By Lori Bosworth
Torontonicity was invited to be one of the Taste Matters foodie partners for the Eva’s Initiatives fundraiser, Taste Matters, at the Liberty Grand in Toronto on Nov. 2, 2017. This annual event gives visitors the opportunity to taste a variety of dishes from several Toronto chefs, as well as bid on auction items to raise money for Eva’s Initiatives. If you’re not familiar with Eva’s Initiatives, they are a non profit providing services and resources to homeless and at-risk youth.
Taste Matters was held in the Renaissance Ballroom. When we arrived, not many people were there yet due to a huge traffic jam in downtown Toronto so we decided to visit a few food stations. I recognized many of the Toronto restaurants preparing dishes, as well as several of the beer and wine stations including Arterra Wines, Mill Street Brewery, Lost Craft Brewery, Domaine Queylus Winery, Brickworks Ciderhouse, Red Stone Winery and Beau’s All Natural Brewing among others.
Our first stop was at The Chef Upstairs to try their Moroccan Sweet Potato, Carrot and Chickpea Soup topped with toasted pumpernickel croutons. This dairy-free soup was a silky indulgence. The flavours worked perfectly together to produce a sweet and filling appetizer. It was so good that I snuck back to their food station later for seconds.
Our next stop was at The Edible Story food station to try their Cauliflower Tostadas with Nori Mayo and Herb Oil. These were tasty little morsels – roasting cauliflower or any vegetables for that matter, really brings out their flavour and they were even more delicious in their salty mayo dressing.
We also stopped at Rancho Relaxo and tried their delicious Fish Tacos. This dish provided a wonderful contrast of crunchy and soft textures and a beautiful profile of salty and piquant flavours. In fact, I noticed a long line-up for these tacos halfway through the evening.
Our next stop was at North 44 to try their Butternut Squash Ravioli with Pecan Ricotta and Canadian maple. This pasta was sinfully rich and delicious.
After enjoying a few dishes, we stopped to hear more about Eva’s Initiatives. Food bloggers Julie Albert and Lisa Gnat were event hosts and spoke about their interest in supporting Eva’s Initiatives since homeless youth are at great risk of going without healthy food. Their cookbook, Bite Me (which was provided as a complimentary gift to each guest) emphasizes nutritious, yet tasty recipes.
Eva’s Place, Eva’s Satellite, and Eva’s Phoenix provide safe space and support for 123 homeless youth aged 16-24 every night. Each facility is designed to help youth with their unique circumstances transition out of homelessness and on to independent living
Eva’s Initiatives’ Harm Reduction Program provides youth with group and individual counselling, education on safer drug use strategies and access to safe drug supplies. Their peer outreach program involves youth with substance use backgrounds to work as peer workers to provide information to youth with substance abuse issues.
We heard from Megan, a young woman whose mother passed away from cancer when she was 12. Moving between extended family members, Megan did not experience the care she needed. She tried living with her siblings, but they became physically abusive and she landed on the street. After enrolling in Eva’s Construction and Building Maintenance Training Program, Megan developed new marketable skills and the confidence to seek better employment.
Auctioneer Don Stewart’s engaging delivery had visitors opening their wallets to offer not only bids on luxury items and experiences, but also to offer financial donations to support Eva’s Initiatives. Some of the items at the silent and live auctions included an autographed Wayne Gretzky Edmonton Oilers jersey, an 18 karat gold diamond pendant valued at $22,000, a Bali Indonesian escape, Michael Kors’s Runway Collection necklace and earrings, Emporio Armani watches, and best of Napa wine collection.
It was a wonderful evening for a fabulous cause. If you get the chance to attend Taste Matters at the Liberty Grand next year, I highly recommend it.