Andrea Toole is a writer, entrepreneur, competitive barbecue babe and one heck of a passionate foodie. Get a glimpse into the mind of this Canadian Foodie Girl, Andrea the Gastronaut…
When and why did you start writing about food?
I began Andrea the Gastronaut in 2008, after about eight years of blogging without a topic focus and diary-style blogging. I love food. Food is community. It’s a universal language. Food is love. Food can kill us or cure us.
What do you love most about food?
Aside from what I said above: It’s multi-sensory. It’s art, chemistry, history, anthropology, psychology, culture, religion, geography and even math. How each person perceives flavour depends on so many different elements including past experience, what they’ve consumed that day, how acute their sense of taste is, and body chemistry.
Above all, it’s tasty and fills some of our basic needs.
What do you do when you aren’t writing about or eating food?
The spring after I started dating my boyfriend, I had two choices: Join his competition barbecue team or become a “barbecue widow” for months. I chose to compete and fell in love with it instantly. I spent much of last spring and summer traveling and competing in Kansas City Barbecue Society events. We cater part time to help with the cost of competing.
Aside from food: Going nearly full circle with my blogging, I recently started up a digital marketing and business blog. I’m a writer and digital marketer. I’m helping to launch a new mobile app called Groovie which helps get people out for dinner and a movie.
Do you cook? If so, what’s your speciality? If not, why?
I used to cook but I feel like I’ve forgotten how. I use to make a great roast chicken! Now my boyfriend cooks and I clean. It’s amazing how much kitchenware one man can use to make a meal! When we cater, I make the side dishes. I’m not allowed to make the mac ‘n’ cheese though, because each time I try I burn the cheese sauce.
What’s your favourite type of food(s) and where do you go to get it?
I like Thai food but can only eat it at Khao San Road now. I like Pho on rainy days, either Rua Vang Golden Turtle, Golden Phoenix or Pho Rex. The Mexican food at Frida makes me so happy. I appreciate a really good burger but mostly avoid burger places because the choices are overwhelming. Some of the best burgers are at bars and restaurants such as The Stockyards, Harbord Room and Tall Boys. In this city there’s a burger for every taste and budget. My favourite place to get southern barbecue is my kitchen!
What’s your hidden gem?
I don’t know if this is a “hidden gem”, but I never liked shrimp chips until I tried them recently at Pho Rex.
What’s your go-to restaurant?
About seven months ago Tall Boys Bar opened on my block, shortly followed by Two Bite Saloon next door. Both have great food and drink with friendly staff so those are the places we eat and drink at most often. Two Bite Saloon does a deliciously creative southern brunch. I feel kind of bad for neglecting The Stockyards and their fantastic brunch.
What’s the most memorable meal you’ve ever had?
When I think about food memories, it’s the travels: Dairy products in Israel; ceviche with huge corn kernels and fresh seafood in Peru; biting into cacao fruit (the pulp around the seed that makes chocolate ) in St. Lucia. Some of the best salmon I’ve had in recent memory was at Memphis Barbecue Company just outside Memphis. I salivate thinking about the shrimp sautéed in a BBQ butter sauce made with their secret BBQ rub. We compete and cater with that rub. I call it “fairy dust.”
What’s the one restaurant you have to try before you die?
I have no “one restaurant” anywhere but I really want to eat my way through Chicago. People tell me that it’s the best food city.
What’s your biggest restaurant pet peeve? (play nice)
Just one? It’s so hard to choose! 1. Servers who whisk my plate away before I’m finished. 2. Servers who ask for my drink order after they’ve removed my menu. 3. The chef bait and switch, when chefs open their restaurants with great food and well-designed menus, leave, and are replaced with cooks who can’t pull it off. 4. Resting on laurels. Some restaurants seem to stop trying once they’ve attained success.