Lucky Dip – Monday, October 31st, 2011

Uh… how much candy are your kids eating after Halloween that they’re getting cavities  and “weakening” their teeth? Sure, taffy and the like is probably not a good pairing with expensive dental work, but if your kids are eating enough Halloween swag to get a cavity, there are other issues at play. [Globe and Mail]

And so you know the value of what your neighbours have shelled out – the candy hierarchy. [Boing Boing]

Groupon usually gets you cheap deals for cheap food – but they’re expanding into upscale restaurants. Could we soon see Groupon deals for Scaramouche and Pangaea?? [Nation’s Restaurant News]

The difference between food allergies and food sensitivities. (Although, as an allergy sufferer, the bit about the scratch test being the gold standard is laughable. We really need to update allergy testing beyond a 100-year-old system that is famously inaccurate.) [Toronto Sun]

Batali does Fieri for Halloween. [Eater]

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Stirring the Pot with Chef Paul Pisa

Paul Pisa is a homegrown Toronto chef, trained under chefs Mark McEwan and Keith Froggett. In the mid-1990s, Pisa was executive chef of Ellipsis, the popular though now-defunct modern Italian brunch and dinner spot on College Street. When Ellipsis closed, Pisa moved across the street to helm the large and busy Brasserie Aix, serving authentic French-style food.

In 2002, Pisa first joined the team of Toronto hospitality specialists, the Quinn family, who were longtime friends from Scaramouche (1 Benvenuto Place) days. At P.J. O’Brien (39 Colborne Street), Pisa was awarded Best Pub Fare in Canada by the National Post, and built a popular following serving high-quality gastro-pub fare.

In 2005, Pisa left Toronto and launched his own restaurant in the countryside north of Kingston, Ontario. While the business was successful, the partnership was not, and ultimately Pisa returned to the city – and to Quinn hospitality – as Executive Chef of Quinn’s Steakhouse and Irish Bar (96 Richmond Street West), located in the Sheraton Centre hotel at Bay and Richmond.

What inspired you to become a chef?

When I was young I studied music. Then one day I ate a meal prepared by the late Chef Raphaelo Ferrari that showed me the music in food, and I was inspired.

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Tastefully Tasty

Greg said it best on Twitter: “sweet merciful crap, there’s more food inside!”

Celebrating its 20th anniversary, Second Harvest’s Toronto Taste fund raiser upped its game substantially this year, doubling the number of chefs involved (from 30 to 60) and taking over part of the Royal Ontario Museum and Queen’s Park (the street, not the park itself). With tickets going for $250 (half of which garnered a receipt for tax purposes), it wasn’t an event for everybody – a fact that won Toronto Taste the teeniest bit of flack over on Torontoist, where they pointed out the irony of having a fancy food event in order to help raise funds to feed the hungry. Especially one where some people would take a bite of something and then pitch it. Yikes! (Next year I’m going with a doggy bag to bring people’s half-eaten leftovers home to my dogs! Can I get away with that at the swankest food event of the year?)

But the fact is that every $250 ticket will buy 250 meals, and Second Harvest delivers over 15,000 meals every day (that’s 6 million pounds of food each year!), mostly from donated perishable food that would otherwise go to waste from restaurants and cafeterias.

And while the following photos are most definitely food porn, we’d like to encourage you to consider the bigger picture. Second Harvest will happily accept your donations – in any amount – even though the big event is over. The Toronto Taste online auction, which runs until June 23rd, includes cool items at every price point. As well, please consider supporting the participating restaurants if you possibly can – they all worked incredibly hard and donated their time and food to the cause.

We’d also like to offer hearty congratulations for a job well done to everyone at Second Harvest – and that amazing army of volunteers. You guys rock.

Shown above: Ontario perch with chorizo, pickled heirloom tomatoes and fava bean puree from Chef Andrea Nicholson of Great Cooks on 8.

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Souped Up

This past Wednesday was sunny and warm – not a day you’d typically consider eating soup. But 400 people lined up at the doors of the Gardiner Museum to take part in Empty Bowls, an annual event featuring local chefs, local pottery artists and of course, great soup.

For $45, attendees not only got to sample soups from 20 different restaurants at the Jamie Kennedy at the Gardiner restaurant, they also got a beautiful, hand-made bowl to take home.

This fantastic event is based entirely on donations – from the chefs donating their time and food, to local potters donating bowls, many made especially for this event. With bread donated from Ace Bakery and crackers from Evelyn’s Crackers, plus water from Gaia and cups from Green Shift, all proceeds from the event go towards Anishnawbe Health Toronto, a charitable organization that provides food to homeless people. Volunteers and Gardiner Museum staff also donated their time, and props, kudos and huge piles of thanks and appreciation must go to organizer Siobhan Boyd who pulls this thing together every year with aplomb.

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Why We All Need to Wise Up

Ocean Wise celebrated its 5 year anniversary this month by announcing a number of new restaurant partners across the country. Readers who haven’t heard of the Ocean Wise program need not feel out of the loop – it’s only been a year since a handful of Toronto restaurants signed on, and while this anniversary celebration included some of the newest Toronto-area restaurants to join, the total still numbers under a dozen.

Created as a conservation program by the Vancouver Aquarium, it makes sense that the majority of restaurants involved in the sustainable seafood program are in British Columbia. While Torontonians have been on the sustainability bandwagon for a few years now, that same diligence seems not to apply to fish, an item that regularly hits our plates without any concern as to how it got there or where it came from.

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What’s On the Table – In Pictures

Okay, so I know you readers are divided on the topic of event recaps. Some of you hate them, preferring an event preview instead so you can actually buy a ticket and go – and for the most part, I agree. Who wants to hear about all the fun they missed? But others of you love the food pr0n, the piles of photos of gorgeously executed food and drink, particularity at events with higher ticket prices that might not be affordable to most.

Here’s our take on this – since the fancy events are usually charity fund-raisers we have no problem running a photo-essay after the fact, because it raises more awareness of the issues and the charity (even though the event is over, I’m sure The Stop would be happy to accept any donations our readers might want to make). And it also helps to promote the many wonderful restaurants that donated their time and product to such a worthy cause.

So if you hate the recaps, look away, and we’ll use the same images when we write the event preview article next year! But if you want to see the tasty treats offered to What’s on the Table guests, click on through and enjoy.

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Bowled Over

Last Wednesday evening, the line-up outside the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art stretched as far north as Bloor Street. People had come prepared; many had snacks, drinks and umbrellas to shield them from the warm May sunshine, because to be first in line meant having the dedication to wait for hours to get in. But being first in line also meant having first choice when selecting a bowl, as well as getting to the variety of soups from the participating local chefs before they all ran out. And they would run out.

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