Who doesn’t know the brand “Nat & Marie”? Well, if you don’t, you should! (www.NatandMarie.com) While both ladies are absolutely lovely and vibrant, one of them has a serious palette and many just don’t know how much this girl loves (or doesn’t love as you will see below) food. I certainly didn’t until very recently. Marie Nicola has an exceptional palette and when out at a restaurant eating with her, it’s amazing the comments that come out of her mouth. I thought she was just a host with a great personality but quickly discovered that there’s so much more “foodie” to this girl than we all might think AND she knows what she’s talking about. So that said, I picked her as this week’s “Friday’s Foodie” and sent her 10 questions to answer for all of us to get to know her culinary side a little better. Here’s what she had to say…
When and why did you start writing about food?
I was 8, I planned a 5-course meal for my parents with my sister, Nada, complete with a sorbet/palette cleanser just after the 3rd course. I wrote a menu and a review of the restaurant. My parents were delivered an invitation to the one night event and I believe the meat muffins were a huge success, if I do say so myself. *wink*
What do you love most about food?
I like the culture of home cooking and soul food. The history and what motivates people to indulge in it up to some insanely obsessive levels is also pretty fascinating. We die without it, we adorn it, display it, revere it and we chase to relive that one moment when we tasted something for the first time and it blew our mind.
What do you do when you aren’t writing about or eating food?
I’m working on Nat&Marie. It’s a live streaming talk-show about online entertainment culture that I produce with my good friend, Nat Tubanos. It’s relevant to our lives especially since so much of it is online. We’re really good at finding stuff first and the show is live and interactive. Every Wednesday night at 9pm EST, at natandmarie.com!
Do you cook? If so, what’s your specialty? If not, why?
I cook constantly! Speciality? Oof…I make everything. I made a really mean Shepherd’s Pie and my brunch will put you over the moon. No one makes pancakes as good as mine, honestly. I think I should open a brunch restaurant and I would defy Corey Mintz to be negative about it. I also learned how to make pierogies from my fiance’s Polish grandmother. Boiled not fried.
What’s your favourite type of food(s) and where do you go to get it?
I love North American food. I like travelling to eat food that inspired junk food revolutions. So things like fried chicken, the variations of BBQ, Buffalo wings (from The Crown & Anchor in Buffalo, of course), Tourtiere, Chicken Fricot, fried oysters…In fact, often I can’t get it in the city. I mean, food is regional and you can get as close to it as possible in Toronto, but, nothing is a substitute for freshness or the way that the smoke in the South tastes in an aged backyard shed that’s been smoking pork for 50 years or the taste of the liquor on an fresh oyster – you can’t duplicate that. I accept that and it gives me a lust for travel.
What’s your favourite hidden gem?
Oh Lord…well The Crown & Dragon is hardly a hidden gem in Toronto. It has the best wings in the city, no contest. The baby donuts at Little Nicky’s on Peter and Queen, nothing’s a substitute for those dunked in an Americano after a hard day. Salsa’s in Kensington for tacos…or my Mom’s for her butter tarts.
What’s your go-to restaurant?
It depends how I’m feeling. I have restaurants that scratch different itches. Like I go to Biff’s for “Buck-a-Shuck” after 5pm when I want oysters. I go to Il Gelatiere for gelato, Pho Pasteur for Pho, Echo Sushi for AYCE sushi (the sashimi is the best), The Crown & Dragon for wings (classic coke, killer bee and dragon wings), Big Fat Burrito for burritos, Burger Priest for burgers…Oh, I avoid Smoke’s Poutinerie like the plague. It’s the most rotten poutine that I’ve ever put in my face, but good on him for turning it into a chain.
What’s the most memorable meal you’ve ever had?
Paris 2001, a cheesy boat cruise with my parents. The food was amazing, the wine was bang on and it was hilarious fun. We ended up pinching the extra unopened bottles of wine and drinking at the base of the Eiffel Tower! That’s tied up there next to Bordeaux 2010, Cap Ferret, on the beach eating several dozen oysters with crusty baguette and a slightly sweet white wine. All my memorable food experiences are in France. They have food culture done right and I dream of going back and reliving those moments all the time.
What’s one restaurant you have to try before you die?
I have to eat in Japan, Sukyabashi Jiro for sure. I think that’s more likely than getting to rock out with Heston Blumenthal and having him cook and dine with me. I think he’s rad. *blush*
What’s your biggest restaurant pet peeve? (Play nice.)
Restaurants that say that they offer an authentic experience but they don’t for no good reason. For example, The Fuzz Box opened in Toronto to a bossload of fanfare. For East Coasters, Donairs are something we love. Unless you live there, you’ll never get the donair culture, it’s our comfort food, it’s our junk indulgence and I promise you nothing cures the late night, alcohol induced munchies like garlic fingers and donair sauce.
So Fuzz Box opened, “AUTHENTIC NOVA SCOTIAN DONAIR!” was screamed from the rooftops from everyone from Toronto Life to NOW Magazine.
I go, and it’s decent, but it’s not right. It’s on a Greek pita instead of a regular pita. The reason being he’s moistening the pitas with water instead of steaming them while preparing the meat. The Greek pita ruins the experience for me because it’s not right, it doesn’t taste right. You don’t go to the Maritimes and see a Donair on a Greek pita, you just don’t. Then not having our food experts able to identify that, that irks me, because it’s apart of the culture of that food. It’s like selling a Greek Salad that uses Bocaccini instead of Feta – it’s not terrible, but it’s not right and it doesn’t taste the same. I’m a stickler for authenticity and the devil is in the details. So if you come out guns blazing then you better be prepared for some form of criticism.