Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of joining owners Donald Drouin and Chef Ko as they celebrated their 1st anniversary of serving authentic north-eastern Thai cuisine to diners in The Junction neighbourhood as well as across the city. ISAAN DER is a cozy restaurant located along the Dundas Street W stretch known as restaurant mile and over the past twelve months, they’ve earned many loyal foodie fans who dine-in or order online for personal pick-up or via 3 of the city’s leading delivery services. www.isaander.comAttending the auspicious occasion were local City Councillor Sarah Doucette and her aide Catherine (below centre), online influencer Vernon Chang a.k.a. MoVernie (3rd from L), and local food producers/entrepreneurs Sandra and Carlos Dasilva from No.7 Hot Sauce (at left)who were on hand to raise a glass of cheer with Donald, Chef Ko and their staff.Regular diners were also treated to celebratory mimosas and some fruity treats…MoVernie interviewed Donald & Chef Ko for his blog and social media, then took some great close-up photos of his meal… To celebrate this special milestone, Isaan Der is actually giving gifts to their customers – complimentary $20 gift cards (while supplies last) when diners spend $50 or more (before tax, tips or alcohol) for in-house dining or online personal pick-up orders, so make sure you visit or order your pick-up meals between March 13 – 18 to take advantage of this great reward.So here’s to another year’s success and even more deelish Thai feasts with friends and family!
Yesterday, the lovely folks from Foodora.ca home delivery service dropped into ISAAN DER Thai Restaurant in Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood, to take photos of the exquisite dishes available for delivery (or personal pick-up) via their website. Here, photographer Melissa sets up her shots…. Foodora account manager, Dana, was on hand to help direct the shoot and talk with owners Donald and Chef Ko about the fabulous menu now available to a wider online customer base. Just take a look at these dishes – you could almost eat the photos, yes? Online foodie influencer Cindy of @wakeupeatthis (below) also dropped in to cover the shoot, after which we all feasted on this magnificent spread…burp!
Click here if you’d like to order online via Foodora: https://www.foodora.ca/restaurant/s4jx/isaan-der-thai-food
And to visit the restaurant in person, Isaan Der is located at 2961 Dundas St West (between Pacific & Keele), Toronto. www.isaander.com
So apart from the bad grammar (s.b. “and me”) the headline here really does tell the story of Toronto’s small but mighty ISAAN DER Thai restaurant and its equally small but mighty queen of the kitchen, Chef Ko (pictured below).I was recently turned on to this snug and beautifully decorated dining establishment located in the heart of Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood by fellow foodies and owners of No. 7 Hot Sauce, Carlos and Sandra, who told me about the incredible food and lovely people who run Isaan Der. Chef Ko, along with her Canadian husband Donald, run the place like clockwork, juggling take-out and home delivery orders with quiet aplomb as they and their servers offer personal but discreet table-side service to their guests, many of whom are neighbours and regular/repeat diners.Attention to detail is key at Isaan Der – just look at these cute elephant hooks for coats or purses located behind every table for diners’ convenience.I recently spoke with Donald and Chef Ko about their journey from Thailand to Toronto and the fabulous food they serve to hungry fans Tuesdays thru Sundays.
Chef Ko, what first inspired you to become a professional chef? Having had the opportunity to travel around Thailand as a journalist for Channel 7 news, I have discovered that it’s not all Pad Thai and Tom Yum Goong. There are lots of delicious dishes from every part of Thailand. Did you study under any well-known chef or in a professional kitchen? I studied at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, which is also a 5-star hotel in Bangkok, in their Professional Thai Chef program as well as at Kasesart University to learn about the origins of some of our well known dishes.
You specialize in traditional fine Thai cuisine at Isaan Der– how important is it that you use fresh, locally sourced ingredients for your menu? We only use the freshest of ingredients for our food and every dish is made à la carte, meaning every dish you order is made specifically for you. We do NOT have anything pre-made so dishes might take a few minutes longer getting to your table….but the wait is worth it!Donald, since opening Isaan Der in Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood in March , how have you seen your customer base grow? Since opening, we’ve seen tremendous growth; from 3 people in the kitchen to now more than 8 dealing with the volume which we handle with great care and efficiency. It’s our loyal customers with whom we have had table-side conversations, educating them on the many differences in Thai food. We are certainly no better than any other Thai restaurant, but we do know that we are ‘different’.Donald, any exciting news about menu or service you’d like to share? Here we grow! We recently changed our menus adding several new items to replace those we have “retired” for now. We cater to everyone with dietary restrictions such as celiac, vegan, food allergies as well as likes/dislikes. We can do it all as our dishes are made for you…any way you like it!
We’ve seen a tremendous increase in our Doordash delivery as well as personal take-out with our online ordering. Thanks to our brand new ordering app (for both iPhone & android) we’re able to streamline the dining experience for those dining at home. Easy-peasy with a simple click, click and done! We no longer take phone orders so we’re able to focus on personal table-side service in the restaurant. But if people have questions about our menu we are certainly available via phone queries. See below the special promotion for 1st time app orders:
Isaan Der is definitely one of my favourite Toronto restaurants and I’m especially fond of their Shrimp Roll appetizer – I frequently construct a meal by combining 2 orders of those with a salad. I love the little noodle ribbons and bows tying them up (see below). The handcrafted chili dipping sauce is super deelish, too.You MUST try the Golden Bags and Spring Rolls (below)….
And each Wednesday is “Wine Wednesday” with $3 off your glass of featured wine…..…followed by “Beer Thursdays” when your favourite brew is only $5!Located at 2961 Dundas West (a few blocks W of Keele) there’s lots of parking (on street and in the green P lot behind) and prompt bus transit (take the #40 from Dundas W subway stn). Check out their menu, hours of operation and directions here: www.isaander.com
Each year, I’m honoured to accept the invitation to cover EAT TO THE BEAT issued by friend and PR colleague Peter Ashworth of Ashworth Associates Inc. and last night, I enjoyed all sorts of edible treats and drinks courtesy of 60 of Toronto’s leading female chefs. Raising awareness for breast cancer support with the Canadian Cancer Society as well as the $s is the focus of this annual event held at Roy Thomson Hall, and this band of happy volunteers greeted us at the front door, all dressed up to put smiles on our faces (below).
Thanks to KitchenAid who came on board as a sponsor this year – they donated so many wonderful kitchen gadgets for the silent auction (below)…who knows, this non-cook might just win a closing bid (am waiting for a phone call as I type!)So instead of me prattling on with text about the show, I think I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. Be prepared for some major mouth-watering reading, and be sure to visit the restaurants of those chefs who donated their time and food to Eat to the Beat – I’ve listed them all at the bottom of the blog.I always look fwd to finding the lovely ladies of Succulent Chocolates – below – they always have such fab sweet treats!
I really liked this locally-produced Scotch (below)…mmmm, good!Below – Pumpkin soup anyone? So deelish!I love me some savories! Although there were lots of sweeties, I headed straight for the meat and seafood!!The crowd moved thru Roy Thomson Hall’s outer lobby in an orderly fashion, although some tables offered samples that just drew ’em in in droves…….like these awesome and spooky Halloween mini-cupcakes from Lolli Cakes. So many tastes and sights to take in….it was sensory overload!! Then all of a sudden, it was over – another successful event done and dusted!Congratulations to event organizers and their amazing team of volunteers, and especially to the participating chefs and restaurants (see below). Bravo, everybody!!
I took my friend, artist Nancy Bennett, to Port Hope (my “spiritual home”) today where I introduced her to my fave cafe & bakery, bling store, boutiques and flower shop, ending with a quick visit to Primitive Designs on the outskirts of town where giant metal dinosaurs roam and a huge Transformer greets visitors. So come along for a virtual visit with us…… Driving into Port Hope, we made straight for the Ganaraska River (above) that rushed through the genteel little town where fat lazy Canada Geese waddled and wobbled leaving a rather unsightly trail of poo…oops, watch where you’re walking Nancy.Our first port of call, as always, was Queenie’s Bake Shop where today we enjoyed coffee, tea and sticky buns, courtesy of chef/owner Adam and his charming server (below) …then once we’d polished off all that, we popped next door to visit the super fabulous Kenneth Bell in his jewellery & accessories store. Kenneth supplies hundreds of boutiques across the country with their bling and baubles. He was already busy entertaining two other lovely ladies, Helene (below L) and Nancee (below R).What a warm welcome….and it just so happened that he was starting a 50-80% off sale so talk about perfect timing! Nancy and I dove right in and found some lovely sparklies… www.kennethbell.com Nancy found a great pair of sunglasses for her daughter on the rack of shades (below)… And I loved these stylish silk embroidered clutch purses (below) from the Far East with tiny tassels and charms.Bidding adieu to Ken, we then headed up Walton St to a relatively new boutique called Turquoise where we found multiple pretty pieces that would look good in our closets! www.Facebook.com/TurquoiseBoutiques Then into Flourish, another new shop…. www.flourishfashions.com….and Nancy’s eye was caught by a beautiful green lightweight top, perfect for wearing over a camisole or tank top. What do you think…should she buy it?Well, she did! A perfect top for an upcoming art expo where she knows she’ll get a tad chilly in her booth. Big thanks for her warm hospitality to owner Julie Pandoff (below) and congrats on such a lovely boutique. I then spied the sock rack…wow, these are too cool! …and I loved these two tunics (below) that could hide a multitude of my caloric sins…LOL!Past the flower shop, we trekked further up Walton St where I discovered yet another fab new store… ….Dwellissimo, a beautifully presented vintage furniture store that was a treasure trove of mid-century modern. Oh my, I was in heaven! www.dwellissimo.com I really really really want this red horse lamp. Hey, Santa, make note of this one, okay? You never brought me that pony I asked for when I was 6 so now’s the time to make up for that glaring omission.
As we wound down our Port Hope walkabout, Nancy and I popped into the Art Gallery of Northumberland shop on Queen St, and found these beautifully crafted works of art…. We enjoyed a quick late lunch at Jim’s Pizza but we were both too hungry to even think about a photo so we just gobbled it all up. But we both recommend Jim’s for a great Italian nosh! www.jimsporthope.ca
In between rain showers, we made it down to the lakefront beach…er, where’s the beach? Due to high water levels, the beach, the kid’s playground and picnic area were all complete submerged. Yikes!
One last drive thru town….….then off to visit Primitive Designs, a very strange, wonderful and fantastic series of barns, tents and outbuildings devoted to exotic imports. Located a little N.E. of town, you cannot miss this place – you’re greeted by a Transformer and a herd of huge metallic dinosaurs – yep, talk about eye-catching. Thank goodness this happy little Buddha watched over us as we left the car park…I was gettin’ scared!You gotta go visit in person to truly appreciate the weird, wild, wackiness of this place. www.primitivedesignscanada.com
So there we are, another trip to Port Hope done and dusted! If you would like to learn more about this friendly small town that offers big entertainment, sports, shopping and dining, you can visit their tourism office for more information and directions: www.visitporthope.ca and tell them Glenda sent you!
As the annual Inside Out LGBT Film Festival winds down, the parties are still going strong and last night, URBAN SOURCE CATERING made sure everyone was well-fed at the “Behind the Curtain: Todrick Hall Pink Carpet” soiree held at the Artscape Sandbox venue in downtown Toronto. There were lots of tasty Moroccan beef sirloin hors d’oeuvres (above), veggie samosas and smoked salmon on wild rice cakes(below) ….. …and Jerk Prawns and Chicken Rendang skewers (above), all of which were gobbled up by appreciative guests. The deelish gourmet mac-n-cheese (below)were a big hit with the guests.…and the guests had fun at the wacky photo booth – wonder what digital background was being added..hmmm?Meet our Executive Chef Lyndon Wiebe (below L) with his trusty kitchen staff who kept the food coming!I also had fun over at the bar where I found these upside down glasses reflecting all the colours of the event space lights and people’s outfits.If you would like to have your party or corporate event catered by Urban Source Catering, please visit their website for menu ideas: www.urbancatering.com
Last night (Tues. May 30), my culinary friends at URBAN SOURCE CREATIVE CATERING tickled the tastebuds of some 150 guests at the Inside Out/Toronto LGBT Film Festival Centrepiece Gala Reception presented at the Artscape Sandbox in downtown Toronto. And oh boy, did they ever deliver some delicious treats …. The cheerful and efficient Inside Out volunteer waiters were barely out of the kitchen door before guests reached out for the trays of hors d’oeuvres…and yes, the wild blue and pink lighting created some pretty funky effects! …so I ambushed the serving crew as they exited the kitchen to get more “normal” lighting…LOL! The shrimp were a big hit, especially with this excited guest (below) The fabulous well-stocked bar was provided by Stud Vodka and Inside Out, offering wine, beer and smart cocktails served by bartenders who were always on the lookout for thirsty party-goers….Lots of fun, food and photo opps for all…. Wayne from Urban Catering posed at the photo wall with colleague Cybele (below) in between schmoozing with guests and Festival organizers …..Inside Out/Toronto LGBT Film Festival runs to June 4th in downtown Toronto and you can learn more about the films, filmmakers and social activities at www.insideout.ca Congratulations on a job well done, Urban Source Catering…your food and kitchen staff were terrific. For more details on Urban’s menus and special events catering, please visit: www.urbancatering.com
All gone….no more….go home!
My friends at URBAN SOURCE CATERING did themselves proud last night when they treated the sponsors and corporate partners of the Inside Out Film Festival to a medley of tasty treats and refreshing party cocktails and wines.Below, Urban Source Catering’s co-owner Wayne Abell welcomed the Festival’s newly appointed Exec. Director, Andria Wilson, to URBAN GALLERY…
…and Andria, in turn, welcomed Inside Out’s special guests to the pre-Festival launch party such as Kelly from RBC (below R with Brad Campbell, Dir. of Corp. Sales for the fest).Andria got busy with social media postings along with colleagues Clayton and Andrew (LtoR, below)Delicious bite-sized treats were served along with wine, cocktails and non-alcoholic bevvies by the catering staff below) Andria enjoyed a few nibblies with the guests……and enjoyed the festivities with colleagues Winnie Luk (below L), the Dir. of Operations & Events, and Andrew Murphy (below R) Dir. of Programming.Then it was time for the presentation and teaser trailer of upcoming festival films Congrats to Marketing & Outreach Mgr, Clayton Lee (below R) and tech assistant CJ (L) for helping present the video.Brad’s assistant, Nick (below R) posed for a quick snapshot with Festival Coordinator Jayne Schneider (L) in front of photographic art being featured in this year’s CONTACT show at Urban Gallery……and below, gallery owner Calvin Hambrook lined up the guests for even more photo opps.As many guests observed, the table decorations were elegant and colourful… If you’d like to learn more about the Inside Out Film Festival and see this year’s line-up of LGBTQ-focused films, please visit their website: www.insideout.ca
And if you’d like to learn more about the fabulous catering offered by Urban Source Catering and the exquisite adjoining venue available for corporate & private rentals, Urban Gallery, please visit their websites: www.urbancatering.com ~ www.urbangallery.ca
As an auto racing fan from waaaaaay back (and author of 4 books on auto racing), this was a dream come true for me when I joined a group of Toronto event planners for a visit to the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park out near Bowmanville, about an hour East of Toronto. They’ve created a beautifully appointed multi-level corp. event & banquet centre that’s suitable for business meetings, team building activities, weddings, any sort of group gathering, and I got to experience the wonderful catering companies they use. I was thrilled to meet racing legend & Cdn Motorsport Hall of Fame driver Ron Fellows, his wife Lynda, son Sam and their charming team of marketing, hospitality and sales staff who run the venue.
Fearing the worst weather conditions, I joined my raincoat-clad events industry colleagues on the big white courtesy bus provided by www.luxury.to and started off early on Wednesday morning. Like a bunch of big kids, we were all “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” and after about an hour, the bus pulled into the CTMP grounds.And weren’t we lucky…they were doing some testing with Porches and Ferraris when we turned up. Vrooooom!
We were officially greeted by these lovely ladies who were our personal guides for the day.…then on to the presentations to learn more about the facilities and how they can be used for any of our special events. Joining me was Zev Bertini, Business Development for Arrowonics.com (a new Toronto-based tech design company that creates awesome designs and light shows using multiple mini drones). Here he is (above) chatting to events reps, doin’ the business schmooze. Then it was on to lunch and oh boy, what a deelish spread they laid on for us….My first stop was Shrimp Cocktail‘s catering table…. Yummmm! www.shrimpcocktailcafe.com Then on to The Garage Guy BBQ whose sliders were so tasty….I went back for seconds! www.thegarageguy.ca (yes, you need big strong muscles to carry this many sliders…haa haa!)
My next nibblies stop was Pilar’s Catering whose Korean BBQ chicken pops and empanadas were scrumptious! www.Pilarscatering.ca Next on my tasting menu (below) was the desserts table…OMG, I was in chocoholic heaven, thanks to the ladies of KCC Gourmet & Catering Inc. www.kccgourmetcatering.com I needed more savoury bites so I then went over to the Peter & Pauls table for some of their special lobster mac & cheese. Definitely a winner…wish I’d gone back for more (am still licking my lips from that one!) www.bypeterandpauls.comIt was then time for a drinkies so I visited Steve (below) from REIF Estate Winery (from the Niagara wine region) who was sampling some of their tasty wines. www.reifwinery.com A couple of the attendees won a draw for a quick trip around the track with Ron at the wheel…dammit, I didn’t win but at least I got to snap some pics of the lucky ones who did (below) Zev and I had fun at the photo wall… …where I also ran into an old friend, Mark Awad (below L) from bbBlanc Audio/Visual who was attending with a colleague. www.bbblanc.comWe were then given a tour of the various track facilities and several guests posed out front with some of the cars from the Ron Fellows Driving Experience – yes, you too can learn to drive like a race car driver! As our big bus wound through the Grand Prix grounds, we spied some of the racers…oooo, hot men & fast cars – what more could a girl want??!!…and there’s the podium (below) where all race winners pose with their trophies and pit crewsWe then stopped by the karting track (below) where I spied some of the racing suits hanging up…I nearly grabbed one and took a turn on the track myself! Zev jumped up on the kart podium (below) and struck a pose with some of the event planners…LOL..then after one last visit to the event centre to watch more of the on-track activity (below) …..
…we bade farewell to everyone and headed back to Toronto. All this time, the monsoon-like rain that had been forecast was kept at bay until we got back into the city then down she came! Farewell, CTMP, and thanks for your warm and generous hospitality…we will all be back soon.
I encourage you to visit the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, either for business or pleasure, and you can find all the information on corporate events, weddings, race days and speed weekends on their website: www.canadiantiremotorsportpark.com
I’d like to offer a very special shout-out to my friends Wayne Abell and Calvin Hambrook who, as UrbanSource Catering, have fed-n-watered Toronto’s corporate and private sectors for 32 years….yes, today is their anniversary and I’m thrilled to present them with this virtual celebration!
Starting off on Yonge Street (south of Eglinton), Wayne and Calvin (pictured below L to R) opened their first store in 1985 offering prepared foods, lattes and lots of catering advice.They soon outgrew their quaint shop housed in a terrace of historical buildings, and based on customer demands, they changed the business model from a retail store-come caterers to a full service catering company. The catering biz grew fast so they moved to their current location on Queen Street East which houses a large commercial kitchen and a suite of offices. Several years ago, the space next door became vacant so Calvin and Wayne took that over and launched Urban Gallery, a non-commission independent art gallery that also serves as a great event space for rent. Needless to say, they cater ALL the events in the gallery. Apart from their corporate events, private parties and spectacular wedding soirees, UrbanSource Catering has supported many of Toronto’s philanthropic causes, catering fundraisers, media launches and special events, eg: United Church’s Heart & Vision Awards, Fife House, PRIDE Toronto, plus the annual InsideOut Film Festival.