The Proof of the Pudding is in the Judging

When people joke that they’re jealous of my job, I remind them that’s it’s not always fun. Sometimes I have to eat things that are gross and unappetizing, and sometimes I get to eat stuff that, while delicious, can get to be overwhelming. Or sometimes it can be both gross and overwhelming – as in the case when I ate 7 different styles of haggis in one sitting. Betcha nobody wanted my job THAT day.

So while I got comments and looks of envy when I told people that I’d be judging a sticky toffee pudding contest, I don’t know that anybody would really have wanted to take my place. I did, after all, eat 4 portions of sticky toffee pudding, with a different beer for each one.

Okay, to be fair, I shared my portions with Greg and we didn’t finish them all, but still… we came home yesterday feeling a little ooky from all the sugar.

But it really was worth it. Most people think of sticky toffee pudding with a smile on their faces, but who could have known there was such diversity in what was being served in Toronto restaurants. Light to dark, fluffy to dense, the puds ran the gamut.

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They’ve Got Sausages at Marben and They’re Happy to See You

It seems as if every chef worth their weight in pork belly has been playing around with sausage-making lately. And with sausage and hot dog restaurants showing up as the next big trend, we’re all going to be eating many more of the things in the near future. So why not pit local chefs against each other to see who truly makes the best wurst.

Ryan Donovan and the gang at Marben (488 Wellington Street West) have decided to do just that. Throughout the spring and summer, select Wednesdays (2 each month) will see Sausage League take over the restaurant. While Marben’s regular menu will still be on offer, guests will have the option of ordering the sausage special for $25. What they’ll get is two dishes – one prepared by each chef – and they’ll get to choose their favourite. The chef who gets the most votes each night will move on to the next round of competition.

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Stirring the Pot with Chef Jesse Vallins

Jesse Vallins is a native of Toronto and has spent the last 12 years working in some of the city’s best restaurants. He has spent the last four years as the chef at Trevor Kitchen and Bar (38 Wellington Street East).

What inspired you to become a chef?

For as long as I can remember I’ve fallen asleep and woken up thinking about food. I love eating and sharing food with people and the experience of restaurants. I don’t care if it’s Canoe (66 Wellington Street West) or a dive in Chinatown, all restaurants are as much about experience as eating. I’ve always loved that and wanted to be a part of it.

What is your favourite dish at the restaurant where you cook and why?

The bacon and tomato salad with avocado ranch and crispy shallots. I love it because it’s got a great mix of different flavours and textures that really work together…and it’s absolutely lousy with bacon.

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The Many Flavours of Riverside

Greg tells many great stories of the time he lived at Queen and Broadview in the late 80s, upstairs from one of the guys from  Skinny Puppy. Those stories almost always come back to the fact that there was a dearth of restaurants in the area back then, and save for but a few greasy spoons, you pretty much had to leave the neighbourhood to find a decent place to eat.

What a difference a couple of decades makes, with the recently-named Riverside District having become a magnet for young families, boutiques and galleries as well as hip restaurants, cafes and food shops. A stroll along Queen Street East from the Don River over to Carlaw offers up any number of great places to eat and shop for food. And let’s not forget the coffee.

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