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 a Aeroplan member yet, enrol now HERE and start enjoying all the benefits that Aeroplan has to offer! 

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.

IMG_0502-01.jpeg

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. 

IMG_0459-01.jpeg

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! 

IMG_0490-01.jpeg

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.

IMG_0458-01.jpeg

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!

IMG_7730.JPG
  • 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! 

IMG_0531-01.jpeg

Favourite Summer Menus to Explore in York Region with a Bonus Giveaway!

With summer quickly approaching the time to get out of hibernation mode and into exploration mode is upon us. This is my favourite time of the year to check out new restaurants I’ve never been to or go back to some old favourites, because lets face it, navigating through the cold and snow while wearing the heaviest of winter jackets when you’re hungry is not fun.

There’s just something about those sunny rays that reenergizes you to get out of the house and do something, and personally as a big foodie that something for me of course is to find the best restaurants and dishes that will excite my taste buds.

It can be overwhelming at first because York Region has such a large array of restaurants that you just don’t know where to start. Its diversity is evident through all the different type of cuisines you can find here, with restaurants ranging from low-key casual bars and pubs, family operated and owned, and fine dining if you choose to splurge a little bit more.

If you need a good place to start this season here are three of my favourite and highly-recommended restaurants in York Region you should definitely check out this summer. And yes all three of these restaurants have their own outdoor patio if you prefer to dine outside with Mother Nature. My personal preference!

Hungry Brew Hops

In the heart of downtown Newmarket on its revitalized Main Street, Hungry Brew Hops is York Region’s first gastropub with a mantra of “serving really good, honest food with some really good, craft beer.” Opened in 2014 this is a great place to hang out with friends and grab a beer with some of the best tasting pub food I’ve ever had. They have a draught selection of 37 taps featuring only the finest microbrews and wines (yes, even wines on tap!) from both local and abroad. Their food menu rotates seasonally offering a wide-range of items prepared in-house. This is the perfect place to cheer on your favourite sports team while downing some beers and chowing down on some great food at reasonable prices.

Top food recommendation here: Cauliflower Fritters!

  Cauliflower Fritters  – beer battered cauliflower, green onions, sweet chili, house dill sauce

Cauliflower Fritters – beer battered cauliflower, green onions, sweet chili, house dill sauce

  Signature HBH Burger  – beef patty, philly meat, beer-braised onions, sweet chili aioli, American white cheese, brioche bun

Signature HBH Burger – beef patty, philly meat, beer-braised onions, sweet chili aioli, American white cheese, brioche bun

  Skor Square  – Skor, milk, chocolate, buttered crackers

Skor Square – Skor, milk, chocolate, buttered crackers

Smash Kitchen & Bar

A staple in the Unionville community, Smash Kitchen & Bar provides an upscale casual restaurant atmosphere with southern-inspired comfort cuisine. There is something for everyone here as their menu offers a large variety of dishes from tacos, salads, ribs, pastas, pizzas, and steak. On most days of the week here they also have different dine-in promotions going on such as $28 AYCE ribs on Tuesdays, so you might want to check ahead of time before coming here to see if there is dine-in special fit for you. Weekend brunch is also most certainly a thing here! Think Chicken & Waffles, Crab Cakes Benedict, and Fully Loaded Omelets.

Top Food Recommendation: Lobster Mac & Cheese

  Baja Fish Tacos  – beer battered white fish, 2 homemade flour tortillas, citrus slaw, chipotle aioli, guacamole

Baja Fish Tacos – beer battered white fish, 2 homemade flour tortillas, citrus slaw, chipotle aioli, guacamole

  Seafood Cakes  – blue crab, tiger shrimp, arugula salad, caviar, tartar sauce

Seafood Cakes – blue crab, tiger shrimp, arugula salad, caviar, tartar sauce

  Smash Burger  – two beef patties, cheddar cheese, smash sauce, lettuce, pickles, onion chips, brioche bun with added caramelized onion, bacon, mac & cheese cake

Smash Burger – two beef patties, cheddar cheese, smash sauce, lettuce, pickles, onion chips, brioche bun with added caramelized onion, bacon, mac & cheese cake

  Lobster Mac & Cheese  – tomato cheese sauce, Atlantic lobster, pico de gallo, herb crusted

Lobster Mac & Cheese – tomato cheese sauce, Atlantic lobster, pico de gallo, herb crusted

  Chef’s Seasonal Cheesecake  – Pandan Cheesecake

Chef’s Seasonal Cheesecake – Pandan Cheesecake

Next Door Restaurant

Sister restaurant to Smash Kitchen & Bar, Next Door Restaurant is just a few minutes’ drive away nestled in the prime location of historic Main Street Unionville. Inside you’ll find a spacious dining area encased by natural light seeping through the large windows that surround it. This is a restaurant where the presentation of the dishes will blow you away as their precision and creativity in plating is what keeps me and other guests coming back for more. They also boast one of the largest outdoor patios for a restaurant in York Region, and personally one of my favourites as it sits right beside a small body of water that adds just that extra charm and elegance to the experience. Much like their sister restaurant, NextDoor also offers a killer brunch service where each dish is just as Instagrammable as the next.

Top Food Recommendation: Suckling Pig

  Street Corn  – crispy polenta, corn salad, goat cheese, chipotle aioli

Street Corn – crispy polenta, corn salad, goat cheese, chipotle aioli

  Duck Wings  – Korean ketchup, green onions, sesame seeds

Duck Wings – Korean ketchup, green onions, sesame seeds

  Suckling Pig  – braised lentils, sauerkraut puree, chicharron pickled mustard seeds

Suckling Pig – braised lentils, sauerkraut puree, chicharron pickled mustard seeds

  Torched Salmon  – roasted sun chokes, charred leeks, leek puree, puffed wild rice, roasted carrots, ikura

Torched Salmon – roasted sun chokes, charred leeks, leek puree, puffed wild rice, roasted carrots, ikura

  Berries & Cream  – pavlova, vanilla custard, lavender blueberry granite, strawberry mousse, seasonal berries

Berries & Cream – pavlova, vanilla custard, lavender blueberry granite, strawberry mousse, seasonal berries

BONUS - To have a chance to try some of these dishes featured here, visit my guest blog post directly on the Experience York Region website HERE to enter in their giveaway!

Chefs for Change Dinner with Aeroplan

Many of us may only associate Aeroplan with the reward miles we save up to redeem for travel, but as they grow in terms of their food and beverage sponsorships we will begin to see them as synonymous to some of the largest food festivals across this city and country. Aeroplan is already the Official Premier Sponsor of Toronto's Winterlicious and Summerlicious this year, which is one of the most prestigious and popular culinary events in the city with similar culinary sponsorships in Montreal and Vancouver.

Last week I was fortunate enough to be part of the Aeroplan team as we embarked on a night full of delicious food that was all for a worthy cause at the Chefs for Change dinner. For the first three months of the year, Chefs for Change is an event that hosts some of Canada's best chefs during five nights of food. Each night features a special culinary collaboration from the top chefs in Toronto and across Canada. These dinners also bring profound meaning, substance, and community involvement as the net profits from the ticket sales will go help Community Food Centres Canada, an organization that builds health, belonging, and social justice in low-income communities across Canada through the power of food. This has been an organization and cause that Aeroplan has been supporting for a number of years.

Each of the five nights will incorporate a theme into the dinner that will all take place at Propeller Coffee Roastery, which gets transformed from the neighbourhood coffee shop in the day into a stunning culinary venue at night. I was fortunate enough to be part of the CONNECTION dinner that featured top chefs from the city's top restaurants like Richmond Station, Bar Isabel, Momofuku, Beast, Drake Hotel, and The Tempered Room.

DSC06753.jpg

Before the four-course seated dinner began, reception started off the night with wine, cocktails, and canapes as guests mingled with each other. Of course as one foodie does, my guest and I headed over to the bar to grab some drinks as we walked inside the venue. To say we were spoiled is an understatement. By the time we left the bar we had a refreshing gin cocktail from Top Shelf Craft Distillers on one hand, and a bottle of wine in the other. In all my past events when you ask for some wine you get a glass, but not here! You get to walk away with an entire bottle! Shout-out to Flat Rock Cellars and Cave Spring Niagara Peninsula for the Pinot Noir and Riesling to keep us hydrated throughout the night!

DSC06770.jpg
DSC06881.jpg
DSC06757.jpg

As 7:15PM approached the main event was about to start and we gathered to our assigned seats at our communal tables (table 3 represent!). Host Michelle Jobin guided us along throughout the entire evening introducing to us each chef as they came out to talk about their dishes they created for the night. With introductions complete the plates were ready to be rolled out to each of our hungry bellies and the exciting four-course dinner was to begin.

DSC06829.jpg

Here's a breakdown of what we ate!

First Course

  Pork Jowls & Fluke   - carrot, chickpea gochujang, white soy by Paula Navarrato of Momofuku and Ted Corrado of The Drake Hotel

Pork Jowls & Fluke - carrot, chickpea gochujang, white soy by Paula Navarrato of Momofuku and Ted Corrado of The Drake Hotel

Second Course

  Empanadas   - short rib and bone marrow with achiote aioli and braised chicken with oji costeno by Connie DeSousa & John Jackson of CHARCUT Roast House and Scott Vivian of Beast

Empanadas - short rib and bone marrow with achiote aioli and braised chicken with oji costeno by Connie DeSousa & John Jackson of CHARCUT Roast House and Scott Vivian of Beast

Third Course

  Pacific Cod and Chorizo Verde   - confit potatoes, broccolini, cod sauce by Chris Brown of Victor Dries Events and Grant van Gameren of Bar Isabel

Pacific Cod and Chorizo Verde - confit potatoes, broccolini, cod sauce by Chris Brown of Victor Dries Events and Grant van Gameren of Bar Isabel

Fourth Course

  Birch Nest    - maple, black rice wine vinegar, lapsang, rosemary and mignardise by Bertrand Alepee of The Tempered Room, Carl Heinrich & Louis Lim of Richmond Station

Birch Nest - maple, black rice wine vinegar, lapsang, rosemary and mignardise by Bertrand Alepee of The Tempered Room, Carl Heinrich & Louis Lim of Richmond Station

Surprise Dessert!

  Various Mignardises   by Bertrand Alepee of The Tempered Room

Various Mignardises by Bertrand Alepee of The Tempered Room

DSC06798.jpg
DSC06872.jpg

To end the night off after such a fulfilling and exquisite dinner we all just had, Nick Saul (President & CEO of Community Food Centres Canada) gave us all an inspiring speech and reminded us all of why we were all there. There are many people out there who just don't have the means to eat lavish meals everyday, who fight every night to put a simple meal on the table for their family, yet it is food that is often the catalyst that brings people of all different ethnicities, ages, professions, political views, rich and poor to that same dinner table where friendships and community can be formed. Food can be used as a powerful tool for greater health, equity, and social change, treated as a basic right where everyone has the means, knowledge, and voice necessary to access good food with dignity.

Through some of these sponsorships and other food and drink initiatives, Aeroplan members will have exclusive dining opportunities including:

  • extraordinary experiences such as chef collaborations from around the world and unique dining experiences
  • priority access to culinary events and reservations

There will be even more opportunities coming up for members to earn and redeem miles for travel just by tasting the world right here at home with friends and family. If you are already an Aeroplan member and would also like to donate your miles to Community Food Centres Canada, please visit this link here.

I would like to thank Aeroplan on bringing me along to such an inspiring, uplifting, and delicious night. Great food is an integral part of the travel experience and Aeroplan is on the forefront of helping people share in meaningful moments by bringing everyone together through food and drink, a journey taken not in the sky but through our taste buds.

Intercontinental Toronto Centre - Luxury Hotel In The Heart of Downtown

Whether you live in Toronto already or plan to visit the city on your next vacation, the 4-diamond Intercontinental Toronto Centre Hotel offer guests the perfect combination of upscale elegance, luxurious comfort, and complete convenience situated in the heart of downtown Toronto. Just a 5 minute walk away from Toronto's largest transportation hub, Union Station, you are only a short distance away from the city's most popular attractions such as the CN Tower, Air Canada Centre, Hockey Hall of Fame, Ripley's Aquarium, Roy Thompson Hall, and the Roger's Centre.

InterContinental Toronto Centre Hotel.jpg

Being in the heart of downtown Toronto you undoubtedly will have access to stunning city views in their luxurious and modern guest rooms and suites. Furnished inside with contemporary decor, plush beds with luxury duvet and crisp linens, Keurig coffee makers, big screen TVs, mini bars, and ergonomic work desks, you'll be surrounded by natural day light with large windows overlooking Lake Ontario and the CN Tower. If you're looking to have some TLC or to simply recharge your body in this urban hideaway, guests can escape the outside world and seek some serenity at Spa Intercontinental from deep-tissue massages to body wraps and cleansing facials. If staying healthy and active is what you crave, go for a swim in the hotel's indoor saltwater pool or lift some weights in their state of the art fitness centre.

IMG_8362-01.jpeg
IMG_8365-01.jpeg
IMG_8520-01.jpeg

Toronto is also home to one of the best foodie cities in the world. Trendy restaurants are on every corner and in every direction of the Intercontinental Toronto Centre Hotel, yet guests won't have to look very far at all if they are looking to find some scrumptious and satisfying eats for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Tucked away inside the hotel is Azure Restaurant and Bar, an upscale fine-dining restaurant offering guests of the hotel and anyone else in the city a seat to their premium dining menu and wine list. With a 4-diamond dining experience, you'll be wining and dining within floor-to-ceiling glass windows creating a serene canopy of stars and city lights inside.

Azure Restaurant & Bar.jpg

Below you will find just a sampling of the dishes you can come to expect at Azure Restaurant & Bar. These dishes were part of a dinner menu for Winterlicious 2018, a sophisticated curated 3-course menu between January 26th and February 8th, 2018.

   Crab & Avocado Parfait  - frisee, celery root, pickled ginger remoulade, lime, salsify crisps

Crab & Avocado Parfait - frisee, celery root, pickled ginger remoulade, lime, salsify crisps

   Maple Roasted Parsnip & Cauliflower Soup  - horseradish cheddar, double smoked bacon

Maple Roasted Parsnip & Cauliflower Soup - horseradish cheddar, double smoked bacon

   Cocoa Nib Braised Beef Short Rib  - rutabaga mash, king oyster mushrooms, pickled shallots, devil's rock blue cheese

Cocoa Nib Braised Beef Short Rib - rutabaga mash, king oyster mushrooms, pickled shallots, devil's rock blue cheese

   Garganelli Con Funghi  - porcini sauce, cremini mushrooms, fried sage, medjool date ricotta

Garganelli Con Funghi - porcini sauce, cremini mushrooms, fried sage, medjool date ricotta

   Chestnut & Hazelnut Tart  - milk chocolate praline, concord grape sorbet, goat cheese foam

Chestnut & Hazelnut Tart - milk chocolate praline, concord grape sorbet, goat cheese foam

   Apple Pie Cheesecake  - salted caramel apples, bourbon caramel sauce, honeycomb, pie crumb

Apple Pie Cheesecake - salted caramel apples, bourbon caramel sauce, honeycomb, pie crumb

If you're anything like me when I'm staying at a hotel, what I very much look forward to every morning is their hotel breakfast. Whether it may be a breakfast buffet, room service, or a la carte, I actually make an effort to wake up early in the morning to make it out for breakfast, which is completely abnormal for me normally as I usually skip breakfast in the mornings so I can afford those extra minutes sleeping in. Let me just tell you that waking up for breakfast at Azure is completely worth it! The hotel breakfast here is phenomenal which ends at 10:30AM and you have a choice of a $29 breakfast buffet or order from their a-la-carte breakfast menu. Checkout here is at 12PM so you won't feel rushed at all to leave and you'll still have a good amount of time to digest your breakfast in your hotel room after you're done.

Check out what a typical hotel breakfast is like here!

   Oat & Blueberry Pancakes  - blueberries, berry compote, maple yogurt

Oat & Blueberry Pancakes - blueberries, berry compote, maple yogurt

   Eggs Benedict  - english muffin, peameal bacon, breakfast potatoes

Eggs Benedict - english muffin, peameal bacon, breakfast potatoes

   Smoked Salmon & Avocado Toast  - dark rye, lemon ricotta, arugula, cucumber, tomato, red onions

Smoked Salmon & Avocado Toast - dark rye, lemon ricotta, arugula, cucumber, tomato, red onions

If modern luxury, convenience, state of the art amenities, and quick access to incredible food is what you're looking for in a hotel, make sure you book a room at Intercontinental Toronto Centre Hotel the next time you visit this world-class city. Just for the food alone staying here is worth it!

How To Plan Your Perfect Day at Niagara Falls - The Non-Traditional Way at Wayne Gretzky Estates & Trius Winery

If you're trying to find ideas and inspiration for a quick getaway to escape the city life just for a little bit at least, this is one article you are going to want to read! Now bare with me here as you are all probably rolling your eyes at the title of Niagara Falls, because quite frankly even I can admit that Niagara Falls as a getaway destination can feel unoriginal and overused. Everyone and their mother has probably gone to Niagara Falls at least once in the past few years, and when you have a distant friend or relative visiting the city the first place you think of taking them is to visit the Falls. Don't get me wrong, if you have never been to Niagara Falls going here is a must as it is most definitely one of Canada's biggest tourist destinations. However if you want to experience Niagara Falls in a non-traditional way for those of you who have been here many times already, this is one travel itinerary that is going to be perfect especially if you appreciate good food and wine.

Accommodations at White Oaks Resort & Spa

Now where to stay? Researching hotels, motels, AirBnBs, hostels can be a time-consuming and stressful experience in finding your nightly accommodations. I'm going to keep it simple for you here and just tell you straight up to stay at the White Oaks Resort & Spa. Nestled on 13 acres in the heart of Niagara area attractions, this modern and stylish facility delivers luxury hotel services and offers a host of outstanding amenities. This Four Diamond accommodation has award winning dining options, amazing fitness facilities, and is literally just a few minutes walking distance from the Niagara Outlet Mall. Yes, walking distance. It's literally across the street! The hotel is sitting in prime real estate close to all the Niagara attractions.

Breakfast at LIV Restaurant

So how does one experience the award winning dining options here? You most definitely need to check out LIV Restaurant inside, and personally having a good breakfast to start the day is a must! My recommendation on what to get here are their Avocado Eggs Benedict and the Maple Walnut Cappuccino Pancakes. They were both phenomenal and easily one of the best breakfasts I've had all year. The Avocado Eggs Benedict comes with two poached eggs, smoked virginia ham with hollandaise sauce, on a toasted english muffin with a breakfast potato. Probably my favourite of the two though was the Maple Walnut Cappuccino Pancakes swirled with espresso, maple, and crushed candied walnuts. The ambiance is also incredible surrounded by big windows that lets in tons of natural light, clean white linen table cloths, comfy chairs, and real flowers at every table to brigten your mood.

The Great Winery Tour at Wayne Gretzky Estates 

After a delicious breakfast to start the day, drive ten minutes away to the newly opened Wayne Gretzky Estates Winery. It is indeed THE Wayne Gretzky, the greatest hockey player of all time and what many may not know is his grandfather used to run a wine-making operation when he was a child. Now open in Niagara On The Lake, explore the estate by booking The Great Canadian Winery Tour which is a 45 minute guided tour of wine Wayne's way! Learn how Wayne Gretzky's dream of opening a world-class winery was realized and discover the process behind crafting his favourite wines. You will visit the vineyard and barrel cellar while of course enjoying his many wines throughout the tour. The tour is offered daily starting at 11AM for $25 per person.

Whisky Bartender Experience at Wayne Gretzky Estates

Once you have your fill of wine (for the time-being), register for their Whisky Bartender Experience with a 45-minute interactive cocktail lesson hosted by their best bartenders. You'll get insider tips on how to create the ultimate whisky cocktail, while sharpening your own bartender skills when learning the basics of preparing garnishes, simple syrups, shaking, and muddling. Best of all? You get to drink your very own Whisky cocktail creations right after! This work shop is offered daily at 1PM and 3PM for $35 per person. They are also known here for their Whisky Cream and I ended up buying a bottle to bring back home after tasting it during this experience. It's life changing and will spike your coffees and teas to new heights. A must buy in the gift shop after for a nice souvenir to bring home!

Lunch at Whisky Patio Bar

It's midday by now after an afternoon filled with food, wine, and cocktails, so I think it's time for... you guessed it, more food! While you are still at the Wayne Gretzky Estates, hop on over to their outdoor Whisky Patio Bar to enjoy some of their signature pub style dishes and drinks for lunch. As their menu for food is relatively small you easily can order everything off of it which includes the "Gretzky Beef Ribeye Burger," "White Bean, Smoked Bacon, Root Vegetable Cassoulet," "Butternut Squash Soup," and for dessert the "Gretzky Beaver Tail." One massive recommendation from me here is to order their "Farmer's Tea." The flavours may change depending on the season but ask them here to infuse the tea with their signature Cream Liqueur (the bottle where I mentioned earlier to buy for yourself at the gift shop). The fruity flavours of the tea, mixed in with the cream liqueur is unlike anything you'll ever have and on a cold Winter's day it warms your body from the inside out. It's perfect. The Whisky Patio Bar is also right beside a private skating rink. When the weather is right you will be able to bring your own skates or rent them to have a fun-filled day skating on the rink!

Tasting Stars - Sparkling Experience at Trius Winery

The great thing about spending the day at Wayne Gretzky Estates is it neighbours another winery right beside it. Literally a few minutes walk away is Trius Winery, a winery that has mingled with the A-list celebrities in 2016 as it was invited to be part of the 2016 Oscar festivities. When you arrive make sure you sign up for their new "Tasting Stars - Sparking Experience." It's an interactive tour where their wine experts will guide you from vine to cellar to explore everything sparkling, which is exactly what Trius Wines are known for. You'll begin the tour at Ontario's 2015 Winery of the Year with a stroll through the vineyard before descending into Canada's largest underground sparkling cellar surrounded by 350,000 bottles! This tour is offered at various times everyday for $25 per person.

Dinner at Trius Winery Restaurant 

You can't end a day of adventure without satisfying your stomach with a good meal. For dinner head on over to the Trius Winery Restaurant where they will provide you with all the luxuries associated with fine dining in an approachable and joyful way. Wine pairings are also a must when dining here and I think the reason why is quite self-explanatory. To really get the full experience of tasting the food here from Chef Frank Dodd who uses local ingredients from neighbouring farmers, growers, and producers, I highly recommend getting the 5 course Trius Tasting Menu for $89. This dining experience will give you a complete picture of the landscape of the Niagara food scene from start to finish which will include an Amuse Bouche, Mushroom Truffle Broth, Duk Egg, Atlantic Scallop, Wine and Fruit Inspired Popsicles, Birch Syrup Basted Beef Cap Steak, Apple Pie and Petit Fours for dessert. 

Weekend Getaway in Grey County: Saints & Sinners Trail

If there's one thing besides eating I love to do it's travelling, and when an opportunity comes to take on a project that combines both of these loves, you say YES! Because who doesn't like to explore distant places, taking in its culture and scenic beauty, all the while indulging in the culinary delights and gems the place has to offer? Well that's exactly what I had a chance to do last weekend with my friend exploring one of the Feast On - Brewery Discovery Routes: Saints & Sinners Trail in Grey County. This is how it all went down.

When I was planning my trip to Grey County weeks prior, I hadn't realized that I've actually been there before. It's just we tend to all call this place "Blue Mountain." The place where many of us go every winter for a weekend adventure of skiing or snowboarding down those slippery slopes. Blue Mountain is in fact part of Grey County, the Northern region which includes Collingwood, Thornbury, Meaford, Owen Sound, and Wiarton. The Southern parts cover Beaver Valley, Flesherton, Durham, Hanover, and Ripley. While Grey County has always been known for its great outdoor activities, it's also emerging as a food and drink destination where restaurants across this region are embracing the farm-to-table mentality, many of which have been FeastON certified.

As with any trip of mine, it often starts with an early morning wake up call around 7AM to squeeze out as much daylight as possible. My first stop on this journey would be roughly a 2-hour drive from Toronto to the Northern part of Grey County around Owen Sound where a cider and wine tasting would be on the horizon. I am completely not a morning person at all, but when I do have to wake up early I often reward myself with a McDonald's breakfast. Yes, I say reward myself even though it probably slowly kills me on the inside, but it's oh so damn good! After stuffing my face with a Sausage and Egg McMuffin, it was time to hit the road with a coffee in hand and a prayer to Mother Nature that it be kind to us and hold off her rain until the weekend was over. Unfortunately, the entire weekend was cloudy and gloomy, but when it did rain it was mostly when we were driving or indoors. I'll take it.

Coffin Ridge Boutique Winery

By now it's 11:15AM and after driving up and down through unpaved and rocky roads, our first stop on this weekend getaway was before us. Arriving at a place with a name like this, on a cloudy, rainy, gloomy day was a little too fitting if you know what I'm saying, but once we stepped inside and started our wine and cider tasting it was like the sun came up and greeted us with fragrant aromas of apples, pears, and sweet strawberry notes. Coffin Ridge Boutique Winery produce high quality, small batch wine made primarily from hand-planted, hand-picked Grey County grapes. The two wines we tasted were two of their signature wines, 2015 Into The Light Wine and the 2015 Resurrection Rose. However, the real winner for us was their Forbidden Dry Cider and Strawberry Basil Cider. They were both so good we just had to buy two jugs of it and bring it home!

Casero Kitchen Table

It wasn't a Tuesday, but Taco Saturday was in full effect! With hungry bellies after a long commute, lunch time was in Owen Sound at a small Mexican restaurant called Casero Kitchen Table from the folks behind Casero Taco Bus, a wildly popular food truck in Sauble Beach. Situated in what seems to be a renovated car garage, inside the restaurant was a small bar serving various Mexican beverages, a healthy selection of hot sauces, and customer tables filled with orders of tacos of all kinds (obviously). Of course my friend and I had to order their Three Taco Platter for $15. The great thing when eating with a friend is you get to split the food with one another so the Three Taco Platter turned into a tasting of six! The ones we ordered were the Georgian Bay Whitefish, Roasted Sweet Potato, Grilled Steak, Crispy Cauliflower, Smoked Beet, and Char-Grilled Chicken. The tacos were AMAZING! All the ingredients are incredibly fresh and sourced locally. The vegetarian options such as the Roasted Sweet Potato and Crispy Cauliflower were my favourites. Ended the meal off with some handmade churros for dessert. No brainer there right?

Inglis Falls

Who knew Grey County were home to so many beautiful waterfalls! Four of them are situated in Owen Sound, and Inglis Falls is the best known and most visited one of the bunch. With good reason of course as it is just absolutely breathtaking to look at. Inglis Falls is an 18-metre high spectacle created by the Sydenham River that touches the edge of the Niagara Escarpment. If you're in a hiking mood, you will also find 7.42km of hiking trails of various difficulty surrounding Inglis Falls that will lead you through the Bruce Trail. There are various lookout points through the trail that will give you a beautiful snapshot of the entire waterfall. If we went a few weeks later we probably would have seen another aspect of Inglis Falls with the fall leaves changing colour. What sight that would have been.

Sisi Thornbury

A highlight of the trip was travelling to Thornbury for dinner at Sisi, a fine dining restaurant around a 10-minute drive away from Blue Mountain. Executive Chef Jeremy Austin prepared an eight-course tasting menu that made my friend and I look at each other with astonishment every time a picture perfect dish was presented before us. Chef Jeremy has worked alongside Michelin Stared chefs all around the world taking him to places like Italy, China, Hong Kong, Montreal, and Toronto, and has even cooked for the likes of Celine Dion, Vin Diesel, Will Smith, and the Foo Fighters. He's certainly not a one trick pony either. His global repertoire really shines through creating a menu that touches upon his past experiences cooking various cuisines in each country and city he's been a part of. Most predominately is his fusion of Asian and Italian elements. Our eight-course tasting menu consisted of four dishes that is currently on the menu, and the other four dishes were specially created for us that night. Some of my favourites that evening were the Broccoli Floret Salad, Crispy General Tso Cauliflower, Ricotta Gnocchi, and Black Cod. A must visit restaurant hands down if you're ever in the area. Trust me on this. 

21 North B&B

From my experience planning this trip, hotels were a little hard to come by in Grey County if you're not planning to stay at the lodges in the Blue Mountain village. For accommodations, staying at the 21 North Bed & Breakfast was a perfect way to end Day 1 of our trip and to recharge for the day ahead. Located along a peaceful country road just a few minutes drive from the downtown core of Collingwood, the host Jean-Claude and breakfast cook extraordinaire will warmly greet you into his home upon arrival and lead you into one of the three themed room options you would have chosen (Master Bedroom, Retro Bedroom, Bamboo Bedroom). The room we selected was the Retro Bedroom fitted with a private floor to ceiling glass shower, fridge, and a private balcony overlooking the Beaver Valley. The entire house is stunningly decorated using Jean-Claude's previous career experience as an architect. Be prepared to also be treated to a homemade breakfast the next morning with freshly squeezed orange juice, eggs and bacon, homemade jams, and even his award-winning apple pie! We even ended our stay there by going to his apple orchard in the backyard garden to hand pick some apples to take home with us! Pssst....I'm planning to use them this weekend to make some apple pie!

Side Launch Brewing Company

Day 2 is now upon us and our first stop is doing a beer tasting at Side Launch Brewing Company in Collingwood that has been named Canadian Brewery of the Year 2016. The "Ontario Craft Beer Guide" this past May has also named them "Top Brewery in Ontario." It was time to find out what all the accolades were about, so right when the doors opened we walked into their massive warehouse where they brew three different types of beer year round that include a traditional Bavarian Wheat Beer, a Dark Lager, and a Pale Ale. The bar in the tasting room is surrounded by giant stainless steel beer tanks where guests can pull up a stool to sample their various award winning beers. After tasting their Dark Lager, Pale Ale, and Mountain Lager, the latter was my favourite and the one that I brought back home with me. It has a very smooth and silky texture, delicate with a soft European Malt character that finishes with a lingering but pleasant aftertaste.

Ravenna Country Market

A total local gem, Ravenna Country Market was a quick pit stop in the small town of Ravenna for us to pick up some of their famous baked goods and ginger slush. Locals actually come here as an alternative to the mainstream grocery stores as they are also famous here for their homemade frozen Entrees to Go such as their Chicken Pot Pie, Sheperd's Pie, Lasagne, Soups, Pizzas, Cannelloni, and so much more! Unfortunately we realized that we didn't have a cooler in the trunk so the thought of purchasing one of those Entrees to Go quickly faded. Stepping inside you realize that in the middle of this small, cozy store are tables and chairs for customers to also have a sit down meal to eat freshly made sandwiches made to order. I can see why this place is such a local favourite. They literally do a little bit of everything.

Northwinds Brewhouse & Kitchen

A brewery and a restaurant mixed into one. That is exactly what Northwinds Brewhouse & Kitchen is in Collingwood. They create globally inspired hand crafted beers paired with innovative, locally sourced, and seasonally focused food, and was the perfect stop for lunch on day 2 of our trip. The perfect fusion of beer and food came in the form of Beer Pretzels, hand rolled, baked and dipped into this gooey cheesy sauce goodness. We also ordered one of their seasonal Sweet Potato Soup, a Brick Pressed Veggie Sandwich, and a Mexican Chicken Burger. Just like Casero Kitchen Table, Northwinds Brewhouse & Kitchen is one of the FeastON restaurants that are part of the Ontario Foodservice Desgination program, where they select a handful of Ontario's best restaurants to create and support Ontario's culinary identity. Yum!

Beaver Valley Orchard & Cidery

By the time we arrived at our next cider tasting at Beaver Valley Orchard & Cidery, it was absolutely pouring rain with a tornado watch already in effect. Running inside the historic post and beam century barn to avoid the rain, we were greeted at the door to advise us that we were just in time to join a cider tasting that was about to begin. Located on the Niagara Escarpment in the heart of Beaver Valley, their cider is fermented in small batches from select varieties of heritage apples grown in their very own orchard. The tasting consisted sampling five of their ciders including some of my favourites like Organic Ginger, Bumbleberry, and Dry Pear. Ironically enough the cider that I bought to take home was their sixth cider that was not up for sampling due to the fact of the very small quantities they can make which is their Ice Cider. How they convinced me of buying it without even tasting it? "If you ever had Ice Wine, it's just like that but a million times better." SOLD.

Eugenia Falls

One of my favourite aspects of this trip was the fact that I had a chance to not only eat and drink to my heart's content, but to also explore and marvel at nature's beauty of what the Saints and Sinner's Trail has to offer in Grey County. A big facet of the scenic part of this trip was going on hikes along the waterfalls that call Grey County home, so to end this trip off we went to Eugenia Falls situated in a very tiny village of Eugenia. Eugenia Falls is the tallest waterfall in the region at 30-metres high from the edge of the Niagara Escarpment all the way down to Coo-Coo Valley. By the summer time this waterfall thins out as it starts to lose a lot of its power starting in May, so if you're feeling brave enough you can even step close to the edge of the cliff to take in a spectacular view. I may or may not have done that myself.

Swiss Meadows

This was a bonus stop on the trip and was not part of the original itinerary. The great thing about road trips is the fact that when you are en-route to your next destination, drive up to the peak of a mountain, and see a beautiful lookout point, you can pull over and stop. That's exactly what happened here when we randomly came across Swiss Meadows at the very peak of this mountain overlooking the Blue Mountain Village below. We just had to stop our car to take in the view as the leaves had already started to turn colour up here which only added to the overall beauty.

It was a complete pleasure working with the Ontario Culinary Alliance and Grey County Tourism to work out my self-guided tour on one of the five Brewery Discovery Routes. This very route is number two on its list - the Saints & Sinner's Trail and highly recommended. It was an incredible weekend full of craft beers, ciders, delicious food, company, and scenic adventures. I urge anyone who is reading this to take an opportunity to visit one of these five amazing routes and explore what our beautiful province has to offer. You can visit HERE to get started on planning one of these weekend getaways just like this! I will now see "Blue Mountain" in a whole new way. What revelations will your next adventure lead you to? 

Zurich, Switzerland

When you tell your friends and family that you will be embarking on an European adventure in these three countries, France, Switzerland, and Italy, you can probably guess which one of those will get over looked. Frankly, France has probably one of the most famous and visited cities in the world, Paris. On the other hand, Italy has cities like Milan, Florence, Rome, and Venice just to name a few that will excite any worldly traveler upon just the mere mention of the name. For foodies like myself, if you ask them to name any country to visit based off of their cuisine alone, France and Italy will top the list no doubt. However, if you ask someone to even name one single city within Switzerland, Zurich may not even come up. Zurich? Where’s Zurich?

I admit, I was one of those people who only knew Switzerland to be a great skiing/snowboarding country in the winter time up on the Alps. Besides that though, I really knew nothing else about it and even less about Zurich itself. As I didn’t go to Switzerland in the winter months, I had no idea what to expect of it in the middle of summer so I was very skeptical to say the least. Even researching online did not get my hopes up as the main consensus I got was that the city is super expensive and that the food is average at best. With that being said, only one of those statements have proven true.

Let me just get straight to the point. The food in Zurich was nothing short of amazing! I only stayed for a short 2 nights here, but during my time I was fortunate enough to taste some exquisite food with a great bonus of having great plating on all the dishes me and my friend ordered. The restaurants were by no means fine dining albeit the cost of the food may say otherwise, so it is very possible to just randomly pick a restaurant on the streets of Zurich and have a very pleasant meal because that is exactly what we did.

Deep Fried Filets of Perch with Salad and Tartar Sauce. Cost - 21.50CHF (Approx CAD$25.95)

Carrot and Orange Risotto with Rocket and Parmesan Shavings - Cost 19CHF (Approx CAD$22.95)

Raspberry Tart with Vanilla Ice Cream. Cost - 9.00CHF (Approx CAD$10.85)

Caramel Custard - Cost 8.50CHF (Approx CAD$10.25)

Spinach Quiche with Cottage Cheese and Leaf Salad. Cost - $22.50CHF (Approx CAD$27.50)

Sliced Veal “Zurich Style” with Crispy Rosti. Cost - $38.50CHF (Approx CAD$46.45)

Movenpick’s Pistachio Ice Cream. Cost - 5.00CHF (Approx CAD$6.05)

I found that the desserts in Zurich were not priced outrageously and very close to what we would find here in Toronto. Actually, for the taste and presentation of the desserts I was surprised they didn’t charge more. The main courses were a different story though and the prices were jacked up higher than what we would normally expect here.

The sliced veal “Zurich Style” with Crispy Rosti was probably one of the most expensive dishes I ever had especially since it wasn’t lobster, steak or a filet mignon. I couldn’t help but try it though because it had the name “Zurich Style” and my curiosity as a tourist got the best of me to see what zurich style even meant. Essentially it means that the strips of veal are browned and then tossed in a creamy mushroom sauce where the dish is almost always paired off with a bed of golden and crispy rosti (potato pancake). Having the description “Zurich Style” allowed them to charge a premium on it, but it’s not to say that I regret getting it because it was in fact very delicious, it’s just one thing I don’t need to try again for my wallet’s sake. However, I can now say that I can cross that off of my foodie bucket list!

Although I thoroughly enjoyed every single dish I had here, my top two favourites would have to be the Deep Fried Filets of Perch with Salad and Tartar Sauce and Carrot and Orange Risotto with Rocket and Parmesan Shavings. That risotto was the best risotto I ever had in my life! Period. Both dishes also easily make it into my top 5 overall dishes I tasted throughout my two week adventure abroad.

I had a fantastic time in Zurich and have nothing but good things to say about this world class city. The scenery, the weather, the people, the transportation system, and of course the food were all incredible. I can’t wait to come back Zurich. Let no one doubt you ever again!

tumblr_inline_naf4v4wART1swh7ql.jpg

Paris, France

It’s been a while since I really wrote anything substantial on here, mostly due to the fact that I’ve been pretty busy since coming back from my Eurotrip a month ago so I’m glad I can find some time in the early wee hours of the morning to start writing this. A lot of exciting things are starting to happen because of this blog that I would have never expected 7 months ago, so I can’t wait to share that with you all a little bit later!

But now back to business! Going to Europe has always been a life long dream of mine and it finally happened a month ago when I went backpacking across six cities and 3 countries in Europe for a span of two weeks. My first stop was Paris, France and as you could imagine I could not wait to experience the Parisian lifestyle that was waiting for me in terms of their food.

As I only had 2 weeks to cover 6 different cities, time was not on my side and unfortunately I was only able to fit 3 days in Paris. Everyday was extremely exhausting from all the walking and sight seeing so whenever me and my friend had a chance to sit down and eat some food it was always received with a hungry stomach.

I lived in an apartment that I rented out on airbnb (best decision ever!) that was about 25 minutes away from the city centre and right below my apartment was a small bakery that I would visit every morning to buy some fresh pastries. People always say that the Parisians do it right when it comes to their croissants, breads, and various other baked goods and I couldn’t agree more. From the crisp, flaky textures, to the fresh fruits and fillings, I did not eat one pastry I did not like. Most of the pastries cost around 1.25 to 2.00 Euros so it’s certainly one of the most affordable ways to eat in this city considering how expensive everything else is here.

I managed to also visit a few staples in Paris when it comes to patisseries (Eric Kayser) and macarons (Pierre Herme).

One thing that I was not used to when eating out in Paris (and Europe in general) is that they do not serve tap water like second nature as it is here in North America. Be prepared to spend around 2 to 3 Euros for a bottle of water to share with your table and for someone like me who can drink around 3 glasses of water alone during dinner, drinking water in Paris does not come cheap. Although in their defense most Parisians will order a glass of wine instead that costs only a little bit more.

I remember asking a waitress for water in Zurich, Switzerland and she replied with “still or natural?” I paused and replied back with “tap.” She looked shocked and almost dumbfounded when she heard that as if I said something atrocious. After that I realized that it was not the norm in Europe to order tap water and sucked it up later on and got bottled water instead. Don’t get me wrong though, if you ask for tap water you will probably still get it (for free) but you will most likely get a side of stink eye with it.

Also, from my experience in eating out in Paris (and again in Europe in general), tip is included in your bill. Unlike here in Canada where you pay around a 15% tip on top of your bill, the amount written on your receipt in Europe is the exact amount you need to shell out. Of course if you find the food or service to be exceptional you can always give an extra Euro or two. Me and my friend didn’t know this at first so we would tip like Canadians in Paris. We would always wonder why the body language of the waiter collecting the money would go from a grin to a gigantic smile, and now we know why. They are not used to getting an extra 10 to 15%! Luckily we realized this pretty early on in our trip and only tipped a couple of Euros max if we did.

The stand out dishes for me pictured above was the chicken with foie gras with mashed potatoes (pictured 2nd), savoury crepe with a sunny side up egg (pictured 4th), escargot (pictured 7th), honey & caramel glazed ribs (pictured 9th), and the duck skewer with a baked potato (pictured 10th).

The worst dish I had above was the “steak” (pictured 6th). I should have also known better as I was warned that the restaurants close to the Eiffel Tower was not the best, but because my friend and I were so exhausted that night we settled for a restaurant about 5 minutes away from it. Bad decision as it was one of the worst meals of the entire trip. The restaurant was called Le Champ de Mars. Please avoid.

I came into Paris with exceptionally high expectations and the lesson I learned is don’t. I had an idea that everything I would eat in Paris would be nothing short of amazing because no one ever says the food in Paris is bad, but realistically you will have some fantastic tasting dishes and you are also bound to have some mediocre and bad ones as well. You may even have a thought in your head thinking I’ve had better in Canada. To make the best out of your foodie experience in Paris, I would recommend to plan ahead and research the restaurants ahead of time. If you’re in a time constraint like I was, I know that is not always possible so just be realistic that no city is immune to a lackluster steak or an inedible pasta (even if it’s in the motherland of Italy which I will post about later). City of Lights - I will be back!

The Twisted Apron in Windsor, Ontario

It’s fitting to have my first travel edition restaurant review in the city of Windsor, a city I visit at least a couple of times every year. Windsor may not have a grand selection of restaurants such as here in Toronto but over the past few years I’ve certainly witnessed a fair share of new restaurant openings worthy of operating in any metropolitan city around the world. If you ever wondered where highway 401 ends, Windsor is it. It’s just under a 4 hour drive east of Toronto and is situated right across from Detroit, Michigan.

I’ve been to The Twisted Apron a few times before, but never for their dinner service. Every time I’ve been to Twisted Apron it was for breakfast and I’ve always enjoyed it very much. Located down Wyandotte Street East, this is the area in Windsor where it seems the foodie revolution is flourishing and new trendy restaurants are opening up one by one.

Twisted Apron lives by its motto “Home Cooking with a Twist.” They are your neighbourhood kitchen table inside a small quaint restaurant that serves up comfort food reminiscent of your mom’s home cooking. Often times from previous experience this restaurant can be pretty packed. They also don’t accept reservations but when we arrived at around 6:30PM we were lucky to get seated right away on a weekend.

First up were the Eggplant Sliders as our appetizer. I’m not a big eggplant fan myself but the name of the dish caught my attention as it’s not something you commonly see on a menu. Between the onion buns is fried eggplant, basil pesto, mozzarella, and tomato sauce. To be honest I could not taste the eggplant in this dish after it was fried (which could be a good or bad thing depending if you like eggplant), but even so I thought the actual “meat” of the slider tasted very good. My one gripe with this dish were the buns. Personally I prefer the buns toasted and the buns here were not (or at least not enough). The warmth of the fried eggplant combined with the cold onion buns left my taste buds confused with the sensation of a hot middle and a cold exterior. However this was just a small hiccup for me as overall the sliders were still very good.

Fried Eggplant, Basil Pesto, Mozzarella, Tomato Sauce, Onion Buns - Cost $9.00

Then comes my favourite dish of the night. The Pork Schnitzel acted as my main. A “schnitzel” refers to any boneless meat that has been thinned, coated with flour, eggs, bread crumbs, and then fried. It’s a very popular dish in Germany. Fried Ontario breaded pork was the meat part of this schnitzel and I found that the dish was constructed in a very interesting way. Smoked cheddar mashed potatoes and asparagus is layered in between the three pork schnitzels and an apple chutney tops it all off. It’s a classic spin on meat and potatoes. The pork was not dry at all even after it was fried and the mashed potatoes was creamy and delicious with a hint of a cheddar flavour infused into it. I was very pleased that they were generous enough to give three fairly large pieces of pork schnitzel for the price of this dish. I was only expecting one!

Fried Ontario Breaded Pork, Smoked Cheddar Mashed Potatoes, Asparagus, Apple Chutney - Cost $17

I was debating if I should order dessert, but the fat kid inside me always seems to win so a Rhubarb Meringue Pie was in front of my face not long after the pork schnitzel was happily consumed. This was my first time having rhubarb as well in any form so I was curious to see what it would taste like. Rhubarb is a species of plant and in the culinary world the leaf stalk of the rhubarb is what is used in many recipes as it has a tarty flavour to it. When the waitress brought out the pie, she immediately apologized for butchering it as she admitted that it was difficult cutting it. She did not lie. As you can see in the picture below the slice of pie does look rather sloppy and unappetizing. As I kept eating this rhubarb meringue pie all I could think of was that it tasted very much like an apple pie. The flavour and texture of the rhubarb had a striking resemblance to it and because of that I was yearning for a scoop of ice cream to go along with it. There was another dessert option of a Salted Caramel Pudding offered here. Next time I would probably have to go with that.

Rhubarb, Meringue - Cost $5.50

I’ve been searching for a restaurant in Toronto that is like Twisted Apron for many years now after my first experience eating here. It is not an easy task to find a place that not only serves an impeccable well thought out breakfast menu but for lunch and dinner as well. Although not everything I had for dinner was a home run, most of my grievances were very minimal and other positive factors such as the service, decor, and ambiance of the place quickly puts out the flames I may have had in regards to any dissatisfaction. This is definitely a go to place when I’m in Windsor and if you ever wind up here in the southernmost city of Canada, I would recommend you give this place a try.

The Twisted Apron

1833 Wyandotte Street East, Windsor, ON, N8Y 1E5

(519) 256 2655

Hours:

Monday to Saturday: 9am to 9pm; Sunday: 9am to 3pm

The Everyday Foodie Report Card

Atmosphere: 10/10

Service: 8.5/10

Food: 8/10

Presentation: 7/10

Value: 9/10

Overall: 85% Everyday Foodie Satisfaction