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I Want To Go To There

cities, type, graphic design, photography, urban,

As always, one of my goals this year is to travel more (hoping to get outside North America this time!) and this incredible photo spread I came across on Pinterest is very inspiring. Please, take me to all of these places. The use of graphic design on these beautiful photos is perfection. I wish I had the skills to make the photos I post here so pretty (another goal, perhaps!).

Where are you planning on traveling to this year? January and February make me long to be anywhere but Canada. Where is the nicest place to visit during these crappy months? I’m in desperate need of reminders of warmer places, so do tell.

 Lisa

Have You Seen Your Facebook Year In Review Page Yet?

 

I’m sure you have by now (I meant to post this on Thursday when it was released but got distracted by bad news), but if you haven’t – go to your Facebook profile right now and check it out. It’s basically just a collection of your top 20 most commented/liked/shared photos and statuses of the year, which means it can be pretty limited if you’re not a huge Facebook user.

I’m more of a Twitter fanatic, so it’s not as accurate for me as it might be for others. Mainly it just shows photos from my first trip to Montreal (since that’s the only photo album I posted this year) and drinking photos, which is a testament to my general dislike of having my photo taken, in that people can only make it happen when I’m inebriated. I promise I will never be one of those bloggers who just posts 1000 “selfies” a day on instagram and on the blog, instead of actual content.

Anyhow, it’s a cute feature and a good way for Facebook to create some perceived value out of the yearly format of Timeline. I’ve definitely enjoyed going through the Year in Review pages from my friends who’ve chosen to share theirs.

 Lisa

Good Eats at the 2012 Food and Wine Expo

A few weeks back I attended the Gourmet Food and Wine show for the second time, in an attempt to continually expand my limited foodie experience.

If I haven’t mentioned it before, I grew up in a town where the only ethnic food we had was a Chinese restaurant, with parents who only ever consumed meat and potatoes, so after getting over the culture shock of unlimited options when I moved to Toronto, I eventually faced my fear of foods like sushi and realized all I was missing out on. Now, I am obsessed with trying as much as I can, so long as it doesn’t appear slimy or have eyes.

This year I went to the Food and Wine show on the VIP/media night, thinking it would be less crowded than it was when I went on the Saturday night the previous year. Although they moved to a larger spot in the Convention Centre this time, it was still incredibly packed, but the new location definitely helped with some of the traffic.

I started with Chicken Paella from El Paella which was satisfying but not unique or unforgettable by any means. Word of advice, never start with a plate of rice at a food event where you want to try many things. I didn’t let the fact that I was no longer very hungry after that stop me, though.

My friend picked up a couple Prosciutto and Cheese Sliders that she loved so much she went back for a few more by the end of the night. I had tried them last year, and having a hatred for bread with hard crusts, I decided to pass this time.

Next she went for the Brie, Cranberry and Tarragon Grilled Cheese with the Meatballs Pomodoro from Magic Oven, and apparently the sandwich was great, but I tried the meatballs, and compared to the incredible ones I had a few weeks earlier at Eat to the Beat, they didn’t impress. They tasted like fairly basic meatballs you could easily make at home.

We both have an incredible sweet tooth, so we tried some Gelato next. The vendor had some interesting fruity combos and even a champagne option! But we went more traditional to avoid any disappointment  She had a Dark Chocolate  option, which I didn’t like at all because of the slightly bitter after-taste, so I went back for the French Vanilla which was smooth, sweet perfection.

I also tried the most delicious one bite Chocolate Cake with Raspberries that I have ever tasted, and that has to be the one item I ate that I loved the most and wanted to go back for more of. The same shop was serving a meat appetizer that my friend tried, but she was underwhelmed by the hard and flavourless bread.

I ended my food journey with my current food obsession, Butter Chicken. Yes, more chicken and rice, just what I needed! Sadly it was lukewarm and I was so full already that I really didn’t enjoy it (or finish it). Honestly, you could probably find tastier butter chicken at the Eaton Centre Food Court, but the problem may be that I tried it at the end of the night when it was obviously a big pot that was cooked at the beginning of the evening.


Onto the drinks. It is well documented that I am not much of a beer or wine fan (hard liquor ftw) – if you remember my Beer Festival post, the closest I get to enjoying beer is Fruli’s Strawberry beer option. But, as I get along in my 20s I feel like it is important to appreciate wine (especially if I want to truly understand the foodie world) so I’ve been pushing  myself to try it more often. While most of what I sampled wasn’t doing anything for me, we came across Muskoka Lakes Winery which had a bunch of Cranberry Wines on display. Cranberry always makes for a good vodka drink, so I figured this was my best shot, and it has since become my new favourite thing.

I know you are thinking – fruit wine? That’s not real wine. Believe me, I proudly drank my 6$ Wild Vines Strawberry Wine when I was younger until someone informed me it is akin to drinking “bum wine.” But Muskoka Lakes makes their Cranberry Wines using all the same methods as grape wine, and the alcohol volume and price tell me it’s not a wine I should be embarrassed about loving. We tried the off-dry Blueberry Cranberry option, as well as the semi-sweet White Cranberry option. I loved them both, but the White was definitely my favourite. I think my real issue with wine has been that I’ve been trying it at bars, rather than at dinner. This is obvious but I’m starting to realize just how important it is to drink it with food.

I also had a strange ginger syrup drink that I would never try again, a delicious Strawberry Daiquiri, and a Motts Ceaser that was ridiculously cheap for $1, but too spicy for my delicate palette. I always forget to ask for very little spice when I get ceasars.

Overall it was a great event as expected, and I enjoyed it much more this time around even though it was still quite crowded. The food of course can be hit and miss depending on what you end up trying, but it was mostly delicious, and the drinks were great. I look forward to attending another round next year, and hopefully my wine knowledge will be a lot stronger by then.

 Lisa

Am I An Official Torontonian Now That I’ve Been To Medieval Times?

Yes, Thursday night’s premiere of the new Medieval Times show was the first time in my life I’ve ever experienced the greatness of eating off of steel plates, being served by a wench and watching knights joust on horses.

I grew up only a couple hours south of Toronto, so trips to Medieval Times were always a regular thing in grade school – but my parents never thought it was a justifiable way to spend their limited budget back then. Suffices to say, I always felt I had missed out on the standard childhood right of passage.

That said, ever since moving here it has always been on my list as one of those things I have to do, so when I got the invite to come to this show I was pretty excited. I immediately called my parents and told them to rearrange their visit to celebrate my Dad’s birthday so we could celebrate it as any 58 year old man should – with grown men in costumes, wearing a paper crown.

Upon arrival, we received swag bags and coloured cards that let us know what section we would be seated in, and, as I would come to find out – which knight we would be cheering for. Ours was the red knight.

 

Once we got our “Maiden’s Kiss” strawberry slushie, peach schnapps and vodka drinks and they called our colour we were seated, our server introduced herself to us (insisting we refer to her as a wench while she referred to us as ladies and lords), and the emcee welcomed us to the show. He was probably my favourite part of the show, making jokes on the  audience whenever he mentioned someone celebrating something.

The food was a definite highlight for my small town parents, who appreciated the basic meat and potatoes aspect of it. Take them to a fancy/foreign restaurant and they won’t eat anything, it’s tragic. But even though it was simple – garlic bread, tomato soup, chicken leg, potato, rib, apple pie – everything tasted great and there was definitely more food than one person could possibly eat. They also referred to everything on the menu with hilarious names – the tomato bisque was called “dragon’s blood soup” and the potato was “medieval French fries.”

 

In the end, our red knight didn’t win (which was kind of obvious as he didn’t come out last, and the last one out would always be the winner in this format) but it was still fun to cheer like idiots for him and boo like crazy at all the other guys. I guess they must change up who wins each night, or do they assume it’ll be a different audience every time and keep it the same? Not a good idea as there are definitely some hardcore cosplay types who probably show up here regularly (we were seated near some grown men literally dressed up in knight costumes…).

Since I’d never been before I can’t really tell you how it compares or differs to past versions of the show, but I can tell you there is a moment of true brilliance when a “falconer” comes out and has a falcon fly around the room very close to the audience. My sister and I literally almost peed our pants as it reminded us of one of the best recurring SNL skits of all time – ‘The Falconer” – where Will Forte played a business man who rejected the corporate world to be homeless and live with his pet falcon, and they would go on adventures together.


After it was over they invited everyone to the lobby to eat that really awesome looking cake, drink champagne and take photos with the knights. The show was fun, the food was great, the service was excellent, and the way they kept everything old English and as authentic to those days as they could was cute. My parents absolutely loved it, and I think I might actually have enjoyed it more now than I would have had I seen it as a kid, because drinks always make things like this extra entertaining.

 Lisa

The Toronto Chocolate Ball Is My Idea Of Heaven

When I heard about the Toronto Chocolate Festival last year, I wondered how it had been around for 6 years and I was somehow just being made aware of it. If there is one thing in this life I am addicted to, it is sugar. Cliche girl, I know. It’s an awful addiction to have as it means I struggle constantly with my love of sweets and my desire to remain not obese. A festival like this plays right into my addiction, but when it comes down to it I’m happy to spend an extra hour on the elliptical if it means an evening like this.

So on Friday night, I attended the 7th Annual Toronto Chocolate Ball, themed “Cocoa Cabaret” this year, and consumed more sugar than one person should probably eat in a month. It was incredible.

As we walked in, we were immediately greeted with tables upon tables of chocolate being handed out and I was quickly reminded that this was a Gala event when I saw women in dresses and men in tuxedos – and we were very much under-dressed (headed to the Horseshoe for a show right after meant I wasn’t gonna be wearing any heels on this night). I had been to a similarly delicious foodie event for charity a few nights before (Eat To The Beat) and it wasn’t quite as fancy, so I assumed we wouldn’t stick out too much, but man was I wrong. They call it a ball for a reason – remember that for next year.

After indulging in some fancy chocolates and fondue, I realized there was also an entire section dedicated to savoury ‘chocolate infused’ dinner items. The idea of chocolate in my meat and potatoes kind of freaked me out at first, but these are some of the best and most innovative chefs in the country. I decided to try Auntee Donna’s Catering, who were serving up Chicken with Coconut Mashed Potatoes in Mole Sauce with Mango Chutney and Guava and sautéed vegetables – and that has to be the best chicken I’ve ever had in my life. I’m not exactly sure how chocolate was involved in the dish, I think it was infused into the chicken as well as in the gravy on the potatoes, but it definitely worked.

Wingit! was serving chocolate infused chicken wings, which, while at first seemed like a horrible idea, after the success I’d already had with chicken, I figured I should go for it. The chocolate flavour was very slight and surprisingly worked really well, I could definitely have ate a few more. That is the fun of these chocolate as a meal dishes – it all sounds kind of gross at first, but these guys know what they are doing.

There were a bunch of other savoury options that sounded interesting, but I was really there for the desserts, so I left the Chocolate Hazelnut soup with goat cheese relish and orange oil, and the Chocolate Sfoja Lorda stuffed pasta for everyone else and moved back to the sweet section, but not before checking out the entertainment.

They brought in a dance troupe to perform for the night between sets played by The Toronto Big Band. The band was really great, a true highlight of the night, but unfortunately the dancers fell flat. They all seemed to be on a different beat, and my friend pointed out that it felt sort of like a high school dance recital.

After consuming some chocolate crepes, hand-painted champagne, pumpkin, and hazelnut flavoured chocolates, cookie cupcakes, banana cupcakes, items dipped in some of the most incredible fondue I’ve ever tasted, and more cake than I needed to eat, I was hitting the point of no return and it was time to leave. I didn’t want to, but we were both falling into a food coma.

The best items I had were easily the chocolate cupcakes with hazelnut buttercream (I could eat that buttercream on its own, and I generally dislike icing) and this amazing chocolate truffle royale cake from La Rocca that I loved so much I had a second slice despite being at the point of no return. It was truly the most delicious cake I have ever tasted in my life.

If there is any area of improvement for next year, I’d say they might want to focus on offering up some drink options next time. I was fully expecting to see hot chocolate being served by someone, but didn’t come across any – and a chocolate martini just seems like it would be a given at something like this.

Overall, it was a wonderful evening that celebrated food in a new way and raised a lot of money for breast and prostate cancer initiatives, and I look forward to checking out the Toronto Chocolate Show as well, on November 4th.

Lisa