Hamilton area eateries featured in new book on food and travel

Hamilton area eateries featured in new book on food and travel | TheSpec.com

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The Arbor in Port DoverHamilton area eateries featured in new book on food and travel

‘Where We Ate: A Field Guide to Canada’s Restaurants, Past and Present’ is a synthesis of Gabby Peyton’s love of history, food, what people eat and why — all with a Canadian focus.

Many June grads will be gifted the Dr. Seuss book “Oh, the places you’ll go!” Food writer Gabby Peyton points our gaze to the “places we went” with her upcoming book “Where We Ate: A Field Guide to Canada’s Restaurants Past and Present.” (Available June 6.)

Based in St. John’s, N.L., the well-travelled Peyton, who has accumulated miles pulling a U-Haul, encountered surprises in her own life journey. With graduate degrees in history, ancient art and architecture, she’d worked on archeological digs in Turkey, sensing that she was on an academic path leading to a PhD followed by teaching or gallery work. Then along came the old Yiddish proverb, “We plan, God laughs.” The fact that Peyton loved food, had worked in bars and restaurants and was passionate about writing all paid off when she entered the world of food writing.

Gabby Peyton, author of "Where We Ate: A Field Guide to Canada's Restaurants, Past and Present."
Gabby Peyton, author of “Where We Ate: A Field Guide to Canada’s Restaurants, Past and Present.”Alex Stead Photography/Penguin Canada Photo

At the core of her writing was a seemingly unquenchable enthusiasm for learning about what people eat and why, how dishes are invented — all origin stories. No surprise that she began the “Iconic Canadian Food” series for Food Bloggers of Canada (FBC) about Canadian classics such as donairs, beaver tails, ginger beef, butter tarts, poutine, Hawaiian pizza (and more) and continued that work with Canadian Food Focus. Her portfolio and media appearances are now extensive. Embracing her zeal for “travelling to eat” expanded her focus to “where” we eat. “Where We Ate” is a synthesis of Peyton’s love of history, food, what people eat and why — all with a Canadian focus.

The cover of author Gabby Peyton's new book.
The cover of author Gabby Peyton’s new book.Penguin Canada Photo

The book is divided into decades from pre-Confederation to the present and scoops up stories from across the country with the belief that “the origin stories of our early restaurants (and the latest hot spots) all have a place in the Canadian historical compendium.” Peyton began with a worthy but unmanageable list of 400 eateries that was eventually narrowed down to 150 from every province and territory. Eighty-five are still open. Some were forced to close by the pandemic which also made it problematic for Peyton to undertake cross-country travel/visits.

Local eateries included in the publication are Roma Bakery and Deli, Tim Hortons, D Hot Shoppe (Burlington), The Olde Angel Inn (Niagara-on-the-Lake), The Rex Hotel (Welland) and The Arbor (Port Dover).

Pizza from Roma Bakery and Deli.
Pizza from Roma Bakery and Deli.The Hamilton Spectator file photo

Roma Bakery & Deli appears in the 1950s chapter. Still run by the same family, their story includes the surprising fact that their iconic pizza did not become popular until the 1970s. The book doesn’t mention that they have undertaken a $4 million expansion to be completed this fall. Earlier this month, they announced a sister project, Sorella. A preview pop-up dinner at Trocadero Restaurant sold out quickly.

Tim Hortons is mentioned in the 1960s chapter with Hamilton as the home of the first official franchise. The 2000s chapter includes D Hot Shoppe in Burlington (2005-present) making their grandmother’s Caribbean roti and other Trinidad and Tobago specialties.

Gabriel and Simone Lou-Hing, owners of D Hot Shoppe.
Gabriel and Simone Lou-Hing, owners of D Hot Shoppe.D Hot Shoppe

The 1910s chapter lists two local eateries still open! The book explains that when Welland’s Rex Hotel opened in 1915 (under a different name) “more than a thousand Italians were working on the Welland Canal.” They began serving pizza in 1935 and today are known for their pizza and ice cream. The Arbor (1919-present) in Port Dover still serves “Golden Glow,” the freshly squeezed citrus drink made from a secret recipe and served with snacks enjoyed by sunseekers.

The pre-Confederation chapter sent me to a study of maps. The King’s Head Inn Burlington Bay, (1794-1813) was described in historical documents as “beautifully situated at a small portage leading from the head of a natural canal (Lottridge’s inlet), and connecting Burlington bay with Lake Ontario.” Shoreline infill partly accounts for why I cannot picture that location. Says Peyton “also known as Government House, (it) was one of the state-owned inns … built to facilitate travel. Many of the inns didn’t discriminate when it came to mealtimes; those of all classes, races and genders would have eaten side by side at the inns of Upper Canada.” No map is required to visit Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Olde Angel Inn, (1789-present). In what was then Newark (and capital of Upper Canada) it has a rich history.

Locally we have many more long-established eateries that have endured for well over 50 years — Easterbrook’s, Collins Brewhouse, Hutch’s, Shakespeare’s, Black Forest Inn, Trocadero, Capri, Rankin’s Grill — to mention a few.

Readers will delight in the book’s many photos and stories about eateries both familiar and newish. The book celebrates all who came to Canada for a new life and stresses that “they built that life by feeding Canadians — both new and old — their traditional recipes, alongside new inventions.”

Gabby Peyton — food writer, culinary historian, recipe developer, and traveller remains “interested in how food is connected, and how people have moved and how different dishes have moved with them” and is confident that there are still a lot of restaurant stories waiting to be told.

The book includes 15 recipes — four of which are from Peyton. Here’s her recipe for East Coast Donair Sauce described as the “sweet, tangy elixir that East Coasters love …” on their hand-held grilled meat sandwich — and apparently even on cheesecake!

East Coast Donair Sauce: Recipe inspired by King of Donair (1977-present)

Makes About 1 ½ cups (375 mL)

2 ⁄3 cup (160 mL) evaporated milk

2 ⁄3 cup (160 mL) granulated sugar

½ tsp (2 mL) garlic powder (controversially optional)

¼ cup (60 mL) white vinegar

1. In a large bowl, mix together the evaporated milk and sugar until the sugar is dissolved. If using the garlic powder, add it and mix until well incorporated.

2. Slowly drizzle in the vinegar, folding it into the mixture. Do not stir too aggressively or whisk, or the sauce will split and clump.

3. Transfer the sauce to a glass container and refrigerate, sealed, for at least 1 hour before serving.

Excerpted from “Where We Ate: A Field Guide to Canada’s Restaurants, Past and Present” by Gabby Peyton. Copyright © 2023 Gabby Peyton. Published in Canada by Appetite by Random House, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

Diane Galambos is a food writer who shares stories and recipes at her blog kitchenbliss.ca. Follow her on Instagram https://instagram.com/kitchenblissca

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