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How to have a perfect summer day, according to local food experts

From restaurant hidden gems to pro ordering advice, Ontario chefs, cookbook authors and other food experts are spilling their summer secrets.

Eden Hagos

founder of the online food platform Black Foodie Co., Toronto


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“On summer days in Toronto, I like to hang out in the Danforth. There are a few Caribbean and barbecue restaurants that I really love. First, I’ll go to the back patio at Simone’s (596 Danforth Ave.) for a Jamaican homestyle meal. I’ll order some jerk chicken, oxtail and sorrel, a type of Jamaican drink. I’d walk around the Danforth, get gelato at Dolce (414 Danforth Ave.), and then later in the day, go to Beach Hill Smokehouse (429 Danforth Ave.) for brisket and either some of their banana pudding or peach cobbler. I like getting it to go and eating it in a nearby park—just be sure to ask for the bread to be packaged separately from the brisket, or else it’ll get soggy.”

Jennifer Wall

co-owner of Supply & Demand restaurant, Ottawa


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“Me and my husband Steve, who is the chef and co-owner of Supply (1335 Wellington St. W), love small, family-run restaurants. One of our favourites in Ottawa is Casa México (1491 Merivale Rd.), which is a bit off the beaten path. The pro order is quesabirria tacos and the mezcal margarita. We also love biking, so we’ll ride there with our two kids through the Experimental Farm (960 Carling Ave.) It’s on crown land and is known for being one of the only farmlands in the middle of the city that’s still active. It’s a really beautiful area; a long bike ride that ends at Casa México is the perfect combination.”

Tawnya Brant

co-owner and chef of Haudenosaunee fusion restaurant Yawékon, Six Nations of the Grand River


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“My favourite thing to do in the summer is barbecue for my family and friends. People will hear ‘Oh, Tawnya’s cooking? Let’s go!’ and pop over. Because I’m an Indigenous chef, I like to try to Indigenize my dishes. For rubs, I’ll use wild onions and ramps to replace onion and garlic powders, and I make a blueberry sweetgrass barbecue sauce and wild cherry sauce. I do some foraging for ingredients when I can, but I also like shopping at Forbes Wild Foods in Toronto (2 Matilda St.). Forbes sells a little bit of everything and purchases a lot of its products from Indigenous people. At Forbes, I get wild mushrooms, wild rice, ramps and pawpaws—a type of tropical fruit that’s native to Ontario and tastes like a mix of mango, pineapple and banana—to use at my restaurant Yawékon (1721 Chiefswood Rd.) and in my home cooking.”

Tara O’Brady

food writer and author of the cookbook Seven Spoons, Niagara Region


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“Living in Niagara, my favourite thing about summertime is that you’re never far from something delicious. My ideal day would be stocking up at farm stands—a favourite is the Country Market from the Restaurant Pearl Morissette (3953 Jordan Rd.)—then pausing to recharge on the patio at Dispatch Restaurant (386 St Paul St.) in St. Catharines. The cocktails are inventive and invigorating, and the food creative and craveable. From there, I’d have to end on a sweet note, and that means a trip to the Avondale Dairy Bar (461 Stewart Rd.), an old-school ice cream shop set in fields and farmland. The ice cream is churned on premises daily, the banana splits are exactly as you’d dream them to be and it is the best place to watch the sun go down.”

Lori Nikkel

CEO of food rescue charity Second Harvest, Toronto


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“I’m incredibly social and I love entertaining in my backyard in Etobicoke. I’m not the greatest cook, but I can prep plates like nobody’s business. There’s always a cheese, veggie and nut plate out every time someone comes over. I love the Cheese Boutique (45 Ripley Ave.)—I always get smoked cheese, really aged cheese and hard crumbly types —and getting bread and prepared foods at McEwan Fine Foods (38 Karl Fraser Rd.) Etobicoke has an amazing farmer’s market (399 The West Mall) at the Etobicoke Civic Centre, where I’d pick up some meats and produce, like strawberries and grapes. When I have people over, the food is always great, but the company’s even better. Even while social distancing, it’s so good to hang out with people.”

as part of the Great Taste of Ontario Special Report