Rejoice meat lovers! Marben’s Sausage League is back!

Words and Photos by Amanda Scriver

Marben Restaurant is back for its 4th instalment of their much loved meat-driven battle, Sausage League. This time around, it’s bigger and better! In a head to head battle (or shall we say, wiener to wiener) – several locals chefs have taken time out of their schedules to head on down to Marben and compete for the title of best sausage in the city.

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Having launched in mid-July, Sausage League offers up two sausages with a pint of Beau’s for $25. Each sausage is unmarked of what restaurant is which – all expect for a red or blue napkin. Thusfar, the competition has seen Rock Lobster, The Harbord Room, Valdez, The Drake Hotel, Geraldine, Caplansky’s, The Saint Tavern and Origin North go head to head.

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Chef Rob Bragagnolo said last year of Sausage League, “Each restaurant has to prepare just over 100 sausages and bring their crew on-site for prep.  They are doing this all just for fun and love of food.”

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So as the last couple weeks have rolled out, the following restaurants have reigned supreme:

ROUND 1: Rock Lobster
ROUND 2: The Saint Tavern
ROUND 3: Caplansky’s
ROUND 4: The Drake Hotel

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The semi-finals have just begun this week, taking place on Tuesday July 29 (Rock Lobster vs. The Saint Tavern) with former champions The Saint Tavern coming out on top. Meanwhile on Wednesday July 30 (Caplansky’s vs. The Drake Hotel), the compeition was stiff but The Drake Hotel edged out for a win.

If you still want to cheer on The Saint Tavern or The Drake (in the finals) or just want to experience what all the excitement, you can still go. The final will be taking place on Wednesday August 6th.

To find out more about Sausage League, visit here.

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Fat Girl Food Squad: in the news!

The last couple weeks have been pretty outstanding for us here at FGFS HQ. After Hamilton Squad Leader Carly’s amazing front page spread in the Hamilton Spectator (seen here) – we have had some other amazing opportunities to speak out and show our voice.

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First up, Hamilton Squad Leader was featured on CBC’s Head to Toe talking about the purchase of her first fatkini.

Meanwhile, Co-Founder and Artistic Director Yuli was chatting with CBC Books for their Canada Writes series all about the revolution of Fat Girl Food Squad.

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Over on iVillage, Assistant Editor Siobhan profiled both HBIC Ama and Co-Founder Yuli on eating in public and how to love your inner fat girl.

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Boutique PR agency rock-it promotions featured our HBIC Ama as this week’s “Media Darling”, where she shares who she would love to have as a dinner guest and what its like working in the media.

It’s been an exciting week and we just want to thank YOU our readers for all the amazing love and support. We look forward to connecting with you again in IRL soon!

South American influence hits Parkdale: Mata Petisco Bar

For those that were wondering what would finally launch in the old Keriwa Café spot, the wait is no longer. Mata Petisco Bar is a restaurant largely influence by South American flavours and backed by a culinary powerhouse of Felipe Faccioli, Tulio Lessa, Patrick Fraser, Steve Fernandes and Sharath Dwarkanathan, whom all met while working in various Toronto restaurants together.

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The concept of the restaurant is comfort yet shared plates. For reference, Petisco, which means shared plates in Portuguese – as we were told the evening we were invited to their menu tasting.

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The tapas / shared-plated format at Mata is great for a communal dining experience and helps for them to change the menu seasonally. Some of the standouts from the evening were the Corvina Ceviche with Maple Candied Sweet Potato, Celery & Lime ($11) that was mild but very textured (candied sweet potato and celery). All the flavours played nicely off one another. This dish was beautifully plated and a wonderfully presented dish.

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Next up, the Grilled Octopus with Heart of Palm Puree, Raspberry & Balsamic Reduction & Taro Root Crisps ($15) was perfect. All too often we see this delicate seafood mistreated and the taste comes out all wrong. But thankfully, the cook on this was perfect and the puree just added a nice extra touch.

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Another standout from the evening was the Picanha Slider with Cachaça Caramelized Onions, House Made Catupiry Cheese, & Malagueta Pepper Aioli ($12) and although you’re thinking, “it’s just a slider” – it was so much more than that. The cheese was housemade and added an extra kick. The meat was seasoned properly and well. This slider was just well done.

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One dish I can say I was slightly disappointed about was the Beef Cheek Poutine with Cassava Frites, Fresh Curds, Scallions ($14). I had heard nothing but amazing things about it and was excited that we were having the opportunity to try it. But my verdict: it wasn’t worth the hype. The fries were great but there were not enough cheese or beef gravy. Perhaps I’ll need to re-try this dish again.

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Overall, this restaurant’s casual dining atmosphere and delicious eats are worth the trek to Parkdale for a fabulous South American-inspired meal.

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South St. Burger presents Burger Behavior

Burgers: something about them is so classic. Burgers for me remind me of my youth where my mom would pan-fry up some burgs and serve them up to make my rumbling tummy happy. Now a days, burgers can be a fancy treat.

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Case in point, South St. Burger Co. I went to visit them recently and taste-tested their Nacho Burger loaded up with cheddar cheese, guacamole, tomato salsa, lettuce and jalapeño sour cream – one of their new signature burgers. Small review: it was off the chain. It was fancy but not too crazy. Also: it didn’t leave my hands a mess and gave me an array of fresh toppings that I wanted.

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How do you like your burger? That is what South St. Burger Co. wants to know. South St. launches #BurgerBehaviour, a campaign on Twitter asking YOU the hungry readers what your burger behaviour is. Mine is clearly toppings on toppings but with a bit of flare.

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Burger lovers can join the conversation on South St.’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (@southstburger) communities using #BurgerBehaviour for the chance to win prizes. Share with us in the comments what is your Burger Behavior.

A little bit of Spain found at Portland Variety

King West has now been injected with a big dose of Spanish flavour due new kid on the block, Portland Variety. Taking over the space once inhabited by KiWe (found at Portland and King), owner Milton Nunes has ensured that this multifaceted space has a bit of something for everyone.

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Impressive marble countertops and a state of the art Mod Bar espresso machine are housed in the front room of the restaurant where a beautiful pastries and pintxos (available after 3pm) are available for purchase and consumption. During the lunch hour rush, they prep sandwiches

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Past the front area, you’re walked past the open kitchen and a beautifully lit and decorated dining room space. All the service staff are friendly and accommodating paying close attention to detail to everything. In the dining room, a huge bar exists which speaks to the large cocktail program at Portland Variety. From smoked to dry-ice, these cocktails not only provided an impressive show but tasted impeccable too. One of my favourites from the evening was The Royal Garden served over a wildflower ice sphere. The tastes were subtle yet intoxicating. If you’re looking for more of a show, check out The Tequila Bong which is literally billowing smoke poured into a glass at your table.

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But how did the food stack up? The plates we tried were all tapas style, meant for sharing and not one of us went hungry. Everything was beautifully presented and tasted great. First was the chilled seafood platter which included lobster, shrimp, smoked trout, and a brown butter sauce.

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After being fed too many terrible octopus dishes in my life, I am happy to report that Portland Variety’s grilled octopus is a show-stopper. Tender and juicy, it is complimented by smoked tomato, olive oil and bits of chorizo giving it a wonderful Spanish flare.

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Even when they weren’t focusing on meat, they were still doing it right: the chickpeas with harissa, sweet potato, and zucchini, and the baby eggplant, with byaldi confit were all huge winners and dishes I would order again and again. More specifically, the chickpeas. They were unbelievable.

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But the dish of the night has to go to the 22 oz Canadian AAA porcini rubbed blackened rib eye, with caramelized onions with frites. It was literally cooked to perfection and left me wanting more.

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Since the original tasting date, I have been back to Portland Variety twice and still have yet to be disappointed. Chef Jo Castrinos is creating a little bit of magic in that kitchen with dishes that are delicious, complex yet simple and sophisticated. Bring your friends and take in the experience for yourself.

Mexican takes flight at Los Colibris

If Los Colibris seems like a home away from home, you’re not alone in feeling that way. Although having just opened recently, the restaurant sits above sister restaurant (El Caballito) but offers up something a bit more unique and different.

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Located at 220 King Street West, the 3,500 sq. ft. restaurant boasts two private dining rooms and 150 seats. Executive Chef Elia Herrara has decided to steer away from the traditional Mexican street food craze that everyone loves and has blazed a different course: classics with a twist.

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On the menu that evening, we are shown a wide variety of items one of the highlights including the ceviche. On the regular menu, they boast four different ceviches which range in price from $12-15 and on this evening we’re offered the Ceviche Blanco (shrimp, coconut, cerrano and ginger). Everything married wonderfully together and made for a perfectly wonderful appetizer.

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If you’re looking for a heavier main course, Cerdo en Mancha Mantel ($24; confit pork belly in adobo sauce, black bean tamal,pineapple salsa and broccoli) makes for a great dish. The tamal is subtle and the pork belly is perfectly cooked. For those who may be interest in fish, check out the Huachinango a la Veracruzana ($24; red snapper, spicy veracruz sauce, poblano rice and seasonal vegetables).

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Los Colibris is currently accepting reservations and has a pre-fixe theatre menu for those trying to dine and dash. For more information, check out their website.

Representin’: FGFS featured on CBC Canada Writes – Canadian Blogs

I recently did a Q&A with CBC’s Canada Writes blog. Read on as I wax poetic about food photography, the FGFS origin story and fat as a Feminist issue.
Blogger Yuli Scheidt is hungry. And she’s not afraid to say it—and show you, in dazzling photos, exactly what she’s about to tuck in to. In her blog, Fat Girl Food Squad, she and co-founder Ama Scriver serve up mouthwatering tales of the city—Toronto, in their case. But since Yuli and Ama started the blog in the spring of 2013, “Squads” of other food-positive, self-professed fat girls have popped up in a handful of other cities across North America, posting about everything from chocolate-peanut butter doughnuts in Williamsburg to loaded baked-potato soup in Hamilton.

 
As part of our “Canada Blogs” series on great Canadian blogging, we chatted with Yuli about why fat is a feminist issue, the one (or two) things you should always include in your food shots, and the best pork chops she’s ever tasted. 

FGFS banner.jpgHow did the blog start?
FGFS’s cofounder Ama Scriver and I had been writing for about five other blogs as a tag team writer-photographer duo for about a year when we moved from music writing to food. We were feeling restless and limited and also around this time began an important conversation about what it means to be a fat person working in media and PR. We started to feel like a break for editors was necessary to do the project we wanted to do, which has ultimately evolved into FGFS. #FatGirlFoodSquad started as a personal meme on Instagram between Ama and our friends circle but we soon saw that it could, and should, be more.

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Tell us about the vision for the blog, “where food, fat and feminism intersect.” 
Fat is very much a feminist issue. Fat bodies are often not portrayed in a positive light. If they’re shown in media it’s not in a positive role, or saying or doing great smart things. Women are seen as weak if they can’t keep their weight in check, and it’s a moral failing when they don’t. One of the things I try to do is take pictures of us not only going out and doing all the smart, brilliant talks and workshops we do but also of us eating. We’re about to launch a brand new site and all our bio headshots feature us eating a food we love. For a person who lives a life in a large body it’s likely they’ve been made to feel shame about intaking food at all so it’s important to us to have fun and showcase that.
There’s a lot of deep rooted ideas on food, consumption, health, and love surrounding food. We want to help others and ourselves move away from disordered eating that disorder thinking can bring on. We champion the expansion of HaES (Health at Every Size) and non-weight loss-based approaches to health. The #1 negative comment we get is people saying we either promote obesity or that we better check our facts and that is just so simplistic and off base.
As a self-professed “fat girl,” when in your life did you embrace this moniker? 
Everyday. It’s important to use it in everyday language. It’s a reclamation of the word fat. For so long it was a word so clearly part of my identity but I wasn’t the one who had ownership of it. It was used against me. It’s a daily endeavour to make people around me realize I’m not just using in a self-deprecating way. I’m using it in the same way I would say I’m tall. No one gasps and tries to tell me, “no, you’re not tall. Don’t say that!”

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The blog has now become a real community, with “Squads” in cities around North America and pop-up events. Can you talk about that evolution, and how the one (the blog) led to the other (the community)?
The Squads are key to the community part in all of this. The Toronto members interact with each other in person almost daily and we’re lucky for that. We’re also lucky that we can interact with a huge section of our readers here. But the Squads say in Denver, Winnipeg, or Hamilton (even if those are one-women Squads) help readers from those areas feel more connected. They’re the local bureau reporting on local place and happenings.
Meanwhile, the events came out of almost a self-serving desire to meet the people we follow online and wanted to meet in person. But mostly it’s because once we did one event we saw a need to do more. My favourite was the art show, Fat In Public, until we hosted the Plus Size Pop-up and girls were telling us they’d never felt so good about stripping down and trying on clothes, that they didn’t feel fat for an afternoon.
We have this dream vision that you just spend your days floating around Toronto tasting delicious food. What does a typical day really look like for you?
Like a lot of people my age working in the arts, I do have a day job working as a barista that sometimes has me up and out the door at 4 am. I’ll work until the afternoon, after which I’ll catch up on emails, my freelance work and edit some photos for the blog, then I’ll meet up with Ama or another writer to photograph an event. Some days are more stacked than others, where I have to be at three events in a night—after which I’ll go home do some more work, get to sleep at around midnight and then start all over again at 4 am the next day.

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Your photography is eye-popping. Any tips for other bloggers out there on taking such sumptuous photos?
I’ve actually just developed some workshops on this. One for mobile food photography for Henry’s School of Imaging and one for all our contributors that I will eventually be filming to put up online for anyone to access. My best advice is use natural light wherever possible. Seek it out, request a table by the window, plan your meal to take place two hours before sunset. A bonus tip is that I love seeing hands in shots. Hands humanize the food. So often I go out and people wait patiently for me to get my shot and are shocked when I ask them to just go ahead and dig in.
What’s the single best thing you’ve eaten and put on the blog?
This honestly changes day-to-day as I try new food and new places. The most recent thing to blow me away was the Salt Cod Inari at Yours Truly. We also took a cooking class at Le Dolci recently where we made the best breaded pork chops with green goddess sauce I’ve ever had.

#WomenCrushWednesday – Naomi Watanabe

[Toronto] Amarina Norris – #WomanCrushWednesday - Naomi Watanabe

by Amarina Norris  | Photo via PUNYUS

I have been all over PUNYUS since their Spring lookbook dominated my Tumblr feed in March – and for good reason. Their fashion-forward line from Japan includes plus-sizes that seem to be more about looking awesome and less about creating clothes that are “flattering”. Producing the collection is comedian and fashionista Naomi Watanabe, who plastered cartoon food prints of fried eggs and cabbage all over dresses, leggings and more. I haven’t seen too much of her work aside from the PUNYUS line (because it’s all in Japanese), but her style is amazing and she is all kinds of goofy and inspiring. You can also check out her style and ridiculous selfies via her Instagram account, I can’t wait to see what comes out for Fall/Winter!

Toronto’s Hidden Patios: Speakeasy 21

In another lifetime, I spent 5 years working in Toronto’s Financial District. Often in that sea of suits, pencil skirts and clicking heels, it seemed like I was in a totally different world. A more serious world. A more formal world. And certainly, a more expensive world.

The thing with the Financial District is that price didn’t necessarily equal quality, and more often than not during working lunches or post-work beers, I found myself munching on tasteless onion rings and drinking $7 pints of crappy beer. Sure, there are favourites like Canoe and O&B  in the hood, but for a more relaxed atmosphere, it has been a dumping ground for crappy “Irish” pubs and take out Thai food in the PATH.

Speakeasy 21 is a bit of a dream come true for the younger demo in the city’s downtown core. It’s popped up just as some other heavy-hitters have made their way to the Adelaide/Yonge/Temperance area like Dineen Coffee, Drake 150, The Chase, and the PATH location of SJCB, making it quite the destination for foodies in the core.

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What I immediately liked about Speakeasy 21 was its ability to give you things you already loved, in a better form. Like the era that inspires the decor and name of the restaurant, everything they do has a bit of added class that brings comfort food classics and treats up to a whole new level of adulthood that suits the new feel of the neighbourhood.

On the night we went, it was quite overcast, but the warm air outside made sitting on Adelaide very pleasant. The multi-tiered patio is dotted with high tops — on Tuesdays and Thursdays through the summer you can hear live music while you eat. The acoustic tunes and mason jar cocktails give the patio a cottagey feel despite the location.

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For where it’s situated, they’ve been very smart with their menu, offering mostly sharables — we sampled popcorn chicken, butter chicken balls, bacon wrapped dates and pork belly skewers while sipping on boozy lavender lemonade. It was like being in someone’s backyard for a party, but facing right into downtown. To me, that’s the best of both worlds.

If you’re looking for a more formal dining experience, they have indoor seating and a full menu and wine list. It’s equally capable of serving you and your colleagues for post-work cocktails as it is for high profile lunches. Either way, come check it out and step away from the hectic lifestyle afforded by the rest of the neighbourhood. You won’t be disappointed.

Wanderlust: Yours to Discover – Thunder Bay

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Words & Photos by Vanessa Vaillant

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Thunder Bay isn’t the first place people think of when they think of a summer vacation, but every year I take the two hour flight over Lake Superior to hang out in my hometown for a week. I take a vacation to get away from the big smoke, breathe in the fresh air, eat some delicious food, and remember why mosquitoes are awful creatures. Thunder Bay is the biggest city in Northwestern Ontario, but growing up there it always felt like a small town to me. It has the highest population of Finnish people outside of Finland itself, and we boast the most NHL players coming out of our fine city per capita. It’s just the place to go to get away from busy city life.

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For me, the first stop to kick off a proper tour of Thunder Bay is to head down Bay St. to go to The Hoito for Finnish pancakes. The Hoito is a Thunder Bay legend known for their Finnish specialties and all-you-can-eat breakfast. It opened in 1918 and is one of Canada’s longest run co-operatives. In one week home I will go to The Hoito at least twice. Their Finnish pancakes are the perfect breakfast food; crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. If you’re feeling extra hungry I suggest sharing karjalanpiirakka, a savoury Finnish pastry made of rye crust and filled with rice and butter. After filling yourself up on Finnish treats I always head down the street to Finnport, a Finnish specialty shop that sells sauna goods, Marimekko housewares, and Moomin goodies.

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One of the best parts of coming to Thunder Bay is enjoying the scenery. There are gorgeous parks all around the city, as well as majestic lakes and rivers. If you have access to a car you can drive out to Kakabeka Falls, where you can hike or just take in the view. There are two hiking trails you can take, as well as camping grounds for a longer stay. It’s the perfect place to spend the day with some pals and a picnic. If waterfalls aren’t your thing, you can head over to Boulevard Lake to hike or even just sit and watch the water.

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After seeing the sights head over to another local legend, Merla Mae for some perfect summer soft-serve. They have your classic vanilla, chocolate, or swirl, as well as various hard ice creams and floats. If sweet isn’t your thing you can also go for a classic burger and fries.

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Thunder Bay may not seem like an ideal summer vacation, but if you’re the kind of person who likes warm (but not too hot) weather, fresh air, and a small-town feel, it’s a perfect place to go. You can pick up inexpensive tickets to fly there from Porter, or even plan out an Ontario road trip.

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