Tempt Your Tummy in Toronto

by Chef Mark Tafoya

Man, Toronto sure is a great place to have a bite to eat! This city is full of great restaurants, eateries, and wonderful people who are eager to share it with the world. We’re here for a few days courtesy of the great folks at Tourism Toronto (Thanks to Michelle Revuelta and Justine Palinska for putting this trip together).

We’re just 2 days into the tour and already we’ve done alot. We’ve had a great dinner at the Chef’s table at the Westin Harbour Castle Hotel, where we’re staying. Chef Duff Lampard and the rest of the team walked us through a multi course menu of Ontario delights.

Then we met in the hotel bar with a group of great local twitter friends. It’s always nice to meet people in person whom you’ve known for awhile online, sharing recipes and tweets. It’s also really cool to be the conduit for great local people to meet each other and to be helpful in creating some great friendships. In addtion to Jennifer and I (@chefmark @foodphilosophy) we were joined by our friends Sam Sotiropoulos (@greekfood), Jen Melo (@homemakerssite), Carrie Oliver (@oliverranch), Saronn Pov (@cookwithsaronn) and her boyfriend Pawel, Scott McDougal (@editorscott), as well as my friend and fellow personal chef Mia Andrews and Professor Hersch Jacobs, who teaches a class on the Geography of Food.

Today we went with Chef Tawfik Shehata of Vertical Restaurant on a walking tour of Chinatown and the Kensington Market. We tasted tropical fruits, steamed pork buns, great European and artisanal Ontario cheeses at Global Cheese, and we watched them break down hundreds of chickens at St Andrews Poultry. Next we paid a visit to Cecelia Espinoza, an amazingly sweet woman from El Salvador who runs the Latin America Emporium. She introduced us to Pupusas, which are amazingly delicious corn meal cakes filled with various fillings like queso, frijoles, ground meat and chicacharrones. These tasty toasty corn cakes can be likened to arepas from Venezuela or gorditas from Mexico, but they are uniquely Salvadorian. great stuff, and we got a wonderful video with Cecelia showing us how to make them.

We then moved on to lunch and a tasting of the wines of Ontario at Vineyards Estate Wines. We thought it would be a wine tasting with a few local cheeses, but it turned out to be an amazing multi course tasting menu which paired wonderfully with and showed off the wines of this province. I always knew that Ontario and Niagara produced some wonderful white wines and Icewines, but I was surprised to find that Ontario is producing some really good Bordeaux-style blend, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. These were paired with a rich braised beef short rib finished with a wonderfully rich chocolate demi glace.

As if we weren’t already stuffed to the gills, the afternoon continued with a trip to Mengrai Thai to have a cooking class with Chef Sasi, who’s quite Sassy! She’s a tiny little lady, but she’s one of Canada’s highest rated Asian chefs. She’s doing very interesting re-interpretations of what you THOUGHT Thai food is. Her hand is light, and she layers flavors in a way which reveals the true taste of the ingredients, and she showed us how to make a REAL Pad Thai. I managed to get video of Jennifer behind the stove, and she turned out a decent Pad Thai! We’ll have that and more on video coming soon.

We still have a few days to go, so stay tuned for photos, reports and videos as we tempt our tummies!

Here’s links to a bunch of our photos on facebook:

Jennifer’s Toronto Album Part 1

Jennifer’s Photo Album Part 2

Jennifer’s Photo Album Part 3


Chef Mark’s Toronto Album

Chef Mark’s Vineyard Estates Photos

Chef Mark’s Mengrai Thai Photos

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