Wouldn’t You Like to Be a Taster Too?

As the food charity season winds down, we finish off with the biggest of the lot. Last night, Second Harvest’s Toronto Taste took over the lobby of the Royal Ontario Museum, as well as much of the street along Queen’s Park as 2000 guests descended upon 60 chefs and restaurants, and over 30 beverage purveyors for a night of eating in support of one of Toronto’s most beloved food charities.

There is no possible way the average person can sample every item, and even though Greg and I tried to share things, we still couldn’t get to even half of the things on offer. But here’s an idea of what we came across.

Above: steamed pork buns from All The Best Fine Foods and 100km Foods

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Are You a Taster?

Second Harvest’s Toronto Taste is one of the biggest and most important food events of the year. In its 21-year history Toronto Taste has raised over $4 million, enough for 8 million meals. Yes, we know the $250 ticket price is out of reach for many people, even if half of it is tax deductible; and yes, we know that articles about swank expensive events like this can make some people feel bad because they can’t afford to attend. But Toronto Taste deserves to be written about because it does really fantastic work in helping to feed underprivileged people in our city. And from a food perspective, it deserves to be written about because, really, where the heck else are you going to get to eat food by 60 of Toronto’s top chefs?

Having attended a couple of Toronto Tastes now, I’m offering up a survival guide. How to get the most for that $250 ticket and have the best time possible. This takes some planning if you’re serious about it, which is why I’m offering my tips now, even though the event doesn’t take place until June 12th. You need to be planning, people!

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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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Stirring the Pot with Chef Andrea Nicholson-Jack

Since the age of fourteen, Andrea has been consumed by the art of food: as a creator, teacher and connoisseur.

She is a Red Seal certified chef who received her culinary training at George Brown College in Toronto.  Her professional experience includes positions in respected Toronto restaurants such as Via Allegro, The Fifth, Sequel, Thirty Five Elm and Trattoria Nervosa, as well as travelling the culinary globe and working with internationally acclaimed chefs. Andrea is currently the only Canadian to hold a diploma from the A.P.N. of Naples, Italy, distinguishing her as a Pizzaiuoli.

Andrea’s passion for food is evident in her masterful creations, which celebrate the purity of local and seasonal produce. Support for Canadian farmers and purveyors is a central tenet of her cuisine. Andrea has received several awards for culinary artistry and has been featured on network television. Her credentials and experience identify her as one of Toronto’s top female chefs.

Andrea is now Executive Chef and Director of Great Cooks Culinary Centre (401 Bay Street, Simpson’s Tower, 8th floor).

What inspired you to become a chef?

How delicious food is and the artistic ability to create.

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Toronto Taste 2009 – Good Eats in Pictures

Fabulous whitefish sandwiches from Epic at the Royal York.

We came, we saw, we ate.

Second Harvest’s Toronto Taste fundraising event was, by our observation, a resounding success. Spread out over Cumberland Street and the Village of Yorkville Park, over 30 of Toronto’s top restaurants, as well as a number of wineries and breweries, offered samples of their finest fare. While tickets were $225 a pop, attendees were offered unlimited food and drink, plus the opportunity to rub shoulders with some celebrity chefs including Michael Smith and Mark McEwan (anyone who lingered too long at the One booth could also have earned themselves a cameo in an upcoming episode of McEwan’s TV show The Heat), not to mention event host and TV personality Carlo Rota. It was wonderful to see attendees dressing up (I was tempted to start snapping photos of cute outfits as well as the luscious food) and even a little bit of rain didn’t put chefs or guests off their game.

Here is a collection of pics taken by Greg and I throughout the evening. There wasn’t a lot of signage or a list of who was serving what, so some of the food porn doesn’t have a chef or restaurant attached to it. Apologies in advance to the chefs who I haven’t been able to match to their food. If you were there and can identify the chef/restaurant of the mystery dishes, please let me know.

Finally, thanks to the organizers for such a fabulous event, to all the chefs and restaurants who made it a true feast for the senses and to the many, many volunteers who went out of their way to ensure that guests had forks and napkins and clean plates. Congratulations to you all – truly a job well done!

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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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