Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Case for New-Style Food Trucks in London, Ontario

The Case for New-Style Food Trucks in London, Ontario

London City Council agreed to get public feedback on proposed pilot program to allow new-style food trucks. The current bylaw is outdated, because it was drafted to deal with catering trucks, hotdog carts and ice cream vendors.

Multicultural “gourmet street food” food trucks are trending. They've been building in popularity thanks to food shows, farmers’ markets and culinary events across North America. In London, the food truck phenomenon is just in the midst of emerging. Although the process is still in its preliminary stages, the possibility of permitting food trucks and other mobile food vendor vehicles as: gourmet food trailers, mobile market food trucks and ethnic- catering-type food trucks are gaining grassroots momentum.

Modern food trucks serve a diverse variety of healthy options and cultural foods in other cities. They are positioned to incubate new businesses and become an alternative launching pad, for healthy, creative food. There is, of course, a big difference between the greasy-spoon chip wagon and the food truck that serves healthy gourmet or ethnic street foods.

We like food trucks because they stimulate culinary innovation and diversity, draw culinary tourists, provide employment, and contribute revenue to the city. They help stimulate community, and are destined to become an important part of the social and culinary fabric of the city.

Local proponents of food trucks have concrete short-term goals. Their principal goal is to introduce the growing food truck industry to London in a thoughtful and articulate way, by creating guidelines and following best practices, so the current restaurant culture can continue to be successful and not feel undermined or threatened by food trucks.

Food trucks have their detractors in the restaurant community. But, they also have their champions. The argument against food trucks is that they're stealing the business of more established bricks-and-mortar- restaurants.

It is true that food trucks have some advantages over a traditional eat-in restaurant. Mobility and the ability to travel to where the customers are is a definite plus. Generally speaking, food trucks have lower overhead, compared to a restaurant, and require less staff. However, a food truck is still a labour-intensive business that requires a lot of work and attention. Entrepreneurial food truck owners often put in long days and have comparable difficulties to restaurateurs, such as slow seasons, unpredictable weather, sluggish economy, red-tape and bureaucracy.

Food trucks are subject to standardized health and safety regulations and inspections. In some cities they are required to adhere by distance restrictions; a buffer zone separating them from existing restaurants.

Another negative stereotype is that they are bad for the community and are trying to undermine efforts to feed kids nutritious meals. In reality, many food trucks are providing a much healthier alternative to fast food chains.

Food Truck Eats in Stratford in coordination with Ontario Food Trucks came together in the Stratford market square last year. The event saw gourmet food trucks from GTA alongside local chefs with their own pop up food stalls for the day. The food items presented were authentic, street food-inspired dishes that also featured Perth County farmers and producers.

Local entrepreneur, Dave Cook, wants to launch a food truck this summer, selling fair trade coffee, ethically-sourced chocolate and cold beverages. The truck would be stationed at predetermined locations on weekdays and travel to special events on evenings and weekends. Fire Roasted wants to work with local restaurateurs and chefs, community partners, like the city and various economic development organizations to get more food trucks on city streets.

Bryan Lavery

Sunday, March 3, 2013

lnternational Skating Union (lSU) Championships – Diners Journal

lnternational Skating Union (lSU) Championships 2013 – Diners Journal London, Ontario

Dining  in Canada's London  at “The Worlds”

The International Skating Union (lSU) Championships are a week away. Out-of-town visitors are already arriving in our city.

Watching “The Worlds” live at the Budweiser Gardens will be a unique event. Experiencing the tension and electricity, witnessing the speed and skill, and seeing the performances unfold will be a not-to-be-missed sporting spectacular. This event is considered to be the most prestigious of the lnternational Skating Union (lSU) Championships and with the exception of the Olympic title, a world title is considered to be the highest competitive achievement in figure skating.

Not only will the event put London, Ontario on the lnternational hosting map, but it will provide a legacy for the city to support future events of this scope and nature.

The annual event moves around the globe, attracting more than 50,000 spectators and showcasing the 165 skaters from over 40 countries. It is anticipated that over 350 media representatives will be present. Approximately 500 volunteers have been recruited to ensure that the programme will run smoothly and successfully. This will be the first sporting event held in downtown London to be televised around the world to 60 million viewers in roughly sixty countries.

General Manager of Tourism London, John Winston, says virtually every hotel room in the city is booked. Marty Rice, Director of Leisure Travel, Advertising and Travel Media from Tourism London and Downtown London manager, Janette McDonald, are encouraging restaurants to be open later from Wednesday March 13th to Saturday March 16th, since the final events at the Budweiser Gardens will end at approximately 10:30 pm and many of the visitors, judges, performers/skaters would like to go out after and have a good dinner at a restaurant. Downtown restaurateurs, especially those in walking distance to Budweiser Gardens, are bracing for a busy week.

Downtown London has announced that they will be hosting a welcome centre at 123 King Street for the duration of the championships. They are a downtown resource for everyone, so feel free to stop by from 9am -11pm, if you have any questions during the event. Tourism London will also have several concierge stations to welcome guests set up around the city. Downtown the concierge stations will be set up at the Marriot Hotel on Colborne Street and Holiday Inn Express on Dundas Street. http://www.londontourism.ca/Inside-London

To make it easier for residents and visitors to find parking, the city has created a map with all public and private lots available downtown. The map also indicates road closures and some monthly parking lot closures around the Budweiser Gardens. With thousands of visitors and hundreds of buses and shuttles in the downtown area, getting around may take a little longer than usual.

London’s 2013 Local Flavour Culinary Guide showcasing London’s best restaurants with a focus on farm-to-table dining will be available all over the city. London's Local Flavour Culinary Guide 2013

London offers a multitude of unique dining establishments within an easy walk to Budweiser Gardens, and a number of gems worth a short drive. For those visiting London for the first time, and for locals looking for a quick refresher course on the dining scene close to the action, eatdrink magazine will be doing a special "Where to Dine" feature in their March/April issue. There is also an official Light up London handbook, in addition to the ISU official programme.

Here are some of my favourites:

Addis Ababa

Noteworthy restaurants can pop up in the most unexpected places. This hospitable gem is tucked inauspiciously in a row of buildings between Burwell and Maitland on Dundas Street.. T.G. and Sam guide the uninitiated to select from a menu of outstanding perfectly prepared Ethiopian specialties that are elaborately spiced. Vegetarians and expats flock here. 465 Dundas Street (at Maitland) 519.433.4222

Abruzzi Ristorante

Abruzzi is downtown London’s, premiere Italian-inspired restaurant, an up-to-date epicurean hot spot serving both modern and emblematic regional specialties. Owners Rob D’Amico and Chef Dave Lamer’s offerings are intuitive, often iconic, prepared with locally-sourced and quality ethnic ingredients. A superior wine list has plenty of interesting consignments. 119 King Street 519- 675-9995

Auberge du Petit Prince

Chef focuses on good, simple, seasonal, country- French cuisine, such as shrimp au pistou, confit of duck, vichyssoise and French onion soup. The pièce de résistance: the delicious escargot fondue. Dine in sophistication, with crystal and linen. Extensive wine cellar 458 King Street (at Maitland) 519-434-7124

Avenue Dining at the Idlewyld

Owner Marcel Butchey and Chef Julie Glaysher create a culinary experience that is both sophisticated and classic. The restaurant is a reflection of the casual elegance that the Idlewyld has built its reputation around. Plaudits for the cozy ambience, innovative cuisine, bravura and artistry on each plate. Jazz Nights. 36 Grand Avenue 519-433-2891

Billy’s Deli

Billy’s Deli on Dundas Street has been a downtown landmark for thirty years. For lunch, specialty deli sandwiches like the quintessential Reuben and Montreal smoked meat are made with a quarter pound of meat, warm and sliced off the brisket. There are always interesting daily blackboard specials designed to entice diners, and these offerings add seasonality to the extensive menu. Billy’s is known for its fantastic baking. 113 Dundas Street

Blu Duby

Clever and witty service is a Blu Duby hallmark. Chefs Alicia Hartley and Dani Gruden-Murphy combine comfort food classics with Asian and Mediterranean twists to make a recession-friendly menu. Beef cheek tacos with Gruyère hits a high note. Blu Duby continues its ascent. Diverse Wine List. 32 Covent Market Place 519-433-1414


A local gem with lots of red velvet and unintended kitsch, Doyenne Marika Hayek has been delighting clients by serving Hungarian specialities in this traditional old- world tavern setting for over 50 years. Of course, you must try the schnitzel or the stuffed veal — the spätzle is also delicious —save room for the palacsinta. 348 Dundas Street 519 439 3431

Che Resto Bar

Marvin Rivas fetes patrons at his welcoming Latin-American-inspired restaurant. This chic hot-spot features exposed brick walls, a granite bar, and massive light fixtures. The menu has a distinct Peruvian flavour, influenced by Chef German Nunez’s heritage. The tuna ceviche, yucca poutine and skirt steak tacos are to die for. Interesting wine and exotic cocktail lists. 225 Dundas Street (at Clarence); 519-601-7999

Church Key Bistro Pub

Vanessa and Pete Willis’s Church Key is a downtown gastro pub with farm-to-table cuisine and an impressive selection of craft beers. Chef Michael Anglestad follows in the modern British tradition by specializing in traditional food prepared with innovation and finesse. Sea scallops wrapped in house smoked salmon, drizzled with grapefruit & rice wine syrup and togarashi aioli are nirvana. 476 Richmond Street, Street (North of Queens Avenue) 519-936-0960

David’s Bistro

David`s presents perfectly executed classic regional French-inspired specialities and has developed a strong and rustic culinary signature. French Cuisine is all about tradition and consistency, and nobody does it better, night after night. The bistro with its tiny bar, vibrant red walls and black-checked tablecloths is a venerated downtown culinary destination. Extensive and ever-changing consignment wine selection. The succulent confit of duck is requisite. 432 Richmond Street (at Carling) 519 667 0535

Dragonfly Bistro

Donald and Nora Yuriann have an irresistible kitchen, a moderately priced menu, and service that is welcoming. If you are planning to visit for Indonesian Rijsttafel on Monday nights, be sure to make a reservation. This is a hidden gem in plain sight on Richmond Row. 715 Richmond Street 519.432.2191

The Early Bird

This red-hot, retro diner has added an additional 28 seats to the premises to accommodate line ups. The adjoining Night Owl is now a cozy Bourbon bar. Signature dishes include: the King-sized turducken club sandwich made with turkey, chicken and duck; perogies and Montreal smoked meat that is made on site. Save room for the bacon-fried pickles. These are dishes with real soul. 355 Talbot St., 519-439-6483

Garlic’s of London

Edo Pehilj`s Garlic’s is the prototype for the ethical modern Ontario restaurant. The cooking repertoire of rising culinary stars, Chef Joshua Fevens and Chef Chad Steward is influenced by a strong commitment to supporting local and sustainable food and agriculture which has been instrumental in helping to raise the bar for intelligent and ethical dining in London. 481 Richmond Street 519-432-4092

Kantina Café

Owner Miljan Karac and Culinary Rock Star/Chef Danijel “Dacha” Markovic proof their ferocious artistry by reinterpreting classic Balkan –inspired cuisine in their chic but casual downtown restaurant. This is a scratch kitchen and all items are made in-house and by hand. The menus are hyper-local and artisanal, with thoughtful and exciting riffs on an iconic indigenous cuisine. 349 Talbot Street 519- 672 5862

La Casa Ristorante

Consistency and familiarity are the hallmarks of the La Casa experience. Chef Scott “Scotty” Sanderson’s menus are rooted in the Italian tradition. Pastas and pizzas purists will appreciate the house made offerings. Sanderson’s, Rabbit Straccetti (twisted rags) with Ontario rabbit ragu, red pepper, fennel, tomato and Romano cheese, alone is worth the visit. 117 King Street (across from Covent Garden Market) 519-434-2272

Massey’s Fine Indian Cuisine

Chef Patson Massey shows his expertise with the combining and roasting of exotic spices, subtle and complex, bestowing and building flavors to great effect. A variety of vegetarian offerings and classic favourites like: smoky-spiced Baingan Patiala, everything tandoori, butter chicken, nann, and various exotic accompaniments. 174 King Street (near Richmond) 519-672-2989

Marienbad Restaurant

Marienbad is located in one of London’s oldest heritage buildings. A popular downtown restaurant, Marienbad brings a polished European flair to downtown dining, in a casual atmosphere. The menu features European and Austro-Germanic specialties, signature dishes include an exceptional steak tartare and schnitzel, and there is a superior beer selection. 122 Carling Street (at Talbot) 519 679 9940

Michael’s on The Thames

Enjoy Continental cuisine in the relaxing atmosphere of a stone fireplace, a view overlooking the Thames River, and the elegance of a Baby Grand. Specializing not only in old-world continental cuisine, but also in the classic European-style tradition of tableside cooking, which includes: steak Diane, Chateaubriand and classic flambéed desserts, as well as signature flaming after-dinner coffees. 1 York Street (at the bridge) 519 672 0111

Milos Craft Beer Emporium

London’s premier craft beer destination owned and operated by publican Milos Kral. Chef Matt Reijnen prepares menus that reflect their farm-to-table commitment and passion for everything local. 23 micros on tap, with excellent style variation. Craft beer enthusiasts and serious hop heads are quickly making this local landmark part of Ontario’s rich pub culture. 420 Talbot Street North (at Carling) 519 601 4447

Only on King

Hot-shot Chef/owner Paul Harding plays to all his strengths with a superior grasp on the tenets of terroir. Harding’s farm-to-table philosophy and a cooking repertoire continue to impress while attracting savvy diners. If you are looking for your inner gastronome this is the place. — Foie gras parfait and ravishing charcuterie. Standout Sunday brunch. 172 King Street (519) 936-2064

The Springs

Chef Andrew Wolwowicz has earned the not-so-easy admiration of fellow chefs. A remarkable culinary gymnast who cooks with skill and dedication his menus reflect dishes crafted from local, regional and seasonal products that are executed with innovation. There is the luxury of ample well-lit parking. 310 Springbank Drive, 519-657-1100

The Raja

The Raja exudes elegance and a level of luxury befitting its name. Many dishes beg for overindulgence. Share the mixed platter with vegetable pakora, chicken tikka, sheek kabab, and onion bhajee, all served on a sizzling platter. The dining room has character and sophistication with its marble floors, deep red painted walls and white accents. 428 Clarence St. (North of Dundas) 519-601-7252

The River Room

Jess Jazey-Spoelstra’s River Room, inside Museum London, has banks of tinted windows with panoramic views overlooking the Forks of the Thames. This superb lunch spot has the clubby ambience of a Manhattan restaurant, with its casual, tailored décor and New York attitude. Open Tues.–Fri., from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday for Brunch. The River Room will be open for dinner during the World Figure Skating Championships. Museum London, Ridout Street N. 519- 850-2287

Tamarine by Quynh Nhi

This sleek and urban-chic spot has a sophisticated palette and an upscale mix of contemporary Asian-inspired motifs, art, cuisine and ambiance. Chefs Quynh and Nhi combine the freshest ingredients with traditional flavours to create a unique menus designed to promote communal dining. Long Phan is your charming and knowledgeable host. 118 Dundas Street 519 601 8276

In Ontario's Southwest, we are very fortunate to have many talented chefs, restaurateurs and retailers who are not just advocating “eating and drinking local” and “eating seasonal,” they are actively and creatively enhancing and developing new region-specific cuisines. As for their cuisine, it’s made from scratch and it’s innovative. They are implementing time-honoured traditions and trusted techniques yet delivering ingredients in revolutionary ways. They are the new culinary vanguards. Many of these trailblazers of the cutting-edge and emerging culinary regionalism in Ontario's Southwest are profiled on this blog. Our true culinary stars are not only our farmers, but also those labouring in restaurant, hotel and market kitchens throughout the city, offering up some of Ontario’s finest food and most innovative drink experiences.