Category Archives: Dining Out

Canadians Now Ordering Food Online in Record Numbers, Survey Reveals

It’s been an unusual year, to say the least. From adjusting to our makeshift home offices to recalibrating our kitchen routines, our work-life balance has never looked more different. One of the biggest changes in 2020? The eating habits of Canadians.

This week, the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University in Halifax released their report on the impact of COVID-19 on the food industry and e-commerce. For the study, researchers surveyed 7,290 Canadians about their eating habits in the last six months.

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

The findings reveal that a total of 31.3 per cent of Canadians have used curbside pickup or home delivery services from grocery stores in recent months, while 28.6 per cent used an online service to get food delivered from a restaurant. Another 26.3 per cent specifically used a phone application to order food (think: UberEats and Skip the Dishes) with 12.8 per cent opting for make-it-yourself meal kits. In summary, 63.8 per cent of Canadians have ordered food online in some form in the preceding six months.

A quick breakdown of the most popular food types ordered by Canucks, according to the survey, reveals the following:

— fast food (33.1 per cent)
— fruits and vegetables (22 per cent)
— dairy products (21.5 per cent)
— baked goods (20.6 per cent)
— alcoholic beverages (8.7 per cent)

Related: Famous Recipes We’re Making at Home, From McD’s Hash Browns to IKEA Meatballs

When asked the reasoning behind their scrumptious purchases, respondents revealed that convenience by and large was the most popular reason, coming in at 33.8 per cent. Second place were concerns about the virus and leaving the house at 13.8 per cent. For 6.9 per cent of Canadians, mandatory self-isolation was the driving factor behind ordering food online or via app.

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

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, 29.6 per cent of Canadians averaged food orders (grocery or takeout) at least once a week. In the last six months, however, that percentage has skyrocketed to 45.4 per cent.

In conclusion, the Agri-Food Analytics Lab estimates that 4.2 million more Canadians are ordering food online at least once a week than the pre-pandemic average.

Other than takeout, wonder what we’ve all been purchasing since March? Spoiler alert: it’s not just toilet paper! Here’s what Canadians have been buying since COVID started, according to Statistics Canada.

Photos courtesy of Getty Images

IKEA meatballs on serving tray inside restaurant

Meatball Fans Rejoice! IKEA Canada Restaurant Now Offers Takeout

Raise your hand if you’ve ever experienced a sudden, overwhelming hankering for IKEA meatballs. (*waves both hands*) If this describes you to a T, we’ve got some great news for you: as of today – November 9 – IKEA Canada is offering restaurant takeout so you can gorge on those iconic Swedish meatballs (and some new budget-friendly family meals) from the comfort of your own home. We don’t know about you, but this is the type of feel-good foodie news we need more of in 2020.

IKEA meatballs on serving tray

Related: Famous Recipes We’re Making at Home, From McD’s Hash Browns to IKEA Meatballs

Due to provincial COVID-19 restrictions, many IKEA locations across the nation have had to shutter their dine-in spaces, leaving bereft customers out of luck when it came to enjoying fan-favourites such as the veggie balls, butter chicken and the fish and chips duo.

Thankfully, the new takeout process is easy as 1-2-3: simply place your order at an IKEA kiosk in the designated bistro area and you’re all set to pick it up once it’s ready.

Related: We Tried Popeyes’ Famous Chicken Sandwich That Finally Came to Canada – Is it Worth the Hype?

IKEA has also introduced new affordable family meals, which includes a Swedish meatball family meal ($30) and a Swedish veggie ball family meal ($20). Each order contains 24 meatballs (or veggie balls) with a choice of two sides, plus additional sauces and a family-sized chocolate DAIM cake for dessert.

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

Takeout is now available at all IKEA Canada stores nationwide, including those which have temporarily closed dine-in areas due to provincial regulations.

Find more information on IKEA’s takeout policy here.

Photos courtesy of Getty Images.

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

We’re all very familiar with takeout these days, but did you know that your new favourite dish may not actually come from a physical restaurant? It may have come to you by way of what’s sometimes called a “ghost kitchen,” “virtual kitchen” or “dark kitchen.”

While these terms are often used interchangeably, Adam Armeland, CEO and co-founder of  “virtual food hall” Kitchen Hub explains the difference: “Ghost kitchens are restaurants that sell exclusively (or predominantly) through digital channels and do not have a direct customer-facing component (with seating, pickup counter, etc.).”

Spread of plates featuring different dishes from Kitchen Hub restaurants

Virtual or dark kitchens on the other hand exist in addition to the traditional brick-and-mortar restaurant structure — and offer customers the option to eat their favourite meals at home. For example, Kitchen Hub is a dark kitchen for some of Toronto’s favourite restaurants, a space where takeout is prepared for PAI Northern Thai Kitchen, The Carbon Bar, Kanga and Cheesecake Factory Bakery. Kitchen Hub also offers customers the advantage of having access to all these different restaurant menus with one order.

Related: Ranking Canadian Retailers Offering Grocery Delivery Right Now, by Price

Differences aside, these all include a centralized commercial kitchen, allowing customers to order menu items online (whether via kitchenhub.ca, SkipTheDishes, Uber Eats, DoorDash or similar food delivery services). “They allow restaurants to take on a smaller footprint, fewer employees and take advantage of the increasing demand for food outside of the restaurant,” says Armeland.

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

There are more benefits for customers too: “The customer benefits from food being prepared in a facility that is purpose-built for off-premise consumption. Not only will their order get to them faster and fresher, but it will also be prepared in a facility that was designed to have less interaction with the outside world, which minimizes risk [of exposure] to everyone in the process.”

But this model isn’t new — it’s been around since 2013, when the first ghost kitchen opened in New York. Brick-and-mortar restaurants are costly to start up and run — and can be a challenge in the best of times. Enter a global pandemic, hitting the restaurant industry with a $4B drop in revenue between January and April alone. The pandemic catalyzed many restaurants to switch to the ghost or dark kitchen model. “All restaurants effectively became ghost kitchens overnight when the government mandated that they could only be available for takeout and delivery,” says Armeland.

Spread of plates featuring Thai dishes, including golden curry and shrimp

As for what makes a great ghost kitchen? “By and far the most important thing is the restaurant brand and food; the customer wants what they want and from our experience, that is a great brand serving good food,” says Armeland. Kitchen Hub offers the digital and physical infrastructure, allowing the restaurants themselves to focus on what they do best: cooking for their customers. “[At Kitchen Hub] the restaurants operate out of their own dedicated kitchen, with their own chefs, so consumers can expect the same food quality that they have come to love and expect from their favourite brand (or in our case, multiple brands at the same time),” adds Armeland. In terms of what food trends Armeland has noticed throughout the pandemic, he says it’s about the sweet tooth.

Related: Can’t Dine Out? These 20 Toronto Restaurants Are Offering Date Night Meal Delivery

Pandemic or not, Armeland adds: “I think that ghost kitchens are here to stay and are becoming a necessary part of a restaurant’s future planning to serve their customers through the fastest growing channel in the food industry.” 

Restaurant photo courtesy of Getty Images; food photos courtesy of Kitchen Hub

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

It doesn’t happen every day, but — every once in a blue moon — people lose their minds over a hype-worthy food. For a bite to reach that level of foodie fervour, a few things have to happen: it has to be hard to get your hands on, it has to be photo ready (a la charcoal soft serve) and it has to be totally tasty. Enter the collective Canadian craving for the infamous Popeyes’ Chicken Sandwich.

You might be asking: why all the hype over a fried chicken sandwich? Can’t you get fried chicken plenty of places? Yes… and no (until recently). Popeyes’ Chicken Sandwich (often referred to audaciously as “The Sandwich”) was released to attention-grabbing crowds in America in 2019 — but it only arrived in Canada as of September 14th.

So is this sandwich worth the buzz? Or can we chalk up this chicken frenzy merely a case of wanting what you can’t have? Obviously, we needed answers, so we gave The Sandwich a try.

Recipe for Success

First thing’s first: what exactly is a Popeyes’ Chicken Sandwich? The Sandwich (which will set you back between $5.99 to $6.49 depending on which province you’re in) consists of an all-white fried chicken breast fillet topped with barrel-cured pickles and mayonnaise (either classic or spicy) — all assembled on a toasted brioche bun.

The chicken itself follows the company’s signature fried chicken formula. The chicken is marinated in a blend of Louisiana seasonings, battered by hand, breaded in a buttermilk coating and then fried. So, if you’re already a fan of their fried chicken, this will almost definitely be for you.

 

First Looks

If all the fanfare has you picturing some sort of over-the-top chicken-fried behemoth, then you’ll likely be a bit disappointed to feast (your eyes) on The Sandwich. However, if you’re expecting a classic fried chicken sandwich, then you’re in luck! Visually, there are no big surprises: The Sandwich is straightforward looking, with a generous piece of fried chicken and chartreuse-hued rounds of those cured pickles neatly sandwiched between the halved brioche bun.

Related: I Tried “Beyond Meat” Meals at 5 Popular Canadian Chains. Here’s How They Stacked Up

Digging In

At first bite, the chicken hit a lot of the targets we were looking for in fried chicken: it was crispy on the outside (without being super greasy — always a risk with fried chicken), tender on the inside and had good flavour (thanks, likely, to those Louisiana seasonings).

It’s worth noting that the chicken-to-bread ratio was good. The toasted brioche bun was soft with a nice chew (it almost melted in your mouth).

In terms of toppings, The Sandwich keeps things pretty simple, in a good way. It’s really just the mayo (more on that up next) and the pickles. Luckily, we love pickles and these were perfect: crunchy, tangy and delicious!

Related: What It’s Honestly Like Dining out Right Now ⁠— and What I’ll Never Take for Granted Again

The Spicy Scenario  

As I mentioned earlier, the Popeyes’ Chicken Sandwich comes in two versions: classic and spicy. How to choose? If you can always go for a little more flavour, you’ll prefer the spicy version (the spicy mayo tastes like chipotle mayo and leaves behind a nice little kick that lingers). If, however, you’re a fried chicken purest, stick to the classic.

The Verdict

Overall, the Popeyes’ Chicken Sandwich is a really good fried chicken sandwich. If we were craving a fried chicken sandwich, it would definitely be on our list — but it wasn’t life-changing. Still, if you’re a fan of fried chicken on any level, our advice is to give it a try.

Here are famous recipes we’re making at home — from McDs hash browns to IKEA meatballs. Also, here are recipes from hit movies!

A Haitian Chef Reveals the Secret Ingredient to His Toronto Restaurant’s Success (Even During COVID)

Like most great chefs, Marc-Elie Lissade jumped at the opportunity to fill a global food gap in a major metropolis. After leaving Haiti at age 11, Lissade spent some time living in the United States before setting down roots in Toronto in the hopes of opening his own restaurant. And that’s when, in December 2019, Boukan was born – a Haitian food joint offering French-Creole street fare.

“Street food works in Toronto because it’s open to many styles of cuisine,” he says. “And we don’t already have a lot of Haitian or Creole cuisine here.”

Related: The Very Best Ways to Devour Street Food Around the World

Lissade excels at Haitian comfort foods (think: deep fried and delicious). Boukan is a vibrant space packed with eye-popping colour located on Toronto’s Kingston Road. The walls, dedicated to the work of local artists and signatures left behind by satisfied customers, illustrate the importance of ancestral ties and community.

His passion for food comes from his close bond with his grandma, a bona fide chef in her own right. Growing up, it was she who taught him many of the homemade seasonings and recipes that make Boukan such a hot spot destination for foodies.

It’s hard to deny how Lissade’s attention to history, family meals and community have become the main ingredients to his restaurant’s success (FYI: he also has his own catering company called Black Apron Events and garnered the top award from 2018’s Taste of the Caribbean!).

A Place in History

Given his penchant for connecting with family through food, it comes as no surprise that Lissade turned to his ancestral roots when brainstorming a restaurant name – in particular, a groundbreaking moment in Haitian history.

The Haitian Revolution is widely considered one of the most significant moments in the history of the Atlantic World. It lasted for more than a decade, beginning in August 1791 before concluding in January 1804 with the self-liberated slaves exerting independence over French colonial rule in Saint-Domingue (now Haiti). The event bears the distinction of being the only slave uprising to result in a state led entirely by non-white rulers and former captives.

Prior to the revolution, enslaved Haitians would gather around a campfire (boukan) to shares stories, dance and enjoy food together. It’s that specific aspect – a community coming together – that ultimately inspired Lissade to take a page from his ancestors’ history book for the name of his restaurant. “After 1804, Haitians were [finally] able to celebrate,” he says. “For me, Boukan is our culture and it represents history and a place of celebration.”

Family Ties

If one were to map out Lissade’s career trajectory, from his catering company Black Apron Events to Boukan, it would start with his grandma. At only eight years old, Lissade was a chef in training, assisting his grandma with her catering company – running around grabbing the ingredients and cookware she needed. Even now, any reference to his grandma will take Lissade on a trip down memory lane.

“I remember every Saturday night we’d have fritay [pronounced free-tie, a general term for fried food] and griyo [deep fried pork]. We’d sit down and she’d tell us stories,” he recalls. “We always looked forward to that.” (Griyo also happens to be his favourite recipe to make with his grandma, which Boukan customers can find on the menu).

Every family has its own fiercely guarded kitchen secrets that are passed on through generations. When asked if there’s a specific tip or secret ingredient that his grandma taught him over the years, Lissade gives a reluctant laugh. “Yes. It’s really about the process of [prepping] the food,” he says. “She taught me to cook with three senses: smell, sight and texture. When you’re cooking, you’re always running around tasting different things, so your taste buds change. [Slowing down and paying attention to] those senses is what helped her become a better cook. Now, at 32, I understand why she was cooking that way.”

Related: 15 Easy Cooking Techniques Everyone Should Learn to Master

A Place to Gather

There’s a real sense of community woven into the very fabric of Boukan, from the rotating work by local artists featured on the walls to recipe-sharing with fellow chefs.

“I wanted the place to be open to everybody,” he explains. “We all get stronger through collaboration with others.” And that collaboration takes on many forms.

For starters, Lissade rotates the artwork featured in his restaurant roughly once a month to make room for new pieces and local talent. “I don’t want to go to a restaurant where the same artwork has been on the wall for 15, 20 years,” he says. “Yes, this is a restaurant, but it’s also an art gallery where I open it to all local artists in Toronto. People can purchase it and it is full commission to them. I don’t take money from it because I know how hard it can be – unless you’re a Picasso.”

Even the story behind one of Lissade’s favourite “secret ingredients” has a communal backstory. “I have a close friend who lives in Miami and she’s a Haitian chef,” he says, citing her influence on one of the most popular recipes he’s crafted for the menu. “When I was opening Boukan I thought it’d be a crazy idea to offer a vegan burger. We [Haitians] love meat, but I wanted to be different.”

The result was the wildly popular Burger Boukanye featuring a plant-based patty, pickled onions, vegan Creole mayo and, the secret ingredient, djon djon – a rare black mushroom only found in northern Haiti. “I’m not vegan, but I thought it was so good,” Lissade says of his collaboration with his friend. “The seasoning in it is the one I learned from my grandma, so you can’t find it anywhere else.”

Related: Iconic Southern Comfort Food, From Cornbread to Fried Chicken

As for the global pandemic that shuttered the vast majority of businesses around the world, there was no way to predict the fallout for a restaurant as young as Boukan. “I was very worried,” he says. “We’re not even a year old, so when COVID happened I didn’t know what to do. We weren’t eligible for help from the government because we’d only been open for a few weeks last year.”

Enter: the very community he’s sought to bring together through food. “Thank God for the support of the Haitian community and our neighbours – they supported us like there’s no tomorrow. If it wasn’t for them, I think we would have been closed by now.”

To learn more about Boukan Owner and Executive Chef Marc-Elie Lissade, tune into the @AmexCanada #ShopSmallStories Twitter episode here. The Twitter Original series was created in partnership with American Express Canada in support of their Shop Small program, a national movement, backed by a Cardmember offer, to encourage Canadians to get behind their local small businesses and help revive communities.

Photos courtesy of North Agency

What It’s Honestly Like Dining out Right Now ⁠— and What I’ll Never Take for Granted Again

Remember eating out? You know, that thing you do at a restaurant? (Remember restaurants?!). After about five months of social distancing, I certainly didn’t. Sure, we’d ordered in a few times and picked up from a couple of our favourite local haunts to try and support small businesses, but sitting down at an actual restaurant, ordering food off the menu and having a date night or lunch out with my friends had become a foreign concept. So when most of Ontario entered Stage 3, my husband and I decided to do what we’d seen other brave souls do in Stage 2 and we hit up a patio for lunch (without the kids!). And truthfully, it was all kinds of weird and glorious. In other words, it’s what we’re all calling the new normal.

Pre-Patio Anxiety

I will no longer take for granted: deciding to go out for dinner without an entire attack plan in my head.

Do you know anyone who needs to know everything about a situation before entering it or else they’re crippled with anxiety? Oh hi there, that’s me. When we decided to finally venture out for a meal, I put a call out to friends and family on social media to see who had actually dined out recently and what it was really like. I was genuinely shocked at how many people I knew had gone out not just once or twice, but three, four, even five times. Although everyone’s experiences had differed, almost everyone stuck to the patio. And everyone I spoke with seemed to agree that they felt totally fine. Before, I used to just want to scour the menu ahead of time to see what I might be interested in eating, but now I want to know what kind of precautions people are taking, how strictly the rules seem to be enforced and whether people are actually wearing those masks.

Related: From Homemade Bread to Pickles, 20 Recipes to Master While Indoors

To Mask or Not to Mask

I will no longer take for granted: NOT having to remember to pack a mask in my purse along with my keys, phone and wallet.

Let’s be clear, my husband and I are following the recommendation to wear a mask — we’re just rule followers like that. But that doesn’t mean we like wearing them. So while we already knew we wouldn’t have to wear a mask on the patio where we chose to eat, we couldn’t figure out if we should wear them in the parking lot or on our walk up to the restaurant. They were seating people outside, so ultimately we decided we didn’t need to wear them, but we brought them in case we needed to go inside and use the washrooms. Honestly, even that quick walk from the car to the patio without a mask felt super weird and it immediately made me apprehensive.

Related: Here’s How to Make Your Own DIY Cloth Face Masks at Home

Safety Protocols

I will no longer take for granted: the anonymity of eating out.

The spaced out tables weren’t the only immediate differences I noticed. At this point the restaurant was also seating inside, but we didn’t feel great about that option and remained outdoors. Still, there were stickers on the floor to indicate the six-foot rule and we had to fill out a card with our contact information for contact tracing. Everything was on paper and we were asked to share menus, which was fine by me. I also noticed the employees constantly spraying and wiping things down, which made me feel a bit more at ease. Speaking of the employees, they were all wearing masks, but it was kind of weird to be in the vicinity of so many other people who weren’t — including pedestrians on the sidewalk right beside us.

The Vibe

I will no longer take for granted: random chats with strangers.

Real talk: being on a patio just after a rainfall with the sun peeking out from behind the clouds was all kinds of glorious. But I really wish I could have enjoyed it more. We’re the type of people who love visiting patios all summer long — and on one hand, the experience felt overdue. On the other, there were 20 or so other people having lunch, which I didn’t anticipate for a Tuesday in the suburbs. (When did being close to other people start freaking me out so much?!). I wasn’t the only one who felt that way though, clearly. Some people like my husband were just dandy to waltz on in and plop down at a seat. Others looked around cautiously and tried to pick the table furthest away from others. Of course, considering everyone was six feet apart, anywhere would have technically been just fine.

The Menu

I will no longer take for granted: all-you-can-eat buffets and menus the size of the table.

The place we chose to eat at had only opened in June, so I was happy that they were able to still open. That said it was a bar-tapas style resto, so the menu was pretty limited and a bit pricey. From my anecdotal research, I kind of think this is the case everywhere — even McDonald’s has eliminated things from their menu over the past few months. In the end we each ordered a drink and then decided to split some truffle fries, mussels, mushroom toasts and crispy chicken tacos. Hey, when you’re going out for the first time in half a year, you might as well do it up right, especially when it’s in the name of research. And yes, we finished it all, thank you very much.

The Service

I will no longer take for granted: everyone who works their tail off at these places.

While some of the people I spoke with ahead of our jaunt warned me that our experience might feel rushed or even distant, I didn’t really have that experience. Our server was really nice and chatty when we wanted to talk and ask questions, despite the fact that she was clearly super busy. She cleared plates as we finished them and came to check on us, which again some people had said isn’t the case right now as servers don’t usually clear the table until the visit is over.

One thing that did bother me was the fact that our server kept putting her mask below her nose. To be fair, it was hot, she was clearly working her butt off and I can only imagine how difficult it must be to wear a mask under those kinds of circumstances. Did it make me uncomfortable? Well, yes. What’s the point of the mask in that case? But I didn’t say anything and I made the decision not to name the restaurant in this piece because everyone’s human. We’re all getting used to this and the girl clearly needed some air.

At the end of the day, I think it’s important to recognize that you can’t always see whether everyone is adhering to the standards, so if you’re going to go to a restaurant, you just have to be prepared to take that risk. The same way you have to hope that no one spits in your food or washes their hands before touching your meal, I guess.

Related: Famous Recipes We’re Making at Home, From McDs Hash Browns to IKEA Meatballs

The Verdict

I will no longer take for granted: eating out, period.

Full disclosure: my husband and I did this lunch thing on the first day that our kids’ daycare opened back up. My anxiety was already riding high from dropping them off earlier that morning and so I may have been affected by certain things more than I typically would be. That said, by the time we finished eating and had paid the bill, I almost felt… human again. I had genuinely forgotten what it was like to order food and eat it without having to worry about any of the cooking or cleaning up.

To be able to just sit for an hour with my partner uninterrupted and without distractions to really catch up and even talk about some of the big feelings we’ve been having during this whole situation turned out to be a needed break for both of us. And even though I felt like I needed a nap after that generous meal (and yes, a glass of wine), it reminded me that we’ve all been going through a lot this year. So even though going to a restaurant isn’t exactly the same experience that it used to be, it’s still a way to add a bit of normalcy back into what has been an extremely abnormal year. Will I be going back next week? Probably not. But the next time things start to feel overwhelming, as far as I’m concerned, an hour on the patio may be exactly what the mental health doctor ordered.

Can’t dine out? These 20 Toronto restaurants are offering date night meal delivery right now.

Patio photography courtesy of Getty Images; food photo courtesy of Amber Dowling

I Tried “Beyond Meat” Meals at 5 Popular Canadian Chains. Here’s How They Stacked Up

Walk into any restaurant, fast food joint, or even fine-dining establishment these days, and it’s pretty impressive how seriously chefs are taking the current plant-based eating revolution. Menus now feature locally sourced plates of vegetables and whole grains as mains, rather than afterthoughts on the plate. Dairy-free desserts with nut bases are weirdly a thing, while people are coming up with more ways to use cauliflower than I even knew possible. (Do we really need to add it to smoothies? Can’t we draw the line at buffalo wings and pizza crust?)

It seems like vegans everywhere are finally being given some actual options other than another boring bowl of quinoa, and as someone who has dabbled in the vegan lifestyle but never fully committed, I certainly appreciate the improvements.

This brings me to the latest craze taking over Canadian menus: Beyond Meat. The meat-free product has been touted as the first plant-based burger that looks and cooks like beef, without any GMOs, soy, or gluten. The patty itself is made of pea, mung bean and rice, but it gets its red, beef-like colour from beets. Meanwhile, you can thank the addition of coconut oil and cocoa butter for the white, fat-like marbling throughout.

The product first came to our attention when A&W started carrying it here in Canada, but since then, a variety of grocery stores and other food chains have started selling it across the country. Given how quickly Beyond Meat seems to be exploding here, I decided to venture out and try several iterations of the vegan product in the form of sausages (breakfast sandwiches), ground beef (burrito bowls) and beef patties (burgers). Here’s how they stacked up.

Breakfast Sandwiches: Tim Hortons and A&W

Breakfast is basically the best meal of the day, and I’m a weirdo who will take sausage links over bacon any day of the week. So yes, I’m pretty picky when it comes to any food that pretends to be sausage when it’s clearly not, but I tried to keep an open mind as I went into my self-imposed sausage sampling at these two popular fast-food joints.

Tim Hortons

The coffee shop has really expanded its breakfast slate lately, and that includes three ways to consume vegetarian meals: the Beyond Sausage Egg & Cheese, the Beyond Sausage Farmer’s Wrap, and the Beyond Sausage Lettuce Tomato (the only vegan option). I went for the Egg & Cheese, which clocks in at 430 calories and boasts 24 grams of protein.

Appearance: If someone had thoughtfully handed me a breakfast sandwich (with my signature giant coffee) and not alerted me to the fact that the sausage was Beyond Meat, I wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference just by looking at it. But once I opened up the sandwich and saw the actual patty, I found it slightly more processed looking and dryer than your traditional glistening sausage patty.

Taste: Tim Hortons knows how to kick things up a notch, that’s for sure. My coffee came in handy to wash down the patty’s spice, which might have blended into the overall sandwich better with a runnier egg or some ketchup. Instead, my mouth felt dry and like I had eaten a pre-heated or microwaved product. As for the “meat” itself? The consistency was slightly chewier and less greasy than real sausage, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as some of the other fake meats I’ve chewed on over the years. This didn’t fall apart, it wasn’t pasty, and as far as healthy substitutes go, I only slightly missed the real thing.

A&W

This national joint was the first in Canada to offer Beyond Meat, which means it’s had lots of time to perfect its sandwiches. At breakfast you can order a Beyond Meat Sausage & Egger or a vegan version without egg that comes with lettuce and tomato. In both cases, it’s up to you whether you want it on an English muffin or a traditional bun. I decided to go with the regular old Sausage & Egger— which has 28 grams of protein and 540 calories — in order to keep my comparison as fair as possible.

Appearance: Even though I knew what I had ordered, I couldn’t get over how much the patty looked like actual sausage. It was darker in colour than the Tim Hortons’ version and looked freshly cooked, as did the egg that accompanied it.

Taste: This “sausage” was nowhere near as spicy, but it somehow offered that greasy mouth feel that you get when you eat a sausage patty. Of course that could be a result of the sausage being cooked on an actual grill alongside the egg (which was still slightly runny), and the fact that the English muffin had been buttered. Either way, I felt completely satisfied and like I was eating a real egg and sausage sandwich, one that kept me notably full for hours afterwards.

The Winner: A&W

 

Burrito Bowls: Mucho Burrito and Quesada

Mexican food makes me happy. I craved it every single day when I was pregnant with my first babe, and I was elbows-deep making up vegan Mexican freezer meals when I was pregnant with my second. (No joke, we’re still working our way through those casseroles.) I find it’s one of the most versatile things to make vegetarian or vegan thanks to all of the beans and rice, so I didn’t necessarily know that I needed a Beyond Meat option. Then again, some people really love ground beef in their tacos and burritos, so I figured what the heck.

Quesada

The chain has been offering Beyond Meat across Canada since late February, using the company’s Feisty Crumbles in its tacos, burritos, quesadillas and bowls for a feel-good meat alternative. The premise of the restaurant is really a build-it-yourself, so I went for a regular-sized Beyond Meat Burrito Bowl with cheese, refried beans, brown rice, and a variety of other toppings that clocked in at 345 calories and 28 grams of protein.

Appearance: The chunks of “beef” sat alongside the rest of the ingredients behind the sneeze guard, but they looked beef-like enough. In my bowl, they peered through the toppings like small chunks of actual chuck, which was good enough for me to almost forget that I wasn’t about to dive into the real thing.

Taste: Maybe the chunks had been sitting out too long, or perhaps they were simply undercooked, but I suspect they weren’t supposed to be rock hard. A few times, as I was wading my way through my dish, I’d bite down and practically chip a tooth on what felt like a cold, hard pebble, which isn’t how I’d order any beef — meat-free or otherwise. As for the rest of the crumbles? They were cold and chewy, and I would have absolutely enjoyed the bowl more without them.

Mucho Burrito

If you’ve ever eaten at this popular joint, you know the restaurant name is not an exaggeration — the portion sizes here are no joke. That extends to the newly launched Beyond Meat products, which stuff generous portions of crumbles into bowls, burritos, tacos and more. While you can pretty much customize any order with Beyond Meat, I decided to try their signature Beyond Meat Power Protein Bowl, which clocked in at over 1300 calories by the time they added the sauces, crispy jalapeños, quinoa, rice, and other adornments that came with it. Sadly, it’s basically impossible to calculate how much actual protein was in the bowl thanks to the website’s convoluted nutritional data.

Appearance: I have a hearty appetite and can eat 300-pound men under the table on my most ravenous of days, but even I knew looking at this bowl that I wouldn’t be able to dig through more than half of it. The thing was loaded with so many toppings and a good hit of green sauce that it was impossible to even see the Beyond Meat, but I also like sauce, so I’m not complaining. I did catch a glimpse of the product in question behind that trusty old sneeze guard, and it came out of its hiding space on that assembly line piping hot and looking like regular old ground chuck.

Taste: One of my favourite things about burrito bowls is that every bite can be different. This bowl was no exception thanks to the endless grains and veggies within. It was actually a little difficult to find the crumbles, but they were there in their chewy chunks of glory. While they were hot and filling, they didn’t add much flavour-wise either, and I would have mucho preferred if they just weren’t there at all. I suspect that Beyond Meat has some work to do with its crumbles in general, but for now there was more than enough protein in the other ingredients to keep me full and satisfied well into the dinner hours — despite only eating half my order.

The Winner: Mucho Burrito

 

Burgers: The Works and A&W

Ah, the veggie burger. It’s a sore spot with vegetarians and vegans alike, because these patties are practically impossible to perfectly execute. Some have too many fillers while others fall apart, some taste mushy while others are too chewy, and overall it’s hard to find a true vegan option that isn’t just some form of mashed up, processed bean. Or another portobello mushroom masquerading as meat (don’t even get me started).

The Works

If you’re looking for an elevated, gourmet burger that rivals Mark McEwan’s signature chuck, this place comes close with its crazy concoctions and imaginative titles like Gettin’ Piggy With It or Son of a Beech. So while I could have ordered a Beyond Meat Burger with basically any toppings, in my heart I knew I had to pick between the Beyond a Hipster’s Wildest Dreams and Beyond Sexy, since they were featured so prominently on the signature burger menu. In the end, I went with the sexier option — complete with pineapple, banana peppers and arugula. I paired mine with fries, which according to the nutritional menu, cost me anywhere from 310-1370 calories.

Appearance: The burger came slathered in toppings and glistening sauce, but that was 100 per cent on point for me. When you’re forking over nearly $20 for a burger, your mindset is basically go big or go home, right? Anyhow, upon further inspection, the patty itself was pretty impressive. It was a nice, dark hue, and there were even grill marks on it — the sign of any real barbecued piece of “meat.”

Taste: You know how a really good homemade burger is solid when you chomp down on it, but then it falls apart slightly in your mouth as the juices spread out? I was missing that experience in eating this patty, but that didn’t make the flavour any less enjoyable. In fact, despite the burger having a bit of a denser texture, it didn’t have that fake-meat aftertaste that so many other vegan burgers can’t escape. Add in that aforementioned plethora of toppings to bolster the overall flavour, and it was hard to remember I wasn’t eating the real thing.

A&W

Yes, I had already visited A&W for their Beyond Sausage sandwich, but I feel like when you’re known as the company that popularized Beyond Meat in the first place, you need to also evaluate the original burger that put this whole craze in motion. For that reason, I headed to another A&W location to sample the Beyond Burger for one final, 500-calorie (and 22 grams of protein) meal.

Appearance: There’s no doubt this is a hearty burger, from the sesame seed bun and the giant tomato to the abundance of lettuce, tomato, mayo and cheese (which I asked for when it was offered). As for the Beyond Meat patty itself? It wasn’t as brown or golden as I’d expected, but it was still appetizing enough.

Taste: I usually go for cheese on veggie burgers because I find them dry, but this burger did not need it. The patty itself was firm but juicy, without that chewy, fake-meat texture. A few bites in and I actually deconstructed the burger to see if I had been given a meat patty by mistake (nope). The abundance of sauce rendered the burger a bit messy by the time I got down to the last quarter, but even though I wasn’t that hungry, I still ended up eating every single bite. And needing extra napkins, but that’s beside the point.

The Winner: A&W

 

So, what’s my main takeaway with the Beyond Meat revolution? While the product itself has a ton of potential (I’m just waiting for street meat vendors to start offering the sausages, or pasta places to give those crumbles a whirl), how it’s cooked and what it’s paired with are pretty important factors. Still, it’s nice to finally have these (mostly delicious) options entering the Canadian market, and that goes for vegans, vegetarians, or the regular old meat-eaters out there who are just trying to incorporate more plant-based eating into their best lives.

mallard-cottage-fish-and-chips

10 Great Canadian Restaurants Where You Can Dine for a Good Cause

This fall, indulge in some exquisite Canadian eats while supporting a worthy cause! If you’ve been dying to try Antonio Park’s paella, Nicole Gomes’ fried chicken or Chuck Hughes’ lobster poutine, this is your excuse. Not only can you savour a delicious, memorable meal, you’ll feed your soul by helping those in need.

On October 17, 2018, more than 75 restaurants in 19 Canadian cities are taking part in Restaurants for Change. An initiative of Community Food Centres Canada, a national non-profit organization, this annual event benefits healthy food programs in low-income communities across the country.

Visit the Restaurant for Change website to find a restaurant near you, and make those reservations for October 17th. Bring your appetite to one of these 10 tantalizing dining establishments, or one of the 75+ eateries participating from coast-to-coast.

 

Lavanderia (Montreal, QC)

This Westmount eatery from Chopped Canada judge Antonio Park taps into the South American flavours of his childhood. Serving elevated Argentinean cuisine, diners can feast on ceviche, grilled meats and even paella.

 

Chew (Winnipeg, MB)

Located in River Heights, Chew offers an intimate dining space where you can savour rustic fare such as crispy duck breast, potato gnocchi and bison. Chef Tyrone Welchinski recently took the reins in the kitchen, creating sumptuous shareable plates that showcase local farmers and producers.

Cluck N Cleaver (Calgary, AB)

Top Chef Canada: All-Stars winner Nicole Gomes and her sister, Francine, are chicken connoisseurs. Whether you prefer your poultry southern fried or rotisserie grilled, this Calgary hotspot’s sandwiches, poutines and meals are sure to satisfy.

Richmond Station (Toronto, ON)

A vibrant downtown Toronto restaurant from Top Chef Canada’s Season 2 champ, Carl Heinrich, Richmond Station focuses on serving up the finest seasonal offerings. Whether you opt for shareable dishes like beef tartare and rabbit & pork pate en croute, or go straight for mains like roasted black cod or Berkshire Pork, it will be a memorable meal.

Mallard Cottage (St. John’s, NL)

Not only will you enjoy a scrumptious meal inspired by the flavours of Newfoundland and Ireland, you’ll be dining in a Canadian National Historic Site located in picturesque Quidi Vidi Village. Chef Todd Perrin, a Top Chef Canada: All-Stars alumnus, celebrates the province’s wild game, seafood and produce in beautifully crafted dishes that feature cod cheeks, lobster, foraged mushrooms and more.

 

Burdock & Co. (Vancouver, BC)

The Canadian Pacific Northwest’s bounty is the star at this Mount Pleasant eatery. Chef Andrea Carlson carefully selects her ingredients from locally-sourced growers, foragers and farmers and prepares them in a way that allows them to shine. Heritage wheat spaghetti with a hearty pork ragu, buttermilk fried chicken, and house-milled sourdough bread are some of the culinary delights that await diners.

Garde Manger (Montreal, QC)

Located in Old Montreal near the Old Port, Executive chef Chuck Hughes (of Chuck and Danny’s Road Trip ) serves up indulgent eats like lobster poutine, razor clams, porchetta and more. The menu changes daily, so there’s always something new and exciting to try.

The Canteen on Portland (Dartmouth, NS)

Just steps from the Alderney Ferry Terminal in downtown Dartmouth, this warm, welcoming restaurant boasts a menu with dishes influenced by traditional Nova Scotian cuisine with some classic French and Italian flourishes. Owner and chef Renée Lavallée will treat you to unpretentious fare like herb-crusted haddock, seared scallops and beef brisket prepared with her secret ingredient — love.

Ruby Watchco (Toronto, ON)

This Leslieville restaurant from Chefs Lynn Crawford and Lora Kirk has been offering prix-fixe dinners made with seasonal Canadian ingredients since opening in 2010. With a menu that changes each day, you could be surprised with seared rainbow trout, grilled flank steak or BBQ chicken, along with inspired salads, artisanal cheeses and decadent desserts.

RGE RD (Edmonton, AB)

Canadian farm-to-table cuisine is an art at this Edmonton hotspot that places an emphasis on Western Canadian providers and flavours. Chef Blair Lebsack dishes up fresh local fare including Alberta beef, bison and pork with unique twists that will please adventurous diners.

Canadian Restaurant Locations from Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives

Guy Fieri’s road tripping adventures on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives have taken him all across the United States and beyond. More recent seasons included stops in Cuba, Spain and Mexico, but before he ventured to those countries, he headed north of the border to Canada.

Guy has sampled some of the most eclectic cuisine that reflects our country’s diversity, from Chinese hand-pulled noodles to Jewish deli-smoked meats. Here are the Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives Canadian locations that you can visit in Toronto and Vancouver.

Jethro’s Fine Grub (Vancouver, BC)

In Season 12, Guy was treated to homemade pulled pork with slaw at Jethro’s Fine Grub. When you’re in Vancouver,  stop by for breakfast and try the Gold Rush; pancakes stuffed with bananas, pecans and streusel.

The Rosedale Diner (Toronto, ON)

Season 17 brought Guy to Toronto with a visit to the Rosedale Diner for Asian pork ribs. Brunch is a popular time to visit this diner for a classic Eggs Benny or scrumptious chicken and waffles.

No waffling about today’s brunch choice.

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The Tomahawk (Vancouver, BC)

Season 13 included a visit to Vancouver’s Tomahawk for some roast beef, a French dip, and a steak and mushroom pie. This legendary diner is also known for its Skookum Chief Burger, made with an organic beef patty, Yukon-style bacon, a free-run egg, aged Cheddar and a sliced hot dog.

Have you ever tried our Skookum Burger? #Tomahawk BBQ #Burgers #North Vancouver

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The Stockyards (Toronto, ON)

The Stockyards was one of Guy’s Toronto stops in Season 17. They were excited to show off their burgers, fried chicken and mouth-watering BLT, but their BBQ smoked ribs are one of the main reasons that locals flock to this smokehouse and larder.

Falconetti’s (Vancouver, BC)

While in Vancouver during Season 13, Guy sampled the handmade Thai chicken sausage at Falconetti’s. This east side bar and grill is known for its delicious eats and live music to entertain you throughout the week.

The Ace (Toronto, ON)

A Season 16 episode, ‘Layers of Flavor’ included a visit to The Ace in Toronto. Guy tried their pork belly, the mac and cheese burger, and a Christmas burger, but their Clubhouse is where it’s at when lunchtime rolls around.

Meat and Bread (Vancouver, BC)

In Season 13’s “Old Faves, New Craves,” Guy paid a call to Vancouver’s Meat and Bread. The porchetta sandwich was on the menu, followed up by a decadent maple bacon ice cream sandwich.

The Lakeview (Toronto, ON)

During Guy’s Season 16 trip to Toronto, stuffed French toast, a cornflake chicken club and a pie milkshake were ready to be devoured at The Lakeview. This restored diner serves up diner classics, including a banana split perfect for sharing.

Peaceful Restaurant (Vancouver, BC)

Family kitchens were the focus of the Season 13 episode that brought Guy to Peaceful Restaurant in Vancouver. Some of their recipes have been passed down from generations, including their fresh hand-pulled noodles and beef rolls.

#dandannoodles #foodie #fodgasam #chinesefood #spicy #delicious???? #sichuan #nomnom

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The Red Wagon Cafe (Vancouver, BC)

Guy dug into some pulled pork pancakes with a side of Jack Daniels syrup at Vancouver’s Red Wagon Cafe in Season 13. The savoury shredded pork is featured in other dishes on the menu, including their ooey, gooey mac and cheese.

Caplansky’s (Toronto, ON)

Authentic Jewish deli fare was the star of Season 16’s ‘Real Deal Roots’ that brought Guy to Caplansky’s Deli. Their College Street location has closed, but you can still sample smoked meat sandwiches, knish and brisket at Toronto’s Pearson Airport.

The Reubenesque @ #caplanskys #reuben #deli #meaty ????: @hmdfood666

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Save-On-Meats (Vancouver, ON)

Vancouver’s butcher shop, turned bakery and diner, Save-On-Meats, welcomed Guy in Season 13. Their menu includes classics like turkey pot pie and decadent burgers, but selections like this Ranchero Shrimp Benny really shine.

Ranchero shrimp benny for the win!

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sea-urchin-per-seny

Top 10 Michelin-Star Restaurants in the World

Holding three Michelin stars is a rare honour few restaurants have achieved, and these Michelin-starred restaurants rank among the world’s finest culinary destinations thanks to innovation, creativity and some of the best food you’ll ever taste. According to Elite Traveler magazine’s annual list of the world’s 100 best restaurants, these are 2018’s top 10 Michelin star restaurants.

Globo de helio comestible #postre #edibleballoon #floatingdesert #chefgrantachatz

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1. Alinea: Chicago, Illinois

Founded by chef Grant Achatz in 2005, Alinea quickly rocketed to the top of Chicago’s food scene due to Achatz’s unique food preparation and deconstruction of iconic dishes, renowned for his brave and unconventional approach to fine dining. Alinea remains on the cutting edge of the molecular gastronomy movement, with the intention of both shocking and delighting guests with dishes such as an edible balloon made from a dehydrated apple filled with helium, or a truffle-topped ravioli filled with truffle broth that explodes with flavour in one’s mouth.

2. Azurmendi: Larrabetzu, Spain

Located in Larrabetzu, Spain, Azurmendi follows the vision of Basque chef Eneko Atxa follows the offers diners a unique experience that begins at the restaurant’s rooftop vegetable garden, where they get a gander at some of the fresh produce they’ll be enjoying for their meal. Diners are then brought through the kitchen to an indoor greenhouse, where some “snacks” such as the restaurant’s popular “edible cotton” are served. In the dining room, guests enjoy such exquisite dishes as truffled egg, which is cooked “inside out” with part of the yolk removed and substituted with truffle consommé. In addition to having attained three Michelin stars, Azurmendi is also environmentally friendly, recycling its waste, harvesting rain and using geothermal energy to cool the building.

3. Eleven Madison Park: New York City

The menu of this world-class Manhattan restaurant is distinctly American, as seen through the creative filter of chef Daniel Humm. The restaurant is renowned for its multi-course tasting menu, which changes based on the availability of fresh, seasonal local ingredients and guided by the culinary traditions of New York City and the agricultural offerings of the region. Dining at Eleven Madison Park is an event, and enjoying the full 11-course tasting menu will take upwards of three hours as diners sample such exquisite dishes as Muscovy duck glazed with lavender honey and foie gras terrine served with plums, umeboshi and bitter almonds.

4. Per Se: New York City

Located on the fourth floor of the Time Warner Building in Midtown Manhattan’s Columbus Circle, Per Se features the cuisine of Chef Thomas Keller (the only American chef to be awarded three simultaneous Michelin stars, via his other restaurants, The French Laundry and Bouchon). With special tasting menus available daily — no single ingredient is repeated during the meal — the Michelin Guide describes Per Se’s cuisine as being “at one timeless and of the moment, raising the bar with meals that express artistry, seasonality and sourcing that can seem hyperbolic — they know which Vermont cow gave the milk for your butter.”

Min mun är belägrad ????#osteriafrancescana

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5. Osteria Francescana: Modena, Italy

The restaurant of chef Massimo Bottura (who topped the bestseller lists with his book Never Trust a Skinny Chef) in Modena, Italy celebrates the bounty of Emilia-Romagna, his home province in the northern part of the country. Yet Bottura’s take on Italian cuisine is hardly traditional, exploring the ingredients and traditions of the region by giving them a contemporary twist. Along with such classic Italian fare as tagliatelle and risotto cooked with veal jus, Bottura also presents such off-the-wall dishes as rabbit macaroons and his Five Ages of Parmigiano Reggiano, in which iconic cheese is served in five wildly differing textures, depending on their age, ranging from a crispy galette to a frothy Parmesan foam.

6. Robuchon au Dôme: Macau

One of many restaurants from celebrated chef Joel Robuchon, this gastronomic restaurant in Macao (formerly known as Robuchon a Galera) sits high atop the 48-storey Grand Lisboa hotel. Featuring the culinary creations of executive chef Julien Tongurian, Robuchon au Dôme has been described as arguably Macao’s best restaurant, and one of the top restaurants in all of Asia, offering French cuisine with a refined sensibility. The restaurant’s “Prestige Menu” features such offerings as imperial caviar and king crab refreshed with crustacean jelly, and a crispy waffle scampi seasoned with espelette pepper.

Potato beeswax 3.0

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7. The Restaurant at Meadowood: Napa Valley, California

A farm-to-table ethos permeates the dishes of this Napa Valley staple, with the Michelin guide gushing over the cuisine of Chef Christopher Kostow, describing food “that is elevated to an art form” and food that “never ceases to better itself through innovation and purity.” There’s a meticulous attention to detail is evident in everything served, and a seasonal approach to ingredients that means the menu changes constantly to make the most of fresh, local ingredients. “We are relentless in trying to make the food better, more delicious, more relevant, more singular, more personal,” the restaurant declares on its website. “We are smart enough to know that this is a forever task, yet impetuous enough to try to still do it all today.”

8. Le Bernardin: New York City

Regarded as one of New York City’s finest restaurants, Le Bernardin was founded in Paris in 1972 by siblings Maguy and Gilbert Le Coze, and initially only served fish. The restaurant later moved to New York, where it quickly became the toast of the NYC culinary scene. When Gilbert Le Coze passed away in 1994, the late chef’s disciple and friend Chef Eric Ripert took over, and continues to be guided by the philosophy that “the fish is the star of the plate.”

9. Restaurant de l’Hôtel de Ville: Crissier, Switzerland

Located in Crissier, Switzerland (a suburb of Lausanne), the Michelin Guide offers high praise for Chef Franck Giovannini, who “creates majestic dishes with a careful eye on maintaining traditions, which are then presented with impeccable service.” The food is exquisite, with a focus on balanced flavours and simplicity while utilizing lavish ingredients and flawless preparation. The menu changes constantly, with recent offerings including white asparagus from the Valais, seasoned with caviar, and medallions of Dublin Bay prawns served with guacamole.

10. The Fat Duck: Berkshire, United Kingdom

Opened in 1995 by chef Heston Blumenthal inside a renovated 16th-century cottage, The Fat Duck had attained three Michelin stars by 2004 and an international reputation for being on the cutting edge of such culinary trends as food pairing, multi-sensory cooking and flavour encapsulation. Famed for its eclectic 14-course tasting menu, The Fat Duck reflects Blumenthal’s sense of whimsy, evident in such dishes as the Alice in Wonderland-inspired mock turtle soup, which includes an edible faux watch made from freeze-dried beef stock coated in gold leaf that is dropped into a teacup into which hot beef stock “tea” is poured to dissolve the watch.
Along with inventive techniques, Blumenthal also adds a heavy dose of psychology to his dishes, using the power of perception to “trick” diners into experiencing certain taste sensations. “For example, eat sardine on toast sorbet for the first time, confusion will reign as the brain will be trying to tell the palate to expect a dessert and you will, therefore, be tasting more sweetness than actually exists.” This is reflected in a famed dish he calls “Sounds of the Sea,” in which the food is topped with a seafood foam and served on a “beach” made from tapioca, breadcrumbs and eel. What’s more, diners are presented with an iPod so they can listen to the sound of ocean waves while eating it. You’ll also want to leave room to try the Fat Duck signature dish, Blumenthal’s bacon-and-egg ice cream.

How does a restaurant even earn a Michelin star? Learn what it takes to earn 1, 2 or 3 Michelin stars.

Doubles

5 Must-Try Snacks at the Toronto Caribbean Carnival

Caribana weekend is around the corner! As we get ready to come together in Toronto to jump and wave at one of the largest street festivals in North America, it’s only right we fuel ourselves with flavour-packed Caribbean foods! We’ve rounded up some of the best Caribbean street foods and treats that make for the perfect Caribana snack.

Doubles

Doubles
Doubles are a delicious, filling snack that are oozing with curried chickpea goodness! This snack is a common street food in Trinidad and Tobago but luckily for us, it is readily available in Toronto. It consists of channa (curried chickpeas) surrounded by two round pieces of bara (fried dough). It’s then wrapped up tightly in wax paper and ready to enjoy. It’s often topped with a tangy cucumber chutney and tamarind sauce. The tart sauce, spicy chutney and hot channa blend perfectly together to create a unique burst of flavor with every bite. If you like your snacks with an extra kick then be sure to add a touch of Caribbean hot sauce on top. Grab doubles while you watch the Grande Parade from one of the many vendors nearby. Just be sure to save your dance moves for after you eat because this tasty snack can get messy!

Jamaican Patty

Jamaican Patties
Jamaican patties are flaky, golden pockets that make a perfect snack on the go. It’s no surprise that these hand-held snacks are available at almost every corner store and major subway stop in the city. Patties can be filled with anything from spicy beef to jerk chicken or curried vegetables. If you want an exceptionally flaky patty then head on over to Randy’s Take Out on Eglinton Avenue West. If you’ve graduated from the spicy beef patty and want to try something new, seek out ComeNyam’s unique patties. Their patties are filled with everything from oxtail to pumpkin. You can find their patties at specialty food stores throughout the city.

Fishcakes and Bakes

Fish Cakes and Bakes
You can never go wrong with saltfish fritters. They are easy to carry on the road at Caribana and extra filling too. Although there are many variations of fried dough packed with flavor and saltfish across the islands, I suggest the Bajan fish cakes and bakes. Bakes are a sweet fried dough that go perfectly with any treat. Street Shak Caribbean Kitchen offers their own spin on these Bajan snacks that are sure to please.

Corn Soup

Corn Soup
You may be wondering why soup made the list. It isn’t what you typically think of as a snack, but this hearty Caribbean soup can be found across the city outside of the major Caribana parties. Served extra hot and filled with ingredients like pumpkin, sweet potato, onion, scallion, coconut milk and thyme, you’ll find several vendors at the parade with a big pot of this delicious dish. You can also grab the corn soup late night outside of the many fetes. After a fun filled day of carnival parade and parties, a nice big bowl of corn soup will help you re-charge.

Eden Hagos is a food lover and personality whose taste is as diverse as her roots. Influenced by her food-centered upbringing and her move to Toronto, she started experimenting with traditional African and Caribbean flavors. She founded Black Foodie, a platform and series that explores food through a Black lens and offers critical and culturally relevant perspectives on the food world.

8 Comforting Soup Spots Across Canada

Soup is notorious for filling one’s belly, warming the soul and curing a cold — but it’s also known as a simple, oftentimes cheap and hearty lunch (or dinner). Here are eight great spots in Canada that are cooking up delicious one-pot wonders.

Souper Duper Soup

Photo Credit: Souper Duper Soup

Ambrosia (Calgary, AB) 
Located right beside a Buddhist Monastery in downtown Calgary, this vegetarian Chinese eatery does an impressive job of creating unique and satisfying dishes. Go for the pickled cabbage soup for a hearty lunch or the robust and warming preserved Chinese radish soup.

888_babas-homestyle-perogies

Photo Credit: Baba’s Homestyle Perogies

Baba’s Homestyle Perogies (Saskatoon, SK)
With a huge Ukrainian population in Saskatchewan, it should come as no surprise that you can find a lot of perogies and borscht around town. Baba’s (the Ukrainian term for grandmother) is located in a more industrial area of town, but worth checking out for a big bowl of this rich, salty and sweet beet soup.

Lunch Bell Bistro (Winnipeg, MB)
With quality, local ingredients and a recipe that is the embodiment of beauty in simplicity, one can never be let down by a classic chicken noodle soup. Tender chunks of Manitoba chicken, thinly sliced carrots and tender egg noodles float in an almost-clear broth that can make your shivers disappear after only a few sips.

888_marche-soupson

Photo Credit: Marché Soupson

Marché Soupson (Montreal, QC)
Open Monday to Friday, Marché Soupson’s offerings change daily. These beautiful pots of soup can range from anything like corn chowder to red lentil with toasted spices, and are mostly vegetarian or vegan; they opt for cashew cream to add that rich, velvety texture.

Soup ‘n Such Café Inc. (Toronto, ON)
Stay warm on a blustery winter day in Toronto with one of the signature soups from this little café. Turkey vegetable is a go-to. For vegan options that are equally filling, you can rely on cauliflower and red pepper, or vegetable lentil soups.

Souper Duper Soup

Photo Credit: Souper Duper Soup

Souper Duper Soup (Dartmouth, NS)
There is a long list of fun soups on the menu here, like Greek Lemon Rice, and Cheeseburger and Chicken Enchilada. But no soup stands out more than the Donair; as Halifax and Dartmouth’s (unofficially) official food, this flavourful dish features beef, tomatoes, onions and donair spice.

Stock up Café (Vancouver, BC)
With a great array of pre-made soups to take home and heat up, Stock Up also has your basic stocks and a few daily specials like butter chicken or tomato bisque to eat on the go. There’s always something at this quaint little spot that your taste buds will agree with.

Stock up Café (left) and Ravi Soups (right)

Photo Credit: Stock up Café (left) and Ravi Soups (right)

Ravi Soups (Toronto, ON)
There’s a handful of little cafés to pop into for a bite in downtown Toronto. But when it’s extra chilly outside, one of Ravi Kanagarajah’s three eateries is sure to be a short walk from the office. The popular curried apricot and lentil soup with lime crème fraiche proves that Ravi isn’t just ladling out your basic out-of-a-box soups.

Restaurants for Change

Restaurants Where You Can Dine for a Good Cause

Rejoice, Canada! For once, stuffing yourself with finger-licking Canadian fare can benefit more than just your belly.

On October 19th, 2016, more than 68 restaurants in 16 Canadian cities are taking part in Restaurants for Change, an annual fundraising event to support healthy food programs across Canada. Each participating restaurant will donate proceeds from dinner service to Community Food Centres Canada and other organizations that bring people together to grow, cook, share and advocate for healthy food for all.

“We continue to support Restaurants for Change each year, because the answer is simple to us: every Canadian should have the right to healthy food,” says Chef Lora Kirk from Ruby Watchco. “We need to remind ourselves that people power matters. When it comes to food, we are all responsible for how we set the table.”

Participating in the event is easy, as long as you bring your appetite. Visit the Restaurants for Change website to find a restaurant in your ‘hood, and then make a dinner reservation for October 19th.  Dine at one of these 10 tasty restaurants, or make a reservation at one of the 68 fantastic eateries participating from coast-to-coast.

RGE RD bison

Rge Rd (Edmonton, AB)

Brace yourself for an “untamed” feast at Edmonton’s Rge Rd, an urban eatery where the farm dictates the menu. Owner and chef Blair Lebsack uses premium ingredients grown in Alberta’s bountiful backyard, such as Alberta field strawberries or market-fresh greens, as well as prairie-raised livestock. Expect to indulge in hearty and homegrown dishes inspired by Alberta’s terroir, such as pasture-raised beef or Grilled Bison with White Currant BBQ Sauce.

Ruby Watchco (Toronto, ON)

It’s a nightly four-course feast at Chef Lynn Crawford’s Ruby Watcho in Leslieville, featuring hearty, home-cooked delicacies. The menu is ever-evolving and announced daily, but expect dishes like smoked ribs and sausages, home-smoked rainbow trout, or moist carrot cake made from an old family recipe.

Le Bremner (Montreal, QC)

When he’s not starring in Chuck’s Day Off or judging Chopped Canada, Chef Chuck Hughes is making seafood for the soul at Le Bremner in Old Montreal. Descend speakeasy-style into a sunken basement, and enjoy eclectic dishes such as crab kimchi on chewy rice cakes or the southern-inspired garlic shrimp with cornbread, served with an étouffée sauce and a spicy cognac butter.

Mallard Cottage (St. John’s, NFD)

Savour gourmet comfort cuisine and a gorgeous setting at Mallard Cottage, an award-wining restaurant near St. John’s Quidi Vidi Harbour. Inside, former Top Chef Canada competitor Chef Todd Perrin presents a terroir-driven menu of freshly foraged fare, wild game, and classic Newfoundland seafood (imagine halibut, cod, turbot, lobster).

Drake Devonshire (Wellington, Ontario)

This high-end boutique hotel and restaurant in Prince Edward County is trending for its cutting-edge architecture and incredible “lake to table” comfort cuisine. Sink your teeth into the fresh Ontario walleye, served with wild rice and quinoa, or the legendary “Devonshire Burger” — a thick patty made from local beef and stacked with Black River cheddar, crispy bacon and Russian dressing.

Charcut Roast House

Charcut Roast House (Calgary, AB)

Bring a bib and a hefty appetite to sup at Charcut Roast House, famed for their mouth-watering meat-centric menu. Top Chef Canada finalist, Connie DeSousa, and her co-chef John Jackson serve everything from house-made sausage to rotisserie chicken to pig’s head mortadella, but all are sourced from local farmers using a farm-to-plate philosophy. On the way out, make sure to grab a warm “so perfect” cookie (or two!) from their neighbour, Sidewalk Citizen Bakery.

Chives Canadian Bistro (Halifax, NS)

Looking for Halifax’s catch of the day? It’s always fresh at Chives Bistro, where Chef Craig Flinn uses the best of Nova Scotian bounty in his kitchen. The seasonal menu showcases whatever is local and fresh from the market, such as grilled Digby scallops, Cape Breton snow crab, or heritage pork, and naturally, there’s plenty o’ East Coast lobster.

Farmer’s Apprentice (Vancouver, BC)

Vancouver’s Farmer’s Apprentice may be small, but its organic, seasonal menu is mighty. Chef David Gunawan fuses exquisite Asian flavours with local ingredients sourced from nearby markets, artisan producers, and whatever the ocean yields. Given that it’s on the wild West Coast, seafood and vegetables dominate this kitchen, with toothsome dishes like BC spring salmon and ramps or an elderflower yogurt sorbet.

The Berlin (Kitchener, ON)

K-town just got cooler with the unveiling of The Berlin, a new farm-to-fork eatery that’s already wining rave reviews and award nominations before turning one year old. When he’s not guest-judging on Top Chef Canada, Chef Jonathan Gushue cooks up modern European dishes in the kitchen — often using a massive wood-fired grill — and even butchers and cures his own meats in the cellar. The menu constantly changes, built around whatever local ingredients are available, but expect divine dishes like hardwood-grilled beef rump, local trout, or tender, wood-smoked quail.

Enoteca (Winnipeg, MB)

Winnipeggers vie for a table at Enoteca, a tiny 30-seater bistro set inside a strip mall and that’s considered one of the best restaurants in Canada. In the kitchen, Chef Scott Bagshaw experiments with international flavours, creating playful, shareable plates such as short ribs bathed in a wine sauce or ricotta dumplings with shrimp, caramelized miso and bacon bits. Bon appétit!

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Noah Cappe’s Tips for a Romantic (and Delicious) Date Night

We can’t all be suave superstars when it comes to planning a romantic night out. Luckily, there’s a guru for that: Noah Cappe, host of The Bachelorette Canada. From choosing the right lighting to romance-inducing menus, Noah shares his expert tips on how to plan a special evening that will capture your bae’s heart.

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Dress to Impress

While we all love to rock sweatpants at home, this is not the time to dress down. Showing up scruffy for a date is a one-way ticket to the friend zone.

“Dust off your fancy outfit and put it on,” says Noah. “Is there anything more beautiful than looking across the table at your partner, and they look beautiful and you feel connected? That’s a moment.”

Getting a little gussied up sends a message that you care about your date. But opt for an outfit that best suits the activity; a suit for a picnic in the park is a date night fail.

Be Choosy About the Dinner Venue

Pick a place with an intimate atmosphere. It may require a bit of leg work, but finding the right restaurant can help avoid date night awkwardness.

“There’s such a movement to pump cool music loud and everyone is yelling over each other,” says Noah. “That’s obviously the opposite of a romantic evening. The focus of a romantic night is about conversation and finding the beauty in the quiet moments. It won’t happen in a place that has a local DJ.”

Phone ahead and ask questions: Does that five-star bistro transform into a noisy nightclub after 8 p.m.? What are their peak hours? Is there a seating section that’s more secluded? Know before you go! Not sure where to start? Try these 10 Romantic Restaurants from Coast to Coast.

Get an ‘A’ for Effort

Nothing stirs romance like showing your date how much you care. Whether you’re dining in or out, pull out all the stops to create a special evening.

“It comes down to effort and thought,” says Noah. “Put time into planning something, even if it’s just putting a folding table in the backyard with some patio lights.”

It doesn’t have to be an over-the-top event: cooking your partner’s favourite dish or a surprise picnic on the beach can be just as meaningful as reservations at a ritzy restaurant.

“It’s never about the four walls — you can create a romantic dinner everywhere,” says Noah.

Lighten up (the Room)

Speaking of ambiance, Noah says lighting is key to setting the scene. No matter where you go, dining by candlelight creates a cozy vibe that’s sure to get sparks flying. “Candles mean romance!” says Noah. “It’s seems cliché, but there’s something so traditional and wonderful about candle lights.”

Mind the Menu

For date nights, what’s on your plate is just as important as where the table is set.

“It comes down to the menu,” Noah says. “I don’t care how many candles you light. If your partner is across from you, shoving a cheeseburger in their mouth, you’re going to struggle to find a romantic connection.”

With menu influencing mood, Noah shares a few guidelines for adding a side of romance to your entrée:

Go local: A menu that showcases local specialties is sure to delight your date, as well as feed the conversation. “In Vancouver, seafood is probably the best call,” he says. “Or if you’re having a romantic dinner in Alberta, a beautiful steakhouse. Work with the environment you’re in!” If you’re hosting a home-cooked meal, incorporate local or seasonal ingredients into the recipes. On the East Coast, impress your date by making Chef Michael Smith’s Lobster a la Rachel, a steaming bowl of pasta smothered in creamy tomato sauce and chunks of lobster meat.

Know thy date: Is your date gluten-free or allergic to seafood? Ask your partner so you can accommodate their dietary preferences. “From a menu standpoint, what’s most important is to know your partner,” says Noah. “My wife is a vegetarian, so taking her to a steakhouse where she can only order two sides isn’t very romantic.” You can even make one of these delicious gluten-free dinners or vegan dishes.

Feature sensual foods: Get the mojo flowing with the magic of food science! Research shows that what we taste can affect how we feel, and certain foods may especially spark l’amour. In particular, eating dark chocolate has been shown to trigger a spike in dopamine, which induces feelings of pleasure. “Chocolate will always be the most romantic, go-to option,” says Noah. “Plus, there’s eight million ways to do chocolate!”

Share a decadent chocolate fondue with cherries, sliced bananas, and strawberries (also believed to be romance-provoking fruits), or a plate of freshly shucked oysters, a notorious aphrodisiac. If you’re playing chef for the evening, get fancy and try marinating oysters four ways with this recipe from Lynn Crawford.

The Bachelorette Canada premieres Tuesday, September 13th at 9 pm E/P on W Network.

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9 Awesome Beer Halls Across Canada

We’re in the last stretch of summer, so it’s time to soak up all that sun and spend some of that carefree time at a beer hall or two.

The beer hall experience is actually appealing to many demographics — beer halls in Canada are typically family friendly during the day, quite sizeable (200+ seats) and offer a large selection of craft brews (perfect for beer nerds), among other things. But they’re also perfect for those of us who like our Friday night dinners to segue into a prolonged evening of sipping on pints and, perhaps, a little rowdiness.

Try one of these nine beer halls across Canada that offer a good mix of beer, food and fun.

Barley Brothers (Winnipeg, MB)

If there’s one thing Winnipeg needs to improve on (and I’m a huge Winnipeg fan, trust me), it’s more places that offer a good selection of Canadian microbrews. With two locations, Brothers fills a bit of that void with 70+ beers on tap. The atmosphere falls more in the sports game watching category, but most of us need a place to do that so hey, we might as well be drinking a pint of Canadian-made beer at the same time.

Stillwell Halifax
Bar Stillwell via Facebook

Bar Stillwell (Halifax, NS)

Stillwell’s downtown location doesn’t technically match the exact definition of a traditional beer hall, but they definitely put emphasis on having a great array of Canadian craft beer. The ocean-side beer garden right on the dock is German-influenced, with long plank tables, pretzels, beer (naturally) and lots of well-made sausages.

Craft Beer Market
Craft Beer Market

Craft Beer Market (Calgary, Edmonton, AB, Vancouver, BC, Ottawa, Toronto, ON)

You’ll have a hard time finding a beer hall in Canada as big and as well-stocked as these brew-focused establishments. The food ranges from sliders and flatbreads to a gigantic “50 napkin” burger and a whole lot more. With over 100 beers on tap, chances are you’ll find something here that’s exactly what you’ve been hoping for.

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Central Bierhaus

Central Bierhaus (Ottawa, ON)

Plenty of exposed brick, industrial lighting and communal tables help give Central its casual and alluring vibe that draws in crowds for after work drinks, celebrations and everything in-between. The menu offers a nice mix of German food like schnitzel, pretzels, bratwurst and even a sausage platter.

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Congress Beer House via Facebook

Congress Beer House (Saskatoon, SK)

A lively spot on the weekends, Congress is a fun place to go on Friday or Saturday nights to enjoy a few pints of craft beer and some live music or DJs. During the week, it’s much calmer inside, so if you’re interested in sipping on microbrews a bit more seriously, that’s the ideal time to go.

Das Bier
Das Bier via Facebook

Das Bier (Montreal, QC)

Montreal is a city that’s all about indulging, especially when it comes to food. But finding a place where you can get your fill of pints and sausages is surprisingly uncommon. Luckily, the recently opened Das Bier has got you covered with plenty of pretzels, juicy sausages and more than enough beer to keep your thirst quenched.

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National Beer Hall via Flickr

National Beer Halls (Calgary, AB)

This local chain of beer halls has four locations, and is known for its impressive and always rotating selection of craft beer, with fantastic happy hour specials between 3 and 6 pm. Finding a true pint at a mere $5 is like finding in a needle in a haystack. So, for me, National’s window of value is like a little piece of heaven.

Wurst
Wurst via Facebook

Wurst (Calgary, AB)

When Wurst opened its doors just over 4 years ago, it aimed for a split concept, offering a more contemporary German-inspired dining experience on the main floor and a rowdy beer hall on the lower level, which includes a polka band on peak nights. Fun rarely stays underground, so it wasn’t long until the beer hall vibe crept upstairs, making for two levels of enjoyment. Rowdy nights aside, it’s also a great place to go for brunch on the weekends and 100% family friendly.

Since it’s really hard to ignore a good pun, I assure you that you’ll have anything, but the “wurst” time at this beer hall.

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WVRST via Instagram

WVRST (Toronto, ON)

Leave it to Toronto to take the German beer hall concept and twist it ever so slightly to scenester-chic levels. The bright red accent wall and strings of lights hanging from the ceiling make the long plank tables feel nice and inviting. In terms of food, WVRST’s pride and joy is sausage and when it comes to dinner, forget the schnitzel and spaetzle because they’ve got 22 different house-made sausages to choose from (there are three vegetarian/vegan options as well). Finish off with some soft serve ice cream because after a few pints, you won’t feel the need to ask yourself why a German-style beer hall serves ice cream.

12 Great Greasy Spoons to Try Across Canada

Some places may not love the term “greasy spoon,” but to me, using that expression isn’t always a bad thing. As much as we all love our plates of confit this, and sous-vide that, at the end of the day, sometimes you just want a greasy burger or a simple sandwich loaded with deli cuts and a proportionate amount of mustard.

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Blackfoot Truckstop Diner/Facebook

That, my friends, is where these satisfying and delicious greasy spoons come in.

Blackfoot Truckstop Diner (Calgary, AB)

Normally I wouldn’t put a restaurant on a list after it was mentioned only a couple of weeks ago, but for Calgary, Blackfoot fits the bill too perfectly for being both a great late-night food spot (open 24 hours), as well as a top notch greasy spoon.

Try the grilled hamburger steak drowned in gravy, with a healthy portion of poutine on the side — you will love (and hate) yourself for it.

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Broadway Cafe/Facebook

Broadway Cafe (Saskatoon, SK)

Anywhere that proudly proclaims they serve Campbells’ soup has clearly read the definition of greasy spoon in the dictionary. Keep things classic at this Saskatoon institution with a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup for dipping. Don’t forget the milkshakes either — I mean, how else could you wash all of that cheesy goodness down? And, with most menu prices not exceeding the $10 mark, your wallet will feel just as content as you do after sitting down for a diner-style meal here.

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Spoons Diner/Facebook

The Commodore (Edmonton, AB)

In business for 73 years and counting, this casual downtown eatery on Jasper Avenue just might be the longest-running restaurant in the city’s history. Commodore is still owned by the original family that opened its doors back in 1942, passed down through the generations. Talk about a family business!

The food may be simple and the interior no-frills, but you’ll definitely soak up a little bit of Edmonton history anytime you visit this joint.

Cosmos Snack Bar (Montreal, QC)

French toast, crispy bacon, tall breakfast sandwiches with a sunny side egg, sliced in half and dripping down your hands as you pick it up… There’s not much to complain about at one of Montreal’s go-to greasy spoons. For a city that embraces foie gras so much, I’m almost a little surprised you can’t find it served diner-style here.

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Dangerous Dan’s Diner/Facebook

Dangerous Dan’s Diner (Toronto, ON)

If a gigantic burger topped with cheddar, bacon and a fried egg sounds good to you, then Dangerous Dan’s demands your presence. The Queen Street East diner is definitely a hot spot for many Torontonians, and Dan’s delicious deep-fried perogies alone are a good enough reason to check it out.

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Galaxie Diner/Facebook

Galaxie Diner (Calgary, AB)

Calgarians looking for a hangover cure are always willing to brave long line-ups (and cold weather, come November) to get a seat inside this little restaurant that dishes out eggs by the hundreds and hashbrowns by the ton (my estimation), every day of the week. The “Calgary Sandwich” is Galaxie’s popular spin on a Denver and is loaded with everything from eggs, sausage and bacon, to peppers, onions, mushrooms and possibly a kitchen sink too!

Park Cafe (Saskatoon, SK)

What’s a guy gotta do to find some decent shock food in Saskatoon? Well, he has to go to Park Cafe. If you’re unsure what shock food is, just picture some of the more crazy items that Guy Fieri consumes on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives and that pretty much sums it up. The “Death by Cheese Sandwich” is not for the faint of heart and is as greasy as it gets. Basically, it’s a nice, thick grilled cheese sandwich that’s battered, breaded and deep-fried. Everything in moderation, my friends.

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Save On Meats/Facebook

Save On Meats (Vancouver, BC)

Lumping Save On Meats into a line-up of greasy spoons may not be the most accurate thing to do. Sure, they cook up simple, comforting dishes like patty melts and Salisbury steaks, but beneath their simple offerings, this restaurant is so much more. The diner is community focused through-and-through, offering a token program where people (you and me) can purchase meals for $2.25 and hand them out to less fortunate individuals that you might encounter in an area of town that is slowly being restored.

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Spoons Diner/Facebook

Spoons Diner (Victoria, BC)

Whether you’re craving an early morning bite, quick lunch or simple dinner, Spoons is here for you. Pancakes, eggs Benny, clubhouse sandwiches… Whatever diner dish you’re craving, you’ll probably find it on the menu.

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The Templeton/Facebook

The Templeton (Vancouver, BC)

Located on Granville Street in the heart of Vancouver, this old diner is charmingly worn and slightly rough-around-the-edges, not unlike the street you find it on. If reasonably priced BLT sandwiches or mini Kellogg’s cereal box breakfasts are your jam, this is the place for you.

The Westcliffe (Halifax, NS)

When Halifax-based food writer Kathy Jollimore told me you can get a cheeseburger and fries for under $5 at this east coast eatery, I almost didn’t believe her. Turns out, almost everything on the menu is $5 or less. Since we’re all the way out on the east coast, you can also find fried clams and fish and chips for one heck of a deal too.

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Zak’s Diner/Facebook

Zak’s Diner (Ottawa, ON)

Ottawa’s ByWard Market has no shortage of shops, restaurants and bars, but when the sun goes down and the street crowds dwindle, whose neon sign shines brightest? Zak’s. Established the same year as Lindsay Lohan (1986, obviously), this 24-hour diner keeps things nice and greasy around the clock with menu items like chili cheese dogs, deep-fried macaroni and so much more.

12 Great Pizza Places in Canada Worth Travelling For

If you’re asking a five-year-old or a fifty-five-year-old what their favourite foods are, chances are pizza will be on that list. Here are 12 contemporary pizza joints across the country that use dough as a blank canvas to create some mouth-watering pies.

Campagnolo Roma

Campagnolo Roma

Anthony’s (Ottawa, ON)

If you’re in the country’s capital, you won’t find a better wood-fired pizza than at Anthony’s. Traditionally prepared, Neapolitan-style crust topped with Italian ingredients we all know and love, including fior de latte and basil, spicy salami and more. The restaurant is currently putting finishing touches on a big renovation, so look for Anthony’s to open very soon, more slick and delicious than ever.

Campagnolo Roma (Vancouver, BC)

Pizza may only occupy one portion of this Italian eatery’s menu, but these creative options aim for quality over quantity. Try the “Coppa,” which included garlic scapes, pecorino and smoked jalapeno aioli, or the asparagus pizza, topped with white anchovies, mozza, pickled chilies and a fava bean pesto, for something out-of-the-box delicious.

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Campagnolo Roma: Margherita Pizza

Christie’s Il Secondo (Saskatoon, SK)

Located just half a block away from Broadway Avenue is this quaint pizza joint. Since it opened back in 2010, it’s been a popular place for well-made wood-fired pizza for lunch or an early dinner (Secondo closes at 6 p.m. daily) for Saskatoonians. They serve up calzones and salads too, but it would be a real shame to pop in there and not enjoy a pizza, first and foremost.

The Good Son (Toronto, ON)

Top Chef Canada alum Vittorio Colacitti opened his first restaurant, The Good Son, earlier last year on Queen Street West. The menu highlights both his worldly travels (not pizza-related, but try the jerk shrimp — amazing), and Italian roots, which is where the tasty, thin-crust pizza creations come into play. Consider trying one as an appetizer before you dive into Colacitti’s global-inspired mains and craft cocktails.

Courtesy of The Good Son

Courtesy of The Good Son

Morris East (Halifax, NS)

If you’re looking for a big, greasy, late night slice in Halifax, the city’s famed Pizza Corner would be the place to go. But for a more refined pie, Morris East should be on your radar. Earlier this spring, the restaurant’s head chef placed 3rd in his competition at the International Pizza Expo (now that’s an expo theme I can get behind!), with one of the Morris East’s menu signatures, topped with poached pear, shallots, prosciutto, blue cheese and tarragon aioli.

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Morris East: Fried Avocado Pizza

Nicli Pizzeria (Vancouver, BC)

There’s all kinds of flavours to experience at the restaurants peppered throughout the Gastown neighbourhood of Vancouver, but for some beautifully crafted pizza, this is the place to go. Go with the classic and try Nicli’s margherita to see how just a few ingredients, when used with expertise, can create something extraordinary.

Pizzeria Gusto (Winnipeg, MB)

Winnipeg’s premier pizza spot has remained one of the top restaurants since it opened seven years ago. The combination of friendly service, romantic ambience and delicious Neapolitan pizza (go for the Lucia, dressed up with fig jam, salami, cambozola, arugula and pecorino) is clearly a recipe for success. Hockey fans might appreciate periodic sightings of Winnipeg Jets players here as well!

Pizzeria Gusto/Facebook

Pizzeria Gusto/Facebook

Pizzeria Libretto (Toronto, ON)

This small Toronto pizza chain has made its stake in the city’s bustling food scene with their consistency and delicious food. Of course the line-up of thin-crust pizzas are the backbone of this menu and there are a dozen to choose from, with interesting menu options like duck confit, grilled eggplant and more.

Courtesy of Pizza Libretto

Courtesy of Pizza Libretto

Posto (Calgary, AB)

Probably the least traditional out of the list, Posto still fires up their pizzas like any good Italian-inspired place, but their crust is a little more thick and doughy (in a good way) than others. The result is a menu full of unique pies that stand out from other joints in the city that offer a contemporary pizzeria experience. Order the potato, leek and smoked pancetta pizza. You’ll be happy you did!

Courtesy of Posto

Courtesy of Posto

Prima Strada (Victoria, BC)

Vancouver Island is well known for their beautiful bounty of seafood, but wood-fired pizzas? Not so much. With two locations in Victoria, Prima Strada is pretty much the undisputed pizza king of the island. The traditionally prepared dough is stretched and topped with anything from house-made pepperoni or sausage, to wild mushrooms and balsamic caramelized onions. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been here, but my memory tells me this place has some of the best Neapolitan pizza I’ve ever had the pleasure of devouring.

Rosso Pizzeria (Edmonton, AB)

Edmontonians can’t seem to get enough of the creations coming out of the oven at Russo. But who can blame them when there’s an array of tasty traditional offerings, as well as indulgent breakfast pizza (delicious pizza blasphemy?) with toppings like rapini, fennel sausage and egg.

Without Papers (Calgary, AB)

What’s not to love about a pizzeria with a great atmosphere, movies projected on the wall and an open kitchen where you can see the chefs making pizza after pizza? There are some classic options here, but meat lovers will appreciate the subtle ode to Alberta, the “Blue Ox,” topped with beef striploin, caramelized onions, horseradish and more. Without Papers is also a family-friendly eatery, so bring your kids to join in on the delicious eats.

12 Must-Visit Patios from Coast to Coast

You know it’s nearing summer when you look down at your phone during the day and you see the message, “Patio drinks today after work?” Naturally, your response is going to be yes because you’ve worked hard and you deserve to unwind with a cold drink in hand, and a friend or two across the table from you.

So here are 12 fantastic patios across Canada brimming with happy people, great food and satisfying beverages, perfect for when the sun comes out to play.

Black and Blue (Vancouver, BC)

Definitely more of an after-work business crowd, this luxurious steakhouse boasts a spared-no-expense rooftop patio, complete with outdoor sectionals and fire pits. Sip a martini, order a few small bites like the signature mac and cheese sticks, and don’t worry if it starts to rain — this patio has a retractable awning. So if the weather turns, they’ve literally got you covered!

The Chase (Toronto, ON)

Much like Black and Blue, this rooftop patio can be full of the après-work crowd since it’s located in the financial district of Toronto. I’d recommend wearing something a little fancier than a tank top and sandals if you’re planning on enjoying the great weather and downtown views from their impressive patio.

Chill Winston (Vancouver, BC)

Sitting right in the heart of Gastown is one of the best places for people watching in all of Vancouver, and that’s exactly where you’ll find Chill Winston. Grab a seat on this street-front patio, order a beer with some friends and look around to see all walks of life pass you by.

The Drake Hotel Sky Yard (Toronto, ON)

The Drake Hotel is a cool establishment for many different reasons. Their craft cocktails, live music, the 86’d industry event every Monday night, which usually involves something that’s edible (and free)… But the brightly designed rooftop space is especially noteworthy. Aside from just popping up for drinks or food, you can sometimes find DJ dance parties, which are always fun to walk into after a few alcoholic beverages.

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Grand Electric: Tacos

Grand Electric (Toronto, ON)

If there’s ever an appropriate time to enjoy tacos, it’s during the summer. Sneak through the main dining room of this Mexican-inspired hot spot on Queen Street West and claim a table on their back patio. Guacamole, fresh tortilla chips and fish tacos doused in hot sauce taste even better in the sun. That’s a fact.

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Joe Fortes: Rooftop Patio

Joe Fortes (Vancouver, BC)

This west coast establishment located on Robson Street is in the business of making sure everyone has a great time. Their main focus on the menu is seafood, so enjoy a tasty prawn cocktail and a classic martini, once you find a spot out on the rooftop dining area, which includes an impressive living green wall and long bar. This is the kind of place where the bartenders might even lean on the bar, look at you and say, “Rough day, eh?” Just say yes — they might take pity on you and give you a free drink.

Le Sainte Elizabeth (Montreal, QC)

There are a ton of quaint outdoor seating areas you can find all over Montreal, but how about a pub with a secret back patio? Who doesn’t love secrets! Alright, so this enclosed space behind the pub may not be off the radar of Montrealers, but for anyone planning a visit, make sure not to let this little enclosed oasis pass you by.

nationalpatio_photocourtesyofswallowdaily
National on 8th: Courtesy of Swallow Daily

National on 8th (Calgary, AB)

If you’re in the core of Calgary, you’ll easily be able to find a lot of small street-facing patios, but if you want something with decent views and a buzzing atmosphere, National is your stop. There are a few National locations in the city, all of which pride themselves on an extensive craft beer selection (over 50 varieties on tap) and elevated pub fare like House-ground burgers, deep-fried pickles and more.

The Ship and Anchor (Calgary, AB)

If you only have one afternoon in the city and want to spend it on a patio, most Calgarians will tell you that The Ship is the place to be. Here, aside from a lot of sunshine, you’ll find hipsters sitting beside yuppies, a group of rockabillies sitting beside businessmen and yet, everyone seems to get along just fine. Pair that with a great beer selection and some of the best-priced pub fare you can find in Calgary, and you know you’ve got a good time on your hands.

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Smack Dab: Wine

Smack Dab (Kelowna, BC)

Many of the wineries in the Kelowna area boast restaurant patios with great views of Lake Okanagan, but in terms of the city itself, Smack Dab is your best bet for a gorgeous view. They’ve got a great selection of Okanagan wines and microbrews, and the menu is also very family-friendly, making it a great place to go if you’re traveling with kids.

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Smack Dab: Patio

The Spadina Freehouse (Saskatoon, SK)

This popular joint is located just across the street from the famous Delta Bessborough hotel (it looks like a Disney princess castle, more or less) and the Meewasin river paths. It’s always nice sitting out on street-front patio, especially between June 25 and July 5 when the Sask Jazz Festival takes place, where sweet sounds of music drift over from the riverfront.

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Tapastry: Beet Cured Salmon

Tapastry (Winnipeg, MB)

It’s true that most golf clubs have patios looking out onto well-landscaped greenery, but is it true that most golf clubs have great food? Typically, that’s not the case. Tapastry, inside the Niakwa Country Club in Winnipeg, will send you well-crafted plates of food while you enjoy some peace and quiet sitting outside — well, you might still hear a “Fore!” or two, I guess.

The Yard and Flagon (Saskatoon, SK)

This cozy little rooftop patio overlooks Broadway Avenue, a Saskatoon street that’s chock full of boutiques, gourmet food shops, live music venues and more. If you find yourself a little hungover, look to the deep-fried zucchini sticks and mushroom caps for a guaranteed cure.

Dan-Clapson-Avatar Dan Clapson is a food writer and culinary instructor based out of Calgary. He is constantly creating new recipes and striving to expand his culinary horizons. He thinks yam fries are overrated.

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Where to Enjoy Dishes Made by Chopped Canada Judges

Ever wonder what makes Chopped Canada judges such experts on cuisine? Answer: They are all nationally renowned chefs who have spent time running incredibly successful restaurants. When it comes to delicious eats and a well-run kitchen, these spots certainly take the cake. See for yourself and sample the creations of your favourite Chopped Canada judges at these restaurants across the country.

Chopped Canada restaurants
Photo: Park Restaurant

Anne Yarymowich and John Higgins, The Chefs’ House at George Brown Chef School (Toronto, ON)

After working for years, heading up the food and beverage department at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Chef Yarymowich has moved on to the world of education. When she’s not judging and chopping contestants on Chopped Canada, Yarymowich can be found mentoring new generations of young chefs at George Brown alongside fellow judge, John Higgins. The Chefs’ House is the culinary program’s restaurant where the soon-to-be graduates practice their skills in a real-time service setting. With any sort of student-run service, you might expect a few hiccups along the way while dining, but rest assured you’re in good hands with these two Chopped Canada judges involved in the process.

Antonio Park,  Park (Montreal, QC)

With Lavanderia (Park’s newest Latin American concept) nominated as one of ‘Canada’s Best New Restaurant 2015’ in enRoute Magazine and one of the newer judges to the Chopped Canada panel, Antonio Park has had one heck of a year! Another one to mention is Park’s popular spot Jatoba, which offers a mix of Asian and South American cuisine. His first restaurant, Park, remains one of Montreal’s top spots, a Japanese eatery known for its stunning presentation and signature sushi platters. This place is frequented by many celebrities. On any given night you may be dining beside NHL players, or even cross paths with actor Neil Patrick Harris.

Lynn Crawford, Ruby Watchco (Toronto, ON)

One of Canada’s most well-known chefs aims to impress with her popular Toronto restaurant, Ruby Watchco. Chef Lynn and Chef Lora Kirk source local, seasonal ingredients to create a menu that changes daily. Think foraged mushrooms with polenta, butternut squash with bacon sauerkraut and rack of pork with Warner’s Farms spicy plum sauce. The restaurant also offers a four course family-style meal in their private dining room for special events. A slightly cozier setting than the main floor, which also features a chilled out ambiance for an incredible meal you won’t soon forget.

Massimo Capra, Mistura (Toronto, ON)

Lively and Italian through-and-through, it should come as no surprise that Capra’s restaurant  match his personality. His main eatery, Mistura, focuses on well-crafted Italian fare from freshly made pastas to antipasto, such as cured duck prosciutto and mortadella, to crostini topped with mushroom, arugula and gorgonzola. If you ever find yourself at Toronto Pearson airport, you can also head to Boccone Trattoria to have a little taste of Capra’s cooking.

Mark McEwan, Bymark (Toronto, ON)

No doubt one of the country’s most successful chefs, McEwan has built a culinary empire for himself while starring in two major television series, The Heat and Top Chef Canada, with multiple successful restaurant properties and his namesake boutique grocery store chain. Bymark restaurant was one of the first places in Canada to define the “gourmet burger” — 8 ounces of beefy goodness topped with shaved truffle, porcinis and brie — and has been a staple of the higher end dining since it opened its doors. Outside of Toronto’s financial district, you can also dine at one of Chef McEwan’s restaurants, including ONE Restaurant, North 44° and Fabbrica.

Michael Smith,  Fireworks (Bay Fortune, PEI)

Michael Smith’s restaurant has undergone a major renovation within the last year, making dinner here more of an immersed, interactive dining experience than ever. The focal point of the room is the giant 25-foot fireplace-meets cooktop, where the kitchen team prepares their nightly meals as you watch all the action front and centre. Smith is a huge advocate of local food, so expect everything to be seasonal at the Inn at Bay Fortune restaurant, Fireworks. Make sure not to miss oyster hour every night at 6pm, where the culinary team shuck through a pile of their world famous Colville Bay and Fortune Bay oysters.

Roger Mooking, Twist (Toronto, ON)

This bubbly chef has been a longtime staple of Toronto’s food scene with past restaurant endeavours, but has been getting a lot of buzz recently with his eatery, Twist, that you can find inside of Toronto Pearson Airport. His cool concept breaks the mould of the standard, subpar airport restaurant, offering diners a nice selection of craft beer and wine and a long list of comfort food like homemade burgers and pastas with interesting twists (hence the name!). Next time you have a bit of extra time before boarding your flight, pop into Twist to see what a nice, contemporary airport meal can feel like.

Susur Lee, Lee (Toronto, ON)

If you enjoy the breadth and depth found in the many facets of Asian cuisine, book a table at Lee to experience those robust flavours with a master chef’s finesse. Pulling from many overseas regions like Thailand and Japan, Susur Lee crafts a menu full of intriguing and well-crafted dishes like lobster ravioli with yuzu squash purée and housemade XO sauce or crispy tofu with pepper and mushroom compote and a soy chili glaze. The cocktail list is as equally well thought out, so start off dinner with a saketini (or two). Following in fellow judges Capra and Mooking’s footsteps, Lee also embraced the trend of elevated airport dining by opening up Lee Kitchen in Toronto Pearson airport earlier this year. Lee also owns glitzy dim sum restaurant Luckee, and Asian-fusion Bent with his two sons, Kai and Levi Bent-Lee.

8 Sugar Shacks You Need to Visit This Winter

Sorry Western Canada; you might have all the gorgeous mountain ranges and top ski destinations, but Eastern Canada rules the roost when it comes to homegrown maple syrup and sugar shacks.

From Ontario to Nova Scotia, here are eight sugar shacks that are worth putting on those winter boots and stomping through the snow for.

Sugar Moon Farm

Sugar Moon Farm

Cabane PDC (Montreal, QC) 

Arguably the most well-known sugar shack in the country, Martin Picard’s Cabane au Sucre is also one of the hardest spots to get a seat. Just like his Montreal eatery, Au Pied De Cochon, it’s all things rich and indulgent here, so don’t expect to walk out feeling anything but full to the brim.

Crinklaw Maple Products (London, ON) 

Having been in operation for over 180 years, I think it’s safe to say this family-run maple syrup business has truly stood the test of time. Though it doesn’t open until early March and doesn’t offer a dining experience, there’s tons of winter fun to partake in, like sleigh rides and maybe throwing a snowball or two.

Érablière Au Sous-Bois: Brunch

Brunch at Érablière Au Sous-Bois

Érablière Au Sous-Bois (Mont-Saint-Grégoire, QC) 

A bit larger than your regular sugar shack, Érablière not only offers the standard maple producing tours, and food and drink, but also night time dancing. Open until 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, this spot would make a super fun outing for a group of friends or a couple on a date.

La Tablee des Pionniers (Saint-Faustin-Lac-Carré, QC) 

Owned by celebrity Québecois chef Louis-Francois Marcotte, this sugar shack is a must-try for any self-proclaimed lover of the maple delight. With coursed, family-style menus (centred around maple syrup, of course), ranging from $30-$50 per person, you can dive into a myriad of dishes; pulled pork and mushroom in puff pastry, warming split pea soup with savoy cabbage and bacon, and much more. Don’t worry, there’s maple taffy, too.

La Tablee des Pionniers

La Tablee des Pionniers

Sand Road Sugar Camp (Moose Creek, ON) 

You’ll find this popular maple syrup manufacturer just a short drive from Ottawa. Ideal for a family excursion, there’s so much to explore including how maple trees are tapped, strolling around forest trails, or simply enjoying a big brunch buffet.

Sugar Moon Farm

Sugar Moon Farm: Sugar Baby Jarfait

Sugar Moon Farm (Earltown, NS) 

A beautiful drive on winding roads in rural Nova Scotia will bring you to this charming little spot nestled in a forest of maple trees. The menu offers good, honest food with a focus on breakfast. The pancakes and maple baked beans are the perfect sweet-meets-savoury combination, but don’t skip the Sugar Baby Jarfait; layered with maple granola, organic yogurt and Nova Scotia blueberries, this is simplicity at its best!

Sugar Moon Farm

Sugar Moon Farm: Maple Baked Beans

Temple’s Sugar Bush (Lanark, ON) 

Once you’re done exploring the outdoors, take a seat inside Temple’s main building to find that it’s anything but a dusty old shack. Tall vaulted ceilings, a large fireplace and lofted areas make you feel like you’re in more of a mansion than a maple farm. Don’t forget to pick up some maple sugar and their signature maple sticky buns on the way out!

Temple’s Sugar Bush

Temple’s Sugar Bush

Trites Maples (Stilesville, NB) 

Just outside of Moncton, this cozy family-run sugar shack operates during the weekend until 3 p.m. For breakfast, you can enjoy big stacks of buckwheat pancakes, sausages, maple baked beans cooked in a wood-fired oven, and (the most important one of all) all-you-can-eat maple taffy. Meet me there?