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Canadian cuisine

Hot Dining: Tomato Festival at Murrieta’s Bar & Grill

The contemporary dining room at Murietta’s. Photo: Courtesy Murrieta’s Bar and Grill.

The upscale Murrieta’s Bar & Grill hosts its annual Tomato Festival until September 4. While the downtown culinary hotspot is known for its West Coast-influenced fare, the Tomato Festival highlights a favourite seasonal ingredient—the tomato.

Featuring an expertly crafted menu by chefs Mike Preston, Shane Chartrand and Chris Grafton, the festival includes sumptuous and inventive dishes including Gouda grilled cheese with a tomato mac and cheese and sumptuous Caesar oyster shooters. Each festival menu item is given a suggested pairing with a wine by Jackson Family Estates. 

Where recommends: The smoked pork belly ($30) braised in tomato with a mustard and sundried tomato crust, paired with the La Crema Pinot Noir.  For reservations, call 403-269-7707. 

– Sarah Sussman

Hot Dining: Happy Hour at Boxwood Café

Happy Hour spread at Boxwood Cafe. Photo: Adele Brunnhofer.

Located on the edge of Calgary’s beautiful urban Central Memorial Park, Boxwood Café serves Canadian dishes that focus heavily on local ingredients. Its charming patio is located in the shade, but with a great view of the park and plenty of people watching on adjacent Fourth Street SW.

We happily stumbled upon Boxwood’s happy hour special of red lentil hummus with house-made flatbread and a pitcher of beer from Brew Brothers ($20) or sangria ($25).

Easily shared between two people, we recommend adding savoury mixed olives and warn that one pitcher on a hot afternoon might not be enough!

Happy hour runs 3 pm – 6 pm. Boxwood Café does not take reservations. 

Hot Dining: Toast Your Health at Ursa

photo by Christopher Katsarov Luna

One of the pitfalls of contemporary Canadian cooking is a tendency to overemphasize proteins—charcuterie remains hugely popular, and meaty mains can sometimes see huge slabs of beef, pork and lamb crowding out their accompaniments. Not so at Ursa.

Chef and co-owner Jacob Sharkey Pearce has a background as a nutritional consultant for athletes; his menu and methods place significant emphasis on healthy eating, which ensures every delicate dish balances not-too-big portions of, say, pork loin or Great Lakes whitefish with a bounty of fresh, seasonal vegetables and fruits, and in certain instances, silky house-made kefir, yogurt or tofu. Locals seem to approve of the concept—the cabin-chic Queen West space has done brisk business since its January opening.

Ursa, 924 Queen St. W., Toronto, 416-536-8963, ursa-restaurant.com.