Make, share, and give a little magic this holiday season.Read More
One of my favourite weekend things (or let’s face it, any day of the week) is a cappuccino and a cookie of some sort. These Double Dark Chocolate Cashew biscotti are from a recipe that I’ve been working on for a few years. They happen to be grain-free (and can be vegan if you use dairy-free chocolate chips, which I didn’t do here) as I used to follow a mostly grain free diet because that’s what worked for me. Now I’m on more of a 70/30 kind of thing. Regardless, these are delicious and will satisfy the cookie monster in you however you prefer to eat. They are made of almond and coconut flour, so have a crumblier texture than regular biscotti, but are super chocolate-y and delicious. I also add Central Roast cashews for even more nutty goodness. If you are looking for a cookie fix, give them a try! (Note, I live life in metric because it is the superior system of measurement, but for some reason I still bake in imperial measurements. Probably because I learned it from my Mom & Nana. It’s confusing, but it’s my way. Just don’t talk to me about the weather in Fahrenheit, it drives me nuts.)
- 1 ½ cups almond flour
- ¼ cup coconut flour
- ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder. (Use the good stuff)
- 1 tbsp flax seeds
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp sea salt
- ¼ cup pure maple syrup
- ¼ cup water
- ¼ cup Central Roast Raw cashews (you can toast them ahead of time if you would like.)
- ½ cup dark chocolate chips (obviously I usually end up putting more than that in, plus eating a few more. Obviously).
Preheat oven to 350 F. Pulse cashews in food processor for a sec to break them up a bit and put aside. Put all dry ingredients except cashews and chocolate chips in food processor to combine. Add wet ingredients to combine then put the mixture in a bowl – it will be a bit sticky. Fold in cashews and chocolate chips (eat a few more chocolate chips. Repeat). On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, form mixture into a loaf shape. Bake for 15 mins at 350 F. Let cool for at least an hour. (Overnight is fine too.) Slice into biscotti. Re-bake at 350 F for 15 minutes. Let cool and enjoy the chocolatey goodness.
If you know me, you know my love for all things Cheese Boutique. I first discovered them when I moved into Bloor West Village in late 2000. (Yes. As in Y2K. Let's take a moment to digest that fact.) Hands down it is not only my favourite place to buy cheese, but food in general. Not only because of the quality and variety of products they offer, but also because of the people there. I pretty much love everything they do. SO - when they have parties or food events of any kind, I know they're going to be fantastic. Obviously then, when I found out that Afrim Pristine, Mâitre Fromager of Cheese Boutique (his family's business since 1970) was regrouping the League of Extraordinary Chefs at Langdon Hall (of all places) this summer, I thought it would be a great place to be. So I invited my bestie and booked a couple of spa appointments and planned for a great summer road trip.
But this was definitely not just about the destination - because I was lucky enough to be behind the wheel of a shiny new 2018 Subaru Forester 2.5i Touring for the weekend. It was the perfect vehicle for our getaway. It really strikes a balance that so few SUV's do - roomy (without feeling like you are driving a bus), sensitive steering, plenty of pickup and good looks to spare. Subaru hasbe always been known for innovative engineering, safety and quality. The 2018 Forester comes with updated features and more safety technology than ever before. On all models, improved child seat anchors and updated seatbelt reminder warnings ensure that passengers are kept safe at all times, while the 7-inch infotainment system with navigation on the Limited models see the addition of new Starlink apps, including Yelp, Best Parking and Glympse for even more usability than before.
So the trip there was great, and I was immediately impressed with my first visit to Langdon Hall. It really is the picture perfect example of an elegant country house. Personally, I was due for a little dose of luxury, and our massage appointments were a fantastic start. It was a pretty rainy afternoon, so being inside in the spa was more or less perfect.
After that, it was time to get ready for the main event - which was a feature part of Langdon Hall's Summer BBQ Series.
Just in time for dinner, the rain cleared. We made our way out to the garden at Langdon Hall and were greeted with a beautiful scene (they sky was getting particularly cotton candy-ish) and a glass of wine. The lineup of chefs for the evening made it a "TLoEC" classic: Afrim Pristine, Cory Vitiello of Flock, Jason Bangerter of Langdon Hall, Victor Barry of Piano Piano and Café Can Can, and Jonathan Goodyear. Prior digging in, we had the opportunity to tour around the garden and some of the unique items being grown there for Langdon Hall's kitchen - in many cases dishes are built around items that are planted in the garden. There were several BBQ stations, each belonging to a feature chef and their team. But before we even got started on those, there was (literally) a canoe full of fresh shellfish and all the things you'd want with it and a rather epic cheese and charcuterie table. Naturally.
Of course the meal was fantastic - wood-fired pizza, beef, salmon, lamb - and yes, grilled cheese. All paired with wines selected by The Vine Agency. Plus a pretty impressive table of desserts. Dinner under the stars at Langdon Hall is hardly roughing it, and as it got chilly we wrapped ourselves up in warm blankets and continued to chat well into the night. And perhaps had more dessert, and wine. A stay at Langdon Hall is worth it, regardless, but if you ever have a chance to get in on one of these special dinners put on by The League of Extraordinary Chefs, I highly recommend that you do so.
Many thanks to Cheese Boutique for having me at this wonderful event as their guest, and to Alex Eidelman for so many great photos!
I make it no secret that Spain is my favourite place to travel to in the whole world. I've visited three times so far, with another trip planned for 2018. My husband and I even had one of our wedding ceremonies there, although we officially tied the knot about six weeks later in Toronto. So far most of my travels have been in Catalunya, with brief trips to Valencia and Ibiza as well. We have stayed to the east because that is where our friends live. So I feel I have my bearings pretty well when it comes to this area, especially Barcelona. However, because we often spend time with friends there, we probably go out to eat a little less than we normally would when travelling, because they've so often been kind enough to cook for us (bonus). Regardless, I've amassed a fair bit of knowledge on the odd place to stay, eat, or sight to see. Here's some suggestions for Girona based on my most recent trip.
This is the heart of Catalunya, and you will know that the moment you hear people speak in and around Girona. In Barcelona (especially the city centre) you can get away without hearing or speaking much in the way of Catalan if you really want to. However, this language is spoken in abundance in this quiet city just 99 km away. I am always fascinated by it - at once feeling completely unique and yet coloured by touches of other latin-based languages. If you want to work on your conversational Catalan more than your Spanish, Girona is the perfect place to give it a go.
Girona's roots go....deep. Founded in 79 BC around the convergence of the rivers Onyar, Ter, Galligants and Güell, the city has endured the rise and fall of several civilizations and governments (Iberians, Visigoths, Moors, Charlemagne et al.) and not to mention twenty-five sieges and has been captured multiple times. Given that, the architecture is a wonderful mishmash of impressive structures from varying vintages that make a wander over to the old city more than worthwhile.
(Note: I was in Girona for two days to attend a wedding at the very beautiful Mas Murtra just outside the city and had a good amount of time to explore, so I have some suggestions to make. However - because our evenings were taken up by wedding festivities, we didn't go out for dinner at all. Oh - and also because of the whole the El Celler de Can Roca thing, which I will explain below. Sob.)
Getting there: The best route to Girona is by train, in as fast as 40 minutes from Barcelona Sants if you catch the express. Click here for bookings and schedule, with the caveat that the Spanish rail system can be a wee bit confusing at times. Though this one is a pretty easy trip. Just be sure you are in on the track for an express train if you have booked an express train, because they arrive/depart in a different area of the station, and it's not fun if you miss one.
Stay: Hotel Nord 1901 is a beautiful little boutique hotel in the commercial and historical centre of the city just a five minute walk from the cathedral. It's perfectly situated if you want to explore Girona on foot, which I highly suggest you do.
Eat: For breakfast (cortado and pastry, obviously), lunch, or a snack, there are six locations of Casa Moner in Girona, and one is right around the corner from Hotel Nord 1901 on Carrer de Santa Clara. It serves up house made, buttery flaky goodness from 8 am until 9 pm all week long. If like me, you weren't able to eat at El Celler De Can Roca (we were sadly in town during their annual holiday - ugh) console yourself with a sweet treat from Rocambolsec. This tiny little gelateria, also on Carrer de Santa Clara, is a fun little project from the genius of Jordi Roca himself. Really delicious gelato and innovative ice pop creations (check out their insta account for a temptation) are just the thing in Girona's subtropical climate. My husband's favourite was the Helado Oscuro made from blueberries and vanilla sorbet that curiously looks like Darth Vader's helmet, and of course I was all over the chocolate ice cream with all of the most chocolatey toppings
Do: Definitely don't miss out on Girona's stunning buildings in the old historic centre. Whether you are religious or not, the Cathedral, the old fort, and the early Romanesque style Benedictine Church of Sant Pere de Galligants are all worth a wander. Even better, take a run (or walk) along the beautiful Riu Onyar lined with bright apartment buildings and shops, and then hit the eighty-six steps up to the Cathedral to really work up a sweat, and an appetite. Because you did get those Celler de Can Roca dinner resos, didn't you? Lucky you.
If you're looking for a cool, shady place to lounge or walk with a "we're not in Kansas anymore" kind of vibe (trust me), Parc de la Devesa is a perfect spot. For a city as small as Girona, it's an impressive 40 hectares and home to over 2500 plane trees planted in the 1850s. It is also home to French-style gardens, an auditorium, sports area, and gets particularly lively on Tuesdays and Saturdays for market days, when the park is lined with local vendor stalls selling fresh produce, meats, snacks, preserves, clothing, tchotchkes and more.
I’d love to be the person that can say that there are no picky eaters in my house, but I’d be lying. When it comes to breakfast, I prioritize healthier options (that don’t sacrifice flavour – so yeah, perhaps I’m a little high maintenance). But some days, I only feel like I have time for a superfood coffee or a protein bar, which isn’t always as satisfying as I’d like. My husband likes his morning meal a little on the sweeter side, more like granola and yogurt, but definitely not venturing into sugary cereal territory. And then there’s our two year old……and his preferences change ALL THE TIME, but I know with him that taste and texture are big priorities. If it isn’t yummy, it isn’t happening. There are days that are definitely a bit of a struggle to get him to eat much at all, which can be stressful, because I want to make sure he’s getting the nutrients he needs.
I’ve managed to figure out at least one option that works for ALL three of us, which is pretty amazing: overnight oats! They are a thing for many reasons, trust me. They are easy to prepare and totally customizable. Use your favourite oats – and of course I use Quaker Brand because it’s what I always use whenever I make hot oatmeal (or mostly oatmeal chocolate chunk cookies, obviously) and they have been trusted for over 100 years, so that works for me! Add any type of milk, yogurt or dairy substitute like almond or coconut milk. Then, you can mix in your favourite ingredients before putting your oats in the fridge (in a jar works really well!) to soak overnight. For more crunch or texture, you can set some toppings aside to add once the oats are ready in the morning – fruit, coconut chips, chocolate chips, seeds, nuts, or more. See why this is such a great morning solution? Because you’re doing these few quick steps the night before, and not fussing when you have a million other things to do to get out the door first thing.
Here’s one of my favourite overnight oats combos that I thought I would share with you, mostly because it’s Archer’s fave. Kiddo is crazy about both blueberries and bananas, so I feel like this one is win-win. If you’re looking for more recipe ideas, just click here for some delicious ideas from Quaker.
BLUEBERRY BANANA OVERNIGHT OATS
(makes one serving)
½ cup Quaker Large Flake Oats
½ cup milk of your choice
½ cup blueberries
1/3 cup bananas, sliced
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp honey
1 tsp chia seeds
- In a mason jar or bowl, add Quaker Oats, milk and vanilla extract.
- Add a layer of blueberries, a layer of banana, then top with chia seeds and a drizzle of honey, if using.
- Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Customize each jar with favourite toppings to make something that everyone will love! Toppings are totally flexible, use what you have or what you love to customize for everyone. Or go without toppings for a simple and delicious option!
For best results, let oats soak in the fridge for a full 8 hours. But if you’re short on time, a few hours will work too!
For a thicker, creamier texture, try using yogurt!
Thank you to Quaker Canada for hosting me at the #OvernightSuccess interactive workshop and for sponsoring this post. But of course, all opinions (and love of oatmeal chocolate chunk cookies) are my own.
I might be biased (I am a Stott Certified Pilates instructor, after all) but in my opinion Pilates is an essentail part of any fitness regime. Including yours. Yes, I mean you – whether you are a beer league hockey player, distance runner, Crossfitter, dancer, arm chair athlete or yoga enthusiast. I know this because of the profound difference it has made in my life, which is what led me to become an instructor. Now, it’s not the only thing that I do as a workout - I do HIIT, lift weights, run, and more, because variety is one of the keys to overall fitness. But - regularly incorporating some kind of Pilates into your life will contribute to greater strength, stability, and mobility for both women and men, young and old. Sure, I've heard that people say it's not a "real workout", but to that I respond maybe you haven't been doing "real Pilates." While it initially seem so subtle, Pilates is a form of training that has the potential to make make profound changes in how you look and feel.
Pilates is So Misunderstood
Before I go any further, let me clear up a little confusion. Pilates is not yoga. At all. While there are many exercises that involve work on mat and can help improve one’s flexibility, the similarities almost end there. So what is it? Originally called Contrology, then eventually renamed for its creator Joseph Pilates, it’s a system of exercises designed to improve physical strength, flexibility, posture, and enhance mental awareness. In the past 50 years or so there have been a number of schools that have expanded on these principles. Besides mat Pilates there is also equipment, known as the cadillac, chair, barrels, and my personal favourite, the reformer. What I love so much about it is the ability to work on strengthening the body and mobility at the same time, all while focusing on the body being in proper alignment – which is absolutely key for preventing or rehabilitating injuries.
A Strong Core…and More (wink, wink)
Working on a strong core really is (pardon the pun, but it’s just too easy) at the core of Pilates. While many spend a lot of time working on their so-called “six pack” muscles (rectus abdominis), we literally go deeper. The core is so much more than that. Perhaps of greater importance to your overall functional fitness and good posture are muscles known as the transversus abdominis, the obliques, multifidus (small but mighty muscles that run up your spine), the psoas and more. So while the six pack gets all the glamour, it doesn’t really do anywhere near as much for your strength, posture, and even the overall look of your body as much as these other muscles do. Then there are the muscles of the pelvic floor, which we work to engage in many exercises. Let’s just say there are many benefits to knowing how to recruit the muscles of your pelvic floor. As a new-ish mama, I know first-hand that Pilates is an incredible way to address some the physical challenges that can occur both pre and postnatal. And, just in case I didn’t already have your attention, strengthening your pelvic floor can definitely be a win for your sex life. So there’s that.
The Freedom to Move
Our bodies are capable of moving in so many different ways, but most of us get stuck in the same patterns of movement every day. Whether it’s sitting at a desk at work or even running or cycling almost every day, repetitive patterns of movement can take their toll and create imbalances in our body. Over time, these imbalances can add up to a lack of mobility and even injuries. Think runners with tight IT bands and weak glutes or desk-sitters with tight hip flexors, or even a dental hygienist that spends all day turned towards patients and finds that his or her obliques and neck are tighter on one side. Pilates emphasizes stability, strength, and mobility while working in proper alignment to avoid injury. A properly certified instructor can suggest exercises or modification to help you work out without contributing further to any imbalance you might have while working on correcting it.
While it isn’t spiritual in the way that yoga is, there is a definite mind-body connection required to perform the exercises properly. You really can’t zone out and be effective in this type of workout, because you need to concentrate on activating certain muscle groups while stabilizing others. That’s actually a really good thing. Most of us spend a whole lot of time disconnected from our bodies. Taking time to tune in to what is happening while working out is a great way to de-stress, because you can focus on the details of the exercise and leave that stressful day at the office/school/home at the door, for at least a little while.
Take it from the Pros
There are countless people that rely on their physical bodies to make a very considerable living that do Pilates, sometimes every day as part of their conditioning regimes. Athletes in the NBA, NHL, MLB, professional dancers, and more because they know it can up their game and increase their career longevity. Oh, and just in case any of the guys out there think Pilates is neither difficult or masculine enough for them, LeBron James is a fan and uses it as part of his training program. If it’s good enough for LeBron, you can bet it will do you a world of good.
As Joseph Pilates himself said, his method “is designed to give you suppleness, natural grace, and skill that will unmistakably reflect in the way you walk, in the way you play, and in the way you work.” If that sounds like something that pretty much everyone can use, you’re right.
Whatever your persona, there's a new Bee in town....Read More
Brunch is a meal that is all about luxury and indulgence. Brunch for dinner? That's just next level. Chef Matt Dean Pettit creates a decadent meal for myself and a group of Toronto food lovers to brighten up a cold January evening.Read More
Pinch me, I'm on my way to a chocolate-tasting dinner with Cacao Barry.
That was my tweet, mid-makeup application, this past Monday night as I was getting ready to head out for what I knew would be a truly memorable dining experience. Can you blame me? I was on my way to Colette Grand Cafe, a venue known for creating luxurious French culinary experiences, to experience one the notorious flavour dinners by conceptualized by legendary French chocolate company Cacao Barry. Now, if I had you at "Cacao Barry", hold on a moment longer while I explain: this is no ordinary chocolate tasting dinner. These #FlavourDinners are a series of dinners where chefs cook primarily for other chefs and create menus inspired by Cacao Barry chocolate. Each menu item incorporates Cacao Barry into it, along with one additional particular ingredient as a through line for the entire menu. This scenario creates a particular challenge, because not only are the host chefs cooking for their peers, but also bound by the intricate dance of two flavours that must be included in each menu item. No easy task for the host team of chefs, sommeliers and mixologists, but a total no-brainer for me when I was asked if I would like to have a seat at the table.
There is a lot of history behind Cacao Barry. With over 170 years of of tradition behind the name, it has become a name that chefs trust to create memorable dishes for their guests. But they are also a brand that continually strives to innovate, by collaborating with chefs to push boundaries when it comes to flavour combinations and to ensure the sustainability of cocoa for future generations. Given that, and the nature of the Flavour Dinner challenge, it is no wonder that Colette's Executive Chef Jennifer Dewasha and Pastry Chef Annegret Henninger were inspired to create a bold menu to showcase not only the versatility of the chocolate, but also of the modern French fare that they do so well.
Dining at Colette always feels like a special experience, but as this was an evening in early December, things felt extra sparkly. (The very tempting display of Cacao Barry Couverture certainly made the atmosphere extra special as well. Chocolate everywhere always helps. Note to self.) It turned out that while the guest list was indeed mostly chefs including Nadege Nourian, Mark Thuet, Louis Lim and Atul Palghadmal. There were also other food writers and personalities in the mix as well such as Bonnie Stern and Amy Rosen. Suffice it to say, I was in very good company.
Obviously we were all wondering what the mystery ingredient that would be pairing with all that delicious chocolate was. Our welcome cocktail held the key: a potent mix featuring Absinthe, chocolate-infused vodka, Luxardo liquer, chocolate shavings and more. In case you missed it....the Absinthe was the tell. Our second feature ingredient (or flavour) for the night's dinner would be liquorice. Or licorice. Potato, potato. (For the sake of continuity, I'll use licorice in this article as that's how it was spelled on the menu). However you spell it, it's a vivid, unapologetic and rather polarizing flavour. I'm a fan, but I know many people find me strange for liking that deep, dark Dutch salted stuff, but I do. (Red "licorice" is just weird, sugary wax in my opinion). It is also a flavour that appears in a number of ingredients: including tarragon, star anise, fennel, licorice root and licorice mint. But is it versatile enough? Any way I looked at it, I knew this meal was going to be an adventure.
Here is a look at the beautiful dishes that Chefs Dewasha and Henninger created for us, and that Sommelier Brian Davies chose the most perfect pairings for.
TARRAGON: Venison Tartare, Cocoa Nibs, Puffed Grains, Pumpernickel, Tanzanie Origin Chocolate, paired with sweet vermouth.
FENNEL: Clay Baked Salmon, Parsnip & Zeyphr White Chocolate Puree, Braised Fennel, Sauce Meurette. (I wish I had written down the name of this wine, because it was incredible.)
STAR ANISE: Wild Hare Civet, Cavatelli, Wild Mushrooms, Extra Brute Cacao Powder
SWEET ROOT: Apples, Licorice Cake Alunga Milk Chocolate, Apple Cremeux
LICORICE MINT: Cassettes, Haiti Origin Chocolate Cream, Cucumber Aloe Vera Jel
Pastry Chef Annegret Henninger offered some great insight about working with Cacao Barry chocolate. Like any true icon, it stays true to itself rather than playing to the crowd.
It was an adventurous meal, full of flavour, beautifully plated, and as I mentioned, perfectly paired by our host sommelier. It was a testament to the skill and imagination of the team at Colette Grand Cafe, and to the range and quality of the chocolate used.
Oh - and should anyone really want to push the limits of their chocolate skills while making me dessert, head on over to the Cacao Barry website and check out this number for Anarchy. I'll be waiting.
All photos by Jeffrey Chan for Cacao Barry.
One of the most important things I think we can do at this time of year is to give those who are in need. I am a big believer in the work that Community Food Centres Canada does across Canada to provide good food for all. They have a particularly great campaign happening through the holidays to raise awareness and funds, and I am honoured to have been asked to share the story of #myfoodhero with them. I chose my husband Toby as my personal food hero, for a number of reasons. Whether it's spoiling me with chocolate soufflé, congee, oxtail stew or cooking for our son, he shows he cares for us through food all the time. Our whole relationship really began because of food - and has grown from there. You can read all about it in the link in bio. I have made a donation, and it would be wonderful if you could also donate to CFCC to support the wonderful work they do. Let's spread the love at this time of year, and always. You can read all about our story, and make a donation to help others HERE.
While I’ve always considered myself to be relatively tech-savvy, I really was a little lazy when it came to learning more about how the Web actually works. Someone else would do that stuff for me, right? Maybe. But eventually I realized that even if that was the case, it’s way more empowering to have that knowledge. Especially when it came to my own website. So, I signed myself up for the SEO Bootcamp at Brainstation Toronto. It was definitely an eye-opener. If you want to learn more, I highly recommend their courses & workshops. I’ve shared my experience on their blog, so head on over and check it out here. Also, side note - SO excited that my home office is finally coming together. Extra love for my Mister for keeping it stocked with fresh flowers. It’s the little things, right?
Recently, I was presented with a pretty awesome opportunity: A day off in the country courtesy Canola Eat Well, touring a farm, talking and learning about good food, and enjoying lunch made by one of my favourite chefs, Victor Barry of Piano Piano restaurant. So obviously, I was totally ok with that idea. I also was lucky enough to invite people to come with me on this awesome day. One morning after one of my son's very early wake-ups (he's 18 months, so it happens quite a bit) while drinking a rather large coffee, I realized that no one needs a little vacation quite as much as mamas do. So naturally I reached out to some of the coolest mamas I know to join me on this little adventure.
On a rather summer-like day in October, we all set out to Link Greenhouses near Bowmanville for the day. We were joined by Ellen Pruden of Manitoba Canola Growers, and Jeannette Andrashewski, a Canola Farmer from Alberta. On our way to the farm, we had the opportunity to talk to them about the health benefits of Canola oil, as well as the process of farming in Canada. As I have worked as a weather specialist for almost a decade, much of that time covering weather in the Prairies, I have a good understanding of just how complicated life as a farmer can be. As Western Canada has already had snow so early this year, it very likely means a huge challenge for farmers. It was an enlightening conversation, and we appreciated getting to know some of the people that bring food to us on a daily basis. Once we arrived at the farm, owner Lisa Mulders took us on a tour of the facility, where we could see the process of growing lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and more in their greenhouses. As with Jeanette, I was impressed by her knowledge and passion for farming.
We also had the opportunity to do a little learning experiment known as the canola crush: the process by which the value of a canola seed crop is determined. By crushing a number of seeds and looking for the right colour (yellow, not green) and the amount of oil expressed, we could tell if the seeds were mature enough for harvest or not.
There are a lot of reasons why taking this little day trip appealed to me. I love food, and I love good food even more. I want to be connected to where my food comes from, and understand the process by which it is grown. I love cooking and baking, and since becoming a parent, I love it even more. In fact, my relationship with food and interest in health has continued to evolve for the better since becoming a parent, and I think the other mamas that joined me on the trip all felt the same. The stakes are even higher, now that we are responsible for the well-being of our little ones.
I did also mention that Victor Barry was making us lunch though, right? So there is also that.
Before we ate, we had the chance to hear a little more about the health benefits of Canola oil from Registered Dietician Erin MacGregor of HowToEat.ca. For example:
Then I had the pleasure of introducing Chef Victor Barry to the group. I've worked with him for the past three years at Taste of Toronto and I have a great deal of respect for him. He's an incredibly talented chef and like me, loves to talk about food and dining. It's so obvious that he loves what he does. It was great to hear why he uses canola oil in his restaurant, and at home when cooking for his family.
Then it was time for lunch. You pretty much know that's what I was looking forward to the most, right? (Back to that whole "I love good food" thing, etc. etc.) Not just any lunch - pizza, which is one of the most beloved things on the menu at his Piano Piano (and we had four to choose from!) , plus two of the best salads I have ever had, wine, and one seriously indulgent 77% Cacao Barry Chocolate Cake for dessert. All of the menu items - including the pizza dough, the flavourful salad dressings - were made using canola oil, which showcased its versatility for cooking.
Needless to say, it was a delicious meal, and we had a great time chatting about our families, food, and pretty much everything else. I feel lucky to have shared this day with a great group of friends (old and new) and have taken away with me a renewed appreciation for Canadian Farmers and food producers. They have an incredibly important job, and a very difficult one. It's important that we support what they do.
If you'd like to make a delicious pizza dough and sauce at home, here's a link to great recipes for both on the Canola Eat Well website. Have a glass of wine, make some pizza, and don't forget to invite me!
All photos by Jeffrey Chan courtesy Canola Eat Well.
Note: This post is sponsored as I was the host for the event, however all opinions and views are my own.
In a city with such culinary richness as San Francisco, it can be tough to choose a spot to have dinner. On our recent trip there, we thoroughly enjoyed our meal and experience at Rintaro.
I absolutely love to travel. I love exploring new places, trying new food, revisiting old favourites, and getting a little bit lost. I even love airports. Really. Luckily for me, it’s looking like a good year for me for getaways. I visited California in the spring, am looking at heading to Taiwan again at the end of the year, and right now I’m all set to embark on a trip back to my favourite place in the world, Spain. I’ve been trying to plan what to bring for a while now, because to be honest I am not the world’s most efficient packer. However, I will say that I have learned some lessons in recent years about how to make my journeys more enjoyable.It all comes down to having the right things with you (this means leaving the clutter behind), being open to new experiences, and staying reasonably healthy.
I used to always travel in the closest thing to pyjamas as possible. Now, I like to feel good about how I look, even on the plane. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to dress uncomfortably or wear a bunch of makeup (ick) for a long haul flight. But a great jacket and a big pair of sunnies always help add a little polish to any situation. Having the right flight gear makes a difference too. I’m a sucker for a great set of luggage. Who wants to spend hours struggling with a rolling case that flips all over, or looking for the same old black suitcase with hundreds of others around a baggage carousel. Personally, I’m a bit in love with what Rimowa has to offer: colours and fabrications that will set your case apart, not to mention the functionality you need to travel a little more effortlessly.
Once you are outfitted with the right carry on, don’t be that person at security that has all those oversized bottles of skincare and whatever other liquid that is holding up the line. Please, just no. This doesn’t mean leave out the essentials. Get wise about travel size, and find yourself some minis. I’ve made a great find lately at Saje Natural Wellness with their Travel Safe Kit. A little bundle of all-natural products that combat minor traveller’s ailments: a chemical-free hand sanitizer (NOT that stuff full of triclosan my friends, NO WAY), essential oils that combat jet lag and tummy aches, and more. It’s nice to have because it’s hard to enjoy the journey if you’re not feeling so well.
As I mentioned, I like to try and stay as healthy as possible when I am out there in the world. So bear with me here….because here come the most important parts….
I need to move when I am on the move. Yes, I have totally been that person that works out while on vacation. Why not? Running can be a great way to check out a new city. A few laps in the pool will make you feel ready to relax even more. Now, of course if I’m doing tons of walking (which I often do) I will chill out on the cardio a bit, but I have been known to bring resistance bands with me to sneak in some conditioning exercises. I find all of this extremely helpful, because trying out all the wonderful new food is totally part of the joy of being in a foreign place. So I might as well achieve a little balance so that I can indulge.
But – what I don’t count as an enjoyable indulgence at all is the less than palatable and certainly WAY less than nutritious food that we often encounter when we are en route to our destination. I don’t want to eat that stuff, and you don’t want to eat that stuff. Trust me. This is why I have learned to be prepared so that I have something to eat that gives me the nutrients I need, without a ton of sodium or nasty preservatives, and prevents me from getting hangry. (I have had some seriously hangry episodes in the past when travelling – don’t ask my husband about our first trip to Barcelona.) Krave Jerky to the rescue once again. I’ve mentioned before that it is my go-to snack to stash in my gym bag. I also make sure that I bring it with me when I am travelling. I know that it’s a healthy choice that is a good source of protein, will give me the energy I need, tastes great, and won’t make me feel gross like the fast food at the airport or (eeek) whatever I might encounter at rest stops on road trips. Krave Jerky is also gluten free, so if that’s what you need, you know how tough it can be to find foods of convenience that are safe for you. Krave is widely available across Canada now in four tender and delicious flavours. It’s definitely something that I recommend checking out. There’s that whole balance thing again. A tiny bit of planning (as in stashing this in your purse or carry on) is all it takes to stay on track with having the fuel your body needs so you can really, really get lost. In the best way possible.
You can find KRAVE Gourmet Jerky in Canada at the following retailers: Shoppers Drug Mart, Walmart, Loblaws, Sobeys, London Drugs, Jean Coutu, Overwaitea Foods and Federated Coop. It retails from $6.99 - $8.99. Available in four delicious flavours: Sweet Chipotle Beef, Chili Lime Beef, Black Cherry Barbecue Pork and Grilled Sweet Teriyaki Pork.
This post was generously sponsored by Krave Jerky, but all opinions are, as always, my own.
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There are a lot of food and drink-related events out there in Toronto. Lucky, lucky us! But let's face it, some of them are more worth attending than others. Some are downright dismal - so let's stick to the positive here and talk about what is worth it. You know of course about my love for Taste of Toronto and Pintxos TO (which I hear is returning again this year!) . I love an event that celebrates the incredible talent we have here in Toronto's culinary scene, showcases the diversity of this city, are well-run and encourage people to check out restaurants that they perhaps haven't experienced before.
From June 6-12, 2016, there is a new festival in town that does all of that, and is a pretty amazing deal as well. Lovers of BBQ and beer alike, take note. This one's for you. The first ever Toronto BBQ Week kicks off tomorrow, presented by Samuel Adams and in partnership with Now Magazine. This one is a winner for sure: fifteen participating venues offering their spin on a BBQ dish paired with a pint of Samuel Adams Boston Lager for just $15! I love the fact that there are so many different takes from around the world on BBQ - from Indian, to down home Southern, to Northern Thai to Chinese-Jamaican. Whether you are looking for ribs and brisket, or something a little lighter like grilled ocean trout, there is a range of delicious options that all pair excellently with a frosty Sam Adams. The balanced flavour profile, upfront malt flavour and hoppy finish matches up well with the punch of BBQ spices and the caramelized flavour of the meat.
Because I know your time is valuable and it's so hard to decide which of these 15 amazing restaurants you are going to visit during Toronto BBQ Week, I have graciously spent an evening with a few friends touring three of the venues on the west side of the city so you can have a little sneak peak. I know, huge sacrifice, right?
Until now, I hadn't had the chance to visit Pukka on St. Clair West. After sampling this one offering for Toronto BBQ Week, I guarantee you that I will be back! Wow! Chef Dinesh Butola's tender North East Indian pork ribs had just the right texture and hint of spice, and the slaw with hits of crispy chaat were the perfect pairing. It was the perfect showcase of the quality and forward-thinking take on Indian food that you can expect at Pukka. I was torn between wolfing them down and savouring the ribs slowly, and will admit that I was lingering a little longer with my pint of Sam Adams because I just didn't want to leave this beautiful restaurant. But, there was more delicious BBQ awaiting us, so off we went.....and it's tough to say no to our next destination, which has become one of Toronto's most well-known place to savour BBQ for a reason.
BARQUE BUTCHER BAR
Toronto couldn't get enough of the decadent smokey offerings at Barque Smokehouse on Roncesvalles, so in May 2015 Barque Butcher Bar opened up just down the street to accommodate lovers of meaty goodness. Co-Owner and Executive Chef David Neinstein is a certified BBQ judge and has competed in some of the toughest grill and smoke-off competitions in the US. For Toronto BBQ week, David and his team have cooked up a delicious pulled pork sammy topped with a refreshing apple slaw and crispy fries. Pretty amazing deal paired with a pint of Samuel Adams for just $15, right?
PARTS & LABOUR
Our last stop of the evening was at Parkdale favourite Parts & Labour. Always a great spot to be at any night of the week for a lively but laid-back vibe and decadent eats and drinks. For Toronto BBQ Week, chef Brent Pierssens has cooked up one of my favourites: Grilled Merguez sausage with confit fingerling potatoes spiked with creme fraiche. I love this spin on BBQ from beyond the borders of North America, and again, paired with that pint it's the perfect thing for sharing or just keeping all to yourself.
Three very different takes on BBQ, three amazing reasons to check out Toronto BBQ Week. You've got until June 12th, 2016. Oh, and did I mention you can also win a trip for two to Boston? Details are at torontobbqweek.com. You're welcome!