Giveaway: $150 Gift Certificate for Fabbrica

As part of my participation in the San Pellegrino Canadian Regional Almost Chef Competition, the kind people at San Pellegrino have offered Sift, Dust & Toss readers a lovely $150 dollar gift certificate for Fabbrica, Mark McEwan's new authentic Italian restaurant that features San Pellegrino beverages. 

In order to enter this contest, please leave a comment below telling me which is your favourite San Pellegrino sparkling beverage and what meal you like to 'pair' it with. The winner will be selected randomly from the list of entries.

This contest is open to residents of the Greater Toronto Area. Contest closes at 12 Noon on Friday, February 4, 2011. The winner will be notified shortly after the contest closes.

Good luck!

Canadian regional San Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition

For the past nine years, the Canadian regional S.Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition has honoured the best in up-and-coming culinary talent. The cooking competition brings together students from more than 35 culinary institutions across the United States and Canada. During the competition they battle for a chance to compete and be judged by nationally renowned chefs at the finals competition in Napa this March.

Competitors are judged on creativity; plate appearance, taste, texture, and aroma; and sanitation at their work station; as well as on their personality while being questioned by judges and media, and on their ability to perform under pressure.

For 2011, the culinary students selected from the top of their class to participate in the Canada Regional Competition are:
  • The George Brown Chef’s School: Wendy Mah and Jean-François Daigle
  • The International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Vancouver: Christine Amanatidis and Winston Lin
  • École hôtelière de la Capitale (Québec City): Alexandre Raymond and Francis Traversy
  • Institut de tourisme et d’hôtellerie du Québec (Montréal): Nathalie Des Rosiers and Emile Balk
The competition will be judged by:
  • Chef Jeff Dell, Executive Chef for Milestones Restaurant in Toronto
  • Chef Laurent Godbout, Chef Owner of L’Épicier in Montréal
  • Chef Chris Mills, Executive Chef for Joey's Restaurants in Vancouver
  • James Chatto, Senior Editor, Food and Drink Magazine
Additionally, the fine folks at San Pellegrino are conducting a blogger contest to become a judge for this prestigious Almost Famous Chef Competition. In order to enter this contest, I am writing this blog post with my rationale for why I would be a good judge in this competition. 

I've been writing Sift, Dust & Toss for two years. I started blogging to learn more about social media and explore my interest in food and nutrition. I never expected that I would learn as much as I have, nor that I would have received so much fulfillment or met so many fantastic people. I've also developed a small, but loyal readership. While I would certainly bring a more amateur palate to the judging table than James Chatto or Chris Mills might, I've developed good culinary instincts and I seek balance above all else in the food I taste. A quality chef's work should transcend cost of flashy ingredients or the sparkle of perfect technique. Above all else, a dish must taste good and exhibit the proper balance between sweet, savoury, sour, pungent and spicy. This is what I would be looking from competitors' dishes: I'd be tasting for the masses. 

Follow the Canadian regional S.Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition on Twitter at AFChefComp or on the Facebook page.

Second Harvest Lunch Money Day

Second Harvest has officially launched their 13th annual Lunch Money Day campaign, taking place on Thursday, February 17th. Lunch Money Day is a great initiative that encourages Torontonians to donate the equivalent of what they would usually spend on lunch to Second Harvest. Every $5 donation enables Second Harvest to provide enough fresh food for 10 nutritious meals to feed the city’s hungry.

To meet their $330,000 target, Second Harvest is looking for companies, schools and individuals to sign up and get involved by running their own Lunch Money Day campaign. Campaigns are fun, easy and can take place in the office, school or home.

Here are some fun ways to raise money and help feed those in need:

  • Hold a bake sale
  • Host a dress down day and have participants make a donation for the opportunity to wear casual clothes
  • Host a sponsored lunch, i.e. pizza party, potluck, and have participants make a donation to partake in the meal
  • Sell Lunch Money Day raffle tickets
  • Host a Wii Tournament with a set entrance fee

All participants are encouraged to create their own Lunch Money Day fundraising page at so employees and students can watch their donations grow. Take action and fight hunger in Toronto. Sign up your company or school today at or call Alex Tindale at 416.408.2594.

Bland No More

Every once in a while, a food story comes along that fulfills all my witchly, witchly desires to make potions and brews.

The Green Smoothie movement has done me well. My typical smoothie now includes spirulina, raw cacao, spinach and cucumber as staples, rendering a lovely, swampy colour of green that makes others wretch.

More recently, I started making my own herbal infusions from fresh and dry herbs, fruits and flowers inside a French Press,

This past weekend, I heard Bharat Aggarwal, a professor of experimental therapeutics at the University of Texas’s M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, on 680 News talking about his book, Healing Spices: How to Use 50 Everyday and Exotic Spices to Boost Health and Beat Disease. He’s gotten a lot of play in the Toronto media scene for his research, which examined the cancer-fighting properties of curcumin, the active ingredient in buzzworthy turmeric.

Aggarwal says that many chronic diseases result from inflammation in the body and spices counteract this directly with their anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

The idea of food as medicine is not a new one. More and more, researchers are looking to the foods we eat and the lifestyles we lead for cures for chronic diseases.  What if our diet holds all the answers?
Aggarwal struggled for years with his spice research before his peers took his theories seriously. Now, more and more research is concluding that spices do in fact have a profound effect on health. 

Here are some of the spices and their reputed health benefits:

Black Pepper – May lower blood pressure and reduce inflammation
Cinnamon – May lower LDL cholesterol, may have a regulatory effect on blood sugar, heals yeast infections, can reduce arthiritis pain
Coriander – May settle digestive issues like IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
Cumin – May provide relief and cures from flatulence, indigestion, and diarrhea, may also help with the common cold
Fenugreek – may prevent the formation of kidney stones
Ginger – provides relief from nausea, migraines and stomachaches
Red Chilies – decrease appetite and thin blood (to prevent blood clots, similar to Aspirin)
Saffron – may be effective in treating mild to moderate depression
Turmeric – shown to prevent several forms of cancer

Aggarwal is careful to point out that these spices are best when cooked and incorporated into a meal as it breaks down and activates the chemicals that will have a positive effect on our bodies.

My personal belief/advice is that the easiest way to absorb the benefits of all these beautiful spices is by eating Indian food. The Indian diet is rich in spice blends- I think we could all do with a weekly, cleansing douse of Indian food.

Many times I’ve eaten Indian food and then remarked at the profound soporific effect of the meal. Although there was plenty of ghee (clarified butter) and cream in that butter chicken sauce, I persisted in my belief that the food was very, very good for me. 

I was right.

What is herbal tea?

I recently purchased a French Press for the purpose of making my own herbal tea infusions. I've been trying to avoid caffeine from black and green teas while hydrating my body and absorbing the healing properties of the aromatic herbs, flowers and fruits that herbal teas are comprised of. Black, Green and White teas are from from the Camellia sinensis plant. Other varieties of tea like Rooibos or Chamomile are considered herbal since they do not technically come from the 'tea' plant. Focusing on herbal infusions has opened up my eyes to how many ingredients can potentially become tea. Throw any of the ingredients below into a French Press. Use as little or as much as you wish. Add boiling water and let steep for 7-10 minutes then press!
  • Peppermint and Lime - soothing for the stomach, refreshing like a Mojito
  • Orange Peel, Ginger and Vanilla - brimming with vitamin C and anti-inflammatory properties, good detoxifier
  • Triple Lemon: Lemongrass, Lemon Peel and Lemon Verbena - layers of citrus flavours that cleanse the blood and liver
  • Lemon Wedge, Ginger and Rosehips - High acidity and tons of vitamin C for colds and winter seasons
I had a field day at the market in Charlottetown, PEI this summer. One of the vendors carried a variety of home-harvested herbs. I picked up rose hips, bergamot, yarrow, nettle, mullein, and chamomile flowers. I can't wait to work these dried herbs into different combinations of exciting herbal infusions.

And the winner is...


The winner of the amazing Tetley gift basket is Jonnie from Edmonton, AB. Congrats to Jonnie and many thanks to everyone who entered the contest. Jonnie, I'll be in touch with you directly.

We'll run another contest as soon as we can!

Flavür Natural Fruit Juices

A while back, I had the unique opportunity to sample some natural fruit juices called Flavür.

As I was (and still am!) dabbling in the eating of whole foods and naturopathic health, I was particularly excited to try a juice that contained only ingredients I should recognize. My sample box contained a plethora of never-before-drank flavours including Strawberry, Dragon Fruit and Ginseng, Lemon, Honey and Aloe Vera, and Blood Orange, Guava and Hibiscus. I tested each flavour with deliberation and made pensive and meticulous tasting notes on the very atypical juice selection.

What makes Flavür different than other juices is that they are made with fruit juices enhanced with 100% natural herbs, spices and flowers. The iced teas are made from entirely organic and high-quality black, green and white teas all loaded up with polyphenols .

I was very pleased by the originality and surprising flavour of drinks like Black Tea, Lime and Mint. I wholeheartedly recommend trying a Flavür product today!

Flavür products are sold in most health food stores and select convenience stores across Canada.

Toronto Indie Resto Fest

If you’ve been following this blog for some time, you may recall that I have criticized the Winterlicious/Summerlicious initiatives put forth by the City of Toronto.

Imagine my surprise and delight when I heard about an alternative foodie festival called the Toronto Indie Resto Fest (TIRF.) Still in the early stages of development, TIRF promises to be everything that Winterlicious and Summerlicious are not. Restaurants will be treated equally and listed alphabetically to ensure fairness.
  • TIRF will run from February 15 - March 15, 2011
  • The pricing, not including tax and gratuities, is as follows:
    • A two course lunch menu will cost $17 (+ $3 for dessert)
    • A two course dinner menu will cost $23 (+ $5 for dessert)
    • House wine or cocktail $5
  • 10% of all proceeds will be donated to Second Harvest
  • To see the list of participating restaurants, visit

Contest Giveaway - Tetley Colour Therapy

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about my experience with Tetley's new Colour Therapy line of teas, which I love because I've been exploring energies and chakras recently.

I have one lovely gift basket to give away to one lucky reader that includes a Tetley Colour Therapy gift basket worth approx. $70 with 2 containers each of some Tetley's new tea flavours, a canister/tea pot and 50 mood influencing greeting cards.

In order to win this lovely basket, please leave a comment on this blog post telling me your favourite colour and what kind of tea you think is represented by this colour. 

The winner will be randomly selected from the comments below. This contest will close at Noon on Friday, January 14, 2010 and the winner will be announced shortly thereafter.

Good luck!

Are you food phobic?

Today's guest post comes from my beautiful and talented colleague at work, Lynda Buwalda. Since I've been working with her, it's become apparent that she has an aversion to condiments. In this guest post, she addresses her phobia head-on and puts her issue with condiments into her own words.

Are you food phobic?

People avoid particular foods for a variety of reasons. It might be an allergy, a religious belief, or a health reason. Some people have strange perceptions of new food or foreign foods they’ve never tried, and just avoid them. We all have food we might dislike simply due to its taste and our preferences. I don’t like blue cheese, or brussel sprouts because I don’t like how they taste. Add too many items to this list, and you’re a picky eater.

Some might have those used-to-love turned cannot-eat, due a bad experience. I once ate cheese cake that had been in the fridge just a little too long. I became violently ill and to this day will not touch another slice. I don’t believe this is a phobia, I think it’s just a standard, incident-induced food aversion.

But other foods may have a more extreme level of dislike. For me, it’s mustard - even writing this word makes me uneasy.

Mustard is my arch enemy. With its fake yellow colour, strong pungent smell, and thick, creamy texture – I hate it. It will ruin any food item it comes in contact with. (I will shamefully admit to tears on one desperate-for-a-sandwich occasion where the shop has smothered the bread in mustard without my prior knowledge.) For me, it goes beyond simply an unpleasant taste; the look alone makes me squeamish. I don’t want the bottle next to me on the table, and I certainly won’t put it on your sandwich for you.

But it doesn’t stop at mustard, there are other sauces I can eat on sandwiches, but it must be kept out of sight. Condiments left on plates or knives, or heaven-forbid smeared on a table top, are enough to make my stomach churn. I physically can’t handle them, touch them, look at them.
All this led me to question food aversions, and my repulsion to condiments in particular. It’s an extremely passionate dislike, but I have really hit the level of phobic?

Phobias are by definition are an anxiety disorder characterized by extreme and irrational fear of simple things or social situations. After some research, I learned that there are two types of eating phobias. The first involves one’s inability to swallow food for fear of choking or dying. For example, arachibutyrophobia, is the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of one’s mouth, leading to suffocation and possible death.

The second type of phobia is an extreme aversion to food where textures and odours cause feelings of nausea.

I quickly realized this whole condiment thing was a bigger issue than I’d ever realized.
So, suffice it to say, I may be strange in my fear but I did find there are others just like me. There’s even a Facebook group for “People Who Have Emotional and/or Psychological Issues with Condiments”.

So, at least I’m not alone.

But I am condiment phobic.