On May 5th I was lucky enough to go to Toronto Underground Market‘s Street Food Block Party – Cinco de Mayo edition at the Evergreen Brickworks with my friend Lesley.
I had heard about the Toronto Underground Market and their food events but I hadn’t been able to get my hands on any tickets. Tickets to these events are highly coveted and people will spend a fortune on them – they sell for $10 but on the day of the event people were posting comments on Facebook asking for $100 per ticket and people were willing to pay! This is a good sign for the Toronto foodie scene.
I was messaged by Yvonne from Bonfire Catering who offered to hook me up with two tickets as a special thanks for my review and contribution of photos to their soon-to-be redesigned website. So a special shout out and thanks goes out to everyone at Bonfire Catering who hooked me up with the tickets and amazing pizza once I got to the event! I appreciate anyone who encourages and inspires my love of food.
This event is very well organized – on the website it has directions of how to get to the Brickworks by TTC or car and they had free shuttle buses running from Broadview station every half hour. I would suggest this option. We were lucky enough that as soon as we got off the subway there was a bus waiting for us – my only comment on this was the bus should have been bettered marked (on the way home the bus we took had a sign in the window) and there should have been signs in the subway station itself on where to find the buses. A short 5 minute bus ride and you are let off on the grounds of the Evergreen Brick works.
The doors/gates were supposed to open at 5:00 and we were in line by 5:10. The line was insanely long but we did get there about 100 people into the line which isn’t bad. I would suggest coming early, aiming for about 4:45. Security is “tight” – I’m using quotes because I will illustrate a point about this later. They scan your ticket, stamp your hand and you’re in for a night of food, drinks, music and fun. Each vendor had two menus: one early and one late – the late menu started at 9. I wish we had the staying power to last until 9 to taste some of the later offerings but we crashed. Next time!
Because the May edition of the Toronto Underground Market was on Cinco de Mayo most of the vendors served Mexican/Latin inspired menus in addition to/or instead of their standard offerings. I think this was an interesting premise but some vendors were more successful than other. It also wasn’t a true representation of what each vendor/truck truly can do. This just means I will have to go to the June edition to see what they are all about!
We did a few laps just to see which vendors were there and what we felt like tasting first. We were provided with a map at the gate and they did post this map prior to the event so this step was not necessary but I think it is good to situate yourself especially when it comes to epic amounts of food. Next time, I will look at the map beforehand, come up with a list of vendors/trucks I want to try and create a plan of attack. I will be more German efficient next time.
Our first stop was Sullivan & Bleeker Toronto Baking Company.
I was drawn to this vendor because THEY HAD CUPCAKES IN JARS. How often do I say, “I wish this dessert came in a jar with a lid so I could carry it in my purse” ?!
I think this is one of the more brilliant and unique ideas I’ve seen in baking lately and I hope this trend takes hold. These would make great gifts or snacks or just because desserts. I bought two types: S’mores and Cinnamon Toast Crunch and GC and I shared them for breakfast the next day.
The cake was moist and fluffy, the icing was smooth, creamy and sweet. The cupcakes also travelled extremely well. There was no shifting of the icing/decoration, everything stayed perfectly in place. I am in love. And now I have two small Mason jars and hopefully I can try and make these myself! Lesley got two cupcakes: S’mores and Cookie Dough.
Our next stop was ESE.
ESE is serving up LA style Mexican food and it is delicious. I don’t really know which one of the I had but from process of eliminate and Google searches I think I had the Torta Ahogada.
This was essentially a pulled pork slider but to simplify it in that way obviously does not do it justice. The pork had a nice amount of heat, that played with the fatty, juiciness that pork naturally has. The pickled cabbage was sweet and salty and the perfect contrast to the richness of the pork. I could have eaten about 1,000 of these. This was a great bite of Cinco de Mayo.
Our next stop was Bonfire Catering to say thanks to everyone and have some tasty pizza.
The team at Bonfire was friendly and pumped about the food they were serving. I’ll have to admit that when we approached the truck I was apprehensive to own up to being behind Tastebuddies – I’m shy and awkward. But I’m glad I got over myself and asked to say hi to Yvonne. I got to meet a great team behind some great food. To kick off their take on Cinco de Mayo we started off with jalapenos stuffed with cheese and wrapped in bacon as we waited for our pizza to cook.
There was the perfect charbroil on this little popper. The cheese was so creamy and stringy and the bacon was perfectly crisp. All of this with a subtle undertone of heat from the jalapeno. This is what all jalapeno poppers should strive to be.
I ordered the meat pizza and Lesley ordered the vegetarian.
The meat pizza had spicy chorizo sausage which had a great spice and was salty and so tasty. The wood oven added a great smoky and earthy taste to the crust which is the perfect base for the rich toppings.
Lesley doesn’t usually like olives but she said that the olives worked perfectly with the cheese and it was creamy, salty goodness.
Another hit by Bonfire Catering – Mexican style.
Our next stop was to taste a little Greek cuisine from Kalofagas Greek Food.
I am not a huge fan of Greek food – I love Greek salad and tzatziki and that’s about it. I don’t know what it is. I find it salty and bland. That being said I still went to a vendor that served Greek food.
They were serving up four types of souvlaki and they had display versions of each one which I thought was a neat idea – show people what they can eat which will entice more people to your booth and get people through the line up faster as they can see what they will be getting, which in theory should make the decision easier.
I ordered the Pork Souvlaki.
The tzatziki was creamy and cool and the hot sauce added a little bit of kick. Lesley tried to order the Veggie Burger but it took over 10 minutes so Lesley asked for her money back. It is unfortunate that they couldn’t keep up with the demand of the event. And apparently there are tons of vegetarians who didn’t get to be satisfied by Greek food. No big loss there in my opinion…
While we were waiting for our souvlaki, we noticed this guy:
Right away we thought he was sketchy. He appeared out of nowhere, he didn’t have any signage and he had the world’s smallest deep fryer, but I bet he had a ticket and a stamp on his hand. A woman came over with a very stern look and started talking to the guy and from what we could gather he thought he could just walk in and start frying french fries. Later we overheard him saying he had heard about the event and just decided to come and serve up fries. We started to wonder if he had brought his mini deep fryer on the subway.
And of course, Lesley just had to sample some of his chips.
He had an assortment of toppings – sea salt, rosemary and other herbs, and difference sauces – Lesley loved these chips. Salty, sweet, citrus. Surprisingly good chips from a random, dirty chippy.
After having so much spice we needed something to wash down the heat – and of course, on Cinco de Mayo the only choice is tequila. Tromba was there serving tequila and I have to say, Patron move over, because I have a new favourite tequila. Tromba’s mission is to dispel traditional conceptions of tequila. Their website is witty and sarcastic and edgy – everything tequila is and makes you when you drink it. They made us a drink that was a shot of tequila and a shot of equal parts agave nectar and lime juice served on the rocks. This is one of the tastiest cocktails I have ever had. It was sweet, earthy, crisp, with a hint of citrus and of course, that brilliant tequila kick. This cocktail was the perfect palette cleanser to allow us to enjoy more food.
Next stop – the Cupcake Diner. I had vowed to GC that I wouldn’t buy any cupcakes – that morning I had made 5 dozen cupcakes and I have issues with cupcakes made by other people. But of course, the truck and her are both so adorable that I can’t help it
I ordered the Cinnamon Churros and Lesley ordered the Chilli Chocolate and Strawberry Margarita.
I ate my cupcake later that night for “dinner.”
What is with the side of this cupcake? I don’t even know how this would happen – I assume two cupcakes ballooned together in the oven and then were ripped apart but it was not very nice looking and I would probably not sell/give away for free a cupcake that looked like this. The cake was a delicate cinnamon base and that was about it. The caramel sauce was sweet and not as silky as the caramel that accompanies churros. The churro topper was flaky and sugar coated but not an authentic churro. This cupcake was a cute attempt to capture a classic Spanish dessert but have a churro instead. The cupcake was good in it’s own right but did not capture it’s namesake very well.
But we all know the next time I see this adorable truck I wil order more cupcakes….
We then headed over to Paese.
Lesley ordered the Italian and Mexican Chopped Salad. She was disappointed – it seemed as if they went for colour and texture rather than taste. I order the Pepperoni and Smoke Mozzarella Arancini with Mexican Salsa Verdi. Arancini are rice balls coated in breadcrumbs and obviously this is an amazing combination. I tried these for the first time at GC’s cousin’s son’s 2nd birthday and they were made by GC’s cousin’s friend’s nonna and that woman has skills. These were comparable but I didn’t like the chunks of pepperoni in the arancini. Arancini should be smooth, with hints of cheese and tomato. Besides having crispy chunk of pepperoni they were creamy and cheesy which made my tummy smile. The salsa verdi was a nice nod to Cinco de Mayo but didn’t add anything to the dish.
And I am now searching for recipes for Arancini…
All fooded out and about ready to leave we stopped for one last drink at Spearhead Brewing Company.
This beer is a lighter beer which they likened more to wine than beer. It is also made with pineapple juice. There is definitely a summer trend to create lighter beers with fruity notes (Mill St. iced tea-esque beer). I think if it had been hotter and the beer had been colder I would have liked it more. It is like my dad says about beer, “if your hot and it’s cold then it’s good.” I think I will pick up some of this beer in the future though because sometimes you don’t want something heavy, just a light, smooth beer.
Full and sleepy we left around 7:30 – I think we did pretty good. I learned some things for next time:
1. Bring water
2. Bring containers to bring goodies home
3. Vendors/trucks with take-home items should be visited last
4. High demand items (i.e. lobster rolls) should be visited early
5. Stay, enjoy some music and dancing and drinks and maybe you’ll be up for Round II
This is an amazing event and I can’t wait to go back. Tickets for the June event go on sale on May 18th and I am definitely getting tickets – if you want to come let me know! I love when I can enjoy food with as many people as possible. There is no reason not to attend this event: transportation is taken car of, it is inexpensive and you have tons of notice.
I look forward to future yums by TUM.