Archive for the ‘random thoughts’ Category
I have been sending mail since I was a kid. Even despite changes in technology, I still have a drawer full of notecards in my desk, address labels printed at the ready and often a sheet of stamps, so that I can get a thank you, get well or birthday card in the mail as soon as possible.
It’s old-fashioned, I know, but I love the act of sending something through the mail and not quite knowing when it’s going to arrive. Of course, the biggest thrill is surprising the person on the other side.
Discovering Foodie Pen Pals allowed me to indulge in my love of mail and of course, of food.
The way it works is you put your name into a pool and then you get paired with 2 people – 1 of whom you’ll send stuff to and the other will send you food and/or food-related items. There are rules (spending limit – $15) and deadlines (have it in the mail by a certain date, contact the person you’re sending to, to find out about dietary restrictions by another date), but otherwise, it’s just a whack of fun! Then you all write about your experiences on the same day – today.
I sent off my package to Patricia of Our Quirky, Tree-Hugging, MMO Playing Family, who is a vegan and lives in Stratford where I know there’s an extremely good health food store (my friend Darren worked there for years), so I was feeling the pressure to get her not only the right stuff, but stuff she wouldn’t know so well. We’ll both have to read her post to see how I did (fingers crossed).
Vesna of Lipstick & Lemondrops was paired with me, and I bet she felt the pressure too. Anytime someone has to feed me, they freak out because I review restaurants and write about food for a living. Most people think I have high fallutin tastes because of it, but I really don’t – I’m just as happy with diner fare as I am with haute cuisine.
Vesna, however, said she “had fun trying to figure out what to send.” She had sent me a list of questions about what kind of food I like/dislike and really took that into consideration when selecting products. Vesna is a holistic health counselor who also does guided detoxes and cleanses as well as cooking classes, and that was also reflected in the items she chose for me – there was no junk food or “bad for you” items to be found, just really immensely thoughtful items. And insanely healthy too.
Her sweet card outlined the contents:
Homemade Vegan Thumbprint Cookies (she posted the recipe yesterday)
Raw Salad Sprinkle
Panda All Natural Raspberry Licorice
The homemade cookies were the aspect that floored me the most. It never occurred to me to do something like that for this exchange, so I was really touched. The fresh, chewy cookies with peach jam in the middle were a delicious, yet healthy treat that were obviously made with a lot of love. It’s hard to express the depth of what that kind of thoughtfulness means to me, but you can imagine that I was and am, extremely touched by such a giving gesture.
Vesna chose Raw Salad Sprinkle & Hemp Hearts because she had asked about my favourite foods. I had responded that I love salads, but rarely get to indulge in them at restaurants, so she kept that in mind when seeking out healthy products for me. This illustrates what a great listener she is – often people give what they like, not the other way around.
Panda Black Licorice is one of my great loves, but I don’t know that I’d ever tried the Raspberry – I just always reach for the black. What a nice surprise. I loved it. It’s now one of my go-to snacks for satiating my immense salt tooth.
If only everyone were so lucky to get paired with Vesna.
Huge hugs of gratitude,
- I almost never go out to eat Italian. It’s because in my experience as a restaurant reviewer, it’s hard to find good Italian that’s affordable. There are some exceptions to the rule, but for the most part, you’ve got to pay big bucks to be wowed. Not at LBT. It’s all within reach and it’s so good, you’ll be back not only the following week, you’ll probably be back the next night.
- Kale is crazy hot these days and no wonder – it’s so chock full of nutrients and vitamins – but it’s kind of an acquired taste. Like brussel sprouts, it can take getting used to for some. No need to wince with this Raw Kale Salad. Using supremely good olive oil, softening the leaves just a titch and topping it with parmesan, it is so dreamy, you’ll surprise yourself with how much you’ll be craving kale – this kale – from now on.
- After all the Neopolitan pizza places that have opened in the city, I got a little pizza burnout there for a while. But LBT’s pizzas with their thin chewy, crispy crusts and simple toppings brought the love back.
- Gnocchi is hard to do well. To achieve a light fluffiness takes great talent. Lucky for us, that talent’s in LBT’s kitchen.
- Pickled octopus is the perfect consistency – tender, but not mushy. And tasty too. For those who are always a little unsure about trying octopus, start with this one.
- Watermelon and feta salad is kind of a thing now, but I’ve never had a better one than LBTs. A little sprinkle of salt and their delicious, lick-your-plate-clean olive oil make is rise above the rest.
- A lot of places try to look swish, but simply come off as pretentious. This place isn’t going all rusticbarnhouse on us – it’s just a clean, bright space that fills with loud laughter and the clinking of flatware on plates. It feels like a party in here despite the quiet locale of Davisville and Yonge. This is right where you want to be.
- Owner Mark Bacci has heart and dedication. He won’t send a pizza out if it’s too well-done. He worked on the bread and pizza crusts until he’s got it right. It’s that kind of attention to detail and commitment that wows on your first visit and keeps you coming back again and again.
- Fresh, fresh, fresh. Great product should be highlighted and lifted, not cloaked. The LBT team gets that, so you only experience vibrant flavours and exquisite textures. It’s fine food in a casual atmosphere – the perfect pairing.
- Now you have a reason to go north of Bloor. That’s kinda cool.
2013 Yonge Street (at Glebe)
p.s. Check out more of my photos from my dinner at Lil’ Baci Taverna on my facebook page.
Many of these are food related, so come on out!
Facilitated by Stephanie Dickison
WORKING FROM HOME MADE EASY
Date: Tuesday, Sept. 18
Time: 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.
Stephanie wrote a book about freelancing from home. It took her 3 years to figure out how to do it all without getting caught up in doing laundry and running errands all the time. So let her save you a lot of time and effort and help you work at home with ease with her tried and true tips of setting up your workspace, how to schedule work and life stuff so neither gets neglected, and how to pursue what you love without having to leave the house!
TORONTO’S BEST NEIGHBOURHOODS: FINDING THE GEMS EVERY FEW BLOCKS
Date: NEW DATE WEDNESDAY, OCT 03
Time: 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.
We are creatures of habit, so we tend to stick to our familiar routes and places. However, the city is teaming with exciting shops and services that Stephanie wants to tell you about, including things to make life better, easier and less expensive. Let her give you a virtual tour of our fair city and show you where to find amazing food, activities, shops and much more!
PACKED PANTRY: HOW TO SHOP YOUR CUPBOARD EVERY DAY
Date: Saturday, Oct. 13
Time: 1:15 – 2:30 p.m.
A well-stocked pantry means that no matter how last minute a guest drops by unannounced, or how little money you’ve got until payday, you can make delicious, memorable, gourmet meals with just a few inexpensive ingredients. Stephanie will not only give you a list of multi-purpose items, she will furnish you with recipes and essential cooking tools to go with them! You’ll never look at your kitchen cupboards the same after this.
TORONTO: WHERE TO SHOP FOR FANTASTIC BARGAINS AND FABULOUS FINDS!
Date: Wednesday, Oct. 24
Time: 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.
You don’t have to be rich to look and feel like a million bucks. Stephanie promises: “I’ll show you how to find the best deals in the city, such as – prime times to shop the grocery store, what season to buy your swimsuit, and fantastic restaurants that afford a ton of great food for very little. It’s going to be so much fun – and you’ll save a ton!”
HOW TO LIVE ON LESS: BEING FRUGAL CAN BE FABULOUS!
Date: Saturday, Nov. 3
Time: 1:15 – 2:30 p.m.
As a follow up to “Toronto: Where to Shop for Fantastic Bargains and Fabulous Finds,” Stephanie will show you the tricks she uses to live frugally, yet still fabulously. Says she, “I wear designer clothes, but I don’t pay those high prices. I eat like a queen, but on less money than I’ve ever spent on groceries. Want my secrets? You’re going to have to come to find them out!”
Date: Tuesday, Nov. 20
Time: 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.
Freelancing is a tough business – you have to be an employee, boss, accountant, admin assistant, amongst other things. But it also one of the best ways to live out your dream! Stephanie will show you the “ins and outs” of freelancing, what to spend your time on, how to set up systems that work and all of the paperwork and technology involved. “Painlessly, I promise!”
Please come into the Centre to register, or phone 416-392-0511, ext. 0 to register by phone. For more information, please phone Nancy at 416-392-0511, ext. 225, or e-mail email@example.com.
Mark your calendars!
I hope you can join me for this event. I’ll be divulging all of my city secrets of where to eat and great fantastic ingredients for cheap!
Come on out to the wonderful Riverdale Library – it’s free!
Today, I’m speaking at TECHmunchTO – a food blogger conference held at Harbourfront Centre – about to to survive working at home. Here is an short overview of my talk:
(Panels Subject to Change without Notice)
July 22, 2012
10:15 am – 11:00 am Doors Open | Check In
11:00 am – 11:15 am Welcome to TECHmunch – Producer Intros
11:15 am – 12:00 pm Story & Content: A journey through storytelling through text, photography and videoJoin award winners Jodi Lewchuk, nostrovia.ca; Reena Newman, reenanewman.com and Chuck Ortiz, acqtaste.com as they share insights into how to tell a great story that will keep your audience wanting more. Moderated by Erik Deutsch.
12:10 pm – 12:25 pm Stephanie Dickison presents 15 Minutes to Mastering the 30-Second Commute: A Working from Home Survival Guide. Working from home is one of the most interesting challenges you’ll ever face. The how-to guides out there though, never quite cover your own situation and set up. Get a quick low-down from the girl who figured it out – and then wrote a book about it.
12:35 pm – 1:25 pm A Down and Dirty Conversation about SEO for Food WritingJoin SEO experts Thom Craver, Max Lufer with moderator Erik Deutsch, ExcelPR Group as they discuss practical tips and inspiring stories on growing your traffic and credibility online.
1:20 pm – 2:20 pm Lunch at the Hot & Spicy Festival
2:30 pm – 3:15 pm Marketing & Publicizing Your Blog Hear from Jessica Allen, Food Editor, Macleans, Ivy Knight, Co-Founder, Swallowfood.com and Babette Pepaj, Founder, BakeSpace.com & Cookbook Cafe how to build buzz, grow your community and get on a food editor’s radar! Moderated by Erik Deutsch, ExcelPR Group.
3:25 pm – 4:10 pm Working with Brands & Monetizing Your BrandNow that you have a little buzz and brands are knocking at your door, how do you manage those relationships, attract the right brands and monetize your content? Joining us on this panel is Jess Bennett, Senior Associate, Marketing Strategy & Social Experience, SapientNitro, Janice Chan, Ontario Marketing Team Leader, Whole Foods Market and Michelle Saba, Account Director, Praxis. Moderated by Erik Deutsch, ExcelPR Group
4:10 pm – 5:00 pm Networking MixerParty until 5pm, but if we’re still having fun… we’ll move to a local pub!
Hope to see you there!
As you know, Boehmer is one of my favourite restaurants in Toronto. So when I got the invite to their 2 Year Anniversary Party (and launch of their new fabulous new menu), I squealed with delight! And then promptly asked K. Jill Rigby to be my date.
Here are a few moments from the night:
Gorgeous Jill also happens to be a great photog and writer, so it’s no wonder she’s got her camera out. And as much as we were captivated by the food, we couldn’t stop checking out all the fabulous clothes and shoes!
As you can see, there were a ton of people who were dying to try the new dishes. It was a frenzy whenever anything new came outta the kitchen!
The food would disappear as quickly as it came, but I was lucky enough to capture this one in a flash:
Amazingly, during all of this, the front of the restaurant was running as usual, while the back half was kept apart for us revelers. I don’t know how the kitchen did it (one of the best looking kitchens I’ve ever seen, BTW).
The food, of course, was spectacular! Despite having to cook for both the restaurant goers and us party folk, this is the best Lobster Mac & Cheese I’ve ever had.
Of course, there is a whole team of people who make this possible, but the man at the center of it all is Chef Paul Boehmer (pictured below in his chef whites).
So that we could bring a little of the magic of the evening home with us, the gift bags were filled with incredible homemade Spiced Apple & Onion Chutney and gorgeous handcrafted Lavender Gomme.
Upon our arrival, we were served Ossington Pimm’s Cup, one of the most refreshing and exhilarating drinks I’ve ever had. How wonderful to have the opportunity to replicate them at home! Both Jill and I had to hunt a little to find Pimm’s (come on, LCBO!), but find it, we did. And my mixologist fella Scott made the scrumptious cocktail the other night.
I can’t wait to try the rest of the new menu . And have another Ossington Pimm’s Cup!
Last night, the Toronto Wing Festival took place at Beverly Hall (206 Beverly Street).
Over 600 pounds of all-you-can eat wings and Steam Whistle were served. Tickets sold out quickly to this great event as you can imagine, but I was lucky enough to score a great seat – on stage.
Our great emcee got the crowd pumped while the judges made their way up to the table on stage.
The judges (that’s Chef Tom Phuong from the Fairmont Royal York below, on the left) took it their responsibility seriously.
As the judges carefully considered the taste and appearance of each wing, the crowd was entertained by many performers including the amazing Eddie McKenna, pictured below.
The crowd munched and crunched their way through hundreds of wings, clearly enjoying not only the all-you-can-eat aspect, but having the opportunity to try so many different flavours and coatings.
Thanks to all of the organizers, the competitors, the crowd, my fellow judges and the crowd. I had a wonderful time. I’m hungry for more. How ’bout you?
p.s. In case you weren’t able to get tickets this year, you can be added to the 2013 waiting list. See you there!
I absolutely adore the folks that travel all this way east to host the Tourism BC Dinner. Breton, Josie, Holly and Amber are such lovely hosts and it’s our annual event to catch up with one another over dinner.
We were seated in the private dining area (pictured above) but I was intrigued by this circular table near the staircase (pictured below). Doesn’t it look very BC lodge?
The company was stellar as always, but the food was memorable too. A thick, earthy Mushroom Soup with black truffle, enoki and tarragon salad and brioche crouton was a wonderful entry to the meal.
And after a week of eating a ton of seafood, I was thrilled to indulge in the tender Grilled Striploin with the creamiest garlic mashed potatoes, glazed root veg, caramelized onion and pulled short rib sauce.
It’s nice to have an evening filled with fascinating people, but even better to do it over a splendid meal. Hopefully, my next BC post will be from BC. Stay tuned!