President’s Choice

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Love President’s Choice The Decadent chocolate chip cookies? Now you can drink them—sort of

(Image: President's Choice)

(Image: President’s Choice)

Any ‘80s kid remembers the stir that The Decadent Chocolate Chip Cookies caused on the snack scene when they debuted in ‘88. A quarter-century later, Loblaw brand President’s Choice is aiming to recapture that buzz with a lineup of new Decadent-themed products, including pancake mix, cheesecake and, most intriguingly, a chocolate-flavoured soft drink. The Decadent Soda, which hit stores earlier this month, has already inspired more than a few Fear Factor–style taste tests, including a multi-part video survey on YouTube. The reviews so far are mixed: some samplers claim it tastes pretty good over ice cream, while others give the product a big thumbs-down (at least one less-than-enthused Twitter user is calling for Galen Weston to drink his own creation on-air). According to several tasters, the novelty pop tastes a bit like a carbonated Tootsie Roll. Yum?

The Dish

Food TV

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Recipe to Riches season two: and the winner is…

Brampton’s Rich Matharu (Image: Food Network Canada)

Last night on Recipe to Riches, the seven finalists gathered for the first time to find out who’d be bestowed with the grand prize of $250,000 and the honour of having their concoction added to that “prestigious line of President’s Choice products.”  We won’t lie, we had our favourite: Tracy Rigden with her Salt-Kissed Dulce de Leche Brownie. But just as in our unofficial poll, Canada didn’t see it that way—indeed, Rigden didn’t even place in the top three.

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Food TV

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Recipe to Riches reviewed, episode 7: Montreal Deli Style Dip

Recipe to Riches reviewed: Montreal Deli Style Dip

RECIPE TO RICHES Season 2, Episode 7

Last night’s episode, the final one before viewers get to choose the best of the best (voting runs December 5 to 7), was certainly bittersweet: on the one hand, there will be no more new products; but on the other hand, there will be no more new products. This season has been a bit of a mixed bag, and after watching each show and trying each dish, we can authoritatively state that we’re not quite sure how Recipe to Riches works. Oh, we get the format, sure, but we still can’t pin down the culinary voodoo at work in PC’s test kitchen, nor can we trace each marketing decision back to some trove of demographic data. We only know that Galen Weston Jr. and crew seem to pick a meatball for every brownie. Looking ahead to the grand prize, we hope the public makes a better call.

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Food TV

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Recipe to Riches reviewed, episode 3: Salt-Kissed Dulce de Leche Brownies

RECIPE TO RICHES Season 2, Episode 3

It can be hard to root for any given contestant on Recipe to Riches. They come and go so fast, without the multi-episode arcs of other reality shows, each peddling a recipe that will almost surely get changed anyway. Plus, it’s just not a “character” reality show: there’s no big villain, no everyman hero, no lovable quirky clown. It’s one shot, two if you’re lucky, and then home. But when we first saw Côte Saint-Luc, Quebec’s sweet Chantal Bekhor trying, in vain, to eyeball her recipe for the batch-up challenge, our Recipe-hardened hearts softened up. After all, just how does one multiply a pinch of salt by a thousand?

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Food TV

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Recipe to Riches reviewed, episode 2: Chipotle Chili Slams

Recipe to Riches 2012 reviewed, episode 2

RECIPE TO RICHES Season 2, Episode 2

This episode’s opening minutes made us anxious. No, the show’s producers didn’t do anything crazy, like adding a fourth contestant or a third challenge—it was the same blue-menu blandness we know and love. Host Jesse Palmer, though, wracked our nerves a little. He dropped into his pre-“batch-up” spiel with his standard brand of reality show host gusto, but then, all of a sudden, he said “President’s Choice product” instead of “prestigious President’s Choice lineup.” We nearly spat out the apparently-no-longer-prestigious President’s Choice snack we were eating. Okay, that last bit didn’t really happen; but still, we were shocked. We watched the rest of the episode, the Savoury Snacks challenge, with justified trepidation, but thankfully, the well-worn formula delivered, and Palmer deviated no further from the standard script. Phew.

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The Dish

Food TV

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Recipe to Riches reviewed, episode 1: Mini Cheesy Bees’ Nest

RECIPE TO RICHES Season 2, Episode 1

In the Canadian reality TV family, Recipe to Riches is the responsible Dockers-clad cousin to the stilleto-wearing, alternatively shrieking and sobbing Bachelor Canada. In true Recipes fashion, the second season promises nothing if not consistency; the judges have all returned, the stakes aren’t any higher (although $250,000 is nothing to sneeze at), the contestants don’t seem any meaner and the dishes seem no more extravagant or risky (OK, butter chicken lasagna does have us a little worried). Even the format is exactly the same. Not that we’re complaining—there’s something to be said about the show’s dastardly integration of product development, marketing and sales (the winning dish shows up on Loblaws shelves the weekend after the show airs). And anyway, the inaugural episode of season two has brought out Recipes’ wild side, relatively speaking. That’s right, desserts are first. Game on.

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Food TV

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Recipe to Riches reveals season two judges (okay, they’re all the same) and contestants (they’re not)

The GTA contestants for Recipe to Riches, season two (Images: Food Network Canada)

President’s Choice marketing master stroke reality show Recipe to Riches returns to Food Network Canada on October 17, and it looks like season two is going to look a lot like season one. Judges Laura Calder (French Food at Home), Tony Chapman (Capital C), Dana McCauley (Janes Family Foods) and host Jesse Palmer (Live! with Kelly, ESPN Sunday Night Football, The Bachelor) are all returning to make or break this year’s batch of contestants, which includes a five-strong contingent from the GTA (up one from last year). And since it’s his brand on the line, Galen Weston Jr. will once again be dropping in as a weekly guest judge, having (we assume) the final say in who gets the $25,000 purse for stocking Loblaws shelves with their marketable, mass-producible sorta-home-cooked favourite. Of course, the final $250,000 is awarded by the audience, not the man in charge.

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Food Events

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Weekly Eater: Toronto food events for June 4 to 10

Luminato’s 1000 Tastes of Toronto takes place next Saturday and Sunday

Monday, June 4

  • 86’D: Join Ivy Knight and Toronto’s top foodies for the season finale of Top Chef Canada. Rock Lobster Food Co. will be dishing out their east coast lobster rolls. The Drake, 1150 Queen St. W., 416-531-5042. Find out more »
  • Green Goddess Workshop: Marni Wasserman demonstrates how to incorporate nutrient-rich greens into simple recipes.  Marni’s Kitchen, 26 Lauderdale Dr., 647-477-8131. Find out more »
  • Piola’s Monday Night Mixer: Piola’s weekly aperitivo italiano, with cocktail and beer specials and complimentary snacks. 1165 Queen St. W., 416-477-4652. Find out more »

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Food Events

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Luminato announces lineup for 2012 edition of 1,000 Tastes of Toronto

One of Toronto’s 1,000 tastes, from last year’s festival (Image: Luminato)

On Friday, Luminato announced the full list of restaurants, vendors and food shops participating in its annual 1,000 Tastes of Toronto event, which moves back to the Distillery on June 9 and 10 after last year’s foray onto John Street. Notable among the list of attendees at the street food festival is Bent, the upcoming restaurant headed by Susur Lee’s sons Levi and Kai Bent-Lee (which is slated to open very soon). Other food programming at this year’s Luminato includes Rainer Prohaska’s Toronto Carretilla Initiative, a kind of participatory art installation that’s also a public feast, and a conversation between New Yorker writers Adam Gopnik and Calvin Trillin about Canadian cuisine, a subject both writers have experience waxing charmingly condescending about.

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Random Stuff

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Totally Recalled: over 135 burger products, all potentially contaminated with E. coli

Hopefully these were not part of the recall (Image: Seth Kaplan)

The product: Just about every other brand of store-bought burger this side of the 49th parallel (OK, not quite—the extensive list is below)

Establishment number: 761

Best before date: from January 1, 2012 to February 15, 2013

Production code: 11 JL 01 up to 12 FE 15

Lot code: five digits, with the last four being 1831 or greater

The details: What started out as a case of some contaminated beef appears to have become a case of, well, a heck of a lot more contaminated beef. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which has been sending out steady notices about various beef products over the past weeks, has learned that over 135 products may be contaminated with E. coli. Best Value 10 Beef Burgers? (Potentially) Contaminated. Country Morning Beef Burgers and Country Morning Gold Western BBQ Burgers? Yep. PC Thick and Juicy? Oh yeah. Most of these products have ended up in grocery stores, but some have been sent to restaurants, like Hero Certified Burgers and Licks, as well. Anyway, while it’s tough to keep track of the dozens of potentially affected products, the CFIA says they can all be identified by their establishment number, 761, which belongs to New Food Classics. The CFIA reports only one illness associated with the outbreak so far, but maybe you’d better jot that number down—this is the same strain of E. coli that was responsible for seven deaths in Walkerton, Ontario back in 2000. [CFIA]

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Food TV

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Recipe to Riches picked up for a second season of thoroughly branded competitive cooking

Your favourite competitive cooking show—no, not that one—is back for a second season, according to the folks at Food Network Canada. Recipe to Riches, which pits home cooks against each other for what the press release calls “a once-in-a-lifetime shot at having their recipe developed into a President’s Choice® product,” begins a national casting call today. As regular Dish readers will do doubt remember, recipes featured on the show’s first season included bannock hazelnut pie and pulled pork, with Lunenberg, Nova Scotia’s Glo McNeill taking the win for her lemon pudding cakes. Like last season, the show features $25,000 prizes each episode, as well as a $250,000 grand prize for the overall winner of the season—a much heftier payout than certain other Canadian game shows. While the entire judging roster—Laura Calder, Tony Chapman, Dana McCauley and Galen Weston—will be returning, the fate of former Bachelor Jesse Palmer is still up in the air. A spokesperson for Food Network Canada writes, “as for the host, more details will be confirmed and revealed in the coming months.” Recipes can be submitted in one of the seven categories (they’re a little different from last year) on the show’s website.

The Dish

Food TV

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Recipe to Riches: and the winner is…

The finalists await their fate (Image: Food Network Canada)

RECIPE TO RICHESSeason 1 | Finale

The six remaining home cooks from across the country were all dressed in their Sunday best for the season finale of Recipe to Riches. The drama was suitably amped up, given the $250,000 at stake: gold envelopes containing the identities of the winners were kept on a pedestal under a glass lid, always in plain view (we attended the taping in person this week and got to see a few off-camera hijinks, like judges Laura Calder and Tony Chapman having a mock slap fight). Host Jesse Palmer called up two contestants at a time, Noah’s ark style, for a one-on-one elimination (notably, this structure was only possible with Smart Cookie creator Sonya Walos’s absence; she never came up). Before each matchup, a standard reality TV video recap of each contestant’s “Recipe to Riches journey” was played. Then, the usually cheerful Palmer turned suddenly grave before revealing which contestant would be going home.

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Food TV

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Recipe to Riches: the final pitch

The Recipe to Riches finalists, along with judges Tony Chapman, Dana McCauley and Laura Calder

Today is the last day of voting for season one of the President’s Choice product development spectacular Recipe to Riches. The show’s producers flew the six finalists in from across Canada to meet each other for the first time before they film the final episode this weekend. We stopped in at the event, held in the cooking studio at the new Loblaws at Maple Leaf Gardens, to find out why they think they should take home the $250,000 grand prize. See their answers after the jump.

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Food TV

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Recipe to Riches: The Unofficial Poll

It’s almost time. After seven weeks of batch-up challenge near disasters, product rebrandings both savvy and dubious and the requisite reality TV tears, faithful viewers of Recipe to Riches will finally be able to vote for their favourite winning dish on the show’s website starting tomorrow. The grand prize winner will walk away with a cool quarter million dollars, and their dish will join that “prestigious President’s Choice line of products” that host Jesse Palmer is always talking about. But before the official tally gets under way, we thought we’d seek the counsel of our trusty tasting panel, which has been dutifully testing each dish week after week, and let our esteemed readers weigh in as well.

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The Dish

Food TV

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Recipe to Riches reviewed: Episode 3, Chicken Grenades

RECIPE TO RICHESSeason 1 | Episode 3

Once again on this week‘s Recipe to Riches, the show’s formula stayed pretty much the same. But for some reason, the whole package seemed to fit better than ever before (perhaps familiarity breeds acceptance, not contempt). The best part of each week’s episode is without a doubt the batch-up challenge, where ordinary home chefs are confronted with making inhuman quantities of their recipes—even with the help of their professional mentors, it’s a test of their leadership and ingenuity, and it makes for some good TV. This week, the appetizer challenge, was no exception. Our episode recap and tasting panel, after the jump.

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