Category: eat

October 7-10: what to do/see/drink/eat on a school night this week

Last week, I started the weekly feature of “what to do/see/try/drink/eat” on the weekend, but while I was researching it, I realized there’s so much going on during the week that twenty-somethings need to know about, so this is the partner feature.

Do: If October has you in a spooky mood, the Tour Guys have the I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghost! Tour, just for you. The walk takes you on a walk of a little over 2km telling ghost stories of haunted buildings as well as what ghost hunters have found. They claim that this tour is from everyone from believer to skeptic. It actually runs Thursday-Sunday until November 3rd but can count as a school night.The cost is $30 plus service fees.

See: Our Man in Tehran is playing at the TIFF lightbox. This is the story of Ken Taylor, the Canadian Ambassador in Iran during the hostage crisis which began in 1979. This is the Canadian side of “Argo”, with a more realistic depiction of that Hollywood film. 


Drink: It’s the last day of Toronto Cocktail Week so you can head down to the Drake Hotel  TWC13 Industry Thank You Party where you can taste the winning cocktails from the Hogtown Shakedown competition and apparently, there’s some surprise entertainmment in store!

Eat: Kinton Ramen is a ramen noodle restaurant on Baldwin St, just off of Spadina, North of Dundas. They have a large selection of soups available and if you finish your dish, you become a KintonBowler. They have prizes for the number of Kinton Bowlers you accumulate, which range from free food to Kinton merchandise. Plus they have beer cocktails, I love beer cocktails. 


following your dream: building a food truck from the ground up

If you’re one of Allen Tan’s almost 4,500 followers on Twitter, you know he is honest, has a great sense of humour and makes some delicious looking rice balls. He is the founder of Me.N.U and his engaging Twitter feed is fun and follows the journey of Allen building a food truck business, with no experience. His social media presence is great, so I had to find out more. 


What has been the best experience to date?
Allen: The best experience has been learning what it takes to start a food business. It’s funny to say this because while in school I felt I was learning but it wasn’t exciting because I wasn’t “applying myself”. At my previous jobs I didn’t feel as though I was adding any value to the company. Now starting my own business – more energy in = more reward out.
Now I am learning everything it takes from the bottom up to start a food truck – marketing, menu development, operations, suppliers, execution, branding, sales, customer service. The more I learn and the more I apply I get to feel and see the reward. I have had the pleasure to learn from many food owners around the world what it takes to start a business. Now in the present, its one of the most exciting times to date. I can actively see myself getting closer to my vision of “success”.

What has been the biggest challenge in developing your truck?
Allen: The biggest challenge have been developing the recipes and processes for the food business. Without that research and development there would be no product to sell. You have to make sure that there is Value added while charging a price that generates a reasonable profit. Learning all of recipies and suppliers and know how took several weeks of practice. It came with a lot of highs and lows, a lot of mistakes but in the end each day we were getting better. 
Currently, we have not priced out how much a food truck would cost – we are trying to develop our brand awareness before be take the next step. I believe that we should develop an audience and engage them before we make the big investment of owning a food truck. Why invest in a food truck and start from scratch when you can have an audience waiting for your food truck to launch?


Allen
Me.N.U founder – Allen Tan



What is something surprising you learned since you started your food truck journey?
Allen: I had the pleasure to job shadowed one food truck owner in Toronto name Fidel Gastro and I got to experience “A day in a life” with him. I didn’t know how hard food truck owners worked and he definitely showed me how hard running a food business could be. We started work at 6 am and didn’t end till 10 pm. We did prep, running around, set up, tear down, cleaning, catering, you name it we did it! It was a good look into my future, it definitely  showed me how hard I would have to work in the future and how many things I still needed to learn. Throughout the day he instilled good habits that I would forever keep in my mind.

Your twitter and tumblr are very honest about your lack of experience and some of your mistakes – do you think this has fueled your success?
Allen: I think I have tried to do something very different then other food truck owners. I have started with no experience and my goal is to show others how to take an idea and turn it into a business. I have documented all my success and failures to share with everyone. I want to be very transparent with my business to share my journey and experience with anyone who is willing to listen. 

I have read a lot of entrepreneur books and business books and they give you insight about things you need to know but the never really show you a step by step guide into how to do it. I am on a journey of SHOWING people how to start a food truck the RIGHT way. 

What advice would you give new grads who have the same feelings you did about a 9-5?
Allen: Read books about business, passion and entrepreneurship. These books will give you a new perspective on how to break away from the social norm. They will show you there is more to life then a steady pay cheque and always being comfortable. Someone quoted, the three worst things in life are heroin, carbohydrates and a monthly pay cheque. 

Turn off your TV and start investing time into something that will get you ahead in life. Self education is a huge part of my daily routine and once your studying for yourself and not for a piece of paper, you will see the world in a new light. 

What’s the next step for ME.N.U?
Allen: My business partner and I are heading back to South East Asia where I learnt how to cook, however this time we are going to try to do Global food pop ups in Asia. We hope to create a story that no one has ever heard or seen in Toronto. After we get back we hope to buy a food truck and start selling to the masses of Toronto! 

Can’t talk about your food without finding out, what’s been your favourite creation so far?
Allen: So far we have only sold one product, Fried Rice balls. There are a couple of recipes that are in research and development but I can’t release my secrets that are going to come in the near future. 


Me.N.U Fried Rice Balls

I want to thank Allen for taking the time to speak with me so candidly. His enthusiasm is truly infectious. Be sure to follow him on Twitter to find out where you can get your next fried rice balls.

October 4-6: what to do/see/eat/drink this weekend

It’s Friday! Here is some ideas for your well-deserved weekend.


Do: Nuit Blanche is happening this weekend. This free art festival will bring locals and tourists out all night long to check out more than a hundred art installations in the downtown area. You can also use the site to plan your evening so you are well prepared to enjoy the event. There is also twenty bars in the city with an extended liquor license until 4am. The weather is supposed to be decent so it should be a great event. 

See: BeerProv is a monthly improv show at the Comedy Bar near Bloor and Ossington. The show is only $15 and starts at 10:30pm. The show consists of 12 comedians competing in an improv championship, in hops to drink from the BeerProv cup. The show is run by Jim Robinson and should be good for some great laughs.

Drink: Bier Markt locations throughout the city again celebrating the month of October with their Oktoberfest. They have a special beer menu for the festival as well as a special food menu. Take this opportunity to enjoy an ice cold beer with a great menu.

Eat: Although Bier Markt has an extended menu, eating still deserves its own section. This Saturday at 3am, it will be important know who is serving food. There is a long list of food trucks that will be feeding hungry art-lovers throughout the event. Be sure if you’re out there, check out the food options available.

frankie fettuccine: my food truck pick

We’ve had a series of food trucks at our office today, the others were good but I think today’s was my favourite. Its no secret that I’m a fan of pasta and Italian food so I was really excited when I learned this food truck was coming. 

I had the fettuccine  and it was great. It was fresh pasta and fresh sauce. There was mushrooms and pancetta in it but not to much to take away from the delicious pasta. The pasta was $10, little pricey but still so good.
fettuccine, with probably too much cheese but still so good

I also found out they had rice balls and had to try them. Cheesy, carby, deep-fried goodness covered in a delicious tomato sauce, how could you go wrong? They were 4 for $5 and I’d highly recommend them.
rice balls, this picture does not do the cheesy goodness justice

My friend also got what was ranked the number two best food truck dish in the city, the gnocchi poutine with osso bocco. I tried a few bites of it and I could see why it ranked so high. I normally don’t love gnocchi because I find Its sometimes mushy. They obviously fried this some how so the gnocchi was just perfectly crispy with the beef and cheese. I thought it was great. The poutine was also $10.

I say if you see Frankie on the street, be sure to try something delicious. What’s your favourite food truck in the city?  Let me know in the comments!

disgraceland: dinner in ‘bloorcourt’

As I will post about later this week, my friend and I are attending JFL this year. This show, we had about 4 hours to kill before so we went for dinner in the neighbourhood, Bloorcourt. I didn’t realize this was a specific neighbourhood but it was near Bloor and Ossington. You truly learn something new everyday.

We went to Disgraceland, at first we chose it because of the fun name, but then we read the menu and knew we had to try it. Its almost like a bar mixed with a diner. We ordered some beers, since we had some times and made the difficult decision of what to eat. 

We started with the perogies, we got the works because… bacon and cheese. I was surprised how crispy the the outside was but they were still pretty good. I had the turkey club, which was delicious and mashed potatoes which were ok. My friend had the cheese and bean burrito with fries, I stole some fries and they were pretty good. They have a ton of poutine options and I’m sure they would have been great in that. They also had a lot of vegan or vegan possible options, for those interested, including vegan poutine. The best, and obviously most unnecessary part of the meal was the deep fried cupcakes. We were unsure of how they would deep fry a cupcake but we determined it was actually a ‘ding dong’. They also deep fry twinkies, but I never understood that treat. These ‘cupcakes’ were delicious. They came with two which was more than enough for us. 

Deep-fried cupcakes

A little dark, but the inside of delicious.


If you’re in the area, I’d recommend stopping in at this place, particularly if you have a sweet tooth, or if you’re looking for vegan options. Our bill came to just over $80 after taxes but before tip, but be warned, they only accept cash – which is really irritating but we made it work. Have you found deep fried deliciousness that you’d deem worthy of the calories? Let me know in the comments below. Happy eating!

gluten-free brunch in the west end

Today we went out for a family member’s birthday for brunch. As I mentioned, my brother is celiac so we had to find somewhere that could accommodate his diet. We originally tried to go to a place in Etobicoke, but we showed up and it was closed, unfortunately not the first time we’ve encountered this. So we quickly google searched and found the Cardinal Rule on Roncesvalles, which has been featured on the show “You Gotta Eat Here”. And I’m sure glad we did.

They had a nice brunch menu and did what so many restaurants should do, clearly marked what was gluten-free (also noted vegetarian and vegan, for those interested). This is a great feature for restaurants because it makes the entire ordering process so much easier. It’s nice when my brother can just order straight from the menu without having to ask a bunch of questions. Just makes things run a lot smoother. I had the Cowboy Benny, it was interesting. I love eggs benedict but I found the bbq sauce overpowered the eggs. The brisket was delicious, the sauce was delicious and the buttermilk biscuit was really delicious. I found it a bit over the top but it was good.The latkes were quite salty but were filled with other herbs and spicy.  I also sampled some french toast from someone at the table and it was pretty good, its pretty hard to mess up french toast. A quick look at the rest of the menu shows that they have a bunch of different options on their regular menu with tons of gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian options. 

They also have a bunch of fun events through the week, including Tuesday night Cards Against Humanity, which I can only imagine is ridiculous and hilarious as well as Wednesday night trivia. If you’re in the west end and looking for specialty food options (or just something unique), I’d recommend checking it out. Is there any other gluten-free (or other specialty) brunch places you like to check out in the city? Let me know in the comments. Happy eating! 

Cardinal Rule on Urbanspoon

gluten-free expo: five of my favourites

I attended the Gluten-Free Expo this weekend. Based on my previous posts, you can tell I eat gluten but my brother was diagnosed with celiac disease about ten years ago so I’ve been familiar with the diet for years. I’ve also tried the good and the bad (and sometimes that’s very bad) so I thought I would share my favourites I tried at the expo this weekend. In no particular order:


1. Cuisine Solel – They had a large selection of flours. They also had samples of their product and I had to say, it was really delicious. The bread was moist, which is not very easy to do with gluten-free. They also had two types of flour, one that was for the bread maker and one for the over. If you’re into making your own breads, I highly recommend this brand. 

2. Comensoli Foods – We tried some pizza at this station, they were really good. I had the vegan vegetable pizza, it did not taste vegan or gluten-free.  My brother had the cheese – which was not vegan, he loved it so much he bought 4 pizzas. 

3. Queen B – This booth had a large selection of cakes and biscottis. We tried their signature orange cake and their banana hazelnut cake and they were great. They were moist and flavourful (can you tell moist is a big deal for me when eating gluten free). They also had a Cocolime cookie that looked good but I’m not a coconut fan, but if it was anything like their cake it would be great. They also have beautiful packaging, I love pretty things.

4. Pillers – We tried their turkey kielbasa, pepperoni and my brother tried their spicy pepperoni. I loved their kielbasa and pepperoni. I would always be frustrated when purchasing meats and finding out they had filler and wheat in them. This brand proves that it doesn’t have to be filled with gluten to be delicious. 

5. All But Gluten – We tried their bite-sized brownies, they were absolutely fantastic. They were chocolatey and moist (again, with the moist, I know but if you’ve ever had bad gluten-free you know this is important). They were definitely melt-in-your-mouth and tasted like ‘regular’ bite sized brownie. 

The expo was a great opportunity to learn about brands I was not familiar with. There were a number of brands that I had never heard of, it is great to see how many brands are making gluten-free more accessible. When my brother was diagnosed 10 years ago, the gluten-free market was completely different. This expo continues to prove that there are great brands out there providing great food for celiacs, gluten-intolerants and people who just want a delicious brownie! What favourites of yours made the list, or which ones did I miss? Let me know in the comments! Happy eating.

eggspectation at the eaton centre

Had to meet a girlfriend for brunch, as we all know most of the great brunches are on sunday so I wasn’t sure what I’d do on a saturday.
We decided to go to eggspectation, so we could wander around the eaton centre after eating. It was much more cafe-style than I expected,  for whatever reason I was expecting a fancier place. Regardless,  my meal was delicious. I had the eggs florentine, and really enjoyed it. My meal including drink, tax and tip was about $18.50. I definitely have to go back, they had such large menu it was so hard to decide what to have. I would recommend this place if you’re looking for a quick all day breakfast in that neighborhood, but want a little fancier than frans. Happy brunching!

do you want to order food from an ipad?

Then Kiku is for you. This sushi restaurant opened near my work in Markham. They also have a location at Leslie & York Mills (but I’ve heard they don’t have the ipads). I’ve only recently started eating sushi, I’m slowly coming around so my co-worker and I decided to try this place out. Our lunch was all-you-can-eat (I assume that’s the only way people ever eat sushi?) and it was $14.50. All menu items were ordered using the ipad, it was pretty neat. I really liked it because it had clear pictures of the items, sometimes I mix up crazy and crazy dragon – or whatever they are – again, not a sushi expert. The pictures help me not order the wrong thing. As a sushi-novice, it is appreciated. Our food came fairly quickly and it was delicious. I recently went to a sushi place where the rolls were falling apart by the time they got to my table. The rolls were served in the typical 6-8 roll servings but pieces like tempura, dumplings and other small items were served in ones. It actually worked great because I may want yam tempura but not want 4 pieces, I thought that was great. We also got dessert, I opted for the chocolate mousse because I had obviously eaten too much and it really hit the spot. It was sweet and small, just what I needed. The decor was typical of sushi places I’ve been in the city and in Markham. They also had a group area where guests would sit on cushions on the floor, that could be fun for a group or birthday. 
 
If you’re looking for a fun place with good food, I’d recommend Kiku for your next sushi craving. 
 
 
iPad used for ordering

Sushi Kiku Japanese Cuisine on Urbanspoon

thai food on eglinton

I love thai food and am often reluctant to try new places because I hate when it isn’t good. 

Tonight we tried Lime on Eglinton, between Yonge and Mount Pleasant. I really enjoyed it. We had vegetable and chicken spring rolls and shared the thai chili cashew chicken, thai coconut-peanut chicken and classic street-side shrimp pad thai. It was obvious that the spring rolls were made from scratch, I hate when you can tell that they were frozen and they come out mucky. The thai chili cashew chicken had lots of chicken and plenty of vegetables, it wasn’t actually spicy unless you actually ate the chilis. The coconut-peanut chicken was pretty good, even though I’m not a huge coconut fan and the pad thai was how I like my pad thai, fairly saucy but not too tomatoey (like spring rolls, most people know I hate spring rolls pad thai). We were four people and this was a reasonable amount of food, we maybe could have had a bit more but it really wouldn’t have been necessary. The meals were reasonably priced as well, with most dishes on the menu between $10.95-$13.95, they also have a great lunch special menu. I would recommend this place when you’re uptown, looking for a nice place to have a reasonably priced meal. Happy eating!