If you believe that the best way to travel is to do as the locals do, and exploring your home city should be done as a tourist – kill two birds with one stone by going on a tour with a Torontonian that knows the city’s culinary secrets like the back of her hand.
Trina Hendry (@ChowBellaTO), founder of ChowBella is as passionate as she is knowledgeable about Toronto’s food scene, taking a unique approach to her food tours by whisking participants away on an exploration of independently-owned businesses.
“I take pleasure in exploring the city and its many unique neighborhoods, and having a background in hospitality PR really helps too,” says Hendry of her expertise – “I get to rub shoulders with chefs, hoteliers, tourism boards and food writers and am totally immersed in the city’s food scene as a result.” Hendry also attributes her passion for food to growing up with a family of women that love to cook: “passion for food is in my blood… growing up, I was the pickiest eater and it wasn’t until I came to the big city and was introduced to the food scene through my job that my taste buds were awakened.”
With extensive connections in the restaurant industry and an insatiable appetite for the city that she lives in, Hendry created ChowBella – which is now on its third summer of tours. The newest addition is a chocolate and cheese tour set in the trendy Queen and King West neighbourhoods, and on a particularly balmy Saturday morning – Hendry took a group of Americans and Torontonians on a 3 – hour tour of sweet and savoury indulgence.
The first noteworthy leg of the tour was definitely at Chococrepe 620 Queen St. W), a restaurant specializing in savory and sweet crepes owned by business and life partners Dewey and Kim Truong. Hailing from Montreal, Dewey perfects his craft through trial and error along with a fiery passion for food and a voracious hunger for learning. Our group sampled a pair of savoury crepes made with buckwheat flour, the first being a 3-cheese crepe (swiss, brie and a touch of goat cheese with their house blend of herbs), and the second an all brie crepe with a touch of honey (a sprinkle of walnuts adding a crunchy texture). Beyond the savoury, Truong was also excited to show us Chococrepe’s sweet side (as they use high-end Valrhona chocolate from France) and we were then treated to a dessert platter: a sample of dark to white chocolate, a shot of rich and creamy hot chocolate, and a strawberry crepe.
Hendry then swept us away from Queen and down toward the King St. Wneighbourhood to Cheesewerks (56 Bathurst St), home of the Canadian artisan grilled cheese. Kevin Durkee, the self-proclaimed “big cheese” of Cheesewerks is a good-humoured, intense lover of all things cheese. Truly concerned in giving diners what they want, the team at Cheesewerks fine-tuned their menu by using a focus group to see if their creations were hitting or missing the mark. Our group sampled “The Original” grilled cheese (aged and double-smoked Balderson chedder on cracked peppercorn sour dough) alongside a glass of rustic tomato soup – Durkee’s version of milk and cookies. We then sampled a generous hunk of blue (fromCornwall, just outside of Montreal) topped with a caramelized onion jelly, which was brilliant in offsetting the saltiness of the cheese. Durkee surprised us all by offering dessert and ended off our tasting with asquare of Venezuelan dark chocolate topped with a dollop of triple crème brie (further topped with a horseradish jelly).
All in all, a tour with Trina Hendry is a fun and educational hybrid of decadence where a delicious surprise awaits you at every turn. Whether you’re looking to do as the locals do, or explore your home city as a tourist – a Chowbella tour is truly the answer to your culinary prayers.