8/serving and with a wicked Ranch sauce, it was served up like one of the Blooming Onions you would have at the CNE in the Summer.

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Next up we had an impressive take on an old classic: the Chicken and Waffles Platter ($19), only this time we are delighted with a Stuffing Waffle and King Capon drumstick and yams. The chicken was incredible juicy and married well with all these holiday classic flavours, however I still think I prefer the OG Chicken and Waffles Platter. I’m a die-hard Spin Chicken and Waffles girl, what can I say? Chef Jon has always strived to make fun and unique food and this takes the cake.

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I have to say the next two dishes were two of my other favourites from the night: King Capon drumsticks (3 pieces for $12) and the Pretzels Bites with Cheese Sauce (9 pieces for $9). This chicken was off the chain. The sauce was rich and finger lickin’ good. Lots of Asian flavours and honestly, 3 pieces would not be enough for me. I’d want a bucket full! With the pretzel bites, it was squishy and the epic cheese sauce sold the dish. Just enough tang and the pretzel was not overly salty which was perfect.

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SPiN is a great place to let your hair down after a long day at work and take in some good eats, delicious cocktails (might I suggest the BFF or the Gin Blossom, $12.40 for 2oz. of alcohol love) and night to laugh at your pong mishaps.

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Photos: Yuli Scheidt