Archive for ‘Food and Drink Writing’

January 23, 2012

Archie Manning’s restaurant in New Orleans is a winner

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA — Eli Manning is headed back to the Super Bowl and, thanks to his dad, his hometown will have a hot new place to watch the big game.


The burgers at Archie Manning's restaurant feature his uniform number and those of his sons.

A restaurant in New Orleans bearing the Manning name was going to pack the house no matter what. Archie Manning’s a classy guy, though, so you could expect that he would deliver an establishment with style and sophistication. At Manning’s, you’ll find a big, airy sports bar that has plenty of hospitality and enough warmth to make it appeal to women too.

The newly opened restaurant in the Big Easy’s trendy Warehouse Arts District features a large patio, which will host live music, as well as a banquet hall and 300 televisions, including a dominating 13.5-foot-by-7-foot screen that will catch the eye of anyone passing by. The menu from chef Anthony Spizale includes well-known southern favourites like Shrimp Po Boy sandwiches and Gumbo, along with some eccentric choices (Pig Skin Sliders and Alligator Sliders) that might surprise tourists.

“I’m real excited about it,” Archie Manning told me on Thursday, a night after the 210-seat restaurant held a grand opening celebration at its 519 Fulton Street location. “I’ve been on the road a lot and this business will help me stay closer to home.”

Manning, the former quarterback for the Saints, lives in the city’s Garden District (his home is on the walking tour of the posh neighbourhood) and is one of the most popular figures in New Orleans. He was walking around the restaurant on Thursday taking photographs with all of the guests and smiling wide inside his new digs. He had the idea for the restaurant about five years ago and opened it in time for this weekend’s NFL playoff games, which included his youngest son, Eli, quarterbacking the New York Giants to victory over the San Francisco 49ers. They will play the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI on February 5 in Indianapolis, on the field where Peyton Manning, Archie’s other quarterback son, has led the Colts.

read more »

January 22, 2012

In New Orleans, meet ‘the best sandwich I’ve ever had in my life’


The All That Jazz is a thing of legend in New Orleans. (Julia Pelish photo)

NEW ORLEANS, LOUSIANA — Two days before I arrive in New Orleans, I receive an email urging me to go to a convenience store for “the best sandwich I’ve ever had in my life.” When you travel, words like that always grab your interest, even more so when you’re a travel writer and you sense the potential for a story. Still, you have to remain skeptical about such claims. The email was written from a contact who went to university in New Orleans and was now at Berkeley, so it’s more than possible he was a victim of a hallucination. So when I arrived, I asked around town.

“The All That Jazz — delicious,” said Nick Ruggiero, a waiter who moved from Washington, D.C. to the Big Easy about six years ago. “It’s awesome. Gooey, cheesy. You’ll love it.”

Ruggiero knows his stuff. He works at Arnaud’s, one of the city’s finer restaurants, and recommended particular dishes around town. He was the third person to verify that the All That Jazz sandwich at the Verti-Marte was, indeed, deserving of the hype.

“You’re getting the All That Jazz,” said a fourth endorser, who happened to be the nephew of former Raptors forward Sherell Ford. He was standing in line with me at the little 24-hour grocery store in the French Quarter and his eyes lit up when he spoke about the sandwich. “That’s delicious. It’s messy, but amazing.”

The Verti-Marte is across from the La Laurie Mansion, Nicolas Cage’s former home known for its gruesome 19th-century murders and mutilations, and its reputed ghosts. For all of the visitors who come to this town fascinated by its spooky history, the store’s location may be the only thing notable about it. Inside, it looks like your typical U.S. mini-market, with overpriced snack foods, a freezer full of ice cream, long refrigerators stocked with soft drinks, milk and beer, and a cash register that guards the liquor and cigarettes behind it. At the rear, though, is a deli that churns out dozens of items, ranging from rich desserts like bread pudding to entrees like Creole Chicken and, of course, its po-boy sandwiches, of which the $10.25 All That Jazz is the most popular.

“We’ll serve 20 of those a day, sometimes a hundred,” says Ken behind the counter after he takes my order at 11 p.m. “We normally get a lot of people coming in here at four in the morning after all of the drinking and they’re looking for that sandwich.”

read more »

November 22, 2011

‘World’s Best Dark Ale’ only available in Ontario


Unibroue brewmaster Jerry Vietz and BeerBistro chef Michelle Usprech toast to the release of Grand Reserve 17 to LCBO stores. (Julia Pelish photo)

TORONTO — You don’t know Jerry Vietz, but if you like beer he’s no doubt brought joy into your life. Vietz is the brewmaster of Canada’s most acclaimed craft brewer, Unibroue, which will exhaust you of superlatives if you try to describe what its roster of beers has meant for the international reputation of Canadian brewing.

Since debuting with Blanche de Chambly in 1992, Unibroue has delivered flavourful, Belgian-style ales that stand up to Trappist stalwarts like Huyghe Brewery’s Delirium Tremens and Rochefort’s top brews. It’s also earned all the accolades to live up to its stature as one of the best breweries on the planet. La Fin du Monde, the top-selling Unibroue beer in the U.S., has won five platinum and six gold medals from the Chicago Beverage Tasting Institute’s World Beer Championships, and Unibroue beers have won 152 awards overall.

On Wednesday, Vietz was at BeerBistro in Toronto to unveil perhaps Unibroue’s finest creation, Grand Reserve 17, which in 2010 was named the World’s Best Dark Ale from the annual World Beer Awards in London. About 30 of us were invited to the event that also featured servings of BeerBistro chef Michelle Usprech’s Unibroue-infused cuisine and a special serving of a Christmas ale Vietz first made in his home. It’s not a surprise that Grand Reserve 17 is a delicious beer, what you will raise your eyebrow at, though, is how light it feels on your palate. Rather than a thick, rich ale like Maudite that announces the intent of its 8-percent alcohol content upon the first sip, Grand Reserve 17 is immensely smooth and easy to drink. It costs $9.95 for a 750-millilitre bottle and is available only at LCBO stores.

This beer with 10-percent alcohol content was the first Vietz created when he took over as brewmaster in 2007, after working at the brewery for more than four years. He calls Grand Reserve 17 “my baby.”

read more »

November 17, 2011

Cool Copenhagen gives Toronto a treat

kings garden copenhagen

A walk through pristine King's Garden is one reason to visit Copenhagen. (Julia Pelish photo)

The Danes in Copenhagen sure know how to do things right.

They’ve got the best restaurant in the world, some of its finest architecture and a public transportation system any Torontonian would envy. On Tuesday, about 100 of us received the opportunity to enjoy an exceptional evening at the Gardiner Museum, where our province’s own phenom chef, Jamie Kennedy, teamed with one of Copenhagen’s greats, Paul Cunningham, to deliver a meal worthy of an award itself.

Called “Cool Copenhagen,” the night was about filling in guests on the splendour of life in Denmark’s capital while indulging in some top-notch cuisine and first-rate music by A Friend in London, who are in Mississauga recording their debut album and have a growing fan base in Ontario.

Kennedy started things off with a silky soup featuring pumpkin and sunchokes (or Jerusalem artichokes) harvested from his Prince Edward County farm on Monday. A sunchoke chip that crackled with flavour topped the dish, a terrific opener that was followed by the meal’s highlight: the Cunningham-prepared smoked mackerel and parsley salad that was salty and textured. The choice of fish was typically Danish (“we try not to overfish salmon and cod,” the Michelin-starred Cunningham told guests) but the presentation and flavours were distinct. Kennedy’s main course of Roast and Confit of Pork was served with brussels sprouts and beans from his farm. The roast pork was fabulous, with the tenderness of well-marinated duck and juicy flavours. Cunningham finished things with an interesting dessert of goat’s milk sorbet with a herb meringue that featured Chinese medicinal herbs as well as parsley and thyme. It was refreshing and impressively inventive.

“There are definitely differences,” Kennedy said about his way of cooking and Cunningham’s. “Danish cuisine is very traditional. Here, we’re still developing our cuisine. We’re a young country and we have a lot of different cultures. We won’t develop a national cuisine, I don’t think. It will be regional, and that’s because of a lot of factors, including proximity to water, or not, in some cases.”

read more »

November 11, 2011

Frank Dodd, Jason Parsons are good friends running separate wineries

[Story first appeared on]

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, ONTARIO—Survive war and you’ll have friends for life. For chefs Frank Dodd and Jason Parsons, the field of battle was Cliveden House, a 160-year-old manor built along the Thames in a suburb of London. With a turreted roof and massive opulence, it looks like the kind of place a tyrant would call home and, according to the chefs who’ve apprenticed there, one has.

frank dodd hillebrand winery

Frank Dodd is the chef at the outstanding Hillebrand Winery, close to his friend's restaurant at Peller. (Julia Pelish photo)

Dodd spent six months training in the British armed services and says the best thing about that experience is it prepped him for Cliveden. Parsons calls the 12 months he spent at Cliveden between 1995-96 the toughest of his 37 years of life. His wife, Meg, says the man who used to run this particular hell’s kitchen “makes Gordon Ramsay look like a pansy.”

His name is Ron Maxfield. During his time in the Cliveden kitchen, he churned out a good amount of chefs and at least one pair of brothers in arms.

read more »

October 26, 2011

The Great Dessert Search, Edition No. 4: Le Bremner Jelly Doughnuts

Jelly Doughnuts - Le Bremner Montreal

At Le Bremner, the Jelly Doughnuts come in chocolate, lemon and fruity jam flavours. (Julia Pelish photo)

MONTREAL — Soft, sugary, sweet and so guilt-inducing they’ll sentence you to the gym for a week, at least. The Jelly Doughnuts at the most talked about new restaurant in Montreal, if not Canada, are deliriously tasty, as well as a reminder that Le Bremner is a fun, casual place, no matter all the buzz about it and its celeb chef.

The doughnuts come three to a plate, each filled with a different creamy, gooey centre. These are Timbits on steroids — and after a serious retool in a masterful kitchen. Whether it’s the chocolate, lemon or fruity jam flavour, the Le Bremner doughnuts satisfy your craving for sweets and do it in a way that’ll make you smile — which is what a great dessert should do. It’s a playful dish, as well as a delicious one.

read more »

September 27, 2011

At Kitchener hot spot, Oktoberfest spirit never ends

Cat from Edelweiss Tavern

Cat is one of the cheery staff members working at the Edelweiss Tavern.

KITCHENER, ONTARIO — Thousands gather each fall in this city formerly called Berlin for the largest Oktoberfest celebration outside of Munich. At the Edelweiss Tavern, though, the good times go all year, thanks to owner Lorne Miller and his insistence on generous customer service.

Here are Miller’s keys to success:

read more »

September 26, 2011

The Great Dessert Search, Edition No. 3: Crème Brûlée Shooter from Glowbal

VANCOUVER — How can you make custard with a burnt sugar top even better? Add an ounce of liquor, in the form of Crème de Cacao and Bailey’s, and you will find yourself with more than a few repeat visitors.

Creme Brulee Shooter - Glowbal Vancouver

Glowbal's signature dessert shooter is $8 worth of bliss.

That’s what’s happened with the dessert shooter at Glowbal, a Yaletown spot that’s known for its beautiful patrons and dependable food. Residents in Vancouver’s hip neighbourhood drop into Glowbal for Sunday brunch and weekend dinners, with the seafood choices changing often and usually being the highlight of the entrée selections. One of restaurant’s signature offerings, though, has nothing to do with what comes on a plate. It’s the restaurant’s signature Crème Brûlée Shooter, which I first tried in 2005 and have kept coming back for since.

The drink is usually served from Thursdays to Saturdays, with the kitchen preparing the custard and the bar staff the shot of liquor. Each serving of custard is placed on top of the liquor in a two-ounce glass. Once prepared, the glasses are slid into a refrigerator until Vancouverites come asking.


When served, diners are given a dessert spoon to crack the burnt sugar and to swirl the custard around in the liquor before throwing it back. It’s absolutely marvellous, a ticklish and decadent sensation for the mouth.

read more »