I thought I would cry while watching Frozen but I didn’t. Over the holidays, I spent four days in Bruges, Belgium which kind of reminded me of spending time in a medieval animated movie. I had done a fair bit of recon on what cities had the best Christmas markets and Bruges consistently came up on the best tourist list. It was once of the only places where Christmas market doesn’t shut down, well after Christmas. My kind of town! But guess what, it’s even better…
There was so much to do in this cobblestone town, filled with craft beer, chocolate shops, vintage laces and charm. Set amid a network of canals, the best way to explore this pretty postcard was to wander aimlessly among its star patterned streets. All streets lead to the central square where you will find The Burg, cathedrals and gothic mansions.
Being an avid art lover, I found a series of intimate galleries featuring the works of the Dutch and Flemish masters, among them Van Dyck and Hans Memling. My favourite places to take it all in were Groeningemuseum and Memlingmuseum.
Belgium is known for its chocolate, beer, waffles and moules frites. It was kind of embarrassing when I ordered Moules Frites and a giant pot came to my table. I made a valiant effort but the waiter tsk’ed tsk’ed my inability to finish the entire serving. The afternoon snack of choice was of the crepe variety – I often found a homey spot and let the smell of waffles permeate my hair for the afternoon. Watch as they make homemade crepes in this tiny café – Creperie de Bretoen. I would love to go back to Bruges, perhaps in the summertime to enjoy some drinks al fresco and take a canal tour.
April 4, 2015 No Comments
Toronto temperatures are dipping to that Montreal sub-zero, nasty frost-bite uncomfortable. It’s when leggings aren’t enough if they aren’t fleece lined or you forego looks and acquiesce to looking puffy (multiple thermals layered beneath chunky wool sweaters). “Ok fine! You win Winter!” Ugh, I have the worst static-y hair when I remove my trapper hat. When they issue an extreme cold-weather warning, you best listen. And if you haven’t declined all socials in exchange for the warmth of that duvet taco as my friend P calls it, you better have a damn good reason for stepping outdoors. Buuuuut delicious food is always a good reason, non? We’re reallyx3 lucky in Toronto to have a plethora of dining options to keep our tastebuds sated. Even if I’m frrreeeezing, at least my tummy is full of warm food. Here are a few of my fave Toronto cozy spots that you can bundle up for:
The Federal (1438 Dundas West) – There is a hotbed of dining options on the Dundas West strip. This charming restaurant serves up brunch, sandwiches and late-night noshes and cocktails. Recently, popped in for brunch with my friend A and we almost licked our plates… that good! They were sold out of Belgian waffles but there were so many delightful options that we needed a few extra minutes to edit our selections.
This End Up (1454 Dundas West) – Very close to the first option, this sandwich and cocktail joint is a hidden gem. I reallyx3 shouldn’t be telling you about it. You can have the most delectable dinner without breaking the bank. This diner offers a 50/50 variety of vegetarian and carnivore lovers options but everything on the menu is beyond expectation like Kimchi chili fries, Daal Frites, Tofu Tacos or my perennial favourites the Baja Fish. I am always surprised with the bill because it’s never over $50, everrr!
The Good Son (1096 Queen St. West) – This eclectic English library-meets den from Top Chef Canada finalist Vittorio Colacitti brings a mix of rustic Italian favourites and fusion cuisine. This is an open space (occupying the former Nyood), with an inviting old-fashioned cocktail bar, leather banquettes and high tables; diners can watch all the action through the open kitchen.
February 15, 2015 No Comments
I recently returned from a gloriously long vacation in Europe. It was the kind of trip that continued so long, I lost track of time and dates. Back in my university days, Paris failed to live up to the hype of its image. But I rediscovered Paris, charmed by the grandeur of Haussman’s boulevards, twinkling lights shining brightly on the Champs Elysee and the surprising kindness and nouveau joie de vie that greeted me upon my return. I knew I was demurely blending in as I was often stopped for directions (by the French, no less)!
Should you find yourself in need of an impromptu mini-break, Paris is always a good idea.
La Louvre is worth it – I spent 4 hours in The Louvre and I didn’t even see all of it. Go early to avoid the massive lineups. While many of the galleries will be rammed with tourists (particularly the Italian and Renaissance), you can still take in the art in relative quiet in the lesser frequented rooms on the 2nd floor. You can also have a dejeuner at Angelina; there is a great view of the central courtyard to people watch.
Wear black head-to-toe – Understated cool and lots of leather. A black wardrobe is a true French staple. That and those Petit Bateau striped knit tops. Parisian style is iconic – chic, cool, effortless. You can also get a taste of that ‘je ne sais quoi’ at Sandro, Maje, Comptoir des Cotonniers or at their grands magasins (department stores) Printemps and Galeries Lafayette.
Red Lips Don’t Care – Bright red or crimson lips are also a MUST – check out my classic-LC beauty post for a tutorial on The Perfect Red Pout. Obviously, the Parisian classic is of the Chanel variety – Try Rouge Allure Velvet in La Fascinante. And for the Brigitte Bardot in you, black eyeliner and mascara is welcome too.
Éclair is the New Macaron – Parisians are over the macaron. I’m not over it but just to let you know, it’s so last season. Novelty eclairs are the ‘it’ patisserie du jour. I would have brought some home but undoubtedly they would have been squished in my suitcase seeing how I had to sit on said luggage to close it. Even if you want an après-midi, sugar fix Laduree and Fauchon are not the only macaron games in town. You can hit up any corner boulangerie (bakery) and there will be macarons aplenty. Just visit a busy one with lots of Frenchies and you know it’s good. Trust.
January 11, 2015 No Comments
One of my favourite things is shopping for gifts. I am reallyx3 gifted. baha. This season, I am high-tailing it out of here for the holidays but I am going to lean into the Winter Wonderland goodness that is Christmas. As a general rule of thumb, I love to give how I live. I believe in reciprocity and as much kindness as you bestow, it always comes back to you. Trust. This season, I have been nesting, enjoying the faux glow of my eclectic lit Christmas tree. If you’re into quirky and crafty gifts, these picks are for you. And if you’re not, maybe you just don’t get my brand of humour.
December 13, 2014 No Comments
I love Roncey. On the western edge of the city, the happening stretch of Roncesvalles between Howard Park and Queen Street is a pedestrian friendly neighbourhood overflowing with gourmet restaurants, cozy cafes, independent retailers and fresh fruit markets. I was really lucky to accompany my friend D on a foodie lovers walking tour in the summer hosted by Yellow Pages Taste Your Neighbourhood & the Roncesvalles BIA. My friend and I were the requisite tour girls who lagged behind sampling and buying everything. Ahem, we were taking one for the team and supporting local. Yeah we were.
La Cubana (392 Roncesvalles Ave.) – With its retro green and red subway tiled walls and open kitchen, this Cuban style diner is charming and funky. The menu boasts an overwhelming selection of diner favourites with a latin twist. Of course there is the Cuban sandwich, corn frituras and empanadas. Try them brunch or dinner.
Barque Smokehouse (299 Roncesvalles Ave.) – You would think as a vegetarian I wouldn’t be into it but the smell of those baby-back, baby-back ribs almost turned me carnivore. But alas, I lived vicariously through my friend S who tried the sampler of ribs, chicken, brisket and Italian sausage. I had the plank salmon with a variety of sides which included heirloom tomato salad, panko crusted penne n’ cheese and bbq-spiced French fries. We didn’t talk for half an hour because we were too busy eating.
The Mercantile (297 Roncesvalles Ave.) – Gourmet meets giftshop. If someone wants to buy a gift or surprise dinner party guests with something to ‘ooh and ahh’ over, you will find an array of specialty snacks, artisan teas, chocolates and preserves galore in this treasure bursting pantry and sweet boutique.
October 13, 2014 No Comments
Sometimes I can’t help myself. I can be self indulgent and impulsive — both common traits of Geminis. Though I am planning a holiday trip, I could not resist a Fall mini-break to New York with my sister. This travel compulsion trumps any chocolate addiction. I can often lure a few friends to tag along because they know I love to plan a) brunches/dinners b) shopping c) activities involving champagne spritzers/Riesling and in general I up the ante on my comedy game. More fun? Yes please!
I was feeling nostalgic so the theme of our trip was throwback. I tried to mix in a little of this and little of that, some places that we used to haunt and some new ones to keep it fresh.
Cafeteria (119 7th Ave.) – We were just babies when we used to come here. Do you remember China Club? Carrie loved it. Still open 24 hours, good for brunch mimosas, great for after the bar comfort food. Mac n’ Cheese is still on the menu.
Nobu NY (105 Hudson St.) – There’s a reason people come back for chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s new style Japanese cuisine. Spaces are warm, subdued and elegant. The Tribeca location is the original (famously backed by Robert de Niro) which opened in 2004. With imaginative dishes and high quality sushi I’m like ‘whoa.’ This is saying a lot coming from a vegetarian who detests raw things.
Ladurée (398 West Broadway, Soho) – A Parisian tea room with a glass case of patisserie and candy-coloured rainbow of macarons await.
Stanton Social (99 Stanton St.) – My friend S said, “Lower East Side is the new Meatpacking.” That makes me giggle. There’s still a bit of grungey edge to LES but I like when the sketch intermingles with trendy spots. Keeping it real. Celebrity chef Chris Santos’s menu is a mashup of ethnic tapas from Kobe beef sliders to Nori Spice Tuna Wonton and Summer Squash Ravioli. Try Monday nights if you want a downtown crowd.
October 4, 2014 No Comments