After the Thanksgiving Pucks, we headed to the back of the venue to a surprisingly short line up for Fidel Gastro’s (@fidelgastros). I had heard a lot about them on Twitter so was excited to try their food. After browsing the menu, I settled on trying the Gorgeous Jorge ($5) – a sandwich of peanut butter pulled pork, bacon jam and crackling. I think it was the word crackling that won me over. This was a little saltier than I expected (maybe it was the bacon jam?) and the combination of peanut butter and pork was a little weird, but the more I ate, the more I liked it. And the surprise crackling bits throughout the sandwich were really good. It was pretty cool how crunchy they managed to stay squished in that pork and jam mix.
At this point, the live music was really getting going and it was our only complaint about the event. Ok, I get it – live music makes for a really fun atmosphere, and the musicians were talented, but it was SO LOUD. Because of the venue, the sound was really reverberating around the walls. I couldn’t hear Paul, he couldn’t hear me (even when I was yelling directly into his ear), I couldn’t hear the vendors and vendors couldn’t hear my order. It was actually kind of annoying. Everyone around us was shouting at each other and repeating their shouting since no one could hear each other. Since this is an event that encourages chatting and sharing of food experiences, it was a little off-putting to not be able to speak to each other about what we were eating...
We then headed to the open pavilion section where I had the surprise of the night. We saw the sign for Shinaki Co. (@shinaki_co), a vendor I had never heard of, but they had Char Siu listed on their board, which is one of Paul’s favourite dishes, so we figured we should give it a try. As I headed towards their table, the girl who was taking orders and I looked at each other and just burst into laughter. It was my friend Sandy, who I’ve known since high school but haven’t seen in YEARS! How’s that for a coincidence? Her brother (to quote Sandy) “does pork like nobody’s business”. Paul and I ordered the pork belly plate ($5) (which came with some salted peanuts, a nice sweet bun, hot mustard and hot sauce) and was plated in a restaurant-like manner. Verdict – some of the BEST pork belly either of us have ever had and probably one of our favourite dishes of the night (and I'm not just saying that because I know Sandy!).
I was so excited to see Sandy again that I forgot to take a photo of our food from Shinaki, but before we left, I headed back there and asked if I could sneak behind the table to take some shots and she was kind enough to let me.
Next up was the one place I knew I wanted to try, but I was worried that the line-up was going to be too long because they are really popular – La Carnita (@la_carnita). When we approached it, we decided the line-up wasn’t TOO bad, and in the end, we only waited about 20 minutes. We got the Cemita ($5), a Mexican street sandwich with confit pork and a Key Lime Paleta (popsicle) ($4). I was a little disappointed they didn’t have any tacos, since I had heard so much about them, but the sandwich was really, really good (great size for the price) and the key lime paleta was amazing (could have had more of those actually!)
As we were standing there eating our Cemita, I noticed the SmashCake (@SmashCake_TO) cart. I had tweeted with SmashCake earlier in the day, as they were a late-addition to the night TUM. Ashley, the owner/baker/Tweeter/woman extraordinaire, was selling Frozen Peanut Butter Cheesecake Sandwiches ($4). Ok, admission time, I’m not a huge fan of peanut butter-flavoured foods. I normally love peanut butter – on toast, but I've never liked peanut butter cookies. Paul, on the other hand, loves anything peanut butter flavoured. So this cold concoction was an instant hit with him and a pleasant surprise for me. The peanut butter flavour is kind of subtle and the dessert ends up being nice and light – not sweet or cloying. The cookie was soft and chewy and the cheesecake in the middle was really great. We both loved this treat (plus, Ashley is really friendly!).
On our way out, we decided to stop at one last vendor – Big E’s Hawaiian Grinds (@BigEgrinds). I had never heard of them, but we both love all things Hawaiian, so had to give it a try. Their North Shore Garlic Shrimp ($5) - shrimp, sautéed in butter, garlic, paprika, lemon and white wine, served with jasmine rice - was juicy and perfectly seasoned and their fruity Hawaiian Punch ($3) - cantaloupe juice, water and sugar with shredded cantaloupe and cucumber - was the perfect refresher after all those salty foods. I could enjoy their shrimp and punch all day long (preferably on a Hawaiian beach!)
There were a couple of places that we skipped because the lineups were too long but we were really happy with the food we did get to try. If we had to pick a favourite dish of the night (which is pretty tough since we loved everything we tried), mine would be the pork belly plate from Shinaki, while Paul's top choice was the Beef Basil Thai bun from HotBunzz.
As we walked to the parking lot, Paul and I both agreed that this was a fantastic event (except for the super-loud music) and we laughed at how much PORK we had eaten. It was our first TUM, but it definitely won’t be our last. I even bought my own TUM mug as a souvenir and hope to return as often as I can! Next TUM, I’m definitely going to bring a better camera and hope to try even more vendors (and return to some of the ones we enjoyed at this event).
HAPPY FIRST BIRTHDAY, TUM! HERE’S TO MANY MORE DELICIOUS YEARS TO COME!