Image courtesy of All The Best Fine Foods
By: Kristina Gutauskas
The Toronto gourmet and specialty food company All The Best certainly lives up to its name.
The newly renovated retail outlet in Rosedale, with its production kitchen a mere 10-minute drive away, sells the finest ingredients, gourmet goodies and prepared meals hailing all things local, naturally-raised and with no chemical additives or preservatives.
They also happen to be pretty good at throwing parties.
On November 22, the sleek and modern space was all decked out for a customer appreciation holiday get-together featuring sweet and savoury Christmas treats towering out front (think ornament-shaped ginger cookies, fruit cake and Santa Belgian chocolates).
There were, of course, their prepared quiches and casseroles, bottled oils, preserves and spices, and a wall of confectionary delights, but it was the evening’s extra flourishes that really stood out. Trays of red, white and sparkling ciders complimented the hor d’ourves of, for example, smoked trout and radish crostini prepared before your eyes, or free samples of candied peanut dark chocolate bark and curry shortbread.
All The Best also partnered up with a few businesses like Fred’s Bread and Monforte Dairy to celebrate the evening, providing samples of their wares at different spots around the store. Authors Elizabeth Baird and Rose Murray had one corner as well, signing away copies of their latest cookbook.
My find of the night was Sloane Tea. Hoda Paripoush’s loose-leaf varieties, each individually sourced and processed using centuries-old artisanal techniques, were a welcome change to my ho-hum Tetley and Tazo bags. Being a sweet tooth, my favourites were the rich Oolong Crème with its delicate creaminess, and the velvety smooth black tea Heavenly Cream.
While it’s a bit out of the way unless you live in mid-town, don’t wait until they host another event to drop in and pick up dinner or stock up on quality ingredients-- it’s worth the visit.
All The Best Fine Foods
1101 Yonge Street
They have a number of in-store events throughout December to celebrate the holidays. A couple noteworthy mentions:
December 12, 6 – 9 pm: Koopjesavond! A European-style festive shopping evening with extended store hours to take the stress out of last minute shopping, offering specials, door prizes and sampling. Also DIY gingerbread cookie decorating with pastry chef Mario Totaro, and a holiday toy drive.
Dec 14, 2 – 6 pm: Killer Condiments with chef Andrea Nicholson’s hand-crafted Canadian artisanal condiments showcasing sustainable farming.
By: Kristina Gutauskas
“If you like garlic, it goes great with everything. If you don’t, you probably shouldn’t be here.”
Chef Ron Raymer’s words during a discussion at Toronto’s second annual Garlic Festival were at the very centre of the two-day celebration this October. Many who embrace the stinky bulb found themselves among garlic-loving chefs, farmers and foodie fanatics at Evergreen Brick Works. Those who don’t, well…understandably left the festival off their to-do list.
The smell of garlic clung to the air (and over time, my breath) as I browsed the booths, offering wicker baskets full of Ontario garlic strains great for cooking and growing like Kawartha’s Cedar Grove Organic Farm’s Music, Persian Star and Russian varieties, to name just a few. There were also many tasty garlic-infused dishes from local chefs like Cheesewerks’ Kevin Durkee, who gave the classic grilled cheese a garlic and herbaceous makeover.
My first real find was Acadian Shamrock Farm’s garlic jellies, made with fresh, natural ingredients. Their rosemary or basil garlic jellies, for example, would work great as a glaze for steamed vegetables, but I opted for a jar of their spicy apple (best $7 I’ve spent in long time) and often smother it over crackers or a baguette. It’s a sweet, pungent spread flecked with thyme and a nice jalapeno kick, and my only gripe is that I didn’t stock up. Akin to garlicky green beans, the farm’s pickled garlic scapes were a tasty pickle and garlic combo.
Chef, author and restaurateur Sang Kim offered another standout: Tosa-style (bonito-infused soy sauce) garlic salmon sashimi. Served up on little plastic spoons, these silky mouthfuls sprinkled with chopped onion were a savoury delight. After Diona Joyce’s flavour-packed Palabok from Tita Flips (cornstarch noodles, shrimp gravy, chicken, springy tofu, green onions, boiled egg and topped with garlic fried bits for a nice crunch), I was just about ready for the Ontario Science Centre’s strongest garlic breath contest.
Finally, while it was difficult to taste the garlic subtleties in festival director Peter McClusky’s chocolate garlic ice cream (he grows 20+ strains on his farm alone!) after all the palate-consuming garlicky goodness that had come before, it was a sweet finish to a delicious afternoon.
By Kristina Gutauskas
A long line wraps around the outside of the Evergreen Brick Works on Saturday, August 25 just before the doors open at 6pm. A man points towards the line and asks, “What is this for? A farmers’ market? A food festival of some kind?” Not quite.
Welcome the Toronto Underground Market (TUM). First launched last September, it is a chance for home cooks and budding chefs to sell their dishes without having to rent a commercial kitchen, and a chance for the local community to sample the city’s delicious mosaic.
Having taking inspiration from the massively popular (albeit illegal) underground food market in San Francisco, turns out Torontonians have embraced the idea too. The 11,000 square feet of industrial space – complete with exposed rusted air ducts and bright orange graffiti as a backdrop-- quickly filled up with eager tasters browsing the 42 vendors, selling everything from Project Food Fight’s smoked porchetta sandwiches with roasted tomato bbq sauce to SmashCake Desserts’ strawberry red velvet cupcakes.
Right away I noticed Seven Lives was getting a lot of traffic, so I started with their salmon taco topped with fried cheese, guacamole and pickled onion -- a delicious mess full of flavour that simply fell apart in the fingers. You’ll need a handful of napkins, but it’s a guaranteed favourite.
Next was Babi & Co.‘s (babi meaning “pig” in Indonesian) braised pork belly topped with sambal mayo and a slice of pickled cucumber, served on a fried Chinese bun. Although my friend’s pork hadn’t been properly trimmed of its fat, mine was a tasty balance: salty, tender pork offset by the sweet bun.
Drawn to their creative Godfather-like logo, I then dropped by Tre Cugini’s booth and tried their Arancini (fried risotto balls) topped with marinara sauce along with fresh shaved parmesan and basil. It smelled absolutely amazing and the homemade sauce was smooth and savoury, but the risotto itself disappointed. The overly-creamy interior was a little too mushy and bland to be a proper risotto, creating an extreme contrast with the fried exterior.
The little room I had left for dessert was filled with a few sweets from artisan chocolatier Laura Slack Chocolate. Her Polar Bar – your typical frozen milk bar, sans preservatives – was satisfying, but the real stars were her truffles. The Lions Paw (milk chocolate truffle with liquid salted caramel interior) simply melted in the mouth for a sweet ending.
Next TUM date and one-year anniversary is Sunday, September 30, 2012
Tickets: will go on sale Friday, September 14
By Kristina Gutauskas
I’m anything but an olive expert. Had you asked me the difference between your typical cooking olive oil and the revered extra-virgin variety a few weeks ago, I wouldn’t have been able to provide any kind of intelligent answer.
But thankfully, the International Olive Council hosted a delicious evening late July at Toronto’s Canoe restaurant as part of their Add Some Life campaign, starring (surprise) all things olives and olive oil as the main attraction.
Of course, there was the educational side: nutritionist Karen Collins highlighted the latest research on the healthy fat, like its cardiovascular and anti-cancer properties, and expert Dr .Wenceslao Moreda explained the nuances of olive oil production that influence everything from colour to aroma and taste. Still, the most memorable part of the evening was Chef de Cuisine John Horne’s olive-inspired menu, ripe with Canadian ingredients and wine-pairings.
To start the night, we nibbled on canapés that included morsels of delicate olive-oil poached salmon topped with orange marmalade, pork marinated in green olive brine and savoury herbed lamb meatballs. When our main dishes finally arrived following the lengthy presentations, I couldn’t have been more prepared (or educated).
The first course was a vibrant, chilled heirloom gazpacho with a dollop of Dungeness crab. A wonderful olive oil crème fraiche was the perfect creamy addition to balance the acidity of the soup.
The second course was a decadent and tender plate of Wellington County steak tartare topped with apple wood-smoked bacon. As a testament to forging, pickled daisy capers, cattails, milkweed and Forbes wildflowers dotted a spicy Dijon trail alongside a refreshing cedar herb jelly. Yet it was the olive oil powder that stole the show—a unique concoction of high-quality olive oil and tapioca.
In the most anti-climactic of ways, the main dish--an olive-marinated black cod--failed to live up to the exciting flavours of its predecessors. It certainly looked impressive: to prepare the marinade, Chef Home infused squid ink with three olive varieties, coated the cod and then cooked it sous-vide, making the skin truly black. Unfortunately, the sous-vide treatment resulted in a less-than-desirable texture, and the flavour of the squid ink slightly overpowered any olive flavour in the marinade. However, the cod sat on a delicious mound of rhubarb relish with a tart sweetness, a slice of tender daikon and perfectly cooked quinoa.
Finally, mouth-watering raspberry clafoutis with a drizzle of almond anglaise finished off the evening, but was completely outdone by the accompanying chocolate olive oil ice cream. (If you’ve ever had Lucy’s olive oil chocolate mousse before, you know what I mean.)
Not an olive oil expert either? Visit our Olive Oil 101 guide and find out what you missed.
Margherita pizza image courtesy of famoso.ca
By: Kristina Gutauskas
In a city saturated with Pizza Pizzas on every other corner, it’s refreshing to discover a new spot in Toronto’s downtown core that treats pizza as a savoury gourmet dish instead of a fast-food afterthought.
The popular Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria chain opened its second Ontario location late last week in the Annex, touting authentic Italian ingredients and methods (joining the likes of Pizzeria Libretto). Exposed brick, soft lighting and pops of gold and red create an elegant, chic venue that combines sit-down restaurant service with the convenience of bar-style.
Since most of my pizza knowledge has come out of cardboard boxes delivered to my door, I find the Naples’ centuries-old pizza tradition both a fascinating and delicious one. Famoso uses highly-refined, low-gluten flour (less filling!) and sweet Campania tomatoes imported from Italy along with fresh ingredients for their pizzas. Hand-stretched and tossed by “pizzaiolos” before your eyes in the main space, they are cooked in a bell-shaped fire oven for a mere 90 seconds at 900 F, giving fast food a whole new meaning.
Although the roasted kalamata olives topped with feta cheese and spicy olive oil were a palate-pleasing starter, it was easily forgotten following the main attraction: a truly traditional cheeseless 11-inch Marinara pizza, topped with hand-ground tomato sauce, garlic, oregano, extra virgin olive oil and basil. The light, moist dough was exceptional, and the seemingly simple toppings were packed with flavour. Had I not been sharing, I would have eaten the entire pie myself.
The Sweet BBQ Chicken pizza, on the other hand, was certainly dressed to impress: honey-smoked BBQ sauce, fresh mozzarella and fire-roasted chicken topped with diced tomatoes, red onion and cilantro. But while this loaded pizza had more aesthetic flare (similar to other modern varieties like their Spicy Thai), the simple yet savoury marinara tasted far more impressive. Stick with traditional!
Famoso also recommends wine pairings with certain pizzas. I had a glass of Henry of Pelham pinot noir, best enjoyed with a margherita. It is a dry, medium-bodied ruby-red wine with aromas of raspberry, cherry and spice with a slight oaky finish.
Finally, their dessert choices include gelato (from Calgary-based Fiasco Artisan Gelato) like creamy Salted Caramel or Burnt Sugar Banana Cioccolato, and refreshing sorbettos like Blueberry Basil and classic Zesty Lemon.
386 Bloor St. W. (corner of Bloor and Dalton, former James Joyce location)
Kids 12 and under receive a complementary scoop of gelato