Tag 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

Williamsburg Pizza Margherita Pizza

Pizza Lovers: Here’s Where to Find the Best Pizza in 2020

If we know one thing to be true, it’s that everybody loves pizza. Whether it’s eaten fresh from a woodburning oven, straight out of a cardboard delivery box, or reheated on a bleary-eyed Sunday morning, pizza is always satisfying. And luckily for us, pizza is one of the ultimate takeout foods, making it the perfect dish right now.

And while it’s been said that even when it’s bad, it’s still good, John Catucci knows when a pizza is truly great. Like a giant slice topped with mini pizzas, a meta creation of epic proportions, this 26-inch slice brings you what you didn’t know you wanted- pizza on pizza. Or for the true original, maybe Willamburg Pizza’s Apple Bacon Grandma Pie is more your speed, a delicious ‘za topped with thinly slices apples, bacon, walnuts and four different varieties of cheese. 

Whatever your preferred pie style, get ready to add a few more to check off your very own Big Food Bucket List.

At Descendant Detroit Style Pizza, one of the first things pizza lovers will notice is that Detroit-style pizza is served in a square, with the sauce on top rather than providing a base for toppings. The Truff-Ghi starts with a thick Sicilian crust, chewy but never heavy. Topped with roasted garlic cremini mushrooms, caramelized onions, double-smoked bacon and heaps of mozzarella, this square is chock full of flavour. If you weren’t already drooling, the added drizzle of white truffle aioli will surely seal the deal.

See more: The Top 5 Pizza Recipes From You Gotta Eat Here!

The best part, John says, is the crust, while diving into a crunchy corner, “it’s light, it’s airy, it’s crispy.” A true testament of lasting love, John declares that “yes, I’d take it home and introduce it to my mother.” What more could you ask for? The Pugliese style pizza at Toronto’s Bar Buca keeps mixes things up with the addition of potatoes to the dough. Chef Rob Gentile says “the potato and the starches and the natural sugars create a beautiful, airy dough.”

See More: The Best Toronto Pizza Spots

“I’ve made a lot of pizza dough in my life, never using these ingredients,” says Catucci, flabbergasted. When it comes to ingredients, Italian tomatoes, virgin mozzarella and pepperoni make this dish, as John put’s it, “just so pretty.” A pizza so good, it’ll bring tears to your eyes.

Over at Connie’s Pizza, they’re making deep-dish like you’ve never seen before. Handcrafted, thick dough fully encases meaty chunks if Italian beef, giardiniera, and a blend of mozzarella and provolone,  making this slice a true “pie“.

It’s no surprise that the windy city is obsessed with this joint, known for their ooey, gooey, Italian classics, with one customer calling it the “pizza you dream about.”

This pie is spicy, with flavour all the way through, made with thin slices of Italian beef and giardiniera, a pickled blend of carrots, cauliflower and jalapeno, held in soybean oil. The dish holds 3lbs of pizza and cooks for 45 minutes- but hey, good things come to those who wait. After taking his first bite, John says “if that’s not bucket list, I don’t know what is!” We’re happy to follow owner Mike Stolfe’s advice, who laughs and says ” it’s good for you.”

Meanwhile, pizzaiolos at Williamsburg Pizza in Brooklyn are speaking a love language specifically for the pizza purists at heart, with their Margherita pizza.

If you’re looking to master the proper pizza fold, you’ll be happy to choose this slice as your test subject, which one customer says delivers a “slap of flavour.” “The sauce is tangy and sweet at the same time,” says John. “And the dough has flavour! It’s the “best Margherita slice I’ve ever had” he says, giving ultimate praise to the power of this pie.

Watch full episodes of Big Food Bucket List onlineYou can also stream your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

 

 

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

Big Food Bucket List Burgers

The Best Burgers: John Catucci’s Picks for 2019

With a job that takes him to some of the best spots and hidden gem restaurants across North America in search of crave-worthy dishes, John Catucci knows what it takes for a burger to be great.

In the first season of Big Food Bucket List, he gets to explore fresh and unusual takes — from a sweet and savoury version using a classic Chinese snack to a place that glazes their bacon strips with yellow mustard — to more standard versions of the beloved hamburger.

The only thing Catucci’s favourite burgers have in common? They all feature a beef patty (or several) on some sort of bun. Beyond that, only the chef’s creativity is the limit — even if it’s a version that honours the burger in its most classic form.

At Hamilton’s Hambrgr, the burger patties are made from a mix of chuck and inside round beef cuts, giving them a lot of juice and flavour. That signature mix is formed into a ball before it gets smashed against the sizzling hot flat-top grill, causing a Maillard reaction — similar to caramelization — that creates a golden crust. Those patties are paired with slices of bacon slathered with standard yellow mustard before they’re grilled on the flat top — adding an extra level of tang to the meaty #Hamont creation.

See more: The Best Burgers from You Gotta Eat Here!

Hamont Burger Hamburgr
The #HAMONT Burger

Burgers cooked on a flat top, especially with processed cheese, have a flavour that just can’t be recreated, says Catucci.

“There’s something about that thin, flat, smashed Maillard effect… and the processed cheese that works so perfectly. It’s everything you want in a burger,” says Catucci.

But, for nostalgia’s sake, Catucci likes a good charbroiled version.

“It reminds me of the burger place my parents would take me to as a kid. That’s the flavour of childhood.”

See More: Big Food Bucket List Restaurant Locator

Hodad’s in San Diego comes by their relatively classic take on a burger honestly. Now owned by the third generation of the same family, this spot has been dishing up burgers for decades. But that doesn’t mean they haven’t done some tinkering. Forget slices of bacon, Hodad’s creates a patty from the salty pork to slide between their smashed beef patties — however many you’d like.

Hodad's Burger
Hodad’s Double Bacon Cheeseburger

“It’s a delicious mess,” says Catucci. “Your shirt is going to be ruined, but you’re going to be happy.”

When it comes to burger toppings, Catucci goes for the standards: lettuce, tomato, mustard and relish. But he appreciates a burger that goes off the beaten path for condiments. There is no rivalry between classic and inventive for the Bucket List host — all burgers are welcome.

That’s one of the reasons why Catucci likes what Patois in Toronto is doing.

At this spot, known for bringing foods and flavours from different cultures together, the burger veers from any classic version. First, there’s no ordinary mayo spread on their signature Chinese Pineapple Bun Burger, it’s oyster mayo. And the smashed patty is topped with not just lettuce and tomato, but a handful of smoky potato sticks for salty crunch. What really sets this burger apart, though, is a sweet Chinese pineapple bun takes the place of a regular version, creating a salty-sweet concoction.

Patois Chinese Bun Burger
Patois’ Chinese Pineapple Bun Burger

“It almost tastes like steak,” says Catucci. “It’s unlike any other burger I’ve had.”

Meanwhile, at Saltie Girl in Boston, MA, traditional bacon is replaced with a slab of golden-crusted pork belly for their namesake burger, which also eschews American cheese for gruyere and gets a spicy kick from their ‘Angry Sauce’ spiked with sriracha.

No smashing here, the fist-sized patty is cooked in cast iron to get a nice crust and the whole thing is capped off with deep-fried chunks of lobster.


Saltie Girl Burger

It’s juicy patty and size leaves Catucci needing more than one napkin.

“It’s a complete mess of a burger, but that’s part of what makes it a bucket list, he says.”

While the burgers on this round of Big Food Bucket List are generally beef based, Catucci says he’s enjoyed several veggie or vegan burgers in his travels and he hopes to see even more in the near future as restaurants expand their offerings.

“It’s amazing what you can do (with veggie burgers),” he says, noting there is still an appetite for vegetable versions that echo of their meaty counterparts. (The Beyond Meat version, for example, is making serious inroads.)

“I’m hoping if there’s another season, I’ll get to eat more of those, for sure.”

Watch Big Food Bucket List Fridays at 9 PM and 9:30 PM ET.

The Best Fried Chicken John Catucci Has Ever Had – Plus a Surprising Fast Food Fave

What’s better than a juicy, crispy piece of fried chicken? When that beautiful buttermilk batter meets a perfectly seasoned piece of breast, leg or thigh, our mouths can’t help but water at the very thought of diving right in.

Know who else is in love with fried chicken? Big Food Bucket List host John Catucci. The foodie/traveller extraordinaire is all about a good, old-fashioned plate of the comfort food staple, and this season he’s eating a lot of it. From classic buttermilk fried chicken to southern fried chicken wings, check out the dishes that are topping John’s bucket list.

With all the fried chicken recipes out there, what does it take to capture John’s stomach? “We went to a place called Willie Mae’s Scotch House in New Orleans this season that had the best fried chicken I’ve ever had,” he tells us. “They did a wet batter—it wasn’t a dredge—and they mixed it all together with hot sauce as well. And then they fry it up.”


Willie Mae Scotch House’s Fried Chicken

Drooling yet? We are. And it’s not just John who is preaching the accolades of Willie Mae’s fried chicken—this spot is also Beyonce’s favourite.

According to John, the end result was a perfectly prepared piece of poultry that was “incredibly crispy” on the outside and “incredibly juicy” on the inside. No wonder the James Beard Award-winning spot has been named as having “America’s Best Chicken.”

“I’d never had anything like that,” Catucci raves. “A lot of times [places] will do that double dredge where it gets a really crispy batter but sometimes that kind of takes away from the chicken itself. This didn’t—this was just superb.”


Butchie’s Buttermilk Fried Chicken Wings with Baba’s Cucumber Salad, Green Beans and Devilled Eggs

So what does one pair with the most superb fried chicken he’s ever had in his life? A good old-fashioned biscuit and some coleslaw, of course. Catucci reveals that he’s into a vinegary coleslaw because it cuts through the fattiness of the chicken, but he’d also “smash” a creamy coleslaw if it was on the table.

The one thing Catucci wouldn’t smash though? Fried chicken smothered in hot sauce (sorry, Beyonce). He’s a mild man, all the way.


Burdock and Co.’s Buttermilk Fried Chicken

“It’s gotta be mild. I’m such a wimp!” he laughs.

If you’re not able to get to one of these bucket list fried chicken dishes anytime soon, don’t worry. Catucci has another obsession that’s a bit more accessible, and also slightly surprising.

“Recently I was at my sister’s house watching the Raptors game and we ordered Popeyes… it’s great chicken!” he reveals. “We were like, ‘Holy…this is good.’ They make great chicken. I’ve honestly been craving it. We have to pace ourselves because there’s one just down the street from my house.”

Watch Big Food Bucket List Fridays at 9 PM and 9:30 PM ET.

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.

The Brunch Capital of Canada Is…

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

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

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

Jam Cafe

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

Mo:Le

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

Shine Cafe

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

The Village Restaurant

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

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

Clocktower Brew Pub

Beer Me Up, Scotty: Canadian Brewery Making Star Trek Beer

An Ottawa brewery is on a mission to The Final Frontier, boldly going where no Canadian beer makers have gone before. For The Clocktower Brew Pub, The Final Frontier is the name of their highly anticipated Star Trek-themed craft brew.

Much to the excitement of Trekkies and craft brew fans alike, the official Star Trek beer is being created in partnership with the Aviation and Space Museum for their Starfleet Gala on May 12, 2016. The out-of-this world event launches an exhibit on space science and includes a very special guest, the original Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner.

Ottawa's Clocktower Brew Pub is marking its 20th anniversary with a new Star Trek themed beer.

Ottawa’s Clocktower Brew Pub is marking its 20th anniversary with a new Star Trek themed beer.

The Final Frontier is based on a historic beer style called Kentucky Common; the amber ale has a light body, making it cool, refreshing and easy to drink. Traditional Kentucky Common style is corn-based, but brew-master Patrick Fiori wanted to give it a true Star Trek twist by adding triticale. The rye and wheat hybrid adds body and a cereal flavour to the beer. Trekkies will know it as a real-life version of the fictional “quadrotriticale,” the grain mentioned in the classic original Star Trek episode, Trouble with Tribbles. The episode is famous for the scene in which William Shatner is chest-deep in adorably fluffy pests.

“It took a lot of thought to come up with a name that represented what Star Trek meant to us,” Fiori said in an email.

While the labels and packaging are under wraps until the gala, the brewery is excited to reveal their newest enterprise with the museum.

“The best part of this experience is not only to be able to say that The Clocktower has added to the Star Trek mythos, but as a company, we are turning 20 this year and are able to show that we can stay current and relevant 20 years later,” said Fiori.

This isn’t The Clocktower Brew Pub‘s first foray into sci-fi themed brews. Last year, they collaborated with Star Trek: The Next Generation actor Wil Wheaton to create the ‘HefeWheaton,’  a German-style wheat beer that was launched at Ottawa ComicCon.

Can’t wait to ask the bartender for an astronomically good pint? The Final Frontier will be available for tasting at the Starfleet Gala on May 12, and at Ottawa ComicCon May 13 to 15. After that, you can enjoy it at one of The Clocktower Brew Pub’s five Ottawa locations throughout May.

Looking for more tasty craft brews? Maybe you’ll love one of these 10 New and Unique Canadian Beers to Try.

winnipeg ice bar

6 Cool Canadian Ice Bars to Visit This Winter

Looking for a cool new place to grab a drink? Chill out (literally) at one of these 6 wintry ice bars across Canada. Just make sure you meet the dress code: toques and parkas, please!

Belvedere Ice Room

Courtesy of The Belvedere Ice Room.

The Canadian Brewhouse’s Belvedere Ice Room (Kelowna, BC)
Though you’ll find this pub chain in a lot of Western Canadian cities, it is only in Kelowna where you can suit up and sip on some vodka in a room made of ice. The whole tasting experience lasts about 10 minutes, so you’ll be in and out before you get too chilly.

Chill Ice House

Courtesy of Chill Ice House.

Chill Ice House (Toronto, ON) 
This large event space made up almost entirely of ice is not only a spectacle to be seen, complete with a rotating line-up of ornate ice carvings, but to be sat in as well. At night, it becomes a lively bar with loud music and bartenders serving up cool concoctions in glasses made of ice. Bring your coat!

The Great Ice Show’s Ice Bar

Photo courtesy of Cody Chomiak.

The Great Ice Show’s Ice Bar (Winnipeg, MB)
Operated by Mon Ami Louis, a seasonal restaurant on Winnipeg’s Esplanade bridge, you can expect not only hot boozy drinks like mulled wine but a nice selection of crêpes, soups, chili too at this pop-up ice bar that runs until the end of February.

Hotel de Glace (Quebec City, QC) 
Ice isn’t just for skating on, it’s for sleeping on too. If you can’t quite muster up the courage to spend a night in this ice hotel (yes, even the beds are made of ice), you can still get a taste of the experience by having a drink in the lounge.

Courtesy of Bearfoot Bistro.
Courtesy of Bearfoot Bistro.

Ketel One Ice Room at the Bearfoot Bistro (Whistler, BC) 
Similar to the ice room mentioned above at The Canadian Brewhouse in Kelowna, this spot at the famed Bearfoot Bistro in Whistler offers a chilly vodka tasting followed by a warm, refined dining experience once you shed your layers and sit down to eat.

montreal-ice-bar

Courtesy of Restaurant de Glace Pommery.

Restaurant de Glace Pommery (Montreal, QC) 
Head down to Old Montreal to discover Canada’s only igloo restaurant. Now, this isn’t a basic snow igloo you’ll find on someone’s front lawn in the dead of winter. At a whopping 12 metres in diameter and a peak height of 9 metres, Pommery can comfortably fit 60 patrons at one time. I’m so in!

You Gotta Eat Here! On Delicious Food Trends You Gotta Try

The fourth season of You Gotta Eat Here! kicks off tonight with even more amazing comfort food stops across Canada. In this latest season, host John Catucci  explores more places south of the border.

We visited John on set at San Remo Bakery in Etobicoke, Ontario, and he named four hot food trends he’s noticing right now.The-Jammery---Edit-IMG_3558
John Catucci, with a pretty excited fan, in an upcoming episode in the new fourth season of You Gotta Eat Here!

Trend #1: Doughnuts are the new cupcakes.
We’ve also noticed that gourmet doughnut shops have been popping up a lot across Canada. These aren’t your regular Timmy doughnuts. Doughnuts are now getting the artisanal treatment, being made from scratch and with the finest ingredients.
von-doughnuts-2
Image courtesy of Von Doughnuts.

You’ll see Von Doughnuts, a doughnut shop that makes their doughnuts from scratch all day, every day, in an upcoming episode this season.

Trend #2: Pies are bigger than cakes.
John is pretty happy about this trend as he loves a good apple or strawberry rhubarb pie. But it’s not just sweet pies that are trending. Savoury pies are having their moment, too. What’s not to love about something delicious wrapped in a flaky, buttery pastry? Nothing.

This season’s You Gotta Eat Here! travels to Salmon Arm, BC to visit Shuswap Pie Company, a small and darling pie shop that serves hot coffee and lots o’pie made from scratch.
Shuswap Pie Company-YGEH
Mouth-watering pies left to right from Shuswap Pie Company : Blueberry Pie, Chicken Pot Pie, Pecan Pie. 

Trend #3:  Everything is made from scratch.
It’s not enough that your delicious meal is cooked to order. Chefs are making sure that all the components of your dish are made from scratch. From the cinnamon rolls used to make a country French toast breakfast, to the in-house cured bacon accompanying it, that’s exactly what you’l find at Emma’s Country Kitchen, a homey breakfast and lunch joint featured in this season of YGEH!

John also mentioned eating at a restaurant that baked their own bread, cured their own deli meats and made all their condiments. “You could definitely feel and taste it in the final product,” he added. Now that’s taking homemade to the delicious extreme.

Emma's Country kitchen

Made from scratch — baked breakfast treats and country French toast from Emma’s Country Kitchen. 

Trend #4: Bacon is still very big.
We’re not surprised at all that bacon is still holding strong. John may personally have something to do with that. He told us if he had to open his own restaurant, “it would just be bacon.” When asked to elaborate, he replied: “It’s a little place. The bacon is cooked, you come in, you get a couple of slices of bacon and you walk out. Simple as that. Just straight up bacon.” The man loves his bacon. Enough said.

Find the restaurants featured on You Gotta Eat Here! by using our restaurant location tool.
Check out our episode guide
to find out more about upcoming episodes in the new season.

Catch new episodes of You Gotta Eat Here! Fridays at 9 ET/ 6 PT.

8 More Places to Eat and Drink in Vancouver Right Now: Part Two

Here’s part deux of my curated list of places to eat and drink in Vancouver right now — just in time for all those holiday parties. If you missed part 1, you may want to read it first. I’ll wait.

vancouve_medina1. Café Medina @CafeMedina

Don’t take my word for it, the long lineups at Café Medina speak for themselves. You can’t go wrong with Chef Jonathan Chovancek’s rustic Mediterranean inspired dishes such as the Harissa Burger, and Fricassee Champignon (vegetarian and gluten-free). They’ve recently moved to a bigger, brighter space but the food is just as delicious. If you’re in the mood for something sweet, Café Medina is famous for their Belgian waffles with countless toppings such as this Bluberry, Sumac and Juniper Preserve, not to mention their lavender lattes. The only downside? The lineups!

** Just got word that this popular brunch spot is available evenings for private functions.

*** If you’re looking do something special this holiday season, how about a waffle brunch. You’ll want to read these tips for making perfect waffles from Chef Jonathan before you do.

vancouver_shri_gyoza

2 &3. Shirakawa @shirakawavan and Gyoza Bar + Ramen

These two spots, specializing in modern Japanese cuisine, are the latest additions to Vancouver’s Gastown. Shirakawa, popular chain of brasserie in Japan, has recently opened their first North American spot in Vancouver. They are the only place in town serving high- end kuroge wagyu beef from Japan. If that’s out of your price range, opt for wagyu beef sushi or the fried hamburger on grilled Japanese milk bread – very tasty.

Gyoza and Ramen are two of my favourite dishes so it’s not surprising that I loved this place. Dubbed as Vancouver’s first “Gyoza Bar,” the food is great, the ambiance is casual and convivial. In short: this is my kind of joint. Be sure to order one of their signatures dishes — teppan gyoza or kaisen tomato ramen – I tried both. Deelish!

vancouver_secret location
4. Secret Location @slocation

One part lifestyle boutique, one part restaurant, I can so imagine Lady Gaga eating and shopping at this concept boutique/eatery. Chef Jefferson Alvarez serves up an ambitious five -course discovery menu each night for those who want something extraordinary. Comfort food, this ain’t, but if it’s creativity, imagination and boldness you crave, this place is it.  There aren’t many places in Canada serving sturgeon marrow you know? (bottom pix)

vancouver_boulevard5. Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar  @blvdyvr

This much anticipated new restaurant that recently opened in the iconic Sutton Place Hotel – lives up to the hype. It’s hard to miss with Executive Chef Alex Chen at the helm (previously of the legendary Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel). Boulevard’s seafood-focused menu is grounded in classical technique but Chef Chen isn’t afraid to experiment. Start with an order of the crispy chicken will with fish sauce caramel, sambal chilli pickled vegetables, not to mention the obligatory seafood tower – amazing. You may be inspired to try these recipes at home: Boulevard’s Bouillabaisse and Citrus-Cured Hamachi with Hearts of Palm.

 

vancouver_forage
6. Forage @foragevancouver

You can’t get more local and sustainable than Forage. Chef Chris Whittaker serves up casual, comfortable and affordable dishes, celebrating all things BC. The menu is locally focused in both food and beverage. He makes a point of using cuts that’s often overlooked — like this recipe for Kasu Salmon Collars — sustainability at its most delicious.

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7. Raw Bar at the Lobby Lounge

You can’t come to Vancouver and not have sushi and Raw Bar at the Lobby Lounge inside the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel is a superb choice. Canada’s first 100% Ocean Wise sushi restaurant, Sushi Chef Takayuki Omi’s passion for sushi and sustainability is inspiring. Chef Jonathan from Café Medina said it was his favourite place in the city for sushi. And I think it’s mine too. Not everyone wants to make sushi at home so we got this Manila Clam and Smoked Bacon Sakamushi recipe for you to try.

Kick back and enjoy a delicious cocktail all the while enjoying the live music played on the white Fazioli piano, the Ferrari in the world of pianos.

8. Bella Gelateria @bellagelateria

If you’re in the mood for after-dinner treat, walk over to Bella Gelateria (conveniently connected to the Fairmont Pacific Rim) for award-winning, handcrafted old world gelatos and sorbettos. In 2012, owner James Coleridge won both the public choice award and the judge’s award at the Firenze Gelato Festival with his Pecan and Canadian Maple Syrup.

Read More: 7 Places to Eat and Drink in Vancouver Right Now

7 Places to Eat and Drink in Vancouver Right Now: Part One

Vancouver is one good-looking city. You have the ocean to one side, mountains on the other and so much good eating and drinking in between. Blessed with milder weather, it can definitely embrace eating and growing local more than any other province in Canada. Here’s a curated list of places to eat and drink in Vancouver right now just in time for all those holiday parties – part 1. I had to break it up into two parts because the post was getting too long! vancouver_prestons_use 1. Prestons Restaurant at The Coast Coal Harbour Hotel

Start the day right with a delicious breakfast at Preston’s with their new regional executive chef Shelly Robinson (@Foodwork). She won Chopped and I can see why. The revamped brunch menu is out of this world! I loved the lil ‘wat’ smocked sockeye salmon, spinach puree, beet pearls on bannock or if you want something sweet, try the gluten-free quinoa waffle stack with avocado espuma (Spanish for foam) and fennel marmalade. Here’s the recipe for those wonderful waffles. vancouver_beaucoupbakery 2. Beaucoup Bakery @Beaucoupbakery

Here’s the perfect spot for a light breakfast, mid morning pick-me-up, or mid-afternoon pick-me-up, or any time pick-me-up. French trained pastry chef/owner extraordinaire Jackie Kai Ellis serves up fabulous French treats that’s good for any time of the day. Her specialty is croissants, try the vanilla-bean version if you can, but her delectable desserts are just as good. They are almost too pretty too eat – almost. Jackie contributes to our site, don’t you know. Be sure to check out her tips on throwing the perfect pastry tasting partyvancouver_edible 3. Edible Canada @ediblecanada

Located In Granville Island Market (another requisite stop for any food lover), Edible Canada is a culinary tourism company with retail store and bistro aimed at promoting local food and highlighting Canadian cuisine. Kick off your meal with the most delicious Maple Bacon Caesar and tuck into their menu of Canadian Comfort Classics. From Gulf Island Mussels Chowder, Wild Mushroom Omelette to Quebec Duck Poutine – you can’t miss at this popular spot. We have the recipes to that out-of-this-world Maple Bacon Caesar and Quebec Duck Poutine. You are welcome. Be sure to check out the retail store attached to the bistro. I picked up some award-winning artisanal chocolate from Beta 5 @beta5chocolates – To.Die.For.

4. Artisan SakeMaker @Artisansake

Stop by and try some Osake sake – Canada’s first locally produced fresh premium sake. Who knew?! vancouver_settlement 5. Belgard Kitchen @BelgardKitchen

Then it’s off to The Settlement Building for craft beer and wines on tap. Be sure to try some signature dishes at the Belgard Kitchen like that yam gnocchi with lamb sausage ragu. Lucky for us Chef Reuben Major has shared the recipe.

6. The Parker @parkeryvr

There are so many dinner options in Vancouver and there’s one to suit everyone’s palate. Head to The Parker, a sexy and sustainable restaurant, serving all vegetarian fare located on the edge of Vancouver’s Chinatown (this area is definitely starting to develop). Start your veggie meal off right with a Vancouver Cocktail and enjoy the intimate space (just 9 tables and an open kitchen that uses hot plates!). vancouver_hawksworth 7. Hawksworth Restaurant @HawksworthRest

You can’t go wrong with a meal at Hawksworth Restaurant – a definitive dining destination (how’s that for alliteration). I had seen the place during its construction phase and I was super excited to see and eat here. Chef David Hawksworth is one of the best chefs we have in Canada – in my humble opinion. He works magic with seafood and you can too with this dungeness crab pasta and chili recipe from Chef David himself. And he’s a do-gooder on top of it all. Read about the Hawksworth Young Chef Scholarship.

Read More: 8 More Places to Eat and Drink in Vancouver Right Now

Dining with Food Network Canada in Calgary

Of course there is no shortage of places to eat in this Albertan city, but if you’re a big fan of Food Network Canada, here are a few suggestions of where to grab a bite if you want your meal served up with a side of culinary television alumni.

Breakfast: Diner Deluxe @diner_deluxe

For years, this restaurant has been a brunch go-to for Calgarians. If you are a big fan of the show, You Gotta Eat Here!, you’ll remember John Catucci heading into the kitchen here during the first season of the show to find out what this place was all about.

888_dinner-deluxe

This diner has got a ton of signature dishes like their meatloaf hash, breakfast poutine (imagine the love child of an eggs benny and a poutine) or the maple fried oatmeal, served with sweet lemon curd and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. As well, they recently opened a second location earlier this year.

Even before the show, this spot – like most buzzworthy brunch spots in the city – was notorious for its line-ups. So, plan to come early to get to be able to satisfy your hunger before lunch time rolls around. On that note, they do serve lunch and dinner too.

Lunch: Craft Beer Market @CRAFTbeermarket

888_craft3

Calgary’s love for gastropubs seems unparalleled across the country and a great example of that love is the original Craft Beer Market. When it opened in 2011, the 400+ seat space also had the largest section of microbrew beers in the country, with 120 draught lines ready to pour. The shiny lines running from the keg room to the central bar is really a sight to see.

888_craft4

Their corporate chef, Paul McGreevy appeared on Chopped Canada this past spring (he was robbed, I say!) and serves up his spin on pub food to a packed restaurant day after day. The crab cake sliders with citrus aioli, pepper salsa and house-made pretzel buns are always a solid way to start off here. Since it’s cooling down outside, a bowl of Craft mac ‘n cheese or the butternut squash ravioli are safe bets during the lunch hour too.

888_craft2

Just a half block down the road, you‘ll find another FNC alumnus, Top Chef Canada season two’s Xavier Lacaze, running the kitchen at Briggs Kitchen and Bar. Now that’s a lot of talent on one city block!

Dinner: Charcut @CHARCUT

The inaugural season of Top Chef Canada will arguably always be the most memorable with chefs like Dale Mackay winning the series and becoming household chef name coast-to-coast, Andrea Nicholson going on to appear on multiple FNC shows and of course, Connie DeSousa.

Her restaurant, Charcut Roast House, that she runs along with her co-chef John Jackson and their prospective partners was busy prior to her appearance on the television series and became exponentially so after the fact.

888_charcut1

Charcut is known for their charcuterie and dedication to sourcing out local farmers and producers for ingredients that comprise their seasonally-influenced menu. Definitely on the meat heavy side of things, if there’s a carnivore lurking inside of you, it will be appeased here.

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Aside from the eats, Charcut also stirs and shakes up some well-crafted cocktails too, so it’s easy to stay after eating and sip the night away.

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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