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.

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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.

[ARTIST ANNOUNCEMENT] – Fat In Public an Art Show Presented by Fat Girl Food Squad

After spending the last several weeks accepting applications from artists (far and wide) for Fat Girl Food Squad’s first gallery show, Fat in Public, we are pleased to make the official announcement of the artists whom will be displaying art.

*Sam Abel
*Sookie Bardwell
*Ronald Caddigan
*Derrick Chow
*Elana Delaney
*Amanda Drodge
*Kristina Groeger
*Melody Krauze
*Jessica Levy
*Amarina Norris of Ursa Major +
*Megan Stulberg
*Yuli Scheidt

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With Fat Girl Food Squad‘s first gallery showing and through our artists selected pieces, we intend to de-stigmatize the (fat) body and give an outlet for art featuring imperfect and sybaritically characters in equal measure.

FAT IN PUBLIC’s opening reception will take place on January 30th at 2186 Dundas (located at, well, 2186 Dundas in Roncesvalles, Toronto) from 7-11pm. Please come celebrate with us and help celebrate our artists.

We have been beyond excited about this show for quite some time now. You can click on “attending” here on Facebook, should you feel obliged.

One final thing to note! All of our artists pieces will be for sale that evening with 100% of the sales going back to the artists. So please, support your fellow artists!

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.

BIVY introduces their Parisian-style dinner menu

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

Dundas West is changing and owner Pascal Vernhes saw that when he opened up his casual dining restaurant and cafe, BIVY. As I chatted with him briefly one cold November evening, he told me that living in the area, he noticed the lack of serious eateries in the area and felt it was time to introduce something relaxed and comfortable while presenting them good tasting food.

The interior of the restaurant has a bit of a kitschy cottage touch mixed in with a bit of Canadiana. Adorned on the walls are maps and painted murals of mountains, alongside reclaimed wood shelving (housing different products they sell within the cafe). The restaurant itself feels rustic and small, almost as if you’ve been invited to your friends cottage kitchen. The kitchen is fairly open, so you are able to watch your food being prepared.

The dinner menu takes more of a Parisian style approach to food, with prices ranging between $4.50-$12.00, for appetizers and mains. Our server started us off with BIVY’s own take on a charcuterie boards loaded with cured meats and country paté. All of the meats are locally sourced (some suppliers even within the Dundas West area) and all the pickling is done in-house. The board comes in at the price point of $9.00 and adds an element of social eating over a glass of wine. We were treated to several different types of meats and cheeses and loved every moment of it.

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Next up, our server suggested one of BIVY’s top menu items: 2LB of P.E.I Mussels ($12), which come in several different flavours including Bombay (curry & cream), jerk (white wine, onion, tomato & jerk seasoning) among many others. Tonight, we decided to partake in the Catalane, which consisted of chorizo, paprika, cream and peppers. The perfect cook of the the mussels and the delicious sauce was magical. I was literally spooning up the sauce (with its rich, bold flavours) with the Mussels shells and we didn’t leave one single drop in the bowl.

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For our mains, we were treated to bistro standards such as duck confit ($12) and slow-roasted ribs ($9), each which you could pair with sides (extra $4) such as mixed greens, potato salad, fries or coleslaw. The duck confit was juicy and tender and served up directly on the bone, adding in additional flavouring. The slow-roasted ribs used, what looked to be a dry rub and had a small kick. It was not overcooked, just perfect.

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For those with a sweet tooth, BIVY has been known for their Crème Brûlée and the verdict: its great. They do have other offerings for dessert as well, which seem to be seasonal. But the Crème Brûlée is top-notch in our books.

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If you’re looking for a romantic evening out with fabulous well cooked food (I know I have been dreaming of those Mussels since we went), then make the trip to BIVY. You will not be disappointed.

Fonda Lola: the ultimate Mexican Fiesta opens on Queen Street West

What can I say about the newest restaurant opening on Queen West, Fonda Lola? Well for starters: this is quite a bit of history packed into that resto. First things first, as I walked through the door that cold November evening, I was greeted by energetic and kind, Andres Marquez who was slinging drinks behind the bar who handed me a margarita (more on those later).

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From the kitchen walked out Ernesto Rodriguez and Howard Dubrowsky, the two other owners (with Andres). For foodies with knowledge, Howard use to be the former chef and owner of L.A.B. on College. But after coming together as partners and creating the ultimate in Mexican Fiesta, they settled upon the old Lafayette Bistro location (942 Queen West) and Fonda Lola was born. Many renovations and menu preparation was done in advance of this day and night, where several of their friends were invited into the space to join them in celebrating.

So let’s get back to that Margarita, shall we? Fonda Lola makes several tequila-based drinks using (wait for it) kombucha, which is a fermented black tea. At first, I was somewhat skeptical on how this would taste. But let me be the first to report back: it’s good. Like, really really good. Andres has a way at making you feel at ease, letting me try an original kombucha margarita and then a cherry kombucha margarita. All their margaritas come in at the price of $10.50 each. You have the ability to order other drinks such as beer and wine.

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All of the food takes a very traditional approach with recipes straight from Mexico, we are told. The menu is divided up into three different parts: Frio (which consists of appetizers and snacks, $5-8), Caliente (main dishes, ranging from $5-14) and everyone’s favourite dessert. The other appealing thing about Fonda Lola? You can buy out the entire menu for $100 which they have aptly titled the “Mexican Fiesta”.

For starters, we were brought out their Guacamole & Chips ($5) and Trout Aguachile ($8). All of the dishes were paired with chips (made in-house) and the guacamole had an extra little kick to it, which caught you just at the end. It was nice and refreshing. The balance of the Trout Aguachile (very similar to a ceviche dish) was perfect with lots of lime flavours. Nothing overpowered the fresh taste of the trout here, which was excellent.

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Next up, we were treated to their thick-cut Candied Bacon ($5), which had some chill flavouring. Just the right sweet and heat, which makes it good for either a snack or a dessert, in my humble opinion. I mean, you can’t go wrong with bacon and this did just the trick.

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If you’re into Jalapeño Poppers, then you will love Fonda Lola’s take on it: the Panela Popper ($7). This jalapeño marinated Panela Cheese, which is then coated in corn meal is ooey-gooey good while still being light and crispy. Plus, the kick of the jalapeño is still there without being too overpowering.

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Now what would a Mexican restaurant be without tacos? Tacos al Pastor ($10) are served in a hot skillet in three types: pork, beef and marinated tofu. This family style offering also comes with home-made tortillas, salsa and other fixings (including delicious pineapple). I had the chance to try out all three types of tacos and they were all seasoned well and better than tacos I even had while in Mexico, where I had just returned from.

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Open Tuesday to Saturday from 5 – 11 PM, the restaurant is small and is definitely going to become a hit on the Queen West strip amongst those who crave authentic Mexican. Thankfully, you can make reservations. Prepare yourself for the Fonda Lola experience!

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

Lookin’ Good Girl: In Conversation with Photographer Erin Leydon

It’s been a privilege to get to know Toronto-based photographer Erin Leydon. Since making acquaintance on Instagram earlier this year I’ve had the pleasure of dining with Erin and talking about one of my greatest loves, Food Photography. A while back I asked Erin to come into FGFS HQ to chat about her art and the biz and how it all came together for her. I hope everyone finds my interview with her to be as interesting as I do.

[CONTEST] Monster Cereals Are Coming Back At Ya

2013-10-12 11.07.30By Acacia Christensen.

Currently it is #NationalCerealLoversWeek and there is plenty going on to celebrate that crunchy goodness you get first thing in the morning. At Fat Girl Food Squad we’ve decided to celebrate that and a mix of Halloween by bringing you a chance to win some special edition re-releases of some of our favourite cereals and a few that might be new to some of you.

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When I think of the cereal I ate as a child I tend to remember all of the crazy mascots and jingles as well as the prizes that came in the box. One thing that I find now living in Canada and making frequent trips to the US is that we have a much smaller variety of fun kid’s cereals available to us now. A specific example would be the General Mills brand Monster Cereals! Now we are all familiar with Count Chocula which is now only available on Halloween, but every year over the Halloween season there are releases of Frankenberry and Boo-Berry.

Many moons ago there were two other howling good flavours: Frute Brute – cherry ghosts with lime monster-mallows, and Yummy Mummy – orange ghosts with vanilla monster-mallows! These two flavours have not been available since 1988 and 1992 respectively. What the amazing folks at General Mills have done this year is re-ressurected all 5 flavours at once for us for a limited time only. Even crazier is that the original retro-packaging is available at select Target locations across the US. They are definitely a monstrously delicious sugar treat for breakfast that are as great as I remember them to be.
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Up for grabs are a box of Frute Brute and Yummy Mummy, the two resurrected flavours, in their retro packaging.
How to enter:
2. Tweet @ us your best spooky puns and/or jokes and use the hashtag #FGFSlovesSpookyPuns

Contest runs from Thursday October 17th through to Wednesday October 23rd at 5PM EST. Winners will be notified of their win 24 hours after contest close.

Friday Foodie Five

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

This week is a little different. I went on a little bender and pinned a lot of photos of amazing and beautiful street food from around the world. We here at FGFS love the crazy inspired street food that’s hitting the streets of Toronto and across the country (bylaws and red tape have — behind the guise of Public Health — kept us hungry), but I wanted to take a look at some of the OG food that inspires us here in North America and came to find stunning images I had to share. Think of this as my open visual love letter to street food.

1. Italy

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La Bombetta Pugliese is a specialty of the Valle D’Itria, south of Bari in Italy. The ultimate in street food.

2. Calcutta

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The colours!

3. Shanghai

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4. Hungry

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Làngos, the hight of Hungarian street food. Click through for a recipe.

5. Los Angeles

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Check out LA’s rich street food history with this awesome series of photos.