Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Enter the Dragon

Today, January 25th, 2012 is Day 3 of 15 days of festivities - yes, eat, eat, eat! Warning: EAT before you read Sara Waxman's delicious story as she include a segment about our Chinese New Year tours in Toronto's second Chinatown (Spadina/Dundas area). Stay tuned for schedules for Lost First Chinatown Foodie Walks (Toronto's first & oldest Chinatown)! Bon appetite!

Enter the Dragon

Friday, January 20, 2012

Charles Dickens lands on Canadian soil first!

Charles Dickens portrait by Francis Alexander in 1842
Hey Canada - here's some interesting Canadian literary food for thought... the world is abuzz with the fast approaching bicentenary birthday of British author, Charles John Huffam Dickens on February 7th, 2012...

On Thursday January 20th, 1842, 170 years ago, Charles Dickens arrived in Canada on one of the first trans-Atlantic steamboats, The SS Britannia. He landed on the shores of Halifax, Nova Scotia before starting off his famous American tour documented in the little known book called American Notes. Some of the material gathered for American Notes became incorporated into the much hated novel in America called Martin Chuzzlewit published in 1843/1844.  Two days later, on Saturday January 22, 1842 he arrived in Boston.

Here's a little excerpt from American Notes:

Chapter I: Going Away
" I shall never forget the one-fourth serious and three-fourths comical astonishment, with which, on the morning of the third of January eighteen-hundred-and-forty-two, I opened the door of, and put my head into, a "state-room" on board the "Britannia" steam-packet, twelve hundred tons burthen per register, bound for Halifax and Boston, and carrying Her Majesty's mails. "

So now you know that he arrived on Canadian shore first, exactly 170 years ago.

Now, here's another burning question for you proud Canadian readers. What was the real purpose behind his visit to North America in 1842? Stay tuned...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Happy New Year! Happy Asian Lunar New Year! Let's Celebrate Year of the Water Dragon!

Adieu old year and welcome new year! Lucky me, I get to say that not once, not twice, but three times! I love that old adage, "Good things come in threes"... On that note ... 

Happy New Year and adieu 2011!  I feel very lucky to have savoured celebrating all the Festivals of Lights on the final Kensington Festive Foodie Roots Walk scheduled on December 30th, 2011.  After wishing each other a safe journey home, and a Happy New Year, we all parted feeling well fed with equal portions of food and food for thought... My Christmas tree will be coming down shortly .... Welcome to the New Year and 2012 I say! What lurks around the corner?  Hint, hint, hint - it's connected with these greetings in Cantonese, Mandarin and Vietnamese

Gung Hei Fatt Choi!   That's the New Year greeting used and heard while growing up in Toronto of late 1960s into mid-1980s. I still greet my family members using this Cantonese dialect within the Chinese language, as my ancestors like many from Southern China immigrated from the Canton province for jobs on the railroad. You might hear me greet merchants in Mandarin or Vietnamese along the tours. Lucky me, I get a chance to re-set my goals and/or new New Year resolutions a second time!  Thank you Chinese New Year or more accurately, Chinese Lunar New Year! On an inclusive note, I should called it Asian Lunar New Year as Taiwanese and Vietnamese also use the lunar calendar. Asian Lunar New Year doesn't conveniently fall on the same day, namely, January 1st, as in the case of the Gregorian calendar. It's a floating lunar event between mid-January and mid-February.  In 2012, Sunday January 22nd will be the Asian Lunar New Year's Eve and we will sadly bid farewell to the Year of the Rabbit, a year filled with culture and learning... and usher in the vibrant,  and colourful Year of the Dragon! Dragon years are action driven and times for major initiatives. The motto or Chinese proverb to live by throughout the Year  of the Dragon: "Better to do it than to miss it." If you missed out on our fantastic Chinese New Year events in the past, then resolve it by joining us! 

Annual Behind-the-scenes Chinese New Year Tours 
3 Unique 2012 Experiences:

Preparations:  Sat. & Sun. January 14, 15, 21, 22, 2012  10 A.M.-1:30 P.M.
Celebrations:   Sat. & Sun. January 28, 29, 2012  10 A.M.-1:30 P.M.
Grand Finale:  Sat. & Sun. February 4th & 5th, 2012  10 A.M.-1:30 P.M.

*  Chinese New Year Preparations:  Sat. & Sun. January 14, 15, 21, 22, 2012 *

 Part of the fun lies in gearing up for any festivities. Catch the frenzied excitement as you get to "shadow" culinary historian/guide Shirley Lum while she shares how she prepares her household for the festival to end all festivals within the Chinese culture! You'll understand why she wears a red coat - all the better to keep up with her as she darts from the Asian grocery store, to the aromatic tea shop, and then to the Chinese bakery for decadent pastries! The best part of shadowing Shirley -  you pick-up some awesome foodie tips, so bring along your eco-bags for anticipated shopping during and/or after the event. 
Spots available: 11
Fees in $CAD (incl. food & non-alcoholic drinks): Adult $45.00  SR/ST (ID) $40.00 CHILD (12 & under) $30.00  
RSVP: OR (416) 923-6813

* New Year's Celebrations:  Sat. & Sun. January 28, 29, 2012 *

Celebration time for 15 days!!! Guests along these tours will have a high chance of capturing several exciting Lion Dances with their cameras while culinary historian/guide, Shirley Lum explains the moves and significance behind this old New Year ritual. Tradition dictates that delicious dumplings be eaten, hence, we will nosh on a variety of them at the New Year dim sum and at the bakery. 
Spots available: 11
Fees in $CAD (incl. food & non-alcoholic drinks): Adult $45.00  SR/ST (ID) $40.00 CHILD (12 & under) $30.00 
RSVP: OR (416) 923-6813

* Grand Finale:  Sat. & Sun. February 4, 5, 2012 *

If you experienced the preparations or the celebrations of the 15-days Chinese New festivities, then you must come back for the grand finale: The Lantern Festival. Special dumplings are served this time of the year.  Bring along your cameras as there will be plenty of beautiful lanterns to capture! Believe it or not, this marks the return of spring light and the lengthening of the day. 
Spots available: 11
Fees in $CAD (incl. food & non-alcoholic drinks): Adult $45.00  SR/ST (ID) $40.00 CHILD (12 & under) $30.00 
RSVP: OR (416) 923-6813

 * 5th Annual Chinese New Year's Eve 11-course Banquet  *
Date & Time: Sat. January 21st, 2012 6:00 - 7:30pm
Location: Taste of China Seafood Restaurant, 338 Spadina Avenue 
(1 block N of Dundas St W), Toronto, Ontario, Canada

We would love the pleasure of your company.... Join Culinary Historian/Host Shirley Lum for an authentic communal grand feast! She sheds light on the emerging trends, traditions and superstitions connected with this exciting festival. Wondering what are the greetings in Cantonese, Mandarin and Vietnamese? You'll get a chance to practise tonight throughout the event. As the host of this gastronomic event, Shirley will entertain with tales of ancient feasts while guiding you through eating your way through all 11-courses. You'll find your head spin with the colourful names and rich symbolism behind each of the dishes you will savour with all your senses....  Tip: Don't forget to bring your cameras and appetite!

Menu to whet your appetite:  
* Crab Meat & Fish Maw Soup 
* Spicy & Salty Jumbo Shrimps Lightly Battered 
* Phoenix Nest with Seafood Medley & Vegetables 
* Whole Crispy Chicken with Shrimp Chips & Seasoned Salt 
* Sliced Pork with Special Sweet & Sour Sauce  
* Medley of Braised Vegetables, Seafood, Chicken & Pork  
* Whole Steamed Fish with Green Onions & Ginger  
* Double Lobsters with Green Onions & Ginger 
* Braised E-Fu Noodles 
* Yangzhou Fried Rice  
* Traditional Dessert Soup & Fortune Cookies  

Fee (incl all food + non-alcoholic drinks): Table of 10 $390.00 or $45.00 per person  
RSVP: OR (416) 923-6813

After celebrating the Chinese New Year 15-days eating marathon, you'd think I'd be saying "Nooooo more!" This self-confessed foodie will be dropping into the gym throughout the whole festive period and will be hitting Toronto's pavements by guiding the special Dickens' bicentenary birthday walk: In The Footsteps of Charles Dickens: Toronto 1842 on Saturday February 4th, 2012

I look forward to my third New Year celebrations, which take place in mid-March ... stay tuned for the exciting Persian New Year celebrations .... I'm not Persian, I'm a proud CBC a.k.a. Canadian-born Chinese who happens to love eating Persian food... and I happen to live in Toronto, the "Meeting Place" for sharing and embracing the holidays and festivities of diverse cultures!
Happy New Year !
Gung Hei Fatt Choi !
Gong Xi Fa Cai !
Chuc Mung Nam Mui!