Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Foodie Pen Pal-April

It was a dark and stormy day...

...until my favourite postman came by bearing a skillfully decorated box of goodies. Full marks for presentation.  Emily sent me my first ever food parcel and I knew I would enjoy it. Emily is clearly a woman of many talents. 


I had just brewed a pot of tea to ward off the cold. I carefully opened the box so as not to disturb anything. The flap included a hand written recipe for Zucchini Sauce
the trove

What a treat! Tamari almonds, fragrant spices, ginger & pumpkin rice noodles, a Chakra Bar and a sampling of macaron from Toronto's Ruelo. I allowed myself one macaron; it was tea time after all. Tried the caramel & sea salt. Delicious. Haven’t had a macaron in years.They always seem to require such care and attention.

Fired up the espresso after dinner and indulged in the two remaining macaron.  I sent my compliments to the patisserie.  The rose/lychee/raspberry is rather nice.  I must say they travelled well.  I think next time I'm in Toronto, I will have to pay pilgrimage in order to try the other flavours-all of them!

the blueberry/lemon macaron

Took some almonds with Friday's cocktail hour.  Crisp and flavourful.


The granola bar is chock full of healthy ingredients.  A nice chewy bar; good mid-morning snack which was quite filling so it served me two days.  Yes, the ginger is potent!


I wrote that I love noodles and I enjoyed the Pumpkin & Ginger.  I had one portion for breakfast with eggs and the flavours do come through. (Not very pleased with my photo so it didn't make it here.) I will try the recipe Emily provided when the veggies are in-season. Looking forward to it.

I will incorporate the spices into my next chicken or shrimp dish.  The almonds would come in handy here, too.

Thank-you very much, Emily, for putting this package together and for your beverage pairing suggestions, too. 

Hope you enjoyed your treats as much as I did mine.

I had the opportunity to put together a parcel for CeeCee in BC.  You can find some of the details at WithinTheKitchen

If you are interested in participating in a Foodie Pen Pal exchange sometime, please click on the Pen Pal icon on the side bar for all the details.*
*If  you are a UK/Europe resident, please use the following link:
FOODIE PEN PALS UK  (courtesy of thisisrocksalt.com)

Monday, 29 April 2013

Tour of the Neighbourhood~The Ontario Heritage Trust~Doors Open

Hamilton hosts Doors Open this coming weekend~May 4 & 5.
Pay us a visit and check out some of our galleries, historic buildings and sites normally closed to the public. 

It's free!

For all the details, click below.


And for the rest of Ontario, go to:


Wednesday, 17 April 2013

People Watching-Toronto-April-Day II

We must be strong at funerals, but learn to weep in Art Galleries.
                                                                                Robert Hughes

Having never finished my PhD, I was unable to get control of the hotel heating system.  Eventually settled for shutting the thing down altogether.  Don't think there was much chance in getting above 22C at this time of year, anyway. (May I paraphrase Woody Allen here?  "The thing about PhD's is that you can be absolutely brilliant and have no idea what's going on.")

Fired up the coffee and opened the boxed pastry.  The scone survived the night and I gave it a seven.  The almond tart was, thankfully, an improvement on yesterday's cupcake.  Very moist.  But where was the cup and saucer?  Found only two Styrofoam cups.  It's presentation, you see. Lots of activity in the apartments across the road, but a quiet street otherwise.

Decided on a hot bath.  Well, a warm bath which isn't the same thing at all.  My bath bomb did not "fizz". (I will say there was a fine selection of toiletries.)  Room checkout at noon which is a very civilized time.

Thatcher Years recap on The Sunday Edition; the resignation in particular.  Funeral today which I believe went as well as things like this can.  Billy Bragg touring Canada this past week and he was sought out for his two cents on multiple CBC Radio guest spots. The Pater is always fond of talking about North Sea Oil as Thatcher's legacy.

Enoch Turner School House 1848

Tour of the neighbourhood in search of Closed Doors before heading over to the AGO.  Nicholas Hoare Books closed their doors on Easter Monday so there was only the shell of the building to look at.  Meandered up Church into North Toronto and back down through Rosedale.

St. Michaels

Off Dundas West...

Driving along College; realize I need Dundas.  Took a London Fog at Orange Alert which is run by a very obliging family and would recommend this for your next visit.  There is a rug hooking and letter of gratitude on the wall sent by a grateful patron who took refuge there while, if I remember correctly, her child was at Sick Kids.

A woman was drumming on the Henry Moore sculpture outside the AGO.  It was more like a 'let me in' kind of drumming.  Skateboarders like to use the piece for a ramp.  No line ups so decided to take in the Florentine Renaissance exhibit.  Favourite painting is A Crowned Virgin Martyr by Daddi.  Apparently, St. Catherine was beheaded for refusing to worship idols.

Lots of 'Jesus on the Cross' depictions where the blood bursts from Christ's body like something from a Python film. It never just seeps.  Bonaguida was another prolific painter who produced one of the most bizarre depictions of Christ.  In one painting it looks more like a balding, overweight, 50-something in the arms of Mary.

The crowds appeared but I shall spare you all a rant on Sheep today.  Moved on to the Patti Smith exhibit.  Love the black and white photography.  She likes headstones, too.  Smith seems to collect everything-a stone from the river where Virginia Woolf killed herself; Pope Benedict XV's shoes from 1920.

"Oh, don't give me L.A.!" she said to her companion across the table.
Took respite in The Grange. Wasn't in the mood to listen to the LA Story so found a spot 'round the corner. Very nice building. Asparagus Soup and Brie & Fig on brioche. Tempted to ask where they were getting fresh asparagus this time of year. The menu did state they sourced local produce, but I don't think asparagus is up. Unlike the cafeteria, you won't find muffins here. It's like a old English gentlemen's club (it is for AGO Members only) in that it's very hush hush and you feel rather self conscious rustling your newspaper. Naturally I dropped my notepad on the floor. THUD. Took a gander at The National Post. Reminder that I must get my taxes done. Bonnie Stern with a recipe that closely resembles last night's dinner~Potato and Arugula soup. Stern was in raptures over arugula sprouts.

View from my comfy chair...

Finished up the day with The European collection and the Thompson Snuff bottles.
Now where did I park the car?

Doubled back East to take some pictures and took King West to track down a tea-based cocktail bar who's name escapes me now.  Needless to say you have to be on foot in this part of town.  One restaurant after another.

Meandered into Liberty Village.  One condominium after another. Good to see reuse instead of new build. Had to drive around twice.  The traffic was appalling and there's actually a bus route even though the roads are not big enough to accommodate them.

The old carpet factory, now Condominiums...
Found the fifth Balzac's coffee house.  One of six locations, owned by a woman based in Hamilton.  Unlike your chain coffee shops, each Balzac's is unique in appearance.  Unfortunately, parking comes at a price.  Even here, you have to feed a meter.

A very Anglo looking building.  The windows are a give-away.

Twelve miles on my pedometer. Not bad. 
Time to head home.  Sun low enough in the sky to make it a challenging drive West. 
Have to find my way out of the Village first!
Until next time.

People Watching-Toronto-April

Difficult week weather-wise and it was time to get out of the city.  Theatre Season has officially started for me and with it a season of people watching and sampling of some rather nice food.  Feeling like an honorary Torontonian these days and a touch guilty about missing what turned out to be a banner weekend of activity in Hamilton.  Drove down the highway to participate in food and drink while missing the Food & Drink Festival here at home.
Old Town Toronto...

A sluggish start but eventually left two hours behind schedule.  Of course there is no need for a schedule.  I had nine hours to get there.  What’s the rush?  No construction this weekend, no Liberal leadership convention (must we keep talking about Trudeau’s hair?) and no Marathons. I send a nod Boston’s way in light of recent events.

Planned to take lunch at Biff’s Bistro but there is no lunch service on weekends.  The Steak Tartare will have to wait. Popped next door to Oliver & Bonacini (same owners).  A Cosmo, Tomato soup & Huevos Rancheros.  Love the décor.  Black and white; tin panels on the walls, upended cooking vats serving as light fixtures; napkins that don’t leave lint. Thank-you.  Now I’m a firm believer in not taking pictures of restaurant food.  It is a major social faux pas to whip out your camera for the edification of the world.  I will talk about the perfectly mixed cocktail, the creamy soup, the parmesan, the herbed cream;  the shredded pork and cheese, the eggs and charred corn, topped with flatbread and salad of tomato, black bean, guacamole and arugula sprouts. 

Seated next to two women taking an eternity to leave the table.  They were on the last of their coffee when I arrived.  One, a mom at the crossroads of her career, the other with a second date pending but couldn’t decide if the religion was going to get in the way.  The conversation took forever.  I thought this kind of talk only happened in the movies.  Apparently there are normally three of them, however, because this third friend dominates the conversation, they needed time alone.  I tried to focus on my lunch.  Always amazed to find out who is a Mom.  The person either doesn’t look old enough or doesn’t conduct themself in a way that you think they’d be ready for motherhood. Anastasia is in daycare and I refrained from throwing my two cents in that children do not need structured art projects at that age.  Give them a box of crayons and some paper and see where they go with that.

A family of four arrived and ordered two portions of macaroni and cheese.  Kraft Dinner this is not. The kids picked at it but were more interested in the floor.  It’s difficult for tourists finding a spot that both the kids and parents can be happy with.  You can’t cater to the kids all the time but they have to eat a good meal too.  I always get tense when I see food wasted be it in a restaurant or in a movie.  The drink never gets finished or the action moves to another room before the last course can be touched.  Just watched Howard’s End, again.  Ms. Prawer-Jhabvala died this week and it was time to revisit a Merchant-Ivory film. The housekeeper had just served the dessert when it was suggested the group take coffee upstairs.  Did anyone eat their pudding? No. There wasn’t time.  If you have not already done so, work your way through the Merchant-Ivory catalogue.  You will not be disappointed. I digress.

Piece on last week’s The Sunday Edition-Acoustic Stew.  Music in restaurants or rather loud music in restaurants. Patrons having to text one another because they can’t make themselves heard over the noise. If you’re the kind that cannot handle the noise, the owner doesn’t want you there.   The noise is OK because it’s cool to drink a $17 cocktail while your ears are being assaulted.  Studies show Mozart is the perfect digestif.  I couldn’t agree more.  This week’s crispy rolls were consumed with the aid of The Horn Concerto played by Mr. Jamie Somerville. I’d go one step further to include Vivaldi’s Concerto for Two Violins and Korsakov’s Caprice Espangol.  Thank-you CBC.  Music was well in the background at O & B and is always low key at Biff’s.

The women started to feel guilty about staying so long and I took my coffee in peace.  A good server doesn’t ask if you want tea or coffee, they ask if you want espresso or cappuccino. 


Off to the St. Lawrence Market for a browse.  Ideal people watching spot;  it’s all here.  Picked up breakfast for Sunday and a red velvet cupcake that proved bitterly disappointing.  I have high hopes for the almond and cherry tart.  What is the true cost of anything?  Found two Pashmina at Kailash and was immediately offered over a 30% discount as I was a repeat customer.  Now, she doesn’t know me from Adam.  Nevertheless I’ll take the discount.  Found St. Dalfour tea.  I’ve had their jam so we’ll see what they do with Darjeeling.  Also found a Belgian chocolate with lavender and another with cracked pink pepper corns.
Today's finds...

The kitchen supply store on the second floor is under new ownership,“a little Korean man”,  as the clerk put it. It did not have the same atmosphere as before with three clerks hovering around the perimeter watching out for a potential theft. 

Over to the hotel to freshen up.  Watched a little of The Masters.  Think I could handle golf if it wasn’t for the endless commentary.  Maybe it was the azaleas that drew me.

Staying in a hotel means a hot shower isn’t possible.  Think a waiver could be made available.  I will sign stating I won’t take legal action should I accidentally scald myself.  Came squeaky clean with the hard-milled, carbolic-like soap.  Took the cup cake.  Frosting like congealed lard and a dry crumb.  Had a vision of melt-in-your-mouth buttery frosting;  far from it.  Water at $7.50 here, the Fijian a bargain at $3.50  Lots of guests buying their own from the Convenience next door.


Over to the Distillery District.  Packed in like sardines at Soma.  Word must be getting out.  Took a spicy Mayan hot chocolate to ward off the cold.  I may or may not have purchased a truffle. (Note the sheen.)


Curtain time at SOULPEPPER.  If all you know of Sam Shepard is The Right Stuff, I suggest you find some time to see True West.  Mike Ross and Stewart Hughes star, respectively, as a writer and wayward brother of questionable repute who share some time together house sitting for Mom.  Really enjoyed the play’s twists.  “I’m watching the toast!” 

Interesting audience.  Reminder that fashion and style are two different things.  Puffy coat to my left who needed lots of arm room.  To my right, a woman who must have taken hours to get ready.  The hair, the manicure, the makeup.  I envy anyone who has that much time in the day.  No intermission; kept watch on the pair in the upper balcony who were clearly enjoying the play. Lots of butter fingers tonight and two cellphones went off.  One ,at a critical point in the play. How many reminders do you need to turn off the phone???

The Gooderham & Worts Distillery (1832)


Weather had turned with rain and cold; felt the ache start across the shoulders.  John Carpenter’s The Thing was playing.  1982, I think.  Alien on Earth.  Always enjoy this and good to see Kurt Russell before he was doing the comedies with Ms. Hawn.  And if anyone knows the name of the movie where he plays a serial killer out in the desert, let me know.  Great music(Mahler?). Was it Russell??  Funny to watch the credits-“Soundtrack available on RCA records and tapes.”  Surrounded by restaurants and bars but went with room service.  New chef I’m told; it was very good food.  Leek and Potato Soup and Chicken Panini.  High hopes for the cheese scone, tommorrow.  Will it disappoint?

Next time- Spending the afternoon with Patti Smith, Florentine art and getting lost in Liberty Village.

Friday, 12 April 2013

If the Ice Storm doesn't get my tulips, this will...

Waiting since October for the bulbs.  They are up and this creature is treating the garden like its own private buffet.  I wonder what goes well with rabbit?

my nemesis-it looks innocent, but...

just the right size for rabbit casserole


flame-like tulip tips

the daffs

Monday, 1 April 2013

The Rail Trail-Stone Church Road

Finding the Hamilton equivalent of the Northwest Passage.


Wash the windows or hike?  Hmm.  Threat of rain for Easter Sunday so decided to take advantage of the fabulous weather on Saturday.  Needed to burn off breakfast.  This portion of the Rail Trail runs between Dartnall and Nebo Roads; cutting between garden centre back lots and industrial estates.  Not as quiet as the other trail portions and at one point, the Four Acres Farm supply property rears up on the right (below) but has nothing to say for itself.


Time of year when everything is drained of colour and there’s no sign of buds.  Things looked rather washed out.  Brilliant sunshine, though.  Hedgerows teeming with wildlife as the birds made an appearance in the last three days.

Easy to manage, well drained path.  A few cyclists and evidence of many horses.

Finally got up close and personal with the derelict silos.  Spied them many moons ago and, expecting to find the remains of something or someone long dead, came upon only a rather unenthusiastic attempt at graffiti-a miniature swastika.   How very original. 

The creek bed on the left looks man-made; an attempt at water management but the creek on the right may be a tributary to the Red Hill.

The former Country Depot, now Home Hardware.  I’ve just wrapped up some painting projects and will be donating what’s left of the paint to Home Hardware so that the can finish painting the building.  They did the North, East and South sides when they took over the space, but didn’t feel the West side warranted a coat. Let’s finish the job.


Over the road to Mount Albion Conservation area.  Thistles in abundance.  There is both a paved path (heading North/South) and a gravel path(heading roughly East/West).  The South leg comes to an abrupt end and if it is your intention to try and cut through No Man’s Land to Rymal Road, good luck to you.  I know if I had attempted the descent into the South fields, I would have wound up literally crawling back to the car.  


Mystery sock #2.   Always find a random sock on the trails.

Things can get very boggy here and the water levels will rise to the height of the conservation sign (which you can just make out in the centre of the picture).  Dress appropriately or stay on the path in Spring.  Note to self-park the vehicle at the Dartnall Road entrance.


Lots of wildlife and birdhouses and perches of various shapes and sizes. No birders today, though.


Allow two hours for a complete walk of the trail, conservation area and the adjacent cemetery, St. George’s.  Stones dating back to mid 19th c. 



Easter Is For Atheists, Too.

Two? Two?  We've got one hundred and fifty people coming and Jesus isn't one of them.
                                                                                   Lockwood~ A Private Function.

Great line from Alan Bennet.  Rationing on, the prized pig has gone missing and there's a possibility of two turkeys in Bradford. 
Easter week began not with the Papal Mass and parading of the ceremonial frond but with the Story of Jesus as told through dough (see March 25th). Got a laugh out of this one. Every time you think a blog post will generate a certain volume of traffic/comments, it doesn’t and vice versa. (Sometimes, no matter the effort, there is no response forthcoming.) I tend to ruminate and then the moment has gone.  Back40feet has the right idea.  He publishes, en masse, at the end of the week, well after everyone’s read the post.  No need to respond then.  But it's not very engaging, is it? Of course, Back40 is a prolific tweeter. Come to the conclusion that the cell phone would be a bad idea for me-I’d start tweeting and then where would we be?  I’d have to retire to manage my time. Wondering if the Russians took the Easter holidays to go and visit someone else’s blog. The Chinese certainly didn’t.

Picked up a Cadbury’s cream egg early week.  There has to be a reason the price isn’t higher.  Time to find out.  They’ve tinkered with the formulation and this is not the egg of my early, formative years.  Rather disappointed with the taste and texture and don’t think I’ll be buying another. Unfortunate, because I was really looking forward to it.  The Pater’s goose sized egg had been on the table for over two weeks now.  I was patiently waiting for Easter Sunday.  This is a Kinder Surprise on a large scale.  What did we find inside but a bowling alley!  Learned that Kinder is banned in the USA.  People are smuggling them in and face fines of $2500. You’re left to literally play chicken with this egg to ensure safe passage to the other side.

Took a leisurely start to Good Friday. Thursday didn’t drag as much as I thought it would-Vinyl Café stories helping things along “…giving in to the siren call of love…corn on the cob.” Ah, food. Squared away the second stage of Spring cleaning.  Unearthed leg warmers from twenty five years ago(do you have to be on the stage to get away with wearing leg warmers today?), my prized purple North Star running shoes and more painting. I now have three fully functioning rooms and nearing completion on the “office”.

Sad news from the UK Friday AM-Richard Griffiths has died.  Withnail and I and A Private Function are never out of steady rotation at the house. I enjoyed Pie In The Sky which ran on our local PBS for years. Ghomeshi in New York. He’s here in Hamilton on April 2, but, seats are sold out. This is his second visit to the city and the second time I’ve missed him.
Back to the leg warmers.   Great story from Dan Hill on his wardrobe, circa 1972.  He was on stage clad in pink tights and loin cloth in a cross between (in his words) Liberace and Tiny Tim.  Mortified to find his parents in the audience.  It did wonders for his relationship with his father, though. 

The Robin finally made an appearance on Thursday morning.  Long time coming.  Daffs at 3.5” and the near two hundred new tulips survived my arch nemesis, the squirrel.


Ah, the four day work week.  By 8AM Monday, I was ready for Good Friday. Christmas break seems so long ago. (We are eight weeks away from our Victoria Day long weekend, if you are counting.)  Easter menu planning began in earnest two weeks prior and the courses discussed to the nth degree. A fine repast of international flavours-the Martini(of course), Italian antipasto, Scottish leek and potato soup, New Zealand lamb with a Merlot glaze, Swiss chocolate mousse and an old English recipe called Poor Knights of Windsor.  Topped off with a little fromage bleu.


The Pater decided on lamb and (just like the pork tenderloin) fretted needlessly.  It turned out rather well.  Deviating from the traditional roasts of pork and beef can be a bit daunting for some.  I believe “comfortable groove” was how the approach to beef was regarded.  But hey, sometimes the other bins in the Butcher’s shop cry out for attention.  Went with a simple mousse and while the purists balked at the recipe,  it turned out well (even though I dropped the finished product).  Fortunately, I’d boxed it up and it survived with just a slight shift in the glass, however, I wanted to take a picture of the fait accompli.  Picture if you will, a nest of cream and brightly coloured eggs for garnish.  We’ll have none of that healthy fruit and mint sprig here.

It’s a bit of an experiment getting caffeine into the system nigh on 10 PM.  I’ve always maintained you should never rush a meal and if that means finishing close to midnight, then so be it.   Fiona Bruce in her dresses and boots?  It must be holiday time.  Yes, the post Good Friday wind down. Ms. Bruce was in my living room at Xmas, too. Great British Castles.  This time it was Da Vinci-The Last Supper and the “newly”authenticated painting which looks rather interesting.  The soulful eyes-very nicely done.   I could not resist a peek at Storage Wars.  Yes, it’s all produced, but, I do get a kick out of Barry. Bonanza week for Toronto mayor, Rob Ford. Sexual Assault charges, then drunk & disorderly and now calling in to a talk show to give his two cents on the Kachkar trial; while the jury is in deliberation, no less.  What is going on in that mind of his?  His people maintain he has no issues but that if he did he would work them out in his own time. Caffeine subsiding and thought it wise to try and get some sleep.  Brunch awaits.

As always, Eggs Benedict with copious amounts of tea.  Sunny skies and big fluffy clouds.  (England under threat of snow, yet again.)  How did we know it was sunny? The duck was dancing. Yes, every home needs a solar powered dancing duck. At least someone decorated for Easter.


Eventually extricated myself from the table and here’s where the decision to actually get some exercise came in.  Good idea to burn off the cocktails, the wine and all that 35% cream. (I hope none of you opened up a can of Redi Whip this past weekend.)

Took in a little more of the Rail Trail.  Clearly hadn’t used some of the leg muscles since Zumba finished two weeks back.   I thought of Sir Ranulph Fiennes and his team. Needed inspiration for the last hike back to the car.  Fiennes started off on skis but has left it to his colleagues to finish the trek across the Antarctic in soon to be        (-40) and 24hr darkness.  So what’s two hours in brilliant sunshine?  Caught a little sun burn; the wrinkles are encroaching.  Hands like a ninety year old and now the face.  It’s the sun, not hormones, deary!  I shall be using putty before long.  Oh well, keeping up with some of the resolutions at least- longer distance hiking, getting some control over the spaces in the house and reading the books that were collecting dust. 

On tap this week for Sunday Evening Wind Down is The Nobodies Album by Carolyn Parkhurst and finally getting into the short stories of Anthony Trollope.  Do love finding a mint condition used book amongst the scores of tatty second-handers. Now, if I found a tatty First Edition, well, that would be a different story.  And of course, just unearthed A Private Function.  Firing up the VCR as I write this.  What is my shelf life?  We don’t know and that is why we take the occasional cocktail and whip up the 35 % cream.  Because if we decline that slice of cake and the mortal coil is about to make a stranger of itself, at the very least we enjoyed a fine meal of lamb leg, wine, mousse and cheese amongst other things. 
Looking at a veritable fast this week by contrast to the last three days.  I do have a week's supply of Easter egg to see me through.

Next time-In Defense of Brunch.