#MMMata: Mata Bar Tasting

1690 Queen Street West, Toronto, ON

1690 Queen Street West, Toronto, ON

Recently, I had the chance to visit Mata, a new Brazilian themed restaurant in the Queen St. West area of Toronto.  If you are looking for a new and affordable place to enjoy some delicious food, this is the place for you.  The chef put together a sampling of five courses for us, that were creative and delicious.  I wasn’t sure that I was going to like all of them, but I was willing to give it a shot (as were the people I was dining with)!

We started with one of my favourites, Cheese Bread which was served with a Lobster Pastel.  This got the evening started on the right foot for me.  Then again when doesn’t warm bread and lobster start things off properly? The lobster was creamy and light and the pastel was not oily. I learned that pastels are very common on Brazilian menus and this one was a great introduction.

Cheese Bread & Lobster Pastel

I was looking forward to the second course, which didn’t disappoint.  Corvina Ceviche with Maple Candied Sweet Potato, Celery & Lime Marinate & Fresh Cilantro.  I liked the taste of the dish and particularly liked the flavour that the sweet potato added.  It was a nice creative touch for the dish.

Corvina Ceviche with Maple Candied Sweet Potato, Celery & Lime Marinate & Fresh Cilantro

The next course was one that I wasn’t sure about, Smoked Crispy Chicken Hearts with Cauliflower Puree and Ancho Chili Oil.  To be honest, the preparation of the hearts and presentation had me won over when they arrived.  They turned out to be a bit more “springy” than I anticipated but were a tasty item to expand my taste buds a bit.

Crispy Chicken Hearts with Cauliflower Puree & Ancho Chili Oil

The third course of Picanha Sliders with Cachaca Carmelized Onions, House Made Catupiry Cheese & Malagueta Pepper Aioli.  These were delicious and disappeared quickly.  Being curious, I looked up what Picanha was and it turns out that it is one of the most popular cuts of meat in Brazil.  In North America, Picanha would be similar to the Top Sirloin Cap.  No matter what you call it the meat is tasty and the combination with the cheese and aioli is a winner and the buns they use are awesome (which is the key to any good slider, in my opinion).  I recommend these for your first visit to Mata!

Picanha Sliders with Cachaca Caramelized Onions, Housemade Catupiry Cheese & Malagueta Pepper Aioli

The follow-up to the sliders was Grilled Octopus with Heart of Palm Puree, Raspberry & Balsamic Reduction & Taro Root Crisps.  I have never tried grilled octopus and it’s amazing.  The taste combination on this plate won me over and I would definitely order this item on a return visit.  This was my personal surprise winner of the evening.

Grilled Octopus with Heart of Palm puree, Raspberry & Balsamic Reduction & Taro Root Crisps

The final course was one I was looking forward to as well – Beef Cheek Poutine with Cassava Frites, Fresh Curds & Scallions.  I have always heard that cheek was the “best” part of a number of animals and it certainly made this dish. A fan of poutine in all of its forms, this dish combined the Cassava frites very nicely with the rich gravy and cheese curds.  A great way to close out our sampling of a very creative menu that showed off the experience and talent that the team at Mata has brought with them.
Beef Cheek Poutine with Cassava Frites, Fresh Curds & Scallion
The evening was closed out with Avocado Creme Brulee, which I thought was a very creative and tasty turn on the traditional.  If you love avocados and have saved room for dessert, this is the sweet treat for you.

Avocado Creme Brulee

Our meal was accompanied by two very delicious cocktails (I love cocktails) and I would gladly order both of them again.  We were treated to a Classic Lime Caipirinha and my personal favourite, the Pisco Sour (Pisco, Egg White, Lime, Simple Syrup, Lemon Grass).

Classic Lime Caipirinha

Classic Lime Caipirinha

Pisco Sour

Pisco Sour


Mata is fueled by the creativity and enthusiasm of Felipe Faccioli, Tulio Lessa, Steve Fernandes and Sharath Dwarkanathan.  This team has a wealth of experience in Toronto that includes, Salt Wine Bar, Fishbar, Chiado and Nota Bene.  All of that experience and their hard work is visible from the passion that meets you at the front door of this restaurant.  Next time you are in Parkdale, stop in and give their menu a try.

Mata is located at 1690 Queen Street West and is open at 5p.m. Tuesday – Sunday.

 

 

#FordNAIAS: Behind the Blue Oval

The Canadian International Auto Show got me thinking about my trip to Detroit.  In my last post, I wrote about the North American International Auto Show, which filled the entire first day of my trip with Ford.  The second day was just as exciting as the first and it gave me the chance to go, “Behind the Blue Oval” and see what innovative ideas Ford was working on.  This day was packed with information and the first session I attended was focused entirely on the design process that they use, specifically with the Ford Mustang.

The Ford Mustang

The Ford Mustang

Ford Mustang - Clay Model - Exterior

Ford Mustang – Clay Model – Exterior

This session gave us a chance to meet the design team that essentially built the 2015 Mustang from an idea to a car.  They walked us through the process of how a car starts as a series of sketches, both for the interior and exterior (these sketches can be seen in the background in the photos).  They then showed us how the sketches become changeable clay models.  These models give the look and feel of what the car will actually become and they can easily be changed.  If changes are made, the models can be scanned and the CAD drawings are updated.  I was amazed at how smooth and finished the clay felt, especially as you ran your hand over the exterior of the car.  We were even able to see how the clay models can be adjusted or changed, even just slightly, which I captured in this video:

Ford Mustang - Clay Model - Interior

Ford Mustang – Clay Model – Interior

Ford Mustang - Clay Model - Interior

Ford Mustang – Clay Model – Interior

Ford Mustang - Clay Model - Exterior

Ford Mustang – Clay Model – Exterior

Ford Mustang - Clay Model - Exterior

Ford Mustang – Clay Model – Exterior


Once the clay models are done, they are “finished” to resemble what the car will look like.  This means that leather interior and seats are added, so that you can get the look and feel of what the car will look like.  For the exterior, a fibreglass model of the car is built so that it can be examined under different light.  It also gives a chance to see the lines of the car and how they look in a finished product.  I was surprised by how much both the interior and exterior design teams talked about the emotions attached to the Ford Mustang brand.  How the look and feel of the car really needed to “tie in” to the driver.  I did like that the fibreglass model was “split” down the middle and it showed both the convertible and non-convertible option in one vehicle.

Ford Mustang - Fibreglass Model

Ford Mustang – Fibreglass Model

While all of this interior and exterior work is going on, there is a second design team working on colour and fabric/leather options.  This team looks at what colours they want to add to the line up and what colour materials will suit the driver of the car.  Again, this team talked about the emotional ties that these colours and materials would have and also how they tied to the history of the car and the brand.

Ford Mustang – Interior Finishes

Ford Mustang - Interior Finishes

Ford Mustang – Interior Finishes

Ford Mustang - Interior Finishes

Ford Mustang – Interior Finishes


If you are a Mustang owner, you can rest assured that these teams are working very hard to ensure that this car suits you, what you stand for and what you love.

The final stage is for all these pieces to come together and a prototype car to be built. Once this happens, all the hundreds of sketches that started the process have been narrowed down and refined to become the car that is sitting in front of everyone. To say that it takes A LOT of work, is an understatement. The team is currently working on the 2018 Mustang!

2105 Ford Mustang Prototype

2105 Ford Mustang Prototype

2015 Ford Mustang Prototype

2015 Ford Mustang Prototype

My thanks goes to the following members of the design team that were on-hand with us during our visit and answered all of our questions, no matter how crazy:

Kemal Curic – Exterior Design manager
Larry Pelowski – Master Modeler
Sewon Chun – Senior Interior Designer
Michael Thomson – Interior Designer
Russell Sims – Digital Sculptor
Carrie Bommarito – Color and Materials Designer

#JoeyMarkville: Spring into their new location

Joey MarkvilleIf you know me, you know that one of my favourite restaurants in Toronto is Joey. In November 2013, they opened their 4th Toronto location in Markham. This new member of the family joins the existing locations in The Shops at Don Mills, The Eaton Centre and Yorkdale Mall.

I recently visited the Markham location and got to see what they are up to up on the east side of Toronto.  Once again, this location did not disappoint.  One of the things that I love is that each location has a very unique decor and atmosphere. This location is no different. I loved the vibe and feel that the restaurant had and the patio looks great for some summertime fun!

The patio waiting for spring to arrive

The patio waiting for spring to arrive

Joey Markville

A casual dining experience is waiting

A look at the bar area

A look at the bar area

One of the unique signs in the dining room

One of the unique signs in the dining room

One of the unique signs in the dining room

One of the unique signs in the dining room

Always unique architecture at Joey

Always unique architecture at Joey

A view of the dining room

A view of the dining room


I also took a few minutes to wander around the Markville Mall and was impressed by the activity level and stores that were in the mall. I am confident that this location and their patio are going be a hit when the summer of 2014 arrives.

With spring right around the corner, I thought it would be a great opportunity for you to give Joey a try for yourself. With the help of my friends there, they have given me two…that’s right TWO gift cards to give away.

Each giftcard has a value of $100, which will give you an outstanding chance to try many of their great menu items.  You could also take someone with you for a great night out!  If you need some ideas on what to try, while you are there, here are a few pictures of some items that are my personal favourites!

Sirloin Steak with Mushrooms and Crispy Spring Roll Mashed Potatoes

Sirloin Steak with Mushrooms and Crispy Spring Roll Mashed Potatoes

Individually Baked Apple Pie with Maple Ice Cream

Individually Baked Apple Pie with Maple Ice Cream


The gift card contest will be open from Monday February 17th, 2014 to Saturday February 22nd, 2014 at midnight (EST).  The details to enter & info to tweet are below in order to enter.  Contest is open to Canadian Residents only. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

#OrangeScarf: ING Direct becomes Tangerine

In November 2013, I was asked by ING Direct to join them as they revealed to their employees, their customers and the public the new name for their bank starting in 2014.  Not many people know that ING Direct was purchased in 2012 by Scotiabank and as part of that purchase, they are required to change their name within 18 months.

ING Direct Ambassadors with CEO, Peter Aceto

ING Direct Ambassadors with CEO, Peter Aceto

The first stop for this event was an opportunity to network with fellow ING Ambassadors from across Canada during a tour and dinner at the bank’s new offices on Steeles Avenue in Toronto.  We were also treated to dinner with members of the ING team at the employee restaurant that was prepared for us by their in-house Chef.

Over breakfast the next morning at the Toronto Centre for the Arts, Andrew Zimakas, Chief Marketing Officer at ING Direct, shared the process that had been used to source potential new names.  He talked about breaking down the process and the methods his team used to ensure that the name they selected would reflect the bank, the brand and the “Forward Banking” principles that customers had come to love.  This process also involved the help of outside resources and customers to make sure that they were staying true to these guide posts throughout the process.

One thing that was emphasized by both Andrew and ING Direct CEO, Peter Aceto was that Scotiabank wanted to ensure that the ING Direct identity stayed the same.  This meant the new name had to stand alone and represent the core attributes that ING Direct had come to reflect.  Changing a name for a business is never easy, especially when you have a very loyal customer base.  The mantra of the day was that the name of the bank is changing; Everything else is getting better.

After a group “Cooking on a Budget” session, our final stop of the day was back at the Toronto Centre for the Arts, where we joined the ING Direct employees for the official announcement of the new name for their bank.  This event was fun, lighthearted and suited the bank perfectly.  There was even a surprise visit from their former spokesperson (who many thought was their CEO for years) who led all of us in repeating that famous line, “Call 1-800-ING-Direct and Save.Your.Money”.  That was a nice touch and a highlight, for sure!

The new image is revealed

Ryan Lewis & Macklemore

Ryan Lewis & Macklemore

Walk Off the Earth on-stage

Walk Off the Earth on-stage


Once Tangerine was announced to everyone, the event turned into a big party!  First we were entertained by Walk Off the Earth, who had partnered with ING in May 2013 to help them promote their Canadian Super Star Saver Search.  Following their performance, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis were welcomed to the stage!  Let’s just say that this took the party to a new level, that continued into the early part of the evening.

I was expecting a “bigger swing” at the name and branding for the bank with the name change.  That said, the range of “colour” options that they had available (most main colours are already taken by competitors) was limited.  At the end of the day, when I sat back and thought about what ING Direct, soon to be Tangerine meant to me as a customer, I decided that the name of the bank really doesn’t matter.  It’s the people, the processes, the products and services that they offer that matter.

During my time with the ING team at their offices and at the official launch of Tangerine, it was very evident that the people who work there are passionate about their company and their brand.  No matter what name is on the door, that won’t change if they won’t let it.  I didn’t get the impression they will.  Not on Peter’s watch.  I am looking forward to what 2014 is going to bring for ING Direct/Tangerine and some of the new products and services that they are hoping to introduce to us, including a credit card which ties to their principle of saving money.

Employee Orange Rally

Employee Orange Rally

The party is ON!

The party is ON!

CEO, Peter Aceto prepares to announce the name change

CEO, Peter Aceto prepares to announce the name change


As always, if you are interested in Saving. Your. Money, feel free to make use of my Orange Key and we both will get a kickstart to our savings!

#FordNAIAS: The North American International Auto Show

Last week, I had the pleasure of joining Ford at the North American International Auto Show for a few days.  Having been to the Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto and the Hamilton International Auto Show in my youth, I didn’t think it would be much different.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The Detroit Auto Show is the Crown Jewel of them all.  There was a product launch and unveiling every few hours and the room was full of approximately 6,000 media from around the world.  You could feel the room buzzing as each new car was unveiled and people began to talk about it.  There was a Corvette hanging on a wall in the GM area.  There was a simulated assembly line in the Ford section.  There were hor d’oeuvres at the SMART Car booth and refreshments and coffee almost everywhere you looked.  This was a different experience all together.

The first stop of the day was at the Joe Louis Arena where Ford unveiled the new 2015 F-150 Truck.  This was one of the MOST impressive product launches I have witnessed.  If you didn’t get a chance to see it, check out this video which shows the entire Ford press conference culminating with the F-150 reveal:

The entire first day of our two-day visit was focused on the Auto Show.  Ford had an impressive media room set up to allow us to go, “Behind the Blue Oval” and learn more about Ford.  They ran sessions on different topics all day that covered everything from design processes to Q & A sessions with Ford executives.  It was especially refreshing to hear throughout the day how happy and excited the Ford executive team was to have not only traditional media there with them, but also new media members as well.  It was also a relaxing environment to recharge (both yourself & your gadget batteries) and a great opportunity to take a closer look at the vehicles Ford is working on and ask lots of questions.

A snack conveyor belt

A snack conveyor belt

I had the opportunity to see a new proximity security feature they have added to the Police Interceptor line of vehicles.  This feature will automatically close open windows and lock doors, when active, if someone approaches a police cruiser from behind.  This is a big step in helping keep law enforcement professionals safe.

The team at Ford had definitely thought of everything we might want during our time at the Auto Show.  This included meals, refreshments and even a conveyor belt of snacks which kept changing throughout the day.  It started with granola bars and nuts.  Then it changed to chocolate and it ended the day with candy.  What more could you ask for?

Alan Mulally, CEO, Brad Keselowski, Chris Vollick

Alan Mulally, CEO, Brad Keselowski, Chris Vollick

During the evening portion of the event, I had the chance to meet Brad Keselowski and Alan Mulally, the President & CEO of Ford.  They were there talking with the guests and answering questions in a very relaxed setting.  I also had a chance to chat with former NASCAR driver (and 2014 Hall of Fame inductee) Dale Jarrett and NASCAR Hall of Fame member, Ned Jarrett.  The evening also included a short screening of the upcoming movie, Need for Speed (sorry, no video allowed) and the chance to meet the director of the movie, Scott Waugh.  If it sounds like a whirlwind it was.  It was also a great end to a great day!

Chris Vollick, Dale Jarrett

Chris Vollick, Dale Jarrett

Chris Vollick, Ned Jarrett

Chris Vollick, Ned Jarrett

Scott Waugh, Chris Vollick

Scott Waugh, Chris Vollick


If you want a glimpse into what Alan Mulally is like in person, there are plenty of videos online.  I had recalled seeing him in the clip below on the Late Show with David Letterman and he was very much the same in person, in my opinion.  After diving deeper into how he tied the vision and focus on the Ford brand into the original pillars that Henry Ford built the company on, when he joined the company, I am even more impressed at what Mr. Mulally has accomplished in his career.

With the work that Mr. Mulally has done at Boeing and now Ford, he has definitely helped people get around the world either in a car or an airplane for almost half a century.  If that doesn’t make him someone who embodies Henry Ford’s vision of “Opening the Highways to all mankind” which appeared in a 1925 Ford advertisement, I can’t think of a better example.