Tag Archives: food trends

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

Black Garlic: What It Is, and Why You Need to Cook With It This Year

As Canadians get more adventurous in the kitchen, it’s only natural that they’d be on the lookout for the latest on-trend foods and dishes to try at home. And, with 2020 kicking into high gear, black garlic has continued its steady ascent as one of the most sought-after ingredients in North American cuisine. But if you’re left reeling at the thought of cooking with the inky, blackened cloves – or don’t entirely understand how to incorporate it into your favourite recipes – you’re definitely not alone.

Although not an entirely new concept (Japan, Thailand and South Korea have been extolling the virtues of black garlic for years) this versatile ingredient can be easily swapped in for traditional white garlic in most dishes.

Still not convinced? We break it all down for you – from the what to the how – and offer up some of our favourite garlicky Food Network Canada recipes as mouth-watering examples of where you can introduce this on-trend ingredient into your repertoire.

Related: 12 Hottest Food Trends We’ll Be Devouring in 2020

What is it?

In short, it’s your everyday run-of-the-mill white garlic – albeit gradually aged over a period of weeks. By gently heating entire bulbs in a humidity-controlled environment (think: rice cookers), you wind up with darkened, sticky cloves that quite frankly resemble garlic gone bad. Despite their slightly charred and off-putting appearance, the Maillard reaction (the chemical reaction between amino acids and sugars that lend browned/aged foods their unmistakable taste) actually deepens their flavours for an entirely different – and elevated – culinary experience.

Related: Mouth-Watering Recipes That Use 10 or More Cloves of Garlic


Get the recipe for Roger Mooking’s 30 Cloves of Garlic Sauce

What does it taste like?

For starters, it doesn’t taste much like traditional garlic. Once blackened, the cloves become earthy and syrupy-sweet in flavour, with additional hints of prunes, balsamic vinegar and black licorice. It’s also softer and has a molasses-like texture, making it easier to spread on crackers or crostini. Something for at-home chefs to consider: due to the loss of its original sharp taste, a larger volume of black garlic is required with any recipe in order to achieve higher taste levels.


Get the recipe for 8-Minute Garlic and Parmesan Pan-Fried Shrimp

How to use it

You can add black garlic to salad dressing or dip recipes, purée them with olive oil, create scrumptious pastes from scratch or rub onto fish or meat before popping your dish in the oven. If you purchase it in powdered form, you can also sprinkle it on pretty much anything your heart (and stomach) desires.

Related: Pinterest Predicts the Top 15 Food Trends for 2020


Learn how to make Everything Garlic Bread Knots

How to make it at home

We’ll be honest: it’s a long, drawn-out process, but if you have the time to spare, the results are well worth the wait. A relatively easy hack is to break out the rice cooker and use the “warm” setting to transform white garlic into black garlic over the span of roughly three to four weeks (or 40 days). You can also use your slow cooker.


Get the recipe for Anna Olson’s Garlic Parmesan Twists

Where to buy it

Although it might be a little difficult to track down in major grocery chains, specialty stores, like Whole Foods, often carry both whole heads of pre-humidified black garlic and the powdered variety.

Health benefits

Although it’s lower in allicin, the compound that gives traditional garlic many of its health-boosting properties, black garlic is still rich in amino acids and contains double the antioxidants as the white variety. It’s also a great source of vitamins C and D.

For more at-home cooking experiments, check out these 8 Realistic Ways to Stick to Healthy Habits and the 10 Best Foods (and 5 Worst) for Your Mental Health and Wellness.

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!

natural wines

What is Natural Wine and Where to Find It in Canada

Natural wine is the drink du jour. The trendy, funky new kid is popping up in small and exclusive quantities in wine stores and on restaurant menus throughout the country.

This exciting frontier in viniculture, with its old-school, hands-off approach, produces some of the most beautiful bottles out there – if you can score some. But, like the term “natural” itself, natural wine is not a regulated phrase, so you best do some research before purchasing to ensure they’re getting what they asked for. If you’re looking to try this trend, bring this cheat sheet along so you know what you’re tasting.

What Is Natural Wine?
Natural wine is a different kind of grape-growing approach, one where the winemaker keeps pesticides and chemicals out of the equation, letting the grapes breathe and come into their own before harvest. Seasonal whether patterns play a big factor in the wine’s flavour.

Wine grapes

Wine grapes
Allison Day

If the weather is hotter, the grapes will have more sugar, producing more alcohol upon fermentation. If the season is cooler, the grapes will be dry (less sweet), producing less alcohol upon fermentation, and possibly fermenting slower. Unlike some mainstream wines that are built on repetition and familiar taste, natural wines go with the flow, making a dynamic and exciting range of flavours each year. Most natural wine should be sulfur-free, a big risk for oxidation, so it’s to be enjoyed fresh, not aged. Some wineries which incorporate natural processes and wild fermentation, opt to add sulphites to preserve it for shipping and storage.

How Is It Made?
Natural wineries make a point to differentiate themselves from large-scale productions, which often ferment the grapes in temperature-controlled rooms. Natural wines are made by taking what comes to them. This can include spontaneous fermentation, where wild yeasts existing in the air ferment the wine.
Using wild yeast is an unpredictable method, making this process a true challenge. With each type of yeast, comes a different flavour. Yeasts can affect the mouth feel and aroma of wine, making natural wine making a gamble. But when it turns out right, it’s outstanding.

Pearce Predhomme Chenin Blanc -- a natural wine.

Pearce Predhomme Chenin Blanc — a natural wine.
Allison Day

What Does Natural Wine Taste Like?
Because of their spontaneous nature, tastes can range from tropical to floral, skunky to sour or ultra-funky. Some bottles are clear, some are cloudy; it depends on whether the wine is filtered or not.
Red, white, orange, rosé and sparkling wine – all of which begin with their own specific flavour – are transformed into something different based on terroir (the growing region and land), climate, grape varietal and when they are picked. The best thing you can do is sample your way to a favourite.

Where Can You Find Natural Wine in Canada?
Specialty retailers, wine bars and mail-order services are your best bet for getting a taste of natural wine.
Restaurants with sommelier-run wine programs are another great place to try. For instance, The Black Hoof in Toronto has a knowledgeable staff of enthusiastic, on-trend wine aficionados who can help you find a natural wine to enjoy by the glass or bottle. In Montreal, Hôtel Herman’s lengthy, yet focused, wine list carries natural wines from around the world. Burdock and Co. in Vancouver offers a selection of natural wines served by a knowledgeable staff who can answer your toughest natural wine questions.

It’s not just found at restaurants. Pearl Morissette, a winery in Niagara’s famous winemaking region headed by a former Burgundian winemaker, is creating alluring natural wines with mystique, charm and sophistication, taking this from bohemian hipster trend to world-class treat. Their wines are available at their vineyard, online and in restaurants.
And, no matter where you are in Canada, you can order through Nicholas Pearce Wines, which carries one of my favourite natural wines, the Pearce Predhomme Chenin Blanc (South Africa). Grab a friend, order a case and split it – you won’t be disappointed.
Ask questions, request and seek out natural wine in your area. It’s worth the effort, not only for the thrill of the hunt, but the true difference in taste.

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.”

Why Sap Water is the New Drink Craze

Coconut water had its moment, but now it’s time to add some new, plant-extracted thirst-quenchers to the mix: birch water and maple water. Unlike coconut, birch and maple water provide a much smaller environmental impact, with some companies making them right here in Canada. And, both birch and maple water are far lower in sugar than coconut water — something the tropical drink is often scrutinized for. Before you tap into this health trend, here are some nutrition facts and faults to see if there’s a clear winner.

888_birch-and-maple-water-new

Health Benefits of Birch Water

Birch water, also known as birch sap, is derived from tapping birch trees to release their liquid. Over the winter, birch trees store a great deal of nutrition, which is released in their sap (or water) once mild, springtime temperatures begin to thaw the frost.

Birch trees are commonly found in Canada, Russia and Scandinavia, and the water has been used as an energy tonic centuries prior to it becoming the health food we know today. As the spring thawing commences, the birch water in Canada begins to run, so now is the time to get your fix.

The sugar produced by birch trees, xylitol, is used as a natural, low-calorie sweetener in chewing gum and other candies. This is what is naturally sweetens birch water, satisfying your sweet tooth without being overwhelming. Because xylitol is low in calories, birch water is a much less caloric drink option than many other natural waters on the market. With only two to three grams of sugar per cup, it beats maple water in this regard. Minerals found in birch water appear in trace amounts, though it does deliver several phytochemicals (plant nutrients) and amino acids that may be beneficial to your health.

What Does Birch Water Taste Like?

With a gentle, sweet taste (when purchased “pure”), many find birch water a refreshing, crisper-tasting option to plain water.

Where to Buy Birch Water

In Canada, birch water can be purchased directly from the company producing it (online or in-person). A leader in the Canadian birch water producers is 52º North, located in British Columbia. 52º North has flavoured birch waters, but a natural option without flavouring (and added sugar) should be your go-to for the most nutritious option. Due to the delicate, seasonal nature of birch water’s extraction, it’s a pretty pricy beverage.

Pick up a pack and try this trendy sipper from 52º North here.

Health Benefits of Maple Water

Like birch, maple water is the liquid that’s extracted when a maple tree is tapped. Boiling this liquid down results in something we’re all familiar with: maple syrup. Maple water is far more sustainable than other natural waters, with a minimal environmental footprint (if consumed where it’s produced — like Canada, for instance).

As maple trees store nutrition over the winter during their sleepy hibernation, the sap that results from the springtime thaw is loaded with nutrition, but in small amounts. Maple water is higher in bioactive compounds than birch water, but is slightly higher in sugar, with three to five grams per cup. And, maple water has a richer electrolyte profile, making it a lower-sugar sports recovery drink option if you’re exercising for extended amounts of time, or recovering from the flu.

According to Canadian maple water company SEVA, maple water contains 46 bioactive nutrients, including minerals, amino acids and organic acids. Maple water contains abscisic acid (ABA), a plant hormone that may help plants adapt to stress. In humans, ABA may help to balance blood sugar. As this is a fairly new, buzzed-about product, more studies need to be done before it’s established as a cure-all.

What Does Maple Water Taste Like?

Maple water has a soft, maple flavour and delicate sweetness. It’s crisp, clean and refreshing. Many find maple water far more palatable than coconut water, both in taste and texture.

Where to Buy Maple Water

Unlike birch water, maple water is becoming far more common in the everyday grocery store. Look for it in the natural food aisle, right next to the coconut water.

Canadian maple water company SEVA recommends dozens of retailers that now stock their water here.

Online retailers are also getting in on the trend, with giants like Amazon carrying this trendy new drink.

How to Drink Birch Water and Maple Water

Beyond sipping it straight from the carton, birch and maple waters can be used to make coffee, tea, smoothies or cocktails. You can also try cooking oatmeal or other grains in the waters for a fun twist. As minerals aren’t destroyed by heat, warming the water won’t kill its nutritional properties.

The Healthier Choice: Birch Water or Maple Water?

Both birch and maple waters will provide trace amounts of nutrition, but like all beverages, it’s best to limit your intake due to their sugar content. Additionally, natural waters and juices are devoid of fibre, so they won’t fill you up. However, they’re both far better for the environment compared to coconut water, as birch and maple waters can be harvested sustainably. This means the trees can provide a source of income to companies and farmers without deforestation.

Both beverages remain a lower-sugar, sustainable alternative to coconut water, which is reason enough to give them a try. So, next time you break a sweat, see which option you like best. Enjoying either birch or maple water in moderation won’t hurt — but the verdict is still up in the air on whether they really help.

$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.

chicken-broth-feature-image

3 Basic Broth Recipes You’ll Make Again and Again

Broth is hot right now. Yeah, we know, it is meant to be served hot, but as the winter chill sets in, the newest food trend is really heating up.

The simple, comforting liquid that is the base for soups, stews and sauces is finding a following as more than just an ingredient. Food lovers are sipping broth on it’s own and restaurants like Brodo Kitchen, in Penticton, B.C. are serving liquid gold to customers eager for a comforting, winter pick-me-up. In New York, bone broth bars have become the new coffee shops as cafes sell cups of broth to cold commuters on the go.

What is bone broth? It’s both broth and stock. Broth is made from cooking meat and vegetables in water, forming a light, flavourful liquid you can sip on it’s own. While stock is created from slowly simmering bones for hours to extract the gelatin. The rich, concentrated liquid is often used to flavour soups, sauces and gravies. Bone broth, a hybrid of the two, is a lighter, sip-able liquid with all the goodness and flavour of slow-cooked bones.

Warm yourself from the inside out by making souper-flavourful broth right at home. Whether you enjoy it on it’s own, make a pot of soup or freeze it, these three fantastic recipes are ones you’ll make over and over, all winter long.

Chicken broth

Liquid-Gold Chicken Broth
A whole chicken plus the chicken bones make for a rich, stock-like broth. The best part of this recipe is you have both chicken meat and flavourful, clear broth at the end. Tip: Save leftover chicken bones in your freezer, then use them when you’re ready to make the recipe.

Beef Broth
Roasting oxtails, short ribs and beef bones are a great way to add depth to the flavour of your broth and give it a deep brown colour. Oxtail is a tough and bony cut of meat that releases immense flavour when slow-cooked. Tip: Freeze stock in 1-cup portions, which will come in handy in many recipes.

Miso Broth
A simple, vegetarian broth you can make in a matter of minutes. Miso is mild-tasting paste made from fermented beans and is a mainstay in Japanese cuisine. A mug of this flavourful broth is the perfect way to warm yourself up after coming in from the cold.

Looking for ways to use your broth? Try our 20 Best Slow Cooker Soups and Stews.