Tag Archives: Toronto

Sweet Jesus: make the pilgrimage

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Epipen and a menu of pimped out cones.

In July, I was asked to predict the next food trend. I blurted out ‘soft serve’, and now I wish I had money on it. Just two months later, soft serve and espresso bar “Sweet Jesus” opened in Toronto on John St., north of King West. Their opening coincided with the beginning of the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival, which is how I (and hordes of film-goers pouring out of the TIFF Bell Lightbox) ended up there.

It’s a good thing that TIFF fans are experts at lining up, because that is what you have to do most evenings at Sweet Jesus. The menu is deceptively simple: soft serve, espresso, churros and Mexican paletas (popsicles). But it is the soft serve which has the starring role. Four flavours are available for purists (chocolate, vanilla, raspberry lemonade and burnt marshmallow), but the pimped out cones are the big draw.
IMG_1232Sweet Jesus will dress up your cone six ways to Sunday – well, actually eleven ways. On this occasion, I opted for my favourite combination of flavours – chocolate and nut – which is frighteningly named, “Chocolate Peanut Butter Epipen”.

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My new friends in the lineup, Evelyn and Caitlin, ordered the Lemon Coconut Cream Pie (left) and the Skor and Ritz Pie (right).

Had I known that our cones would all be identically beige, I would have ordered differently. We unanimously agreed that our cones were big enough to be shared, although I cannot promise that a bowl and spoon is an option. I notice Instagrammers posting recent photos of a drip catcher, which seems useful, but was not offered on the evening of my visit.

The little alcove on John Street which houses Sweet Jesus has recently welcomed the third incarnation of La Carnita and the second location of Union Juice, making this a very popular place to meet up en route to and from events in the festival district. There is a nice little square for hanging out, too.

My next prediction? Specialty churros and Mexican hot chocolate to help us make it through the colder weather around the corner.

Sweet Jesus

106 John St. Toronto M5H 1X9

Tuesday to Saturday: Espresso 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.   Soft serve 12 p.m. – 11 p.m.

Sunday and Monday: Espresso 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.   Soft serve 12 p.m. – 10 p.m.

www.sweetjesus4life.com

Twitter and Instagram @sweetjesus4life

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Back to School: Food Photography Workshop

Back to school. I can’t believe I said that. If you are a teacher, like me, you can’t believe that fall is around the corner and that we will be back in class very soon. If you are visiting this site for the first time, you will notice that this blog has a focus on food and learning, often both at the same time. This is a repost of an article I wrote a couple of years ago. If your fall is CRAZY, remember that you need to take care of yourself, too. Plan to get out and learn something new this fall. Some of you may have an interest in taking a course on food photography.

The workshop described in this post is offered again on Saturday, October 3rd, 2015. Visit the link provided, for more information and to register.

[Repost from November 14, 2013]

This past weekend, I had an opportunity to learn from food photographer, Lauren Cheong, who led a workshop at GTA Photography, here in Toronto.

GTA Photography holds its classes in a beautiful, airy space near the St. Lawrence market. Our small group sat in comfy couches for an introductory theory lesson, covering the basics of lighting, composition and styling for food photography. We watched slides on a flat-screen monitor and felt comfortable to ask our questions, no matter how basic.

The workshop was on a Sunday afternoon, which permitted us to shoot in natural light. Overcast skies allowed just the right kind of light through the large windows of the studio: dispersed and not too bright. In short order, we were experimenting with what we had just learned, using props, fruits and dried pasta which were provided by Lauren.

GTAfood

Lighting

This is shot from the side, using natural window light. The shadows in the first photo are a bit harsh, and could be softened by using a reflector opposite the window. If you can get highlights on berries or other dark objects, it creates depth. Dark objects are very hard to shoot.

Berries

Now have a look at how much softer the shadows appear when a reflector is used opposite the window, to reflect light back into the set.

Berries3

Composition

Shallow depth of field is often used to ensure that only the “hero”, which is the best specimen, is in focus. The additional items in the set are there to create visual interest, and to keep us looking around the shot at the story being told.

A shallow depth of field can be created by zooming in on the subject, or by using a large aperture. In this particular shot, I should never have had the lime “butt” facing the camera (unattractive, wouldn’t you agree), but at least the hero lemon is in focus in the foreground. The shadows could be softened a bit better with a reflector, although I am happy with the highlights on the fruit.

Citrus

Styling

Make sure your set tells a story that makes sense. For example, if you are photographing a cut grapefruit, you might include a knife and/or a spoon, but a fork would not make sense. If you lack props, Lauren reminded us that the props must not be the centre of attention when photographing food. She also gave us some local suggestions for renting props. This is one of the benefits of going to a workshop with an expert in your community.

If you have mastered the basics of manual settings on your DSLR, and have an interest in food photography for any purpose, I would highly recommend this workshop.

Apples

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Fusaro’s: Don’t overlook this tiny gem

The neighbourhood around Sherbourne and Richmond could hardly be called up-and-coming. It is more as if gentrification slowly crept its way up from the St. Lawrence market and stalled at this intersection. Travel a block east or a block north and you would be hard-pressed to find more than a convenience store with a microwave to warm up a frozen burrito. How is it, then, that I could have overlooked Fusaro’s, at 294 Richmond St. East? This culinary oasis is the second iteration of the popular Italian kitchen (the other location is at Queen and Spadina); and while it has been at this location since 2010, that is roughly the same length of time I have carted my knives and chef’s uniform past this intersection to the George Brown chef’s school, oblivious to its existence.

My first venture into Fusaro’s was limited by time. I had only 40 minutes before class, and quickly scanned the handwritten blackboard. I was immediately attracted by the arancini in pomodoro sauce, a dish I had learned about in my Italian cooking course. Although they have recently cropped up everywhere (Loblaw’s take-away counter, for example), arancini are the mark of a real homemade Italian restaurant, as they are made from leftover risotto, wrapped around a piece of mozzarella and then deep-fried.

The arancini at Fusaro’s are large – roughly the size of a softball. Tearing open the crisp shell of the rice ball is a delight; the scent of the yellow rice hints at turmeric, although the wait staff is blissfully ignorant as to what the magic yellow ingredient might be. Mozzarella oozes from the centre and spills into the rich tomato basil sauce in which the arancini has been presented. As the steam subsides and the dish cools, the consistency of the mozzarella changes from soft to al dente, adding excitement to the dish. The arancini are also available with beef ragú, but why would you bother, when for $7, you can have heaven on a plate? One caveat: the fourth arancino we ordered on a subsequent visit was missing the mozzarella from the centre. The helpful server brought a dish with shavings of parmesan to replace the missing ingredient, but it just wasn’t the same. And by the way, arancini are not on the printed menu. Those in the know will find them on the blackboard.

On a second visit, I brought a dinner partner, my 20-something son. I enquired about the gnocchi and learned that they are not made in-house. Instead, I ordered La Cosentina, a pasta dish comprised of penne, roasted peppers, spinach and a creamy tomato basil sauce with goat cheese. I came to dinner hungry, but this dish was substantial enough to make me glad I had not ordered a salad to start. The choice of ingredients was harmonious and held my interest. I chose a red wine, Nero D’Avola, to accompany my meal; I felt like I had been magically transported to someone’s home in Italy. My son ordered the Cotoletta of veal, which is served with sautéed vegetables and a side of linguine with pomodoro sauce. At $15, this is one of the most expensive menu items. The veal was tender, the vegetables – red pepper, yellow zucchini – sweet and well seasoned, and the linguini perfectly prepared.

Fusaros winelistThe wine list is short, which means that all wines are available either by the glass ($6) or by the bottle ($25). On this particular  night, there were three reds, two whites and one rosé on offer, all from Italy. In addition, a selection of Canadian and imported beers are available for $5.50 a bottle.

The motto on the blackboard, roughly translated, means “One never grows old at the table.” Despite the motto, those with weary bones will appreciate the main floor washrooms. According to its website, Fusaro’s prides itself on its Italian home cooking, and would like to become your dining room when you need a break from the kitchen. For me, it is exactly that: my go-to dinner spot just before a class at the George Brown chef school. Its hip vibe, intimate size and affordable pricing also make it a contender for a 20-something date night. Just remember to hitch the Richmond Street bus westward if you want to hang out with the cool kids.

 

Fusaro’s

www.fusaros.com

Twitter and Instagram @fusaros

294 Richmond St. E., Toronto M5A 1P5

647-347-3309

Open Monday – Friday 9 am – 9 pm

Saturday 10 am – 4 pm

Closed Sundays

Wheelchair accessible, with main floor bathroom

For those working in downtown Toronto, Fusaro’s can be found on rotation in the lunch delivery menu of Ubereats. Check ubereats.com for details.

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Ice Cream, Unpacked

As long as temperatures hover above 25 degrees C in downtown Toronto, popular patios have one thing in common – ice cream. Its purveyors know that the pleasure each scoop brings is due only in part to the perfectly addictive combination of cream, sugar and egg; the greater pleasure comes from something even more elusive. Ice cream evokes a simpler time, and like our own childhood, its qualities can be sublime, but ephemeral.

White Mountain churn cropped

Photo credit: Stephen Sinclair

My first recollection of the hard work required to produce what Guelph University food scientist Doug Goff calls a “frozen foam” is of taking my turn at an ice-cream churn during summers at the cottage. And while our own White Mountain churn dates from the 1930s, that company’s feat of domestic engineering has remained relatively unchanged since the company began production in 1853.

The base custard recipe becomes a “foam” with the aid of two sets of interior paddles that rotate in opposite directions inside the metal chamber, while the outer bucket contains a brine of salt and ice capable of dropping to a chilly -18 degrees C. The watery brine makes contact with the entire exterior of the metal chamber, causing the custard to increase in volume, and to freeze. Therein lies the key to a soft, creamy frozen dessert: if the foam is not kept in motion, its crystals grow large and disappointingly crunchy. Keeping the paddles moving through the rapidly freezing mixture keeps the crystals tiny and undetectable on the palate.

For over three decades, Torontonians have heralded summer by lining up at the door of Greg’s Ice Cream on Bloor. According to Greg’s employee Katherine, the shop uses natural ingredients and traditional methods to churn their ice cream. On any sunny day or balmy evening, the faithful can be seen rescuing each drip of the most popular flavour, roasted marshmallow, afraid of losing what they have waited for after a long Canadian winter. Some of us take our ice cream home and put it in the freezer, only to discover that like childhood, its moment has passed – foam collapsed, crystals formed.

Gregs ice cream

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Cook for the Cure

This year, the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation will hold its “Cook for the Cure” Event on Dec. 7th, 2013, featuring top chefs Lynn Crawford, Tyler Florence, Chuck Hughes, Mark McEwan, Corbin Tomaszeski and Vikram Vij. The major sponsor is KitchenAid.

To raise funds and friends for her team, Chef Lynn Crawford held a cocktail event this past Thursday at her Toronto restaurant, Ruby Watchco. She invited guest speaker, Bonnie Stanfield, whose daughter, Holly, lost her battle with breast cancer at age 34. Bonnie spoke bravely about how her life has been changed by the disease and by the work of CBCF to support research, patients and families.

Bonnie and Lynn full size

Lynn generously provided wine and beautiful hors d’oeuvres, including the devilled eggs with watercress, and chicken liver parfait with confit of beets, pictured here. I enjoyed a glass of excellent Meritage.

Hors d'oeuvres fullsize

I have put my support behind Chef Lynn: she is not only a great person but also the only female chef in the competition. You can support Team Crawford’s fundraising for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, and learn more about Cook for the Cure, by visiting the official website here: Support Cook for the Cure.

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