a portumanian feast

Amazing pond experience aside, last Sunday was really about the food. Two great chefs came together: one Panamanian (Rossy) and the other Portuguese (Paula). Together they lovingly prepared one fabulous "Portumanian" feast. Just looking at these photos makes me hungry all over again. 

Here was the menu for the day: 


Empanaditas de Pollo
Chicken stuffed mini Pastry Pockets

Ceviche Mixto
Lime marinated Mixed Seafood

Mariscos al Ajillo
Shrimp & Scallops in Butter & Olive Oil Garlic Sauce 
with Grilled Fennel & Smoked Tomatoes

Arroz con Guandu y Coco
Coconut & Pigeon Pea Rice

Ensalada de Palmito y Vegetales
Hearts of Palm & Vegetable Salad

Escabeche de Pescado
Pickled Fish

Crema de Mango, Gengibre & Lima
Mango Ginger & Lime Mousse



Rissois de Camarão
Shrimp in pastry

Bolinhos de Bacalau
Codfish Puff Balls

Cataplana de Amêijoas
Clams in Cataplana

Asas de Galinha PiriPiri
Chicken Wings in Piri Piri Sauce

Porco Bêbado
Roast Drunken Pork

Chocolate Cake with Baked Custard
& Dulce de Leche

Bolos de Mel
Portuguese Honey Cakes


Thank you to Rossy and Paula for preparing such a gorgeous, delicious meal. And big hugs to our lovely host, Rossy Earle (above) for a beautiful day. I can't wait for the next one!!



food truck eats toronto

In an effort to promote better street food culture in Toronto as well as to urge loosening the very strict rules surrounding food trucks in the city, Suresh Doss, publisher of Spotlight Toronto (and friend), organized Food Truck Eats. It's the first of three gourmet food truck events happening between July and September. The overwhelming response to his proposed event from numerous chefs and food vendors in the city has extended the event to three separate dates. They're being held at the historic (and beautiful) Distillery District in downtown Toronto. I was asked to design a poster for the event (above!). You know where I will be on July 2nd. Check out the Facebook page for more info. Torontonians, come on down! 

tasted toronto

I attended my first Toronto Taste event this past weekend at the Royal Ontario Museum. It's the biggest fundraiser for Second Harvest (same idea as City Harvest in NYC – I sometimes volunteered my time to them when I lived there). Imagine 60 of Toronto's best chefs, 30 wine/beverage purveyors and 1500 people inside the museum and outside — in large white tents. It was amazing. I walked around with a plate (at one point, two plates!), a fork, a beverage and my iPhone. I somehow managed to take a few photos of the food. This event is not only a great cause, for someone relatively new to the city, it was a perfect way to sample the food from some of the city's best restaurants. I loved it! Although crowded at times, it was a festive event and the food was FANTASTIC. The dishes that had me positively speechless are below (tried as best as I could to remember the exact names). 

top left: Truffle Polenta from Scarpetta (NY/Toronto), top right: Lamb with Chocolate Nib and Raisin Tacos from Auberge du Pommier, bottom left: Chilled Strawberry, Rhubarb and Lobster Soup from Tundra, bottom right: French Onion Soup Dumplings from Forte Bistro and Hiro Sushi

behind the scenes at canoe restaurant

This week I had the privilege of doing a photo essay of Canoe Restaurant's kitchen. I was kindly grated access to all the behind-the-scenes activity of one of the most highly regarded restaurants in all of Canada. Not only did I get to witness the flurry of fast-paced activity in preparation for yet another busy evening, I also got to sample the fantastic food I watched being prepared. I was honoured to be a fly on the wall of an incredibly busy and tightly run ship that is this kitchen. I had to quickly figure out the myriad of code words being exclaimed loudly by the staff to one another in order to maneuver themselves around the space with ease (and avoid accidents). Despite the very hectic atmosphere, it was very friendly and fun work environment. The friendly staff gladly answered any questions I had. I was able to document certain dishes from preparation to plate. I enjoyed hearing from Chef Horne the back stories of specific local ingredients – many of which are harvested specifically for Canoe's chefs.

The food was, needless to say, superb. The Chilled Asparagus Soup left me speechless. It was such a beautiful, fresh and delicate soup. Perfection. In addition, Canoe's sommelier Will Predhomme, paired delicious white wines with my dishes and graciously answered my queries about wine and wineries. It was a wonderful and fascinating experience – especially for someone who is relatively new to the Toronto dining landscape. It was an inspiration to not only see first hand Chef de Cuisine John Horne's passion for food and unique culinary perspective, but also skillful artistry and dedication in everyone who works there. The 54th floor views of downtown Toronto from the floor-to-ceiling windows of the restaurant are breathtaking and ensures the entire space is flooded with the day's changing light. 

Many, many thanks to: Executive Chef Anthony WalshChef de Cuisine (and my host) John Horne, Sommelier William Predhomme and the wonderful staff at Canoe for the wonderful – and very informative – experience. 

Chef Horne's on-the-fly creations

Japanese Asparagus (foraged from the wild especially for the chef)


White Bean, Carrot and Ginger spread

Forming Lobster Salad

Yarmouth Lobster Terrine being prepped for plating by Chef John Horne

Yarmouth Lobster Terrine, Octopus, Pickled Cabbage, Squid Ink Mayo and Saffron Vinaigrette

Left to right: Wellington Beef Sliders, Hand harvested Spicy Asian Greens and a view of the kitchen from the chef's rail and my delicious glass of wine

Beautiful, buttery and crispy: phyllo pastry baked into spirals (for asparagus soup below)

Probably the best soup I've ever had in my life: Chilled Asparagus Soup, Phyllo Spirals with Elderflower Yoghurt Mousse, Chive Oil

My view from the chef's rail

Corn Nut & Hazelnut Milk Chocolate Cake, Caramelized Banana, Chocolate Sugar Crisp with Espresso Ice Cream

mono + mono

It's official, it's all out war in NYC. The battle seems to be on to see who wins the title of 'The Best Korean Fried Chicken.' Over the past few years this has been simmering, from what I could tell, somewhat under the radar. But apparently it's more popular than ever. And everyone is boasting about having THE best fried chicken in town. Including, but not limited to: Momofuku, Bon Chon and a recent discovery: Mono + Mono. During my recent NY trip, my good friend Eric took me there to try it. It's more of a pub/eatery than a traditional restaurant. We were there on the early side – 7:30-8pm. The place didn't get busy until later.

The focal point of this beautiful deco/industrial space (aside from the chicken) and the reason for the name is – get this: the collection of 30,000 vinyl records (vintage soul and jazz). That's right. This amazing collection is displayed in a gigantic built-in wall shelf behind glass that starts at floor level and reaches up to what looks to be 16+ foot high ceilings. There are ever-present DJs that not only spin all these records, the covers of the ones playing on the turntables are displayed between plates of acrylic and attached to a conveyor belt that slowly circulate the perimeter of the space overhead. It's quite amazing. 

Aside from this, the food was great. I loved the grilled edamame (presented in a boat made of grilled corn husk). I loved the (organic) chicken – it was very good. Though I must say I liked Bon Chon's just a little bit more. And nothing has yet to beat Max's chicken, in my humble opinion. My favourite of their tapas had to be the Foie Gras Meat Balls. They were spectacular. I find it difficult to describe them except they were, oddly, both sweet and savoury and nestled in clouds of fluffy mashed potatoes. I'm definitely coming back there next time I'm in the city. 


st. lawrence market, old town toronto and... food.

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I finally stopped in the St. Lawrence Market in the area of Old Town Toronto. It's been mentioned to me by a number of friends in Toronto. Apparently, the market is 205 years old. It's a beautiful, brick structure, a huge space with numerous food vendors. I loved the architecture of the area, too. It might be the most interesting and as well-preserved as I've seen in Toronto. It reminded me of San Francisco (and a little of Paris). It's also similar to Dumbo, Brooklyn. The market is situated on Front Street – which also happens to be near the water. Maybe next time I can make it past the street level and venture downstairs. I did get a chance to enjoy the famous pea meal bacon sandwich (YUM!). And I couldn't help but take photos of some of the food. Can you tell that I've been addicted to shooting everything up close? 

learning to speak maple

Balzac's Coffee Roasters

Revel Caffe's schneckens (criossant-like, maple pastry) YUM.

McCully's Hill Farm maple butter tartsright: maple sap fresh from the tree

Beautifully weathered old farm equipment
McCully's maple butter, maple mustards and pulled maple BBQ pork (SO GOOD.)

The maple forest

Our maple syrup educator at McCully's Hill Farm

Once they look you in the eye, it's tough to think of them as dinner

Simple Fish & Chips – my favourite was the sable fish (center piece)

Maple bacon and leek mussels (LOVE.)

Let Them Eat Cake's Maple Roasted Beet Soup with Sour Cream Swirl

Let Them Eat Cake's Maple Smoked Trout with Citrus Butter and Steamed Wild Rice with Maple Candied Walnuts

right: Maple Roasted Pear Tart with Maple Cream

I was invited to join a Toronto food bloggers' day trip to Stratford, Ontario for a maple syrup tour this past weekend. Not having grown up in Canada, it was a first maple syrup tour experience for me (apparently it's a yearly thing for many Canadian kids). It turned out to be a great (albeit freezing cold) day, I learned a great deal. And as expected, we ate very well. Our gracious host, Emily Chandler from the Stratford Tourism Alliance was so kind to plan our itinerary and take us around to local farms and restaurants. 

I had no idea maple syrup came out from trees very watery with a very mild flavour! It tasted just like sugary water, actually quite refreshing. Different grades of maple syrup are specific to the time of the year it's harvested (ie. lightest syrup in the spring and heaviest towards the fall). The sugar content of the sap determines the grade of syrup you end up with. So many interesting facts and figures I had never heard of before. We even had culinary demonstrations (and recipes) at Let Them Eat Cake for using maple syrup in cooking. Everything was SO good!

It was a great way to spend a Saturday and it's not too far outside of downtown Toronto. Stratford not only has quite a vibrant culinary scene, it also has a very well known theater community and festivals that happen every summer. Apparently, it's also Justin Bieber's hometown ;) it looks similar to parts of Vermont, actually. I met some great people (and even a few adorable animals). I even brought back some amazing maple cured bacon from McCulley's Farm and farm fresh eggs from Soiled Reputation. I'm looking forward to coming back for more great food this summer. Many thanks to Suresh, publisher of Spotlight Toronto for the invitation and Emily Chandler for organizing the trip! 

Here's a list of the places we hit and things we did and ate in Stratford: 
Balzac Coffee Roasters (cappuccino and croissant)
Revel Caffe (for delicious cappucinos and house-made schnecken pastries)
McCully's Hill Farm (an informative maple syrup tasting/tour and maple cured bacon from happy animals)
Simple Fish & Chips (delicious lunch, all Ocean Wise seafood and local veggies)
Perth Pork Farm (learned about heritage pork breeds from farmer Fred Martines)
Soiled Reputation (great story telling by farmer Anthony John and organic fresh eggs and greens)
Let Them Eat Cake (cooking demos for cooking and baking with maple syrup, more great food and a more syrup facts from Hoover's Maple Syrup)

I'm getting hungry again. More photos in my Flickr album.

tasting spring

A meal I shared this weekend (with great company) at Foxley's was a great reminder of spring and summer eating ahead. I literally enjoyed the big, fresh flavours so much that I forgot to photograph the rest of the meal following the amazing scallop ceviche above! Even I couldn't believe it. If this is any indication of what's in store for lighter, summer fare, then I am even more excited. 

oysters, mussels and knives

On Monday evening at Starfish Oyster Bed & Grill, owner, author (and oyster shucking world champion) Patrick McMurray, was unveiling his new oyster shucking knife. Above are just some of the luscious treats we enjoyed. I loved the vermouth and parsley mussels! I even learned a little bit about oysters and their shelf life from different parts of the world. For instance, oysters from colder climates (like Canada) travel better and consequently have a longer shelf-life because they do not react adversely to refrigeration. Whereas oysters from the Gulf of Mexico, for instance, pretty much die as soon as they feel cold temperatures. Therefore, they don't travel very well at all. Interesting, no? 

bob blumer : a glutton for pleasure

I had the privilege of being invited to a very intimate book launch for chef, Foodnetwork show host and author/adventurer, Bob Blumer. I had no idea there would only be eight other people in attendance apart from the man himself. Bob Blumer had prepared a few nibbles for us at the Drake Hotel just prior to our arrival – all recipes from his new book Glutton For Pleasure (great title). He came in and chatted with us about one of countless unique, global culinary experiences and about the experience of putting together his book (his third to date). He was a great story teller, very down-to-earth, irreverend and, I must say, rather sexy. I almost lost my composure when I had a bite of the Cocktail Dates. It was indescribably good. Medjool dates, chunk Parmigianno Reggiano in the center and wrapped in bacon. A great version of Devils on Horseback. What could be better? Obviously, I will be preparing those for the next party I attend or throw. The other delicious treats we enjoyed: Chicken Popsicles and deep fried Chocolate Wontons (filled with peanut butter, bananas and Rolo or Caramilk bar segments – oh YES.).

Upon initially flipping through the book, the photography is undeniably gorgeous. It makes for a very colourful, visual feast. He was quick to point out that the dishes are photographed just as they are – with no manipulation or additional 'styling'. The recipes are prefaced with interesting or funny personal stories and anecdotes that give context to the dishes and how they came to be. The book is also filled with his trademark quirky ingredient combinations and unconventional cooking techniques. I really appreciate his anti-elitist approach to cooking. I'm looking forward to trying the recipes out myself. 

Many thanks to Suresh of Spotlight Toronto for the invitation. 



oysters galore

I'm not a raw oyster connoisseur by any stretch. But I have had very good experiences thus far. The most recent was at the 86'd (foodie night!) hosted by Ivy Knight at The Drake Hotel this past Monday night. It was a decadent evening of seemingly endless (and free!) raw oysters thanks to the Oyster Boy shucking competition. I didn't overdo it despite this fact. I savoured each and every one that I did have. I realized something for the first time on Monday: oysters go very well with vodka (and alcohol, in general). And that fresh hot sauce, delicious. The oyster's reputation for being an aphrodesiac must be based purely on the experience of the slippery texture, the flavours and manner in which you eat them (by pouring it into your mouth). ...They do possess an unusual beauty – but they're not the "prettiest" subject to photograph...


afternoon tea delights

I had the loveliest of lunches with a friend here in Toronto this week. It was at none other than Red Tea Box – a local gourmet tea purveyor, maker of specialty cakes and restaurant. It had been years and years since I've been there and was looking forward to coming back. We didn't stick to the original plan of having high tea (of which they had a choice of three types: traditional, Asian and Moroccan). There were just too many options. Their menu was larger than I expected. So this is what we ate:

Cucumber infused water
A pot (or two) of Lavender Earl Grey tea (amazing stuff)

The October Lunch Bento special:
- Spiced Braised Lamb with Coconut and Almonds on Garlic and Rosemary Scented Polenta (also really amazing)
- Creamy Spinach and Chickpea Fritters with Tahini and Pickled Apples & Beets
- Garlicky Rapini

- Dulce de Leche Espresso Cake
- Hot Chocolate Brownie slice with Caramel (I've forgotten the actual name)

I was truly impressed at how flavour-packed and artfully made everything was. The food has so many flavours were infused into every dish. And considering the amount of earl grey tea I've been drinking lately, I appreciated their lavender earl grey that much more. It was amazing. The back house area behind an adorable courtyard where we sat was also very cozy. It made for such a great afternoon for catching up and consuming a whole lot of delicious food.

One thing I will note about Red Tea Box is that you won't find a website for their business. Apparently the owner is averse to the whole idea (and apparently also averse to free press/promotion via blogs). It's pretty hard to believe these days. I suppose they've done quite well for themselves over the years without the need for online presence so who am I to judge? They don't even have an email address. Crazy, right?


inspiring a move : sam james coffee bar

Moving to a new city (not to mention country) involves not only the tedious process of re-establishing your staples, it also requires learning all new
neighbourhoods. Well this week, I found my new coffee joint. My go-to spot, if you will. Sam James Coffee Bar in the Bickford Park neighbourhood
of Toronto near the Annex (I believe) was supposed to have Toronto's best coffee. Of course, I had to find out for myself. With my sister Christine's apt
being very nearby, it was on my list.

It's owned and run by the highly-revered and award-winning barista, Sam James. He's this young, fresh-faced, tattoo-covered guy who was so passionate
and knowledgeable about coffee, he opened this little bar just over a year ago. I tried the cappuccino – apparently Sam James' favourite one to make –
and it literally blew me away. It might just be THE best and most delicious cappuccino I've EVER had. Perhaps on par with, if not better than Café Regular's
in Park Slope or Stumptown at Ace Hotel (my personal favourites in New York). It is perfection. The croissants are also quite amazing. They're apparently
made by a soon-to-open French restaurant across the street called ICI.  

Judging by the steady stream of people (often with lines going out the door), I'd say I'm not the only fan-turned-addict. Not only is the coffee unbelievably
good, the friendly Sam James staff already know me by name. Who doesn't love that? They even let me take a pastry home without paying when I was short
on cash the first time I came in. Everyone there is just so nice. This IS Canada, after all. All the rumours are true.

So the other question I have is this: would it be completely irrational of me to choose a neighbourhood to move into based on where I know I can get amazing
coffee? I'm inclined to think not. Being a newbie makes the little things that help acclimate you to a new place important. Great coffee is important! 

Don't you agree? 


montreal gastronomie

Here are just SOME of what we ate in Montreal. I consumed my share of cream, butter, sugar and bread for the
remainder of the year. How indulgent! How fun. So much more left to try... next time. 

Bacon, egg and swiss cheese crepe topped with maple syrup (very French-Canadian, I thought) at Quoi de Neuf? on Rue Notre-Dame 

These frites had to have been deep fried and lightly dusted with brown sugar. Perfectly savoury and sweet. Amazing. Quoi de Neuf?

Egg whites with spinach, chevre, salmon, mushroom and capers. Divine. Also at Quoi de Neuf?

Cupcakes we purchased a sleek gift box for the cast of People Power from Itsi Bitsi (they loved them!)

I didn't try these, but they definitely looked interesting.

This salad from Creperie Chez Suzette looked more like dessert but it was delicious (the yoghurt/strawberry dressing was
actually more savoury than sweet – contrary to how it looks)

Escargot with plenty butter and cheese, Creperie Chez Suzette

Creme de la Creme cafe where we spent at least four hours straight

Enjoyed glasses of this wonderful wine in Old Montreal following a leisurely afternoon exploring 

We had an amazing deal on Moules et Frites three different ways at L'Academie. My personal favourite sauce/broth
was: cognac, cream and green peppercorn. It was to-die-for!  

dutch boy burger


A friend called to my attention a new burger joint in the neighbourhood called Dutch Boy Burger a couple of weeks ago. So we decided to
walk over there for lunch and try it out. I was naturally curious about the name. The story is, a Dutch Boy paint store used to be in the
same space. The new owners decided to keep and capitalize on the familiar brand name. The extra large Dutch Boy Paints sign established
a great classic diner aesthetic to the small space.

I ordered the Dutch Boy Burger (stout-soaked cheddar sauteed crimini shrooms & caramelized onion; fries included for $8.50) shared a 
generous plate of onion rings and a Foxton Park White Birch soda. So what's the verdict? Everything, including the soda, was really really 
good. The portions are generous, everything fresh and juicy. I must point out that their (Vidalia) onion rings might be the best I've had.  
The batter they coat the rings with was very thin and crispy (and not at all 'bready'). Biting into them revealed the sweetness of the tender  
Vidalia onions. Perfection. And for the comfort food connoisseurs: they fry absolutely everything in duck fat – only on Sundays. Also a nice 
detail to point out, it's also a good spot for locavores. Their suppliers are primarily local. Next time you're in Prospect Heights having drinks  
at Franklin Park, go through the back door and have yourself a burger and rings (the two establishments are attached). 


food truck drive-in fun

The NYC Food Film Festival event this past Saturday was the World's First Food Truck Drive-In. Thanks to two guest tickets via my friends at Whimsy + Spice, I was able to attend the "sold out" event. It was held in Dumbo, Brooklyn – literally under the Brooklyn Bridge. It was food truck and locavore foodist's heaven. I'm not certain why they limited entry to a free event. As a result, they had fewer than expected attendees. It was a great idea that all of NY should have been able to just walk in to. The food was wonderful and the weather cleared up to make a really lovely evening of outdoor summer film viewing. So much fun!

Here's some of the great food that we ate: 

Banh Mi style hotdog from Asia Dog
Squid Ink taco from Choncho's Tacos
Green Pirate juice from The Green Pirate Juice Truck
Crostini with Goat Cheese, Hazelnuts and Honey from Pizzamoto 
Apricot and Chamomile People's Pops courtesy of The Cooking Channel truck
Tangy Pork and Chicken Sliders from The Krave Korean BBQ Truck
Everything Cookie and Earle Grey Cookie Sandwiches by Whimsy + Spice

Check out the NYC Food Film Festival site for info on next year's events.


the sign on the door read 'cookbooks'

While strolling down Greenwich Street late Saturday afternoon this weekend with a friend, we stumbled upon the
cutest little shop I had never seen or heard of before. It looked to be closed for the day, so we couldn't walk in. But
the old iMac and the clutter suggested that there would normally be some level of activity taking place in the room.
I wasn't sure what it was at first. Only a curious sign that read 'Cookbooks' on a metal plate adhered to an old door. 
When we looked inside, I was fascinated. It was like a room you would see in an old doll house. There was dusty
old wallpaper on the walls and the doorways looked shorter than usual. It was filled with – safe to assume – cookbooks.
It (and the old building it was in) was adorable. I had to find out more. 

I discovered that this charming little shop is actually Joanne Hendricks, Cookbooks. It is filled with all types of
cookbooks and books about food, wine, dining, etiquette, old and out of print books, obscure books, menus and
paraphernalia. There's even a corresponding online shop called Greenwich Street Cookbooks. I would love to
come back and look around. There's no end to great little places to discover in this city. I love it. So if you're ever
near the corner of Greenwich St. and Canal, stop in.


hot in red hook


Last Saturday, I joined my friend Dave Pinter for opening day of the Red Hook Food Truck extravaganza. I had been hearing about the trucks for a few years but had yet to try. It was worth the wait (and the walk). So food trucks lined the street corner around Red Hook Park serving all manner of latin food. It cost $5 for this huge (and very tasty) beef huarache and $3 for fresh watermelon juice. There are picnic tables that line the edge of the park too, so you can enjoy the food like civilized human beings.
The day turned into an epic walk through Red Hook, Ikea and the waterfront. Lovely and quiet with a great view of, well, everything: Manhattan, Staten Island and New Jersey.
Go check it out. Tomorrow.
the (badass) juice truck
Dave's pork huarache and tamarind juice (so GOOD)
the incredible shrimp ceviche – I can still taste it, yum
heat supply


a fresh perspective


During my juice and smoothie cleanse, I've been trying to focus on fruits and vegetables. It's been about getting back to fresh, simple and pure. While shopping at Whole Foods to supply my fridge this week, I was inspired to take these photos. Perhaps I took the photos to be inspired. Either way, I particularly love the lettuce looks. I got close enough to abstract the forms and allow it to take on a whole new kind of beauty.
I realize that by doing the cleanse, that it's really something I need to do regularly. It truly does make a difference and it's a great reminder that I don't need as much as I think I do. It's also not so extreme when you allow yourself to still have a healthy dinner.