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The sandwich generation: how the recession helped the lowly lunch box staple conquer Toronto

sandwich_juneAs people downsized discretionary spending (and foie gras consumption), the city’s chefs embraced their new bread and butter, turning humble sammies into the greatest thing since, well, sliced bread (sorry, we’re, um, on a roll). We chart the best of an ever-increasing bunch.

• See the sandwich guide>>

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Truffles to close, the KFC “float-thru,” 64,373 kilometres of Twinkie wrapper

Truffles, one of Toronto’s most revered fine-dining institutions, will serve its last meal on September 5. Four Seasons executive Dimitrios Zarikos told Corey Mintz that while business had been declining at Truffles for years, it was the recession that retired them at age 37. Internationally acclaimed alumni include Jonathan Gushue of Langdon Hall in Cambridge, Lynn Crawford of the Four Seasons New York and Jason McLeod of Elysian in Chicago. Predictably, Truffles will be replaced by something “more casual.” [Toronto Star]

• Howstuffworks.com has just ruined a few more foods for us. Each year, 64,373 kilometres of plastic wrap are used to package Twinkies; worcestershire sauce is mainly anchovies; and most disgustingly of all, the U.S. FDA allows up to 19 maggots in each can of assembly line mushrooms. If the latter doesn’t make one a Tupperware-toting slow-food vegetarian, nothing ever will. [Howstuffworks.com]

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Pierre Gagnaire’s new restaurant, more Canadians eating out, International Bacon Day

Happy International Bacon Day to all (Image by Mandy Jouan)

Happy International Bacon Day to all (Image by Mandy Jouan)

• Why wait until September 5 when you can start International Bacon Day shopping now? Bacon-flavoured lip gloss and bacon-scented soap make excellent stocking stuffers, and bacon cupcakes from Yummy Stuff (topped with bacon ice cream, of course) make the perfect holiday dessert. The Globe’s Sarah Boesveld highlights these and other perks of the bacon craze, just in time for the pig day. [Globe and Mail]

• Restaurant traffic in the U.S., France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain and the U.K. fell significantly in the first quarter. Canada was the only country in the NPD Group study to see a rise in the number of meals consumed. It was only a 0.1 per cent rise, and the fastest growing sector is the “evening snack.” Good show, Taco Bell; good luck, everyone else. [NDP Group]

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Robot chefs, 10 best American restaurants, Whole Foods boycott

Meal-o-matic: is this the future of food?

Meal-o-matic: is this the future of food? (Photo by Bonnie Burton)

• Chinese restaurant chain I Robot is being picketed by chefs who say their robot counterparts—which each do the job of five humans—are putting them out of work. The restaurants in Guangxi province need only one lonely food chopper to stock ingredients; the robots prepare whatever the waiter punches into a computer. Manager Huang Xianghao had discouraging words for the disgruntled chefs: “The robot chefs are more efficient and hygienic. And they don’t complain.” [Austrian Times]

Bon Appetit has named its favourite 10 new American restaurants and recommended dishes to try at each. Manhattan didn’t make the cut, but Brooklyn’s No. 7 represented the five NYC boroughs with its pumpkin seed–crusted tofu. The clam and calamari seafood stew got Mado of Chicago on the list, alongside Hungry Mother in Cambridge, The Greenhouse Tavern in Cleveland and Bar Jules in San Francisco. [Canadian Press]

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Anthony Rose and Alida Solomon team up for The Drake’s outdoor eat-fest

'Cue up: The Drake's outdoor eating area is like a secret dinner club, minus the secret (Photo by Daniel Williams)

'Cue up: The Drake's outdoor eating area is like a secret dinner club, minus the secret (Photo by Daniel Williams)

Despite being one of the most talked about West Queen West bars, the Drake Hotel always creates an atmosphere of being at our best friend’s cottage. Well, maybe not our best friend, but certainly our coolest one. Chef Anthony Rose is extending that famous chilled-out vibe right out the door and around the corner, to the urban garden he’s planted behind the hotel. Tomorrow night, he’ll host his second party in the space, which he calls I Never Promised You a Rose Garden. About 40 guests are expected for the event—and there’s room for a few more, he says.

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Frank Bruni loves Toronto’s Asian food, Loblaws trumpets local produce, the Food Network is recession-proof

• The retired critic Frank Bruni told the Globe and Mail that his complicated history with food actually had an effect on the language he used in his reviews. The former sleep eater, “faster” and childhood bulimic says he specifically avoided the words “guilty pleasure” and “sinful.” The writer also spread a little butter on our muffin, saying he used to trek up to T.O. for Asian food when he lived in Detroit. [Globe and Mail]

• American specialty channel the Food Network is celebrating a 20 per cent rise in ratings this July over last. Real estate shows have tanked since the bubble burst, while food shows have become more popular because they “take away the pain,” says TV analyst Shari Anne Brill. The Food Network’s audience was growing long before the recent uptick, with a total increase of 55 per cent since 2004. [Bloomberg]

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Utah’s last liquor licence, Eva Longoria opens restaurant, Heston Blumenthal’s perfect rating

Hop to it: a global shortfall in hop production is good news for Canadian small farmers (Photo by James Cridland)

Hop to it: a global shortfall in hop flower production is good news for Canadian farmers (Photo by James Cridland)

• A global shortage has driven up the price of hops, turning it into a viable crop for small farmers again. For decades, U.S. subsidies and the might of multinationals has made it hard for Canadian growers to compete. A new generation of small farms is now growing the wily flower, which means we’ll be drinking more 100-mile brews. [Globe and Mail]

• The state of Utah will run out of liquor licences today, which means new restaurants will be able to sell booze only when another restaurant loses its permit. Over 80 per cent of Utah’s legislators, including the governor, are members of the alcohol-shunning Mormon Church. Governor Huntsman already angered conservatives when he eliminated the fee and application form required before patrons could enter a bar. That makes an increase to the liquor licence quota a tough sell. [Forbes]

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The best chef in the world, butchers as sex symbols, Drake wants to open a T.O. restaurant

Vampire sighting: Kristen ??? was spotted in Vancouver

Vampire sighting: Kristen Stewart was spotted at a Vancouver sushi restaurant this week, dining with co-star Robert Pattinson (Photo by Laura Ramos)

• Rapper and Degrassi alum Drake says he wants to open a restaurant in Toronto, but he’s also planning another album and a few films, so the culinary dream might be a few years off. The “Best I Ever Had” singer is known to be a fan of Vivoli, so we wouldn’t be surprised if his potential menu included pizza and cocktails. [Rap Up]

Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart were seen celebrating at Miko Sushi in Vancouver last weekend. The pair is in town to film the third Twilight movie, Eclipse. We assume he left a generous tip this time; the servers at Il Cantinori in New York weren’t pleased when he left them a paltry 14 per cent. [New York Daily News]

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Seth Rogen as Martin Picard, obtaining a perfect peach, America’s most bizarre restaurants

Life's a peach: this year's crop is the best in years (Photo by Bruce Tuten)

Life's a peach: this year's crop is the best in years (Photo by Bruce Tuten)

• The cool, rainy spring that kept tomatoes green has actually been good for the peach crop. The New Jersey Peach Council says this is the best peach season in years. While the Peach Council may be biased, we say bring on the cobblers. [New York Times]

• With the success of Julie and Julia, the National Post is predicting that more foodie flicks are on the way. Brad Frenette wonders why no one’s made a movie about Marie-Antoine Careme, the orphan turned pâtissière who cooked for Napoleon, George IV and Tsar Alexander. Other suggestions: a film about wild chef Martin Picard played by Seth Rogen, and a Daniel Craig rendition of Gordon Ramsay. [National Post]

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Fire at new Glow restaurant causes two-week closure

Rose Reisman woke early last Thursday to talk about blueberry recipes on Canada AM. But when the restaurateur behind Glow Fresh Grill and Wine Bar checked her e-mail at around 4:30, there was a message from her restaurant manager; “Glow on fire” was the subject line.

“It was total disbelief,” said Reisman. “I literally felt sick to my stomach.” The three-week-old restaurant at the Shops at Don Mills became a charred mess after someone leaned a designer chair against a patio heater the night before. The large patio doors kept the fire from spreading into the dining room, but it was filled with enough smoke to warrant a heavy-duty cleaning.

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Best fast food, revolutionizing restaurant reservations, the true origins of haggis

We're number one: top American chefs have voted In-N-Out Burger as the best fast food joint

Chain Reaction: top American chefs have voted In-N-Out Burger as the best fast food joint

• America’s star chefs have chosen In-N-Out Burger as their favourite fast food joint. Nine members of the 27-judge panel praised In-N-Out for its “greasy but oddly clean-tasting” burgers, including Thomas Keller of The French Laundry. The other chains—from Chipotle Mexican Grill to Kentucky Fried Chicken—received just one nod each. [Esquire]

• Urbanspoon is challenging Open Table with its plan to offer reservations through a smart phone app. Their popular restaurant finder is “shaken” by hungry iPhone owners over a million times a day. The reservations system will be test-marketed with four restaurants in Seattle, but eventually expanded to all 90 of their target markets—including Toronto. [NBC]

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Julia Child revisited, dining with dogs, a new breakfast chain for Ontario

Forget the doggie bag: some Toronto restaurants allow pooches to eat right at the table (Photo by rmatei)

Forget the doggie bag: some Toronto restaurants allow pooches to eat right at the table (Photo by rmatei)

• Going out for a bite can be a problem if one’s puppy wants to come too. Writer Ivy Knight suggests that there are a few dog-friendly places to eat in town. Buddha Dog on Roncesvalles offers free all-natural hot dogs to their canine customers. The Williams Coffee Pub on Queen’s Quay will actually let your dog share a meal with you at (or beneath?) the table. [Toronto Star]

• To mark this weekend’s release of Julie and Julia, Michael Rowe revisits his 1997 interview with Julia Child, which happened back when he was writing for Fab, a Toronto’s bi-weekly for the gay community. Child thought he was writing for Romantic Food (no such thing) and that was probably a good thing considering her homophobic past. Tidbits include her revelation that she sees chocolate and marijuana as similarly sensual, her distaste for low-cal food and her belief that Martha Stewart’s critics were “probably jealous of her because she’s so good-looking and capable.” [Huffington Post]

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New York Times comes to T.O., Wolfgang Puck’s latest, farmer’s market secrets

Critical condition: The Times's Sam Sifton hits 13 cities (including Toronto) before taking up his new post as restaurant cirtic

Critical condition: The Times's Sam Sifton hits 13 cities (including Toronto) before taking up his new post as restaurant critic (Photo by Peter Dutton)

Sam Sifton, who takes over as New York Times restaurant critic in October, is already proving to be a funny guy. Blogging about his pre-job eating tour, he mentions that he’s booked hotel rooms in Paris, Aix-en-Provence, Brussels, Shanghai, Barcelona, Riga, Los Angeles, Seattle, Mexico City, Stellenbosch, South Africa, and, yes, Toronto. With our hometown on his dining marathon, we think we’ll get along with Mr. Sifton just fine. [New York Times]

Wolfgang Puck has opened a bar and grill in the new L.A. Live Square (think Yonge-Dundas Square’s pimped-out cousin). The menu is “user-friendly,” says the L.A. Times, with So-Cal versions of burgers, steaks and pasta, along with simple gourmet fare like tuna tartare. When and where the Puck drops in Toronto has kept local bloggers busy for years, but we hope that it will be somewhere neon-light free. [L.A. Times]

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Beer sales down, thief swipes grease, Frank Bruni passes fork to new critic

Hot commodity: vegetable oil makes a biofuel good enough to steal (Photo by schrislloyd)

Hot commodity: vegetable oil makes a biofuel good enough to steal (Photo by schrislloyd)

• A man was arrested in Britain after allegedly stealing 8,200 gallons of vegetable oil from restaurants all over the city of York, including the chip stand and the Dairy Queen. The grease is a valuable biofuel that can power any car engine. We have to wonder if he’s a Simpsons fan. [Seacost]

• Sam Sifton will be replacing legendary New York Times food critic Frank Bruni. Sifton, who starts the job in October, established his gourmet cred through editing the Dining section, writing a food column for the New York Press and making meatloaf for Nora Ephron. Also changing at the Times is the tradition of concealing the appearance of food critics. The Observer illustrates this today by publishing an enormous photo of Mr. Sifton. [New York Observer]

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Cash and booze are the keys to becoming a resto regular

Bait to be served: waiters appreciate the generosity of regular customers (Andrew Stawarz)

Bait to be served: waiters appreciate the generosity of regular customers (Andrew Stawarz)

Grub Street’s Ben Leventhal has posted instructions on how to become a regular at a restaurant (full version here). It turns out absolutely anyone can enjoy last-minute reservations, complimentary dessert and the best table in the house. The guide consists of two fairly easy steps:

1. Be rich
2. Get the staff drunk

Proving one’s wealth requires tipping the server a minimum of 20 per cent (on the total bill, tax and all) and the maître’d at least $20, says Leventhal. As servers are always indignant about paying taxes and credit card commission, they must be tipped in cash. Getting the staff drunk entails buying the kitchen a round and bringing a bottle of scotch for the chef (it can be assumed the chef is an alcoholic, apparently). For best results, the wannabe regular should combine steps one and two by purchasing an $80-plus bottle of wine, then offering a taste to both the sommelier and server. This will simultaneously prove the regular is wealthy and get the servers drunk.

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