That must be the reason why I’ve been neglecting this blog, right? Why else did I start this blog in February 2012 when I could have started considerably sooner? Why have I only written five entries to date (pathetic right?)all of which were written within the first 3 months of starting this blog, when I could have written much more? It’s not like I’ve been short of writing material. A lot has happened since my last post: weddings, engagements, vacations, births, tragedies, victories, defeats, yoga, running, and everything in between -  but no blog posts!

So why have I so suddenly decided to do an activity that I apparently hate to do? The truth is I’m not sure why I felt compelled to write this at this exact moment in time, but I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately. We’re about halfway through 2013 and for me this year has been a difficult one. My cat came very close to losing his life, the job market is terrible, I have more responsibilities than ever, my finances are terrible, I’ve never been more out of shape, and I just can’t seem to catch a break. It’s harder than ever to stay positive, but I’m lucky and grateful to have friends and family who have been extremely supportive.

So what does this have to do with why I seem to hate blogging? I’ve come to realize that through this though year I’ve become vulnerable. I have nothing to hide behind and it’s forced me to let people in and share. Being vulnerable has made me realize why I’ve avoided blogging all this time -  Blogging requires vulnerability. Even with my closest friends and family members I always had difficulty letting my shields down. In fact, I avoided it at all costs.

Experiencing vulnerability in the past year has shown me that it’s ok to be vulnerable sometimes. Even though it can be scary, uncomfortable, and upsetting, learning to put my guard down has had so many benefits: letting go of fear, learning to trust, accepting myself and others, and more recently, writing this post and deciding to continue where I left off with this blog. I see now that vulnerability is essential and blogging is the perfect outlet. It feels great to finally return to blogging and I only wish that this revelation came sooner. I guess I really didn’t hate blogging after all ;)

After much anticipation, I was excited to be heading down to Barque Smokehouse to start off The Grid’s Burger Week with a delicious burger from the event’s platinum partner (whatever that means) only to learn that they were only serving burgers around lunchtime. I waited 40 minutes to get seated, all the while fantasizing about stuffing my face with a burger, and when I finally sit down to order one I learn that they stopped serving them earlier. I couldn’t believe it. I felt so cheated. I immediately tweeted out my disappointment and learned that the same thing had happened to a friend of mine at The Boiler House. Why weren’t the times published along with participating venues? There wasn’t even a disclaimer stating that some venues will only be serving burgers at designated times. I saw someone complain via Twitter that some places were also only offering their burger for dine-in only. These little pieces of information would have been more than helpful and very much appreciated by those who had wanted to take part in Burger Week. The Grid already went through all the trouble of printing the different burgers offered at the participating venues, why not add a disclaimer stating these restrictions? Talk about false advertising!

Since we’re on the topic of false advertising, when was 5 days considered a week? The 5th day shouldn’t actually be including with Burger (half) Week, because the specialty burgers were only served at the Burger Day event held at Wychwood Barns. Participating venues stopped serving these burgers at their restaurants the day before and of course this isn’t stated anywhere on the Burger Week flyer. It’s amazing how misleading the flyer is when you really consider everything. It has definitely left a bad taste in my mouth.

Thankfully I wasn’t able to attend Burger Day, because I probably would have been disappointed yet again. It turns out they sold out of burgers before the day even ended. Since this was the first ever Burger Day I’m not surprised that they weren’t properly prepared. I’m sure participating venues will do a better job keeping up with the hungry throngs of people next year. I really can’t forgive the lack of a disclaimer though even if this was The Grid’s first ever Burger Week. I’ll be especially peeved if information about restrictions isn’t disclosed again next year. I can only hope that The Grid was listening to all the disappointment and criticism that everyone expressed to improve next year’s Burger Week, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Today is the start of The Grid TO’s first ever Burger Week! From May 30 - June 3, 24 venues will be showcasing a specialty made burger for Torontonians to sink their teeth into. Almost all burgers are priced at only $5, with the exception of the pricier Black-Tie burgers. Select venues are also offering a beer and burger special that include a Burger Week beer glass to take home as a souvenir.

On June 3rd, The Grid TO is hosting Burger Day at the Artscape Wychwood Barns from 11:30 - 4:30. All participating venues are coming together to offer those in attendance $3 sliders. There will be live music, guest speakers, $5 beer, New York Fries french fries, and even a frozen dessert burger by Yogalicious! Admission to the event is $5.

For more information click here.

torontostrife:

WHEN YOU SCORE TICKETS TO TORONTO UNDERGROUND MARKET

For the very first time the Toronto Underground Market and Food Truck Eats came together to bring foodies gourmet food trucks and independent food and drink vendors under one roof at the Evergreen Brick Works on May 5th. It was a food lover’s dream! It was also an opportunity to create awareness for the Toronto Street Food Project. Some of their main goals are to lift some of the restrictions that prevent food trucks and food carts from diversifying their offerings and expanding available locations for carts and trucks alike. Read more about the Toronto Street Food Project and urge your city councillor to support this campaign for better street food here.

The cinco de mayo Street Food Block Party was a huge success. Over 3000 guests were in attendance to enjoy gourmet food and drinks from over 50 different vendors. Some of the stand out vendors from that evening are Rock Lobster and their lobster rolls, Gorilla Cheese and their plethora of grilled cheese sandwiches, and babi & co. and their Indonesian pork satay. Hands down the best thing I ate all evening was La Carnita’s deep fried squid taco. It was worth the hour long wait in line and I’d stand in line all over again just to have another one. I absolutely can’t wait until La Carnita opens their restaurant at 501 College St. this summer.

Sadly not everything was worth the long wait in line. Rock Lobster really disappointed when I learned that I could not order the lobster poutine because of an incapacitated deep fryer. Although the lobster rolls and lobster ceviche shot were delicious, they were just not worth the nearly two hour wait.

On the upside, I did manage to enjoy the live music while in those long line ups and the conversations about food I had with those waiting with me. Also, I didn’t go completely hungry or thirsty in line. To be efficient my boyfriend and I would take turns holding our place in a longer line while one of us would get food and drinks at the vendors with much shorter line ups. Admittedly I did spend the majority of my time at this event standing in line, but I had an awesome time nonetheless. Let’s hope that the Toronto Underground Market and Food Truck Eats collaboration wasn’t just a one time thing and that a second Street Food Block Party will take place in the near future.

It was amazing to see how much Torontonians truly love and appreciate great food and it really highlighted how much Toronto should have and would benefit from having a more diverse street food landscape. Here’s to hoping that we’ll see some more variety in street food options and vendors soon.

The Crowd by Antonio Salumbides

The Crowd by Antonio Salumbides

Squid Taco by Antonio Salumbides

La Carnita’s Squid Taco by Antonio Salumbides

Smoked Chicken Sandwich by Antonio Salumbides

Bluebird’s Smoke Chicken Grilled Cheese by Antonio Salumbides

The Sweet Mack by Antonio Salumbides

The Sweet Mack by Antonio Salumbides

The Truck by Antonio Salumbides

Buster’s Sea Cove by Antonio Salumbides

The Grill by Antonio Salumbides

Babi & Co.’s Grill by Antonio Salumbides

Lobster Roll by Antonio Salumbides

Rock Lobster’s Lobster Roll by Antonio Salumbides

Lobster Shot

Rock Lobster’s Lobster Ceviche Shot by Antonio Salumbides

The Line by Antonio Salumbides

Gorilla Cheese by Antonio Salumbides

Half Dozen by Antonio Salumbides

The Cupcake Diner by Antonio Salumbides

This year was Toronto’s 10th annual Winterlicious food festival. For those of you unfamiliar with this event, Winterlicious is a time where some of Toronto’s top restaurants create a special prix fixe menu to give us a taste of the great food they have to offer. With lunch priced at either $15, $20 or $25 and dinner at $25, $35 or $45, Torontonians are given the opportunity to have a great meal at a fraction of the cost while restaurants owners are exposed to new customers. It’s definitely a win-win situation! This year I had a chance to try out a couple restaurants - Pangaea and Fred’s Not Here/The Red Tomato. A complete list of this year’s participating restaurants and their prix fixe menus are available by clicking on the above Winterlicious banner.

I skimmed through numerous menus online before I decided I wanted to check out Fred’s Not Here. Every dish sounded so delicious! Unfortunately they were fully booked the evening I went, but luckily offered the same Winterlicious menu downstairs at The Red Tomato. Dinner was priced at $35 and included dishes such as duck fat fries, lobster tail, and rib eye steak.

To start I had the grilled Japanese eggplant. It was soft, but not mushy and had great flavour. I snuck a bite of my boyfriend’s roasted stuffed calamari with risotto and marinara sauce. It sounds a lot better than it tasted. The flavours were bland and the risotto wasn’t at all creamy. For my main, I ordered the scallops with brisket, portabello, and spinach risotto. The scallops were cooked perfectly and the dish was well seasoned. The risotto was rich and creamy, but the use of rosemary overpowered the dish a bit. I helped myself to some duck fat fries that came with my boyfriend’s main and they were crisp and tasty. The duck fat really added depth of flavour. Finally for dessert I had the mixed berry shortcake, which had a really good balance of flavours and it wasn’t overly sweet.

Overall the food was great! The ambiance however did not compare to that of upstairs and the service was mediocre. I would not dine again at The Red Tomato, but I was impressed enough with the food to try my luck at better service upstairs at Fred’s Not Here.

Unlike Fred’s Not Here, I decided to check out Pangaea based on a recommendation from a friend of a friend months ago. Lunch was priced at only $20 and offered items such as kobe beef flank steak and smoked duck. While waiting for our first course, we were served bread with the most amazing spread - beet butter! The beets added an intense magenta pink colour and a sweet and savoury flavour. Unfortunately we were only given two small pieces of bread each. To be fair I didn’t ask for more bread, but I think the server is obligated to offer guests a second helping. It’s a good thing I didn’t hold my breath on that, because no such offer was given.

For my first course I ordered the smoked duck and was disappointed by the very small portion that included 4 or 5 very thinly sliced pieces of duck. It was nevertheless delicious. The celeriac remoulade and lambs lettuce paired perfectly, but the dainty portion was so unsatisfying. I was looking forward to my entree, which was an ocean trout served with a soy glaze, baby bok choy, shiitake mushrooms, water chestnuts, red onion, and a lime caramel sauce. However, I was puzzled to see my trout served skin side up after seeing it plated skin side down for other guests. Whether this was intentional or not I do not know. Despite the presentation, my main course was very good. The fish was perfectly cooked and the flavours were clean and well-balanced. The portion again was a little on the small side, but after reminding myself that I’m getting 3 courses of quality food for only $20 the portion sizes didn’t bother me as much. For dessert I had the pumpkin spice bread pudding. It was surprisingly bland. I expected much more after eating such flavourful food during my first two courses. I ended up swapping dessert with my boyfriend who ordered the maple-pecan tart. The tart was rich, sweet and buttery. It was a great way to end a light meal.

Overall, the food was a hit despite the portion sizes. Service on the other hand was absolutely horrible! Our server was excruciatingly slow and inattentive. We were seated for a good 10-15 minutes before our drink orders were taken and our food order wasn’t promptly taken after dropping off our drinks. She made us wait another 10 minutes to order! It was unacceptable! I’m sorry to say that the exceptionally bad service overshadowed the exceptionally great food. With so many other great restaurants around the city, you can bet that I won’t be coming back to Pangaea.

Overall both restaurants served up some great food, but they both missed the mark on service. I look forward to getting back out there for Summerlicious, but restauranteurs please remember that a Winter/Summerlicious prix fixe menu may bring in more business for a period of time, but good food along with good service will create lifetime customers. Happy eating everyone!

Yay my first post! :D

I’m surprised that I’ve held out so long on blogging. Writing has always been something that I’ve enjoyed doing and it’s helped me through some tough times. I’m not sure yet what I intend this blog to be or what I want to achieve, but I’m glad to get back to writing. Stay tuned!