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

 

birthday party

Early this spring Omi attended his very first kid birthday party.

It was one of the first warm days after the winter thaw, and we were all so keen on being outside and enjoying the non-nastiness of winter; perfect for the little ones to run around in the yard.

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Carrot cake birthday cake with that cream cheese icing -yes please! These were the best homemade birthday cakes ever! The birthday boy’s grandmother made them. She even made a stacked Momufuku malt-brownie cake topped with Whoppers (my hero)!!

 

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!

pittsburgh pittstop + on to DC

In mid-March, when winter was still kicking it big, we decided to go on a family road trip to Washington DC!

We had little to no expectations about the success of our travels (it being an 8 hour car drive to DC and having an active toddler that doesn’t normally like to sit still). We went for it anyway, opting for a overnight midway-stop in Pittsburgh.

I love Pittsburgh! But unfortunately for this particular visit, the exploring and wanderings were kept to a minimum. We were really only there to break our journey and to give Omi some romping time. Despite the short visit we did manage to fit in a quick early morning breakfast meet-up with some old friends before getting back into the car for the rest of the journey to DC.

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We’ve most definitely got a runner on our hands! This trip mostly consisted of chasing after Omi.

pittsburgh doors

Pittsburgh has some great doors, buildings, bars, diners, dives and just all round an amazing vibe. Wish we could’ve stayed longer.

We made it to DC unscathed and were rewarded with budding tulips, crocuses and warm spring weather. All the while we’d heard that Southern Ontario was being hit by a crazy mid-March blizzard!

The visit was a mix of relaxing and visiting with family, sharing good meals together and the occasional day trip out for some sightseeing.

Happy to be somewhere without snow, we stripped ourselves of winter coats and picked a warm grey spring day to check out DC proper.

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With coffees in hand we wandered the museum arcade making our way in and out of the various Smithsonians and stopping for an extended session of merry-go-round admiring and pebble throwing.

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All the museums in DC are free! So it was perfect for our noncommittal walk-throughs that were just long enough to keep a toddler entertained. Since it wasn’t tourist season the museums weren’t too busy, which allowed for quick entrance and hassle-free easy manoeuvring around on the inside. Just a week or two later and it would’ve been packed for DC’s infamous cherry blossom viewing.

To coincide with an escape from a spring rainfall we spent a longer time checking out the contemporary art collection at the Hirshhorn. Once the rain cleared I spent an even longer time outside with Omi admiring the circular architecture of the museum.

Midcentury modern architect Gordon Bunshaft, who designed one of my favourite art galleries -The Albright-Knox Gallery in Buffalo, also designed the Hershhorn.

Hirshorn Museum

Travelling with a little one does have its challenges but overall I’m happy that we keep trying it out. So long as our expectations of what we do when travelling continue to adjust and evolve with Omi then I hope to continue to squeeze in as much exploring and as many mini-trips as we can!

 

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.

copps

Last week I saw the signage and insignia for Copps Coliseum being taken down. Its vintage orange lettering, which matched the stadium’s exterior underbelly, was faded and properly representative of its era of origin from the 80′s.

Some might say good riddance to the namesake Copps. Especially for those that argue that Victor Copps, (former Hamilton mayor, who had been known to some as an advocate for “urban renewal”) did nothing for the city but level the core of Hamilton’s downtown to make way for the giant modernist cement conglomerate we now know as Jackson Square.

Check out this great historic video done by the Hamilton Public Library to get a good perspective and history of the area that was torn down to make room for Jackson Square.

All things said, I am kinda saddened by the passing of that giant capital orange “C”. Burton Kramer, graphic designer and artist designed the logo (as well as the CBC logo that I grew up with in the 70′s and 80′s). In my mind Copps Coliseum will remain Copps with an orange “C” I mean, I still call The Skydome, “The Skydome” and besides what are we going to call the new Copps? FOCs?

Copps Coliseum Bay St. Copps ColiseumYork blvd

the edit

I first met the stunning and totally down-to-earth thrifter blogger fashionista Jentine at the opening of Girl on the Wing, and while trying on capes and designer 80′s sweaters at MODify your closet.

On Christmas Eve while doing some of my traditional last minute shopping on Ottawa Street I stumbled upon Jentine’s most recent fashion exposition at her brand new store The Edit!

The store although small, is perfect! Jentine had a great hand-picked winter selection of a vintage hats, shoes, boots, clutches, jackets, and dresses from the couture and fabric print houses of vintage 70′s Paris to 50′s cocktail and party dresses. I picked up a long black 80′s sweater dress with deep pockets and shiny brass buttons -dresses with pockets are the best!

the edit vintage window dress

 

the edit vintage hats on wall

the edit vintage shoes

the edit hats&sweaters

the edit jentine

It was fabulous to see the shop, and to chat with Jentine about her new adventure. I departed with a sweet treat of homemade fudge (courtesy of one of Jentine’s friends) melting in my mouth and my dress, a present for myself, in tow.

Even though it seems as if spring will never come, I’m sure that it won’t be long until the winter sweaters and jackets are just a distant memory, and skirts, jumpsuits, strappy sandals and shorts will be on the racks and shelves at The Edit.

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I love to see how Hamilton’s storefront fashion, food and retail scene continues to evolve and change. In the four and half years I’ve been in Hamilton, I’ve been happy to have witnessed a wave of new young entrepreneurs taking that massive jump to put themselves out there and to pick downtown Hamilton as the place they want to invest in for the long haul. So happy for Jentine and for the continued evolution of Ottawa Street!

Check out Jentine’s fashion blog My Edit here, or follow her on twitter @myeditblog.

*The Edit, 205 Ottawa St. North, W-F 12-6, Sat 11-5, @shopTheEdit

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