This Sunday I’m super excited to be photographing 2.0 Toronto 2015. In its third year, the event is a holistic fitness experience fusing various movement-related disciplines with nutrition education on health and fitness.
The founder, Julian Ho, is himself a multi-sport athlete, holistic trainer, and fitness coach. Julian graduated from the University of Western Ontario, where he attained a BA in kinesiology, and along the way to where he is today picked up several more certifications. Another of his notable accomplishments is his 1st place finish at the 2012 Sears Great Canadian Ultra Run for Kids Cancer, a 100-kilometer ultra marathon (yes! that’s 100 kilometers…) from Toronto to Collingwood, a superhuman feat which he completed in an impressive time of 10 hours and 45 minutes.
Evidently Julian’s quite a radical and inspirational guy; someone who is genuinely passionate about health and fitness, and, perhaps most importantly, wants to share his knowledge and experience with those who want to push and challenge themselves, both mentally and physically. In his own words: “In my ideal world, exercise would not be a chore. Body image would not be a leading stressor in our lives. Diet and healthy nutrition would not be a struggle.”
The 2.0 Toronto event will be taking place this coming Sunday, September 20, 2015, from 8 am – 12 pm, at 99 Sudbury Street, Toronto. In tune with the mandate of providing a holistic fitness experience, the entire schedule following the reception will be broken up into 15-minute-long segments. Each session will be lead by a Toronto-based fitness professional, starting with an opening keynote speech by Dr. Michelle Crispe (one of Toronto’s top fitness professionals of 14 years), after that, somewhere in the middle — that is 10:25 am sharp — you can take part in an exhilarating hybrid taekwondo session with Quentin Vitko (a certified fitness instructor and Lululemon ambassador who recently travelled to Tanzania, East Africa, where he had the privilege of instructing over 1,000 African children in the basics of taekwondo), and, at 11:25 am, right before the ending keynote speech, Chris Csak will be leading a pilates workout (Chris is a professional personal trainer of 15 years, having had done work for clients as original as The World luxury yacht residence, the only private residential community-at-sea whose inhabitants travel the globe without ever leaving home).
Interspersed with yoga, dance, athletic conditioning, and strength training… needless to say the itinerary is wildly diverse. Delivering a schedule whose variety is uniquely multi-disciplinary as well as practical — a sequence of classes together offering a holistic workout. All of the instructors are top-notch and highly sought after. Also, snacks and fresh juices will be provided by well-known, health-savvy Toronto food retailers: Pre-workout snacks will be supplied by Nomz, recovery fuel by Kupfert and Kim, juices by Village Juicery, and water by Flow Water.
Finally, ticket prices are $50 each, though proceeds will be donated to The Stop Community Food Centre, a non-profit organization providing access to healthy food by confronting the underlying issues leading to poverty and hunger.
2.0 Toronto 2015 is getting me feeling pumped! — I’ll be there, will you?
For more information about the event and to purchase your tickets click here.
Pekoe Kombucha Bar — Canada’s first draft organic kombucha tea bar — is doing an amazing job at delivering a very beneficial though relatively obscure product. Matter of fact, kombucha is so widely unknown that my text document is underlining the word as a spelling mistake…
Though rather new in North America, kombucha has been around for more than 2,000 years. Originating in the ancient Far East, this lightly effervescent drink is referred to by the Chinese as the ‘immortal health elixir’ — hint, hint for those who’ve been on the hunt for the philosopher’s stone.
In essence, kombucha is a fermented tea (in most cases black, though not necessarily) made by adding a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast — popularly known as SCOBY (also used to make water kefir) — to sugared tea, and allowing the mixture to ferment.
Despite his cute-sounding name, SCOBY is somewhat nightmarish-looking, resembling a caramelized blob of snot… — luckily, you’ll only encounter him if you’re going to be attempting making your own homemade kombucha, so kudos to Pekoe for doing the dirty work of harvesting this uncanny creature for us.
After fermenting, kombucha is naturally carbonated and imbued with B vitamins, enzymes, and probiotics. Loaded with these properties, kombucha is recognized for its numerous health- and energy-boosting benefits.
One study in particular, published in February 2014 within the Journal of Medicinal Food, notes: It is shown that KT [kombucha fermented tea] can efficiently act in health prophylaxis and recovery due to four main properties: detoxification, antioxidation, energizing potencies, and promotion of depressed immunity. The recent experimental studies on the consumption of KT suggest that it is suitable for prevention against broad-spectrum metabolic and infective disorders.
Indeed, though North American studies on kombucha’s health benefits are quite sparse (no wonder, an inexpensive and essentially home-makable solution to many of the world maladies is very much not something in the pharmaceutical companies’ best interest), there are numerous Russian and German studies demonstrating that, beside cleansing and detoxifying, kombucha improves digestion, aids cardiovascular health, has anti-inflammatory properties, boosts the immune system, and is cancer preventative. Also super advantageous is kombucha’s antimicrobial activity, which has it effectively inhibit a range of pathogenic bacteria — that is harmful microorganisms that can cause infection.
Gut health is altogether an area which is very overlooked, though scientists are coming to realize its importance. It may sound surprising, but the stomach is arguably your second brain, meaning that what you eat determines such fundamental things as your personality. A mind-boggling study by McMaster University actually demonstrated that a disruption of your gut’s ecosystem may cause anxiety or depression. What the researchers did is swapped gut juices of passive mice with those of exploratory ones, and found that in effect the timid subjects became more active and daring, and vice versa.
So drink your probiotic-rich kombucha. And for Torontonians, Pekoe is offering a vast and exotic array of flavors to choose from, I mean, just check out this list of some of the awesome ingredients that they masterfully combine within their very original recipes: freshly squeezed lemons, pink grapefruit, apple, pear, pineapple, watermelon, beet, cucumber, parsley, turmeric, ginger, cayenne, and cinnamon! — oh, and did I mention their brews are organic? Our favorite kombucha so far is ‘Lemon Ginger,’ which is very refreshing and spiced with a pinch of cayenne!
New Yorkers must try Beyond Brewing, an artisan kombucha beer joint — visited them, omg delicious, especially their ‘Love Potion,’ a 2.5% alcohol, honey-sweetened, Jun tea-style kombucha, a potion transpiring with (in their own words, though I concur) “floral and bitterwood notes.”
Back to Toronto, you can visit Pekoe’s kombucha tea bar at their home base, which is conveniently situated within Yoga Tree’s flagship locations (a superb yoga studio — with a very inspirational origin story of an entrepreneurial couple who quit their day jobs in pursuit of a vision to create a community embracing all the various yoga traditions — with five locations across the Toronto area). Meaning that you can drink your kombucha and chant your namastes at one place!
However, until the end of August, you can get you Pekoe kombucha fix at the Front Street Foods market, a summertime culinary event at Union Station. Pekoe is there, along with 27 other vendors, together showcasing some of the city’s finest in terms of edibles and drinkables.
Aside from visiting Front Street Foods market, be sure to follow Pekoe on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest! And do the same Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram obsessiveness for Yoga Tree! Right, and then share some Facebook and Twitter love with Kombucha Beyond Brewing!
Till next time!
Shuko is an incredibly gifted and versatile baker — ex-fashion buyer — exclusively supplying Boxcar Social with her deliciously irresistible and out-of-the-box baked inventions. Just check out the photos of her very own Beet Kale Chocolate cake — eye candy that tastes as good as it looks, trust me (I ate the entire thing…)! Before coming to Toronto, she studied at Le Cordon Bleu, a renowned Parisian culinary arts school in Tokyo. I sat down with her at Boxcar to talk about gluten-free baking, travel, and — which wasn’t originally on the interview menu — Krystian’s (that is her boyfriend) wild forest-green fleece pants.
Yes! Before coming over to Toronto seven years ago I was a fashion buyer in Japan, which was tons of fun. Got to travel to quite a bit of places around the world picking up clothes. So I kind of completely changed my focus. It was fun, but overtime the pressure became unbearable, not an easy job, very stressful… At one point my mom actually told me that my work might be starting to get the worst of me and that I should probably change my job, connect back with my roots.
So that was the turning point?
It was. Shortly after I applied to Le Cordon Bleu in Tokyo, an intense culinary school with a strong emphasis on French-styled cuisine. There I learned how to prepare French pastries, an approach which involves a lot of butter — which was great because I love sweets! Krystian and I eat them whenever we can… all sorts of new things we’ve never tried before, actually. In fact, experiencing new flavors is our reason for traveling, which we try to do as often as possible. Each time we go to new places we’ve never been before it’s to explore their culture from a culinary point of view.
Any countries that really hit the spot?
Loved Turkey, we tried an exotic chicken pudding dessert — so original! India, which is mostly vegetarian, although the north and south regions have different cuisines. Japan, their cuisine is so intelligent and detail oriented.
As are the goodies you bake for Boxcar! The muffins, cookies, and cakes you provide the cafe with are your own recipes?
Yes! It’s all my own stuff. That’s why I’m so excited about my work for Boxcar, they leave everything up to me so I can play around with recipes!
Notably, most of it is gluten-free, how did this come about?
One of my close friends adopted a gluten-free diet and so whenever she was over I wanted to bake something for her but needed to keep in mind that she couldn’t eat wheat-based treats.
Also, hard not to admit that of recently gluten-free and vegan foods have become trendy. Virtually every independent cafe offers gluten-free baked goods. So wanting to be on top of this emerging trend definitely played a role in deciding the direction for my own work.
But fashion aside, I do genuinely enjoy eating vegan and gluten-free creations.
But not exclusively?
I try not to restrict myself in any way — Krystian and I love to sample and enjoy life as much as we can!
Obvious to you perhaps, but can you give us a simple description of what is gluten and why sometimes we try to avoid it?
Gluten is wheat-derived and is what gives dough its stickiness, helping things come together. So naturally, without this adhesive things can become tricky. The deal with gluten intolerance is actually a little unclear to me — but my basic understanding is that for some people consuming gluten doesn’t always agree with their bodies, causing bloating and gastric discomforts.
Gluten-free baking is known for being difficult…
For sure, and I love the challenge of it. Each recipe requires a unique approach. There’s a certain chemistry to the process, requiring you to experiment, to rework that recipe to make it work. Things don’t come out perfect the first few times. Usually ideas in their first state come out either too dense or the flavors are off. So I’m always experimenting, fine-tuning, that’s how I spend most of my days.
Do you ever follow recipes?
No. Never. I do everything by ear. It’s quite funny actually, if you ever ask me how I made some specific thing, I have a general idea, but since I don’t write anything down, I usually have some trouble providing exact directions. The upside of course is that the process is a lot more spontaneous and creative — things never come out the same way twice.
I must have come up with hundreds of original recipes by now. Often enough Krystian asks me to remake something he really liked — ‘I’ll try’ is what I tell him!
Impressive! Can you shed some light on the creative process?
I try things, think about the flavors, and then delve right into experimenting.
For example, years ago at my first Polish Christmas, after trying a bunch of stuff for the first time I was later able to recreate most of the main dishes — I managed to make Pierogi, Bigos, and Krokiety from scratch!
Wow! Have you ever tried something that you later attempted to convert into a gluten-free version?
Yes, cinnamon buns. Took a few tries. Since I try avoiding using sugar — I use dates or maple syrup instead — I wasn’t at first finding the cinnamon buns sweet enough.
Anything you weren’t able to convert?
Not really. Although cookies were quite challenging. They kept coming out too dry.
In general, how long from conception to finalization?
Depends — but 10 days was the longest it took me to nail an idea down.
Most exotic thing you’ve made?
Cauliflower cheesecake! Which Krystian claims was the best cheesecake he’s ever had. (Something he always says of anything new I make.) But I think it’s a tie for him with my Sake Kasu cheesecake.
I’d sure love to try it! Any gluten-free baking tips?
For the first 15min bake at a slightly higher temperature, 325F, after that drop it down, this helps the top to rise nicely.
What else… using a little apple cider adds back moisture.
Also, for baking I use a mixture of buckwheat and rice flour, organic (when possible), so I’d recommend that.
… all of which can be bought at?
Any inspirational gluten-free literature?
Lots of stuff in Japanese! In terms of something in English: The Allergen-Free Baker’s Handbook.
And Instagram gives me lots of inspiration for sure. Also, Green Kitchen Stories is a stunning blog with lots of delicious-looking recipes.
Can you recommend a Toronto gluten-free bakery?
Almond Butterfly, they have lots of gluten-free stuff, visit it pretty frequently.
Last thing: Krystian, I absolutely love what you’re wearing! — don’t think I’ve ever seen such a unique pair of green pants. Where did you get them?
Hiroshi Awai, a Japanese designer based in Toronto — CREEP is the name of his brand.
For basically the price of a latte you can watch one of the most beautiful and informative films about coffee, suitably titled “A Film About Coffee.” Just a heads up, the movie will fundamentally change your perspective about this ubiquitous little bean.
A certain bottom line of the film’s message is that there is a world of a difference between what is termed ‘specialty’ coffee and 99% of the other ‘non specialty’ (or perhaps more accurately, ‘non coffee’) stuff. Characterizing the minority approach is a sense of artistry and reverence, while, as is perhaps sadly expected, the mass of what is produced — of what actually drives the (coffee) economy — is tasteless and unsustainable.
Happily, things are changing. Conscientious initiatives like ‘direct trade’ are reshaping the coffee economy, allowing independent coffee roasters around the world to create individual, as in direct, relationships with the actual farmers producing the crop. Bypassing the corporate middleman has the immense upside of sourcing the highest imaginable beans at prices which are not merely fair, but dignifying — allowing the people harvesting this super-in-demand crop to be payed amounts significantly above shameful industry standards.
A movie above all that is hopeful and impactful — had me research which of my regular coffee shops offer direct trade coffee. And I was so excited to find out that Boxcar Social, my favorite coffee hangout in Toronto proudly and exclusively serves conscientiously crafted coffee. If you’re in Toronto, check them out!
On that note, my most liked coffee is George Howell’s Ethiopia Borboya. It has notes of sweet lemon, black tea, and lavender — beyond amazing. Any coffee hotspots or specialty blends you’d recommend? Please share!
Without further ado, I invite (urge) you to watch “A Film About Coffee” here. Be sure to use the unique promo code WILDTHYME at checkout to receive 15% off!