{Event} Gourmet Food and Wine Expo 2015 experience

Website: http://www.foodandwineexpo.ca
Address: Metro Toronto Convention Centre, 255 Front St. W., Toronto, ON
When I attended: Nov. 19th, 2015 VIP Preview evening

I have attended the Gourmet Food and Wine Expo (#GFWE) since 2011 and enjoyed my time every year. This year was the first time going on the Thursday VIP evening, which allowed me to get a sneak peek of the expo. It was considerably less busy on a Thursday night compared to Friday and Saturday evenings, with few lines ups at vendors, which provided a great opportunity for me to interact directly with business owners and wine makers.

What drew me to the show in previous years was the celebrity chef demonstrations, where I had a chance to meet with Chef Chuck Hughes and Roger Mooking (read about my experience). Similar to my experience in 2013 (read about my GFWE experience), the highlights from the expo included free samples and the large number of beverage vendors.  If you love to try out various types of wine, beer, spirits, sake and liquor, this expo will rock your world! One thing that I would like to see more of next year is more food vendors, as it felt like 80% of the exhibitors were alcoholic beverage vendors. I spent $20 (20 tickets) and it was enough to keep me full and hydrated. 

GFWE Nov 19 2015


Check out the full list of exhibitors on the GFWE’s website. Here were some of my favourite drinks and food dishes at the expo:

1. Casa Manila’s poutine fries with beef caldereta (beef stew). This was hands down my favourite food item at the show, and it was only 2 tickets ($2).

Casa Manila

Casa Manila

2. Casa Manila’s Filipino grilled pork and chicken skewers with a choice of sauces including BBQ, coconut ginger and peanut sauce. Liz (Mary’s Happy Belly blog contributor and my sister) enjoyed the flavourful pork skewers.

Liz (@e5tang on Instagram) enjoying the pork skewer

Liz (@e5tang on Instagram) enjoying the pork skewer

3. Wagyu sausage burrito from Edo. I was hungry and this was a tasty filling choice.



4. Flor De Cana Gran Reserva 7 Yo (rum) from Nicaragua – The guava rum cocktail was the first drink I had at the expo and a memorable one. I will be picking one of these bottles on my next visit to the LCBO.


5. Dutch Mule cocktail with Ketel One vodka, ginger beer and lime juice. I loved the spicy ginger beer.

6. Goriottin Malbec AOP Cahors from France – The red wine is well priced at $13.55 for a 2011 wine.

20151119_195720-017. Kaiken Malbec Reserva from Argentina -This was a soft and smooth full-bodied red wine. The suggested food match includes mild barbecued meats, stews and pastas.


There was a LCBO on-site which was such a smart idea, so attendees could purchase the alcoholic beverages that they enjoyed at the show.

Some new faces this year that I do not recall seeing last year include efreshmeals, U-Feast , and 3 Sisters Kitchen.





3 Sisters Kitchen

3 Sisters Kitchen

I am looking forward to the expo again next year!

*Disclosure: The pair of tickets to attend were provided by the Gourmet Food and Wine Expo. The opinions and views expressed in the post are my own.

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Get your tickets for Supper with Syria, and bring 2 Syrian families to Ward 21

Supper With Syria is a unique community Dinner and Fundraising Event in Support of Syrian Refugees. The goal is to raise $70,000 to bring two Syrian familes to Toronto. 

WHEN:  Sunday  November  29th,  2015  4pm-­8pm.

WHERE:  Artscape  Wychwood  Barns  (601  Christie  St,  Toronto,  ON  M6G  4C7)

WHAT:  It  will  be  a  special  evening  as  Syrian  and  Canadian  chefs  come  together  to  prepare  traditional  Syrian  dishes  and  share  personal  stories  of  home  cooking  and  culinary  traditions  on  opposite  ends  of  the  world.  Be  immersed  in  Syrian  culture  with  live  music,  art,  and  much  more.   The  eight  food  stations  will  create  a roving  environment,  along  with  beverage  stations  specifically-­tailored  to  highlight  Syrian  drinks. Live  Syrian  music,  presentations,  and  a  silent  auction  of  authentic  Syrian  artifacts  will  also  be featured  over  the  course  of  the  evening.

WHY:  One  of  the  newly-­elected  Liberal  government’s  campaign  promises  was  to  settle  25,000 Syrian  refugees  to  Canada  by  January  1st,  2016.  The  timeline  will  be  difficult,  but  not impossible,  which  is  why  community-­based  initiatives  such  is  ours  is  crucial  in  playing  a  role to  assist  in  the  settlement  process.

Supper with Syria

BUY YOUR TICKETS: $75 per person

To purchase tickets, please send an Interac transfer to info@supperwithsyria.org
Or drop off a cheque made out to Supper With Syria at one of Councillor Joe Mihevc’s offices:

  • At City Hall Office: Councillor Joe Mihevc, 100 Queen West
  • At Community Office: Councillor Joe Mihevc, 747 St Clair Ave West

Each $75 ticket includes:

  • A menu of both local and Syrian food from amazing Toronto chefs – our tasting stations will be going all evening.
  • A lineup of entertainment unlike anything you’ve seen before – check our program.
  • A chance to bid on one-of-a-kind silent auction items and a chance to win a grand-prize raffle.
  • An opportunity to make a one-on-one contribution to Syrian people trying to start a new life in Canada.

For other locations to drop off a cheque, please email info@supperwithsyria.org

For more info, check out http://www.supperwithsyria.org/index.php and https://www.facebook.com/supperwithsyria/

Mary’s Happy Belly will be there to represent and we hope to see you there!

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{Charity Event} } St. Lawrence Market comes alive during Evening At the Market

Website: http://www.stlawrencemarket.com/
Address: St. Lawrence Market, South Building, 92-95 Front St. E, Toronto, ON
When I attended: Nov. 12th, 2015 7-10pm

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if you could try every food vendor at St. Lawrence Market? I did. It would cost a fortune to try out the best dishes in one visit. The cost of the event was worth it.

The “Evening at the Market” was a phenomenal event where it allowed guests to try unique offerings from more than 65 merchants. For $75, guests were able to sample the foods not just once, but as many times as they liked, and enjoy beverages such as beer and wine with it. I went with my friend and fellow blog contributor Waleed (http://waleedhafeez.com/) and we enjoyed every minute of the evening. On top a fun and delicious night out, it felt great to know that all the proceeds went to Foodshare. Foodshare is a non-profit organization that works with communities and schools to delivery healthy food and education.


Evening at the Market Program and menu guide

Evening at the Market Program and menu guide

The atmosphere was buzzing with happy and hungry guests, while we were were entertained by circus performers from Zero Gravity Circus The Yonge King Jazz band and pumping beats by DJ Amalia. There were beautiful strings of lights and chandeliers above us to add to the ambiance.

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Other highlights include live cooking demonstrations from Chef Lynn Crawford and Lora Kirk. Lucky me, I was able to grab Chef Lynn’s attention at the start of the event.

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As much as I love to eat…and I can eat a lot, I couldn’t eat everything. There was so much variety and the portions were generous! At Yip’s Kitchen on the bottom level, the menu guide we received mentioned they would be serving mini spring rolls. They ended up serving dim sum, noodles, char siu, hot and sour soup and tons of other dishes.

Variety of dishes from Yip's Kitchen

Variety of dishes from Yip’s Kitchen

Here were my favourites dishes of the evening: 

Oysters from ‘Seafront Fish market’ and ‘Mike’s Fish Market’.  At Seafront Fish Market, I enjoyed East Coast oysters shucked by Guinness World Record holder Patrick McMurray.

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Chicken liver mouse on a purple potato chip with pomegranate mustard and radish seedlings from ‘Urban Fresh Produce’.


Caviar with creme fresh on a potato crisp from ‘Caviar Direct’. I went back a few times for this, and closed my eyes to savour each bite. It was amazing!

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Eggplant parmigiana and pasta with meat sauce at ‘Uno Mustachio’. Apparently, the sauce is the owner’s nona’s recipe.


Peameal bacon on ciabatta bread from ‘Carousel Bakery’. I often get this sandwich when I visit the market, and couldn’t miss out on having it again.


Risotto served inside a carved out Parmesan wheel from ‘Scheffler’s Delicatessen and Cheese’. The Parmesan risotto was rich and creamy.


Ravioli with pesto sauce and tomato sauce from ‘St. Lawrence Pizza and Pasta’. That sauce was incredible!


French macarons from ‘Eve’s Temptation’. The lemon macaron was the last item of the night, and it was memorable.


If you did not have a chance to get tickets this year, I highly recommend getting tickets next year. For more information, check out the http://www.foodshare.net/ and St. Lawrence Market.

I leave you with more mouth-watering pictures!

For the blog-not duplicates

*Disclosure: Thank you to Foodshare and the St. Lawrence Market for the invitation and the ticket to attend. The opinions in the post are entirely my own.

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{Review} Pukka’s New Menu Launch

Website: www.pukka.cawww.facebook.com/pukkatoronto
Address: 778 St. Clair Ave. West, Toronto, ON
When I attended: October 26th, 2015, Media dinner

Indian cuisine – two words loosely used to define all of the rich, cultural tastes and flavours native to India. There are so many spices, aromas and even ingredients I typically associate with Indian food. Garam masala, palak paneer, cardamom, nutmeg, lentils, tandoori, dosas…the list goes on and on! The flavour profiling for Indian cuisine is unparalleled; nothing else can hit the spot when you’re craving it!

Stepping into Pukka felt a little different… in a good way! The atmosphere was buzzing with energy; people holding cocktails by the bar, dim-lighting and modern fixings to pull everything together. To start, we had okra fries that were perfectly executed – lightly battered and crispy with a hint of curry spice. This was perfectly accompanied by a mustard raita dip that was tangy and subdued the heat from the okra fries.

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I was able to sample a number of new cocktails on the menu – each one was outstandingly well done. My favourite was the Mumbai sour – Bombay Sapphire gin, Aperol, grapefruit, cardamom bitters and egg white. Delicious!

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For appetizers, we sampled the:

Tandoori Calamari – with coconut chutney and citrus slaw


Herb-Infused Chicken Tikka – with tamarind chutney


String Chaat – puffed rice, mung bean, pomegranates, mint and coriander chutney (my favourite app!)


Next up – rounddddd two! I was SO ready to dive right into the main courses!

Pumpkin Curry – with Kashmiri chilli, curry leaves and tomato


Punjabi Chicken – spicy home style curry


Beef Short Ribs – with black cumin, garlic and ginger masala


I was preoccupied with eating (can you blame me?!) and was not able to capture a picture of the Boatman’s Fish & Prawn Curry with tamarind, mustard seeds and coconut broth (pictured below to the very left) on its own.



Each dish was complex yet delicate, allowing the main ingredient(s) to shine. The fish & prawn curry had a sophisticated flavour profile with a light and creamy broth, but the seafood still took centre stage. The beef short ribs were to die for – deep, golden brown gravy and fall-off-the-bone short ribs that begged for naan, rice, or a spoon! What I also appreciated was the presentation of the food – the rice came in a hermetic glass mason jar, which was a cute touch!

Dinner was accompanied by two wine pairings chosen by the restaurant’s sommelier, Peter Boyd. A fantastic white (Vina Esmeralda, Torres 2014), and a full-bodied red (Vizcarra Senda del Oro Roble 2012).

For dessert, we had chai, caramel popcorn and decadent dark chocolate truffles. I am addicted to dark chocolate (among other foods…namely peanut butter), so this was the perfect way to end a fantastic meal!





The service was wonderful, the company was great, but the food truly took home the prize for top dog! I highly recommend Pukka for a date night, get together with friends and family, or just a solo dining adventure if you’re craving Indian food with a modern twist. I can’t wait to return and try the rest of the menu!

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

Pukka Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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{Charity event} THE STOP’S 11th Annual What’s On the Table

Website: http://wott.thestop.org/ #TheStopWOTT
Location: Daniels Spectrum, 585 Dundas St. E., Toronto, ON
When I attended: Nov. 4th, 2015
Ticket Price: $300 for all-you-can-eat and drink. 19 + ($205 tax receipt will be issued)

On the evening of The Stop’s What’s On the Table event, Daniels Spectrum was transformed into a beautiful event space with over 25 chef stations and 7 beverage vendors from various Niagara wineries and Steam Whistle as the beer vendor.  The ceiling was decorated with large white lantern-like fixtures which made the space look fun, yet classy. There were also stations located in the front lobby with a pianist who serenaded the attendees.


The evening featured many of Toronto’s top restaurants including Beast, Dailo, The Good Son, and Tundra (full list of food and beverage stations here). It was incredible to see Toronto’s top chefs at their stations preparing their creations to support the cause, which meant that I had an opportunity to speak with the chefs, aside from stuffing my face.

For the Blog1

Left to right: Salt, Cafe Belong, Richmond Station, DaiLo, Beast, Beretta and The Good Son

Chefs and Beverage vendors

Chefs and Beverage vendors

What’s on the Table was a benefit to support The Stop’s Community Food Centre, with all the proceeds going to their critical anti-hunger programs. As an example of one of The Stop’s programs, each week their Davenport kitchen prepares a healthy hot lunch for more than 1000 community members in a welcoming environment. Fundraising events such as these really make a difference in providing nourishing meals to those in need (read more about The Stop’s programs).

At the event, there was a silent and live auction. The live auction included luxurious getaways and private dinners. Chef Carl Heinrich and butcher Ryan Donovan from Richmond Station auctioned off an expertly-butchered half cow from West Side Beef Co. With everyone’s generous support, this year’s What’s on The Table event raised over $328, 000. That is incredible! (To support/volunteer/donate to The Stop, check out their website http://thestop.org/).

Silent auction

Silent auction

live auction at The Stop's What on the Table

Live auction at The Stop’s What on the Table

I spent about 3 hours at the event, which gave me plenty of time to  circle around to all the stations more than once. The mouth-watering pictures are examples of the delicious dishes I had eaten at the event:

I love oysters and as usual, I had no shame hogging the station at Hooked, where they served a selection of East and West Coast oysters.


Citizen Catering had roasted duck on a savoury pumpkin pie with a maple whisky sauce and topped with black walnuts. Look at the beautiful slice of duck meat…perfection!
What a beautiful plate of smoked sweetbreads from The Good Son with a pistachio crust.  I enjoyed the parsnip puree and apple mostarda that accompanied the sweetbreads to complete the dish.


Tundra made all the ingredients in the sandwich in-house which was impressive. The packed sandwich had wild boar pastrami, ramp kimchi in a milk bun.


Beretta served a filling caramelized onion and pulled beef stuffed sesame bun with smoked, and tangy glazed beef brisket.


Providore Catering served smoked duck, barley miso and a kumquat marmalade.


DaiLo served their famous Big Mac Bao with a meaty filling on top of their “special sauce”. I have had this at the restaurant and can’t get enough of this!


Aria served homemade potato gnocchi with a choice of a mushroom cream sauce or a marinara sauce. I really enjoyed the hearty tomato meat sauce.


I love my savoury foods, so that was what I mainly ate. Of course, I always leave room for dessert.

For the Blog2


It was a truly special evening that helped with The Stop’s fundraising efforts. The food was outstanding and I was stuffed…really stuffed! I look forward to The Stop’s food events including The Stop’s Night Market (Read about my June 2015 experience). I leave you with a selfie of my fellow blogger friend Linda (Twitter @lindamatarasso) and I having a wonderful time. Thank you so much to The Stop for the invitation!

Linda and I

Linda and I

Come out to support The Stop’s future events. You will have a blast and help support their anti-hunger programs. Remember to follow them on Twitter (@TheStopCFC) for updates.

* Disclosure: The ticket to attend was provided by The Stop. The opinions in the post are entirely my own.

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{Contest Closed} Win a Pair of tickets to the Gourmet Food and Wine Expo’s VIP Night (Worth $90)

I have been to the Gourmet Food and Wine Expo (GFWE) for several years now and I LOVE it (Read about my 2013 experience).

The expo offers more than 1500 wines, beers and delicious food vendors held at the spacious  Metro Toronto Convention Centre. To find out all the exciting highlights and to purchase tickets, go to the Gourmet Food and Wine Expo’s website http://www.foodandwineexpo.ca/ and also follow them on Twitter for updates (@GFWE).

I am giving away 2 pairs of tickets to the VIP Night at the Gourmet Food and Wine Expo on Thurs. Nov. 19th, 2015  (The pair of tickets are worth $90).

The VIP night allows you a sneak preview amongst the city’s most elite guests.


The winners are…. Jolie (@Jolie238) and Yuen Chik (@cassey48). Congratulations!


Contest Rules:

*All winners must be willing to provide their full name and e-mail address to receive their tickets electronically
* Participants can enter once a day
* Participants must be 19+
* The contest runs from Sat. Nov. 7th to Tues. Nov. 10th, 2015
* The winner will be notified by Wed Nov. 11th and must respond before the end of the day. Failure to respond in a timely manner means that another prize winner will be chosen. The winner will eventually be announced on my blog
The winner will be chosen randomly from Rafflecopter. Mary’s Happy Belly will conduct quality checks before a winner is chosen.

* Disclosure: I partnered with the Gourmet Food and Wine Expo for the give-away.

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