Tag Archives: food and drink
The dawn of art as an experience is upon us. With events like Nuit Blanche becoming a regular thing around the world, it should be no surprise that our museums are starting to take a hint, in an attempt to draw a younger, hipper crowd.
The Royal Ontario Museum seems to be one of the first to pick up on this idea, having started Friday Night Live last summer. I attended one of the first Fridays last June, and I will freely admit that was my first time ever actually stepping inside the ROM in my entire time living here. This highlights the fact that young people, who – like me – love art and culture, aren’t even visiting the museum semi-regularly. This is a problem that Friday Night Live seems intent on fixing.
Of course, it’s a bigger problem for a museum like the ROM, which, rather than art, exhibits artifacts – a much harder sell.
The initial appeal of the event is that it opens the museum later than its regular hours, until 11pm (but the actual exhibits close at 9:30pm – only an hour more than their regular Friday hours), and you can also drink, dance, eat delicious food and enjoy music in the main foyer.
My first attempt to review FNLrom was for their BIG Fashion night, but unfortunately the museum had reached capacity by the time I arrived and they refused to let anyone else in, even as people were leaving. This fact seemingly soured me on the night – there is a big problem when staff are told to refuse people entrance despite the venue being under capacity once patrons leave. I was surprised that even with a media pass, and even as I watched many people leave with no intent of returning, no way was I getting in. Why would you keep people out of an event when there is room? The laziness of this shocked me. People were waiting in line for a LONG time expecting to get in without being told otherwise, cash in hand, but that didn’t matter to the people controlling the doors.
I returned the following week for God Save The Queen night, where I finally got to check out the Big Fashion exhibit I was so excited to see. Sadly, there was really only four main dresses – though they were incredible works of art from Christian Dior, Vivian Tam, Yves Saint Laurent and Alexander McQueen – and the exhibit itself was so poorly lit that you’d probably miss out on some of the exquisite detail if you don’t have 20/20 vision.
While the European exhibit was where the British theme came from, the night itself suffered from a lack of any real British focus. There were DJs playing a mix of tunes (yes, some from British artists but I guess I was expecting a purely BritPop/Invasion night), the food wasn’t on theme, and nothing about it really screamed “God Save The Queen.” With a name like that, I was expecting something, well, slightly more punk rock.
I appreciate that the night is more for the ‘club’ crowd, so being particularly thematic maybe isn’t their focus as much as having people drink and dance in a cool space, but I do see a lot of room for growth that could make the event more desirable to the non-club kids. For example, a night with such a glorious name could have had a Beatles or Rolling Stones cover band, food local to Britain, maybe a speciality drink on theme as well? Display or project their flag somewhere! Have a British Invasion dress code. It’s this kind of going all out that would make it the kind of night people remember for ages.
I realize it wouldn’t be easy to bring in a unique menu item for the night, but I’m sure there are some talented chefs in the city that could do it. The food is already excellent as is (this is their one advantage over AGO’s First Thursdays), and it appears they have some partners that they work with on a continual basis – but bringing in someone new for each theme would be memorable and impressive.
The final night of the season was themed Light, and unfortunately this was less impressive than the previous week. The only thing that seemed to tie into the theme was the projection of scribbles onto the wall, and the rotating coloured lights flashing onto the dinosaur skeleton in the main foyer.
What definitely saved it for me though, was the live music from Cai.ro, a local band that should be on your radar if they’re not already. Seeing a band play at the ROM with a drink in hand is definitely an experience I highly recommend, and their support of local live music thus far has been impressive. Cai.ro played a beautiful set, and even included a Radiohead cover that served to make my night (as did the tacos from Gourmet Gringos – gluten free – but be ready for a LONG wait).
The worst part about FNLrom is the pointless buying of ROM Bucks in order to purchase food or drinks. I see the advantage of this – the servers don’t have to deal with cash and change – but it adds another line up to a night filled with line ups. Line up to buy your bucks so you can line up to buy your drinks and line up again to buy your food. Half your night will be spent in a line up. Also, if you do not spend all of your ROM Bucks by the end of the season, they expire and you’ve just wasted your money. AGO First Thursdays avoids this and allows you to buy food and drinks with cash, and it makes for a lot less hassle and more time to explore the museum.
With all that said – big props to the people behind FNLrom – you have started a museum revolution that is bringing art (and artifacts) into the lives of people who would likely never step foot into a museum. With some tweaks, it could become one of the best nights this city has to offer.
A few weeks back I attended the Gourmet Food and Wine show for the second time, in an attempt to continually expand my limited foodie experience.
If I haven’t mentioned it before, I grew up in a town where the only ethnic food we had was a Chinese restaurant, with parents who only ever consumed meat and potatoes, so after getting over the culture shock of unlimited options when I moved to Toronto, I eventually faced my fear of foods like sushi and realized all I was missing out on. Now, I am obsessed with trying as much as I can, so long as it doesn’t appear slimy or have eyes.
This year I went to the Food and Wine show on the VIP/media night, thinking it would be less crowded than it was when I went on the Saturday night the previous year. Although they moved to a larger spot in the Convention Centre this time, it was still incredibly packed, but the new location definitely helped with some of the traffic.
I started with Chicken Paella from El Paella which was satisfying but not unique or unforgettable by any means. Word of advice, never start with a plate of rice at a food event where you want to try many things. I didn’t let the fact that I was no longer very hungry after that stop me, though.
My friend picked up a couple Prosciutto and Cheese Sliders that she loved so much she went back for a few more by the end of the night. I had tried them last year, and having a hatred for bread with hard crusts, I decided to pass this time.
Next she went for the Brie, Cranberry and Tarragon Grilled Cheese with the Meatballs Pomodoro from Magic Oven, and apparently the sandwich was great, but I tried the meatballs, and compared to the incredible ones I had a few weeks earlier at Eat to the Beat, they didn’t impress. They tasted like fairly basic meatballs you could easily make at home.
We both have an incredible sweet tooth, so we tried some Gelato next. The vendor had some interesting fruity combos and even a champagne option! But we went more traditional to avoid any disappointment She had a Dark Chocolate option, which I didn’t like at all because of the slightly bitter after-taste, so I went back for the French Vanilla which was smooth, sweet perfection.
I also tried the most delicious one bite Chocolate Cake with Raspberries that I have ever tasted, and that has to be the one item I ate that I loved the most and wanted to go back for more of. The same shop was serving a meat appetizer that my friend tried, but she was underwhelmed by the hard and flavourless bread.
I ended my food journey with my current food obsession, Butter Chicken. Yes, more chicken and rice, just what I needed! Sadly it was lukewarm and I was so full already that I really didn’t enjoy it (or finish it). Honestly, you could probably find tastier butter chicken at the Eaton Centre Food Court, but the problem may be that I tried it at the end of the night when it was obviously a big pot that was cooked at the beginning of the evening.
Onto the drinks. It is well documented that I am not much of a beer or wine fan (hard liquor ftw) – if you remember my Beer Festival post, the closest I get to enjoying beer is Fruli’s Strawberry beer option. But, as I get along in my 20s I feel like it is important to appreciate wine (especially if I want to truly understand the foodie world) so I’ve been pushing myself to try it more often. While most of what I sampled wasn’t doing anything for me, we came across Muskoka Lakes Winery which had a bunch of Cranberry Wines on display. Cranberry always makes for a good vodka drink, so I figured this was my best shot, and it has since become my new favourite thing.
I know you are thinking – fruit wine? That’s not real wine. Believe me, I proudly drank my 6$ Wild Vines Strawberry Wine when I was younger until someone informed me it is akin to drinking “bum wine.” But Muskoka Lakes makes their Cranberry Wines using all the same methods as grape wine, and the alcohol volume and price tell me it’s not a wine I should be embarrassed about loving. We tried the off-dry Blueberry Cranberry option, as well as the semi-sweet White Cranberry option. I loved them both, but the White was definitely my favourite. I think my real issue with wine has been that I’ve been trying it at bars, rather than at dinner. This is obvious but I’m starting to realize just how important it is to drink it with food.
I also had a strange ginger syrup drink that I would never try again, a delicious Strawberry Daiquiri, and a Motts Ceaser that was ridiculously cheap for $1, but too spicy for my delicate palette. I always forget to ask for very little spice when I get ceasars.
Overall it was a great event as expected, and I enjoyed it much more this time around even though it was still quite crowded. The food of course can be hit and miss depending on what you end up trying, but it was mostly delicious, and the drinks were great. I look forward to attending another round next year, and hopefully my wine knowledge will be a lot stronger by then.
When I heard about the Toronto Chocolate Festival last year, I wondered how it had been around for 6 years and I was somehow just being made aware of it. If there is one thing in this life I am addicted to, it is sugar. Cliche girl, I know. It’s an awful addiction to have as it means I struggle constantly with my love of sweets and my desire to remain not obese. A festival like this plays right into my addiction, but when it comes down to it I’m happy to spend an extra hour on the elliptical if it means an evening like this.
So on Friday night, I attended the 7th Annual Toronto Chocolate Ball, themed “Cocoa Cabaret” this year, and consumed more sugar than one person should probably eat in a month. It was incredible.
As we walked in, we were immediately greeted with tables upon tables of chocolate being handed out and I was quickly reminded that this was a Gala event when I saw women in dresses and men in tuxedos – and we were very much under-dressed (headed to the Horseshoe for a show right after meant I wasn’t gonna be wearing any heels on this night). I had been to a similarly delicious foodie event for charity a few nights before (Eat To The Beat) and it wasn’t quite as fancy, so I assumed we wouldn’t stick out too much, but man was I wrong. They call it a ball for a reason – remember that for next year.
After indulging in some fancy chocolates and fondue, I realized there was also an entire section dedicated to savoury ’chocolate infused’ dinner items. The idea of chocolate in my meat and potatoes kind of freaked me out at first, but these are some of the best and most innovative chefs in the country. I decided to try Auntee Donna’s Catering, who were serving up Chicken with Coconut Mashed Potatoes in Mole Sauce with Mango Chutney and Guava and sautéed vegetables – and that has to be the best chicken I’ve ever had in my life. I’m not exactly sure how chocolate was involved in the dish, I think it was infused into the chicken as well as in the gravy on the potatoes, but it definitely worked.
Wingit! was serving chocolate infused chicken wings, which, while at first seemed like a horrible idea, after the success I’d already had with chicken, I figured I should go for it. The chocolate flavour was very slight and surprisingly worked really well, I could definitely have ate a few more. That is the fun of these chocolate as a meal dishes – it all sounds kind of gross at first, but these guys know what they are doing.
There were a bunch of other savoury options that sounded interesting, but I was really there for the desserts, so I left the Chocolate Hazelnut soup with goat cheese relish and orange oil, and the Chocolate Sfoja Lorda stuffed pasta for everyone else and moved back to the sweet section, but not before checking out the entertainment.
They brought in a dance troupe to perform for the night between sets played by The Toronto Big Band. The band was really great, a true highlight of the night, but unfortunately the dancers fell flat. They all seemed to be on a different beat, and my friend pointed out that it felt sort of like a high school dance recital.
After consuming some chocolate crepes, hand-painted champagne, pumpkin, and hazelnut flavoured chocolates, cookie cupcakes, banana cupcakes, items dipped in some of the most incredible fondue I’ve ever tasted, and more cake than I needed to eat, I was hitting the point of no return and it was time to leave. I didn’t want to, but we were both falling into a food coma.
The best items I had were easily the chocolate cupcakes with hazelnut buttercream (I could eat that buttercream on its own, and I generally dislike icing) and this amazing chocolate truffle royale cake from La Rocca that I loved so much I had a second slice despite being at the point of no return. It was truly the most delicious cake I have ever tasted in my life.
If there is any area of improvement for next year, I’d say they might want to focus on offering up some drink options next time. I was fully expecting to see hot chocolate being served by someone, but didn’t come across any – and a chocolate martini just seems like it would be a given at something like this.
Overall, it was a wonderful evening that celebrated food in a new way and raised a lot of money for breast and prostate cancer initiatives, and I look forward to checking out the Toronto Chocolate Show as well, on November 4th.
Starting Friday Jagermeister will be throwing their 6th annual Halloween party in cities across Canada, and you might want to be there. The night will feature new music by Monster Truck and Keys N Krates, The Bride of Frankenstein Jägerettes, and most importantly – an electric chair. While I don’t indulge in Jager oftan because it tends to make me pukey, it always feels like a risk worth taking on Halloween. At the Jager/Exlaim NXNE party last June I discovered that mixing it with orange soda tastes amazing – highly recommended.
Here are the participating cities and dates:
Tor: Oct. 26th @ The Phoenix
Q.C: Oct. 26th @ Giovannina
Cal: Oct 26th @ The Gateway
Vic: Oct. 27th @ Club 9ONE9
Edm: Oct 27th @ Outlaws Roadhouse
Lnd: Oct. 27th @ Jim Bob Rays
Mtl: Oct. 27th @ Theatre Plaza
Mtl: Oct. 30th @ B-Side
Van: Oct. 31st @ The Roxy
If you prefer to get in free (who doesn’t?) they have a contest going on for VIP tickets for you and 5 of your friends, along with a bunch of swag – enter today!