Tickets on sale for The Stop’s Night Market this week

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Written by Siobhan Ozege, photos by Yuli Scheidt

The Stop’s annual Night Market is nearly upon us. For those in the know, it’s one of Toronto’s most coveted and cherished food events with tickets selling out within hours every year. This year, you’re lucky to have Fat Girl Food Squad watching out for you and giving you the heads-up: tickets go on sale THIS WEEK. On Thursday May 1st for just $65 you get the double-whammy: support the amazing and important food security work that The Stop does, AND eat some of Toronto’s best foods.

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The event itself takes place over two nights, with different vendors each night. Happening on June 17th & 18th from 7-11pm in the Honest Ed’s alleyway, you can eat and drink to your heart’s content. Your ticket includes all-you-can-eat and drink from such FGFS faves as Fonda LolaDundas ParkSmall Town Food Co., and the Dock Ellis among many, many more. There will be savoury apps, sweet desserts, craft brews, local wines, and even some delicious coffee roasters on site. For a complete list of food vendors, you can visit the Night Market website.

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If you’re still on the fence about buying a ticket, we’d suggest reading a bit on what The Stop does. In their own words, “The Stop works to increase access to healthy food in a manner than maintains dignity, builds health and community, and challenges inequality.” This organization runs a number of food programs across the city, including after school programs, community markets and bake ovens, and a drop-in food bank space that serves Toronto’s West End. They’re a great cause, and we’re proud to support them.

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Mark your calendars, you won’t want to miss out on these amazing eats. This will be our second year attending this event, and our mouths are already watering.

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

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

East Thirty Six breathes new life into St Lawrence Market area

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

A new restaurant has opened up in the St Lawrence Market area taking over the former Lucien spot on Wellington. Opened by restauranteurs Julien and Devon Salomone (the same owners who brought us Boutique Bar) bring us the newly revitalized cocktail and food restaurant, East Thirty Six.

As you walk through the doors of East Thirty Six, you are greeted with opulent wood finishes (retrofitted), beautiful overhead blue-purple art-deco lighting fixture and lovely pops of silver and purple everywhere. The room is cozy but gives off a certain richness and warmth, no matter where you are seated in the room.

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The cocktails here are stellar and not to be missed. Co-owner / mixologist Julien Salomone runs the beverage program and has paid great details to the making of such cocktails as the Rum Row (House-made spiced rum, apricot liquor, lemon juice, ginger syrup, tonic float) or French Connection (Muddled cucumber, gin, chartreuse, lillet blanc, coriander syrup, peychaud bitters, coriander tincture). Each of the cocktails range in price between $12-14 a drink but every sip is totally worth it. At the end of the evening, we were even treated to one of Julien’s barrel aged cocktails (off-menu) and this man knows what he is doing.

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So how the food from East Thirty Six measure up? On the evening in question, we were treated to a lovely selection of their offerings from their new upcoming menu. Some of the standouts from the evening were our Winter Salad (castelfranco, kale, endive, ricotta salata aioli, focaccia) which was full of flavour and rich. So many times you encounter a salad with hard, tough croutons and this was just perfect. Next up, Scallop Crudo (lardo, celery, tequila, lime) was one of the dishes with wow factor. It had a freshness that you look for in a crudo with the lardo adding that extra bit of kick.

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Next up, we were treated to a big trend I have been seeing on menus across Toronto (and something I’m not angry about because I love) cauliflower. This dish was served up with capers, preserved lemon, brown butter, hazelnut, parsley and was stunning. The hazelnuts added the nice crunch to it and the lemon gave good acidity. I could ate a whole other plate of this. Next, probably my favourite dish of the evening: Bone Marrow with Chicken liver mousse and toast. Beautifully prepared and absolutely a pleasure. I did not want to share this and reluctantly had to. The marrow was buttery and delicious. A must have.

 

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Rounding in to some of the final courses, we were treated to a flakey and beautifully plated Halibut (with artichoke, carrot, fennel, white wine and lemon). Each piece I put into my mouth was melt in my mouth goodness and the veg in the broth was just an added bonus to the dish. As our final treat, we were shown a dessert course and brought out a lovely Lemon Custard. As I’m not much of a sweets person, I was unsure how I would feel but this tangy sweetness was just right in my books.

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East Thirty Six is open daily for dinner at 4pm and is perfect for an afterwork cocktail. To learn more about the restaurant, visit their website.

Compliments Gluten-Free Line Review & Recipes

By Megan Stulberg

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You know what’s guaranteed to make my day? Coming home from an exhausting day of exam writing to find a neatly wrapped box (complete with pretty green ribbon) of goodies waiting for me on my front porch, ready to sample.

The thoughtful people at Sobeys sent me a variety of products from their new Compliments gluten-free product line to review. Compliments now offers a variety of ready-to-eat treats, such as brownies and quinoa muffins. Ah, delicious! Totally up my Celiac alley!

I’m a vegan, though, so I couldn’t try all the products Sobeys sent me, so I sent a few home with my friend Erin over at The Cinnamon House. She, along with fellow writer Alex at Vegan Girlfriend helped me test out the Compliments Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour Blend and Gluten-Free Cookie Mix!

I am so thankful to have friends who love food as much as I do. Together we created two mouthwatering recipes to share with you:

~*DOUBLE CHOCOLATE COCOA WALNUT BROWNIES*~

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Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup raw almonds
  • 3 tbsp ground flaxseed (or chia seed) meal
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup unrefined sugar
  • 1/4 cup agave nectar
  • 3 tbsp Earth Balance soy-free vegan spread
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup Compliments Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour Blend
  • 3/4 unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 100g bar Green & Black’s Organic Dark Chocolate with 70% Cocoa
  • 1/2 cup crushed raw walnuts
  • 1 tsp raw salt (e.g. pink crystal Himalayan salt)

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Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly oil a shallow 9-inch baking dish.

2) Using a food processor, chop almonds into a fine meal about 2 minutes. Be careful not to over process or else the mixture will be too creamy! Set aside.

3) In a small bowl, combine flaxseed meal and water. Let stand for about 5 minutes until thick, then whisk together and pour into bowl.

4) Beat the flaxseed mixture with sugar and agave nectar, then add vegan spread and vanilla extract. Beat for 30 seconds at low speed.

5) Mix in the Compliments Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour, almond meal, cocoa powder and baking soda. Blend on low for 30 seconds, stirring regularly.

6) Break up the dark chocolate into chunks and add it to the mixture along with walnuts and a pinch of salt.

7) Pour into greased square baking dish and bake in oven for 40-45 minutes. Let cool, and then slice. Makes about 16 brownies.

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~*COCONUT ALMOND CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES*~

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Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 3 tbsp flaxseed meal
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1 400g package Compliments Gluten-Free Cookie Mix
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup dairy-free chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk

Directions: 

1) Preheat oven to 350F.

2) Using a food processor, chop almonds into a fine meal about two minutes and set aside.

3) In a small bowl, combine flaxseed meal and water. Let stand for about 5 minutes until thick, then whisk together and pour into bowl.

4) Add coconut oil and Compliments Gluten-Free Cookie Mix and beat at low speed about 1 minute. Scrape down sides of bowl.

5) Add shredded coconut, chocolate chips, vanilla extract, almonds and almond milk. Blend ingredients in by hand, using a spoon.

6) Using your hands, roll the dough into small balls and place on greased baking sheet about 4 cm apart.

7) Bake for about 15 minutes until browned. Let cool before serving. Makes 16 cookies.

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Needless to say, everything was delicious! The cookies were delicious, the brownies were moist, and I couldn’t have been happier with the results. Compliments has created a great line of gluten-free flours and mixes that work! Everything held together just as well as standard wheat-based products would. For more information about the Compliments Gluten-Free product line, click here.

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PHOTOS: ALEXANDRA COURTS

Luma serves up a whole lotta Group Love on Valentine’s Day

So for many single and couples in Toronto, Valentine’s Day comes with a bit of dread.  So much anxiety and pressure built up over a fabricated holiday to share your feelings for another.  My life partner, Simon and I decided to keep it cool this year.  We wanted to do something that we felt was relevant to both of our interests (food), relevant to both of our wallets and relevant to both of our lives (being social).

That’s where the Luma Group Love package comes into play.  Luma (the Oliver and Bonacini restaurant at the TIFF Lightbox) held a pre-fixe menu for solo foodies ($25/per person) or groups of three or more ($50 per person).  For those that were ‘riding solo’, you got to saddle up to the Communal Table and share your evening with a night of fabulous new friends.

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We took our seat at the communal table seated amongst a diverse group of new friends.  The table was set with a beautiful array of Valentine’s Day candy and the wait staff started us off with a lovely drink titled the ‘Icebreaker’ (double black cherry infused bourbon), which did just that.  All of us went round-table and introduced ourselves and what we did.  Finally once we were all done, we cheers to a fabulous Valentine’s Day.

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Now a dinner like this may not be for the brave at heart.  Having to make conversation over a great meal with strangers for at least one hour might get awkward and trust me, at times, it did.   But thankfully we had our wonderful servers who had impeccable timing and always made us feel like we were the stars of the evening.  Well that is, next to the food – of course.

Our Ted Allen looking waiter served up one-half dinner theatre style theatrics and one-half food guide for the evening, as he told us everything would be served: “family style, because group love and sharing is caring”.

First up, platters of Fritto Misto of squid and fanny bay oysters fried up with duck egg and radish crudités were put onto the table for all to enjoy.  Each person had their own oyster and each section of the table had their own Misto platter, so we didn’t have to fight over who took the last piece.   Next up, we were plated what (at first) looked like art.  Beautiful and delicate pieces of smoked trout and celery root in a deep bowl which our server then ladled in a lovely herb creme fraiche base.  Can I just say that I wanted to lick the bottom of the bowl.  I thought it may have been a bit rude of me to do so, but the chowder wasn’t heavy or too creamy.  It was rich and perfect.

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We decided to keep the juices flowing by ordering a carafe of Punch Drunk Love (rose, passion fruit liqeur, juice and lemonade).  It reminded me of Beyonce and for that, I thought it would be a good choice.  Verdict: it made me Drunk in Love. I may or may not have sent Simon a text midway through our meal that read: “I think I’m drunk” because clearly I’m old and a lightweight now.

Our next grand dish was the Lemon & Rosemary Cornish Hen served up with a warm chicory & chicken liver salad and a yukon gold potato & kale dauphinoise.  Simon had never had Cornish Hen before and he was won over immediately.  Where as my favourite thing was the potato, which whilst fumbling around trying to dig into this accidentally sliced through half a lemon.  Yep, I’m a class act.  Note: I did not eat half the lemon, just almost ate half of it.  Also: the chicken livers – so baller.  I am proud to say that our side of the table may have taken the salad home with them because: waste not, want not.

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By this time, we were beginning to feel sluggish with Luma Group Love feels and food.  Not only that, our dinner reservations began at 9PM and it was it was nearing 11.  I felt that we were at an authentic Italian style family feast.  The dishes and courses would not stop coming and while I was feeling quite blessed (and well, Punch Drunk Loved) — I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it through the dessert course without at least unbuttoning my jeans.  However, I took one for the team and dove into (without falling into a food coma) my Warm Chocolate Cake and Salted Caramel Chicharrones.

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This evening was everything I could have asked for food-wise and budget-wise.  I mean, I rolled out of Luma with a 3 course meal including 2 solid desserts for $25!  This deal was better than any other Valentine’s Day evening out.  I mean, let’s be real: even if we had cooked dinner and bought a bottle of vino, it probably would have cost as much as our Luma dinner date (or more)!  But thanks to Luma, they guided our entire evening plus gave us some rad new friends and I didn’t have to do the dishes afterwards.  This was something I am so thankful for.

Best part?  They are offering this amazing special for just ONE MORE DAY!  For those that live in Ontario and celebrate Family Day, you should march your butts over to Luma & partake in the Group Love menu.  You can be like me and stuff yourself silly all in honour of FAMILY!  Then pass out in a wonderful blissful food coma.

Pukka spices up St. Clair West

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

For many of us in Toronto, good Indian food is a hard thing to come by. We’re accustomed to buffet style or muddled flavours. Thankfully, Derek Valleau and Harsh Chawla (both formerly of Amaya The Indian Room) have taken on what they believe has not been filled in Toronto yet: a fine-dining Indian food spot that leaves you comforting for more. That spot is Pukka (778 St Clair Avenue West).

The space is fresh and modern with reclaimed wood table and pops of green, purple and orange throughout. You’ll find lots of funky paintings and soft lighting, which gives it a bit of a romantic touch. I had mentioned to Derek & Harsh when I first arrived that when I lived in the St Clair area some year back, restaurants like this were missing. Derek told me candidly that the area and its residents have been quite kind in their support, especially over the winter months. When Yuli and I attended on a Tuesday evening, the restaurant had ever seat full. This was even on one of the coldest winter nights we were having.

Pukka sticks to classical Indian cuisine. The kitchen is equipped with a clay tandoor oven and the menu is chalked full of seasonal, locally sourced ingredients while using rich spices and creams to take on their house-made curries and rubs.

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The menu itself is divided into snacks & eats. The snack portion has you covered with some intoxicating dishes such as: Baby Kale Salad ($8.90), which seems simple enough but with dates, cashew nut dressing and lotus chips – it brings it to a whole other level. The Vegetable String Chaat ($8.40) is serving up ripe mango and granny smith apple with a little bit of pomegranate seed just for flavour. Mix that in with some delicious yogurt and chutney and you’ve got yourself a winning dish. Another killer starter was the Chicken 65 ($9.60) which had all the feels of good fried chicken. But should you be in the South of India. This dish was spiced with curry leaf, red chili, tamarind, cumin, garlic and other spices and was pretty much, this was off the chain. I could really seem them developing this into a main. But that’s just my personal opinion.

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After inhaling all of these delicious snacks, we thought it would be wise to test some drinks off of the cocktail menu. You know to – ahem – cleanse the palette. First up was the Snapdragon ($9.20) which consisted of vodka, pear nectar, ginger beer & lime. It was sweet and fun, not too over-powering and reminded me of summer. Thankfully, it went so well with everything we were eating. Yuli decided to test out the Chai Town ($8.40) which had bourbon, chai tea, pomegranate liquors and bitters. From my sip, it was pretty delicious.

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Our servers (who were incredibly lovely and so helpful) brought out our dazzling course of mains, who informed us that most of the dishes were gluten-free. So fear not gluten-free fans, you are in luck! First up, we were brought out one of my favourite dishes of the night: Mushroom & Spinach Stuffed Paneer ($17.30). This dish was rich and bold and filling. Plus: paneer cheese is heavenly. Next up, the Pan Seared Sea Bass ($22.40) which consisted of coconut milk, curry leaves and roasted spices. The fish was beautifully cooked and the aromas of the curry was hypnotizing. You know you cannot visit an Indian food restaurant without having Butter Chicken ($17.90) and while it was good, it was not Pukka’s best dish of the evening. Oddly enough, I enjoyed everything else so much more than the Butter Chicken. The tomato infused butter sauce was rich and delicious but the chicken was a bit dry. Nothing terrible but again, not my favourite out of everything that came out. Next up, we had the Madras Pepper Steak ($19.70) which was tender, juicy and served up with caramelized onion and coconut. It was beautifully rich and delicious. This was probably my second favourite main of the evening.

Don’t forget, you have your options of sides too. We opted for the Green Beans ($8.70) with caramelized onions, coconut and turmeric and Rice ($4.60) served up in a lovely little jar (resealable) with so many aromatics. These pair deliciously with all the mains.

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If you’ve left room for dessert, there is that. We opted for the Eton Mess ($7.60), which was a mess of all things delicious: rosewater-soaked meringues in pomegranate syrup and sweet lassi cream. Um, so into it.

So if you’re craving authentic Indian and feel like making the trek to St. Clair West, make a date for Pukka. You will not be disappointed. Reservations can be made daily.

Zengo’s Test Kitchen: A Melody of East & West

Words by Gillian Kreft
Additional words by Lauren Edward

When you start thinking about fusion cuisine a few things cross your mind, but something that most of us wouldn’t think of is mixing Japanese & Mexican food, but the culinary genius that is Richard Sandoval did it, and it is amazing.

My lovely taster for the evening, Lauren.

My lovely taster for the evening, Lauren.

Sandoval’s restaurant Zengo, recently announced its new Test Kitchen Menu combining the forces of Mexican & Japanese food. The menu rotates every few months mixing different Latin & Asian cuisines into one extraordinary melting pot of flavors.

I was invited to test out the TK menu and I jumped at the chance. Since I’m vegan, I brought one of my good girlfriends, Lauren, with me to devour everything that I couldn’t. While Zengo doesn’t advertise as being vegan friendly, they do have a separate vegetarian menu that includes a few dishes that are already vegan or are easily adaptable.

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They started by bringing us out a drink from the TK cocktail menu, the Shiro margarita which included nigori, agave blanco tequila, lime juice, simple syrup, and house-made sour. I’m not usually a tequila drinker but this was amazing, a sugar rimmed glass added just the right amount of sweetness without making it into something that was all about the sugar and not enough about the fusion of sake & tequila.

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Next were the appetizers, a vegetarian sushi roll to share, Terikayi Pork Belly Gorditas “Sliders” for Lauren, and Arepas de Shiitakes for myself.

For me, the corn meal cakes topped with shiitakes, and guacamole  were a bit too spicy but that was easily remedied by taking off some of the jalapeno on top. They were perfectly crunchy while the mushrooms added a nice meaty texture to them.

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LE: “My first plate to try was the TK Terikayi Pork Belly Gordita “Sliders”, a sort of dressed up McMuffin as the manager called them. Hearing this I was initially a little skeptical, but these little suckers knocked my socks off.  Piled atop a crispy masa cake was sliced pork belly, oaxaca cheese, guacamole, carmalized pineapple, and pickled chiles for just the right amount of heat. The meat was tender and tasty and couldn’t have been better complimented by the array of flavorful fixin’s.”

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As someone who eats a lot of vegetable sushi, I can’t say that this roll stood out. It was delicious but nothing that I haven’t had before. They served the aioli on the side and it was so good Lauren kept it at the table “just in case there’s something else” she could slather it on.

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The next drink they brought out was described as an “updated Old fashioned.” Its formal title: The Calamansi Old-Fashioned; consisting of Japanese whiskey, fresh calamansi juice, agave, and bitters. It was a little heavy on the whiskey but still delicious. I can’t say it read much different than the old fashion my grandmother makes when I visit her but maybe she’s ahead of the times.

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When they brought the entrees out I have to say that I wasn’t super excited. I had read the menu prior and noticed the only dish that was vegan was a tofu one. I love tofu, but as a vegan it can get a little lackluster after a few hundred dishes. When the dish was put in front of me, I couldn’t deny that the presentation alone was enough to make me want to lick the plate clean but once I took a bite of perfectly cooked tofu and a chili sauce, there was no stopping me. I finished my plate before Lauren and was begging for one more piece of tofu to soak up what was left of the sauce but alas, I was left with bokchoy & beansprouts which did the job just as well as the tofu.

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LE: “The TK entree was Kabayaki Glazed Lamb Shank Barbacoa. Now, I will admit I am not the biggest fan of lamb, but this dish prompted a change of heart. You know that melt-off-the-bone meaty goodness that so many of us barbecue lovers can’t get enough of? Well, try this. Aromatic ginger, chiles, and tamarand gave this shank some zing, without overpowering the lamb itself. As for the pairings, this is when things kind of fell apart. The lamb was served over a bed of “arroz verde” and pickled vegetables. I really wasn’t a fan of either of these sides as I felt they offset the composition of the dish and added some strange contrasting flavors. The rice was bitter… pungent almost, and spicy. Not the good flavorful kind, but the burn your taste buds spice. No thanks. As for the veggies, well, okra and carrots, they  were arranged nicely but added very little umphf to the dish. Let’s just say that after finishing the lamb itself, I was ready for dessert.”

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What is a meal without dessert? (The answer: sad) I was able to try all three of their sorbet flavors that rotate, Strawberry-yuzu, Blueberry-ginger, and Mango. I would venture to say that the strawberry and blueberry are made in house while the mango is store-bought. Either way, they were all delicious; the strawberry and blueberry were amazing and the addition of the yuzu and ginger made them undeniably the best sorbet I’ve ever had.

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LE: “Dessert, the showstopper of all showstoppers. Folks, on this night the stars aligned and the culinary Gods above sent to earth the perfect post-dinner treat. The TK Avocado Panna Cotta. I don’t think I can effectively do this dessert justice through any description, but if you ask Gillian, there was very little talking and a whole lot of om-nom. Fresh avocado custard, similar to flan, was perfectly sweet with a subtle hint of that avocado flavor. Served alongside this was a mango chutney of sorts with fresh mint, and peanut chocolate cookie crumbs. What kind of mad world do we live in? I never would have expected this to be as good as it was, but it blew my mind and left me wanting seconds. Cheers to good food.”

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Overall, I was impressed with Zengo. The service was impeccable (thanks Ryan!) and they were more than happy to accommodate two diets into one perfectly presented meal. The tofu alone makes me dream about returning. I look forward to what Sandoval’s next culinary mash-up will be.

Body Positive Sex: What’s Self Love Got to do with It?

We here at Fat Girl Food Squad are huge supporters of sex positivity and body positivity, which I think is pretty evident in all the work that we do.
So when we were approached by the University of Toronto to put together a workshop on body positive sex for Sexual Awareness Week, we were beyond thrilled.

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Come join us on Saturday January 25, 2013 at Innis Town Hall for our two-hour workshop titled Body Positive Sex: What’s Self-Love Got to do with It? In this two hour workshop, we invite one and all as we discuss body positive sex and self-love. We will journey through all types of topics including (but not limited to):

* importance of self acceptance leading to the path of good & healthy sex
* our personal experience coming to live in and love our bodies
* ways to come to accept your body
* dating horror stories
* how to not fall prey to fetishization as validation
*how movement and a body in motion is a great way to love thyself

During our “Juice & Cookie & Dance” break, we invite attendees to take part in our set-up activities:

*Yuli Scheidt, co-founder and lead photographer of Fat Girl Food Squad will be setting up Photo Booth where you can express yourself (all photos taken are free). You can find some of Yuli’s work here: http://yulischeidt.com/

*HaFA will be organizing a “Body in Motion” session, where you can be instructed how to move your body with a hula-hoop. If you would like to make a hula-hoop with HaFA, you can attend their session the day before our, Friday Jan 24!

For more details our on workshop (which is free to attend), peep the Facebook event page here. We really hope you’lll come out and support us.

Greece makes its mark on the Beaches with Trinity Taverna

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

It is not often that food has brought me out to the East End, but on this cold blustery night – Yuli and I decided to make the trek to an oasis hidden within a beachfront restaurant property with promises of authentic Greek food stylings. That place was Trinity Taverna.

Owned and operated by Peter Morentzos of Morentzos Restaurant Group and Danny and George Foulidis, the team has spared no expense at making this expansive (600 seated) restaurant with stunning lakefront views pleasing to both the eyes and stomach.

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Upon entry, you’re greeted by bold Mediterranean colours and a gorgeous ceiling made-up from thousands of birch branches, creating a Greek villa feel. The bench seating comes equipped with glorious pillows and a beautiful view of the open-kitchen. Beside the kitchen, you’ll notice the fresh seafood counter, whom Peter Morentzos told us shipped in fresh almost daily. They also have a very expansive wine list, including many Greek wines. If you’re uncertain of which wines to pair or have never had a Greek wine, not to fear — their sommelier is very wise and knowledgeable in all things Greece and wine. For example, he treated us to a beautiful red (Boutari Naoussa Xinomavro), which just made the top 100 of the Wine Enthusiast list.

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Chef Pierre Restivo and his kitchen team turns each ingredient into journey through the roads of Greece. For our appetizers, we were delighted with the Trilogy of Spreads, which included six different tastes such as house-made tzatziki (using a goat-milk yogurt, bringing out a smoothy richness and tang), tarama (smoked salmon, caviar and garlic) and htipiti (feta and spicy red pepper). Each of the dips had their own richness and I was seriously considering asking the kitchen to send me with a vat home. Alas: I did not work up the courage to do so. If only snacking at home could be this — elegant.

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Next up, we were brought out a Lamb Tartare (lean lamb loin, fresh mint, shallots, thai chilli oil and quail’s egg). I have never been much of a tartare fan but thought, when in Rome. So I took a chance on this dish and have been dreaming of it ever since. The kick of the thai chilli oil mixed in with the beautiful fresh taste of tartare. Perfect, especially for a lamb tartare. Something so very rarely seen.

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To balance things out, we tried out their Iceberg and Romaine Slaw where razor-thin cucumbers and julienned iceberg are married together with a sweet, simple white-wine vinegar dressing. The results are light and refreshing.

We decided to take the seafood counter out for a spin, testing out the following hot offerings: Shrimp & Feta, Baked Scallops and their standout trophy dish, the Octopus. The tomato and feta sauce served up with the shrimp was hearty and brilliant. If I’m not mistaken, we scooped up every last bit of the sauce. Now let me tell you about those scallops in three words (and trust me you’ll thank me later): saffron béchamel sauce. If that doesn’t scream to you: get in my mouth, I don’t know what will. But that Octopus – it was glorious. Grilled and prepared with an aged balsamic, it was pretty much everything.

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We also munched on some of my favourite offal meat, sweetbreads. Pan-seared in a lamb stock, white wine reduction and truffle oil, the meat was juicy and tender and packed many of the flavours in. The house-made sausage was up next, delivered with hints of citrus and delicious flavour.

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But let me tell you this: the main dinner offerings is where they win everything. We were treated to a sampling of four dishes: Rabbit Stifatho, Veal Cheek Moussaka, Trinity Taverna GYRO and Pan-Seared Lamb Chops. From these four dishes, the two that stood out to me the most were Rabbit Stifatho and Veal Cheek Moussaka. First things first, the rabbit in a delicious stew of onions, tomato confit and cinnamon. The braise leaves the meat to be tender and the flavouring really comes out in this winter hearty Greek dish. With the Veal Cheek Moussaka, you’re taken into a cosmic heaven of foodie delight with layers of scalloped potatoes, braised and stewed veal cheeks, tomato-confit sauce and eggplant once again in a beautiful béchamel sauce. Decadence at its best.

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A note of advice: leave room for dessert because you will want it and well, by the end of this feast you will be sluggish with so much delicious food. Treat yourself to the wondrous Feta Cheesecake (topped with caramelized figs) or Baklava.

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This restaurant is a perfect escape from the everyday Winter blah’s and also to find your own road to Greece right here in Toronto.

All photos by Yuli Scheidt.