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Report: 2nd Annual Toronto Chowhound Picnic

This past Saturday found 27 Toronto 'hounds (and hound partners) gathered to share some of their favourite foods. Saturday morning's thunderstorms had us a bit worried, but by our gathering time of 4pm, the skies were blue and the sun was shining.

Some of the amazing foods made by our local hounds, in no particular order:

- coffee rubbed flank steak drizzled with chimichurri sauce
- homemade pastrami, from none other than our local deli guru, embee
- a *real* Caesar salad -- raw eggs, garlic, anchovies, the works!
- Cook's Illustrated decadent mushroom lasagna
- a Polish stew of sauerkraut and sausage, served with new potatoes and fresh dill
- 10-spice grilled pork tenderloin, served on Silverstein's mini egg buns with a garlic mayo and avocados
- pork carnitas tacos with pico de gallo, on tortillas from La Tortilleria
- shrimp, jicama and mango salad
- chickpea salad
- local mixed berries drowning (in the best possible way) in limoncello
- local strawberries served with a raw sugar from Barbados
- home smoked salmon with a sweet and spicy rub from one of our local BBQ hounds, davwud
- ridiculous espresso brownies
- super moist carrot cake with a maple icing
- sago gula maleka with coconut cream and palm sugar syrup
- Anna Olson's lemon squares
- 4 different types of homemade soda pops, each flavour more interesting than the last
- grapefruit and anise
- wolfberry
- cinnamon, ginger cola
- lemon and basil
- maple bacon (not for the faint of heart)

And some of the foods purchased by our fearless chow hunters:

- grilled Nathan's hot dogs, brought all the way from Alabama by davwud
- a very spicy chicken curry from Maroil, with their super yummy roti
- sticky toffee cake from McEwan
- several fruit flans/tarts from a bakery whose name escapes me (Chester Elegante, help!)
- a fantastic selection of cheeses and artisan breads
- quebec hard cider

I'm sure I'm missing a few items, so if anyone who was there can help, please chime in.

All in all, it was an amazing 6 hours of eating, drinking and merrymaking. We have some seriously talented home cooks in Toronto. Did I mention that embee's pastrami lasted all of 2 minutes?

If you are interested in next year's picnic, just sign up for the Toronto Chowhound google group at http://groups.google.com/group/chowho...

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  1. There was also a spicy mussel thing (I'm sure that's the technical term).

    I actually gained 2.5 lbs in 24 hours. And it was 100% worth it.

    1. Where was this advertised? This is the first I heard of this picnic.

      2 Replies
      1. re: foodyDudey

        Same here. Wonder if this was another ModGod initiative to relocate any notice to some dark corner of the site? Baffles me how something this obviously Chow-oriented got moved/nuked.

        1. re: Kagemusha

          all chowmeets are organized offline and through the googlegroup.

          chowmeets have been advertised for quite a while now (i think the googlegroup itself is already 2 yrs+ old) though not as aggressively as in the past with a sticky post every month. as a default, we've chosen first fridays of the month for meetups and this past month was the picnic. there was actually a post last year also recapping the picnic (which is only in its second year).

          the intro to the ontario board post also lists the googlegroup as a place to go for ch meetups... the mods are actually quite helpful with all of this.

      2. Sounds awesome!! I am going to sign up for next years picnic now

        1. What?! No photos???
          And you people call yourselves Chowhounders. Feh.

          2 Replies
            1. re: phoenikia

              There are usually photos of all the food at chowmeets, but for the picnic, I think we got so excited about the bounty of delicious food that we just dove in. My husband had our camera and he was really good about taking a bunch of photos through the course of the day, which he sent to me this morning. Well, I laughed hysterically because, not being a true chowhound himself, he only took photos of the people, not the food. Not one single shot of the food. Oops.

          1. It was a great event, I'm curious where the fruit for the limoncello fruit salad came from. I'm currently eating my way through half a basket of the worst cherries I've ever bought, after having given up on some pretty terrible strawberries yesterday.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Jacquilynne

              The strawberries were from Culinarium; $8 for two large quarts . The rest of the berries were from a small grocer on the east side of Yonge just north of Davisville.

            2. This all sounds a bit too much like Charlie's Burger. I'm skeptical about your motivations and selection process. Just kidding...

              If you have more pics, post or link. Looks neat.

              4 Replies
              1. re: grandgourmand

                It would have been great to see a post about it a few weeks ago. Then I would have been sure to attend.

                1. re: foodyDudey

                  It was posted only on the google group because it was being held at someone's home, which limited the capacity. I'm guessing that next year, it will be held at a larger, more public venue, which will allow for a lot more people (I believe the San Francisco event is up to the hundreds now). But the best way to be notified about the chowmeets is to join the google group, as the moderators don't allow us to plan events on the boards.

                  And grandgourmand, I know you were joking, but I just have to say that the picnic is the antithesis of a CB event! You know it's casual and egalitarian when people are addressed by their chowhound name as often as their real name, and when someone yells out "embee's here with his pastrami!" or "it's the post-dessert meat course!" and a mad rush to the food table ensues.

                  1. re: TorontoJo

                    For the record, I was completely joking. I know CB brings out some serious discussions.

                    On the other hand, the get togethers are a good idea. I read a few food blogs, mostly american ones, and there's an occasional reference to blogger get togethers. Getting a bunhc of people together sharing a passion for food can't be a bad thing...

                    1. re: TorontoJo

                      Lol at "the post-dessert meat course." Just when I thought I was done (after a second helping of desserts), the delicious pork tenderloin sandwiches and steak come out...honestly, everything is still digesting! ;-)

                      I think next year we should consider labels for the food and name tags for the people (so newcomers can figure out who's who).

                      It was a great time!

                2. i expect that a surge in membership will happen with the googlegroup and just wanted to be clear that it is pretty much only used for meetups. it's not a secondary chow chat website where we discuss tips but a place where monthly meetups based around eating are organized.

                  events are held around the city and people are so kind enough to carpool for restaurants that are a little far flung from the ttc. it evolved pretty quickly to also include a one day road trip in the summer and the picnic (also in the summer) that we just had. it is a great group!

                  1. We also had:
                    two different types of rotis with the spicy mussel thing (as Wahooty calls it :-)
                    Jink's tomato and cucumber salad (refreshingly local)
                    a bottle of Southbrook raspberry dessert wine (that lasted a whole 10 mins)
                    a bottle of ice wine (help-can't remember where it was from!)
                    and super yummy peach sangria (nice job TorontoJo!)

                    10 Replies
                    1. re: fickle

                      Pear sangria... :)

                      And dammit, I totally missed the spicy mussel thing. Didn't even see it.

                      1. re: fickle

                        The icewine was Colio, I think.

                        1. re: fickle

                          It was:
                          -shrimp malabari (orange curry)
                          -mussel fry
                          -malabari roti
                          -appam
                          all from Maroli on Bloor

                          1. re: fickle

                            I live just down the street from where Southbrook was. It's now a huge subdivision (still being built). I miss their fresh corn and pies. Twenty years ago, when I first moved to Richmond Hill, we had Silver Stream and Southbrook. Now, nothing. I don't blame the owners for selling out - I'm sure they made millions. But I still miss them.

                            1. re: FrankDrakman

                              I lived in Maple from 1981 to 1984. I could ride my bicycle to the Southbrook location in a few minutes from my house. One of the Feast of Fields events was held there around 1994. I didn't realise they had sold out, when was that?

                              1. re: foodyDudey

                                Actually the wine fickle is describing was from Sunnybrook, not Southbrook.

                                Southbrook has a new winery in NOTL -- LEED certified, bio-sustainable, organic, etc., etc. Just opened last summer. It's the place with the big blue wall as you drive along Niagara Stone Rd.

                                1. re: TorontoJo

                                  The wine was from Southbrook. It was the Framboise from their Fruit Wine selection:
                                  http://www.southbrook.com/main.html#w...

                                  1. re: fickle

                                    Doh! Sorry... I just assumed that because it was a fruit wine, it was one you picked on on the NOTL road trip. I didn't even know that Southbrook made fruit wine. Sorry!

                                    1. re: fickle

                                      Southbrook had a stall at last year's Brickworks picnic. They had samples of the fruit wines, including the raspberry. It was delicious.

                                      1. re: merlot143

                                        mm I tried them all when I visited a few weeks ago, and I liked the cassis the best.. They were all nice though, except for the blueberry.. tasted a bit medicinal.

                            2. Jo - there were a couple of mixed berry "flans" plus a plain one that they dub the crème brûlée. A good dessert choice for when you're having some guests over. Good crust with the inclusion of some crushed almonds, with a nice berry mix in a filling that's only mildly sweet. Only six bucks each.

                              It's from a new place up at Hwy. 7 & Valleymede called Marco Polo. Run by a Chinese baker making primarily Euro-styled cakes and pastries. I can't vouch for the other items though (i.e. you can give a pass on the croissant).

                              http://www.marcopolobakery.com

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: Chester Eleganté

                                Agreed on the croissants, and the danishes for that matter (I think it is the same puff pastry). I was on my way to my dad's house when I saw ths place and remembered eating the flan at the picnic the way before. I popped in and bought a few things, including various danishes and croissants and cake slices. Unfortunately, the croissants/danishes were not crispy on the outside, chewy/fluffy on the inside with distinct layers-more like a fluffy bread roll. The fillings on the danishes were nice, though nothing special. The lady behind the counter was really sweet though.

                                Now, I just need to follow a chowtip I got from the picnic and order some croissants at Saint-Honore. Mmm buttery goodness!

                                  1. re: blue bike

                                    I bought the almond croissant- I wasn't too impressed either. Not enough filling, not enough almond flavour!

                                    1. re: pinkprimp

                                      Sorry to hear this. I actually think that it has too much filling. Maybe it's the weekend batch? I usually go there Saturdays early in the morning.

                              2. Did Anna Olson bring the lemon squares or did a fellow chowhound?

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: hungryabbey

                                  Lol no Anna Olson in attendance; it was a fellow chowhound.

                                2. Yes, thanks again to Jo.

                                  A good time was had by all. And for those of you who missed, join the google group. I missed last year because, even though I had joined, I didn't bother checking it all that often. Now I know.

                                  DT

                                  7 Replies
                                  1. re: Davwud

                                    I wonder how long it takes to get approved as a member of "the group" ?
                                    I applied yesterday but no response yet. I guess it's exclusive like C'sB's. Maybe I'm in, maybe not.

                                    1. re: foodyDudey

                                      There's only one admin for the group (not me), so it can take a few days to get around to the emails.

                                      1. re: foodyDudey

                                        I don't remember. I was wondering if there is a Facebook page as well. I know there is a CH lovers but I don't know about a TO specific group.

                                        DT

                                        1. re: Davwud

                                          There is a "Toronto Chowhounds" FB group, but it has all of 5 people in it and no activity whatsoever.

                                          1. re: Wahooty

                                            I didn't find it.

                                            Perhaps a few more members will liven things up.

                                            DT

                                              1. re: Wahooty

                                                Thanks. Even after you told me it was there I still couldn't find it.

                                                Anyway, I joined. What the heck, eh??

                                                DT

                                    2. just wanted to revive this thread in case people haven't been getting the googlegroup emails...

                                      but since we reached capacity last year at Jo's home, a new venue must be sought for this year's picnic. no need for it to be someone's personal space... as mentioned by Jo further up other regional picnics have happened in parks. there's still a good amount of time to plan it but the usual planners of meet-ups have been rendered rather busy and/or out of town. if anyone (new or old to the group) would like to plan it, i and other veterans would be happy to offer support along the way. please keep all planning discussion in the googlegroup, chow mods aren't keen on having it here.