Lucky Dip – Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

In Toronto:

Remember the sad, tired cafeteria on the 8th floor of the Bay Queen Street? Now it looks like this. The Arcadian Loft is a new event space run by Oliver & Bonacini set to open soon.

Annona in the Park Hyatt Toronto (4 Avenue Road) has introduced a spring sharing menu, featuring dishes suitable for 3-4 people and including lobster grilled cheese, seafood risotto, rack of lamb, and filet mignon.

Tomorrow is FoodShare‘s Great Big Crunch. Register with them and then eat an apple. Yeah, it’s mostly for schoolkids, but apples are tasty and it sets a good example for the kids in your life.

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Lucky Dip – Monday, February 20th, 2012

Welcome to the revamped Lucky Dip column in which I will be bringing you a daily selection (Monday to Friday) of local food news, upcoming events and links to local and international food news stories. Quantity of content will vary by day (thus the “Lucky Dip” name – you get what I scoop up), but I’ll try to ensure a little bit of everything.

If you enjoy the Lucky Dip posts, please help spread the word by sharing the link via Facebook, Twitter, etc. And if you have info on local restaurant news or events, I’d be very appreciative if you’d send it my way by visiting my Contact Page. Cheers!

In Toronto:

Caplansky’s Delicatessen (356 College Street) is closed this week from February 20th – 24th for renovations.

The Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen Street West) has hired Chef Michael Smith (no, not that Michael Smith) as their new Executive Chef. Smith has previously worked at C5, and is in the process of revamping the various menus at the hotel.

Coming soon – This End Up, a new restaurant at 1454 Dundas Street West that will be serving sandwiches and cocktails. What? You need more than that?? Watch for their opening in March.

Both chef Carl Heinrich and butcher Ryan Donovan have announced they’ll be leaving Marben (488 Wellington Street West) (wait, who’s left to run the place?) to open their own restaurant somewhere in the west end. Heinrich is set to take part in the upcoming season of Top Chef Canada.

The Construction Site has opened a second location in Sherway Gardens where they’re spreading the grilled cheese love.

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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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Foodshare: 25 Years of Good, Healthy Food

There’s always something bittersweet about a food charity celebrating a big anniversary. Sure there’s all of the progress and hard work that deserves to be honoured, an account of all the people who have been helped. But on the other hand, there’s the fact that said charity still needs to exist at all. That issues such as hunger and food security in our city have not been sufficiently addressed and that individuals and families still need these organizations to help them make ends meet.

FoodShare is one of those organizations that will likely always be with us, because they’re dealing with more than just getting food to people in need. FoodShare is all about education and skills, in teaching people to cook and grow their own food, and in knowing where their food comes from.

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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 Flavours of Summer Are Set to Shine at Harvest Wednesdays

harvestjulyravioli

It has spawned countless copycats, and has earned Chef Marc Breton a local food hero award from the Toronto Food Policy Council. It brings together farmers and local food producers with the people who eat their food. It has created friendships and communities, and has taught urbanites how easy (and delicious) it is to eat with the seasons.

Harvest Wednesdays is back for its fourth year, offering up dishes made from locally grown produce, as well as locally-produced meats, cheeses, wines, beer and more.

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Someone Left the Cake Out in the Rain…

For some, it’s a dream come true, for others, it’s something they fall into and love, but lots of people end up running food-prep businesses that they start from home. Some of these are catering businesses, many more are baking businesses where folks use their love of pastry and mad skills to bake, decorate and sell cakes and pastries, doing what they love and making a little cash on the side.

I have family members, friends and know of a number of online (blogger) acquaintances who are all either running or starting a home-based food business.

Unfortunately, they’re all really, really illegal.

Home Business Advocate Beverly Williams explains about food-prep businesses on her site:

You must call the Department of Health in your area FIRST to find out if you are allowed to prepare food for sale in your home kitchen. The answer will be NO! I have never found a jurisdiction that allowed food for sale to be prepared in a home kitchen. Some areas do allow you to have a separate commercial kitchen for this purpose but the cost may be prohibitive. In some areas, you may be able to find a commercial kitchen that is not being used all day that might be willing to rent their kitchen to you. Most jurisdictions will require you to have your own business license as well.

 

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The Local Food Scene – Who Does What? Part 1

whodoesberries

Although asparagus season is actually still at least a few weeks (okay, months) off, I keep trying to convince myself that any day now, I’ll run up to that display in my local supermarket’s produce section and the tag will say “Product of Ontario” instead of “Product of Peru”. Of course, when local asparagus becomes available, we’ll all know it – so many local organizations have popped up over the past few years to advocate for local food that they’ll be fighting to tell us all who has the first, best and cheapest asparagus around.

Despite working with and writing about many of the various regional food advocacy groups over the past couple of years, I still have a hard time remembering who does what. Which means that the average consumer in the Toronto area is probably even more bewildered than I am. Here then, is a brief primer, separated by category, of the various organizations, what they do, and where you can find them.

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It’s All Good at the General Store

 

goodcatchsoup

Good Catch General Store
1556 Queen Street West
416-533-4664

The success of any retail business is based on its ability to respond to the surrounding community. Can you give the customer what they want? A business that sees itself as part of the community can take that relationship one step further, as it not only supplies the regional customer base with goods, but gives those customers a central place to meet, shop and be a part of things.

 

In the olden days, that would have been a local general store. In 2008, it’s also the general store, or at least that’s the case in Parkdale.

 

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And I Would Eat 100 Miles, and I Would Eat 100 More…

Spent the morning at our local taking part in a 100-mile brunch hosted by the MPP for the riding, Peggy Nash. I’m still not sure why Ms. Nash decided to put together such an event (we’ve got a Provincial election coming up, not a Federal one), but as the $25 price went to FoodShare, and as it was a 5-minute walk from home, we figured why not.

The event went off okay, but it wasn’t perfect. Food-wise, it appears that the primary food produced within a 100-mile radius is pork. Pretty much every part of the pig was accounted for, to the detriment of the vegetarians in the room. Vegans were completely SOL unless they stuck to the fruit plate. I loaded up on salad, cheese panini and a slice of Spanish potato omelet. While all the food was good, and was created by area chefs, the overall menu lacked cohesiveness. It felt like a potluck where no one consulted anyone else on what they were bringing.

Technical issues kept the coffee lukewarm for the first while and when I mentioned aloud that there was cream and milk but no sugar, some woman wagged a finger at me. “Sugar is not grown within 100 miles.” She came really close to wearing a cup of non-local coffee.

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