All posts by johncatucci

You Gotta Eat Here: Dining for One on Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day can be tough for single people but going out to dinner that night can be a nightmare! With restaurants full of annoying couples smooching through overpriced prix fixe menus, it’s enough to make you hide at home with a pizza.

But this year is going to be different. This Valentine’s Day, don’t hide your single self inside your house, go out and eat your feelings! And these restaurants from the upcoming 5th season of You Gotta Eat Here! have meals so good, you’ll want to enjoy all to yourself.

Prohibition Montréal -  Fried Chicken and Deep Fried     French Toast - IMG_20016

1. Prohibition (Montreal, QC) – Fried Chicken and Deep-Fried Challah French Toast

If no one’s making you hollah at home, get yourself some of this deep fried challah French toast with crispy fried chicken instead. Prohibition takes chicken and waffles to the next level with deep fried French toast, which is exactly as delicious as it sounds.

Southern Pork Chop - IMG_81046

2. The Cure (Toronto, ON) – Southern Pork Chop

Is there anything better than a pork chop to make you feel better? How about a pork chop that’s been marinated in butter milk then pan fried in crispy, golden cornmeal? With a plate of cheesy grits and cucumber relish, you’ll be glad to have this meal at The Cure all to yourself.

Flavio al Velavevodetto - Ravioli Fatti in Casa alla Velavevodetto - IMG_98326

3. Flavio al Velovevodetto (Rome, Italy) – Ravioli fatte in casa alla velavevodetto

While those other suckers are spending their money on roses and chocolates, why not treat yourself to a trip to Rome! Flavio’s handmade ravioli stuffed with creamy fresh ricotta, smothered in fresh tomatoes and more ricotta will make you forget your own name.

 The Earl Grey Cake Donut - IMG_86304

4. Cartems Donuterie (Vancouver, BC) – Earl Grey Cake Doughnut

So no one sent you flowers for Valentine’s Day? Who cares? Cartems Donuterie makes an Earl Grey tea glazed doughnut with rose petals sprinkled on top. Flowers wilt, love fades, but a doughnut sprinkled with roses is forever!

Catch the season 5 premiere of You Gotta Eat Here! Friday, February 26 at 9 E/P and catch up on episodes online.

 

Favourite BBQ Dishes from You Gotta Eat Here!

John-Catucci-BBQ

You don’t have to be from Texas to know what good barbecue tastes like, as Canadian restaurants and backyard barbecue mavericks are proving across Canada. Barbecue may have its roots in the American South, but the Great White North also has its fair share of grill masters.

Great barbecue can be simple or complicated – that’s up to you. But, it’s the smoke that imparts a depth of flavour that makes it anything but boring. More than just a cooking technique, barbecuing is an event in itself.

What do you do during the May Two-Four, a.k.a. Victoria Day, weekend? For many Canadians, it marks the beginning of barbecue season and the unofficial start to summer. With luck from Mother Nature, the weekend offers the perfect weather to be outside with good company and great food.

I think there’s a connection that many people make between barbecue and happy feelings. You don’t have to have a fancy smoker or a huge barbecue — all you need is passion, patience and some hungry people to feed. I remember being a kid and sitting in my Zia’s (aunt’s) kitchen, smelling the charcoal smoke coming through the back door as my Zio (uncle) grilled on a little, tiny, round hibachi barbecue. That was back in the 1970s and I can still picture that scene perfectly — all of us waiting in anticipation for Zio to finish. He would take his celery stalk and use the leaves to brush oil and red wine vinegar onto the meat. I can recall the smell of the vinegar hitting the meat and getting that char flavour. That’s the moment I’ll always remember; sitting in that kitchen and just seeing the smoke come in every time the back door would open.

Great barbecue is about so much more than meat on a grill, it’s about the experience: the sunshine, the smells, and four or five family members lurking over your shoulder telling you what to do. “The flame’s too high!” “Not enough heat!” “Flip that steak!” “Don’t drop the asparagus!” “Get me another beer!”

I eat barbecue like it’s my job. Seriously, I get paid to eat. (I know, I know, I’m a lucky bastard.) And I’ve been fortunate enough to eat at some of the best barbecue joints in Canada. I’ve eaten ribs on the west coast, pulled pork in the maritimes, and even a barbecued dessert or two in the middle part of the country. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some amazing barbecue chefs, true artists with wood, spice, and smoke. These folks will grill anything! Trust me, anything. (Pig tails, anyone?) If it’s delicious, Canadian pit masters will find a way to barbecue it.

Check out delicious BBQ dishes from You Gotta Eat Here! Select ‘caption’ to see the dish’s description. Click on the image to get the recipe.

When I’m not eating barbecue, I’m thinking about it. So I’ve created my ultimate fantasy barbecue day menu. All I need is a bottomless pit for a stomach, a pair of super stretchy pants, and a teleporter. Let’s go!

Barque-Smokehouse-Brunch
Barque Smokehouse Smoked Duck Panckes. Get the recipe here

Breakfast: Our first stop on our all-barbecue-all-day adventure is Barque in Toronto. Order the Barque Benedict: smoked beef brisket piled high on cornbread, topped with two poached eggs and smothered in smoky barbecue Hollandaise sauce. The brunch here is enough to fill you up for the rest of the weekend. But I’m just getting started.

Pig-BBQ-Joint

John visits Pig BBQ Joint in an upcoming episode on May 23. Schedule details are here.

Lunch:
In my dream scenario, it’s Bacon Explosion Day at Pig BBQ Joint in Victoria, BC. This is ground pork sausage wrapped in a lattice of bacon, sprinkled with more bacon, then smoked, sliced, and piled on a sandwich with tangy barbecue sauce. BOOM.

Big-T-BBQ

Check out the link at the bottom of the page to watch  John visit Big T’s BBQ.

Dinner: Now this is where the stretchy pants come into play. In Calgary, Alberta Big T‘s famous Elvis Platter is bigger than my car. It’s a ridiculous amount of food, and it’s all meaty and delicious. There are six different types of meat here: brisket, pulled pork, huge St. Louis-style ribs, a whole smoked chicken, crispy rib ends, and Andouille sausage. Barbecue is meant to feed a crowd!
Smoky Cheesecake
Get the Smoky Chocolate Cheescake with Pecans recipe here.

Dessert: You left room for dessert, didn’t you? Of course you did. We’re back to Ontario to D&S Southern BBQ just outside of Ottawa in Carlsbad Springs. How do you barbecue dessert, you ask? Excellent question. The answer is their Smoky Chocolate Cheesecake and Pecans. A tall, creamy chocolate cheesecake that gets hickory smoked low and slow, cooled, and then covered with a rich chocolate ganache. Topped with roasted pecans and caramel sauce, they serve it with some homemade strawberry chutney. The chocolate sucks in the smoke like a little sponge, resulting in one of the creamiest and craziest cheesecakes I’ve ever tasted.

And of course my “dream” barbecue day would end in a really long nap.
No matter where you eat your barbecue, all you need is great company and a little smoke and you have the recipe for a fantastic time!
Barbecue on, Canada!

Watch back-to-back new episodes of You Gotta Eat Here! Fridays at 9 ET | 6 PT.

This is an abridged version of a blog post that originally appeared in the Huffington Post Canada. To read John Catucci’s full post go here.

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Canada’s Most Creative Burgers from You Gotta Eat Here!

John-Catucci-Burger
When you eat as many burgers as I do, you become thankful for the creativity and ingenuity of chefs across Canada.

Canadian restaurants are busy flipping the classic burger on its head. From coast to coast to coast, they take the art of burger making to the next level. As the host of You Gotta Eat Here!, my taste buds are consistently spoiled. How many people can say they’ve been able to sample everything from mac and cheese to chicken balls, chili to oysters and sausage to soft shell crab on top of their burgers? And that’s just a small sampling of the mouth-watering menu options I’ve encountered.

Take a mouth-watering trip through You Gotta Eat Here! burgers from season one and two. Select ‘Caption’ to see burger description. Click on image to get the recipe.

In Season Three we were treated to The Outlandish Oyster Burger at Mile One Eating House in Pemberton, BC. This burger is the best of BC on a bun. Chef Randy Jones takes three big, ocean-fresh oysters and breads them in panko before pan frying them and finishing them off in the oven. Once they’re hot and golden, the oysters are loaded onto a fluffy potato bun smeared with smoky, creamy chipotle mayo and topped with crispy bacon, fresh tomato and lettuce.

The Surf and Turf Burger special at Little Louie’s Burger Joint & Soupery in Cambridge, ON, is the owner Steve Allen’s tribute to his hometown of Cape Breton, NS. In order to make his signature beef patties, he starts with ground beef and adds hoisin, soy sauce, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, Sriracha, eggs and diced onions. To build the burger, he spreads house made tartar sauce on a bun, then places the patty down and adds a generous helping of sweet cabbage before finishing with the deep fried lobster tail. For presentation, a beer-battered lobster claw is skewered on top.

Surf-and-Turf-Burger

The Surf and Turf Burger Special at Little Louie’s Burger Joint & Soupery in Cambridge, ON

What makes an exceptionally good burger? It’s all about flavour and texture. And it can even be done without the meat. I ate a vegan burger at Boon Burger in Winnipeg — Canada’s first all-vegan burger joint — that was unforgettable.

Shooting for Season Three, I worked with one chef who outdid himself in the number of burger toppings. Erv Salvador at Lucy’s East Side Diner, Vancouver, BC, does an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink hamburger creation that features four, 5 oz. hamburger patties, each covered in melted thick-sliced Canadian cheddar and topped with crisp bacon, caramelized onions, and mushrooms. A thick, crispy onion ring is balanced on top of the mushrooms and the center is filled with homemade chili and topped with a fried egg.

Finally, the chef adds a butterflied smoked sausage and a handful of ultra thin and crisp deep fried onions. The list of tasty treats we sampled goes on, whether it’s the nachos-inspired, The Rebel, at Burger Revolution in Belleville, ON or the Country Road Pizza Burger at St. Joachim Diner in Belle River, ON.

The-Rebel-Burger
The Rebel Burger at Burger Revolution in Belleville, ON

We live in a massive, diverse country, full of endless possibilities for travel and long road trips. It’s nice to know that you can eat a burger at practically every step of the way and feel like you’re eating something different each time you sit down for a meal. Keep up that kitchen creativity, Canada.

This is an abridged version of a blog post that originally appeared in The Huffington Post Canada. To read John Catucci’s full post go here

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