A Classic Combo: The Best Grilled Cheese with Tomato Soup

A timeless pairing, done ultimate-style. The best grilled cheese recipe ever, along with an outstandingly creamy (yet cream-free) tomato soup, are made world-class thanks to Food Network Canada Chef School’s Roger Mooking, who takes the classic coupling to a whole new level. This isn’t the typical lunch from your childhood, but an epicurean’s delight that’s layered and loaded with top-level ingredients. Along with a step-by-step video, Roger offers ingredient shopping tips, techniques and tricks for the greatest grilled cheese and tomato soup of your life. With this classic combo, it’s all in the details.

 

For the Tastiest Cream of Tomato Soup, Skip the Can

Roger begins by making the tomato soup for dunking, but it’s potatoes, not tomatoes, that start things off. The spuds, when pureed, add dairy-free creaminess to the dish without feeling too heavy – there’s a lot of cheese on the way, after all.

An amazing tip here for “roasted” tomato soup flavour without spending the time roasting tomatoes, Roger uses smoky chipotle peppers in adobo, which lends great depth and a little kick. Finally, fresh tomatoes are stirred in to add brightness and umami punch. After simmering the vegetables until tender, it’s time to blend.

Post-blend, Roger strains the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve, creating that faux “canned” tomato soup vibe (but 100 per cent homemade and 100 per cent better). A finishing dab of butter adds silkiness and brings out the natural sweetness of the tomatoes and onions. Basil, another time-honoured tomato soup partner, garnishes the bowl.

The Best Cheeses for Grilled Cheese

Now for the gooey grilled cheese. Roger uses a blend of stringy mozzarella and sharp cheddar, bringing both texture and flavour – it’s the best of both worlds in this gourmet grilled cheese recipe. He isn’t shy with the cheese, piling the dairy goodness in the centre of hearty sourdough bread, even allowing a bit of cheese to fall out the side and caramelize while grilling.

If mozzarella and cheddar aren’t in your fridge, or you’re looking to step outside the box, Roger provides this yummy alternative: “One that’s really nice and melty, like Provolone or Havarti.”

Fontina and smoked Gouda both work wonders in a grilled cheese, too.

How to Make the Best Grilled Cheese Sandwich

“I think it’s important that there’s only very few elements from the grilled cheese, right? ” says Roger, who opts for minimal ingredients. “There’s bread, there’s butter, there’s cheese. So whenever you’re doing a recipe that has very limited ingredients like that, every ingredient really matters.”

We know it’s tempting, but don’t be stingy with the butter, it’s a core ingredient in the grilled cheese sandwich, making both quality and quantity count.

“Butters are not created equal, and you get some really pale watered down butters and they’re not great,” says Roger.

Irish and French butter is more expensive, but worth it here. While not absolutely necessary for the best grilled cheese sandwich ever, it certainly helps take it above and beyond.

Seasoning is also crucial and often skipped when making a grilled cheese sandwich.

“Make sure you season the layers internally,” says Roger. “You season when you stuff it with the cheese. And on the outside, on the butter, you season it with salt and pepper as well.”

For the bread, Roger reaches for sourdough because of its tangy taste. “So there’s a complexity of flavour in it,” he says, noting that you should look for a loaf with nice aeration and a nice crust on the outside.

Medium-low heat is the temperature you’re after on your stovetop griddle or skillet. This allows the cheese to melt slowly while the sourdough bread becomes golden brown, never burnt.

What Makes Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup So Good?

The mingling of crunchy, gooey, tangy and creamy elements is why grilled cheese and tomato soup go together so well. With this meal, it’s all about the contrast. For both kids and adults alike, there’s really no better comfort food meal, be it for lunch or dinner. It’s the timeless soup and sandwich combo, made Chef School-perfect.

Get Roger Mooking’s recipes for Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup. And, for a Canadian twist, try this recipe for Tomato and Beer Soup Shooters and Mini Bacon Grilled Cheese.

 

Top Chef Canada Winners to Compete on Iron Chef Gauntlet Season 2

Two fan favourite Top Chef Canada winners, Nicole Gomes and Dale Mackay, will compete in the new season of Iron Chef Gauntlet, premiering Wednesday, April 4 at 9 E/P.  Calgary’s Nicole Gomes won last year’s All-Stars season of Top Chef Canada, becoming the first woman to win the title, while Saskatoon’s Dale Mackay won the first season of Top Chef Canada back in 2011. There can only be one Iron Chef Gauntlet champion but that won’t stop us from rooting for both of them!


Canadians Nicole Gomes and Dale Mackay are pictured left standing with the group of other Iron Chef hopefuls and host Alton Brown (centre).

In this exciting battle, seven chefs from across the U.S. and Canada will enter Kitchen Stadium for a chance to become the next Iron Chef.  Each week, the chefs compete against one other to avoid elimination. The last chef standing enters the Gauntlet to take on three formidable Iron  Chefs: Alex Guarnaschelli, Michael Symon and Stephanie Izard. If the chef beats all three,  he or she will become the next Iron Chef.

Stephanie Izard is the newest Iron Chef earning her title by winning Iron Chef Gauntlet’s first season.  She is also a Top Chef winner (she took the title in the series’ fourth season).  Perhaps that’s a good omen for our Canadians!

Chef Nicole Gomes is a tough competitor. Aside from winning Top Chef Canada: All-Stars, she has over 20 years of professional culinary experience including cooking around the globe with accomplished chefs in Sydney, Hong Kong and Vancouver and as the chef-owner of her own event catering company, Nicole Gourmet Catering, now in its eleventh year. In 2016, she opened Cluck N’ Cleaver with her sister, a fried chicken and rotisserie take-out restaurant that prides itself on giving customers good food, fast.  The restaurant has been a hit! Nicole will be expanding with more locations in Calgary and across western Canada.


Sneak peek of Nicole in Iron Chef Gauntlet’s season premiere

Related: Read our exclusive interview with Nicole Gomes after winning Top Chef Canada: All-Stars

Chef Dale Mackay runs a successful restaurant empire in Saskatoon, that includes hotspot Ayden Kitchen and Bar,  named to Enroute’s Best Restaurants in 2014. Before establishing himself in his Prairie hometown, he was executive chef at Gordon Ramsay’s Michelin-starred restaurants in London, Tokyo and New York and also the executive chef for Daniel Boulud’s Lumière restaurant in Vancouver.

Related: See Dale Mackay practice his perogy pinching at a Ukrainian dinner party in Saskatoon


Dale Mackay seen in Kitchen Stadium in Iron Chef Gauntlet’s season premiere

Visit the Iron Chef Gauntlet site for more about the upcoming season and to see who Dale and Nicole will be competing against. Watch new episodes Wednesdays at 9 E/P beginning April 4. If you missed an episode, catch up online when new episodes are available Thursday mornings after previous night’s broadcast.


Dale Mackay giving Alton Brown a taste of what he’s created in the premiere episode of Iron Chef Gauntlet

You’ll also get to see Nicole as a guest judge in the upcoming season of Top Chef Canada sharing her wisdom with the next generation of Canada’s chefs. Beginning April 8, catch Top Chef Canada on Sundays at 10 E/P. To catch up, we’ll have full episodes online the next day at topchefcanada.ca

Butter Tart Cheesecake

The Best Maple Butter Tart Cheesecake Recipe

The classic Canadian butter tart has many variations – pecans or raisins, firm or runny filling, crispy or flaky pastry — and everyone has their favourite combo. If there’s one thing that all Canadians can agree on, it is the fact that butter tarts are one of the most delicious desserts out there. So why not go one step further and combine your favourite Canadian sweet treat with another indulgent dessert — cheesecake. The result is a sweet and salty combination that gets topped with butter tart filling and lots of pecans for extra crunch!

Butter Tart Cheesecake

Maple Butter Tart Cheesecake

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 50 minutes + chill time
Makes: 10 slices

Ingredients:

Crust:
1-1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
3 Tbsp granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt

Cheesecake:
1 (250g) pkg cream cheese
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
3 Tbsp maple syrup
1/2 cup 35% whipping cream
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/4 tsp salt

Maple Pecan Sauce:
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp 35% cream
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Butter Tart Cheesecake

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter an 8-inch round springform pan.
2. In a large bowl combine graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, sugar and salt. Firmly press graham cracker crumb mixture into bottom of greased pan and push 1 inch up the side. Bake until golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.
3. In a large bowl combine cream cheese and brown sugar. Using an electric mixer beat until well combined and fluffy, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in eggs one at a time. Beat in maple syrup, cream, butter and salt.
4. Wrap bottom of the pan with aluminium foil. Pour in filling and place in a roasting pan. Pour boiling water into roasting pan about 1 inch up the side. Bake until edges are set and middle still has a jello-like wobble, about 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes. Remove pan from water and let cool, about 1 hour. Remove from tin, cover and refrigerate for at least four hours or overnight to chill completely before serving.
5. When ready to serve, make the sauce. In a small saucepan combine brown sugar, maple syrup, cream, salt and pecans. Bring to a boil and let bubble for 2 minutes, until slightly thickened. Serve drizzled over cheesecake.

Butter Tart Cheesecake

Looking for more butter tart goodness? Try our Best Butter Tart Recipes.

Anna Olson’s Cheerful Lemon Meringue Easter Desserts

Easter marks the time of year when the sun begins to shine a little brighter and warmer, and when garden flowers slowly begin to emerge from the ground. Not only are welcome changes happening outside, but also inside kitchens, with home bakers turning to fresh, vibrant flavours, like zingy lemon, for desserts that offer a treat for both the palate and eyes. Resident pastry pro, Anna Olson showcases a few brilliant ways to bring those good outdoor vibes into the kitchen with her lemon meringue desserts.

Get creative with lemon meringue, and think beyond pie this Easter with Anna Olson’s desserts that delight.

 

Anna Olson uses a bright lemon curd to fill cupcakes, profiteroles and eclairs before giving them the burnished meringue flourish.  Here’s where you can easily find the recipes that Anna references in the above video:
To bake up a lemon-scented cupcake, try Anna’s recipe here.

Get Anna’s lemon curd recipe here.

To make eclairs and profiteroles, use Anna’s recipe here.

Lemon Curd Makes Easter Desserts Shine

Anna Olson’s lemon curd recipe can be used beyond the recipes she features in the video. For instance, for a lemon-lovers Easter dessert, double the citrus by infusing a pound cake with lemon zest, then top each slice with a spoonful of lemon curd and tumble of sliced strawberries. Or, use lemon curd to fill a springtime layer cake or stir into yogurt for an Easter brunch side dish. There are countless ways to get more lemon curd into your springtime sweets.

The Best Meringue for Lemon Desserts

For that must-have snowy white topping, Anna makes a Swiss meringue, which begins by whisking egg whites and sugar together over a water bath until warm. This differs slightly from the raw egg white French meringues many recipes call for. When the sugar is dissolved and the whites are foamy, the mixture is added to a stand mixer where it’s beaten until glossy, thick and cool.

You Can “Lemon Meringue” Any Dessert

Armed with a tangy lemon curd and fluffy meringue, you’re ready to add lemon meringue intrigue to your favourite treats.  Anna adds a bright lemon curd filling and cloudlike meringue topping to cupcakes, profiteroles (cream puffs) and éclairs. Anna’s recipe for Lemon Coconut Cupcakes is a naturally fitting cake base to use for the cupcakes.

For the choux paste, the same base is used for both the round profiteroles and elegantly long éclairs, allowing you to have two seemingly different, French patisserie-level desserts in one. For a failsafe choux paste recipe, try Anna’s Profiteroles and Éclairs, replacing the pastry cream filling with lemon curd, and the chocolate topping with meringue, as shown in the video.

How to Fill Éclairs, Profiteroles and Cupcakes

When filling the choux paste desserts, you’ll feel the lemon curd resist slightly, which is how you know when to stop piping. If you don’t have a pastry bag, try a zip-top bag with a corner snipped out.

The profiteroles and éclairs are naturally airy so you can fill them with the lemon curd right away, but you’ll have to take out a centre portion of the cupcakes before filling (save those scraps for cake pops). That small hole in each cupcake that holds the lemon curd filling is fully concealed when the meringue topper is in place for a very delicious surprise.

The Final Flourish 

With that zippy lemon filling hiding in the treats, it’s time to top with the meringue. If you don’t have a pastry bag for the topping, consider going rustic with the back of a spoon, creating a bit of textural interest on top.

Anna notes you can leave the meringues to set as is, but for that true lemon meringue pie appearance, she gently caramelizes the meringue using a kitchen torch. Along with looking great stylistically, torching adds a rich toasted marshmallow flavour to anchor the juicy lemon filling.

Once you have the hang of it, you’ll be lemon meringue-ing everything.

From chocolate cake to madeleines, explore more springtime sweet inspiration with these Delightful Easter Desserts.

Best Places to Eat in Toronto: Top Chef Canada’s Ivana Raca

When it comes to drive, ambition and a palate that knows no bounds, Chef Ivana Raca comes to mind. The former Yugoslavia native currently calls Toronto home, and it’s there, through three restaurant ventures and a win on Chopped Canada, that she’s earned the respect of her peers and critics alike.

Despite Ivana’s busy schedule and demanding gig, she still takes time to enjoy the delicious eats the city has to offer. So when she has some rare time off, here’s the Toronto restaurants she likes to indulge.

Related: Read Ivana Raca’s full bio here.

Resto Boemo

This stall at Assembly Chef’s Hall is the collaboration between Chopped Canada host Brad Smith and Ivana, who won a 2016 episode of the series. According to Ivana, the pair teamed to create some of the best gnocchi and “burgers in the city,” but Boemo also represents the idea of an improved, “free’er” chef—one who has no limits to the imagination.

Ufficio

There are plenty of vegan and vegetarian restaurants in Toronto, but Ivana’s other, full-service, spot boasts a specialized Italian-pescatarian menu with plenty of vegetarian options and seasonal Canadian ingredients. With a cozy brick interior and items like Ivana’s highly recommended Trout Crudo and “incredible” Seafood Lasagna at the ready, Ufficio makes for a great stop on a date or special celebration. “Home is where the heart is,” Ivana adds, speaking to Ufficio’s overall tone.

DaiLo

Chef Nick Liu’s refined menu at this thriving spot is where old meets new, as it honours the tastes of an older generation while connecting to future generations through food. The fare is inspired by Liu’s Hakka parents, but the Canadian chef follows French traditions in order to update some classics for more modern palates. The result is a winning combination that keeps diners coming back for more.

“[It’s] amazing fusion cuisine,” says Ivana. “Takes me back to Asia.”

f e a t u r e ???? Tonight, our feature special from one of our cooks, Jeff Miranda, is an incredible take on a Filipino dish called Kare Kare (pronounced kah-reh kah-reh). ???? Short-Rib Kare Kare beef short rib in a peanut sauce // grilled garlic scapes // Japanese eggplant // grilled bok choy sum // grilled onions // topped with mustard greens oil // candied shrimp crumble // crispy banana blossom // fried beef tendon · · · ???? @joeysalmingo ???? #ShotOnCanon #Canon #CanonForFood ???? #KareKare #FilipinoFood #SickAsianFood #NewAsianCuisine #FilipinoFoodMovement #ShortRib #Pinoy #PinoyFood #FuckThatsDelicious #EatTO #BlogTO #Eeeeeeats #Eat #Food #FoodPorn #Tastemade #f52 #food52 #Narcity #FoodPhotoOfTheDay #Foodie #EatFamous #ChefLife #TrueCooks #Chefs #FilipinoDish #Filipino

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Restaurant Chantecler

Frog legs, escargot and other classic French fare grace the menu of this fine-dining establishment, which is named after Canada’s only heritage breed of chicken. An open kitchen faces the bar with limited seating in between, meaning that if you want to get in on this Parkdale favourite, reservations are usually required.

“[It has a] great steak tartar,” Ivana raves. “[It] always hits the spot for me.”

Beauty shot of @chanteclerto beef tartare on the pass ????

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Ramen Isshin

Ivana is “huge on ramen,” which makes this eatery a staple on her list. Isshin has two locations: one in the downtown Toronto core and another at Assembly Chef’s Hall. The name translates into “one heart, one ramen” and so a large variety of bowls grace the menu—including the signature Wok Fried Red Miso Ramen. Ivana says the “black sesame miso is a must-have,” but no matter what you order, you’re guaranteed traditional Tonkotsu broth, a signature blend of red and white miso and only the freshest ingredients.

See Chef Elia Herrera’s Top 5 Toronto Eats

Get Chef Matt Sullivan’s Top 5 Eats in Toronto

Find out about Chef Dennis Tay’s Favourite Filipino Eats in Toronto

Best Places to Eat in Saskatoon: Top Chef Canada’s Jesse Zuber

As the protégé to Top Chef Canada’s inaugural winner Dale Mackay, (and as the co-owner and executive chef of Saskatoon’s Little Grouse on the Prairie), Jesse Zuber has definitely had some experience with what it takes to serve up a memorable dish.

Of course part of that creation process comes with eating out at some of the city’s best hot spots to become better versed in what the competition is serving up. When it comes to restaurants that inspire him—as well as joints that are just plain old delicious—here’s where Jesse loves to eat when in Saskatoon.

Related: Read Jesse Zuber’s full bio here.

Keo’s Kitchen

Feasting on the traditional Thai dishes at Keo’s is akin to travelling all the way to Thailand. With offerings like tum salad, red curry and dancing prawns, the menu features updated Thai classics to warm you up from the inside out.

“[There are] great authentic Thai flavours,” Jesse promises. “[It’s] definitely worth checking out the thom ka kai.”

classic, pad thai

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Summer Palace

If you’re in the mood for generous portion sizes with spoonfuls of heaping flavours, this Szechuan house is for you. With offerings like deep-fried diced chicken with dried chili to Szechuan stir-fried pork, this is a place for celebration big, bold flavours with a traditional flair.

“[They have a ] huge menu with some incredible authentic Szechuan choices,” says Zuber. “My personal favorite dish is the boiled beef in chili oil. It’s like fire!”

???? ???? the real deal no ???? here

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Jin Jin Cuisine Dumpling

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, and so you really shouldn’t judge this dumpling house by its rough exterior. Although the façade isn’t the fanciest in the city, the food—particularly the famed dumplings, which come with a variety of fillings—are highly recommended.

“It’s not much for ambience, but the dumplings and steam buns are killer,” says Jesse.

Stick and Stones

Jesse’s fellow Top Chef Canada competitor Nathan Guggenheimer and inaugural Top Chef Canada winner Dale Mackay’s Grassroots Restaurant Group brings a blend of Japanese and Korean cuisines to the prairies with this eatery. The comprehensive menu features creative sushi rolls, steamed buns, ramen and other flavourful concoctions bound to impress palates everywhere.

“Nathan’s blending of Japanese and Korean flavours always hits the spot,” says Jesse. Plus, there’s a “great cocktail list.”

La Bamba Café

Traditional Mexican food graces the menu at this family-run restaurant, which claims to have been the first to offer such fare in all of western Canada when it opened in 2007. Traditional dishes like tacos and enchiladas that Mexican families “have been eating for ages” are both flavourful and filling.

“[It’s] fantastic Mexican cuisine,” says Jesse. “The enchilada verde is just the thing for a hangover.”

Get Chef Nathan Guggenheimer’s Top 5 Eats in Saskatoon

See Chef Jinhee Lee’s Top 5 Eats in Calgary

Best Places to Eat in Montreal: Top Chef Canada’s Darren Rogers

Darren Rogers, a British Columbia native, travelled the country in order to hone his skills in the kitchen before finally settling down in Montreal, where he now works as the chef de cuisine at Antonio Park’s, Park restaurant.

Having experienced food in so many Canadian cities, Darren definitely knows what separates a good restaurant from a great one. That’s why we’re taking note of his top pics of Montreal restaurants, where the Top Chef Canada competitor loves to eat.

Related: Read Darren Rogers’s full bio here.

Restaurant Kazu

This cozy little nook with an open kitchen offers big flavours with dishes that incorporate traditional and modern Japanese flavours. The tofu is made in-house, while modern plates like shrimp burgers and grilled chicken meatballs ensure there’s something for everyone.

“I love this place. It’s tight, quaint, feels like home, and is the least pretentious restaurant in the world,” says Darren. “Chef Kazu himself usually serves the people sitting at the bar, and it’s always fun to watch him and his team work.”

So what is Darren’s favourite dish? “The Kalbi Short Ribs. [They’re] a little sweet, a little salty, [they come with] some creamy potatoes and a little salad. I mean, it’s love in every bite!”

nice pork bowl!

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Maison Publique

This quaint but spacious gastropub has been a Montreal staple ever since it opened its doors in 2012; chef and owner Derek Dammann has been happily changing the menu to his Canadian-inspired whims ever since. While they don’t take reservations for brunch, dinner service tends to book up fast so be sure to call for a spot.

“[It’s] a Canadian take on famous pub dishes. Every meal is just a ton of fun to eat if nothing else,” explains Darren. “The menu is always changing, so it’s hard to pick a favourite, but it’s great to be able to try something different every time.”

BBQ moose heart, chanterelles and pickled Saskatoon berries eh.

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Ichigo Ichie

The name of this ramen house roughly translates into “one time, one meeting,” a Japanese concept that means to treasure each moment and encounter in life because it will never recur. The same can’t be said for the success of these noodles—they’re so consistently popular that the ramen section of the restaurant is on a first-come, first-serve basis.

“It’s easily my favourite ramen house in the city (and there are a lot). It’s always consistent, there’s great energy in the building, and of course it’s a great bowl of noodles,” Darren says. “Obviously the tonkotsu ramen is my favourite… rich, fatty, and filling. It’s the thickest broth in the west, and it never gets old!”

Burger Royal

Whether it’s a chicken, beef or vegan patty you’re seeking, this burger joint does them all. Add a wide variety of creative toppings like mac and cheese, fried eggs or maple smoked bacon—all stacked sky-high—and this is an establishment you definitely want to visit while hungry.

“[They have] dangerously sloppy burgers and the chilliest milkshakes,” Darren raves. “It’s the perfect hangover cure, and to top it off there’s a cheeky ‘Tarantino’ theme in the whole place.”

Pretty much the fastest way to kickstart your weekend into third gear, trust us.

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Liverpool House

This restaurant is rich with seaside cottage charm and features an old-school, clubhouse vibe. The menu is equally indulgent thanks to a wide selection of fresh game, an oyster counter and market-inspired comfort foods to ease the soul.

“[There’s] a ‘house-like’ atmosphere surrounded by knick-knacks and weird paintings [that] makes every meal feel like a dinner party with friends,” Darren says. “[The] best dish is the quail and foie gras sauce. [It comes with] two quails and foie gras… I mean, come on. I love game bird, and this dish was no exception.”

Pintade au chou

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Get Chef JP Miron’s Top 5 Montreal Eats

Find out Chef Ross Larkin’s Top 5 Eats in St. John’s, Newfoundland

Best Places to Eat in Vancouver: Top Chef Canada’s Felix Zhou

As a classically trained chef and the co-owner and chef at Heritage Asian Eatery in Vancouver, Felix Zhou knows a thing or two about using his creativity and background in order to take a dish to the next level. It’s something he’s been doing since he was a kid when he won a scholarship for a cooking class and realized what he was destined to do.

At his eatery, Felix is all about offering a new perspective on Asian fast food and snacks, something he hones while eating out as some of the city’s other delicious, Asian-inspired restaurants. When it comes to a delicious night out on the town, here are Felix’s top picks.

Related: Read Felix Zhou’s full bio here.

PiDGiN

A restaurant in historic Gastown, PiDGiN refuses to sway towards either casual or fine dining. Instead, it attempts to redefine the language of dining altogether with a menu that encompasses multiple cuisines and cultures all at once.

“My favorite dish at PiDGiN is Korean rice cake, gochujang Bolognese and spiced hazelnut,” Felix raves.

korean rice cake, gochujang bolognese, hondashi, hazelnut // #pidginfood

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Maenam

If it’s traditional Thai food you’re seeking, look no further than Chef Angus An’s fresh and seasonal menu, which boasts everything from family-style dining to his own riffs on popular Thai street food. This one gets bonus points for a Chef’s tasting menu that can also accommodate the vegetarians out there.

“My favorite dish at Maenam is pad Thai,” Felix says.

Phnom Penh

You won’t have trouble spotting this family-run restaurant in the heart of Chinatown. It’s  traditional Cambodian or Vietnamese fare draws lines at the door, making it a must-visit spot.

“My favorite dish at Phnom Penh are the chicken wings,” says Felix.

The Pear Tree

Owners Scott and Stephanie Jaeger run a relaxed and comfortable dining room that’s perfect for special occasions, catch-ups, or a fancier weeknight meal. Their seasonal and sustainable menu of Canadian fare has been impressing diners since 1998; in fact, in 2005 the duo had to shut down for 40 days in order to double the size of their dining room in order to accommodate all of the guests.

“My favorite dish is the lobster cappuccino,” says Felix, referring to the lobster bisque foam with dashi custard and poached lobster.

Santouka

The Vancouver location of this worldwide franchise imports big and bold Japanese flavours into small, signature bowls of heaven. Hokkaido Ramen Santouka is renowned for his delicate shio ramen, which to this day remains handcrafted with minimal salt or artificial seasonings.

“It’s comforting to walk into a ramen house; the warmth and smell reminds me of being back home [in China],” Felix says. “Noodles have a very dear place in my heart. My favourite dish is the santouka ramen, spicy miso extra char siu. You can have it all in one bowl of ramen. [It’s] delicious, warm [and] a little spicy.”

Get Chef Mark Singson’s Top 5 Eats in Vancouver

See Chef Trevor Bird’s Top 10 Eats in Vancouver

Best Places to Eat in Vancouver: Top Chef Canada’s Mark Singson

Vancouver’s Mark Singson knows what goes into a great menu. He did, after all, help to curate the menu for AnnaLena, a place critics have called one of the country’s best new restaurants.

These days the Top Chef Canada hopeful is striking out on his own as a caterer, but he’s scoping out the best and brightest culinary hot spots in hopes of one day opening his own eatery. Given his personal investment in learning what makes a restaurant truly great, you know that this chef’s picks for the best places to eat in Vancouver are on point.

Related: Read Mark Singson’s full bio here.

Zakkushi on Denman

Charcoal grilled skewers are the name of the game at this Japanese “Izakaya” style restaurant. There are more than 30 different kinds, from meat and seafood to vegetables and everything in between. Craving something different? Mark swears by the small plates with big flavour.

“If you order 12 items it’s like having a cheeky 12-course dinner. I basically just love to snack,” he says. “Most of the items on the menu are snacks on a stick cooked over charcoal: grilled dried squid, grilled chicken hearts and liver, raw octopus with wasabi stems and nori.”

담에는 1인 1도쿠리????

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Guu Garden

Warm woods and lots of natural sunlight greet customers at this Nelson Street location of the popular franchise, where a menu of Japanese creations and tapas are the perfect thing for groups and dates alike. And don’t forget to order some of the garden’s original beer or sake.

“I really like the pork jowl with yuzukosho and mozzarella with a dashi broth,” Mark says. “Most of the items on the menu are really tasty.”

Mr. Red Café

Chef Hong Duong’s main goal at this eatery is to bring the flavours and memories of Northern Vietnam to Vancouver, one plate at a time. That includes traditional dumplings, salads, noodle soups and various vermicelli.

“Mr. Red Cafe serves a steamed rice cake dish with ground prawns, topped with crunchy bread bits and fried shallots,” Mark says, explaining the nostalgic dishes remind him of food he used to eat in the Philippines.

Phnom Penh

This family-run restaurant in the heart of Chinatown may have started out as a noodle bar, but today it’s a must-hit spot for anyone looking to sample traditional Cambodian or Vietnamese fare. It’s no wonder people are often lined up out the door to eat here.

“Chicken wings and luk lak beef on rice with a fried egg [are my favourite dishes],” Mark raves.

Kumare Restaurant + Bakery

This Filipino eatery is a place where good friends can come together over great food. With culinary inspirations from Philippines and Thailand, these dishes are as varied as they are flavourful, and the menu boasts something for everyone, from boiled chicken and fresh coconut meat to various incarnations of noodles.

“Kumare serves Filipino food that is almost as good as my mom’s,” says Mark.

Read Chef Felix Zhou’s Top 5 Eats in Vancouver

See Chef Trevor Bird’s Top 10 Eats in Vancouver

Best Places to Eat in Calgary: Top Chef Canada’s Jinhee Lee

Jinhee Lee’s love of cooking wasn’t exactly fostered by her parents growing up in South Korea; she spent 11 years working as a kindergarten teacher before moving to Canada and secretly enrolling at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in the Professional Cooking program. Now she’s a force to be reckoned with as the executive chef at Foreign Concept, and is ready to prove she’s a top competitor across the country.

For the past two years Jinhee took the top prize in Gold Medal Plates, and in 2016 she was also named one of Avenue Calgary’s “Top 5 people to watch in Calgary’s food scene.” With credentials like that, Jinhee certainly knows where to grab some delicious eats; here are her top Calgary restaurants where she loves to eat.

Related: Read Jinhee Lee’s full bio here.

Foreign Concept

Pan-Asian cuisine with an emphasis on locally sourced ingredients and modern cooking techniques is apparent throughout the menu at this Calgary hotspot, which features items like Angus beef striploin tataki and charsiu pork & foie gras steamed buns.

“[The restaurant features] fresh, clean and bright flavours,” says Jinhee, noting that her favourite dish is Alberta trout cha ca la vong. “I love the marriage between the Asian flavours and Canadian ingredients.”

Anju

Chef and owner Roy Oh puts an emphasis on bold Korean flavours with a modern twist on this expansive tapas menu with items like the clayot black cod and his KFC sliders. Anju, a Korean term that translates into “food you eat with alcohol,” is all about sharing a great meal with good friends and frosty drinks.

“[There’s] bold Korean flavours and good soju,” Jinhee raves. In particular, she’s a big fan of the crispy tofu and kimchi. “I love the crispy texture of tofu and tasty fried kimchi and pork belly. [It] makes me thirsty for soju!”

Charcut Roast House

When you think of quality, expertly prepared cuts of meat, Top Chef Canada: All-Stars competitor Connie DeSousa certainly stands out. As the co-chef and co-owner of this rustic, award-winning establishment, she’s proving that seasonal menus and in-house butchered meats are where it’s at.

“[Charcut has] good quality meats and charcuterie,” says Jinhee. “They make the best pig’s head mortadella.”

Happy Valentines week….. Let’s meat at #CHARCUT ????❤️

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Model Milk

The self-professed methodology of this contemporary eatery is to “buy the best ingredients we can afford and try not to screw them up before they hit the plate.” The strategy seems to be working, given how popular Model Milk’s rotating menu of Canadian-sourced and inspired dishes seems to be.

“[There is] great ambience and room,” says Jinhee. “I love the Sunday Supper; they create menus with different cuisines every week.”

Halibut Ceviche. Grapefruit. Nori. Chili.

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River Café

An orchard-wood-burning grill and oven sit in the heart of this kitchen, where chefs roll out a variety of items based on fresh produce and locally-sourced ingredients from Canadian farmers and ranchers. That’s probably why the tasting menu—Jinhee’s favourite selection when frequenting the joint—is so popular.

“[River Café makes] great use of local and sustainable ingredients,” she says. “[There are many] creative dishes.”

See Top Chef Canada: All-Stars Winner Nicole Gomes’s Picks for Best Calgary Eats

Get Chef Nathan Guggenheimer’s Picks for Top 5 Saskatoon Eats

Best Places to Eat in Toronto: Top Chef Canada’s Elia Herrera

There are tons of cuisines to sample in this world, and Top Chef Canada’s Elia Herrera has certainly mastered many of them. The third-generation chef has trained extensively in Spain, France, Belgium and Italy, which makes her an experienced connoisseur of fine fare in our books.

For the past 15 years the Mexican native and executive chef at Los Colibris has called Toronto home, which means she’s had plenty of time to sample some of the best restaurants the city has to offer. When she’s in the mood to wine and dine, here’s the Toronto restaurants Elia must visit.

Related: Read Elia Herrera’s full bio here.

PAI Northern Thai Kitchen 

There are plenty of Thai joints out there, but few can rival the authenticity of this small eatery with big flavours. The menu hails from chef Nuit Regular, a former nurse in Thailand who, along with her husband Jeff, opened their first restaurant in Pai, Thailand years ago. Today the pair are the owners of three Thai restaurants across the city, but locals and tourists alike still flock to this original hotspot.

“I love Pai; I love the flavours, the quality and I love Chef Nuit,” says Elia. “She is very honest with her cuisine. My favourite is the green curry and the fresh coconut.”

Bricco Kitchen and Wine Bar

Rotating flights of bold reds and crisp whites grace the menu of this Italian resto with strong Mediterranean influences. With up to 20 wines by the glass available at any seating, the overall goal of Bricco and owner/sommelier Eric Gennaro is to connect home-style food with wine in a “meaningful” way.

“I love the gnocchi with taleggio porcini cream,” reveals Elia. “I am glad it is a signature dish because I love it a million and it is always there waiting for me.”

Bar Buca

Bar Buca is Chef Rob Gentile’s follow-up eatery to his other Italian hotspot, Buca. Located a stone’s throw from the original Buca, this more casual spinoff opens at 7:30am each day so guests can start the day with an Italian-style breakfast of fresh pastries and specialty coffee. Starting at lunch and going late into the night, the full menu features seasonal small plates, skewers, bites and handcrafted cocktails .

“I like [to go there] with friends to have a drink and [share] small plates,” Elia says. “[It’s] super delicious and the menu changes often. [It has a] nice vibe.”

Carmen

Traditional recipes and simple ingredients combine for big, bold flavours at this Spanish spot, where robust tapas and paellas are just the beginning of the dining experience. Each signature dish on the menu represents a Spanish value to restaurateur Veronica Laudes and chef Luis Valenzuela Robles Linares, who hope that diners walk away feeling as though their dining experience also doubled as a visit to Spain.

“Their paellas are so good,” raves Elia.

416 Snack Bar

Some people call them tapas, but owners Dave Stewart and Adrian Ravinsky (alongside Top Chef Canada: All-Stars’ competitor and executive chef Dustin Gallagher) call them snacks. Indeed, this is the place for the young crowd to come and dine the night away. The hotspot takes no reservations, doesn’t do takeout and while they encourage sharing there is no cutlery as everything is meant to be eaten with your hands.

“[It’s an] awesome place with amazing food,” says Elia. “Small plates are the way I like it, so that I can try different dishes. The cocktails are delicious and I love the tuna hand roll and the steamed buns with crispy pork belly.”

Get Chef Ivana Raca’s Top 5 Toronto Eats

See where 416 Snack Bar’s Chef and Top Chef Canada: All-Stars competitor Dustin Gallagher loves to eat in Toronto

See Chef Matt Sullivan’s Top 5 Toronto Eats

Best Places to Eat in Saskatoon: Top Chef Canada’s Nathan Guggenheimer

Nathan Guggenheimer knows a thing or two about what goes on in the Top Chef Canada kitchen. He is, after all, best friends with first season winner Dale Mackay and co-owns Grassroots Restaurant Group with the chef. Not only that, but Nathan has worked under the likes of Top Chef Canada: All-Stars guest judge Daniel Boulud, which means he should be up-to-speed on what it takes to win the title.

While Nathan is plenty busy as executive chef at the Saskatoon hot spot Sticks and Stones, he still takes time to eat out in the city’s thriving dining scene. Here are his picks on all the best eats Saskatoon has to offer.

Related: Read Nathan Guggenheimer’s full bio here.

Odd Couple

Cantonese, Vietnamese and Japanese cuisines are present on the Canadian menu of this family-owned and operated restaurant, making eating at this spot a truly unique experience. From bacon and eggs on barbecued pork rice to curried tomato pad Thai, there’s something for everyone here.

“[There is] great service and owners, [and the] best spring roll in the city,” says Nathan. “[I’m] never disappointed in the quality. I used to frequent there for lunch with my ex and her son, so there’s a lot of nostalgia.”

Una Pizza + Wine

“Una Pizza is delish and I love the wine selection,” Nathan raves about this friendly neighbourhood pizzaria featuring thin crust pizzas with Mediterranean inspired flavours. The spot was conceptualized following several trips to San Francisco, where California pizzas are practically a staple. Meanwhile, the wine selection features an array of small batch producers, guaranteeing a unique experience with every visit.

Little Grouse on the Prairie

This quaint spot is one of three restaurants opened under Nathan and Dale Mackay’s Grassroots Restaurant Group, and it features a sustainable and diverse menu of Italian-inspired favourites that are perfect for get-togethers and date nights alike. It also happens to be where Nathan’s Top Chef Canada competitor Jesse Zuber serves as executive chef.

“[I] love to sit at the pasta bar and by the time my coat is off there is a glass of wine at my seat,” Nathan said. “Jesse asks what I’m in the mood for and my meal begins.”

Let us fix you up some fresh pasta this week!

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Ayden Kitchen and Bar

Another one of Grassroots’ signature restaurants, this spot is where Nathan invokes his inner butcher background for hearty, meaty meals. The rich eatery is all about comforting classics and homegrown favourites. Sample some hand-crafted cocktails at the bar, or sit down for some locally sourced favourites any night of the week.

“[This is my] favourite spot to go on my day off and crush a charcuterie, tartar, wings, and a burger cooked rare,” Nathan says. “Then [I] feel sick from eating too much meat and go straight home to bed.”

It’s Friday! Come grab a charcuterie board!

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Keo’s Kitchen

Feasting on the traditional Thai dishes at Keo’s is akin to travelling all the way to Thailand. The menu features updated Thai classics to warm you up from the inside out, like dancing prawns, pad Thai and red curry.

“I can eat their tom ka kai soup with sticky rice and a lao sausage every day,” admits Nathan.

Read Chef Jesse Zuber’s Top 5 Eats in Saskatoon

Get Chef Nicole Gomes’s Top 10 Eats in Calgary

Best Places to Eat in Montreal: Top Chef Canada’s JP Miron

JP Miron is certainly a larger-than-life presence in the kitchen, but part of that comes from his drive for excellence when it comes to putting out the perfect plate. The Montreal chef hails from an Italian background and has worked at some of the city’s top eateries, and is now the chef de cuisine at Bocata Restaurant.

Part of why JP is so intent on winning Top Chef Canada is to showcase his city in all its culinary glory—something he says is due. So when this chef dishes on his favourite Montreal restaurants, we’re all ears and hungry tastebuds.

Related: Read JP Miron’s full bio here.

Le Chien Fumant

The locally sourced cuisine is infused with a variety of worldly flavours on the ever-evolving menu at this establishment. Chef Maksim Morin is known for incorporating multiple textures into each dish, giving diners an elevated sensory experience.

“[It’s the] best for late night food,” says JP. “Go in for the donairs and make sure you’re hungry enough for a rib steak.”

Le Bremner

Executive chef Chuck Hughes and chef du cuisine Danny Smiles (of Top Chef Canada season three fame) have transported the dinner service at this Old Montreal restaurant to an intimate eating experience for special occasions and great meals alike.

“[It’s] good for a date night. Make sure to get the lamb heart with remoulade,” JP says.

Cavatelli • Lamb neck • Pecorino Romano • Mint •

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Foiegwa/Atwater Cocktail Club

The best part about eating at this self-described “Americanized French diner”—aside from the classic dishes of garlic snails, onion soup or entrecote frites—is that it’s a part of a club. That means lots of delicious late night eats and interesting cocktails also grace the menu.

“[They serve] food until 2 a.m., the owners are my business partners. They serve a simple take on bistro/diner food. And after having a great burger or some frog legs you cross over to Atwater Cocktail Club and get the best drinks in town,” JP promises.

Fiorellino Snack Bar

There’s pizza, and then there are the handcrafted pizza pies from this casual ristorante and snack bar that feature fresh, Italian ingredients and flavours. Whether you’re in the mood for a bianco or rosso style ‘za, this spot has you covered.

“It’s probably one of the best pizzas in town; I used to work with the head chef back in the day,” JP says. “You go for the pizza, any, they’re all good. Make sure to order some octopus and gnocchi as well.”

You wanna pizza me?????????| ????: @tayund #fiorellinomtl #delagauchetiere #pizzaislove

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Joe Beef

Steaks and seafood are the norm at this Old Montreal restaurant. The name is an homage to Charles “Joe-Beef” McKiernan, the 19th-century Irish innkeeper and working-class hero. But, since its opening, the spot has earned its own reputation—in 2016 it was ranked the 81st best restaurant in the world by 50 World’s Best Restaurants group.

“You get a bunch of friends and sit on the patio in the summer, then you ask them to make you a menu and take care of the wine,” JP says. “And that’s how you spend an amazing evening.”

A plate by @ostrica_boy , all the things .

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Get Chef Darren Rogers’s Top 5 Eats in Montreal

Find out Ross Larkin’s Top 5 Eats in St. John’s, Newfoundland

Best Places to Eat in Toronto: Top Chef Canada’s Matt Sullivan

Matt Sullivan has spent nearly a decade-and-a-half in the kitchen, working everywhere from a Michelin-starred restaurant to his current role as the corporate chef of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. While some may say that working a corporate job has made Matt lose touch in the kitchen, that statement just makes him all the more determined to win this year’s title of Top Chef Canada.

Matt’s interest in elevating the food programs under his current title has made him pay closer attention to the modern and versatile menus out there. So when he’s not hustling in the kitchen, here are the hotspots where this chef loves to enjoy someone else’s cooking.

Related: Read Matt Sullivan’s full bio here.

Foxley Bistro

This decade-old establishment is so successful it doesn’t even need a website. Featuring a cozy dining room and a slew of small plates inspired by Asian and Pan-Latin cuisines, Foxley and chef Tom Thai are considered Toronto culinary masters.

“It’s a staple in Toronto. It has been for 10-plus years and it (hopefully) will be for a long time [to come],” says Sullivan. “Get the beef cheek and sea bream ceviche. The servers have all been there forever and are the best in the city.”

Grey Gardens

Jenn Agg’s eclectic eatery features North American cuisine, a topnotch wine bar, an open kitchen and a secret sake service to boot. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the creative team has a pretty impressive resume too; chef Mitchell Bates (who co-owns with Agg) previously worked at Momofuku Ko and Shoto, which means he has the goods to back this menu up.

“[It’s] maybe the best food I had in all of 2017,” Matt says. “Mitch Bates is a Jedi and Jen Agg’s service is always on point. It’s just an amazing overall restaurant that everyone who lives in Toronto or visits here should check out.”

Branzino, turnips, capers, fried leeks #kintsugi

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Bar Buca

It’s industrial meets classic in Chef Rob Gentile’s follow-up eatery to Buca. This spinoff features seasonal small plates, skewers, bites and handcrafted cocktails that make it a great spot for small gatherings and celebrations. With an open kitchen, a beautiful dining room and a gorgeous patio, this is another hit with Torontonians and tourists alike.

“I have been so many times and never get tired of the food and service there,” Matt says. “The last time I was by myself, I spent two hours there and ate nine dishes!”

Superpoint

Locals have long enjoyed the house-made pasta and pizza from this favourite haunt, which features takeout or dine-in options and plenty of other Italian favourites like arancini, burrata and grilled seafood.

“Everything on the menu is awesome there — Johnny Poon is my favourite chef in the city; I can eat his food all day,” Matt says. “They also have a great wine menu and cocktails.”

Perfect day for a slice ???????????? #dinein #takeout #delivery #superpoint #onpoint

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Bar Raval

There are no reservations at this fun spot, where intimate hangouts and shared experiences are pretty much required. With an ever-changing menu and special, handcrafted cocktails, the space is further elevated by a carefully curated soundtrack.

“[It’s] such a fun spot to eat at with a group of friends. The service is super professional and friendly and the food is stupid good,” Matt says.

Get Chef Elia Herrera’s Top 5 Toronto Eats

See Chef Ivana Raca’s Top 5 Toronto Eats

Read about Chef Dustin Gallagher’s Top 10 Toronto Eats

Best Places to Eat in St. John’s: Top Chef Canada’s Ross Larkin

Ross Larkin didn’t go to culinary school like some of his competitors, but he did begin his career as a potato peeler at his family’s fish and chips shop. Then he spent some time in professional kitchens where he developed a taste for the quick pace of the culinary world. Now he wants to prove he’s got the chops to be Canada’s Top Chef.

As the chef de cuisine at St. John’s Raymonds, Ross knows how to take locally sourced ingredients and create an unforgettable dish. So naturally, he’s also impressed when other chefs demonstrate that same talent. When this hard-working chef has a night off, here’s where he loves to eat.

Related: Read Ross Larkin’s full bio here.

Seto Kitchen + Bar

Ross is particularly fond of this eatery that features contemporary Canadian dishes inspired by traditional Asian culinary techniques. In addition to featuring delicious cocktails and bites, the spot is also open late–a bonus for all those out there in the food industry.

“I used to work with Kenny Pittman, the chef and owner of Seto; I love going there for some of the best cocktails in the city and food that you just want to eat more and more of,” Ross says. “Seto does a late night menu offering that is great for those of us in the industry. It gives us somewhere to go after a service, have a drink and [eat] some killer food. I highly recommend the French fries if they’re on the menu that day. Kenny does an Instagram post of that night’s late-night menu and if those fries are on it I’m there!”

Mallard Cottage

This 18th Century Irish-Newfoundland style cottage isn’t just a beautifully restored property that’s recognized as a National Historic Site of Canada, but it’s also one of the oldest wooden buildings in North America. Top Chef Canada All-Stars competitor Todd Perrin is a co-owner alongside his wife Kim Doyle and sommelier Stephen Lee, making this place a must for any and all food lovers.

“When you walk in there’s usually a local group sitting around a table playing music. It makes you feel like you’re walking into your friend’s house every time,” Ross says. “Just sitting at the bar talking to Steve Lee, seeing Todd Perrin in the kitchen and all the crew down there… They are always in good spirits it seems. It’s nice living in a place where almost everyone knows each other and you’re welcomed when you walk through the doors. You can just sit down, relax and enjoy.”

Moose chorizo, spicy molasses glaze on an @mallard_schteeeek

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Fixed Coffee and Baking

This is a coffee spot that takes its java seriously. The team here only brews up to six cups at a time made in a Feto coffee brewer, and they never brew blended coffee. The result? Pure, single-origin coffee that represents the region it’s from.

“Fixed is one of our local coffee shops and is a stop on my way to work every morning,” Ross says. “It’s a great neighbourhood coffee spot with some amazing baked goods. The crew is great, they’re always doing pop-ups in the evening as well, to offer a little something more for people.”

A cap a day keeps the doctor away

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The Grounds Cafe

If it isn’t from a local farm, it doesn’t make it onto the menu at this “farm-to-fork” establishment. While the café doesn’t do a dinner service, brunch and lunch are available every day until 3 p.m. After that, they offer fresh coffee and baked goods until close.

“The Grounds Cafe is located at one of the farms we deal with at the restaurant,” Ross says. “It’s great to see a small cafe that has all of the amazing products from the farm right at their fingertips.”

Partridgeberry Flakie #thegroundscafe #passionflakie

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Merchant Tavern

This upscale restaurant boasts lots of fresh, local and sustainable ingredients, which in St John’s means plenty of fish and seafood. In fact, everything on the menu comes from and is inspired by local purveyors.

“Merchant Tavern has some great wines and a vast selection of different beers to match some exceptionally fresh seafood,” Ross raves.

Read more about Mallard Cottage

See Chef JP Miron’s Top 5 Eats in Montreal

See Chef Matt Sullivan’s Top 5 Eats in Toronto

The Cream Egg Brownie You Absolutely Need to Try

Who says cream eggs have to be round? Cake and Loaf Bakery has taken everyone’s favourite Easter treat and made it even better.

Inspired by Cadbury Creme Eggs, these Cream Egg Brownies are topped with a heavenly milk chocolate ganache, golden and white chocolate cream layered on top of a deep fudge brownie. In case your sweet tooth isn’t satisfied, there’s also a Cadbury Mini Creme Egg nestled inside the chewy brownie base.

It’s no wonder these beautiful bars have created a cream egg frenzy. The sweet squares have garnered a buzz around Hamilton, Ont., causing the bakery to quadruple production to meet the demand for their trendy treat.

Cream Egg Brownies

These tasty creations are the brainchild of bakery owners Josie Rudderham and Nicole Miller, who started Cake and Loaf Bakery in 2011 . You may remember Josie  from her winning appearance on Season 2 of  Donut Showdown, where she impressed us with her sweet skills.

The pastry pair pride themselves on sourcing ingredients locally and baking their creations from scratch. If you’re in the Hamilton area, you can try this deliciously creamy layered dessert yourself. While you’re there, you can also enjoy their handcrafted Cream Eggs made with fair trade organic chocolate.

Cream Egg Brownies

Unfortunately, the recipe for their Cream Egg Brownies is top secret, but you can make their Donut Showdown winning doughnuts at home.

Get the recipe for Sriracha Peanut Butter Crunch Donuts.

Anna Olson’s Dainty Easter Egg Chocolate Covered Strawberries

This easy and unique dessert is an exciting take on chocolate covered strawberries and dazzles on your spring sweets table.  Anna shows us how to give the time-honoured treat an Easter spin for a play on chocolate eggs that’s fresher, juicier, and prettier, too. It’s the chocolate and strawberry combo we all know and love, presented in a brand new way. There’s not a tastier way to enjoy fruit this Easter.

 

Make Your White Chocolate Eggshell

Whole strawberries with their stems cut off are dipped in melted white chocolate, taking on the appearance of an eggshell and acting as a blank canvas for your Easter egg designs. If you like brown eggs, this would be a great place to melt down some unwrapped chocolate eggs to coat the strawberries in place of, or in addition to, the white chocolate. For ease of dipping, choose firmer strawberries, not overly ripe ones that may bleed or cause the chocolate to split.

Decorating Eggs with Royal Icing

Anna uses royal icing to decorate the white chocolate dipped strawberries. This is simply a mixture of water, icing sugar and meringue powder, and you can get Anna’s royal icing recipe here. The royal icing is neutral base can be tinted in any colour you wish; in this case, it’s delicate springtime pastels. To pipe, Anna uses a parchment cone, which is easy to make – she demonstrates the technique in this quick video.

Add Some Sparkle

The royal icing also acts like glue when soft for a shower of decorator’s sugar (more colour!). This adds texture and vibrancy to really make the chocolate dipped strawberry eggs pop. Head to your local bulk food store and see the Easter-inspired sparkles and sprinkles they have available.

Do-Over Your Design

Anna notes that if you’re not happy with your design, just wipe it off before the royal icing sets. You don’t even need to re-dip the strawberries. As long as the white chocolate is firm, you can remove any unsightly icing squiggles in a pinch.

Have an Egg Decorating Party

For an interactive Easter activity, dip a few pints of strawberries far enough ahead of time so that the white chocolate can set, about 4 hours at room temperature or about 30 minutes if you put them in the refrigerator. Then, lay out sprinkles, tinted royal icing and any other edible decorations at the table for kids to embellish their own eggs.

Double the Chocolate

Easter wouldn’t be the same without mountains of chocolate. So, if you’d like even more chocolate on your white chocolate dipped strawberry eggs, decorate with a contrasting dark chocolate or coloured white chocolate instead of royal icing. This imaginative recipe is versatile and adaptable to your favourite sweet drizzles.

Keep the chocolate and berries theme going this Easter with Anna Olson’s Chocolate Raspberry Mousse Torte, decorating the top with these chocolate dipped strawberry eggs for a real showstopper.

The Best Ham Recipes and Tips for Your Easter Table

With Easter coming up, we’re talking to Food Network Canada Chef School’s Michael Smith, Mark McEwan  and Roger Mooking to help us master the baked holiday ham, a favourite roast this time of year. Your top ham questions for Easter and beyond are answered right here, by the pros. Along with what ham is best, how to cook ham and great tips for keeping your ham moist during roasting, the chefs deliver great ham glaze recipes for the trademark sticky-sweet crackling crust guests can’t get enough of. Intensely savoury, a little sweet and always crowd-pleasing, your Easter ham will be better than ever this year, thanks to the pros.

Best Ham to Buy

For the chefs, it’s all about the best quality, bone-in ham you can find – Easter ham is a once-a-year luxury, but can stretch beyond a single meal. Go big, and be rewarded with incredibly versatile leftovers – ham sandwiches, ham macaroni and cheese, ham omelettes, ham biscuits and more, next-day ham is a recipe-improving boon (we have a handful of leftover ham recipe ideas at the bottom of this article).

Michael Smith offers his advice on the traditional Easter ham, including what to look for when you’re purchasing it, saying, “I only cook one ham a year and that’s right around Easter. The best ham is bone-in, from a trusted source. You want something natural, naturally smoked. Not too many words that you can’t pronounce on the label.”

“To me, the best is buying a smoked, bone-in ham,” says Roger. “If you can go to a really good butcher, they can guarantee that they’re giving you [a good quality] Berkshire Ham or a Red Wattle Ham.” Red Wattle and Berkshire are heritage breeds of pork known for having the best quality meat.

How to Cook a Ham and Best Ham Glaze Recipes

Unlike other holiday meats, the beauty of a smoked ham is that it’s already cooked through. Cooks just have to heat, glaze and slice.

Roger keeps his ham moist and tender by covering it in the first half of cooking and mopping the glaze over the ham to finish. This helps to avoid both dry meat and a burnt crust. “As long as it’s covered you’ll have a nice steamy environment, and then towards the end, you [uncover it] and glaze,” he says.

Mark doesn’t typically add a liquid to the roasting pan when preparing his ham but that’s not to say you shouldn’t if you’re worried about keeping it moist.

“You could throw a tiny bit of stock in the bottom of the pan. A little bit of moisture with ham is not a bad thing at all. It helps to temper the cooking process and keep the ham moist. And you do want a moist ham.”

Mark also cautions against glazing the ham too early, as it can become too dark, or even burnt.

For a great ham glaze, the chefs love the interplay of sweetness with acid which complements a salty, smoky pork. The sweet component of a ham glaze can come from maple syrup, honey, fruit preserves, brown sugar, fruit puree or a mix of these. The acidic element can come from apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, rice wine vinegar, or citrus.  A warm savoury note is welcome, too; some chefs like to add a bit of mustard or a strong spice like allspice to the mix.

You’re after the consistency of loose preserves or maple syrup for a glaze, something viscous enough that it will stick to the ham as you mop it on and baste.

Mark McEwan favours an “old school, old-fashioned bone-in a ham out of the oven, beautifully glazed.  For his glaze, Mark juices clementines and adds it to maple syrup. “I like clementines because they have a really rich colour and there’s a bit of pulp in it.” He rounds out the glaze with a bit of brown sugar and cider vinegar. And on the McEwan table,  ham is served with a good mustard; it’s “oh my goodness” delicious.

You can get Mark’s recipe for his Easter Ham Glaze with Maple and Clementine Juice here.

For Rogers’ glaze, he pairs his naturally smoked ham with honey, grapefruit juice, allspice, five-spice, a touch of strained tomato puree, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper, all stirred together until it reaches the consistency of maple syrup.

You can get Roger’s recipe for his Spiced Grapefruit and Honey-Glazed Ham glaze here.

Lynn Crawford has two delicious glazed ham recipes to serve at your holiday table: Pumpkin, Apple Cider, Maple Syrup and Mustard-Glazed Ham and a Traditional Maple-Glazed Ham with Cloves.

For a glazed ham recipe that gives you flexibility to create your own mix of flavours, try Michael Smith’s Sunday Ham with Apple and Rosemary Mustard Sauce. 

Easter Side Dishes for Ham

The perfect pairing for that beautifully glazed Easter ham is scalloped potatoes.   Try Tyler Florence’s Ultimate Potato Gratin recipe or pick your new favourite recipe from our 24 Seriously Delicious Scalloped Potato Recipes collection.

Our Favourite Recipes for Leftover Ham

Repurpose your holiday Easter ham myriad ways with these leftover ham recipes. It’s worth making extra just for them.

And for more leftover inspiration, here’s our collection of Best Easter Leftovers recipes.  

No-Bake Chocolate Crunch Brownies That Taste Indulgent (But Are Actually Good For You)

This seemingly decadent treat truly has it all: a fudgy brownie, a crunchy rich chocolate topping, a good smack of nutty peanut butter, and they’re actually healthy! These no-bake vegan brownies are easy and quick to make, and it will probably take you just as little time to eat them. Yes, they’re a sweet treat, but they also boast some superfood ingredients to fuel your body with high-quality sources of both protein and fat. Not to mention, they taste absolutely incredible.

No-Bake Chocolate Crunch Brownies


Prep Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 12

Ingredients:

Filling
2 cups cooking dates, honey or medjool dates, pitted
2 cups walnuts
3/4 cup raw cacao or cocoa powder
Pinch of sea salt
2 Tbsp water, added gradually

Topping
100 g dark chocolate bar, roughly chopped
1/2 cup natural or organic peanut butter
1 cup puffed crispy rice cereal or puffed crispy quinoa
1 Tbsp coconut oil

Directions:

1. Choose your date of choice.  If you are opting for cooking dates or honey dates, soak them in warm water for about 10 minutes to rehydrate them, then discard the water.

2. Add the walnuts into the food processor and pulse using the “s” blade until a crumble forms. Then add the dates, cacao powder and sea salt, blending so that it forms into a “dough”.  Add 1 Tbsp of water at a time through the feeder hole as the food processor is running. You don’t want the “dough” to be too wet, but you do need enough water for it to adhere together.

3. Once the “dough” is sticky enough to form a ball, remove it from the food processor and place it in an 8 inch square pan that’s lined with parchment paper.  Use your fingers to press the dough into the pan so that it’s spread out and even, then immediately place it in the freezer.

4. While the brownies are chilling and hardening, start making the topping.  Melt the chocolate chips, coconut oil and peanut butter in a small pot over medium heat. Continue to stir with a silicone spatula until all is velvety and melted together.  Once smooth, fold in the crisp cereal of choice.

5. Remove the brownies from the freezer and pour the chocolate peanut butter crunchy topping over.  Use a spatula to get an even layer.

Craving more good-for-you dessert recipes? You’ll love these 20 Satisfying Sweet Treats That Feature Hidden Veggies.

Anna Olson’s Pretty Birds’ Nest Meringues Sing of Spring

Pastry chef Anna Olson adds her whimsical touch to make a springtime or Easter treat that, as she says, “sings of the season.” Meringue nests hold a creamy vanilla buttercream, sweet coconut “grass” and colourful candy eggs. Kids and adults alike will love this treat, and every baker can put their own spin on it. What’s more, this fanciful birds’ nest dessert is easier than it looks, and Anna shows you how to pull it off flawlessly with the following video – and have fun in the process.

 

To assemble these spring-themed meringue birds’ nests,  you’ll need Anna’s simple white Birds’ Nests meringue recipe here.

You can use your favourite buttercream frosting recipe for the filling or try Anna’s vanilla buttercream frosting recipe here.

Meringue 101

For the nests, Anna turns to a French meringue, a straightforward mix of egg whites and sugar. Unlike Swiss meringue, a French meringue doesn’t have you warm or cook the egg whites and sugar together before using; the whites are kept raw, becoming cooked upon baking in a low oven. Be careful not to over-whip your egg whites, but if you do Anna shares her easy fix in this quick video.

No Pastry Bag? No Problem

If you don’t have a pastry bag, prepare the nests as you would a mini pavlova, using a spoon to create rounds and indentations where your filling will sit. There’s no wrong way to go about creating your masterpiece.

This Trick Keeps the Colour Pure Pink

To retain the pink colour (or your preferred pastel shade) in your meringue, a low and slow bake will help to achieve this. Other desserts, like pavlova, where you want to keep the appearance fair,  can also follow this method, with or without food colouring.

Avoid Browning the Meringue

A low oven also helps to avoid browning for a more polished look, creating a crisp exterior and airy interior to boot. After baking, those delicate egg whites have turned into a sturdy base, ready to be filled.

Have Fun with the Filling

rich vanilla cupcake buttercream is the ultimate compliment to those light-as-air nests. You can play around with the flavour of the buttercream, use a thick vanilla bean custard, or using Anna’s recipe for lemon curd mixed with whipped cream for the filling. And, not only does the filling taste great, it acts as “glue” for the decorative toppings to come.


If you’d like a more straightforward interpretation of this springtime treat, try Anna Olson’s elegantly pared down recipe for her meringue birds’ nests here.

Decorating the Birds’ Nests

Anna keeps with the playful feel of the meringue nests, creating green “grass” from shredded coconut and green food colouring. She uses liquid food colouring, not paste, which coats every strand of coconut more evenly to create a bagful of blades ready to decorate with.

Every Nest Needs Eggs

Egg shaped candies are the final touch. Alternatively, small foil-wrapped chocolate eggs will work as well, just be sure to unwrap them before eating. Or, if it’s already sweet enough for you at this point, consider topping your nests with blueberries (like robin’s eggs), raspberries or red currants.

We can’t think of a more fun, family-friendly way to serve up something sweet, special and just a little different this Easter.

After the chocolate egg hunt, serve up a scrumptious Easter Brunch with the help of these morning-making recipes.