[Review] Korean Food 101 by Chopsticks and Forks

Website: www.chopsticksandforks.com
Address: Korean Food 101 held at Song Cook’s Authentic Korean restaurant, 72 Steeles Ave. W #6, Thornhill, ON
When I went:
May 2017, dinner, 6 people

Chopsticks and Forks is a food tour company founded by Jusep Sim; a passionate foodie and entrepreneur whose vision is to showcase the story behind the diversity of food in Toronto. He has a guided food tour at Kensington Market, as well as a non-walking tour called “Korean Food 101” held at Song Cook’s Authentic Korean restaurant in Thornhill.  ‘Korean Food 101’ was indeed a VIP introduction to Korean Food!

The ‘Korean Food 101’ dining experience happens every Sunday at 5 pm with 16 people per dining experience. Private tours are also available. I was excited to experience a private dining experience with my family and highly recommend it.

Here are the top 5 reasons why I enjoyed ‘Korean Food 101’:

1. Jusep! 

Jusep has an interesting story and is a great story teller. He lived with a family in Kenya for 3 months to volunteer and ate a ton of local cuisine. He appreciated that the Kenyan family hosted him daily which motivated Jusep to want to host others…and that was how Chopsticks and Forks was created. Meeting him was the highlight as his enthusiasm was contagious! I love to ask a ton of questions and Jusep blew me away with his knowledge. He wasn’t a host that just memorized a script and a few facts… he knows his stuff and was passionate to talk about it!

Tang Su Yuk

2. Food was good and I was full!

The tasting included 7 dishes, as well as rice and unlimited refills of bachan (side dishes). I have been to many Korean restaurants and have had most of the dishes that we tasted which included bulgogi, dumplings, and don katsu. Still, there were many stand outs from the meal.  I really enjoyed that the Jap Chae was served warm rather than cold, and the don katsu had a thin but extra crispy batter. The kimchi was one of the best I have had in Toronto as it had a slight sweetness to it but still packed a punch. The kimchi came with a pair of scissors so that we could cut it into our desired size, and made the experience more interactive.

As a big eater, I was afraid a “tasting” meant I would get small portions. With some dishes served family style and others individual, I was stuffed!

Dumplings

3. I actually learned some cool facts about Korean food history through the dishes.

Did you know that Jap Chae (Korean glass noodles) was a dish of Imperial decent, and was created over 600 years ago? With a large Buddhist population in the early years, a vegetarian diet was the norm. Jap Chae was vegetarian only, and has evolved to include meat over the years. Like many cuisines that have influences from other countries, Korean cuisine has influences from Japanese and Chinese food. One notable dish that has Chinese influence was the Cha-Jang Myun (black bean noodle dish). The Chinese version used yellow bean, and the Korean version used Black bean and was sweeter in taste.

Cha-Jang Myun

4. Overall enjoyable experience.

We had the honour of having Jusep join us for dinner as well, so it was a casual yet informative experience. Korean Food 101 lasted about 2 hours and time flew by.  The tour typically ends with a guided tour around Galleria (Korean supermarket) which is walking distance to the restaurant. Our family decided to skip this portion of the tour.

Donkatsu

5. Song Cook’s Authentic Korean restaurant was a great restaurant to host Korean Food 101. 

Aside from tasty food, the restaurant was huge with many private rooms, perfect for large parties and for hosting Korean Food 101.

Korean Food 101 tour prices:

Adult: $53 CAD
Adolescent 8-12 years old: $35 CAD
Children 7 years and younger : $25 CAD

With my promocode, FRIENDS2017, you will receive 30% off your next reservation when you book online. I am not sure when this deal will end, so I’d book soon. Always check the website for updated information.

For more information, follow Chopsticks and Forks on social media:

Website: www.chopsticksandforks.com/
Twitter: @CFFoodTours
Instagram: @chopsticksforks
Facebook: /chopsticksandforkstoronto
Jusep on Instagram: @chronicfoodie

*Disclosure: My husband and my meal was complimentary and as always, the opinions in the post are my own.

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[Event] Top 5 reasons to attend the SIAL Conference

Website: https://sialcanada.com/en/
Address: Enercare Centre, 100 Princes’ Blvd #1, Toronto, ON
Conference Dates: May 2nd to May 4th, 2017. I attended May 2nd, 2017

SIAL Canada, established in 2001 is an International food and beverage trade show. The annual conference rotates between Montreal and Toronto and is held every two years.

“SIAL Canada is not only key to the Canadian agrifood industry, it is also a privileged entryway to the US and international markets. Indeed SIAL is now the only event of its scale in Canada, with more than 850 national and international exhibitors from 50 countries hosting over 15,000 buyers from Canada, the U.S., and 60 other countries. SIAL Canada is the only national trade show that offers a complete range of food products under one roof to meet your customers’ expectations.” (Source: SIAL Canada)

Some highlights from the 2017 conference included:

  • Was SIAL’s 14th edition
  •  1,005 exhibitors and brands from 50 different countries;
  • 240,000 square feet of exhibition space;
  • 16,578 trade visitors from some 60 countries;
  • 32% visitor growth compared to 2015 (last edition of Toronto).

Thanks to a few bloggers who shared their experience from previous years that convinced me to attend my first SIAL conference.

There was so much going on from contests, food demos, and conference speakers; each attendee will have a difference experience. On top of being a really cool conference,  SIAL Canada handed out a $10,000 cheque to the Daily Bread Food Bank showcasing their social responsibility.

Here are my top 5 reasons to attend SIAL Canada:

1. Lots of Food!

I was afraid that I would not get full from eating samples. Stepping into the conference, there were countless rows of vendors. Many of the exhibitors served huge portions including tacos at the Fresh is Best stand, and the pumpkin and couscous dish at the Moroccan stand. I ate to my hearts content and left full.

2. Tons of innovative products and samples!

Congratulations to Taj Food for being the big winner of the SIAL Innovation 2017, for its Saffron Sugar Cube product. With over  1,005 exhibitors, there was a lot of cool products and samples to look, test, and taste. I filled up my backpack with snacks to share with my family.

Look at my stash…

3. There were tons of demonstrations to attend. 

There were over 25 demonstration and discovery workshops at this year’s conference. I had a chance to attend Chef Joshna Maharaj’s cooking demo (Executive Chef of the Gladstone hotel), as well as Eric Chong’s (Master Chef Canada Season 1 winner and co-owner of R & D) lobster cooking demo.

Joshna Maharaj

 

Eric Chong

4. Great for networking!

I had a chance to network with a brands I hope to collaborate with in the future. Culinary students even had free admission for one of the days. As Sial mentioned “Whether you work in the retail, catering or food processing industry, or you’re simply looking for new and innovative products or regional specialties from around the world, you’ll find exactly what you need right here.” (Source: Sial Canada)

5. Support local chefs and TV personalities.

I love supporting friends in the culinary industry including Julie Miguel of DailyTiramisu.com who was the official SIAL TV host, and Irene Matys of irenematys.com who was the social media specialist.

Eric Chong and Julie Miguel

If you went, I am interested in your experience. Connect with me on Twitter @maryshappybelly and let’s talk SIAL! #Sial2017

Check out their website for more info https://sialcanada.com/en/

I hope to attend SIAL’s future conference in Toronto, where I will bring a bigger bag for samples and an empty stomach.

*Disclosure: My admission was complimentary  to cover the event. As always, the opinions in the post are my own.

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[Review] Focal Resto Lounge serves Global Fusion cuisine

Website: http://focalrestolounge.com
Address: 592 Queen St.W., Toronto, ON
When I visited:
April 2017, Dinner 
Rating:
4 

Focal Resto Lounge is the new restaurant to hit Queen St.W. in a busy strip with other notable restaurants including Lamesa and Lisa Marie. The restaurant was modern with had a touch of rustic charm with a fireplace at the back of the restaurant. During my visit on a Friday night, music was pumping but still at a comfortable level where I could hear my husband talk, which was a great thing when it was date night.

Having met owners John and Rajee during my visit, I had a chance to understand their vision. Their food and drink menu aims to embrace the incredible flavours from various global cuisines. Dishes on their menu included Korean short ribs, Indonesian curry, Middle-Eastern pomegranate chicken, and dishes with a mash up of Thai and Indian flavours. On top of a fun and creative menu, the prices were reasonable for a downtown restaurant with mains from $22 to $36, and desserts at $10. Talking about desserts, they were definitely the highlight of my meal and worth the trip just for that.

There were a few tweaks in my mind to perfect the dishes but overall there were a lot of wonderful things about their food and menu. The stand out in all the savoury dishes were the sauces and the purees. The dishes that wowed me that I would re-order was the poutine, scallops, Thai risotto meatball, and the grilled pineapple upside down cake.

What we ordered: 

Duck Confit Poutine ($10)- Pulled duck confit, chopped kimchi slaw, duck gravy, and melted cheese curds. Who doesn’t love poutine? The crispy skin and the gravy really made the dish stand out. 
Yin Yang Scallops ($12) – Scallops done two ways. A coriander-dusted and pan seared scallop with a red onion gastrique, and curry butternut squash puree; and a citrus ceviche scallop with avocado puree.  The scallops and the smooth purees were both equally tasty. 
Thai risotto meatball ($7) – Thai infused pork and beef blended meatball, stuffed inside creamy risotto, on a bed of homemade butter chicken sauce. This dish was my favourite appetizer as I enjoyed the strong lemongrass flavour in the meatball, as well as the aromatic butter chicken sauce. The Thai and Indian flavours went well together.
Korean BBQ short rib ($14)– Korean BBQ short ribs, orange reduction with crispy spun potatoes.  Although the short ribs were tender and the presentation was nice, I felt like more of the orange reduction sauce was needed to make the dish stand out.
Surf and Turf Ravioli ($22)– Crispy ravioli filled with shrimps, scallops and salmon, paired with slow braised butter chicken. The presentation was over-the-top! The sauce and the crispy ravioli were my favourite parts of the dish. The chicken could have been more tender for me.
Chimichurri NY Strip Loin ($36)– Certified Angus NY strip loin, homemade chimichurri sauce, red wine demi-glace, stacked potatoes, sautéed vegetables. The strip loin was extremely tender and the star of the dish, with a peppery chimichirri sauce. The stacked potatoes could have been more crispy all the way through.
“Baklava” Chilled Cheesecake ($10)Crispy phyllo pastry, chopped pistachio, spiced rosewater syrup, layered between creamy chilled matcha cheesecake. I had recommendations to try the cheesecake. The texture was creamy and the presentation was beautiful. 
Grilled Pineapple Upside-Down Cake ($10)Sweet grilled pineapples, chopped candied bacon, buttery sponge cake, toasted almonds, pineapple syrup, vanilla ice cream, topped with crispy pineapple chips and a strip of candied bacon. I was stuffed but saved the best for last! This was my favourite dish of the entire evening with a moist cake, strong pineapple flavours and a mound of ice-cream. I would come back just to eat this dessert! 
The restaurant is still in its infancy, so I know that restaurants often tweak the flavours here and there. The restaurant also serves brunch on the weekends with fried oysters benny, and jerk chicken and waffles! The owners will also be incorporating daily specials and a late night bar menu. Their buck-a-shuck starts May. 12th, 2017 on Friday and Saturday’s, which is another reason to come visit.

Overall:

Focal Resto Lounge aims to be the ‘focal’ point of the neighbourhood and the go-to spot for visitors outside the city.  With a creative global inspired drink, lunch, dinner and brunch menu at reasonable prices; there are many reasons to come to the restaurant. Plus, the service was attentive.

*Disclosure: The meal was complimentary but as always, the opinions in the post are my own.

Focal Resto Lounge Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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[Review] Black Bear Japanese Fusion in Markham

Website: n/a , Instagram @blackbear_Japanesefusion
Address: 4567 Highway 7, Unit 3, Markham, ON
Date visited: April 2017
Rating: 3.5

Black Bear Japanese Fusion opened mid-April 2017 and is located where the long running AYCE “Sushi on 7 ” used to be. The restaurant is owned by a husband and wife couple, Barry Cheung and Vivien Tam. The couple had opened two successful restaurants over the last 10 years in Hong Hong, including Wing’s Kitchen in Tsim Sha Tsui (TST). With few Japanese fusion restaurants in Toronto, they wanted to tap into the market.

Black Bear Japanese Fusion serves Japanese and Korean fusion dishes, and specializes in Japanese omelet rice (omurice), as well as burgers with rice patties, which are served during their dinner service only. The menu is categorized by appetizers and salads, burgers, noodles and rice, and dessert. Examples include kimchi fries, chicken katsu caesar salad, seafood omelet rice, and udon carbonara. The appetizers are about $10 on average, and the mains range from $10 to $24. They also offer specialty drinks and beertails (beer cocktails). The decor is modern with cute cartoon mural walls.

As for many new restaurants, it normally takes a few visits to gauge how consistent the food is but I had a great first experience. I was surprised that most of the dishes we ordered were nicely presented and tasty. As for the service, everything went smoothly initially but did have a hard time getting the servers attention once all the tables filled up.

What we ordered:

Golden Krone Beertail and Mango Paradise specialty drink – This was my first beertail and it won’t be my last.

Melted Cheese Corn- The chips were tostitos and not made in-house but the sweet cheesy corn dip was a hit with our kids.

Japanese Fusion Fries with miso mayo green onions, nori and mentaiko. The salty roe really made the dish pop!

Black Bear Wings with sriracha mayo- The jumbo wings were moist and well seasoned.

K-pop chicken- These tender bites was my favourite appetizer.

Pork Katsu Omelet Rice with Japanese Curry– A really tasty dish with a flavourful curry, a crispy pork katsu and a fluffy omelet. Plus, the portions were huge.

The soft shell crab had a light batter and great flavours but I felt the entire burger and bun was too soft for my liking.

Overall:

Although the restaurant advertises that they specialize in omelet rices and rice burgers, their menu has much more than that. This family friendly restaurant will satisfy those who want comfort food with a Japanese fusion twist. My top recommendations are the k-pop chicken, Japanese fusion fries, and the pork katsu omelet rice dish.

*Disclosure: The meal with complimentary but the views in my post are my own.

Black Bear Japanese Fusion Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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