Events

Plant-Based Dinner and Converstations with Aeroplan

The past few months have been a whirlwind. I’ve been traveling a lot lately and from this constant travel naturally for me comes a lot of food. I travel to eat and eat to travel. No doubt about it! Do I eat healthy when I’m traveling abroad though? Not always. When I’m on the move it’s just so easy to pick up a quick snack and go. Junk food? Admittedly so. Lately it’s also been a lot of seafood and meat in my diet, so I’ve actually been craving some hearty and healthy vegetables after coming home from my trips in Prince Edward Island, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Florida. Those cravings luckily were satisfied ten fold.

Aeroplan hosted a plant-based dinner and conversation for some of their Aeroplan Diamond members at Evergreen Brick Works with two world-renowned plant-based chefs David Lee and Chad Sarno. Chef David Lee is the Executive Chef and co-owner of Toronto’s incredibly successful vegan restaurant Planta. He also holds fine-dining experience from all around the globe with an immense respect for sourcing quality ingredients, and is seen as a leader in plant-based cuisine space. On the other hand, Chef Chad Sarno from Texas is not only a creative genius in the kitchen with plant-based cuisine, but he’s also an educator, cookbook authour, and entrepreneur as co-founder of “Good Catch Foods,” a 100% plant-based seafood line launching December 2018. You know if you had these two culinary giants at the helm of one’s dinner you were in for a real treat. You could sense both of their passions for plant-based dining every time they told their stories and described their meatless dishes.

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Aeroplan has been partnering with some of Canada’s top culinary events, and if you would like to explore some other culinary events Aeroplan has been a part of this year, make sure you check out my previous blog posts.

It was truly a magical evening where the night’s dinner explored the idea of sustainable agriculture and the hottest trend in the food world right now: plant-based dining. Aeroplan created an evening aimed to inspire a new appreciation for the importance of local agriculture, healthy eating, and an understanding of just how well anyone can eat without any meat. The night started off with an open bar and plant-based horderves being served to guests mingling outside the dining area. After everyone got their bubbly and a sampling of what was to come, the main event would begin and guests started entering the main dining hall to get settled for the four-course plant-based meal. And oh yes, there was even wine pairings with each course!

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The four dishes were split between the two chefs to prepare where Chef David Lee prepared the first and third course, and Chef Chad Sarno prepared the second and fourth course. The second course for me personally from Chef Chad Sarno was my favourite of the night. I honestly have never ever tasted a dumpling as good as the one he made. It wasn’t the filling that caught my taste buds by surprise, but the dough. When asked how me made it, he simply said it was just flour and water. The good thing is his dumpling recipe is included in his cookbook, so it’s safe to say which recipe I will be hunting down next!

Take a look below and see some of the moments we savoured from that night’s meal. A meatless dinner that for sure was inspiring as it was delicious.

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FIRST

  Cookstown Greens Hubbard Squash, White Kimchi, Pears, Pumpkin Pesto & Chicharron

Cookstown Greens Hubbard Squash, White Kimchi, Pears, Pumpkin Pesto & Chicharron

SECOND

  Corn Dumplings, Coconut Corn Broth, Chiles & Herbs

Corn Dumplings, Coconut Corn Broth, Chiles & Herbs

THIRD

  Charred Hoisin Maitake, Sesame Rice Cake, Pickled Cauliflower, Brussel Leaves & Mint

Charred Hoisin Maitake, Sesame Rice Cake, Pickled Cauliflower, Brussel Leaves & Mint

FOURTH

  Niagara Peninsula Apple Pie, Coconut Vanilla Ice Cream, Candied Corn Nuts & Quebec Maple Syrup

Niagara Peninsula Apple Pie, Coconut Vanilla Ice Cream, Candied Corn Nuts & Quebec Maple Syrup

I’m very much looking forward to the upcoming winter months in Toronto when Aeroplan becomes the premier sponsor for Winterlicious. Bring on the snow!

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.

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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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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.

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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!

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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.

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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

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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.