Category Archives: Dining Out

two glasses of wine clinking for a cheers

How to Order Wine at a Restaurant Like a Pro

After a long (and sad) hiatus from restaurant visits, it feels incredible to be back on sunny patios and in cozy booths. Don’t get us wrong, the takeout nights were fun, but nothing beats having fresh, warm food brought to a table full of your closest friends. One thing we didn’t miss, however, is our adversity to ordering wine. There’s just something so intimidating about it!

To help cork that fear, we spoke to Master Sommelier, Jennifer Huether about how to order wine like a pro. Jennifer has been loving (and drinking) wine for over a decade. Her passion for the grape has brought many adventures, including her current role as head sommelier and director of alcohol curation at Fresh City Farms. Read on for her best advice.


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What are your best food and wine pairing tips?

The basics of food and wine matching is complex, but there are three main things to consider on your own: What is the main protein? How is it cooked? And what are the sauces and or spices?

Ultimately, what you’re trying to do is even the playing field between the wine and the food. You’re trying to go for that balance. For example, let’s say you have a beautiful, sweet dessert and a dry light wine. The fruit and the sugar in the dessert is going to overpower that light little dry wine. It needs something that is full and rich, and probably has as much sugar, if not more, than the dessert. Look for flavours that complement or contrast each other.

 

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What are some rules for pairing wines with plant-based foods?

Generally white wine, rosé, and lighter, wet reds work well. And I’m going to add in something else here: orange wines. I’ll be playing with a lot of orange wine going into the fall, just because I also love color matching with food and wine.

Related: 20 Easy Plant-Based Recipes for Beginners That Will Make You Drool

What is colour matching?

It’s literally matching the colour spectrum of wines to foods. We know that overall white meats work with white wine and red meats work with red wine. If you have that in the back of our head, you can just take it a step further and have fun with it. 

For example, if you take a lovely butternut squash soup with roasted pecans and pair it with a nice orange wine, it’s just visually spectacular. Remember, the whole eating process starts with seeing the food.

How important is the price of a wine?

If we’re looking at wines by the bottle, the cheapest wines have the highest markup. Where you’re going to find value is at what I call the heart of the list. The heart of the list is where most of the people will shop. Let’s say the wine list starts at $30 a bottle and goes up to $150 a bottle. The middle section will be where most people buy and therefore there will be lots of turnover in that section and usually some decent value. That being said, usually, the most expensive bottles do not receive the same markup as the rest of the list, so there can be value there too, as long as you’re willing to spend more.

Related: Meet the Canadian Women Helping to Bring Gender Equality to the Wine World

What’s the best way to use your server or in-house sommelier when ordering?

Ask yourself, what do I want to spend? What do I like to drink? And what am I eating tonight? If you can answer those three questions, you should be telling the sommelier. Nobody wants to sell you a wine that’s more than you want to spend, because then you end up with a customer that’s not coming back because they feel ripped off.

 

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Is there a discreet way to tell your server or sommelier what you want to spend without saying it?

I will have the wine list open, and I will point to something [in my price range]. And that way [the sommelier] will get the price right away. They might go up by $10 or $15, but at that point they know what you’re willing to spend.

Related: Meet the Youngest Self-Funded Winery Owner in Ontario’s History

After you have picked your bottle and the server brings you the first sip to try, what are you really looking for? Is it to see if you like the wine?

It’s not a question of, “Is this your favorite wine ever?” it’s a question of “Is the wine healthy?”. You’re checking to see if the wine is stable. Are you getting tons of wet cardboard or a musty basement from the wine? That could be an indication that the wine has cork tank, or any of the other 20 things that can go wrong. That’s what you’re checking for. It might be a little bit more tannic than you really wanted, but that’s just the wine.

And if it [doesn’t taste healthy] no problem, send it back. A lot of times sommeliers are pretty good! Even if they suspect that the wine is fine and you just don’t like it, they’ll try to steer you to a different wine.

an assortment of pastries from barbershop patisserie

3 Things You Must Try From Barbershop Patisserie in Toronto

Charming patisseries on cobblestone streets feel like a distant European travel daydream these days – that is, until we discovered Barbershop Patisserie. The decadent European-inspired pastry shop feels like a glimpse into Parisian café culture, with a hint of London pasty shops mixed in (their signature pastry is a savoury sausage roll!), all in the heart of Toronto. After gobbling up our pastry haul, we found ourselves scraping up each fallen pastry flake and eating them off our (sanitized) fingers because we just couldn’t bear to waste a single one.

pastries from barbershop patisserie

What You Need to Know About Barbershop Patisserie

Located on a bustling stretch of College St. in the Dufferin Grove neighbourhood, Barbershop Patisserie is the brainchild of renowned pastry chef Jill Barber (formerly of Black Bird Baking Co. and Paradise on Bloor). The takeaway shop opened mid-pandemic in late 2020 to great acclaim, regularly selling out of their buzzy pastries midday. Their rotating menu of pastries, cakes and cookies makes the most of fresh, seasonal produce for their fruit and veggie-based pastries, and fresh meat from local butchers for their meaty hand pies and pastries. They also serve up frothy coffee and tea based-lattes that pair perfectly with their baked confections.

See More: What’s in Season? Your Guide to Canadian Fruits and Vegetables

 

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Must-Try Baked Goods at Barbershop Patisserie

Sausage Roll Bites

barbershop patisserie sausage roll bites on a white and blue patterned plate
No trip to Barbershop Patisserie would be complete without trying one of their iconic sausage rolls, and we instantly fell in love with these mini bite-sized versions of their classic sausage roll. Reminiscent of London sausage pasties, the hearty sausage filling was perfectly spiced and the golden pastry shell held the roll together firmly, despite being oh-so delicate. Plus, the mini size (and price at just $1!) meant we could try even more off the menu, which is always a win in our books.

Roasted Eggplant Tart

The savoury veggie tarts at Barbershop Patisserie are often overshadowed by their sausage-filled counterparts, but you’d be doing yourself a disservice to not add one of these to your order. With plump eggplants currently in season, the seasonal veggie tart du jour was the roasted eggplant tart with fresh cream, spiced shallots and garlic chili oil. While eggplant isn’t typically a veggie found atop French pastries, you’d never guess it from this sophisticated tart – it was delightfully creamy with just a hint of spice, and the eggplant skin was so delicate that it just about melted into the flaky pastry.

Related: Tasty Indigenous Restaurants in Canada That You’ll Love

Chocolate Fudge Cake

A decadent slice of Barbershop Patisserie chocolate fudge cake on a patterned plate
A decadent slice of chocolate cake is always a good idea, and this single-serving portion of Barbershop Patisserie’s chocolate fudge cake is no exception. Moist layers of chocolate cake are sandwiched between thick, creamy chocolate icing for pure chocolatey bliss. At just the right level of sweet, our only regret is not getting a second slice for later.

Tip: Barbershop Patisserie also creates custom large cake orders, so you can order XL versions of this chocolate cake and other show-stopping creations for a crowd.

 

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Craving more Toronto restaurant recommendations? See our 3 Things You Need to Order From Viaggio in Toronto!

food from heydays restaurant at the june motel sauble beach

We Tried The June Motel’s Heydays Restaurant, Here’s Everything You Need to Order

It’s undeniable that motels are having a moment right now – their convenient COVID-safe accessibility (no shared elevators or indoor hallways!) means that escaping the work-from-home life in favour of a countryside motel has never been more appealing. Enter: The June Motel in Sauble Beach, Ontario’s answer to your getaway dreams, and the subject of Netflix’s latest docuseries Motel Makeover.

After the major success of their first June Motel in Prince Edward County (an influencer’s oasis that boasts a Rosé All Day vibe), moteliers April Brown and Sarah Sklash set their sites on Ontario’s Sauble Beach, known for its glorious sunsets and beachy small town feel. Motel Makeover follows the duo as they transform a 40-plus year-old motel and restaurant in Sauble Beach into an easy, breezy, perfectly Instagrammable destination.

The patio of Heydays restaurant at The June Motel Sauble BeachThe patio of Heydays restaurant at The June Motel Sauble Beach

Naturally, we had to see what all the hype was about, so we took a road trip to The June Motel in Sauble Beach to see the motel and eat at the restaurant for ourselves. Read on for our comprehensive thoughts.

Related: 3 Things You Need to Order From Viaggio in Toronto

What You Need to Know About Heydays, The June Motel’s Restaurant
Helmed by Chef Fred Laliberte (previously the creative visionary behind popular Toronto spots like Bobbie Sue’s Mac + Cheese, Poutini’s House of Poutine and Hawker Bar), Heydays Sauble Beach is an indoor-outdoor restaurant that serves elevated beach casual cuisine with a strong spotlight on seafood. In true June Motel fashion, the décor of the restaurant matches the aesthetic of the rest of the motel – with a sunbaked colour scheme, relaxed bohemian touches and hipster décor undertones, both the motel and restaurant feel like a Pinterest board come to life.

The exterior of Heydays restaurant at The June Motel Sauble BeachThe exterior of Heydays restaurant at The June Motel Sauble Beach

Must-Order Dishes

New Brunswick Oysters

Oysters at Heydays restaurant at The June Motel Sauble Beach

Our dinner started with New Brunswick Oysters served with lemon, cocktail sauce and freshly grated horseradish. Truthfully, we’ve had some bad oyster experiences in the past, so we were skeptical, but these were the best oysters we’ve ever had – they were delicate, briny, and had that delightful shock of freshness we’re always looking for.

Related: Tasty Indigenous Restaurants in Canada That You’ll Love

Charred Broccoli Caesar

Charred broccoli caesar salad at Heydays restaurant at The June Motel Sauble Beach

Next, we tried the Charred Broccoli Caesar; it had the right level of char and just the right amount of bite to the broccoli. Plus, no good Caesar is complete without shaved parmesan and they were extremely generous with the cheese (just the way we like it!).

Hot Lobster Roll

A hot lobster roll at Heydays restaurant at The June Motel Sauble Beach

The signature Hot Lobster Roll tasted as satisfying as it looked; lovely chunks of lobster meat and crunchy leaves of lettuce were loaded into a soft, buttery, toasted bun. The charming vintage feel of the dish felt perfectly suited to the retro ‘70s vibes of the restaurant.

Crispy Skin Local Trout

Crispy local skin trout at Heydays restaurant at The June Motel Sauble Beach

The Crispy Skin Local Trout was equally as delicious – it sat on a bed of green lentils, capers and fresh herbs with a side of charred lemon. We’re addicted to crispy skin on fish, so we were happy that each bite had that crisp that wasn’t overdone but rather a lovely texture contrast to the inside of the fish.

Related: The Owner of Toronto’s Craig’s Cookies Shares His Secrets to Sweet Success

The Bevvies

No trip to The June Motel would be complete without a glass of wine, and the wine selection at Heydays is a delightfully curated range of high and low options. They also serve up a great selection of canned drinks and cocktails perfectly suited for the hot weather. We had the Planters Punch to start, Heydays’ version of a rum punch made with fresh fruit – it was lovely and tropical. Then we switched to Map Maker’s Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, a creamy, dry, fresh white with flavours of lime, gooseberry and passionfruit. It was a perfect companion to our meal.

 

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Bonus: Brunch!

After a memorable dinner, we couldn’t resist going back to Heydays the next morning to try their weekend brunch menu. The Lobster Benedict (sweet lobster on an English muffin with a poached egg and hollandaise sauce) was the perfect way to cap off a sunny weekend, and the buttermilk pancakes with fresh berries was the sweet treat we needed to balance out the luscious savoury dish. Heydays nails it when it comes to serving up high quality comfort food.

Photos courtesy of Lauren Miller.

Viaggio Toronto - overhead shot of pizza, pasta and bomba sauce

3 Things You Need to Order From Viaggio in Toronto

Here’s a confession: both my dinner companion (content creator and host of Baking Therapy Sabrina Stavenjord) and I were eating low-carb diets when we met up for dinner. But when the two of us sat down at the marble tables on the spacious outdoor patio in Little Portugal’s Viaggio, we knew that it would not be a low-carb night – and if you’re going to break a diet, this is the way to do it!

Related: Tasty Indigenous Restaurants in Canada That You’ll Love

What You Need to Know About Viaggio

Viaggio is located in a historic building on the corner of Toronto’s Dundas and Lansdowne with a covered patio tucked away at the side of the building. They don’t take reservations so you’ll want to come early to avoid disappointment (because trust me, missing out on Chef Jon Vettraino’s classic yet oh-so-indulgent dishes would be very disappointing). Viaggio features a rotating menu of classic Italian fare made with the season’s best offerings. For a late-summer dinner, that meant options like Zucchini Flowers, Corn and Chanterelle Risotto and Strawberry and Earl Grey Budino in addition to classics like Cacio e Pepe and Margherita Pizza.

Burrata, pizza bread balloon, wine and cocktails at Viaggio
Burrata with figs, aged balsamic and candied pecans and the Pizza Bread Balloon

Must-Order Dishes at Viaggio

Stuffed Zucchini

Zucchini flowers Lightly fried, ricotta and parmigiano filled flowers, romesco sauce
Lightly fried, ricotta and Parmigiano-filled flowers served on Romesco sauce

If you’re lucky enough to eat at Viaggio when zucchini flowers are in season, these cheese-stuffed beauties are a must-try (but if not, look for anything cheese-stuffed on the menu and you’ll be just as satisfied). These were served with a lightly garlicky Romesco that was the perfect pairing for these delicate seasonal veggies.

See More: What’s in Season? Your Guide to Canadian Fruits and Vegetables

The Pizza

Prince of Bologna pizza with bomba sauce
Prince of Bologna pizza with bomba sauce

A perfectly chewy crust, loads of cheese and a smattering of toppings to suit your taste buds – these pizzas are a must-try. We had the Prince of Bologna, a mozzarella and Parmigiano-topped pizza with a generous helping of mortadella, pistachios and honey for a hint of sweetness. Served with the spicy bomba sauce, it was *chef’s kiss*. Pro tip: if you can’t decide between pizza or a pasta dish, try the Pizza Bread Balloon as a starter with an appetizer.

Tiramisu Pancakes

Viaggio Tiramisu Pancakes
Tiramisu Pancakes with Mascarpone cream, marsala and espresso syrup

If we had to pick just one thing (and wouldn’t that be a shame?) from Viaggio’s menu, this would be it. Luckily for diners, this is on both the dessert menu for dinnertime guests as well as the weekend brunch menu, because who doesn’t love a sweet start to their day? The fluffiest pancakes (think Japanese soufflé-style) are drizzled with espresso maple syrup and topped with a mountain of Mascarpone whipped cream for a heavenly dessert that you’ll come back for again and again (trust us!).

Photos courtesy of Sabrina Stavenjord.

A box of Popeyes nuggets on a wooden tabletop

The New Popeyes Nuggets Have Arrived In Canada — And We Tried Them First

With all of the hype surrounding last year’s game-changing Popeyes’ Chicken Sandwich (so iconic it’s often referred to as just “The Sandwich”), when the Louisiana-style chicken purveyor announced that they were releasing a new version of their chicken nuggets, we knew we had to give them a try. Could their latest menu item revolutionize nuggets as we know them, the same way their sandwich predecessor had? Here’s everything you need to know.

A box of Popeyes' nuggets on a wooden tabletop

Wait, Doesn’t Popeyes Already Have Nuggets in Canada?

They sure do — unlike our American neighbours, Canadians have been able to enjoy Popeyes’ chicken nuggets for years. However, based on the major success of their chicken sandwich, Popeyes decided to revamp and relaunch their nuggets internationally with a brand new recipe that adapts their iconic sandwich into nugget form. In short: if you were a fan of The Sandwich, then you’re in for a treat, because these nuggets are made with the exact same hand-battering technique with Louisiana seasoning and buttermilk breading (read: crispy-on-the-outside, juicy-on-the-inside tender chicken goodness).

So, How Do These Nuggets Stack Up Against Their Competitors?

Texturally, these nuggets do deliver on their lofty promise of “changing the nugget game.” The outside is satisfyingly crispy, and when you bite into them, you’re met with the lightly grained feel of real chicken breast. While it is a somewhat sad state of affairs to note that having the texture of real chicken sets these chicken nuggets apart from their competitors, the hard fact is that seeing the grain of a chicken breast in your nuggets is a new and novel experience. The nuggets also vary in size and shape — because they’re real chicken — so unlike certain competitors that have preset nugget “shapes” (Google it), you know these are the real deal.

A Popeyes' nugget being dipping into buffalo sauce

And What About the Dipping Sauce?

Another factor that sets these nuggets apart: the wide range of sauces you can choose for additional flavour. Popeyes isn’t playing around with their sauce selection: they have one for just about every craving; personal favourites were the Sweet Heat and Blackened Ranch, both Popeyes’ signature sauces that you can’t find elsewhere. The sad packet of sweet and sour sauce in your fridge is quaking!

OK, Where Can I Get Them?

Starting July 27th, Canadians can purchase Popeyes’ Chicken Nuggets at all Popeyes locations across the country. Depending on your province, an 8-piece box of nuggets will set you back about $5.99.

A closeup of a Popeyes' nugget

Anything Else I Need To Know?

Given that Canadians have already had access to Popeyes’ Chicken Nuggets for some time, it’s difficult to imagine that this new recipe will be met with the same long lines and hype-induced frenzy as The Sandwich of yore. That said, it’s undeniable that the team at Popeyes’ has married the best aspects of the signature Chicken Sandwich and adapted them into an extremely poppable nugget form. While we wouldn’t go as far as saying Popeyes’ has revolutionized chicken nuggets entirely, they do scratch an itch we didn’t know we had: chicken nuggets that actually resemble, well, real chicken.

Photos courtesy of Sabrina Stavenjord.

3d printed meat on plate from Aleph Farms

Is 3D-Printed Meat the Next Big Thing? (And How It Really Tastes)

There’s a new wave of alternative meat products coming to our not-so-distant future and is likely to make up a major part of our future diets. Currently, the global market for lab-grown meats is the fastest growing segment in the food industry and is expected to reach $140 billion by 2030, according to forecasts by Blue Horizon Corp.

In 2018, Aleph Farms in Israel successfully cultivated the world’s first beef steak using 3D printing. Today, they’ve upgraded to 3D bioprinting. Unlike 3D printing that uses ink or plastic, 3D bioprinting technology is able to print actual living cells without harming the animal. Essentially, this technology is able to recreate the natural process of tissue regeneration that occurs in the animal’s body in a controlled environment. The end product is able to mimic the structure, smell, cooking behaviour and appearance of a meaty steak, right down to the blood oozing out of a juicy steak.

3d printed meat on plate from Aleph Farms

Redefine Meat is another leading meat cultivating company that uses a method of multi-material 3D printing to create alt-meats. “[The] 3D printer lays down blood, fat and protein simultaneously at a voxel-level that resembles mimicking meat of an animal,” says Daniel Dikovsky, head of technology and innovation at Redefine Meat. “This advanced capability is what allows an alternative-steak to go beyond just taste, but also replicate texture and mouthfeel.” Redefine Meat does not use any animal ingredients, but rather a proprietary blend of soy, pea protein, coconut fat, sunflower oil and a few other plant-based ingredients, so their products are vegan.

3d printed meat on plate from Redefine Meat

Now Let’s Talk Taste

Earlier this year, Redefine Meat held a blind taste test for its 3D printed meat, with over 600 participants, mostly meat eaters. The overall approval rate was over 90%, based on taste, texture and mouthfeel. When Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel, tried Aleph Farm’s steak he said: “I can’t taste the difference.”

Looking to the Future

While these are only two examples of start-ups that are experimenting in the 3D printed meat world, several other companies from around the world are diving into the cultivated meat industry, as the demand for innovative products, with less impact to the environment and harm to animals is rapidly growing.

Related: Meet the World’s First Autonomous Robotic Kitchen Assistant

Aleph Farms has partnered with Mitsubishi to sell their beef in Japan in the coming years, but they’re not in a rush to get it on the market. Japan is home to the world’s most luxurious steak, Wagyu. In other words, they’re well aware of what they’re up against. No word yet on when Aleph or Redefine Meat will hit the open market or when lab-grown meat will be available for purchase in Canada.

First photo/feature photo courtesy of Aleph Farms; second photo courtesy of Redefine Meat

Karaage chicken and waffles on white plate

This Epic Karaage Chicken and Green Onion Waffles Recipe is Sweet, Spicy and Savoury

Inspired by Tokyo Hot Fried Chicken in Toronto, our Dining In spicy karaage chicken and green onion waffles features a quick and easy sesame-soy maple syrup and spicy mayo using a togarashi, a Japanese seven-spice blend you can find at most Asian supermarkets (if unavailable, you can substitute with a mixture of salt, chili powder and sesame seeds). Every bite is sweet, spicy and savoury, making for an exciting dish that can be eaten for brunch, lunch or dinner — and it’ll certainly impress anyone who tries it.

Karaage chicken and waffles on white plate

Spicy Karaage Chicken and Green Onion Waffles

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 4 waffles

Ingredients:

8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
¼ cup + 1 Tbsp soy sauce, divided
2 Tbsp sake
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 tsp grated ginger
¼ cup maple syrup
1 tsp + 1 Tbsp sesame oil, divided
½ cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp togarashi + more for seasoning
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
4 green onions, thinly sliced + more for garnish
½ cup potato starch
½ cup cooking oil
4 tsp pickled ginger

Karaage chicken and waffles ingredients on countertop

Directions:

1. Pound chicken thighs to a ¼ -inch thickness using a meat mallet or bottom of a metal sauce pan. Place them in a medium bowl and add ¼ cup soy sauce, sake, garlic and ginger. Mix to combine and marinate chicken for 20 to 40 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, make the sesame-soy maple syrup by combining maple syrup, remaining soy sauce and 1 tsp sesame oil in a small bowl. Set aside until serving.

Related: Fantastic Fried Chicken Recipes

3. Make spicy mayo by whisking together the mayonnaise and togarashi seasoning in a small bowl. Set aside until serving.

4. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and remaining sesame oil. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and whisk until smooth. Stir in sliced green onions and set aside.

5. Once chicken is done marinating, add potato starch to a large bowl. Using tongs, transfer chicken to potato starch, shaking any excess marinade off the chicken. Toss until chicken is evenly coated in the starch.

Related: These Waffle Recipes Will Make You Jump Right out of Bed

6. Heat cooking oil in a large skillet on medium-high. Once the oil is hot, carefully lay chicken thighs, one at a time, in the oil and fry for 3 minutes per side or until golden and cooked through. Cook in 2 to 3 batches, ensuring not to crowd the pan. When finished, rest the chicken on a cooling rack and season with togarashi.

Fried chicken on cooling rack

7. Cook waffles in a waffle maker until golden brown.

8. To assemble, lay a waffle on a medium plate. Arrange two chicken thighs overtop and drizzle generously in sesame soy maple syrup. Use a squeeze bottle (if available) to drizzle chicken with the spicy mayonnaise. Finish with pickled ginger and a sprinkling of green onions.

Karaage chicken and waffles being plated on white plate

Like Philip and Mystique’s chicken and waffles recipe? Try their Mexican-inspired taco burgers or their West Indian egg curry.

Watch the how-to video here:


Aerial shot of Korean fried chicken and tater tots

10 Best Budget-Friendly Eats in Halifax, Nova Scotia

The best restaurants in Halifax aren’t always fancy seafood spots that’ll cost you a huge chunk of your paycheque (although there’s a time and place for that too!). Some of the best eats in this beautiful Atlantic province have a price tag of less than $20 a person. From standard East Coast grub like donair and fish and chips to Caribbean food, fried chicken and beyond, we got you covered.

CHKN SHOP

This cozy spot on North Street offers fried chicken sammies (try their McCHKN!), yummy sides like roasted potatoes and Brussels sprouts, as well as family combo packs. The two-person combo will cost you $27 and it comes with ½ chicken, two sides, coleslaw, gravy and hot sauce.

 

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Cafe Aroma Latino

This Latin American cafe at the corner of North and Agricola serves delish eats like quesadillas, empanadas, tacos (note: their shrimp tacos are popular for a reason!) and much more. A meal will cost you between $10 to $15 and they have a few tables outside for socially distanced eats.

 

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Sushi Shige

This small resto on Almon is arguably the best sushi spot in Halifax. How much you spend is really up to you. The salmon teriyaki dinner is $18, but you can also mix and match with your favourite Japanese eats — from agedashi tofu ($6) and nigiri ($6) to a variety of maki rolls.

 

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Backoos

This restaurant on Birmingham, close to the Halifax Public Gardens and the waterfront, has all your favourite Korean dishes: Korean fried chicken ($13 for chicken bites plus rice and dumplings), vegetarian or beef bibimbap ($11), kimchi fried rice ($12), japchae ($16) and more.

Willman’s Fish and Chips

You didn’t think we’d get through a list on Halifax best restos without including a fish and chips joint, did you? This spot at Isleville and Kane has been serving up East Cost comfort fare since the ‘40s. Their single-piece fish and chips will cost you $11, three pieces will set you back $17.

 

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Chef Abod

This Middle Eastern resto on Kempt Road offers oh-so delish dishes like falafel, kebab, Moroccan lentil soup and more. The special appetizer plate includes hummus, baba ganoush, red lentil kofta, roasted red pepper dip, falafels, grape leaves and warm pita and is only $15.

Jessy’s Pizza

Jessy’s is the largest locally owned pizza franchise in Nova Scotia, with 12 locations across the province and three locations in other major Canadian cities. Operating since the early ‘90s, they serve pizza of course, along with East Coast faves like garlic fingers ($10) and donair ($7 to $13).

Italian Market

Italian Market is a small cafe and grocer located on Young Street. They offer a variety of soups, sandwiches, pizza, pasta and famous deli sandwiches (all the sammies are less than $11). While you’re waiting for your Italian sandwich to get made, browse the grocery and gift sections of the store.

Jamaica Lee

This Caribbean food truck specializes in jerk chicken, curry, oxtail, rice and peas, beef patties and festivals, all which cost $16 or less. Order on your favourite food delivery app or head to the corner of Main Street and Tacoma Drive in Dartmouth to get your fill of Caribbean fare.

Adda Indian Eatery

Located on Spring Garden Road, Adda (which means hangout spot) is serving A+ Indian food like dosas and vada pav. There isn’t a single thing on their menu pricier than $13. Know your dollars are going to a resto with a heart: they’ve raised money to support Palestine and COVID-19 in India.

 

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Feature image courtesy of Backoos

Cookies and candy spilling over countertop

The Owner of Toronto’s Craig’s Cookies Shares His Secrets to Sweet Success

Cookies make everything better. Craig’s Cookies though? Those treat-stuffed morsels are a stamped, pink box of downright joy. It’s not just that they’re crammed with nostalgic childhood treats like peanut butter cups, shortbread or Snickers. It’s that each cookie is crafted with feel-good principles: love, inclusivity and the power of putting yourself out there. It’s no surprise that people are eating it up.

Craig Pike, the founder and namesake behind the famous Toronto cookie empire, epitomizes those traits. This sweet journey wasn’t his original life plan, but it grew organically — first from wanting to pay his phone bill and then from the unexpected joy it brought him.

“I saw how happy people got when their cookies were delivered to the door,” he says. “I’m a queer man who owns a business. My ethics and my morals and what I stand for are mirrored in the business. So while I was building the company and the brand, it was a no-brainer to try my best to make sure that it is a representation of who I am.”

The Early Days

The base of that business started five or six years ago when the actor and musician was out of work. To foot the bills he asked if anyone on Facebook wanted some of his potluck-famous cookies delivered. He fired up his Parkdale oven, busted out a top-secret version of his mom’s cookie recipe and hopped on his bike.

“One day I was at FreshCo in Parkdale buying butter for cookies and Pop Tarts were on sale. I thought that might be fun to put in a cookie. So I bought some Pop Tarts, put them in a cookie and it worked out,” he says. “So then I thought, well maybe if that works then anything would work. So we started with the Mars Bar and the peanut butter cup and the brownie — and now the sky’s the limit.”

Related: No-Bake Recipes Starring Peanut Butter, From Cookies to Cheesecake

Before Pike knew it, he was pumping out a dozen cookies every 12 minutes, selling his goods at local markets and eventually, at a six-month pop-up partnership with William Sonoma at Yorkdale Shopping Centre. “From there I had enough confidence to take a risk and open my first brick and mortar in 2018,” Pike says. “At that time, there were two employees: myself and one other person. The goal was a two-year lease and just go sell some cookies.”

Pike’s shop in Parkdale is a space inspired by his grandmother’s home in St. John’s, Newfoundland, a place where he grew up. Pike chose simple blue tiling to represent the Atlantic Ocean (customers have since pointed out it’s also the perfect Cookie Monster blue) and he hand-picked all of the art on the walls. “It feels like you’re going your grandmother’s or your grandfather’s or your loved ones’ home,” he says. “And you get to have a cookie, you get to meet somebody who’s going to give you the cookie, have a little chat with them. The only difference is that you pay for it.”

For the Love of Cookies

Not even three weeks after launch, a local news outlet shared a video featuring Craig’s Cookies that exploded with 1.4 million views in a single week. Suddenly Pike went from selling $360 worth of cookies a day to more than $1,000 a day. He eventually opened up a location in The Village, followed by locations in Leaside and Leslieville during the pandemic. Now, Pike says he has 86 employees, he ships goods to all corners of the country and he is on track to sell $10 to $12 million worth of cookies in the next four years.

Today, there are more than 100 types of cookies to sample at Craig’s Cookies, all made from that same base recipe he learned in his mom’s kitchen. Pike unabashedly uses familiar products that are fun and delicious to stuff those cookies with, rather than coming up with recipes for fillings. Even the shortbread-stuffed cookies are made with chocolate shortbread cookies from Cookie it Up, which Pike first fell in love with on a flight at Billy Bishop Airport.

Pike also regularly hosts creativity sessions where employees can come into the kitchen and just experiment with whatever they want. It was during one such session that they may have finally cracked a birthday cake cookie, something he says customers have been asking for. Sour Cherry Blasters, Mini Eggs, Nutella, apple pie and a slew of other options can also be found on the rotating menu and of course there is a Pride cookie, which is available year-round and is a featured item during Pride Toronto.

Related: Steve Hodge Shares His Best Tips on How to Run a Successful Bakery

“There’s maybe one trained baker in our entire company,” Pike says of his employees and overall philosophy. “It’s a group of amazing, incredible people — a lot of them work in the arts — who love home baking, who just want to be part of a community that is inclusive and who just celebrate the joy and happiness of what a cookie can bring to somebody.”

An Artful Future

Looking back, Pike isn’t sure he would have grown Craig’s Cookies the way he did had the pandemic not forced him to. It wasn’t just that he had to find ways to pivot, it was also that his first loves, theatre and music, were also shut down. So he doubled down with cookies and looked into how far he could push the business while exploring wholesale opportunities, a frozen cookie dough and other potential ventures.

Pike says there’s a lot of room for growth, but he’s also at the point where he wants to ensure he has a grasp on the business and not the other way around. He’s an entrepreneur with no formal business training (one of his project managers recently insisted he learn about profit margins, for example) and he feels the company is at a point where he needs someone else to help him explore future potential. Until then, he’s not in a rush.

Related: Our Top Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipes for a Better Week Ahead

Instead, he finally feels as though he’s in a place where he can fund other passion projects and give back to the community while exploring some of the other things he loves. That includes kicking off an arts organization in the fall and producing a play, expanding the Toronto choir he conducts and creating a youth program where underprivileged kids in the city can express themselves through theatre and music.

“Five years ago, when I was baking by myself in my apartment in Parkdale, exhausted, baking like a dozen cookies every 12 minutes for nine hours, to try to get some cookies to sell on the sidewalk, I was like, ‘There has to be a means to an end here,’” he recalls. “Because I’m an artist. I’m an actor. I’m a musician. Now the pandemic is kind of shifting and we’re seeing light at the end of the tunnel. But these initiatives are all possible because of Craig’s Cookies. All the hard work is coming to fruition in a really great way.”

Photos courtesy of Craig’s Cookies

Mexican-inspired taco burger on wood cutting board

These Mexican-Inspired Taco Burgers Are Bringing the Heat

Inspired by the short rib tacos from Toronto’s Playa Cabana, our Dining In Mexican-inspired taco burger boasts fiery flavours using ancho chili, guajillo peppers and jalapeno peppers for an intense and irresistible bite. It starts with a spiced beef patty topped with jalapeno guacamole, guajillo sauce and a handful of tortilla chips, between two burger buns and is the ultimate summer dish bringing all the heat. Say hello to your absolute new favourite BBQ burger!

Mexican-inspired taco burger on wood cutting board

Taco Burger With Guajillo Ketchup and Jalapeno Guacamole

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients:

6 guajillo peppers
3 cloves garlic
2 avocados, chopped
1 lime, juiced
1 jalapeno pepper, diced
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1 ½ tsp salt, divided
2 Tbsp chopped onion
1 cup water
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp cider vinegar
1 ancho chili, toasted and ground (or chili powder)
1 lb ground beef
1 tsp pepper
8 slices queso fresco
4 burger buns
Tortilla chips
4 slices tomato
4 slices onion

Mexican-inspired taco burger ingredients

Directions:

1. Heat a skillet on medium-high. Add guajillo peppers and toast for 5 minutes. Remove peppers and set aside. Place garlic in the pan, with skin still intact and toast on both sides until lightly charred, about 3 minutes. Remove and set aside.

2. Cut the stems off the guajillo peppers and discard seeds. Use scissors to cut the peppers into small pieces in a medium bowl. Pour boiling water over top until the peppers are covered and set aside to rehydrate for 15 minutes.

Related: Vegan Mexican Recipes to Spice up Your Weeknights

3. Meanwhile, make the jalapeno guacamole by mashing together the avocado, lime juice, diced jalapeno, cilantro and ¼ tsp salt. Set aside until serving.

Ingredient for guacamole on countertop

4. Once the guajillo peppers are rehydrated, remove the skins from the garlic and place in the container of a blender. Add chopped onion, water, brown sugar, tomato paste, cider vinegar and ¼ tsp salt. Strain the guajillo peppers and add them to the blender. Pulse on high until smooth, then pass the guajillo ketchup through a sieve. Discard the seeds and skin, and reserve the ketchup for serving.

5. Preheat BBQ on high heat. Form the ground beef into 4 patties and season with ancho chili, remaining salt and pepper. Place on the grill and cook for 5 minutes per side or until medium-well. Add queso fresco once the burgers are flipped. Toast the buns for the final minute of cooking. Remove the buns and burgers and allow to rest for 3 minutes.

6. To assemble, spread a spoonful of jalapeno guacamole on the bottom bun. Top with a handful of tortilla chips and place burger on top. Spoon guajillo ketchup on the burger, then top with one slice of tomato and onion. Smother in additional guajillo ketchup and finish with the top bun.

Mexican-inspired taco burger being assembled

Like Philip and Mystique’s Mexican-inspired Burgers? Try their leftover fried chicken nachos or their gluten-free eggplant Parm dip.

Watch the how-to video here:


Matcha and raspberry mochi doughnuts

10 Canadian Doughnut Shops That’ll Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

Did you know? Canada has more doughnut shops per capita than any other nation in the world! And what better thing to do during a pandemic than try a new flavour or two? In celebration of National Doughnut Day on June 4th, we decided to take a look inside the best doughnut shops across Canada. Whether you’re up for something new and fun or a good ol’ cinnamon sugar, here are the best spots to pick up the most scrumptious doughnuts across this big ol’ country.

Holy Cow Gelato & Donuts, Calgary, AB

HOLY COW is right! This small shop in Calgary is the definition of innovative. They started out as gelato shop, expanded to doughnuts and are now offering burgers too. With this shop offering six new doughnuts options per month, there is never a shortage of flavours (like everything bagel, lemon meringue and orange blossom).

Daddy O Doughnuts, Mississauga, ON

Whether it’s old-fashioned doughnut, something vegan or an entirely creative and new sweet treat, Daddy O Doughnuts has it all. Their secret? An old family recipe passed down from generation to generation and only the finest, wholesome ingredients. Better get there early because rain or shine, they always sell out quick!

Trou de Beigne, Montreal, QC

Trou de Beigne doughnuts are hand-rolled, fried and glazed every morning, ensuring customers are getting the finest, fluffiest and most flavourful bite in each doughnut. They go above and beyond when creating flavours, whether it’s Nutella and banana, cookie dough, bourbon lemonade (yes, you heard that right) alongside vegan or gluten-free options. This doughnut shop never disappoints.

 

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Related: Nostalgic Desserts That Will Take You Down Memory Lane

Cops Doughnuts, Toronto, ON

Cops Doughnuts has gone viral on multiple social media outlets. Their slogan “too many options is a prison“ means that they have three flavours including original, cinnamon sugar and original sour cream glaze, along with a rotating selection each week. Let me tell you: the Oreo left me with a full tummy of happiness. Friendly staff!

Grandads Donuts, Hamilton, ON

This family-owned doughnut shop has been operating since the early 2000s. They use the best ingredients possible to create the freshest doughnuts — the same way grandad did — to keep you coming back for more. A must-stop if you’re ever in Hamilton. Hot tip: go on an empty stomach so you can try as many as you can!

 

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Related: Gourmet Cookie Recipes Perfect for Any Special Occasion

Cartems Donuts, Vancouver, BC

Almost 2,000 Google reviews will tell you this is the best place in Vancouver to fill your doughnuts cravings. They make doughnuts from scratch every day. Flavours include vanilla bean, smoked maple walnut, Earl Grey, as well as many vegan and gluten-free options.

 

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Glory Hole Doughnuts, Toronto, ON

With almost 40,000 Instagram followers, this local Toronto shop is the trendsetter for everything doughnuts. With two locations in Parkdale and on Gerrard, the award-winning Glory Hole does not fail to please. From cake doughnuts to yeast doughnuts and beyond.

 

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Donut Monster, Hamilton ON

This shop’s 45,000+ followers on Instagram can’t be wrong! They have every flavour you can imagine, from butter tart pecan to whiskey sour. They even have a doughnut ice cream sandwich. Their light, airy dough will unquestionably make your summer sweeter!

 

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Bronuts, Winnipeg, MB

Your friendly neighbourhood doughnut shop has captured the attention of many worldwide by naming their doughnuts after people, like Max, Debbie, Margot or Arthur. Flavours range from salted chocolate, pistachio white chocolate and caramel blondie.

 

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Fortune Doughnut, Halifax, NS

Considered one of best shops to grab doughnuts on the East Coast, Fortune makes a variety of fun flavours and has plenty of vegan options too. Their vegan flavours are stellar — from Boston cream and maple bacon to raspberry gummy bears and chocolate Oreo.

 

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Want to try making doughnuts at home? Try these matcha and raspberry mochi doughnuts (they require just 10 ingredients!).

Curry shepherd's pie in serving platter

Classic Shepherd’s Pie Gets a Spicy West Indian Makeover

This Dining In dish combines two of our favourite comfort foods for the ultimate feel-good meal: a chicken curry shepherd’s pie inspired by the chicken paratha at Ali’s Roti in Toronto. Comforting and rich, this version has all the components of a classic shepherd’s pie, with a simple swap of lamb for chicken. We seasoned the chicken with spices traditionally found in a West Indian curry, tossed it with peas and carrots and topped it with a thick layer of the fluffiest potatoes before baking it in the oven.

Curry shepherd's pie in serving platter

Chicken Curry Shepherd’s Pie

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 60 minutes
Servings: 4 to 6

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp curry powder
1 ½ Tbsp garam masala
½ tsp roasted geera (cumin)
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 wiri wiri or Scotch Bonnet pepper, chopped
1 tsp fresh chopped thyme
2 lbs ground chicken
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
2 Tbsp tomato paste
¾ cup chicken stock
2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
½ cup milk
¼ cup butter

Curry shepherd's pie ingredients on countertop

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 425°F. In a small bowl, whisk together curry powder, garam masala, geera and ⅓ cup water until smooth. Heat a deep skillet or medium pot to medium-high heat. Add the oil and once it begins to smoke, pour in the spice mix. Stir constantly until it becomes a deep brown colour, about 2 minutes. Add a splash of water if it begins to stick to the pan.

2. Stir in the onions until coated in the curry and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add the garlic, peppers and thyme, cook an additional 2 minutes.

Related: Caribbean Recipes That Will Liven Your Dinner Table

3. Add the chicken to pan and season with salt and pepper. Break up and stir the chicken until completely coated in the curry and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, mixing occasionally, until browned. Stir in the carrots, peas and tomato paste. Pour in chicken stock, bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer for 15 minutes.

Ground meat cooking in pan

4. Meanwhile, place the potatoes in a pot with 2 tsp of salt and cover with water by 1 inch. Bring the pot to a boil and cook the potatoes until fork tender, about 15 minutes. Drain the water and transfer the potatoes to a bowl.

5. Return the pot to medium-high heat and add the milk and butter. Once hot, add the potatoes and mash until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

6. Transfer the curry chicken to a 9×13-inch baking dish. Dollop potatoes on top and spread, adding divots and ridges for ultimate presentation. Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, until the potatoes are hot and peaks beginning to brown.

Curry shepherd's pie being prepared for the oven

Like Philip and Mystique’s chicken curry shepherd’s pie? Try their leftover fried chicken nachos or their caramelized onion risotto.

Watch the how-to video here:

 

Flippy robot chef in fast food restaurant

Meet the World’s First Autonomous Robotic Kitchen Assistant

What if we told you that we know someone — rather something — who can work a grill and fryer perfectly for 100,000 hours straight? Its name is Flippy and it’s an AI assistant chef from Miso Robotics. The cost? $30,000 USD, plus a monthly fee of $1,500 USD/month.

Flippy robot chef in fast food restaurant

The robot addresses the problem of fulfilling late-night shifts that no one wants in a 24-hour restaurant. Also, due to the pandemic, there’s greater concern for food safety and hygiene. This is able to solution all of that, as the robot works with minimal human contact.

Related: Ways to Continue Supporting Your Favourite Local Restaurants

The robot chef — invented in 2016 — is controlled by AI to do more than just the repetitive task of being a burger flipper. Today it can keep track of cooking times and temperatures. It can place baskets in the fryer to make chicken wings, onion rings, hash browns and much more. As upgrades are made, this robot chef will be able to take on more complex tasks. The company has raised over $20 million, which shows there’s an appetite for this kind of technology.

Flippy robot chef in fast food restaurant

The robot is currently operating in Caliburger in Fort Myers, Florida. The restaurant chain has ordered more for each of their global locations. White Castle, the oldest fast-food chain in America, wanted in on this action as well. “We’re looking at Flippy as a tool that helps us increase speed of service and frees team members up to focus more on other areas we want to concentrate on, whether that’s order accuracy or how we’re handling delivery partner drivers and getting them what they need when they come through the door.” said White Castle’s vice president, Jamie Richardson. No word yet on whether the robot chef will be coming to Canada anytime soon.

Related: What is a Ghost Kitchen? (And Why They’re Thriving During COVID)

While this technology is impressive, there may be some concern that this will impact jobs in the fast-food industry. With so many unfilled restaurant jobs across North America and turnover rates at an all-time high, the introduction of robot chefs may be seen to some as a much-needed service. Also, while the robot is working the back of house, patrons will still have front-facing human customer service.

Photos courtesy of Miso Robotics

Woman digging into takeout on kitchen table

National Takeout Day: Canadians Aim to Set Record for Most Takeout Ordered in Single Day

By now, it’s a familiar story: many local restaurants have been forced to shut their doors in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. Unfortunately, some of these restaurants have closed down for good, unable to continue absorbing the costs and challenges posed by the pandemic; with them going the creativity, unique offerings and livelihoods of entire culinary teams.

Last December, Restaurants Canada reported that 10,000 restaurants have already closed with upwards of 50 per cent expecting to close permanently if conditions don’t improve. 

Related: Canadians Now Ordering Food Online in Record Numbers, Survey Reveals

Woman Eating Delicious Takeaway Food At Home

Even as many meet this fate, others continue to provide delivery and takeout options, as well as alternate ways to continue nurturing a vibrant culinary life in cities and towns across the country. 

Related: Big Food Bucket List Restaurants Across Canada That Now Offer Takeout

In a show of support, Canadians are coming together on April 15th for a second year in a row. Created by Canada Takeout (CTO) — an organization dedicated to all things takeout across the country — #TakeoutDay has also evolved into a weekly celebration of local eats, taking place each Wednesday. 

Spicy Indian food spread on table ready to eat.

To date, the hashtag has reached 52.9 million people and CTO’s hope Canadians will embrace eating from their favourite local spots on April 15th by ordering from restaurant takeout menus. 

Related: What is a Ghost Kitchen? (And Why They’re Thriving During COVID)

CTO is raising the bar from last year by challenging Canadians to set a national record for the most takeout ordered in a single day. Diners can participate by ordering takeout, uploading their takeout receipts to the Takeout Tracker and also spreading the love on social using the hashtags #takeoutday and #canadatakeoutrecordThe day follows on the heels of an FDA announcement that there is still no clear evidence of COVID-19 transmission through food or related packaging.

Photos courtesy of Getty Images

Make Date Night Extra Special With This Caramelized Onion Risotto

Make date night extra delicious with a risotto inspired by Toronto-based restaurant Maker Pizza’s “Frank’s Best Pizza”. This Dining In risotto is creamy and subtly sweet, and features yummy ingredients like caramelized onions, tangy goat cheese, Parmesan and rosemary, and is finished with a drizzle of honey and sesame seeds. It’s an unexpected flavour combination that you (and whomever you’re trying to impress) will fall in love with.

Caramelized risotto in white bowl

Caramelized Onion Risotto With Goat Cheese and Rosemary

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 4

Ingredients:

4 Tbsp butter, divided
4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
4 medium onions, thinly sliced lengthwise
Pinch of sea salt
6 cups chicken stock
1 ½ cups Arborio rice
1 ½ cups white wine
¼ cup grated Parmesan, plus additional for serving
2 Tbsp goat cheese, plus additional for serving
2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
2 tsp honey, for serving
2 tsp sesame seeds, for serving

Caramelized risotto ingredients on white countertop

Directions:

1. Heat 2 Tbsp of butter and Tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet or medium pot. Add onions and cook, without stirring, for 3 to 5 minutes, until they begin to brown. Season with salt and stir, scraping up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Caramelize for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, stirring every 3 to 5 minutes, until sweet and deep brown in colour. Transfer to a bowl and set the pan aside, leaving any bits of onion in the pan.

Caramelized onions in white ramekin

2. Heat the chicken stock in a saucepan until it just comes to a boil. Lower heat to it’s lowest setting.

3. Using the pan that caramelized the onions, turn to high heat. Add remaining butter and olive oil and once the butter is melted, stir in the rice, frying for 3 to 4 minutes until the edges are translucent. Pour in the wine and constantly stir until absorbed. Add in 1 cup of the hot stock and stir until it is absorbed, then repeat 4 to 5 more times until the rice is al dente.

Risotto cooking in white pot

4. Add half the caramelized onions to the risotto, along with Parmesan, goat cheese and rosemary. Stir until evenly distributed then season with salt.

Related: These Easy Dinner Ideas Will Still Impress Your Tinder Date (We Promise!)

5. To serve, plate risotto and use the back of a fork to make a divot. Top with remaining onions, then sprinkle with additional Parmesan, goat cheese, honey and sesame seeds.

Caramelized risotto in white bowl

Watch the how-to video here:


Like Philip and Mystique’s caramelized onion risotto? Try their eggplant Parm dip or their leftover fried chicken nachos.

Can You Guess Which City is the Most Vegetarian-Friendly in Canada?

With the COVID-19 pandemic came the unprecedented shift towards working remotely for many Canadians, and some are looking to relocate to places better suited to their lifestyles, for good. With plant-based diets on the rise for health, ethical and environmental reasons, which cities are best suited to attract vegetarians? 

The Vegetarian Cities Index for 2021 sought to answer this by ranking 75 of the most vegetarian-friendly cities in the world, and that list includes some Canadian standouts. 

Related: Easy Plant-Based Recipes for Beginners That Will Make You Drool

Rustic table with a blue plate, zucchini noodles, tomatoes, kale and halved soft-boiled eggs

The index assessed the affordability and quality of each city’s vegetarian offerings (including plant-based diet staples such as fruits, veggies and proteins), the number of vegetarian-friendly restaurants and lifestyle-related events. 

Related: From Keto to Vegan, These Are the Pantry Staples You Need Based on Your Diet

The survey identified that while home cooking still played an important role for vegetarians over the last 12 months, plant-based restaurants played an important role in people’s lives (some of these restaurants were not only top rated vegetarian restaurants, but top rated restaurants overall). 

Of the 75, Canada did not crack the top 30 list. However, four Canadian cities did offer established vegetarian-friendly “ecosystems,” with Ottawa leading as the most vegetarian-friendly city in Canada in 31st place. Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal follow in 50th, 60th, and 66th place, respectively. 

Related: The One Dish John Catucci Always Orders From These North American Cities

People in the produce aisle at a grocery store

Out of these four, Ottawa had the most affordable grocery staples (fruits, veggies, plant-based proteins),  while Montreal scored highest out of the four for vegetarian restaurant affordability. Toronto, on the other hand, had the highest number of vegetarian-friendly restaurants, while Vancouver had the highest ratio of these restaurants with nearly a quarter offering vegetarian-friendly options. 

As for which cities claimed the top spots? London (UK), Berlin and Munich were identified as the top three destinations for those opting for a meatless diet. 

We tried TikTok’s Feta Tomato Pasta and Popeye’s Famous Chicken Sandwich — are they worth the hype?

Photos courtesy of Unsplash.

Leftover Fried Chicken + Pineapple + Nacho Chips = The Game-Day Meal of Your Dreams

When life gives you leftover fried chicken, make nachos! Inspired by the flavours of Toronto-based The Heartbreak Chef’s Dutty Chicken Sandwich, these Dining In chicken and pineapple nachos with jerk sour cream pairs leftover spicy fried chicken with the sweetness of pineapple — and is then finished with red onion, jalapenos and loads of cheese. It’s a quick and simple dish for a late-night snack or game-day meal!

Leftover fried chicken nachos

Leftover Fried Chicken and Pineapple Nachos With Jerk Sour Cream

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients:

½ cup sour cream
2 tsp jerk sauce
6 cups tortilla chips
3 cups medium cheddar, grated
2 cups leftover spicy fried chicken (or leftover chicken tossed in jerk sauce), cubed
1 cup pineapple, cubed
½ small red onion, diced
2 jalapeno peppers, sliced
2 green onions, thinly sliced

Leftover fried chicken nachos ingredients on countertop

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. In a small bowl, combine sour cream and jerk sauce. Set aside until serving.

Jerk sour cream in bowl

2. Layer about of the tortilla chips on a round baking tray or skillet. Top with about of cheese, fried chicken, pineapple, red onion and jalapeno peppers. Then repeat with another layer — of the tortilla chips, cheese, chicken, pineapple, onion and jalapenos. Place the nachos in the oven to bake for 5 minutes, until the cheese is melted.

Leftover fried chicken ingredients on countertop

3. Remove the nachos and make another layer using the remaining ingredients, forming a pyramid. Return to the oven for an additional 10 minutes until the cheese is bubbling and tortilla chips are beginning to brown.

Leftover fried chicken nachos

4. To serve, spoon a large dollop of the jerk sour cream on the top of the nachos and sprinkle with green onions. Enjoy!

Watch the how-to video here:


Like Philip and Mystique’s leftover spicy fried chicken nachos? Try their eggplant parm dip!

eggplant parm dip in cast iron next to toasted bread

This Vegetarian, Gluten-Free Eggplant Parm Dip is the Perfect Dish for Date Night at Home

Elevate your next date night at home with a crunchy take on the classic eggplant parm. Warm, comforting, cheesy and crispy, our Dining In dip recipe — inspired by the eggplant parm at 416 Snack Bar in Toronto — has everything you love about the original dish, now with a dippable twist! Made by layering tomato sauce, roasted eggplant, mozzarella cheese, ricotta, Parmesan and a crispy quinoa topping, this simple, yet decadent dish is the ultimate oven-to-table meal served family-style with toasted bread for easy scooping.

eggplant parm dip in cast iron next to toasted bread

Eggplant Parm Dip

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Servings: 4 to 6

Ingredients:

¾ cup quinoa
Sea salt
2 cans (746 ml) San Marzano tomatoes, crushed
2 cloves garlic, smashed
½ tsp red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp fresh chopped basil, plush additional for serving
1 large eggplant, cubed
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup freshly grated mozzarella cheese
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus additional for serving
3 Tbsp butter, divided
6 slices sourdough bread

eggplant parm dip ingredients on kitchen countertop

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 425°F.

2. Rinse quinoa under cold water. Add to a small pot with 1 ½ cups water and lightly season with a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until cooked through and water is absorbed.

roasted quinoa on baking tray

3. While the quinoa is cooking, you can start the tomato sauce: pour tomatoes into a saucepan. Bring to a boil on high heat, then add garlic and red pepper flakes. Reduce heat to medium low and add basil. Cook for 15 minutes, then season with salt to taste and set aside.

4. In a large bowl, toss eggplant with 2 Tbsp olive oil and ½ tsp of sea salt. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Related: Romantic Date Night Recipes to Make at Home

5. Toss cooked quinoa with 1 Tbsp of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet and spread into an even layer. Place both the eggplant and quinoa in the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring once halfway through, until the eggplant is caramelized and the quinoa is lightly browned and crispy. Set aside and lower oven temperature to 375°F.

6. Spread tomato sauce in the base of a 12-inch cast iron skillet or 9-inch square baking dish. Layer with eggplant and top with dollops of ricotta cheese. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese overtop, leaving the ricotta peeking through. Finish with a handful of Parmesan and the crispy quinoa. Place in the oven to bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the mozzarella is melted, ricotta is just turning golden and quinoa is crisp.

eggplant parm dip ingredients deconstructed on kitchen countertop

7. While the eggplant parm dip is baking, heat a skillet on medium and melt 1 Tbsp of butter. Lay 2 slices of bread in the pan and fry until golden brown on both sides. Set aside on a wire rack and repeat process with remaining bread slices. Cut bread in halves or quarters.

8. Before serving, finish with a sprinkling of additional basil and Parmesan. Place the dip family-style in the middle of the table with bread tucked in the sides of the pan and a spoon for serving.

eggplant parm dip in cast iron

Here are more gooey, melty ways to get your cheese fix.

Watch the how-to video here:


Duck salad inside red box

Meet the $45 Takeout Meal That Comes in a Jewellery Box

The pandemic is changing habits — and we’re all embracing takeout like never before. While fast-food chains were always set up for takeout, other restaurants had to quickly adapt their business model to pay the bills. Fine-dining restaurants that previously relied on dine-in patrons are forced to now reimagine their food to offer an upscale dining experience to-go.

Hana in Toronto’s ritzy Yorkville neighbourhood offers one the best modern Kyō-kaiseki (Kyoto-style cuisine) dining experiences in the city. Chef Ryusuke Nakagawa’s food does a dance between modern and traditional — and pre-COVID, his preparation and presentation of each dish was so meticulous. Clearly, I had to see if the takeout experience shared the same sentiment. I opted for the duck salad, which costs $45. Expensive compared to fast-food takeout, but quite on par in terms of fine-dining prices.

Duck salad inside red box

First Looks

Let’s start with the packaging. The duck salad comes in a glistening, cherry-coloured, faux mahogany keepsake box from Japan, which adds an instant sophistication to the experience. From afar, you wouldn’t believe it’s not real wood. Once the lid is removed, your eyes are drawn to the variety. The dish is made with over a dozen ingredients that are all visible and vibrant. The star of the show is the ribbons of duck which Hana is not frugal about in this salad.

Red box on white counter

Digging In

Where do I even start? In a dish with so many ingredients, I like to try each one individually to get a sense of taste and texture separately. Essentially, I give each ingredient its own attention. It’s important to note that the duck salad’s veggies vary depending on the season. When I tried this in December 2020, this is what I had.

The duck is marinated in akamiso (red miso) and is slightly charcoal-grilled. It’s soft and buttery. The salad also has delicious carrot kinpira (julienned vegetables that are braised in a sauce made of soy and sugar), shungiku leaves (slightly bitter, yet delicate leafy greens) and maitake mushrooms, blanched and boiled in a dashi-based broth.

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Ingredients that were new to me include: ginkgo (nuts that comes from a ginkgo tree and taste like edamame), golden beets (which are much sweeter than the red ones) and kikka kabura (a flower-shaped turnip). Other characters that make up the salad include daikon, radish sprouts, red cabbage, persimmons (because they’re in season), lotus roots, figs and the most finely sliced limes that complimented every bite.

Duck salad inside red box

The Sour Notes

This salad is made with a variety of vinegars: saffron vinegar, tosa vinegar, sweet vinegar and more. I can say with confidence, I never once made a dramatic sour face the way babies do when trying a lemon for the first time.

The Verdict

This dish could have gone terribly wrong given the amount of acidity in it. Ninety per cent of the vegetables were marinated with acidic notes, yet the duck stood up to it all.

I think one of the ways the chef was able to control the acidity is by his masterful knife skills, which Japanese chefs are known for. You’ll notice the dish is full of vegetable that are sliced, diced, julienned, fine-julienned and chiffonade cut. The cutting technique affects flavour. The more finely cut a vegetable, the more marinade it can absorb, which mean the chef is able to maintain a balanced flavour.

Although the shiso flower buds make a very pretty garnish, next time I would politely put them to the side. They have a very strong, lingering herb flavour that I could easily do without. I see why it would work well in a cocktail.

Overall, if you like duck, this is a must-have. You won’t be disappointed with the portion, presentation or palatableness.

Closeup of takeout duck salad in red box with wood chopsticks

Interested in more takeout reviews? We tried the KFC Cinnabon Dessert Biscuits and Popeyes’ Chicken Sandwich.

Photos courtesy of Deepi Harish

We Tried the KFC Cinnabon Dessert Biscuits — Are They Worth the Hype?

Is it possible that two popular food chains have crafted the dessert pairing we didn’t know we needed? KFC Canada has joined fast-food forces with Cinnabon for a dessert that is so 2020 — chaotic.

As of December 2, KFC Cinnabon Dessert Biscuits are available across Canada while quantities last. It’s the perfect holiday treat for those who love trying the latest food crazes — or simply want to travel back (in their minds) to warm weather and carnival eats.

So, is this dessert mashup worth the buzz? You needed answers, so we gave it a try on your behalf. (You can thank us later).

Related: We Tried Popeyes’ Famous Chicken Sandwich That Finally Arrived in Canada – Is It Worth the Hype?

So, what exactly are KFC Cinnabon Dessert Biscuits?

This savoury treat is essentially a Frankenstein’s monster of a dessert (which is totally on-trend), combining KFC’s signature buttermilk biscuits with Cinnabon’s cinnamon brown sugar glaze, cream cheese frosting and chocolate bow tie toppers. To be honest, it reminds us of must-try summer carnival foods, like the ones that garner headlines at the CNE every year.

Customers can order them individually ($1.99), as a four-pack ($6.99) or as part of KFC’s Festive Buckets — the Festive Mighty Bucket for One ($11.99) and the Festive Double Bucket ($35.99).

Related: Meatball Fans Rejoice! IKEA Canada Restaurant Now Offers Takeout

First Look

“Soggy” is the first word that comes to mind. We opened a box of the four-pack and were met with gooey, melted chocolate on top — and maybe it’s just us, but we’re not really fans of desserts that look super… wet? But we’re going into this with entirely open minds. Sure, it doesn’t exactly look appetizing, but it can’t be that bad, right?

Related: We Tested 4 Popular Canadian Meal Delivery Kits. Here’s How They Compared

Digging In

At first bite, the dessert biscuits taste exactly how they look: soggy. The biscuit is mediocre at best — it was a lot more crumbly and dense than we would have expected and it had a weird aftertaste.

The silver lining in all this: it’s worth noting that the little chocolate bow ties on the top (which actually resemble little melted stick figures, don’t you think?) were the least offensive part of the entire dessert — so chocolate fans can rejoice in that part, we suppose?

The Verdict

Honestly, if you’re craving KFC’s fan-favourite biscuits, just straight-up buy one of them, sans goopy cinnamon sugar and chocolate stick figures/bow ties. If you’re craving Cinnabon, just go to Cinnabon — and the two shall never meet.

KFC Cinnabon Dessert Biscuits are available exclusively at KFCs across Canada.

Here are some famous recipes we’re making at home — from McDs hash browns to IKEA meatballs. You can also check out these recipes from hit movies and our favourite songs!

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