Cocktail Makeover - Moscow Mule

Life is all about balance. We like wine and spirits but know they can sabotage even the most flexible diet. Our cocktail makeover series will share healthy cocktail recipes inspired by classic drinks, remixed with ingredients that are good for your body. Next time you open your home bar, treat yourself and your guests to some guilt-free libations.


The Moscow Mule turned 75 in 2016 and is consistently one of the most searched recipes on Google.  What's not to love about the combination of ginger beer, vodka, lime.   My healthier Moscow Mule inspired cocktail swaps out high sugar ginger beer for ginger kombucha.  This naturally effervescent tea based drink has been around since 200 BC and there are claims about it's health benefits that vary from liver detoxification to immunity boosting.  My liver doesn't feel any different but but I do know that kombucha is a great substitute for soda as it's not made with sugar, and because it's fermented you get the fizz of ginger beer without the chemicals.

Also, it tastes amazing.  




Recipes You Need to Know - Sumac Martini

Sumac is a spice that, in my opinion, isn't used often enough. Adding a slightly tart, lemony taste to dishes, it was also Mark McEwan's pick for the most underrated or underused spice. It wasn't surprising then, that when I went to visit Mark's restaurant Diwan in the Aga Khan Museum, that this refreshing Sumac Martini was on the menu. I like it so much, I wanted to share the recipe with you.


sumac martini

6ix Questions with Cookies for a Cause

Cookies for a Cause is a Brooklyn-based cookie company, founded by friends Alex - an Art Director - and Liz - a corporate attorney. Feeling disheartened after the most recent U.S election results, they turned their shared passion for baking and cookie decorating into a business that gives back to the causes they love. Cookies for a Cause started up an impromptu fundraising project, with proceeds from cookie sales going to the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood, the Natuaral Resources Defence Council, and the International Refugee Assistance Project. It’s blossomed into a small business, as they sold out consistently and garnered the attention of many sweet-toothed New Yorkers. Cookies for a Cause provides Alex and Liz a platform to engage with their community, while also creating an income stream to continue supporting organizations they care deeply about. And yes, the cookies taste damn good too! We had a chance to connect with them this summer to ask them about female entrepreneurship, social good, and the best places to eat in NYC.



When did you both meet? Was it a baker bond right away?

Liz: I met Alex through my husband, Adam, about four-ish years ago. Alex was actually in Adam's wedding party, and soon he'll be in hers. Our baking bond didn't form until recently. Over the holidays in 2016 we took a cookie decorating class together and that was where it all started. We were both cookie obsessed.

Alex: I actually used to be on an improv comedy team with Liz's husband, Adam. So I knew him for a couple of years before he met Liz. I was delighted when he found her because suddenly I had an awesome new friend. We became closer over the years, and the baker bond actually only formed when Liz invited me to a cookie decorating class last winter, and I was HOOKED.

Liz!

Liz!

Alex!

Alex!


What prompted you to build your company with social good in mind? 

Liz: We originally started CFAC as a fundraising vehicle first and have stumbled into entrepreneurship. We are figuring out the business side as we go along, but being passion-driven helps keep us going as we navigate new territory.

Alex: We both felt a bit defeated after the most recent election, and with the cookie decorating class coinciding with all the anxiety we were feeling, we figured combining the two would be a great way to release some stress while also raising money to combat those feelings. Plus, we had both already donated all we could to these causes, so starting Cookies for a Cause was an easy way to continue to contribute financially without going broke.

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The causes you support are varied; can you tell us a bit more about why you chose these organizations to support? Do you have a personal connection to any of them?

Liz: Hope you're ready to get political! CFAC is unapologetically progressive. We chose our causes because they are on the frontlines, protecting our civil liberties and our most marginalized communities.

Alex: We contribute to causes that are politically relevant, and also align with our desire to help others. We want to make sure that our community (and our country) is safe, healthy and welcoming for everyone regardless of race, gender or religious views. I think that because we are both women and also children of immigrants, we felt like the statements being made by the current administration were particularly personal. The causes we chose sprinkle a little bit of that love over everyone.


What has been your most memorable cookie baked to date?

Liz: We did a large order of custom negroni cookies for Love and Victory as part of Negroni Week. It was definitely our most ambitious project, with a large number of cookies and a very labor intensive design. But they turned out great and we were so happy to participate in a small way in Negroni Week and the related charitable efforts. As for expansion, Alex and I both have pretty intense day jobs (Alex works in design and I'm a corporate attorney), so we are baby stepping things with CFAC.

The Negroni Cookie.

The Negroni Cookie.


You both live and work in New York City, one the world's great food cities.  For our readers taking a trip to NYC soon, any favourite spots for food or drinks to recommend?

Liz: Where to start?! For baked goods, I'm a big fan of The Good Batch and Ovenly. Lucali in Brooklyn for pizza (it's worth the wait!). And for ice cream, Ample Hills (I might be addicted to their Ooey Gooey Butter Cake ice cream).

Alex:  This is my favorite topic, i could go on for hours. Brooklyn has some serious gems, and since I live there, I'm a little biased. In Manhattan: San Marzano in the East Village is a delightful and affordable Italian restaurant. You can build your own pasta, enjoy some delicious wine and the desserts are pretty great. Beyoglu, on the Upper East Side is AMAZING Mediterranean food. Grab a seat outside, order the Mezze platter, and enjoy dipping the warm bread into all the yummy goodness while you watch all the people go by. In Brooklyn my favorites are Buttermilk Channel for brunch (you HAVE to try this place-- get the cheddar waffles!) and Palo Santo for Mexican. It's on the first level of a brownstone, and is so warm and cozy and the food feels so welcoming and authentic. One time they got our order totally wrong, but we didn't say anything because the dishes were so amazing and we didn't want them to take them away. It's THAT good.

Speaking from your experience- For young women out there aspiring to be entrepreneurs, what's the one thing they should avoid?

Liz: Competition. It may sound counter-intuitive, but I truly believe that if you want to be successful, you should find like-minded entrepreneurs who can help you learn and grow. There's a wonderful community of bakers in Brooklyn and NYC and lots of "cookiers" on social media. I've been able to learn so much from them, not just in terms of baking skills, but also tips for how to manage and grow a business.

Alex:  Avoid hesitation! Starting a new company is scary, but if you have an idea, then you should go for it! Starting out as a side project helped us take the pressure off as we figure out how to grow. If you are truly passionate about something then it's definitely worth giving it a shot.


Get your daily cookie dose following Cookies for a Cause on Instagram at @cookiesforacausenyc Learn more about the organizations they support and place an order at cookiesforacausenyc.com.

Do you have a food, wine or cocktail business that's making the world a better place?  We want to hear from you!  Contact us here.

6ix Questions with Mark McEwan

Chef Mark McEwan needs no introduction, but I will take a shot at one regardless. One of the city's most successful chefs and restauranteurs, he's been the creative mind behind some of our most memorable meals, from his fine dining restaurants to his catering to his grocery stores. Mark will once again be treating the city to a unique dining experience at Toronto's first ever Rosé Picnic. Celebrating the love of rosé wines, the picnic will be an afternoon of wine paired with food from Chef McEwan’s restaurants. If an afternoon of wine and exceptional food under the sun weren't good enough, proceeds from the event will benefit Rethink Breast Cancer, an organizaton for young women affected by breast cancer. I chatted with Chef McEwan about pairing rosé with food, philanthropy, women in the restaurant industry, as well as what he eats when he's dining al fresco.


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We seem to be in the midst of a rosé revival.  What foods do you think pair best with dry rosé? Sweeter, fruit-forward rose? Sparkling rosé?

Not all dry, sweet or sparkling wines are the same, but there are some sure-fire pairings that will satisfy even the most discerning palette; especially if the wine is served cold on a beautiful summer day! 
With a dry rosé, I would serve a light salad or a light pasta, especially with seafood, raw and lightly cooked shellfish and goats' cheeses. I would also try to add ingredients that pick-up on tasting notes of the wine. You can be bolder with a full-bodied, sweeter rose and serve at a summer BBQ or even with spicier dishes like a light curry. There is also a wide range of sparkling rosés available and it's  tough to go wrong with pairings if serving quality sparkling. Cheese is always a great go-to, as are oysters or fresh fruit. Sweeter sparkling rosés are fantastic when serving desserts like tea cakes, tarts or cupcakes. There is so much variety now, you can find a rosé to suit any dish! 


McEwan's  Rosé Picnic's Vegan Picnic Basket. Fire roasted eggplant sandwich with spiced chick pea spread, roasted Ontario peppers, sweet pickled onion, pesto aioli on olive ciabatta roll. Seasonal vegetable crudités with classic hummus. Grilled broccoli salad with roasted corn salsa. Crisp root vegetable chips. Double chocolate coconut cake.

McEwan's  Rosé Picnic's Vegan Picnic Basket. Fire roasted eggplant sandwich with spiced chick pea spread, roasted Ontario peppers, sweet pickled onion, pesto aioli on olive ciabatta roll. Seasonal vegetable crudités with classic hummus. Grilled broccoli salad with roasted corn salsa. Crisp root vegetable chips. Double chocolate coconut cake.


The Chew Street community supports food and wine business that use their platform for social good.  We love that the Rosé Picnic supports Rethink Breast Cancer.  How do you choose the philanthropic organizations you collaborate with?

There are so many fantastic philanthropic organizations out there and many in our own backyard. The McEwan Group is and has been involved in many charitable initiatives over the years in many different fields, but one issue that everyone in the McEwan family feels very strongly about is food waste. We have partnered with Second Harvest and other similar organizations for years. Any excess food at all properties is donated to Second Harvest and many of our team members volunteer regularly. Ending hunger in our neighbourhoods and ensuring everyone has access to nutritious food while minimizing food waste is a priority for us. 

What, in your opinion, is the most underrated or underused spice?

Sumac. This tangy spice is most prevalent in Middle Eastern cooking and adds a bright flavour to dishes. The tartness is perfect in spice blends, dry rubs, sprinkled over salads or even used in cocktails. It's so versatile, has delicious flavour and a fantastic colour. It's a spice every kitchen should have. 


McEwan Rosé Picnic Basket.  Southern fried tandoori chicken with coriander yogurt sauce. Jewelled rice salad. Masala spiced cauliflower. Roasted jalapeño corn bread. Raspberry trifle with cardamon cream.

McEwan Rosé Picnic Basket.  Southern fried tandoori chicken with coriander yogurt sauce. Jewelled rice salad. Masala spiced cauliflower. Roasted jalapeño corn bread. Raspberry trifle with cardamon cream.


Now, more than ever, there is an increasing awareness of sexism in the restaurant industry.  How have you created a working enviromnent where both men and women can be successful?

I think the culture of any kitchen, or any organization for that matter, is created by a variety of factors, including the founder's values and how leadership roles are shaped. I value talent and hard work and it happens that many of our managerial roles are filled by women. Whether it's Chef Missy Hui helming the kitchen at Fabbrica, or our General Managers at North 44, ONE Restaurant, Bymark and Diwan all being women, to our Head of Catering or Director of Communications roles being filled by women as well, we aim to empower our employees. Every voice is heard and our team-members grow as the McEwan Group grows! 


McEwan Rosé Picnic Basket. Herb roasted beef tenderloin with Russian mustard aioli. Roxy’s potato salad with horseradish, thyme and celery. Garden bean salad with dill and garlic. Cured tomato baguette with whipped butter. Pecan and brown sugar butter tarts. Two Signature chocolate truffles .

McEwan Rosé Picnic Basket. Herb roasted beef tenderloin with Russian mustard aioli. Roxy’s potato salad with horseradish, thyme and celery. Garden bean salad with dill and garlic. Cured tomato baguette with whipped butter. Pecan and brown sugar butter tarts. Two Signature chocolate truffles .


Your menus feature food from the Middle East and North Africa (Diwan), to traditional Italian (Fabricca). What do you do to ensure the diversity of your offering remains authentic?

I let the creativity & talent of our chefs as well as quality ingredients speak for themselves. It's a tough question to answer as some dishes are inspired by and some dishes, like with our pizza at Fabbrica that follows the Vera Pizza Napoletana specifications, are very traditional. There is such diversity in our kitchens that dishes are authentic to McEwan standards, where we really strive for fresh produce and exceptional ingredients. We try to make as much as we can in-house (from our pastas to sauces) so we know that every element on a plate that is served to our guests is tasty! 

What would be on the menu for a picnic or al fresco meal in your backyard?

I am an avid gardener so I love to serve crudites & roasted veggies that I have grown myself. Again, I love family-style cooking so big roasts or whole grilled fish is a preference. Simplicity is key and so is a good glass of wine.  



Toronto's first annual Rosé  Picnic will take place Saturday July 22, 2017 at Fort York.  You can purchase tickets  and pre-purchase picnic baskets.here. Food will also be available for sale on site.  Learn more about Rethink Breast Cancer here.

Recipes You Need to Know - Cardamom Mojito

Happy National Mojito Day! To help celebrate this timeless rum cocktail, we wanted to share a recipe created by the International Bacardi Brand Ambassador, Juan Coronado.

Coronado believes Rum and Bacardi represent more than just a drink, but a culture - a way of life taking you back to the Caribbean roots of summer, island music and positive vibes.

We believe fresh ingredients are the key to the best cocktails and hope you love sipping on this fresh, unique twist on the classic mojito - the Cardamom Mojito.




Megan Munro is a lifestyle, food, beauty & travel writer.  Her passion for travel has taken her to 36 countries and she now calls Toronto home.  Follow Megan at @immfab