Guides

Unexpected Buffalo. The Complete Travel Guide to Buffalo, Niagara.

Close to a decade ago when I was still in university at McMaster University in Hamilton (totally giving my age away now), going to Buffalo meant only one thing. SHOPPING! Whether it was road trips with my family or with my friends, the roughly 90 minute drive from Toronto/Hamilton to Buffalo had only one goal in mind. To buy as many items as possible and locate the best deals. Walden Galleria anyone? Yep, that was the shopping mall I would frequent on Black Fridays and many other long weekends when I felt the urge to spend some of those green dollar bills.

It was always a quick day trip. I never would stay over night and explore the city. The day would go something like this. Wake up at 9AM. Drive across the border and arrive at Waldern Galleria in Buffalo just before lunch time. Grab lunch at the food court. Shop until my stomach started grumbling (or until my wallet gives out). Find dinner either at the food court again or any nearby restaurant in the area (Cheesecake Factory was always a go-to), and then drive back home and call it a night. Rinse and repeat for years and years.

If this is also like you, I have some news. We were so naive!!! There is so much more to explore in Buffalo. The food. The culture. The museums and outdoor activities. Buffalo is so much more than just the Walden Galleria and shopping. I didn’t even know Buffalo had a waterfront and boardwalk (and it most definitely has!). I recently spent two nights in Buffalo last month thanks to Visit Buffalo & Niagara and just fell in love with the people and city. I experienced so much more of Buffalo in those two nights than my entire lifetime I spent going back and forth to Buffalo on all of those shopping day trips.

I put together what I think is the complete travel guide on your accommodation, food, and excursions you would want to experience in Buffalo. There are some Buffalo staples here, but also some hidden gems. Get ready to experience Buffalo, Niagara like never before!

To read up on my other travel guides I’ve put together, find them at the links below:

STAY

Aloft Buffalo Downtown

The newest hotel to be built in Buffalo (at least as I’m writing this blog post today) is Aloft Buffalo Downtown. Aloft Hotels is an international hotel chain most notable for its modern architecture and colourful room designs. Acquired by Marriott International in 2016, you’ll also be able to redeem all your travel rewards through their loyalty program Marriott Bonvoy if you are already a member. Situated close to the nearby Theatre district downtown, you’re just walking distance from taking in a show and many other restaurants and bars in the nearby area. My favourite part of my hotel room were three things. My personal outdoor balcony with downtown views, the 55 inch TV (with Netflix capability), and the rainfall shower head.

EAT & DRINK

Breadhive Bakery & Cafe

Breadhive Bakery & Cafe is Buffalo’s only worker-owned bakery and cafe, serving up wickedly delicious baked breakfast and lunch goods since 2014. You’ll find here hearty sandwiches that can be chosen to be on their bread, bagels, or pretzels, alongside their house-made cookies, soups, and salads. Their sandwich names are fun and pay homage to some of their favourite musical influences. I ate the best breakfast sandwich right here! Make sure you order “The Aaliyah!.” Trust me.

Charlie The Butcher

A Buffalo staple is Charlie the Butcher. If you traveled all the way here to Buffalo and you didn’t eat their world-famous “Beef on Weck Sandwich,” did you really come to Buffalo at all? Come inside to watch the roast beef carved right in front of your eyes, before being sandwiched in-between a Kimmelweck roll that’s sprinkled with salt and caraway seeds. It’s the perfect vessel for the thinly cut slices of beef.

Watson’s Chocolates

If you’ve come all this way to Buffalo, you got to try the famous Sponge Candy! This is a Buffalo-centric treat with the likeness of fudge, except with extra sugar. It’s a light and crunchy toffee on the inside made from sugar, corn syrup, and baking soda. There are a few variations of this chocolate treat that was made famous by the Cadbury company in Great Britain, but it’s here at Watson’s Chocolates in Buffalo that brought this fun treat here in North America. You’ll also be able to find some artisanal ice cream here with a Sponge Candy flavour you won’t be able to find anywhere else. Watson’s Chocolates was also voted Best Chocolatier year after year!

Dobutsu

I wouldn’t have guessed Buffalo to have a great seafood scene here, but Dobutsu proves otherwise. A casual pacific fare restaurant, Dobutsu specializes in the cuisine of the American and Asian Pacific region, highlighted by globally sourced fresh seafood and shellfish programs, traditional noodle dishes, Hawaiian poke and rice bowls, and fresh coastal produce salads. I absolutely loved their Seared Big Eye Tuna. My personal recommendation would to ask them to cook it rare. Their Chocolate Bar for dessert is also always changing. The night I went they made their chocolate bar look like the beach filled with sand, turtles, and seashells!

Five Points Bakery & Toast Cafe

Breakfast never tasted so good! Five Points Bakery makes whole grain bread using wheat sourced only from local farms. This has also now expanded into honey, milk, eggs, and a host of other local goods, so if you want to get a real taste of Buffalo this is the place to be. They also sell their loafs of bread inside their restaurant, so if you order a menu item and fall in love with one of their many varieties of toast, you’ll most likely find an entire loaf of it to buy and bring home.

Gabriel’s Gate

American history 101. Do you know where “Buffalo Wings” come from? You guessed it… Buffalo! The flavour “Buffalo Style” wings has basically graced the menu of nearly every pub in North America, and it was in 1964 where a Buffalo restaurant called the “Anchor Bar” changed the course of American food history by inventing the first Buffalo-style chicken wing which is simply a fried chicken wing coated in hot sauce and served with ample helpings of blue cheese. Although it was the Anchor Bar who first created the Buffalo Wing, Gabriel’s Gate ranks high on the local’s list of serving some of the best wings in the city. It’s also one of the 12 locations on the Buffalo Wing Trail. As you can see, Buffalonians sure love their chicken wings!

Ted’s Hot Dogs

A year-round family tradition since 1927, Ted’s Hot Dogs is famous for its charcoal broiled hotdogs, homemade hot sauce, old-fashioned milk shakes with made real ice cream, handmade onion rings, and other menu items grilled to perfection. What you’ll need to order here is this. Repeat after me. “Footlong, Extra Charred with the Works, and a side of Onion Rings.”

Swan Street Diner

I love nothing more than an old-school diner, especially when it’s built inside a circa-1937 era Sterling Co diner car. These limited edition diner cars were manufactured between 1936 to 1947, each numbered upon completion. The Swan Street Diner car is number 397. While the diner is decorated to portray a nostalgic feel, the menu items feature traditional American food items along with some cutting edge culinary offerings. Opt-in for their French Toast and Breakfast Tacos. They also make some kick-ass mini donuts!

Lloyd Taco Factory

What started as a food truck in Buffalo has now grown to become the restaurant in Buffalo to get your taco cravings fulfilled. From authentic Mexican tacos, burritos, and side dishes, Lloyd Taco Factory also has a full bar deep with tequila and mezcal for those nights (or days?) you just want to let loose and get your drink on. They also make their very own hot sauce here, bottled up for you to be ready to be taken home if your hearts desire. They even have here a Fried Chicken and Waffle taco. So much yes!

Churn Soft Serve

Literally right next door to Lloyd Taco Factory (and not surprisingly their sister brand), Churn Soft Serve has a fun, quirky atmosphere where your ice cream cone creations come to life. Bringing you soft serve ice cream made from natural, grass fed cows. There are so many creative toppings to choose from here with vegan options as well. Their signature churro topping is a stand out here. We all scream for ice cream!

Bocce Club Pizza

If you’re craving pizza, look no further than Bocce Club Pizza, another Buffalo tradition since 1946. They use only the freshest and most natural ingredients from 100% whole milk mozzarella cheese to dough made from scratch and hand stretched daily. Their key to success though can largely be attributed to their secret pizza sauce that’s mixed and made every single day. You also know their pizza will be good when you realize that they ship their pizzas nationwide by ordering their pizzas online.

Paula’s Donuts

I couldn’t have been more happy to have found this hidden gem! The best donuts I’ve ever had and believe me I’ve had a lot of donuts in my life. Established in 1996, Paula’s Donuts is a family owned and operated business. Their hand cut donuts are baked fresh daily on the premises, the old fashioned way. With over 30 varieties of donuts along with pastries, muffins, bagels, and breakfast sandwiches there’s something here for everyone. But lets face it if you’re choosing to come here, there’s no way you won’t be walking out with at least a dozen of their donuts. Their donuts are not only huge in size, but extremely affordable coming in at only around $13 for fourteen donuts! Buy a dozen, get two free. Seriously so worth it! I’ll be coming back here each and every time I visit Buffalo. Fact.

EXPLORE

RiverWorks

If you’re an adrenaline junkie this is the place for you! Located in an industrial zone with massive grain elevators that are painted to resemble a six-pack of beer visible from cruising altitude, RiverWorks is an entertainment complex that’s become a one-of-a-kind destination. Not only can you do zip-lining here like what I did across the massive grain silos, you’ll also find within this entertainment complex a brewery, restaurant, rock climbing, roller derby, and even ice skating and curling here in the Winter months.

Albert-Knox Art Gallery

A major showcase for modern and contemporary art, the Albert-Knox Art Gallery is one of the oldest public arts institutions in the United States having first opened its doors to the public in 1905. The gallery’s collection includes several pieces spanning art throughout the centuries, with original art pieces displayed here from the likes of Vincent van Gogh and Pablo Picasso. Self-guided or group tours are also available. The building itself is also a wonder on its own, resembling the Erectheum on the Acropolis in Athens.

BFLO Harbor Kayak

Probably one of my most anticipated activities here was getting to kayak along Buffalo’s harbourfront. Located at Canalside on the wharf, you’ll be able to rent kayaks (single and tandem) or stand-up paddleboards at hourly rates. BFLO Harbor Kayaks also offers kayak tours down the Buffalo River, and if you’re having doubts of not knowing how to paddle board, you’re also in luck because they also offer lessons! Remember to wear some sun screen here because you’ll definitely get a sun tan here being under the blazing heat and sun.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House Complex

One of America’s greatest architects was from right here in Buffalo by the name of Frank Lloyd Wright. He constructed and designed the “Martin House” between 1903 and 1905 which exemplifies his “Prairie House” ideal and ranks as one of his finest residential works. Book a tour here at the Martin House to see Frank Lloyd’s architectural genius illustrated in timeless themes evident in his remarkable design: family, friendship, the meaning of home, and the American spirit.

I want to send my thanks again to Visit Buffalo Niagara for their wonderful hospitality in opening my eyes on all the great things Buffalo has to offer beyond the typical shopping malls. This is just a small glimpse into the city, so if anybody else has other Buffalo favourites whether it’s a place to stay, eat, or explore I would love to know! I think now that hockey season is just around the corner again, it’s time to book myself some Leafs vs. Sabres tickets and catch a game in Buffalo at the Keybank Center. Just another great reason for me to go back and visit. See ya soon Buffalo!

Endless Adventures in Daytona Beach with Sunwing Vacations

Winter is coming. With every single degree in a temperature drop is one more inch of motivation to escape to somewhere warm and sunny. For us snowbirds eager to escape the snow and frigid temperatures, Sunwing is ready to help us turn that into a reality and transport us to the state filled with sunshine and long walks on the beach! For the first time in history there will be a Canadian airline carrier to offer direct international flights from Toronto to Daytona Beach, Florida. And you guessed it, that Canadian airline carrier is Sunwing! The twice weekly seasonal flight service will operate every Monday and Thursday beginning January 28, 2019, cementing the title of North America’s largest vertically integrated travel company offering more flights to the United States than any other leisure carrier.

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To celebrate this monumental and historic announcement, I was invited by Sunwing to take part in their inaugural flight from Toronto to Daytona Beach almost two months before it’s open to the public. It was a whirlwind of a trip that was jam packed with activities that had absolutely nothing to do with Spring Break, but everything to do with F-U-N. Hard to imagine eh?

As soon as we landed at Daytona Beach International Airport we were treated like rock stars. As we stepped off the plane and walked out of the gate we were greeted with applause and cheers from the local media to celebrate the fact that the very first direct flight from Toronto to Daytona Beach finally happened after years and years of planning. A ribbon cutting ceremony with Sunwing Executives took place immediately following our arrival with the biggest pair of scissors I’ve ever seen! Big scissors are needed for a big occasion! And this was a GRAND occasion!

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We were then whisked away in our coach bus for lunch at the new 200-room Hard Rock Hotel Daytona Beach, a 4-diamond oceanfront resort. Decked with photos and memorabilia of rock stars from the past and present inside the resort, what makes this hotel truly stand out is the view! Looking over the 37km stretch of sand that is of course the renowned Daytona Beach, there really is no better place to relax with of course a refreshing tropical cocktail on hand.

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Up next was an Eco Boat Tour with Ponce Inlet Watersports. When you’re situated right beside the Atlantic Ocean, you will be abundantly blessed with a thriving ecosystem of marine life. We hopped on a narrated eco boat tour aboard a fully canvas-shaded and flat-bottom boat with a mission of spotting some wildlife including dolphins, sting rays, manatees, shore birds, and sea turtles. Cruising down the Intercoastal Waterway we were so fortunate to see some wild dolphins swimming around us. Although it wasn’t like a scene from the movie Flipper where the dolphin was jumping in and out of the water around us, we did manage to see the fin above the water every now and then which was already such a treat to see.

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Right across Ponce Inlet Watersports is the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse, Florida’s tallest lighthouse and also North America’s second tallest working one. The best part of this lighthouse is it also offers spectacular 360 degree views of the Atlantic coastline to the general public, but to get this view one must earn it! Climbing up the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse step by step in its narrow, spiral staircase is no easy task, but once you’re at the top and step out to that fresh cool air it makes that climb all so worth it!

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As the sun started to set and the day winding down, it was time for a reception at Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery at ONE Daytona, a multi-million dollar world-class entertainment district with dining, retail, and entertainment options along with two hotels. It’s also the perfect place for NASCAR fans to congregate as it’s located directly across from the famous Daytona International Speedway, the world’s only motorsports stadium after a $400 million transformation in 2016.

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This was just a small handful of activities that Daytona Beach has to offer, and what may be the most exciting part of all of this is the PRICE. Direct flights from Toronto to Daytona Beach start at only $279 (taxes included) with Sunwing! It’s never been easier or cheaper than right now to start planning and booking your next vacation. Click HERE to start your journey to Daytona Beach or contact your local travel agent for more details.

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How to Spend a Perfect Day in Los Angeles!

You’ve just landed in LA for the first time, and you’re ready to hit the town and get a taste of the Big Orange. There is plenty to do in La-La Land, from sampling the glitz and glamor of Hollywood to exploring the hidden gems in downtown LA. But with so many options at your disposal, you can’t help but ask yourself, “Where do I begin?” Well, look no further. We here at The Everyday Foodie took it upon ourselves to build an action plan to ensure you get all the touristy goodness LA has to offer.

We’ve compiled what we think is the perfect itinerary.

Here are 7 ways to spend your time in LA and have the perfect day from dusk till dawn!

Spend the morning in Venice Beach

For any tourist traveling to LA, visiting Venice Beach is an absolute must. Take a stroll on the Boardwalk and steep yourself in the beatnik-inspired culture, from eye-catching art murals to musical vibes of the street performers to cool knickknacks waiting to be discovered in the local shops. And when you’re ready for some R&R, kick back on the sandy beaches and watch as the waves roll in.

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Make your way down to Abbot Kinney for breakfast/brunch at The Butcher's Daughter

Adjacent to Venice Beach is Abbot Kinney Boulevard, home to a host of stylish boutiques, charming coffee bars, and inviting restaurants. Our favorite was The Butcher’s Daughter, a plant-based restaurant and juice bar that will make you renounce your carnivorous ways. The restaurant is beautifully adorned with luscious greenery and entirely illuminated by natural lighting, which makes for the perfect backdrop for our foodie photos. Oh, and did we mention that the food is positively delicious? Because it totally is.

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Head on over to downtown Los Angeles to visit the Walt Disney Concert Hall

Make your way to the concrete jungle and bear witness to the architectural wonder that is the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Whether you’re visiting to catch a show to one of the most outstanding orchestras in the world or to enjoy the fine dining experience at Joachim Splichal's Patina, it’s a sight for all to behold. And while there, don’t forget to visit the secret garden hidden on the second floor, where you’ll find winding paths accompanied by verdant greenery and a beautiful flower-shaped stone fountain at its center.

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Grab lunch at Grand Central Market

After appreciating the grandeur of the Walt Disney Concert Hall and exploring the downtown core, why not grab lunch at Grand Central Market? Whet your palette with a wide selection of delectable specialty dishes, from classic wood-fired pizza to time-tested peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches. Our favorite hot spot was Egg Slut, a local eatery inspired by its true love and appreciation of eggs. The lineups can be long, but the mouthwatering flavors of each dish are well worth the wait. Don’t believe us? See for yourself and let your taste buds be the judge!

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Drive to Griffith Observatory to get the best view of the city high on top of the mountains

Ready to catch a killer glimpse of the cityscape? Head on over to the Griffith Observatory, which offers the best view of LA and the Hollywood sign nestled in the mountain trees. However, there's more to the observatory than that alone. Head inside and out your science hat on while learning about the cosmos and appreciating the many wonders of science. And of course, the Griffin Observatory is a architectural landmark in its own right! But remember, if you decide to walk to observatory from the base of the mountain, ensure you're appropriately dressed for balmy weather or risk being scorched. You've been warned!

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Have Korean BBQ for dinner at Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong

Learning about science can be exhausting, so why not refuel with some delicious Korean BBQ? We recommend heading over to Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong to meet your barbecue needs. What makes this spot so special is that the wait staff in are both your servers and cooks, handling the grill from start to finish. And all you need to do is savor the flavors and enjoy the company. Tender and juicy cuts, and a lively atmosphere, this place is hard to beat!

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Grab dessert at B Sweet Dessert Bar

What better way to end this jam-packed day then to enjoy the perfect dessert? Visit B Sweet Dessert Bar for sweet dishes made from traditional Filipino ingredients, like their organically-purple ube yams. Not only will the taste blow you away, but the eye-catching colors of each dish will hypnotize you. B Sweet Dessert serves everything from bread pudding to cheesecakes to classic Pop-Tarts, but our favorite was a deliciously glazed donut with heat-sealed signature-purple ice cream inside. Whatever you choose, you'll have trouble prying yourself away and thinking about anything else after taking a bite of these desserts!

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Those are our 7 recommendations for spending your time in LA and having the perfect day under the California sun! Let us know if you think another LA hot spot should have been added to this list. But we promise if you’re able to visit even just a few of these places while you’re in LA you’re going to have a whale of a time! A huge thanks to Aeroplan for making this trip all possible!

The Market & Co Experience at Upper Canada Mall - How To Make Kombucha At Home

I’ve done my fair share of food experiences over these last five years since I started The Everyday Foodie. From visiting food halls, farmer markets, restaurants, cafes, and grocery stores I’ve seen them all, but not many stood out to me and left an impression quite like my visit here to Market & Co inside Upper Canada Mall in Newmarket, Ontario. I really didn’t know what to expect at first coming here because to be honest I wasn’t 100% sure what this was. Was it a food court? Was it a restaurant or a grocery store? Or was it a space where people gather here for workshops and unique events? I’ve soon found out that Market & Co encompasses all of that and more!

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The second you walk through those doors, you are immediately greeted my a bright and large indoor space where a combination of your local baker, butcher, seafood market, produce, flower shop, and trendy restaurants are all rolled into one curated market. It’s a one-stop shop for all your food and culinary needs with 20 best-in-class artisans and merchants ready to satisfy your every need (click HERE to view a list of all of the current artisans and merchants at Market & Co). There is literally something for everyone here. If you have a sweet tooth like me there is even a section that you can literally find any candy you ever wanted imaginable. It’s nuts!

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With that being said, Kitchen & Co is probably my most favourite part of this space. It’s a contemporary kitchen space and demonstration area in the heart of the market offering fun and educational opportunities for guests to cook, create, learn, and enjoy all the food and ingredients offered inside the market. It’s a community hub like no other, offering all kinds of weekly workshops, tastings, and activities that guests can sign-up on their website to register for interactive food experiences. Some examples of their classes include:

  • Oysters 101 & Tasting with World Record Holder “Shucker Paddy”

  • Thanksgiving Centrepiece Workshop

  • Master The Ultimate Bakery Style Cupcake

  • Create a Swoon Worthy Charcuterie and Cheese Board

  • Pasta Making with Acclaimed Chef Michael Angeloni

This is just a very small sample size of the types of classes Kitchen & Co offer year round. For me personally with so many unique and fun classes they were offering, it was hard to choose which first class I would be interested in attending when browsing through their schedule. Scanned the calendar a little bit more and bingo! The “Brew Your Own Kombucha Workshop” was calling my name!

Hosted by Village Juicery and certified Holistic Nutritionist Danielle Wiens, this 1.5 hour workshop was a step-by-step class on learning to brew kombucha at home!

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So what is Kombucha?

Kombucha is a probiotic beverage, created through an ancient process of adding a SCOBY (symbolic community of bacteria & yeast), often referred to as “the mother” to sweet black tea. This living bacteria consumes the sugars within the tea (aka it ferments), leaving behind all kinds of compounds that are renowned for their health benefits including probiotic bacteria and several types of organic acids.

The moral of the story that we were taught in the workshop is basically to not like the SCOBY die! Feed it, nourish it, check up on it. Think of it as a new pet you inherited. Pet SCOBY! Without a living SCOBY there is no kombucha to brew. No pressure right?

Brewing kombucha at home is a two step fermentation process that takes around two weeks to complete from start to finish. As this is a living beverage, once you have your first successful brew under your belt, you’ll be able to use that SCOBY to brew literally endless kombucha at home. Follow these steps I learned here at the “Brew Your Own Kombucha Workshop” and you’ll be an expert at making your own kombucha at home in no time.

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STEP 1: The 1st Ferment

Purpose:

  • To start new batch

  • Create fermentation

  • Grow your SCOBY so you can share it with others

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 black tea bag

  • 1/4 cup of organic sugar

  • 1 SCOBY

  • 1 brewing vessel (eg. glass jar)

Directions:

  1. Brew black tea in filtered water (1 tea bag + 1/4 cup of organic sugar per litre - don’t mess with this ratio!)

  2. Let it sit and adjust to room temperature (5 hours/overnight).

  3. Add piece of SCOBY, it can be any size, usually 3” is a good start. It will grow to cover the surface of your brewing vessel.

  4. Ferment for 7 - 10 days. Try after 7 days and decide when to start second ferment. The sweeter the final product, the less it needs to be fermented. The more sour/fermented it tastes, the longer you should ferment it for. It’s all your preference!

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STEP 2: The 2nd Ferment

Purpose:

  • To add carbonation, C02

  • Add flavour

  • Bottle it up

What You’ll Need:

  • Glass bottles

  • Sugar and water to make simple syrup

  • Herbs of your choice

  • Strainer and funnel for bottling

Directions:

  1. Make Simple Syrup

    • 1 cup of sugar to 1 cup of water with optional unlimited herbs and roots of your choice

    • Add sugar, water, and optional herbs of your choice into pot

    • Let simmer allowing sugar to melt

    • Bring heat down to low temperature & cover

    • Let herbs sit in sugar/water to allow for the absorption of flavour

  2. Remove SCOBY by hand or with wooden spoons, and add to your SCOBY hotel (another glass vessel to temporarily stow it in).

  3. Strain kombucha into other vessel

  4. Bottle kombucha liquid into glass bottles

  5. Add 2 TBSP of simple syrup (carefully measured)

  6. Cap off sealed tight

  7. Ferment outside of fridge, at a moderate temperature, away from the sun for 2 - 3 days

  8. Place in fridge after 2 - 3 days to stop fermentation

  9. Enjoy!

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Tips of Kombucha:

  • Bacteria is boss, everything we do in kombucha is to nourish and cultivate the yeast & bacteria cultures

  • Only use wood & glass utensils. Never allow metal to come in contact with your kombucha. It will affect the bacteria and kill the SCOBY.

  • Drop the soap! Never use soap in your vessel or on wooden spoons. Just use hot water to clean as an alternative.

  • Use filtered water & organic ingredients as fluoride, chlorine, or other commonly used chemicals can change the bacteria/yeast symbolic relationships

  • Temperatures matter. Fermentation ideally occurs between 23 - 29 degrees celsius. Temperature will also affect carbonation and flavour.

It’s amazing how much I’ve learned in just a short time at Market & Co. It’s not just about the food and drinks here, but obtaining more knowledge and a new skill set is what makes this place worth coming back over and over again. To see what upcoming classes are being offered at Market & Co that you may be interested in, click HERE to visit their calendar page and register your spot before they fill up! Share in the excitement with all your friends and family inside Market & Co at Upper Canada Mall to buy, learn, eat, and celebrate all of the delicious and amazing food it offers.

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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