Sunday, July 31, 2011

T&T Waterfront Night Market

Just 3 weeks after experiencing my first night market in Richmond BC, I was excited to learn of the second annual T&T Waterfront Night Market in Toronto, Ontario. I quickly altered my weekend plans and arranged to make quick trip down the 401 with a couple friends.

Night Markets are popular all over Asia were vendors sell everything from prepared food items to cell phone cases.  They have a more laid back and casual atmosphere than they daytime counterparts and are a popular evening hangout for all ages.  Many of these markets have sprung up in North American cities over the past few years in areas with a high Asian population.  In Ontario, there is also an annual night market in Markham every July called Night It Up! 

We arrived in Toronto and met up with a small group of family and friends and headed down to the parking lot of the T&T Supermarket on Cherry St. for the market.  Just as we arrived, the skies opened up and a torrential downpour began.  Already soaked to the bone, we huddled under a vendors tent until the storm could pass.  So, what better time to start eating!!
A very soggy start to the evening

We started off with some BBQ pork jerky type item, and I grabbed a mango lemonade...figured I might as well buy from the vendors that were allowing us to hide under their tents!

Next we had a little help from our friends wife who braved the storm to run out and get us some more snacks.  We all shared a big basket of popcorn chicken and eggs in tea.

I am generally not a big fan of hard boiled eggs, but never one to shy away from trying a new item, I dug right in.  It is prepared by gently cracking the shell all over as to allow the tea to permeate the egg.  The result was a sweet and earthy flavour and officially the only type of hard boiled egg I really like! 

When the rain finally stopped, we pounded back a pile of goat skewers before I decided to wander around on my own.  The market was quite large, taking up the entire T&T parking lot.  I figured there was probably the same amount of vendors as the Richmond Night Market, however they were more spread out.  Probably a good thing because the crowds really started to pour in once the rain stopped.  There was a stage at the north end, but due to the rain the shows were cancelled for the evening. 

Next I grabbed a pulled pork taco, which was less than exciting.  I love making Mexican/BBQ fusion food at home, so I was looking forward to the taco, but I really shouldn't have wasted my time.  It was just dried out pulled pork on a dried out corn tortilla with a couple picked onions on top.  There appeared to be no cilantro, pico, or anything else available as condiments.  Thankfully I only spent $2 on it.

I checked out the oyster omelettes being made.  They used these giant circular frying pans to make a bunch of omelettes at a time.  This is one item you should share with friends as it is absolutely huge!!

One big difference I quickly noticed between Toronto and Richmond's night markets was the amount of stinky tofu in Toronto.  The smell was at times overwhelming as there were at least 6 vendors selling this aromatic dish.  In Richmond there was only one vendor selling it and there were frying in somewhere in the back corner of their stand so the smell was not evident at all.  I tasted it at that time and it had quite a mild and enjoyable flavour.  I was looking forward to it in Toronto, but after smelling it for a couple hours I decided to pass this time.  I later learned that the smell of rotting organic matter is something that can stay with you for hours, if not days later.  I still recommend trying it, as you will honestly be pleasantly surprised....however, just eat it quick before the smell hits you!!

Next was my favorite of all the dishes I tried that evening....I giant steamed bun with beef bulgogi.  The bun was fresh and the meat perfectly cooked.  Cilantro, cucumber, and lots of fresh jalapenos topped it off perfectly!

Just as they had at the previous night market I attended, the BBQ squid was a very popular item.  It did not disappoint.  I could have eaten the squid and steamed bulgogi buns all night long...

Met  back up with my friends about an hour later and they shared some of their takoyaki.  I was pretty full, and the lines were getting huge, so I decided that I had eaten enough for now.  We grabbed a some huge pineapple drinks and gathered the rest of our crew.  With another storm looming over the CN tower only a couple miles away, we quickly grabbed a couple cabs and headed out to the comforts of a friends condo to warm up and (finally) dry off.  

Overall, the market was well worth the trip from Ottawa.  I enjoyed some new dishes and spent the evening with family and friends who are as passionate about food as I am.   Can't wait for next year!! 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Vendy Awards Here I come!!

I'm very excited to have just booked my trip to the Vendy's in NYC on September 24th, 2011!

The Vendy's is a competition for the best street food and is held in support of the Street Food Vendor Project.

For more information, you can check out the website...

Looking forward  to sampling from all the nominated vendors who will be gathered for this event on Governors Island for the day.  In addition, I hope to make a trip to the Red Hook Ball Fields in Brooklyn for some Latino street food fun!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I couldn't eat street food the entire time...

It's true, there were times in my trip out west that I had to give in and eat food that did not come from a cart or mobile truck.  Luckily, I was still able to find some pretty unbelievable dishes, so I thought I might as well add them to the blog as well.

Oh, and there was some awesome local I'll mention them too.  Enjoy!

Coombs Country Market

Coombs was my last stop before I started the long drive across the island to Tofino. I was mostly excited about seeing the goats on the roof (yes, you read that correctly), however figured I might as well stop in at the market to pick up some snacks for the drive.

I was excited to find a large display of candied salmon, and knew I had to pick some up.  Now, I know this isn't the most exciting thing to anybody living on the coast, but to a seafood loving Ontario girl like me, it was like I won the lottery!  I grabbed some of the regular candied salmon, along with some maple candied.  Also snacked on an amazing fresh flatbread.  Also, I think there was chocolate croissant purchased, but I must have inhaled it before I even got a chance to realize what I bought.

When I arrived in Tofino, my first stop was to the Tofino Brewing Company to pick up a "growler" of beer.  A tiny brewery located in a warehouse in the south end of town, they fill the growlers up right from the tap in front of you.  The best part...they are open until 11pm daily for refills!


 A sunset snack of maple candied salmon with my growler!

Gary's Kitchen - Tofino

The only Chinese Restaurant in town, I heard about this place from various food bloggers and possibly something on the Food Network...I can't remember.  Anyway, the most important part is that I remembered about the "secret" Ginger Crab dish!

It is not on the menu and must be ordered one day in advance as they go out and buy the crab fresh the day of your meal.  Also, they usually insist that a minimum of 2 crabs is ordered, however if you travel alone and make sad puppy-dog eyes, they may do it for one!

That night I also tried a couple more BC craft beers.  I have always loved brews with fruity notes, so I jumped on the Whistler Grapefruit as soon as I saw it in the store.  Also grabbed a Phillips Ginger Beer (from Victroia).  Both were very good and the grapefruit definitely did not disappoint!

Next stop Vancouver...sushi, sushi and more sushi!  Besides the food trucks, this was basically the only thing I ate.  I was blown away by the prices, almost 1/3 of the cost in Ottawa.  Not to mention the portion sizes are absolutely gigantic and everything is a lot fresher than in my hometown!

While in Vancouver, I got a chance to meet up with my old college friend Lisa for lunch one day.  We hadn't seen each other for about 8 years, so it was going to be nice to catch up.  We grabbed a bite to eat at the Red Car Sports Bar.  It was recommended by one of Lisa's colleagues and it did not disappoint. Check it out one day if you are looking for a sports bar vibe with a contemporary atmosphere and food.  While there I enjoyed some polenta fries and a salad, along with a Red Racer IPA from Red Racer Beer in Surrey.

Other brews I tried while in Vancouver include the Okanagan Springs 1516 Bavarian Lager and Granville Island False Creek Raspberry Ale.

Took a day trip to Seattle with friends Jess and Matt who happened to be in town at the same time as me.  We had 3 stops to make while in town, two of them, Maximus Minimus and the Pike Place Market can be read about in my earlier post "West Coast Street Food" from July 16th.

The last stop was for dinner at The Crab Pot.  Another friends recommendation, I was won over when I heard that they came to your table with a bucket of seafood and dumped it all in front of you!!

Jess and Matt are all ready with their mallets!

Let the carnage begin...

A few days later, I left for the mountains.  With a stop in Squamish for a couple days of hiking, I stayed at the Howe Sound Brewery and Inn.  A beer lovers dream, my room at the Inn was located about 10 feet from the pub.  While there I sampled a variety of their beers, but by far my favorite was their summer seasonal, the King Heffy.  Upon tasting, I was immediately hit with a surprise of banana!  The bartender explained that it was the type of hops and yeast they use that gives it this distinct flavour. 

The first night I was there, I was lucky enough to meet up with Paul, one of the brewmasters for Howe Sound.  We had been speaking via Twitter earlier that week, so it was nice to meet and share a couple drinks.  Paul also took me on a private midnight tour of the brewery!  Later on we broke into his secret stash of a grapefruit beer.  All in all an amazing couple nights at a great location.  The Howe Sound Brewery quickly became one of my favorite microbreweries, second only to the Mill Street Brewery in Toronto.  Hoping that they will soon get some of their beers into the LCBO, so we can enjoy it on a regular basis in Ontario!

Next, I landed about 45 minutes north in Whistler.  I was able to get there for the Farmer's Market on Sunday, which was a great introduction to the resort town, as I wandered through the market at the base of Blackcomb.

The next day I planned to do usual touristy things including the Peak to Peak.  But, first things first....dinner!!  And couldn't all be glamorous.  One of the joys of hosteling is having access to a kitchen when you really feel like being cheap.  So, I chose to indulge in my guilty pleasure...ramen noodles.  Classy...I know!

As you can see, I also enjoyed a Longboat Chocolate Porter from Phillips Brewery.  They really do produce great beers!  Next one the craft beer list for the night was a Raspberry Porter from The Brewing Company in Kelowna.

After my trip to the top of the mountains, I hit up Roland's Creekside Pub for some BBQ ribs from Bob's BBQ.  I think I ate those too fast and forgot to take a pic.

Next stop was Crepe Montagne for dessert.  I had the "Belle Lili"...a crepe filled with banana, chocolate sauce, vanilla ice cream and whipped cream.  It was the perfect ending to a great west coast trip!

My last night, I spent winding down after dinner with a "Wee Angry Scotch Ale" from Russell Beer in Surrey.  I have to be honest, I just bought this beer for the name...but it was pretty good drinking as well!  Finally, I had a White Bark Ale from Driftwood Brewery in Victoria.  This was one of my favorites as I really enjoy wheat ales.

Almost forgot my breakfast the day I left!  The previous week I had been trying to get to  Muira Waffle and Milk for one of their waffle "sando's", but I never got around to it.  Luckily they were open in time for me to grab a bite to eat on my way back through Vancouver en route to the airport.  I was hoping that they would have their full menu available first thing in the morning, because I really wanted to try to the Korean bulgogi waffle sandwich, but only breakfast items are served first thing in the morning. So, I had to "settle" for a bacon, egg and cheese sando.  The bacon was baked right into the fresh waffle which was thick and fluffy.  It was honestly the best breakfast sandwich I have ever eaten in my life.  Please do no hesitate to check this place out for if you are in town.  The only suggestion I have is that they drizzle a little maple syrup on the breakfast items.  They also offer flavoured milks, which I definitely had to try.  I am not usually a big milk drinker, but the mango milk I had was excellent!

So, that was my trip.  I ate some amazing food and enjoyed a beautiful part of this country that I had never visited before.  I will definitely be coming back...hopefully sooner rather than later!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

West Coast Street Food!

Last year I made a decision...I would finally travel out to BC to visit the west coast. As I was planning the trip I started to learn about the street food revolution starting in Vancouver. A self-admitted food geek, I was excited to hear about the variety of cuisines and cultures that were represented in the local food carts.

As I was already an avid Twitter user, I was happy to discover that many of the vendors used this form of social media for their advertising and communication. For a few months leading up to my trip I followed several of these vendors closely, and anticipating the meals I would get to experience.

My trip very quickly became an adventure is eating. Daily activities were planned around meal times and vendor locations. What transpired was a gastric tour of epic proportions.

My trip started on Vancouver Island....


Trollers Fish and Chips. Nanaimo.

Exhausted after a full day of travel, I was looking forward to grabbing a quick (and greasy) meal and heading straight to bed. So I ventured down to the waterfront at was able to grab a bite to eat a Trollers right before closing. It's located right on the docks surrounded by fishing boats and tugs.  Fun location and the food was good. I ordered the 1 piece cod fish and chips. 


After a long ride across the island, I was happy to finally make it to Tofino.  My first stop (as I promised the owner a couple days earlier on Twitter) was the Tofino Hot Dog Stand.  I ordered the rosemary lamb sausage with caramelized onions and I was not disappointed!  The food is often from local farmers and they have a selection of sausages, along with daily specials like smoked meat sandwiches.  Located on a corner of the main drag in Tofino, it's an excellent spot to sit back and people watch.  And it doesn't hurt that there's a ice cream place next door for desert!

For dinner that day I stopped by the Wildside Grill.  Recommended by Rick Mercer a couple months ago, I was looking forward to trying out their fish tacos.  I think the picture below is self explanatory..


Day 1 of the Billabong Camp with Surf Sister... I was STARVING after a morning of flailing around on a surfboard like an idiot.  Had my mind set on hitting up Tacofino.  My love for street food started several years ago after travelling to southern California, so I was excited about visiting this giant orange taco truck!

 ordered the pork burrito and a lime/mint freshie.  The burrito kicked ass, but the drink was pure awesome.  Basically it was the best virgin mojito ever made.  A must have if you visit this truck!
And their logo on the burrito wrap is hilarious...


Day 2 of the surf camp.  I was so exhausted after the morning in the water that I slept for most of the day afterwards.  Ventured out in the evening to grab a snack and ended up at Big Daddy's Fish Fry.  A non-descript shack attached to a local Inn on the main street in Tofino, they serve all kinds of steamed and fried seafood along with milkshakes and ice cream.  I opted for the clam and mussel steamers. 


My first day in Vancouver and I was excited to enjoy more street food!  From the beginning of this trip the one truck I was looking forward to the most was the Roaming Dragon.  I have a serious (and probably unhealthy) love for all things pork, so I had to go for the pork belly sliders.  In addition, I enjoyed the rice balls and a basil lychee lemonade. 

I returned to the "Dragon" the following day with a couple friends and tried the short rib taco (and another lemonade).  All and all, great food and great staff.  Had a blast chatting it up with the girls while they took my order! 


Following my second meeting with the Roaming Dragon, my friends took my over to Granville Island to explore the market.   

I enjoyed this profiterole cup from one of the bakeries.  Went back a couple days later for a quiet Canada Day breakfast and picked up some snacks of sea asparagus and various charcuterie while I was there.


Met up with some friends today for a quick trip down to Seattle.  First stop....Maximus Minimus for some porky love...

I got the "maximus"(hot BBQ sauce) pulled pork sandwich.  All around great flavour but what really surprised me was the difference the cilantro made.  It was absolutely ingenious of them to add that to the sammy!

Next stop...and the purpose of the trip...a visit to the Pike Place Market.  What can I say about this market, except WOW!  The food, flowers and atmosphere was unbelievable.  I enjoyed some deep fried chicken hearts and gizzards and a lemon curd and ricotta crumpet, among other goodies.

One of the gorgeous fruit stands at Pike Place.


Back in Canada today, I spent the morning at the Vancouver Aquarium.  Totally not food related, but if you are visiting the aquarium I recommend signing up for the "Sea Otter Experience".  I was given the opportunity to hand feed the otters, and they are ridiculously adorable.

Back to the food....first stop for lunch was the Re-Up BBQ!  I hit up the Re-up 2 for a brisket sandwich and a strawberry soda.  As is the norm for all the vendors I met, they were very friendly and happy to serve.  The sandwich was great and I also dropped my business card into the pot for a bacon raffle!  Why would I carry my (government) business cards while on vacation you ask??...Bacon Raffles.

Earlier in the week I swung by the original Re-Up truck and given my love for all things pig, my friends insisted on this pic with the cart...

Onto lunch #2 for the day, Coma Food Truck just happened to be conveniently located just a block away!!  Pictured are my seaweed rolls and noodles.  Loved chatting with the guys at Coma, specifically about the LA scene and their inspiration food truck, Kogi.  I had eaten at Kogi a couple years ago and like them, it sparked my interest in street food. 

For dinner this day I was able to catch up with the Kaboom Box right before closing.  The guys working the truck were hilarious and my Oyster Po Boy was prepared in short time.  Love that the "Box" is collecting autographs and hand written messages on the walls from its fans! 


Canada Day!!  After a nice breakfast at the Granville Island Market, I ventured down to Canada Place to hit up a couple trucks for lunch...totally forgetting that the crowds would be a little nuts downtown.  But fortunately, crowds and Canada Day mean more street food!!  First stop....Dim Sum Express for pork dumplings...

Next stop....Feastro the Rolling Bistro!  BC Spot Prawn Bisque... Best. Soup. Ever.

And last, but not least, a special treat from Salmon and Bannock Restaurant who had a stand set up for the day.  I had a muscox roll and bannock with blueberry jam.  Can't get more Canadian than that!


With the Vancouver portion of my trip behind me, I settled in for what I thought would be a relatively "street food free" visit to Squamish and Whistler.  But I was pleasantly surprised....

Stopped by the Squamish Farmers Market before a long hike up the Stawamus Chief in the morning.  Picked up some perfectly ripe cherries and a couple pastries to keep me going for the day. 

4 hours later I finally finished the gruelling hike and was greeted at the base of the mountain by the Juice Caboose who had come up from Vancouver just for the day!  Of course I had to order the one called the "Bacon Slicer"....which combined greens, apple, ginger and lemon.  It was a great thirst quencher!

Love the green!!!

Next was a well deserved lunch stop at the Campfire Grill for, what else, more pork!!  The maple pulled pork with apple slaw was unbelievable.  And a side order of mac n' cheese and a pecan butter tart topped off the meal.

That evening I made my way back south for a visit to the Richmond Night Market.  I had been looking forward to this for months, as I knew it could only mean one thing...unusual and bizarre street food!
The market was buzzing and to no surprise the majority of the crowds were around the food vendors.  It was a complete sensory overload..all the noises, smells and blew me away.  I started the evening with a sample plate of takoyaki, a dough ball baked around seafood, most commonly octopus.  Next I sampled some pork skewers a BBQ duck "pocket" and grabbed a mango bubble tea to wash it down. 

After wandering (and digesting) around the non-food section of the market to help digest I grabbed a heaping portion of BBQ squid.  Then...onto one of the most bizarre dishes of them all....stinky tofu!! 

Given this tofu is banned in many cities worldwide because of its rotten stench, I was a little nervous about my first bite.  But, to my surprise, it was nowhere near as bad as I was expecting and I enjoyed the entire portion!


With my trip winding down, I left for Whistler to hang out in the mountains.  Perfect timing it seems as I was able to make it there for the farmers market.  Lunch today consisted of a savoury crepe filled with prosciutto, caramelized onions, goat cheese and arugula.  Desert was beautiful a chocolate hazelnut gelato.

I was also pleasantly surprised to find the Chili Tank at the Market!  An authentic WWII mobile soup kitchen from the Czechoslovakian Army, this is possibly the most badass of all trucks in Vancouver.

Unfortunately, by the time I got there they were all sold out of I had to "settle" for their drink....a pear/honey/ginger/mint freshie. 

So that pretty much sums up my trip.  It was the best holiday I think I have ever been on.  Not only was the food amazing, but the west coast of Canada (and Seattle) is absolutely gorgeous.  Disappointed that I couldn't get to more food trucks, but at least that leave me more to discover on my next trip out west.  For now, I am recovering at home in Ottawa and lamenting over the pathetic street food scene here.  Hoping things get going here soon, or I may have to consider re-locating!!

Thanks for reading.  If you want more info or pics of my trip, feel free to follow me on Twitter and we can chat more there.