All posts by Devon Scoble

Devon Scoble is a Toronto writer and food lover who specializes in approachable home cooking. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @devonscoble.
Eggs benny with peameal bacon

The History of Peameal Bacon — Plus Our Favourite Recipes

Canadians know peameal bacon as an iconic national breakfast food, but the back bacon’s backstory is even richer than its flavour. For those who don’t know, peameal bacon is wet-cured pork loin from the back of the hog that has been trimmed of fat and rolled in cornmeal, creating a yellow crust.  Originally, it was rolled in crushed yellow peas, hence the name peameal. It is much leaner than regular bacon.

White plate with three pieces of peameal bacon

Peameal bacon holds a spot in 1001 Foods You Must Taste Before You Die and it’s easy to understand why. The brining process makes it nearly impossible to overcook and it’s both leaner and juicer than regular bacon. A uniquely Canadian product, it’s often confused with Canadian bacon. What is Canadian bacon? A smoked back bacon that’s popular in the US — and isn’t Canadian at all.

These days, it’s hard to find peameal bacon outside of Canada, making it a favourite with tourists at Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market. The Carousel Bakery, which has occupied the same spot in the market since 1977, is a city landmark famous for its fresh peameal bacon sandwiches.

Related: The History of Cakes: From Red Velvet to German Chocolate

Robert Biancolin, who co-owns the bakery with his brother, dubs peameal bacon Toronto’s most original food. “It wasn’t brought here from somewhere else,” he says. “It is very uniquely Torontonian. Of course, like poutine was uniquely Quebecois, it spread across the country. It is one of those dishes that encompasses being Canadian. It is part of our tradition.”

Unlike Canadian bacon (which is, let’s not forget, American) peameal bacon must be cooked. Biancolin says the best way to prepare it is by griddling, although it can also be baked, barbecued or roasted.

Related: How to Make French Toast and Other Easy Big Breakfast Recipes

Peameal bacon is delicious, iconic and Canadian, but culinary historians have struggled to identify its origins with absolute certainty. “I don’t think that you’ll find a single origin story,” says Daniel Bender, director of Culinaria Research Centre and University of Toronto history professor. “There are and have been for centuries many ways of curing pork — ways of making it last through lean months. Smoking is one. Salting is another. Corning (curing through brine) exists in numerous locations and recipes.”

Toronto’s oral history offers a clue by naming pork baron William Davies the inventor of peameal bacon. This is the story that’s been passed down through muddy stockyards, told over deli counters and posted across the blogosphere — and while the well-told tale has likely changed over the years, that doesn’t mean it’s hogwash. What we do know is that William Davies forged an empire on bacon and other pork products.

William Davies stall, St. Lawrence Market, 1911

William Davies’ stall in the St. Lawrence Market, 1911.
City of Toronto Archives

By the early 1900s, with the help of business partner Joseph Flavelle, Davies had built what was believed to be the largest pork plant in the British Empire, processing nearly half a million hogs a year at his Front Street plant near the mouth of the Don River and earning Toronto its nickname: Hogtown.

Davies couldn’t have had better timing. By the Victorian era, bacon was considered a necessity and demand for the Canadian export was high. Canadian cured pork continued to be an important food product in Britain well into the Second World War, when the Bacon Agreement stipulated that the UK would accept no less than 5.6 million pounds of Canadian ham and bacon each week.

William Davies Store, interior, 1908

William Davies store interior, 1908. Sources differ on the store’s location, which was either in City Hall Square or on Queen Street West, between Bay and Yonge streets.

Changing dietary attitudes and demographics mean that Canadian pork isn’t as popular with Brits — or Canadians — as it once was. Still, Davies’ legacy lives on. His company would eventually become today’s Maple Leaf Foods, which still produces peameal bacon for national consumption.

Meanwhile, the St. Lawrence Market remains a hub for cured meats and other delicacies. Locals, tourists and celebrities continue to flock to the market,  going hog wild for Toronto’s most original food.

Peameal eggs benny

Feeling inspired? Here are some of our favourite recipes that use peameal bacon: Anna Olson’s Eggs Benedict With Peameal Bacon on Scallion Waffles and Tomato Cream, Great Canadian Breakfast Sandwich and Maple Bourbon Peameal Bacon Sliders.

Published March 29, 2016, Updated December 20, 2020

Photos courtesy of Getty Images and City of Toronto Archives

the-perfect-caesar

The Boozy History of the Caesar Cocktail

Spiking a vodka and tomato juice with clam essence is cocktail bliss for Caesar-swilling Canucks, but the combination in this oh-so-Canadian cocktail wasn’t always so obvious. In fact, according to Alberta researchers, it took months for Calgary bartender and Caesar inventor Walter Chell to hit the perfect proportions.

the perfect caesar

A mixologist at the Calgary Inn before mixologist was a title, Chell was tasked with creating a cocktail to celebrate the 1969 opening of the inn’s new restaurant, Marco’s Italian. Inspired by his favourite Italian dish, spaghetti vongole, Chell set out to create a cocktail that would capture the pasta’s hearty clam and tomato flavours.

Eventually he came up with the recipe Canadians have come to love: vodka mixed with clam-infused tomato juice, lime, hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce, with a delicious celery salt rim.

If we’re being honest (and after a few Caesars, who can lie?), the thought of a clam-based cocktail is a little strange — even for those of us who know how good it is. But surprisingly, Walter Chell wasn’t the first to come up with the concept. As Michael Platt notes in an article for the Calgary Sun, a 1900 copy of Modern American Drinks contains a recipe for a clam juice cocktail, as does a 1951 Betty Crocker cookbook. “So then what did Calgary’s beloved father of the Caesar really do?” asks Platt. “That’s like asking what Henry Ford did for the motor car or The Beatles did for music.”

Simply put, Chell perfected the recipe, taking it from clammy outlier to a red hot hit. Soon after, Mott’s beverage company released what is arguably the world’s best-known clam-infused tomato juice, Clamato.

Great Canadian Caesar Garnishes

Chell invented the Caesar, but widespread distribution of Clamato brought it to homes and bars across the country. According to an Ipsos-Reid poll commissioned by the company in 2009, the Caesar, or Bloody Caesar, is the most popular cocktail in Canada; Mott’s estimates that more than 350 million are consumed each year.

But beyond the occasional American article praising the “Canadian Bloody Mary,” Chell’s heady blend of sweet, salty, sour, spicy and bitter notes hasn’t gotten much love beyond our borders. Never mind — here, it’s not only a source of pride, but it’s a symbol of Canada’s changing demography and Canadians’ expanding palates.

Modern variations reflect international influences, substituting or enhancing British Worcestershire sauce with horseradish, wasabi, kimchi, chipotle, sriracha, teriyaki, tandoori, jerk spice, Dijon mustard or any number of multicultural flavours. A staple at Canada Day celebrations and weekend brunches, and a drink as red as our flag, the Caesar is a cocktail that can rightly claim that it came, it quenched, and it conquered Canada.

Craving a Caesar? Learn how to make these tasty Great Canadian Cocktail Garnishes.

Nanaimo bars

The History of Nanaimo Bars: A Beloved Treat

Located on the eastern shore of Vancouver Island, Nanaimo, B.C. is a verdant, broody kind of place; a typical Pacific coast town, washed out in foggy greys and steel ocean blues. But this misty city is also the namesake for what might just be the sunniest dessert square the world has ever produced: the Nanaimo bar, a soft layer of yellow custard sandwiched between rich chocolate ganache and a coconut-graham crust.

Nanaimo bar

Nanaimo bars’ history likely predates the first printed recipes.

The first known recipe for Nanaimo bars appeared in the 1952 Women’s Auxiliary of the Nanaimo Hospital Cookbook and was labelled “chocolate square.” One year later, a similar recipe was published in Vancouver’s Edith Adams’ Cookbook, this time going by the name “Nanaimo Bar.” These are the bar’s earliest known publications, but Nanaimo Museum interpretation curator Aimee Greenaway figures they’ve been around much longer.

Nanaimo bars in the 1953 Edith Adams cookbook

This display from the Nanaimo Museum features the Edith Adams’ Cookbook, the first to print the well-loved recipe under the name Nanaimo bar.
Nanaimo Museum

“What’s always interesting with Nanaimo bars is the folklore,” she says. “You could get any number of different answers from people in Nanaimo if you ask them about the history of the Nanaimo bar.”
Greenaway particularly likes the stories from Nanaimo’s coal mining era. “Nanaimo was founded on coal — that’s really what developed it into a settlement,” she says. “The story was that families were sending Nanaimo bars on sailing ships from England to Nanaimo. That was kind of interesting, but we haven’t been able to find anything to back that up.”

Chelsea Barr, destination marketing officer with Tourism Nanaimo has heard similar tales. “You get stories all the time from grandmothers saying, ‘That was something my mom used to make me and it was in the lunchboxes of all the miners going into the mines,’” she says.

It’s certainly easy to imagine miners carrying Nanaimo bars to work, transporting sparks of custardy sunshine in the darkness of the mines. But neither Nanaimo’s historical miners nor current residents have an exclusive relationship with the dessert; over the last century, similar sweets have popped up across North America, going by names like “New York slice,” “London fog bar” and “prayer bar.” Still, when it comes to branding, Nanaimo is the winner, bar none. “Of course, we know that Nanaimo Bars originated in Nanaimo, or they would be called New York Bars, or New Brunswick Bars,” boasts the City of Nanaimo website.

The city has been instrumental in promoting the dessert. In 1986, then-mayor Graeme Roberts launched a contest to find the ultimate Nanaimo bar recipe. In the years since, winner Joyce Hardcastle has enjoyed promoting the B.C. treat, appearing in numerous newspaper stories and even starring in a segment of Pitchin’ In with Lynn Crawford. “It’s kind of like being a celebrity, but for one item,” she says. The secret to her prize-winning recipe? “I wouldn’t say secret, because I say it all the time, but the trick is to use unsalted butter,” says Hardcastle. “It makes the bars a bit more mellow.”

Joyce Hardcastle and Nanaimo bars

Joyce Hardcastle pictured with her prize-winning Nanaimo bars,plus souvenir tea towels and mugs featuring her recipe, and a sampling from her collection of newspaper clippings.

Nanaimo bars are easy to make at home, but travellers with a sense of adventure (and a high-tolerance for sugar) can check out the Nanaimo Bar Trail, where sweet adaptations and variations abound. Tasting options include deep-fried Nanaimo bars and Nanaimo bar cupcakes, lattes, fudge and martinis.

For tired feet, sore from pounding the trail all day, Kiyo salon offers a Nanaimo-bar themed pedicure. “It is amazing,” says Barr. “Your feet will smell like chocolate for the entire day.”

Want to try Joyce Hardcastle’s ultimate Nanaimo bar? Get the winning recipe here!

Zane Caplansky’s Passover Traditions

Toronto restaurant owner and Food Network Canada judge Zane Caplansky conducts his Seder dinner just as his father did, and his grandfather, and his great-grandfather before him. “Jewish families have celebrated Passover this way all over the world, for thousands of years,” he says. “The word ‘Seder’ means order. It’s a very unifying tradition because whenever I am with my family or other people on Passover, I always reflect that families all over the world are sitting doing this exact same thing and have been doing it for thousands and thousands of years.”

For more than a hundred of those years, the Caplansky family has celebrated Passover in Toronto. Caplansky’s great-grandfather Benjamin emigrated from Poland in 1896, promptly changing his surname to Caplan. “I’ve never met the man, but I always imagined one of the reasons he might have changed the name was to try and fit in better,” says Caplansky. “At the time the idea among the immigrant class was ‘be Yiddish, look British.’”

Caplansky Family Passover, Toronto, 1932

“The couple directly in the centre, seated at the table are my great-grandparents Benjamin and Rose Caplansky,” says Zane Caplansky. “My Zaidy Jack Caplan is on the far left (hair parted). My Nana, (Thunderin’) Thelma Goodman is in the centre, back row (the tallest woman with the bow). “

Now Caplansky, who legally changed his name back to the original when he opened his restaurant, Caplansky’s Deli, embraces his roots. “In Toronto, we celebrate our diversity,” he says. “So, the idea of being different and being from somewhere else is part of my authenticity.”

Lucky for hungry Torontonians and tourists who can’t get enough of his celebrated smoked meats, Zane Caplansky is driven to share his culinary heritage.

Caplansky's Deli Seder

On Passover in particular, his family’s recipes are a focal point at the restaurant’s public Seders, when his bubbie’s brisket and other family favourites take centre stage. The same dishes are available through Caplansky’s Deli’s Passover catering service, or you can make them your own with this menu from Zane Caplansky.

Caplansky Matzo Ball Soup

Matzo Ball Soup
“My matzo ball recipe came from my other grandmother, my bubbie Doris,” says Zane. “So the matzo balls are as classic a dish as a person could possibly have at Passover. Matzo is unleavened bread. The story is that the Jews were in such a hurry to leave Egypt that somebody forgot to either bring the yeast, or didn’t have time to let the bread rise. To commemorate that, we eat unleavened bread. Matzo ball is a chicken soup, and has really come to symbolize Jewish food.”

Carrot Tzimmes
“There is a wonderful cook named Phyllis Grossman, who — twice — has won our Latkepalooza competition for Toronto’s best potato latke. Phyllis is a former advertising executive, turned caterer. She’s an absolutely brilliant cook. She actually had me over at her house for dinner not too long ago. She served me her version of carrot tzimmes that has pineapple in it. I told her I was going to rip that off and she said go right ahead. So I have to give Phyllis due credit on the pineapple.”

Caplansky Family Brisket

Caplansky Family Brisket
The brisket recipe was passed down to me by my grandmother, my mother’s mother, who I named my truck after, Thunderin’ Thelma.”

Chocolate Matzah Crunch
“The matzo crunch was the brainchild of the talented Elspeth Copeland. Elspeth is a friend and also a product developer at the restaurant. She came up with the chocolate matzo crackle, or crunch, and it’s a great garnish that we put on all our desserts, all year round at the deli.”

Ina Garten's Last-Minute Orange Easter Ham

Ina Garten’s Elegant Easter Menu

It’s tempting to believe that the best meals are the most complicated, but memorable dinners are more than a series of gourmet recipes — good food and good company work together to create good ambiance and good memories. So if you’re feeling pressured to craft a complicated dinner this Easter, don’t. With some help from Ina Garten, Easter will be an easy and elegant affair.

This menu focuses on ingredients you probably have in your fridge or pantry, while the rest can be found at most grocery stores.

Before you start, review the menu and recipes, check your supplies to see what you’ve already got on hand, and make a list of the items you don’t. Assuming you live within ten minutes of a grocery and liquor store, the entire process — from assessing to arriving back at home with the food — shouldn’t take more than an hour and a half.

Assemble the dishes in the order they’re presented here, and budget two hours for complete prep: cooking, setting the table, plus a 30-minute buffer so you can enjoy a breather before guests arrive. You’ve got this!

Ina Garten Cheese Board

Cheese Board

A selection of cheese, fruit and a sweet jam is an easy crowd-pleaser. Better yet, a good cheese board will stave off hanger in case guests arrive early or dinner needs more cooking time. This recipe calls for ham, but feel free to switch it up with salami, prosciutto or any other favourite deli meats. The key is variety: aim for a soft, creamy cheese like Brie or chèvre, a hard aged cheese like cheddar or Asiago, and a strong cheese, like your favourite blue. Add contrast with fresh fruit, honey and fig jam or red pepper jelly, and include a selection of crackers and bread. Cheeses will taste better if they’re set out 30 minutes to an hour before eating.

Ina Garten Champagne Cocktail

Champagne Cocktails

Champagne or sparkling white wine mixed with crème de cassis is a classic French aperitif known as Kir Royale. Ina Garten’s make-your-own champagne cocktail bar also includes framboise liqueur, brandy and fresh berries. Keep your crowd occupied by challenging them to see who can come up with the most delightful mix and the best cocktail name.

Ina Garten Orange Baked Ham

Orange Baked Ham

Ina Garten’s Orange Baked Ham is one of those miracle dishes that looks and tastes impressive, but only takes an hour to cook and very little time to prep. It can easily be scaled up or down, depending on the number of guests, and is a classic Easter main to boot. Pop it in the oven at 350ºF, ensuring there’s room in there for the next dish, the risotto.

Ina Garten's Easy Parmesan Risotto

Easy Parmesan “Risotto”

Risotto has gained a reputation for being labour-intensive, but Ina Garten’s recipe reduces stir-time down to three minutes, while preserving the dish’s classic creamy Parmesan flavour and melt-in-your-mouth texture. Pop this one in the oven about 20 minutes after the ham has gone in, and you’ll have five minutes to remove the ham before you start your three minutes of stirring.

Ina Garten Garlic Sauteed Spinach

Garlic Sautéed Spinach

Garlic sautéed spinach adds a dash of springtime colour to the menu, not to mention delicately earthy flavour. Prepare the spinach and garlic while your ham and risotto are cooking, then sauté in the final minutes before serving.

Ina Garten Limoncello and Biscotti Ice Cream

Limoncello and Ice Cream with Biscotti

Vanilla ice cream is a comforting, classic way to cap off a meal — serve with a crunchy biscotti on the side for kids and non-drinkers. For everyone else, a drizzle of Limoncello adds a delightful zing.

Looking for more delicious recipes? Check out Ina Garten’s 14 Best Easter Recipes.

The Brunch Capital of Canada Is…

You Gotta Eat Here! host John Catucci eats out — a lot. No really, A LOT. So when he told us that Victoria, B.C. is the official brunch capital of Canada, we listened (and drooled).

“People there are obsessed with brunch,” says John, noting that brunch spots in the garden city always have lineups, and that whenever the YGEH! crew visits a Victoria restaurant at brunchtime, it’s packed like a sweet-cheese blintz (which you can find at Victoria’s The Village).

Why are Victorians so hungry, particularly on weekend mornings? Maybe it’s all that fresh ocean air. But more likely, it’s the sheer variety of delicious eats that’s inspiring them to throw off the covers and queue for breakfast.

Jam Cafe

After all, if you could stuff your face with a tower of red velvet pancakes, or a heaping of brioche French toast topped with caramelized fruit, wouldn’t you? If you prefer savoury, how about a double stack of pancakes layered with pulled pork and topped with a maple BBQ glaze, jalapeño sour cream and pickled cabbage? All of these dishes and more are offered at Old Town’s Jam Café, which serves breakfast all day long.

Mo:Le

Speaking of all-day breakfasts, Mo:Le serves them too, offering an array of Tex-Mex and vegetarian fare, like poached eggs with tinga, eggs benny, red pepper polenta with eggs and fruit salsa, and huevos rancheros.

Shine Cafe

What if you knew that a Scottish breakfast of potato scones, black pudding, fried tomatoes and crispy rashers of bacon was just a quick stroll away? If you’re near one of Shine Café’s two locations, it is.

The Village Restaurant

And if we told you that red shakshuka, Montreal smoked meat-festooned bennys and a heaping platter of meat, fruit and roasted potatoes could all be yours with a quick trip to any of The Village Restaurant’s three Victoria locations, you’d go, right?

John Catucci is a funny guy, but Victoria’s brunch selection is serious business. And by the way, the meals pictured here are just the top of the flapjack stack. Be sure to check out our You Gotta Eat Here! Restaurant Locator for more details on Victoria’s best brunches.

Vegan Cashew Cheese

Making Vegan Cheese at Home is Easier Than You Think

You don’t have to be vegan to enjoy vegan cheese, but it helps if you crave a rich, creamy spread that’s easy to make and works in a variety of recipes and applications.

If that sounds delicious, well, it is. Just ask Toronto chef Doug McNish. The classically trained chef turned vegan, and author of Vegan Everyday, says that in addition to great flavour and texture, swapping dairy for nut or seed-based cheese carries significant health benefits, too, as they’ve got lower cholesterol and heart healthy fats.

Once-upon-a-grocery-store, waxy, highly processed iterations were giving vegan cheeses a bad name, but these days chefs are concocting ambitious non-dairy cheeses, aging and fermenting them into fanciful creations like vegan Bries and Camemberts, and even vegan blues. They’re delicious, but McNish doesn’t recommend replicating them at home — unless you have a science degree and a cheese cave. For most of us, a simple, spreadable soft cheese is a great starting point.

McNish’s cashew ricotta (see below) is a classic entry level recipe, made by soaking raw cashews until soft, then blending them with lemon juice, sea salt, red peppers, garlic and cheesy tasting, B12-packed nutritional yeast. The resulting spread tastes great on crackers or toast, and makes a hearty, filling lasagna ingredient.

Cashew Vegan Cheese

Experiment by adding herbs or roasted vegetables, or swapping pumpkin seeds for nuts (just be sure to add a glug of olive oil to make up for the lost fat when substituting seeds). Cashews are the easiest, creamiest nut to work with, but any high-fat, raw nut will do.

Doug McNish’s Herbed Cashew Ricotta Cheese 

Ingredients:
4 cups raw cashews, soaked for 30 minutes and divided
1 cup red pepper, roughly chopped
2 tsp dry dill
1/2 cup lemon juice, divided
4 peeled garlic cloves
1 Tbsp fine sea salt
3 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 cup water, divided

Directions: 
1. In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, process red pepper, dill, 1/4 cup lemon juice, garlic, salt, nutritional yeast and 1/4 cup water. Process mixture until smooth with no large pieces remaining. Add 2 cups of soaked cashews, and process again until smooth, stopping the machine as necessary to scrape down the sides of the bowl using a rubber spatula. Remove from the food processor and transfer to a mixing bowl.
2. In a blender, combine remaining cashews, lemon juice and water. Blend until smooth and creamy, stopping the machine as necessary to scrape down the sides. Combine the pureed cashews from the blender with the cashews from the food processor. Using a rubber spatula fold the two together until well combined. Refrigerate for 1 hour to allow the cashews to chill and slightly firm up. Serve immediately or store refrigerated for up to 7 days.

Tip: To soak the cashews for this recipe, place in a bowl and cover with 8 cups water. Cover and set aside for 30 minutes or overnight. If storing overnight, refrigerate. Drain, discarding soaking water.

Looking for more delicious recipes? Try these 25 Vegan Desserts Even Non-Vegans Will Love.

Chopped Canada Host Brad Smith

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Brad Smith

You may already know Brad Smith as a CFL star and a Bachelor, but the host of Chopped Canada is also a food lover who enjoys haute cuisine, fast food, and everything in between. We chatted with the Montreal native to talk about his palate – and his heart.

Chopped Canada Host Brad Smith

Here’s what we learned:

1. He wants to open a restaurant with Lynn Crawford
During a recent Facebook Live Q&A, Brad was asked which chef he’d love to team up with to open a restaurant. Brad says that hands down, he’d love to work with Chef Lynn Crawford and he’d name their restaurant Goofballs. “We’d specialize in rice balls or something like that!”

2. He loves Brunch in Toronto
Like many of us, Brad is a sucker for a good weekend brunch. He especially loves the indulgent offerings at Toronto restaurant Lisa Marie. “They do s’mores pancakes there,” he says, adding that Nutella is cooked inside the pancake and marshmallow fluff is toasted, and top with maple syrup. Brad recently appeared in an episode of Neighbourhood Eats and, of course, he stopped by Lisa Marie.

3. He loves cooking
Before he ever stepped foot on a Food Network Canada set, Brad was already a good cook. Still, working alongside Canada’s top chefs hasn’t hurt his kitchen skills. “It increased my ability to go from a pretty decent cook to actually being pretty proficient at it,” he says.

4. He puckers up before every meal
When Chopped Canada judge Susur Lee told contestants they all needed more acid in their dishes, the host listened. “My girlfriend will tell you this– she hates me for it—everywhere I go, no matter what I’m eating, I’ll always ask for a lime or lemon wedge just because Susur Lee said for everybody to add more acid. On everything! I learned that enough salt and enough acid makes anything good. So I literally squeeze lemon on everything.”

5. He’ll do anything for a good burger
After watching Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, Brad needed to try the American chain’s burgers. It took him 16 hours to drive to Maryland but it was worth it.

6. He loves cooking for his parents
Cue the awwws: If Brad could cook for anyone, ever, he’d choose his mom and dad. “I think I just get the biggest enjoyment from when I go home and cook for my parents,” he says. “They’re the ones who’ve appreciated it the most in my entire life. They always look forward to when I’m back and I’m going to make food.”

7. He shares his stomach with Eden Grinshpan . . .
“Eden eats everything,” says Brad of Toronto-born Chopped Canada judge Eden Grinshpan. “Eden would eat out of a garbage can. She’s like my food sister. We have the exact same food taste.”

8. . . And his heart with Lynn Crawford
“She’s the nicest woman ever,” says Brad of Chopped Canada judge Lynn Crawford. “She has the most beautiful heart you’ll ever meet. She treats every single person like they’re the most important person at that time to her.”

9. He loves haute cuisine, but he’s not a food snob
Get Brad talking about food and he’ll rave about his favourite gnocchi, Montreal’s amazing food scene, Susur Lee’s famous slaw and his favourite dish . . . a Big Mac from McDonald’s.

10. The weirdest thing he’s ever eaten was . . .
You’ll have to stay tuned to Chopped Canada for this one. “I can’t say it until the show comes out because it’s in one of the episodes,” he reveals. “Roger [Mooking] threw up and Mark McEwan said it was the most disgusting thing he’s ever put in his mouth. It tasted like . . . it was disgusting.”

Chopped Canada returns with brand new specials starting with Chopped Canada Junior on Sunday, October 16 at 8 E/P. See schedule information here.

Bobby Flay

The One Place Bobby Flay Won’t Open a Restaurant

Here in Canada, we can’t get enough of Food Network star and chef Bobby Flay, whether we’re slapping one of his signature BBQ recipes on the grill, or creeping his cat’s Instagram account (we see you @nachoflay). But when we asked Chef Flay if he plans to open a restaurant north of the border, the American star was unequivocal: No. Not here, not now, not ever.

Thankfully it’s not because he doesn’t love Canada. In fact, Chef Flay is especially fond of Toronto, where he recently collaborated with long-time friend and former Iron Chef competitor Susur Lee. The culinary duo cooked up a special dinner at Lee’s restaurant Frings; the menu featured chorizo crepinette with apricot mostarda and braised octopus, where several lucky locals, including Drake, were in attendance.

Susur Lee and Bobby FlayFlay talked up the Toronto food scene while explaining why he’s not in a hurry to open a Canadian outpost: “In a town like Toronto, where there’s such a great culinary culture, I believe that the people of Toronto should be supporting the local chefs, and they do,” he said. Then he tempered his answer with a downright Canadian-sounding dose of humility: “Without mentioning names, there have been countless American chefs that have tried this town and they haven’t done very well. So I don’t think I’m better than them.”

Not even his pal Susur Lee could convince him. “But you know, Chef Bobby, I’ll tell you — your flavours would really suit in this town,” said Chef Lee. “Your big flavours!”

Susur Lee and Bobby Flay in Toronto

Still, the answer was — and is — no.

“When I roll out of my bed in New York, I can walk into my restaurant and cook,” he explained. “Even though Toronto is only an hour away, you still have to go the airport and get on a plane — it’s a whole event.”

Bobby Flay loves flying in and wowing Canadian diners, or cooking for them when they visit one of his US restaurants, but he doesn’t want to be anybody’s American fling. Falling in love with a Bobby Flay restaurant is a long-term affair, and that’s just how he likes it.

“You have to get people to buy in for a long period of time, not just once or twice,” he said, noting that his famed Mesa Grill ran 20 years before closing, and that three of his current restaurants have been open for more than ten years. “That’s what it takes to have success in the restaurant industry. It’s not a get rich quick proposal.”

It might not be the answer we want, but it’s an honest one. So in the mean time, we’ll be saving up for a trip to Flay’s Gato in New York City, and consoling ourselves with these awesome Bobby Flay recipes.

Can’t get enough Bobby? His new show Brunch at Bobby’s premieres Saturday, September 10 at 10 a.m. E/P. See the schedule here

The Joy of Cooking for Strangers

If a friend called to offer you juicy leftovers from Cory Vitiello’s restaurant, Flock, you’d eat them, right? What if that “friend” was actually a mutual member of a Facebook group — and a stranger?

This is not a hypothetical question, but a real-life scenario that played out on Toronto’s swapping site, Bunz Trading Zone earlier this month:

bunz-meal-strangers

 

“Hungry buns!,” read the post. “We ordered FLOCK takeout for production night at work and can’t eat all this sumptuous hipster chicken. Come take these three juicy drumsticks (and fancy sauces) from us! ISO: a high-five, good joke, feeding a fellow bun in need…”

The Flock leftovers are just the latest in a slew of Bunz trades, edible and otherwise. Founder Emily Bitze started the sharing community when she was short a can of tomato sauce for her planned pasta dinner and created a group dedicated to swapping resources. The Bunz Trading Zone has one rule: no cash exchanges. Members, known as ‘buns,’ credit the community for saving money, preventing environmental waste (by finding use for items that would otherwise be discarded) and for building a community, one post at a time.

Leftovers are often offered in exchange for subway tokens and tall cans of beer, and while most completed trades are remembered only by their Facebook threads, at least one has turned into a regular cooking gig.

Meet Nadya Khoja and Sarah Lee. Khoja is a marketer by day, and Lee works for Via Rail. But on Saturday nights, the roommates open their home to strangers, who bring booze in exchange for gourmet, home-cooked meals and shared conversation. The friends’ home-based dinner service is called Chez Lisgar: prospective guests sign up for a spot on Lee and Khoja’s waiting list, and the pair vets guests online before accepting them. It’s a smooth operation now, but like many a Bunz trade, it started with leftovers.

“We had come home one night from working out and decided that we wanted a quick meal, with whatever leftovers we had, and we ended up having leftovers from that,” explains Lee. “And we were living in a really small apartment at the time, so we thought it would be fun to just see what would happen if we posted the food on Bunz.” So that’s what they did, asking prospective takers to bring alcohol in exchange.

“It ended up getting really popular overnight, and we decided to just run with it.”

Although guests now arrive through the Chez Lisgar website, and not solely through Bunz, the entrepreneurial, DIY and community spirit that defines the Facebook group still shines through.  Khoja and Lee will work around dietary restrictions, but they mainly base menus on what they feel like eating. In return, they ask guests to bring one bottle of red and one bottle of white wine. “People usually pick something they like themselves,” says Khoja. “You get a taste for their personality and choices,” adds Lee. It’s not always wine, either — one upcoming guest has offered to bring dessert instead, and the pair agreed.

 

French onion soup stuffed mushroom cups topped with Gruyere, a Chez Lisgar specialty.Image credit: Nadya Khoja and Sarah Lee

French onion soup stuffed mushroom cups topped with Gruyere, a Chez Lisgar specialty. Image credit: Nadya Khoja and Sarah Lee

Alyssa Bouranova is a graduate student living in Toronto. She visited Chez Lisgar with her boyfriend earlier this year, dining on a “delicious” meal of bourbon and maple-glazed pulled turkey, guacamole-stuffed onion rings and a green salad.

“It’s kind of a shot in the dark when you’re going with strangers, but it was wonderful,” says Bouranova. “They were very friendly.” The foursome got along so well that Bouranova and her boyfriend stayed past dinner to watch 90s music videos, and she stays in touch with the roommates on Facebook.

“The takeaway is that you don’t have to pay big bucks for gourmet food in Toronto,” says Bouranova. “It was a delicious and easy way to get a really nice meal in a way less pretentious and expensive environment [than a restaurant], and we got to meet cool people as well.”

Bouranova’s isn’t the ongoing friendship to be nurtured by a meal at Chez Lisgar. At a recent dinner, Khoja and Lee liked their guests so much they ended up attending a party together after the meal, and Khoja says she’ll likely be dog sitting for her new friends in the near future.

Like sushi burritos or ice-cream tacos, Chez Lisgar is a typically millennial mashup: at once an Internet-phenomenon, a cash-saver and a community-builder, as well as a constructive protest against a fraught economy that bears little love for young adults. “The fact is most of my friends are struggling finding work,” says Lee, “and a lot of them have had to turn to more unconventional ways of being able to pay bills and afford being a person in a big city. A lot of millennials have an entrepreneurial mindset.”

Chez Lisgar's cheesy garlic pull-apart bread. Image credit: Nadya Khoja and Sarah Lee

Chez Lisgar’s cheesy garlic pull-apart bread. Image credit: Nadya Khoja and Sarah Lee

Sharing a meal is arguable the oldest and most culturally widespread way of bringing people together, but platforms like Chez Lisgar, or similar service EatWith, are new.

With thousands of apps and internet platforms helping them share, connect and express, Lee and Khoja believe that trendy trades, like those happening via Bunz and in the so-called sharing economy, are here to stay. “Whether it’s a dinner or someone’s music or writing, I think millennials have come to realize that we can’t follow the conventional routes that our parents or teachers have taught us,” says Lee. “We take responsibility on ourselves, and we do it in the most unconventional ways, to consolidate the resources that we do have. We realize that we’ve reached the maximum of what we can consume and it’s time to share with the people around us.”

doughnuts

John Catucci Predicts What You Gotta Eat Next

Food trends come and go, but no matter what the masses are noshing and Instagramming, you can guarantee You Gotta Eat Here! host John Catucci will be right there with them. We talked to the food star and sampling savant to find out which treats you’ll be lining up for this summer.

Von-Doughnuts

Artisanal Doughnuts
Fancy doughnuts aren’t new, but they’re not going anywhere either, says John.  One doughy fried treat in particular has convinced him that we’re still at the peak of doughnut popularity. “We went to this place called Cartems in Vancouver, that just did incredible doughnuts like an Earl Grey doughnut,” he says. “That floored me. It was a cake doughnut, and they used bergamot in the cake batter and in the glaze as well. It’s like you’re eating a doughnut and having a tea on the side.”

Get the recipe for The Porky Monkey Doughnut from Von Doughnuts.

Fried Chicken

Fried Chicken
Just like doughnuts, John thinks fried chicken will continue sticking to your ribs and the popularity charts. He says 2016 is the year of fried chicken, in every form. “Bone in or out, in a sandwich, on a plate, with waffles, or just by itself. That’s always going to be there.” John particularly enjoys the fried chicken sandwiches at Toronto’s The Combine Eatery.

Get the recipe for Fried Chicken from Wallflower Modern Diner.

steak and kidney pie

Posh Nosh
If you’re already a pie and a pint kind of person, prepare to start jostling for elbow room at your British local. Elevated English pub fare will be the next cuisine to capture Canadian palates, says John, citing Toronto’s The Borough as a leader in fancy pub food. He cites their Yorkie Burger, a beef patty served between two Yorkshire puddings, as an example of what’s to come. “It has the flavours of a roast beef dinner that you like, but smashed in a burger,” he enthuses.

Get the recipe for Steak and Kidney Pie from The Dam Pub.

How to Pack a Cooler Like a Pro

People who claim that travelling is more about the journey than the destination have one thing in common: they’re not hangry. Enjoy your travels with fewer stops using these tips for packing the perfect road trip cooler — the one that helps you stave off snack attacks so you can enjoy a delicious trip.

Watermelon Lemonade

Tip: Freeze water bottles and juice boxes for drinks that double as ice packs.

Once the frozen drinks thaw a little, you’ll have refreshing treats worth their weight in cooling energy. For maximum savings and nutrition, pack reusable water bottles with your favourite smoothie recipe and freeze it the night before your trip.

Whether you pack store-bought drinks or make your own lemonade, juice or smoothies, be sure to leave a few unfrozen — ideally grouped to one side of the cooler — so your car crew can hydrate whenever they need.

Frozen treats can work as snacks, too. Toss your favourite frozen fruits into a container full of yogurt for a quick and refreshing dairy treat that will keep all day in the cooler.

Get the recipe for Watermelon Lemonade.

cooler

Tip: Pack frozen drinks and heavy freezer packs on the bottom, and toss a few light frozen gel packs on the top.

Pack your cooler like this: heavy stuff on the bottom, sturdily packaged items like jars and plastic containers in the middle, and anything that shouldn’t be squished or bruised (bread, sandwiches, fruits and veggies) on top. Toss a few light gel packs on top of it all, and maintain the cooler’s temperature by opening it as little as possible.

Foods that bruise easily fare best at the top, but more importantly, you’ll have the healthiest option at first reach whenever you search the cooler for a quick snack.

888_stacked-salad-nicoise

 Tip: Jarred salads are perfectly portable and make delicious travel meals.

You’ll likely want to pull over to enjoy your salads safely, but layered mason jar salads rival the flavours at any roadside fast food chain or gas station diner. Whatever you put in your jars, pack the dressing first, then add in order of weight, with the heaviest ingredients at the bottom: pasta or grains first, then proteins, then chopped veggies and lettuces or sprouts. Shake to mix when you’re ready to eat.

Get the recipe for Stacked Salad Niçoise.

anna-olson-granola-bars

Tip: Keep your cooler within reach during the drive.

As long as you’ve got a passenger capable of reaching in to dole out treats, you can fend off hanger without having to stop. If you’ve got little ones in the back with the cooler, and don’t trust them to keep it closed, consider putting them in charge of a secondary bag filled with non-perishables treats like granola bars, crackers, energy balls and sturdier, whole fruits like bananas and apples.

Get the recipe for Anna Olson’s Granola Bars.

Tip: Don’t forget utensils and napkins. 

Hand sanitizer, wet wipes or a wet washcloth packed in a plastic baggie will ensure clean hands before and after meals. Keep these items in or near the cooler and store utensils in a separate bag. If you’re including a knife or scissors in your kit, wrap them in a tea towel and secure with elastic bands to prevent unwanted pokings.

Looking for car snack ideas? Try one of our 18 Best Foods to Pack for a Road Trip.

Rob_Rossi

Rob Rossi’s Tips for Cooking with Cheap Cuts of Meat

Rob Rossi is a Food Network Canada favourite: he was the runner-up in the inaugural season of Top Chef Canada and he was a star chef on Chef in Your Ear. He’s also a celebrated Toronto restaurateur and meat savant, known across the city as the culinary brains behind Bestellen, a meat-centric restaurant where diners with the foresight to place an advance order can enjoy an entire roasted suckling pig, family style.

Despite all the attention, Rossi’s approach is actually quite simple; focusing on quality ingredients and time-tested techniques. Here he gives his advice for choosing inexpensive meats, as well as the cheap cuts home cooks can prepare without sacrificing flavour.

Think low and slow.
When in doubt, search for recipes that call for braising, stewing, or ‘low and slow’ cooking. “Any cut that can’t just be grilled or seared is usually pretty cheap,” says Rossi. “Tougher cuts are often the cheaper ones.”

Season, season and season some more.
I think a lot of the time people are really scared of salt and pepper,” says Rossi. “They’re really scared of fresh herbs, or they use them too sparsely.” But when cooking with cheaper cuts — which Rossi says are often more flavourful — seasoning can mean the difference between adequate and great.

Spend your meat savings on wine.
Quality is important when braising, a common technique for turning tough cuts tender. Use an excellent veal, beef or chicken stock, and avoid high-sodium boxed brands. Even the low-sodium versions are too salty, says Rossi. If you prefer to braise your meats with wine — a solid choice for darker meats like oxtail, venison and beef — Rossi suggests choosing one that’s good enough to drink. “It’s probably not a good opportunity to dump in some crappy wine,” he says, “because that taste is really going to stay there. You certainly don’t want to open up a $20 bottle, but I would say if you’re going to drink some of it, that’s a good measure there. Would you have a glass of it? Okay, that’s good enough.”

Ready to get cooking? Here are some cheaper cuts Chef Rossi loves to make:

Shinbones
Roasting the shinbone of a cow yields a decadent marrow, perfect for spreading on brioche toasts or potatoes. “There’s no real meat on the outside of them,” says Chef Rossi, “so that’s why they’re cost effective.  It’s just the marrow on the inside, which is basically just really rich and fatty.”

Roasted Bone Marrow

Try Rob Rossi’s Roasted Bone Marrow with Ox Tail, Parsley Salad and Toasted Brioche

Ground Meat
“Ground meat is definitely cheap, so you can always do meatballs or Bolognese sauce,” says Chef Rossi. “Even burgers — generally they’re not very expensive.”

Although Rossi says most Canadians are liable to pick beef, it’s not his top choice. “I like ground pork a lot,” he says. “I think that it doesn’t really get enough attention. I think as Canadians we’re usually fairly conservative when it comes to food, and ground beef is one of those things we always gravitate towards. But ground pork is awesome — it’s a little bit fattier and it has a lot more flavour.”

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Use ground pork (and ground beef and veal) in Rob Rossi’s Spaghetti & Meatballs and Olive Oil Ice Cream

Sausages
“Sausages are always cost effective,” says Rossi . “Again, it goes back to that ground meat.” Whether you enjoy them in their original shape, or disassemble them for the ground meat inside, they’re a relatively inexpensive way to add meaty flavour to many dishes.

Chorizo Sloppy Joe

Try Rob Rossi’s Chorizo Sloppy Joe with Manchego Cheese

Pork
“Pork’s an easy one,” says Chef Rossi. “Most pork cuts are very cheap: even the prime cuts, which would be pork chops, we know they’re cheap.” He suggests pork tenderloin if you’re cooking for a group. “Pork tenderloin is always really good for a family,” he says. “Super tender, super cheap and easy to find.”

Flatiron Steak
Despite their relatively low cost, flatiron steaks provide the same feeling as having a very good cut of meat, says Rossi. “You can cook it medium rare, you can slice it like a steak.” However, don’t expect to find them easily at a grocery store. “That is something you would definitely buy at a butcher shop,” he advises.

Whatever cuts you end up choosing, have fun with them! “Chefs always make mistakes, we always have failures, and it’s certainly not something you should be scared of or say, ‘Oh I tried that once and it didn’t work,’” says Chef Rossi. “You know, it’s just food. At the end of the day, you’ll get it, and it will turn out eventually the way you want it to.”

Heartwarming Mother’s Day Memories from our Stars

Our star chefs weren’t born ready to share delicious food with the world — they were raised that way, largely thanks to their loving mothers. Here, they share their favourite Mother’s Day memories.

Find out whose mom raised eight children, whose mom decorated cakes with ballerinas, and whose mom’s cooking was a cautionary example.

Noah Cappe's mom enjoying a birthday cake; Noah as a kid. Instagram, @noahcappe.

Noah Cappe’s mom enjoying a birthday cake; Noah as a kid. Instagram, @noahcappe.
Instagram, @noahcappe

“My mom raised EIGHT kids,” says Carnival Eats host Noah Cappe. “She dedicated a huge part of her life to making all of ours better, so Mother’s Day is super special for lots of reasons.” Now that Noah and his siblings are grown up, the dinner table is crowded — these days, it sits close to twenty people including all the spouses and grandchildren, says Noah. “But the moments during those nights, when there are five different conversations at once, and dishes are being passed around in fluid rotation from years of practice, and we couldn’t hear the doorbell if it rang, from the noise in the room — that’s when she’s the happiest, and those are my favourite memories of Mother’s Day.”

Josh Elkin, then and now. Childhood picture courtesy Instagram, @thejoshelkin.

Josh Elkin, then and now. Childhood picture courtesy Instagram, @thejoshelkin.
Instagram, @thejoshelkin

Cooks vs. Cons judge and Sugar Showdown host Josh Elkin never forgets to give his mom flowers and a sweet card for Mother’s Day, although he always forgets what he wrote on the card. “I give my mom the card, thinking that I wrote the most unique message, and she responds saying, ‘I love it Josh, you’re so sweet,’” he explains. “Little do I realize, year after year, I write the same thing on the card.” This year Josh plans to step it up with — what else? — a sugary treat. “I’ll be baking my mom some sweets, maybe even write some niceties on a cake using some icing. That way, it’ll for sure be unique.”

Susur Lee with his mom. Instagram, @susurlee.

Susur Lee with his mom. Instagram, @susurlee.
Instagram, @susurlee

Susur Lee credits his parents for working hard to provide for his family. “I wouldn’t be where I am or who I am without my mother and father,” says the Chopped Canada judge. “I know it sounds predictable, but because she was always working, she didn’t spend a lot of time in the kitchen. I was either eating her terrible food or going out for dim sum with my dad.” But all that time suffering through bad meals or eating delicious restaurant dinners inadvertently shaped the budding chef. “Together, without really knowing it, they shaped the way I would eat and interact with food for the rest of my life.”

Anna Olson then and now. Childhood photo courtesy Instagram, @chefannaolson.

Anna Olson then and now. Childhood photo courtesy Instagram, @chefannaolson.
Instagram, @chefannaolson

“My mom and I have a special bond around Mother’s Day,” says Bake with Anna Olson star Anna Olson. It’s not just that she loves her mom, but Anna’s birthday is around the same time as Mother’s Day, too. “We’ve always made a super girly thing of it,” she says. Anna and her mom exchange gifts like scarves and perfumes, and doll up each other’s desserts. “When I think of Mother’s Day, I think of birthday cake. As a kid, my Mom used to always top my cake or cupcakes with these plastic ballerinas that I thought were the most glamorous thing ever. Thanks, Mom!”

Need a cupcake to decorate, with ballerinas or anything else? Try Anna Olson’s Lemon Coconut Cupcakes.

Michael Smith, his wife Chazz, his kids Gabe, Camille and Ariella and a prime PEI lobster. Photos courtesy Instagram, @chefmichaelsmith, @thechazzsmith.

Michael Smith, his wife Chazz, his kids Gabe, Camille and Ariella and a prime PEI lobster. Photos courtesy Instagram, @chefmichaelsmith, @thechazzsmith.

Chopped Canada judge Michael Smith is a proud Prince Edward Islander, so it should come as no surprise that his Mother’s Day memories feature the island province’s famous lobsters. “On Prince Edward Island, Mother’s Day is traditionally celebrated with a giant feed of lobsters,” he says. “Our fishing season starts at the beginning of May, so lots of moms get their first taste of our famous lobsters on their special day. Even though they should have the day off, I suspect many moms willingly stay in the kitchen just to keep an eye on things!”

Farmer's Market Sign

Insider Tips on Scoring Deals at the Farmers’ Market

As asparagus, ramps and fiddleheads begin to sprout through freshly thawed soil, Canadians are eager to taste the first delicious harvest of the season.

Soon, farmers’ market season will be in full swing, so we caught up with market insiders Dina Rock and Kim Antonius for their insight on how to score at farmers’ markets this season.

farmers-market-sign

1. Think in season and within reason.

“First off, I know that when a lot of people go to the farmers market they might be thinking that they’ll find a deal because they’re cutting out the middleman,” says Fairmount Park Farm Market founder Kim Antonius. But she warns that isn’t necessarily the case. “Food isn’t always less expensive at the farmers’ market than it would be at your local grocery store,” she says. Grocery stores buy in massive quantities from distributors who import cash crops from warmer climates, and the local produce you buy at a farmers’ market may end up costing the same — or even a little more — than what you’ll find in big box stores. This year, however, Antonius speculates that the high American dollar may allow local markets to be more competitive.

Dina Rock, owner and chief pickling officer at Mighty Fine Brine, is also a regular farmers’ market vendor. She cautions shoppers against the temptation to bargain with farmers and artisans. “People who work in the local food movement in Canada do it mostly out of a passion for our community, our growing season and our environment,” she says. “We live in a place where we’re subject to the elements and limited in the amount that can be produced. So our incomes are already tremendously challenged. You would never walk into a Starbucks and say, ‘Can I get a discount on that latte?’ So to say, ‘I know you toiled on your farms and were up since 5 a.m. harvesting these beautiful pears…but can I get a discount on them?’ That’s frustrating. This is how people make their living — don’t try to discount that.”

fairmount-park-farmers-market

2. Fresh is best but good things can come to those who wait.

Still, there are opportunities to score at the market, particularly if freshness and nutrition are priorities. “The fresher the produce, the higher the nutrients it has,” says Antonius .“So when you’re buying something that was picked that morning, or the night prior, it has more nutrients in it than something that has been shipped from California…the other thing is that it’s so fresh, it lasts longer.”

Of course fresh, local, seasonal fruits and veggies is what the market is all about, but consider waiting week or two into the season before scooping up the latest crop. “Ramps are finally available,” notes Rock. “They’re going to be at their most expensive because they’re available right now… Wait a week or two, so that that fever pitch has died down a little bit.”

Fresh Strawberries Market

3. Get friendly with your farmers and vendors.

Rock will dole out deals from time to time — when customers buy a lot at once, she’s liable to toss in an extra goodie. But like all good things in life, the best deals are earned. “For me it comes down to building relationships,” she says. If Rock has brought something special to the market or is in the mood to trade, her regular customers — the ones who take the time to get to know her and her business — will hear about it first.

As you get to know farmers and vendors, Antonius suggests asking them to add you to any email lists they might have going. That way you’ll be the first to know about bumpers and seconds, the rare crops that farmers might sell at discount.

“One of my favourite bumper crops are fava beans,” says Antonius. “They’re amazing when they come, but they don’t last very long. If you learn how to preserve or freeze them, then you can buy larger quantities of them for less and have them when they’re out of season, too.”

Preserving is also a great way to deal with seconds; slightly damaged or ugly produce. Most farmers don’t bother bringing their seconds to market, but are often happy to part with imperfect produce at a lower rate if they know you’ll be there to buy it.

At the end of the day, even shoppers who prefer their transactions swift and silent will benefit from choosing from the farmers’ market. “Your dollars are investing in Canada’s farmland,” says Antonius. “It’s really exciting to think of yourself as a purchaser, but also an investor.”

Canada’s Multicultural Food City Is…

With its soaring mountains and beautiful ocean views, Vancouver boasts an enviable landscape, but for You Gotta Eat Here! host John Catucci, big mountains are a small part of Vancouver’s appeal.

“Sure, Vancouver’s a beautiful city, but you can’t eat scenery!” he says. “Lucky for me, it’s also one of the country’s most exciting food cities. Vancouverites can enjoy food from all over the world without having to leave the Lower Mainland. When you’re this good looking, the whole world comes to you.”

Here, in no particular order, are some of the Vancouver eateries that inspired him to name Vancouver his favourite Canadian city for multicultural dining.

IMG_3459---Calabash_Jerk-Poutine

Calabash Bistro (Caribbean)
Fusion treats like the calabash poutine — jerk-dusted fries topped with melted Brie and jerk chicken — are washed down with delicious rum drinks at this laid-back Caribbean bistro. Visit late at night to enjoy your Caribbean meal with a side of live entertainment; Calabash hosts live reggae, hip hop, funk and poetry five nights a week.

IMG_1014---The-Reef---Island-Thyme-Chicken-SIG

The Reef (Caribbean)
Trini Roti, Domenica Beef, and Maracas Bay Mahi showcase the Caribbean’s diversity of flavours. Can’t get to The Reef? We’ve got their recipe for Island Thyme Chicken boasting juicy bone-in chicken breasts marinated in coconut milk.

Lemongrass-Chicken-Banh-Mi-2

DD Mau (Vietnamese)
Bahn Mi, or Vietnamese sandwiches, are the specialty at downtown Vancouver’s DD Mau. Favourites include the BBQ Roasted Duck, Crispy Roasted Pork and Lemongrass Tofu, washed down with an avocado smoothie. For a taste of DD Mau at home, try their recipe for Lemongrass Chicken Banh Mi.

Enchiladas-Classicas---IMG_5799

La Mezcaleria (Mexican)
This stylish spot on Commercial Drive is beloved for its organic brunches and fresh margaritas. Serving inventive creations like BBQ Tamarind Squid and Barbacoa de Cordero (lamb shoulder roasted in banana leaves and served in volcanic rock) alongside favourites like Enchiladas Classicas and Queso Fundido, La Mezcaleria has something for everyone. Try their recipe for Enchiladas Classicas at home!

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Nuba (Lebanese)
With several downtown locations, it’s easy to find a Nuba to satisfy your cravings for Lebanese treats. Favourites include standards like Chicken Tawook, Falafel and Hummus, as well as Grilled Halloumi Cheese served with fresh tomato, nuts and pomegranate mint dressing and Lamb Hushwie (sautéed minced lamb with onions and pine nuts, served on a creamy base of fresh hummus).

Campagnolo-Roma---Bucatini-all-Amatriciana---IMG_5451

Campagnolo Roma (Italian)
Simple, unfussy Italian is on the menu at Campagnolo, a busy East Hastings establishment serving comforting classics like Bucatini all Amatriciana (bucatini noodles with cured pork, tomato and Parmesan cheese), as well as fresh pizzas and house-made meatballs.

IMG_6504---Rangoli_Spicy-Pulled-Pork

Vij’s Rangoli (Indian)
Vancouver has many Indian restaurants, but Vikram Vij’s namesake spot, which features a fusion of classic Indian spices and local delicacies, is one of the most celebrated. Some favourites from You Gotta Eat Here!’s visit include Spicy Pulled Pork on Sautéed Greens with Sour Cream Chutney and Naan, and Split Pea, Lentil and Spinach Mash with Mogo Fries and Bengali Curry. For visitors on the go, Vij’s has an extensive menu of boil-in-the-bag takeout treats.

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Longtail Kitchen (Thai)
Fresh B.C. seafood meets classic Thai flavours in this New Westminster restaurant that serves modern versions of Thai street eats. Enjoy the variety of Thai curries, the classic Pad Thai with Prawns, or try the Som Dtam Green Papaya Salad at home.

Catch all new episodes of You Gotta Eat Here! Fridays at 9 E/P. Be sure to visit the location map to plan your next  multicultural dining experience. 

How to Throw a Carnival-Themed Party with HGTV Star Tiffany Pratt

Carnivals are all about eating delicious treats, having fun and enjoying marvellous spectacles. With all that emphasis on good times and that cheerful bright palette, they make the perfect family-friendly theme for a summer party.

We talked to Home To Win star and stylist extraordinaire Tiffany Pratt to get her tips on how to create a dazzling carnival-themed party.

Courtesy Tiffany Pratt. Photo by Tara McMullen.

Courtesy Tiffany Pratt. Photo by Tara McMullen.

Mix it up.

Tiffany’s signature style is colourful and whimsical. The aesthetic is not only perfect for a carnival theme, but is also easy to make your own. By mixing items you already own with new pieces, and avoiding the stress of being perfectly matchy-matchy, setting a stunning table is simple. “My personal philosophy is to use as much as you’ve got,” says Tiffany. She suggests repurposing leftover streamers from past parties, and mixing paper plates with regular cutlery. “The idea is to pull everything out that you’ve got; with a carnival you can use anything, because anything goes!” Once you’ve assembled the décor and serving ware you already own, you can start seeking extras: paper bags for loot bags or canvas to paint your own big top. “But the main event is to scour the house, use what you’ve got and have fun mixing patterns and colours,” says Tiffany.

Serve sweet and colourful treats.

“I think popcorn is the first thing that comes to my mind for this kind of party,” says Tiffany, “especially dazzled up popcorn.” She suggests decorating paper bags and filling them with colourful or caramel popcorn. She’s also a big fan of handheld edibles, like finger sandwiches and sliders. Candy is a must for a carnival party; for a refreshing beverage, Tiffany suggests serving root beer floats. For grownups who’d like a little more carnival spirit in their drink, sangria and other colourful punches keep the libations on-theme. Tiffany suggests umbrellas or swizzle sticks for added festivity.

Courtesy Tiffany Pratt. Photo by Tara McMullen.

Courtesy Tiffany Pratt. Photo by Tara McMullen.

Style a “smorgasbord of fun.”

“To create a table that looks like something you want to photograph, levels are really important,” says Tiffany. Think cake plates, stacks of cool dishes, and anything else that can be used to create height. “Not only are the plates, and the food, and the cups and the cutlery all centred in a really cool, artistic way, but you have them all away around the table to actually eat,” she says. “If it looks like a smorgasbord of fun in the centre, it invites people to grab and eat and play.” Style your table with levels; by mixing up colours and patterns, food and drinks, cutlery and plates, you invite entertainment factor, says Tiffany.  “People aren’t afraid to take apart the table and enjoy things, whereas if it looks so perfect, they’re like, ‘Oh my god, I don’t want to touch it, it looks so good!’”

Don’t stress.

Remember: good style is equal parts functional and fashionable, says Tiffany. Invoking fun and creating curiosity is just as important as remembering to put out forks. At the end of the day, it’s about the people. Yes, a beautiful setting can encourage a festive mood, but don’t stress about it.

Finally, don’t underestimate the power of a thoughtful gesture; putting out containers for guests to bring home leftovers, and including adults in the loot bags are small gestures with huge impact.

Courtesy Tiffany Pratt. Photo by Tara McMullen.

Courtesy Tiffany Pratt. Photo by Tara McMullen.

Flowers, flowers, flowers.

Don’t have streamers or festive décor you can repurpose for your carnival party? No matter what the theme, “lots of flowers make things look so beautiful and festive,” says Tiffany.

Follow Tiffany Pratt on Instagram @thetiffanypratt and watch Home to Win Sundays at 10pm on HGTV. Better yet, sign up to see if you have what it takes to win your very own HGTV dream home!

Fizzy, Fermented Kombucha 101

Perspective is everything when it comes to kombucha, a fizzy fermented tea and ancient drink that is trendy (again).

Is it a cure-all, a probiotic health elixir that combats digestive issues? Is it an expensive and over-hyped panacea? Is it – a drink that’s fermented by adding a slimy symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast to sweetened tea – just a little bit weird?

SCOBY

The SCOBY, a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, is responsible for fermenting the kombucha. Image courtesy The Big Book of Kombucha © Hannah Crum and Alex LaGory, 2016. Photographs © Matt Armendariz. Used with permission of Storey Publishing.

You’ll have to decide for yourself, but one thing is for sure: kombucha is delicious, and despite the high cost of buying it in health food stores, it’s cheap and easy to make at home.

Kombucha is created by adding a culture, called a SCOBY, to caffeinated, unflavoured, sweetened tea. As the SCOBY eats the sugar, the tea becomes tart and fizzy — the longer it’s left to ferment, the tarter and fizzier it becomes, eventually turning into vinegar. Once the initial fermentation is complete — in anywhere from five to 14 days — the kombucha can be enjoyed as is, or flavoured with fruit and herbs, and fermented a second time for a naturally fizzy, flavoured drink.

flavoured kombucha

Kombucha can be flavoured with fruits and herbs. Image courtesy The Big Book of Kombucha © Hannah Crum and Alex LaGory, 2016. Photographs © Matt Armendariz. Used with permission of Storey Publishing.
From The Big Book of Kombucha © Hannah Crum and Alex LaGory, 2016. Photographs © Matt Armendariz. Used with permission of Storey Publishing.

All you need are clean glass jars, sugar, plain green, white or black tea, and a SCOBY, and you can easily be making this bubbly, trendy brew at home. The easiest way to grow a SCOBY is to order one online or get one from a friend. Each new batch of kombucha will produce a new SCOBY, so one is all you need to get started. SCOBYs can sometimes be grown from a bottle of store-bought kombucha, although this method is less consistent.

Image courtesy The Big Book of Kombucha © Hannah Crum and Alex LaGory, 2016. Photographs © Matt Armendariz. Used with permission of Storey Publishing.

Image courtesy The Big Book of Kombucha © Hannah Crum and Alex LaGory, 2016. Photographs © Matt Armendariz. Used with permission of Storey Publishing.

If you’ve never tried kombucha before, it’s a good idea to sample a few varieties first. Kombucha is infinitely customizable, and knowing how you like yours is the starting point for delicious flavour experiments.

Kombucha can be brewed in large continuous batches for an everlasting supply (continuous method) or in smaller batches (batch method). Although the supply list and method can seem a bit daunting for first-time fermenters, it’s actually quite simple once you get into the swing of things.

Ready to try brewing your own kombucha? We’ve got you covered:
How to Batch Brew Kombucha
How to Brew Continuous Kombucha

Noah Cappe’s Carnival Eats Travel Bucket List

As the host of Carnival Eats, Noah Cappe knows carnivals like the rest of us know our own backyards. But this world-travelling, funnel cake-funnelling host still has a few carnivals, fairs and festivals on his bucket list.Carnival-Eats,-Noah-Edmonton_0079

“For the show, we’ve focused mostly on North America,” he says. “We’ve covered so much ground and we’ve gone to most places, [but] there’s still a few we haven’t done. We haven’t gone to Las Vegas – a carnival in Vegas would be wild.”

But Sin City’s (surely) flashy deep-fryers aren’t the only ones Noah wants  to sample from. The Toronto native would love it if the show ventured a little further, putting Alaska, the Yukon and Hawaii on his Carnival Eats bucket list.pineapple-drink

“I’d love to see Carnival Eats in Hawaii,” he says, and not just because he’d get a free vacation there. “People want to see how to use pineapple in different ways,” he says.

Can’t get to the carnival? Try these recipes for the Top 15 Carnival Foods You Can Make at Home.corn-dog

vegetable-basket-assorted-fall

Cory Vitiello on How to Make Fruits and Veggies Last

By night, you may know Cory Vitiello as an expert on Chef in Your Ear, but by day, he’s a popular Toronto chef and restaurateur. He’s also a serious purchaser of fruits and vegetables. Produce is important at his Toronto restaurant, Flock, which is just as famous for its fresh salads as its antibiotic and hormone-free rotisserie chickens. “We probably go through $20,000 worth of produce in a week,” says Cory.Cory Vitiello

Here, he shares his tips for which fruits and veggies will last the longest, how to store them for optimal longevity, and what to do with them when they’ve started to wilt. These tips are a great starting point for getting the most from your fresh goods, but as always, trust your senses and don’t consume food that looks or smells off.

Apples
Last for: up to 3 months in the fridge.
Store apples in the warmest part of the fridge in a sealed bag, says Cory. Apples tend to absorb flavours, so avoid putting them next to fragrant items like cheese. If they’re starting to overstay their welcome, peel them, cut them into slices and toss them in a Ziploc bag in the freezer. From there, you can “use them for smoothies just like you would bananas,” says Cory.

Tip: A plastic bag helps keep apples (and bananas) well segregated from other produce; apples release ethylene gas, which can cause premature ripening in nearby produce.

beets-raw-wholeBeets
Last for: 2-3 weeks in the fridge.
Although beets last quite a while in the fridge, they tend to lose their sweetness over time. Cory recommends keeping them at room temperature as long as possible to maintain optimal flavour. As long as they’re firm — “I mean very firm, you should not be able to bruise them” — they can be stored in the pantry. “If you’re looking for a nice salad beet, you definitely want to use the firm, fresh ones,” says Cory. When the skins start to get leathery, move them to the refrigerator, or better yet, roast them. “Keep the skins on — you don’t have to peel them. Just give them a good scrub and roast them with your apples that are about to expire.”

Cabbage
Lasts for: up to 2 months in the fridge.
“Cabbage is probably one of the most underrated vegetables,” says Cory. “As long as it’s stored in the fridge, you’re golden.” Peel off wilting outer layers to reveal crisper leaves below, and don’t be afraid to branch beyond coleslaw. Cory likes chopping a cabbage in half, dicing it against the grain, and stir-frying: bonus, cooked cabbage goes nicely with your roasted or sauteed aging beets, apples and carrots.

carrots-orange-yellow-purpleCarrots
Last for: 2-3 weeks in the fridge.
Trim the green tops off carrots and store them in water with their skins intact so they stay fresh and juicy. “I like to leave the skins on, scrub them down and roast them whole,” says Cory. “I love that rustic, natural look on a carrot. What I don’t like is a perfect carrot stick on a plate. I think that looks tacky and 1980s.”

Celery
Lasts for: up to 2 weeks in the fridge.
When the base of celery goes limp, do like “everybody’s mom” and cut the base off, and revive celery sticks in a cup of water in the fridge. Or simply remove the flimsy outer stalks to reveal the heart, “which is the best part anyway.” And don’t forget to use the inner leaves — Cory likes to toss his in fresh salad as he would with other herbs. “It’s really nice, tender and sweet.”

Garlic
Lasts for: 3-6 months.
“All garlic will age to a certain point, but you want to keep it in a dark place, in a paper bag,” says Cory. Keep it away from fruit to avoid flavour transfer, but you’ll know it’s nearing the end when it starts to sprout. To use up a bunch of garlic at once, peel and roast in olive oil on low heat until just browned. Store the roasted cloves submerged in olive oil in a jar in the fridge.  “Use it for pasta, sauces, anything you’d use garlic for — it’ll last for a month after you roast it,” says Cory.

Onion and Shallots
Last for: 2-3 months.
Like garlic, onions and shallots are best stored in paper bags in a dry, cool place, encourages Cory. Sprouting will indicate that they’ve started to turn; as with beets, if they start to wrinkle or can be easily squeezed like an orange, cook them. Whether you roast them for a dip, caramelize them for burgers or at them to soups, “any kind of cooked preparation is fine,” says Cory.

pomegranatePomegranates
Last for: 3 -4 weeks in the fridge.
Pomegranates can last quite awhile as long as they’re intact. Once you remove the seeds from the fruit, however, they need to be eaten within a couple of days. “The seeds have an incredibly short shelf life and will lose their juice, go pale and won’t taste as sweet,” warns Cory. He suggests sprinkling them on your morning yogurt, or trying them in salads. If you crack into your pomegranate and find some of the seeds are brown and slimy, don’t eat them, but do go ahead and pick out the good ones.

Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes
Last for: 2 – 3 months.
These famously long-lived staples are good to eat until they start sprouting, says Cory. Like beets, the starch and sugar levels will fluctuate according to storage methods. “If you store them in a cool, dark place,” says Cory, “that will prevent the sugar levels from building up. Then you’ll get a nice, dark roasted potato, and not a limp one that tends to burn quickly or is flimsy when you fry it — that’s because of too much sugar. When you store them in the fridge, they build up too much sugar.”

Winter Squashes
Last for: up to 3 months.
“This is definitely one of the most versatile and longest lasting ingredients,” says Cory. “It takes a long time for winter squash to break down. I like eating winter squash raw — I’ll peel and shave it really thin on a mandolin or vegetable peeler, and it gives a really nice, unique crunch in a salad. But when in doubt, just roast it whole — cut it in half, smear with butter and some spices.”

watermelonWatermelon
Lasts for: 2-3 weeks in the fridge
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen an expired watermelon,” says Cory. But if you’re looking to use up your watermelon quickly, he suggests scooping out the flesh and tossing it in the blender with your favourite tea. “Watermelon iced tea is the ultimate summer drink,” he says.