A bacon tour of Toronto, vegging out in Cusco, a food tour of Montreal’s Little Italy & Jean Talon market, drinking civet poop coffee in Indonesia and many more discoveries for your taste buds is what Lisa Jackson, editor-in-chief of the travel website Eat Drink Travel, has been doing since 2013 with the EDT crew. Together, they've been backpacking across the word to bring unique stories of food and people to their readers. Here are Lisa Jackon’s top 3 restaurants in Toronto, best falafel in the world and much more.
What’s the story behind Eat Drink Travel?
After years of writing for online and print media, I wanted to start my own website. A lot of what I pitched to editors didn't fit with their editorial or was too edgy -- stories like celebrating Oktoberfest in Palestine or tasting coffee made from cat poop (yes, this exists). So I launched EDT in April 2013 using a basic WordPress template and my crappy-ass laptop. The idea was to write off the beaten track stories about food, drink, and adventure travel. Soon, what started out as one person morphed into twelve writers, three editors, one investor, and a shared office space in downtown Toronto. Our editorial calendar is bursting and we get offers to cover stories from across the globe.
How does that translate to an editorial policy?
EDT explores culture and cuisine from around the world, and provides travel inspiration for readers. We look for stories about local foods, traditions of gastronomy and food production, and profile individuals who bring food to our tables.
I'm always looking to publish stories that celebrate "weird and wonderful" experiences, or the misfit story that mainstream media rejects. Of course, the site includes some regular travel tips too - like restaurant and hotel profiles, as well as destination round-ups.
As a bigger goal, I hope that we can promote greater acceptance, humility, and understanding through our editorial. Travel is an education -- it makes you realize that we are all different, and we are all the same. I want to tell those stories.
How do you rate restaurants?
We don't really "rate" restaurants per se. I think that's too subjective, and we don't want to perpetuate a "hot or not" ideology. Everyone is different, and what's exciting to one person might be stale to another. I dined in one of Boston's top restaurants, and after a ten-course meal, I felt uninspired and wanted the meal to end. But I still crave a fish taco that I ate three years ago from a food truck in Tofino, British Columbia.
Instead, we profile our dining experience, and give a preview into what may be expected. It's important to talk about the restaurant's concept, menu, atmosphere, location, service, and most importantly, the overall gut feeling of eating there.
Having many writers with diverse food tastes and cultural backgrounds is an asset -- it really helps us be less dogmatic about food.
Could you name three Toronto restaurants that can’t be ignored?
It depends on what you're looking for, but here are a few of my favorites:
Mangia and Bevi - a small Italian trattoria nestled on King Street East that serves wood-fired oven pizza and fresh pasta. It's always packed with locals who live in the neighborhood, and the owner's friendly dogs often greet patrons at the door.
The Oxley Public House - an upscale gastro pub in Yorkville that will charm you with crackling fireplaces and what's arguably the best damn fish and chips in town. There's always a wild game dish on the menu, like quail or venison.
The St. Lawrence Market - it's not a restaurant, but it's a feast for the eyes and belly. It's the birthplace of Peameal bacon and National Geographic has named it the best farmer’s market in the world. You can get almost anything your stomach desires, and there are plenty of stalls to grab a bite to eat. If you want a taste of Toronto history, grab a Peameal bacon sandwich from Paddington's Pump. Or head to the back of the market for a Montreal-style bagel, a wine tasting, or fresh Ontario cheese.
Best meal you have eaten while travelling?
The food carts in Jerusalem served a damn good falafel. The falafels were so fresh and moist, and they stuffed the pita bread with fresh-cut fries. Plus, the vendors were open all night long. I would stand in the street at midnight, hands soaked with humus but feeling so satisfied.
If I would come over to your house for diner, what would you serve me?
Start off with apple maple cheddar phyllo bundles for appetizers. Followed by a course of baked turbot, a white fish caught off the coast of Quebec and Greenland, with sides of wild rice and arugula salad tossed in maple vinaigrette dressing. And wine, of course. We'll walk to the gelato place close to my house for dessert.
There's some talk about creating a downloadable special edition of EDT, produced twice a year. Stay tuned!