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Eat & Drink

Recent Toronto Food Fallacies

Posted by Lauren / March 21, 2009

Toronto Street MeatToronto doesn't have an authentic street food scene, blackmarket chicken is safe to eat, Susur Lee is our golden boy, eating out after the bar is great, and bottled water is better than tap water. Here's a roundup of recent Toronto food "fallacies".

Toronto Does Not Have an Authentic Street Food Scene
While this isn't really a fallacy (it's pretty much a total sausage fest of street food at the moment), Toronto street food is about to change. With the "A la Cart" program slated to start in May, Toronto's street food will soon be as diverse and interesting as it should be. After two years and a mountain of red tape, there will be 8 new street food vendors scattered across the city, with fare ranging from kimchi to Caribbean.

Chicken from Wing Zhing Trading Ltd. is Safe for Human Consumption
Generally, black market chicken is not something that I would recommend to the discerning cook, or even the living breathing human being.

That's why chicken from Wing Zhing Trading Ltd is probably best avoided. After 12,000 kg of boneless skinless chicken breasts were stolen from a Paris, Ontario, distribution centre in early March, they were traced to a warehouse at Kipling Avenue and Rexdale Boulevard. Toronto police warned consumers to purchase chicken breasts from reputable suppliers, and avoid any packages sporting small "Wing Zhing Trading Ltd" stickers on them.

Oh, and while you're at it, you should probably avoid Maple Leaf Foods, peanut products, and Canadian lobster tomalley too.

Susur Lee is Toronto's Golden Boy of Haute Cuisine
What Toronto food critic has not been wooed by Susur Lee's long, flowing, and shiny locks? It seems he can do no wrong in this city. But he is not fairing so well in the Big Apple. Is this already translating back to the Toronto die-hards? Is this a myth in the making?

Eating After a Night at the Bar is a Good Idea

Actually, it is probably never a good idea. You can hit places like Swatow, Reggie's Old Fashioned Sandwiches, Sneaky Dee's, Zorba's, Smoke's Poutinerie, or your local street meat vendor and be drunkenly satisfied.

Some might even recommend upscale late night eats like the Black Hoof that stay open until 2am, but if you're not even going to remember the experience the next day (or lose your lunch shortly thereafter), it might not be worth the cash or calories.

And yes, late night eats might never be a good idea, but it will always continue to seem that way at 3am.

Bottled Water is Cleaner than Toronto Tap Water
Actually, there are fewer government regulations guiding the bottled water industry as compared to Toronto's tap water purification. For bottled water, bacteriological quality varies from brand to brand. And while all bottled waters should meet the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality, monitoring requirements aren't as stringent as are those for tap water.

And tap water is just plain affordable, with the trend hitting several Toronto restaurants. Recognizing that the city's purification standards are stringent but not perfect, restos are putting in their own filtration systems and ditching the expensive bottled water imports.

Photo by jeff caires from blogTO's photo pool



apetimberlake / March 21, 2009 at 10:55 am
Good article, although i am partial to Susar Lee as he is a really cool cat. I do however place the gentleman that owns/is the chef of Rosebud in the same boat as well.

Yes, to the bottled water vs Tap. I actually prefer tape (if you run the tap for a few seconds prior.
Anna / March 21, 2009 at 11:39 am
I don't know if drunken dining is a bad idea, just not the best idea in public.

I find some toast when I get home, washed down by a ton of water, goes for to prevent a hangover the next day :)
ayl / March 21, 2009 at 12:43 pm
I was in Philly a couple of weeks ago and they actually have these food carts on the UPenn campus that sell an wide variety of foods. (almost like the UofT food trucks) It's amazing how many choices they had.
eagle3 / March 21, 2009 at 12:54 pm
Long live tap, down with the bottled water! Do not keep lining the wallets of those fat cats who own those bottled water companies. There is nothing wrong with our tap water.
Peter / March 21, 2009 at 02:25 pm
There will be nothing 'authentic' about Toronto's new street food scene, not with this much municipal government involvement.

Eight carts scattered across the city doesn't exactly spell competition, for one thing; all of the great street food cities of the world have entire strips of hawker stands, not just one lonely isolated vendor once in while.

Diverse food is great, but to hail it as 'interesting' is what one might call damning with faint praise. Great food doesn't make the person eating it shout, "Wow, that was ... interesting!!!"

You say 'after' red tape, but I expect there will be plenty of red tape in the years to come. For one thing, check out the locations: municipal properties like Nathan Philips Square and Mel Lastman Square. In other words, the municipal government hasn't been able to trump the provincial government's regulations about what kind of foods can be served where; it's just making special exceptions for its own facilities, kind of like City Hall's bottled water ban.

The best hawker food in Toronto is and will continue to be at various outdoor festivals in the summer. Only there can you find true competition between vendors, true diversity of food within walking distance between carts and, most importantly, the critical mass of customers walking through to make the business model for good, affordable street eats viable to begin with.
Reality Check / March 21, 2009 at 04:50 pm
8 carts selected by bureaucrats doesn't give us a diverse street food scene, as mentioned above. Get the city out of the approval process and let a thousand carts bloom. NYC is a great model, not the ridiculousness we have.

Water in much of Toronto IS dangerous. The aging lead supply pipes are distinctly unhealthy and their replacement will take nearly a decade. Depending on your location, tap water also carries a high rate of disinfecting agents which aren't wonderful to consume and don't taste very good. The closer you are to the source pumps, the more disinfectant you get, since water has to remain potable until it reaches the furthest reaches of the city.

As to eating after the bar - it's a VERY good idea. It can help slow the absorption of alcohol through the gut, reducing your peak blood alcohol level. Not good for your calorie intake but can make you feel better the next morning. It also prevents dry heaves should you have consumed far too much, and gives you a metabolic reserve should you be purging and unable to eat for a day.

Stop with the leftist/statist cheerleading and the completely afactual arguments. It's something Torontoist would do.
Mark Dowling / March 21, 2009 at 08:08 pm
I thought Filion was getting an unfair shake in the early stages with Smitherman trying to horn in and all, but 8 carts is nothing but a joke, an insult. Apparently the forms to apply are 40 pages!

8 carts would be one thing in October, when most people are starting to stick to PATH and ped traffic is thinning but 8 in May spread over a City of 600+ sq km is an insult to the intelligence of the citizenry. We need a cart at every subway station and every major intersection, not a couple at City Hall and one at Metro Hall to feed bureaucrats with safe jobs. How can it be a City programme with nothing in Etobicoke, nothing in York, nothing in Scarborough?
Peter replying to a comment from Reality Check / March 21, 2009 at 09:39 pm
The problem is even if we get the city out of the approval process, it's a provincial government matter. It's at the level of provincial regulation, after all, that we have the utterly hypocritical edict that to be considered healthy, street food has to be so loaded with preservatives that the only options are hot dogs and sausages.

So while I complain about the city's involvement, the real problem is it's one bureaucracy taking on another. Changes need to happen at the provincial level if we're to have any genuine street hawker scene. And given that such scenes are probably not on the priority lists of most other cities in Ontario, it's sadly unlikely to happen.
Darcy K. / March 22, 2009 at 12:48 am
"Reality Check" is correct about Toronto water. It varies by what part of the city you live in. And it varies by time of year. In the summer, when bacterial contaminants tend to flourish, Toronto water almost has enough chlorine to turn a shirt white. Jokes aide, there's not a brewery in the GTA that uses tap water because the chlorine levels are too high, despite what propaganda the city feeds you. I don't buy bottled water but I do run tap water through a filtration system before drinking it - not missing the chlorine and floaty bits.
apetimberlake / March 23, 2009 at 10:41 am
Derek K. :(
Joe / March 23, 2009 at 12:56 pm
This is a very dissappointing and poorly written article.

Toronto Does Not Have an Authentic Street Food Scene:

if you ask anyone who's come to live in Toronto, or anyone who's moved away from Toronto about street food, you'll always be answered about how unique Toronto's street dogs are.

Chicken from Wing Zhing Trading Ltd. is Safe for Human Consumption:

you'll probably get a letter from Maple Leaf Foods about that... The link in the article provides speculation and no proof. There maybe some truth but that comment seems a little derogatory to Mr. McCain.

Susur Lee is Toronto's Golden Boy of Haute Cuisine:

It appears you're jumping on the bash Susur bandwagon. I hope Susur does well.

Eating After a Night at the Bar is a Good Idea:

How could you leave out Pho Train? The best way to avoid a hangover.

I agree with you on the tap water though.
TheDaniel / March 23, 2009 at 02:18 pm
WOW! *8* new street vendors for the entire city of Toronto! That's so proportional to number of people living in Toronto and the size of the city as well. EIGHT new vendors?! That's a sick joke.

It'll probably be faster, cheaper and easier to just walk to a Caribbean restaurant than find the one guy in Toronto selling Jerk Chicken on the street.

Eight new street vendors... once again, Toronto takes a great and overdue idea and implements it in such a way that makes it inaccessible to most.
Mikey / March 23, 2009 at 02:41 pm
@Joe. Your response was disappointingly stupid and poorly thought out.

1. Hot Dog vendors are hardly unique. You may never have left Toronto, but hot vendors can be found on street corners in cities all over North America from Seattle to NYC and from Dallas to Atlanta. It's hardly unique.

2. Although I am sure Maple Leaf foods will be taking a break from settling their class action law suit to send letters to blogTO, the author's point is valid; even if contrary to your thoughts. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency doesn't arbitrarily warn consumers not to purchase food. If anyone is getting a letter, it'll be be CFIA, not BlogTO.

3. Right, Susur has had a real hard ride in the Canadian press. Other than Canadian publications reporting what a NEW YORK newspaper wrote, Susur continues to be the 'it' toronto chef. I for one find it refreshing that a writer at blogTO challenges conventional wisdom. 'Joe' you must be able to respect someone voicing an opinion contrary to the consensus of popular Canadian Media. I mean really.
Peter / March 23, 2009 at 05:45 pm
The hot dogs in Toronto are different from those in other cities. For example, they're better than the puny ones in New York. But that's not saying much compared to great street hawker cities around the world (most of which are not in North America).
Suzanne / March 27, 2009 at 01:19 am
On the note of having a variety of cuisines, I love having choices when I want to eat whether it be dining, catering or on the street. Im pretty sure we can all agree that the same old gets pretty boring after a while, and trust me its been a long time eating the same stuff. I love the multiculturalism and the new businesses coming up to recognize that fact. Being able to choose food from different cuisines has really brought a whole new meaning to eating. Take for example my favorite caterer - they are also a multi cuisine caterer, so if you guys are like me and like a lot of different flavor in your lives check them out http://www.icater.ca - they do Thai, Indian, Italian etc etc

ForexTeacher / March 28, 2009 at 07:29 am
Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: Most US women owned businesses home- based.
TraderForex / March 29, 2009 at 01:57 am
Thanks for the information. Any other posts or blogs you can recommend read?
Paul / March 29, 2009 at 10:14 am
Drink tap water?

Brenda Bent / May 17, 2009 at 03:30 pm
do you actually do anything?? or just comment on everything others do..?? wow that is DANGEROUS!!!

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