An ode to tea


When the world is all at odds
and the mind is all at sea,
then cease the useless tedium
and brew a cup of tea.

There is magic in its fragrance;
there is solace in its taste.
And then laden moments vanish
somehow into space.

The world becomes a lovely thing;
there’s beauty as you’ll see.
All because you briefly stopped
to brew a cup of tea.

~ Source unknown

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…..

Continue reading

How to saber a bottle of champagne!

Sabering a bottle of champagne is a party trick that would be impressive to pull off, but is probably one I won’t be attempting any time soon. I’d likely do serious damage to myself or someone standing nearby instead of cutting off the top of the bottle in dramatic fashion!

Dave Arnold explains how to saber a bottle of champagne or any type of sparkling wine in the French Culinary Institute‘s Tech ‘N Stuff blog, Cooking Issues. His video below shows the process in slo-mo (very cool!), and tips on sabering successfully are included in his blog post.

The unique aromas at the Good Food Festival including my own special contribution!

Cocoa, my BFF (best furry friend), was sprayed by a skunk in our back yard last night around 10 p.m. – just as I was gathering up what I needed for my cooking demonstration at the Good Food Festival today and Murray was marking Geography tests. I was tired and had wanted to get to bed at a decent time as I had to be up early to get to the GFF to finish setting up our display. It was not the ideal time to have to bathe a dog and fumigate the house!

Yes, Cocoa got a few feet into the house before I realized he’d been skunked. Even just a few seconds in the house meant a nasty assault on our nasal passages that just about put Murray into hysterics. He has a keen sense of smell (to put it mildly!) and hates despises things that smell bad. His list of “gross” smelling things includes garlic, onions, sweet peppers, cucumbers, body odour and rotting garbage. (I’d like to know who wouldn’t have the last two items on their list!)

Of course Cocoa was quickly banished outdoors where he whined and cried, not able to figure out why he couldn’t come in and lay on the couch. I attempted to console him from the other side of the patio door which only dialed the howling up a few degrees. Meanwhile Murray jumped in the car and went off in search of tomato juice and deodorizing shampoo.

Drying off after the umteenth bath!

Drying off after the umteenth bath!

Cocoa, who hates baths, was subjected to multiple baths last night. First, two outdoors including a tomato juice scrub down and a bath with deodorizing shampoo and ice cold water from the garden hose. Then, into the house for another shampoo and conditioning treatment.

When we finally got to bed around 1:45 a.m., the smell of Skunk Eau de Parfum had fully permeated the house. Sleeping was impossible.

The next morning Murray and I knew we smelled as bad as Cocoa. The permeating power of skunk stench is truly something. As I drove to the GFF, I wondered how I’d be able to work at our display without making everyone gag!

But I’d forgotten one thing! The food aromas at the GFF are quite varied and very strong. A plethora of unique smells (some good, some less so) is continually wafting through the building. Many vendors are showcasing aromatic ethnic dishes, cappuccino machines are being demonstrated, cooking demonstrations are happening on at least three different stages, and on and on……

Thankfully, it wasn’t long before my skunk smell just fit in with the multitude of other aromas. Or so my colleagues kindly said. I did notice they kept a safe distance from me for most of the day, as did my parking attendant friend.

Things we’ve learned since the skunk incident:
* Bathing your dog in tomato juice is apparently an old wives’ tale. (I wonder where it originated!) It doesn’t do much except waste a perfectly good bottle of tomato juice which would be better served being made into a few Caesar! Believe me, you’ll need at least one!

* Instead of a tomato juice bath, we tried one of the suggestions Murray found on the internet (there were many!). First soak your BFF thoroughly with water, then bathe him in a mixture of 4 cups (1 L) hydrogen peroxide, 1/2 cup (125 mL) baking soda and 1 tsp (5 mL) liquid detergent (make this mixture just when you are ready to use it). Don’t let the solution get in your BFF’s eyes. After 10 minutes, rinse the solution out thoroughly. Be warned that your dog might come out a shade lighter after this treatment! Thankfully Cocoa still looks the same. He was rinsed after about 5 minutes as Murray had forgotten the timing part of the instructions. The shorter time probably helped perserve his colour. As well, I know Murray did a really thorough job of rinsing Cocoa.

* Murray also stopped by Cocoa’s vet today to see what they recommended and he picked up a special shampoo – Orange Apeel Deskunker Shampoo. I think Cocoa got bath #5 with this shampoo!

* Getting the smell out of your house and clothes is an effort. There are lots of suggestions online about how to do this. Some options work for some people and not so well for others. I’d heard about Lampe Berger lamps which are supposed to rid your home of unpleasant odours and make it smell fresh and lovely, so I rushed over to Household China & Gifts in Waterloo after getting back from the GFF tonight to pick one up. But instead of purchasing one, I came home with the following tip from the sales person. She thought it might work even better than the lamp, and it would be a cheaper solution. (I was most grateful for her honesty and sincere desire to help, not just make a sale!) Here’s what she suggested: In a small empty container (e.g. a small yogurt tub), stir together 5 teaspoons of instant coffee granules (a cheap brand is just fine) with a small amount of water to form a paste. Place a container with this mixture in each room of your house. Apparently within 24 hours the skunk aroma will have left the building.

I’ll let you know how this smelly story ends.

Tea at the White House

I’ve had tea at the White House a couple times in the last few weeks.

Before you start thinking I must be politically well connected, no, I wasn’t in Washington sipping tea and exchanging pleasantries with Barack and Michelle at that White House. I was in Waterdown, Ontario at this White House.

Tea at the White House in Waterdown, Ontario

Tea at the White House in Waterdown, Ontario

Both times I visited Tea at the White House, I sat in the front room which surprisingly, given the size of the room, is able to seat 14 people. There’s not a lot of space between the tables, but considering the number of guests that came and went on both my visits, the tea room is a popular place and needs as much seating as can be squeezed in. (I’d recommend making reservations if you plan to visit, especially at lunch time.)

The menu can be viewed online. When we visited on Easter Sunday, I had the High Tea.

High Tea at the White House

High Tea (for two) at the White House

I’m not sure why it’s called High Tea as it’s actually an afternoon tea complete with sandwiches, scones, Devon double cream and preserves, loads of fruit, and sweets. Murray and I enjoyed it as an early supper, but if we’d visited in the early afternoon, we’d probably have shared a single order.


The scones are really good – very tender and with sugared tops. You can purchase scones to take home. I was tempted but managed to refrain, opting instead to purchase some loose tea – Darjeeling Margaret’s Hope Estate Black Tea and Gingia Assam Black Tea – in tin containers. (If you bring the containers back for a refill, you can purchase the next batch of tea at a discounted price.)

On my second visit a week later, I chose the soup of the day (a tortellini and vegetable soup) followed by the Devonshire Cream Tea – two scrumptious scones with Devon double cream and preserves. (Love those scones!)

I’d like to try the Gloucestershire Sandwich & Cheese Platter on my next visit. One such order had just been delivered to a table we squeezed past on our way out and the assortment of sandwiches, cheeses, crackers and fruit looked very inviting.

Tea at the White House is also a retail shop and offers loose tea, tea accessories, books about tea, and even tea-based beauty products for sale.

You can read reviews for Tea at the White House at Restaurantica.

Tea at the White House
279 Dundas St. E.
Waterdown, ON (on Hwy 5, north of Hamilton and on top of the escarpment)
L0R 2H0
Ph: (905) 690-9987

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.


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


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!

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!


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 (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 (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!

I’ll drink to that – with a little help from the Wine and Food Matcher!

If you’re like me and often wonder which type of wine to serve with a particular food, I’ve found a helpful tool for us to make this decision a whole lot more easily!

Wine sommelier and writer Natalie MacLean has created a Wine and Food Matcher that will help us choose the most complementary wine and food pairings. The Matcher is on her website, Nat Decants. It’s fun to use and there is quite an extensive range of wines and foods included. Use it to find an eggstra-special pairing for your Easter menu this weekend.

Natalie’s website has lots of other interesting information about wine as well as recipes.

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!

More dairy data: milk consumption in different countries

I thought Canadians drank much more milk than people in other countries but I was surprised when I saw these statistics reported in the February issue of Harrowsmith magazine.

This data is from 2005 and compares litres of milk consumed per person per year:

Finland – 176.8
Sweden – 144.9
Denmark – 131.5
Ireland – 125.8
Netherlands – 122.6
Australia – 103.3
France – 91.0
Canada – 83.8
United Kingdom – 78.9
United States – 81.0
Mexico – 37.1
Japan – 35.6
China – 8.5

Source: Statistics Canada

Dairy data: Canada’s declining per capita milk consumption

Glass of milk.jpgOver the past 20 years in Canada, the per capita consumption of fluid milks has declined, with the exception of chocolate milk.

That’s probably not surprising considering…..

* There are fewer kids today, therefore fewer milk drinkers.

* Milk competes with far more beverage options today than were available 20 years ago.

* In the minds of some kids, drinking milk isn’t that cool. Sadly, sports drinks and soft drinks or pop are often the beverages of choice. (Dairy farmer organizations are working hard to change that thinking with their current ad campaigns – Get a Load of Milk (and the Got Milk? campaign in the US) and the active promotion of the nutritional benefits of milk – Dairy Farmers of Canada, Dairy Farmers of Ontario and Why Milk?)

* The make-up of the Canadian population today includes more immigrants from countries where milk drinking isn’t part of their traditional foodways.

There are a few dairy products we’re consuming in greater quantities than we did two decades ago. It seems we like our cream – table, half and half, whipping and sour! Although the per capita consumption of these foods is still well below that of fluid milk, it would appear we are increasingly finding ways to enjoy these higher fat dairy options.

It will be interesting to see a comparison of these statistics in another few years.

These are Canadian dairy consumption stats (litres per person) for 2007 (black) and 1987 (red):

2% milk  – 38.03 L / 62.53 L
1% milk – 18.3 L / stats not available until 1990
3.25% milk – 11.97 L / 28.59 L
Skim milk – 8.79 L / 5.26 L
Chocolate milk – 5.67 L / 3.99 L
Table cream (18%) – 3.11 L / 0.43 L
Half & half cream (10%) – 3.03 L / 2.89 L
Sour cream – 1.46 L / 0.80 L
Whipping cream (35%) – 1.21 L / 0.90 L
Buttermilk – 0.45 L / 0.52 L

Source: Statistics Canada and Harrowsmith magazine, February 2009