3030 has young-professional written all over it. Craft beers, slightly pretentious menu and crowd, its Junction location (sigh, I remember the days when they avoided this area). And although I spend quite a bit of time in the neighbourhood, I only managed to getting around to checking it out a few days ago. That’s mostly because it’s a difficult place to notice, with an unassuming, simple ’3030′ stenciled on the front door, and not much else to identify it.
3030 is huge inside… seriously huge; especially for a place in The Junction. Stuffed full of small table settings and 2 full bars, it seems more like you’re in a concert hall than a neighbourhood restaurant, and that’s with good intention. 3030 is built to be a live music venue that doubles as a food-venue, and in my opinion, not the other way around (although that’s what they go for in the off hours).
One thing’s for sure, they put a lot of thought into their draft selection. The back bar has taps full of local-ish craft brews, including Wellington, Beaus, and even some other, more difficult one’s to find, like the Junction Craft Brewing’s IPA (which was fantastic), a Sawdust City stout, and a Broadhead White. Clearly, they take their beer selection very seriously. The unfortunate thing about the bars though is that with no stools to sit on, you get the distinct that they don’t want you hanging out there.
Much like you’d expect from a place aimed at young-pros in The Junction (sigh), the atmosphere sets it up as a pretty cool place to hang out, with shelves full of board games and walls lined with old-school pinball machines and plenty of interesting art. With the retro pinball machines all lit up in the evening, it gives the perfect backdrop to a night out.
But with just a little ’5 dollar snack menu’ card on each table, you wonder what about those of us that were there for more than snacks. Our server haphazardly and unconfidently rattled off the items they serve (there was only 4 of them at the time) but not before having to go back to the kitchen a couple of times before she could get it right. I asked if the items changed daily, hence no menus and the difficulty remembering them, but nope, these items had been here for a while she said. While it’s cool to try items out to see what works, I hope that eventually they’ll put together a more permanent and more expansive menu, or at least one that changes seasonally.
Because none of their mains sounded appealing to us, we instead opted for the items on the snack menu. The Butter Chicken Wings, while mostly tasty with the typical strong flavours you’d expect, arrived lukewarm. The Potato Wedges on the other hand, were indescribably and inedibly hot, which turned out to be ok because they were bland and tasteless anyways. Overall, we just didn’t find any of the items on the snack menu impressive at all.
If you’re in the neighbourhood, 3030 may be worth checking out, but I’d say solely for their draft selection; and although the fact that there isn’t much like it in the neighbourhood makes it the kind of place you want to check out, I’d wait until there is a concert or show you want to see before making the trek. In my opinion, it just isn’t worth going out of your way for.
With a Gabby’s now opened next door, I remember feeling a little upset for them having competition so close from some evil, corporate chain, but really, it’s of little consequence. It’s obvious right away that they’ll both be attracting very different types of people.
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From Toronto restaurants like Milagro, to catering companies, to one-or-two man chef teams, vendors show off their latest creations for awaiting foodies at the Toronto Underground Market.
This weekend was the second of many planned for 2013. This monthly social food market is held at the Evergreen Brickworks, from 5-10pm. Entry tickets are $25.
Although the Brickworks was armed and ready with portable heaters and attendees were warned to dress warm, it seemed like the vendors were fighting to keep their food warm. A few items our party ordered tasted great but were cold almost instantly.
Overall, the event had a great vibe. The food was decently priced (most items were $5 flat) which was appreciated as the entry tickets were a little steep. We’ll definitely be going back but might wait a couple of months for warmer weather and warmer food!
Standout items included:
- http://www.flickr.com/photos/93991113@N08/8543195177/ - Bacon Onigiri from Abokichi Rice Cafe. These were all hand-made by “rice baller” Jess Mantell. It was a unique twist on a traditional dish, and one that we don’t see a lot of in Toronto.
- http://www.flickr.com/photos/93991113@N08/8543196037/ Liko’s Hawaiian BBQ won the battle of pulled pork at TUM this month. Pulled pork was being served at nearly every booth! Their sandwiches had a sweet barbeque sauce with a pineapple salsa. They also had barbecued chicken and pork skewers with the sweet barbeque sauce too.
- http://www.flickr.com/photos/93991113@N08/8543194489/ Margo Pinton, a catering company, brought simple but amazing ‘Tequenos’. Queso fresca cheese with a variety of dips included like mild green pepper and raw sugar cane. Who doesn’t enjoy gooey cheese breaded right?
- http://www.flickr.com/photos/93991113@N08/8543194675/ For dessert, we tried meringue tarts from Jack & Lil’s. They brought unique flavours like Turkish Delight and Dulce de Leche, with sweet fluffy meringue with gooey sauce filling. These were great but super sweet!
- http://www.flickr.com/photos/93991113@N08/8544292140/ ‘How ‘Bout Those Meatballs’ meatball sandwiches were authentically Italian – with pork, chicken and turkey, and other varieties. The sauce was so fresh. This was also the liveliest booth with bell ringing, dancing and more from the kitchen team.
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Walk into Kensington Market any time, any day and you are going to uncover something fantastic. It might be a new ingredient, a new coffee spot, or in the case of Saturday night at the Burger Bar, a new beer. Double Trouble Brewing Co., headed up by Nathan & Claude, took over the restaurant for the premiere of their new craft beer and invited friends and family to help them celebrate.
Over the course of the evening, easily 200 people popped in to the Burger Bar on Augusta Avenue. Everyone piled in to the small, rustic restaurant that was adorned with cardboard deer heads, beer bottles and pictures from old, black and white movies. Upon walking in, everyone got a Hops and Robbers pin that they could trade in for a pint of the IPA. I squeezed my way through the crowd and got my expertly-poured pint. I found my way over to Nathan for a chat and, as we spoke, we were frequently interrupted by cheerful folks who wanted to congratulate and compliment him, who seemed genuinely happy for the success of Double Trouble.
Double Trouble is a small, local company that has brewed an IPA beer prominently featuring the flavour of hops. “We really wanted to showcase the hops and make a great beer with them,” explained Nathan, half of the brains behind the company. “We also want you to be able to have three or four of them, and not have your mouth dry out.” Indeed, you could certainly have a few of pints of this beer and keep going. The taste changes a bit as you drink it, making it a complex and delicious choice. They’re looking to expand their production and are in talks with larger breweries across the country with the hopes of creating a working relationship with them.
So if you’re in Toronto, keep your eyes peeled for this craft beer. In buying it, you’ll be supporting local boys who are offering a stand out product in a sea of standard. Reports the next day of the crowd blasting through two kegs of the beer is a great indication of things to come!
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- There is a new kid in town, and his name is Pachuco – named after the look and style of Mexican youth back in the 1930s to 1950s that dressed in zoot ihiusuits. Pachuco opened its doors on Friday, January 13th, perhaps a sign of bad luck, but that shouldn’t hinder their success.
Pachuco is a small (read: reservations) and cozy space, with exposed brick walls, wrought-iron décor, and a pretty impressive wall of wine bottles lit by a neon sign. Even though Pachuco shares a kitchen with older brother and Danforth favourite Embrujo Flamenco, they definitely serve up their own distinctive flavour.
Their menu is well thought out and varied, with an excellent selection of meat, fish and vegetarian dishes. Their appetizer menu alone is worth the trip. With a confident boasting of guacamole flavours, including goat cheese, blue cheese, smoked trout and walnut, and a guacamole sampler platter that allows you to try three of their creations, there is seemingly no end to the interesting flavour combinations. We decided to stick to our guns, however, and go with the traditional guacamole, which was a stellar choice; lots of lime, onion and creamy avocado, but no flavour was overpowering. Their homemade tortilla chips have to be mentioned as well; they were crisp and tasty. I am hoping they will one day provide these in a to-go bag for purchase before you leave. We also ordered the Chile poblana, swathed in an excellent and perfectly spicy tomato sauce, with queso fresco and refried beans, all baked perfectly. The portion size on both entrees was more than enough for two people, and it could easily serve as a great entrée.
For our meals (both $15) we went with the Taquitos de Machaca (coffee and ancho braised beef brisket, with guacamole and honey chipotle salsa), and the pre-Hispanic delicacy of Taquitos de Huitlacoche (corn truffle, onions, jalapeño peppers, Cazuela beans served with requesón-avocado salsa). Where to start? Let’s save the most interesting for last. The braised beef was well cooked and well spiced, the chipotle salsa was a great added touch, and one order of beans and rice between the two of us was more than enough to share. In fact, we both left incredibly full. Their fresh-this-second corn tortillas are amazing, sweet, soft and still warm from the press, prepared just the way you would expect to find them in a traditional Mexican eatery. The Huitlacoche, however, was an adventure in and of itself.
For those who don’t know (myself included), Huitlacoche is a fungus, which grows naturally on corn in damp environments. The fungus is harvested and has been consumed as a delicacy for centuries in Central and South America cuisine. When it arrived, it tasted smokey and earthy; it looked like a dark mash of black corn, onion- and was that a jalapeño in there? Hard to tell. The dish was good, but I can’t say I would strongly recommend it. Overall, I found the food at Pachuco’s to be mostly over-salted, and the Huitlacoche had to be the worst offender. This is the main reason why I would not order it again; although the flavour was very different from any other Mexican dishes I have tried, and I actually did enjoy it, I just could not get over the intensity of the salt.
The drinks at Pachuco’s are excellent, and they offer several flavours of margaritas to choose from with a sampler platter included for just $17! We ordered the traditional lime, pineapple and guava, which were all fruity and tropical and prepared just right, but the mango, blueberry and the strawberry mint also looked great. With our meal, we just had to try the ‘Bloody Maria,’ essentially a Caesar mixed with spicy chipotle. I loved it, and you will too if you are a smoky chipotle fan. I can’t wait to go back and try out some more margarita flavours. For the non-drinkers and children in the group, there are some exciting choices; fresh strawberry lemonade and hibiscus lemonade both looked gorgeous in their bright colours, and I am sure they are also great spiked.
The drinks and food at Pachuco’s ranged from good to very good, and if they could tone down the salt (margaritas included), I would probably rate most of it as excellent. However, I cannot say our overall experience was excellent, but I would not fault them for it in my overall rating. Being that it was their opening weekend, one expects a few hiccups, and I am sure they will be cleared up by the time you visit. I was served the wrong meal at first, and we had to wait about 10 to 15 minutes for the Huitlacoche to be prepared, instead of the fish tacos, (though delightful looking), I was initially served. By the time my dish came around, the other half of our meal was cold. Our side plates and used cutlery were never removed from our table after we finished with our appetizers, and the tables are so small and cramped as it is, there was no room for our mains. Instead of removing our side plates, there was a vain attempt to stuff everything on the table. I eventually had to ask for fresh cutlery and removal of the used dishes from our table. Not once, but twice, we almost had our not-quite-finished drinks taken from us, and we had to ask a few times for extra tortillas. It seemed a little strange to me that you would only get four at a time, and as great as they were, they are very, very small, so I imagine each meal would require a minimum of 3 or 4 on its own.
Overall, I think these are minor complaints, especially since it was Pachuco’s opening preview. I found that the service was friendly and genuine, the restaurant was quaint and ambient, with Latin music, candles and a few kitschy décor details, which made it seem authentic and allowed it to live up to it’s self-proclaimed ‘Modern Mexican’ dining experience.
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The Gourmet Food and Wine Expo took place this past weekend at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, and the event saw nearly 40,000 guests throughout the 4-day affair. Over 1500 different wines and spirits were available to sample, as well as a plethora of local and international foods. After interviewing Jennifer Campbell, Show Manager of this year’s GFWE, I was extremely excited to attend the event, taste some great wines, and soak up the atmosphere.
Saturday night at the 2011 Gourmet Food and Wine Expo was a very busy night, and rightly so given the number of attractions piled into the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. The show floor was divided into several different wine growing regions, with everywhere from California and South America to Portugal and Germany represented. A well-organized and beautiful showcase of local Ontario wines was a show highlight, with several smaller wineries in the Ontario region in attendance. The atmosphere was buzzing with live music and conversations about the phenomenal wine and food variety.
One of my personal wine favourites of the show was the 2009 Henry of Pelham Baco Noir. After chatting with the folks from the winery, I tried it for myself and was extremely impressed. Pelham’s Baco is a rich, deep coloured wine with hints of blueberries and red currants.
The food we sampled was incredible, and my personal favourites were the Cajun shrimp tacos dish and the plate of roast beef with poached pears from Sano Catering Services. The show floor also boasted mini beef sliders, Indian cuisine and many other specialty restaurants, such as Milagros and the Royal Elephant Thai Fusion. There was something for every palette and to pair with almost every wine, beer,or spirit
The overall atmosphere and experience at this year’s show was augmented by the addition of live music. There was everything from DJs to classical opera, but the real crowd pleaser of the evening was the acoustic cover band, Tyler Gifford, playing Canadian favourites, like the Tragically Hip.
The 2011 Food and Wine Expo was a fun event, with a great representation of wines from around the world. Truly, the best reason to attend a show such as this is to have the opportunity to try wines that are often not readily available in Toronto or that are normally out of your wine buying budget. The only minor complaint I have would be that I found the Saturday evening to be extremely busy and at times even a bit chaotic. Next year I will certainly look into purchasing one of the VIP packages for the preview night, Thursday night, to avoid some of the crowd and really enjoy the event and all of the amazing food and wine offerings.
An event that I look forward to each year is Toronto Taste benefiting Second Harvest. Each year, the best and brightest chefs in the Toronto area get together to provide free samples of their amazing cuisine while helping to raise money for a very worthy cause.
Second Harvest is a charity organization whose Mission is to feed hungry people in Toronto by picking up and prepping excess fresh food. They then deliver that food to the various social service agencies in Toronto.
Since the organizations inception in 1985, Second Harvest has recovered and delivered over 70 Million pounds of food to hungry people in Toronto. Also, as an environmental result of this work, over 35 Million pounds of greenhouse gas equivalents have been prevented from entering the atmosphere.
This year’s Toronto Taste included presentations from some of the best chefs in Toronto, and likely the world. Among those at the event were Top Chef Canada contestants Andre Nicholson and Dustin Gallagher, Inn Chef’s Michael Smith, Conviction Kitchen’s Marc Thuet, Top Chef Canada head judge Mark McEwan and so many more.
In addition to the amazing food presentations offered at the event, participants had the option to participate in a raffle for a Fiat 500 Sport. In addition, there was a live auction where you could bid on various items from getaways to Canadian Casinos to gorgeous jewelry and more.
Wine lovers were not left out of the event as there were various wines from all over Canada and the world at the event. In addition, a wine auction was held during the event, allowing patrons to bid on their favorite wines to either add to their collection or enjoy at their next party.
Enough about the event. Let’s talk a bit about the food. Chef Didier Leroy served a fantastic classic beef tartare. It was a combination of diced tenderloin, capers, and mustard in a mix that was fantastic. I had to help myself to a second helping.
Being a big fan of Michael Smith, I had to go by his section and see what he prepared for the event. I was not disappointed. He served a “miniaturized shore dinner” that was pickerel and wild board back topped with tarragon mustard foam. It was indeed a unique combination, but it was fantastic.
Marc Thuet did not disappoint with his pork belly on fried wild-rice bannock. The pork belly had been cooked Sous-vide for 24 hours, then lightly smoked. In addition, he had some smoked pork loin served with Dijon mustard. Finally, he served some excellent beaver salami on pain noir.
Mark McEwan served fritti with lemon caper aioli. They were clearly well prepared and some may have found it outstanding, but I am not the biggest fan of fritti and would have liked to have seen something more from him. Then again, I can still say that I have had a dish prepared for Mark McEwan. Not often I will get the chance to say that.
Andre Nicholson served an excellent duck dish. It was chilled cardoon veloute combined with crispy duck, pickled pear, and truffle. The flavor of the duck seemed to be highlighted by the truffle. I was a bit surprised that the pear didn’t make it taste bland.
One of my favorites samples was made by David Lee. He served us beef brisket burgers with a bit of kimchi on top. While most would think that a burger is rather simplistic for an event such as this, these burgers were anything but. The burgers had an extra zest that you just don’t find anywhere. I snuck back by and had one a bit later. They were that good.
The 2011 Toronto Taste took in $367,839 for Second Harvest. That is enough to prove food for 735,678 meals. Next year’s event should once again showcase over 60 of the Toronto area’s finest chefs as well as 30 different beverage purveyors. In addition, expect the same live auction as this year as well as an online auction where you can potentially bid on anything from books on bingo strategy to some of the finest wines in Canada.
Next year’s Toronto Taste will be held on June 12th, 2012 and the event is already 95% sold out. If you want tickets for the event, you will have to show up at 10 A.M. on June 12th to get in. It is recommended to get there early as the event will certainly sell out. For more on the event and see more from the 2011 event, check out the Toronto Taste website.
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I love that you can wander around Toronto at any time of the year and find yourself in the middle of a street fair. If you happened to be wandering around Yonge & Dundas this past weekend, you would have come across the Ice, Wine & Dine, part of the Winter Magic series of events taking place in downtown Toronto over the next month.
Tourists, families, friends and couples flocked to Elm Street and sampled food from local restaurants, were entertained by strolling carolers, fire dancers and a stilt walker, and drank specially-crafted martinis from the Ice Lounge. All of Elm’s restaurants participated, showcasing delicious, house-made dishes. Bangkok Garden – a staple on Elm for nearly thirty years – prepared crispy, piping hot vegetarian spring rolls paired with a genuinely spicy hot sauce, as well as a red curry dish with jasmine rice. A seemingly endless crowd was parked around the two pubs represented: the Queen & Beaver Public House and the Duke of Somerset, both handing out delicious, warm fare, like pulled pork sandwiches and deep-fried Mars bars.
A little further down the street, people lined up for the fine folks from the Delta Chelsea, who were making fresh empanadas stuffed with marinated beef, sweet corn and mozzarella or vegetables. Served with a dollop of chipotle cream on the side, these little treats were a delicious addition to the street fair.
Not in the mood for Latin food? You might have headed over to the Sushi Queen Izakaya’s booth for a variety of both cold and hot dishes. Looking for something more upscale? You may have opted for the sous vide venison loin with cauliflower puree, grainy mustard spaetzle, juniper jus, Brussels sprouts and house-cured bacon over at Oro, Elm’s fine dining Italian restaurant. Certainly, those of us at the Ice, Wine and Dine were spoiled with choices!
But the Ice, Wine & Dine event was not just about food. While other restaurants like Barberian’s Steakhouse, Tasty’s Caribbean, Commensal, Donatello’s and the Wolf & Firkin doled out small, reasonably-priced plates, attendees were also encouraged to participate in wine tastings or to sample a martini from the Ice Lounge. From behind a beautifully carved ice bar, bartenders made several martinis, including the “Yongetini”, a creme de cacao-infused drink with two Hershey Kisses sitting in the bottom. Tables and comfortable couches were set up and many people could be found relaxing, comfortably watching the festival with a martini in hand.
It was not just participants who could be found strolling up and down Elm St.; various entertainers were happily engaging the crowd. Two fire dancers strutted their hot stuff to “oohs” and “aahs” from the impressed crowd. There was also a group of carolers, regaling the crowds with beautiful, traditional Christmas carols. To round out the fun, a stilt walker meandered up and down Elm St. delighting those of all ages.
The crowd clearly enjoyed themselves, basking in an unseasonably-warm November evening with well-thought-out food, yummy desserts, playful drinks and enjoyable performers. This was Ice, Wine & Dine’s fifth year, and it was great to see all the neighbourhood businesses participating. No doubt it will enjoy much success in the years to come.
Special thanks to @Jes_camp for hooking us up at the event!
Lead photo image credit to @LMPTORONTO
TOFoodReviews had the chance to catch up with Jennifer Campbell, Show Manager of the upcoming Gourmet Food & Wine Expo at the Toronto Convention Centre. This year, the Food and Wine Expo takes place from November 17 to 21, 2011, and Jennifer filled us in on some must-see vendors, events and activities.
Jennifer explained that the draw this year is the “huge array of international and local products.” She expects at least 1500 different varieties of wine and spirits to sample, as well as Toronto’s top restaurants and chefs in attendance to showcase their gourmet creations. Some of the Food Network’s top chefs, like Chuck Hughes, Host of Chuck’s Day Off and The Next Iron Chef: Super Chefs, will also be in attendance for a meet and greet, cooking up some demo meals and to answer all of your kitchen and cooking questions.
There are also a few new events this year that are expected to be crowd pleasers. First up, the Mott’s Clamato Caesar School, hosted by Len Fragomeni, with expert mixologists on hand to help you create some of the most original and tasty Caesars yet. Jennifer explained that there will be “several different ingredients and approaches to the pump up the classic Caesar, and different alcohols, like tequila, to add to the mix.” As a veteran Caesar drinker and mixer, myself, I am excited to see if I can put together my own spicy white whiskey and pickled bean Caesar.
For 2011, the show is also adding what Jennifer calls “central entertainment,” a wide diversity of local artists, live painters, eclectic bands and talented musicians. The hope is to create an atmosphere where visitors can “sit down, relax, join their friends, listen to some great music, and take in the overall experience.”
Another recommended area of the show floor is the “Gourmet Marketplace,” which Jennifer describes as an “epicurean paradise.” It’s a fantastic place to get a head start on your Christmas shopping for all the “gourmet foodies in your life, and learn more about some unique products ad pick up some flavoured olive oil or a fabulous caviar.”
The show floor is completely sold out this year, with vendors that are excited and ready to impress. “There are so many amazing things to see and do this year,” Jennifer explains, “we have a vodka lounge and interpretive wine tasting rooms. There is also a special stage dedicated to all things cheese. The ‘All You Need is Cheese Stage’ is an interactive area where guests can sample a vast selection of cheese, learn about pairings with wine and beer, and enjoy informative and educational tastings,” all hosted by renowned cheese expert, Anne Marie Shubin, of the Dairy Farmers of Canada.
“Connoisseur’s Corner Stage” will offer a chance for the casual wine drinker to learn more about their favourite wine with the help of the Independent Wine Education Guild. Members of the guild will be on hand to host a variety of “informative and exciting wine seminars at the tasting stage beside the LCBO on the show floor. Classes are every hour, first come, first serve” and include several different wine tastings in a 45 minutes seminar. However, Jennifer tells me “that the most important thing about wine is to drink what you like,” and the Food and Wine Expo is a great place to discover and taste new wines from around the world, that you may not otherwise have the chance to drink.
The Gourmet Food & Wine Expo is more than just wine. Jennifer mentioned that we can expect several new food vendors and restaurants making their debut at the show this year. Expect to see everything from traditional North American cuisine, to Mexican, French, and specialties like steak and pizza.
There are also several special events associated with the Gourmet Food & Wine Expo, but take place off the show floor. For instance, VINES Magazine hosts an exclusive tasting of premium wines at the “Fine Wine Tasting Lounge,” where guests can sample premium wines, in a causal environment, and the price of the tasting also include VIP access to the show. Jennifer explains that these tastings are an “incredible value, as it would cost over $1000 to re-create the experience outside of the show.”
There is also a “fun tasting happening on Saturday, November 19th, hosted by some of our favourite Australian winemakers, such as Wolf Blass, to show off a few new wines, mingle with the guests and share their passion for winemaking. These Classes are a way to experience the expo, but on a more personal level,” Jennifer explains.
Finally, there is the Gourmet Gala, hosted by host Christopher Waters, VINES Magazine Founder, on Saturday, November 19th, featuring a 6-course meal paired with two different wines that have received a gold medal at the Intervin International Wine Awards. Out of curiosity, I clicked over to the InterVin website, and found a plethora of award-winning bottles from the 2011 InterVin International Wine Awards
Judges’ Selections for Best Value, all for under $15.
The Gourmet Food & Wine Expo promises to be an exciting event, and a great chance to discover your next favourite local or international wine or culinary delight. For those of you who can’t make it to the show over the course of the weekend, pick up an InterVin award-winning bottle of wine, and enjoy footage of the Gourmet Food & Wine Expo streaming live video from their website.
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