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Cocktails

Neat Spots for Gin, Vodka & Rum

By Katie Shapiro

Gin, vodka, and rum may not commonly be enjoyed on their own, but with the consumption of premium spirits on the rise in Canada, that seems to be changing. But what makes a spirit achieve “top-shelf” status anyway? There are no strict standards or benchmarks, but premium spirits should be sippable, made from quality ingredients, and full of flavour. These spirits aren’t meant to be thrown down your throat; they’re silky and bold and they stand alone. (Oh, and premium doesn’t have to mean unaffordable.)

Gin

Stephen Flood Riviera

Stephen Flood had a vision — and 20 years of bartending experience — when he set up the bar at Riviera. “I wanted us to be a gin bar, because this,” he waves to the high ceilings, long gold bar, and sleek light fixtures, “is such a period thing, and gin is the most elegant of all the spirits.”

Flood also posits that gin is the most interesting of all spirits. With few requirements, other than that juniper must be the predominant flavour, the ingredients list can vary widely.

While the long drinks list at Riviera includes many options, it really is a gin bar: there are 25 European gins and 11 North American varieties on offer.

A favourite of Flood’s is Sacred Gin by Sacred Microdistillery, which features 11 botanicals including juniper, cardamom, and citrus. This unique mixture results in a very balanced, creamy gin.

In contrast, Flood suggests the Californian St. George Terroir, made with Douglas fir, California bay laurel, and coastal sage, invoking a real sense of place. Flood likes to engage folks at the bar to pick the perfect gin for one of the “holy trinity” of gin cocktails — a martini, a negroni, or a gin and tonic.

Vodka

Alex Yugin Avant Garde Bar

It should come as no surprise that this Soviet-themed bar — complete with propaganda art posters on the walls and borscht on the menu — boasts a fine vodka list with many Russian vodkas.

Since vodka can be made from just about any organic base material (potatoes, fruits, or grains), Yugin says that the best ones will use a quality base ingredient and the purest water available. Most sophisticated vodkas will be distilled more than once and filtered, often through charcoal, to remove any impurities.

When it comes to choosing a sipping vodka, Yugin, who is from St. Petersburg, singles out Zubrowka Bison Vodka from Poland.

Distilled from rye, Zubrowka is flavoured with a tincture of bison grass, which gives it a distinct herbaceous character along with a faint yellow hue. Each bottle contains one long blade of the grass, which is traditionally harvested in northeastern Poland. With notes of coconut, dill, and vanilla, this spirit totally dismantles the myth that vodka is flavourless and boring. Yugin serves Zubrowka in an icy glass and recommends enjoying sips of premium vodka in between, and — why not? — nibbles of crunchy pickles.

Rum

Julia Hussien and Zach Smith Salt

Though admittedly more of a bourbon bar, Salt’s rum selection is nothing to sneeze at. The Preston Street restaurant offers an assortment of white and brown rums (the latter are darkened by extra aging).

Salt’s bartenders advise that a good rum should be semi-sweet (it is a sugarcane spirit, after all) and will usually feature warming spices — think cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg. To enjoy simply, Hussien likes to serve it over ice with a little brown sugar; Smith suggests ice and a hint of lime juice to brighten the spirit.

Though rum cocktails might transport you to the Caribbean, Smith calls autumn and winter “rum-sipping season.”

For newcomers to rum-sipping, the bartenders suggest Flor de Caña Centenario 12, from Nicaragua, or Brugal 1888, from the Dominican Republic; the former is aged 12 years in American oak barrels (which previously held whisky and bourbon), while the latter is aged in American oak before being finished in Spanish oak sherry casks. Both are smooth, buttery, and slightly toasty with notes of caramel and baked apple; the Flor de Caña offers notes of vanilla and spice, while the Brugal has a hint of smokiness.

5 cocktails we loved in 2017 (and what to eat with them)

By SILVIA PIKAL

Here are five cocktails we ordered again and again in 2017, and the dishes we like to enjoy with them. This is part of our bi-monthly food and drink series, which rounds up eats, drinks and food news!

Mimosas at Buttermilk Fine Waffles

Mimosas at Buttermilk Fine Waffles/Photo by Silvia Pikal.

Freshly squeezed orange juice is a must for breakfast and brunch. The team at Buttermilk Fine Waffles go through about 800 pounds of California navel oranges a week! They’ve recently stepped up their orange game by adding mimosas to the menu, which make use of those oranges and 3 oz of Prosecco. Pair your sweet drink with a savoury waffle like the green eggs and ham (poached eggs, maple smoked ham and aged cheddar).

Buttermilk Fine Waffles, 330 – 17 Ave SW, buttermilkfinewaffles.com (more…)

Three New & Notable Ottawa Restaurants

By Joseph Mathieu

It seems like every time you turn around a new restaurant pops up in Ottawa. We aren’t talking about franchises, but unique eateries with their own personality. The newest additions to the city’s food scene are beautiful, interesting, and far from a flash in the pan. Here is a roundup of new and notable restaurants that opened in 2017.

The Albion Rooms’ Heritage Room

33 Nicholas St., 613-760-4771, thealbionrooms.com

Open every day 11 a.m. to late

An often-overlooked gem is hidden in plain sight at the base of the Novotel on Nicholas Street. The lounge chairs and low tables visible from the hotel lobby are only the tip of the iceberg of The Albion Rooms, which includes a polished bar with standing tables, a glass-walled charcuterie station, and a dining room. The restaurant’s newest addition is hidden in the back, called the Heritage Room and themed like a British gastro-pub. Its rounded booths, cozy corners, and satellite kitchen serve up a breakfast buffet every morning, and dinners on Wednesday to Saturday. The harvest table can be the buffet display or sit a 10-person party. The restaurant’s three pillars remain craft cocktails, local beers, and a farm-to-table menu, all of which are well worth exploring.

Tried & True (and something new): Mushrooms on toast ($14) and elk tartare ($15) are nice additions by head chef Jesse Bell, but you really should try the charcuterie board (from $10)

Photo by André Rozon

Sur-Lie

110 Murray St., 613-562-7244, surlierestaurant.ca

Open 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., 5 p.m to 11 p.m.

If you have an interest in locally-inspired modern French cuisine, this is the place for you. Opened last February, sommelier Neil Gowe’s Sur-Lie offers elegant fine dining without the pretension. If you want to eat like the pros, try their $80 five-course tasting menu — and don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations. The menu is seasonal, made with fresh produce and game from the ByWard Market and the surrounding region, and always aims to bring in the best quality ingredients. Each plate is a piece of art that you are welcome to remix with your fork.

Pretty much omg: Local rabbit and fowl tartine ($18) for lunch goes a long way, and dinner is a win with the squash bisque ($10) and Québec fois gras torchon ($20)

Photo by Rémi Thériault

Citizen

207 Gilmour St., 613-422-6505, townlovesyou.com/citizen

Open Thursday to Monday, from 6 p.m. to late

First-timers will feel right at home in this casual wine and small plates nook. With dedicated staff, Citizen builds on the success of its big sister Town (296 Elgin St.) but is really a restaurant apart. Its wine list features bottles from around the world that pair well with menu items from all over the map — influences range from African to Spanish, and Italian to French. Something new (and meatless) by guest chef Mike Frank shows up on every Monday menu. Co-owner and chef Marc Doiron is comfortable creating new dishes for new wines, and the suggested dessert is a wonderful case in point. There are no beers on tap, but it’s hard to notice with such a generous selection of bottled beer from near and far. 

Love at first taste: Falafel and eggplant ($14) or the pork belly with mojito salad ($18), and definitely go for the concord grape tart ($12)

Calgary’s Most Creative Cocktails

By HANNA DEEVES

Timo Salimaki, The Living Room, Winner of Canad’s Most Imaginative Bartender 2017, hosted by Bombay Sapphire. Photo By Trevor Lalonde Photography

Whether you’re in Calgary for business or pleasure, there is always time for a good cocktail. For bars that can cater to your preferences with alluring drink lists, it’s important to know where the creative bartenders are.
(more…)

Where to Eat in Banff this Winter

By Where Writers

From mountain-top venues with epic snowy views, to cozy patios downtown, Banff is packed with great places to eat. Here’s our round-up of the bars and restaurants to visit this winter.

Mountain-top Meals
Want a meal with a view? Sky Bistro won’t disappoint. Ride the Banff Gondola to the restaurant on Sulphur Mountain’s 2,281-m high ridge for snowy views Banff and delicious tastes of Canada. Choose from regional dishes with upscale twists. And from the bar, sip locally crafted beers and spirits.

Banff Dining, best Banff restaurants, where to eat in Banff (more…)

Enjoy Fresh Lobster at Ibs.

LOBSTER LOVERS WON’T WANT FOR REASONABLY-PRICED OPTIONS AT LBS.

LBS Launch-0252

Thanks to careful prep by the chef the lobster at lbs. comes out of the shell easily, eliminating the fuss of enjoying the crustacean.

Feast on fresh lobster at lbs(The name, which stands for “Lobster,” “Burger,” and “Salad” is pronounced “pounds”). The short menu has four feature items at only $22 each: the 1.25 lbs. lobster, lobster roll, a burger topped with aged cheddar and bacon, and a lobster salad. Sit back at the large bar and quench your thirst with refreshing cocktails and a rotating selection of non-alcoholic custom sodas. And if you still have room, order the popular lobster poutine made with rich gravy. For crustacean-lovers on the go, the take-out window at the back serves Sam James coffee, as well as lobster rolls and ice cream sandwiches.  —Karen Stevens

Capital Cocktail Guide: Ottawa On Ice

By Chris Lackner

Get in the spirits. Ottawa has a thriving cocktail scene.

Sure, it may be a government town. But it works hard and plays hard. We outlines the hotspots to indulge in colourful, creative cocktails:

Union 613

Union 613

CENTRETOWN

Union 613: Their seasonal cocktail list — starring homemade syrups and infusions — is so good it should be illegal. Speaking of, visit their eccentric basement speakeasy, but don’t prohibit yourself to one drink. El Gringo and This Is Not A Caesar are great starters. 315 Somerset St. W., union613.ca

LITTLE ITALY

two six {ate}: Nobody does an Old Fashioned better. Have three and you’ll be cheering the restaurant’s name, and getting dirty looks form other customers. 268 Preston St., twosixate.com

The Moonroom: Sip artisan cocktails to your heart’s content at one of the city’s most cozy, romantic bars. This is the hidden gem you’ll tell your friends about when you get home. Vampires and werewolves welcome. 442 Preston Street, 613-231-2525

Moonroom.

The Moonroom’s Manhattan

BYWARD MARKET + DOWNTOWN RIDEAU

Hooch Bourbon House: More than 25 kinds of bourbon and a biblical cocktail menu that includes original fare like the Jalapeno Spiked Mint Julep and Caesar Hoochgustus. In order to walk straight, pair your drinks with mouth-watering, southern-flavoured food. 180 Rideau St., hoochbourbon.ca

Atari: They serve a three-tier layer of 24 creatively-named cocktails at $8, $10 or $14. Only here can you claim to have had a drink with Zelda, Jack Sparrow and Mary Poppins. 297 Dalhousie Street, atariottawa.com

HOOCH-WEB

Hooch’s Old Fashioned

The Albion Rooms: Their Market Shrub Sour and ByWard Batida — which pairs muddled blackberries and blueberries with black rum and brandy cream — will help you feel comfortably at home in the ByWard Market. Or step into the Canadian north with the Yukon, the Albion’s take on the classic Alaska cocktail. 33 Nicholas St., thealbionrooms.com

The Moscow Tea Room: Inspired by vodka and Russian culture, their cocktail menu includes playful drinks like the Sharapova (citrus, raspberry and lemon grass) and White Russian Tea, and the mysterious Lady in Red. 527 Sussex Drive, moscowtearoom.com

supply-web-tall

two six {ate}’s cocktail Dr. Greenthumb

WELLINGTON WEST

Hintonburg Public House: Don’t be fooled. This hipster haven is about more than craft beer. Their monthly cocktail menu is always full of delightful surprises. After a summer that starred the likes of Basil Margarita and Strawberry Orange Mimosa, just imagine autumn’s treats. 1020 Wellington St W, hintonburgpublichouse.ca

KANATA

Aperitivo: This is the place to get spirited before an Ottawa Senators game. Amidst a sea of Kanata chain restaurants, Aperitivo is an oasis for fine food, and handcrafted cocktails. Although their small menu is always changing, the crowd-pleasing Fish Tacos and the Hibiscus Sour cocktail have been staples since they opened. For something truly otherworldly, sample their unique sweet and spicy Verdita Margarita. 655 Kanata Avenue, Unit L2, 613-592-0004, aperitivo.ca

web-tall-last-one

two six {ate}’s Myrtle Thatcher’s Cup.

 

3 New Bars With Premium Drinks and Snacks

THESE RECENT ADDITIONS TO TORONTO’S BAR SCENE BOAST SUPERIOR SIPS, INVENTIVE SNACKS AND MORE THAN A LITTLE SOPHISTICATION

Bar Batavia Food copy

Photo Credit: Renée Suen

Chic and just a bit sinful, Bar Batavia pours no-nonsense cocktails accompanied by Dutch-Indonesian nibbles.

 

 

 

bar begonia

Photo Credit: Kayla Rocca

 

Bar Begonia traffics in country-bistro fare served from afternoon through to late-night. Cocktail guru Oliver Stern handles the elegant, if rather pricey, libations.

 

 

 

 

bar hop

Craft beer is the drink of choice at Bar Hop Brewco. The two-storey-plus-rooftop-patio destination offers dozens of small-batch beers plus inventive eats—like nachos served in a roasted pig’s head.

—Craig Moy

Hot Dining: Now Open

IMG_7526Photo courtesy of Blind Tiger Coffee Co.

Craft cocktails are trending, with creative concoctions popping up all over the city. New spot The Roost Social House has landed on the Corydon strip, shaking up a menu of handcrafted libations that use tastes of the season such as cranberries, figs, and cloves, and are complemented by a changing menu of boldly flavoured small plates. 651 Corydon Ave, 204‑414‑9313, theroostwpg.com

A new Prohibition Era-inspired speakeasy adds to this cocktail culture. The Blind Tiger Coffee Co serves java by day, but a secret door leads to the sultry night time dining room. French classics like mussels, charcuterie, and escargot call to the old days of Paris with some modern updates (pork belly, anyone?) 725 Osborne St, blindtigerwinnipeg.ca

Where to Eat & Drink in Jasper this Summer

By Where Staff

Jasper has many delicious restaurants (check out our Jasper Dining Guide for more extensive options by category). Here are some of our favourites:

Photo: Courtesy of Cassios

Photo: Courtesy of Cassios

Italian dining delights include:

  • Orso Trattoria is the new northern Italian restaurant at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. Their Osso Bucco is a standout dish – this tender veal Milanese specialty is marinated for 24 hours, red wine braised and served on saffron risotto. “I’ve never seen a single bite left behind,” says Trattoria manager Virginia Letourneau. Their antipasti selection includes cured meats and cheeses from Italy.
  • Cassios Italian Restaurant is the namesake of a family that’s been in the restaurant business for 60+ years, and offers more delicious Italian dining. Tomato sauce, from an old family recipe, incorporates ripe California tomatoes, oregano, garlic and Italian parsley; it’s the staple ingredient in their classic Pomodoro spaghetti and Pescatore linguini. “The secret to great flavours is not to overcook,” advises owner/chef Mike Cassio.

(more…)

10 Delicious Banff Restaurants

Photo: Courtesy of the Fairmont Banff Springs

Photo: Courtesy of the Fairmont Banff Springs

By Where Staff

New on Banff’s Dining Scene

The newest restaurant at the Fairmont Banff Springs is 1888 Chop House. The trendy chop house concept is juxtaposed with elements from the past such as railway artifacts and a name that evokes the hotel’s opening year. Before your meal, take a seat at the cocktail bar that overlooks the Castle in the Rockies’ lobby.

(more…)

Perfect 10: Savour Food and Wine Festival Celebrates a Decade

The Savour Food & Wine Festival marks a decade of delighting palates and bringing foodies, chefs and winemakers closer together. Photo: Mike Tompkins

Even at the most open of restaurants, you’re getting few chances to really talk with the chefs while they work. You may see them for a quick greeting when you order, or perhaps a brief thank-you at the end of the meal. But odds are good you’re talking to them while they’re really in action, as they’re cooking and plating your food. They’re probably not literally pointing you to the best glass of wine to pair with it.

Unless, of course, you’re at the Savour Food & Wine Festival. Running throughout February, the month-long festival brings diners together with chefs, restaurateurs, vintners, brewers and suppliers from across the province. It all begins on February 1 when the Dine Around program, which runs throughout the month, kicks off. Dine Around gives restaurants a chance to showcase a local project on a three-course prix fixe menu (for either $25, $35 or $45). Participating restaurants weren’t finalized at press time, but you can find all the latest updates at edining.ca.

Throughout the month, Casino Nova Scotia on Upper Water Street in Halifax is hosting several Festival events. Next is Decadence on February 7. The tasting pairs artisanal cheeses, succulent chocolates and wines from around the world. Held in the Schooner Showroom, Decadence is an intimate event, explains Gordon Stewart, executive director of the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia, which organizes Savour. “We expanded Decadence to 225 tickets this year, and that’s really as big as we want it to get,” he says. This year, organizers have also invited a few local restaurants to Decadence, to share food pairings that complement the theme ingredients.

Next on the calendar is the Rare & Fine Wine Tasting in the Casino’s Compass Room on February 15. It’s another intimate event, with attendance capped at 125 people. “These are wines that are unavailable in Nova Scotia,” Stewart says, “wines we wouldn’t normally afford.”

The Savour Food & Wine Festival runs through February, celebrating Nova Scotian cuisine. Photo: Mike Tompkins

Following that, it’s back to the Casino’s Schooner Showroom for Imbibe on February 21. Savour’s newest event, Imbibe debuts this year. “Imbibe is our biggest new change this year,” Stewart says. “There are some restaurants
and bars in Nova Scotia that do a lot of fine cocktails, and they don’t get the attention they deserve. The idea is to celebrate the art of mixology, with 15 booths showcasing specialty brands and demonstrating their signature drinks. Finally, February concludes with the Savour Food & Wine Show on February 28. This year, the event moves to the spacious Cunard Centre on Marginal Road. The flagship event brings 65 exhibitors—restaurants, wineries, bakeries, cheese makers, brewers and suppliers of all sorts—together to celebrate the best of Nova Scotia’s culinary scene. Dozens of chefs are on site, preparing artful little dishes, all included in the ticket price. “It’s the 10th anniversary of Savour,” says Stewart. “And we’re quite happy with how it’s gone. It’s all about bringing restaurants and people together, and getting diners excited about what we do here in Nova Scotia.”

Geir Simensen is head chef with Saege Bistro on Spring Garden Road and Scanway Catering in Halifax. He’s been there for each Savour. “It’s important to me to take part and support our local industry,” he says. “It’s one thing to talk to a table when people are in the restaurant, but it’s different to be at an event like Savour and talk to people who are really there to meet you, and want to talk. It puts a face to the restaurant.”

Figuring out his Savour menu is a highlight of the year, for Simensen. He’s already given it a lot of thought for 2013. “We use the year before as a benchmark,” he says. “I like to think each year is a little better… Now I like to get a little more simple, use the natural seasonal flavours. I guess that’s something chefs learn as they get older. I’ve been doing this for 27 years, but I still feel like I’m learning.” This year, he’s thinking he’ll offer a comforting winter menu, with some sort of braised meat and root vegetables. “I really want to show off those local ingredients.”