Category Archives: Food

It’s not what you think . . .

Today we became Canadian Citizens!

For those who may be unsure, this does not mean we have to renounce our British Citizenship. Dual citizenship blesses us with considerable freedom of movement in both Europe and North America, as well as consolidating our status here in Canada and giving us the right to vote (and hold office). There is also something important to me about embracing the full responsibilities of a citizen – we feel very fortunate to have this opportunity and would like to play our part in helping to make Canada the best it can be.

To honour the occasion, I thought I’d reflect on some of the misconceptions we have come across about Canada and Toronto!

  • Toronto is not ‘the far north’ – it lies way south of the UK, at the same latitude(43 42’N) as Nice and just south of Florence.
  • Average July temperatures are 3.3C higher than in London at 26.1C, though of course the winters genuinely are colder. Temperatures usually hover much of the time around -1 to -5C, though this year we have dipped on occasion to nearly -30C. But we get 2066 hours of bright sunshine on average a year compared with just less than 1500 in London. And that little bit of extra cold actually takes away some of the dampness.

 

  • Despite the recent glare of publicity on the less than savoury exploits of our mayor, Toronto is ranked the second most reputable city in the world, by the Reputation Institute, the world’s leading Reputation Management Consultancy.
  • As far as crime goes, Toronto’s rates are just slightly lower than London’s.

 

  • ‘Canada produces wine?!’ Yes, and much of it is very good! In Ontario, there are three notable wine areas; Niagara, Prince Edward County and the North Erie Shore. I am enjoying becoming increasingly knowledgeable about Ontario wine – it is fun to find winery tours so accessible. And, just for the record, in 2013, the Decanter World Wine Awards judged a wine from the Okanagan valley in British Columbia, Mission Hill’s Pinot Noir, as one of the World’s Best Wines! Echoing Napa Valley’s breakthrough moment, this could herald increasing interest in Canadian wines.

And on that note, it’s time to raise a glass to the country we have chosen to call home.

Erie Shore Wineries - 'Inside I'm a sweet and spicy blond!' Erie Shore Wineries - 'Inside I'm a sweet and spicy blond!'

Cheers!

 

Capital time

(Written early in September but delayed due to lack of time to sort out our photos!)

Ottawa.

Where are all the people? On a Saturday early in August, it seemed so quiet compared with Toronto! We realized how true it is that everyone leaves this city of politicians and bureaucrats at the weekend when we found it thrumming on Monday night.

Diving into Canadian history; the Museum of Civilization is amazing, beautifully put together in a wonderful building designed by First Nations architect Douglas Cardinal, but also overwhelming. We drank deep of the First Peoples’ Hall, wandered across a continent and  through hundreds of years of history in the Canada Hall and came ‘Face to Face’ with some key Canadian personalities – I was pleased to find I already knew at least something about many of them. (The Wikipedia article gives a great overview).

Museum of Civilization, Ottawa Museum of Civilization, Ottawa  Museum of Civilization, Ottawa Fabulous ceiling at the Museum of Civilization, Ottawa  Museum of Civilization, Ottawa Zen Garden, Museum of Civilization, Ottawa

Chinese Fireworks over Lac Leamy in Gattineau (the Quebec side of the Ottawa river), were more spectacular even than our expectations of them.

Ottawa Ottawa - SkunkA day to recover from intellectual indigestion, sandwiching our exploration of the Byward Market  (one of Canada’s oldest, fabulous foods, with funky shops including a run of high-end boutiques to the east) between exceptional local food for both brunch and dinner (Navarra and Fraser Cafe)  – it was particularly fun at the latter to let the chefs decide what to feed us! Paul risked expulsion from our hotel room – any closer to the skunk he photographed and I would not have wanted him anywhere near me.  Strange that, in our capital city, we also got our first sightings of both a groundhog and a beaver.

Parliament Hill, Ottawa Parliament Hill, Ottawa  Parliament Hill, Ottawa Parliament Hill, Ottawa  Parliament Hill, Ottawa Parliament Hill, Ottawa

Parliament Hill, Ottawa Mosaika - Parliament Hill, Ottawa (great sound and light show about what it means to be Canadian)It seems as if much of Canada needs to be experienced from the water. Ottawa is no exception – you gain a really good sense of how things fit together (and we still find ourselves awed by the immensity of the rivers). Having absorbed the overview, we headed up the Rideau Locks to Parliament Hill. History and citizenship came together as we toured both the exterior and the interior, visiting the House of Commons and Senate, as well as the library, the Peace Tower and some of the committee rooms. Later that evening, we returned for Mosaika, a fabulous exploration in sound and light of what it means to be Canadian projected against the Parliament buildings.

Of course, this being  August, we couldn’t skate the Rideau, definitely on our list of ‘must dos’. So I guess that means we will be back . . .

(There are more photos in our gallery.)

Death by Chocolate


Cafe Maroc cake platter
Spring rolls, burgers and chips and cake (all chocolate!) at MoRoCo

 

Took in the ice festival in Yorkville today and, as the ice sculptures began to drip in the thaw, indulged ourselves at MoRoCo – afternoon tea with a difference; definitely not English tea-room style.

Slightly tongue-in-cheek,  definitely camp, but in the best way, it felt distinctly decadent and definitely fun (if decidedly expensive, but we are talking Yorkville prices)! The sipping chocolate alone was ludicrously rich, and the shared platter of cakes was to die for (good thing our cholesterol and sugar levels are healthy!). The spring rolls, served hot, contained, chocolate, banana and just a hint of peanut butter in a fine pastry case, served with a caramel dip.  The ‘ketchup’ for the shortbread ‘chips’ (light as anything) was raspberry coulis.

 

Winterlicious

Gina at Kultura during Winterlicious 2011
Gina at Kultura during Winterlicious 2011

 

At Kultura… drinking a Madagasgrr!

(Update: this was a first post from Paul’s new Android phone and should contain a photo, but it fell over on the upload! A little sorting of this site and learning to do, I think.)

Kultura – food definitely hit the mark in terms of flavours and textures, really interesting. But the Winterlicious quantities were slightly meagre. The biggest failing was the icy draft -thermals were the order of the day. Good service, cute waiter.

Saucer-eyes

In choosing Canada as our home, we were aware that one of the possible downsides is that paid holiday (vacation) time is significantly less than in the UK. However, we felt that this was balanced out by an apparent Canadian capacity to make the most of leisure time. The weekend just past certainly saw us embrace this spirit, nourishing mind, body and soul!

Friday evening: etchings by Rembrandt and Freud – the Rembrandt so incredibly fine and detailed, the Freud bolder but no less masterly, both capturing so much more than a visual likeness of their subjects; then fabulous photos, model ships and (as AGO members) VIP entry to the King Tut exhibition, recapturing an earlier fascination in the breathtaking beauty of so many of the items on display.

On to fire and ice – the Angel of the Apocalypse belching flame into the darkness as we skated, the trees glinting red and gold with Chinese lanterns to welcome the new year of the Tiger, as pillow-fight snow-flakes drifted down;  a huge screen, held in the embrace of City Hall’s twin towers, provided a constantly changing vertical stage filled with oriental images and peopled by fan dancers, stick fighters and more. (On Sunday we caught a different acrobatic  spectacle by Compagnie Les Passagers with a more elemental theme.)

Winter City Winter City - Compagnie Les Passagers Winter City - Compagnie Les Passagers

Appealing to our senses, the foodie explorations encouraged by the fixed price Winterlicious menus are a delight – we enjoyed two great meals over the weekend.  A late Saturday lunch at Pure Spirits took us to the Distillery District, followed up with the post-prandial pleasures of checking out our favourite galleries there, as well as lusting after high-style lights at Artemide.  And we can’t seem to resist the wonderful Quebecois cheeses, St Lawrence Market offering up this week’s temptation!

On Sunday, we went Tumbling Into Lightamazing music, dance and visual imagery! Deeply moving, its intention to reflect the constant spiralling of light into darkness into light (individual, cultural, cosmic), I was awed by the twin awareness of the hugeness of the human capacity to encompass pain and the hugeness of the human capacity to manifest beauty.

On our way home from an early supper (Moroccan at 93 Harbord), Winter City claimed our attention again with an eerie performance by Glacialis, an Ice Orchestra. Who would have believed that ice tubes would resonate so wonderously in response to a hot flame!

So often here I am conscious of that I can still be that saucer-eyed child, utterly present, utterly entranced and engaged . . .