Product reviews

Penne alla Caprese

Penne alla Caprese

Photography by Bill Milne (copyright Sterling Publishing, Inc.)

In Whatever Happened to Sunday Dinner?, Lisa Caponigri presented a year’s worth of delicious and authentic Italian menus for the entire family to enjoy. Now she’s back with another 52 dinners, but with a fresh new seasonal approach that reflects the cuisines of Piemonte (winter), Campania (spring), Sicily (summer), and Tuscany (fall).


Product Review: Ernest Hemingway Culinary Collection


First and foremost a world renown Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winning author, Ernest Hemingway is nearly as famous for his legendary lifestyle as his writing. A true sportsman and outdoorsman, Hemingway traveled the world pursuing his passions. A resident of Havana, Key West, Paris and Ketchum, Idaho, Hemingway hunted big game on African safaris, sat ringside at Spanish bullfights, fished the world’s oceans and traveled extensively throughout Europe in time of war and peace.


The romantic and international appeal of the Hemingway legend is embodied in the select group of products fit to bear the name. Hemingway’s love of travel, culture and cuisine has been turned it into something both tangible and tastable: EH Gourmet.


Product Review: Nonna Pia’s Balsamic Reductions


”Norman, you need to learn how to cook because when you grow up you may marry someone who cannot cook.”  

The passage of time had proven Nonna Pia correct. Her son Norm ended up marrying Natasha who is great at many things—cooking not being one of them. Because of Nonna Pia’s insightful wisdom, Chef Norm named his company in homage to his beloved mother, which is how “Nonna Pia’s Gourmet Sauces” came to be.

Chef Norm imports balsamic vinegar to his Whistler, BC facility from Modena, Italy. There, it is infused with fresh fruit and herbs and steeped in 100 gallon steam kettles for up to 12 hours. Nonna Pia’s Balsamic Reductions are gluten-free and do not contain caramel, thickening agents or starches. The thick consistency and intense flavour is arrived at by removing the moisture from the vinegar.


Product Review: Sencha Naturals

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By now, you’ve probably heard from far and wide that green tea is good for you. Green tea is thought to do all kinds of things from helping to prevent cancer and heart disease, to aiding with weight loss and freshening breath. The fine folks at Sencha Naturals recently sent me a box of their green tea products to sample (perhaps they knew something I didn’t?)


Product Review: Food Huggers

food huggers

Check out this cool product called Food Huggers. They are silicone reusable food savers that provide a protective seal over produce and are meant to prolong the life of cut fruit and veggies. I found that this claim was actually true. They also help reduce on plastic wrap waste. The silicone seals the produce snuggly and doesn’t suffocate it like a plastic bag. The Food Huggers come in four sizes so it allows you to protect different sized fruits and veggies. In testing these products, I found them easy to store, dishwasher, microwave and even freezer safe. The silicon stretches to fit and will also work on jars and cans.

My personal fav was the Avocado Hugger. It comes with a pit pocket that can be pushed in or out depending if the half you are saving has a pit. They come in two sizes for avocados large and small.

If you’re interested, Food Savers are available for $9.99. Find out more here.


Food Huggers

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Two great gift ideas for Father’s Day

With two times the chilling power of square drink stones, Amazeballs will keep your drink colder, longer. They’re made from food safe stainless steel and filled with a specially formulated food-safe glycerin gel that freezes to chill your drink without diluting its flavour. Simply freeze Amazeballs for a minimum of four hours and then use them to keep 2-3 ounces of room temperature liquid cool for up to 45 minutes. Rinse with warm water, pat dry and put back in freezer in between uses. Set of 2 balls includes tongs and storage bag.

Available for $24.50 in-store at Chapters-Indigo or from 

The perfect gift for any scotch connoisseur or craft beer lover, these handcrafted coasters are made from solid marble and finished with a four cork pads at the bottom to keep your furniture safe. They’re made in Almonte, Ontario, and have a natural look and feel that makes each piece unique. Handmade in Canada. Marble. Wipe clean with a damp cloth. Set of four. Each is 4” x 4”.

Available for $24.50 in-store at Chapters-Indigo or from

When Chobani yogurt is denied, an obsession emerges

“We always long for the forbidden things, and desire what is denied us.” François Rabelais

What makes humans covet things they can’t have? Is the unattainable always more desirable? The sought after more attractive? That which comes to us hard must be worth having, right? Glamorous jobs, luxury cars, expansive houses, out-of-our-league starlets, foreign-made Greek yogurt… Wait, what?

For the last little while, I’ve become addicted to a dairy product. Not very conventional, I know. But Chobani is not your average merch. See Chobani is the best-selling brand of yogurt in the US. And it’s not yet available in Canada. Anywhere in Canada. A pal-o’-mine has been legally smuggling the deliciousness cross-border and unintentionally got me hooked. For me, it was love at first gulp. But is it simply a case of allure of the forbidden fruit-bottom? Does the anticipation of receiving a fresh supply of yogurt from a foreign land make it taste better, exotic or even naughty?

The fact is, before my Chobani hook-up I didn’t really eat yogurt. I never paid it no mind. But there was some extra something-something in Chobani I hadn’t experienced before. It came down to taste. This stuff was creamy, it was sweet, it had real fruit (pineapple was my personal fav) and it was good for you. I did some research and found out that Chobani doesn’t use gelatin, is low on lactose (5%), big on protein (13-18g of protein per 6oz cup) and contained no artificial sweetener. Chobani even gives 10% of its profits back to charities worldwide. Pretty cool company.

And another thing. When I emailed Chobani to quiz them about their product, they wrote back within the hour and requested my address so that they could ship me some coupons for free samples to cash-in next time I visited the US.  Uh, wow!

Whether my addiction is fueled by a longing for the hard-to-get or I’m simply in the throws of passion for Greek yogurt, it will take me a little while longer to decipher. I won’t know for sure until Chobani becomes available in Canada. So Chobani people, can you hurry it up please?

The name Chobani means shepherd in Mediterranean languages and symbolizes giving but asking for nothing in return. Ulukaya started Shepherd’s Gift Foundation and donates 10% of the company’s profits to people that work to make a lasting change. – See more at:
The name Chobani means shepherd in Mediterranean languages and symbolizes giving but asking for nothing in return. Ulukaya started Shepherd’s Gift Foundation and donates 10% of the company’s profits to people that work to make a lasting change. – See more at:
he best selling yogurt brand in the United States
he best selling yogurt brand in the United States
he best selling yogurt brand in the United States
he best selling yogurt brand in the United States
he best selling yogurt brand in the United States

The Unrefined Olive

In recent years, olive oil and balsamic vinegar have reached a status once reserved merely for wine. Appraised for their aroma, complexity of flavour and bouquet, these oil and vinegars are often infused with herbs, espresso, lemon, chocolate, peppers and even pomegranate. Everyday cooks have become connoisseurs and with that, demand for more sophisticated products has emerged.  Enter The Unrefined Olive, Ottawa’s first olive oil and balsamic vinegar tasting bar.

151 A Second Avenue, Ottawa, ON, 613-231-3133

Located in the heart of the Glebe, on the corner of Bank Street and Second Avenue, The Unrefined Olive carries olive oils from around the globe and currently feature ones from California, Chile, Australia, and Tunisia.

Knowledgeable staff take you on a tasting tour, itemizing the different ingredients, characteristics and flavour combinations. You are lured in with a shot and as you swirl, smell, sip and swallow through the different oils and vinegars. Eventually your taste buds reach sensory overload, but the overall experience is quite pleasant. It’s not often that you get to taste-test something before you buy it.

There are three sizes: 200 mL for $12, 375 mL for $19 and 750 mL at $32. Production dates are clearly labelled so you know how old it is. For $16, you can get a sample gift bag, containing 2 oils and 2 vinegars. A pretty good gift for the host of your next party.

Sample gift bag – $16 for four bottles
Specialty oils are also available. Prices differ.

The Fig Balsamic and Mushroom Sage Olive Oil are two of my personal favourites. Pair them for bread dipping, on salads and marinades. Check out The Unrefined Olive’s website for hours of operations and for store directions. Go to their Facebook page for recipes or pairing suggestions.

Get the official coaster of Santa Claus (and more gift ideas!)

Here’s a rock-solid gift idea: Get the official coaster of Santa Claus. If you leave milk and cookies out for the big man, then you need one of these travertine tile coasters. Order it here for only $8 from VersaTile, a small Ottawa-based company (and a friend of Cool Food Dude.) VersaTile ships to Canada and the US.

Did you know that the Romans used travertine stone to build the Colosseum? These coasters are built to last! VersaTile’s method of transferring the images to the tile preserves the natural beauty of the stone but also allows the artwork to shine. The tiles measure 4″x4″ and are bundled by a kraft paper belly-band in a set of four. Your furniture remains protected by four cork pads on the bottom of each coaster. The coasters are heat and water resistant. To clean, simply wipe with a damp cloth.

Can’t get enough of the holidays? Get a set of travertine coasters featuring Christmas themed graphics. Order here to get 4 coasters for only $32.

Attending parties this holiday season? Versatile coasters make a great gift for your host or hostess. Choose from ready-made designs or send in a design of your own. Get a set of 4 for $32. Order here.

Get your memories set in stone with MOSAIX, VersaTile’s signature line of tile mosaics. Whether you choose a baby picture, a wedding photos or a stunning landscape, these conversation pieces are a unique and stunning addition to any home. The photo tiles used in MOSAIX undergo the same image transfer process as the coasters. For depth and texture, the tiles are mounted onto a fabric covered backing inside a shadow box. The tiles are spaced slightly apart, breaking up the image to give a mosaic effect. All the MOSAIX come complete with hanging hardware. Prices start at $65. Order here.

Check out VersaTile’s website for more great gift ideas.

I tried the PC Pot Roast Cooking Sauce and I loved it!

I thought pot roast was dead and gone. A relic of the 1950’s long banished from our dinner tables. Evidently I was wrong because during a recent discussion, I was dressed down and provided with a long list of reasons why the pot roast is still king. I discovered that pot roast tends to bring up some comforting childhood memories and a great deal of emotion!

I’m not generally a fan of one-pot meals. I love fancy food. The more complicated and intricate the better. I enjoy the challenge. But when it comes to everyday meals, I give in. Convenience is key. I happened upon the Pot Roast Cooking Sauce in the new Loblaws Insider Report. Perhaps a sign that a pot roast was in my future? I’m not totally unopposed to trying new spins on old classics.

The recipe was easy enough. Buy large roasting meat. Check. Carrots, onions, turnips and garlic. Check, check, check, check. Chicken broth. Check. Brown the meat. Pretty easy so far.

Chop up the vegetables and then sauté them.

Add the stock and sauce to the pan and bring to a simmer. Add the meat, cover and bake in the oven at 325 degrees for 3-3-1/2 hours. Unfortunately, this is where my pictures end. I’m quite forgetful and after 3 hours of cooking I simply didn’t remember to take a picture of the final product. Quite duh, I know. But here’s an image of pretty much how it looked.

I was impressed with the ingredients in the sauce. Water, tomato paste, onion, balsamic vinegar, burgundy wine, garlic, roasted portobello mushrooms, red wine extract, salt, beef suet (beef fat), spices, modified corn starch, seasoning and dehydrated onion. Pretty healthy. I can tell you that the PC Pot Roast Cooking Sauce added tremendous flavour and had no-fail cooking instructions. And it was a bargain at $2.49. It made my life easier and I will certainly use it again.