moulin rouge cocktail lounge

I don’t know about you, but I LOVE a good dance party. However, being in my mid 30s, a parent, and in Hamilton, it can sometimes be hard to find the time and just the right place to go out dancing.

My favourites to dance to are soul, funk, bossa nova, ska, dancehall and old school rap. Now you can kinda see how it might be a little hard to find a suitable place to go dancing with mixed bag of music like that.

In my younger years when living in Toronto I loved going to Uma Nota events and Milk parties and my ultimate fav a solid dance party at someone’s house. But with so many of our friends having kids and such, house parties have fallen to the wayside and truth be told my appetite for dancing hasn’t quite reached the point of desperation where I’d want to trek all the way into Toronto.

There you have it, a mid 30s dancing Hamilton rut.

Well… when I heard that Moulin Rouge Cafe on John had become Moulin Rouge Cocktail Lounge with a more mature 25+ night club scene and DJ’s spinning classic house, funk, soul and disco, I was like “Hello”.

So one night for a friend’s birthday we went out on the town making a few stops at couple other places before our final destination at Moulin Rouge.

Moulin Rouge club Moulin Rouge dance club

The DJ was spinning deep house but he had a good mix of afro-funk, and even a little bit of some Prince amidst some old school classic house anthems like Kenny Dope’s These Sounds Fall into my mi-i-i-i-ind. We were all pleased as punch that the music was danceable, the crowd was friendly (yet not all a meat market) and the atmosphere was soft, aglow with red and totally classy. There was ample room to dance, and the music although loud still allowed you to have a conversation without yelling or having to lip read.

Moulin Rouge DJ

And if dancing isn’t your thing there’s a comfy lounge area for talking and fancy martini and cocktail sipping.

Moulin Rouge dance floor

Moulin Rouge is perfect for a birthday party, a night on the town or just something a little more sophisticated than the pub. It’s also now a local place where I know I can go to for a fail safe dance party. Now if only they got my favourite Hamilton DJ -DJ Jon Sikich to work the turntables I’d be in Hamilton dance heaven!

*Moulin Rouge Cocktail Lounge, 10-12 John St. North (Treble Hall), 289.260.4302, @MoulinHamilton

christie antique show

Well, this year I finally made it to my first ever visit to the infamous Christie Antique Show! Even though there are two opportunities a year to check it out (at the end of May and start of September) the universe seems to have always had other plans for me.

This past May my antiquing stars finally aligned when good weather combined with a well timed toddler nap allowed us to get out and wander around the antiquing grounds.

It was the perfect way to spend a sunny spring Saturday; casually perusing the variety of antiques and oddities that spanned what seemed like an endless expanse of the Christie Conservation area. In our pre-baby days we would’ve leisurely walked through the stalls and tents, stopped for a slow afternoon beer or coffee to accompany lunch and maybe even a quick nap or newspaper read under the shade of a tree before continuing on to hunt for the perfect rare treasure vintage find all before calling it a day.

However, with a little one in tow and no agenda to purchase anything in particular, the intent of our visit was to simply have a Saturday afternoon outing.

We “window shopped” and pointed out curiosities as we attempted to keep Omi entertained with his new love for dandelion seed blowing.

Christie Antique vinyl sofa

There were antique dealers from all around Canada selling a good mix of mid-century modern, folk art and classic Victorian pieces.

Chrisitie Antique gramophone Christie Antique spools Christie Antique chairs Christie Antique drawers Christie Antique stoolsAlthough we’d only spent an hour or so wandering the rows and rows of stalls we’d only covered maybe one third of the whole 10 acre show before we had to call it a day and finally give in to Omi’s pleas to be free. We left empty handed and antiqueless but I had many daydreams of returning again in September.

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This Saturday is the second and last Christie Antique Show for 2014. The show is one day only from 8AM-5PM rain or shine, and admission is $10 per person.

*Christie Lake Conservation Area, 1000 Highway 5 West, Dundas, 905.628.3060

 

100 years of AGH

A few weeks ago we celebrated the Art Gallery of Hamilton‘s one hundred years of existence at a free BBQ picnic in their sculpture garden.

The BBQ was followed by a slew of kid and family friendly activities.

AGH tshirt printing

AGH printing stamps

The kids were loving this; printing old car and machine parts onto T-shirts!

AGH inking up

AGH tshirt print

Although Omi was a little young for the art activities and the guided tour of the gallery that didn’t stop us from doing our own self directed toddler-mini-tour.

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Phantom Hunter William Blair Bruce

William Blair Bruce -The Phantom Hunter 1888

While on our wanderings, I was glad to have gotten a peek at the William Blair Bruce exhibit. Bruce was a born and raised Hamiltonian, who established himself primarily as Canadian impressionist painter, recognized and celebrated throughout Paris, North America and Europe.

I later learned that following Bruce’s death his collection was donated to the city of Hamilton, which at the time did not have a municipal gallery. The collection would in turn play a critical role in the foundation and establishment of the Art Gallery of Hamilton. It’s possible that without Bruce’s collection the AGH may have never materialized. My guess is it’s no coincidence that the Bruce exhibit coincided with the celebration of the AGH’s centennial.

The Bruce exhibit runs at the AGH until October 5th. It’s the largest Bruce exhibit to be shown with 100 works; some of which have never been publicly exhibited. Definitely a must-see! (FYI first Friday of each month admission is free!!)

I’m so thankful that Hamilton has the AGH. Happy one hundred years!

*Art Gallery of Hamilton, 123 King Street West, 905.527.6610, @theAGH

 

killbear

After a several year hiatus from camping, this summer it made a long awaited return into our lives with a trip to Killbear Provincial Park.

Admittedly, I was really worried about taking an active nearly two year old camping. I was nervous about Omi being able to sleep in a tent, running off in all directions and just generally being so active that we’d be exhausted by day one. All the worries were for not because the sleeping worked out fine. He took long naps and for the most part he slept through the night. The little guy was in such awe with the water, rocks, wild blueberries, deer, chipmunks and campfires that it was mostly just amazing to observe him soaking it all in.

 

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I’ve long loved Killbear ever since a short camping trip I took with some friends when I was in university. It was the first time I saw the Milky-way in all its glorious glowing splendour as well as the first time I saw such picturesque and quintessential Canadian landscapes. The scenery is just breathtaking and is so Group of Seven with its windblown trees and smooth-rock-faced Canadian shield that dips into the waters of Georgian Bay. The place is magically unchanged and holds a nice little spot in my nostalgic little heart.

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Kill Bear Canadian shield Kill Bear canoe Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

With this trip it truly felt like I had finally experienced summer. I soaked, swam, sun bathed and breathed it all in. My lofty summer dreams and expectations were met on our four day camping stay so much so that we’re planning to do a repeat camping trip to Killbear again next year. Who knows, we may just become one of those Killbear Harold Point lifers that we’d met that have been coming up to camp year after year.

*Killbear Provincial Park, 35 Kill Bear Park Road, Nobel Ontario, 705.342.5492

dusk dances

Hamilton is host to its very first ever Dusk Dances down at Bayfront Park!

I’d never been to a Dusk Dance before (even though they’ve been around in Toronto for 20 years) so I had no idea really what to expect. But we figured it would be a fun summer event that we could take Omi to and enjoy some outdoor summer evening happenings. We arrived shortly after 7pm to a fairly large crowd seated on picnic blankets and lawn chairs just in time to catch the tail end of some kid friendly dancing and music. At promptly 7:30 our host for the evening appeared magically with bow tie and top hat explaining how the evening would play out and giving us some simple Dusk Dance etiquette. Dusk Dance host

Then with just a moments notice blankets were quickly thrown over arms, lawn chairs folded up, picnics packed up and we began following our host for the night like the pied piper to our first of five Dusk Dance locations throughout Bayfront Park.

Dusk Dances walking Dusk Dances Throwdown Collective Throwdown Collective radio dj’ed from their little Chevette an 80′s inspired dance number.

Dusk Dances Cercania 1 My favourite of the night! A powerful and stunning flamenco dance performed by Myriam Allard. Accompanied by flamenco singer Hedi Graja and percussionist Miguel Medina. Myriam’s feet were moving so fast I thought she was going to set the stage on fire -just a blur of her beautiful blue shoes!

Dusk Dances Unquiety WInds

We only made it to four of the five dances. Omi was getting so wriggly and restless. For the fourth dance Unquiet Winds, Omi started yelling at the top of his lungs “What’s that!?” mid performance. When heads started turning our way we took that as our cue to start making our way home.

But, oh the night was lovely! I enjoyed seeing people who were at Bayfront just out for a bike ride or going for a summer stroll suddenly stumble upon a large audience and unique dances. I love that this is happening here in Hamilton and I hope it continues on for years to come!

There’s still one more night you can catch the seemingly impromptu dances that pop up along the grounds of Bayfront. Tomorrow night is the last night! The evening starts at 6pm with a Lindy Hop Dance class until 6:45. And the Dusk Dance will promptly start at 7:30pm. I recommend being there no later than 7:15, so you get to know the Dusk Dance lowdown and the location of the first dance.

*Dusk Dances, July 31, August 1+2, 6-9pm Bayfront Park, admission is PWYC, @duskdances

because beer

I know that summer is only half over but I can safely say that one of my favourite days of the summer so far was spent at Hamilton’s first outdoor craft beer festival Because Beer. It was put on by the kind folks from Sonic Unyon, who know how to throw some solid large scale events. They’ve had lots of experience, especially since they’re the ones who started my other favourite yearly MASSIVE Hamilton event; Supercrawl, as well as Seven Sundays; Gage Park’s weekly summer concert series. So it was really no surprise that the event was well thought out and executed to meet the needs of all those craft beer drinking enthusiasts.

On this July day the sun was hot, the air was dry and there was the most perfect summer breeze coming off the lake. Beers were flowing from over 25 craft beer micro-brewers and food trucks were serving up some mouth watering grub.

Twenty-five dollars got you into the event. The fee provided you with your own beer sampling mug and four beer tokens to get you going on your beer tasting. One token would get you half a glass of beer from any of the craft brewers (two for a full 1/2 pint). You could restock your token supply by purchasing additional tokens at a dollar a pop.

We set off to sample our first beer of the day from Waterloo brewery. I got the Grapefruit Radler which was so good it ended up also being my second beer of the day too. I’m not one to like beers that are too sweet and fruity but on this hot day the hints of grapefruit were so light and refreshing it totally hit the spot!

Because Beer sampling mug Because Beer Waterloo

I was happy to see The Salted Pig food truck – a truck I’d never sampled before. I got a little snack of Pigs in a Blanket; two deep-fried tortilla shells stuffed with pulled pork creamy horseradish sauce, bbq sauce and green onions. Perrrfect with a bitter beer!

Because Beer Salted Pig truck Because Beer Salted Pig

We found a piece of shade by the water and used our Beer Passports to plot out our route for future beer sampling. My one regret is that I didn’t get to the Wellington’s Farmer’s Market Rhubarb Saison before their tap ran dry. Clearly I didn’t plot my beer drinking route as well as I’d thought. As the day progressed you would hear a buzz about certain beers and breweries and we’d make our way over to try them out ourselves.Because Beer beer tents

Because Beer bar boys

Next up to sample was Flying Monkey’s Shoulders of Giants.

As evening was starting to fall we’d visited what felt like over a dozen craft breweries often returning to specific brews that tickled our tastebuds. I loved the Margaret Atwood from Beau’s Brewery, and I feel like there was a chocolate stout that I enjoyed somewhere along the way too, was it the Tom Green?

I wanted to sample Garden Brewer’s (rooted in Hamilton) Black Pepper Ale but it was sold out.

Because Beer Piperales

Because Beer Southern Smoke Poutine

Refuelling with a massive pulled pork poutine from Southern Smoke Truck.

Because Beer summer sky

Because Beer Descendants

My last beer sample of the day was from Descendants -Reynard the Fox and it just may have been my favourite of the day.

The Dinner Belles hit the stage and the beer festival was starting to come to a close. The sun was starting to set on a perfect blue summer sky, and the beer taps were starting to run dry.

Because Beer The Dinner Belles
Because Beer bayfront

The Because Beer festival in my mind was a huge success. People were civilized, the beer and musical acts were great, there were numerous options for seating and various lookouts to perch at to sip your beers AND the weather was just absolutely perfect.

At 8pm we were gently and promptly herded out of the beer grounds and people dispersed. By 8:20 everyone was gone. The grounds weren’t littered with plastic beer cups and garbage, there weren’t any fights or brawls, mostly just a lot of merry making craft beer lovers making their way home.

Because Beer is an annual two day event and I can’t wait to go again next year!

BUT if you missed out on this year’s festival and have a hankering for another this Friday and Saturday is another first for Hamilton’s Craft Beer Festival, which will be held at Gage Park. Tickets are $30, which includes five 5oz beer tickets and access to sample. Not to mention that all proceeds of the festival will go to seven Children’s Hospital Charities. There’ll be live Jazz music at the bandshell and of course food trucks.

AND that’s not even the last beer festival of the summer! On August 22nd and 23rd is Hamilton Beer Festival! Another two day beer festival on the roof top of Jackson Square. Oh my goodness! I love you Hamilton!!

*Because Beer, July 11-12, Pier 4, $25 +4 beer tokens & beer sampling mug, @BecauseBeerCA

*Hamilton Craft Beer Festival, August 1-2, Gage Park, $30 +5 beer tickets, all proceeds going to charity, @HamOntBeerFest

*Hamilton Beer Festival, August 22-23, Jackson Square Rooftop, $32.50 +3 beer tokens & beer sampling glass, @HamBeerFestival

 

city hall’s backyard garden

If you’ve happened by Hamilton’s City Hall out back on Hunter Street you may have noticed its backyard vegetable garden. I’ve been admiring it since spring.

The summer that Jack Layton died I remember City Hall had its edible garden out front on Main Street as well as another one in front of the Farmer’s Market on York Boulevard (see my post on that here). I hadn’t seen an edible garden run by the city in a long while so I was pretty pleased to see one up and growing again this summer.

I love it when public spaces get used for practical purposes like this.

City Hall Edible Garden

city hall urban edible garden City Hall edible garden yellow zucchini

The garden is beautifully planned and you can tell that the people (or person) in charge of this mini master-mind of a vegetable garden knows their gardening stuff. Zucchini; both yellow and green, carrots, kale, cauliflower, cucumber, tomatoes, and beans are all growing harmoniously, climbing up triangular trellised teepees and flowering their vegetable fruits in abundant beauty! Nothing is over crowded and everything is growing symbiotically, which is more than I can say about my own vegetable garden.

There have been days when I’ve seen people stop at the vegetable garden; a mom with a stroller, an elderly man with a market cart, plucking a zucchini or two. I wondered if the garden was just free-for-the-taking but later I heard that its harvest is to be donated to local Hamilton Food Banks.

City Hall back garden

On the particular day I took these pictures a city staff member from the horticultural department was out harvesting the garden crops. I got to talking with her and she said that unfortunately a lot of the veggies were picked over so they didn’t have as much of a harvest to donate to the local Food Banks as they had planned. The worker said she hoped that the people who were picking the vegetables were those that might’ve needed a little extra help in accessing fresh produce. Even with the crops picked over, I still felt she had collected a nice harvest of carrots, cucumbers, cauliflower, kale and zucchini.

City Hall carrots edible garden city hall edible garden harvest

 

 

craft beer 101

The other day I was invited to a Tap to Table beer sampling event put on by Muskoka Brewery.

It was hosted at The Ship, which is one of my favourite Hamilton watering holes.

The Ship

Since The Ship’s opening I have seen their selection of beers on tap grow to a beautiful and extensive list of Ontario’s finest micro-brewerys.

Between The Ship and its neighbouring pub The Winking Judge there are well over 40 craft beers tapped on any given night. So much great beer on such a short strip of street!

The Ship also has my favourite burger in the city as well as an assortment of mouth watering gourmet pub fair from fish’n chips to fish tacos and crab cakes. They’ve also recently started doing weekend brunches too!

The Ship burger

 photo taken from theship.ca

But I digress.

Hamilton does have its own craft beer scene that kinda exploded this year with its first ever (of three summer) beer festivals! So it wasn’t a surprise that Muskoka Brewery’s co-founder Gary McMullen chose Hamilton as its first location to try out a special Tap to Table beer sampling event that paired five of Muskoka Brewery’s craft beers with a delicious sampling of food (courtesy of The Ship).

Gary McMullen is so passionate about beer. He was at The Ship in-person for the exclusive beer sampling event.

In between our sipping, sampling and our running commentary on the different flavours and fragrant smells of the hops and malt, Gary shared with us the story and true craft roots of how he and co-founder Kirk Evans built Muskoka Brewery from the ground up.

muskoka summer weiss

Muskoka Brewery has been around since ’96 when they came out with their tried and true Cream Ale. They have since added to their roster of brews a Summer Weiss, Detour IPA, Mad Tom IPA, Twice as Mad Tom IPA, Dark Chocolate Cranberry Stout, and the Vintage Legendary Oddity, which boasts unique ingredients such as heather tips, juniper berries and sweet orange peel shavings.

As Gary mentioned during our sampling, one of the great and fun things about brewing beer is the variety of ingredients (that they aren’t afraid to use) in creating new flavours and brews.

Like wine certain beers go well with specific flavours and food. Each beer we sampled was paired with a specific dish that would deliberately bring out the various tannins of the beer.

Muskoka Brewery Summer Weiss

Summer Weiss paired above with mini grilled perch sandwich with lemon aioli. Summer Weiss pairs well with bacon & eggs, French toast with berries, guacamole & nachos and lobster. Who says you can’t start your day with brunch and beer!?

 

Muskoka Brewery Detour & shrimp pogo

Detour IPA paired above with corn breaded shrimp pogos and honey hop mustard. Detour pairs well with something like peach or mango garden salad, Thai mango chicken, or a sesame chicken salad.

 

Muskoka Brewery Twice as Mad IPA

Twice as Mad IPA paired above with braised bbq ribs in Twice as Mad bbq sauce. Twice as Mad pairs well with sharp cheddar, pulled pork and grilled meats, or hot and spicy chicken curry.

 

Muskoka Mad Tom IPA

Mad Tom IPA paired above with smores topped with a Mad Tom chocolate ganache. Pairs well with gourmet chicken wings, or smoked salmon or trout.

 

My hats off to Muskoka Brewery for arranging this sampling and for bringing to my attention that beer can go with more than just burgers, meat and fries.

In my summer Ontario travels I might just have to make a stop at Muskoka Brewery in Bracebridge for a beer tour and some sampling of their limited edition Rum Tum Tom (Mad Tom IPA aged in Jamaican rum barrels)!

*The Ship, 23 Augusta Street, 905.526.0792, @ShipTwits

*Muskoka Brewery, 1964 Muskoka Beach Rd. Bracebridge, ON, 705.646.1266, @MuskokaBrewery

 

summer crawling

I used to be an art crawl regular and could probably count on one hand the number of crawls that I’ve missed. But with this past year’s crazy cold winter and trying to stick to the little one’s bedtime, I’d have to admit that recently we’ve attended only a handful of art crawls. But with the longer days of summer here we decided to throw caution to the wind and take Omi out of his bedtime time routine and hit up June’s art crawl to check out what all we’ve been missing.

Art crawls in the warmer weather are always so busy! The streets were packed and I noted a significant increase in the number of street vendors and busking musicians. I always love seeing the street and community so alive on art crawl nights but then I also wonder where everyone is all those other days of the month.

We headed down James onto Barton where I saw this ghostly and gorgeous door. A door like this seemed like it would have a few stories that it could tell.

June artcrawl door

On Barton we dropped by Hamilton Audio/Visual NodeMulti-modal‘s (HAVN) for their second year anniversary party. The space was all tinfoiled up and shiny with some music that was just about to get underway. Incidentally, for tonight’s art crawl (July10) HAVN is hosting the launch of “384″ zine. There’ll be music by DJ’s Motëm & Muffled Suitcase, plus some limited edition screen prints, a few acrylic paintings on wood panels, and animated visuals.

June artcrawl HAVN

Our last stop of the night during June’s crawl was at Dr. Disc, where Steve and I took turns running down to the lower floor of Dr. Disc, to check out RE-DUO - a collaborative art exhibit by Jo-Anne Balcaen and Donna Akrey - while the other stayed with Omi and rocked out to Hachey the Mouthpeace‘s beat boxing session on Dr. Disc’s roof top.

RE-DUO was such a fabulous show! I loved the humour of the re-do covers and how spot on they were. I especially loved how they used common-place items to stand in for accessories and hairstyles.  For example, in the image below, simple black construction paper did the trick to re-do that Ian & Sylvia album cover.

June artcrawl re-duo exhibit

The RE-DUO show will be running until August 9th. You should definitely check it out during this crawl while you stop by to listen to the amazing line-up for this month’s Raise the Roof session on the rooftop of Dr. Disc (presented by I Heart Hamilton & Hamilton Magazine).

541 eatery & exchange

The chalk board sign at the front counter of 541 Eatery and Exchange reads:

Eat drink and stay a while. Our delicious food is freshly made and affordably priced for all to enjoy. The proceeds from our eatery fund community programs for kids and our neighbourhood. Thanks for helping make Hamilton a better place!

This past June at 541 Barton Street a new cafe, eatery and exchange opened. It was a long time in the making. And I had been excitedly watching the progress of this project from about a year back when I first saw a video by Bottled Media about the inspirational concept and idea of the whole community operation.

541 Eatery and Exchange is a unique type of cafe that is invested in making a positive impact on its community. Located in the heart of Barton Village it is undoubtedly breathing some fresh air back into the neighbourhood.

Barton is often considered a strip of Hamilton where some of the city’s largest pockets of poverty exist. If you took a quick jaunt down Barton you might notice some abandoned buildings fitted in among the spattering of notable Hamilton fixtures such as the Trocadero Restaurant -open for 70 years, Karolina’s Polish Restaurant -just like the way your Polish grandma used to cook, Duartes Portuguese Supermarket and Deli, the Vagueira Bakery and Pastry Cafe, and Starpolskie’s Deli. Now when you’re down on Barton you’ll also see the fresh-faced, hip, and contemporary cafe at 541.

541 Barton interior

It has a glossy polished feel that is open, airy, and welcoming. I loved that they maintained many aspects of the original features of the building like the exposed brick walls, lofty high ceilings and numerous sunny large wooden framed windows.

When we walked in a family was sitting having some treats and playing one of the many board games housed on the shelves at 541. I spotted a small children’s play area at the front of the cafe and thought that it’d would be a great walking destination where I could feasibly bring Omi to stop in for a treat, and to escape from the summer heat. A place with a family friendly vibe is definitely something I pay attention to when on the hunt for new hangouts these days especially now that I have an active little toddler to contend with.

541 Barton drink menu

Besides good coffee, great food, and breezy atmosphere, one of the best things about 541 is how accessible it is to everyone (especially in their pricing). We ordered a lemonade, latte, coffee, banana bread and a scone all for under $10!

With those kind of prices I didn’t have a problem buying a handful of buttons from the button bank, which is just about the simplest and smartest charitable idea I’ve seen. The way it works is you can buy a button at a dollar a piece, which then in turn can be used to help out customers that may need a little extra coinage to buy a hearty and healthy meal or small bite to eat. 1 button=$1 and can be used as cash at 541. The button jar that customers could take from to pay for food was nearly full to the brim, which means everyone has the ability to afford and enjoy 541! So even if a $3 latte seems out of reach, you can use a button or two to get a coffee and a healthy home-cooked lunch or dinner.

541 Barton button bank 541 Barton cafe 541 Barton vision 541 Barton tables 541 barton

It makes me feel happy to see that you can have a place that is beautiful, stylish, and whole heartily committed to giving back and empowering its community. It is a place that believes that everyone deserves a nice place to hang out and good food to eat.

Congrats to 541 for breaking down many of the barriers that can come with elite cafes and coffee shops -so great to have a place like this in Hamilton!

*541 Eatery & Exchange, 541 Barton St. East, @541Barton, M-Sat 7-7, Sun 3-7

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