Category Quick Bites

The Hammer: Catch You on the Hip Side of Hamilton


If you haven’t heard the buzz – or didn’t believe it – Steel City has transformed into a cool place to hang out.


James Street North is a vibrant, culturally diverse mix of food, art, and unique retail that ranges from old-fashioned to modern, in such a hip way (that’s my inner urban geographer speaking). My inner foodie says that Hamilton is the grassroots of where young chefs hone their skills with their own set of rules; so refreshing and impressive. Remember, this is the city that put the wheels in motion for the local gourmet food truck trend.


Start off at the Hamilton Farmers’ Market (inside Jackson Square, corner of James Street and York Boulevard). There’s plenty of cheap parking right across the street.


Sensational Samosa offers an impressive variety of international foods: savoury and sweet finger foods, curries, chutneys, salads, and soups.


I started my morning off with a healthy bowl of protein-packed Persian Ash soup: chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans, yellow split peas, pearl barley, dill, parsley, cilantro, onions, garlic, and turmeric. Garnished with yogurt and crispy fried onions.

On a recommendation from a local, I brought home the World’s Best Samosas, mint-cilantro chutney, and mango chutney; what a nice treat after driving home in the snowstorm. Health-conscious, vegan, and gluten-free options available.

I met the lovely Ed Wong of Henry Brown’s Small Batch Ice Cream. He and his partner have been at the market since last July, having fun playing around with flavour combinations.


Flavours range from bold (Black Sesame and Curried Carrot) to childhood favourites (Toasted Marshmallow and Peppermint Candy Cane) and oh so many tempting ones in between. Move over green tea ice cream, Hong Kong Milk Tea is my new favourite: I love how the tea balances the sweet creamy bliss. Prepared on-site in small batches, fresh every market day, additives not required. Flavours rotate. Plan to come back for an afternoon scoop or bring your cooler to take a tub home. But be sure to ask for a taste in the morning because your favourite flavour may be sold out later.

Next time, I’ll try a poké bowl at the Pokeh Bar (Canada’s first poké bar). When I returned to the market for an ice cream, the mid-afternoon crowd was a clear indication that these healthy, Hawaiian-influenced raw fish bowls have quickly gained popularity with the locals.  Like sushi in a bowl: choose from fresh ahi tuna, salmon, or shiitake/tofu on cucumber noodles or rice, with Asian sauces, and over 20 healthy toppings.

After the market, walk one block east on York to James Street, turn left and head up James Street North. If the stores aren’t open (some not until noon), grab a coffee at Mulberry Coffee House. Or walk up to Murray Street to Chris’ Store Fixtures, a kitchenware and restaurant supply store where I rubbed elbows with Hamilton’s hot young chefs.  At Mixed Media, I lusted over the art supplies, laughed my guts out at the cards and scored the hard-to-find, cult-favourite foodie magazine, Lucky Peach.


Satisfy your morning chocolate fix with a wee sample at Chocolat on James; you won’t come out empty-handed.


Admire the local art, whether on a wall…


or in the window of a gallery (you me gallery) or vintage shop (Chaises Musicales).


Check out the AGH Design Annex: an extension of the Art Gallery of Hamilton that shows experimental exhibitions, stages intimate performances, and houses a home and office design store.

There are two really good vintage clothing shops on this strip. Hawk & Sparrow is a gorgeous, well-curated, upscale vintage, pre-loved, and new clothing store that also sells on etsy. Olive is in love all over again with these boots.


And with these boots from Newold’s Vintage, just up the street; a great shop with lots of inexpensive gems.


I am so tempted to return to this charming little shop to learn how to sew (Needlework). And isn’t this a pretty window (i fiori)?


When your stomach starts to growl, you’ll find Vietnamese, Korean, Thai, Portuguese, Indian, and Italian restaurants along this strip, interspersed with restaurants such as Saint James Espresso Bar & Eatery, Saltlick Smokehouse, Mesa, Lake Road, Jack & Lois, Charred, and The Green Smoothie Bar.


I ended my morning on James Street North at a recommendation from a friend. Thank you, Casey, The Burnt Tongue (10 Cannon Street East/corner of James) lived up to its reputation.


The staff is super friendly, the atmosphere energetic, and the rotating daily menu so creative.


The soup is well worth the reasonable wait for a table. Indian Roasted Cauliflower for me: velvety smooth with fragrant cumin notes and yogurt drizzle. That’s my kind of comfort food.


Although the locally-raised beef hamburger, frites, and curry ketchup served to the people beside me looked amazing. Sandwiches and salads, too. Dang, I forgot to try the long-craved-for Rudy’s Paletas. Order at the counter, served at the table. Vegetarian, vegan, celiac-friendly, and dairy-free options available.

There is only so much food one belly can hold and my timing that day didn’t allow me to venture further. I’ll be back; there is more to see and taste in the hip Hammer.

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Heaven on Earth: Muskoka’s Pizza on Earth

All winter long, we pine for a little bit of summer in Muskoka. Of course, the natural beauty of Muskoka is enough of a draw on its own. But Muskoka’s Dorset, Ontario boasts an extra special piece of heaven, or pizza heaven – officially called Pizza on Earth.


About five years ago, an enterprising university student, Sarah Jane (Johnson) Gibbs, and her parents built an outdoor wood-burning oven on their commercial property. Since then, Sara has turned out fabulous, wood-fired gourmet pizza that knocks the flip flops off local cottagers. Thin, crisp but chewy crust cooked to perfection. Flavourful sauce. Gourmet toppings. And that smoky, wood-fired taste. This is the stuff to hold out for – here is why:

Pizza on Earth is only open in the summer, which makes Sarah’s pizza all that much more appreciated. The rest of the year, Sarah is at university studying the cello. Gosh, she’s inspiring. You go girl. I bet you play the cello as beautifully as you make pizza.

Pizza on Earth is very popular in this neck of the woods. Call ahead to place your order; if you show up at the last minute, chances are you will wait a long while. Take it away or eat there on the outdoor picnic tables. Better yet, take a short trip across the Dorset bridge to the park at Little Trading Bay. Our boys like to Huck Finn it and swim out to the raft in the bay. The beauty of Muskoka, Dad’s Root Beer, and Pizza on Earth. Heaven on earth.

Pizza on Earth
1009 Clan McKay Drive
Dorset, Ontario
P0A 1E0
(just south of Dorset, Ontario on the east side of Highway 35, just south of the Dorset bridge)

Phone: 705-349-8827


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Forkful of Flavour: Molisana’s Lasagna

Molisana Lasagna

Craving a bite of homemade lasagna but can’t even dream up the time to cook it? Molisana Bakery layers soft sheets of lasagna with cheese and a ragù of meltingly tender ground meat in tomato sauce. Packed with homemade flavour. Total comfort food. Priced right. Olive it!


The Molisana ladies make about 20 lasagnas a day. Call ahead to order because these beauties sell out quickly. Dinner – fast, cheap, delicious – done!

Molisana Bakery
1474 Pickwick Drive, Unit 1
Mississauga, ON
L5V 2G2

Telephone: 905-826-8260

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Work Week Treat: Pane E Vino Ristorante

Looking for a great spot for a quick but healthy bite during a busy work week? Tucked in the commercial district of Mississauga’s Brunel Road is a hidden gem: Pane E Vino Ristorante. Slip away from the office into a cool Italian vibe: a clean and bright cafe that serves made-from-scratch, delicious Italian-inspired food. It is a favourite work week spot and office caterer for my friend, Jackie, and her public health nurse colleagues (these nutrition savvy girls know how to eat well). Thanks for the great tip Jackie!


Pane E Vino Ristorante serves wholesome food that they make fresh daily using all natural ingredients.  Order at the counter. The chalkboard menu includes over ten different gourmet paninis on your choice of Ace Bakery artisan bread, organic soups, and plenty of nutritious salads with optional protein add-ons. Or create your own custom panini.

I ordered the Grilled Turkey Gourmet Panini:  Grilled turkey, roasted sweet peppers, grilled zucchini, and artichoke spread served on artisan bread. I customized it by adding jalapeno peppers and switching the Havarti for chèvre. I forgot to order the lime avocado spread that Jackie loves but savoured the artichoke spread. Delicious, feel good, real food.


My colleague enjoyed a flavourful custom panini of salty prosciutto, creamy chèvre, peppery baby arugula, and thinly sliced tomato on multigrain bread.


We couldn’t resist sharing a Chicken Caesar Salad: grilled chicken, buttery Prosciutto di Parma, crisp romaine hearts, house-made garlic croutons, shaved parmesan, and roasted garlic, dressed in classic, homemade Caesar vinaigrette that was wonderfully creamy and garlicky. We both chimed “Mamma mia, this is good.”


Eat in Pane E Vino’s spacious, licensed cafe or visit their website for a click- and- order on-line catering menu. 

Pane E Vino Ristorante
151 Brunel RD Mississauga
Ontario. L4Z 2H6
Telephone: (905) 502.5656
Monday to Friday 9:00 am to 3:00pm

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Postcards from Muskoka: Wish you were here!

Fabulous gourmet tacos from Orillia’s Fox Foods, at Gravenhurst Farmers’ Market. Be sure to arrive at the market before the lunch rush because these popular tacos, stuffed with a medley of mouthwatering flavours and wrapped in freshly made tortillas, sell out fast.


Vintage finds from Currie’s Music & Antiques in Gravenhurst. Don’t miss the back room which is an ultra cool, 1970’s vibe, recording studio filled with vintage finds.


Gourmet goodies from The Farmer’s Daughter in Huntsville, Ontario. Fresh produce, baked goods, fresh salads, gourmet pantry products, frozen goodies, ready-to-eat meals.


When in Huntsville, you must visit Belly Ice Cream’s little hut at the corner of Brunel and Main Street. Delicious, handcrafted, gourmet ice cream in creative and traditional flavours. The Blueberry Lavender ice cream is absolutely exquisite.


Hot breakfast and lunch, vintage treasures, and a few gourmet goodies (including some Farmer’s Daughter products) from Miss Nelle’s Antiques & Café in Baysville, Ontario.


Love, Olive xoxo

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