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

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[GIVEAWAY] Be Proud – A Interview with Lee Ⅿeszaros

Today on the FGFS, we are featuring a special kind of giveaway. It blends the very best of my favourite worlds – the handmade and a love of food!

Meet Lee Meszaros! A Toronto-based artist with rural roots, currently living and working in the big city with her lovely pup Timber. While going to school, this Canadian artist came to the realization that she wanted to work with her hands and went after her passion. With an interdisciplinary degree in textiles, books, and illustration from NSCAD under her belt, she has developed her craft into two stunning lines – Eau Claire and the BE PROUD merit badges. She combines silkscreened and hand-painted illustrations with delicate embroidery, to bring to life cute idioms that are sure to brighten your day.

Lee was gracious enough to chat with the Fat Girl Food Squad and answer a few questions about her craft!

You can check out Lee‘s BE PROUD merit badge that will be featured in arch issue The Food Network magazine – The Bacon Issue. Congrats Lee!

FG: What does crafting or the handmade mean to you?

LM: I think it’s so so important, maybe too important to me. I love when there are visible signs that hands have been heavily involved in making something, which I think is why I’m drawn to hand embroider most of my work. That look just can’t ever be replicated, it’s so special and human and unique. I think when you own something handmade then that object is instilled with energy from that maker and it makes you feel good when you use or wear it, you think of them, you feel connected, which I think is something everyone craves in these cold modern times.

FG: Your merit badges make me smile — they are awesome! How did they come about?

LM: That makes me so happy, that was absolutely my intent! They came about as my final project in my Textiles undergrad, inspired by old Brownie/Boy Scout sashes complete with all their badges that I’d started collecting from thrift stores. I was confounded that someone would spend so many hours earning all of those badges, but in the end they were meaningless and discarded. I wanted to make badges that honoured more than just skills, but who people actually are deep down, because what means more than that? I wanted to make something that wouldn’t be so easily discarded, something that carried a lot of emotional weight. They started out as more of an art project/performance idea until people in my class started asking to buy my samples, so I just kind of stumbled into having a marketable product and ran with it.

FG: How do you go about making new designs? What does your creative process look like?

LM: It’s hard creating new badges anymore to be honest, I’ve nearly run out of idioms! It’s tricky finding an appropriate saying that also has a good visual that can be paired with it. Earlier on I kept a little note pad with all of the potential sayings people would suggest or I would think of, but that’s long been exhausted. I’ve been making them for quite a while (5+ years!), and have discontinued many designs as time has gone by, and distilled the collection down to the ones people really seem to connect with. The process is first to draw, then make into a silkscreen, print, hand paint all the colour, hand embroider little details on each, machine sew and then finish off with a pin-back and attach it to the certificate.

FG: Where do you find your inspiration for the merit badges? Are any of them made with someone you know in mind?

LM: Inspiration is tricky with them as I’ve been at it for so long that it can often stop feeling creative, and start feeling more just like a process that I’m very, very familiar with. Honestly the best inspiration I get is when I talk to someone who owns one or was given one as a gift. People tell me the most intimate stories and that really blows me away, that the badges create this beautiful connection between me and an absolute stranger. There are definitely a few that were inspired by people in my life, the ‘mother hen’ was an excuse to make one to give to my mom, the ‘being birds of a feather and flocking together’ set of 2 was so I could share a set with my best friend in college, like those BFF broken heart necklaces classed up a bit.

FG: How does it feel to know that your work is gifted and shared with people to recognize them for being awesome? Do you think it is important to share handmade things?

LM: That is my absolute favourite thing about them! A lot of my textile work up until that point was SUPER melancholic, just very sad and sweet, but I didn’t like the feelings that it inspired in the audience, that it would in turn make them sad too. I wanted to make work that would make people happy, make people laugh, because that’s how I wanted my own work to make me feel too. I feel like the badges mark a real shift in my general attitude towards life, realizing that putting positive junk into the universe inevitably brings positive junk right back to you. I think giving a handmade object as a gift is much more personal and special than giving some perfectly constructed thing from a mall, and being able to support and encourage the insanely talented makers I’m lucky to call my peers is the absolute best feeling.

FG: Lastly… What is your favourite dish to eat? From where?

LM: Woof, that’s a tough call. Probably Kimchi Fried Rice (in a Hot Pot) with a fried egg on top at Yummy in Koreatown. It’s completely bonkers and I crave it in my bones.

Lee is lovely enough to have 5 sweet food-related Be Proumerit badges up for grabs to 5 lucky Fat Girl Food Squad readers. There are 5 different designs

Bringing Home the Bacon

Being a Smart Cookie

Having Meat on Your Bones

Being Sweet as Pie

Being the Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

Bringing Home the Bacon
Having Meat on Your Bones
Being a Smart Cookie
Being the Best Thing Since Sliced Bread
Being Sweet as Pie

Heres what you have to do to enter:

1) Like Fat Girl Food Squad on Facebook.

2)  Comment on this post telling us which of the five merit badge you like best (with your @ Twitter handle) and why!

3) This contest will run from Thursday February 20, 2014 until Tuesday February 25, 2014.  We will announce all the giveaway winners via our Twitter and Facebook, so check back there!

 

[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.)

Lookin’ Good Girl: Etsy – more than just handmade goods

Etsy is an retail web-store focused on handmade or vintage items, supplies, as well as unique factory-manufactured items.

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Many of the items found on Etsy website can cover a wide range including art, photography, clothing, jewelry, food, bath and beauty products, quilts, knick-knacks, and toys.

In Canada, Etsy’s team has taken a pro-active approach to showing that beyond the Etsy brand, each store has a great seller story.  With that in mind, Fat Girl Food Squad went out to investigate how two sellers (Gucci’s Goodies and Love Love Me Do both from Toronto, Ontario)  are using Etsy to their advantage and their advice for this upcoming Valentines Day.

(1) Have you always had an online shop and why did you choose Etsy?

Sarah Carter from Love Love Me Do:   Etsy is my first online shop. I started it about 6 months ago. I choose Etsy because it an international marketplace that offers unique goods and highlights the crafts people well. Etsy is well run with a clean looking and intuitive user interface. Furthermore, it is a household name. I like that many people have not only heard of Etsy, but have shopped on it before and were pleased with the results. Etsy is a trusted name.

(2) Etsy seems to have a very strong community surrounding it.  How has that affected your business?

Laura Giovannucci of Gucci Goodies:  It has definitely changed my evenings that’s for sure.  I have lots of local people contacting me for orders for themselves or loved ones. I have a day job so when I get home most weeks I have a baking order to look forward to.  It is so satisfying to have returning customers too.  Some returning customers are form out of the country buying for their loved ones in the G.T.A.

(3)  How easy is it to set up shop on Etsy?

Laura Giovannucci of Gucci Goodies:  It is extremely easy! I find as long as I have my description write up and a great picture I am ready to go. Everything is self-explanatory and very user friendly, email reminders to pay your bill is amazing and the option to using PayPal is the best.

(4) Tell me more about your business and how did you what you do?

Sarah Carter from Love Love Me Do: A close friend of mine asked me to design her wedding invitation. It was such a fun, engaging, creative and rewarding process that I decided to start a stationary company that specializes in custom design for weddings and parties as well as greeting cards. I have always been a fan of unique, creative, quirky and beautiful greeting cards! There is nothing better than finding the perfect card to give someone.

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Laura Giovannucci of Gucci Goodies: Gucci’s Goodies was something brewing inside of me for a long time, I always baked, enjoyed it and the gratification watching everyone else enjoy it too. In 2011 I decided, why not!? I created my own 12 cupcake flavors and mastered the recipes; I wanted to stick to simple home baked goods, nothing fussy. So my menu focuses on cupcakes, cookies, pies and cheesecakes, I am always open to custom work for parties, allergies and holidays.

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(5) How important is the DIY and craft culture in society right now?

Sarah Carter from Love Love Me Do:  I think as technology and mass produced goods continue to dominate the marketplace that unique, hand made or home made items become even more valuable. DIY craft culture is a way for people to hone in on the creative side of their brain – a facet of intelligence that can be often underrated but I think is so important.

Laura Giovannucci of Gucci Goodies:  Extremely, it’s a way to open your mind and creativity and have a finished piece you can be truly proud of.  I find more people want to take the extra step to save money, recycle and upcycle and there have never been more ideas to do so.  Plus when you DIY you get exactly what you want, totally custom.

(6) What do Etsy retailers offer that other retailers cannot?

Sarah Carter from Love Love Me Do:  Many shops on Etsy offer goods that can be personalized or customized and make very special unique, memorable gifts. Furthermore Etsy is a way to interact with creative people from across the world. It really is a unique and special marketplace.

(7)  What would you suggest for someone who was looking to become involved in the Etsy community as a buyer and seller?

Laura Giovannucci of Gucci Goodies:  As a buyer, I would suggest to take your time.  There is so much to see and search for.  If there is something you don’t see; do not be afraid to ask a seller what you are looking for because everyone is so helpful. As a seller: pictures, pictures, pictures!  They are your friend and the window to the buyers window shopping.

(8) With Valentine’s Day coming up, tell me why DIY and Etsy is the way to go?

Laura Giovannucci of Gucci Goodies: If you are looking for something custom for a loved one with a name or sports team on it, Etsy is perfect!  Or with Gucci’s Goodies, we have custom flavors and colours for that special someone that will reflect on a special moment or memory they had.  Etsy and DIY show the receiver that you took time to think of something personal and special and it was made with love and care.

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Sarah Carter from Love Love Me Do: Easy. It is personal! There is no better way to say “I love you” that giving someone a gift that is customized, personal, hand selected, hand made, unique, memorable and thoughtful

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Learning to Meal Plan with Mealspirations

By Siobhan Ozege

When Mealspirations approached us to write a review of their product, I jumped on the chance. As part of my New Year’s resolutions, I vowed that I wanted to cook more, but I’ve found that lately it seems like I don’t have the time to actually get groceries and prepare meals to the extent that I’d like to.

Enter Mealspirations, a service that is unique from other grocery-delivery type services in that they deliver the ingredients for a meal, and not just groceries. It’s a pretty easy system: they create the recipe, you order how many meals you’d like and for how many people, they deliver it to your door, and you cook it up to (hopefully) many accolades. Before you get the delivery, they tell you what items you’ll need from your pantry. This includes things like vinegars, salt, pepper and oils, for the most part. If you cook at all, you should have most of these things.

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love to cook, but I decided that I would write the review exactly how the recipes are spelled out to give the most accurate depiction, since sometimes being kitchen-savvy means doing your own tricks and modifications. When the box arrived, I was excited about the menu: macaroni and cheese with field greens, rainbow trout with panzanella salad, and steak tortillas with pico de gallo, guacamole and cabbage slaw. Yum.

I decided to make the macaroni and cheese first. The recipe included thyme, onions, garlic and panko – delicious items I wouldn’t have expected. Now, mac n’ cheese is one of my favourite foods, so when I looked at the recipe they provided, there were a few red flags that popped up. The recipe suggested that the onions be cooked in the butter, to be used in the base for the roux. This was concerning because additional moisture in a roux can cause it to prevent your sauce from thickening – in a macaroni and cheese; this isn’t what you’re going for. I also noticed that the cheese wasn’t super flavourful when I tested it, but I thought the other ingredients would help boost the flavour.

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I made the sauce as instructed, and indeed, the roux did not adequately thicken the sauce. I ended up having to add a lot more flour to give it the proper consistency. What I didn’t realize until after, was that the cooking time for the onions was also not long enough, meaning that my macaroni and cheese was essentially full of raw onions when I went to eat it.

Overall, it was not the best – I definitely think that this recipe could use some tweaks. If you’re someone who’s new to cooking, you may not have known to a) cook the onions longer and separately – caramelized onions could have gone a long way in adding flavour, b) to add more flour to thicken your sauce. I would suggest that using either multiple kinds of cheese, or a different cheese altogether would help – the bland flavour and the raw-ish onions made it unpleasant to eat, though it did look delicious at least:

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The next night, we made the rainbow trout. I was feeling a bit nervous after mac n’ cheese night, but I was very optimistic. The fillets were so beautiful and fresh, and I had never tried a panzanella salad before. Traditionally, panzanella has tomatoes and sweet peppers in it, but Mealspirations accommodated my allergy to these very things by substituting it with an avocado. Yum.

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While my partner prepared the fish, I made the salad – cucumbers, basil, bread pan-fried in olive oil, capers and red onions. Finally, I opened the avocado to find it had gone completely bad on the inside. Yuck! They had sent a second avocado to make guacamole for the next meal, so I decided to use that one since the first was unusable. When I cut it open, it was mostly rotten as well – I used as much as I could, and made a note to buy avocado for dinner tomorrow.

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The meal itself was delicious and very fresh tasting. I will say, that the recipe called for too much oil for cooking the fish for my liking, making it a bit greasy, but the taste was really great and complimented nicely by the salad. I was very unimpressed by the two rotten avocados.

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The final meal was what I was most excited for. I rarely buy steak because I don’t really know how to cook it, so I thought this would be a great way to learn. The meal included a lot of peppers and tomatoes, so it was a bit sparse in terms of ingredients, but it was still delicious. I whipped up some guacamole, and let that sit while I shredded the ingredients for the slaw.

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Again, there were a bit of strange things about the recipe – calling for lime zest but then not having that anywhere in the recipe, very short cooking time for a giant flank steak, and using radicchio and brussel sprouts in a cabbage slaw. Radicchio is bitter. In fact, it’s overwhelmingly bitter, and the dressing for the slaw didn’t quite cover this up, so I ate it with the guacamole in the tortilla to mask the taste, rather than on the side, and I didn’t keep the leftovers.

I ended up having to throw the steak back into the pan due to how undercooked it was – the recipe had said it would cook to medium-rare, but it was rare. However, even without the pico de gallo, these were still very tasty and probably my favourite meal of the three.

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Overall, Mealspirations is providing a good service, and it’s reasonably affordable. I think the recipes could use a little work in terms of cooking times, and quantity of ingredients. I would have also liked to see a nutritional breakdown for the recipes – the website says that each serving is about 500-600 calories, but having done some basic calculations, I believe it’s actually more than that.

I’ve decided that I need to make more time in my own life to cook the food I want to eat, but this experience has taught me the importance of meal planning, and how much stress planning in advance can alleviate in a busy week. If you’re interested in learning how to cook and don’t know where to start, I think Mealspirations could be the right fit for you.

Meat on Meat on Meat: the official FGFS Turducken Potluck Experience

For those of you following FGFS, you may have come to realize that we’re all about community. The FGFS HQ is located in Toronto and lots of times, we love to just kick-back and hang together with our writers in the GTA as a big grrl gang.

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With the holidays coming up, many of us had families we just couldn’t get to or other circumstances that just didn’t have us partaking in the holiday season. For that, we decided to do what any righteous and bodacious grrl gang would do: have an End of 2013 Potluck!

Each of us were tasked with bringing our own inspired dishes to the table and we invited some of our nearest and dearest friends to join us. Thanks to the lovely people at Echelon Foods, we were treated to the fine wonders of what any holiday dinner should have: a huge ass turducken. So what exactly is a turducken? Well, for those of you not in the gastronomical know: it’s meat (turkey) on meat (duck) on meat (chicken). All in one bird. All prepped.. for your pleasure.

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We ended up getting a Italian Sausage stuffed Turducken and well, the Potluck journey was on! The lovely Leigh Van Maaren took over official turducken cooking duties and well, she did a marvellous job. Not only is she a babe but she’s a badass ninja in the kitchen providing us with gravy, stuffing and glazed carrots as well. The charming and hilarious Aviva Cohen took on the vegetarian pot pie and also provided us with the most badass dessert of the evening: Momofuku Birthday Cake, made from scratch. Yes, we got spoiled. We love you, Aviva. Provided by yours truly (that’s Ama) was a holiday classic: brussels sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower gratin, made up in four-cheeses. And lest we forget the OG Mac & Cheese and Grandma’s Classic Broccoli and Tomato Mac & Cheese put together by FGFS fave Tabby. Oh, plus we had some mashed potatoes. Because: fuck yea.

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It was a night of friends and FGFS family and well, Turducken. The prep time of the turducken took seven hours and well, wasn’t all that difficult. The bird (which weighed in at about 10 pounds) fed between 10-12 people with several leftovers. The taste of the Turducken was… magical. Given there was so much density to the bird, I wasn’t sure how all those meats (on meats) would taste. But it was juicy and tender and full of turducken goodness. If I’m not selling it, check out our Twitter feed for the live results.

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FGFS Twitter
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Each of our plates were full of delicious food and cups filled with FGFS writer Siobhan Ozege beautifully handcrafted rosemary-infused vodka. We were all feeling in fine form and quite thankful for the year we’ve had as individuals but also, the (almost) year we’ve had together as Fat Girl Food Squad.

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Praise be to the Turducken overlords for gracing us with this beautiful bird. You gave us just another reason to hang out and well, be our awesome foodie selves.

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.

A Toast! DIY Holiday Cocktails

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The holidays are almost upon us and with them brings a plethora of family, food, and hopefully, drink. With that in mind, we’ve put together 3 festive cocktail recipes to keep you warm & cheery into the New Year.
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First up is a Chai Spiced Bourbon Cider. Whether you serve it hot or cold, this little gem is sure to keep you toasty all the way down to your toes, even on the coldest of winter nights.
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Ingredients:
for chai concentrate
– 3 scoops/bags of a good spicy chai tea
– 1/2 cup water
– 1/2 cup brown sugar
for cocktail
– 1 oz. bourbon
– 3 oz. apple cider
– 3 tsp chai concentrate
Instructions:
– To make chai concentrate, bring water & brown sugar to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and add chai tea. Let steep for 6-8 minutes, then strain.
– To make cocktail, combine ingredients in a saucepan and heat until simmering and serve warm, or combine in a tumbler over ice.
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When I was growing up, my dad told us about how Christmas was the only time he ever got to eat oranges. They were only available in England around the holiday season and the expense made them a special, once-a-year treat. My family, and many others, still put oranges in the toes of our stockings every year. To honour this tradition, I created this Satsuma Sparkler cocktail. It’s a bit of a refreshing change from some of the heavier, traditional holiday drinks.
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Ingredients:
for simple syrup
– 1/2 cup honey
– 1/2 cup water
– 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
for cocktail
– 1 oz. gin
– 1 oz. freshly squeezed satsuma juice
– 2 oz. club soda
– 2 tsp honey thyme simple syrup
Instructions:
– To make honey thyme simple syrup, bring honey and water to a boil. Remove from heat and add thyme. Set aside and let steep until cooled (approx. 2 – 3 hours).
– To make cocktail, combine ingredients in a tumbler over ice. Garnish with fresh thyme or a satsuma twist.
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Of course, I’ve saved the best for last. Every sip of this cocktail is like imbibing the very essence of holiday spirit. Naturally, it’s called The Dickens.
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Ingredients:
for simple syrup
– 1/4 cup cranberries
– 1/8 tsp cinnamon
– 1/8 tsp cloves
– 1/2 cup water
– 1/2 cup brown sugar
for cocktail
– 1 oz. bourbon
– 3 oz. ginger soda
– 2 tsp. spiced cranberry simple syrup
Instructions:
– To make spiced cranberry simple syrup, bring water and brown sugar to a boil. Reduce heat to low and add cranberries, cinnamon, and cloves. Simmer on low heat for 10-15 minutes or until cranberries begin to break down. Remove from heat and let steep for 30 minutes to an hour. Strain and set aside cranberries.
– To make cocktail, lightly muddle a few of the cranberries set aside from the simple syrup in a tumbler. Add bourbon, ginger soda, spiced cranberry simple syrup, and top with ice.
Happy Holidays!

Lookin’ Good Girl: Christina Hug of The Makers Nation helps to unleash the creativity

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In one of my recent internet searches, I came across a fairly new collective in the city focused on putting together event experiences with a focus on DIY, Design and the Technology realm. The collective was titled, The Makers Nation and formed by a bad-ass chick named Christina Hug.

The Makers Nation own, Christina Hug

The Makers Nation own, Christina Hug

Christina set up the event series (such as Creative Cocktail, Meet & Make or the Makers Digest) as a chance for fellow aspiring designers, innovators, thinkers, doers, and builders to come together, collaborate, learn, and, well, build community together. Something we here at Fat Girl Food Squad are so into.

I got the chance to have an e-mail interview with Christina where she told me the importance of DIY culture, what can people expect from Makers Nation and how anybody can be creative!

FGFS: Tell me about The Makers Nation and how did it come to be

CHRISTINA: The Makers Nation exists to help coalesce the creative, tech, and maker communities in Toronto and aspires to make creativity and the act of making things more accessible to everyone. It was started in September of this year when I moved back to Toronto from San Francisco. I wanted to build something that would help support the burgeoning maker community and create opportunities and experiences for people to tap into their creative side.

FGFS: What type of events do you throw

CHRISTINA: We throw all kinds! We host a monthly speaker series called Creative Cocktail, we have a quarterly event called Meet and Make, and we partner with other organizations in the city to put on things like Bot Battles and more.

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FGFS: Who are the partners / supporters that you have worked with in order to put on your events

CHRISTINA: The Toronto community has been so incredibly supportive, collaborative, and all ‘round amazing I can’t even begin to tell you how grateful I am for getting the opportunity to meet with and collaborate with so many talented and inspiring people.

I’ve had the great pleasure of working with the Toronto Tool Library, Maker2Maker, and Active Surplus to put on our Bot Battle. For the Meet and Make we were generously given space in the Freshbooks offices and are working with local rock stars like Kingi Carpenter, Amy Egerdeen, Kaye Prince and others.

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But honestly none of this would be possible if it weren’t for the people who were coming out to the events and making time for The Makers Nation in their lives. The reactions and enthusiasm people have shown towards The Makers Nation have been both inspiring and humbling.

FGFS: How much does it cost to become involved in one of the Maker Nation events and what does one get?

CHRISTINA: It depends on the event, our Creative Cocktails are free as all of our speakers are volunteering their time and the event itself is meant to be an informal environment for people to connect.

Our Meet and Make that’s happening in early 2014 will be $100 and includes: two three-hour workshops (one in the morning and one in the afternoon) on things like soldering, bookbinding, screen-printing, and English paper piecing. There will be catered breakfast and lunch (from Dundas Park Kitchen), as well as happy hour drinks and we’ll have a photo booth, plus various stations like a Tattly Tattoo bar and a button-making machine. Basically anything that facilitates creative expression, we want to do it!

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FGFS: What inspired you to create The Makers Nation?

CHRISTINA: After living in San Francisco for three years and being surrounded by the “playful” mentality I mentioned (about living in San Fran), and having access to so many workshops, events, and resources I just found myself wishing I could bring some of that back to Canada. Knowing that there was a burgeoning maker movement happening in Toronto I wanted to be part of shaping what that looks like and support/stand alongside the people who were in the trenches making it happen.

FGFS: How important is DIY culture?

CHRISTINA: DIY culture is so exciting and is already playing a huge role in our lives and shaping the way we do things. With tools like 3D printers digitizing the manufacturing process people who were once tinkerers in their garage now have to opportunity to become entrepreneurs who can design, manufacture, and sell their own creations.

The idea of being a creator over a consumer is so powerful and the more people learn about how things are made, the more they’re going to want to play a larger role in that process.

FGFS: What are the big differences between San Francisco and Toronto (besides weather)?

CHRISTINA: Weather is a huge one; I’m utterly terrified of facing winters again! In all seriousness though I’d have to say it’s a mentality thing. In San Francisco there is a sense of playfulness across all ages that I have yet to see in Toronto. In SF adults will dress up in costumes and parade through the streets, they will try new things regardless of how it will translate to their careers, and build out their ideas not because they think it will be the next big thing, but because they love the process and just want to see it out in the world. One of my personal missions is to create more opportunities for Torontonians to unplug and ‘play’ because that’s where the really fun creative stuff happens.

FGFS: Your mantra is that “Everyone has the ability to be creative” – why do you think people are so afraid of their creative being?

CHRISTINA: Being creative has an element of vulnerability to it; it’s very personal to put something out into the world that you created. Not to mention the fact that there’s this underlying belief that creativity is something reserved for an elite circle of artists and designers.

I think there is a fear of not being “good enough” combined with not knowing where to start, but in those cases sometimes all it takes is a welcoming environment and an opportunity to experiment, which is what The Makers Nation is trying to build.

FGFS: How would you like to see The Makers Nation grow in the next year?

CHRISTINA: I’m seeing the next year as one big experiment, trying things out, seeing what sticks, and finding ways that I can add the most value to the community. That said I am definitely focused on growing the audience for our Makers Digest, and attendance of our Creative Cocktail, and Meet and Make events. I also have my sights set on unlocking other cities across Canada and the US to expose even more people to joys of making. Success is essentially defined as more people feeling like they can self-identify as a maker or creative and being empowered to participate in that culture.

FGFS: Tell me about the next Makers Nation event

CHRISTINA: Our next big event is our Meet and Make happening in early 2014 (still nailing down the exact date). It’s a day-long DIY extravaganza with workshops from local makers, cocktails, and delicious food. No experience is needed you’ll get the chance to develop new skills in things like crochet, bookbinding, screen printing, and soldering and meet like-minded makers in the city. I’m so excited about it because it’s going to be a really fun day!

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