Category Archives: Product Review (food)

Taste of Toronto – 2014

I still wasn’t feeling 100% when I woke up on Sunday morning, but there was no way was I passing up my last chance to experience the first edition of “Taste  of Toronto”. Though finances and dietary restrictions limited my tasting experience, I still got a “taste” of what everyone else experienced and I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed myself!

One of the great joys of living in Toronto is the abundance of amazing, epicurean offerings available. From 5 star restaurants headed by up  famous chefs, to local neighbourhood eateries and watering holes, to annual ethnic street festivals in every neighbourhood, to an ever expanding and epic food truck culture.

If there is one thing that NOBODY complains about when visiting Toronto, it’s a lack of food choices

TOR_9236So when I heard that Toronto had been chosen as the first “Taste of…” destination in North America, I was thrilled and not surprised in the least.

From it’s humble beginnings as a single festival in London ten years ago, Taste has grown into a worldwide foodie phenomenon, with “Taste of ” festivals now running annually in cities throughout the UK, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Australia. Continue reading Taste of Toronto – 2014

Gluten Free Expo Toronto 2013

Gluten Free Expo TorontoWhen people ask me “what is the hardest part about having to live gluten free?” I usually say “the inconvenience”.

The “diet” itself isn’t that hard. Simply eating a clean diet of fruits, veggies, meats, fish, and dairy you prepare yourself is pretty easy actually. But, once you step outside the safety of your own kitchen and cooking skills, the task becomes much harder.

No longer can you simply “grab something quick”. No longer can you simply go to an event and be “spontaneous”.
That’s the word: Spontaneity.
It’s gone from your life for good.

But you adapt. You learn to pre-plan. You learn to go through life like a sherpa, carrying a bag filled with “safe” food so you can appear spontaneous.

I still do all the things I used to do before discovering my wheat allergy. I travel, I dine out, I go to events. But I am now “that girl”…
I ask a thousand questions. I know more about the restaurant and the menu than the staff before I even enter the establishment, since I’ve been researching in advance for weeks. I am now “Sally” … my opener is “can you…?” I eat a lot of things “on the side” “without” “substitute”

So, when an event such as the Gluten Free Expo rolls into town, it’s a rare treat.

To walk through aisle after aisle, gleefully nibbling from tray after tray of new and tasty products, and never once feel that nervous knot in the pit of my stomach of “omg, what if this girl was lying? What if it actually contains gluten? What if I get sick?”

The 2012 show out by the airport was great, but since it was the first time in the Toronto area, it was PACKED. I remember it being hot, crowded, and frustrating. 2013 saw the event moved to a bigger, more central location, the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, making for ease of movement, the opportunity to stop and really talk to vendors, and a corner dedicated to fantastic speakers on both days.

And can we talk about the products? Wow. Companies have really upped their game. Six years ago, when I first was diagnosed, the pickings were slim, and for the most part awful.

Gluten free offerings tasted and smelled like feet, and had the texture of sand.

Now, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference in some cases.
For example, there has been a particular improvement in gluten free pasta world. Gone are the pasty, granular, chewy rice pastas. In their place, the new gorgeous, silky, 4 grain blends, that have the look and texture of honest to goodness “real” pasta.

I not only left the building with a full belly, but I managed to take in all of the speakers, and I came home with a bag full of samples, and an additional bag full of purchases. I would have gone again on the Sunday, had there  been a “weekend pass” offered. (something I’ve suggested to the organizers for next year)

Here are a few snaps of my haul from this year: (apologies for the blurry shots… gah!)

Happy 20th “Food & Drink” !

Every couple of months, without fail, I sit down with a glass of wine, put my feet up, and giddily tear away the clear plastic wrap to reveal the treasure inside; a glossy, delicious, book of eye candy known as “Food&Drink” magazine.

For those of you that aren’t familiar, this is a free, yes, you heard me, FREE magazine provided by the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario). It’s pages filled with glossy photos of delicious recipes, each issue features specific ingredients in themed layouts, usually pared up with specific alcoholic offerings; it’s main purpose after all is to advertise and encourage the purchase of said alcohol which is available at the LCBO.

Published six times a year; Winter (Jan), Spring (Mar), Early Summer (May), Summer (July), Autumn (Sept), and the most coveted issue, Holiday (Nov), what started out 20 years ago as a 32 page pamphlet, has grown into the most read magazine in the province, with a per-issue print run of 505,000 (English) & 22,000 (French), and a readership of over 2 million.

foodandwine

This month’s issue, the 20th anniversary issue, is a love letter. A love letter to itself, a love letter to Ontario, a love letter to local restaurants, and products, and chef’s, most of whom were featured at some point in the magazine over the last two decades.  But most importantly, it is a love letter to us, the readers. A look back at how things have changed. A revisiting of some of the most popular recipes over the years. And a peek behind the scenes at how the magazine came to be and how it is put together for all of us to enjoy season after season.

After reading it through, cover to cover, smiling and drooling simultaneously, I went over to my bookshelf to see just how far back my own collection goes. 2000! I personally have over a decade’s worth of issues. Amazing. Some are dog-eared, many with sticky notes or bookmarks place holding a favorite recipe, mostly the aforementioned Holiday issues, which tend to be the thickest issues, providing the most decadent recipes.

I love introducing the magazine to out of province and out of country visitors. They are usually gobsmacked by the quality of not only the magazine itself, but also the content. For a while, many years ago, I actually shipped copies of the magazine to a friend in the U.S.
Now the LCBO itself provides that service (mind you, you’ll have to pay for it if you live outside of Ontario)
From the LCBO website: http://hellolcbo.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/253

  • Canadian Subscriptions: 1 year (six issues) for $33.90 (CDN funds)
  • US Subscriptions: 1 year (six issues) for $45 (CDN funds)
  • International Subscriptions: 1 year (6 issues) : please contact us at foodanddrink@lcbo.com  for pricing in your area.
    Note: Gift Subscriptions are based on the mailing address of the recipient (e.g. Canadian customer giving a gift subscription to a person with a US address must pay the US subscription price.)

Looking to complete your own collection? You can do that too! Back issues are available all the way back to 1993. Of course you’ll notice after a quick glance that the Holiday issues are all sold out.
http://www.lcbo.com/fooddrink/index.shtml

As a public service I will let you know now that the final issue of 2013, the Holiday Issue, is due in stores Nov 6th, coinciding with another event well known to Ontario, or more specifically Toronto residents, the Gourmet Food & Wine Expo (Nov 14-17). I highly recommend you put both of those dates into your calendar.

lazy night = bad pizza…

I think I am going to put a moratorium on ordering take out pizza in 2011. I have a bit of an excuse right now in that my oven isn’t working. (and my toaster oven is, well, a toaster oven… and a teeny tiny cheapo one at that!)

But once I have a fancy (nee: working) oven happening in my epicurean cave (nee: kitchen) I plan on upping the cooking ante. I was doing really well with preparing the majority of my meals until December when my oven kicked the bucket.

I bought myself my first official gluten free cookbook for Christmas. “Gluten Free girl and the Chef”
And as such, I intend to try to eliminate the over processed “convenience” snacks that I still cling to. They have recipes for pizza dough, fresh pasta, crackerbread (!!) etc…*so excited!*

It kills me to pay through the nose for a mediocre pizza from a chain, who charges me an additional $5 just for a barely edible crust, on top of taxes and delivery charge. (that was $12 before ONE topping hit the oven!)

I buy and eat good quality foods, so it stands to reason that if I can just perfect the vehicle (crust) I could pull off a spectacularly tasty pizza to enjoy on a Saturday night, and not be faced with this:

Now at first glance, this looks pretty healthy/yummy. But what it is is soggy veggies (boiled or blanched not “grilled” as promised), raw onions, sad “feta” like cheese, flavorless olives, and sad slivers of sun dried tomatoes on a crust that has the taste and texture of the box it came in. (in fact, as the pizza cools, the crust turns to concrete… and the box becomes more edible)

Thank goodness for the red wine washing it all down… lol!

in gluten free bagel bliss!

Seriously, it took me one year. ONE WHOLE YEAR, to find the perfect gluten free bread.

Over the holidays I discovered not one, but two amazing products. Udi’s & Aiden’s.

Udi’s, popular in the U.S., just finally made it up here to Whole Foods. I tried their pizza crust and their bagels. Both rocked! The bagels however were closer in texture to a kaiser bun than a bagel. Tasty nonetheless!

On new year’s eve, I found an Aiden’s baguette. Oh. My. Lord. It was crusty on the outside, soft and a little dense on the inside, the perfect compliment to my cheese fondue, brie & pate. I also picked up a pack of the bagels, which I finally tested this morning. Wow. WOW! (I’m still not feeling well, so the comfort of a bagel w/peanut butter and a peppermint tea with honey was perfection!) 

I can’t wait to try additional products from both companies this year.