Tag Archives: restaurants

John Catucci on Where You Gotta Eat During the Holidays

You Gotta Eat Here host John Catucci has sampled food across Canada, so when he offers his suggestions for our nation’s best spots to grab a holiday meal, we just have one question: Where?

John is full of recommendations, so put on your stretchy pants and get your Santa bellies ready, Canada, because there’s plenty of homegrown deliciousness to enjoy this holiday season.

Scandilicious (Vancouver, BC)

Mother-daughter team Anita and Kristina offer a menu of traditional Norwegian family recipes at this Vancouver hotspot, including gluten-free options.  John’s favourite is the ‘Applepieffle,’ a liege waffle topped with spiced poached apples and a gingerbread cookie spread. “It took me a while to be able to say ‘applepieffle’ without getting tongue tied,” says John, but it was worth the effort. “Apple pie + waffle = SO GOOD!”

That Little Place by the Lights

That Little Place By The Lights (Huntsville, ON)

Lasagna is a must-try at this cottage country favourite. Chef Annie’s masterpiece features of layers of succulent homemade pasta, laced with her signature Bolognese sauce and stuffed with a cheese and béchamel filling. John says it’s the best lasagna you’ll ever taste.  “Please don’t tell my Zia Felicetta, or she won’t ever make me lasagna again.”

Saturday Dinette (Toronto, ON)

Grab a seat at the counter, enjoy the rocking tunes and tuck into chef Suzanne’s massive soy-braised beef ribs, served with a hearty walnut dip. Then get back out there and finish your shopping! “Suzanne is an incredible chef and an amazing woman,” says John. “When you walk into her place, she makes you feel like you’re part of the family.”

Yellow Belly Brewery

Yellowbelly Brewery (St. John’s, NFLD)

Can’t decide between cheese pizza and chicken Caesar salad? Then just order John’s favourite, the four-cheese and chicken Caesar pizza, and you won’t have to. “I love being able to pick up my salad, in case I need to go somewhere,” says John. “I’m not going anywhere, I’m just saying it’s a nice option.”

The Satay Brothers (Montreal, QC)

Add some Singaporean spice to your season with the street food favourites at this Montreal establishment. John especially loves the pork belly buns, two steamed buns stuffed with braised pork belly, hoisin sauce, fresh cucumber, and cilantro; they’re the perfect combination of soft and crunchy textures and sweet and salty flavours. “If you’ve never had a steamed bun, do it,” says John. “Chewy, soft clouds of deliciousness stuffed with the most succulent pork belly.  Leave one out for Santa.  I’m sure he’s getting tired of all those cookies”

Still hungry? Check out the You Gotta Eat Here! map for more delicious options.

Restaurants for Change

Restaurants Where You Can Dine for a Good Cause

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

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

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

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

RGE RD bison

Rge Rd (Edmonton, AB)

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

Ruby Watchco (Toronto, ON)

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

Le Bremner (Montreal, QC)

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

Mallard Cottage (St. John’s, NFD)

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

Drake Devonshire (Wellington, Ontario)

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

Charcut Roast House

Charcut Roast House (Calgary, AB)

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

Chives Canadian Bistro (Halifax, NS)

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

Farmer’s Apprentice (Vancouver, BC)

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

The Berlin (Kitchener, ON)

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

Enoteca (Winnipeg, MB)

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

Bobby Flay

The One Place Bobby Flay Won’t Open a Restaurant

Here in Canada, we can’t get enough of Food Network star and chef Bobby Flay, whether we’re slapping one of his signature BBQ recipes on the grill, or creeping his cat’s Instagram account (we see you @nachoflay). But when we asked Chef Flay if he plans to open a restaurant north of the border, the American star was unequivocal: No. Not here, not now, not ever.

Thankfully it’s not because he doesn’t love Canada. In fact, Chef Flay is especially fond of Toronto, where he recently collaborated with long-time friend and former Iron Chef competitor Susur Lee. The culinary duo cooked up a special dinner at Lee’s restaurant Frings; the menu featured chorizo crepinette with apricot mostarda and braised octopus, where several lucky locals, including Drake, were in attendance.

Susur Lee and Bobby FlayFlay talked up the Toronto food scene while explaining why he’s not in a hurry to open a Canadian outpost: “In a town like Toronto, where there’s such a great culinary culture, I believe that the people of Toronto should be supporting the local chefs, and they do,” he said. Then he tempered his answer with a downright Canadian-sounding dose of humility: “Without mentioning names, there have been countless American chefs that have tried this town and they haven’t done very well. So I don’t think I’m better than them.”

Not even his pal Susur Lee could convince him. “But you know, Chef Bobby, I’ll tell you — your flavours would really suit in this town,” said Chef Lee. “Your big flavours!”

Susur Lee and Bobby Flay in Toronto

Still, the answer was — and is — no.

“When I roll out of my bed in New York, I can walk into my restaurant and cook,” he explained. “Even though Toronto is only an hour away, you still have to go the airport and get on a plane — it’s a whole event.”

Bobby Flay loves flying in and wowing Canadian diners, or cooking for them when they visit one of his US restaurants, but he doesn’t want to be anybody’s American fling. Falling in love with a Bobby Flay restaurant is a long-term affair, and that’s just how he likes it.

“You have to get people to buy in for a long period of time, not just once or twice,” he said, noting that his famed Mesa Grill ran 20 years before closing, and that three of his current restaurants have been open for more than ten years. “That’s what it takes to have success in the restaurant industry. It’s not a get rich quick proposal.”

It might not be the answer we want, but it’s an honest one. So in the mean time, we’ll be saving up for a trip to Flay’s Gato in New York City, and consoling ourselves with these awesome Bobby Flay recipes.

Can’t get enough Bobby? His new show Brunch at Bobby’s premieres Saturday, September 10 at 10 a.m. E/P. See the schedule here

12 Great Greasy Spoons to Try Across Canada

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

blackfoot-diner
Blackfoot Truckstop Diner/Facebook

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

Blackfoot Truckstop Diner (Calgary, AB)

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

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

broadway-cafe
Broadway Cafe/Facebook

Broadway Cafe (Saskatoon, SK)

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

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Spoons Diner/Facebook

The Commodore (Edmonton, AB)

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

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

Cosmos Snack Bar (Montreal, QC)

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

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Dangerous Dan’s Diner/Facebook

Dangerous Dan’s Diner (Toronto, ON)

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

galaxy-diner
Galaxie Diner/Facebook

Galaxie Diner (Calgary, AB)

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

Park Cafe (Saskatoon, SK)

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

save-on-meats
Save On Meats/Facebook

Save On Meats (Vancouver, BC)

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

spoons-diner
Spoons Diner/Facebook

Spoons Diner (Victoria, BC)

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

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The Templeton/Facebook

The Templeton (Vancouver, BC)

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

The Westcliffe (Halifax, NS)

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

zaks-diner
Zak’s Diner/Facebook

Zak’s Diner (Ottawa, ON)

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

Chef’s Battle: Toronto’s Tastiest Dish Is…

The debate is over and the winner is undeniably delicious.

A stunning trio of flame-seared sushi set inside an empty lobster tail, topped with Wagyu beef, foie gras, butter-poached lobster and truffles has been named Toronto’s Tastiest Dish.

Chef Kazuki Uchigoshi of Miku snapped up the coveted prize at the inaugural Taste of Toronto Chef’s Battle on that saw four of the city’s best chefs steam, torch and sear their way through a kitchen stadium-like contest at George Brown College.

taste-of-toronto-chefs-battle

Taste of Toronto Chef’s Battle

Chefs Elia Herrera of Los Colibris, Cora James of Mamakas Taverna, Hayden Johnston of Richmond Station and Uchigoshi each presented their vision for a dish that best captures Toronto. It’s no easy feat, considering the very question sparks debates among foodies and even divide friendships. Award-winning food journalists and judges Amy Rosen, Lucy Waverman and Mike Ward took their roles seriously, picking a dish that represents the best of Toronto.

From flame-seared sushi to Coca Cola-doused duck tamales to a braised rib-stuffed burger and a sophisticated take on a Greek classic, this year’s contenders prove that Toronto’s food scene is as diverse as it is enticing.

Sarjoun Faour for Taste of Toronto

Chef Kazuki Uchigoshi, Miku Toronto

Chef Kazuki Uchigoshi, Miku Toronto
Embodying the Aburi rule of “zekkei,” Uchigoshi’s winning creation is as beautiful as delicious. The stunning lobster dish pairs a trio of the restaurant’s signature flamed-seared Temari and Nigiri sushi, topped with butter-poached lobster, Wagyu beef and foie gras. Set inside of an empty lobster shell, each bite is topped with sliced truffle, micro greens and chopped ginger.

Sarjoun Faour for Taste of Toronto

Elia Herrera, Los Colibris and El Cabillito Tequila y Tacos

Elia Herrera, Los Colibris and El Cabillito Tequila y Tacos
Duck Carnitas Tamale is a labour of love that starts with the duck bathing in milk and Coca Cola to tenderize and caramelize. After baking for two hours, it is wrapped in corn meal and a banana leaf pocket, and steamed until tender. The final dish is topped with shredded iceberg lettuce, salsa verde, salty cotija cheese and a dollop of creme.

Cora James, Mamakas
Pastry chef Cora James serves up a delicate and sophisticated Greek-inspired dish that starts with a katafi pastry base, topped with white chocolate, custard and whipped cream. A touch of Ontario strawberry jam is layered with lemon cream and a wisp of oregano.

Sarjoun Faour for Taste of Toronto

Hayden Johnston, Richmond Station

Hayden Johnston, Richmond Station
Hailed as one of the city’s best, the famed Stn. Burger earned its spot for a reason. Made with a house-cranked ground beef patty that’s stuffed with braised and shredded ribs, it’s then seared in a smoking hot cast iron pan to keep all those juices basting. The burger is enveloped in house-made buttered buns, garlic mayonnaise, pickled onions, beer relish and aged cheddar.

Eager foodies will have a chance to try Chef Uchigoshi’s winning sushi dinner at this year’s Taste of Toronto at Garrison Common at Fort York June 23-26.

Want free tickets to this year’s food fest? Learn how here.

All photos courtesy of Sarjoun Faour for Taste of Toronto.

doughnuts

John Catucci Predicts What You Gotta Eat Next

Food trends come and go, but no matter what the masses are noshing and Instagramming, you can guarantee You Gotta Eat Here! host John Catucci will be right there with them. We talked to the food star and sampling savant to find out which treats you’ll be lining up for this summer.

Von-Doughnuts

Artisanal Doughnuts
Fancy doughnuts aren’t new, but they’re not going anywhere either, says John.  One doughy fried treat in particular has convinced him that we’re still at the peak of doughnut popularity. “We went to this place called Cartems in Vancouver, that just did incredible doughnuts like an Earl Grey doughnut,” he says. “That floored me. It was a cake doughnut, and they used bergamot in the cake batter and in the glaze as well. It’s like you’re eating a doughnut and having a tea on the side.”

Get the recipe for The Porky Monkey Doughnut from Von Doughnuts.

Fried Chicken

Fried Chicken
Just like doughnuts, John thinks fried chicken will continue sticking to your ribs and the popularity charts. He says 2016 is the year of fried chicken, in every form. “Bone in or out, in a sandwich, on a plate, with waffles, or just by itself. That’s always going to be there.” John particularly enjoys the fried chicken sandwiches at Toronto’s The Combine Eatery.

Get the recipe for Fried Chicken from Wallflower Modern Diner.

steak and kidney pie

Posh Nosh
If you’re already a pie and a pint kind of person, prepare to start jostling for elbow room at your British local. Elevated English pub fare will be the next cuisine to capture Canadian palates, says John, citing Toronto’s The Borough as a leader in fancy pub food. He cites their Yorkie Burger, a beef patty served between two Yorkshire puddings, as an example of what’s to come. “It has the flavours of a roast beef dinner that you like, but smashed in a burger,” he enthuses.

Get the recipe for Steak and Kidney Pie from The Dam Pub.

Cooking off the Grid: Chef Katie Mitzel of Skoki Lodge

Beyond the picturesque town of Banff, Alta., through two passes in the Rocky Mountains and around a spring-fed turquoise lake is a remote cabin in the woods, where gourmet meals are prepared without electricity or running water.

In a world where chefs are obsessed with seeking the next big food trend, chef Katie Mitzel is taking guests back in time, serving up three delicious meals a day from her rustic mountain kitchen at Skoki Lodge.

Skoki Lodge Food

Nestled in Banff National Park, Skoki Lodge is a National Historic site that was built in 1930, making it Canada’s first ski lodge. Situated 11 km from any road, the hike-in lodge has been maintained as it was first built;  its log cabins and family-style, candle-lit dining service make it a place to connect with nature, friends and food.

To say Chef Mitzel’s kitchen is off the grid is an understatement. Cut off from modern amenities and without electricity, much is made by hand, including the bread — Mitzel kneads 16 loaves every morning, starting at 5 a.m.

Dishes are washed by hand with water that’s hauled from a nearby glacier-fed creek, and boiled. The log cabin kitchen is lit by natural light in the summer, and propane lamps in winter.

If you are doing fine knife work, sometimes you have to wear a head lamp,” says Mitzel. “And you always want to have a lighter in your pocket because you are constantly having to light things.”

Skoki Lodge’s stoves, fridge and freezer run on propane, turning out fantastic meals like pork tenderloin with creamy herb sauce, ginger and sesame salmon, and velvety butternut squash soup.

Skoki Lodge

Lake Louise Ski Resort/Paul Zizka Photography

But the lodge is still at the mercy of Mother Nature when it comes to getting supplies. There are no phones to order deliveries, so planning is key. Once a week, Mitzel uses the lodge radio to call in items. Sometimes the radio cuts out and she has to go into town to make her order.

“I don’t think a lot of hotel [chefs] would ski, like, 28 kilometers to do a food order,” says Mitzel. Once the order is placed, it is either brought in by snowmobile in the winter or by pack horse in summer. Despite the extra steps required,  the remote location fuels Mitzel’s creative juices and inspires her menu.

skiing

Lake Louise Ski Resort/Paul Zizka Photography

“Being outdoors, looking at the different colours and the different textures of the landscape, I am able to bring that back into the kitchen and implement that into my food,” says Mitzel.

For instance, she uses edible flowers on cakes to give them “that rustic gourmet kind of feeling.”

The challenges of a 1930’s style kitchen also inspires her creativity. Leftover veggies become soup and mushy berries are transformed into coulis. Minimizing food waste is essential in Mitzel’s kitchen as there are no dumpsters, and all garbage must be flown out.

Mitzel’s creativity has helped Skoki  uphold its reputation as a gourmet getaway, attracting guests like Prince William and Kate Middleton, who visited the lodge in 2011. Middleton told Mitzel that they chose to stay at Skoki because of its reputation and remote location.

Talk about being gracious and so kind,” says Mitzel, who pulled out all the stops for the royal couple, preparing a AAA Alberta beef tenderloin for the Prince, and Alaskan halibut for the Duchess. She also made her famous green salad with multi-coloured grape tomatoes and ginger dressing. There was also king crab puff pastry with avocado and green onion, and tiger prawns in sweet chili glaze. For dessert, she served chocolate cake with raspberry coulis and Canada Day cheesecake.

The couple revelled in the secluded location, and after a long day of hiking in the mountains, ate everything Mitzel prepared.

Kate said it was really important to them that they were just Skoki guests when they were here,” says Mitzel.

Skoki Lodge

“We base a lot of our reputation on our food,” says Mitzel, who recently wrote The Skoki Cookbook after years of fielding guests’ requests for her recipes. The cookbook is a sneak peak into Mitzel’s mind and palate, inspired by magazines, the restaurants she visits while on break from the lodge, and above all, her passion for nature.

It’s that passion and creativity that inspires guests to make the five hour hike back to the lodge year after year.

the commodore duck confit

Q&A: Commodore’s Jon Vettraino Is Like a Braised Beef Cheek

After working at various restaurants around Toronto and abroad, chef Jon Vettraino is dropping anchor. The talented chef, who learned the ins and outs of seafood early in his career under chef Martha Wright, is taking up the daunting task of running his own restaurant, The Commodore. Situated in Toronto’s trendy west end, the light and bright restaurant serves up Italian influenced dishes with lots of seafood.

Vettraino is passionate about using the best seasonal Canadian ingredients and creating contrasts with taste and texture. His Cape Breton shrimp on toast contrasts nutty flavours from the brown butter sauce with salty anchovies and savoury garlic and herbs. The taste and aroma are a treat for the senses. The dishes are as visually pleasing as they are delicious and served up on what looks to be Nonna’s fine china.

Duck Confit Crepe

One of Vettriano’s favourite dishes to make is the Duck Confit Crepe. The dish starts with super crispy crepe made out of tapioca and rice flour and coconut cream, topped with medallions of duck confit, QP mayo, peanuts, chillies, mint and scallions.
By Joel Gale

Vettraino’s passion for food and his creativity is evident across the menu. We caught up with him to talk about his new restaurant, his earliest food memories and who he thinks is the most impressive chef in the city.

What’s your idea of happiness?

Vettraino : My idea of happiness is to one day own a cottage where I can spend weeks at a time enjoying the good life with my wife and son.

What’s your first memory of food?

Vettraino: My first memory is probably my Croatian babysitter’s fried smelts. She’d make big seafood dinners and I’d sit in diapers and taste everything while she cooked.

Who was your cooking mentor? How did you first meet?

Vettraino: The chef that influenced me the most was Martha Wright. At the time Starfish had recently made James Chatto’s Top 10 Best list and I was impressed by that. Martha has a fantastic resume and she has really good ideas. She cooks seasonally, light and fresh. I’d been cooking for a few years before Starfish but my time there made me realize I had a lot to learn and unlearn.

Venison Ragu

The Commodore’s Gnocchi with Venison Ragu.
By Joel Gale

What do you love to cook the most (your signature dish)?

Vettraino:  I think I enjoy baking bread the most. It’s the most satisfying. It’s so simple yet incredibly complex. It’s so accessible that people have forgotten how much work goes into it.

As for a signature dish, it’s hard to say. We make a Vietnamese-style duck confit crepe which is my favorite at the moment. We make a super crispy crepe out of tapioca and rice flour and coconut cream. Then we top it with medallions of duck confit, QP mayo, peanuts, chilies, mint and scallions. It’s fun to cook and the response has been really positive.

Where do you see yourself in 2 years?

Vettraino: In two years I hope to have fine tuned the Commodore to the point that it’s become a Toronto institution.

If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?

I think if I wasn’t a chef I’d be working in film. Doing what exactly, I could never quite figure out.

What’s the least favourite thing about yourself?

Vettraino: My horrendous memory might be my least favorite thing about myself. That, and my gluttonous appetite. The appetite is a blessing and a curse. My inner fat kid has a pretty great palate.

Swordfish Crudo

The Commodore’s Swordfish Crudo with pickled sea asparagus, Trinidad peppers, shiso and crispy chicken skin.
By Joel Gale

What was the last restaurant you dined at? What did you eat?

Vettraino: The last restaurant I dined at was Campagnolo. We had Craig’s classic burrata with roasted grapes and the Amatriciana which are always excellent.

Name a Canadian chef that is doing exciting things in food right now. 

Vettraino: I’d have to say Patrick Kriss is cooking the most impressive food in the city. It’s hard to speak for Canada because I haven’t eaten outside of Toronto in two years. Alo is the total package. The staff, front and back are full of all stars. The food is flawless. The technique, presentation and flavour combinations are at a level that can compete with any Michelin starred restaurant I’ve eaten at.

If you were any dish or ingredient in the world, what would you be?

Vettraino: I’d be an off cut like braised beef cheeks. They’re a tough, poor man’s cut. Before you try them you can’t imagine they’d be any good, but then you try them and they’re nothing like you expected. They’re tender, flavourful and become one of your best meal experiences.

What is your favourite quote?

Vettraino: “Treat it like it’s yours, and someday it will be.” – Thomas Keller

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Where to Enjoy Dishes Made by Chopped Canada Judges

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

Chopped Canada restaurants
Photo: Park Restaurant

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

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

Antonio Park,  Park (Montreal, QC)

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

Lynn Crawford, Ruby Watchco (Toronto, ON)

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

Massimo Capra, Mistura (Toronto, ON)

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

Mark McEwan, Bymark (Toronto, ON)

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

Michael Smith,  Fireworks (Bay Fortune, PEI)

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

Roger Mooking, Twist (Toronto, ON)

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

Susur Lee, Lee (Toronto, ON)

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

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.

8 Sugar Shacks You Need to Visit This Winter

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

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

Sugar Moon Farm

Sugar Moon Farm

Cabane PDC (Montreal, QC) 

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

Crinklaw Maple Products (London, ON) 

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

Érablière Au Sous-Bois: Brunch

Brunch at Érablière Au Sous-Bois

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

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

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

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

La Tablee des Pionniers

La Tablee des Pionniers

Sand Road Sugar Camp (Moose Creek, ON) 

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

Sugar Moon Farm

Sugar Moon Farm: Sugar Baby Jarfait

Sugar Moon Farm (Earltown, NS) 

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

Sugar Moon Farm

Sugar Moon Farm: Maple Baked Beans

Temple’s Sugar Bush (Lanark, ON) 

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

Temple’s Sugar Bush

Temple’s Sugar Bush

Trites Maples (Stilesville, NB) 

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

How to Make Paul McGreevy’s Saskatoon Pie Fries

“When you make a lot of pies, you end up with a lot of dough trimmings,” says Paul McGreevy, executive chef at Calgary brunch hotspot The Beltliner. “As a chef, you want to think of ways to utilize the leftovers of any ingredient or product, so we tested out this idea I had for pie ‘fries’. We ran it for a feature for a few weeks and people really loved it, so now they’re on the menu.”

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Here’s how to make The Beltliner’s signature treat at home:

Do the dough right.
The most important tip is to avoid over-mixing your dough, says McGreevy. The second most important thing is to work with cold butter or lard to make sure you get a perfectly flaky pastry.

Fill ’em up.
“I have tried a lot of fillings and have yet to find one that hasn’t worked,” says Chef McGreevy. “Use a filling you love.”

Chill out! Your filling, that is.
It’s always better to work with chilled filling while making these pie fries or any pie in general. Warm filling and cold pastry don’t go together!

Play with presentation.
“I like to play off of French fries for presentation,” says McGreevy, “so paper bags, small baskets work well.”

Serve with dip.
Vanilla crème Anglaise and caramel are great choices.

Saskatoon Pie Fries
Makes: 12 pieces

Ingredients:

For the Filling:
4 cups Saskatoon berries (fresh or frozen)
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 cup granulated sugar
1/8 cup cornstarch
1 Tbsp unsalted butter

For the Pie Dough:
315 g all purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
250 g unsalted butter
125 ml ice water

Directions:

For the Filling:
1. Combine all ingredients except butter in a heavy bottom sauce pot and place over medium heat.
2. Once the juices have started to come out of the berries, turn the heat up to high and continue to cook until the liquid has reduced and the mixture is thick.
3. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely before use.

For the Pie Dough:
1. Dice butter into 1/4-inch cubes and place in fridge.
2. Mix all dry ingredients together in a stainless steel mixing bowl.
3. Add diced butter to flour and using a paddle attachment, mix at low speed until the butter is pea meal size.
4. Add ice water and mix until just incorporated.
5. Wrap the dough and place in fridge for at least 1 hour.

To Assemble:
1. Place filling in a food processor and pulse until the berries have broken up. Place mix into a piping bag.
2. Cut the ball of dough in half.
3. Roll the dough until 1/4-cm thick and into a rectangular shape (15 inch x 9 inch). Repeat with second piece.
4. Starting 1/2 an inch from the edge of the pastry, pipe the filling approximately 1 cm thick. Leave a 1-inch space then pipe a second line of filling. Repeat twice more.
5. Carefully lay the second sheet over top and gently rest on top. Using a chef’s knife, cut in between each row of the filling.
6. Cut strips into 3-inch long pieces and place on baking tray lined with parchment paper.
7. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake at 350°F for 8-10 minutes.

Chopped Canada: Signs Things Are Going Awry in the Kitchen

It’s one thing to cook from the comfort of your own restaurant kitchen, but finding yourself on the set of Chopped Canada means two things: you’re good enough to compete on national television and the heat is on.

Claudia Bianchi can tell when a contestant is in over their head. The Chopped Canada culinary producer shares the warning signs that a contestant is headed for trouble.

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They’re frantic in the pantry.
“Sometimes they have a missing ingredient, where they’re looking and searching,” says Bianchi. “One time a chef yelled out, ‘Any red onion?’ and another competitor replied, ‘I’m a Canadian and I’m happy to share.’” That chef was lucky, says Bianchi, as a missing ingredient means switching plans in the middle of a round, which can throw off a chef’s concentration — and their final dish.

They’re scrambling.
It’s normal for chefs to break a sweat during Chopped Canada’s timed challenges, but there’s a difference between hustling and struggling, and you can see it on the plates, says Bianchi. “Not having enough time to plate the dish and scrambling with not enough time for presentation at the end,” are clear indications of trouble.

They’re bleeding.
“Most competitors come to the Chopped Canada kitchen with confidence in their cooking and knife skills — these are almost a given because it’s what they do everyday,” says Bianchi. “But nerves can get the best of some of the competitors, and we see nicks and cuts on their fingers.” Some chefs recover quickly from these uncharacteristic cuts, while others start to unravel.

They’ve got pots on every burner.
If you can’t multitask, you can’t run a restaurant kitchen, and you certainly can’t compete on Chopped Canada. But it is possible to have too many things on the go at once, says Bianchi. “Sometimes the whole stove is full, then they’re running to the deep fryer. And things are burning and bubbling over. We see burns.”

Watch Chopped Canada on Saturdays at 9 E/P.

8 Vegan Restaurants in Canada You Have to Try

Eating vegan in Canada used to be a bit of a challenge but cruelty-free cuisine has become widespread in recent years and continues to thrive. Here are eight veggie-centric restaurants across Canada that are sure to satisfying any palate.

Boon Burger

Boon Burger

be love (Victoria, BC)

Start off your meal with a spread of house-made nut and seed cheeses and then try some fun takes on classic dishes, like the pastrami-spiced portobello ‘reuben’ sandwich. They also offer a weekend brunch (Victoria is big on brunch!) Vegan or not, the cardamom pear pancakes with maple ginger syrup and vanilla cashew ‘cream cheese’ will give your taste buds a shake.

Boon Burger (Winnipeg, MB and Barrie, ON)

It would be a shame to spend a chunk of time in Winnipeg (where Boon Burger’s original location is) and not pop in for one of their big, juicy vegan burgers. Whether you’re having the jalapeño ‘cheddar’ burger with pickled jalapeños and house burger sauce or the spicy boon buffalo burger, don’t forget to end your meal with their homemade coconut soft serve. Winter be damned!

Boon Burger: Vegan Poutine

Boon Burger: Vegan Poutine

Chau Veggiexpress (Vancouver, BC) 

Fresh and aromatic, the myriad of dishes offered at this vibrant Vietnamese joint are just as much of a treat for your eyes as they are for your mouth. Try their spin on pho (“candlelit lantern”), and since no Vietnamese dinner is complete without spring rolls, order the “non la rolls” filled with kale, shallots and tofu with a lemon vegan ‘fish sauce’.

ChuChai (Montreal, QC) 

Many of my friends that have eaten at ChuChai have left with a, ‘I can’t believe there was no meat in those dishes’ reaction. Using products like seitan (a glutenous meat substitute that can be seasoned, shaped and formed in a variety of ways), this Thai restaurant is able to create plates of food similar to many classics. From panang beef to salt and pepper squid, these vegan takes have all of the robust flavours of the original dishes, but none of the meat. Fooling your taste buds has never been so rewarding.

The Coup (Calgary, AB) 

It comes as no surprise that there aren’t many options for vegan dining in the land of beef, but The Coup, 11 years in business and counting, does a stand-up job. Aside from an exquisite interior, the restaurant offers creative food (the menu is about 75 percent vegan) and drink, including refreshing cocktails made from house-made juices and dishes like tandoori cauliflower wings with chimichurri.

The Hogtown Vegan: Philly Cheesesteak

The Hogtown Vegan: Philly Cheesesteak

enVie: A Vegan Kitchen (Halifax, NS) 

This popular vegan eatery on the east coast offers a little bit of everything, from lunch and dinner to weekend brunch. They also have a full-service grab-and-go area where you can buy an array of cold-pressed juices, salads and more. Their poutine with house-made ‘cheese curds’ will make anyone’s tummy happy, whether you’re a carnivore, herbivore or somewhere in between.

The Hogtown Vegan (Toronto, ON) 

While the name and branding (a gigantic pig as the logo) can be a little puzzling, everything you eat at this Toronto hotspot is completely meat-free. That being said, Hogtown is all about taking those classic, greasy-good pub dishes like nachos, wings and mac ‘n’ cheese, and making them deliciously vegan.

The Hogtown Vegan: Unchicken and Waffles

The Hogtown Vegan: Unchicken and Waffles

Kupfert & Kim (Toronto, ON) 

This small chain of fast-casual vegan restaurants is not only meat and dairy-free, but wheat-free too. Don’t worry, that certainly doesn’t mean the food is flavour-free. Swing by for a quick lunch and try one of the rice or quinoa bowls, or the congee made with brown rice, organic bok choy, house-made kimchi and loads of other veggies. There’s kombucha on tap here too!

Kupfert and Kim

Kupfert & Kim

Brad Smith’s Dinner Date Dos and Don’ts

As a former Bachelor star, current Chopped Canada host Brad Smith knows a thing or two about dating. We caught up with Smith to learn some of his best tips for a deliciously simple and romantic date night, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Brad Smith

Don’t Wait for V-Day
Valentine’s Day is just another day of the week,” says Brad. If your romance needs rekindling, celebrate it, but otherwise being thoughtful and caring with every date is the best approach.

Forget the Dark Corners — Love Needs Light
“Do go somewhere where you can hear [your date],” says Smith, preferably a spot that’s not too dark. And if you can, sit next to each other. “I always order a four person table and then tell them it’s only two people. That way we can both sit in the booth or both sit on the chairs.” This proximity helps establish a closer connection, Smith suggests.

Turn it Off to Turn Them On
Brad Smith reveals another advantage of sitting close is that’s it’s harder to reach for the date-killer lurking in your pocket — your phone.

Mac and Cheese

“Whether you make mac and cheese or fine dining, the important part is trying,” says Smith.

Trying is Sexy
If you want to impress your boo — on Valentine’s Day or any other — it’s all about effort. “You can make me macaroni and cheese and hot dogs and I’d like it as much as if you made me some fine dining,” explains Smith. “There’s nothing like coming home to the thought of someone doing something for you, regardless of what it is.”

Be Clear About Your Intentions
“In the industry I’m in, you either meet people you’ve known beforehand or you meet people at events and they’re kind of like your first date,” he says. “You don’t have to be like, ‘Oh, can we get a drink?’ because you just had a drink and talked for three hours at an event.” But in other professions, Smith admits a little candour goes a long way. Always establish that a date is a date, and not, say, a networking lunch or business coffee.

Tune-in on Saturdays at 9 E/P to catch Brad Smith on Chopped Canada.

You Gotta Eat Here: Dining for One on Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day can be tough for single people but going out to dinner that night can be a nightmare! With restaurants full of annoying couples smooching through overpriced prix fixe menus, it’s enough to make you hide at home with a pizza.

But this year is going to be different. This Valentine’s Day, don’t hide your single self inside your house, go out and eat your feelings! And these restaurants from the upcoming 5th season of You Gotta Eat Here! have meals so good, you’ll want to enjoy all to yourself.

Prohibition Montréal -  Fried Chicken and Deep Fried     French Toast - IMG_20016

1. Prohibition (Montreal, QC) – Fried Chicken and Deep-Fried Challah French Toast

If no one’s making you hollah at home, get yourself some of this deep fried challah French toast with crispy fried chicken instead. Prohibition takes chicken and waffles to the next level with deep fried French toast, which is exactly as delicious as it sounds.

Southern Pork Chop - IMG_81046

2. The Cure (Toronto, ON) – Southern Pork Chop

Is there anything better than a pork chop to make you feel better? How about a pork chop that’s been marinated in butter milk then pan fried in crispy, golden cornmeal? With a plate of cheesy grits and cucumber relish, you’ll be glad to have this meal at The Cure all to yourself.

Flavio al Velavevodetto - Ravioli Fatti in Casa alla Velavevodetto - IMG_98326

3. Flavio al Velovevodetto (Rome, Italy) – Ravioli fatte in casa alla velavevodetto

While those other suckers are spending their money on roses and chocolates, why not treat yourself to a trip to Rome! Flavio’s handmade ravioli stuffed with creamy fresh ricotta, smothered in fresh tomatoes and more ricotta will make you forget your own name.

 The Earl Grey Cake Donut - IMG_86304

4. Cartems Donuterie (Vancouver, BC) – Earl Grey Cake Doughnut

So no one sent you flowers for Valentine’s Day? Who cares? Cartems Donuterie makes an Earl Grey tea glazed doughnut with rose petals sprinkled on top. Flowers wilt, love fades, but a doughnut sprinkled with roses is forever!

Catch the season 5 premiere of You Gotta Eat Here! Friday, February 26 at 9 E/P and catch up on episodes online.

 

lentil beer

10 New and Unique Canadian Beers to Try

If you consider yourself a beer fan and are looking to treat your taste buds to some creative new brews this is the perfect time to do it. Craft brewers across Canada are experimenting with new ways to make beer with some pretty wild ingredients. While the ingredients may raise eyebrows, the results are delicious. From lentil beer to grapefruit, here are 10  truly unique and some new Canadian beers to sip from coast to coast.

Last Best Brewing

1. Last Best Brewing (Calgary, AB) – Caramel Latte Beer 

Most people have only experienced a nitro-injected beer in the form of a stout (think Guinness), so this ale easily stands out from other microbrews. Since it’s ale infused with beans from a local coffee roaster, the Caramel Latte offers the best of both beer worlds as it’s refreshing and light but less effervescent and smooth on the intake.

Left Field Brewing

By Mark Horsley

2. Left Field Brewery (Toronto, ON) – Eephus Oatmeal Brown Ale 

Brown ales are as common as a Canadian penny in 2010 and oatmeal stouts are pretty easy to come by too. But an oatmeal brown ale? That’s not quite as common. This little microbrewery in Toronto brews up a list of beers, including this uniquely titled ale called Eephus, named after a particular style of pitch in baseball.

mill street lemon tea beer

3. Mill Street Brewery (Toronto, ON) – Lemon Tea Beer 

Mill Street has grown exponentially over the years, becoming one of the major players in the Canadian craft beer scene. Large-scale or not, this distinctive beer, infused with Earl Grey and orange pekoe, remains a reliable summer sipper and one of the few brews across Canada that features tea.

4. Muskoka Brewing (Bracebridge, ON) – Winterweiss 

This wintery brown beer is to a summery hefeweizen what the abominable snowman is to the sasquatch. Distant cousins, perhaps, but both are equally bold and delicious. Once you take a swig, you’ll be able to taste cloves, banana and the hint of sweetness that wheat beers are known for.

chucklehead

5. Phillips Brewing (Victoria, BC) – Chucklehead IRA 

This Indian Red Ale gets a 10 out of 10 on visuals alone. The vibrant label forces anyone terrified of clowns to face their fears. Once you get past the label, you’ll find a beautifully-coloured ale that can appeal to “hopheads,” ale and lager fans alike.

lentil beer

6. Rebellion Brewing (Regina, SK) – Lentil Cream Ale 

It is the International Year of The Pulses after all, so it’s only fitting that right in the heart of lentil country you can find a beer brewed with lentils. Don’t let the name fool you — there’s nothing creamy-tasting about it. Cream ales are typically quite easy-drinking and the use of lentils in the process makes for a lighter colour and more refreshing sip.

royal city brewing

7. Royal City Brewing (Toronto, ON) – Black Bean Brown Ale 

Much like the lentil beer mentioned above, Royal City is using Ontario-grown black beans to create this robust brown ale. So, what does bean beer taste like exactly? Surprisingly good! They also have a pilot system to experiment with more unique flavours, including Banana Bread Stout, Double Smoked Honey and Raspberry Spice.

Steel Toad Brewery

8. Steel Toad Brewery (Vancouver, BC) – Saison Sauvignon 

With a slightly higher alcohol percentage (6.5%) and big, bright citrus notes, it’s a little too easy to knock back a few glasses of this tasty beer in one of Vancouver’s newest brewpubs. The best part about this particular brew? Most saisons have a higher price point but at Steel Toad you can get a pint of this wine-infused beer for the same price as you would other creations.

9. Tree Brewing Co. (Kelowna, BC) – Grapefruit Radler 

It’s not too often that you come across a Canadian-made radler, although the type of beer itself is one of the most popular, low-alcohol patio drinks in the country. Tree Brewing Co. concocts a ton of interesting small-batch beers at this “beer institute,” but their delicious radler can be found in liquor stores all over Western Canada.

Cowbell Sour

10. Wild Rose Brewery (Calgary, AB) – Cowbell Sour 

Ask any Canadian cicerone (a beer sommelier) and they’ll tell you that sours are the hot ticket these days in the beer world. To all novice brewers, sour beer is pretty finicky in its brewing process and can yield an undrinkable product when not done properly. Cowbell boasts the marking of a classic sour being quite tart, but is infused with fresh lime leaves.

10 Restaurants with Celebrity Connections

The restaurant game isn’t an easy one to play; even if you’re a great chef with a great concept, capital can really slow you down. It’s only fitting that celebrities would get involved in the restaurant business every now and then, I mean, if I had the money, I certainly would too. Here are 10 popular food businesses owned by or connected to celebrity actors, musicians, athletes and beyond.

Robert De Niro, Chef Nobu Matsuhisa and Meir Teper Partners of Nobu Hospitality

Robert De Niro, Chef Nobu Matsuhisa and Meir Teper Partners of Nobu Hospitality

Spin (various locations in North America) 

These days, being able to go to a restaurant, eat, drink and play a game (whether that be bowling, pool, board games or otherwise) is pretty common in most major cities. Owner and actress Susan Sarandon, along with her business partners, were a little ahead of the curve with this one. Head to a Spin location in cities like Toronto or Chicago to play a few games of ping pong, grab some drinks and maybe a slider or two.

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SPiN Toronto

Tagine (Beverly Hills, CA) 

Canadian heartthrob Ryan Gosling — admit it, he’s pretty dreamy and man crushes are nothing to be ashamed of — partnered up with longtime friends to open up Tagine, a Moroccan-inspired restaurant. Dishes served here highlight big, bold flavours using exotic spices, with a chef’s expert touch. Out of all of the establishments on this list, Gosling’s is easily the most unique.

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Tagine

Wayne Gretzky’s (Toronto, ON) 

It’s not much of a surprise that one of hockey’s most famous athletes has a namesake establishment. Pop in to watch the game and chow down on items like grilled cheese sandwiches, meatloaf or fish and chips. If you’re craving a glass of wine, rest assured that the selection is primarily Gretzky’s own label (also namesake) that’s produced in the Okanagan Valley.

Jessica Biel, Justin Timberlake, Elton John, David Furnish and owner of Neuro Diana Jenkins attend Neuro Hosts a Party at Southern Hospitality BBQ

Jessica Biel, Justin Timberlake, Elton John attend Neuro Hosts a Party at Southern Hospitality BBQ

Nickels Deli and Bar (Québec) 

Peppered around the province of Québec, serving patrons simple food like roast chicken platters, French onion soup and, of course, mile-high Montreal smoked meat sandwiches. Where’s the celebrity endorsement here, you ask? Well, it’s not overly apparent at first glance, but a quick Google search will tell you the Canadian-born multi-platinum songstress Céline Dion is an investor in the Nickels chain.

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Nickels Deli and Bar

Nobu (various locations worldwide) 

Acclaimed worldwide, this string of restaurants opened by partners Chef Nobu Matsuhsia and Hollywood A-lister Robert De Niro, can be found in some of the biggest mecas across the globe: London, Milan, New York (that’s where you’ll find the flagship location) and Los Angeles. The menus may vary from location to location, but there’s strong attention to detail in terms of food and drink offerings, as well as interior design.

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Nobu

National Underground (Nashville, TN) 

Located on Broadway, the city’s most famous and buzzing street in the downtown core, this generally jam-packed venue offers live music and a standard pub menu. Owned by singer-songwriter brothers Gavin and Joey DeGraw, the former being the more recognizable name in the music world. Like many of Nashville’s Broadway bars, it wouldn’t be unusual to see an actor from the Nashville television series, or a country artist sitting down for a casual beer and bite with friends.

Rock & Brews (various locations in North America) 

More or less a Kiss-focused version of the Hard Rock Café, this music-themed chain serves up simple food like burgers, flatbreads and nachos, and currently only exists in the United States and Mexico. There are a few rumours buzzing around that a Rock and Brews (or two) may pop up in Canada in the coming months, specifically in Saskatoon as it’s the hometown of Gene Simmons’ wife, Shannon Tweed.

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Rock & Brews

Rustic (Geyersville, CA) 

Francis Ford Coppola, director of the iconic film The Godfather, shares his personal host of recipes on the grounds of his winery, where you can enjoy thoughtful farm-to-table cuisine just steps from the rows of grapevines. Plates of pasta, salads built of fresh, local produce and of course a couple glasses of wine are always enjoyable in the California sun.

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Rustic

Southern Hospitality BBQ (New York, NY) 

We’ve seen him sing, dance and act, so being a verified triple threat, it’s safe to assume that Justin Timberlake can do no wrong. This A-lister taps into his Southern roots at this New York restaurant that offers diners everything from deviled eggs to smoked meats, fried chicken and pecan pie.

On a side note, it’s likely not Timberlake himself posting on behalf of the restaurant on social media streams, but at least the eatery has a similar sense of humour to the actor/musician. “We survived the storm, come celebrate with our deep-fried pickles!” said Hospitality in a recent Facebook post.

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Southern Hospitality BBQ

Music City Food and Wine Festival (Nashville, TN) 

We know this one isn’t a restaurant, but this large-scale annual food festival in Nashville wouldn’t have come to life without the joint effort of celebrities, Chef Jonathan Waxman and two members of Kings of Leon, Nathan and Caleb Followill. When the festival kicks off again this coming fall, a long list of culinary stars will be cooking up a storm in the lively Southern city, including Marcus Samuelsson and Carla Hall.

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Music City Food and Wine Festival

Q&A: Boralia’s Culinary Duo Serve a Slice of Canadian History

Evelyn Wu and Wayne Morris are serving up a little slice of Canadian history with every dish that comes out of the kitchen of their Toronto restaurant, Boralia. Taking a page from the history books — literally — the restaurant’s menu is filled with modern interpretations of historic dishes. Think pigeon pie circa 1611, a flaky meat-filled pastry served with roast squab breast and parsnip. Reaching even farther back in history is Boralia’s smoked mussels, a particularly dramatic dish dating back to 1605. The shellfish are served under a glass dome, which is lifted to reveal a cloud of pine-needle smoke and aromas reminiscent of old world fare.

Evelyn and Wayne’s extensive research and culinary creativity has lead to an outstanding menu inspired by early settlers of the 18th and 19th centuries and traditional Aboriginal dishes. We caught up with Evelyn and Wayne to hear about their signature dishes, their first food memories and which Canadian chefs excite them.

Evelyn Wu and Wayne Morris

Photo courtesy of Boralia.

What’s your idea of happiness?
Wayne: Having dinner with my wife.
Evelyn: I did not make him say that . . . but I would say having dinner with my husband! And just hanging out at home with our new baby and our cat, Carl.

What’s your first memory of food?
Wayne: One of my first memories of food is going on walks with my parents and collecting periwinkles at an inlet where the Atlantic Ocean met the salt water lake behind my house. We would collect them, steam and eat them with white vinegar and garlic butter.
Evelyn: When I was two, my family moved to Hong Kong for five years. During that time we would go to the New Territories, one of the main regions of Hong Kong where the streets are lined with seafood vendors with live fish tanks. My mom would buy all kinds of seafood which we would take to one of the nearby restaurants for them to cook. My favourite was the boiled shrimp served with a sesame oil and soy dipping sauce.

Who was your cooking mentor? How did you first meet?
Wayne: My cooking mentor is Mark Filatow, the chef and owner of Waterfront Wines in Kelowna, B.C. Mark hired me when I moved out west from Nova Scotia in 2006. Over the next six years, I worked all the stations and ultimately became chef de cuisine. It was while working for Mark that I really got to work with the freshest produce from Okanagan and gained appreciation for working with fresh, local produce and cooking seasonal food and getting the freedom to experiment with new dishes.
Evelyn: My mentor is Daniel Patterson, chef and owner of Coi in San Francisco. He hired me in 2006 when I was really green and fresh out of culinary school. Through working for him, I really learned how to balance flavours and seasoning. He also has a very cerebral and conceptual approach to food and creating dishes that I found very inspiring.

Leclade smoked mussels

Photo courtesy of Boralia.

What do you love to cook the most (your signature dish)?
Wayne: I love making the pigeon pie on our menu. It takes knife work for the filling, I love making pastry and it smells so good while it’s baking. Also, cooking the accompanying squab breast takes skill to make sure it stays moist.

Where do you see yourself in two years?
Wayne and Evelyn: Hopefully we’ll be doing the same thing as we are now! Boralia is only one year old.

If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?
Wayne: I’ve always been fascinated with woodworking, so I think I would have liked to work in carpentry or joinery, specifically on a boat because it’s the most challenging.
Evelyn: I would own a bookstore or a stationery shop. I love the organization in those kinds of shops, and I’d get to read all day.

What’s the least favourite thing about yourself?
Wayne: I wish I had more confidence in myself. I let criticism get to me too easily.
Evelyn: I’m not the most patient person. When I get something in my head I want to get it done right away and I’m very anxious until it’s done. Sometimes it would be nice to just let things happen more organically.

whelk

Photo courtesy of Boralia.

What was the last restaurant you dined at? What did you eat?
Wayne and Evelyn: Cava. The poached foie gras pintxo is magical.

Name a Canadian chef that is doing exciting things in food right now.
Wayne and Evelyn: Our friend Jack Chen of The Farmer’s Apprentice and Royal Dinette in Vancouver. He’s staged at so many great places around the world and is finally getting the recognition he deserves.

If you were any dish or ingredient in the world, what would you be?
Wayne: Wild mushroom. They taste great and they get to live in the forest. I love being in the forest.
Evelyn: Garlic. It makes everything taste better.

What is your favourite quote?
Wayne: “An eye for an eye, and the whole world would be blind.” Khalil Gibran

Chefs Share Their First Job in the Industry

The Chef In Your Ear stars make it look easy, but they didn’t begin their careers as pros. For the most part, these TV chefs began their careers in entry-level positions, cooking, baking, tasting and most importantly, working their way up.

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Craig Harding

Craig Harding’s first job was working as a line cook — “If you want to call it that,” he says — at McDonalds. Eventually, he was fired from that gig, but it’s all in the past now that he’s a household name.

Jordan Andino

Jordan Andino remembers joining his chef dad at the North 44 kitchen as early as nine years old, but it’s tough for him to pinpoint the official moment he started working there. “My dad’s the chef — he’d have to babysit me,” he says. “And he said, ‘You don’t just sit around in the kitchen.’”

Devin Connell

Compared to her Chef In Your Ear colleagues, Devin Connell’s first industry job was pretty sweet. “I started my own cookie business selling cookies to a local health food store,” she explains. “It was called Devin’s Delights and I was 10. I made peanut butter cookies, chocolate chip cookies and oatmeal raisin cookies, and I even got a t-shirt made that said Devin’s Delights.”

Cory Vitiello

“I was a dishwasher at a restaurant when I was fourteen at Pizza Chief in Brantford,” says Vitiello. Although he claims he was “a great dishwasher,” it wasn’t long before management noticed his potential for more. “I was quickly promoted to the buffet line where I was serving dessert toppings on people’s cheesecake,” he says.

Rob Rossi

Like Cory Vitiello, Rob Rossi started as a dishwasher at a pizza joint — in his case, Pizza Hut. “I absolutely hated it, it was an awful job,” he admits. “But it got me in the business and it made me want to experience more. So as much as I didn’t like it, it led me to bigger and better things.”

Watch new episodes of Chef In Your Ear Mondays at 10 E/P and catch up on episodes online.