Lucky Dip – Friday, March 16th, 2012

In Toronto:

After 20 years in business, Alice Fazooli’s has closed their downtown location on Adelaide Street West. Locations in Mississauga, Oakville, Vaughan and Richmond Hill continue to operate.

Pizza e Pazzi has had a soft opening at their second St. Clair location at 671 St. Clair Avenue West. Official grand opening takes place on March 29th.

Sandwich and cocktail shop This End Up (1454 Dundas Street West) is planning on opening their doors to the public as of noon today, but as of late last night, the DineSafe inspector hadn’t shown up. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for details on when they’ll be ready to go.

The Hot ‘n’ Dog (216 Close Avenue) is doing so well that they’ve now added hamburgers, pizza and ice cream to their menu. All available with any of the 80+ toppings.

Roncesvalles is getting meatballs. Chef Rod Bowers’ Hey Meatball will be opening a location at 91 Roncesvalles Avenue in May.

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Recipe For Change Recap

Foodshare‘s fabulous Recipe For Change event migrated to the North St. Lawrence Market this year, allowing for more space, which in turn allowed for more chefs and more guests. I love that organizers make a point of not overselling the event, so it’s never packed; line-ups at food stations are short or non-existent and there is no sense of frenzy involved.

Recipe For Change is FoodShare’s annual fundraiser in which they raise monies directed toward their Field to Table Schools program which teaches school children about where their food comes from. Everyone I talked to on Thursday night considered the event a great success; hats off to Adrienne De Francesco and everyone at FoodShare for a fantastic time.

Below, check out some of the offerings from participating chefs. We didn’t try everything (and I somehow missed most of the desserts, which has got to be a first), but everything we did have was wonderful.

Above: Chickpea polenta topped with ratatouille and fresh mozzarella from Chef Marc Breton of the Gladstone Hotel.

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To Market, To Market… To Market

Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of excuses as to why people don’t make the effort to shop at farmers’ markets, with the most oft-heard one being that there just isn’t anything accessible and easy to get to. This has changed considerably in the past couple of years, and downtown Toronto now has over 20 separate markets, with at least one market taking place every day of the week during the summer and early autumn.

Which begs the question – have we hit a saturation point? Are markets the new Starbucks with two on every corner?

On Thursdays in the downtown core, there are now three separate markets within walking distance of each other. The market at Metro Hall is the most established of these, with a selection of vendors who are predominantly farmers. There are many vendors selling the same in-season produce, but this tends to create a healthy competition that keeps prices reasonable. During the lunch hour, there are live performances, and half a dozen food vendors along the south end of the square selling everything from Caribbean food to crepes to peameal bacon on a kaiser.

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To Market, To Market

While there are a few farmers’ markets that continue to run throughout the winter and spring seasons, they usually take place on Saturday mornings and are not always convenient. One of the wonderful things about Toronto’s farmers’ market scene in the peak season is that there are so many markets, scattered throughout the city, conveniently located near either home or work for most people.

During the summer, markets at Nathan Phillips Square on Wednesday mornings and Metro Hall on Thursday mornings are both extremely popular. Workers in the downtown core frequent these markets not just for grocery shopping but use them to grab snacks of baked goods or fresh fruit. When the markets shut down in the fall, this large population is under-served.

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Changing It Up

This past Thursday night, 250 lucky people trekked through the snow to attend Foodshare’s Recipe For Change fundraising event. I say lucky because the event sold out and many people found themselves on a waiting list, but also because some of Toronto’s top chefs were on hand with delicious treats for guests to enjoy.

The event raised funds for the Field to Table Schools program which brings food literacy back to students from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 12.

Held in Foodshare’s warehouse at their Croatia Street offices (the same space where the weekly Good Food Boxes get packed), the room was simply but elegantly decorated, with plenty of seats (no, really, there’s usually never enough seats or tables at these things – I always threaten to come wearing a toolbelt to hold my camera, notebook, wineglass and cutlery) and plenty of good stuff to eat. Our only minor complaint was the lighting, which, while it made the room look fantastic, was not so photo-friendly. As such, I don’t have photos of everything that was offered (the full menu is available on the Foodshare website), but hopefully these will inspire readers to support both Foodshare and the great work they do as well as the many chefs and restaurants who donated their time and product to this event.

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Toronto’s Terre Madre Day

Over the past few years, Slow Food activists have taken part in a bi-annual event in Torino, Italy called Terra Madre. First held in 2004, the event brings together food activists from around the world in a giant conference and marketplace where people can exchange ideas and information. There are conferences, symposiums, dinners and markets, all with a focus on sharing ideas about how to promote sustainable food. Terra Madre takes place during the even-numbered years (2006, 2008… another coming up in 2010), and this year, Slow Food decided that it would be a good idea for individual convivia to hold local events – both as a great way to support local food producers, and because, well, not everyone can afford to get on a plane to Italy.

Organized and paid for by Slow Food Toronto (monies raised at the Picnic at the Brickworks allowed them to pay participating farmers and producers to take part, a rarity in the world of markets and trade shows where the producers usually have to pay to participate), this year’s Terra Madre Day took place at the FoodShare warehouse.

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The Savvy Shopper – The Real Meaning of Local

When someone refers to a pub as their “local”, no doubt we all imagine the same thing; a place where the atmosphere is homey, where the staff greet them by name, and where they probably know at least one other person in the room. Imagine the set from Cheers and that would be just about right.

We call these establishments our Local because it’s probably within walking distance from home – geographically it’s nearby.

When it comes to food, however, local is about more than geography. We are comfortable in our local pub because we’ve formed relationships – with the staff and owners, and with the other patrons, who are more than likely our neighbours. But even when we make an effort to buy local food, to support local producers, we don’t often get that same connection.

It’s hard – farmers are out in their fields, bakers manning their ovens, fishers on their boats. Building relationships with the people who make our food isn’t as easy as it’s made out to be. And I say that as someone who works in the industry and gets to spend time a lot more time with local food producers than the average consumer.

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On the Shelf – April 26th

As someone with a love of food, I’m always poking around in shops looking for new things to taste and try. And to share. On the Shelf is a new (-ish – we did one back in December) monthly feature in which we share our great food finds for the month.

Alphanso Mangoes
If you’ve never eaten an Alphanso mango, you don’t know what you’re missing. Not to be confused with the Mexican Atulfo mango which can be found in grocery stores from late February onwards, Alphanso mangoes come from southern India and are available only from early April to mid May. In Toronto, they can usually only be found is various shops in Little India, so head on over to Gerrard Street East and stop by Toronto Cash and Carry(1405 Gerrard Street East) or Koohinoor Foods (1438 Gerrard Street East) to try some. Alphansos are generally available by the box only (either a half or whole dozen) and 12 of them will run somewhere around $24. At $2 a piece – and smaller than the Atulfo, this might seem like an exorbitant price until you taste them, and then all other mangoes will be dead to you. A combination of floral and spice, Alphanso mangoes are juicy, heady and fragrant. (I’ve recently found canned Alphanso mangoes at my local supermarket – will report on those next month.)

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The Charms of the Farm – Why a CSA is the Best Way to Enjoy the Harvest

harvestparsley

It’s almost April, and everywhere you turn people are planning their gardens – mapping out plots, ordering seeds. It’s enough to make a yardless city gal a little bit jealous, and I know I’m not the only one experiencing garden envy.

For those of us who can’t grow our own food (or who have ambitious plans in April that never seem to include weeding in the 30°C temperatures of August), the next best thing is to find our very own farmer who will do it for us – weeding included.

Spring is also when farmers start planning their upcoming growing season and is the perfect time for customers looking to get involved with a Community Shared Agriculture(CSA) programme to find a farmer to work with.

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