The Buzz: January / February 2020

Written by The Editors


We recently attended the Pillar Nonprofit Network Community Innovation Awards, where all finalists are inspiring and deserving of recognition. Community Innovation Award finalists included Human Environment Analysis Lab (HEAL) at Western University, 519 Pursuit (a non-profit helping the homeless) and the winner, the London Food Coalition (consisting of 23 agencies invested in food security and eliminating food waste). 519 Pursuit went on to win the Community Choice Award. Urban Roots (a non-profit that revitalizes underused land for agriculture in the City of London, producing high-quality organic vegetables and herbs which are distributed directly to consumers and social enterprises) won the Community Impact Award. Several of the finalists were lauded for their work in recognizing food security, and all for supporting our community’s most vulnerable citizens. All of these essential initiatives deserve our support.

The London Wine & Food Show is ready to pop some corks in celebration of its 15th anniversary! Thursday, January 16 to Saturday, January 18 at the Western Fair District Agriplex. Tickets are now on sale.

Located just west of London’s downtown core and its namesake Blackfriars Bridge, Betty Heydon’s Blackfriars Bistro is within walking distance of the core but, in Heydon’s words, “away from the hustle and bustle.” Located in one of London’s heritage neighbourhoods, the restaurant draws a loyal clientele for the innovative, farm-to-table inspired cuisine. Many know the restaurant not only for its stellar bistro dining but also for personalized catering services. 46 Blackfriars Street, London, 519-667-4930,

London Brewing cares deeply about the quality of its ingredients and the sustainability of its products. It is one of two Certified Organic craft breweries in Ontario and one of less than 20 in all of Canada. London Brewing is a democratic enterprise owned by its employee members — they seek to create great beer, good jobs, and to have a positive impact on their community. 521 Burbrook Place, London, 226-667-6363,

Petit Paris Crêperie & Pâtisserie is proud to announce that its sister company, The Coop Rotisserie, has a second location. The Coop Express drive through/takeout restaurant features such items as mouth-watering rotisserie chicken, sandwiches, hand-cut fries, mac ‘n’ cheese, soups, quiche and healthy salads from the Covent Garden Market location. 1146 Commissioners Rd E.

Justin and Gregg Wolfe have opened Holy Diver, on the site of the former Nite Owl, next to the Early Bird Diner on Talbot between King and York Street. Smack dab in the middle of Wortley Village, Wolfepack Company Bar is located next door to the premises that now houses the popular breakfast spot Little Bird. The Company Bar is accessible, welcoming and convivial with inspired cuisine that includes house-made charcuterie and small batches of seasonal or artisanal items. Quantities are limited to maintain a high level of quality. The resto seats about 60 customers, and will include two patios, one seating an additional 45 patrons with another additional 30 seats at the front of the restaurant. The menu is reminiscent of the best of the Wolfe of Wortley — but scaled-down. We are long-time fans of Chef Kyle Rose’s salumi underpinned by technique and skill and lots of deep flavours and good fat content. There is Coppa Cotta Carpaccio (salt-cured from the pig’s neck) with truffle, cremini mushroom, arugula and Manchego cheese. Other snacks include creamy chicken liver mousse and chicken fried mushrooms with hen of the woods (maitake), beer and Cheddar dip. The more extensive menu includes other house-made salumi items such as Lamb Prosciutto, Bone Marrow and Sunchokes with honey-garlic sunflower seeds and scallions. 145 Wortley Road, 226-663-4567. The Wolfe brothers are anticipating the opening of Through Thick and Thin, an Old South pizzeria, in February. 

The organic and Mexican-inspired Ivanopoblano Restaurant opened in November to rave reviews. Specialties include quesadillas, huevos rancheros, corn-bean tacos and grilled cheese sandwiches. Ivan Santana-Barnes has been serving some of London’s best organic Latin-inspired food for the last four years from his food truck, and recently opened the compact but charming Ivanopoblano Restaurant at the corner of Wharncliffe and Emery Street with his partner. 390 Wharncliffe Road, 226-238-0868,

Owners Ricardo Cavaco from Bifana Boys and Chris Bunting from Goodah Gastrotruck are opening Out of the Deep Seafood Co. at The Market at Western Fair, featuring ethically-sourced and sustainable fresh fish and seafood.

Petojo Food & Catering recently launched a new virtual restaurant, Rasa Indonesia. Chef Anthony Abdullah and co-founder Kimi Abdullah have developed a menu featuring popular Javanese and Balinese dishes. It includes traditional fare found at street stalls and countryside “warungs,” including nasi goreng (fried rice), mie goreng (fried noodles), beef rendang, shrimp laksa, soto mie bakso (meatball noodle soup) and lumpia (spring roll). In keeping with the company’s inclusive dining philosophy, the menu includes vegan and gluten-free options. The Abdullahs have responded with this online service to the popularity of their offerings at their weekend booth at The Market at Western Fair District. The menu is available through online ordering and delivery platforms.

Locomotive Espresso, a locally-owned espresso bar, is expanding its five-year-old business with a second location in the Old South neighbourhood. Locomotive Espresso South will be brewing espresso-based beverages using Mod Bar/La Marzocco equipment, an under-counter system with above counter taps. The modular formation will create an open bar look, and its design offers excellent interaction and engagement with customers. Locomotive Espresso’s professionally-trained baristas are excited to introduce the latest in world-class coffees, brew methods, and equipment to the London community. Locomotive Espresso South forecasts its new location at 350 Ridout Street South will open in February. 

Tina Roberts at InSpiirit represents some of Niagara’s hottest small-batch wines, beers, and ciders. She also provides curation services that bring the best of Niagara food and wine together, from menu pairing and planning, to catering and event consulting. Growing up in Niagara-on-the-lake has given Tina such an appreciation for all the region has to offer that having the opportunity to share a taste of Niagara with her customers is a dream come true. She moved to London as a job recruiter but instead of matching people to employers, she’s now matching craft beer, wine and cider to restaurant menus, always with an eye to lifting spirits and the bottom line. Whether you are looking to up your bar game, or throw a unique party experience, put her passion for all things Niagara to work!

Lunch at The River Room at Museum London, with Chef Jeff Fortner and his team features Pan Roasted Salmon, miso-honey sauce, soba noodles, scallion, julienned carrot and tomato. East Coast Lobster Roll with celery, scallion, mayo and topsider bun is a signature offering. House-cured Smoked Trout with toasted naan, house crackers, crème fraiche and accoutrements is a classic. Pastry Chef Michele Lenhardt brings dessert offerings to a whole new level at both the Rhino Lounge and the River Room. Try the River Room’s signature Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée and the Rhino’s popular Cronut Thursdays. There are over a dozen dishes on the Sunday Brunch prix fixe menu ($28), including a classic Cobb Salad with grilled chicken, bacon, blue cheese, hard-boiled egg and chopped tomato & cucumbers. Try the outstanding Maitake & Potato Skillet with boudin blanc, leeks, zucchini, a fried egg and toast. Museum London, 421 Ridout Street, 519-850-2287

Forest City Experiences teaches you the history of the founding of the Covent Garden Market and points out some of the more interesting facts that only a true insider will know. Enjoy the Covent Garden Market and surrounding area with a well-known chef and a friendly culinary expert. Meet at the Market Square entrance (across from Budweiser Gardens) and you’ll have a personal introduction to the Market’s culinary offerings and its passionate vendors. Eat and drink from a minimum of five unique spots, which may include an international foods vendor, cheesemonger, butcher, artisanal baker, small-batch coffee roaster or chocolatier. By the end of this progressive tasting experience, you’ll have sampled a series of offerings that add up to an authentic expression of Covent Garden’s culinary scene. This three-hour gastro experience will end with a cooking class using seasonal and locally-sourced ingredients, upstairs in the Market Kitchen. We promise you’ll leave at the end of the tour satiated and feeling like a local, having learned about the culinary hot spots in and around the Market. Available dates are January 4, January 17 and 24.

Experiential Tourism is based on developing experiences that allow visitors to use all their senses and interact in a hands-on approach within a region’s culture. An experiential tourism destination provides opportunities for visitors to make deeper connections to regional food stories and become interactively immersed in the local culture guided by knowledgeable insiders. Recently, the third edition of “Unlocked and Inspired” represented the first time this tourism development training occurred in an urban setting. With the help of Ontario’s Southwest and Tourism London’s community team, a number of willing and ready partners emerged, prepared to launch new experiences to the marketplace in 2020. These experience partners include a collaboration of North Moore Catering, The River Room and Rhino Lounge at Museum London, Growing Chefs! Ontario, the London Clay Art Centre, and the Old East Village BIA which partnered with multiple community stakeholders.

As a result of “Unlocked and Inspired,” North Moore Catering, The River Room and Rhino Lounge at Museum London now offer private team building and corporate culinary experiences for groups. These experiences can be created on an individual basis and tailored to meet the needs of each group, be they team-building or pure entertainment. All experiences are fully customizable and can be adjusted to suit your group’s experience and interests. The 3-hour, newly developed, Gastronomy Meets Art: Hunger Games at the Forks of the Thames experience features an art-themed, mystery box cooking challenge and a scavenger hunt through Museum London’s art collection. The River Room and Rhino Lounge chefs design a multi-course meal inspired by paintings in Museum London’s art collection, highlighting local, seasonal ingredients.

Wich is Wich has relocated to Wellington St., south of Oxford (once Willie’s Café), serving the same great food (global flavours, exotic ingredients, and textural contrasts). Not just serving gourmet sandwiches, it’s taking comfort food to a whole new level. Chef Josh Sawyer calls it “home style.” Locally sourced whenever possible, meals are crafted from hearty artisan bread, slow-roasted meats, garden-fresh vegetables, gourmet spreads and sauces. Weekend brunch (served both days), lunch, and dinner menus (Tuesday to Saturday) are completely different. Pair dishes with great wines, local beers and cocktails. Wich is Wich also offers catering and grab-and-go. 731 Wellington St., 519-860-9424,

The London Clay Art Centre (LCAC) is the only guild-owned and operated education centre dedicated to the clay arts in Canada. It provides high-quality programming, nurtures the development of novice and professional clay artists, collaborates with other community organizations and encourages fellowship in an inclusive and accessible facility in the Old East Village. It is a supporter and advocate of Empty Bowls, an annual fundraiser that supports food banks, soup kitchens and other worthwhile initiatives to combat hunger and address food insecurity. Each year, local clay artists make up to 700 unique bowls. Ticket buyers choose the bowl to take home and enjoy a simple meal of soup and bread donated by local restaurants. The proceeds of Empty Bowls go to a worthy local organization addressing food insecurity. LCAC has incorporated the Empty Bowls initiative into its experience, The Humble Lump. Go behind the scenes with a hands-on and fully immersive experience that includes trying your hand at slipping, joining and carving your own bowl. This experience includes a heart-warming lunch and an inspiriting community narrative by enthusiastic, talented artists and storytellers.

Food, Fire, Feast! A Healthy Diet Means a Healthy Planet emphasizes food literacy as a tourism goal. Food literacy means a person’s ability to correctly read food labels and Canada’s Food Guide, and the aptitude to comprehend essential nutrition well enough to apply that knowledge to food preparation. Food literacy includes understanding how food is grown and produced, where it originates, how production affects the environment, and who has access to what types of foods. Based on the idea that education can alter behaviour, Growing Chefs! Ontario’s dedicated team and passionate volunteers have made tremendous strides by changing the way children and their families perceive food. Growing Chefs is a social enterprise, without peer in Ontario, delivering innovative and impactful childhood learning programming. The winning team at Growing Chefs! creates a high energy atmosphere with several prep and cooking stations for seasonal, hands-on activities with ingredients both foraged and from their teaching garden, guided by expert chefs.

The Spirit of Old East Village experience, crafted by Jen Pastorius of the Old East Village BIA, will offer surprises and mystery in a prohibition-themed two-hour walking experience. This experience allows participants to meet and interact with area storytellers and partnered local enthusiasts while visiting unexpected neighbourhood hot spots and participate in hands-on activities. There is a customizable component that can feature a unique Old East Village dining experience. All of which speaks to the power of collaboration, community and excellent storytelling by locals. 

The Nigerian-inspired YaYa’s Kitchen offers a monthly pop-up street-food experience at the London Food Incubator. 630 Dundas Street, 319-3436,

Donald and Nora Yuriaan’s charming Indonesian-inspired Dragonfly Bistro has changed hands. The friendly new owners have turned the 14-seat restaurant into a casual Viet-Thai takeaway serving items such as Fresh Rolls, Mango Salad, Pkuet Pad Thai and Thai Red Curry. 715 Richmond Street, 519-858-8888, 

Chef Logan Withers, formerly of Abruzzi Ristorante and Toronto’s acclaimed Canis, will be leading the culinary team at Chef Dave Lamers and Rob D’Amico’s eagerly anticipated new Taverna 13Thirtyone on Hyde Park Road. Lamers tells us “Taverna” is expected to open early February 2020. 1331 Hyde Park Road,

Michelle Pierce-Hamilton announced an exciting new collaboration with Chef Josh Sawyer that brings a brand new menu to The Tea Lounge. Launching January 17, the menu will boast creative offerings such as soups, salads and sandwich entrées — flavourful, delicious, whole food, plant-based — with flare. The Tea Lounge will be serving this new lunch menu daily and will expand into weekend dinners. The Tea Lounge offers 100+ sommelier-selected teas, lattes and French press coffee. Pierce-Hamilton continues to offer an array of classes, events, private bookings and experiences. 268 Piccadilly Street, 519-601-8327,

Score Pizza, a fast-casual pizza experience, recently opened in beautifully refurbished premises that formerly housed Kiss the Cook. The pizzeria offers fresh, quality, customizable pizza from a stone-fired oven in an open kitchen. There are gluten-free offerings and a wide selection of signature and seasonal toppings. Owner Joel Burnstein tells us that the official Grand Opening will commence the week of January 20. 551 Richmond St., 519-601-8327, 


The Slow Food Perth County Sunday Market runs 10am–2pm indoors at downtown Festival Marketplace Mall until May, when it moves to the Market Square at City Hall. You’ll find local produce, bread, soup, sweets, soap, healthy treats, crafty things, lacto-fermented foods, cheese, grass-fed meats and garden seeds. 

Revival House menus offer modern French-style cuisine that expresses the depth of Perth County’s food culture. The chef-driven menus reveal a passion for using house-made, local and sustainable ingredients, showcasing the terroir and the best of what Ontario has to offer. High Tea and Sunday Brunch add yet another layer of temptation to the offerings. 70 Brunswick Street, Stratford, 519-273-3424,

The Planet Diner, located across from the Avon Theatre, is 1950’s Pop Diner meets Bettie Page with local pop art and polka dot wallpaper. Owner Dee Christensen says, “This is where herbivores can bring their carnivore friends.” With candy-apple red upholstered booths and classic 50s retro vibe, the 26-seat diner is warm and welcoming with enthusiastic and well-informed staff. Meat dishes are labelled for the carnivore, and other than the meat itself (or the eggs in the all-day breakfast), everything on the menu is 100% plant-based. 118 Downie Street, 519-305-5888, 

Nosh Mondays at The Red Rabbit are a way of celebrating each season, allowing each chef to let their talent and creativity shine. It is also a culinary adventure. Join them Mondays to April. Make your reservations early. 64 Wellington Street, Stratford, 519-305-6464,

Hamlet Hall Brew Co. is a heritage-inspired brewery on Market Square in Stratford, incorporating local ingredients from the surrounding agricultural community. There is a welcoming, laid-back ambience; you can sip your beer beside the huge brewing vessels. Beer names are based on historical Stratford and area people and events. Worker-owned, it is located in the recently renovated historic Herald Building, a former printing and newspaper office, and many Victorian-era architectural details remain. Brewmaster Jeff MacDonald’s favourite part of brewing is learning the science behind beer making. Head Brewer Jon Zippel’s strengths lie in recipe development and technical brewing. The Taproom features expertly poured pints, cans and growlers for purchase, and an exclusive pub-style menu prepared by The Hub kitchen team next door. They work with a variety of local vendors and suppliers to incorporate the freshest ingredients into seasonal menus that are sure to please a variety of palates. There is an innovative line of craft beers, accompanied by delicious cocktails and wine designed to complement the cuisine. 21 Market Place, 519-508-1890,

Want to learn Cooking Fundamentals and the trade secrets of braising and stewing from the experts, or how to improve your knife skills? Stratford Chefs School Open Kitchen features a wide variety of hands-on cooking classes and learning opportunities for all home cooks and food lovers.

This winter Mercer Kitchen + Beer Hall + Hotel has added some comforting menu items, while retaining some tried and true signatures. The casual brasserie-style ambience is inspired by the concept of izakaya — informal Japanese beer pubs. There are 15 draft lines and over 120 bottles, including international award-winners and hard-to-find one-offs. Menus showcase items meant to be shared communally that are perfect for the lively, dynamic atmosphere.104-108 Ontario Street, 519-271-9202,

Around the Region

Feast ON-certified SixThirtyNine in Woodstock is an elegant and contemporary dining room of 30 seats. It welcomes guests to a tasteful and comfortable atmosphere. Front house service is headed by Chef Eric Boyar’s wife, Jennifer Boyar, and the emphasis is on unpretentious yet attentive and professional service. Zach Lebert directs the restaurant wine program, which features both high quality regional VQA wines and unique international wines. Wine selections change regularly to suit the menu. Additional seating is available for up to four guests at the Chef’s Table, providing guests with an up-close look at the talented kitchen crew in action. Service is often headed by Sous Chef Sam Vandenberg, who ensures guests at the Chef’s Table have an engaging and memorable experience. 639 Peel Street, Woodstock, 519-536-9602,

Early Bird Coffee is a small-batch, wholesale coffee Roastery and café situated close to where the 401 and 403 meet in Woodstock, Ontario. It was established in 2018 by master roaster Elio Caporicci and his hospitable wife, Kate Caporicci. Their mission is simple: “To provide a world-class coffee experience by delivering the freshest, best-tasting small-batch coffee in the region.” They achieve this by using only ethically-sourced, premium beans, expertly roasted in Woodstock. The rustic, 1,200 square foot Roastery has three areas: the Roastery/Coffee Lab, Café and a small retail space. Sit at one of the comfortable chairs and tables, or at the hand-built herringbone bar top, and revel in the welcoming ambience. There is a gold-tempered espresso machine for coffee-based specialty drinks such as lattes, cappuccinos, cortados and seasonal beverages. 815 Juliana Drive, Woodstock, 519-532-3127 

James Eddington of the Feast ON-certified, Eddington’s of Exeter is known for his contemporary casual fine cooking with a rustic charm. Eddington’s favourite seasonal ingredients are those that are at their peak of freshness — fresh off of the vine, picked from the tree, foraged from the forest or dug up from the earth. The yellow brick Italianate-style mansion on Main Street stands out with its decorative bracket eaves, large bay windows and well-manicured lawn with mature maple trees. Eddington’s occupies the original Carling homestead (built in the 1870s), a designated historic landmark. There are twelve-foot ceilings both upstairs and down, well-spaced tables with lots of elbow room, and warm tones with a contemporary ambience bordering on elegant. 527 Main Street, Exeter, 519-235-3030,

The culinary team at The Chilled Cork in Chatham offers a modern take on classic cuisine, using the freshest ingredients Southwestern Ontario has to offer and pairing them with exceptional quality steak, and seafood from around the globe. Whether you are looking for an intimate dinner for two, a casual business lunch, or a glass of wine at the end of the day, be prepared to relax and allow the attentive and friendly staff to take care of you. The bar offers draft beer, frozen cocktails, loaded Caesars and the best variety of scotch, spirits, wines and local craft beer. The restaurant is nestled within the Retro Suites Hotel’s century-old building on Chatham’s “retro block.” 22 William Street South, Chatham, 519-354-7818,

Mamma Maria’s Ristorante is family-owned and operated, and is considered by many to be Chatham-Kent’s best Italian dining experience. Specializing in traditional Italian regionally-inspired food served in a relaxed and inviting atmosphere, this attractive venue offers a warm and hospitable respite. The dining room and bar feature warm interlocking stone tiles, red brick and stucco walls with murals and frescos, eclectic lighting fixtures and overhead fans. Tucked in the back is a stunning private dining area perfect for special events, celebrations and parties. There is a wide variety of classic pizzas, bruschetta, kinds of pasta and risottos. The from-scratch kitchen is purist about its ingredients but not afraid to break Italian food rules, sometimes infusing more localized ingredients. 231 King St W, Chatham, 519-360-1600, 

Wolfhead Distillery is leading the pack as the first premium craft distillery in Essex County since prohibition. Owners Tom and Sue Manherz, with Larry Girard, found themselves inspired by the local history of rum-running and prohibition after establishing a third-party bottling operation for companies looking to produce small-batch specialty spirit lines. That inspiration soon developed into building a premium craft distillery. Along with making premium spirits, Wolfhead features a restaurant and bar. Guests enjoy infused creative offerings as well as premium beverages while getting a glimpse into the world of distilling. Guided tours offer an in-depth explanation of the distilling process, and spirits enthusiasts can look forward to the full Wolfhead experience.

The Village Teapot, owned and operated by Gaynor Deeks and Jana Yassine, is a delightful tea room in the heart of Ilderton. It is located in one of the oldest properties in the town, believed to be at least 145 years old, which retains many of its period features. Special Sunday Roast dates are January 26 for Roast Ham and February 23 for Roast Beef. There will be a special Valentine’s Day Afternoon Tea on February 15. Reservations will be required. It will be a festive afternoon to come together and enjoy savoury and sweet delights served on three-tiered platters. 13257 Ilderton Road, Ilderton, 519-298-8327,

The Benmiller Inn, nestled in the hamlet of Benmiller on the Maitland River, is an ideal setting for an Ontario weekend getaway, a romantic retreat, or a few restful days away from the city. The lovingly-restored 19th-century woollen and grist mill is secluded and peaceful, yet provides every modern convenience. Recreational opportunities range from the pure pleasure of a stroll through unspoiled countryside to fishing in the autumn and cross-country skiing in the winter. The Benmiller is just minutes from theatre, shopping, golf courses, and Lake Huron. Executive Chef Tim Goddard and his culinary team create food that is fresh and exciting while still offering the comfort of a home-cooked meal. Committed to providing an exceptional dining experience, the culinary team uses fresh, local ingredients to prepare in-house soups, sauces, dressing and desserts. To complement the natural setting of The Benmiller, brunch at the Inn is a seasonally changing affair drawing inspiration from the world-class farms in Huron County and the availability of their bounty. 81175 Benmiller Line, RR 4 Goderich,

Kyle Blandford, Craig Brodie, Mike Barker and Matt Whitney, four hobbyists-turned-businessmen, have turned the old XS Cargo building in Sarnia’s east end into Imperial City Brew House, an open-concept craft beer destination with a brewery and a taproom with 220-person capacity. The four co-owners spent years home-brewing from their basements, garages, and occasionally over a backyard fire pit. They pay homage to Sarnia’s history with the names of t heir beer and the industrial-feel of the brewery, while crafting a wide variety of fun niche products. The cityscape featured in the Imperial City logo highlights some of the landmarks that shape Sarnia, and the droplet crown represents both Sarnia’s rich history and their craft standing out above the rest. The primary focus is to be a community meeting and retail space. They want people to have an interactive experience in the brewery. 1330 Exmouth Street, Sarnia,

Kitchener’s newest Afternoon Tea venue is now open. Queen of Hearts Coffee & Tea House offers a laid back atmosphere to enjoy an afternoon tea experience or light lunch. Over 20 different beverages — from espresso and loose leaf tea to many types of lattes — are on offer, along with fresh baking, meat pies and sandwiches. Reservations required. Special events include: Keto & Gluten-Free High Tea on January 24 & 25; Valentine’s High Tea & Live Music on February 14; and Leap Year Afternoon Tea & Tarot Readings on February 29. 1151 Victoria St. N., Kitchener, 226-647-8969,   

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The Editors