Something’s fishy in Montreal

Sushi lovers take note!  All may not be what it seems when you order sushi in a restaurant in Montreal. (Who knows? The problem may be more widespread.) You may think you are getting sushi made with one type of fish, but instead are being served a different type altogether.

Read about and watch this interesting investigative piece by CTV in Montreal.

How to order and behave at Tim Hortons to make the world a better place

I’m one of those oddball Canadians who doesn’t frequent Tim Hortons on a regular basis……probably because I’m not a coffee drinker! I have sipped the occasional iced cappuccino, hot smoothee, or hot chocolate from Timmies, but my visits to this hallowed Canadian institution are rather infrequent.

While in New York City recently I walked past a couple small Tim Hortons restaurants that had just opened. These weren’t the stand-alone establishments with drive thrus we’re used to finding on every other street corner in Canada. These were small coffee shops sandwiched between souvenir shops, clothing stores and hotels on busy streets in Manhattan. I wondered how they would fare in the U.S. and how quickly Americans would pick up the Timmies coffee lingo.

Ordering a beverage at Tim’s – or at just about any other coffee establishment – has always held a kind of mystique for me since the world of double doubles, mocacchinos, grandes and lattes is not one I visit very often.

Luckily for me and all those Americans just being introduced to Tim’s, the Facebook group Tim Hortons Rules of Ordering and More (which boasts over 7,000 members!) has posted a comprehensive list of rules for proper behaviour and ordering at Tim’s. The group is for “everyone who gets fed up with people who don’t know what they want, and for workers who have to put up with this everyday.” Apparently “If people would just listen to these rules when ordering, the world will be a better place.”

For the sake of world peace, you’d be advised to read on…..

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Best places to eat breakfast in Ontario

Eggs Benedict at Cora's

Eggs Benedict at Cora's

Yes, there are poached eggs on English muffins under all that Hollandaise sauce! This breakfast plate of Eggs Benedict, fruit and home fries – served at Cora’s, a restaurant chain found in most of the provinces in Canada – was pretty tasty!

Besides Cora’s, there are many other great places to enjoy breakfast in Ontario. If you want to find some of the hot spots for brekky in your home town or perhaps another place in this province, look no further than www.getcracking.ca. That’s where you’ll find Ontario’s Best Breakfasts, a search tool created by Egg Farmers of Ontario.

(You’ll also find my new blog – Everything Eggs – with egg recipes, cooking tips, news about egg nutrition, egg cooking equipment, and more!)

And, if you have a great breakfast restaurant you’d like to recommend, please add it to our list.

Chocolate by the Bald Man

Following afternoon tea at Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon in New York City last week, Loreen and I decided to try to find Strand book store (its inventory includes new, used, out of print and rare books, and you can get some really good deals).

As we passed through Union Square heading down Broadway Avenue, Loreen suddenly uttered those magic words I love to hear – “I’m pretty sure there’s a chocolate shop around here somewhere.”

Sure enough, within a few blocks we had stumbled upon Max Brenner’s Chocolate by the Bald Man.

Chocolate by the Bald Man storefront

We were not in the least bit hungry considering what we’d just eaten at Lady Mendl’s, but as a serious chocoholic, I was compelled to go in and check the place out. Loreen loves chocolate too; she didn’t need any convincing to make this stop.

Stepping into the store was like entering chocolate heaven. These pictures might help to explain but you really have to experience the place in person to get the full effect.

Chocolate by the Bald Man Interior 3

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A few days of Florida sun and food. And a whole lotta wind!

A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate enough to exchange the cool spring temperatures in Ontario for a few days of warm but windy weather in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Murray was on Spring Break so he went down a few days ahead to take in a Florida Panthers hockey game. Work obligations meant I flew down a few days later to join him.

view-3-from-the-balcony-in-florida

The view from the balcony of the Canada House condo we rented in Fort Lauderdale. Not too hard to take!

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The view the other way!

It was very windy every day! Perfect weather for kite-boarding. No, I did not attempt kite-boarding. I did not have a death wish or want to spend my mini vacation in the hospital. I was perfectly happy watching the kite-boarders ride the crashing waves and do flips and flops from my comfortable chair on the condo balcony.

Can you see all the kites in the picture below? The boarders were out en masse every day, all day.

How about those waves? They were much bigger than they look in this picture!
wind-and-waves-in-florda

We did lots of driving about including a trip to West Palm Beach and down through the Keys all the way to Key West. Nothing like zipping about in a convertible with the breeze (more like gale force winds!) blowing through our hair!

convertible-in-florida1

A couple of pina coladas and a shared platter of calamari at Sunset Pier restaurant in Key West made for a perfect afternoon snack. This outdoor restaurant belongs to the Ocean Key Resort and Spa, which looked like a really nice place to stay. The views of the sunset from the pier would have been lovely.

pina-colada-in-key-west

Pina Colada (Sunset Pier Restaurant in Key West)

To make a pina colada, combine 1-1/2 cups coconut cream, 3 tablespoons crushed pineapple, 1-1/2 oz light rum, and 1 cup crushed ice in a blender. Process until slushy. Pour into a chilled glass. Garnish with a pineapple wedge and maraschino cherry. Sip slowly….sitting on a pier on a warm sunny day….looking out over the Gulf of Mexico (or any other large body of water)….with not a care in the world!  I should really do this much more often…..

Deep-fried calamari

Fried calamari with cherry pepper dip (Sunset Pier Restaurant in Key West)

key-lime-pie

Key lime pie (Two Friends Patio Restaurant in Key West)

The key lime pie at Two Friends Patio Restaurant in Key West was excellent! I also tried the conch fritters as they appeared on every menu and seemed to be one of Florida’s national dishes. Sadly, I didn’t enjoy them very much. Simply described, these are deep-fried fritters made with conch (a type of snail), flour, green peppers, and other seasonings. They were probably well made, but the texture and taste were just not to my liking.

A few other restaurants we enjoyed while in Fort Lauderdale -

* Flanigans Seafood Bar and Grille – great ribs!

* SeaWatch – great seafood and ocean view!

* Aruba Beach Cafe – great ambiance and ocean view, generous portions!

The Tea Room at Robinson-Bray House in Mississauga, Ontario

A couple weeks ago (the day after Valentine’s Day to be exact), Murray and I made the 50-minute drive from Kitchener into Mississauga (Streetsville to be exact) to have afternoon tea at The Tea Room in the Robinson-Bray House (223 Queen Street South, Ph: 905-542-7674).

Robinson Bray Tea Room in Streetsville (Mississauga), Ontario

The side entrance to The Tea Room at the Robinson-Bray House in Mississauga, Ontario

The house was built in 1885 and owned by at least two families – the Robinsons and the Brays. In 1983, it was designated a building of “architectural and contextual value” by the City of Mississauga. It now houses several businesses including a gift shop, spa and The Tea Room.

The Tea Room is in the back of the building. You can enter either through the front or the side of the House. When we left through the front after finishing our tea, I noticed that a large room at the front of the house was vacant. The space had a lovely bay window looking out onto Queen Street. My first thought was that it would be a lovely area for The Tea Room to expand or move into.

But I’m ahead of myself. Let me share our tea experience.

You could order off the menu but we really didn’t give it much consideration as The Tea Room was serving a Valentine’s tea ($23 per person) which sounded really nice. It started with a delicious garden salad with sliced strawberries and cucumbers and pralined pecans. This was followed by a two-tiered stand filled with tea sandwiches, and heart-shaped chocolate chunk scones served with devon cream and preserves.

Sandwich Plate

The tray of tea sandwiches included (clockwise from top right) egg salad on a mini croissant (which turned out to be a roll as you can see above), chicken and brie on a slice of baguette with sweet mango chutney, a roast beef and horseradish mayo wrap with caramelized onions, salmon mousse in a phyllo cup, and a cucumber and cream cheese sandwich.

Then, because we hadn’t eaten enough yet (!),  it was time to choose a dessert. I don’t recall all the choices; the first couple our server described were all we needed to hear. Murray chose a Chocolate Crepe with Amaretto Cream and Mixed Berries.

Chcocolate Crepes with Amaretto Cream and Mixed Berries

Chocolate Crepe with Amaretto Cream and Mixed Berries

I opted for the Passionfruit and Mixed Berry Trifle, served in a tea cup.

Passionfruit and Mixed Berry Trifle garnished with a chocolate-dipped cooked and berriees

The Passionfruit and Mixed Berry Trifle was garnished with a chocolate-dipped cookie and berries.

A tart-sweet ending to a delicious tea.

Whipped cream, passionfruit custard, cake and berries - a tart-sweet ending to a delicious tea!

Everything was washed done with a pot of Earl Grey tea for me and Assam tea for Murray.

The Tea Room’s servers were friendly and attentive. The decor of the two-room tea room was nice enough, although nothing outstanding.  I’ll confess I wanted to straighten out the slightly askew picture hung off centre under a shelf on one wall of the room we sat in, but to Murray’s relief I managed to suppress the urge.

Other than the egg salad that was served in a slightly soggy mini roll instead of the promised croissant, the food was very tasty, especially the salad and desserts. Needless to say, we didn’t need to eat for the rest of the day!

How did I spend my Christmas holiday? Mostly eating!

It’s December 27th.

I don’t go back to work until January 6th, so I wouldn’t say Christmas vacation is over, but once we get back home to Kitchener from Winnipeg, where we spend Christmas with our families, it always feels as if the holiday part is pretty much over.

We got home late on December 25th. Christmas is officially over.

So, how did I spend this holiday?

It was a pretty typical Christmas except for the start. We were scheduled to fly out of Toronto at 8:15 a.m. on Sunday, December 21st. It was supposed to snow the night before our departure, so to avoid a slow drive from Kitchener into Pearson Airport in Toronto if the roads were bad – which could possibly mean missing our flight – we decided to stay overnight at a hotel near the airport.

Chocolate Almond Toffee Bars

Chocolate Almond Toffee Bars

After a hectic day of last minute shopping and packing, we got into Toronto Saturday night, enjoyed a late supper at Moxies, then checked into the Toronto Airport Marriott where we snacked on Chocolate Almond Toffee Bars I had tucked into my suitcase at the last minute. We enjoyed a great night’s sleep under a cozy duvet with our heads comfortably resting on feather pillows.

The weather forecasters were on the mark as the next morning we woke to falling snow and slippery roads. We had planned to take the 7 a.m. hotel shuttle to the airport. Since we (unwisely) hadn’t built any extra time into our schedule (assuming that since we were so close to the airport, there couldn’t possibly be any delay getting to it!), when the shuttle hadn’t arrived by 7:10, we decided we’d better grab a cab.

Terminal 1 at Pearson International Airport was a zoo when we arrived. There were long line-ups everywhere and those in line did not look happy. There seemed to be rampant confusion everywhere with frazzled passengers not sure what line they should be in. We already had our boarding passes and just needed to drop off our luggage. When we finally found the end of the line we were to be in, I seriously doubted we would make our flight. I had never seen as long a line – just to drop off luggage.

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Tea time in Savannah, Georgia

Our recent trip to Georgia, U.S., included a short visit to the charming city of Savannah. One afternoon doesn’t do this southern belle justice, but it was all the time we had. I’d love to go back to Savannah and explore the city more thoroughly some day.

We arrived in Savannah about noon on a Friday in early August. We had booked a 3:30 p.m. reservation for afternoon tea at The Tea Room on East Broughton Street, so to make the most of the short time we would have in the city, the Visitor Information Center was our first stop. (Conveniently, we were able to park our car in the Information Center’s parking lot for a nominal fee while we toured the city for the rest of the afternoon.)

At the Information Center, a friendly attendant outlined a walking trip through the historic downtown that would enable us to see most of the 22 public squares. The Tea Room was on the route. (At the Information Center, you’ll find information on the host of tours available including a Paula Deen tour and a movie tour as well as suggestions for accommodations and dining.)

Savannah’s historic downtown contains beautiful homes and stately mansions, cobblestone streets, park-like public squares, lush foliage and greenery, and Spanish moss and oak trees that arch across the streets to form overhead canopies. There are also fountains, statues, hotels, restaurants, shops and boutiques….and lots of history. These images will give you a visual sense of the city and its rich heritage.

By 3:30 p.m. we had made our way to The Tea Room. Reservations are required by 11 a.m. for full afternoon tea ($25.00 per person) which includes quiche and sorbet along with finger sandwiches, scones, clotted cream, preserves, dainties and tea. Not aware of the 11 a.m. deadline, I had called to make our reservation just before noon. We would have been fine with afternoon tea ($20.00 per person) but the woman who answered the phone at The Tea Room graciously allowed us to book for the full tea.

Murray chose Assam-Mangalam tea which he quite liked. He prefers to drink full-bodied black teas which can stand a good splash of milk and generous dose of sugar. The Assam-Mangalam was exactly this kind of tea. I chose the house blend, Emperors Bride, a blended tea (Assam and Ceylon) with dried pineapple and orange bits. It was also a good choice.

We enjoyed tea at a table for two in the “library”. There is also seating outside the “library” just beyond the retail area where teas, books, and tea accessories are sold. I had been looking for a copy of the latest issue of Tea A Magazine and was pleased to find that the magazine was sold at The Tea Room. I was also tempted to buy some books on tea, but it was nearly closing time, and it was threatening to rain outside so I didn’t linger long. My recommendation, however, is to be sure to save some time for browsing before or after enjoying tea should you visit The Tea Room. You can also shop online.

In addition to various afternoon tea options, The Tea Room’s menu includes salads and quiches. You can view the menu on The Tea Room’s website. For reservations or information, call 912-239-9690. The Tea Room is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

The Tea Room in Savannah, Georgia

The Tea Room in Savannah, Georgia

Full afternoon tea at The Tea Room was delicious and filling.

Full afternoon tea at The Tea Room was delicious and filling.

Dessert plate completes full afternoon tea at The Tea Room

A flower-garnished dessert plate completes full afternoon tea at The Tea Room

A really bad hair day! Just look at what a little rain does to spiked hair!

During the mile walk back to the car after tea, the heavens opened and the rain POURED down. Unfortunately we were caught unprepared and without an umbrella!

We could have ducked into a store to wait it out, but it looked as though it was going to rain for a while, and we needed to get back on the road. It had been a hot afternoon and the rain almost felt refreshing. Of course as soon as we reached the car, the rain stopped!

It was a memorable afternoon in Savannah!

Niagara-on-the-Lake – a great place to visit, dine, watch theatre, be pampered, shop…..

Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL) is one of the prettiest towns in Ontario, and one of my favourite places to spend an afternoon, a day, or a weekend. With orchards, wineries and restaurants in abundance, the area is paradise for food and wine lovers. For me, the attraction is also the Shaw Festival, billed in promotional material as “one of the world’s great theatre companies”. From April to November each year, the Festival showcases plays by Bernard Shaw and other great playwrights.

After finishing up a work obligation at the Niagara Culinary Institute in NOTL last Saturday morning, Murray and I went into historic NOTL for the afternoon.

We lunched on the outdoor patio at The Epicurean Bistro where I had no trouble polishing off a grilled vegetable (eggplant, onion and sweet pepper) panini and Murray noshed on a turkey sandwich. The desserts were enticing – they included a mile-high pecan pie that looked like each slice weighed more than my miniature poodle and contained enough calories to fuel me for at least two days – but we were going for tea later in the afternoon so I refrained from indulging. I had to keep the tea in mind a few minutes later when we strolled past the large windows of the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. Everything is covered in chocolate in that place, including huge apples that, after their chocolate coating, get rolled in nuts, sprinkles, smarties, marshmallows……

It was a beautiful day and the sidewalks and shops were busy with tourists. We had tickets to a matinee performance of The Little Foxes, a play by Lillian Hellman. We were happy not to have to fight the crowds for sidewalk space, or a place in the line-ups for ice cream.

The Shaw Festival has a great roster of plays again this year. The Little Foxes, which we quite enjoyed, was the third production I’ve seen of this season’s offerings. Getting Married by Bernard Shaw was also good (lots of talk, little action) as was An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestly (a great mystery and thought-provoking ending).

Prince of Wales Hotel in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario

Enjoying afternoon tea at the Prince of Wales Hotel

Victorian elegance is evident in the guest rooms at the Prince of Wales hotel.

Following the play, we headed to the Prince of Wales Hotel to enjoy Afternoon Tea in the drawing room. We had made reservations for 5 p.m. but they would not have been necessary as there weren’t many guests at that time. (Tea is served daily from noon to 6 p.m.)

I ordered the Traditional Afternoon Tea and a pot of China Green Jasmine tea and Murray had the Prince of Wales Afternoon Tea and the Golden Tippy Assam tea. Tea for one includes sandwiches, scones, dainties, preserves and cream, and a full pot of tea. Murray’s tea included a basket of assorted crackers and a plate of cheeses and fruit. It will set you back about $35.

We had stayed at the Prince of Wales for a weekend in early April as a surprise birthday destination for Murray. It’s a charming hotel, well appointed and very victorian in its decor. Not cheap, and definitely not the type of lodging we typically choose, but nevertheless, a nice change and definitely a treat.

During that visit, we dined in the Churchill Lounge (great steak and frites) and ate breakfast in the Escabeche Restaurant (the poached egg breakfast was very nice). We also ate at the Tiara Restaurant, located in one of the Prince of Wales’ sister hotels, the Queen’s Landing. The Tiara offers a tasting menu which we didn’t have time to enjoy that evening (our server suggested three hours were necessary). We put this on our list of things to do in NOTL on another visit.

As part of that weekend’s itinerary, I had booked a couples massage at the Secret Garden Spa at the Prince of Wales. Murray was not keen about having a guy as his massage therapist so I promised that if one of our therapists was male, I’d ask him to work on my sore muscles so Murray would have a female as his therapist. Unfortunately for Murray, we never discussed what to do if both therapists were guys!! You can guess how this story ends!

There’s lots to do in Niagara-on-the-Lake whether you enjoy shopping, golfing, visiting historical sights, wining, dining, or reading a book in the pretty park across from the Prince of Wales Hotel. Fun foodie stores in the historic town include Greaves Jams and Marmalades, Cheese Secrets, Pairings Specialty Food Market and Kurtz Culinary Creations.

Words to live....ah, eat by....on the walls of my kitchen.

Sadly, the Dansk Factory Outlet, a great place to pick up interesting dishes and kitchenware (and where I bought foodie signs for my kitchen last fall), was having a 50% off closing out sale. Well, nice if you were looking for a deal, but too bad the store is closing. On future trips to NOTL, I’ll be watching to see what appears in that space.

See you in NOTL some time!

Following food trends requires a leader

Want to be in the know about current and emerging food trends and flavours such as wine bars, divorce cakes (what?!?), and crispy poached eggs?

It’s easy to be on top of all things foodie when someone else does the work tracking trends and following fads. Chef and cookbook author Dana McCauley writes the quarterly Topline Trends Newsletter, a summation of trends and fads in the food world. You can read the newsletter on her website – www.danamccauley.com – and sign up there to have it emailed to you so you don’t miss an issue.

Dana also writes an enlightening and entertaining food blog which you’ll find at homemakers.com.