New Ways to Tanqueray

With almost a 200 year heritage the original 1830s Charles Tanqueray gin recipe is still being re-invented and enjoyed by people all around the world. If you go to any bar or restaurant the classic gin and tonic is bound to make it on the menu. It's a classic. I mean I just had a Gin & Tonic at my friend's wedding this past weekend! No matter the occasion whether it's at a fancy affair or just a casual night in with your friends, there are endless refreshing and delicious ways to enjoy a Tanqueray cocktail. 

Now re-launching in Canada, Tanqueray Malacca is one of the world's most awarded and expertly crafted gins. Malacca is known as a mischievous, flavourful gin that uses an exotic mix of peppercorn, rose, and clove to achieve its distinctive flavour. Providing the perfect base for creative DIY twists for your cocktails this season I have three fun and easy recipes that you can all try at home!

Each of these three recipes require the same base:

1 Part Tanqueray Malacca
4 Parts Tonic Water
Ice Cubes

How To Mix:

Fill your glass up with ice cubes. Add all the ingredients. Garnish with a lemon twist, cucumber swirl, or grapefruit wedge. 

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Tanqueray provides the classic foundation for a delicious and refreshing beverage. No matter how you put your own spin on it with your favourite garnish, the recipe is fool proof with the high quality gin at its core. For even more inspiration on new ways to Tanqueray so you can serve up that perfect gin and tonic, visit the Tanqueray Canada Facebook page HERE and remember to enjoy responsibly. 

Moments To Savour With Aeroplan

Toronto is a city full of food festivals and with summer in full swing some of the city's top culinary events is happening right now! Most notably one of my favourite summer foodie events, Summerlicious! Seventeen glorious days of three-course prix fixe menus at 200 of Toronto's top restaurants is being offered to guests looking to have a great meal with friends and family for lunch or dinner all across the GTA. 

If you're an Aeroplan member it gets even better for you. You may not even realize that you not only get the many perks of travel rewards with Aeroplan, but those perks also extend out to some great food options that provides benefits to Aeroplan members only. 

For the second year in a row, Aeroplan is the Premier sponsor of the "Licious" properties in Toronto. Aeroplan recognizes that great food plays an integral part of any travel experience, so partnering up with Summerlicious again in Toronto was a no-brainer. 

Running from July 6th to July 22nd, Summerlicous will showcase Toronto's diverse cuisine with delicious three-course prix fixe lunch and dinner menus ranging as low as $23 for lunch and as high as $53 for dinner depending on which restaurant you go to.

For anyone who's dined at a Summerlicious restaurant before you probably know how hard sometimes it is to get a reservation especially at some of Toronto's favourite restaurants. Well if you're an Aeroplan member already you're in luck. That's because Aeroplan members get the opportunity to make advance reservations at participating restaurants before the general public can to ensure you get the date and time you want! This year Aeroplan members were able to make advance Summerlicious reservations on June 20th, a full day before the general public was able to. And speaking from experience a full 24 hour advantage can make all the difference in getting that coveted 6:30PM table on a Saturday. 

It gets better. 

Aeroplan members will also enjoy special privileges at select Summerlicious restaurants just by showing the waiter your Aeroplan card or an Aeroplan-affilliated credit card upon arrival. Below are the bonus perks that Aeroplan members will get if you choose to dine at any of these restaurants: 

My first Summerlicious restaurant this year was Bymark from celebrity chef Mark McEwan situated in Toronto's busy financial district. A fine dining restaurant inside the underground passageways of the Path, it's $53 dinner menu serves up Canadian, contemporary food with elegance and style in a dark and intimate setting. Not to mention their famous burger is also on the dinner menu (one of the very best in the city!)

Appetizers

   Seared Ahi Tuna Sashimi  - wasabi aioli, cilantro, yuzu soy vinaigrette

Seared Ahi Tuna Sashimi - wasabi aioli, cilantro, yuzu soy vinaigrette

   Venison Carpaccio  - spiced blueberries, arugula, grainy dressing, gaufrette potato

Venison Carpaccio - spiced blueberries, arugula, grainy dressing, gaufrette potato

Main

   Bymark 7oz Burger  - brie, sauteed mushrooms, truffle aioili, crisp frites

Bymark 7oz Burger - brie, sauteed mushrooms, truffle aioili, crisp frites

   Seared Scallops  - crab potato croquettes, cauliflower puree, beech mushrooms, leeks, shellfish bisque

Seared Scallops - crab potato croquettes, cauliflower puree, beech mushrooms, leeks, shellfish bisque

Dessert 

   Lemon Meringue Cake  - lemon curd, lemon sponge cake, toasted meringue

Lemon Meringue Cake - lemon curd, lemon sponge cake, toasted meringue

   Bymark Chocolate Bar  - white and dark chocolate mousse, caramel crunch

Bymark Chocolate Bar - white and dark chocolate mousse, caramel crunch

It is through these type of culinary partnerships that Aeroplan will help bring more people together with food and drink. Personally when I travel the fondest memories I have is the food I eat with the people that mean the most in my life. Those are the moments I will savour. 

If you're not an Aeroplan member yet, enrol now HERE and start enjoying all the benefits that Aeroplan has to offer! 

Schneiders Craft Meatery

There are a handful of Canadian brands that are recognized instantly. Roots, Tim Hortons, Canadian Tire are just some part of this elite group. Another notable brand that has been part of the lives of Canadians since 1890, in the fridge and on the dinner tables of Canadian families is Schneiders. For over a century the Schneiders brand has been grounded in quality products crafted without compromise for its premium cuts of meat using the original J.M. Schneider family recipes. 

If you live in Canada and ate a hot dog, a sandwich, or even indulged in a charcuterie board (which is pretty much everyone!), you've definitely had Schneiders before. Now in 2018, the iconic Schneiders brand is undergoing some important changes to reinforce its market leading position for craftsmanship. Using its signature methods like traditional hardwood smoking and original recipe formulations, Schneiders will go through some extensive packaging changes across its product portfolio. 

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To showcase this new era and resetting the entire product lineup of wieners, sausage, bacon, deli, sliced meats, ham, meat snacks, and bologna, Schneiders put on the Craft Meatery in Toronto. They invited local media and food influencers to taste the quality meats inside Toronto's backyard BBQ joint Big Crow with acclaimed Chef Anthony Rose at the helm. 

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Throughout the night Schneiders and Chef Anthony Rose put out a stellar menu drawing upon 128-year old recipes using only premium cuts of meat with extraordinary taste and elevated artisanal flavours. Some of my favourite Schneiders dishes of the night included:

  • Carved Ham with Cheese Grits and Heirloom Tomato Relish
  • Pigs in a Blanket with Honey Mustard and Everything Bagel Spices
  • Spicy Italian Sausage Taquitos with Charred Tomatillo Salsa 
  • Pealmeal Bacon and Zucchini Kehab with Buttermilk Dressing 
  • Grilled Bologna with Roasted Chilli and Fried Garlic 
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All of these Schneiders products you see here recently went through a culinary panel of experts signalling its commitment to making their food better than ever. Fourteen respected Canadian restauranteurs, chefs, and food critics conducted blind taste tastes for over 100 Schneiders products for nearly a year-long period to ensure their full line of meats lived up to the high quality and taste standards that the brand is committed to. None of these products went to the market that was not signed off by this panel, so you can bet that all of the dishes served here in the Craft Meatery was at the highest standards. 

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All of Schneiders' renovated products are already being rolled out and can be found in grocery stores all across Canada. Find Schneiders at various community events throughout this summer and autumn where you may even be able to see their Craft Meatery Food Truck cruising down the streets. 

SIAL CANADA - North America's Largest Food Innovation Trade Show in Montreal

Back in May I was invited to fly to Montreal, Quebec on a press trip to take part in the SIAL CANADA International Food Show in North America, the largest of its kind. If you work in the food industry, sell/buy food products, or just a self-proclaimed foodie this is THE place to be. This is the only show supported by governments (Federal and Provincial) bringing together the retail, food service, and equipment industries all under one roof. Much like the Rogers Cup in tennis, this food show alternates between Montreal and Toronto to cover all the local and regional demand. For three full days this year inside Montreal's Palais des Congres, this 15th edition of the SIAL Canada International Food Show was in full force which brought together more than 1,000 exhibitors ready to meet with 18,500 visitors. A show that sold out three months ahead of its opening day, I was very eager to explore everything this food show and the city of Montreal had to offer.

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After I landed in Montreal late at night before my first official day at SIAL, Corporate Stays provided me with a beautiful apartment in the heart of downtown Montreal for my accommodations. Handpicked properties around the world, Corporate Stays matches business travelers with unique places to stay that gives you a sense of home and comfort while you are traveling abroad. With a relaxing and comfortable sleep every night and being a short walk away from the Palais des Congres I was well-rested and ready to learn, eat, drink, and be inspired by the days ahead.

The first day at the SIAL international food show was a busy one. I could see how this was the largest food show in North America because the floor plan was huge! Spanning 240,000 sq ft, SIAL Canada is the only national trade show that offers up a complete range of food products, food-related equipment, and technologies which meet the three different needs of food retailing, food service, and food processing. 

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Before I went down to the main floor where all the booths from 50 different countries were present showcasing their latest products, I spent the majority of the day taking in as much knowledge as I could. School was in session! A unique thing about SIAL Canada is it hosts a ton of conferences covering the current trends and innovation in regards to the most essential food-related information from a network of experts with varied backgrounds. It's the best way to keep abreast in the latest developments in the food industry. Below are some of the main points from each of the conferences I attended, and a lot of this information has never been released anywhere else so far.

CANNABIS IN FOOD 

  • Federal Responsibilities: establishing a comprehensive national framework for regulating production, setting standards for health and safety, and establishing criminal prohibitions
  • Provincial Responsibilities: license the distribution and sale of cannabis, restrict where cannabis can be consumed, amend provincial and territorial traffic safety laws to address impaired driving (cannabis)
  • Legal Age of Consumption: 18+ (Quebec), 19+ (All Other Provinces)
  • 46% of Canadians would try cannabis-infused food products if available
  • Cannabis Edibles Packaging and Labeling: standardized health warnings, single-uniform colour, child-resistant/opaque packaging with statement "Keep Out Of Reach of Children"
  • Canadians would consider buying marijuana-infused baked goods the most in the grocery stores
  • No best before date announced yet
  • Cannabis infused food cannot appeal to children in Canada (eg. no gummy bears)

BATTLE OF PROTEINS: ANIMAL VS. PLANT

  • 2/3 of Canadians trying to improve their eating habits for better health
  • 51% of Canadians eat protein everyday, and 31% of those people believe the type of protein (animal vs. plant) is important
  • 37% of Canadians believe you won't get enough nutrients if you don't eat meat
  • 43% of Canadians are trying to include more of a plant-protein based diet
  • Improved health, manage weight, and eating clean are what motivates Canadians to go to a plant-based diet
  • Biggest barrier to move towards plant protein is the price (too costly)
  • Even with a price increase in bacon, Canadians ate the same amount (Canadians love bacon!)

WHAT IS THE ROLE OF BIOTECHNOLOGY/GMOS (Genetically Modified Organisms) IN THE FUTURE OF FOOD

  • In 50 years, the growing global population will require an estimated 100% more food than we produce today
  • The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that 70% of the world's additional food needs can be produced only with the adoption of modern agricultural technologies
  • Genetically modified soybeans - largest and most rapidly expanding component of Canadian soybean production will play a vital role in feeding the future world
  • Genetically modified soybeans have the potential to offer environmental, quality, productivity, and affordability advantages
  • Biotechnology and pesticides help farmers work more efficiently, leading to significant environmental savings on fuel, greenhouse gases, and wilderness preservation
  • Without pesticides and biotech crops, Canada would need 50% more farmland to produce what we grow today
  • Ultimately, the ratio of non-genetically modified to genetically modified will continue to be determined by divergent consumer preferences and willingness to pay premiums that offset production disadvantages

With a full day of absorbing as much food knowledge as I could behind me, one of the most exciting events was just ahead. Montreal is full of culinary talent with some of the very best restaurants in the country. Born in this city, our very own Canadian celebrity chef Chuck Hughes from the Food Network is the chef and co-owner of his restaurant Garde Manger located in stunning Old Montreal. Media was invited to an intimate dinner cooked by Chuck himself as he spoiled us with meal to remember consisting of a huge platter of fresh seafood, porchetta, beef carpaccio, scallops, ricotta gnocchi, truffle cencioni pasta, honey bbq pork chop, and an array of decadent desserts to end the night. Check out our delicious spread below!

The next morning was another full day of adventure and it all started with a market tour led by Chef Mehdi Brunet-Benkritly and Molly Superfine-Rivera of Montreal's Marconi. Although it was raining all morning it didn't damper our moods as we walked right over to the famed Jean-Talon Market to see just where all the fresh and local produce comes from.

Returning to the Palais des Congres shortly after it was time to tackle the show floor! Where do you even start!? With over 1,000 exhibitors it can definitely get overwhelming but my plan was just to walk through section by section starting with the biggest area which was dedicated to Spain. SIAL Canada this year announced that Spain was the country of honour as over the last several years economic ties between the two countries have considerably increased, demonstrating a tremendous growth potential. Anything food related in terms of Spanish cuisine and Spanish culture and products were located right here! 

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Of course I naturally spent a lot of time in the cheese area where sampling all kinds of cheese and dairy products from all corners of the world acted as a small lunch for me. Ice cream, coffee, crackers, and even fresh salmon were just a small handful of samples visitors were able to try. If you were a buyer and sampled something you liked and wanted to pursue a deal with the vendor, a dedicated meeting room on the floor was where all the money transactions happened. A professional meeting ground for businesses to come together all under one roof to explore different partnerships to potentially drive up food innovation to places around the globe that may have never seen a product offered there before.

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One of the most exciting things that happen during the SIAL international food show is SIAL Innovation - the only international contest with a presence in all four corners of the world that rewards the best innovations in food and non-food related products such as packaging and containers. Made up of food industry experts, the annual jury rewards ten finalists and this year handed out three Grand Prizes including one special organic prize and one special packaging prize. Winners are selected on the following four criteria: packaging, manufacturing process, merchandising, and recipe. Below you will find the top ten finalists and all of the winners chosen at the 2018 SIAL Innovation Awards!

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  • Pea Pops by Three Farmers (GOLD)
  • Ready - To - Eat Vegan Meals by Cucina & Amore (SILVER)
  • Cricket-Based Protein Bars by Crickstart (BRONZE)
  • Raw, Organic Gazpachos by Impress Foods (ORGANIC WINNER)
  • Yogurt From Grass Fed Cows by Tree Island Gourmet Yogurt (PACKAGING WINNER)
  • Organic Fruits Liquid Puree from Next Ingredients
  • Organic Puffed-Dried Fruits and Vegetables by EWA-BIS
  • Vegetarian Meal Salads by Mavitrine Bio
  • Bio-Based Ingredients by Fumoir Grizzly
  • Extra Fruit Chia Fruit Spreads by World of Chia

Next year SIAL Canada will be back in Toronto and I cannot wait to see where food innovation will take us next! Make sure you buy your tickets early because as mentioned before this show was already sold out three months ahead of its opening day this year! It's truly a must-attend event for the retail, food service, and food processing industries, yet for an ordinary person like me who just loves food it was still very much an eye-opening, educational, and memorable experience. See you all there in Toronto next year! 

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Full Recap Of My Experience Appearing On Masterchef Canada!

Bucket list item achieved and I can finally share it with the world! It's been 7 long months since keeping this secret from everyone, but I am so excited to share with you all that I was extremely fortunate last November to have had the experience of a life time. Myself and along with 29 other Toronto foodies were asked to be part of Masterchef Canada (S5E11). The episode was apparently going to revolve around us...someone pinch me! This can't be real, right?!

Now I have been a long time fan of the Masterchef franchise. Even before it came to Canada I was addicted to watching the U.S. version of Masterchef with Gordon Ramsay. Week after week seeing home cooks showcase their craft and put out restaurant quality dishes in the matter of 60 minutes was just incredible and inspiring to watch. When Canada finally got the opportunity to showcase our own talent five years ago with our own version of the show I was beyond excited. There's not a single episode from the start of the first season that I've not watched, so when I got an email asking if I was interested in being a part of the show this season I almost fell out of my chair. OF COURSE I DO!

I'll be lying though if this idea of bringing on foodies/social media influencers to the show never crossed my mind before. In fact I remember on several occasions telling my friends that I was surprised they never explored this yet in the past 5 seasons (and even in the U.S. version it's never happened before). Every other week on Masterchef Canada there is a team episode where the remaining competitors are normally split up into two groups to go head-to-head in a cooking challenge and put out the best food to feed a certain group of individuals. They've cooked for people like life guards, dog owners, construction workers, the Canadian Forces, acrobats, and even for the Toronto Maple Leafs, but never to foodies... until now. So whichever TV producer read my mind out there 5 years later.... thank you for including us!

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The day started back in November where we were instructed to drive to their secret studio location in Mississauga, Ontario to do the filming. At this point in time we had no idea which episode we were going to be part of, and since the fifth season hasn't actually aired yet we didn't know any of the remaining chefs that would be cooking for us. We were advised to not wear any logos or tightly-patterned clothing and also undershirts was recommended as it would help apparently being mic-ed up! My initial thought was that they would not allow us to bring our cameras with us during the filming of the episode, but to my surprise they actually encouraged us to do so. This episode was going to be them filming us in our natural element for the entire country to see, so my motto of "The Camera Eats First. Always" will be depicted front and centre.

As we checked into the studio that afternoon one-by-one there was a producer who looked at our outfits to see what we wore. If it was too wrinkly they asked us to take it off where they would iron it out for us on site. Wardrobe was serious business. One-by-one we each got mic-ed up and signed a non-disclosure agreement. As all of this was happening the producers came out to introduce themselves and provide an overview for the day. We learned that we would be part of the second last episode of the fifth season where the top three remaining home cooks remained which include Andy Hay (Dartmouth, Nova Scotia), Beccy Stables (Sherwood Park, Alberta), and Michael Griffiths (Richmond Hill, Ontario). The top three would each launch their own pop-up restaurant in the studio, and the thirty of us would be divided into three groups to dine at each of their restaurants.

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Here is the point in the day where completely at my own fault started my filming process on the wrong foot. Right before we headed downstairs to start the filming, there was a white board in the front of the room with a seating chart. All thirty of us had a designated table and chair to sit at that corresponded with the specific cook's pop-up restaurant. I went up to look at it. I thought I memorized it. I thought I knew exactly where my seat was. I will soon realize on national television that I didn't!

The moment came where we were told to go downstairs as the home cooks were just about finished making their dish for us, and we were about to make our grand entrance into the famous Masterchef Kitchen. The few moments while we were all gathered and waiting to step on stage, we were inside the Masterchef Pantry that I saw so many times on TV. What a surreal experience that was already to just be inside that room!

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The time was now. We were just told we were about to walk into the Masterchef Kitchen and to stay in a single file line. The moment we step into the Masterchef Kitchen the cameras would be on us and capturing our every move and sound. I was filled with excitement and nervousness at this point mostly because I didn't want to make a fool of myself on National television, but little did I know I was going to do just that. Remember when I said there was a seating chart and we should have all memorized it. Well apparently I didn't. Maybe it was the camera lights. Maybe it was the nervousness. But when I walked out I must have blanked out and completely forgot where I was supposed to sit, and which table I was supposed to be at.

What do I do? I decide to literally just sit at the first table and chair that I see hoping that it would all work out. A few seconds after I took a seat I got a tap on my shoulder indicating that I was sitting in her chair. Shit! I got up out of the chair and still confused as ever to where my seat was (lets not forget that I'm currently being filmed), I decide to walk across to the complete opposite end of the room as I saw an empty table and chair. Just as I was about to take a seat I see two people walking towards me looking confused as ever to see this intruder taking over their table. I could sense from the look in their eye that they were telling me to MOVE, so of course not wanting to be that asshole to ruin everyone else's experience I had to get up and find my seat for the second time in like the span of 30 seconds. By this time most people already found their tables and were already seated so locating my spot for the third time was much easier. Just find the chair that wasn't taken yet! And of course it was all the way back on the opposite side of the room. It was like taking the walk of shame back to your seat and by this time there wasn't anything I could do but laugh at the whole situation.

UPDATE: After watching the episode now, the amazing Masterchef Canada editors didn't show that part on the episode so thank you for hiding my cluelessness to the country!

Finally at my designated table I find myself at Michael G's Pop-Up restaurant. At the time I had no idea who he was, but since watching this season so far I've been rooting for him to win ever since. Right behind me was the Masterchef Stage where the three judges Claudio Aprile, Alvin Leung, and Michael Bonacini were in the middle of filming themselves and encouraging the home cooks to put the final touches to their dishes in the remaining few minutes.

Michael G's dish gets served at our table and it's a beautiful "Pistachio Crusted Lamb Rack." By this time everyone had their cameras and phones out taking pictures of the food including me, and as we slowly started to dive into the food the producers and judges all came around to most of our tables and get our feedback of the dish. The producer was the first to approach our table and when that happens you also have a camera crew surrounding you from all sides. She would ask what we were eating, which home cook prepared it, and our thoughts of it. Sometimes she would ask us to repeat something, or to say it slower, but nothing was ever faked or manipulated in a way to get a certain reaction out of us. 

  Pistachio crusted rack of lamb  -  butternut squash confit, cheesy polenta with roasted bursting garlic tomatoes, bacon jam, parmesan tuile, split pea and tarragon sauce

Pistachio crusted rack of lamb - butternut squash confit, cheesy polenta with roasted bursting
garlic tomatoes, bacon jam, parmesan tuile, split pea and tarragon sauce

Close to the end of the filming, Chef Alvin came to our table of three and asked us one by one what our thoughts of Michael G's dish was. I personally absolutely loved it. It was a perfect medium rare with a beautiful green crust of pistachios that made it that much more Instagrammable. Cooked to perfection I think Michael G knocked it out of the park which is what I tried to re-iterate to Alvin on TV. Michael G absolutely crushed this challenge and I have no doubt that he is going to advance to the final two (at this point in time writing this, I do not know who makes it to the final two and who will ultimately win the season).

SPOILER: Contrary to what I thought, Michael G did in fact leave the competition after losing another cooking challenge after this when he cooked head-to-head against Andy Hay. Beccy Stables won the Pop-Up Restaurant challenge and advanced straight to the final two.

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This was by far my favourite experience I ever had in my foodie career over the past four and a half years. It was a dream come true to be part of one of my favourite shows on television. A HUGE thank you to Masterchef Canada, Propeller Television, CTV, and Bell Media for inviting me to be part of such a memorable experience. I will never forget it even if I did make a fool of myself on national television. It was worth it!

By the time I post this blog post up the entire episode should be up online now, so be sure to watch my episode which is Masterchef Canada Season 5 - Episode 11 "Pop-Up Star." Below you can find the trailer of the episode as well!

UPDATE: Watch the full episode of Masterchef Canada - S5E11 HERE.