Tag Archives: food trends

Feta tomato pasta on plate

This Feta Tomato Pasta Trending on TikTok is as Easy as 1-2-3

As we’ve all been spending more time at home and in the kitchen this past year, it seems that everyone is getting more inventive with their cooking (and sharing it all over their socials). Some of our fave food trends to come out of quarantine cooking include everything from pancake cereal to focaccia bread art. The newest cooking craze? TikTok’s baked feta tomato pasta. Is it worth the hype? With just nine ingredients and 25 minutes from start to finish, we think so.

Feta tomato pasta on plate

Feta Tomato Pasta

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients:

2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes
⅓ cup olive oil
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
½ tsp minced garlic
1 tsp chili flakes
200 g block of Greek feta cheese
1 Tbsp basil
300 g pasta of choice

Feta tomato pasta ingredients on kitchen countertop

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 450°F and boil water in a large pot for the pasta. In a 9 x 9 baking dish, add the tomatoes, olive oil (reserve about 2 Tbsp), salt, pepper, garlic and chili flakes. Mix to coat. Place the block of feta in the centre and drizzle the top with the remaining olive oil. Bake in the oven until the tomatoes blister and the cheese melts, about 15-20 minutes.

Feta tomato pasta ingredients in dish

2. Season the boiling water with salt, cook the pasta to al dente or according to the package directions. Reserve half cup of pasta water for later.

Related: Best-Ever Pasta Recipes for Easy Dinners

3. Remove the baking dish from the oven and with the back of a fork, mash and mix the feta and tomatoes. Add the fresh basil and cooked pasta. If the pasta looks a little dry, add a splash of the reserved pasta water. Garnish with fresh basil and enjoy!

Feta tomato pasta ingredients in dish

We tried the KFC Cinnabon Dessert Biscuits and Popeye’s Famous Chicken Sandwich — are they worth the hype?

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

Why Custom Catering is Becoming the Next Best Dining Experience

When it comes to food trends, 2019 has been all about consumers dictating which ingredients wind up on their plates – not to mention the cultivation of Instagram-worthy experiences. We’re demanding more healthy, sustainable farm-to-table options of our own choosing while also being given the opportunity to flaunt our food photography skills by capturing the latest crazes to emerge from the culinary world.

That’s where custom catering and grazing tables come in – merging big, diverse and beautiful displays that showcase our love of food with unique experiences you can enjoy with family and friends. From spectacular styling to high-quality ingredients (wave goodbye to processed meats!), these tables and platters make for a showstopping bespoke dining experience.

Aliza Devenyi, who co-owns Toronto’s cured.catering with Zoë Wisenberg, can attest to the high demand for photo-ready displays. “Most clients are concerned about the ‘wow’ factor,” she says, referring to the stunning table-sized charcuterie boards (pictured) she and Zoë specialize in. “Clients want an impressive, beautiful and, most importantly, delicious spread.”

According to a recent survey on millennial spending habits, more than 3 in 4 (78 per cent) said they would choose to spend their hard-earned cash on desirable experiences over material things. This pattern in spending habits is what economists are referring to as the “experience economy”, and its influence on food culture is undeniable – foodies need only look to the growing trends in farm-to-table options, custom catering and grazing tables for evidence.

“[They’re] not only a beautiful focal point for any party, but they provide a fun, interactive and customizable experience for guests,” Devenyi adds. “Gone are the days of stuffy dinner parties with complicated cuisines.”

A Visual Feast

For the uninitiated, a grazing table or supersized charcuterie board may resemble a traditional buffet at first – but instead of stacking a plate high with a limited selection of food, they instead allow guests to walk by, pop a bite-sized item into their mouths and keep mingling with the crowd. After all, nothing brings a group of people together quite like a table gorgeously styled with a rainbow assortment of drool-worthy foods to choose from.

And, as companies like cured.catering have proven, grazing tables or super-sized charcuterie boards are also genuine works of art. Even Pinterest is reporting that searches for grazing tables have skyrocketed by more than 163 per cent in the last year – and you can credit that surge in popularity to its Instagram-ready displays and communal experiences.

It also allows for customizing to suit a variety of dietary needs as people become more vocal about taking ownership of what’s on their plates.

With the growing number of dietary requirements, Devenyi and her business partner Wisenberg have had to get creative, sometimes crafting tables with a 50/50 balance of meat and vegetarian options. Think: prosciutto and honey paired with blue cheese (a personal favourite of hers) or something like vegan cashew “cheese” balls and thinly sliced veggies with nuts.

“We’ve noticed an increased demand in requests for offerings that cater to specific dietary needs, like gluten sensitivity, dairy-free and vegan,” she says. “We also have people asking for lighter options, such as more fruit and crudités.”

All of cured.catering’s creations are made up of locally-sourced produce, meats and specialty cheeses – something more foodies are taking note of when choosing where to spend their money.  As the business has developed, so too has its offerings, including all fruit or dessert tables – and candy tables for those with a major sweet tooth.

It’s apparent from rainbow bagels to epic spreads that people are eating with their eyes now more than ever before, with no signs of the trend abating anytime soon, including the ability to pick and choose how and what food you consume.

“Every bite has the power to be a different, transformative taste, which is why I think it’s so popular,” Devenyi says. “It’s not a plated meal, but rather … a way for guests to get creative and indulge in their hearts’ desires.”

All photos courtesy of cured.catering 

5 Unexpected Food Trends The Chopped Judges Love (And Hate)

Charcoal ice cream, bacon in your Bloody Mary, or dessert piled on top of dessert, piled on top of dessert, piled on top of dessert. There have been plenty of trendy food items the Chopped judges want to forget ever existed, especially as more and more foodies share their overindulgent finds on Instagram and other social media platforms.

“It’s bacon abuse. Bacon doesn’t belong everywhere,” notes Alex Guarnaschelli of the saltiest food trend. “Cupcakes and doughnuts with bacon on it? Why. I’m going to eat scrambled eggs and bacon and then I’m going to have a cupcake. All separately.”

“The food trend word itself is so annoying,” adds Maneet Chauhan. “Food is about nourishment, it’s about enjoyment. Having the word ‘trend’ beside it is annoying.”

To be fair, we wouldn’t expect our panel of classically trained judges to feel much differently about these gawker dishes being doled out at carnivals, food trucks and pop-up shops. But that doesn’t mean they’re against all food trends. Here are five surprising culinary movements the Chopped judges are totally getting behind.

1. Fermentation


At its core, the idea of using natural bacteria to feed on starch and sugar in order to preserve and extend a food’s shelf life is a bit weird to list as a trend. But given a chef’s ability to label preserved food as both additive-free and healthy, it’s something that’s definitely been gaining traction in 2018. And the Chopped judges love it.

“There has been a departure from high-end ingredients. We’re always going to have truffles and caviar and foie gras, but now you see places using a lot more fermentation and they’re bringing more interesting flavours,” says Marc Murphy. “You know what caviar tastes like. If you have good caviar it’s always going to taste the same. But with fermentation it’s like, ‘Holy cow. It’s hitting the palate in so many awesome and different ways.’”

2. Milling


“I was just in San Francisco so I’m obsessed with everything sour dough. Sour dough bread, long fermentation breads,” reveals Amanda Freitag. “Everyone makes their own breads and is growing and milling their own grains now. Like, chefs in California that are baking, or pastry chefs, they wouldn’t even think of buying flour anymore. They are all milling their own flour. Think about our upbringing in kitchens — we just ordered it in bulk! They would never do that anymore.”

“Grains are such a big product, and growing up in Scandinavia, that’s one of the things we had a lot, like seven-grain bread, multigrain bread,” adds Marcus Samuelsson.

3. Return to Basics

It’s not just fermentation and milling that has the judges impressed with where the industry is going. It’s the entire movement of taking things back to basics that has them hopeful for the next wave of culinary superstars.

“Even ethnic food is becoming more mainstream with things like fermentation,” Chauhan says. “That’s one of the amazing things being done, is going back to the basis. Things that we were doing for generations, going back to that. That’s the amazing trend.”

4. Shrubs

If you’ve noticed a surplus of vinegar in your cocktails lately, know that it’s no accident. “Shrubs” are an increasingly popular way to reimagine old flavours, and Guarnaschelli is all over them.

“Making fruit juices mixed with vinegar, which is sort of on the savoury side for cocktails, is called shrubs,” she explains. “And now we’re seeing them on dishes where fruit, which is usually sweet, is thought of in a more vinegary, acidic context.”

5. Plant-Based Eating

So the idea of eating a more plant-based diet isn’t exactly a surprising trend; it’s one that’s been boiling up for a while now thanks to certain documentaries and an overall appeal for better health. Still, as the movement plows forward, these judges are all for it.

“Vegetarian and vegan dishes are becoming stars on the menu now, and not just things you have to have on the menu,” says Chris Santos.

Sounds pretty delicious to us.

Watch an all-new season of Chopped premiering Tuesday, August 28th at 10 E/P!

black ice cream

Why Charcoal is the Inky New Ingredient of Summer

If you’ve noticed an eerie new food trend this summer, you’re not alone. Pitch-black foods from ice cream to breads to cocktails and smoothies are popping up on menus and on your Instagram feed in droves. The colour of these concoctions is thanks to activated charcoal, the newest (and eeriest) addition to the ever-growing roster of superfood boosters.

Activated charcoal bread

Activated charcoal bread.
laurapeill.com

Activated charcoal is popular in the health food realm as it’s thought to assist in detoxification, likely because it’s frequently used if a patient is rushed to the hospital for an overdose or ingested poison. There is reason to be cautious when consuming, as its binding properties can also remove important vitamins and minerals from the body, along with the “bad.” In terms of using it as a health food supplement, the amounts are miniscule versus those used in hospitals, so you can rest easy. But don’t think of activated charcoal as a panacea – it’s a supplement and natural colourant, not a medication.

Also, don’t go searching for activated charcoal by harvesting backyard barbecue coals – they are not the same thing. Activated charcoal is a byproduct of burning plant fibres, like coconut husks. Overall, in moderation, charcoal can be a funky add-in here and there for the average, healthy adult.

So, if you’re ready to give the raven-hued trend a try, consider a playful bite of ebony pizza crust, “burnt” sourdough, inky ice cream or a sable-hued latte. Bartenders are even creating detox-retox sips using activated charcoal, like The Carbon Bar in Toronto, which created the Black Mamba Margarita with charcoal-infused Avion tequila, St. Germain, Bowmore, lime and a sea-salt rim.

Black Mamba Margarita

This cocktail is made with charcoal-infused Avion tequila, St. Germain, Bowmore and lime with a sea-salt rim.
The Carbon Bar

The recently opened iHalo Krunch, “Toronto’s first charcoal ice cream shop,” is swirling up dreamy combinations, complete with activated charcoal cones.

And for the health nuts, to whom the activated charcoal trend in food should be attributed, find cold-pressed lemonade, vegan soft serve, almond milk lattes, sourdough breads and edible body treatments (whitening toothpastes and facemasks) to satisfy your curiosity.

Ihalo Krunch cones

At iHalo Krunch, the ice cream is served up in activated-charcoal cones.
ihalo Krunch

While the trend has some latte-slinging baristas up in arms, as activated charcoal can leave a gritty texture and off taste when combined with coffee and milk, it is, for the most part, a visual barrier more than a physical one.

Let us know if you have or would join in the activated charcoal food movement.

Why Sweet Potato Toast is All the Rage (+ 2 New Recipes!)

Sweet potato toast is all of the rage right now. Why, you may ask? Well, it’s paleo-friendly, inherently gluten-free, Instagram-worthy and just darn right delicious. Some people don’t feel great after eating bread first thing in the morning, and sometimes complain of crashing, bloating or feeling foggy. Sweet potato toast is a creative and nourishing alternative that provides your body with immune boosting antioxidants and helps regulates blood sugar. This makes it a perfect breakfast (or snack) for starting your day off on the right foot.

sweet-potato-toast-3

Show us your sweet potato toast creations @foodnetworkCA and tag #MyFNCRecipe.

Ingredients:

Fried Egg & Avocado Sweet Potato Toast:
2 sweet potato slices
1/2 avocado
Pinch of sea salt and pepper
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup sunflower sprouts or pea shoots
2 eggs
1 Tbsp butter

sweet-potato-toast-1

Almond Butter, Apple & Banana Sweet Potato Toast:
2 sweet potato slices
2 Tbsp crunchy almond butter
1/4 granny smith apple, thinly sliced
1/3 banana, sliced
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp hemp seeds

sweet-potato-toast-4

Directions:

Fried Egg & Avocado Sweet Potato Toast:
1. Cut a sweet potato lengthwise into slices that are 1/4-inch thick.
2. Place 2 of these sweet potato slices in the toaster and toast for 10 minutes, flipping them after 5 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, cook 2 over-easy eggs. Heat 1 Tbsp of butter over medium-high and swirl around to coat the pan. Crack each egg into a small dish, like a ramekin, and pour into the pan. Flip the eggs after about 15-20 seconds and then cook for another 15-20 seconds. Remove the eggs and place on a separate plate.
4. Once the sweet potato slices are toasted, fan the avocado slices over them and place the over easy eggs on top.
5. Sprinkle sea salt and pepper over. Finish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and pea shoot sprouts.

sweet-potato-toast-5

Almond Butter, Apple & Banana Sweet Potato Toast:
1. Cut a sweet potato lengthwise into slices that are 1/4-inch thick.
2. Place 2 of these sweet potato slices in the toaster and toast for 10 minutes, flipping them after 5 minutes.
3. Smear crunchy almond butter over the toast.
4. Fan a granny smith apple over one slice and bananas over the other.
5. Drizzle honey on top and sprinkle with cinnamon and hemp seeds.

Watch this handy guide to all things sweet potatoes, including how to select, store and cook them.

Photos by Sarah Grossman.

The Joy of Cooking for Strangers

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

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

bunz-meal-strangers

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

$100 donut

Original $100 Doughnut Created by West Kelowna Bakery

Only in New York would a bakery be so bold as to create a gold doughnut with a $100 price tag. But Jeanne Kaminski will have you know that the original $100 doughnut was invented right here on Canadian soil. The owner of West Kelowna’s Dolicious Donuts & Coffee created The Donutopia, covered in 24-karat gold, last summer. Kaminski set her sights on creating the immaculate confection to help raise money to start a soup kitchen in their community.

“We wanted a doughnut that gave back to the community,” says Kaminski, who recently showed off her skills on Sugar Showdown.

$100 doughnut

Photo courtesy of Dolicious Donuts & Coffee.

Kaminski started dreaming up her creation when a customer asked her to create a special doughnut to hide an engagement ring in. From there, Kaminski let her imagination run wild, challenging herself to create the most decadent doughnut around.

The Donutopia starts with dough made with Bling H2O, a luxury water that hails from the hills of Tennessee and retails for $39. The cream filling is infused with local winery, Rollingdale’s 2008 ice wine, which pairs well with the handmade chocolate curls. Aged balsamic vinegar is the secret ingredient in the chocolate icing, then it is decorated with 24-karat gold leaf and edible sugar diamonds. The first one she and her team made took seven hours, now they have it down to a cool four.

“The flavours are incredible. It is perfect pairing,” she says. “With the flavours and the texture in it, it takes like a million bucks.”

Since the first extravagant creation, Dolicious Donuts & Coffee has sold about a dozen more of their immaculate $100 desserts. In fact, whenever they receive an order for one, they make two, so the staff can taste the luxurious treat.

Kaminski would love the opportunity to pit her creation against the shiny Brooklyn counterpart for a $100 doughnut taste test. “Anything that bring attention to doughnuts is an amazing thing,” she says.

Kaminski is already planning her next ambitious creation — the spiciest doughnut. The fiery treat will feature homemade hot sauce made with B.C. grown peppers and topped with a chocolate-covered scorpion. She says buyers will be warned and will have to sign a waiver before they take their first bite. We can’t wait to taste it.