Foodival 2013

Toronto’s first Foodival, coined to be the first carnival themed food festival, was held a few weeks ago at 99 Sudbury in the trendy Queen West neighbourhood. It was a set up with two separate ticketed sessions – day time ($12.50/person) for the families with young kids ($7.50) to enjoy, and a 19+ age-requirement for the night one ($12.50). We attended both and got to try the following:

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What: Kombucha Beverages from RISE Kombucha
If you don’t know anything about the techniques of making kombucha, you should! This was such a refreshing drink especially on a hot day of food vendor tasting at the event. We met with Cheryl Gomez from RISE and she gave us the lowdown on their kombucha drinks. It turns out kombucha is a drink created from fermenting tea using symbiotic blend of beneficial yeast and bacteria that transform mere tea into a tonic drink that enhances vital energy, balances digestion and detoxifies your body. The RISE Kombucha drinks had a hint of sweet and citrus, or light cider flavour that is really refreshing and hydrating. Our personal favourites were the Mint Chlorophyl and Ginger. RISE prides itself on its raw, organic, vegan, fair trade and made with love in Quebec. You can get RISE from most health and organic food stores including Whole Foods. But check out their web site for more info. We highly recommend you try it!

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What: Sliders from Rashers
Rashers claims to be North America’s only bacon sandwich shop which is located on Queen Street East. We had all three of the sliders in their stall menu which included the Bacon Butty (British style bacon & homemade brown sauce), the Hogtown (peameal bacon, aged cheddar & homemade ale mustard) and the Wild Boar (cider glazed wild boar bacon, apple chutney, blue cheese & arugula) and enjoyed all of them. Mainly because they were all pork. But our favourite was the Hogtown, which is their signature sandwich. If you find yourself on Queen Street East, make sure you visit Rashers.

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What: Shrimp “Corn Dogs” from The Happy Hooker
A little disappointed with The Happy Hooker’s shrimp skewers. Well known for their all seafood menu at their restaurant on Dundas Street West, these shrimp skewers did not impress. It had a texture of over-puréed shrimp meat in flour batter and then overly deep fried. It had no taste and the dipping sauce it came with did not make it better. We ended up throwing it away after one or two bites.

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What: Slider from Tocino Boys
We were looking forward to the evening event because Tocino Boys was going be there (was not in the day time event); and, again, because they serve pork. This sandwich shop prides itself of making this Filipino breakfast meat staple available to Torontonians in their store located on Queen West, which is only open between 6pm to 4am; perfect for after hour/bar munchies. The slider was made up of soft Sweet Buns (Filipino bread) and a slice of pork tocino (sweet cured pork meat) and a sauce which the owner claims to have taken 5 years to perfect for the sandwich. We like to consider ourselves Tocino connoisseurs and Asian food in general and we know when we are being taken for a ride. Here is our problem with Tocino Boys, as foodies – please do not use store bought tocinos and bread, and pass it off as something new and genius to your customers. We can hit a T&T supermarket, or really any Asian supermarket for that matter, and have in front of us an array of various flavours (depending on the region, tocino flavour and curing techniques varies) of Tocino. While we are there, we can also get Sweet Buns (or Pandesal) that we can insert the cooked Tocino in between. It isn’t that very hard to cook. You can grill it or fry it on a frying pan to your liking. All this effort is less than $5 for 1 slider. We suggest to fully commit to your product is to create your own brand of Tocino and bread that’s above and beyond the grocery-shelf kind. Otherwise, you are really just selling us Shopsy’s hot dog and Wonder Bread buns above market price. It was a good effort tho, but nothing really exciting.

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What: Meatloaf with Fried Egg Sammy [Slider] at Kitchen Cargo
We liked this combo coz it was like breakfast on a bun. We figured it was a North American fusion of an Asian quick breakfast staple – spam and fried egg on a bun. We couldn’t eat it as one sandwich, however, but it was still good. They also had the kimchi dog, which we heard good reviews of. We will have to visit their Market 707 food stall location to try that out next.

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What: Turon from Kanto by Tita Flips
Can Tita Flips do anything wrong?! Not by our standards! Wow, these Turon bites were awesome! Perfectly bite-sized for an event where holding on to your food, chewing, and dodging foot traffic whilst walking can be a challenge, these Turon were just the perfect sweet alternative. An all time favourite Filipino snack, Turon is made from slices of sweet plantain bananas wrapped in spring roll wrapper dusted with brown sugar then deep fried. Tita Flips has done it again by making Filipino food get a mass appeal. Visit Kanto at Market 707. You can try them there along with Sisig Fries!

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What: Candied Bacon Grilled Cheese (with side of Root Beer Ketchup) from Cut The Cheese
Taking the gourmet grilled cheese war to the next level in Toronto is Executive Chef Gavin Gusche of Cut The Cheese. We totally enjoyed the candied bacon grilled cheese sandwich and glad we got some during a crowd break at their food stall in the event. We also tried the root beer ketchup which was interesting but didn’t feel that the grilled cheese needed that added. The grilled cheese had enough flavour on its own and the root beer ketchup just added distraction. Perhaps it is good with another dish and we’re certainly looking to try it again when they open their store location soon. Maybe a little Mac’n’Cheese are in our future!?!

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What: The Blonde Jerk from Johnny Blonde Food Truck
Call me Blonde, Mr. Blonde! Wow, this flatbread sandwich was just awesome! This has got to be our favourite at the Foodival Event this year. Made with beef short ribs in a jerk and root beer marinade with cabbage and apple slaw and heavy dijon dressing cradled on freshly baked flat bread; it had a perfect “jerk” kick that was perfectly cooled down with the cabbage and apple slaw. We could have had more of these for sure! Chef and owner Johnny Blonde prides himself of only using quality, locally-raised and local seasonal produce to create his eclectic food truck menu, infusing international influences to classic favourites. Sadly, we can only enjoy Johnny Blonde in Toronto from time to time as the food truck is based in Hamilton. Hamilton is so lucky.

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What: Sesame Seed Ice Cream from Ice Volcano
Ice Volcano introduced this new Black Sesame Seed ice cream at Foodival this year and it was awesome! We’ve crossed paths with Ice Volcano this year many times at different events and we think we may had had tried all their flavours – mango, coffee, strawberry, Oreo, green tea, and of course our favourite Milo! The new Black Sesame Seed certainly goes up in the same ranks as the others with its roasted sesame seed flavour on a very creamy ice cream, flash-frozen using liquid nitrogen. And if you are wondering it is safe, we are still alive and we have consumed many. So next time you are at food even like this one, make sure you visit Ice Volcano’s food stall. Watch as they prepare your ice cream (it’s quite awesome and very Bill Nye the Science Guy) and enjoy a cup of 100% Canadian Milk ice cream. Well done guys! We will add the Black Sesame Seed to our flavour favourites!

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What: Cronut from Le Dolci
Don’t be afraid of this Cronut, it’s not the same one you heard about at the CNE that caused food poisoning this summer. This Cronut was made by Le Dolci Bakery and Studio on Dundas Street. First, the photo above does not do justice for the cakes and cupcakes these ladies had at their stall so you got to visit their store; they were much more colourful and really too pretty to eat. So we went for the cronuts, which they kept running out of fast so we got them the minute we spotted some come back out on display. We had the dolci one, which had a dabble of creamy dolce de leche on top, rolled in sugar (like a traditional doughnut), but has the texture of a croissant’s…hence CRONUT. It was sublime! It wasn’t at all too rich like one would expect with all that sugar content; in fact, it was perfectly balanced. Visit the Le Dolci store as not only do they carry their products there, you can also take classes to make macaroons and other baked treats, and decorate cakes!

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What: Nacho Rama, Kettle Pop Corn and Apple Chips at Wild Child’s Kitchen
If you are a vegetarian, make sure you hit the Wild Child’s Kitchen food stall in these events. You will find gluten free options such as their Nacho Rama, which is a must try for nacho lovers out there…and this one is actually good for you. Priding itself with not using any refined sugars or peanuts, and only using organic ingredients in their dishes, Wild Child’s Kitchen made us believers that gluten free *something* can taste good. We also had the Kettle Pop Corn and a new favourite – Apple Chips. Again, who knew chips can be good for you! Well done, Wild Child’s…you have won our non-vegan hearts!

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What: The Salted Pig
We had both the pulled pork sandwich and the Pigs in the Blanket (pictured above) from The Salted Pig which hailed all the way from Hamilton. We enjoyed the Pigs in the Blanket as it was an interesting combination of ingredients from the corn tortilla chips that the pulled pork was wrapped in, deep fried, then topped with sour cream. It was an interesting fusion of flavours and texture. However, the pulled pork sandwich was too moist for us and it made the bread really soggy. We prefer our pulled pork smokey and slightly dry so that the bread can hold it together. Maybe it was still early on in the day that the meat has not yet completely soaked the sauce.

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And of course, what would a carnival be without the Carnies. There were performances throughout the day and evening events including buskers and musicians, and even carnival games.

Overall a good event curated by the folks at Foodies On Foot in support of Real Food Forward, which leverage donations into free or subsidized lunches for kids at school. Congratulations to those involved and we look forward to next year’s event!

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