10 Best Places for Pie Across Canada

If you’ve been living in Canada long enough, you already know that pies are one of our country’s most beloved and iconic desserts. Whether it’s the seasonal fruit pies or creative twists on classics, here are 10 of the best places to get pie in Canada.

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Rustique Pie Kitchen

Goodies Bake Shop (Winnipeg, MB)

Expect nothing but the classics from this indulgent little spot in Winnipeg. Of course, you can get a lemon meringue pie with the meringue piled high, but anyone who’s a fan of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups will be more than happy with the chocolate peanut butter pie.

Mabel’s Bakery (Toronto, ON)

With a few locations around Toronto, it’s easy to find your way to a Mabel’s to grab a pie on your way home from work. Granted, if you’re too late, they may all be gone — so you might want to stop by on your way to work instead. Heading into the holiday season, a well-made pecan pie is always appreciated after a big dinner and, luckily, they’ve got you covered here.

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Mabel’s Bakery

The Flaky Tart (Toronto, ON)

This classic bakery is a popular spot for a simple, homemade pie like cinnamony sweet apple. With a more simple approach to pies and their fillings, these versions are easy to pick up and pawn off as your own at a dinner party. I’m not saying you should lie to your friends, but if you’re a terrible baker and tasked with making dessert for a potluck, the choice is yours!

Life of Pie (Ottawa, ON)

Arguably the city’s most popular pie shop, this great little spot offers a nice range of pies, with a slew of different weekly flavours. Always expect some fruit varieties (pear ginger crisp was this past Wednesday), quiches and much more. And yes, if you’re wondering, it always smells ridiculously good in here.

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The Pie Hole

Pie Cloud (Calgary, AB)

Not just somehwere to go just for some take-home pie, this newer eatery in the Kensington neighbourhood is all pie, through-and-through — offering it up for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. Try a wintery option like the Turkey Dinner, made with a stuffing “crust”, turkey, tender vegetables, mashed potatoes and cranberry relish. You’ll find the usual pie suspects here (apple, pecan, etc.), but try the Marshmallow Mermaid for something more new and fresh: orange and blue curaçao curd in a flaky crust with a marshmallow topping.

The Pie Hole (Vancouver, BC)

There is creativity abound with the in-crusted creations from Pie Hole. Maple French Toast Bacon and Bourbon Pecan Pumpkin are just two of the delicious pie varieties that shoul have your mouth watering in no time. They don’t have a proper bricks and mortar location, but customers are still able to find their goods at shops and cafes around the city, as well as online.

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The Pie Hole

The Pie Lady’s Drive-up Bake Shop (Halifax, NS)

Too quirky not to mention, this mom-and-pop operation is an online-only ordering system, where you select your pies from a drop-down menu. You can then head over to their shop where they hand you freshly baked pies through the car window. How sweet is that?

The Pie Shoppe (Vancouver, BC)

With choices like walnut and bourbon and salted honey, it becomes apparent (after looking through the bake case) that this is not your standard pie shop. Big on seasonality, don’t expect to see the bakers offering you a cherry pie in the middle of winter. Don’t forget to grab a cup of coffee while you’re here, since they roast their own beans in house.

Rustique Pie Kitchen (Montreal, QC)

One of the nicest things about pies is they’re meant for sharing — so if you’re looking for a simple dessert option for dinner, you can’t really go wrong here. Rustique’s pie options change with the season, so right now you can find a freshly baked strawberry rhubarb pie sitting on display screaming, “Take me home with you!” Naturally, you will.

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Rustique Pie Kitchen

Wanda’s Pie in the Sky (Toronto, ON)

Custard-filled, cream-filled, and almost any fresh fruit you can imagine, Wanda’s got it going on at her popular bake shop. The chocolate bottom pecan pie is a fun spin on the classic, with a chocolate shortbread base. You also can’t go wrong with the “Ambrosia,” which is a rich myriad of flavours with peaches, wild blueberries, apples, pecans and raspberries. With Wanda by your side, you can’t lose at dessert this holiday season.

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Wanda’s Pie in the Sky

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Santa-Approved Chocolate Chip Cookies with a Twist

By Kacey Joanette

What screams Christmas and the holidays? Cookies! And what’s better than a cookie paired with the classic flavour of peppermint?

These crushed candy cane chocolate chip cookies were inspired by the candy canes that we used to hang on our Christmas tree as kids. We loved putting them up, but only my sister enjoyed eating them. Now my daughter is at the age where Christmas is a big thing, and she loves hanging candy canes. To help her overcome her fear of Santa, I had her help me bake him some cookies using crushed candy canes. There were enough cookies that we could indulge ourselves while also saving some for that special someone.

Making these cookies is a great tradition I plan to keep up with my daughter, and I am sure Santa will be very appreciative!

Crushed Candy Cane Chocolate Chip Cookies, Courtesy of Kacey Joanette, thecookiewriter.com, Bowmanville, Ont.

These classic cookies with a holiday-inspired twist will be welcome on any Christmas cookie tray.

CrushedCandyCaneCookies

Prep time: 15 minutes
Baking time: 10 minutes
Yield: 24-30 cookies

Ingredients
1 cup (250 mL) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup (125 mL) packed brown sugar
1/2 cup (125 mL) granulated sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1/2-1 tsp (2-5 mL) peppermint extract, to taste
2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour
1 tsp (5 mL) baking soda
1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
1 cup (250 mL) milk chocolate chips
1 Tbsp (15 mL) crushed candy cane

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In large bowl, cream together butter, white sugar and brown sugar. Beat until light and fluffy. Add egg and peppermint extract; mix well.
3. In small bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and salt. Gradually add to the butter mixture, mixing until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips and crushed candy cane.
4. Roll dough into balls, 1 tbsp (15 mL) at a time. Place balls on prepared baking sheet, flattening slightly.
5. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, or until golden around edges. Let cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes before transferring to cooling rack.

The Cookie Writer
I am an avid food blogger who loves nothing more than cooking, baking and writing! My family has a variety of dietary lifestyles, so The Cookie Writer represents food for everyone, everywhere.

A Baked Goat Cheese and Spinach Dip That Can’t Be Beat

By Jo-Anna Rooney

Winters in Calgary are long and very cold, but we try to embrace the season by enjoying all it has to offer. This means that during those long winter months our family can often be found outdoors, taking part in great Canadian activities like pond hockey, snowshoeing, skiing and tobogganing.

After all of the fun, we look forward to heading indoors to gather around a crackling fire and enjoy warm drinks and comforting eats. There is just nothing like filling your belly with hearty, homemade food on a cold, wintery day. This Baked Goat Cheese and Bacon Spinach Dip is perfect for such an occasion! I like to prepare it ahead of time, and have it ready to go as soon as we come inside. Serve it bubbling hot with loads of crusty bread and your favourite red wine.

Baked Goat Cheese and Bacon Spinach Dip, Courtesy of Jo-Anna Rooney, aprettylifeinthesuburbs.com, Calgary

This make-ahead treat is the perfect reward after a day of winter fun.

BakedGoatCheeseBaconSpinachDip

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time:
30 minutes

Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients
2 Tbsp (30 mL) olive oil
8 oz (225 g) fresh spinach, chopped
1 onion, diced
1–2 cloves garlic, minced
5 oz (140 g) goat cheese
¾ cup (175 mL) sour cream
¼ cup (50 mL) chopped marinated artichoke hearts
8 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
salt to taste
pepper to taste
crusty bread or crackers for dipping

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
2. In skillet heat olive oil over medium-low heat. Sauté spinach, onion and garlic until onion is translucent and spinach is wilted. Remove from heat.
3. Stir in the goat cheese, sour cream, artichoke hearts and bacon. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
4. Scrape mixture into ovenproof dish and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until mixture is bubbling.
5. Serve with crusty bread or crackers for dipping.

A Pretty Life in the Suburbs
Jo-Anna is the editor, director, chief, main cook, dishwasher and home decorator on the site A Pretty Life in the Suburbs. She created the site as a way to share her love of a simple home life through uncomplicated home tips and fresh and easy recipes. Her hope is that by spending some time on A Pretty Life in the Suburbs, you are inspired to add some simplicity and deliciousness into your home and life.

How to Make a Classic Swiss Roll

I absolutely love a Swiss roll —  it’s a versatile recipe that’s easy to prepare, quick to bake and easy to fill. You can alter the recipe slightly to have different flavours or fillings, and it is always a satisfying treat. At its core, this airy dessert is a simple sponge cake that’s rolled with jam, or whatever fillings you prefer! And I always like to add a layer of whipped cream in just for good measure.

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Swiss Roll with Raspberry Jam and Whipped Cream

Ingredients:
6 large eggs
¾ cup granulated sugar plus 1 Tbsp
½ tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp salt
½ cup all-purpose flour, sifted

Filling (optional):
½ cup raspberry jam
½ cup whipping cream

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Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper with overhanging sides.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer or with a hand mixer on high speed, whisk together the eggs and sugar for 5 to 7 minutes until tripled in volume. Mix in the vanilla extract.
  3. In a separate bowl mix salt and sifted flour. Fold the flour mixture into the batter.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared baking sheet. Spread into the corners and smooth the top with a spatula. Place in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes, until golden and firm to the touch.
  5. Lay a tea towel on the counter and place a piece of parchment paper over top (the same size as your baking sheet). Sprinkle 1 tablespoon sugar over the parchment paper. Flip the Swiss roll onto the parchment paper and peel away the paper from the cake.
  6. Make a slight indent, 1 cm in from the short end of the cake. Using the parchment paper and tea towel, roll the cake into a Swiss roll while it is still warm. Leave the cake wrapped in the parchment and towel until cool. This makes it easier to roll and fill.
  7. Once cool, unroll and place an even layer of jam on the bottom of the Swiss roll. Whip cream until stiff peaks form. Spread cream on top of jam. Roll up the Swiss roll and slice!

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Mastering the Cheese Plate on a Budget

I think there’s a little Monica Gellar (the obsessive-compulsive one from Friends) in all of us.

If not for our organized and scrappy nature, then for our need to host the best get-togethers with our friends, we’re always looking for new ways to improve and perfect our entertaining skills.

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So, we’re going back to the basics and exploring the easiest way to build a delicious, well-balanced cheese plate — but on a serious budget. Because, if you’ve ever ventured to a nice cheese shop, you know those high-quality slabs come with a hefty price tag.

From finding just the right cheeses at your go-to grocery store to adding the perfect extras, here’s your guide for building the perfect cheese plate and staying under budget.

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It’s important to cover all the bases when putting together your cheese plate. Be sure to get something strong and sharp like orange gouda, something smooth and creamy like brie, something classic and fresh like white aged cheddar, and funky or different like herb and garlic goat cheese. These run for about $6-8 each.

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Include at least three cracker options: two different classics and something with a fun twist.

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Keep the board clean and simple, and only put a few crackers out at a time.

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I like to keep little labels in my home at all times, as they add the perfect touch to any dish you serve.

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You can add nuts and dried fruit to your plate, but I kept it classic with just a few spicy olives. I also set out my gold cheese knives set from West Elm.

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And there you have it, the whole cheese plate for under $35. But, what if you’re having only a couple friends over, or $35 is still a little too much? Try this…

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Go for two cheeses; something classic (cheddar’s a safe bet) and something fun (bubbling brie just out of the oven or herbed goat cheese), include two different cracker options, a few olives and you can do it all for under $18.

How to Make Mini French Crullers

When it comes to working with pastries and ratios and the basics of the science behind it all, I’m a newb. But the next day after committing to making no more doughnuts, I resigned myself to make a new batch using science-based recipes. So I went to my handy iPhone and looked at Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio App that I’ve used successfully before.

You need to try these delightfully fluffy French Crullers, based Ruhlman’s Pâte à Choux recipe. They were perfect, puffy little balls of deliciousness and they take no time at all. The app is great for all kinds of baking too, pies, cookies, muffins, etc. I can’t wait to see what else I can create using these amazing science-based ratios. Hurray for Science!

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Yield: 30 balls

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Ingredients:

For the Crullers:
To make about 30 balls, you’ll need the following ratio (derived from Michael Ruhlman’s “Ratio” App):

1 cup water
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
1 cup eggs (4 large eggs)

You’ll also need about 1 Tbsp granulated sugar and 1/4 tsp fine sea salt for every 1 cup of water.

For the Glaze:
1 cup icing sugar
1 Tbsp honey
2 tsp whole milk

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Directions:

For the Glaze:
Stir all ingredients until smooth.

For the Crullers:
1. In a small saucepan, bring the water, butter, sugar and salt to a simmer over medium-high heat.
2. Add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until it turns into a thick paste and pulls cleanly away from the sides of the saucepan.
3. Remove from the heat and either transfer to a bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on low for a minute or so to allow to cool slightly.
4. Add the first egg and beat on medium speed until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides and add the remaining eggs one at a time, stirring till each egg is incorporated.
5. When dough is glossy and smooth, spoon rounded teaspoonfuls into 360°F oil (in a deep fryer or at least 2-3 inches in a pot over medium-low heat).
6. Balls will float to the surface and turn themselves over. Allow to fry for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown. (Do not remove too soon as undercooked crullers will deflate and be very sad.)
7. Dip or brush on glaze while still warm and enjoy!

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6 Classic Canadian Pies You Need to Try

Classic Canadian Pies infographic
Design by Alexandra Tanner

Get the Recipes

Flapper Pie
A popular dessert in the Prairies, this rich custardy pie is made with graham crumb crust and topped with meringue.

Maple Pie
Silky, sweet and creamy, this delicious treat boasts the one ingredient all Canadians love: maple syrup.

Sugar Pie
Also known as Tarte Au Sucre, this Quebec favourite is buttery, sweet and melt-in-your mouth good.

Apple Pie
Classic and comforting, nothing beats a slice of freshly baked warm apple pie featuring Canada’s great produce.

Tourtiére Pie
This savoury French-Canadian dish boasts a medley of hearty flavours in one incredible dish.

Pecan Pie
Similar to its cousins, Maple Pie and Sugar Pie, this rich dessert is just as tempting but offers more crunch.

Roasted Root Vegetable Pasta with Goat Cheese and Walnuts

In addition to being packed with protein, fibre, and many other nutrients, this comforting pasta dish requires less than an hour of prep and cooking time from start to finish. Parsnips, beets, carrots and butternut squash are tossed in a mixture of balsamic vinegar, mustard, honey, garlic and spices, and are then roasted to a tender perfection. These hearty veggies pair well with the creaminess of the goat cheese, while the walnuts add a nice crunch to the mix.

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Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Serves: 6

Ingredients:
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon honey
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 tsp salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
2 large parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
1 red onion, cut into chunks
2 cups butternut squash chunks
4 beets, peeled and cut into wedges
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 pound whole-grain spaghetti
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Whisk oil with vinegar, mustard, honey, garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper. Measure out half and set aside.
  3. Toss remaining with carrots, parsnips, red onion and squash. Arrange on a foil-lined tray. Add beets to the same bowl and toss until evenly coated in the residual oil mixture.
  4. Arrange on one side of the baking sheet. Roast, tossing occasionally, for 45 minutes or until tender.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare spaghetti according to package directions. Reserve 1 cup cooking liquid and drain well.
  6. Toss with reserved oil mixture and as much of the cooking liquid need to achieve desired consistency.
  7. Garnish with goat cheese and walnuts.

10 Must-Try Fusion Restaurants Across Canada

While fusion cuisine has certainly received a lot of traction in recent years, it has actually been around for centuries. Many inspired chefs love to blur the lines between different cooking styles, making for some very memorable meals. Here are 10 restaurants from coast to coast that are doing just that.

XIX (a.k.a. Nineteen) (Edmonton, AB)

With citrus and soy-glazed pork belly steamed buns, followed by smoked duck with beet perogies, overseas flavours and Alberta cuisine truly collide here at Nineteen. For some lighter fare, they have a seared ahi tuna and kale salad, but if you’re up for something hearty, go for the hoisin-glazed short ribs with béarnaise sauce, garnished with crispy onion rings.

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XIX (a.k.a. Nineteen)

Boralia (Toronto, ON)

What do you get when you take recipes from both the Indigenous peoples and the Canadian settlers, and apply some modern techniques? Some historical yet modern-day fusion, also known as Boralia. Touted as one of the most original restaurant concepts of the past year in Toronto, expect nothing but truly creative plates, like sweetbreads served with black garlic and split pea miso or mussels smoked in pine needles with pine ash butter. Start off with some devilled Chinese tea eggs, a recipe that at its core, dates back to 1860 — little piece of edible history.

Carino/Carino Riserva (Calgary, AB)

An interesting harmony of Italian and Japanese cooking makes Carino (and its newer sister spot Riserva) one of the most unique examples of fusion in the country. The mozzarella agedashi, a caprese-inspired dish with tender cheese, tempura basil leaves and ume paste (a pickled plum paste), and the sizzling gnocchi in dashi broth are just a few of the one-of-a-kind dishes you can experience here.

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Nu Burger Sushi Bar

The Good Son (Toronto, ON)

Top Chef Canada alumnus, Vittorio Colacitti opts for a line-up of creative dishes that doesn’t necessarily combine different food cultures, but rather highlights the places he’s traveled to. Want a simple pizza done Neapolitan-style, or maybe some potato-crusted shrimp sitting atop a fresh mango salad topped with crushed peanuts? This place has got you covered.

Nu Burger Sushi Bar (Calgary, AB)

Big, juicy burgers and sushi rolls aren’t typical things you’d see together on a menu everyday. However such is the case at this quirky little downtown restaurant that prides itself on out-of-the-box creations. From the Double Cheese “Burgushi” (their word for a burger-sushi mash up) to a deep-fried sushi roll with bacon, cheese, local grass-fed beef and spicy Japanese mayo, the food may seem a little weird, but it works!

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Nu Burger Sushi Bar

Patois (Toronto, ON)

Robust Caribbean spices pair up with authentic Chinese dishes here at Patois for food that is truly memorable and fun. The jerk chicken chow mein is a crowd favourite, as is the dirty fried rice. The room is compact and lively too, adding to the unique experience. You can also get some good bang for your buck, as you can order the entire menu for your table for only $110. Now that’s a bargain!

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Patois

Side Door (Ottawa, ON)

More than a few genres of cuisine find their way onto the menu at this popular restaurant in the Byward Market. Firstly, there are the signature tacos that can be filled with anything from jerk chicken to sprouted lentil fritters. Then, there are the share plates, like tuna sashimi with yuzu marmalade or Vietnamese salt and pepper calamari. There are also big plates with such options as char sui-style pork belly, butter poached lobster with green curry and more. Finish off your meal with a doughnut-sharing platter and you’ve pretty much taken a trip around the world in one sitting.

Studio East (Halifax, NS)

Halifax’s newest restaurant is all about fun, flavourful fare that’s loosely street food-inspired. There’s a warm sushi roll that looks like a roll, eats like a roll, but has all of the taste as a big, spicy Korean rice bowl. You can also try the pork belly (with perfectly crispy skin), steamed buns and fermented Cambodian sausage skewers, drizzled with aioli and chopped cilantro. The food packs a real punch, so opt for a pint of local beer to refresh your palate.

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Studio East

Torafuku (Vancouver, BC)

This newer Vancouver eatery sticks to the Asian cuisine when it comes to its food, blending Korean, Chinese and Japanese flavours together for some interesting bites. Chef Clement Chan’s (Top Chef Canada season three alum) signature gochujang chicken wings with ramen crumble are definitely a crowd favourite, as is the calamari. Don’t forget to order a sake-based cocktail like ‘Yogi Pear’ to wash it all down.

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Torafuku

Varsha (Victoria, BC)

If a casual Indian-fusion meal is what you’re looking for on the island, look no further than this comfortable spot in downtown Victoria. Varsha uses Indian flavours in traditional applications like pakoras and samosas, but goes a step further with butter chicken sauced chicken wings, masala-spiced fries and tandoori grilled fish tacos.

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Torafuku

Anna Olson’s Tips on How to Make Perfect Challah

Challah bread is a delicious dish that can be enjoyed year round, and is as much a pleasure to look at as it is to eat. Making it from scratch is satisfying and delicious — bread is a fundamental part of our food world and when you make it with your own two hands, you won’t take it for granted.

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Here are some helpful tips for making the perfect egg braid:

Don’t rush the rise.
Patience is the key to making any bread. It takes time to let the dough rise (also called proofing), develop flavours and texture, and to allow the yeast to produce carbon dioxide, which gives the bread its airy texture.

Braid with two, not three pieces of dough.
Braiding with 3 “ropes” of dough may seem to make sense, but you will find that your bread or buns may appear flat when baked. To make a braided bread that has height (and hence more surface area for butter once sliced), braid using 2 “ropes” of the dough. Lay the 2 ropes across each other like an “X” and then cross over the ends of one rope completely to their opposing side, maintaining that “X” shape. Repeat with the second rope until you reach the ends (which can then be tucked underneath).

Don’t fear a do-over.
Not happy with your braid? Because this egg dough isn’t sticky, you can always undo your braid and start again. Try to avoid using too much flour when rolling out your “ropes” and braiding, as this might make a matte finish on the bread.

To build up your confidence, check out my technique to get a beautiful braid: Rolls & Buns.

Chef In Your Ear Stars’ Most Clueless Kitchen Moments

There’s nothing like watching a master at work, but ask any top chef and they’ll tell you the path to professional cookery is paved with burns and blunders. Once-upon-a-kitchen even our Chef in Your Ear stars stumbled – big time.

Try to reconcile these early mishaps with the polished professionals you know now, and cut yourself some slack the next time your cooking fails – after all, even the pros’ stories are seasoned with mishaps.

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Jordan Andino

Find out which ingredient made Jordan Andino blackout on national television:

“I did Chopped in the US and it was my first TV show; I had never been so nervous. It was the first round. I’m getting the basket of ingredients and I pull out three familiar things: purple spinach, baby tatsoi—I‘ve used that before; microwavable molten cake – microwavable cake for an appetizer round is pretty rare, but I’ve seen it; artichoke liqueur, okay I’ve never seen it, but it probably tastes like artichoke in liqueur form. Then I pull out the skull of a sheep. An entire skull. It looked like Hamlet. I was so shocked, I never prepared for getting a skull, I really didn’t. How the hell can you prepare for that? So when Ted Allen says, ‘Go! Your time starts now,’ on Chopped it’s real. I put the skull down and I just blindly blacked out, and I found myself doing this in the middle of the pantry. And then I came out of my blackout and I’m like, ‘Where the HELL am I?’ It was a total of maybe four to six seconds. And I come out of it, I go right back and okay, I start assessing everything.”

[Update: Despite the blackout, Jordan Andino tied that round, and won the next.]

Cory Vitiello

Cory Vitiello’s home catering business was off to a great start, until a marriage forced him to divorce his plans:

“I started a catering kitchen out of my parent’s home kitchen, cooking for a few neighbours, a few friends, making pies and specialty cakes from a cookbook—things I didn’t really know anything about. One of our neighbours approached me about catering her wedding of 150 people and I was like, ‘Great! I’m going to charge, like, $1000.’ It seemed like a lot of money to me, but to her it was like, ‘Oh my god, we’re going to hose this kid, this is great.’ And I started working on it, and it was just impossible. You know, we’re cooking everything for 150 people out of a home kitchen…you just couldn’t do it. And I was, like, 17 at the time, and when I realized I couldn’t do it, I went and bought everything from a local grocery store – poorly made pastries and little hors d’oeuvres from the grocery store. When she came to pick everything up the next morning and saw what I had done, that showed me that I was not ready. That was the last day I ran the catering business out of my parents’ kitchen…I was 16, 17 with dollar bills in my eyes, thinking it was so much money. I tried to pull a fast one on her and got called out on it pretty quick.”

Rob Rossi

Rob Rossi was a teenage dud on spud duty, and the memory still haunts him:

“I was working at a steak house. I was working a veg station and I was supposed to be keeping track of baked potatoes. They were supposed to go on every two hours so you never run out. They were being periodically baked off and I remember I completely disregarded the timing list. And I remember it was a Saturday night; I was only about 17, and we ran out of baked potatoes. And it was a corporate place, so it was not something you can get away with very easily. It was terrible.”

Craig Harding

As a young chef, Craig Harding made the same mistakes his protégés make today.

“You have to multitask in the kitchen and it’s not like you can just leave yourself Post-it notes of what you’ve got going on like what’s boiling, what’s roasting, what’s dehydrating or whatever. When you’re young and you’re not experienced, you try to do too much and then if things burn, things fail. There have been days when I burned a whole tray of candied pecans and overcooked all 20 pounds of potatoes for gnocchi, and then you have to throw it out. There are just some days when it doesn’t work. When you’re younger it happens more often than not. Thankfully now I just get to yell at my cooks who are making the same mistakes that I did.”

Devin Connell

Devin Connell’s early kitchen fail takes the cake:

“Once I was trying to make a cake and I didn’t put any leavening ingredient in it, so I ended up with a cake that was like a brick. I didn’t know what I was doing and I couldn’t figure out what went wrong until I realized I had left out the most crucial ingredient.”

What’s your most memorable cooking blunder? Share in the comments below.

How to Make Your Own Vanilla Extract

A great way to inject vanilla flavour into your baking is by making your very own vanilla extract, and the basics are easy; just stick vanilla beans in a jar with liquor, seal, shake and wait. Though it does take a bit of patience to wait for the alcohol to extract the flavour from the beans, the results are well worth it.

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Here are a few simple steps to follow:

1. Cut the vanilla bean lengthwise into a couple of pieces.

2. Grab a clean glass jar and put in the pieces, 1/3 tsp sugar and
3 ounces of vodka, brandy or dark rum.

3. Make sure the bean is completely covered by the sugar and
liquor.

4. Shake the mixture and store in a cool, dark place.

5. Revisit the liquid once in a while and give it a shake.

Your vanilla will get darker and more concentrated as it sits. It’ll be ready to be used after a few weeks, or you can leave it for a few months for more concentrated vanilla flavour.

BuffaloChickenMacnCheese

The Ulitmate Mac ’n’ Cheese for Game Night

By Elizabeth Lampman

My Buffalo Chicken Mac ’n’ Cheese is a flavourful twist on a classic recipe. I took my mom’s delicious macaroni and cheese recipe and ran with it to create a true taste sensation. This recipe combines all the comfort of mac ’n’ cheese with the addictive flavour of Buffalo chicken wings.

I didn’t just add a little heat – I also included the blue cheese that I love so much when paired with my wings. It really helps to tame the heat and adds another dimension of flavour.

It’s incredible how much this Buffalo Chicken Mac ’n’ Cheese takes me right back to my college days, when I’d go out with my friends to watch a hockey game, eat some wings and have a good time.

My kids can’t really handle a lot of heat in their food, but it is easy to split the recipe and omit the buffalo sauce from their portion. Bake it separately in a small casserole dish.

Buffalo Chicken Mac ’n’ Cheese, Courtesy of Elizabeth Lampman, frugalmomeh.com, Hamilton, Ont.

Whether it’s game night or just a family dinner, this familiar dish (with a bit of heat) is sure to be a crowd favourite.

BuffaloChickenMacnCheese

Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 40 min
Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients
4 cups (1 L) macaroni
1 cup (250 mL) milk
1/2 to 3/4 package old cheddar cheese
1 1/4 cups (300 mL) Buffalo wing sauce, divided
2 cups (500 mL) shredded Salerno peperonato cheese
1 cup (250 mL) cubed cooked chicken
1 cup (250 mL) crumbled blue cheese

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 375ºF (190ºC).
2. Cook macaroni according to package instructions.
3. Meanwhile, in a medium stockpot over medium-high heat, scald milk. Remove from heat.
4. Add cheddar cheese to hot milk, stirring until melted. Stir in 1 cup (250 mL) Buffalo wing sauce.
5. Pour cheese sauce into the bottom of 13- x 9-inch (3 L) casserole dish.
6. Fill casserole dish with alternating layers of macaroni, peperonato cheese and chicken, finishing with layer of cheese.
7. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until cheese topping is lightly browned.
8. Remove from oven; top with reserved Buffalo wing sauce and blue cheese. Return to oven for 5 to 10 minutes or until sauce is bubbling and cheese is slightly melted.

Frugal Mom Eh!
Elizabeth is an IT professional turned stay-at-home mom and Canadian mom blogger. Look to Frugal Mom Eh! for delicious recipes for your family, brilliant DIY and craft projects for all ages, travel tips and great parenting advice.

How to Make Montreal-Style Bagels

In the bagel world, there’s quite a divide between the classic New York bagel and the sweeter, Canadian counterpart — the Montreal bagel.

Montreal bagels are denser, sweeter and traditionally made in wood fired ovens as opposed to the fluffy-on-the-inside, crisp-on-the-outside, baked bagels made south of the Canadian border.

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Both varieties of bagels are made using yeasted dough and are boiled before being baked. NY-style bagels are dipped in boiling water that has baking soda or lye, whereas Montreal bagels get dunked in boiling water that has honey or malt, creating a sweeter, denser dough.

The sweet and chewy nature of Montreal bagels lends them to eating them plain. So put away the cream cheese, jam and butter because once you make a fresh batch of Montreal bagels, you’ll want to enjoy them just as they are!

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Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 55 mins
Makes: 12 bagels

Ingredients:
1 cup warm water
2 *x 8 g pkg quick-rising yeast or 1 tbsp

1 Tbsp sugar
1 egg
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 tsp salt
1 cup honey, divided
4 ½ cups flour (or more if dough becomes too sticky)
Poppy seeds, sesame seeds for tops of bagels (about ½ cup each)

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Directions:
1. In a large bowl, mix together warm water, yeast and sugar. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
2. Mix in egg, vegetable oil, salt and ½ cup honey. Gradually add flour until mixture comes together to form a dough. Dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8-10 minutes.
3. Pop the dough back into the bowl (no need to clean) and cover with a damp tea towel. Let the dough rise until about doubled in size, about 1 hour.
4. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Fill a large pot with 8-10 cups of water and add remaining ½ cup honey. Bring to a boil while you shape your bagels.
5. Divide the dough into 12 equal sized balls. Shape into bagels by either rolling into long logs and joining the ends together or shaping into rounds and poking holes in the middle using a wooden spoon. Stretch the dough around the spoon handle to make large holes. Make the holes quite large as they will rise and shrink considerably when baked.
6. Preheat oven to 450°F. Put the bagels onto the baking sheets and let rise for about 10 minutes. Place your poppy or sesame seeds onto a plate.
7. Using a slotted spoon dip your bagels, about 2 at a time, into the boiling honey water and leave for about 30 seconds per side. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and dip them straight into the seeds and then back onto the baking sheets, seeds side up.
8. Once boiled, bake the bagels for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through.

Two Ways to Roast Peppers Perfectly

Roasted peppers have a wonderfully sweet, caramelized flavour that makes for a tasty accompaniment to many dishes. They’re rich in vitamin C and packed with antioxidants, and we’ve got two easy ways to cook the colourful capsicum.

Green, Yellow, Orange or Red?
All bell peppers come from the same plant, with each colour representing the different points of maturity. Green peppers are basically unripe, lack sweetness and can have a subtle bitter taste at times. This is why green peppers are cheaper to buy than red peppers, and are a despised ingredient among many chefs. Orange, yellow and red peppers are matured green peppers and have a much fruitier, pleasant taste, though most argue that red peppers are the sweetest.

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Using a Gas Stove
If your house has been blessed with a gas stove, you also lucked out on the fastest and least messy way of roasting peppers. Simply turn on the burner and place one or two whole peppers directly on the flame. Using a pair of tongs, rotate the peppers to ensure all sides are blackened. The more charred the peppers, the easier they’ll be to peel later.

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Using an Electric Stove (or Toaster Oven)
Unlike most vegetables where you simply roast them at 375°F, bell peppers are best cooked using the broil setting. Broiling is like using an upside-down barbecue; the heat comes from above and will char the surface of the food, which is what you want when cooking peppers.

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Give your whole peppers a very light coating of oil and then place them on a lined baking sheet (it gets messy when the peppers’ juices start leaking out). Set the oven to a high broil and place the pan of peppers inside. You’ll see the skin start to bubble and then blacken. Flip the peppers every so often to ensure they get an even char on all sides. This should take anywhere between 40 minutes to 1 hour.

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Cleaning the Peppers
Once the peppers are completely blackened, place them in a large bowl or pot and cover with plastic wrap for 15 minutes to steam. This steaming process loosens up the skin to make the peeling process easier.

When they’re done steaming, slice open the peppers (be warned, there will be lots of juices spilling out) and clean out the seeds, ribs, and stems. The charred skin should slip off easily. Do not rinse the peppers under running water in an attempt to make the skin flake off easier, as the water will simply wash away the pepper’s sweet juices. Slice the peppers to desired thickness.

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Store the peppers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two weeks. Use them for sandwiches, salads, an addition to your homemade hummus or in the following recipe for roasted red pepper soup, which pairs superbly with a grilled cheese sandwich on a chilly afternoon.

Roasted Red Pepper Soup
Serves: 4

RoastedPepperSoup

Ingredients:
6 medium-sized red bell peppers, roasted, cleaned, and diced
1 cup chopped white onion
1 cup chopped potato
1 cup heavy cream, whole milk, or coconut milk
4 cups no-salt added chicken broth, or one 900mL box of no-salt added chicken broth
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 pats of butter
Salt, pepper, and chilli flakes to taste

Directions:

  1. In a soup pot over medium heat, melt the butter and sauté the onions until they begin to sweat and turn translucent. Add the potatoes and garlic and continue to cook for five minutes. Add the peppers, broth, and cream/milk. Stir, cover, and bring down to a simmer for 20 minutes.
  2. Using a blender, blend everything until it reaches a creamy and smooth consistency.
  3. Season with salt, pepper, and (optional) chili flakes to taste.
  4. Serve immediately or let cool completely to room temperature before storing in airtight containers in the fridge for up to three days.

The Warming Gnocchi You Can Make Ahead of Time

By Cassandrea Gascoyne

Gnocchi has always been one of my favourite dishes. The first time my husband and I tried making it at home, it was on a winter night that was -30ºC, so now making and eating gnocchi always makes me feel warm and cozy. This recipe is a little different than traditional gnocchi in that it is made with a light tomato broth instead of a rich cream or cheese sauce.

When we were making the broth that cold winter night, the kitchen windows fogged up from the steam. The whole house smelled of tomatoes and garlic. The broth is light and complements the gnocchi well.

As we ate our heaping bowl of gnocchi and broth I can remember thinking this is the perfect winter dish! The best part is that the gnocchi and broth are freezable, so you can come home from work during a blizzard and know you can look forward to a warm bowl of comfort food that will be ready in just a few minutes.

Gnocchi in Tomato Broth, Courtesy of Cassandrea Gascoyne, chewsandbrews.ca, Spruce Grove, Alta.

This simple pasta dish is the perfect comfort food for dinner in the depth of winter.

 

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Prep time: 2 hours
Cook time: 1 hour
Yield: approximately 80 gnocchi and 2.5 cups (625 mL) broth

Ingredients
Gnocchi

4 russet potatoes
1 large egg, beaten
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
3/4 cup (175 mL) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (175 mL) whole-wheat flour

Tomato Broth
2 Tbsp (30 mL) olive oil
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 medium stalks celery, chopped
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1/2 cup (125 mL) white wine
2 cups (500 mL) chicken stock
12 oz (341 mL) jar Italian tomato purée
handful fresh basil (plus more for garnish)
salt
pepper
Parmesan cheese

Directions
Broth
1. Meanwhile, in large pot over medium heat, heat olive oil. Add carrots, celery, onion and garlic. Sauté until vegetables have softened and onions and garlic have started to brown.
2. Pour in wine and stir, scraping up browned bits. Cook until wine has reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Stir in chicken stock, tomato purée and basil; reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Gnocchi
1. Bake potatoes in 400ºF (200ºC) oven for 1 hour or until easily pierced with a knife. Let cool.
2. Peel cooled potatoes and grate into large bowl. (Or use a potato ricer, instead of grating.)
3. Stir in beaten egg and salt. Add all-purpose and whole-wheat flours, 1/2 cup (125 mL) at a time, mixing until the mixture forms a soft dough that isn’t too sticky.
4. Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead for 3 to 4 minutes. Divide dough into quarters; roll each quarter into a long rope, about 3/4 inch (2 cm) in diameter. Cut rope into 3/4-inch (2 cm) pieces.
5. Place gnocchi on parchment paper–lined baking sheet. If desired, freeze gnocchi on tray, then transfer into a freezer bag.
6. To cook the gnocchi, drop into a large pot of boiling salted water. Cook the gnocchi about 2 minutes, or until they float. (If cooking from frozen, let them cook for 3 to 4 minutes.) Drain.
7. To serve, put 10 to 12 cooked gnocchi in each bowl and top with hot tomato broth. Garnish with fresh basil and grated Parmesan cheese.

Note:
-If you like a traditional-looking gnocchi, there are some neat tools you can use in Step 6 to add ridges, such as the Gnocchi Board or Gnocchi Stripper.
-A slice of garlic toast goes nicely as well, and can soak up any leftover broth at the end!

Chews and Brews
Cassandrea Gascoyne loves to cook and eat, and now has a passion for writing about and sharing everything she cooks and eats. She also enjoys wine, craft beers and good coffee. When she isn’t eating or drinking you can find her camping and hiking with her husband in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Her kids have four legs and are fuzzy and are named Bob and Sam.

5 Simple Two-Ingredient Soups

A nearly bare cupboard can still yield ingredients for a bowl of soul-warming, good-for-you soup. With only two simple ingredients and a dash of creativity, these five easy soups come together in less time than it takes to open and heat up a can.

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Melon and Cucumber Gazpacho via Cannelle et Vanille

1. Melon and Cucumber Gazpacho
It’s hard to believe this creamy, cold soup is made up of just two things: ripe honeydew and cucumber. This gorgeously-smooth green soup doesn’t even need to be cooked — just whiz up the ingredients in a blender and pour straight into a bowl. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and a few toasted pine nuts.

2. Lentils and Vegetable Stock
A can of lentils simmered in vegetable broth makes a hearty meal that will stick to your ribs using the simplest ingredients. Bring the lentils and broth to a gentle simmer, and then use an immersion blender to smooth things out. Season with a little salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon, and serve with toasted pita wedges.

3. Tomato Soup
To make the world’s easiest soup, reach for fresh, in-season tomatoes or canned San Marzano tomatoes, blended with a splash of milk. This simplified soup is great on its own, or can be easily jazzed up with some garlic and fresh basil, served alongside a gooey grilled cheese.

4. Mushroom Soup
This quickie soup can go two ways: for a thick, belly-warming soup, add cream to a pot of sauteed mushrooms and cook together until it reaches a simmer. Feel free to use vegetable or even chicken stock for a lighter version.

5. Egg Drop Soup
A Chinese restaurant favourite, it’s easy to satisfy your egg drop soup cravings with two simple pantry staples. To make this soup, simmer chicken stock until it reaches a slow bubble and then slowly pour in whisked eggs, while constantly stirring the stock. To make it even more authentic, thicken it up with a little cornstarch and sprinkle with white pepper.

SkilletLasagna

Skillet Lasagna in Under an Hour

By Kelly Kwok

Once the weather begins to cool down, my family starts craving comfort food. Anything with cheese or pasta is always a hit at our house.

My husband’s favourite pasta dish is lasagna, but I only make it on the weekends – it takes time to layer everything, and creates a huge mess and piles dishes to clean afterwards. During the week, one-pot meals are my favourite.

After some digging around in my pantry, this easy skillet lasagna was born. I added my own touches to make it lighter, and packed it with veggies, including zucchini and spinach. I even used low-fat Parmesan and cottage cheeses to cut down on the fat without sacrificing taste. The entire dish – pasta cooking and all – is done in the same skillet on the stove.

The best part? It was a hit with my family!

Easy Skinny Skillet Lasagna, Courtesy of Kelly Kwok, lifemadesweeter.com, Niagara Falls, Ont.

This easy one-pot meal is a surefire weeknight dinner.

SkilletLasagna

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes
Yield: 5-6 servings

Ingredients
1½ tsp (7 mL) olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb (225-450 g) extra-lean ground turkey
salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste
2 medium zucchini, peeled and chopped (optional)
14 oz (398 mL) can diced tomatoes (San Marzano or fire-roasted)
8 oz (225 mL) can tomato sauce
2½ Tbsp (37 mL) chopped fresh basil, divided
1½ tsp (7 mL) dried oregano
½ tsp (2 mL) crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
2 cups (500 mL) water or low-sodium chicken broth
8 oz (225 g) bow-tie pasta
2 cups (375–500 mL) spinach, chopped (optional)
1 cup (250 mL) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
⅔ cup (150 mL) fat-free cottage cheese
⅓ cup (75 mL) low-fat ricotta cheese (optional)
2 Tbsp (30 mL) chopped fresh parsley
grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Directions
1. In extra-large skillet over medium-high heat, heat olive oil. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute or until fragrant.
2. Add ground turkey and cook, stirring, for 4 to 5 minutes or until browned. Drain excess fat.
3. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add zucchini, if using. Add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, 1 tbsp (15 mL) of the basil, oregano and red pepper flakes.
4. Stir in water or chicken broth. Add pasta. Bring to boil; cover skillet with lid and reduce heat.
5. Cook, stirring every 3 minutes and adding more water or broth as needed, for 15 to 18 minutes or until pasta is tender. If using spinach, stir in after 13 minutes.
6. Remove from heat. Stir in mozzarella and cottage cheeses. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
7. Dollop ricotta cheese over top; cover skillet for 2 minutes, or until cheese is melted.
8. Sprinkle with chopped parsley, remaining basil and Parmesan cheese, if using.

Notes
This recipe allows for lots of creativity. You may choose to use a different protein or choose to substitute gluten-free or whole-wheat pasta. Cooking times may vary.

Life Made Sweeter
My name is Kelly Kwok. I am a wife and mom of two – and the writer, recipe developer and photographer behind Life Made Sweeter, where I share desserts, family favourites and healthy recipes.

6 Ways to Boost a Bland Recipe

We’ve all been there; after we’ve cooked up a storm, we go to taste our finished dishes only to find the flavour falls, well, flat. Something is missing, but we’re not quite sure what it is.

Our taste buds or receptors have five main components: sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami. When trying to identify what’s missing from a meal, it’s a good idea to think in terms of taste: does it need more sweetness, saltiness, etc. Next time your dish seems to be lacking flavour, reach for one of the six ingredients below.

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1. Vinegar
Vinegar is the most common ingredient to boost a bland recipe. The acidity of vinegar can actually help to balance out the five tastes. My personal favorite is balsamic vinegar, as it not only adds acid but also adds notes of sweetness as well. An acid, depending on which one, can work to increase sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami tastes. Other wonderful vinegars include apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar and rice vinegar. Each of them have their place in boosting the flavour for particular cuisines – for instance, rice vinegar is very good at enhancing Asian fare. Vinegar is strong so if adding it to a dish, go slowly, you can always add more but you can’t take away!

2. Lemon
Lemon is one of my favourite ingredients to use to enhance a recipe. The acidity and sourness of a lemon works similarly to vinegar to boost and bring together flavours. You can even use the zest of a lemon to enhance a dish. Zest adds a refreshing flavour with hints of sweetness. If lemon isn’t your thing, try using limes, grapefruits or oranges for varying levels of acid and flavour.

3. Sea Salt
Salt is a classic seasoning to add to any dish when it is bland – but be careful, adding too much salt can ruin a dish. I have included sea salt instead of table salt because it has more of a boldness in flavour. Table salt has also gone through more processing and bleaching. Salt helps to bring out all other flavours while also adding saltiness. If you have specialty salts such as truffle salt, garlic salt or herb salt try using those to add different layers of flavour. Always remember, you can add more but you can’t take away!

4. Mustard
Mustard is a fantastic emulsifier that adds a creamy texture as well as a sweet, sour, salty and bitter flavour. A squirt of Dijon or whole grain mustard can go a long, long way. I especially like to use it in Mediterranean style dishes. There are many different mustards to choose from that can add a whole array of flavour to a bland dish.

5. Tamari
Tamari is a Japanese style soy sauce that can be gluten free and is usually a by-product of miso. This is one of the best ways to enhance a recipe. Simply because it is an Asian ingredient, it doesn’t need to be reserved for Asian cuisine only. Tamari is not as salty or harsh as traditional soy sauce, although it is quite salty. It has a natural sweetness and just a teaspoon can enhance a flavour profile hitting sweet, salty and umami notes.

6. Honey
Honey is a classic sweetener, it is not refined, like white sugar, although it is still incredibly sweet. Sometimes, a dish is simply missing more of a sweet flavour. Honey is so rich and sweet that only a little bit needs to be added. Take a bite of your recipe and if you feel like it’s missing a touch of sweet, slowly add honey half a teaspoon at a time. Remember the golden rule – you can always add more but you can’t take away!

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Chef David Chang Pops Up at the New President’s Choice Insiders Collection Boutique

Are you flummoxed about fixing your festive feast? Baffled on how to put your best brunch forward? Four rooms from the President’s Choice Insiders Collection are popping up for consumers to check out this season’s hottest holiday entertaining trends. Starting today through to December 18, visitors can check out the 70 new prepared products for harried hosts, and wander through four rooms — Dine, Mingle, Brunch and Gift Giving — at a custom-built culinary space on the corner of King St. West and Blue Jays Way in Toronto (363 King Street West).

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Boldfaced names such as social columnist Shinan Govani and ET Canada’s Cheryl Hickey stopped by yesterday night’s media preview of the space, munching on appetizers such as PC’s gochujang chicken wings and listening to ideas about the evolution of ingredients and consumer awareness from Momofuku chef and star attraction David Chang.

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Chef David Chang speaking at the PC Insiders Collection Boutique.

“If you heard about gochujang 20 years ago, you might have heard about it in a Korean restaurant, and if any chef was using it at all, it would have been called ‘sweet-spicy Korean red chili paste’,” said Chang. “It’s a huge signifier as to where we are in terms of food today.”

Chang, whose magazine Lucky Peach that he co-authors with editor Peter Meehan is a significant tastemaker in the culinary world, shared his history of using prepared product, and how society’s notions are changing about its use. When Chang first opened Ssäm Bar in New York, he used a variety of ready-made ingredients, which angered some critics and customers. “We were limited in terms of our size and scope, and if someone can basically make something better than we could, we didn’t care because we couldn’t make it at that time,” he said. “The reality was that a lot of those products were made with esoteric Asian ingredients that I couldn’t get. And now we’re able to get a lot more of it because people’s tastes have changed quite a bit.”

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Taking a prepared product and making it your own was one of the themes that President’s Choice executive chef Tom Filippou kept returning to throughout the evening, whether mixing with guests or demonstrating risotto. “It’s about being part of the party with our inspirations,” said Filippou. “If you’re constantly back and forth in the kitchen, you’re not enjoying your own party.”

Chang, who said that he used PC Black Label argan oil in his restaurants, praised the idea that previously prohibited ideas and ingredients are now accessible, and that while customers care more about where their food comes from, availability is much higher. “If you stop putting categories on where you get your food, all of a sudden supply becomes so in your favour. As a chef, you want as many colours to cook with as possible,” said Chang.  “When you’re put in a situation where you don’t have something and you need a trusted source, that’s what you use. I think PC’s been a particularly good example of that.”

The event — which senior vice president of marketing for Loblaw Companies Uwe Stueckmann described as an evolution of the ideas started with the company’s Crave More launch last year — looked to the fashion world for new presentations and themes. “We were inspired by the fashion industry and its ability to be declarative about trend,” said Stueckmann. “We wanted to approach this in a fantastical, over-the-top way, while still allowing the food to shine through.”

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In the Dine room, guests walked up to a lavishly set table amidst a sea of black and white elegance with a wee hint of gothic thrown in, for a storybook tale straight out of Grimm. The room is all about ingredient inspirations and classics with a twist, such as Strawberry Blonde potatoes grown specifically for PC, layered with olive oil, thyme and two-year-old cheddar, or beet and goat cheese fresh pasta. “We’re always looking for the new, the next and the never been done,” said Filippou. “Traditions are great, but why not make your own traditions?”

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From a dinner party to a winter wonderland, guests stepped past a dark curtain into a mock forest in the Mingle room, replete with misty fog swirling around the floor, and branches adorning the walls. Bedecking the tiered glass trees were a variety of international treats, including butter chicken poutine and a crisp and crunchy selection from the PC Thai-inspired hors d’oeuvres collection, created in Thailand.

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In the Brunch room, a toy train piped merrily around a track past a wooden block castle, but instead of bearing coal, it brought naughty treats such as smoky bacon-flavoured maple syrup and waffles with Speculoos cookie butter.

And it’s not a party without a farewell gift: guests could snap a pic with the reflective selfie wall and snag a box of white chocolate bark or chocolate covered caramel popcorn with sea salt in the Gift Giving room.

Can’t make it down to join the fun? Viewers of Food Network Canada and Global will get sneak peeks with ET Canada hosts as well as celebrity experts Gail Simmons from Top Chef and Canadian chefs Ned Bell (Cook Like a Chef) and Danny Smiles (Top Chef Canada), who will spotlight the best of the boutique with shot-on-location mini specials.

For details such as boutique hours, information on hands-on, interactive workshops and more, visit the President’s Choice Insider Collection site.