Tag Archives: food

#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.

 

 

#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!

What Makes a Sandwich: Revisited

Back in April 2011, I wrote a post about what makes a sandwich just right; The bread or the filling?  In that post, I also talked about some of my favourite sandwiches.  A toasted meatloaf sandwich and the “Dagwood Stag & Doe” sandwich.

Recently I saw that Dempsters was asking a similar question to people.  They even have a very funny video that compares making a sandwich to a home renovation project!  Check it out:

As a guy that has worked in and around the home renovation business for years, I love the way they tied it into a home renovation show and the toolbox of sandwich toppings is awesome!  I think that fridge makers should be taking note.  Wouldn’t that look great in a sandwich shop?

Given my love of cooking and the fact that I had been on this road before, the #DIYSandwich contest seemed like the perfect opportunity to share another one of my favourite sandwiches (or at least a variation of it)!  One of my favourite meals is Thanksgiving or Christmas and a turkey dinner.  The sandwiches made of leftovers rock!!

Here is what I started with:

Dempsters Flax Bread, Tangy Dill Pickles, Mayo, Mustard, Turkey and Swiss Cheese

Dempsters Flax Bread, Tangy Dill Pickles, Mayo, Mustard, Turkey and Swiss Cheese

I have used every type of bread to make this sandwich.  The key is that it is soft, fresh bread without a heavy crust.  You want the crunch to be the pickles in the sandwich and not the crust, in my opinion.

Normally, the turkey would be roast turkey leftovers, but I didn’t have any.  Deli turkey does just as well for this sandwich, trust me!  Usually I skip margarine and spread mayo on one slice of bread and mustard on the other.  It makes it a little healthier (one less fat) and still gets everything put together nicely.

The “leftover” version of this sandwich would also include a small spoonful of stuffing and a drizzle of gravy inside.  I’m waiting for Christmas to have another one of those.  I decided to change it up this weekend, since the gravy and stuffing were missing and added a few strips of turkey bacon.  Surprisingly, the bacon added a nice flavour and some more of that ever important “crunch”.  Here’s a peak at the finished product:

The #DIYSandwich contest challenges people to make their best sandwich and share it with Dempsters via their social networks.  In return there is the chance to win weekly $500 prizes and a grand prize valued at $4,000.  If you want to enter, you have to act quick.  The contest ends at 11:59pm ET November 6, 2013.  If you decide to enter, good luck!

Couch to 5K – Time to slim down?

I have been working on this 5K run effort for over 6 weeks now.  As I have blogged here, I am amazed by how well the app that I am using builds up strength and stamina for achieving the goal of running a 5K.  While I feel stronger and healthier, I still have one stumbling block to overcome.  I know that to go faster, I need to be lighter.  It will take less effort and energy to move a lighter body along the path or treadmill.  That is just simple physics!!  Who knew I paid attention in that class!!

Like I mentioned back when I started my blog series on this topic, I had a number of motivations to start running.  One was to support the efforts of my friend, Rachel.  Another was to improve my heart health and cardio-fitness.  The final one was that I had hoped my efforts would help me lose a few pounds as an added bonus.  That has not happened yet.  🙁

I know that there are a number of people out there that have successfully slimmed down and lost weight using a number of methods.  Outside of the usual options for formalized programs, I am curious to find out what resources people have used when attempting to lose weight.  What blogs, websites, books or magazines did you use or find useful.  Was there a particular app that you used to help you or did you use the old-fashioned method of pen & paper to help your efforts??

I personally don’t like the idea of formalized programs that tie you into a system of meetings and check-ins.  I am a busy guy and truthfully, I don’t have the added time that those programs would take.  I know that people will tell me that the time required for those activities is an investment in myself.  I also know that I would fail if I tried to add more appointments into my schedule right now.

What I want to do is figure out a program that I have ownership of and have developed to fit my lifestyle, which includes a moderate amount of travel each month.  To do this, I need some resources to build a framework, so that I can do a better job of managing what I put into my body.

It wasn’t until recently that I came to the realization that I could get the calories I need to live off, from far less food than I need to feel full.  A stunning concept, I know, but I guess that realizing that now is a good thing.  Just like my running efforts, I can make a change and a difference if I set my mind to it!!

If you have any helpful resources that you would like to share, please leave a comment below so that others can benefit from your input too.  If you would prefer to send your comments directly to me, please reach me on Twitter or via my contact page.  I look forward to your input!!