From French Bistro to Molecular Cuisine – October Cooking Classes & Workshops at Nella Cucina!

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Learn the art of French pastry and more at Nella Cucina!

From French bistro fare to molecular cuisine and gastronomy, the cooking classes at Nella Cucina on Bathurst St. in the Annex is anything but boring!  I’m so excited to finally feature their cooking classes and workshops on the Food Calendar and I’m even more excited about the prospect of attending one of these classes!  I’ve never actually signed up for a real cooking class before and with so many options in the city, it really wouldn’t be difficult at all to find something that strikes my fancy.

I thank my walking feet for this particular foodie discovery!  I found out about Nella Cucina and their classes simply just by walking.  I had made plans to meet a friend for weekend brunch around Queen St. and Spadina and had made the trek to Wychwood Barns for the Saturday morning farmers’ market earlier on.  After my market fun, I walked back to St. Clair, looked down the road at Bathurst and thought, “ah, what the heck?  Let’s walk the whole way down!”  And you wouldn’t believe all the nifty food discoveries I made just by walking that stretch of city!  Nella Cucina was one of them and I’m so delighted because their classes sound really fun and engaging.  Aside from offering workshops and cooking classes, Nella Cucina is an actual culinary retail shop selling cookware and equipment for restaurants and food service establishments.  Here’s a sneak peek at part of the October Cooking Classes Calendar and the Nella’s October line-up of cooking classes!

Enjoy the bounty of the fall harvest and seasonal ingredients

Molecular Cuisine Workshop #1: The Professional Series at Nella Cucina, October 1.  10am-1pm.  $150/person (receive a $100 Nella Cucina gift card when you sign up for all 4 workshops!).  Love science?  Fascinated by molecular gastronomy?  Simply want to learn about awe-inspiring professional techniques used by Iron Chefs?  The Molecular Cuisine Workshop series is perfect for you!  In collaboration with John Placko, culinary director of the Modern Culinary Academy, this workshop is designed to introduce participants to the scientific processes behind many professional culinary techniques.  At this workshop, learn and practice spherification, reverse spherification, rapid freezing, and carbonation.  http://www.nellacucina.ca/component/jevents/icalrepeat.detail/2012/09/27/242/-/-.html

Classic French Fare at Nella Cucina, October 4.  6:30pm-9:30pm.  876 Bathurst St.  $95/person.  The kitchen transforms into a French bistro at this three and a half hour cooking class devoted to French classics and Parisian fare.  Create a 5-course feast as you travel through France via food!  Menu includes pan-seared chicken breast with tarragon and dijon cream sauce, gougère (classic French choux pastry with cheese), an apricot and almond tart with whipped cream, and more!  http://www.nellacucina.ca/component/jevents/icalrepeat.detail/2012/09/27/225/-/-.html

The Making of a Chef Series: The Making of a Pastry Chef at Nella Cucina, October 6.  12pm-3:30pm.  876 Bathurst St.  $125/person.  At this intensive three and a half hour hands-on class and workshop, learn the foundations and skills necessary for pastry culinary art from industry professionals using the basic ingredients in French desserts (sugar, eggs, butter, and flour), and create lovely desserts that are as beautiful as they are delicious!  Menu includes chocolate soufflé, mille- feuille (napoleon), crème brûlée, and more!  http://www.nellacucina.ca/component/jevents/icalrepeat.detail/2012/09/27/232/-/-.html

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Foodie Districts: Mirvish Village!

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After sharing the goodness of portobellos, avocado, and honey-nut bread from Sky Blue Sky Sandwiches this past week, I thought it would be a great time to do a Foodie Districts post on the quaint, yet flashy, Mirvish Village!  Named after the late business tycoon, theatre connoissuer, and philanthropist, Ed Mirvish, the little district that could is sandwiched between The Annex and Koreatown near Bloor Street West and Bathurst Street.  Mirvish Village is a tiny neighbourhood with a loud voice, a little bit of cheese, and a whole lot of retro, vintage, and character. 

Flashing lights from Toronto’s historic flagship discount store, Honest’s Ed, flicker like bedazzled jewels at the corner of Bloor and Bathurst, vibrant, colourful murals and graffiti paintings adorn the brick walls of the shops and Victorian house storefronts, and the wining and dining is one big pub and carnival affair.  While the bulk of Mirvish Village is concentrated within one or two blocks on and around Markham Street, its character and quaintness more than make up for its tininess, and the food in the area is fabulous.  You have a terrific pub, a southern cajun and creole powerhouse, vegetarian delights, and a board game cafe to boot!  Here’s a food snapshot of Mirvish Village in all its glory:

Southern Accent, Toronto headquarters for all things cajun, creole, and carnival!  Southern Accent has become one of my absolute favourite places to eat not only because of the food but because of the flamboyant decor and big and brash, party atmosphere.  With its colourful lanterns, psychic readings, boozy purple lighting, and southern fare, every day is Mardi Gras and it is just so much fun having a meal here.  My boyfriend took me here for our very first Valentine’s together because he knew I would go crazy-happy with the atmosphere and decor and because I have a real soft spot for cajun cuisine.  I love learning about the food culture (especially in New Orleans) and because there aren’t too many places in the city that serve this style of food, coming here is always a huge treat.  Hush puppies, collard greens, gumbo, okra, oysters, southern corn bread, jambalaya, catfish – it’s all here.  I am crazy about their creme brulee and my favourite foods thus far have to be the grilled corn on the cob with paprika along with my pork tenderloin and grilled mango skewers and my cod fish dinner. 

I’ve enjoyed a number of delicious dishes over the years and what I love about the menu is that there are always new selections every so often depending on the season.  Aside from their permanent, every day menu, Southern Accent has a running price fixe that changes throughout the year, huge annual Mardi bashes, and consistent appearances at both Winterlicious and Summerlicious.  Located at 595 Markham Street, open at 5pm Tuesday-Sunday.

Thanks to my grad school friends and grad school activities, I became very acquainted with the Victory Cafe!  I held conference committee meetings over juice and snacks here during the summer, attended an end-of-the-year sociology bash where I stuffed my face with a chicken club and a rich, decadent, delicious slice of chocolate milk and cookies cake (pictured up top), and an evening or two here and there for some drinks and classic pub food with classmates and professors.  Their menu is a classic pub menu with fabulous variety and portions.  There are curry and rice meals, plenty of vegetarian yummies (chili, spinach and cheese quesadillas, lentil and veggie curry, and veggie chili poutine among others), in addition to pub classics such as fish n’ chips, club sandwiches, calamari, wings, and nachos. 

The Victory Cafe houses some great memories for me because it was one of the first pubs I ever frequented as a grad student and because it gave me one of the best mac n’ cheese meals ever!  One of my fondest memories is my first visit to the Victory.  While walking in the direction of the pub spot, I stopped to ask someone if the Victory was around the corner to make sure I was heading the right way (this was before I knew my neighbourhoods inside out and backwards).  The nice young man told me it was just down the road and then went on to say, “you have to try the mac n’ cheese, it’s the best!”  I took the advice (I don’t look a gift horse in the mouth!), ordered the mac n’ cheese and from that moment on, I was forever grateful to that young lad.  I absolutely cannot wait to go back during the summer so I can eat it out on the patio and get a fab photo.  Located at 581 Markham Street.

If you’re in the market for a spot that is both vegetarian-friendly and meaty, Butler’s Pantry is at your service!  Serving brunch, lunch, and dinner, Butler’s Pantry is perfect for those who want to dine among vegetarians and carnivores alike.  Their menu is chock full of mains that showcase the diversity of different regional and ethnic cuisines and comfort foods while at the same time showing the versatility of vegetarian cuisine as starring mains.  They serve a selection of soups, salads, and sandwiches for lunch, egg breakfasts and French toasts for brunch, and a host of pasta, rice, meat, and veggie dishes for lunch mains and dinner.  They have two locations in the city (one in Mirvish Village and the other in Roncesvalles) and I’ve been itching to go for the longest time because their menu is just spectacular in terms of variety and very reasonable when it comes to pricing.  Located at 591 Markham Street.  Open Monday-Thursday 11am-10pm, Friday-Saturday 10am-11:30pm, and Sunday 10am-10pm.

 

I’ve been meaning to do a big post on Snakes and Lattes for ages now, but I need more food photos!  Snakes and Lattes is Toronto’s super popular board game cafe.  With a selection of over 200 board games, comfortable couches, and food and drinks, it’s the perfect place to go to when the weather isn’t cooperating and to spend time with a group of friends.  It’s such a fun place to go to and given how crowded and busy it can get during the afternoons and evenings, I’m not the only who who feels this way! 

How the cafe works: $5/person for all day play.  You can stay for as long as you want, order whatever drinks and food you want, and have a blast with your friends.  If you know you’re going to be coming with a group of friends, they also take reservations, just give them a call and they will save or section of the cafe for you.  They have a fabulous menu of drinks (cold and hot) and quite a bit of lunch and snack food including freshly made sandwiches, quiches (meat and vegetarian), mini donuts, and vegan cupcakes!  Sky Blue Sky Sandwiches and Snakes and Lattes sit on the border of Koreatown and Mirvish Village, but I like to include them in the mix.  Located at 600 Bloor Street West just west of Markham Street.  Open at 11am into the wee hours of the morning!

*****

Mirvish Village is located near the intersection of Bloor and Bathurst, between The Annex and Koreatown

The Fall Harvest Series – Spring Roll Wraps, Pumpkin Fruit Tarts, and More at the Centre for Social Innovation Market!

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A photo sneak peek for tonight before I dish out the full post tomorrow morning!

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Sometimes Twitter is like a ray of sunshine.  Last Thursday, I managed to catch a tweet from Cassandra of Earth and City saying they wouldn’t be at Wychwood Barns on Saturday, but would still be at Sorauren market on Monday and the “@csiTO market” on Tuesday.  I did a double take.  What in the world was @csiTO and how did I not know about this??  Enter the clickity-clack noises of my fingertips flying over my keyboard as I added and followed @csiTO on Twitter and looked them up on Google.  I found out through their Twitter home page that they were actually not a forensic crime fighting team here in Toronto (I know, bad joke, har har), but instead the Centre for Social Innovation, a centre designed to encourage those with social entrepreneurial ideas and skills to bring those ideas to life through local and transnational community involvement. 

The Centre for Social Innovation is, in my opinion, a grassroots think-tank for people from all walks of life to come together to provide support and inspiration, and to discuss and implement programs and changes to social life, whether it be environmental issues, infrastructure, economic, and everything in between.  The focus is building relationships in the community and bringing about change, for the better.  Their spaces are open and welcoming, and anyone can come in to learn more, get involved, and pitch in.  They offer spaces for groups to come in and use for meetings and the like, and they currently serve two locations in Toronto.  The newest located in the Annex is just south of Bloor West on Bathurst Street, and a new location is set to open in Regent Park on Dundas East in the new Regent Park Arts and Cultural Centre.

To make this post even more Twitter-tastic, guess how I found out about Earth and City?  You guessed it, Twitter!  I heard about – and saw – the amazing delicious food made my Cassandra and Lisa from my friend Jen, vegan baker and superwoman behind Apiecalypse Now.  I don’t know how I missed them at Sorauren during the summer, but there was no way I was going to miss them this time at a new market I had never been to in a venue I wasn’t even aware of! 

Ah, and there’s a reason for that: the market at CSI on the Annex is a new one.  They just launched their mini market and for the time being, the market will be there every other week until they can expand and run the market weekly, which I really hope they do!  Although the space looks a bit industrial and warehouse-like on the inside, I think there’s a great homey feel to it and it’s wonderful and welcoming with tables, chairs, and couches.  There’s a fully stocked kitchen with dishes and utensils and everything that everyone is more than welcome to use while they’re there.  I love that.  Grab some fresh food at the market and sit down and eat it.  I am totally doing this the next time I come!

The market was almost set up like a buffet, with a long table full of Earth and City’s raw vegan goodies, fresh bread from St. John’s Bakery in Toronto, cheese straight from Ontario farms, olive oils and vinaigrettes (which I sampled with some small chunks of bread – the pizza oil is fantastic!), and plenty of organic, vegan, fair trade chocolate courtesy of Chocosol who have just been all over the map during my farmers’ market visits!  I’ve featured them before in my Riverdale farmers’ market post, along with some photos here and there from other markets, so go have a look see!  Even though the market was small, the spread was fantastic and that’s what it’s all about – quality.

Earth and City changes up their farmers’ market menu on a consistent basis, so you never know what goodies you’ll come across when you visit them (unless of course you follow them on Twitter and they tell you).  Yesterday’s yummies: fresh spring roll wraps stuffed and made with rice paper, apples, carrots, beets, walnuts, almonds, honey dates, red onion, collard greens, ginger, sesame oil, apple cider vinegar, and lemon juice.  I don’t care, I am going to throw caution to my raw apple allergy and get one of these if I see them again for next time.  I figure I can just pick out the apple with destroying the wrap.  They look delicious. 

Also on their menu were their flatbreads, homemade frosted brownies, chocolate macaroons made with coconut flakes, organic cocoa butter, organic raw agave, and raw almond flour, and…pumpkin fruit tarts!!  I honestly should have bought one because c’mon, it’s a scrumptious-looking, to-die-for pumpkin tart!  But I had already bought cookies in the morning.  I’m going to kick myself, sigh.  I did, however, walk away with some bread rolls from St. John’s Bakery and they were delightful with green onion it.

The market was cozy, intimate, and lovely and I am SO glad I went.  I can’t wait for their next one and after checking the calendar, it looks like they’ll be there again on the 18th.  I will be there, ready to eat until I roll out down the street.

*****

The Centre for Social Innovation (Annex) is located at 720 Bathurst Street, just south of Bloor Street West and Lennox.  They also have a location on Spadina at 215 Spadina Ave., 4th floor.  Earth and City serves several farmers’ markets in the city (most notably the market at Wychwood Barns on Saturday and the Sorauren market on Monday), as well as Pedestrian Sundays at Kensington Market.  They do catering and orders, so visit their site and blog here for more information on their food, mission, and menu.