Youth homelessness is a real issue in Toronto. Thankfully for individuals in need, there are great organizations like Eva’s Place that help deal with the root causes of youth homelessness. Whether the main need is training and skill development, reconnecting with family, or harm reduction by means of support and therapy, Eva’s is there to help youth deal with or address their main concerns and barriers to success. This fantastic organization now helps approximately 5,000 people a year and has been expanding their services since 1994, the year their first shelter was constructed.
Torontonicity was invited to attend the organization’s Taste Matters fundraiser, hosted by celebrity chef David Rocco of David Rocco’s Dolce Vita. The event was held on September 22, 2016 at the Liberty Grand on the CNE grounds, and brought together some of Toronto’s great restaurants and tastemakers to support this important cause. In attendance were Brickworks Cider, North 44 Catering, Hale Coffee, Cibo Wine Bar, Side Launch Brewing Co., R & D Restaurant, Aria, and many more!
The night started out with guests sampling some of the delicious creations from the featured restaurants. My first bite was of Cibo Wine Bar’s orecchiette with rapini, spicy Italian sausage, fontina and parmigiano cheese. This was accompanied by a traditional arancini, served with ragu and mozzarella. They had a subtle spice, which paired well with the bitterness from the rapini. Arancini had a wonderful crispy exterior, but thankfully wasn’t loaded. I have yet to eat at any of the Cibo locations, but this definitely puts them on my radar!
I was intrigued by a flurry of activity surrounding the Kennedy Catering area, so I decided to try their Scallion Risotto cake next. It was topped with pico de gallo, served with Chermoula (a traditional North African marinade that uses lemon juice, garlic, cilantro, and olive oil), and what a fantastically refreshing bite that was. They were also serving sous-vide beef cheek with cauliflower puree and crispy shallots. Both dishes were incredibly delicious, especially the cauliflower puree as a base for the heavier flavours of the beef, but i really did take a liking to the scallion cake. I have to say that it was probably one of my top picks of the night.
MasterChef Canada’s Eric Chong of R&D Restaurant was also there and offered up a delicate scallop ceviche in a Puri shell (an unleavened deep-friend Indian bread), with whipped avocado and Sichuan Tiger Milk. Chef Chong was also serving a Lavender Cocktail: liquid lavender cloud, with rum, orgeat, lime and star anise. Though the drink and the ceviche were of completely different flavour palettes, both were delicious and vibrant. The ceviche was light, and had a nice jalapeno slice that added a burst of fresh heat; in a similar manner the lavender and anise combination was delicate and refreshing.
As a coffee fanatic, I was ecstatic to see Toronto’s own Station Cold Brew at the event! They were partnered up with the Hale Coffee team, and had delicious cups of coffee ready to prepare guests for the auction!
Those who weren’t feeling the cider, vast variety of wines, or coffee selection, could enjoy a serving of SideLaunch Brewing Co.: mountain lager, dark lager, and wheat beer were available throughout the night!
Everyone was encouraged to bid during the silent auction for fantastic items such an autographed Wayne Gretzky photograph.
More of the fantastic auction items during the Taste Matters event: David’s Tea selection tea and travel mug package, David Rocco’s cookbooks, and a Beau’s beer basket!
Anyone looking for some quick bites could grab Rancho Relaxo’s famous Fish Tacos!
The quaintest vintage teacups were also available for bidding. These were a personal favourite of mine.
During the Taste Matters evening we were introduced to Alicia, who opened up about her experience with Eva’s Place and the impact it had on her life. She gave a brief history of the struggles her family experienced, and spoke about the devastating effects it had on her emotional, mental, and physical health, and the dark path she was on before applying to Eva’s Place. Only two weeks after completing her application, she was paired up with her own case worker and asked to map out her goals. She was able to join a running club, join the print shop, and develop her professional skill set, while tending to her traumatic past in a healthy and constructive manner. Alicia is just one story, and she thanked all the event guests for their charitable contributions, as she knows that many more Toronto youth are benefiting from the support system at Eva’s Place. It was a truly uplifting moment, and a strong reminder of why it is so important to give back to one’s own community.
The generous and beautiful crowd at Eva’s Taste Matters.
Maple cupcakes made by the Eva’s Place youth themselves. They were creamy and delicious!
Chef Rocco thanked all in attendance for their support of Eva’s initiatives for Homeless Youth, and reminded guests, “We all need a place to call home.” All of the fantastic prizes, exciting live auction bids, and delicious food aside, I’m pleased to report that at the end of the night, the entire Eva’s Taste Matters event raised over $170,000! That money means a lot to an organization that offers a 24-hour emergency youth shelter, and continues to support individuals in need. I would recommend that anyone who feels strongly about helping the younger generation build a strong foundation for their future take a look at the events held by Eva’s Place. Not only are you contributing to a good cause, but you’re also having a fun night out as well. Enjoy!