Behind the Food: The Courtyard Restaurant

It’s the MOST delicious time of year…Food & Drink Fest time!  The Festival with Taste is returning on March 23, 24 & 25 at The Careport Centre on Longwood Rd. S. Hamilton, Ontario.  Before Food & Drink Fest, we hope to bring you a “behind the scenes” sneak-peak of many of the restaurants, gourmet food options, bakeries, local wineries and breweries.  Getting to know the Chefs, Bakers, Winemakers or the Brewmasters behind our local culinary scene isn’t always an experience we, the foodies, are privy to  have. The team at Food & Drink Fest believes that it is an important and organic step in a foodie’s culinary experience, so we encourage you to read on…then have the opportunity to meet these individuals at the show. If you have any questions of your own, please feel free to them through and we would be happy to ask on your behalf. Cheers!

Company Name: The Courtyard       

The Courtyard on Locke Street, Hamilton

The Courtyard on Locke Street, Hamilton

http://www.thecourtyardonlocke.com/

Q: Three adjectives to describe your Culinary Style

A: Local, Organic, and French Inspired

Q: What made you fall in love with food?

 A: The owners Stephen Bernstein, and son Bob Bernstein, have had the distinct pleasure of living on the farm Willow Pond in Dundas, which supplies the restaurant with some of its local and organic fare. Stephen Bernstein, has taken groups to Paris France for the last 10 years, and has always been impressed with the French Cuisine. The two of them decided to begin a restaurant that while maintaining close ties to local markets, could tackle the amazing world of French cooking.

Courtyard's owners Bob & Stephen on one of their inspiring trips to France

Courtyard’s owners Bob & Stephen on one of their inspiring trips to France

Q: Most essential Kitchen Tool/Gadget:

A: A knife. A sharp knife.

Q: What is your favourite or most frequently used herb in the kitchen

A: Thyme

Q: What inspires you in the kitchen? (EX: Music (if so, what kind), the season, the ingredients, your customers, the people you work with or is there something else?).  Why do these things inspire you?

 A: There is nothing more satisfying than completing a wonderful Herb Crusted Ontario Rack of Lamb dish, with Celery Root Mashed, Local Mixed Beets and Carrots, and finished with Pan Jus and Port with a stem of rosemary, start to finish. Cooking allows one to experience everything from collecting raw goods, to putting the finishing touches on every dish.

Q: What is your food philosophy? (EX: 100 mile diet, creativity, “always use butter?”)

A: We serve fresh, local and organic fare that will light up your taste buds. Creativity, locally, honesty, healthy, simplicity, are some words that describe our menus.

Q:  What would your ultimate “Last meal” consist of (in a less morbid way, what dish always makes your mouth water? lol). Please include your beverage choices as well as dessert!

A: The Ontario Rack of Lamb mentioned above paired with a glass of Tawse Organic Cab Franc, and finished with a traditional vanilla crème brule.

  

The CourtyardThe Courtyard will be at Food & Drink Fest 2012

Check out The Courtyard Restaurant at 7th Annual Food & Drink Fest…the Festival with Taste in booth #226

March 23, 24 & 25, 2012

The Careport Centre

270 Longwood Rd S., Hamilton

www.FoodandDrinkFest.com

Like Us on Facebook http://www.Facebook.com/FoodandDrinkFest

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Behind the Food: The Toasted Tangerine Mobile Sandwich Press

It’s the MOST delicious time of year…Food & Drink Fest time!  The Festival with Taste is returning on March 23, 24 & 25 at The Careport Centre on Longwood Rd. S. Hamilton, Ontario.  Before Food & Drink Fest, we hope to bring you a “behind the scenes” sneak-peak of many of the restaurants, gourmet food options, bakeries, local wineries and breweries.  Getting to know the Chefs, Bakers, Winemakers or the Brewmasters behind our local culinary scene isn’t always an experience we, the foodies, are privy to  have. The team at Food & Drink Fest believes that it is an important and organic step in a foodie’s culinary experience, so we encourage you to read on…then have the opportunity to meet these individuals at the show. If you have any questions of your own, please feel free to them through and we would be happy to ask on your behalf. Cheers!

Company Name: The Toasted Tangerine 

http://thetoastedtangerine.com/

Q: Three adjectives to describe your Culinary Style: Feel good, Delicious, Comfort Food

Q:  What made you fall in love with food?

A: Chef Adrian Tangerine has grown up in the restaurant industry his whole life. Living in a house with a baker, butcher and cook really taught him at a young age that food truly was his passion. Adrian has worked at his family restaurant for the last 15 years and in the last three years taken over the business with his wife and business partner Alyssa Tangerine. Recently they decided to sell their restaurant and continue their devotion for food in the form of a food truck. The Toasted Tangerine Mobile Sandwich Press is a true extension of their passion for food and rock n roll.

The Toasted Tangerine Mobile Sandwich PressThe Toasted Tangerine Mobile Sandwich Press

Q:  Most essential Kitchen Tool/Gadget

A: Sharp Chef’s knife

A: What is your favourite or most frequently used herb in the kitchen?

A: A dash of this and a pinch of that lol!

Q:  In your opinion, what is the most underrated ingredient in the kitchen?

A: Mustard

Q: What inspires you in the kitchen?

A: Music- Specifically Led Zeppelin any song and every song! Led Zeppelin is a band with such a variety of sounds- from heavy drum solos to ballad acoustic love songs. This variety inspires me to constantly add new flare and flavour to my cooking.

Q: Aside from your own restaurant, what’s the best thing you have ever ate locally? It can be from a restaurant or a dinner party. Please include the name of the dish and if it is a restaurant, please include their name.

 A: Crispy Beef- Faley’s in Rexdale, ON http://www.faleyrestaurant.com/

Q: What is your food philosophy?

A: Great food, great people, great music.

Q: What would your ultimate “Last meal” consist of (in a less morbid way, what dish always makes your mouth water? lol). Please include your beverage choices as well as dessert!

For her: Crispy beef, Fettuccine Alfredo, freshly baked oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and Dr.Pepper cherry.

For him: 20 oz cowboy steak medium rare, crispy beef, side of our Mango Jalapeno coleslaw, skip dessert and give me a whiskey;)

Toasted Tangerine Team: Alyssa & Chef Adrian TangerineToasted Tangerine Team: Alyssa & Chef Adrian Tangerine

Check out The Toasted Tangerine at 7th Annual Food & Drink Fest…the Festival with Taste in booth #140

March 23, 24 & 25, 2012

The Careport Centre

270 Longwood Rd S., Hamilton

www.FoodandDrinkFest.com

 

 

Cheese Shoppe On Locke Makes Awesome Sandwiches

Cheese Shoppe on Locke has created quite a stir since they moved into their Locke Street South location last fall. Their cheery yellow facade brightens up the street and their retro but chic interior reminds me of the many high-end boutiques in Napa Valley….I love the wine barrel chandeliers they have!

Wine Barrel Chandeliers at Cheese Shoppe on Locke

Wine Barrel Chandeliers at Cheese Shoppe on Locke

Since they’ve opened, I’ve frequented Cheese Shoppe for numerous little purchases, such as their locally made jam, buttertarts, salsa and of course, a various selection of cheese for racoulette parties or sandwiches. However, I never had the delight of tasting on of their homemade sandwiches until yesterday.   And man, can they make a sandwich! Here’s my foodie story for the day….

The Sandwich: I believe there were 5 choices of sandwiches you could choose from (then of course you could build your own from the deli selection). One of my dining companions and I chose the grilled vegetables and goat cheese and our other lunch date went for the fig and chicken salad sandwich. Both sandwiches were served on a crispy locally made French baguette that literally melted in your mouth because it was so fresh. I could have eaten the bread alone and been a very happy lady! However the toppings certainly did not disappoint.  The grilled peppers, eggplant, red onions and zucchini tasted incredibly fresh and unlike some grilled veggie experiences, you could still taste the individual flavours of each vegetable. This freshness not only added many layers of simple flavour to the sammie, but it also made each bite a bit of a surprise based on what what veggies you got in that mouthful.  The sandwich was topped of with a substantial amount of fresh goat’s cheese. Since it was served warm the goat cheese was gooey, creamy and oh so good.  The sweetness of the veggies combined with the tart of the cheese made me feel like I was eating a gourmet grilled cheese, which was perfect on such a chilly day.

Grilled Veggie & Goat Cheese Sandwich

Grilled Veggie & Goat Cheese Sandwich

While I didn’t have an opportunity to try the fig and chicken salad, my friend gushed about it….and he is a pretty picky eater, so it must be good! The chicken salad was mixed with bits of finely chopped fig and celery and was finished off with thinly sliced Brie and Granny Smith apples. Nobody had a problem finishing off their lunches.

Atmosphere & Food Accessories: We were seated at one of their little black cast iron bistro tables, but there was also the option of saddling up to their antique wood bar to enjoy your lunch.  On top of the table was a refinished wine barrel top that had been turned into a Lazy Susan.  The wine barrel top took up practically the entire table, and our lunch was actually served on it. My two dining companions shared, so they kept spinning the table top to switch plates, which was kinda cool.

Grab lunch at Cheese Shoppe on Locke

Grab lunch at Cheese Shoppe on Locke

Since The Cheese Shoppe doesn’t sell wine, we finished our meal off with a sparkling apple and blueberry spritzer. The blueberry added a lovely smooth aftertaste which actually worked very nicely with the bite of the apple.  The Drink was called McIntosh Sparkling Juice.

The Price Tag: Sandwiches were approximately $8.00 each.  While some many baulk at the price, I assure you, it is worth it! Considering that fact that many fast food restaurants are charging equivalent prices for sandwiches made from ingredients lacking in taste for the same price, I certainly believe both of these sandwiches were well worth the money.  With A Cheese Shoppe on Locke Sandwich, you are getting a unique dinning experience, and yo’re eating quality, local ingredients and a lot of them! As an example, I didn’t eat dinner since I was still so full from lunch.

The Timeline: Make sure you are not in a rush.  The sandwiches were made with care while we waited and it did take a bit longer than expected with the lunch-time rush.  The great thing is The Shoppe is epitome of sensory overload! You certainly aren’t bored while you wait and have a ton of different boutique food products to paruse (and some to taste test too!)

Say Cheese!

Say Cheese!

For more information on the Cheese Shoppe, check out an interview I did with the owner, Torsten last year. http://www.youtube.com/user/BeauMondeProductions#p/u/17/2VI5Tct3Ivs

Cheers,

Shannon

www.FoodandDrinkFest.com

The Bread Bar Experience

If you are a frequent visitor of the Locke St District, you know that newest and hottest spot on the trendy Hamilton street is The Bread Bar.  The “artisan bakery by day, pizzaeria by night” has quickly formed a loyal and eclectic following.  Every time I have frequented this place, I seem to run into someone I know and have been in for some great people watching (fabulously dressed people and hilarious conversations occurring at every table! I know, I’m a creep) The decor is a beautiful arts and crafts mixture of vibrant photographs, prints of Hamilton cityscapes, and found objects creatively arranged throughout the space. The vintage, mis-matched furniture juxtaposed with the artful decor gives the restaurant goer the unique experience of feeling like they are eating in a chic urban art gallery, while still experiencing the comforting familiarity and warmth of one’s own kitchen.  The restaurant setting and atmosphere does a wonderful job of mirroring the philosophy of local community and locally grown food and encourages the restaurant goer to escape the hustle of the day, chat with your dining companions, meet your dining neighbours (the tables are fairly close together) and linger over a home-cooked meal.

While I have heard complaints of the noise level in the restaurant (there seems to be a bit of an echo when it is really busy), I personally love the soundtrack they have playing.  Abandoning the usual dinner music repertoire, Bread Bar plays a fabulous mixture of upbeat English pop, rock, folk, alternative and a little jazz.  I’ve heard everything from The Jon Bon, Mother Mother, to Wintersleep coming through their speakers.

Joe chowing down on a the Bacon & Scallion Pizza

Joe chowing down on a the Bacon & Scallion Pizza

Food for Thought: The Bread Bar’s food philosophy is largely based around Celebrity Chef Jeff Crump and Pastry Chef Bettina Schormann’s cookbook Earth to Table, in that they believe that good, fresh and local ingredients matter (not to mention taste so much better!).  They have put many of the “green” recipes in their cook book to the test and serve them up at the restaurant.  For more information about their food philosophy and their cookbook, visit http://breadbar.ca/cookbook

The Main Attraction: Pastry Chef Bettina Schormann’s mouth-watering bread and pizza dough recipes are the decadent base for many of my favourites on the menu. The pizza dough is fresh, light, crispy, of a medium thickness and has a slightly buttery aftertaste.  It quite literally melts in your mouth.

My recommendations

Salads: Roasted Heirloom Beet Salad: an explosion of many different flavours and textures coming together

Pizzas: You really can’t lose on this one.  They are all fantastic.  For a more traditional pie, go for the Classic Pepperoni or Bacon and Scallion.  If you are more adventurous try the Potato Bianca (LOVE THIS ONE!)or the Popeye.

Rami enjoying a signature Bread Bar Pizza

Rami enjoying a signature Bread Bar Pizza

Bruschetta: I really like the Eggplant or the Tomato.  Tip for the Tomato: ask for half the ricotta.  The impact of flavour will be so much stronger because you will be able to taste more of the inch and a half thick homemade bread they serve it on.

Desserts: They have an entire counter top filled with freshly baked goods, made with local ingredients for you to choose from. Some of my favourites include their ginger cookies, chocolate chip scones and their in season fruit pies.  I’ve gone and had dessert first! I wasn’t disappointed.

Cappuccino and Chocolate Chip Scone from The Bread Bar

Cappuccino and Chocolate Chip Scone from The Bread Bar

Beet Salad from Bread Bar

Beet Salad from Bread Bar

For their full menu, please visit http://breadbar.ca/

Last tip before sending you off to The Bread Bar, make a reservation! They work fast, but they are always busy

PS if you are in the mood for some backyard BBQing, pick up Bread Bars Hamburger buns! Amazingly fresh with a smattering of sunflower seeds across the top.  You’ll have an instant gourmet burger on your hands!

Cheers,

Shannon

www.FoodandDrinkFest.com

Hamilton’s Best Pizza

Who doesn’t love pizza, I mean seriously? As a pizza lover, I’ve discovered there are different types of pizza cravings…and I’m not talking about craving different toppings people. I’m talking about the need for a delicious gooey take out pizza you pair with a beer while watching bad TV, or the hankering for a “hungry man” deep-dish pie. Maybe you get the creative itch to experiment with a DIY homemade pizza crust and unique toppings, or to indulge your taste buds in an authentic gourmet Italian thin crust pizza…And if you are craving any one one of these type of pizza, another type isn’t going to cut it, ya know?  Thankfully, there are a  ton of amazing pizzerias in Hamilton that cater to all my pizza needs.  Here are a few of my favs from each category.  Do you agree with my choices?

The Ultimate Take-Out/Comfort Food Pizza: Bronzies Place on James St S.

  • Bronzies is just a little hole in the wall that was been there forever! Staff is no nonsense and efficient, the portions are huge, homemade, traditional  and the ultimate comfort food that just warms your soul. The sauce has a great oregano kick to it that makes it quite unique.
  • Tip: If you are ordering take out, ask for the pizza to be “Crispy Bottom”. Sometimes I find the takeout isn’t was well cooked as when you eat in. Crispy Bottom takes care of that issue.  If you like olives on your pizza, the ones they use are good, but overly salty.

The Hungry Man Pizza: Chicago Style Pizza, Upper Sherman.  If you are hungry and only if you are hungry, order the Stuffed Pizza (I mean, come on! It’s what they are known for;)) I personally like The Shack Special, but they have an endless amount of toppings to choose from

Tips: Be prepared to wait both for takeout or dining in, as they are a bit on the slow side (The Pizza Pie takes about 1/2 hour to cook, but is worth the wait) and there usually is a lineup.  Avoid Friday and Saturday nights.  If you are dining in, there is no privacy as the place is very tiny! Don’t allow your eyes to be bigger than your stomach! Even when we order a medium, we still leave with a doggy bag.

DIY Pizza Crust: There are a ton of pizza crust recipes out there but one of my favourites is  from “The Best of Bridge” Series Cookbooks. Its quick, easy and the dough is really easy to work with.  I’ve used this recipe to make thin crust, regular and even substituted in whole wheat flour and each time the pizza has come out divine!

Tips: I forgo the pizza pan and instead sprinkle a generous amount of cornmeal on my pizza stone and cook from there.  I also add a little cheddar to the mozzarella for a sharp taste

Gourmet Italiano: La Cantina Ristorante Italiano, Hamilton.  All of their pizza dough is homemade with distilled water, sea salt and is made in their wood-oven pizzette. I have tried about 95% of the pizzas on their menu and I really don’t have anything to say but yummmmmmm.  While all pizzas are mouth wateringly fantastic,  I do have a couple preferences:

  • Pomodoro Pizza: The San Marco or the Diavola (my boyfriend loves the Candese Pizza but subs the mushrooms for hot peppers)
  • Bianco Neve Piazza: The Adriatico (sub the cucumbers for hot peppers)
  • Tips: Order a Long Island Iced Tea (Refreshing and tart…not overly sweet) and start it off with a great De Giardino or a Caprese Salad!

Recovered from Food & Drink Fest…Finally

Hello my Foodie Friends!

The long gap between posts can be attributed to the crazy planning, executing and cleaning up after Food & Drink Fest…the Festival with Taste. For those of you that don’t know, Food & Drink Fest is probably the biggest and best dinner party in the Southern Ontario Region, which consists of  you, 10,000 of your closest friends, 35 restaurants, 40 wineries, 20 craft breweries, artisan bakeries, live music, cooking demos all at Copps Coliseum on April 9th-11.  All I can say is thankfully, I wasn’t on dish washing duty;)

Crowd Shot from Food & Drink Fest...the Festival with Taste!

Crowd Shot from Food & Drink Fest...the Festival with Taste! (Saturday Night)

Even though I escaped dish duty, my teammates Jay, Jenn and I worked around the clock for about a month before the show to ensure that we were familiar with the logistics of Copps Coliseum (try throwing a food party that big without any kitchens!) and to ensure that the show was the best showcasing of Southern Ontario’s culinary popular delights, hidden gems, and up and coming foodie hot spots, that it could possibly be.

The result? Lets put it this way; Food & Drink Fest grew from being 20,000 square feet in size to Copps Coliseum, where it was 60,000 square feet in size….and we still had 30 minute line ups to get in the door on Friday and Saturday nights.  Yeek! Needless to say we are working on our plan for next year and how we are going to facilitate all of the people comfortably and still maintain the intimate, fun, party atmosphere for festival is known for.  I will keep you posted about 2011 dates and times.

Now for the tragic news: since I was running around so much at Food & Drink Fest, I only got to sample 2, yes only 2 out of the hundreds of food and drink samples available!!  The silver lining was that those two samples were to DIE for. My first sample was homemade butter tarts from Dyments Farm and Bakery.  The tart crusts are flaky and moist and the middle is incredible goosey and sweet.  They are the freshest homemade butter tarts I have ever eaten and since the festival have often gone for a 10km run in the country and rewarded myself with a yummy devilish Dyment butter tart (Very counter productive, but worth every bite). I believe the ones I had were plain, but I am pretty sure you can also get them with raisins or nuts.

The famous (and yummy) Dyment's Baked Goods

My second sample was Sweet Potato Gnocchi from Twisted Lemon Restaurant. Their Chef certainly lived up to their claim of being a “flavour junkie” as the fresh homemade gnoochi in a cream sauce had a flavour that simply exploded on your tongue.  Unlike regular gnocchi, I found the sweet potato base pleasingly lighter and the texture less dense; but nonetheless, still very filling.

Despite only getting to try 2 samples, I heard (and smelled) amazing things from several of the other food samples at Food & Drink  Fest, such as the crab cakes from Nina’s Bistro, Honey West’s beef tenderloins or Mex-i-Can‘s Barbacoa.  Since I didn’t get to try these or any of the other amazing menu items at Food & Drink Fest, I would love to hear other people’s favs.  Fill me in! Now that I have more time, I can visit the actual restaurant for a fabulous and relaxing meal!

Beef Tenderloin from Honey West

Beef Tenderloin from Honey West...they kept running out!

Ironically, “Splitsville” Makes a Great Date Night!

Due to a perceived lack of options and shortage of time and creativity, date nights in the city are often limited to the short list of the bar, “your” restaurant, the movies or your couch.  While all of those options are great it’s nice to shake it up every once and awhile. My boyfriend and I have made a pact to have a once a week date night where we have to try a new or different activity. One of our recent favourites is bowling at Splitsville Entertainment, which is where the old Hamilton Mountain Bowl used to be housed.  But be not afraid, Splitsville is not your usual dark and dingy bowling experience! The new owners gave the building a much needed facelift; resulting in the bowling alley looking and feeling much like a swanky bar and lounge.  They now have a cozy and modern restaurant and lounge complete with big screen TVs, leather couches, soft lighting and an entertainment stage for live bands and stand up comics that overlooks all the lanes. Let me tell you, the people watching experience from the lounge vantage point was reason enough to go.  We went fairly early on a Tuesday night, but the place was still packed full of people of all ages and all skill levels giving it their all on the laneways.   I can’t think of any other place where you can see the shy cuteness of a first date unfolding, a 70 year old high-fiving a 10 year old, hard core league players engaged in serious competition, university students enjoying a few pints and some laughs, and everyone having a fabulous time!  We were having a great time before we even laced up our bowling shoes.

And now The Food:  You are probably thinking that you would have to go and eat BEFORE you arrive at a bowling alley or you would be stuck eating greasy, overly-microwaved terrible pre packaged food .   Not true about Splitsville!  Their food was actually quite delicious and satisfying.  My boyfriend tested out their homemade Bacon Mozzarella Melt Burger, which came with fresh cut fries, while I noshed on their garden salad, which was very fresh and generous in size along with their veggie pizza.   Everyone working there was incredibly professional, friendly and attentive.  We even had one of the bartenders come and chat us up about some of their upcoming events they thought we would be interested in and let us know for next time they would be expanding their menu to include Angus steak, more homemade burgers and different seafood dishes.  I can’t wait!

As for the drink menu: their choice of beers was very inclusive, but their wine menu was quite limited.  I guess I shouldn’t complain since I don’t know too many bowling alleys that serve good wine to begin with.  I hope they expand that list for the next time I’m there! I have been back since my last date night for a business function and the Splitsville bartender made a stellar Caesar with tequila.  It was refreshing and spicy and I highly recommended it!

Once dinner was over and we got down to business on the lanes, the party had started.  The lights had dimmed and the energetic music set a fun and festive mood.  For $10 each plus the cost of shoes we had 2 hours of unlimited bowling, which was great because you didn’t have to pre-pay for a certain amount of games or stop and re-set after your game limit ran out.  That freedom of not having to worry about a set small set amount of time made the whole experience very laid back and fun. And after almost two solid hours of bowling, I would like to say that my bowling skills improved but I think my boyfriend would argue differently!

Perfecting my bowling skills at Splittsville

Perfecting my bowling skills at Splittsville

If I can make a suggestion, try and go on a night that isn’t that busy…like I said, we went on a Tuesday and it was still packed.  My second suggestion: if you are playing next to league bowlers, do NOT take their ball!  I did that once….and learned my lesson really fast.

Food & Drink Fest…the Festival with Taste

April 9, 10, 11, 2010

Copps Coliseum

www.FoodandDrinkFest.com

Much ado about Menus Only…

My friend Jennifer Odell and I had a chance to sit down and chat with Marie Pavone, owner & creator of Menus Only.  Menus Only is a free online restaurant menu and dining guide featuring menus, coupons and daily

Marie Pavone, Creator of MenusOnly.com

Marie Pavone, Creator of MenusOnly.com

specials from Hamilton, Ancaster, Stoney Creek, Dundas, Ontario and surrounding area restaurants.  After asking Marie from Menus Only some question and exploring the site a little more, I discovered the number one reason I like it: it reinforces the fact that our region has so many amazing restaurants!  Not only that, but the Hamilton-Halton region is the home to restaurants that serve almost every type of cultural cuisine and dining experience you can imagine.  So if you live in the area and you are looking for a new dining experience, I encourage you to visit www.MenusOnly.com and peruse the copious amount of restaurant choices that are in your own backyard!  If you are new to or visiting the area, let Menus Only give you a virtual tour of what our fine restaurants have to offer.  I bet you won’t be disappointed!

F&WG: What inspired you to create Menus Only?

MO: A couple of years ago I was working in an office in Oakville.  My husband (than boyfriend) was going to meet me to go out for dinner.  Since we weren’t very familiar with the restaurants in that area, I was browsing website after website trying to find out what our options were.  Nothing was in one place…you had restaurant listings on one site, prices on another and there were very few Menus posted.  The search took forever with everything being in different places.  I thought since I was frustrated, others would be too!  My now husband and I chatted about it over dinner that very night and Menus Only was born.

F&WG: That’s pretty cool! It really is a great and useful tool; especially since everyone is so busy these days. You’ve touched on it above, but what makes Menus Only a great resource and different than all of the other listings out there?

MO: Basically, Menus Only is a “One Stop Shoppe” for dining decisions.  We are not just restaurant listings, but we also include menus, daily specials, pricing, pictures of what you would be eating and where you would be eating it. Of course, all of these dining choices are local and easily accessible for you and many offer different price points to ensure the evening is delicious but affordable.  If someone is interested in receiving more information about different menus, the restaurants and specials, you can sign up for the Menus Only newsletter, which is emailed out once a month.  All of these features together save people both time and money because it help them know in advance how much things will cost, so there is no surprise when the bill comes at the restaurant. Menus Only also helps people become smarter consumers, instead of risking time or money trying out a new restaurant, only to be disappointed with that experience (we have all been there).   Make sure you get what you want for dinner.

F&WG: What is the newest, hottest menu item on your website?

MO: I would have to say that one of the hottest new Menus and restaurants is 3 S’s in Oakville.  They are featuring a very creative menu featuring Canadian Culinary sensation (Angus beef and eastern seafood).  The atmosphere is also really cool.  Every half an hour or so, one of the waiters/waitresses will get up and sing for the crowd.  Don’t worry they are professionally trained singers. lol It is such a cool and interactive dining experience.

F&WG: Who would you recommend should use Menus Only?

MO: Everybody can use it! Especially anyone and everyone that wants to go out to eat but doesn’t know where to go.  People who I have found benefitted a lot from Menus Only are people who are new to the area, people with little kids (is the menu “kid friendly”), and people with special food needs (food allergies, looking for gluten-free meals and vegetarians/vegans)

F&WG: You offer special coupons and deals on your website. What are the ones that are currently the most popular and why?

MO: The two coupons that seem to be getting the most attention are Philip Shaver House and The Old Magill House.  Not only are they fabulous restaurants, but the coupons they are offering are, like $20.00 each!  It’s an amazing value.

Q: What are some of the “Hidden Gem” Restaurants you have listed? You know, the restaurants that completely blew you away?

MO: There are so many, so it’s hard to choose.  The three off of the top of my head:

1)     Boo’s Bistro: there are so many unique options and creative ingredient combinations to choose from.

2)     La Spagett Pasta House: It truly is a hidden gem.  It’s just a little place and it is stuck in the middle of a plaza on the mountain but their food is to die for if you like authentic Italian cuicine.  Portions are very generous too!

3)     Ventura’s Signature Restaurant: Not only is the decor beautiful and elegant with all of the old fashioned polished wood, but the food is fresh, homemade and authentic Portuguese.

Q: What is your favourite meal?  (We were nice and didn’t ask her what her favourite menu was;))

MO: Since I grew up with it, I am a sucker for Italian Food!  But otherwise, I love Mediterranean or Middle Eastern Cuisine.  Falafel and hummus……yummmm

Menus Only will be launching their re developed website in about a month. Be sure to check back!  Same great product…only enhanced and with a face lift! There is a sneak peak of the new site below….

MenusOnly.com "New Look" Coming Soon

MenusOnly.com "New Look" Coming Soon

Imagine, drinking a great Cabernet Sauvignon….Centre Ice

After 4 years at The Hamilton Convention Centre, Food & Drink Fest…the Festival with Taste is moving to Copps Coliseum.  The Food & Drink Fest team is incredibly excited about The Big Move and pumped to tackle the challenges of working in an unknown building, which was built for concerts & hockey games, and not to facilitate the needs of 35 restaurants, 50 wineries and 15 craft breweries…all at once!  The participating restaurants, wineries & craft breweries are happy about the move because it gives each of them more elbow room to create and represent their unique menu choices.  The participating exhibitors are also happy because moving to Copps allows for larger aisle spaces so patrons can chat with the exhibitors and enjoy their food & drink without being jostled or carried away by the crowds of people. Repeat customers I have chatted with are ecstatic because the move to the larger venue eliminates the 45minute long line ups to get into the show on Friday & Saturday nights.

Copps Coliseum

The Big "C", Food & Drink Fest's new home!

Despite all of these positives, a few people I have spoken to are a bit worried that moving Food & Drink Fest to Copps Coliseum will cause it to lose the classy, intimate feeling the Festival with Taste has been known for.  But I have to disagree.  While I agree with all of the above listed positives about The Big Move, I am also excited to house the Food & Drink Fest at Copps for another reason: The building’s energy.

I’ve spent numorous days sitting in the middle of the ice rink imaging how the show will work and measuring out booth square footage, staging sizes and figuring out traffic flow strategies to make the show is larger, but still exciting and accessible for all.  Even empty, Copps Coliseum itself gives off an energy, excitement and anticipation unlike any other convention facility I have ever been in.  At Copps, you feel the jubilant vibes of past concerts and hockey games with screaming hometown fans, both young & old, pulsing through the corridors.  I think all Hamiltonians have several fond memories about Copps Coliseum, whether it be a Bulldogs game, open skates, the big U2 concert, your very first concert (mine was Neil Diamond…yes I know), The Brier, The Canada Cup 1987, or Disney on Ice.  It is very rare that an entire community has such open access to a large scale, multi-functional facility. Because of that access,

Copps Coliseum Rink

Copps Coliseum Rink

Copps Coliseum brings about feelings of positive community morale as well as personal nostalgic memories.   In addition, the staff at Copps Coliseum is the most friendly, passionate and knowledge group of folks I have ever met in the industry.  In a nutshell, the building itself has a memory & a life of its own that I believe will serve as a fabulous foundation for Food & Drink Fest.

Along with the buildings thriving energy, the layout of Copps Coliseum is going to allow people to go on a culinary journey at the Food & Drink Fest.  I view Food & Drink Fest as the opportunity to explore the best the Hamilton, Halton & Niagara Regions’ have to offer in the way of great food and drink…in one location and in one night. Even though Food & Drink Fest is just a snap shot of the regions’ “You Gotta Taste This” stuff; it certainly is not an experience that is meant to be rushed.  Rather, it is an experience that should be savoured, shared, gushed over, educated about and thoroughly enjoyed by everyone involved.  From past shows, we know that some people like to zip through the

The crowds at last Year's Food & Drink Fest

The crowds at last Year's Food & Drink Fest

exhibitors then double back to indulge in seconds at their favourite stations, while others like to linger over their plate or a cold sample of beer in a quiet corner before choosing their next tempting dish. Copps Coliseum affords us the room to ensure that everyone can travel this food journey at their own speed.  Having the Food & Drink Fest at Copps also allows the foodies to create their own path and food & drink pairings because the layout is favourable to meandering up & down and side to side along the aisles; allowing individuals to be drawn from one succulent aroma to another.  Just like the region, we plan to create some great sites for people to see and hear throughout their journey.  Look forward to seeing a plethora of cooking demos, exotic & eclectic entertainment (as well as some returning favourites), a boisterous piazza, local artists showcasing their works, relaxing cafes for some great people watching and of course, a few surprises.

So when you come to the Food & Drink Fest…the Festival with Taste, I encourage you to come thirsty, bring your friends, your appetite and your adventurous streak to experience all the scrumptious delights on April 9th, 10th & 11th, 2010, Copps Coliseum….centre ice.

Bagels, Bagels & More Bagels

Ran out and grabbed a quick lunch with Stacey today from the family owned Locke St Bakery. Locke St New York style bagels are baked daily and on-site.  Locke Street Bakery is one of our favourite grab-and-go lunch choices and the ladies behind the counter can attest to this since they know our orders off by heart due to very frequent visits.  Not only are the bagels always fresh, they are also preservative-free and contain 0 trans fat.  There is always an abundance & diverse array of luscious topping, which the Bakery staff are always very generous with then making your sandwich (Stacey always says I end up having a full salad on my veggie bagel…which is another reason we usually take it to go….it can be pretty messy to eat in public).  The veggie with cheddar cheese on a cheddar & herb bagel is my regular order and Stacey loves the BCT (bacon, cheddar and tomato) on the cheddar & herb bagel.  If we are having a bad day, we opt for the Cinnamon Sugar bagel with peanut butter…it makes all the world’s worries disappear for a while.

Stacey's Bacon, Cheddar & Tomato on Cheddar & Herb Begal

Stacey's Bacon, Cheddar & Tomato on Cheddar & Herb Begal

 

 

Tips for getting the full Locke St experience

1) Walk: The street is centrally located and beautiful to window shoppe on, since there are so many unique stores.  Plus finding parking is often frustrating unless you park on a side street

2) On Mondays, Wednesday & Fridays the serve Java Vanilla Coffee.  Remember that Cinnamon Sugar begal I told you about?  Perfect pairing!

The Gals from Locke Street Bakery & Bagel...always smiling!

The Gals from Locke Street Bakery & Bagel...always smiling!

 

 

3) There is often a line up out the door, so if you are going for lunch, I would recommend going around 1pm to avoid the long line ups. However, if you are there for the lunchtime or breakfast rush, you certainly won’t have a shortage of entertainment.  The bakery is always hoping with people and their little dogs, babies, as well as school aged kids, singing staff members, young professionals and I have even run into some of the cities best musicians grabbing a cup of joe. So get ready to take in the people watching sights, offer a friendly smile and start a conversation with a complete stranger.  Locke Street Bakery is like our little utopia that we can briefly escape to before heading back to the world of event planning.  It feels like that place where everybody knows your name….

Locke Street Bakery & Bagel

Locke Street Bakery & Bagel