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2012 Brings you REEL EATS!

It's about time I put some thought into action- like my mama always said- no opportunity is ever wasted (and I let a few slip past me in '11). So I got busy with a few good friends and we proudly bring you the inaugural launch of our food, film and storytelling monthly event- REEL EATS. Toronto's never seen anything quite like this- Hope you'll join us!

REEL EATS invites you to engage all of your senses. Join us for a monthly gastronomic film and story-telling event that brings together Toronto’s finest chefs, raconteurs (think CBC Radio’s DNTO live) and food lovers in one gloriously delicious evening. Themes generated by a famous culinary film lie at the heart of every event.

Fifth Edition: Wine Country via Sideways (May-June)
For wine and food lovers alike, this edition of Reel Eats pairs top flight, professionaly paired wines with the award-winning culinary stylings of LA's Italian + Bar's Executive Chef, Aaron Foster. His four course tasting menu will feature local, Ontario products and produce prepared with Chef Foster's inimiatble bold flavour combinations and technique. You can thank his time spent cooking in Thailand for that. His menu will be Cal-Ital in scope, Sideways inpsired and truly remarkable. For details, click here!

Fourth Edition: India, a Vegetarian Indian Feast via Monsoon Wedding (April)
Inspired by the pageantry and festivities of an Indian wedding, Reel Eats is pleased to offer diners a true Indian feast prepared by Arvinda’s Spices co-owner, cookbook author, food blogger and cooking instructor Preena Chauhan. Joining her is multi-cookbook author, vegetarian food expert and culinary instructor Nettie Cronish. Preena explains, “Typically meat is never served at an Indian wedding (ceremony) – the meal is always vegetarian as the ceremony involves the presence of God. In the film Monsoon Wedding, the wedding ceremony took place and the dancing and celebration took place immediately afterwards, so the meal would be vegetarian.” With that in mind, the two women have crafted a vegetarian Indian Feast fit for a Rajah. Details HERE.

Third Edition: France, French Food and Chocolate via Chocolat (March)
We hope you can join us for this fabulous French evening of Chocolat, chocolate, French fare expertly crafted by Chef Bruno Elsier and stories that will entertain, enlighten and leave your soul feeling good to be alive! Details ici!

Second Edition: The Big Night at The Big Ragu (February)
Join us and Chef Carmine Accogli of The Big Ragu for a jaunt through la dolce vita via The Big Night and a Big Night-inspired menu. Lots of amore going into this evening- hope you'll join us. Click HERE for details.

First Edition: Eat Drink Man Woman (January)
In honour of the Chinese New Year and The Year of the Dragon, our inaugural Reel Eats event pays homage to Asia via the fantastic food lover’s film “EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN” directed by Ang Lee. The film centers around Master Chef Chu and the elaborate Sunday dinners he painstakingly creates for his three beautiful daughters – one father’s way of getting his family to slow down and communicate in Taipei’s fast-forward, modern society. Inspired by Chef Chu, the evening’s multiple courses will be prepared and introduced by Chef Vanessa Yeung (www.aphroditecooks.com ) – a Stratford Chef School graduate, Scaramouche apprentice under Chef Keith Froggett and former personal chef to ex-NHL Toronto Maple Leafs Goalie Ed Belfour. For complete details, click here.

Muskoka, Latin America and Italy

OK, so the first place I went to this summer three times, the second region is coming to Toronto and Italy I just got back from visiting. Growing up as the youngest of three in an immigrant household, we really never had cause or reason to drive out to Muskoka- now the playground for the wealthy (some say it was almost always that way...). This summer, I went three times for work- Lake Rosseau for a cookbook launch, Taboo Resort for a Culinary Theatre Dinner experience par excellence and the Inn at Manitou (AKA "North Muskoka" so I was told) for a luxurious 2 nights amidst tall pines and Lake Manitouwabing. You can read about some of those experiences here.  This fall also brings Chef Pilar Cabrera Arroyo's visit to Toronto where she'll be sharing a taste of Oaxaca, Mexico with us at events I've organized all over the city: Frida on Sept. 16th, FRANK at the AGO on the 21st, cooking class at Nella on the 22nd, Veritas on the 23rd, Torito on the 28th and The Chefs' House (at George Brown College) on the 29th. In October, I'll be following that up with OLA: Of Latin America- 7 Chefs, 1 Kitchen, 1 Hot Night- a Latin American food frenzy at Caju Restaurant in Toronto in support of Youth Link. Finally- La Bella Italia- a whirlwind of 40+C heat, stunning medieval cities, gracious hosts and fabulous food. If I could only speak fluent Italian, I know I wouldn't have been ripped off a couple of times.... Sigh. As my father-in-law would say, "What can do?" More on that later..

My Cookbook Contributions!

I'm happy to report that Inside the Mandarin- Celebrating 30 Years of Delicious Dining is available at Mandarin restaurants all over Ontario- and yours truly wrote most of the key articles in the book! From "The Story of Mandarin Restaurants," "Fun Facts About Mandarin," to "A Simple Guide to Chinese Cuisine" including: The Well-Stocked Chinese Pantry, Making Your Way Through Chinatown, and Wok This Way- Buying and Seasoning The Perfect Wok; these were all written and researched by me for this book. I'm truly delighted to be part of a cookbook- it was one of my self-imposed goals! My food research trip to China last year was immensely helpful in crafting these pieces, as was my research/writing and producing experience on the TV series, "Street Eats!" Like my wise father always said, "No knowledge is ever wasted." He was so absolutely right! Gracias Jorge Emilio!

Spring 2009- Renewal and New Projects

It’s no cliché- spring often ushers in change. This spring, I find myself working on a brand new food “transformation” series called “Fearless in the Kitchen,” hosted by Canadian culinary celeb, Christine Cushing (for W/Viva Network). I get to work with an incredibly on-the-ball team that’s talented and professional. And best of all, Christine takes self-professed “terrible cooks” and empowers them when most thought they'd never be able to grasp this basic life skill. It’s amazing how many grown men and women have never made an entire meal for themselves in their lives (no, microwaving a ready-made number does Not count!).

On the writing front, two of my pieces will appear in the new Mandarin Buffet Restaurant Cookbook. The Mandarin as it’s colloquially called, is celebrating an impressive 30 years of operation in Ontario. That's due in part to the fierce loyalty some people have to this chain. I had a chance to interview the founding partners last winter – they’ve taken the buffet concept to a whole new level (they even have their own micro-biologist on staff!). Check out the cookbook if you get a chance – it’s a piece of living history! Oh and I have a few short and sweet entries in April’s enRoute and a piece about the adult cake industry soon to be published in The Bakers Journal. How sweet is that? One last note- yours truly recorded a piece on the Radio too- on the CBC's "Definitely Not the Opera" where the topic was- "What's in a Name?" With a name like mine- quite a bit, actually! (I'm in Hour 2 of the programme).

Halifax and the Annapolis Valley- Nova Scotia February 2009

It’s not every day a food writer gets asked to join in the East Coast fun that engulfs Halifax and surrounding area every February. This year I was lucky enough to be one of those asked and go I did with my trusty favourite food companion to the Savour Food & Wine Show in Halifax, followed by a fabulous weekend in the Annapolis Valley. We met Chef Dennis Johnson of Fid Cuisine (who as I write, is renovating his Halifax-based homage to great food), ate a terrific meal at Chef Ray Bear’s new restaurant, Bear, checked out the Halifax Farmer’s Market in the old Alexander Keith’s Brewery (best shortbread cookies ever there!), walked along the seaside boardwalk after visiting Pier 21 Museum (Canada’s version of Ellis Island if you will) and sampled numerous treats along the way. In the Annapolis Valley, we dined at Chef Michael Howell’s Tempest  - a multi-course tasting menu that he paired with local, Nova Scotia wine that far exceeded our expectations (oh, but for a bottle of Benjamin Bridge’s Nova 07!), explored the area, and had the best breakfast in the valley at Chef Scott Geddes’ Cocoa Pesto in nearby Windsor, NS. You can’t beat the East Coast for hospitality, friendly people, fabulous food (much more than the requisite and delectable seafood) and now, wine. Yes, wine- believe me, you’ll soon be hearing more about the wines of Nova Scotia- and you’ll be glad you did!

It's a Wrap!

It's official- Season III of "At the Table With..." is just about wrapped up. My last episode- filmed with the most hospitable chef around, Maricel Presilla- was recently filmed in Hoboken, NJ where her two delightful restaurants- Zafra and Cucharamama are located. The piece is now in post and the crew has the post-ATTW blues. It was such an honour to meet "the Queen of Latin Cooking" as she's known by her friend Chef Survir Saran of Devi in NYC. And he's right. She's a walking food encyclopaedia to be sure- but she's so much more than that. You'll have to watch the episode to find out (airing Fall 09).

In the interim, I leave you with a few video clips (thanks to my pal Nishi Dias of Night Day Productions in Toronto)- who helped with the video conversions. Click here to check out some of my recent TV appearances or to see some of the work I've directed. Oh and Happy Valentine's Day to one and all!

Post Mexico and New York City - December 2008

Just got back from Manhattan tonight after spending another day or so with the inimitable Chef Susana Trilling (of Seasons of My Heart Cooking school in Oaxaca, Mexico) for the final leg of her episode's filming. She also happens to be the Culinary Director of the upscale Rosa Mexicano restaurants in the US. We filmed her in action at the Union Square location in the city with Chef David Suarez (who coincidentally was one of her first hires when she owned the Bon Temps Rouler in NYC years ago). The Union Sqaure location is a gorgeous space, replete with a beautiful water wall made up of dozens of small, white "divers" frozen in their plunge to the shimmering blue water below. We captured Susana and David working on a new (decidedly delicious) dish for the restaurant, met her mentor, mom, and a few other key people that will have a voice in this upcoming episode. Best of all, we got to try some of the chefs' creations for lunch- it was a sensory delight (don't miss the duck!). We ate until we could eat no more and then smiled like a bunch of Cheshire cats who ate one too many canaries.

The 2008 Fall Bounty - Oaxaca, Mexico

Susana Trilling and vendor at Etla MarketThe fall is bringing with it a whole bunch of new, exciting developments for me. On the work front, the production team collectively did a little gig at the production office when we heard that season I of the show I work on, "At the Table With..." has been nominated for a Gemini Award! That's huge news for us and no matter what the outcome, in our hearts and minds, we all feel like we've won! Season II of the bio doc series is slated to premiere on the Food Network Canada the first week of October (we start with Jacques Pepin) and as crazy as this sounds, we've already begun producing Season III! Which means I'll be spending a few harried days with Susana Trilling (at left- dark haried woman is Susana at the Etla Market with a chapulin vendor) in Oaxaca, Mexico later this fall- the same Susana that taught Rick Bayless and some of his cooks a few regional Oaxacan dishes! This should be fascinating! Oh and I've started doing some writing for the widely read, award-winning enRoute Magazine, which I'm really happy to report. This means tomorrow, I don a pair of snappy, new rubber boots for a cheese making class I'll be wriring about! Stay tuned!

China 2008...

I just got back from a food, wine and Chinese cultural appreciation tour.. Intrepid tour guide and hospitable host Rudy Guo pulled together a team of Canadian sommeliers, chefs and fellow food/wine writers along with a solid TV crew to document some of the food and beverage related goings-on. We started our tour in Shanghai where the culinary and wine side of the team presented a Red Wine and Oyster pairing/tasting session at the prestigious Wine Residence (by ASC Fine Wines) in the city centre. There, we had the good fortune of meeting some Chinese food and wine media including Takila Fu, the Senior Editor of China’s Beijing-based Food and Wine magazine (I had no idea either) and freelance writer and columnist Crystyl Mo. Other highlights included visiting the former Portuguese colony and now Las Vegas of the east Macau, and the ever-bustling Hong Kong. I’ll be writing up a few of the culinary adventures experienced in these three cities on my Suite101.com column.

Chicago Bound for Rick Bayless...

Every season of “At the Table With…,” (the bio doc series on the Food Network Canada that I Associate Produce and Research) I direct one episode. Last year I had the privilege of working with New World cuisine creator Chef Norman Van Aken and his family in Key West, Florida while directing his episode for Season I. This summer, I headed off to the Windy City to capture the spirit and dedication of Chef Rick Bayless. Being Latin American and Spanish-speaking myself, I was fascinated to find out what it was about Mexican culture and the nation's regional dishes that captured Rick’s heart so many years ago - and why it continues to firmly grasp his attention today.

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