Archives: snacks

sugar bush

The last weekend of March we were in Kingston visiting some old friends. While there we decided to make the most of the early spring weather by heading out to a nearby conservation area for a maple syrup festival.

To the sugar bush!

The trees were tapped with the sap flowing. We noted that they had several different methods of tapping, some with metal pails, other trees with blue plastic buckets, and some were tapped atop a hill with a series of connecting tubes that ran towards the sugar shack down the hill below (definitely the most efficient).

maple syrup evaporator

There wasn’t any snow of the ground so we weren’t able to do the classic maple syrup on snow or ice. Of course there were pancakes and although we’d already had a delicious breakfast we could not forgo sampling at least one (or two)!

This pancake was so delictable and the maple syrup was so fresh!

I hadn’t been to the sugar bush since I was a little kid. I’m sure in the upcoming years we’ll be doing an annual maple syrup pilgrimage to Mountsberg (and the like) with the little one.

 

sleep over

Among the many things that people will tell you when having kids is that your life will never be the same and that you’ll never be able to live like you used to. Honestly this idea kinda petrified me -to think that I’d be sequestered to an isolated parental island void of all “normal” social contact and/or limited only to baby/parent talk.

However, I’ve suprisingly found that besides the obvious life changes invovled in having a child, life with some effort can be quite as it were pre-baby.

The beauty is to come up with novel ideas on how to continue to socialize and maintain social equilibrium.

Thus far we have found that life can take on many of the same ceremonious social rituals (however, I’m sure this too will change). We’ve managed to finagle going out for dinners, visiting with friends, and more often than not, these days having friends over. We must of course give thanks to our friends, who have continued to request our social presence.

There are challenges that do arise in trying to socialize. Especially when we want to meet up with friends who live out of town that also have kids. Between naps, dinner, baths and bed time, this all  leaves little room to get in a satisfactory visit.

So in honour of living life the way we used to like let’s say having dinner with some old friends from out of town, we pulled off our first ever parent sleep over and it was a success. Once the kids had their dinner and bath time, and it was all quiet on the western front. We parents camped out in the mainfloor of the house with wine, escargot, bubbly Italian beers and fondue -how so appropriately over the top adult like of us.

an assortment of snacks -pickled radish, turnip & carrots plus some other randoms

tempura oil fondue -a Japanese twist on a French meal

the next morning -starting the day off right with some colouring

culantro

Oddly enough I fell in love with Peruvian food when I was living in Japan (of all places). There was a delectable Peruvian restaurant in the city I was living in that served anticuchos, deep fried plantains, civiche, salchipapa and purple chicha corn drink. Mmmm. However, having left Japan over a decade ago and with the lack of Peruvian restaurants in Southern Ontario, I had not had the pleasure of indulging in any Peruvian delicacies in a looong time. So I was pretty excited to hear about the opening of a Peruvian restaurant right here in Hamilton.

Culantro Peruvian Cookery has only been open a few months but they have already garnered rave reviews and drool worthy pleasantries with regards to their food.

So on an impromptu early dinner meet up with a few friends, we decided to check Culantro out for ourselves.

We were greeted by the super hospitable chef and Co-owner Juan Castillo, who went above and beyond to make us feel welcome, and to ensure that everything that we ordered was totally perfect (and it was).

I ordered two empanadas; one carne and one pollo with a side of sweet potato fries.

culantro empanadas & carne, hamilton

Steve ordered two empanadas with the veggie salad

The empanadas and sauces were super delicious and totally hit the spot. I wanted to eat about a dozen more. In fact, I remember saying out loud that I kinda wanted to sleep on a pillow of empanadas so that whenever I woke up I could just go “omnomnom” and then fall back to sleep dreaming of eating more empanadas.

The carne empanada was stuffed with prime ontario steak, olives, raisins, and a boiled egg. I know a boiled egg! It may seem a little weird to some, but you have to trust me, it was so super delicious.

On the menu there’s also quarter, half and whole marinated rotisserie chickens (polo a la brasa), which someone at our table also ordered and it was mega yum!

Before our meals were complete Juan came out to chat with us, and to bring us all a little sample of their chicha morada, which is a drink made from purple corn juice with a twist of lime, pineapple and a hint of cinnamon. It was beautifully refreshing with all different sorts of  subtle hints of flavours that tickled my tastebuds.

To find out a little more about the story behind what brought Co-owners Juan, and his sister in law, Catharine to open up a Peruvian restaurant in Hamilton check out their blog here.

In the mean time if you haven’t been to Culantro yet, you should. You can’t go wrong with their empanadas.

The next time that I hear they’ve got pork belly and ceviche on their daily special I’ll have to pop in for another visit, and maybe I’ll indulge in another empanada (or two).

*Culantro 47 King William St. moved to 537 Main Street East 905.777.0060 @culantrocookery

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.

holy crêpes

If you didn’t already know, Hamilton has a crêpe place! Hargitai’s Creperie and Ice Cream shop opened in April and is located across from the Hamilton General Hospital on Barton Street.

I’m super excited that a place like Hargitai’s exists in the city (who doesn’t love crêpes) and I’m uberly happy about a place like this opening up shop on Barton.  Barton has all the right fixtures for a rebirth and I’m just counting down until the revitalization starts to really take hold.

The other day Kristin Archer of I Heart Hamilton and I decided it was high time for another rendez vous and double blog post (check out our previous double blog posts here: Apple Berry’s, J.H. Gordon Books, O’s Clothes & Relish Vintage). Kristin and I have taken a liking to exploring new places in Hamilton together sampling the goods and sharing our findings. So it was fabulous to catch up with Kristin and to hear about what she’s been up to.

I brought Omi along for the visit and for the most part he was on his best behaviour.

picture courtesy of Kristin Archer

We started off our crêpe sampling with a savoury cheese crêpe. As owner Maria made the crêpe we all chatted together about our fondness for Hamilton and Maria’s passion for starting her own crêperie here in this fair city.

Maria told us she was inspired to open her own crêpe shop after a visit to Toronto, where she lined up with a busy crowd of people at popular crêperie. Since the crêpe market in Hamilton had really yet to be cracked she decided to take the plunge and open her own crêperie -the first in the city! She’s set up shop on Barton knowing that it is only a matter of time before Barton, like Locke, Ottawa Street and James North, will experience its own renaissance.

the classic dessert crêpe: strawberry jam

For dessert Kristin went for the Sugar & Spice a cinnamon and brown sugar crêpe, which smelled heavenly, and I opted for the Classic a crêpe filed with strawberry jam.

Maria told us that although crêpes are traditionally known as a French delicacy it is also a shared culinary treat amongst Hungarians. Maria’s put a Hungarian twist on her crêpes with items like the Gundel: crepe filled with ground walnut mix, raisin, and topped with rich chocolate fudge, or The Palacsinta: crêpe filled with chicken breast topped with sour cream with your choice of cheddar or smoked cheese. In addition to savoury and sweet crêpes Hargitai’s also serves up smoothies, sundaes, shakes and ice cream.

Great to explore with you again Kristin! To read Kristin’s post check out I Heart Hamilton’s post here.

So Hamilton, if you’re looking to brighten a dull winter day with a little Hungarian treat pop into Hargitai’s. Although mostly a take out joint there are a some seats -just in case you can’t wait to dig into your crêpe you can eat them there.

*Hargitai’s Creperie & Ice Cream, 304 Barton Street East, follow on twitter @hargitai_s

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.

 

short + sweet

I’ll make this post short and sweet.

The other day Steve was a baking master and made four whole pies -two peach and two meat!

The peach pie was made with fresh, local and in season peaches.  So yum!

It was one of the best peach pies I’ve ever had and perfectly paired with a mega scoop of Dr. Scoop Icecreamist Vanillaallin; salted caramel swirl.

I was happy to have finally made it out to the Ottawa Street market to buy some of Dr. Scoop’s infamously delicious ice-cream.  It was Ciara Brennan’s last day selling her organic and handmade ice-cream for this summer season.  Got some just in the nick of time!

In addition to the Vanillaallin I also picked up a Cinnamon Peach.  So amazing!

vintage garden tea room

When a friend suggested a summer tea reading at the Vintage Garden Tea Room just off of Locke Street, I could not say no; fresh scones, devonshire clotted cream, preserves, lavender lemonade and a tea reading to boot!

I do love dainty things like afternoon tea, and I do like checking out places I’ve never been to.  I just may have visited this tea shop way back when it was directly on Locke Street but that was over 8 years ago, and I’m not even sure if it was the same tea shop -in any case the location on Pine just east of Locke was a first for me, and it was lovely.

 Vintage Garden Tea Room, Hamilton

vintage salt and pepper shakers

 

There were a lot of ladies there for high tea, with a small speckle of the men-folk.  The atmosphere was abuzz with quite a stir and chatter as tables received their tea leaf readings. There were also hats and other fancies that if you so desired you could don to add to the dramatic flare of afternoon tea time.

This was my first tea reading, and I must say that I was thoroughly impressed.  I’m not necessarily one for psychics and the sort, however in the past few years I have had a couple of tarot card readings at showers and bachelorettes that have intrigued me.  This tea reading was by far the best!  For $12 the resident tea leaf reader Sandee doesn’t mess around: she’s direct, gets to the point, and doesn’t do a lot of seeking or prodding.  She tells it like it is, with specific time frames and scenarios for how your future might just play out.  I won’t reveal my reading (although it was interesting!) you’ll have to go and get one yourself.

Readings are done on Tuesdays and Fridays from 11am-2:15pm with the highly recommended suggestion to reserve a table and reading before hand.

Vintage Garden Tea Room, Hamilton, Ontario

Sorry about the picture of the half eaten scone -we couldn't resist some sampling before I got around to photo taking.

 

You can go for the full English High Tea spread complete with cucumber sandwiches and sweet treats.  We opted for a Cream Tea, which came with the most delicious and fresh scone, clotted cream and preserves plus a pot of loose leaf tea of your choice.

Vintage Garden Tea Room, Hamilton, Ontario

 

*Vintage Garden Tea Room, 35 Pine Street, 905.523.8282, Tues-Sat. 11-4

 

apple berry café with i heart hamilton

A little while ago I had the pleasure of meeting up with Kristin from I Heart Hamilton.  Both of us, being explorers of Hamilton, decided to collaborate in our meanderings and check out a few of the new places popping up on King St. East together.

So happy to see revitalizing changes going on along this strip of King Street!

Our first priority was to stop for a bite to eat.  Kristin, knowing all things Hamilton, got me caught up with the word on the street that a new Caribbean lunch spot had just opened up.

In the space where the old Barbarossa Moroccan tea house used to be now stands the brand new Apple Berry Café.  It’s a down to earth kind of place that’s got the right prices for healthy, fresh lunches and snacks on the go or to eat in house.  Kristin and I were in no hurry so we sat back in a window-seat booth ordered our lunches and chatted with owner Opal Osiol.

Opal is just about the happiest woman on King Street!  You can tell she loves what she does mostly because she does everything with a gorgeous smile. When chatting with Opal she mentioned that for years she lived in Hamilton just down the street from King but had just recently moved to Oakville. When she saw the space on King Street become available and the opportunity to open up Apple Berry she couldn’t turn it down despite now having to commute into the city. Funny how things sometimes work out, isn’t it?

You can tell that the business for Opal is really a labour of love. She’s committed to making all her dishes fresh and from scratch. While we waited for our lunches Opal squeezed up two fresh lemonades.  They were super refreshing on a hot summer day and they were priced so reasonably too -$1 each!

The menu is pretty extensive.  Ranging from breakfast, baked goods and sandwiches to full lunches with sides.  It’s kinda a secret but Opal even mentioned that although not on the menu on some days (if they have all the ingredients) her daughter, who works along side Opal, would cook up roti too (you just have to ask)!

I went for a lunch combo of pan fried fish with lemon and butter.  With the combo you can pick a side of either home baked macaroni and cheese (which looked awesome), rice pilaf or rice with beans.  I opted for rice with beans.  For a meal including a drink and taxes, everything was under $10!

While Kristin and I were there we saw a bunch of people picking up their pre-ordered lunches to go and we saw Julie Gordon from J.H. Gordon Books next door stopping by for a freshly made smoothie.  Apple Berry already seems like a great neighbourhood fixture, and even if you’re not from the neighbourhood you should stop by for a bite to eat. There are some good things going on over there on King East.  While you’re there stop in and visit Julie at her bookstore too.

Apple Berry’s does local neighbourhood delivery service for lunches on the go to anywhere in short walking distances.  Or if you’re in a hurry and have a limited lunch hour you could always order your lunch in advance and swing by to pick up too. Apple Berry’s is open from 9:30am Mon-Wed 5:30pm  (Thurs-Fri 9:30am until 7:30pm).  Friday, July 27th is there Grand Opening! Stop by for some free menu sampling and say hi to Opal.

It has been great over the past few months to be meeting up with some of the other fabulous people that are just as much in love with Hamilton as I am. Had a great time with Kristin exploring, and I feel honoured being included on one of I Heart Hamilton’s tour stops. Thanks Kristin!

Check out I Heart Hamilton’s post here.

*Apple Berry’s Café, 312 King St. East, 905.962.8488

 

day trippin’

On a recent hot and sunny weekday Steve and I decided to do a mini day trip to St. Catharines’ old downtown strip.  To be truthful I had not been in St. Catharines since I was a little kid and the only thing I remembered about the city were its 1970′s suburbs and that huge bridge that crosses over the Welland Canal that makes you feel like you’re driving right up to the sky.  I’d never been to the old downtown St. Catharines and I was pretty excited to take a looksy.

St. Catharines’ downtown is capital O-L-D (for a Souther Ontario city).  According to Wikipedia:

The area was originally known as a storehouse for goods at the crossing of an Iroquois trail over Twelve Mile Creek. Curving Indian trails formed the foundation of the downtown streets as they appear today. Among them remains the largest and most historically-significant of the city, St. Paul Street.

Unlike many planned North American cities whose downtown streets run in a straight grid-like line St. Paul Street curves and meanders along a little ridge mimicking the winding rivery creek that used to run behind it.  There’s no creek back there now, but there is a highway.  This is just my guess as the only indications that there was an old running river was from some old writing I noted on the side of current artsy occupants of Bang On hair salon‘s building that says that it used to be an old flour mill -presumably powered by the current of the river that used to flow behind St. Paul Street?

In any case, our first stop on our mini trip was the  Niagara Artists Centre, which I had been wanting to visit for a quite a while.  It is not by any means a monstrosity of a gallery but similar to the 1-2 room gallery space of  Hamilton Artist Inc.

Artist Jared Charzewski‘s exhibit Salvage Swell was installed in the back gallery.  It was awesome! His sculpture was made up of piles and piles of used clothes.

*Niagara Artists Centre, 354 St.Paul Street, St. Catharines 905.641.0331

A few doors down was vintage clothing store Out of the Past -I know, I know Hamilton has one too but this one is the numero-uno original and I loved it! The prices were so right, and there was such a great collection of items for both men and women.

*Out of the Past, 340 St. Paul Street, St. Catharines 905.288.6007

The next place we happened upon was a real treat.

The Write Book Shop is one of those bookstores that you can get lost in for hours and hours and still have a stock pile of rainy days banked to come back for further exploration. They had two floors plus several back rooms of books ranging form rare antiques to classics, children’s books, books on Ontario, history, crafting, cooking and sewing. You name it they have it.

*The Write Bookshop, 285 St. Paul Street, St. Catharines 905.684.8426

For lunch we stopped in at a vegan restaurant/bakery/café called Rise Above. I first heard about this place via the folks at Mjolk and it looked so good that we decided to check it out for ourselves. The lunch was great and so was the Bill Murray painting exhibit (Still Murray by Grant Redman) but my favourite part of this stop were the vegan donuts. Yeah, it IS possible -vegan donuts!  AND they were good.

You can read more about the creator of these vegan donuts -Kyle Paton here.

I would love for both Kyle (owner of Rise Above) and Bruce Worden (chef or Rise Above) to open up a fresh and contemporary place like this in downtown Hamilton. Can’t you just picture it in one of the storefronts of Treble Hall?

*Rise Above, 120 St. Paul Street, St. Catharines 289.362.2636

I was reading that similar to Hamilton downtown St. Catharines was rampant with one-way streets. In effort to rejuvenate the core they converted their one-ways to two-ways and low and behold look at the new businesses opening up. I’ve even heard rumours of the rerouting of the Niagara Wine Route so that it will eventually pass through St. Catharines’ downtown. Gotta love good city planning and investment in the downtown core!

Overall it was a great little day trip to St. Catharines. I think that it has something going on, and besides I’m always up for a new place to explore.

 

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