Archives: hamilton

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 as harvest to donate to the local Food Banks and 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

the connaught

The Royal Connaught had its Gala (re-opening) Launch a few weeks back to showcase the extensive overhaul renovation and makeover of its beautiful polished shiny and new front lobby and to give a sneak peek into one of their completed model condo suite units.

It was a fancy affair; suits, dresses, and champagne at the door upon arrival. There were even oysters! Everything about the event was luxurious and glamorous. From the old fashioned Rolls Royce parked out front of the refurbished exterior of the Connaught, to the 1940′s styled and fashioned socialite ‘models’ that fancifully posed, mingled and wandered amidst the who’s who of Hamilton evening crowd.

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The scene was set with sparkly chandeliers that hung from the massive cathedral ceilings down to the ground floor lobby, overlooking an old time piano player that provided the soundtrack to accompany the evening of photo snapping, cocktail drinking and the consuming of many delicious edible bits and bites. The night exuded an atmosphere of classy elegance. Although for the most part a lifestyle typically out of my reach, I was happy to indulge in these special treats and I was equally impressed that for this launch they truly supported many local Hamilton businesses. They had catered hors d’oeuvres by Chef Matt Kershaw from one of my favourite restaurants in the city -Rapscallion, gourmet coffees from Red Hill Coffee Trade, Oyster Shucking by Two Black Sheep, and beers from new local brew house Nickel Brook. I even saw an old student of mine working at the door serving champagne, who I was pleased as punch to see being gainfully and locally employed!

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A revamp of an old building can sometimes go so wrong, but developers Spallacci and Valery got it all right mixing contemporary design with classic Art Deco influence. The design keeps in time with the historic nature of the building. Preserving a feel or connection to the Connaught’s past and history was something that could have been potentially lost with a renovation verses a restoration. But I was relieved and all round pretty impressed with how old and new fit together quite seamlessly.

Royal Connaught 2014 Windows copy

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The opening of the Connaught to the general public was two weekends ago. People lined up for two to three blocks to get a chance to take a look at the new Connaught and to get dibs on the first 120 units to go on sale. And really, I can’t blame them, I’d want a peek too. The place was boarded up and left to rot for the better part of a decade (see a previous post about it here). There’s a lot of history and memories in the Connaught, along with a new sense of optimism for the future and life this development will potentially breath into the downtown core.

Royal Connaught 2014 suite

With prices of condos suites starting in the mid two hundred thousands and the potential for nearly one thousand luxury units to be sold, it will definitely bring a pretty substantial new population to King Street and downtown. Not to mention the 13 000 square feet street level storefront retail potential that will open as part of the new Connaught along King and Catharine.

For more information about the Royal Connaught development see their website here.

*The Royal Connaught, 112 King St. East, @royalconnaught_

 

 

 

spring seedlings

Since the second summer we’ve been at our house we’ve had a backyard vegetable garden. It’s a small urban one because our yard is pretty teeny, but so far it has done the trick!

We’ve been able dabble with growing garlic, potatoes, beans, tomatoes, kale, lettuce, and some herbs.

backyard garden garlic scapes

weathering seedlings

We did a quite a bit from seed this year but with multiple work and home projects on the go we also needed to supplement with a few purchased seedlings that we acquired from the Mustard Seed Co-op’s Seed Sale from a few weeks back.

In fitting with the end of Ontario’s Local Food Week, The Co-op is having their big grand opening celebration this Saturday June 7 from 12-6pm with a whole slew of local producers/vendors, face painting, live music and kids activities.

Mustard Seed Coop spring seed sale

mustard seed spring seed sale strawberries

 *Mustard Seed Co-op, 460 York Blvd. 289.492.COOP, @mustardseedcoop

staxx

Admittedly I am no expert when it comes to fried chicken and waffles. However, I have tried the fried chicken and triple decker buttermilk waffle sandwich from the Dirty South food truck -oh my goodness! And I’ve now officially gone to Staxx Chicken & Waffle House twice to sample how they do their waffles and chicken.

When we moved to Hamilton, I remember having gone to a Korean restaurant that was where Staxx is now. The food was meh and it was dark and forgettable. Well, the interior of Staxx isn’t much to write home about but it’s clean, near my house and the first of its kind (as far as I knew) in Hamilton.

The first time I went to Staxx was just a few weeks after they’d opened. The tables were full, which is always a good sign, and the fried chicken that was coming out of the kitchen was looking crispy and mouth watering.

I went with a friend, and we knew that although they also serve burgers, pulled pork sandwiches and other edibles, we came for the chicken and waffles. So that is what we ordered.

I’m not sure about you, but I’ve always grown up thinking that waffles should be crispy on the outside yet still fluffy on the inside. This may strangely be based on my experience with the classic Eggo Waffle but I know that I’ve also had Belgian waffles that have been crisp too. So when the order came up and we noticed that the waffles were kinda floppy and still gooey on the inside, we sent back and a new order was promptly brought out (with unfortunately not much improvement). The fried chicken was great but we were a little disappointed with our realization that perhaps waffles aren’t always crispy?

I wasn’t willing to give up on the place on just the one visit, so with some other friends I decided to give it another try. With an order of chocolate milk all around to start we prepped ourselves for the fried chicken and waffles; this go was supreme! Waffles -crispy(er), and fried chicken delicious. I also learned (from observation of a pro) the perfect eating combo of a piece of fried chicken carefully accompanied by waffle, dipped in maple syrup and with a touch of hot sauce for a most deliciously perfect ratio of savoury, sweet and spicy. Our only complaint this time around was that the meals were served on round baking tins with high curved edges that make for difficult cutting and eating of perfect previously said combo of savoury, sweet and spicy morsels of chicken and waffle. We did make plans to come back again to try some of the other things on their menu like their hamburger with fried egg or deep fried onions, or their philly cheese steak and waffles.

Staxx chicken and waffles

chicken and waffles staxx

Before I can legitimately say that Staxx has the best (bricks and mortar) fried chicken in Hamilton, I’ve got to try Tavern on George’s take on it, which I recently read about on Chanry Thach‘s food blog The Hungry Gnome. A hidden gem that I’m dying to try! Check out Chanry‘s post about it here.

*Staxx Burger Chicken Waffle House, 236 King St. E, 289.396.4162, @staxxhamilton

 

the aberdeen tavern

This year for Mother’s Day we decided to try out brunch at the Aberdeen Tavern. I’d been to the tavern the week before to sample some evening snacks with friends and to check out the new place post its former incarnation as Seven Windows.

I’d never been to Seven Windows, but the atmosphere of the Aberdeen Tavern was just right: cozy, and warm meets contemporary-fresh yet rustic tavern.

We sampled some delicious wild mussels with crostini, fresh hot frites, and Maryland crab cakes, with mango and jalapeño relish -yum! Not to mention their menu sounded mouth watering; like their pan-fried organic halibut, risotto, with brown butter, or their giant meatballs charred & braised in tomato sauce with Quebec cheese curd, or their duck confit spring rolls with caramelized onions! I knew that it definitely wouldn’t be long until I’d have to make a return trip to sample a little more.

Well, I didn’t make it back for dinner (yet) but instead I was able to just barely squeeze in a reservation for Mother’s Day brunch.

We made it to the restaurant for the tail end of the brunch rush and enjoyed a slow, steady and relaxing meal with mimosas to start, coffee and an assorted pastry platter to follow, which consisted of banana bread, walnut scones, and a side of house made preserves and apple butter.

Aberdeen Tavern dine full

We kept eyeing the brunches coming out of the kitchen and had a tough time deciding just which delicious thing to order for our main course. I ordered the tostadas rancheros; poached egg, guacamole, sour cream, aged cheddar, salsa fresca, black bean, with home fries.

Aberdeen Tavern tostada rancheros

My sister and mom both ordered the short rib hash; braised short rib, poached egg, charred corn, pico de gallo, home fries, and aged cheddar. It comes in a mini-individual little cast iron skillet!

Aberdeen Tavern short rib hash

Aberdeen Tavern bar

I like how the tavern is so versatile. Weekend brunch, snacks and drinks, dinner or lunch, or just drinks. Did I mention they do fancy mixologist worthy cocktails like the Russian pony; triple citrus vodka, ginger beer, lime, and mint or the derby; bourbon, peach liqueur, lemonade, earl grey tea, and mint!?

Aberdeen Tavern dine Aberdeen Tavern bench

I can think of many a special occasions that I’d like to celebrate here, and many more Sunday brunches!

I highly recommend you make a reservation before going to avoid the disappointment of not getting a table.

*Aberdeen Tavern, 432 Aberdeen Ave., 905.523.7707, @AberdeenTavern

friends of the aviary + cootes paradise

Two weeks ago Omi learned how to say peacock. Well, he actually says it so it sounds something more like “peatock”. In any case, I took his new adaptive use of the word as motivation for an impromptu visit to Westdale’s Friends of the Aviary, which is home to a lovely male and female peacock.

The aviary had a small crowd of weekend family visitors that casually checked out the various hens, roosters, chicks, peacocks and other fowl in their large outdoor cages. It also has an indoor coop for a variety of parrots and other small feathered friends. You can pay a small donation to help support the volunteer run aviary and enjoy the garden grounds on your visit.

Westdale Aviary peacock

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Attached to the aviary grounds is the Churchill Park Community Gardens. For a small yearly fee you can till and sow your own garden. There were a lot of fairly large plots and even some espaliered fruit trees. I  know a few friends that have been successfully growing their bountiful cornucopia of vegetables there yearly and they love this little spot of land.

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Churchill Park Community Garden

Right by the gardens is the Ravine Road Trail entrance to Cootes Paradise. Although we were somewhat ill prepared for a proper hike, we figured we could handle a little four by four stroller trekking on the trails while taking in some of the changing spring forest landscapes.

Welcome to Cootes Paradise

Ravine Road Trail cootes

At first the trail was mostly brown and leaf covered with little sign of spring. But then as we got further into the forest and trail we started to see bright green patches of spring time growth. I don’t know what these large green leafs were. At first I thought maybe they were lilies but they seemed too big. The leaves were huge and looked almost like giant lettuce leaves or swiss chard.

cootes paradise spring

As we walked further along, the trail headed uphill towards a ridge that overlooked Cootes Paradise Marsh. As I looked across the tree line I could see little speckles of pink and red that dotted the tree branches. They were the little red and brown buds on the trees just before the fresh and new leaf greenery were to appear.

cootes paradise

This was from two weeks back, so I bet this weekend if you were to go, the forest would be lush with bright fluorescent green bursts of new leaves and forest foliage!

spring tree buds

I love that despite having lived in Hamilton for five years there are still plenty of places to discover and explore. With every season each of these places take on a different look and beauty that can be rediscovered again.

So looking forward to consistent warm days and the planting of our own backyard and community garden!

village station bazaar

Although this weekend was packed with a ton of amazing things to do in Hamilton (Doors Open, Craftstock, AGH Design Annex Spring Sale, and Jane’s Walks) I came down with a mini-cold that kept me out of commission until Sunday. Luckily I was feeling recouped enough that I made it out to enjoy some spring sun, wind, and an early Sunday afternoon visit to the first ever Village Station Bazaar!

I’ve been longing for something downtown on a Sunday afternoon similar to Kingston’s Sunday antique and farmer’s market or something akin to the ever successful Junction Flea in Toronto. Needless to say, I’m so over the moon that something like this has been born here in Hamilton! I can’t wait to watch this event grow over its lifetime this summer.

Village station bazaar

Cafe Oranje Village Station Bazaar

Much needed latte from Café Oranje to wake and warm me up as I browsed the vendors.

LITA Village Station Bazaar

Vintage clothing and wares from Love in the Afternoon.

Jelly Bros. Maps

Hamilton neighbourhood maps by the Jelly Brothers.

Alfie Smith

Alfie Smith, Hamilton blues man.

Z&ko Village Station Bazaar

Super cute quilted South African hot-pink printed skirt locally designed by Z&K.O.

meatventures

Tasty meat treats from Meat Ventures. Sad I missed out on the opportunity for pulled duck sliders.

ifiori village station bazaar

Gorgeous spring flowers (fresh cut & potted) from James North’s i-fiori.

ifiori tulips

This was the first of the Village Station Bazaar but there will be more! The first Sunday of every month from now until August 3rd. I can’t wait to see the addition of food trucks, bakeries, and perhaps even a local farmer selling some seasonal produce.

Oh yes, Hamilton sometimes my dreams really do come true! Thank you Melanie from MODify Your Closet and Chris from Cafe Oranje for organizing!

If you’re interested in vending at the next bazaar, you can contact the organizers here.

*Village Station Bazaar, King St. E & Ferguson, June 1, July 6, August 3 11am-5pm, @VillStnBazaar.

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