If you ever wondered about the food innovation scene in Toronto, you don’t have to worry.
Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend a Meet the Makers event held by Food Bloggers of Canada and Food Starter at Food Starter’s incubator in the heart of the city. This is a food manufacturing environment, completely up to code and food safe. We were required to don hair nets, lab coats and instructed to wear long pants and closed toe shoes. It was great look (hence, I didn’t take any pictures for posterity).
I had never been in such an environment but I felt at ease. There were 16 food entrepreneurs set up with their products at stations and we had the chance to explore and try new foods. Some of the foods were in already on the market and some were pre-launch, pre-production and some were still tweaking their recipes. I loved the experience of trying new products and providing feedback to the innovators and perhaps making a difference in what the final product will taste like when they go to the store shelves.
Here is a list of the food innovators that attended (in alphabetical order) and how to order their products:
- Brawta. Brawta’s chef, Winston, made me a delectable tasting plate of roasted cauliflower, creole shrimp, and a jerk chicken lollipop. What was so amazing was that not only were the marinates so flavourful but they are all low in sodium and healthy! Something I found out about Winston is that he won the best entree on season 3 of Recipes to Riches with his dish of PC Jammin’ Jamaican Lobster Bisque, which I’ve bought and is yummy! Brawta products can be purchased directly from their website.
- Broya. Bone broth is all the rage due to its health properties but can be timely to make. Timothy, the founder of Broya found a solution to make it easier for consumers – he would make it and sell it! It is sold in bottles that resemble Kombucha (I actually had to do a double take when I realized it was actually bone broth) and are ready to drink. The flavours available now are chicken bone broth and beef bone broth and is best served hot/warm. It is available to purchase online or in Greater Toronto Area stores right now. He is working on getting his broths out to more local health food stores.
- Cucina Mauro. The motto for this business is “Real. Italian. Food.” They are going back to basics for this food catering business that services the GTA and I can attest that the food that Mauro prepares is delicious. We sampled veal parm sandwiches, meatballs and got our own container of olives to take home. You can see his entire menu offering on the website.
- Gluten Be Gone. Judy was adamant I try one of her chocolate brownies and it was so good. It is great to know that there are some tasty gluten free sweet treats available for those who are celiac or have a gluten intolerance. You can order directly from her website.
- Gryllies. This was one of the first products I tasted that evening. While I’m not sure if I would be brave enough to eat a cricket in its traditional form, in a powder, I was game. We tasted three sauces: Tomato, Pesto and Alfredo and Alfredo was my favourite. It is a such an easy way to add protein to a sauce and to make a quick, delicious meal. Gryllies is in pre-launch but do check out their website. They also have a ground powder product that they will be selling that I would definitely be interested in trying.
- Island Foods. If you’re from Toronto, you will likely know Island Foods. I met Vicki, whose family owns the restaurants and catering business. She provided tastings of her hot sauce and curry sauce that she is planning on selling as stand-alone products so fans of the restaurant and new customers have use the product at home. The sauces are still in pre-launch but you can contact Island Foods on their website to find out more. Jaswant’s Kitchen. They were sampling their daal made of their seasoning mix and red lentils and it was lovely. Very mild but flavourful at the same time – perfect to try for dinner with picky kids. I ended up getting a sample pack of their daal seasoning to try at home – stay tooned as I will be posting next week my review. Their spice mixes are available online on their website and at stores across the GTA.
- Kabkeb (from N H Food Inc). Nader was sampling kebbeh and at first glance, I thought they were like falafel but Nader told me otherwise. Made of bulgur wheat stuffed with beef, this was a delicious snack that hails from the streets of the Middle East. While these little treats were not commercially made before in Canada (traditionally made by middle eastern women at home), Nader developed a production process that allowed for higher production levels and greater quality control. Be prepared to find these at your local middle eastern chain and try them if you get the chance!
- Living Farmacy. I met Kim, the creative behind Living Farmacy who provided some yummy smoothies. Her product comes frozen and can be made into a drink, a bowl or popsicles (which I was also lucky enough to try). To find out more about where to find her product, sign up for updates on her website.
- Mary’s Brigadiero – Fine Brazilian Sweets. If you haven’t tried a brigadeiro, you are missing out! I’m not a huge chocolate lover and tend to go dark chocolate (thus, less sweet) and Mary gave me a delicious noir brigadeiro to try. It was perfectly sweet for 70% cocao and had a lovely fudgy texture. It was delightful as one of the last things I tried that evening. Ordering is available from her website.
- Mod Garden. If you’ve wanted your own a micro farm in the comfort of your home, this is the product for you. It allows you to grow GMO-free, organic vegetables. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to speak with the entrepreneur about this as this seems like a really cool product! They are pre-launch so if you sign up for updates, you can win your own mod garden when it does launch.
- Nerpy’s Nice it Up. I had a wonderful conversation with Michael about his products and tasted some hot pepper sauces and marinades, and spicy Caribbean escoveitch. His products are available in markets and stores locally and available from his website.
- One Hop Kitchen. Lee and his brother gave me a blind taste test of an off the shelf beef Bolognese, their Cricket Bolognese and their Mealworm Bolognese. After trying Gryllies’ sauces and liking them, I was excited to try One Hop Kitchen’s sauces. Surprisingly (or not surprising to the brothers), I enjoyed the mealworm the most. It had a nutty consistency and had a great umami flavour. I liked it so much I would serve it to my family knowing that its full of sustainable protein and will likely be enjoyed by all (as long as I don’t mention the mealworm to my 4 year old beforehand). Currently, only their Cricket Bolognese is only available on their website.
- Premium Near Beer. Ted provided taste tests of some non-alcoholic products that his company sells at this event as well as a near beer that he has developed in-house. I was intrigued by the non-alcoholic draught beer as all near beers I had to date were not worth the calories. This on the other hand was worth it! It actually tasted like an excellent quality craft IPA beer that was smooth and refreshing. Their draught beer is not currently available on their website but they do sell other brands of non-alcoholic beer and liquors. As a fan of Erdinger, I’d give their non-alcoholic version a try.
- Saha. This was the one other company I wasn’t able to check out in person as I ran out of time! Saha makes international marinades, curries and sauces to help make flavourful dinners easy at home. Their products are available online and sold at stores across Canada.
- The Spread. The Spread Team put out a bountiful spread to showcase their product, The Spread. An all purpose condiment, this spicy number will add a burst of intense flavour to whatever you’re eating. “Made with all natural dried peppers, sesame seeds, sesame seed oil, canola oil, apple cider vinegar and salt The Spread has no additives or preservatives.” I had The Spread with some cheese and it was a perfect accompaniment. To find out how to order, contact them on their website.
In summary, I wanted to say I had a wonderful time speaking with all the Makers and trying their products, and wish them all the luck with their food innovations. It is great to support local Canadian talent and I wanted to thank Food Starter (Dana) and Food Bloggers of Canada (Melissa and Ethan) for having me at the event.
To see all of my pictures of products from that night, please see my Instagram account and follow me if you’d like to see more!
This looks like it was an amazing event! Those chocolates and the smoothies look phenomenal, as well as the tiny bottles of bone broth! This is what being a foodie is all about: learning about the food we’re eating, the small businesses producing them, and sharing it with others. 🙂