Travel

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

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

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

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

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

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

STAY

Aloft Buffalo Downtown

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

EAT & DRINK

Breadhive Bakery & Cafe

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

Charlie The Butcher

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

Watson’s Chocolates

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

Dobutsu

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

Five Points Bakery & Toast Cafe

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

Gabriel’s Gate

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

Ted’s Hot Dogs

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

Swan Street Diner

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

Lloyd Taco Factory

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

Churn Soft Serve

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

Bocce Club Pizza

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

Paula’s Donuts

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

EXPLORE

RiverWorks

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

Albert-Knox Art Gallery

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

BFLO Harbor Kayak

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

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House Complex

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

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

Endless Adventures in Daytona Beach with Sunwing Vacations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This was just a small handful of activities that Daytona Beach has to offer, and what may be the most exciting part of all of this is the PRICE. Direct flights from Toronto to Daytona Beach start at only $274 (taxes included) with Sunwing! It’s never been easier or cheaper than right now to start planning and booking your next vacation. Click HERE to start your journey to Daytona Beach or contact your local travel agent for more details.

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How to Spend a Perfect Day in Los Angeles!

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

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

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

Spend the morning in Venice Beach

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

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

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

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

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

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Grab lunch at Grand Central Market

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

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

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

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Have Korean BBQ for dinner at Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong

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

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Grab dessert at B Sweet Dessert Bar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Thanksgiving Centrepiece Workshop

  • Master The Ultimate Bakery Style Cupcake

  • Create a Swoon Worthy Charcuterie and Cheese Board

  • Pasta Making with Acclaimed Chef Michael Angeloni

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

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

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So what is Kombucha?

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

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

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

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STEP 1: The 1st Ferment

Purpose:

  • To start new batch

  • Create fermentation

  • Grow your SCOBY so you can share it with others

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 black tea bag

  • 1/4 cup of organic sugar

  • 1 SCOBY

  • 1 brewing vessel (eg. glass jar)

Directions:

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

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

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

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

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STEP 2: The 2nd Ferment

Purpose:

  • To add carbonation, C02

  • Add flavour

  • Bottle it up

What You’ll Need:

  • Glass bottles

  • Sugar and water to make simple syrup

  • Herbs of your choice

  • Strainer and funnel for bottling

Directions:

  1. Make Simple Syrup

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

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

    • Let simmer allowing sugar to melt

    • Bring heat down to low temperature & cover

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

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

  3. Strain kombucha into other vessel

  4. Bottle kombucha liquid into glass bottles

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

  6. Cap off sealed tight

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

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

  9. Enjoy!

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Tips of Kombucha:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

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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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.