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Editorial EDITOR


Jon Sufrin WRITERS

Andrea Yu, Jessica Dawdy


Matthew Hasteley LEAD DESIGNER

April Tran


Ryan Faist, Kailee Mandel, Sandro Pehar CONTRIBUTORS

John Bil, Huda Idrees, Karolyne Ellacott ADVERTISING

Darren Wells, Andrew Davies MARKETING & PR

Seb Canape





Krista Faist CHAIRMAN

Tim Slee

foodism uses paper from sustainable sources



There used to be a time when the winter months meant a deep hibernation for the restaurant scene in Toronto. I remember when the beginning of the new year offered few exciting meals. Menus were often derivative, and many restaurants relied on hearty winter cooking that consisted of heavy sauces, stewed meats and a whole lotta potato. That hasn’t been the case for the last few years. With Toronto’s increasingly food-obsessed culture, the city is now alive all months of the year. These days, it’s hard to keep track of the number of openings every week, even in winter. There’s no shortage of food events, from one-off collaboration dinners to supper clubs. In this issue, we speak to one of Toronto’s longest-standing pop-up chefs, Massimo Bruno, about why canned tomatoes aren’t such a bad thing. And I head to Hamilton to speak to the ladies behind Karam Kitchen, a nomadic catering initiative. Toronto chefs once used to wait for spring and summer to introduce their new concepts. In this issue, Jon Sufrin interviews chef Nathan Isberg, who opened his new plantbased restaurant, Awai, in December. The new year is also an opportunity for new beginnings. Huda Idrees looks at the hurdles young chefs face when entering the hospitality industry. Andrea Yu, meanwhile, explores the journey of Korean restaurants in Toronto as they pass from one generation to the next. From the team behind foodism Toronto, we toast to a new year of memorable food experiences. f

FRONT COVER: Photography by Ian Dingle Art direction by Matthew Hasteley




EXCESS Suresh Doss





© Foodism Toronto 2017. All rights reserved. No part of this magazine may be reproduced without the written permission of the publisher. All information contained in this magazine is, as far as we are aware, correct at the time of going to press. Foodism Toronto cannot accept responsibility for errors or inaccuracies in such information. If you submit unsolicited material to us, you automatically grant Foodism Toronto a licence to publish your submission in whole or in part in all editions of the magazine. All material is sent at your own risk and although every care is taken, neither Foodism Toronto nor its employees, agents or subcontractors shall be held liable resulting for loss or damage. Foodism Toronto endeavours to respect the intellectual property of the owners of copyrighted material reproduced herein. If you identify yourself as the copyright holder of material we have wrongly attributed, please contact the office.




— PART 1 —



THE FOODIST When Ontario tomatoes are out of season, reach for the canned stuff, writes Jon Sufrin


NTARIO PRODUCES SOME of the best tasting, highest quality, most flavourful tomatoes in the world – for roughly three months of the year. The rest of the time, when it’s not summer or early fall, we’re stuck eating greenhouse tomatoes, or even worse, pallid supermarket tomatoes shipped in from California, Mexico or other far-away locations. These tomatoes are bad for many reasons. Sure, there’s that whole carbon footprint thing, but we’re not going to talk about that right now. Today, we’re going to talk about flavour. Because that’s important, too. Tomatoes get their flavour from the soil. When you have a really beautiful tomato, it has spent the exact amount of time it needs pulling up nutrients and minerals from the ground into itself. It has been allowed to blossom into the thing it most wants to be. Compare this to an out-of-season supermarket tomato produced with shipping in mind. These are picked before they are ripe to ensure they don’t rot on the long journey to Toronto. They are picked green, long before they’ve even hit tomato puberty. Then, the green tomatoes are inundated with a ripening hormone known as ethylene to make sure they turn red, or something close to red, by the time they finally hit supermarkets here. These are crippled versions of good tomatoes. They are watery, mushy and nearly tasteless. I’ve chatted with several chefs about this, including Massimo Bruno of Massimo Supper Club in Toronto.


“When you have a tomato that’s not in season, you can tell,” he says. “It’s a dead tomato, in a way. The colour is off – even if you keep it out, it won’t become fully red.” Greenhouse tomatoes are better by a small margin. They are allowed to fully ripen, but because they’re grown indoors, their roots don’t actually dig into this miraculous planet called Earth. There is no terroir. There is a viable way to eat delicious tomatoes all year, though, and it might surprise you: canned tomatoes, which are a staple for many professional chefs, including Bruno. Canned food often gets a bad rap, but hear me out. Tomatoes that are canned are harvested at peak ripeness, when their flavours are full, vibrant and bold. The other day I bought a can of San Marzano tomatoes – the legendary ones from Italy – for $3. It was just tomatoes, a bit of basil and nothing else. I used it to make tomato sauce that was far superior to any jar of Ragu or Classico anywhere. If you want to go local, Ontario’s Thomas’ Utopia Brand sells canned tomatoes with nothing added to them. Making the switch from out-of-season tomatoes to canned ones will make an instant difference in any stew, pasta, chili or other tomato-centric dish you cook. It’ll tide you over through the winter until Ontario’s fresh tomatoes are good to go again. We might be missing out on the firm texture and cool radiance of a fresh tomato, but hey, when you’re eating out of season, you can’t expect perfection. f


1 LORI NYTKO Full of Beans Lori Nytko spent seven years perfecting her coffeemaking craft at the Coffee Tree in Bloor West Village before opening her own café on Dundas West. Nytko roasts all the café’s beans in-house using a century-old, pound-by-pound roaster – the key to the rich, nuanced flavours of her espresso-based drinks and drip coffees.



Using a toothpick as his paintbrush, Calii Love barista Brian Leonard creates incredibly detailed portraits, logos and even landscapes onto his lattes before the milk bubbles melt, turning simple caffeinated drinks into miniature works of art.


Get the recipe at






Neo Coffee Bar

With an array of awards and accolades to his name — including first place at last year’s latte art competition at the Restaurants Canada Show — Bruce Ly easily ranks among the top latte artisans in the country. These days you’ll find him creating his famed designs behind the counter at Neo Coffee Bar, the café he co-owns with veteran baker Masashi Nakagome near St. Lawrence Market. His delicately finished drinks are a pretty complement to the café’s elegant, Japanese-influenced aesthetic.

JASON TAN Lit Espresso Bar

Jason Tan credits the tasting events held at Lit’s former College Street location with sparking his interest in coffee. It’s therefore no coincidence that Tan now helps manage Lit’s Leaside location (the brand also has a popular shop on Roncesvalles). In addition to impressing customers with his skills behind the barista bar, Tan is also head roaster at the Lit-affiliated Pig Iron Coffee Roasters, which supplies exceptional beans to numerous cafés across the city (including Lit, naturally).






Fresh City Farms delivers recipe kits, prepared meals, salads and fresh produce to your door. Subscribers can choose from a variety of meal options, including meat, fish or veggie – or a combination of all three. Plus, it’s all organic and locally sourced.

Choose from a rotating selection of chef-crafted recipes and Chefs Plate will ship the ingredients to you, pre-measured to reduce waste. Recipes change every week, incorporating what’s fresh and in season. Eat healthy and learn how to cook at the same time.

Great for picky eaters, subscribers can see the week’s meals in advance and swap in alternatives. Recipes are easy, healthy and don’t require any fancy equipment. HelloFresh has worked with celeb guest chefs such as Jamie Oliver to develop its recipes.


MASA FUMIMOTO Sam James Coffee Bar

One of Toronto’s most technically competent baristas, Masa Fumimoto grew up around coffee: his parents own a café back home in Japan. He has been known to produce some wild latte art in his time, but nowadays he’s more concerned with perfecting the taste and texture of his drinks – and complicated latte art, he says, can be distracting. Fumimoto spent a few years at Bulldog Coffee – a pioneer in Toronto’s craft coffee scene – before moving on to his current gig at Sam James Coffee Bar.


Mushroom Shallot Quiche

We are.

We are also bringing back traditional farming practices, like feeding cows grass, year-round. It's a difference you can taste. Get the recipe at

milk butter yogurt kefir



Other must-try spots

The best Asian food in the GTA is 40 minutes north of Toronto. Richmond Hill is a gold mine for sampling cuisine from across the continent

Restoran Malaysia; 815 Major Mackenzie Dr. E. Get a crashcourse in Malaysian cooking at this familystyle restaurant. Try one of the signature satays or the famous chicken and rice plate.


With flavours dominated by fish sauce, shrimp paste, tropical fruit and lemongrass, Vietnamese cuisine is about as vibrant as food gets. If you’ve had enough of ho-hum pho from downtown Toronto, it’s time to take a look at what Richmond Hill has to offer.

◆◆ Pho Tai Bac; 9555

Yonge St. Arguably the best Vietnamese joint north of Toronto. There are over a dozen variations of pho on the menu, but the first item to try should be the clear noodle soup with seafood and BBQ pork.

◆◆ Saigon Star; 330

Highway 7 This contemporary Vietnamese restaurant is known for its luxurious platters of seafood and fried rice. The most famous dish is whole crab drenched in curry sauce – a must-try.


In the last five years, Richmond Hill has become ground zero for a bevy of restaurants specializing in specific regions of China. It’s worth the trip north for the dim sum options alone.

◆◆ Kum Hong BBQ;

420 Highway 7 E. A local favourite for all things smoked and barbecued. There’s a steady line out the door each weekend for the BBQ pork. Picture tender chunks of pork with umami-rich skin served over white rice.


Adrak; 15 Wertheim Ct. One of the few restaurants in north Chinatown that focuses on Indian food. The dum biryani – a spiced mix of rice, meat and vegetables – is a standout.

◆◆ Yang’s; 8432 Leslie

St., Unit 110 Dim sum is abundant in Richmond Hill, but few places can compare with Yang’s. The restaurant features over 75 items on the menu, best enjoyed with a group of friends.

Sweet Note; 505 Highway 7 Finish off your crawl with a rich chocolate soufflé or a matcha crème brûlée. Sweet Note’s specialty is smallbatch French and Japanese desserts.



WINTER FLAVOURS Find new ways to warm up inside St. Lawrence Market.


LEFT: Like sushi masters from Japan, Chef Jackie Lin treats food as a delicate art form

EXPERIENCE THE TASTE OF JAPAN At Shoushin, you can feel the dedication, skill and honesty in the authentic offerings of Chef Jackie Lin – who trained with a Japanese sushi master for over 12 years


ISITORS TO TORONTO’S Shoushin – one of the best places for honest, traditional, authentic Japanese food in the city – can attest to the restaurant’s refined offerings. Years of dedication are revealed behind every plate and piece of sushi. But you may be surprised to hear that the restaurant’s owner and head chef actually hails from China. As a teenager, Jackie Lin immigrated to Canada with his family and quickly developed a passion for Japanese food. While still in high school, he began an apprenticeship under Chef Seiichi Kashiwabara, the man behind Zen, Toronto’s famed Japanese restaurant. “He made me who I am today,” Chef Jackie recalls. His training under Chef Kashiwabara continued for 12 years until he opened his own Japanese restaurant, Shoushin, in late 2015. At Shoushin, Chef Jackie finds a


home to deliver his exacting standards of quality and experience. “I’m constantly using fresh wasabi from Japan,” Chef Jackie explains. “As well, most of the seafood is wild caught. High-end sushi restaurants in Tokyo are using strictly wild-caught fish.” At Shoushin’s sushi bar – crafted of rare hinoki wood – guests can watch Chef Jackie and his staff at work. “Especially at the sushi counter, there’s nothing to hide,” he says. “You’re performing under the light in front of the guests every night.” Despite not being of Japanese origin, Lin attests that Toronto has been a welcoming place to launch a successful Japanese restaurant. “This is the culture of multiculturalism in Canada,” he explains. “It really shines. We’re more accepting, in a way.” Chef Jackie believes that Torontonians understand

IF YOU PUT IN THE TIME AND EFFORT, IF YOU PUT YOUR WHOLE HEART IN IT, PEOPLE WILL NOTICE the dedication, hard work and passion of those working in restaurants across the city, regardless of their ethnicity. And it’s something that he hopes to inspire in his own kitchen, where he works alongside chefs of multiple nationalities. “My belief is that if you put in the time and the effort, if you put your whole heart in it, people will notice.” ●







THE RADAR We take you through the hottest new bar and restaurant openings around the city Trending



Chef Steve Gonzalez (formerly of Valdez) helms this glamorous new Latin American restaurant on King West. The four-storey, 4,000-square-foot venue is divided into a dining room, raw bar, lounge, private event space and rooftop patio. The menu of small plates and mains includes a few favourites from Valdez, which closed last year to make way for yet another condo development.



The team behind Kensington Market’s ubersuccessful Otto’s Berlin Döner is at it again with Otto’s Bierhalle, a modern German beer hall with communal seating, massive feasting platters and of course, lots of beer. You won’t find any döner here, but the menu more than makes up for it with the likes of schnitzel, sausage, sauerkraut and roast pork belly. @ottosbierhalle

An ode to all things Tex-Mex on Little Italy’s ever-growing restaurant strip. For its opening weeks in late December and early January, the venue operated as a bar only, but a full food menu is on the horizon. Keep an eye out for standards such as enchiladas and chili, but in the meantime, it’s all about the margaritas and Texas Teas. hotmesstexmex. com


N U T BA R Dining



In what we hope is the resurrection of Little India, chef Robbie Hojilla (formerly of the Harbord Room and Hudson Kitchen) has teamed up with the owners of the Wren to open Lake Inez, a new Asian-inspired snack bar on Gerrard Street. Hojilla’s rotating menu highlights his love of South Asian food, and there are plenty of suds to go with it: 24 taps of topnotch craft beer. @lakeinez


This superfoodoriented snack café in Summerhill offers healthy alternatives to traditional coffee shop fare. The nutrientrich menu offers smoothies, bowls, open-faced toasts (organic, of course) and specialty drinks, such as turmeric lattes. You can also just get a plain old espresso, too.

Grazing Trending



After making the city fall hard for his handmade chocolates, chef Brandon Olsen has joined forces with King Street Food Company (the restaurant group behind Jacob’s Steakhouse and Buca) to open La Banane, a new French bistro on the Ossington strip. French classics – such as omelettes, duck breast and European sea bass en croute – permeate the menu.



Popular King West Italian bakery Forno Cultura has a new location now open at First Canadian Place. All of Forno’s popular baked goods are available, such as freshly baked breads, cookies and biscotti.


WEAPONS OF CHOICE We’ve got the top kitchen gear for your wining, dining and juicing needs this winter Photography by Ryan Faist



Photograph by ###

Microcomputer-controlled settings on this deluxe rice cooker ensure that heat levels are optimized for the fluffiest, most flavourful grains.


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J U IC E AL M IG HT Y 1. PANASONIC SLOW JUICER, $370 A slow-rotating screw extracts nutrients from fruit and vegetables without friction heat. Blend up chilled desserts, too.

J AR J AR DR INKS 2. JARWARE JUICER, $7 Extract juice from lemons, limes


and other citrus fruits directly into a Mason jar. Minus the seeds and pits, of course.

TAK E A STAND 3. JM&SONS POUR OVER COFFEE STAND, $147 This handcrafted pour over stand made of metal and salvaged barn wood is the most elegant way to obtain your morning caffeine fix.

GO T YO U COV E RE D 1. JM&SONS APRON, $140 This utilitarian apron of raw canvas and leather makes a handsome accompaniment for kitchen work or barbecuing.

GET TING SAUCY 2. DANSK BUTTER WARMER, $40 Destined to become the most adorable piece in your kitchen

cabinet. Gently heat butter, sauces and syrups with ease.

C U T T ING E DG E 3. OPINEL CORKSCREW KNIFE, $52 Since the 1890s, Opinel has created some of the most sought-after folding knives in the world. This one has a stainless steel corkscrew attached for extra versatility.

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N THE MONTHS following the hedonism of the holidays, chances are you don’t want to worry about cooking anything fancy. Burnout from all the hosting and feasting of December can last a really long time. Sometimes you just want something healthy, tasty and not too hard to make. That’s why for this issue we’re showcasing recipes from Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, founders of the hugely popular cooking website Food52. They seem to intuitively understand the needs and wants of everyday home cooks who just want to live

well without investing exorbitant amounts of time, money or effort. Whether you’re looking for a week’s worth of roast pork, a healthy-but-tasty salad, a heart-warming soup or a vegan dessert, Hesser and Merrill have you covered. And they’ve got credentials to back up their recipes: Hesser is a James Beard Award winner and Merrill trained at Le Cordon Bleu in London, England. If you enjoy these recipes as much as we do, be sure to check out their latest cookbook, Food52 A New Way to Dinner. f




Photograph by ###

foodism’s recipe section is brought to you in partnership with Jacob’s Creek, Australia’s largest wine brand with over 160 years of winemaking experience. Jacob’s Creek is birthed from the land, shaped by the people and inspired by the continent. Jacob’s Creek wine is crafted and

created by Australia itself. When looking at people and their love for food and wine, it’s about how different people, places and passions come together to create memorable moments. A wide range of Jacob’s Creek wine is available at the LCBO.




Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubb’s



Jacob’s Creek Sparkling Chardonnay Pinot Noir


Rich yet structured, with generous citrus fruit flavours enhanced with a bit of nuttiness.


◆◆ 4 people


LCBO #210633

GET THE BOOK Food52 A New Way To Dinner (Random House, $41)

ING R E DIE NTS Dressing

◆◆ 3 anchovy fillets ◆◆ 1 garlic clove ◆◆ Juice of 1 lemon ◆◆ 2 tsp grainy mustard ◆◆ Large pinch of ground chilies ◆◆ ½ cup extra virgin olive oil ◆◆ Salt


◆◆ 4 1/2 cups of trimmed and



1 In a mortar and pestle, mash together the anchovies, garlic and a pinch of salt until you have a pulp. If your mortar is large enough, make the rest of the dressing in it; otherwise transfer to a bowl. Whisk in the lemon juice, mustard and chili pepper, followed by the olive oil. Store the dressing in the fridge for up to a week. 2 The day of: combine the brussels sprouts and greens in a large bowl, pour in ¼ of the dressing and toss together until evenly coated. Add more dressing as you like and a squeeze of lemon juice to freshen things up. You can reserve any extra dressing for use in another salad. Pile the dressed salad into a serving bowl and top it off with the pecorino. This salad is best dressed at least 15 minutes before serving, though it will keep for a couple of days. f

Photography by James Ransom

very thinly sliced brussels sprouts ◆◆ 2 handfuls of mustard greens, baby kale or spinach, stemmed and torn into bitesize pieces (about 4 cups) ◆◆ ¼ cup shaved pecorino


UMMER SALADS GET a lot of love for their sweetness and breezy demeanour, but I like the flintiness and incorrigibility of winter greens,” says Amanda Hesser in A New Way to Dinner. “You have to work with them, be assertive and show that you are up to the challenge. This brussels sprouts salad will hold up in the fridge for two or three days.”

Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubb’s


IF YOU WANT TO BE FANCY, PUT A DOLLOP OF CRÈME FRAÎCHE ON TOP low as it will go, and cook for about an hour, gently stirring from time to time, until the broccoli yields when you press it with the back of a wooden spoon. The garlic and broccoli will probably brown a little – don’t worry, this is a good thing. 3 Add the chicken stock and simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the soup cool a bit. 4 Purée half of the soup using a blender or food processor. Pour the puréed soup back into the pot and add the Parmesan and lemon juice to taste. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Cool the soup slightly, transfer it to lidded containers and refrigerate it for as many as 5 days. 5 The day of: reheat gently on the stove over low heat, adding another squeeze of lemon juice. Serve with plenty of crusty bread. f

I NG REDI EN TS ◆◆ ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil ◆◆ 6 large garlic cloves ◆◆ 4 pounds broccoli, cut into

florets and stems trimmed, peeled and chopped ◆◆ 8 cups chicken stock ◆◆ 1½ cups grated Parmesan ◆◆ Juice from 1 or 2 lemons ◆◆ Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper ◆◆ Crusty bread, for serving


Photography by James Ransom

RISTEN MIGLORE, OUR creative director, first introduced me to Roy Finamore’s Broccoli Cooked Forever recipe and its magical transformation of a boring old crucifer into something lush and melting and complex,” says Merrill Stubb. “We got so hooked on the stuff that I started using it as a base for soup. I usually purée half of the soup, keeping the rest chunky, and add enough lemon juice so that you can really taste it. Plenty of Parmesan makes the soup rich

and savoury. Don’t forget some good, crusty bread to wipe your bowl clean!”


1 Combine the olive oil and the garlic in a 6- to 8-quart (5.7 to 7.5 l) Dutch oven and sauté over very low heat for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the garlic softens and starts to turn golden. 2 Add the broccoli to the pot, season with salt and pepper and stir to coat with the oil. Cover, turn the heat as


Jacob’s Creek Reserve Chardonnay

A modern chardonnay with great balance and length. Cashew and citrus flavours with a soft finish. LCBO #270017



◆◆ 4 people


Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubb’s

M OSCATO ROS É Sparkling




ORK HAS CHANGED a lot over the years,” says Stubb. “Commercial pork is leaner than it used to be, making it less flavourful and prone to dryness. I typically don’t buy it a lot. Instead, I seek out local pork from small farms whenever possible. It may be a bit more expensive, but the taste is far superior. When you’re buying pork shoulder, look for a piece of meat with good marbling and a generous fat cap. You’ll taste the difference.”



1 Tie the pork with twine in several places so that it’s nice and compact. Place it on a plate or small baking sheet and season liberally with salt. Let the pork sit at room temperature for around an hour. 2 Combine the brown sugar, maple syrup, mustard, thyme, garlic and ground chipotle in a small bowl. Add a couple pinches of salt and several grinds of pepper. Set aside. 3 Heat the oven to 475°F. Smear the sugar, mustard and garlic mixture all over the pork, concentrating a good amount on the top of the roast, where the fat is. Nestle the pork (fat side up) into a roasting pan or cast iron baking dish just big enough to hold it. Put it


in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until you start to smell garlic and sugar. Remove the pork from the oven and cover the pan tightly with foil. Return the pork to the oven and turn the heat down to 200°F or so. 4 Leave the pork in the oven overnight to cook for at least 8 hours and up to 10 hours. When you wake up, your house will smell amazing and the pork will be tender. Cover the roast pork with foil and keep it inside the fridge for up to 5 days. 5 The day of: slice or shred the amount of pork you think you’ll need, put it in a covered baking dish and reheat it in the oven at a low temperature, around 200°F to 250°F. f

ING R E DIE NTS ◆◆ 5 lb boneless pork butt ◆◆ 1/3 cup firmly packed light

brown sugar ◆◆ 3 tbsp maple syrup ◆◆ 1 tbsp Dijon mustard ◆◆ 1½ tsp fresh thyme leaves ◆◆ 3 large garlic cloves, minced ◆◆ ¼ tsp ground chipotle ◆◆ Kosher salt and freshly

ground black pepper

the finish is just the beginning





◆◆ 4 people



Jacob’s Creek Classic Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon Photograph by ###

Spicy yet velvety, with vibrant cherry flavours, soft tannins and a backdrop of oak.


LCBO #106377


Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubb’s



Jacob’s Creek Double Barrel Shiraz

Double Barrel shiraz is a beguiling mix of sweet red fruits and dark chocolate. Finished in aged whisky barrels. LCBO #419986

ING R E DIE NTS ◆◆ 2 cups all-purpose flour ◆◆ 1 tsp baking powder ◆◆ ¾ tsp baking soda ◆◆ ½ tsp salt ◆◆ 1 tsp ground cinnamon ◆◆ ¼ tsp ground chilies ◆◆ 6 oz dark chocolate, chopped

into ¼-inch chunks ◆◆ 1 vanilla bean, cut crosswise

into 6 pieces ◆◆ ½ cup sugar ◆◆ ½ cup firmly packed dark

brown sugar ◆◆ ½ cup plus 1 tbsp canola oil ◆◆ ¼ cup plus 1 tbsp water ◆◆ Flaky sea salt, such as

Maldon, for sprinkling


ERRILL AND I had a cookie bake-off in 2015 where each of us was tasked with creating a holiday cookie that incorporated vanilla,” says Hesser. “I wanted a cookie that merged the benefits of a chewy chocolate chip cookie with the fragrance of a holiday spice cookie.”

1 In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, the baking powder, the baking soda, the salt, the cinnamon and the chilies. Fold the chocolate chunks (and all the shavings on your cutting board) into the flour mixture. 2 In a blender, combine the vanilla bean and sugar and blend until the


sheet and flattening them slightly with your hands. If your chocolate chunks are big, you may also need to press the dough together with your fingers. Sprinkle the dough with flaky salt and slide the baking sheets into the freezer for around 10 minutes. 6 Bake for 6 minutes, then rotate the baking sheet 180 degrees and continue baking until the edges are beginning to toast, about 6 minutes more. Let cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely. You can bake off the rest of the dough now, or do it in a single batch when you want to serve them. Store the cookies in an airtight container for up to a week. f



◆◆ 20 cookies

Photography by James Ransom


vanilla is reduced to flecks in the sugar. In a separate large bowl, whisk the vanilla sugar and brown sugar with the canola oil and water until you have a smoothish liquid. 3 Sprinkle the dry ingredients onto the sugar mixture and fold it all together with a rubber spatula until it’s just combined. 4 Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough for at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours. Do not skip this important step! 5 The day of: heat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop the dough into 2-inch (5 cm) mounds, placing them on the prepared baking




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John Bil


Cheap shrimp is easy on your wallet but hard on the planet, writes John Bil of Honest Weight


READ ALL THE comments, and all the reviews. Some restaurant owners claim that they don’t, and more power to them. For me, Honest Weight is such a personal space that I genuinely feel like I exposed a part of me when we opened about two years ago. So I take all of the comments to heart. Some I agree with, some I don’t. But I’m happy for the feedback. We’re somewhat unique in that we are a seafood retail shop as well as a full-service restaurant all in one. Comments on the service, the food or reservation policy are all fair game to me. Those things are all so subjective, and they are all part of a healthy discussion. One aspect of our business, however, is a little more complex: the price of the fish. I want to describe a few truths about fish

sourcing and pricing to try to give a sense of what goes into what you pay. One of the most popular seafood items in North America is shrimp. It is also one of the most fraught industries in the world. Journalists at the Associated Press, among others, have been highlighting some of the terrible environmental and human costs of the global shrimp industry. It’s worth exploring if you’re so inclined. But, for me, as a retailer/importer, I need to make sense of shrimp in a way that lets me sleep at night, lets you have a reasonable choice and supports good fisheries. Shrimp can be farmed or harvested wild, and each has its merits. But for now, let’s just focus on the cost side of things. I can purchase large shrimp from

Photography by Suresh Doss

Thailand, India or similar far-flung locations for $8.50/lb., or about 50 cents per shrimp. These are considered “premium” and are likely the sort of shrimp you would eat at most restaurants in Toronto. Let’s say a shrimp dish has eight of these shrimp per serving. The restaurant’s cost on the shrimp is then about $4, plus garnishes – let’s say another dollar. Food costs generally run about 1/3 of the final menu price, so that dish could be offered for $15 to $18 with a fair margin for the restaurant. At Honest Weight, however, we purchase only North American shrimp. I like to know that my suppliers are held to high standards. I don’t want to be a party to overfishing, or to environmental problems, or to the exploitation of workers. This practice of sourcing more locally, however, has its “downside”: the price. For beautiful B.C. spot prawns, in season, I am paying over $20/lb. Farmed Ontario shrimp: $18/lb. Wild Florida shrimp: $15/ lb. In other words, our average shrimp cost is high. We pay a dollar per shrimp, more or less. And keep in mind that we are a wholesaler, so a restaurant committed to the same principles would pay slightly more, around $20 to $21/lb. Working with the menu formula mentioned above, that works out to a minimum cost of $9 for those same eight shrimp, leading to a menu price of $27. So, maybe you see a few less shrimp on the plate instead. Or maybe you do see the higher price. Either way, the perceived value, to many customers, has gone way down. So now, we as consumers have to decide what it is that we value: cheap food or good food? I know which way I lean. f



— PART 2 —


YOUNG GUNS Think millennials are entitled and unwilling to work hard? Huda Idrees meets some upand-coming Toronto cooks who beg to differ Photography by Kailee Mandel


Photograph by ###

LEFT: Bejoy Chodhury apprenticed at Canoe and Splendido before landing his current gig at Lake Inez on Gerrard



I’ve always been a sports guy, so when I got into cooking, I really liked the team aspect of it. You work together as a team to make a perfect plate.

did farm work during the week, and on Thursdays we would prep for Friday and Saturday dinners. Michael Stadtländer has had a lead role in my cooking career. It was difficult working with him at first, but then he warms up to you, and he starts to teach you more. He makes you do the smallest things first, like cutting a chive, or cutting a shallot. If you can’t do that properly, you’re going to have to work your way up a bit more.

What was your apprenticeship like?

Biggest challenges?

◆◆ Age: 21 ◆◆ Hometown: Pickering

When did you decide to become a chef?

I started off at East Side Mario’s, then I went to George Brown. After that I went to work with Michael Stadtländer at Eigensinn Farm. Growing up in the city and then going to the farm to live for six months, you kind of see the bigger picture. It’s very spiritual up there. I


There have been challenges with the long hours and staying up and worrying about whether I’ve done things wrong.

Lessons learned?

Ingredients should be as fresh as possible. If you pick an herb off a plant and let it sit

for a day, or for a week, it’s not going to have the same flavour as when you use it fresh off the plant.

What are some misconceptions about today’s generation of young cooks?

There are some people that can get into the rock star chef mentality, but if you’re a young chef like me, you should listen to your mentors and elders and respect them. You should stay quiet in the kitchen until you’re more experienced.

Five-year goal?

Hopefully exploring. I’d like to go to Japan and work there. That’s where my father is from, so I want to learn traditional Japanese cooking. I’d like to open up my own restaurant one day, but that’s a long way down the road.

JOANNA SEBALLOS, DAILO ◆◆ Age: 21 ◆◆ Hometown: Brampton

When did you decide to become a chef? My parents and grandparents cooked a lot, so that kind of started it off. I used to watch a lot of Food Network when I was little. I looked up to chefs like Rachael Ray and Michael Smith.

What was your apprenticeship like? I worked at Biff’s Bistro as part of my co-op, and I did everything wrong at first. One day I wanted to leave early during service, because I had finished my co-op hours, and everyone laughed in my face. I didn’t understand how things worked back then. Now I know that you don’t just leave when you’re done your own work. You want to ask everyone if they need anything first. I also worked at Canoe and spent a lot of time with John Horne. It was intense. He whipped me into shape. I learned the basics, like knife skills and staying clean and organized.

Biggest challenges? Not having time for myself. It’s hard when you’re working so many hours, not being able to hang out with your family or have much of a social life. I work 50 to 60 hours a week, sometimes more.

Lessons learned? You have to learn to manage your time well. And don’t take anything to heart. People can get mad and just say stuff. There were times when I wanted to give up, with all the hard services and all the yelling. But I didn’t give up, and it’s been worth it.

What are some misconceptions about today’s generation of young cooks? If someone is serious about getting into this industry, they will behave like they did in other generations.

Five-year goal? I think I’d like to stay with this company. I don’t plan on leaving to go work in another country or anything right now, but my mind could change in the future.



LA K E I NEZ ◆◆ Age: 21

◆◆ Hometown: Toronto

When did you decide to become a chef? I took accounting in university, and I didn’t really like it. I had a hobby of cooking at home, so I took a course at George Brown to see how it would go, and I really took to it. What was your apprenticeship like? I did a stage at Canoe, and later I went to Splendido. That was where I really got into cooking. They work incredibly long days, and they make these magnificent plates. That was my first real kitchen job and it was insane to see all of that. Being there was like being a kid in a playground for me. Jeff Lapointe was the chef de cuisine, and I consider him a mentor. He was there every day: first one in, last one out. He is a true chef. He made sure to constantly teach me and not just throw me in the back to do meaningless prep jobs. Biggest challenges? You’ve really got to learn how to manage your time. Even if you’re done what’s necessary for the day, there are always more things you can do to get ahead, because you never know what could go wrong. Lessons learned? No matter what happens or what is said during service, it means nothing later on. One cook could be swearing to the other, but they really don’t mean it at all. What are some misconceptions about today’s generation of young cooks? You sometimes hear that young chefs just want to be on the Food Network while putting in minimum hours. But once they do their first few kitchen shifts, they’ll realize that’s not easy. You really need to be talented to get far. If you go at it halfassed, you’ll end up at the bottom. You won’t go anywhere. Five-year goal? Pursuing cooking as a career is pretty rough financially. I’ll be honest: cooks don’t make a lot of money. But for right now, cooking is the only job I can see myself doing.



COLET T E GRAND CA F É ◆◆ Age: 23 ◆◆ Hometown: Georgetown

When did you decide to become a chef?

I discovered my passion for pastry when I was pretty young. Growing up, I realized I enjoyed baking and cooking at home. I baked for my family and friends. If they wanted cupcakes or cakes, they would talk to me about it. I’m also a vegetarian, so pastry is a bit more flexible with the kitchen environment for me.

What was your apprenticeship like?

I wanted to get some experience before going to pastry school, so I worked at

Miller’s Scottish Bakery in my hometown. I was there for about a year, and then I went to two different pastry schools: the Culinary Institute of Canada in P.E.I. and then Maison Christian Faure in Montreal. Phil Miller, who owns Miller’s Scottish Bakery, was really patient with me. Instead of just asking me to do things, he explained why we did things specifically. Leslie Steh from Colette has also been a huge mentor. She took me under her wing and taught me how to work quickly and efficiently while also having fun.

working in a kitchen full-time.

Biggest challenges?

Five-year goal?

Adapting from work to school. Both schools I went to prepared me pretty well skill-wise, but nothing can prepare you for the physical and mental differences of

Lessons learned?

Always keep learning. Stay positive and enjoy the people you work with. And make sure to have a little bit of fun.

What are some misconceptions about today’s generation of young cooks?

There’s been talk that millennials are lazy or entitled. But employers just have to have faith, because lots of us are hardworking and willing to put in the hours.

Hopefully I’ll still be working in pastry, but I’d like to maybe work abroad. One day maybe I’ll open up my own place. But I like to keep my future a bit open.



MOMOFUKU DA ISHŌ ◆◆ Age: 25 ◆◆ Hometown: Mississauga

When did you decide to become a chef?

It happened organically in my teens watching Alton Brown on the Food Network and realizing the effort and science involved in everyday food. He was my realization.

What was your apprenticeship like?

At age 16 I worked at West 50 in Mississauga. It gave me my first taste of a hard-working kitchen and of working long days. I would work nine-to-five at West 50 then go wash dishes at another restaurant till 1 a.m. Washing dishes didn’t last – I gave that job up and worked for West 50 full-time. I consider Olaf Mertens at West 50 a mentor. Also, Douglas McMaster of Silo in Brighton, England. Silo taught me how to produce honest food while being conscious of the product and the waste involved. Doug reprogrammed the way I will forever approach food.

Biggest challenges?

Separating yourself from everyone else. It’s far too easy to follow a trend just to build your name. Stay confident that your own approach to food is unique and will stand out.

Lessons learned?

Trust the product you work with. Know the flavour and resist the temptation to cover it up with unnecessary things. Highlight the product, don’t mask it.

What are some misconceptions about today’s generation of young cooks?

That they are entitled and not willing to work hard. If that’s the mentality, you’re on the wrong foot.

Five-year goal?

I wanted to open a restaurant here in Toronto, but then I read an article from a chef whose regret was not enjoying this youth as a cook more. He was always fixed on the idea of owning his own place instead of taking in the moment in front of him. I don’t want to be tied down. An owner of a restaurant cannot go and do a stage in Japan or Copenhagen. f


BELOW: Syrian newcomers Manahel Al Shareef (left) and Dalal Al Zoubi take a moment to chat as they prepare food

COOKING UP A NEW LIFE A local group of Syrian newcomers are creating friendships, camaraderie and income for their families through food, writes Suresh Doss Photography by Suresh Doss 42

I Photograph by ###

’M INSIDE A quiet kitchen at a community centre in Hamilton anxiously waiting to taste Middle Eastern smoked rice. It’s a first for me. I’ve heard about this legendary dish many times, but I’ve never experienced it. I’ve never actually seen it on a menu before. My hosts are Manahal Al Shareef and Dalal Al Zoubi, two Syrian wives who recently immigrated to Canada with their families. Together they make up two thirds of the culinary team at Karam Kitchen, a pop-up catering initiative based out of Hamilton. Karam Kitchen is spearheaded by organizer Brittani Farrington, who also seems to share my enthusiasm for the rice. Eventually Al Zoubi motions for me, pointing to the large pot. “The rice is ready,” she says, slowly lifting →


RIGHT: Dalal Al Zoubi prepares a serving of moutabel, an eggplant dip

→ the lid. A fragrant waft of steam and smoke billows through the room. Al Zoubi reaches into the pot and pulls out a small plate with a fuming coal set in the centre of it. Earlier, the coal was doused in olive oil and placed inside the pot with the rice. The coal triggers the oil’s smoking point, which aromatizes the rice during its final minutes of cooking. The smells are reminiscent of a southern barbecue shack. Al Zoubi prepares a plate and slides it toward me. This creation – long-grain rice cooked in chicken bouillon with cardamom and a variety of Middle Eastern spices, then smoked – is very special to her. “This is my favourite dish,” she says. “It reminds me of home. I hope you enjoy it.” The experience is delicately nuanced, not at all like eating smoked meat. With each spoonful, cardamom swells into your senses. This is as transcendent as rice gets. Since November of 2015, Canada has welcomed more than 30,000 Syrians into


the country. According to a recent report by the Senate Committee on Human Rights, approximately 5,900 were introduced to Toronto and nearly 1,400 settled in Hamilton. Most newcomers receive aid from federal government support programs for their first year, but settling in Canada is nonetheless financially difficult for them. This is why Farrington launched Karam Kitchen: to provide income for newcomers in the form of catering opportunities and food sales. The initiative operates like a nomadic supper club, using rented commercial kitchens to prepare feasts for small to midsized groups. It currently employs Al Shareef, mother of seven; Al Zoubi, mother of three; and Rawa’a Aloliwi, who is not present today as she is expecting her fourth child. Farrington first became involved with Syrian families last March. “A few Syrian newcomers needed a ride back to Toronto from Hamilton, so I wanted to do my part,” she says. The group of newcomers had all signed

fresh leases on house rentals in Hamilton. They were moving away from Toronto due to rising housing costs, and they needed to return to Toronto to pick up their belongings and escort their families to their new homes.


“We couldn’t afford housing in Toronto,” Al Shareef says. “It was crazy everywhere. We then looked at Mississauga, Burlington. Then a friend from Hamilton told me to look here. He said Hamilton is very affordable.” Al Shareef’s husband was part of the group, as was Al Zoubi’s husband. Both families are originally from Kafr Darak, just outside of Damascus. “Relocating was very tricky for them,” Farrington says. “Because they were settled in Toronto and moved to Hamilton, they were now secondary migrants. They needed help.” Farrington approached her local Christian church community, and social media, for donations. The community responded quickly and generously. Al Shareef – who has been her family’s primary caretaker since her husband was badly injured during the Syrian crisis – says she was overwhelmed with the outpouring. “Her husband was caught in an air strike,” Farrington says. “He hid behind a building and was buried alive when it fell on him. He

was pulled from the rubble, but he sustained many injuries. It wasn’t until three or four months ago that he was able to walk again.” The real spark for Karam Kitchen came when a local church invited the families to attend a dinner reception. Farrington approached Al Shareef, Al Zoubi and other new families with the invitation. “I told them that the church wanted to host them for dinner and welcome their families to their new city,” Farrington says. But Al Zoubi insisted that if they were going to be hosted, they should cook. “They wanted to cook the food,” Farrington says. “They wanted to show us a side of Syrian culture.” The gathering was a resounding success, with everyone sitting on the floor enjoying mounds of home-cooked Syrian food as they were introduced to each other. “I’m Christian, and these women are Muslim, but we learned that we just have so much in common,” Farrington says. “We bonded really quickly.” Al Zoubi was quick to notice that everyone loved the meal, and later that evening she approached Farrington with a question: “How can I sell my food in Canada?” Farrington consulted with her peers and the city, and the roots for Karam Kitchen began to form. It was equal parts employment and an opportunity for the newcomers to give back to the community that has embraced them. Farrington used Kickstarter to raise funds for the program. She set her initial goal at $6,500 and ended up raising $17,000. A few months later, Farrington hosted a

group tasting to develop the Karam Kitchen menu. Al Shareef, Al Zoubi and Aloliwi created over 20 traditional Syrian dishes. City staff were quick to assist Farrington with the necessary paperwork she needed to allow the women to cook, along with helping them find commercial kitchens in the city. Within a few weeks Farrington was able to get the trio cooking for small events and popups. These days, Karam Kitchen averages two to three catering orders a week. Al Zoubi is still surprised by how everything came together. “In Syria, everyone knows how to cook. I learned when I was 12,” she says. “I can’t believe so many Canadians want me to cook for them, but I am so happy to do so.” Hamilton isn’t new to Middle Eastern food. There are a number of mom-and-pop shops set up from the top of the mountain to downtown. One notable gathering place is Samir Super Market & Kabab, known for its meat counter and imported goods. When I stopped in to ask for dinner recommendations, the lady at the counter quickly wrote up a list of local go-tos, indexing by specific dishes I should order. Still, there isn’t a lot of Syrian food in Hamilton – not yet, at least. “No real Syrian restaurants, but two coming very soon,” she said. Syrian food seems similar to Turkish, Iraqi or Lebanese cuisine at a first glance. But there are subtle differences. Syrian food is heavily seasonal, and it makes ample use of baharat mushakalah, an intoxicating spice blend consisting of black pepper, cloves, cumin, coriander and other spices. →

BELOW: Kibbeh, a quintessential Syrian sharing dish


→ If I had to describe Syrian cuisine in a nutshell, it would be that every dish plays out its flavours in a soothing symphony. Almost every dish I have tried is finely balanced, without any stark flavours standing out. Despite having never worked while she was in Syria, Al Shareef is ecstatic at the idea of cooking food for Hamiltonians. “We want to keep working,” she says as she preps kousa mahshi, one of her specialties. It’s a dish of minced beef, baharat spice and rice stuffed into zucchini and cooked in tomato sauce. After packing the kousa mahshi, she tends to the nearby fryer, where fresh kibbeh is cooking. Kibbeh is arguably the quintessential sharing plate in Syria, with a multitude of variations from town to town. Al Shareef’s is a torpedo-shaped mix of bulgur (cracked wheat), onions, ground meat, Middle Eastern spices and mint. It’s deep fried to a dark brown and served with yogurt or on its own. Really, though, it’s all about the mint. “Yes, we love our mint,” Al Zoubi says. Moments later, Farrington’s phone buzzes with another order inquiry. “We’ll be feeding a few city groups in January. More offices, and there are also a few parties later in the month,” she says, noting that she hopes to add two more cooks to the team by the end of the month. “It’s very important to me that the ladies are compensated fairly for their work. They’re paid hourly, and all the tips that we receive are split up between them.” The biggest hurdle that Karam Kitchen currently faces is the lack of a permanent home.

BELOW: Zucchini are stuffed with minced beef, baharat spice and rice for the kousa mahshi


ABOVE: Moutabel is a smoky Middle Eastern eggplant dip that’s similar to baba ghanouj


Without a kitchen of their own, the group has to lug around warmer bags, large carts and pots and pans. But there’s hope in the near future. Farrington has managed to find a local church with a fully functioning kitchen that the ladies will be able to use full-time for future orders. When I ask them how they feel about working out of a church, the response is immediate: they can’t wait to cook there. “They don’t want to take any breaks,” Farrington says. “And the roles are reversed here. They are now the breadwinners.” Farrington is referring to the fact that while the women were able to find employment through the pop-up kitchen, the husbands are unemployed and in school. Al Zoubi praises Karam Kitchen for empowering her and her fellow newcomers. In the near future all three families will lose their year-long support from the federal government and will transition into the Ontario Works program, which provides financial and employment assistance. “It’s an important time for them. Their families are not small and they need all the help they can get,” Farrington says. Watching Al Zoubi manage the kitchen, there is a distinct aura of confidence. “She’s the leader of the pack,” Farrington says. “She runs the show and she does it well.” As my time at Karam Kitchen comes to an end, I ask Farrington how the ladies feel about having the chance to preserve their food culture here in Canada. After a moment of silence, she says, “I don’t know if they understand that fully. They want to take care of their families. I know in their hearts that they want to go back home, but I don’t think they’re going to be able to do that in their lifetime.” f

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THE PHILOSOPHER CHEF Chef Nathan Isberg sits down with Jon Sufrin to discuss food ethics, the cult of veganism and what it means to be a mindful eater Photography by Sandro Pehar 50


NYONE WHO EVER ate at the erstwhile Atlantic restaurant on Dundas West knows that it was not, exactly, a standard eating establishment. It was an odd place, an alcohol-free place, a place where chef Nathan Isberg would serve whatever he wanted — such as crickets smoked over hay, maybe, or whole fish heads — and customers would pay whatever they wanted (literally, patrons were asked to pay any amount as they saw fit). The Atlantic was, essentially, a direct reflection of Isberg’s raison d’être as a chef, which is to raise questions about the ethics and effects of consumption. Should we eat animals that are higher up on the food chain? Do we need wine with every meal? Is a zerowaste kitchen possible? After the Atlantic closed in 2015, Isberg went on hiatus to travel the world and focus on other projects. But now he’s back in chef mode with Awai, a vegan restaurant he opened in Bloor West Village in December. We met up with him to talk about food ethics, kitchen hierarchies and Jainism. How could a pay-what-you-want restaurant ever be expected to survive? Pay-what-you-want was the most effective model I used the entire time the Atlantic was open. People paid according to their abilities. So I had one customer pay €300 for two people, and then some artist-types would drop $10 for four courses. It all balanced out. It was almost a system of paying it forward. You were actually making more money? I was making more money and I was spending less money. I had farmers’ market vendors who would give me a discount on whatever they didn’t sell. I’m familiar with a lot of ingredients, so I was able to make it work. And I wasn’t wasting, either. I effectively had zero waste. So you had creative control and were making money. Why close the Atlantic? There were some pressures associated with business choices I made in the past, things that had cost me a lot of time, money and mental effort early on. You were in debt? It was partly debt. But also, after five years, I had spent literally every single day at the restaurant. I never expected it to be open for that long. And I found that I was doing the same thing over and over. I had proven to

ABOVE: Fire-roasted cherry tomatoes with foraged spices on Spanish-style coca bread

myself that I could do anything I wanted in the space, and the further out I went with it, the better it all worked. So I didn’t have to prove anything to myself. And the building was in rough shape, too. So it seemed like a good time to a take a break. Your new restaurant, Awai, is a vegan restaurant, but you aren’t vegan. How do you feel about that? I feel like it’s a pretty idiotic position to put myself in. But I do believe that the concept of doing as little harm as possible is the key to being an ethical person. And to a certain extent, vegans have a monopoly on morality because the intent is to reduce harm to other sentient beings. Jainism, I would say, is the only version of veganism that is completely consistent with that discussion. The Jains avoid killing organisms as a whole, but they are still killing things, because they eat living cells. That’s why I consider veganism a sort of


speciesism. Yeast, for example, is a colony of animals. You’re still corralling and using them when you make bread. I wanted to put a Persian rug on the wall at Awai, but I couldn’t do that because wool is not vegan. So your petroleum-based shoes are fine? How about your cotton, which is a monocrop that destroys animals for miles around? The problem I have with veganism is that there is often an arbitrary stoppage of discussion. So it’s intellectually lazy? I have a hard time talking with most vegans because it’s always, “killing animals is bad,” or, “using animals is bad.” Killing is terrible and traumatic, but when I was raising pigs out in Niagara – these pigs were eating scraps that nobody else would eat. These pigs were happy, and the food they provided was extremely nutritious and desirable. I understand the Kantian concept of not using animals as a means to an end, but we are inherently wrapped in a web of relationships. There has been a symbiotic relationship between humans and animals for a very long time. There is this idea that any time humans impose on the animal world it’s wrong, and maybe it is, but at that point the only way you could be an ethical person is to kill yourself. I think we should try to avoid causing suffering in any way possible, and that’s an ongoing discussion to have with the world around us. Do you ever feel that plants are more sentient than we give them credit for? There is scientific proof that plants are sentient. Plants warn other plants of predators. But our relationship with living things doesn’t have to be, “they feel pain, →


vegan ingredients with vegan ones? Absolutely not. In fact, any point at which I start to even think that, I scrap the dish. My process is to think about why things are good, and what we can do to maintain the characteristics of what makes something good. There has never a point where I think, “this needs to be meaty.” It’s so unnecessary. The idea of a “main course” is a western notion. I don’t think everyone wants or needs a big dose of meat all the time. You can be satiated in a softer way. In a lot of ways the concept of feeling satiated seems to be a trained one. In the west we have this idea of having a starter, main course and dessert. But in most of the world, you sit together, and you enjoy different things. Everything is integrated.

LEFT: Flourless ash-coated gnocchi with baby kale and Middle Eastern spices

→ therefore we should care.” That’s kind of a low bar. This conversation becomes much easier if you’re growing things yourself. If you’re engaged with an animal from the time it’s born to the time of slaughter, or if you’re seeing something from seed to plant, it becomes less abstracted. You see the vitality, the context and the life behind the thing. If you’re engaged with it, you’re less likely to treat it as a commodity. Our modern-day food system seems to be characterized by a lack of connection. There’s a cognitive dissonance that occurs. I think it allows a lot of people to wilfully remove themselves from the discussion. That’s why a lot of people think that simply choosing which things you eat – not how those things are produced – is enough. Suffering is going to happen on a fairly large scale because of indifference and a lack of relationship to what you’re consuming. Vegans do seem to have a lockdown on the environmental side of the argument. Generally speaking that is true. But even with organic food, with the production of arugula, or rice, or lentils, these things are really problematic environmentally. Not as problematic as meat, but it’s only a matter of degrees. The almond industry is laughable.


Avocados have a huge impact. There is a smugness about meat consumption. The means of production can be problematic whether it’s meat or a vegetable. What kind of mental preparation did you need to do to open a vegan restaurant? I’ve been working toward this for a long time. I was a vegetarian for a while. In my 20s, I started getting into Buddhist cooking, and that has been the main reference point for me. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how modes of consumption create you. It’s not just that if you eat better food you become healthier, but the way you think about food has an effect on your mentality – and therefore, the world changes. You constitute the world and it constitutes you. You can cook anything with pork fat and have it taste good. Eggs are magical. How did you deal with the loss of these tools? I have to keep reminding myself that those things are superfluous. They make sense in the context of a world in which we eat highly refined carbohydrates, in which we crave heavily salted, high-protein, oily food. We don’t inherently need these things. You can re-centre that. It takes some faith to do so. So you don’t feel the need to replace non-

There is no hierarchy. Exactly. And actually, one of the reasons I wanted to work with Roger [Yang, the coowner of Awai] is because he comes from a working background where there is no hierarchical structure. He created a telecom company that has a horizontal management system. One of the major problems with restaurants is that they are inherently hierarchical. Auguste Escoffier essentially designed the kitchen brigade, and he did so based on the military. And this translates to the violent mentality you see in kitchens. So that’s one thing we’re trying to do at Awai: how do we fix some of these problems? You’re running a non-hierarchical kitchen? It’s a difficult thing to navigate, but it’s actually coming together quite nicely. There does seem to be a gender element to it. I’ve been hiring mostly women, and it’s kind of fascinating. There is a real lack of oneup-manship, which I’ve seen constantly in restaurants. We had a couple of guys come →


ABOVE: Much of the cooking at Awai is done with a traditional woodfired oven


of brushing aside any ethical considerations. Sometimes the ethics of eating are so fraught that you think, “I am a destructive force, and I need to embrace that.” That type of nihilism is an impulse that I understand. But you shouldn’t make decisions based on that mentality.

ABOVE: Artichoke ravioli cooked with white wine, carrots, celeriac and garlic

→ in who completely disrupted the flow. It was remarkable how badly it messed stuff up. Here, everyone plates, everyone serves. The cooks run food, and the servers help plate – to the degree that they can or wish to. But doesn’t a hierarchy naturally develop based on skill level? Everyone has different skills. There is physical capacity, or acumen, or knowledge. They all have legitimacy. And some people combine a few different ones. You can’t take one of those and impose authority over another. That’s tyranny. You can have a discussion about the best strategy to do something. One of my cooks is very good with the wood-fired oven, for example, so I defer to her on that. So how do you achieve a consistent artistic vision if everyone has equal say? Why would we want a consistent artistic vision based on a tyrannical exercise? It’s not necessary. I have a sensibility that I bring, and I try to bring in people who are within that same orientation. I’m fundamentally an anarchist. Everyone, given the opportunity to do so, will get together to make something work – generally speaking. I’ve seen the ways in which restaurants can change people in positive ways or negative ways.


What are some examples of positive Toronto restaurants? Avalon was the first restaurant I worked at in Toronto. And Chris McDonald was a huge influence for using ingredients to their fullest potential. He’s one of the smartest, most thoughtful chefs I’ve met. He changed food culture for the better by infusing it with a bit of thought. Jamie Kennedy is another one. It’s a trio: Jamie Kennedy, Michael Stadtländer

and Chris McDonald. What is the significance of the name of your new restaurant? I read about the notion of awai in a Buddhist cookbook. Awai is an indefinable flavour – it’s the taste of the delicate, or a taste of the sublime. Something ethereal, but something intrinsic to the ingredient that you can draw out with mindful preparation. That passage in the book blew my mind and changed the way I thought about food in one go. Instead of acting upon an ingredient to create something different, you’re drawing something out of the ingredient. Are you going to do pay-what-you-want? We do offer pay-what-you-want as an option. It’s definitely resonating, but some people prefer a menu. Awai is on a temporary lease. There is a demolition clause, so it’s like I’ve been commissioned to do something. This is a good opportunity to experiment and play. f

BELOW: Awai grows its own microgreens, such as wild thyme, tobacco and mustard greens

Photograph by ###

What are some examples of both? Let’s start with a negative one. There are places like the Black Hoof. As much as there were interesting things that came out of that restaurant, it was the pinnacle of cynical meat consumption. It’s like a type of nihilism, or violence porn. It’s as if doubling down on the concept of killing on a large scale is a way

How about the fact that the Black Hoof taught a generation of people who rarely ate off-cuts to eat the whole animal? In the past I thought, “If you eat the whole animal, you’re fine.” But that’s like having a hybrid car that you drive twice as much because you’re using half the energy. Having heart tartare on the menu doesn’t change the discussion. And you can see the trajectory that the chef [Grant van Gameren] has gone on, and it’s not very thoughtful. You can’t just eat octopus without thinking about it. It’s an animal that needs consideration. In the same way you can’t say veganism is the only ethical choice, you can’t valorize that type of meateating. There are no positions you can take that will absolve you of having to think about each and every choice you make.





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THE KIDS OF KOREATOWN As the owners of Koreatown’s legacy institutions grow old, Andrea Yu finds out how their adult sons and daughters bring traditional operations into the modern age Photography by Sandro Pehar 56


LEFT: Ok Re Lee (right) and her son Jason have differing opinions on how to run the 38-year-old Korean Village Restaurant

T’S 8 P.M. on a snowy winter evening and the dinner rush is in full force at Korean Village Restaurant. General manager Jason Lee stands tableside by two patrons who are dining at the 38-year-old Koreatown institution for the first time. With a pair of metallic tongs, he carefully tends to pieces of pork belly as they sizzle on a tabletop grill. “This way it gets crispy without burning,” he explains as he expertly arranges fatty slices of meat on the grill, allowing for plenty of breathing room in between. “All the good fat stays in the meat and the B.S. fat cooks off.” Ok Re Lee, Jason’s mother and Korean Village’s founder, used to operate the grills in decades prior, when Korean immigrants made up the majority of the restaurant’s clientele. Like Ok Re, they were used to having their meat well done. “She’d crank the heat high and it would burn the meat,” Jason says. But over the past decade, as the restaurant’s clientele has evolved, so have its barbecuing practices. “At first we would argue and yell. I told her, ‘You have to understand not everyone in this restaurant is Korean. Don’t cook it to your tastes. Find out what they like.’ ” Korean Village was one of the first Korean restaurants to open along Bloor Street in the 1970s – a by-product of immigration fuelled by civil unrest in the homeland. Over the next two decades, the stretch of Bloor Street between Christie and Bathurst gradually transitioned from its Greek and Latin roots, making way for the slew of Korean restaurants, beauty shops and grocery stores that we see today. But since the 2000s, gentrification and climbing rents have pushed some legacy restaurant owners out of the downtown core to the newer and larger Koreatown in North York (one that’s arguably more authentic than the original on Bloor Street). As central Koreatown’s customers have diversified, so have its businesses. In between the traditional Korean restaurants, there are now taco joints, ramen shops and comfort food diners all vying for the attention of the neighbourhood’s changing customer base. That means traditional Korean eateries in central Koreatown have to work harder than ever to remain in the game. And one way to do that is by appealing to a wider range of customers, which is why the 35-year-old Jason is so adamant about refining Korean Village’s meat-grilling protocol. He is one of many second-generation →


ABOVE: Suki Lee (left) abandoned a career in hospitality to work in her parents’ bakery

→ restaurateurs in Koreatown who want to help usher their parents’ traditional businesses into the modern age. “Seven years ago, we started seeing less and less Korean people and more nonKoreans,” Jason says. “Korean food has picked up traction in popularity. It’s not just Chinese and Japanese food anymore. Korean food is finally gaining steam.” And aside from refining the grilling, Jason has plenty of ideas as to how Korean Village could improve its operations. “We still write our bills by hand,” he says. “It’s the biggest struggle I face with my mother. I’ve been begging her for a point-ofsale system for seven years now.” The restaurant’s overwhelming 220-item menu was another sticking point for him when he became general manager in 2006. “Back then it was a yellow plastic book with no pictures,” he says. “People would look at the menu, go through 16 pages, close it, stand up, get up and leave. Now there are 155 items. I’ll take that as a victory.” For Ok Re and other first-generation Koreatown business owners, abandoning tradition – whether it’s billing standards or having a diversity of menu items – doesn’t come easily, even if it’s a necessary step toward staying in the game. A few doors west of Korean Village on Bloor Street, Suki Lee works the counter at her parents’ decades-old Korean bakery,


Hodo Kwaja. There, staying competitive might mean tweaking production and scale. “I’m trying to get my parents to bake less, but they’re old fashioned,” says Suki (no relation to Jason Lee). “They hate going to places where it’s sold out every time.” By throttling output, the 28-year-old wants to appeal to the generation of foodies that she is a part of – savvy, smartphone-wielding diners willing to wait in line for limited quantities of coveted Japanese cheesecakes at Uncle Tetsu or Instagrammable soft-serve cones at Sweet Jesus. Since her parents started the operation 24 years ago, non-Korean customers now outnumber Korean ones.


The bakery’s recipes and methods have changed little in that time. Hodo Kwaja churns out an average of 5,000 walnut cakes a day, thanks to an impressive baking machine imported from Korea that garners as much attention as the cakes it produces. The key to the cakes’ deliciousness is the fresh batter and red bean filling made from scratch by Suki’s mother and father. Their days start at eight in the morning, when Mr. Lee starts hand-cracking eggs – 250 in total over four batches of batter – into an industrial blender. Meanwhile, Mrs. Lee heaves a giant metal pot onto the stove, large enough to cover all four burners. There, she’ll boil up a batch of dried red beans (locally sourced from a farm in Hensall, Ont.) and then mash them into a smooth and lightly sweetened purée. The process takes up to five hours. It’s a labour-intensive routine for Suki’s aging parents. Her mother is 53 and her father turned 60 last year. “My dad’s output is not as much as he could do before,” says Suki, who hopes that limiting production will also ease the workload of her parents. “I’m trying to tell him, ‘Hey you don’t have to bake as much. It’s okay if we sell out, Dad. They’re not gonna get mad if we’re sold out.’ ” While Suki grew up in the bakery, which opened when she was just four years →

BELOW: Hodo Kwaja churns out an average of 5,000 walnut cakes a day with a baking machine imported from Korea


ABOVE: When PAT’s Min Bok Lee and Myung Sun Lee expanded their two-aisle mini mart to a 6,900-square-foot grocery store, their children didn’t hesitate to help


→ old, she never imagined herself working there full-time. She studied hospitality and tourism before taking up a reception management role at a gym, setting her sights on employment at a five-star hotel. But six years ago, the bakery was suddenly short-staffed after a close family friend, who had been helping out at Hodo Kwaja, headed back to live in Korea. “My parents told me they needed my help and I gave my two weeks’ notice.” Familial obligation is a recurring motif among many of Koreatown’s legacy institutions. Carol Lee (again, no relation to Suki or Jason) grew up in the aisles of PAT, her parents’ supermarket, which serves as a Koreatown landmark. Eleven years ago, when Carol was finishing a degree in kinesiology and contemplating a career in nursing, PAT underwent a massive move and expansion from a two-aisle convenience store on a side street to the sprawling, 6,900 square-foot operation on the main drag it is today. “Initially I wasn’t planning to help run

BELOW: PAT’s Carol Lee, centre, admits she still has much to learn from her parents

SEEING MY PARENTS DO DOUBLE, TRIPLE THE WORK, THEY NEEDED MY HELP the store,” Carol says. “But seeing my parents having to do double, triple the work, I knew they needed our help.” After launching the expanded PAT market, Carol now runs the grocery store along with her brother Eddie and their parents. The elder Lees are well into retirement age (Carol’s father is 71 years old and her mother is 64), so they welcome their children’s help, eager to pass on the lessons they’ve learned over decades of running their own business. Clad in the supermarket’s signature

fluorescent orange work vest, Carol agrees that she still has much to learn from her parents. And her father is equally humble in passing the torch to the next generation. “My dad always tells us, ‘I’ve done up to here,’ ” she says, gesturing with her hand chest-high. “ ‘Now it’s up to you guys.’ ” A few years ago, Carol and Eddie upgraded PAT’s cash registers, making checkout more efficient and accurate. “[My parents] can’t use the POS systems, whereas me and my brother, learn it and teach everybody. So, slowly we’re changing.” Just east of PAT Market, the Kim family’s Royal Boonsik restaurant is no stranger to change. Tommy Kim’s parents had been operating a catering business supplying cooked dumplings and kimbap – sushi-like rolls – to Korean supermarkets since 1997, when the family emigrated from Korea. Six years ago, they moved the business to Bloor Street, adding a grab-and-go counter to their catering operation. In 2013, the Kims switched gears and reopened their business as a full-fledged restaurant. Canadian-raised, Tommy Kim and his younger brother Sunny were integral in helping shape the menu at his parents’ restaurant. Early on, the Kims recognized →

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MY PARENTS HAVE DONE THIS FOR TOO LONG. THEY WANT TO RETIRE AND REST → the diversifying community and were eager to attract a broad customer base. “My brother and I understand the taste buds that non-Koreans have,” Tommy says. “We were able to pick and choose items that other people would enjoy, not just Koreans.”


ABOVE: Tommy Kim (right) and his brother Sunny grew up helping with their parents’ catering and restaurant business, but the operation will likely close once their current lease is complete

The younger Kims grew up helping out with their parents’ business, and for the last year or so Tommy has been all-in at the restaurant after graduating from a police foundations program. He has considered taking over the operation, but his parents aren’t so sure about that. “They know the hard work that this involves, and the instability of this business.” While Tommy is still working full-time at the restaurant, he’s since set his sights back to policing and has applied for work with the RCMP. He says his parents will likely ride out the remaining four years of their lease, then shut Royal Boonsik’s doors for good. “They can’t wait,” he says with a laugh. “They’ve done this for way too long. They just want to retire and rest.”

The story is different back at Korean Village, where Ok Re Lee is eager for her son to continue the family legacy – though she might have difficulty relinquishing control. “We’ll have to decide: do we shut this place down or will I have a chance to run it the way that I’d like to?” Jason says. “I think I’ve earned that. I could help this place be more profitable and be run more efficiently.” That efficiency may mean a slimmer menu or an electronic billing system. But for some of Korean Village Restaurant’s most dedicated regulars, Korean or not, the expanse of offerings or the traditional charm of a hand-written bill could be part of what keeps customers choosing his restaurant over the next big thing opening down the road. “This is not going to be Koreatown forever and ever,” he says. “I’d be sad if we closed, but I have faith that there’s going to be other Korean restaurants popping up, whether it’s here or somewhere else in Toronto.” f

ABOVE: The Kim family has been making their signature kimbap (Korean sushi) rolls for almost 20 years. They now operate the Royal Boonsik restaurant on Bloor Street


A SNACK THAT'S FUN AND HEALTHY From a family legacy of growing apples, Martin’s Crispy Apple Chips are a gluten-free, guilt-free snack made from apples picked fresh from local Ontario orchards


EALTHY EATING IS a high priority for many Torontonians. While there are plenty of tasty snack options available, most of the products you’ll find have travelled far and wide before they reach the shelves of your local grocery store or health food market. But there’s one delicious snack you’ll find that’s made right here in Ontario. Martin’s Crispy Apple Chips come from the historic and picturesque community of St. Jacobs, a short drive west of Toronto. For decades, the Martin family has been growing delicious, wholesome apples on their family orchard. The legacy has continued for nearly two centuries through five generations of the Martin family. In 1971, Leighton Martin was the first to introduce his


family’s apples to the public with just a few bushels at the Waterloo Farmers’ Market. Back then, his crop was grown from just 100 apple trees. Today, the Martin’s Family Fruit Farm spans 700 acres on fertile land tended with the same dedication and care. Kevin Martin, president of Martin’s Family Fruit Farm, carries on his family’s passion for apples with Martin’s Crispy Apple Chips. Made with their own locally grown apples, these healthy chips bring the goodness of the orchard for you to enjoy anytime, anywhere. Apples are picked fresh from the orchard and then sliced, dehydrated and packed in the Martins’ facility. The chips are made using select varieties of apples, such as Royal Gala and

Ambrosia, which offer the best flavour and most satisfying crunch once dried. Martin’s original Crispy Apple Chips are made with just one ingredient: 100 per cent dehydrated apples. Fat-free, preservative-free and with no added sugar, Martin’s Original Apple Chips are a guilt-free way to satisfy your snack cravings. It’s also a gluten-free product, so those with sensitive diets can indulge. If you’re looking to add some variety to your snack drawer, there are a number of fun flavours in the Martin’s Crispy Apple Chips lineup. From a dash of cinnamon to a more indulgent chocolate drizzle to a salted-carameland-vanilla drizzle that marries the classic combination of caramel and apples, these flavoured Martin’s ▶


ABOVE: Kevin Martin, president of Martin's Family Fruit Farm in St. Jacobs, Ont.

▶ Crispy Apple Chips add just a touch decadence to a wholesome snack. Apple chips are delicious straight out of the bag, but there are plenty of other fun ways to enjoy them. They’re a beautiful accompaniment to your next cheese or charcuterie board. Or use them to top an ice cream sundae or yogurt parfait. Swap out a side of regular chips for Martin’s Crispy Apple Chips next time you’re serving hamburgers or pulled pork sandwiches. And don’t forget that Martin’s Crispy Apple Chips make excellent dippers for salsas and spreads. You might have already tried Martin’s Crispy Apple Chips, but we expect word to keep spreading about this local snack that is truly crisp and purely fun. ●



We’ve scoured Toronto’s bar scene for the freshest mixed drinks – check out some of our favourites

LOS COLIBRIS COCKTAIL: Tequila Sazerac Mexico meets the Big Easy in this distinctive cocktail. We wanted to bring a south-of-the-border twist to New Orleans’ signature drink, the Sazerac, by swapping out rye for tequila. For more info: 220 King St. W.

INGREDIENTS ◆◆ 2 oz Casamigos Reposado tequila ◆◆ 1 tsp agave simple syrup ◆◆ 4 dashes Peychaud's bitters ◆◆ 1 spray of absinthe or absinthe wash

for the glass ◆◆ Lemon peel for garnish

Add the Casamigos Reposado and agave syrup into a mixing glass filled with ice. Stir and then strain the cocktail into a rocks glass sprayed or washed with absinthe. Add four dashes of Peychaud’s bitters and garnish with a piece of lemon zest.




MIKU COCKTAIL: Miku Negroni We put a Japanese spin on a Negroni cocktail by adding Yamayuzu sake liqueur. Don’t skip the garnishes! For more info: 10 Bay St.

I N GREDIENTS ◆◆ 2/3 oz Beefeater gin ◆◆ 2/3 oz Campari ◆◆ 2/3 oz Dolin Rouge vermouth ◆◆ ½ oz Yamayuzu sake liqueur ◆◆ 1 thick orange rind ◆◆ 1 sprig of thyme

Fill a double rocks glass about ¾ with ice and then add the first four ingredients. Stir the ingredients and rim the glass with orange rind. Roll orange rind around a sprig of thyme and place in glass.

BYBLOS COCKTAIL: Turkish Astronomer This drink was created to bring out the tasting notes in Ron Zacapa rum. We wanted to create a drink that felt a bit like a Negroni or a Boulevardier. For more info: 11 Duncan St.

IN G R ED IEN TS ◆◆ 1½ oz Ron Zacapa 23 year rum ◆◆ ½ oz Campari ◆◆ ½ oz Edmond Briottet crème d’abricot ◆◆ ½ oz cold Turkish coffee ◆◆ 4 dashes Bittermens Xocolatl bitters ◆◆ Grapefruit for garnish

Add the rum, Campari, crème d’abricot, coffee and bitters into a mixing glass. Add ice and stir. Strain over a large ice cube into a rocks glass. Garnish with grapefruit twist.


IN G R ED IEN TS ◆◆ 11/2 oz rose petal-infused Tanqueray gin ◆◆ 1 oz St-Germain elderflower liqueur ◆◆ 1 oz white cranberry juice

To make the rose petal-infused gin, steep the petals from 5 or 6 roses in a bottle of Tanqueray gin for 48 hours, or until the colour from the petals is gone. Alternatively, you can use Dillon's Rose Gin as a quick substitute. Stir the ingredients together in a shaker, strain and pour into a coupe filled with ice.

DBAR COCKTAIL: Yorkville Affair This is our signature drink. Unlike James Bond's martinis, this cocktail is stirred, not shaken. We serve it over a sphere of ice with frozen rose petals inside. It's fruity, fun and floral to remind you of spring. For more info: 60 Yorkville Ave.

PEOPLES EATERY COCKTAIL: Winter Cobbler This is a wintry reference to an American classic, the Sherry Cobbler, a drink that apparently popularized the straw. The classic cocktail contains sherry, caster sugar and slices of orange (peel and all.) For more info: 307 Spadina Ave.

INGREDIENTS ◆◆ 1 oz Gonzalez Byass Cristina sherry ◆◆ 1 oz Lustau Los Arcos amontillado ◆◆ 1 oz Lustau Don Nuno oloroso ◆◆ 21/2 oz orgeat (preferably infused with

matcha green tea) ◆◆ Mint, blackberry, kumquat and powdered

sugar for garnish Shake the first four ingredients together and pour over cubed ice in a highball glass. Top with crushed ice, and a straw of course. Garnish with mint, blackberry, kumquat and some powdered sugar.


THE CHASE COCKTAIL: Bellwood's Beet Trinity Bellwoods is a vibrant and bold 'hood, just like this cocktail. We love the alliteration and the allusion to the drink's ingredients in the name. For more info: 10 Temperance St.

IN G R ED IEN TS ◆◆ 11/2 oz tequila ◆◆ 1/4 oz mezcal ◆◆ 1 oz lime juice ◆◆ 1 oz fresh-pressed beet juice ◆◆ 3/4 oz simple syrup infused with jalapeno

and lime zest ◆◆ 1 egg white Photograph by ###

◆◆ Black pepper and cucumber for garnish

Shake without ice, then shake with ice. Double strain into chilled coupe glass. Garnish with cracked black pepper and a ribbon of cucumber.



SNAP YOUR FOOD AND EAT IT, TOO Do you love taking mouth-watering photos of your food? Show us what you’ve got




It's as easy as pie to enter. Send your best food shot to (one entry per person) with the subject line, “foodism photo contest.” CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: Moroccan lamb burger from Northwinds Brewery, risotto from Ravine, carrots and tangerine at Alo, octopus from Parcae, lettuce wraps from Northwinds Brewery



Photography by Vivian Ng / Suresh Doss

Whether you’re a master of the #foodstagram or an undercover food photographer just waiting to be discovered, we want to see your tastiest snaps. The winner and the runners-up will be published in these very pages.





PIZZE. ASSAGGI. INSALATA. PANINO. DOLCE. An upscale casual Italian eatery, highlighting the rustic and ripe flavours of Southern Italy.

signature Carbone (black) dough

PIZZA BAR open daily for lunch and dinner 577 King St. West • Toronto, ON M5V 1M1 416.263.9999 | | @masseriatoronto


— PART 3 —


ZEROING IN Toronto’s bartenders are using ingenuity to craft non-alcoholic cocktails that are anything but boring, writes Karolyne Ellacott Photography by Kailee Mandel


Photograph by ###

ABOVE: Bar Begonia’s cocktail setup is wellequipped to craft delicious non-alcoholic beverages


BELOW: A non-alcoholic mojito with mint, sugar, lime, cucumber syrup and ginger syrup from Pinkerton Snack Bar



T’S A FRIDAY night at Pinkerton Snack Bar near Gerrard and Carlaw, and veteran bartender Adrian Stein is at his perch creating an alcohol-free work of art. In a lowball glass he muddles mint, sugar and lime together with cucumber and ginger syrups. He rims the glass with a paper-thin strip of cucumber and tops it all off with soda. He passes the drink across the bar. “It’s almost like a ginger-cucumber mojito,” he says, with a touch of pride. A faux-hito, if you will. It tastes surprisingly similar to an actual one. Stein has become one of Toronto’s go-to bartenders for alcohol-free cocktails. It’s not a label he sought out, but he’s fine with the reputation he’s built. He stopped drinking around eight years ago, all the while continuing to bartend his way across the city. “When people started giving me credit for being the mocktail guy, I was like, why not?” he says. “It matches my lifestyle choice.” In Toronto, a town perpetually wrapped up in a brown-liquor love affair, booze isn’t exactly a wallflower. Here, cocktail groupies follow top mixologists around the city as they make guest appearances at bars. But these days, throwing back a dumptruck’s worth of alcohol doesn’t have the same cachet it once did. Perhaps we’re bored of the same old, or perhaps we’re finding inspiration from high-profile teetotalers (such as chef Matty Matheson, of Parts & Labour and Viceland, who nearly died from substance abuse issues a few years ago). Either way, drinking culture is being transposed to a new, lower-octane level. “I never thought it would catch on the way it caught on,” Stein says. “It’s huge now. It’s beyond fashionable.” The word “mocktail” doesn’t inspire much confidence, though. Conjuring up images of saccharine drinks in neon hues, the term is a wet blanket in the lexicon of bars. It’s true that crafting a layered, interesting drink without alcohol can be tough. Not only does alcohol impart its own flavour, it also extracts flavours from other ingredients, particularly plant-based ones. “Most of the chemicals plants produce are soluble in alcohol,” explains Amy Stewart, bestselling author of The Drunken Botanist, a book that examines the relationship between alcohol and botany. “Because alcohol is a solvent, it’s extracting whatever chemicals it can get out of the plant.” Alcohol provides an efficient transportation system for plant-based ingredients to communicate their flavours.

Think about how fruit, if left to sit in a bottle of vodka, will infuse the entire thing. So when the set of players in a cocktail includes alcohol, it becomes relatively easy to enhance and embolden flavours. When alcohol is removed from the equation, flavours are instantly less complex. That means mixologists are forced to impart complexity through alternative means. It’s a challenge that many of Toronto’s bartenders are taking head-on. Generally speaking, cocktails can be broken up into two broad categories: spirit-based and long. With a spirit-based drink, different liquors are mixed together with bitters, syrups and modifiers (typically fortified wines like vermouth or sherry) to create a bold, stiff cocktail. A Manhattan, for instance – made with whiskey, sweet vermouth and bitters – will kick you to the curb if you’re not careful. There’s no doubt that booze is present, which is why it makes sense that this style of cocktail would be difficult to recreate without alcohol. Still, it’s not impossible. Anyone who’s ever taken a shot is familiar with the burn that hits the throat upon impact – an effect that can be reproduced via non-alcoholic liquor, which Stein has used in the past. “A perfume company created a molecule that gives you the sensation of alcohol on your palate,” he says. He found the results to be rather unimpressive, though, as if a thimbleful of whiskey were drowned out with water. He’s also philosophically opposed to the concept, likening it to a vegan lusting after fake meat: if you’re hankering after a mock burger, then you’re probably missing beef a bit too much. However, for someone who does imbibe – but is the night’s designated driver – that burn may still be desirable. At Bar Begonia, Oliver Stern will use ginger syrup to provide a kick at the back of the throat; a mole-chili syrup can also create the same sort of nip. For a more bitter burn, he might turn to espresso, while shrubs (a.k.a drinking vinegars) give off an acidic bite. The second branch of cocktails – the long ones – include those that have a greater total volume and in which spirits play a less obvious role. The bartender will add juices, shrubs or sodas to the alcohol. “You can do almost all of the same stuff with the non-alcoholic cocktails as you can with one of the longer styles of cocktails,” says Stern at Bar Begonia. In order to add more body to his longer drinks, Stein makes his own tonic water using

citrus juice (lemon, lime, grapefruit, orange) agave nectar and cinchona bark. It’s a lengthy process, but a splash of that tonic can give a non-alcoholic drink a potent jolt of flavour. Like many bartenders, he’ll also use tea, shaking it up with spiced cranberry syrup, lemon juice and egg white to make the alcohol-free Winter Green cocktail. For Evelyn Chick, bar manager at Parkdale’s PrettyUgly, working without alcohol can bring out a bartender’s ingenuity. “Non-alcoholic cocktails can get really creative,” she says. “You just have to work on them. You have to build layers of what the alcohol would represent in the drink.” Take a non-alcoholic version of a tequilabased cocktail, for example. Chick would balance out the lack of tequila by adding agave nectar, since the spirit is distilled →


ABOVE: Bar Begonia’s Oliver Stern uses green tea, cranberry syrup, lemon juice and egg white to create the zero-alcohol Winter Green cocktail


IF YOU’RE NOT GOING TO HAVE ALCOHOL, YOU STILL NEED TO HAVE FUN → from the blue agave plant. “It’s just recreating those flavours – the tasting notes – with non-alcoholic ingredients,” she says. When mixing a zero-alcohol version of Taste Sensation, one of PrettyUgly’s house cocktails, Chick would look at recreating the dominant liquor used: Tio Pepe sherry. Alongside the sherry, the cocktail is composed of Varnelli anise liqueur, lime, soda, egg whites and the so-called “green stuff” (an herbal blend that includes apple, celery and coriander). Since the sherry possesses a grassy quality, Chick would reach for a house-made rosemary saline solution to conjure up the flavour of the alcohol. Another ingredient Chick uses to impart complexity is kombucha, a fermented beverage created though the growth of natural yeasts and bacteria on a sugar source. For her ginger-orange kombucha, she uses orange juice, ginger and sugar; it’s left to sit and eventually becomes carbonated and tart as the liquid ferments and microbial growth occurs. “You look at this big gooey thing and it’s pretty gross, but the product is awesome,” she says. “With non-alcoholic cocktails, your base ingredients have to be very interesting.” The tasting notes need not only be added back via an edible ingredient. For a nonalcoholic version of a drink


ABOVE: Evelyn Chick, bar manager at PrettyUgly, creates a non-alcoholic version of the Taste Sensation (pictured below)

built around mezcal, the goal would be to bring back the mezcal’s smoky quality. In this instance, Chick would take a different approach, aromatizing the glass with hickory smoke rather than adding agave nectar. “I think it’s just having the mise en place – the ingredients – to be able to create something that’s of the same caliber as a cocktail,” she says. Another linchpin of the non-alcoholic cocktail is nonalcoholic syrup. “Cucumber, watermelon, elderflower – I like to make a lot of my own syrups when I have the chance to,” says Stein at Pinkerton’s.

When time is slipping through his fingers, he’ll use alcohol-free syrups by Monin, but when doing an important catered event, he’ll pull out all the stops. “I do private events for wealthy Muslim families,” he says. “So I’ll use the best quality saffron – Persian – to make a saffron syrup. It costs me $200 to make two litres of the syrup.” While sipping an alcohol-free tipple hasn’t always been regarded as particularly cool, the negative attitude is gradually being shrugged off. And as interest in non-alcoholic drinks grows, a new form of artistry is also growing. It’s quite a sight to behold. “For me, a mocktail is about the experience,” Stein says. “If you’re not going to have alcohol, there needs to be some way that you can continue to get fun and enjoyment out of your experience.” f Editor’s note: Shortly before this story went to press, bartender Adrian Stein parted ways with Pinkerton Snack Bar. He is no longer affiliated with that establishment.


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A connoisseur’s guide to elegant cold-weather sipping – plus some non-alcoholic choices, too PHOTOGRAPHY BY RYAN FAIST








1 JAMESON CRESTED IRISH WHISKEY. This whiskey blend has a sherry element that adds a soft, sweet finish. $45, 2 MACALLAN EDITION NO. 2. A bold, well-rounded cacophony of coffee, caramel, ginger, black pepper and chocolate. $175, 3 ABERFELDY 12 YEAR. Slightly on the sweet side, with

butterscotch and tangerine dancing together. A great introduction for those getting into Scotch. $60, 4 TEQUILA TROMBA ANEJO. This smoky tequila stands out in Tromba’s selection as the one with the largest range of flavours. From spicy vanilla at the outset to a smooth, warming, nutty

finish. $70, 5 LAPHROAIG SELECT. A versatile drink that tones down the peatiness. Grassy, medicinal notes are rounded out with almond and floral accents. $78, 6 BACARDI 8 YEAR. A kiss of paradise in a bottle. Bacardi’s blended rum is a luscious mix of tropical fruit with hints of nutmeg and vanilla. $32,

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F O O D I S M .T O


1 STRATUS 2012 SYRAH. Ideal growing conditions in 2012 created this black-pepperforward wine that sings of ripe cherries and dark chocolate. Let it breathe before you enjoy. $48, 2 SOUTHBROOK TRIOMPHE 2015 CABERNET FRANC. A multi-layered wine that brings something new with each sip, from jammy flavours to hints of wood and potpourri. $22, 3 CLOSSON CHASE 2014 VINEYARD CHARDONNAY. One of the best examples of what Prince Edward County can produce. A creamy chardonnay with notes of brioche and caramel. $29,

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Who says you need booze to have fun? These Canadianmade, non-alcoholic drinks belong in any bon vivant’s cabinet.


boost immunity. Use in smoothies or add to soda water. This one is made from certified organic elderberries from B.C. $18, 4 SUPER CHICHA. Elias Salazar, chef and owner of Limon Modern Peruvian Cuisine at Rush Lane, makes his own version of chicha, a traditional Peruvian beverage. He uses purple corn, maca root, organic quinoa and yacon syrup. $7,

5 TREEWELL SPARKLING MAPLE SAP. Water has never tasted so soft. This sparkling sap is sweet and refreshing, with a hint of maple. Reminiscent of soda pop, without being saccharine. $100 for six bottles,


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1 WALTER CAESAR MIX. Canada’s first all-natural Caesar mix is still the best one on the market. Made with vine-ripened tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce and juice from Atlantic clams. Skip the booze: just pour over ice and enjoy on its own. $9, 2 FEATHERSTONE 12 BRIX VERJUS. Made from excess cabernet franc grapes, this non-alcoholic juice adds a tangy kick to salads and drinks. Treat it as you would lemon juice. $13, 3 MOONSHINE MAMA’S WINTER WARRIOR. These locally made elixirs are designed to hydrate, energize and

GETTING THERE Without traffic, it takes just over two hours to drive from downtown Toronto to Collingwood. Greater Toronto Airways will soon be flying from Billy Bishop Airport to Collingwood Regional Airport. Visit for more information.



ESCAPISM Andrea Yu ventures beyond the ski slopes to explore Collingwood’s vibrant food and drink scene


ISITORS TO COLLINGWOOD seeking more than a place to crash in between ski runs can find just that at the hedonistic Living Water Resort. Located just east of the Blue Mountains, the resort recently underwent an expansion in the summer of 2016, adding a spa and a fine dining restaurant to the mix. The Living Shore Spa is home to the only Aquapath in Ontario: a 45-minute hydrotherapy circuit of mineral baths with waterfalls and jets, river-like paths with stone bottoms and a series of powerful showers that stimulate pressure points on the head, back and shoulders. It’s enough to ease the

COLLINGWOOD ◆◆ Located on the shores of Georgian Bay ◆◆ Over 60 km of trails for biking and hiking ◆◆ Also known for: the annual Elvis Festival


stiffest muscles after a full day of carving up the nearby ski hills. An equally deserving escape from the mountains is a meal at the resort’s Lakeside Seafood and Grill, which affords lovely wintertime views over the frozen Georgian Bay with Collingwood’s iconic grain elevators in the distance. The menu includes steaks, ribs and chops, and much of the seafood selection is fresh and wild-caught. Every month, the restaurant hosts winepairing dinners, at which you can watch chefs in action as they prepare your fivecourse meal. f

Variety is the name of the game at this upscale brewpub, which cranked out a whopping 64 varieties of beer last year – from crowd-pleasing lagers to more experimental batches, such as a ruby red beer made with Ontario beets and a cider-beer hybrid. The menu elevates classic pub favourites and includes a flavourful lamb burger with Morroccan spices and a flat iron steak sandwich topped with a panko-crusted portobello cap. This spring, Northwinds is slated to open a second location in Blue Mountain Village, making it even easier for ski bums to get their craft beer fixes in the near future.

COLLINGWOOD BREAD COMPANY Arrive early to Collingwood Bread Company and you might catch owner Glenn Dickson rolling out racks of loaves still crackling from the oven. He uses simple, fresh ingredients, such as organic flour sourced from a local miller and non-homogenized milk from Sheldon Creek Dairy. Dickson’s patient baking practices mean unrushed fermentation and proofing periods for bread with superior flavour and texture. His signature Collingwood Sourdough is 36 hours in the making and the results are worth waiting for: addictively tart and spongy with a satisfying crust. The loaves typically sell out in a few hours as a true testament to their quality. @cwoodbread


Photography by Andrea Yu, Heather Goldsworthy, Supplied

Opened in 2000, Azzurra is one of Collingwood’s longest-standing independent eateries, but it stays contemporary in its execution and its thoughtful menu. Chef Leona Nyman showcases the region’s freshest ingredients through honest, simple recipes, such as gnocchi made from sweet potato with diced apple and smoked bacon, which pleasantly merges sweet and savoury flavours. The charcuterie board is a proud display of pickled fare and cured meats, many of which are made inhouse, including a pork terrine with pistachio and cranberry. Nyman takes pride in Azzurra’s dessert menu and it can be difficult to choose from over a dozen options. There are plenty of options to choose from, but the lemon curd pot – made with local dairy and eggs – is truly a standout: rich, creamy and wellbalanced between tart and sweet.



ECLECTIC DINING ON QUEEN WEST Inspired by its artistic surrounds, Entice Culinary Lounge is known for its craft cocktails and contemporary dining updated with global flavours BELOW: At Entice Culinary Lounge, chef Justin Cleva creates internationally inspired dishes



ORONTO’S WEST QUEEN West strip boasts some of the most creative restaurants in the city, and Entice Culinary Lounge is no exception. There, you’ll find carefully executed food along with excellent service and an artistic ambience that borrows from the area’s galleries and unique boutiques. The experience begins from the moment you approach the all-black exterior and make your way inside toward the unique bar top, which plays silent films through the glass. Then, of course, there is the eclectic menu of food and drink. Start your evening with craft cocktails that

range from classic staples to signature beverages that incorporate dazzling molecular techniques, such as liquid nitrogen and flavoured foams. Chef Justin Cleva works with a farmto-table approach and takes inspiration from global tastes to update classic comfort food dishes. Take, for example, his interpretation of fried chicken, which incorporates Thai flavours and is accompanied by a coconut-scallion waffle and a slaw made from green papaya. Whether you’re celebrating a romantic occasion or catching up with friends, Entice Culinary Lounge offers a memorable dining experience with fresh flavours and a modern atmosphere. ●


Chefs prepare thoughtful dishes with impressive presentations using only the freshest ingredients with an emphasis on local sources. Winners will receive a meal that includes three delicious courses, a a glass of sparkling wine per person and a bottle of wine. Enjoy it all in a modern, artistic ambience that draws inspiration from the trendy Queen West neighbourhood. For a full list of terms and conditions, and to enter, go to






Jon Sufrin reminisces about schnitzel, mom-cooking and the decades-old Country Style restaurant



myself for a second to acknowledge a noble intention when I see one. Country Style reopened in November, and good news: its proletariat charm is fully intact. The red-and-white checkered cloths, the paper placemats, the too-close-together tables, the faded photographs of Budapest – they’re all there. Mostly, the place just looks brighter and cleaner than it did before. The menu, too, is exactly the same, featuring Eastern European standards such as gizzard stew, goulash and perogies. And of course, you can still get the legendary wooden schnitzel platter. Whoever invented this thing surely knew that Instagram was coming down the pipeline. It is a morbidly obese pile of veal and pork schnitzel with sausage, beets, spaetzle and roast potatoes. And a cabbage roll, too, in case you haven’t eaten in several days. It is served on a wooden board, and the whole mess is stabbed through with knives. A platter intended for two people ($40) is huge, and it could easily feed four. Sometimes you have to appreciate a restaurant that does not try to push boundaries or reinvent the classics. This is Country Style: schnitzel done satisfactorily and in abundance. For dessert, I recommend a shot of slivovitz, an overly potent plum brandy that will make you feel like an Eastern European strongman if you can handle it. Plus, perhaps most importantly, my Hungarian mom has eaten there. And guess what? She didn’t hate it. f


Chef Claudio Aprile has closed his last remaining Origin restaurant at King and Church. Origin first opened in 2010 and was an immediate hit. At its peak, it had three locations, including one in Liberty Village and one in Bayview Village. Aprile has promised an “exciting” new project.


Darcy MacDonell has taken a stand after his restaurant, Farmhouse Tavern, experienced 97 last-minute reservation cancellations and noshows over 24 hours. He launched a #RespectTheRestaurant campaign to draw attention to the issue, which can lead to huge revenue losses.

Photography by Suresh Doss / Cindy La

ONFESSION: I GREW up in Sarnia, Ont., the epitome of white, small-town Canada. I’m not sure if I was just picky or if the surrounding xenophobia was kind of contagious, but I remember being weirded out by most foods that weren’t from Pizza Hut. Schnitzel, though, was never a mental stretch. It is a thing that is nearly impossible to dislike. I cannot think of schnitzel without thinking of my mother’s cooking. You know how moms cook: with so much love that it could cure any sickness instantaneously. So nowadays, when I go out to a restaurant for schnitzel, expectations are high. There is a lifetime of mom-cooking to compare it to. That’s what’s so remarkable about Country Style, a decades-old Hungarian restaurant on Bloor Street. It replicates mom-cooking with a fair degree of accuracy, and it has done so for over 60 years. Sixty, as in six-zero. It is impossible that Country Style has not been doing something right this whole time. So when I heard that this ancient restaurant had undergone a renovation, I was suspicious. I’ve never really understood restaurant makeovers. Usually, it is just a tactic to delay death. Do you really think new tiles are going to save your business? Turns out Country Style did its renovation for a good reason: the owner is planning to retire soon, and she wanted to ensure that her daughter would have a lucrative business to take over. I suppose I can get over


Iconic Toronto restaurant group Oliver & Bonacini is expanding to Montreal for the first time with Bar George, set to launch soon inside the historic Hôtel Mount Stephen. Its menu – designed by chef Anthony Walsh – will take inspiration from cuisine in the U.K and Quebec.


One of Toronto’s most popular craft beer producers, Bellwoods Brewery, recently opened a large new brewing facility and bottle shop. It’s out of the downtown core and requires a drive, but it’s well worth it. Owners promise to ramp up their production to allow for more frequent seasonal releases, and they also vow to never run out of beer – a common occurrence at the original Ossington location.


In other not-so-cheery restaurant news, Roncesvalles gem Hopgoods Foodliner held its last service on Feb. 6. Chef Geoff Hopgood – who rose to prominence during his time at the now-closed Hoof Cafe on Dundas West – opened the restaurant in 2012 as an homage to seafood and Eastern Coast Canadian cuisine. It was appreciated by patrons and critics alike and will be missed.


New York City’s much-loved chain of food carts and restaurants, the Halal Guys, is coming to Toronto in early 2017. An icon of New York’s street food scene, the franchise is known for its hearty platters of chicken, gyros and falafel, along with its addictive white sauce. The first of several planned locations in Toronto is set to open soon at the corner of Yonge and Wellesley.




You don’t always need to cook food in order to make it taste better. These raw (or mostly raw) dishes are some of the best in Toronto

Hungry in the city? So are we. Happily, Toronto has a superlative selection of bars and restaurants that’ll provide whatever you’re after – whether it’s a raw-food masterpiece, a healthy grain bowl or a soothing taste of ramen




1  Campagnolo 832 Dundas St. W.

Cured fish is a popular sharing plate at chef Craig Harding’s critically acclaimed Italian restaurant on Dundas West. For this one, he sources hamachi from the superlative Taro’s Fish in North York. The hamachi is lightly cured with salt and sugar before it is drizzled with pomegranate agrodolce (an Italian sweet and sour sauce). It’s topped with pickled cucumber, sumac and sorrel for tang. The finishing touches are a splash of olive oil from a family farm in Italy, along with a sliver of luxury: fragrant white truffles.


BEST OF THE REST  2  Boralia

is topped with chunks of fried squid.

59 Ossington Ave.

At Boralia, Ossington’s ode to the history of Canadian cuisine, chef Wayne Morris creates a dish that may be too beautiful to eat. Well, almost. He takes cured local trout, grills it over cedar branches and curls it up next to sour cream infused with gin and juniper. The trout’s tender flesh is complemented by pickled wild onions and roe.

 3  Limon Modern Peruvian Kitchen 563 Queen St. W.

This pop-up – located inside popular Queen West bar Rush Lane – is all about cured seafood and ceviche, from black grouper with leche de tigre (otherwise known as tiger’s milk, a Peruvian citrus marinade) to sashimi-cut octopus served with an olive oil emulsion. Chef Elias Salazar features nearly a half a dozen ceviche styles on any given night, highlighting the regional variances of Peru’s national dish. This street-style shrimp ceviche

 4  Canis 746 Queen St. W.

The albacore tuna plate stands out as one of the crowd favourites at this progressive Canadian restaurant. Chunks of tuna tartare get a sharp kick with pickled jalapenos. Those chilis, along with pickled daikon radish, offer a spicy-sour experience with each bite, softened by umami-rich shiso leaves.

 5  Enoteca Sociale 1288 Dundas St. W.

It’s been nearly seven years since Enoteca Sociale first opened on Dundas West as a sister restaurant to Pizzeria Libretto, and the place just keeps getting better with age. The beef crudo – served with roasted shallot aioli, capers, watercress and sourdough croutons – hammers home the point nicely.






 1  Fresh Multiple Locations


BOWLED OVER Does the term “grain bowl” sound too healthy to be tasty? You might want to try these ones 94

Opened in 1999, Fresh has been focused on clean eating since way before it was cool. If you’re a vegetarian living in Toronto, chances are you’ve eaten here at least once. The chain offers nine styles of bowls, which are served with a choice of brown basmati rice or soba noodles. They come in generous portions with ingredients such as tofu cubes and grilled tempeh. Opt for a “baby size” bowl or expect to have a bunch of leftovers.

BEST OF THE REST  2  b.good Multiple Locations

Originally from Boston, this chain brings a healthy spin to the fast-food concept, offering quick counter service and dishes that emphasize wholesome, locally sourced ingredients. With a full list of ingredients available on b.good’s site, this might be the next best thing to cooking at home when it comes to knowing exactly what goes into your food. B.good’s tasty grain bowls are drizzled with a variety of addictive housemade sauces, such as red pepper vinaigrette, chipotle purée or almond-ginger sauce.

 3  Bolt Fresh Bar 1170 Queen St. W.

The Vitamin Sea Bowl – a mix of millet, tahini

dressing and an array veggies – should be your first order at this takeout joint on the West Queen West strip. Bolt Fresh Bar also offers a handful of other grain bowls, plus the option to build your own, with rice or millet as your grain, along with five toppings and a dressing. Pair your bowl with a wonderful house-made smoothie or juice.

 4  Bloomer’s 873 Bloor St. W.

Bloomer’s is best known for its vegan baked goods, but this cozy Bloor and Ossington café also serves up some mean grain bowls. Try the Wakame, which features its namesake wakame (edible seaweed) combined with brown rice, tempeh, veggies, seeds and a lovely sesame-ginger dressing. With

comfy booths, great coffee and a solid beer selection, this is a spot that tends to lure diners into lingering for longer than planned.

 5  Garden Gangsters 12 Market St.

Diners customize their own grain bowls at this quick and casual Market Street restaurant. The menu features seven signature dishes that are jam-packed with satisfying, healthy ingredients such as avocado, corn, black bean, sweet potato, beets or butternut squash. Build on these base ingredients with a choice of grains and greens, plus proteins such as chicken, tofu or salmon. Equally suited for relaxed eat-in meals or easy grab-and-go lunches.


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Just five years ago, Toronto was a veritable ramen wasteland. Nowadays the choice can be overwhelming – so we’ve picked our favourite spots in the city for Japan’s most soul-warming dish 96

1  Kinton Ramen 1301 Queen St. E.

With five locations around Toronto, Kinton Ramen has established itself as a reliable standby for the city’s ramen lovers. The step-by-step menu allows you to choose your broth, seasonings, noodle thickness, meat and toppings. While the build-your-own bowl concept is certainly interesting, it’s Kinton’s savoury broth that really makes this chain a standout. It’s made by slowly simmering pork and chicken bones for over 20 hours, and then mixing in a secondary broth made from bonito and veggies.


BEST OF THE REST  2  Ramen Isshin

 4  Touhenboku Ramen

421 College St.

261 Queen St. W.

The secrets to Ramen Isshin’s lip-smacking ramen are chewy al dente noodles and flavourful broths that simmer for between 12 and 18 hours. First-time visitors should start with the tan-tan ramen, one of Ramen Isshin’s signature dishes: a tonkotsu (pork bone) broth topped with a sprinkling of freshly ground black sesame seeds. The restaurant scores extra points for its excellent vegetarian ramen selection, featuring rich broth made from vegetables and kelp.

Touhenboku Ramen’s founder, Zuimei Okuyama, trained at a well-known ramen school (yes, that’s a thing!) in Chiba, Japan, before opening the first Touhenboku restaurant in Tokyo. The brand now has a few locations in Toronto, including a flagship restaurant at Queen and University. Touhenboku’s thick chicken-based broth contrasts with the pork-based broths served at most other ramen joints. Touhenboku also makes its noodles in-house.

 3  Raijin Ramen

 5  Ryoji Ramen & Izakaya

3 Gerrard St. E.

690 College St.

Raijin Ramen’s large dining space can accommodate over 70 people, a huge perk if you’re dining with a group or are simply averse to the crowded atmosphere of the city’s usually tiny ramen restaurants. Raijin is named after the Japanese god of thunder (there’s a slightly terrifying six-foot-tall statue of him in the dining area). The restaurant’s specialty is dark miso ramen, which features the unusual combination of miso-chicken broth blended with charcoal powder.

Ryoji Ramen & Izakaya is the first international location of a successful Okinawa-based brand. Chef Tetsuya Shimizu, who cooked for over 15 years in Tokyo, puts out a menu of izakaya standards (gyoza, fried chicken, deep-fried tofu) along with a respectable ramen selection. The special tonkotsu ramen is stuffed with pork back ribs, fermented bamboo shoots, wood ear mushrooms and the king of all ramen addins, the marinated soft-boiled egg.





KOL O SHKOR: A version of baklava made with crushed cashews and phyllo pastry.

ESH EL ASFOUR: Shredded pastry coiled and stuffed with pistachios and syrup. WARBAT: Baklava with crushed hazelnut, a specialty made in smaller batches.

BORMA: Similar to asfour, but with thicker pastry coiled and pressed together with crushed and whole pistachios.


ASSABEH: Phyllo pastry rolled into fingers with crushed almonds.

Crown Pastries. 2086 Lawrence Ave. E. 647-351-2015

BAKLAVA: A must-try, the bakery’s signature item is a masterful layering of pastry, honey and crushed walnuts.

SWAR: Crown’s most popular item. These circular pastries are stuffed with crushed and whole pistachios.

Photography Photograph by Suresh by Doss ###

There is more to Syrian dessert than baklava. Crown Pastries makes 30+ pastry varieties using traditional recipes passed down over five generations

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Foodism - 3 - Toronto, food and drink  

Foodism - 3 - Toronto, food and drink

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