For many people, the coming of Spring is signaled by melting snow, chirping birds, planting tomato seedlings, and losing a precious hour of sleep (ugh). Well, I don’t really “do” nature, and daylight savings hadn’t even crossed my mind until I got the hint from my twitter and facebook feeds. So for me, the advent of Spring is best evidenced by the return of one of the city’s most popular food events, the Toronto Underground Market (TUM).
If you haven’t visited TUM in the past, you should know you’re seriously missing out. Each month, dozens of budding food entrepreneurs set up a “pop-up” booth at the Brickworks market and sell their goods to the hungry masses at remarkably affordable prices. While a percentage of successful vendors return in subsequent months, there are always passionate new chefs to meet and delicious new dishes to sample.
Having been invited to sample day this year (where vendor hopefuls are selected for each event), I had no doubt that the entry fee was worth it. So I brought together some of my favourite foodie friends so that we could divide and conquer the premises and sample as much as our tummy’s allowed. This is what I tried:
From the Kitchen: Grilled Short Rib Sammies (Sherry Braised Short Ribs, Sriracha Tomato Jam, Pickled Caramelized Onions, Monterey Jack Cheese, Arugula on Brioche)
One of the top dishes of the night, it was well balanced, refined and not excessively rich. The short ribs were sweet and tender, the tomato jam had a good kick, and the onions brought the acid and crunch. I also appreciated that they didn’t overwhelm the beef with too much cheese, which could have been a tempting mistake to make. I was a bit disappointed, however, that I couldn’t sample their ice cream which apparently had melted and was still in freezer recovery. Next time!
How Bout Them Meatballs: El Gardo (Old Skool Meatball Wrapped in Pancetta) [left] / Sloppy Saucy (Ciabatta in Nonna’s Saucy) [right]
The meatball was really well seasoned and had good meaty flavour, but I did find it a touch dense. I was mainly disappointed that the “Sloppy Saucy” was actually just bread with tomato sauce and parmesan on it – I guess when I read menu description I was envisioning a Sloppy Joe type Sammy, but perhaps one with a little more cheese. Ah well. You win some, you lose some.
Rebel Food Inc: Pulled Chili Chicken Bahn Mi (Lettuce, Carrot, Slaw, Cucumber, Sriracha Aioli) / Root Beer Braised Short Rib (Aged Cheddar, Coleslaw, BBQ Sauce)
The buns for both were too tough to cleanly get through, so after fighting with the bread a bit, we all just resorted to dissecting the works. I found the chicken a bit bland in the bites I got without any mayo, and I wasn’t able to detect any root beer in the beef. I also didn’t like that the beef sandwich was served cold so that the cheddar had not melted at all.
Meat Pie Mates: Butter Chicken Pie and Pulled Pork and Apple Pie
Another favourite vendor of mine that I was happy to see return. Both pies were served fresh and piping hot (an unfortunate anomaly on Saturday night) so that the golden brown pastry remained flaky, buttery and moist. While I really liked the rich aromatic curry in the chicken, the winner for us was the pork, which brought a bright balance of sweetness and acid to temper the rich pulled meat.
Bricks and Mortar: When Pigs Fly (Pulled Duck in Citrus Hoisin sauce, with Pork Rinds and Arugula) served with Potato Salad / The Xhibit (Pork Belly Slider with more bacon, smoked gouda, arugula, tomato on avocado crema)
Another star of a vendor! I loved the sweet tender duck, especially in the bites a little piece of crunchy pork rind joined the mouth party. I also thoroughly enjoyed the pork on pork slider, which offered a wicked crunch factor, a nice smoky element, and a bright herbaceous note from the avocado cream. Definitely a vendor to watch.
The Golden Apple: Skor Caramel Apple
Great crunchy apple, deliciously chewy caramel and a little bit of chocolate toffee bits for crunch. Despite being coated in caramel, the dessert wasn’t cloyingly sweet, making a second, third or fourth piece much too hard to resist.
Jack n’ Lils: Nougatine, Coconut, Lemon, Dulce de Leche, Turkish Delight / Nuts by Edith: Artisan Caramelized Pecans and Milk Chocolate Pecan Clusters
Top dessert of the night. Jack n’ Lils’ meringues are marshmallowy on the inside and crispy on the outside and are easily complemented by their fabulous flavours. The stars of the evening were definitely the creamy dulce de leche with little bits of toffee on top, and the beautifully bright lemon curd.
Our last take-home treat. The pecans were fresh with just a hint of sweetness, certainly not the sugar-bombs I am used to making at home. Like the whole nuts, the clusters (a combination of crushed pecans, chocolate, sugar, vanilla and spices) were also not overwhelmingly sweet, and made for a tasty midnight snack few hours later before going to bed. I wouldn’t call these addictive (I have the two bags sitting right in front of me right now and don’t feel the urge to pounce), but they were tasty nonetheless.
As always, thank you to all of the hardworking staff and volunteers for enabling another tasty food adventure for Toronto foodies, and another opportunity for food-biz hopefuls to shine. If you were at this month’s TUM, who do you foresee becoming the next wickedly successful TUMalum?
For more information on the Toronto Underground Market visit yumtum.ca. Follow TUM on facebook.com/TOundrgroundmkt, and on Twitter @TOundrgroundmkt. Tickets for the April 6th, 2013 TUM go on sale March 22nd. Purchase here.
Abbey Sharp is a registered dietitian, an avid food writer and blogger (for both a personal blog, and Eat St. Food Network’s blog), a passionate home chef, and the founder of Abbey’s Kitchen. She has a BASc. in Nutrition and Food, and has participated in numerous formal and informal professional culinary courses. Balancing the ideological demands of being a foodie and dietitian, Abbey understands that food represents so much more than nutrients, numbers, calories, and portions. It can symbolize culture, family, love, identity, and sensuality at its peak. With its role in such a variety of delicious domains, Abbey believes that a pleasurable relationship with food is inherently essential for good health. Abbey has embraced this philosophy in all aspects of the Abbey’s Kitchen brand including her social media activities, speaking appearances (i.e. TEDx), blogging, food events (ie. Sips and Nibbles), food demonstrations, as well as through academic and popular writing. Her goal has been to break the common association of healthy food as boring and bland, and demonstrate instead its inherently satisfying, flavourful and sexy qualities.
Alexander Keith’s Birthday Festival took place this past Friday at the Brickworks in Toronto. Fans of the beer and foodies came out to celebrate Alexander Keith’s 217 birthday at the sold-out event. Although there was a little bit of rain, it didn’t put a damper the celebratory vibe.
Of course, there was plenty of Alexander Keith’s beer on hand, with both their India Pale Ale and their Red Amber Ale available. They were also showcasing their Alexander Keith’s Original Cider, served in official Keith’s Cider glassware. There were plenty of non-alcoholic options as well. Paired with the beverages was a diverse range of offerings from local food trucks and pop ups.
Here are some of the food highlights from the night:
Gourmet Gringos, a latin themed food truck/pop-up, were dishing up a variety of taco options; pork cochinita, pork carnitas, chicken, and mole short ribs. Below are their beer battered mahi mahi fish tacos with cabbage slaw and fresh guacamole.
The Neptuno gang was kept busy shucking New Brunswick French Kiss oysters. The sustainably-grown oysters (from Canadian farms) were served on ice with lemon, and topped with a variety of condiments including horseradish, cocktail sauce, red wine vinaigrette, and their signature hot sauce.
Babi & Co. is a pop-up specializing in Indonesian street food. Their menu featured pork satays, pork belly on a bun, corn fritters and mie kuah kacang (below left), with cold noodles, veggies and ricecakes tossed in peanut sauce. Dobro Jesti, a food truck focused on hot, wholesome, European food, was on the flip side of the spectrum with their schnitzel themed menu. The Kraut (below right), featured their chicken schnitzel with sauerkraut and mustard. It paired well with their butternut squash soup and risotto balls.
Some of the other food vendors included the omnipresent Rock Lobster, serving up their famed lobster rolls. Fidel Gastro was kept busy dishing out his Sgt. Slather and other extremo sandwiches throughout the night. Bonfire Catering had their wood oven pizza. Caplansky’s Deli Truck was serving up plenty of their smoked meat sandwiches. Stuft Gourmet Sausages, a newcomer to the local food truck scene had an interesting offering with their thanksgiving themed “Creole Turducken” (consisting of turkey, duck, and chicken seasoned in authentic creole spices). The Turkducken was a big draw of the night, as was their Thai Chicken Sausage. Pretty Sweet was there with their cupcakes for all those with a sweet tooth.
Aside from the excellent food and drinks, there were musical performances by Matt Mays and special guest Dwayne Gretzky. Attendees had a great time taking pictures in the photo booth. There was a games corner where players had the opportunity to play games and guess trivia questions with Keith’s girls. Game winners were awarded with a special edition Keith’s mug. There was also an engraving station as well as complimentary glassware, with the signature Keith’s Original Cider glass being given away throughout the night.
Additional Keith’s birthday celebrations were also held in Halifax, Montreal, Vancouver and many other Canadian cities. For more information on Keith’s visit: Keiths.ca
On October 5th, gather your friends and join Alexander Keith’s for a night of incredible food crafted by local chefs, live music and unforgettable experiences at the Brick Works. Tickets are $10 and include complimentary shuttle service, entrance to the festival, access to see Matt Mays (with special guest Dwayne Gretzky) perform live and a host of other made to share experiences.
Some of the city’s best chefs and food trucks will be in attendance selling dishes crafted to pair with Keith’s. Food prices are capped at $5.00 so that customers can enjoy a variety of food vendors. Vendors include: Rock Lobster, Neptuno Oysters, Pretty Sweet, Fidel Gastros, Dobro Jesti, Bonfire Catering, Caplansky’s Deli Truck, Gourmet Gringos, Babi&Co and Stuft Gourmet Sausages.
They will also be offering a free dessert cooked with Keith’s, as well as personalized glassware engraving with complimentary glassware give-a-ways throughout the night. For a chance to win more swag, Challenge a Keith’s girl to some east coast games.
Tickets are available at alexanderkeithsbirthdaytoronto
Additional Keith’s birthday celebrations are being held in Halifax, Montreal, Vancouver and many other Canadian cities. Visit keiths.ca/birthday for additional details.
The June instalment of the popular monthly event known as TUM (Toronto Underground Market) was held this past weekend at the Brickworks. Foodies descended en masse waiting to taste the yummy treats of over 30 pop-up booths and vendors. The June event featured a diverse range of offerings, including a multitude of vegetarian options from Comida del Pueblo, Eat Here, Kappukeki Fusion, Cannalles, Little Tomato Catering, and the Animal Liberation Kitchen, with some even offering gluten free options.
Here are some of the highlights from the night:
After missing out on Rock Lobster Food Co. at the Street Food Block Party, they were the first stop of the night. They were offering up Lobster Tacos, Lobster Rolls and Lobster Poutine. We opted for the lobster rolls and lobster poutine. The lobster rolls were a steal at 2 for $5 and were a great way to start the evening. We followed up the rolls with the poutine. A recipe seemingly adopted from Chuck Hughes, the poutine featured large chunks of lobster complete with squeaky cheese curds and gravy. It’s a good thing we came here first as this ended up being the longest line all night.
Comida Del Pueblo was on hand with their famous jalapeño cornbread grilled cheese with gaucamole and crema. Their other offering of the night was a duck mole empanada with cilantro chimichurri.
Their peameal sandwich was a popular offering; a maple-mustard glazed peameal (brined themselves), dijon mayo, red onion marmalade, and sunny-side-up quail egg, served up on a butter biscuit.
The boys from Neptuno were kept busy all night shucking 0ver 1100 French Kiss oysters from New Brunswick. The sustainably-grown oysters (from Canadian farms) were served on ice with lemon, and topped with a variety of condiments including a red wine shallot vinaigrette, neptuno cocktail sauce and a hot sauce/sambal oelek.
Korean Fusion Food newcomer, Eat Here, featured a spicy pork pa jun and a kalbi brisket pa jun, and a vegan lime soy soba noodle. The soba noodles were lightly tossed with refreshing lime soy dressing and topped with daikon, cilantro and sesame seeds. Looking forward to seeing what Eat Here will be doing next time!
This TUM instalment featured plenty of options for those with a sweet tooth. Standouts from the Kappukeki Fusion Cupcakes (below left) were their mango tango, and honey green tea cupcakes. The hand made caramels from KEO Confiserie (below right) were another decadent surprise of the night. Other sugary induglences were the lactose free ice cream sandwiches from Bix Bakery, the canelés from Cannelles, and the unconventional offerings of Leonard Pig Candy, with their candied bacon, dunked and smothered in chocolate.
TUM frequenter Tromba Tequila was there offering up their signature margarita’s. Ontario wine was available as was craft beer from breweries including Lake of Bays, Hogtown Brewers, and Granville Island Brewery.
Some other standouts included the tamales from Bushwick (they also had an Albacore Tuna Ceviche which supposedly was to die for). Fidel Gastro was on hand with pork belly and beef cheek sandwiches as well as some of his classics. One of the booths that we unfortunately didn’t make it to was Swine Shrine. Their ribs were clearly the big draw of the night, as was the Prosciutto Mac ‘n’ Cheese from Thistletown High School Chefs.
The TUM experience continues to prove the desire for innovative food is alive and well in Toronto. Very much looking forward to the July instalment of TUM!