Archives: coffee

secret heart

I’m not someone who does a crazy amount of planning for special occasions. But I do often have little mini ideas mapped out in my head for treats that can easily be cooked up at any given time.

For this year’s Valentine’s Day I picked up a few gifts locally for some little surprises for my Valentine.

We love coffee at our house and since being home full-time I’ve seen my coffee consumption double! Steve, as of late, has been branching off from our traditionally consumed French-pressed coffee to espressos. So I thought I would indulge in his new coffee interest and get him a cute one-shot stove-top espresso maker. I picked one up from Faema on James North. They’ve got a pretty good selection of espresso machines, with a not-bad retro looking used one that we might actually be able to afford -eeek! If we end up getting it, it’ll soon be lattes and espressos all day long chez nous!

I also stopped by Ola Bakery for some Portuguese sweets. Ola has some lovely fluffy, flaky baked goods (and I’ve heard they do a great sandwich too).

As a Valentine’s mid-morning surprise I managed to put this spread together with a quickly crafted homemade Valentine’s Day card. Steve’s been really busy at work so it was nice to be able to share a quick coffee break midday in his at-home office while Omi napped.

I executed this next surprise Valentine’s treat that Steve has still yet to discover.

I recently saw a cute DIY post on Design Sponge about patching little moth eaten holes in sweaters with felted hearts. I really need to invest in some lavender sachets or a cedar something or another but I haven’t and so Steve and I both have a couple of sweaters with a few sad moth munched holes in them.

So besides needing a sweater with a hole, you’ll also need some felting wool and felting needles. I picked mine up from Needlework on James North.

You’ll also need 2 sponges to stack under the sweater for when you’re jabbing your wool with the needle. That way you won’t give yourself multiple stab wounds.

Next make a little stencil for the shape and size of the felted patch that you want. Flip your sweater so that you start felting your patch on the reverse side. Take a nice size bit of wool and start to felt away!

Once the shape is pretty solid from the reverse side, turn your sweater right side out. You should see the shape of the heart clearly. Take smaller and thinner pieces of wool to shape the heart and felt it until the heart looks nice and full.

I practiced first on my sweater with this red heart and did Steve’s hearts with grey wool. I thought the grey hearts on his grey sweater would be more subtle as I wasn’t so sure how he’d feel having bright red hearts felted everywhere.

Can’t wait for the day when he pulls the sweater out of the closet to wear and sees a few cute little grey hearts on his sleeve. Until then, shhh -don’t say a word.

sew hungry

On September 21st I headed to my very first Sew Hungry.

Up until recently I’d never had a lunch hour long enough to check out the previous Sew Hungrys.  But being on mat leave, pregnant, super hungry and no longer having to worry about lunch hours it was pretty much mandatory that I headed down to check out the new and returning food trucks on Ottawa Street.

I loved the synergy of the food trucks, local shops, farmer’s market and restaurants all collaborating together and benefiting from the crowds of people that headed down to Ottawa Street.  Seemed like an all round success for ALL those involved in the event.  I’d hear that this particular Sew Hungry drew record number crowds in the thousands! Well done Hamilton!

My main mission for this particular truck rally was to go to The Dirty South food truck, which I had recently heard makes tater tot poutine -yeah I know -unreal!!

To be honest I was a little disappointed.  I was kinda expecting some hearty gravy and big fat squeaky cheese curds instead of plain shredded cheddar cheese. Despite the short fall the tots were served in large portion and they did taste really good (in that bad kind of way).  I had some regrets that I didn’t get their fried chicken and waffles, which looked super duper delicious.  I figured since the truck is local to Hamilton I’d have plenty of opportunity to sample their menu some other time.

I’d also previously heard about Poco Loco‘s taco chili salad in a mini corn chip Frito bag.  So as the lunch hour drew near and the line ups at the food trucks started to get too long, I opted to support this local Ottawa Street restaurant and got my first taco salad in a bag.  By no means was it gourmet.  In fact it was more of a novelty item that I can now I can say I’ve tried.  There is something a little strange about eating chili, beans, sour cream, hot sauce, and onions mashed into a brown hot mess from a chip bag.

What I really should’ve tried was the lobster roll sandwich from Buster’s Sea Cove (Toronto’s only seafood truck haling from St. Lawrence Market).  I’d later heard that this was the favourite of the day for many.

This next truck -Frittersons interested me.  I was gunning it over to the truck expecting sweet donut-like deep fried fritters topped with snow speckled icing sugar, ice-cream and berry sauce but alas the truck was a savory fritter truck not a dessert truck! I was intrigued by their “Thanksgiving in a bowl” -turkey with all the fixings plus potato cheese fritters. I love stuffing and I can’t resist anything deep fried in fritter form. My sweet fritter cravings will have to be serviced elsewhere, however I’d be willing to give these savory fritters a try for the next Sew Hungry.

One of my favourite trucks at Sew Hungry was the super adorable Manual Labour mobile trailer (aka “Frankie” -the 1969 Bailey Travel Trailer) coffee shop. I’d seen and heard of the mobile café serving up their Aussie inspired coffee specialities at events like the Junction Flea Market and The Greenbelt Harvest Picnic.

Co-owner Matthew Taylor and his partner in business and life are part of a growing community of people that have shifted from Toronto to the Hamilton area to set up shop.  Matthew -formerly a barista in Toronto’s burgeoning café and coffee scene saw the possibility and opportunity to venture for a quieter life outside of Toronto and to create a business that supports other local and surrounding businesses like Detour coffee (for their roasted beans), Hewitt’s Dairy (for their milk) and locally grown herbs for their teas from Country Herbs.

It was a pleasure to run into Shannon Stone of Best of Hamilton, who was a guest barista for the day helping fellow Aussie and co-owner of Manual Labour -Katie Browne.

Manual Labour does have merch for sale.  T-shirts for $20!

Thanks Shannon for making my delicious and beautiful first time ever “flat white“!

If you want to book Manual Labour for an event you can find their contact here, or follow them on twitter @MLcoffee.

 

the rise of coffee culture in hamilton

Since moving to Hamilton three years ago, I have seen the growth of some serious coffee culture in this city.

Moving from Toronto, where hip independent cafés and coffee shops abounded, I have to admit I was a little skeptical about how I was going to be able to get my coffee fix in the Hammer. And after I moved, I was, indeed, taken aback that a city the size of Hamilton had a serious lack of “good” coffee shops.

I found myself trekking my way down to Locke Street to indulge in the fail-safe but generic Starbuck’s latte. I on occasion schlepped it all the way to Westdale for a cup at My Dog Joe. My only downtown saving grace was Julia Serna’s delicious fair trade Colombian coffee at what was then the temporary mall location of Hamilton Farmers’ Market. She’s still serving up a fine brew at the renovated Market, along with the amazing Red Hill Coffee stand, which I’m a big fan of, too.

But I digress. What it truly came down to was that I was at a loss for a local café. I wanted a place to sit, sip on a good cup of coffee, chat with a friend and enjoy the atmosphere of a true independent coffee shop downtown.

It didn’t take long after moving to Hamilton that I could tell something was brewing (ahem). I saw the opening of Detour café in Dundas. They expanded from an on-site coffee bean roaster, serving small-scale barista espressos, lattes and the like from their tiny shop in the back of a parking lot, to a full blown beautiful and always packed downtown Dundas café.

I heard stories of the Domestique café in Dundas, which opened in 2010. It caters to coffee enthusiasts and the local cycling community. Their infamous Early Surly coffee blend that could wire a deadbeat is likely what propels those avid road cyclists up that mountain of a climb on Sydenham Road.

Not long after the café culture started in Dundas, I noted gutting and renovating had started at Hotel Hamilton — a former laundromat among other past incarnations on the corner of Mulberry and James Street North. With the main floor’s gorgeous moulded ceilings and mosaic tiled floors being revealed and refurbished, I dreamt the space would one day be home to a downtown independent coffee shop. I remember chatting with one of the developers of the building and he mentioned they were looking to lease the space to a café with the feel of something you might find on Queen West in Toronto. I couldn’t wait!

Pretty soon Mulberry Coffee Shop opened its doors. It was just what the neighbourhood needed. In the short time I’d lived in Hamilton, I saw all this inspiring change happen.

mulberry coffee shop, james st. north, hamilton

exterior of Mulberry St. Coffee House, Hotel Hamilton

mulberry coffee shop, hamilton, ontario, james st. north

Mulberry Coffee House -gorgeous molded ceilings

Mulberry latte

There have been several new coffee shops and cafés that have opened up since then. There’s Cannon Coffee Co. — better known as “The Cannon” — on the corner of Cannon and Ottawa streets. They serve my favourite latte in the city using beans from all of the local Hamilton coffee roasters that I love: Detour, Red Hill, & Speakeasy. There are Red Crow and Radius, both of which opened up recently on James Street South. On King William, there’s the recently opened Baltimore House’s gothic/Victorian themed café and wine bar and also Homegrown Hamilton (formerly Sky Dragon) with their in-house roasted-fresh coffee beans.

red crow coffee, cafe, james st. south, hamilton, ontario

Red Crow Coffee & Espresso Bar, 211 James St. South

homegrown hamilton, coffee, cafe,

Homegrown Hamilton, 27 King William St.

 

What I love is that many if not all of the new coffee shops that have opened are also serving up some phenomenal brunches, snacks and baked goods, giving us Hamiltonians a multitude of options for coffee and treats. Each place is unique, and local, adding their own flavour to the ever-developing coffee culture in Hamilton.

What I’ve discovered since my move is that anything Hamilton may be missing — like, say, a microbrewery or a vegan restaurant or a juice bar — will likely be on its way soon. If it isn’t, get on it: It’s true you can do anything in Hamilton.

My top three coffee shops

1. Detour Coffee: airy, bright atmosphere, great sweet treats, baked goods, soups, salads and the like, fabulous Detour roasted beans; 41 King St. West, Dundas.

2. The Cannon: contemporary style and design with a great people-watching window, best latte in the city, delicious daily lunches and brunches; 179 Ottawa St. North.

3. Mulberry Street Coffee House: love the casual atmosphere, my downtown go-to place for meet-ups, a cup of coffee to go, ginger molasses cookie or a savoury muffin to tide me over; 193 James St. North.

 

You can also find this post printed in The Hamilton Spectator June 9th 2012 here.

 

maps!

One thing I love about Hamilton… are people who love Hamilton too.

When I was taking a French night class a little while back for an assignment we were asked to think of someone we admire to discuss for our next class as a conversation piece.  People talked about Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, their mother or their fathers.  I came to the next class and launched into how much I admire local Hamiltonian Matt Jelly.  I had just moved to Hamilton and was inspired by Matt’s love and passion for this city.  I admired his civic involvement and take-action mentality to get things done and create change.  I like people who do what they say, and while they’re at it get other people motivated to do the same.

I live downtown, and close to the “International Village”, where I usually  rarely make it past Dennigers heading east on King.  I have always thought of King Street as a place with a lot of potential but just a little empty or dare I say vacant?  More recently I have happily noticed new stores popping up in the neighbourhood like MODify Your Closet and Accoutrements.  What pushed me further along east on King was that I really wanted  to check out Matt Jelly’s recent art exhibition of Hamilton maps at Freeway Coffee House.  So off I headed east on King past my usual landmark destination.

On my walk to Freeway I discovered so many new places like Tundra Leather -a one stop shop for all things related to leather and working with leather (tools and all!).  It’s been open since 1963!  How had I never noticed this gem? There’s a new bookshop (J.H. Gordon Books) that’s being primed to open too.

AND then there’s Freeway Coffee House.  What an awesome space!  They serve local Hamilton roasted Red Hill Coffee, they host events and parties, and they have huge windows that stretch nearly the entire length of the vast space between floor to ceiling overlooking the parkette across the street.

I loved Matt Jelly’s Hamilton map exhibit.  I enjoy seeing and experiencing things that I have a direct connection to.  So of course my favourite map was my neighbourhood’s map.

I had a friend that told me that when she was younger she’d always giggle and say “cooties” instead of “Cootes”.  Haha Cooties Paradise.

Matt’s exhibit is showing at Freeway Coffee House until May 11th.  If you’ve never been to Freeway or that neck of King Street go and check it out. Grab a coffee at Freeway check out Jelly’s maps, and then head over to J. H. Gordon Books, which is scheduled to open this month.

*Freeway Coffee House, 333 King St. East

grandad’s donuts

When I moved to Hamilton a few years back, I started my first job in the city tucked into a north Hamilton neighbourhood in between John and James Streets north.   Contrary to what some people may think, Hamilton’s North End is a wonderful little pocket with a strong and proud community.  You can even see some North Enders sporting T-shirts that say “The North End.  Hamilton’s best kept secret.”

And it’s true!   The neighbourhoods have that characteristic lower city Hamilton charm.  They’ve got old Victorian homes that hug the bay and waterfront.  There’s easy access to some great hidden Hamilton treasures, like the Bayfront Trail, the outdoor ice-rink at Pier 4, Hutch’s Harbour Front, Hamilton Harbour Queen Boat Tour, The Harbour Diner and Grandad’s Donuts, a fine donut establishment I was fortunate enough to have stumbled across.

The particular Grandad’s I refer to is the one located on the corner of Burlington Street east and James Street north kitty corner from the Port Authority.  It is a true North Hamilton staple -just ask anyone who lives in the neighbourhood.  On any given day you’ll likely see a crew of construction workers lined up getting their early morning or late afternoon Grandad’s fix.  Or you might see the usual crowd of friendly north end regulars teasing and joking around with one another at the donut counter over their coffees and delicious donut treats.

Their donuts, unlike most donut chains these days, are made fresh daily from scratch right in the Grandad’s kitchen.  Specialty donuts like the Ghostbuster -think éclaire meets Boston cream, never cease to blow my mind.  With its light and slightly crisp donuty exterior and its soft and smooth melty-whipped fresh cream interior, dipped into a bath of chocolate goodness -it’s no wonder that I can never resist getting just one whenever I’m in the neighbourhood.

With its 70’s rusty orange decor, yellow booths, and a counter top you can cozy up to the with old-school bolted-to-the-ground stools, its retro familiarity reminds me of donut shops from when I was growing up as a kid.

Grandad’s even has those classic fountain juices; peach and lemonade that flow from an eternal waterfall of fruit juiciness within their glossy clear plastic viewing containers.

To be honest I have a soft spot for this place not just because their donuts are the best donuts in the city, but also because I’m somewhat sentimental for nostalgic places like this one, and these days I find places like this are becoming harder to come by. When you can sit at a counter, whether a stranger of not, order your coffee and chat with the people sitting next to you and the friendly staff, you know you’ve got something special.

Although I no longer work in the North End, I do on occasion feel the need to satisfy a craving for a Grandad’s donut and coffee.  I’ll find myself willing to make the trek by bike or on foot and without skipping a beat it’s like I never left the neighbourhood.

Grandad’s Donuts could very well be Hamilton’s best-kept secret.  Hamiltonians be proud of another original homegrown Hamilton donut fixture. If you have yet to check out this gem it is most certainly worth a trip to the North End.  Buy a dozen and grab a coffee.  You won’t regret it, and you will surely be greeted with a warm hello and welcome from staff and customers alike.

You find the extended and beautifully edited article here in the Hamilton Spectator!

* Grandad’s Donuts, 574 James Street north

cannon coffee co.

I love, love, love Cannon Coffee Co!  It is just the type of coffee house that the east end needs.  Cannon Coffee is on the corner of Ottawa and Cannon, and has a gorgeous wide angled street view from their corner window.

Opening its doors just in time for the Christmas rush, owners Anne Cumby and Cindy Stout are serving up some of the best coffees in the city using locally roasted beans from Detour, Red Hill, and (soon to be added to the roster) Speakeasy, AND they are also baking muffin tops (yeah I know how is that even possible!?) cookies, scones and other delicious sweet treats too.

When we stopped in for a mid Friday afternoon coffee the shop was successfully abuzz with nothing but people who were just really excited to drop in and check out the fresh new space and have a coffee.

Cindy and Anne are so sweet and charming, and happily chatted with Steve and I about how they put their whole space together.  No doubt the ladies have been working hard to get everything set up and ready to go.  It really is a true work of inspiration and dedication and they have definitely been successful in creating a unique space where you just want to sit and look out those big wide windows for hours.

cannon coffee co. Hamilton, ontario, 179 Ottawa St. north, owners Anne Cumby and Cindy Stout
cannon coffee co. Hamilton, ontario, 179 Ottawa St. north, light installation Enoch Kuu

The light installation is the work of Toronto designer Enoch Khuu.  The table art book is a published work of photographs and artwork by the super talented Brooks Reynolds, whom I believe is a Hamilton local.

cannon coffee co. Hamilton, ontario, 179 Ottawa St. north, owners Anne Cumby and Cindy Stout

Original tiles and ghostly blue-grey hand finished pine plank floors.

cannon coffee co. Hamilton, ontario, 179 Ottawa St. north, Cindy Stout

cannon coffee co. Hamilton, ontario, 179 Ottawa St. north, lattes, coffee

This was honestly the best latte I’ve ever had (thanks Cindy!).  Mine is on the right. I take it with a little swirl of honey.  I swear with each sip I would sigh and say something really cliché in all seriousness like “mmmm this is so delicious I could die”, or “this is the best latte ever”.

cannon coffee co. Hamilton, ontario, 179 Ottawa St. north

cannon coffee co. Hamilton, ontario, 179 Ottawa St. north, owners Anne Cumby and Cindy Stout

Owners Cindy Stout and Anne Cumby.

cannon coffee co. Hamilton, ontario, 179 Ottawa St. north

 

*179 Ottawa St. north, kitty corner from Steel Town Pickers, open M-F 7-6. S 9-8. S+S 9-5. 905.912.1980

bmore

Baltimore House opened its doors last week on King William!  It’s a great spot and charmingly decorated in all its gothic goodness.  I had about 30 minutes before work one morning to stop by and grab a coffee.  I got an americano and besides being amazing, it was rich, full-bodied, creamy, not too bitter, AND it kept me going for the rest of the morning.

I’d like to stop by again to check out their Victorian parlour (when it opens in the new year), where I’d like to spend a snowy afternoon reading and relaxing in a comfy and cozy chair.  Especially now that the course I’ve been working on is wrapped up and done I will finally have the time to enjoy a place like this.

I’ve heard great things about their sandwiches too, so I will definitely be back to do some more food drink sampling.

Bmore  I think you’re my Hamilton dream come true. Did I hear talk of film nights, and a theatrical production of the Importance of Being Ernest, or am I just making this up?  AND a regular night for album spotlights (open mic for vinyl every Tuesday)!  Amazing.

For more reading on Baltimore House check out the Spec’s feature article here.

*Baltimore House, 43 King William St., Hamilton, 289.396.4830

speakeasy

I love how Speakeasy cafe is tucked so nicely into one of my favourite north end neighbourhoods.  It is a small and inconspicuous coffee shop that is only open on weekends (however they are so much more than a weekend coffee shop -read on!).  They serve a damn fine coffee and modestly do not flaunt that they have won multiple awards and recognition for their beans and roasting.  In fact this year they won the Grand Prize Golden Bean for best new blend at the 2011 International SIAL awards, which means their blend Kochere Gayo was named the best blended coffee in the world!

Stephen Armstrong owner of Speakeasy believes in fair trade quality beans, which he selects and purchases directly from the growers themselves.  He then blends and roasts the beans for some rich and delicious coffee blend creations.  If you have yet to take a visit to this place for a Saturday or Sunday morning coffee you are truly missing out on a Hamilton gem.

To read more about Speakeasy read the Spec article here.

*Speakeasy Cafe, 445 Ferguson Ave. north, 905.521.9667, Open Sat & Sun 8-6pm

paris

Oh, Paris… Paris, Ontario that is. A few weeks back Steve and I stopped by the small town of Paris, Ontario. The town is 160 years old and is at the cross section of two major southern Ontario rivers; the Grand River, and the Ninth River.

The Grand River, Paris, Ontario

Although Paris is beautiful, it is not, as one might think, named after la belle ville de Paris because of its notable elegance and beauty.  In fact, the town of Paris, Ontario actually bares no resemblance or connection to Paris, France whatsoever.  Its name actually came to be as a result of the large amounts of gypsum found in the area, which is used in the making of plaster of Paris.  It is also the location of where the first long distance telephone call was received by Alexander Graham Bell.

Oh, Paris you do not cease to amaze me!

Spring TIme in Paris, Ontario

Spring time in Paris as the sign connotes would be beautiful.  But I would chance a guess that fall in Paris, Ontario would be just as picturesque.  The river is lined with trees, and is banked with a row of old buildings that overlook the Grand.  I remember when I took the train in to visit Steve at his artist residency in Windsor going by Paris and thinking to myself that I definitely wanted to stop through this charming town.

If you do ever find your way to Paris, Ontario in fall, spring or summer, you can rent a canoe or kayak and do some river cruising, while enjoying the scenery.  There are also the rail trails that extend from Hamilton to Brantford and then Brantford to Paris.  I saw a lot of bikers on the Paris rail trail as we made our way out of town.

Grand Experience Canoe & Kayaking, Paris, Ontario, boat rentals, Grand River

One of the best parts of our trip to Paris were the treats!  I had a black cherry ice-cream from the ice-cream shop across from the Canadian Tire that had been retrofitted into a historic old building (why can’t more cities do this!).  We picked up some sweet and delicious treats form the Paris Bakery for the road.

The Paris Bakery, Paris, Ontario, baked goods, treats, Grand River

Then we went for a coffee at the Brown Dog Coffee and Frittery.

Brown Dog Coffee Shop & Frittery

Brown Dog Coffee & Frittery, Grand River, Paris, Ontario, deepfried cheese cake, deep fried banana split

Yes, yes you can! You can get apple fritters, cheese cake fritters, and a banana split fritter!

hand crank apple peeler, Brown Dog Coffee & Frittery, Paris, Ontario

Brown Dog Coffee & Frittery, Paris, Ontario, Waterdown, apple fritters

Fresh apple fritters!  What a fantastic fall treat.  Coincidentally the city of Waterdown as of September 23rd will be home to the 2nd 3rd Brown Dog Coffee & Frittery.  So this means that I’m just that much closer to having fresh apple fritters paired with super amazing coffee on a more regular basis.  Mmmmm.

*Brown Dog Coffee Shoppe & Frittery, 63 Grand River St., Paris, ON, 519.302.0722

*Brown Dog Coffee Shoppe & Frittery, 312 Dundas St., Waterdown, ON.

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