We’ve got a double feature for you this week! Foodie couple-in-crime, Stacey Fowler and Mark Rodas are the powerduo eating up the city.
When and why did you start writing about food?
We started Tasting Toronto to remember all the meals Mark and I have had over the past six years we’ve been together. We were always looking at each other, being like “What did we have at that place? I remember it was damn good but I can’t remember what it was seasoned with!” So initially it was sort of just to have a record of what we enjoyed. Then our blog was visited mostly by friends and family. Then we took to other social sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. and now it has really evolved to the point where we’ve become part of the wonderful engaged food community we have here in Toronto. We focus on experiences we enjoy, and it can be anything from home cooking to fine dining to cooking classes to taste-testing new products. We’ll try anything once… if we like it, we’ll blog about it!
What do you love most about food?
How comforting it is and how such wonderful memories can be attached to it. Mark also loves the look of food. It’s essentially still life, full of colour and textures, and plated as if painting on a canvas or erecting a model.
What do you do when you aren’t writing about or eating food?
Mark is a Fund Accountant at TD; he enjoys the creativity that food blogging brings as it lets him showcase a whole range of other amazing skills he has, like photography and writing. I’ve just started as the Social Media Dealer Coach for Sonic Boom, and I will be working with Ford dealerships across Canada on their social media strategy.
Do you cook? If so, what’s your speciality? If not, why?
Yep! We don’t always blog about our daily eats, but we do lots of simple quick home cooking since we both work full-time and have a ton of side projects and other interests. Mark makes very good Filipino food… in fact, our healthy rendition of a Classic Filipino dish, Chicken Adobo, won Best Recipe from Chicken Farmers of Canada. I make a killer lasagna, it’s my Mom’s recipe and I won’t share it, MUAHAHA! Having a pan of my homemade lasagna in the fridge with some asparagus on the side is beyond convenient and it’s something both of us love to eat. But it’s rich, so we only do that every few months. I also enjoying making homemade guacamole.
What’s your favourite type of food(s) and where do you go to get it?
I honestly can’t pick just one type. I get in “food moods” where I want something specific. Some days it is sushi. Others it is Indian food. Some days I just want a big ol’ burrito stuffed to the nines, whereas the next day I may actually be jonesing for a fine dining experience. Other days I need a Toblerone bar or I feel like I’m going to scream. Yes, my chocolate addiction is that bad… it all depends on how I feel. I could eat something right now that I usually love but, if I’m not in the mood for it, I swear it doesn’t taste as good! Mark too is a chocoholic; very unusual for a guy. Not a day goes by where he doesn’t have or crave some form of chocolate, usually the dark kind. But Mark definitely has two favourite foods that he doesn’t often get a chance to have. First is Sans Rival, a Filipino dessert of meringue, cashews and butter… it’s mostly butter. And Kare Kare, a peanut-based stew of vegetables, meat, tripe, and sometimes intestines, served with a side of salty shrimp paste.
What’s your favourite hidden gem?
I’m fairly obsessed with the red dragon roll from Nijo Sushi (Bloor & Huntley Sts) near my old office — such a pleasant surprise for a place that you’d probably normally just stroll right by (it’s in the bottom of an apartment building). The people in my old office building all found the place awesome too and now at lunch it’s always packed! Mark likes the the Osgoode Hall dining room since you have to go through court security and get your stuff scanned before you can get to this enormous Medieval-ish library of a dining room with stained glass windows.
What’s your go-to restaurant?
We stick to ones in our neighbourhood (St. Lawrence area) when we want a nice relaxed meal. We are fairly obsessed with Hot House’s Sunday brunch (Church & Front Sts): live jazz, buffet-style brunch with many tasty items so you get a ton of variety, amazing people-watching patios in the summer (one on Front and one on Church). Mark’s standby is Yueh Tung at Elizabeth and Dundas. He says there’s a lot of folks out there who you only have to say “chilli chicken” to, and they know exactly what place you’re talking about – theirs is so good.
What’s the most memorable meal you’ve ever had?
So hard to choose! I don’t think I can! Or I need a lot more time to think about it! I think generally we’ve had a lot of good items here and there we remember, but most memorable overall meal is hard to determine… I think more in terms of individual dishes. It’s rare that we’ve had our fave app, main and dessert all in one sitting. Some places do desserts really well, others do great mains, etc. Mark’s most memorable meal was Moto in Chicago. We sat down for five hours, through a 20-course molecular gastronomy feast by the father of molecular gastronomy. We closed the place down!
What’s the one restaurant you have to try before you die?
As much as we love Toronto and the food scene here, we would like to try some of the more famous ones outside of Canada to widen our perspective. We were able to make it to Moto in Chicago and Del Posto in New York over the past few years. Mark would like to try Sukiyabashi Jiro in Tokyo, from the movie Jiro Dreams of Sushi.
What’s your biggest restaurant pet peeve? (play nice)
Having my water glass run dry, especially when the restaurant is just about empty. Actually I love when they bring a pitcher of water for you to just pour yourself — I prefer that so I don’t have to continually ask the server for refills because I drink more water a day than I think a human should! Mark hates communal tables. Strangers are more inclined to criticize your food or how you savour and document it if you’re on the same piece of real estate.