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local fare

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: Mama Mia! What’s New at Halifax’s Italian Restaurants

Dessert from Il Mercato

Il Mercato, a popular trattoria with locations on Spring Garden Road and at Sunnyside Mall in Bedford, offers a top-notch casual Italian menu. A new summer menu has fare such as flash-fried calamari with roasted garlic, tomatoes and chilies, and lamb chops crusted with Sicilian pistachios and breadcrumbs, served with fresh mint. A decadent summer tiramisu is the perfect coda.

After 15 years in its old spot, popular Dartmouth eatery Rocco’s Italian Ristorante is in a new location at Baker Drive. As regulars would expect, the menu still highlights Southern Italian favourites, paired with Italian wines. Try the house specialty Capasante alla Rocco (scallops simmered in Marsala wine and demi-glaze).

Hot Dining: FARM Restaurant

FARM’s famous Mac n’ Cheese. Photo: Adele Brunnhofer.

Located on busy 17 Ave SW, FARM Restaurant celebrates local food in a cozy, rural-inspired setting.

The interior, with its muted floral wallpaper, lace curtains and vintage coffee cups evokes the feel of a prairie farm kitchen. A large communal “harvest table” and bar seating wrapped around the open-kitchen keep the cozy room feeling lively. A large chalkboard at the back of the restaurant lists out the daily specials and for those seated at the open kitchen, Chef Pete Goldberg and his brigade happily engage (more…)

Hot Dining: Sleek, Chic Downtown Dining at ARC Lounge

Dishes made with local, seasonal ingredients fill the menu at ARC Lounge

Nestled in ARC The.Hotel, ARC Lounge is a chic gem. This downtown restaurant manages to be both sleek and cozy, and is the perfect place for a business meeting over lunch (it’s also a go-to for a romantic dinner or after-work drinks). Known for fresh and local seasonal menus that blend sophistication and creativity, this is a place that is generating increasing buzz. Head over in the morning and order the Arc French Toast — oat and cinnamon crusted cranberry focaccia with maple syrup and orange butter — for a nice wake-up call. 140 Slater St., 613-238-9998.

Canadian Rocky Mountain Chefs’ Winter Inspiration

Bison Gnocchi at The Juniper

Snowy peaks might not bring to mind abundant local produce, but many Canadian Rockies chefs incorporate the bounty of Alberta’s agriculture year-round. From free-range meats to relish made from fall squash, conscientious diners can choose cuisine made with ingredients grown nearby. (more…)

Hunting for Wild Game at Yellowknife Restaurants

By KRISTEN MURPHY

Musk Ox gyoza at Thornton’s Wine & Tapas Room. (Photo: Kristen Murphy)

“It’s like a meat truffle,” I say to my friend after biting into the rich, musk-ox gyoza. She agrees between bites of the exotic and delicious dish at Thornton’s Wine & Tapas Room in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. (more…)

Local-Food Luminary Jeff Van Geest of Mirado, in BC’s Okanagan Valley

By Waheeda Harris

Born and raised in St. Catharines in the heart of Niagara’s wine region, Jeff Van Geest learned the benefits of local ingredients early on from his grandparents, who were farmers. In 1992, he moved across the country to work as a cook in Vancouver, where he completed culinary training, did an apprenticeship at Bishop’s and in 2004 opened his first restaurant, award-winning, local-food-focused Aurora Bistro, which was fiercely adored by locals. (more…)

Vista D’oro Farms Preserves, Fraser Valley, BC

By Kat Tancock

About an hour’s drive southeast out of Vancouver in South Langley, BC, Vista D’oro Farms was an escape from corporate life for owners Lee and Patrick Murphy, who have built the 10-acre property just blocks from the U.S. border into a diversified farm and winery where everything is grown naturally, if not certified organic.

The Farmgate Market sells the farm’s wine, produce and fresh baked goods as well as other products from the region, but it’s the artisanal preserves that are the star of the show: “About 80% of what is grown on the farm ends up in a jar or bottle,” says Lee. They cook up about six varieties each season in small batches using traditional recipes and fruit from their farm and nearby farmers they trust.

Flavours such as orchard pear and cocoa nib, caramel apple with dark rum, and green tomato with garam masala are designed to be enjoyed in a variety of settings: with scones or toast, accompanying a cheese board, atop ice cream or as a glaze or sauce for meats. Jars ($8.95 each) can be purchased at the farm, ordered online or found at select retailers and restaurants in the Lower Mainland.

Details:
Vista D’oro Farms
346 208th Street
Langley, BC
www.vistadoro.com

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5 Must-Try Newfoundland Dishes

By CANDICE WALSH

Perfectly fried fish and chips are a Newfoundland staple (Image courtesy of Ches’s Famous Fish & Chips)

You might have heard that Newfoundland has some exceptionally odd dishes. Titles like “seal flipper pie” and “fried cod tongues with scrunchions” might make you squirm in your seat. But in the past few years, the face of Newfoundland cuisine has been changing dramatically. With gourmet restaurants like Raymonds opening in St. John’s and innovative chefs like Todd Perrin staking his claim on Top Chef Canada, the Rock is quickly becoming a favourite among foodies.

(more…)

Winterlude: For Foodies and Families and Everyone In Between

It doesn’t get better than this annual outdoor festival that brings the city to life. Taking place from Feb. 4 to 21, these are just a few highlights from the jam-packed, fun-filled celebration that offers something for everyone.

After dusk is the perfect time to go skating on the Rideau Canal. Photo credit: Ottawa Tourism.

FOR COUPLES
There’s nothing more romantic than taking a moonlit skate with your loved one. Whether you’re a seasoned skater or just starting out, it’s all about good old-fashioned fun on the Rideau Canal Skateway. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is 7.8 kilometres long, making it the largest naturally frozen skating rink in the world. Bring your own skates or rent a pair at the locations at Mackenzie King Bridge, Fifth Avenue, or Dows Lake Pavilion. After you’ve finished gliding arm-in-arm up and down the skateway, be sure to warm up with a steaming cup of hot chocolate and a delicious Canadian treat, the BeaverTail, as you enjoy the pretty winter scenery.

FOR FOODIES
Ottawa’s exciting food scene takes centre stage during Taste of Winterlude. Until Feb. 21, some of the capital’s best restaurants are offering exclusive fine dining experiences, wine pairings, and other culinary delights. Try the “Great White North Beer Dinner and Tasting” on Feb. 8 and enjoy a four-course dinner paired with — what else — premium Canadian beers. There is also the “Savour Ottawa Walkabout Winter Feast” on Feb. 8, during which guests will travel from restaurant to restaurant for a food and wine pairing. A chocolate-making seminar and “Winter Fare & Flair” dinner and fashion show are also on the menu. Activities range from free to $300.

An ice sculpture from the Roger's Crystal Garden. Photo credit: NCC/CCN.

FOR ARTISTS
Artists and art lovers alike will fall in love with the Rogers Crystal Garden, where blocks of ice are transformed into masterpieces. Take a stroll through this winter wonderland where the theme is “Harmony by Contrast.” From Feb. 4 to 6, teams from Canada, Holland, China, and other countries will compete to see who can design the best ice sculpture. There will also be a One-Block Challenge on Feb. 4, to be completed in two hours or less using a single piece of ice, and an Ice Carving Championship on Feb. 12, where pro carvers go head to head in an “ice-off.” Afterwards, these majestic structures remain on display in Confederation Park until the end of Winterlude.

FOR ATHLETES
Sporty types can get their fill of all things athletic during Winterlude. For those who adore the cold, the Winterman on Feb. 20 is a must. This day of exciting outdoor races kicks off at the Canadian War Museum and includes full and half marathons, marathon relays, and 3, 5, and 10K runs. On Feb. 5, don’t miss the Winterlude Triathlon that’s taking place, with stretches of skating, skiing, and running, or the annual (and hilarious) Bedzzz Race that sees teams face off using a bed on wheels as their vehicle of choice.

Kids have a blast on the slides in the Sunlife Snowflake Kingdom. Photo credit: NCC/CCN.

FOR FAMILIES
Hold on to your hats at the Sunlife Snowflake Kingdom! Kids (and those who are kids at heart) will have a blast shooting down more than 20 snow slides in this frozen playground, located in Jacques-Cartier Park. Check out the brand new winter obstacle course and other games like kite-flying races, snow soccer, and extreme wall climbing. You can even try your hand, or rather your feet, at kicksledding, a much-loved Scandinavian activity. Be sure to wear snow pants so you can spend as much time as possible in this icy paradise.

For a complete line-up of events, locations, and other detailed information, check out www.winterlude.gc.ca or contact the Capital Infocentre at 613-239-5000.

Top Chefs: Alain Irvine, North Restaurant

There are many reasons to visit Muskoka: the small town ambience; the pristine lakes; its world-renowned golf courses. These days, the region offers another excellent incentive thanks to the tremendous growth of its dining scene. We asked some of Muskoka’s most prominent kitchen captains about their restaurants, their cuisine and the area’s emergence as a foodie-friendly destination. Watch this space for a new chef every week of the summer!

CHEF ALAIN IRVINE
North Restaurant
, Gravenhurst

Can you tell us a bit about your restaurant and its philosophy?
Our culinary philosophy draws upon these four key elements. First is our cuisine. Through the application of traditional techniques and modern flair along with locally sourced, seasonal ingredients, we seek to redefine original dishes to create an unparalleled restaurant experience. Our service exudes warmth, intuition and honesty—always attentive and articulate. Diners are made to feel welcome, and can be confident in our staff’s knowledge and expertise. The third element is our setting. Our dining room compliments our cuisine; it’s an urban oasis in Muskoka. And finally there’s aesthetics—we believe that combining cuisine, service and setting with a touch of magic creates an inimitable journey to savour.

What are your thoughts on the local food movement?
More and more people are looking for local food from farmers’ markets, farms, or even from their own gardens. Locavores believe food tastes better because it’s fresh and that it’s more nutritious. Farmers’ markets are becoming trendy again, people love to get out and be seen.

What culinary trends do you predict in Muskoka in the near future?
The trend will always stay the same; we still use nuevo cuisine from the ‘80s. Everything is just a good chef taking the best available products and creating a great centre-plate experience.

Can you tell us about one of your signature dishes?
I don’t really have a signature dish. I love to cook, so everything on the menu has 40 years of experience put into it. It’s always the details that separate an average dining experience from a great one.

Aside from indulging in fine dining, how else would you suggest visitors to the Muskoka region make the most of their time?
Explore the endless lakes and countless islands. Muskoka’s three big lakes—Joseph, Rosseau and Muskoka—and their lakeside communities are playgrounds for tourists, cottagers and residents.  Algonquin Park is full of wildlife and great trails.

Top Chefs: Richard and Julie Lalonde, Crossroads Pub & Grill

There are many reasons to visit Muskoka: the small town ambience; the pristine lakes; its world-renowned golf courses. These days, the region offers another excellent incentive thanks to the tremendous growth of its dining scene. We asked some of Muskoka’s most prominent kitchen captains about their restaurants, their cuisine and the area’s emergence as a foodie-friendly destination. Watch this space for a new chef every week of the summer!

CHEFS RICHARD & JULIE LALONDE
Crossroads Pub & Grill
, Rosseau

The Muskoka region is gaining popularity as a dining destination. Why do you think this is?
Chefs are using more local products and produce. People and families from Ontario are choosing to remain in the province when travelling, which naturally brings more visitors who want to discover this all-around beautiful area.

What are your thoughts on the local food movement?
Finally! We have so much to offer and to be proud of here. It’s time that we all get back to cooking and supporting what we have grown.

Can you tell us a bit about your menu?
We create all of our dishes using local ingredients—beef and pork from Winding Fences farm, honey from Papa Jim’s, and produce from Brookland and Grenville farms. It’s a combination of great products and a passion for food.

What inspires you to cook?
Everything! Changes in the seasons; local products that are fresh and flavourful; cooking for our family and friends and introducing new foods to them. We love to give diners real value for their dollar and to show them what food should taste like.