Food Bloggers Canada 2018 – The Great Canadian Road Trip

October5

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Last year at the wind up of the 2017 Conference in Ottawa, the announcement was made to expect a different twist for 2018. Instead of filling a banquet room up with hundreds of food bloggers for three days, a decision was made that the FBC team would come to us. I was faced with a troubling dilemma. D had purchased tickets for us to go to Charlottetown on the weekend that the team would arrive in Winnipeg. I hastily made additional arrangements to catch up to the tour on their final stop in Toronto.

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One of my many blogging friends who have come to Winnipeg over the years.

I have always contended that my favourite part about an FBC Conference are the relationships that come to be as a result of the gathering. This year, we had less time to make the rounds. Sitting to one side was Fables + Foccacia curator Jenny Arena as well as Stacy Blair from 27th and Olive. Both were a delight and I hope that we find a way to meet up again.

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I was particularly impressed with two of the speakers. Suresh Doss of the CBC Metro Morning Show is an expert in the suburban food of Toronto, stating:

“We’re talking about places that are not your ‘typical’ restaurants,” Doss said. “They offer food that reminds people of life back home. They’re often times the best places to get good food.”

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I understand that his back stories are fascinating tales of the lives of new Canadians and how they ease into the transition of settling into a new country by sharing familiar food from their home.

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Afrim Pristine was the final speaker of the day and therefore the last presenter of the Great Canadian Road Trip. Afrim is a passionate lover of food and his family business: The Cheese Boutique. I was thrilled to come home with his new book: For The Love of Cheese.

“Afrim Pristine may possess the most distinguished professional title a cheesemonger could ask for–maître fromager–but if you ask him what business he’s in, he’ll tell you he sells happiness. That’s because cheese is inextricably linked to wonderful memories and celebrations for so many of us. No matter the occasion, cheese and cheesy dishes are always greeted with a smile.”

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The highlight of the day was a tutorial and cheese tasting with Afrim. I loved them all but was particularly proud of the smoked Gouda from Manitoba’s own Bothwell Cheese.

My husband D and I are always trying to figure out what are the best varietal cheeses to place on a cheese board and how many ounces of cheese to allocate for each guest. Afrim’s book answers these questions and more. D was thrilled that I arrived home from FBC 2018 with this fabulous reference and cookbook. Having just gotten home a couple of days ago, I haven’t had a chance to make and serve any of the scrumptious looking recipes but this one caught my eye…

Cheese Boutique Very Much Alive Pasta

Entitled “Very Much Alive Pasta” it contains rapini, orecchiette pasta with a creamy goat cheese as the star of the show. Thank you Penquin Random House for hosting us and for permission to use this gorgeous photo.

Every year I come home from Food Bloggers Canada inspired to devote more love and attention to my blog and this year was no exception.

Kath’s quote: Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.”― Ronald E. Osborn

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Love never fails.

 

 

 

 

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Jatujak, Thai Street Style Food, Kingston Rd, Toronto

October3

The part that I love most about being a food blogger are the friendships I have made over the years. They happen quite by accident like the morning a beautiful tall and shy redhead asked if she could sit in the seat next to me at my first blogging conference in Toronto. Little did I know that years latter we would still be kindred spirits. She calls me her angel, a title I don’t take lightly.

She lives in the same neighbourhood that I stayed in last weekend so it was easy for her to pick me up and find a spot not far away. Asking if I liked Thai food, I responded with a resounding yes!

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We started with a Mango salad appetizer. The ribbons of mango were perfectly sweet and the slivers of red onion and crushed cashews added appropriate crunch. Acidity came from freshly squeezed lime juice and the freshness popped out with the subtle use of cilantro. I would visit Jatujak a 1,000 times for the taste of that salad!

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My favourite Thai soup arrived next. I am not used to a red Tom yum but the carefully simmering of a variety of hearty ingredients was soothing and delicious.

I had read that Jatujak was one of the best Thai restaurants in Toronto, and the culinary measuring stick is often Pad Thai.

Jatujak brings street-style elements to its pad Thai dish. Made with stir-fried rice noodles, with egg and a house tamarind-based sauce. You can get the Pad Thai with just the noodles, or with the option of adding tofu and vegetables, chicken, beef or shrimp.

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I added chicken and tofu also made an appearance. It appears under the Lunch Special section of their menu and this enormous portion was only $8.95! It was so good, I am vividly remembering the tastes now that I am back home in Winnipeg.

Although the time was brief with my lovely friend, our hearts connected once more.

Kath’s quote: “Food makes travel so exceptional, because you get to taste what it’s actually supposed to taste like. To eat the real Pad Thai or finally have a proper curry is something pretty amazing”. -Meghan Markle

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Love never fails.

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Mezes, The Danforth, Toronto

October2

I spent this past weekend in Toronto at Food Bloggers Canada (more on that later). On Saturday evening my Bestie M and I met her husband halfway between his work and their home where I was their guest for the weekend. We started at a place called Allen’s that maintains the tag line “Air Conditioned” not “where good friends meet”, not “why not tonight?” but “air conditioned”. I got such a hoot out of that! The beer was ice cold and I chose my favourite Canadian brand Moosehead, whereas R selected a cream ale. M stuck to her fav white wine. The place was hopping and the vibe very comfortable so we stayed and enjoyed another.

By the time we walked down and across the Danforth to Mezes, the place was lined up to the sidewalk. In a very small way, I felt in solidarity with the fellow pedestrians and diners. The memory of this summer’s violence was too acute to have faded, and yet here we all were strolling the Avenue and gathering on the side walks when hunger struct us.

Out of the many Greek restaurants to choose from, Mezes was the first choice.

The emphasis here is on sharing; a kind of collective dining that transforms a meal into an experience. Mezes promotes the most genuinely Greek method of dining: order multiple dishes, celebrate variety, and sample everything. There’s a remarkable unfussiness to the process that enthuses more vigorous conversation, and rippling laughter. While their list of entrées is considerable, it’s their Mezes they hope you’ll try.

Try, we did. With the guidance of our waiter, who encouraged us to take our time, start with a variety of dips and fried anchovies and go from there. If we were still hungry, we could keep ordering.

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First up were a small trio of Mediterranean dips: an amazing Tzatziki, a fish roe dip called Taramosalata, a chick pea Homous, and Melitzanosalata which I thought was very similar to my favourite baba ganoush. All were delicious with garlic pita and then when that was all gone, with the fresh baguette delivered to our table. We had watched in fascination when platters of flat cheeses were set on fire and then doused with lemon at neighbouring tables.

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Next I tasted fried anchovies for my first time. They were prepared like calamari with a more pronounced flavour. I had not had anchovies since I miss-ordered them in Positano Italy (see link here).

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I had been out for a big lunch and passed on the lamb chops although the nibble that I had was divine.

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I opted for sharing this fantastic salad as well as a very big surprise…

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these white beans recommended by our server had been slow cooked in a luscious tomato sauce.

Every thing was washed down with a couple of lovely house wines. It was a wonderful evening. We hailed an Uber home as the streets got increasingly crowded with folks from nearby neighbourhoods.

Kath’s quote:“The Greeks’ fierce pride in their heritage has kept the basic culture intact. Whether a slave under Roman rule, a captive under Turkish domination, or a newly arrived immigrant, the Greek is always aware that he is the direct descendant of men like Plato, Homer, Aristotle, Demosthenes, Aristophanes. The Greek who begins life in a new land on the bottom step of society as a dishwasher needs only to remember how Aesop left a legacy of poetry while cooking as a slave.”-Theresa Yianilos

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Love never fails.

 

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Benjamin’s Traverse Bay Corner, Manitoba

September26

We have two restaurants almost equidistant from us when we are at the beach house. This past summer has been an unusual one. I have been so pleased with our reno and expanded kitchen space that I did not eat a meal outside of our place. That is not entirely correct, as I did dine with siblings at their homes. Although I visited Benjamin’s Bistro just as they opened, I had not sampled their fare until this past weekend.

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I was with one of my Besties and had purchased supplies for French Toast but while visiting good friends who live permanently at Lester Beach we were encourage to give Benjamin’s a try.

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We had spent a leisurely morning, sipping tea and coffee around the fire place to keep warm when all of a sudden the power went out.

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Candles were already lit.

This typically happens during a windy storm but we could not discover any reason for this outage. Without skipping a beat, we changed our plans to head to Traverse Bay corner.

The improvements to the space create a positive first impression. The grungy carpet had been torn out and replaced with an attractive laminate. The walls were no longer full of ding marks from people pulling their chairs in and out. The addition of white trim made the space look contemporary and fresh.

The menu retained a couple of my favourites like the pickerel but there were a whole lot of new options too. I wanted to order a sandwich to ensure that I could sample the side of hand cut French fries. We saw the Breakfast Skillet and Traditional Breakfast go by to other tables and the laden plates looked delicious and great value.

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My Denver was plump with meat and green onions and I dunked it liberally into ketchup as I enjoy at home. But the fries, oohh the fries, were my favourite part of our brunch. They were appropriately crispy and limp at the same time, just the way I like them. Only a splash of vinegar and a glistening of salt is needed for a quality fry, and these certainly made the mark.

Speaking of chips and vinegar, my Bestie is from Great Britain and so was Benjamin. In fact, so were our friends who recommended we stop in! This necessitated the discussion about football (so called there but not to be confused with North American football), favourite teams and recent scores.

When extended our time out and about with visits to the Lakehouse and Carol’s on Leon but when we arrived back at the beach house, the power was still out. It did not stop us from continuing our conversation where we left off and snuggling up in front of the fire.

Kath’s quote: