A couple of weekends ago, an event called TO Food Fest (@TOFoodFest) took place at the Chinese Cultural Center (my mumsies showcased her work there! #prouddaughter) in Scarborough. Featured there were around 20 food vendors, most of them from the Scarborough area. The idea is to shed light on the neighbourhood hotspots that may not have the same flashy storefront or prime real estate as places downtown.
In preparation for the long-awaited fest, a slew of emails were sent out to those considered the “media” for a sort of preview, a chance to chat with the vendors before they get swamped. It was no surprise to me to see some of my fellow food bloggers there, armed with their cameras!
So for this post, I’ll just quickly brief over the vendors along with a comment here or there about the food I tried. :)
Fruity Splendour – the woman pictured is the one who carves the designs on the fruit and vegetables. They receive orders for corporate events, weddings, any occasion.
The watermelon that she is motioning to (by the way, she’s a continuing ed teacher with the TDSB! :D) took 3 hours to carve!
Taste of Indonesia – Essentially, they’re an importer and distributor of “Indonesian Halal food products.” So if you’re Indonesian and homesick, I guess they’re who you can turn to? They specialize in shrimp chips! (love them…)
Gala’s Pepper Sauce – The founder, the Galadriel James (the lady on the right) is originally from Montreal. She—is Guyanese, so she knows her heat!—developed the hot sauce herself. (no preservatives!)
Bonnet peppers! They might look cute but they pack a mean punch.
Francesca Bakery – Owned by Angelo Battaglia, this is an Italian Bakery that does pastries, cakes, gelato, arancini, cannolis, and even the iconic French confection; macarons.
The arancini was really good! They had cheese and potato. Gooey cheese wrapped in risotto, then deep fried?! That’s my kind of food!
Whats Your CupCakes? Muffin!!! – Owned by Ashley and Renata and located in the Thornhill area (I guess TO Food Fest featured places all around the GTA?), cupcakes are the name of the game. The idea is to integrate famous food from countries into a cupcake.
For example, they’ve got “Wicked Wasabi” and “Cool Coconut Curry” (the latter scares me). On top of that, homemade chocolate. I can’t say anything about this place because I didn’t try their cupcakes.
Bake’n – It’s not hard to deduce what this vendor’s about. BACON! They’ve got it in cheesecake, sticky toffee cake, and popcorn.
Here’s the “sticky toffee bake’n cake” ($3) as the ladies were about to dig in! It looks decent. They should’ve soaked the cake more with the toffee sauce because it was pretty dry. The bacon was alright, didn’t do much for me though.
Baoss – They were probably the most high-profile vendor inside. A regular vendor at TUM (@TOundrgroundmkt), Jamie (in the middle) was inspired by Bao House in NYC to make some magic of his own, served up on a pillowy steamed bao.
Featured that day were 3 baos: pork belly, veal cheek, and lobster. Wish I grabbed some before the fest started because the queue was insane! They sold out in a little over an hour. In the top photo is one of my old high-school classmates, Shu! :D She works at nota bene right now and was simply on hand that day to help Jamie out.
Some lucky peeps were able to get their hands on the baos! ;D There's Denise and Brian from The Urban Craze, and Joanne from foodieroll.
They ran out of baos quickly! I got my hands on some leftover filling, yay!
Marathon Donuts & Coffee Shop – Owner Tony Chiu’s Hong Kong style milk tea has won international awards and recognition, including #1 in Toronto, and #3 in Hong Kong. I tried a sample, immediately caved and bought a packet of ground tea leaves. It’s REALLY good.
Yi Tea Shop – This place seems like your typical Chinese bubble tea shop. And then you see their Island Way Sorbet and DING! So maybe this place is a bit different.
I’m talking sorbet in fruit. You can call it a gimmick, but it was cool enough for a few of my friends to want to try it! Coconut was meh. Pina Colada; pretty addictive! Mango-orange, nothing special.
My friends are so darn cute!! gah!
Mary Macleod’s Shortbread – Their storefront is actually downtown on Queen st east, so not exactly “hidden.” Shortbread is what they specialize in; with the holidays being their busiest season.
Can you believe that they go through around 10 000 lbs of butter each year?! We tasted these little samples. I left wanting to take the sample tin with me! Also, even these teeny shortbread samplers were shaped by hand! :D
Mr.NomNom – How sketch is that?! Signage here was black sharpie on a standard 8½ by 11 piece of paper… The idea is simple, spiral cut a potato, deep fry it, roll it in powder flavouring, and you’ve got a really cool looking giant potato chip!
I’d never heard of these “tornado chips” before Night It Up (aka Might Market) a few weeks ago.
Frozen Evolution Smoothie – They only pop up at this one festival out in Mississauga (I think?) to serve up healthy, family-friendly smoothies made with 100% real fruit.
Pâtisserie Royale – The husband and wife duo specialize in Middle Eastern pastries. They’re located in Scarborough (1801 Lawrence ave east, #9) and have been in business for over 15 years. Experience is definitely on their side!
I tried their baklava (sweet pastry that’s essentially phyllo pastry + nuts + honey), it’s really good! A bit on the sweet side, although I think that’s what they’re meant to be like.
Pavitra Restaurant – I don’t normally eat Indian food because I’m really soft when it comes to heat/spices, but supposedly this place is pretty top. They gave us samples of their mango lassi which was really smooth and delicious!
So that’s all the vendors that were indoors in the gym of the center. Outside, there were around 9 or 10 more.
The Backyard Kitchen – The two guys run this place work full time, so Backyard Kitchen is their side project, which they hope to bring to TUM and eventually convert into a food truck.
They support local foods and products, so the whole “backyard” concept is really fitting!
Both of their offerings sounded and looked quite appetizing! And even though I made a note to myself to return there to try their food, I was too stuffed to go back later on. :(
grub – I like their slogan! “cookin’ whatever the f*#k we want.” It’s straightforward and no bullshit. They have one of the more unique items on their menu; gizzards!
I gave them a try. Of course they were battered and deep fried. A little chewier than preferable but still crunchy and very tasty.
TACOCAT – Cute logo! So very asian of them. Seems like everyone’s getting on the taco craze bandwagon and I honestly am not tired of it yet!
They’ve got a lot of people working the line, quite surprising but if the food’s great, then it doesn’t matter much.
Jamie’s Cracked Corn – Here, they prove that sometimes old-school is the best school. <-- wow, lame much Carmen?! But seriously, they use the same techniques from centuries ago and the product is highly addictive salty-sweet kettle popcorn! What’s not to love?!
Huge drum. The kernels are about to pop any minute now!
There it is! Time to snack :D
How‘bout them meatballs – I love the name! The story behind it all is endearing too.
The owner (top right) uses tomatoes from his grandma’s garden (cue sigh from all the ladies) and arugula he grows himself to make the bangin meatball sliders.
Samples of the meatballs were handed out. YES!
CASA Manila – Anyone who lives in Scarborough or North York should know about this place. It’s probably the most popular Filipino restaurant in the GTA (there are others though of course, ie Remely’s, Jesse Jr, Max’s restaurant).
And for good reason as I found out soon enough. The owner(?), Mila emphatically described her philosophy of getting her cuisine out there for people to appreciate and enjoy. She really cares and it shows!
For us media peeps, we left the booth enjoying skewers of grilled meat (pork or chicken) and a small Styrofoam container full of goodies like garlic fried rice, rice noodles, and stew.
Rodney’s Oyster House – Not at all unknown, Rodney’s definitely helped stir up buzz for TO Food Fest. 3 for $5 ain’t bad at all!
It was a sweltering day but don’t worry, the oysters were kept nice and cool in Styrofoam containers.
Comida del Pueblo – YES! I’ve been wanting to try their stuff for awhile now. Unfortunately, they’re usually swamped at TUM. To see that there was barely a line here was just too good to pass up!
As far as grilled cheese sandwiches go, this one’s FILLING! Oh, and the cornbread? So good.
Most of the Scartan ladies! OWOW! ;D (I’m directing that to the others, not myself. That’d be so narcissistic haha).
Big Moe’s Burger – Supposedly they make the “best” burgers in Scarborough. I can’t vouch for them though as I have yet to try their burgers. From the looks of it, they crack an egg into each patty?!
When they finally got ice, we went back to the CASA Manila tent for halo halo, an iconic Filipino dessert that’s composed of shaved ice, evaporated milk, a slew of fruit bits, and taro ice cream.
This one was alright, I’m sure it’s much better at the restaurant.
Thanks TO Food Fest for the invite (PLUS the media pass). I had an awesome time and so did those from the team that made it out! Very smart to have a venue that combined outdoor vendors and indoor ones because the heat demanded that! :D I look forward to your future events!!