Great Food Pop-Ups are Happening Everywhere

Monday, April 16, 2018 10:20 PM


My mother was an exceptional gourmet cook, and still is! Starting at an early age - we were all introduced to a number of really interesting foods from around the world, and in thinking back on it – there were ALWAYS, always piles of dog-eared and grease-spattered Gourmet Magazines on pretty much every surface around the house. When my parents hosted dinner parties (and there were many), Mom used to knock herself out, and as the evenings progressed – we (the kids) always offered to help clear, clean and organize the dishes. The guests thought we were the best kids ever, and while I do think we really were pretty good kids, man oh man, the food from her parties really was the motivating factor – it was something else. Washing dishes seemed like a small price to pay for getting first dibs on those leftovers :)

After we all moved out and started setting up our own households – Mom initiated the annual tradition of gifting yearly subscriptions for Gourmet to us for Christmas – a brilliant gift idea that I looked forward to receiving every month. EVERYTHING about that magazine was gorgeous. The recipes could be challenging at times – but the features were inspiring and the photography was beyond beautiful – it still pains me that Conde Nast killed the publication, it has been almost nine years and I still mourn the loss of it. Without question, my mother bestowed upon us the love and appreciation of cooking and baking, and we certainly left the nest armed with fairly adventurous appetites.

That said, while living in Toronto, Tim and I were never the type to flock to new restaurant openings. While I was working in the film business – I was pretty familiar with all of the hottest restaurants, mostly because it was a job requirement and I had to be. For each year in preparation for TIFF, my team and I were responsible for setting up a myriad of dinners and events that would be suitable to satisfy the demands of Hollywood. The likes of Jamie KennedyMark McKewan, and Susur Lee (just to name a few of many) were all names that could be trusted for the film elite. Outside of TIFF – Tim and I usually stayed pretty close to home. We both love to cook, but if we did eat out, it would usually be at our fave low-key hangouts on the Danforth along the lines of Allen’s and Seven Numbers.

It just hit me recently how REALLY, really weird it is that I’ve become that person, someone who follows chefs and food happenings here in PEC. I even take it one step further and actually draw cartoons to shout out my admiration for them  – I guess that makes it even weirder. I THINK the reason must be that for the most part, there is SO much less noise and clutter here - I have less city stress to cloud my brain and the calibur of these chefs/artists and their stories really stand out to me. I LOVE learning about these brave artists (and they are artists) who have left city life behind them and have chosen to follow a different path. The fact that I really love food makes their stories even more intriguing, and the fact that you can literally watch their stories unfold through the magic of social media is fascinating to me.

In addition to the traditional and awesome brick and mortar establishments – a ton of SUPER talented chefs have popped up all over the place, and trying to keep up with them is almost like playing a delicious game of whac-a-mole. The concept is not terribly new. Rebecca Hunt of Picnic has been at it for a while, Seasoned Events has done some terrific events (and, BTW, they will be serving up at the Closson Chase 20th anniversary party coming up soon and just announced two weekends in July with the Long Dog Winery) and Matt Demille has built an interesting business of catering private dinner parties while offering group instruction on cooking at the same time (how fun would THAT be?!?). There is also a highly acclaimed plant-based chef here named Chris Byrne who we know is popping up quite a bit here lately - we just haven’t had a chance to experience his work yet, but hope to soon. There are a few that have stood out to us recently that really made me appreciate how lucky we are to be here for these delectable and fun surprises, and I just wanted to shout them out.

In the cartoon above I feature Paul and Mel Tobias of Idle Wild, Saiqa Sheikh & Josh Blake of JERKabego, Sam Ravenda of The Shore Oysters and of course, Rebecca Hunt from Picnic. Rebecca was really one of the first “pop-ups” we encountered and got super excited about here in PEC. Her cartoon (along with the amazing artist, Stew Jones - her husband) was one of the first I did for this site as well :) 

On my site, I list some of our favourite restaurants (and there are many) and there are some exciting restaurants coming our way - I’ll try to keep the site as updated as possible. There has been a LOT of food news of late here! Chef Neil Dowson just moved to Midtown Brewery (Huge news!), Sujo Bae closed Soup Opera (Sad news!), Seedlings just opened up where The Hubb used to be (can’t wait to try it!), and Chef Elliot Reynolds and Sommelier Laura Borutski from The Hubb Eatery are getting ready to launch their exciting new venture under a new name in the gorgeous old CIBC building in Bloomfield (Exciting news!!). Even Mark’s French Fry truck has moved from Canadian Tire to Lake Street where  Goin’ Coastal once stood. And – if Bloomfield wasn’t hot enough already with the Agrarian and Saylor House – Sarah Soetens and Hidde Zomer will soon be opening Flame and Smith. As the warmer weather approaches, Lake-on-the-Mountain/The Miller House, County Cider Company and Sand & Pearl are all getting ready to open their doors again – YAY!! That also should mean that when they open – there will be no more ice on the ground. Right. 

With the proliferation of social media – you can almost watch in real time what it takes to actually birth a restaurant or to keep a pop-up thriving. It is exciting to watch, and you can really appreciate the amount of effort that goes into doing what they do for us. These are artists churning out their work on an astounding level and pace and they are doing it in such a graceful and engaging manner. It really makes me step back to appreciate just how lucky we are to live here surrounded by such talent and to have access to such delicious offerings. 

For sure follow these chefs so you can take advantage of their appearances and I’m SURE I’ve missed mentioning a bunch (there really are so many amazing food opportunities here now), but I’ve tried to link out to everyone I mentioned above. If you have any questions – feel free to email me. It’s probably obvious that I love chatting about food and anything that has to do with this area!