You Gotta Eat Here: What's the Best Local Restaurant in Your Town?

What do you get when you set a hilarious host out on a mission
to discover (and sample) some of the most outrageously indulgent
foods across Canada?

Four words, one show: You Gotta Eat
Here!
 

 

You Gotta Eat Here features
lip-smacking, over-the-top dishes and is hosted by funnyman host
Mr. John Catucci. John’s criss-crossing the country, ordering up
the best grub in the best joints. He’s diving into the kitchens to
find out what makes these signature recipes so darn good. Health
food? Not on this show. Bring on the cheese, bacon, and
barbecue!

The series is coming to the network this winter, but we’ve got a
teaser for you below:

 

Now, the next order of business is figuring out just which
greasy spoons and legendary local eateries this show should cover.
That’s where you come in.

They’re looking for even more exciting new dining experiences,
so tell John where he’s just gotta eat! Nominated restaurants can
be anywhere in Canada–the food’s just gotta be delicious.

Send your favourite Canadian food finds to
Tips(at)YouGottaEatHere(dot)com or comment below.

Related: 

Spotlight: Today's Victoria: Re-discovering British Columbia's Hidden Foodie Destination

In the late 90s, when I last visited Victoria it looked like a
sleepy town that closed down by 5 pm after the last cup of tea was
served at the Fairmont Empress Hotel.

However, on a recent visit, I was impressed by a new, vibrant
Victoria. Today’s Victoria. Art, food, and entertainment all come
to life in the downtown core. Food lovers can take a stroll in the
city and be amazed by a culinary scene as far East as Asian noodles
and as far West as steak-frites. Built around its historic
Victoria Harbour, the city is surrounded by an
abundance of resources allowing for a fresh, eclectic take on food
with locally-grown, natural ingredients.

A Delightful Dinner at Cafe Brio

The Occhi di Lupo Pasta and Sauteed beef at Cafe
Brio.

On our first evening out in late May, after unpacking at our
hotel and watching the sun glisten on the water, we went out in
search of finding a fine dining restaurant listed on various food
sites named Café
Brio
. As we entered Café Brio, on Fort Street, we
passed through a quaint courtyard surrounded by vines and 19th
century lamps. The aroma of West coast’s contemporary seafood
meeting East coast’s Italian cuisine immediately aroused my
appetite.

The menu offers a diverse selection, from tasting plates to full
courses for each item. Brio’s mixed green salad had the perfect
combination of fresh sheep milk feta with shaved radishes. Their
braised clams tasted as if the restaurant had the sea right out
their back door. We ordered small plates of Grilled Marinated Brio
Steak and the Occhi di Lupo Pasta and Sauteed Beef, both extremely
flavourful and served with crispy vegetables straight from local
growers.

For the grand finale, we ordered their dessert tasting plate,
which consisted of crème brulée, chocolate truffle, biscotti, and
fresh orange sorbet. The crumbly accent of the biscotti was a
perfect complement to the cool creaminess of the crème brulée. We
returned to the hotel well satiated and full. No wonder it is
almost impossible to get a reservation at this place–the ambience
alone can stimulate your senses.

Two Options for Breakfast, Both Delicious

The smell of the sea greeted me early in the morning, as I
ventured down to Douglas Street for breakfast at
Liberty Café. Don’t let the name fool you. This is
no ordinary East Coast American coffee joint. It is famous with the
locals for its fresh, daily baked muffins and the ingredients are
locally picked from Vancouver Island. The coffee
offers a soothing blend that is not too harsh on the senses, but
has the kick to get you started.

A hearty breakfast at The Blue Fox Cafe.

If you are not a fan of the traditional breakfast, the The
Blue Fox Café
opens early and closes at around 4pm. On the
weekends, the ever so popular place sees patrons waiting in long
line-ups for a coveted table. Located on Fort
Street
, the place is colourful, with art adorning the
walls and over the mantle a great painting of a blue fox graces the
room. The food is delicious, fresh, and organic. Their spinach and
feta cheese omelet or Blue Fox full breakfast of eggs, local
sausages, mushrooms and Kennebec potatoes will keep you filled till
dinner.

Making a Stop for Seafood

The fish and chips at Red Fish Blue Fish.

After a bit of shopping and checking out the Royal
British Columbia Museum
, I was craving some fresh seafood
from Red Fish
Blue Fish
. Setup in a trailer parked on

the wharf, this highly popular place offers a sophisticated menu
for a very reasonable price. One bite into a seafood
Tacone
–wraps filled with coleslaw, a blend of unique
spices, and fried fish–makes it obvious why the queue is so long
during their lunch hour. The tempura battered Haddock Fish
and Chips
, also very popular on the menu, was simply
mouth-watering. The only down side to this wonderful seafood place,
is that they are only open until they run out of the day’s
catch–so get there in the early afternoon.

An order of fish and chips and seafood tacones.

Afternoon Tea in the Butchart Gardens

A quick 15-minute drive north of Victoria brings you to one of
the most beautiful historic gardens on this planet: Butchart Gardens. Who could ask for a more
beautiful setting to enjoy a fine Afternoon Tea
while surrounded by majestically arranged flower gardens? The
Dining Room where tea is served, requires reservations especially
on the weekends. Lucky to score a seating on the veranda, I ordered
a Backyard Flight of local wines–Sea Cider Pomona, Zanatta Glenora
Fantasia BRUT, Rocky Creek Blackberry–to complement each course. I
chose the 100th Anniversary Black Tea blend of
Darjeeling, black Hunan, and gunpowder as my tea to start the
tastings.

Delectable treats at Afternoon Tea.

Everything served is made in the kitchens at Butchard Gardens.
The first course consisted of a delicious Berry Trifle, traditional
delicacies including a savoury house-made sausage roll with
imported mustard, and roasted vegetable and cheese quiche. Savoury
tea sandwiches included locally smoked wild BC salmon with maple,
and whole-grain mustard cream cheese. House-made sweets included
lemon tartlet with fresh fruit, plus a souvenir chocolate Grand
Marnier truffle. I ended the meal with a house signature candied
ginger scone with jam and cream.


Beautiful Butchart Gardens.

Taking the Ferry to Salt Spring Market

When in Victoria, you have to experience a ferry ride over to
Salt Spring Island, about 30 minutes north of
Victoria. The Salt Spring Island
Market
in Centennial Park is a must see in the heart
of Ganges Village, the island capital. A series of white tents
house an array of potters, jewelers, fiber artists, woodworkers,
bakery chefs, cheese artisans, and organic gardeners, catering to
every taste bud and sensibility. Vendors must “make it, bake it, or
grow it” on the island in order to sell in the open-air market.

A collection of Salt Spring Island cheeses.

The market offers some great cheese tastings from Salt Spring
Island cheese (handmade goat cheeses) and Moonstruck
Organic Cheese Co
. Foxglove Farms offers
organic produce at its stall and tours at their farm as well. For
lunch, you need to try one of Hotties Hot dogs,
all-natural organic hot dogs served with homemade condiments. For a
light dessert, French traditional Patisserie
baker, Brigitte, sells some great macarons and various assortments
of French tarts, quiches and other treats at Rendezvous. I scooped
up a few macarons and they were some of the best I have ever
tasted.

Other Foodie Destinations to Try

Before you decide to head to the airport or ferry to go back
home, you should also stop by a few other places in downtown
Victoria:

  • Rogers
    Chocolates
    – The first Rogers’ chocolates were made in
    1885 by Charles “Candy” Rogers. They are celebrating their 125th
    Anniversary and are famous for their dark chocolate-covered creams
    that are available in coconut, lemon chiffon , marzipan and many
    other flavours.
  • Brasserie
    L’Ecole
    – French cuisine at its best, casual small
    dining room which doesn’t take reservations but must be on your to
    visit list.  
  • Rebar Modern
    Food
    – located in Bastion Square offers 
    inventive vegetarian and vegan food, fresh juices and
    desserts.  Incredibly popular with locals and tourists
    alike.
  • Canoe Brewpub,
    Marina & Restaurant
    – located on Victoria’s famous
    Inner Harbour,  has one of the nicest waterfront patios to
    have drink, but food is overpriced and somewhat mediocre in
    taste.
  • Pagliacci’s 
    – local institution, highly popular Italian fare in an intimate
    setting.  
  • Barb’s Fish &
    Chips
    – Fisherman’s Wharf, great selection of foods
    prepared and then eaten on benches right by floating houseboats and
    gorgeous settings. 

Today’s Victoria is a bustling and vibrant city; a local gateway
for foodies to enjoy pretty much anything and everything their
heart could desire!

Parmjit Parmar is a foodie-at-large, and a Toronto-based
publicist at Montana
Ridge
. She travels every opportunity she gets.

Related:

Love Indian Cuisine? Here Are 3 Blogs You Should Bookmark

The International
Indian Film Academy Awards
are being held in Toronto
today through Friday. Tickets for the ceremony sold out six months
ago, which gives you a pretty good idea of just how “jai ho” big
this is in the world of film. Thankfully, all those visiting
producers, writers, and gorgeous actors and actresses will have
some bloody awesome restaurants to choose from when it comes time
to nosh, since Toronto is known as Canada’s answer to Mumbai.

I LOVE Indian food, but have a pretty wimpy
palate, which means not a lot of hot and spicy. I do love all the
tangy intense (but not painful!) flavours of Indian cuisine,
especially butter chicken (or murgh
makhani
as it’s known on the subcontinent!). I know to
true Indian food connoisseurs, butter chicken is probably like the
roast beef and potatoes meal of the east, but to me, it is a
delicious concoction.

I can’t always find a good butter chicken option at restaurants and
have tried some prepared sauces to make at home, but have been a
bit intimidated at the idea of making it myself from scratch. To
find a true, authentic recipe, I started surfing some blogs
dedicated to Indian fare and wanted to share.

Sailu’s Kitchen
Blog

While looking for a butter chicken recipe, I came across a recipe
for Vermicelli (Semiya) Biryani on Sailu’s Kitchen
blog and decided I would make it for my kids this weekend. Sailaja
is a full-time mother and homemaker who loves to cook for her
family. She focuses on flavours from the Andhra Pradesh region
where she lives and prepares her recipes using farm-fresh produce
from her local bazaar. The idea that Sailaja makes this meal for
her family when she’s “pressed for time” was strangely compelling
to me. When I’m pressed for time preparing dinner for my three
kids, I pull a box out of the freezer. I am trying this one for
sure!

Spicy
Tasty

While continuing my search for butter chicken, I came across this
blog post for Tandoori chicken, my second favourite Indian
food dish! The Spicy Tasty blog is actually written by three
authors, two of whom live in the U.S., and features fabulous food
porn photos and a great variety of recipes, categorized according
to appetizers, veggie entrees and sides, desserts, and meat and
seafood entrees.

What’s For
Lunch, Honey?

Finally,
I found what I was looking for
at What’s for Lunch, Honey?
Written by Meeta Wolf, an Indian expat currently living in Germany,
Meeta’s blog is well organized and she provides a little history or
anecdote about the recipe as well as a “verdict” at the end that
prepares you for, well, what you’re preparing! I know this is going
to be gooood!

So, my weekend just got booked! I’ve got a mittful of delicious
recipes to try and can’t wait.

What about you? Do you cook Indian from scratch or do you have the
best restaurant in your town on speed dial?

Reni Walker is a lifestyle Content Producer (and a butter
chicken lover for life!)
.

Related:

Interview: Top Chef's Mike Isabella On Opening Graffiato Restaurant

Whether it’s watching someone on television or following them on
twitter, you’re never quite sure what’s going to happen when you
finally meet face-to-face. That being said, I had an amazing
opportunity to sit down with Chef Mike Isabella
from Top Chef: Las Vegas (and most
recently runner-up on Top Chef: All
Stars
), to talk about his restaurant, Graffiato, which is
slated to open in the heart of Washington, D.C. tomorrow. Needless
to say, I was excited to finally meet the man behind the pepperoni
sauce.

Mike Isabella

Mike Isabella was a finalist on Top Chef: Las Vegas and Top
Chef All Stars

What was it like transitioning from an executive chef to
a first-time restaurant owner?

Mike Isabella: It was scary. You know, I had a great job; a lot
of control. They were talking about partnership, and giving it all
up, not taking any pay and putting it all into [my own]
restaurant… [but] it was the best decision that I have ever made.
We just have to get the people in here now and see if they enjoy
the food.

Graffiato

[Photo credit: Greg Powers]

Would you say it was a smooth or bumpy
road?

Mike Isabella: You have to sacrifice a lot. My wife knows what
goes on, she helps me with this, and all of those people who you’ve
done favours for over the years, you reach out to them too. Once
Graffiato opens, I’ll be here seven days a week–open to close.

Graffiato

[Photo credit: Greg Powers]

Has the idea of opening Graffiatobeen
in your mind for quite some time?

Mike Isabella: For the last couple of years, I’ve been working
on this concept, trying to make it great. I really wanted to
incorporate everything to get that perfect restaurant, and this is
the first of hopefully many. Graffiato [will be] my ‘home base’…
simple food, but fun. I want to do different concepts. I want to
open all the different types of food I like to eat, then open up
those concepts, and be good to go!

I love the fact that you’ll be curing all your meats
in-house. My favourite restaurant in Calgary, Charcut, boasts a
signature pig’s head mortadella. Any signatures you forsee for
Graffiato?

Mike Isabella: I like to do everything in-house. The down side
is that you can make something that takes three months to cure,
then taste it, and realize it’s not what you want it to taste like,
then have to start over. Lomo is my
favourite cured meat. You take the whole pork loin, brine it for a
few days, then marinate it, brine it, marinate again, and hang it
for a while. It’s simple, and it tastes great.

Graffiato

[Photo credit: Greg Powers]

You’re setting up Graffiato as an open concept-feeling
establishment. With a pizza bar and seating in front of the wood
fire oven, what do you think will be ‘the’ place to sit
here? 

Mike Isabella: People have been asking me that a lot lately. I
think probably the pizza bar. Lots of people want to see the chefs
doing the work. I’ll be here 7 days a week, open to close, for
the first while, so if people want to see me in action, they can
come on down!

The restaurant in the making: (clockwise from left) an
unfinished hallway in Graffiato; the space that eventually becomes
the pizza bar; the view from the unfinished second floor; Dan and
Mike chat outside of the restaurant-to-be

What do you think the menu at Graffiato says about you,
both as a person and as a chef?

Mike Isabella: I think if you read the menu, you’ll think ‘This
is Mike Isabella’s menu.’ When we talk about Graffiato being
‘Italian-inspired’ the best way to put it is that I take flavours
that I can remember tasting when I was a kid. Whether it was
pepperoni, prosciutto, tomato sauce, or basil. Then I take those
flavours and apply them to how I cook nowadays. For me, it’s
inspirations of Italian flavours that I grew up with, everything
changes and is seasonal. Our menu will definitely be changing
weekly, depends on what the farmers have got for us! You want to
have fun with the food.

If Richard Blaise came here for dinner, would you
prepare him something using liquid nitrogen? 

Mike Isabella: I would make sure I had liquid nitrogen in-house
and put him to work in the kitchen. It’s funny, he actually said to
let him know when the restaurant was going to open, and he would
rent an ice-cream cart make gelato with liquid nitrogen, and serve
it to everyone. That’d be pretty fun!

Are you inviting President Obama to your opening
night? 

Yeah, I’ll invite him and Michelle. [Tries to hold back laughing
at my question!] Hopefully they’ll come by… we’ll see what
happens. I think Michelle will come in eventually. She supports a
lot of the D.C. food scene. We definitely catch them in restaurants
here and there.

Dan Clapson
is a business manager and food blogger based out of Calgary. He is
always creating new recipes and striving to expand his culinary
limits.

Related:

Ask a Host with Chuck Hughes: How Do You Choose Your Knives?

 Chuck Hughes of 
Chuck’s Day Off
 has already given us tips
on:

Roger Mooking’s Food Adventures: Khmer Food in the Cambodian Marketplace

The official start of summer is just around the corner, and
it’s the perfect time of the year to get away and experience new
cultures and cuisines. To help us get inspired,
Roger Mooking
, host of
Everyday Exotic
, shares his delicious adventures and notes from
across the globe. We’ll be rolling them out every Wednesday
starting today, over the course of several weeks. Here’s the first
one–enjoy!

The first city we landed in was Phnom Penh in
Cambodia. My first mission was to go and find some
Khmer food after taking in the vibe of the city.
Our tuk-tuk driver took us to one of the local markets. Around the
outer perimeter of the market were stalls selling t-shirts,
bracelets, fabrics and tourist knick-knacks. However, deep in the
middle of the market there was a gem of a “food court,” if I could
call it that.

There were about thirty different stalls, all setup with different
Khmer dishes, local produce, butchers, fishmongers, and random
people sleeping under tables trying to avoid the afternoon’s heat.
The butchers  all carried a lot of pork and dried meats along
with sausages. I’d be lying if I told you it smelled like a perfume
counter with all the unrefrigerated raw meat hanging from hooks,
but the butcher shop smell didn’t stop my crew and me from sampling
some of the delightful delicacies before us! We tried all kinds of
skewers, sausages, salted
mangoes
and shrimp pancakes. We were
warned by some peeps not to eat the local street food because it
would likely make us sick. Well, I didn’t end up getting sick from
the marketplace food (the street food was always on point), but
many days later when I ordered the hotel room service… let’s just
say the trip home wasn’t fun.

Be sure to check out more from Roger Mooking here.

Roger Mooking's Food Adventures

Related

Ask a Host with Chuck Hughes: How Do You Sharpen Your Knives?

 Chuck Hughes of Chuck’s Day Off has already
given us tips on: