TO Food Fest

28 Jun

Last Sunday, Alice and Cherry trekked off to the great unknown (north of the 401! gasp!) for an afternoon of food, free parking and fun; better known as TO Food Fest!

Cherry: When it comes to foodfests, I tend to think Evergreen Brickworkds, or the Distillery… not Scarborough Chinese Cultural Centre

Alice: Same!   The location was one of the reasons why I was excited for this to do well – no $20 entrance fee (fueled by expensive venue costs) would mean whole families could enjoy this event without breaking the bank.

Cherry: exactly! Even if I don’t have children, I can appreciate the appeal it would have had for young families: accessible parking (which was free!), no entrance fee, and not having to fight downtown traffic to get there!

Alice: It was extraordinarily hot that day so thankfully half the vendors were inside an air conditioned gymnasium – had we spent the entire day in the sun (like some of the poor less than lucky vendors!) I think we would’ve passed out.
…We could keep thic convo going forever! Instead, we present you with our selection of Hits, Misses and the Home Run of TO Food Fest:

The Hits : enjoyable dishes and delightful people!

Alice’s #1 Dish Hit:
Aussie-style meat pies by Kanga, a partnership between two Canadian women who spent some time abroad in Oz.  Admittedly, not a first choice in hot humid weather, but come winter time and I’m stumbling home from the bar, that free-range hormone-free beef in rich vegemite gravy surrounded by homemade 100% butter puff pastry (not an easy feat!) would be an easy sell.  Ladies, get yourself a food truck and park yourselves near bars at closing time once it gets cold!  (Aside: they also feature a creamy zucchini pie for vegetarians out there and I’ve heard it’s a must-try!)

Erynn and Megan of Kanga!

Erynn and Megan of Kanga!

Cherry’s #1 Dish Hit:
Pork belly sandwich in Asian pineapple bun with taro fries by Grub TO .  One of the more creative and clever flavour combinations of the day. I’m a huge fan of combining texture that you might not otherwise: soft sweet bun and crispy fried pork?! Hit! Would go out of my way to eat this again.

grubTO menu!

grubTO menu!

Honourable mention goes to my food kryptonite: caramel corn by All Mine Caramel!

Alice and Cherry’s #1 Delightful Entrepreneur Hit:
Finally got to meet the Allen Tan, the brains behind ME.N.U.   This guy has done his homework.  Excellent presentation, décor, atmosphere.  Every aspect was researched and every detail was deliberate homage to his travels throughout asia, down to the macau casino chips.  Their offering was an Asian spin on arancini – stuffed with either bbq pork belly or Korean beef short ribs and kimchi.

Alice and Cherry’s #1 Restaurant Idea Hit:

How in a city of 2.6 million can there nary be a Filipino restaurant downtown until Lamesa?  Their light refreshing lampias (crepe wrapped vegetables with a chili peanut sauce) were a nice break from the other meat heavy dishes we had.  Definitely eyeing to check out their Queen and Bathurst location for a full meal soon!
The Misses

Cherry: We had media passes and were invited up arrive at 11:45, which we did. At that point, not much had been set up, the generators hadn’t been turned on and those who were manning the TO food fest desk didn’t really know what was going on.
Alice:  we think the intention was for media to spend an hour pre-event to chat with owners and chefs but that was probably not communicated!  Most vendors took that reserved time to set-up.  So busy frantic vendors, coupled with heat and their own confusion about timelines did not equate productive interview sessions.

Cherry: Another big miss was lack of seating. I spotted a grand total of 2 mini tables (with 2 chairs each) outside and one table that might have been used by the event organizers, but was taken over by hunger people by 1pm. By the time we left (only 1:30!) there were people eating against the wall and on the floor. Uncomfortable and not fun!

The Homerun! 

Cherry: Even with all this confusion, we managed to talk too – and then get to know some really great people behind food trucks and pop ups. Getting to know the story of why people decided to ditch their 9 – 5 jobs was really inspiring. First up, was Dan, Marie and their intern Corey, from Urban Acorn.

Alice: I loved Urban Acorn’s professional set up.  They really knew their audience – they created a small vignette to satisfy the shutterbugs with their professional SLRs and iPhones alike.  They positioned their two dishes side by side on a rustic tray made from a tree trunk cross-section and complimented them with a simple glass vase with a sprig of pine and wildflowers.

Cherry: The trio was waiting for the generators to be turned on, so we got to ask them about how they started (it all began with a conversation in the AGO’s Galeria Italia!) and best part of the business – like doing cool stuf like creating a video game inspired menu! Awesome passionate people – who also recognized us from twitter! Loved them before I even tried the food.
Alice: We promised to return to try their flexitarian movement food – and it ended up being the last thing we ate that day.  We were so happy  we ended TO Food Fest with a bang.  The crispy duck wonton with a beet coulis was the first thing I tried.  I wasn’t a big fan of the friend wonton outer shell but that juicy Muscovy duck?  Sweetened with the earthy beet coulis?  I told Dan I wanted an entire bowlful of the duck meat alone and a cigarette (I don’t smoke). The chickpea sliders were a surprise to me.  I generally find vegetarian patties to be over seasoned and sloppy.  But these were tiny bites of perfection.  Textured patties with perfect spices to compliment the chickpeas atop an homage to brioche bun that would’ve made even ClementineYYZ happy, I was embarrassed at how quickly I ate my slider.

Chickpea sliders!

Cherry: So, UrbanAcorn, when can we next find you? We promise to come with an empty stomach and a crowd of friends!


We went home sweaty, tired, but full and happy, lugging home a jar of Gala’s extra hot sauce and cupcakes.
Until next year, TO Food Fest!


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