Batter Up: Canteen Serves Up Corn-Dog Realness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

YuliScheidt_StopNightMarket11

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.

YuliScheidt_StopNightMarket_Plate

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.

YuliScheidt_StopNightMarket12

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.

YuliScheidt_StopNightMarket14

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

YuliScheidt-Amaya 002

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.

YuliScheidt-Amaya 006

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.

YuliScheidt-Amaya 001

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.

YuliScheidt-Amaya 004

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?

YuliScheidt-Amaya 008

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.

YuliScheidt-Amaya MAIN

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.

YuliScheidt-Amaya 010

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.

YuliScheidt-Amaya 012

Photos by Yuli Scheidt

50th Annual Elmira Maple Syrup Festival

By Megan Stulberg

10151731_10153974892300133_1461792945_n

DSC_0051

I was recently invited to spend a weekend at the farm where my best friend grew up in Elmira, Ontario. Visiting a town with a whopping population of 9,931, you’d expect a relaxing and quiet weekend in the country, no? Well, it certainly started off that way: I spent Friday evening playing with the family’s seven household pets and watching Come Dine With Me reruns. The next morning, I dragged myself out of bed at 7am and then walked around outside in the cold for the next 10 hours. And I had the best time.

The Elmira Maple Syrup Festival has been an annual event for the past 50 years. The main attraction is, of course, the maple syrup and related food vendors. The event attracts 60,000 people every year, and most can be seen walking around, munching a lamb’s leg, a stack of pancakes or something deep-fried.

DSC_0057

Oh, the maple syrup! It was heavenly. There was maple syrup on everything: maple lattes, maple taffy, maple kettle corn, maple syrup baked beans, maple syrup candies, and Beaver Tails with maple butter. I didn’t want to slip into a sugar coma, so I decided to limit my syrup intake. Well, I tried.

First, I decided to sink my teeth into some maple taffy. Maple taffy is made by boiling maple sap over a fire until it turns into maple syrup and then continuing to boil it until it becomes thicker. It is then poured onto snow and picked up with a stick, once partially cooled, and then served. I had to wait a solid 45 minutes for one small piece, but it was worth it to get such a decadent start to the morning.

DSC_0075

DSC_0079

Next, I tried maple sugar. By “tried” I mean I sampled a small piece for free and then proceeded to buy 12 more. Maple sugar is prepared much like maple taffy, but is boiled for much longer until it solidifies. These soft and sweet candies were sold by countless vendors all over the festival, but I bought mine from a small table run by local Mennonites on the outskirts of town in front of a McDonald’s for 25 cents a piece. I also bought a few small tubs of pure maple syrup to take home for loved ones.

By midday, my friends were getting hungry so we decided to venture away from the festival for a bit in an attempt to get a healthier lunch. Luckily for us, there were tractor-pulled wagon rides available: the town’s adorable version of a free shuttle bus. This was the first — and probably last — time I rode to a fast-food restaurant sitting on a bail of hay, sandwiched in between two teenage girls in bonnets.

The festival really is an event for both the locals and the tourists.

Overall, it was an incredibly fun, family-friendly day. Sometimes I forget how Canadian I am — and then I go to something like this and have a blast. To keep updated on next year’s festival, “Like” their official page on Facebook here.

I’ll just go ahead and tempt your tastebuds with a few more photos that show off some of the many treats that were enjoyed at the Maple Syrup Festival:

10169158_10153974952150133_2008209989_n

Salted soft pretzel with Dijon mustard

10250733_10153974911280133_488789617_n

Deep-fried Mars bar on a stick

1543610_10153974911285133_443453341_n

“Tornado Potato” paired with ghost pepper ketchup. Other ketchup flavours included maple and banana

1940123_10153974892290133_964472742_n

Deep-fried apple fritters

Select photos by Aine Davis

Poppin’ Bottles of Fresita in the Petite and Sweet lab

0F9A1900

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.

0F9A1871
0F9A1868

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.

0F9A1873
0F9A1872
0F9A1859

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.

0F9A1896
0F9A1894
0F9A1927

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.

0F9A1915
0F9A1909
0F9A1921

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.

0F9A1885
0F9A1888
0F9A1928

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

Lookin’ Good Girl: Chatting with Rachel Holt of PRiMAALA

Prim4

When you’re a plus-size gal in the city, all you want is to be forever fashionable. But strolling into the local mall can often times be a struggle with all the plus-size goods picked over or just not your style. The struggle: it’s real.

But over the course of the last few years, the fashion industry has started to stand up and take notice to us fashionably fierce femmes who want nothing more than to have more selection in plus-sizes. Some of these stores even come in the form of brick & mortar independent shops much like the recently opened shop PRiMAALA (803 Dundas Street West) in Toronto by fabulous lady, Rachel Holt.

Rachel & myself chatted inside the beautifully designed store that specifically caters to the forward-thinking and high-end side of women’s fashion in sizes 12 to 24. The store is light and airy with clean, modern and chic elegance as soon as you walk in. The store is open (in concept) with several fitting rooms in the back and lots of natural light and mirrors.

Prim2

Having had an extensive background in the fashion industry, Rachel studied at Ryerson University. For her final thesis, she designed one of the school’s first plus-size collections pushing boundaries and challenging the ideal of fashion normalities. She tells me that she worked for months on her collection sourcing fabrics from New York and creating something luxurious that the plus female would respond to. The response to her collection was bold and it was from this thesis project (and other in-life frustrations), that awoke Rachel’s inner-being to provide an outlet (outside of the online realm) for the plus-sized female.

With careful thought into location (her home at Dundas West happened almost by chance) and into the brands that she would carry, Rachel has tried to keep shoppers happy with the bountiful options available to them. This includes Lundstrom, Comfy USA, James Jeans, Eileen Fisher and Lovefresh bodycare – just to name a few. Rachel tells me, “I have really made a considered effort to make everything contemporary but also suitable for the entire range of sizes.” Her vision is that no matter what size you are, the piece you will try will look awesome. Another thing to note with PRiMAALA is they are the first retailer in North America to carry much sought after line, Caramakoma. “I noticed this line in 2009 and it had always scared me to try and buy something online,” Rachel candidly shared “but I really took the plunge when I bought for the store and it has worked out really well”.

Prim3

Since PRiMAALA opened its doors, Rachel tells me the response has been phenomenal with a current look from the store just appearing on Breakfast Television the week we chatted, “People seem to be really excited about the store and what we’re carrying and it feels good”. Touching on the media and fashion industry’s shift in working in body diversity and body positivity, Rachel tells me, “There was a huge article about plus-sizes in The Grid last year, which showcased some great boutiques and fashions and five years ago, you would have never seen something like that.” Thankfully, she believes some of this trickle-down effect comes from catwalks such as Christian Dior or models like Crystal Renn amongst many other celebrities advocating for body positivity and self acceptance inside of fashion and out.

The store at 803 Dundas Street West is just the first step in Rachel’s plan for PRiMAALA. Eventually she would like to work on an in-house line but she does tell me, “I want to get the store to the point where it is a well oiled machine before I introduce that,” as well as learning more about her customer base and what they are looking for. Right now at the end of the day, her goal number #1 remains the following: making people feel fabulous. “I want to make people feel really good about themselves and to know that they are incredible even though they may not fit the mould of what the fashion world has put out for them.”

Prim1

To visit PRiMAALA, its operating hours are Tuesdays-Fridays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturdays, noon to 5 p.m., Sundays, noon to 4 p.m, closed Mondays. Or check them their website!

East Thirty Six breathes new life into St Lawrence Market area

YuliScheidt-East36-Drinksphotos by yuli scheidt

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

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.

IMG_5009

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.

IMG_5010

IMG_5013

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.

IMG_5022
IMG_5017

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.

IMG_5024

IMG_5026

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.

IMG_5028

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

Tin Chef Competition at Mildred’s Temple Kitchen

Written by Aviva Cohen

I arrived 15 minutes after doors opened because Liberty Village is a maze.  At one point I crumbled into myself in the snow and cried. I wondered if I would die like Jack Torrance in The Shining sans axe.
Luckily, I found Mildred’s and my Liberty Village journey would be worth it as delicious h’orderves were promised.  Oh, and I guess to see the cooking competition.

While standing with the large crowd, fighting for a good sight line of 5 home chefs chopping, sautéing, mashing, cutting and [insert cooking term you learned while watching The Food Network at 1 a.m. to impress your pals] — I overhead an older man say to his partner, “if you had told me 10 years ago that cooking would be a spectator sport, I would have said you were crazy.”

2014-02-09 06.06.17

2014-02-09 06.14.06

The evening was a replica of Iron Chef, including the secret ingredient of duck.  The chefs had an hour to complete 4 dishes for the judges, which included:

Alida Solomon, head chef & proprietor of Tutti Matti Restaurant
Paul Brans, professional big wig chef at Oliver & Bonacini Restaurants
Saverio Marci, master chef of Cibo Wine Bar

The competitors that evening were Meghan Legere, Jill Chen, Gav Martell, Deborah Brewster and Ronn Reaman. Of the chefs taking part, Deborah seemed to have the largest and most enthusiastic cheering section, with friends and family making cut outs of her face and positive signage.  I can only imagine the multitude of ways those face cut outs could be used down the road.  Ronn Reaman was the only competitor who had a professional chef’s jacket on.  I tried to Google him, but came up empty.  It makes me wonder if there is a chef out there in Toronto missing their jacket right now.  Hmm.

2014-02-09 06.11.14

2014-02-09 06.16.37

2014-02-09 06.18.09

Each chef had their own prep station including a food pantry and cooking station.  While chefs were busy prepping their veg (boring…I chop veggies at home too.. this is nothing new), I concentrated on filling my belly with h’orderves.  I mean, I paid good money to be here!  (Err, or the handy editors of FGFS asked me to spend my precious time covering this event)  The trout that came dressed up on a tiny spoon, shot glasses filled with butternut squash soup, fancy bread, and poached pears.  The h’orderves train (filled with real people with hopes and dream) had come to a full stop just as the competition did.   But then, as if the heavenly gates had opened, the dessert came out. Ginger cookies, chocolate chip cookies, pancake balls (!!!) and other chocolate type confections endlessly flowed from the kitchen.

2014-02-09 06.27.19

While I kept an eye on the competition, Ronn was attempting to bribe the judges with booze (Spoiler Alert, Ronn! It didn’t work. Paul Brans also reminded everyone that chefs don’t like ice in their alcohol.)  It also seemed like everyone had the same idea, using similar ingredients except for Jill.  She was making wraps (from scratch).  I thought she was doing a play on a traditional Peking duck dish but in her finished product, the wraps were gigantic which I knew based on my advanced knowledge of watching cooking competitions on TV, that did not bode well for her chances.

2014-02-09 06.12.59

2014-02-09 06.26.04

2014-02-09 06.28.26

Things heated up (good pun) when the chefs went to their cooking stations, using the open concept professional kitchen at Mildred’s. Both Deborah and Gav used mashed potatoes while Meghan had the best looking plate, making a pretty salad bowl with cucumbers.  Each judge was given ten minutes to each and judge.  Unfortunately, they deliberated in private and promptly announced the winner, which meant we were not privy to why one dish was better than the other.  They did remind everyone that seasoning is a chef’s best friend.  According to anything I’ve ever read by Anthony Bourdain it’s actually hard drugs.

I however, overheard the judge’s comment on Gav’s dish, which ended up being the winner.  Congrats Gav!  I overheard that his duck had been cooked perfectly but the grapes he used were a little weird.

I guess the secret to winning a cooking competition goes as follows:

•    Are you Morimoto? A1) Are you sure? Did you check the mirror?
•    If you are not Morimoto proceed to steps C through E
•    Cook protein perfectly
•    Season well
•    Add some weird ingredient, which will make you seem like an eccentric so the judges will be scared of you and pronounce you the winner.

2014-02-09 06.20.17