The Toronto Cider Festival: The Top 10 Ciders You should Be Drinking Right Now

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Photo credit Tied Photography – Kristie Woods

This year marks the first ever Toronto Cider Festival and it all happen Saturday September 26 as everything boozy apple converges on Yonge-Dundas Square. Now all those beer drinkers who scoff at their slightly more delicate cider preferring friends should take heed, this isn’t your grandmothers apple juice.  With some ciders so dry they make your lips smack and others sweet and spicy there is a flavour for everyone.  Get your tickets to one of two sessions before it’s too late and let my following choices be your guide.

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1,Angry Orchard Hard Cider

Launched in 2011, Angry Orchard is the number 1 selling brand of hard cider in the United States.  Lucky for us they have crossed the border to let us sample their crisp apple sip made from blends of sweet and bittersweet European Apples. Varieties of their cider included flavour infused, apple specific and hops and apple combinations.

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2.Waupoos Cider/Country Cider Company

The mighty town of Picton produces this robust artisanal cider made with fruit that is 100% locally sourced.  Those who don’t like apples can definitely get on board with County Ciders pear, peach and blood orange flavours. Their flagship cider is a dry sparkling apple.

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3.Okanagan Premium Cider

Our friends on the other side of the country will be making their first time visit to Ontario at this year’s Cider Festival. Local B.C apples are the perfect choice for their hard cider while other flavours like white grape, pear, peach and summer berries take advantage of the west coast’s bounty.

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4.Ironwood Hard Cider

This regional cider comes up the QEW from Sunnybrook Farm Estate Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake.  Offering small batched one offs and seasonals this cidery is a perfect diversion from all the wine drinking.

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5.Magnotta Small Batch Cider

Recently launched this month in the LCBO Magnotta Small Batch Cider is the newbie of the group.  Using 100% Ontario McIntosh Apples this hard cider is crisp and refreshing.

Photo credit Tied Photography - Kristie Woods

Photo credit Tied Photography – Kristie Woods

6.The Duxbury Cider Company

Unfortunately you can only currently get Duxbury Cider at local restaurants and pubs so plan a date soon to Wvsrt or Bar Hop. Fortunately at the Toronto Cider Fest you can try their small batch vintages made from heritage and organic apples from Georgian Bay.

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7.Coffin Ridge Forbidden Dry Cider

Don’t let the name spook you, Coffin Ridge Boutique Winery has created a robust and refreshing hard cider also using local Ontario apples.

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8.Revel Cider

Thanks to the brain of one young Guelph entrepreneur and his love of fermented apples, Revel Cider uses the finest local ingredients to create a lighter dryer liquid that will appear to the reluctant beer drinker. These are also only available in select Toronto restaurants and bars.

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9.Spirit Tree Estate Cidery

Using apples from their own orchard and sourcing other local ingredients Spirit Tree is one of the few brands that offer both a sweet, non alcoholic cider and a hard cider.  Those concerned can rest assured, the  one with kick will be present at the festival.

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10.Brickworks Cider House

Last but certainly not least is Toronto’s own contribution to the cider world. Sourcing their apples no further than 300 miles the folks at Brickworks believe in supporting their community with 5% of all profits being donate to Evergreen, an organization focusing on environmental issues. If you haven’t seen them in the LCBO or on tap at any Toronto establishment you haven’t been getting out much.

The History of Classic Carnival Foods

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The CNE brings us the anticipated weird and the wacky eats each year.  They bring us food truck events and cooking demos.  Yet a truly genuine experience to any town fair and carnival is only complete with gallons of freshly squeezed lemonade, hands sticky from spun sugar and faces dripping in caramel, cinnamon or frozen milk products (or all of the above). While our stomach are roiling with a cacophony of indulgences let’s consider how our nostalgic favourites came to be?

Cotton Candy

Invented back in 1899 and introduced at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, Fairy Floss, Candy Floss or as Canadians know it, Cotton Candy began simply as finely ground sugar melted and spun in a large centrifuge with holes to create fine threads of sweetness. During that fair boxes were sold for an expensive 25 cents yet people were so enamoured with the concept a total of 68,655 boxes were sold, equaling  a massive profit back then of $17,163.75.

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Mini Donuts

A lot of unconfirmed theories surround where the mini donut started. Of course they evolved from the their larger counterpart much like the cupcakes coming from cakes, yet the most common thread of speculation was that  they were created during the Spanish-American War when rations were tight and smaller portions were given out. Thanks heavens that is no longer the case as most people today can easily throw back a dozen or more.

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Funnel Cakes

Fried dough can never be a bad thing and the long history of funnel cakes, dating back to Anglo-Norman Medieval times, supports our love for it.  And while the current techniques and recipe are thanks to the Pennsylvanian Dutch, any grade school child in Ontario can be equally grateful to both since no trip to Canada’s Wonderland is complete without a massive plate of Funnel cake.

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The first snow cone making machine was invented in 1920, however the popular treat was already being enjoyed at home where cheap ice and mom’s homemade syrup made for an affordable summer treat. Simply shaved iced doused with flavoured sugar water, the world’s most popular  taste continues to be the classic fruity “rainbow” flavour.

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Ice Cream Waffle Sandwich

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Ice Cream Waffle Sandwich at The Ex.  Another confection with an unconfirmed history it is believed to have been the brain child of Sharole Levan and her other Conklin Carnival employees  on route to the CNE where it made its International Debut. Hot fluffy waffles sandwiching cold, vanilla ice cream; can’t go wrong with that idea.

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Candy Apples

In the case of my favorite carnival treat, the candy came before the fruit.  In 1908, William Kolb wanted a way to promote his hard cinnamon candy.  By coating an apple on a stick with the bright red sugary treat he hoped to bring in more customers who in turn would ask about the candy and purchase it.  Little did he anticipate that while customers did in fact asked about it, they wanted it with the apple.  Variations with caramel, toffee and nuts are just as popular but it’s the classic fire engine red that started it all.

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Corn Dog

It seems that everyone wants a piece of glory in the creation of the corn dog.  Whether it’s the mom and pop shop in Oregon or the creative father in Springfield, Illinois that can be credited, the corn dogs short history matters little when you get a hankering for a deep fried battered hot on a stick. But why “corn”? The batter consists of the smallest amount of cornmeal therefore giving its famous moniker.

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Deep fired chocolate bars or anything on a stick has becoming more and more popular at carnivals and fairs, it’s the classics that we can never resist.  And while their history are varied, the pleasure they bring children and adults alike never changes.

The Top 5 Food Trucks and Craft Beer at the 2015 CNE

Smack dab between opening day and the air show is the what I consider the most productive weekend during CNE.  Yes any day you can ride the attractions, see the shows, and try the crazy new foods but it’s the weekend of Friday August 28 through to August 30th that you can add Food trucks and Craft Beer to you list of CNE accomplishments.

The Food Truck Frenzy is back, bigger and better than before and this time they joined up with the Craft Beer Fest to offer you everything you could possibly need on a hot summer weekend. Here is a list of the top 5 food trucks and top 5 craft beers I can’t wait to try this weekend.


Aptly named after the 7 deadly sins you cannot go wrong with a fancy gourmet burger.  Try a Greed burger with bourbon and bacon or spice it up with the chimchurri topped Envy.  And vegetarians can get in on the sin with Pride; a juicy, massive Portobello mushroom burger.

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2.Gorilla Cheese

Because you can never have enough carbs surrounding meat and cheese, this popular Hamilton based truck offers up decadent grilled cheese sandwiches oozing with fillings.  And if you feel even slightly guilty taking a messy bite opt for the Lumberjack with its cheese, bacon, Granny Smith apples and maple syrup.  It has fruit in it!

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3.Hank Daddy’s BBQ

You don’t have to go to just Hank Daddy’s if you want food truck BBQ. Several other truck’s like Hogtown Smoke and The Urban Smoke will be competing equally  for crowds of hungry CNE goers. I’ve picked Hank Daddy’s because truck just looks really cool and isn’t aesthetics important when stuffing your face?

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4. La Loteria

With 3 tacos for $10, cheap is always delicious.  And while taco availability is at an all time high at the Food Truck Frenzy I have a secret love affair with La Loteria and their pork carnitas.  Always flavourful and mid range on the messy scale. And you can mix and match.

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5.Texas Tornado

Yes these are the those weird spirals of curly potatoes.  I have seen them at every food event I have attend and they have either been sold out, or the wait has been atrocious.  These elusive chips on a stick are purely on my list because god dammit I’m going to try one even if it takes a lifetime.

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Honorable Mentions Fidel Gastro’s and I Love Churros

You can’t be in the vicinity of Fidel Gastro’s and not get an order of their Pad Thai fries.  If you have never had them, I am sorry for ruining your love of poutine forever. And of course Churros have to make the list cause who doesn’t like deep fried dough.  Plus have you ever seen people eat them? Meme creators dream.

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Craft Beer Fest

I am like a beer fest groupie. I go to them all and here will be no different. The list of breweries  at this event will be small, 11 confirmed brands to date, but surprising my top 5 are all new to me.

  1. Hockley Valley Brewing
  2. Old Tomorrow
  3. Railway City Brewery
  4. Sawdust Brewing
  5. Stack Brewing

A wide range of IPAs, wheats, seasonals and stouts are all available from this group of beer makers, perfect accompaniments to all that food you are going to be eating.

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For a complete list of Food Trucks and Craft Beer vendors can be found here on the official CNE website.

Through the Garden Gate 2015: Lawrence Park Garden

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A front garden with sturdy evergreens and highly uncommon yet gorgeous yellow peony direct you back to the rear of the house where a stunning oasis awaits.

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The show piece of this garden is the stone ridged pond, surrounding by brightly colored Japanese forest grasses and other shade loving specimen plants.

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Hostas, astilbes, and more grasses thrive in the cool shady area of the back gardens with other notable plants including a dwarf ginkgo,  dwarf Japanese maple and flowering dogwood.

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Through the Garden Gate 2015: Lawrence Park Garden

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Perennial lovers can rejoice in this beautiful formal garden.

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Entering through the left of the house you will discover pots of Mexican pottery leading you down a colourful path to the shady percola.

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From the pergola you can enjoy the formal side garden resplendent with season long colour from vines of clematis and English perennials like larkspur, irises, lupines and more.

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A central fountain and old rose bushes finish off the traditional look.

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Bean And Baker Malt Shop

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Nestled on the corner of a busy intersection of Christie Pits bustling with bike lanes and city streets is a retro soda fountain malt shop straight out the 1950’s.  Imagined and realized by the husband and wife team of Liezel and Brennan Anderson once you take a step through the front door your senses are rewarded with old school decor, hip hopping fifties era rock ‘n’ roll and retro desserts and beverages to beguile your senses.

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For those who revere nostalgia the narrow diners’ cherry red counters and checkerboard tiled floor are a perfect backdrop for the charming soda jerk uniforms, complete with bow ties and hats. Even The Toronto Vintage Society have offer assistance to the Anderson’s at finding the most authentic items for their shop.

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Liezel, an accomplished pastry chef, delights in the creation of many of the restaurants decadent desserts, laboring long and hard to create the perfect butter tart or slice of cake or delectable hand pie. Each day only a certain number of hand pies are available, making them perfect to grab for the commute home or weekend bike ride.

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Maple Bacon Butter Tart

The Old School Lunch Pie is a sugary, teeth shattering example of self indulgence with graham cracker crust, strawberry jam, chocolate ganache and peanut butter, perfect for anyone who loves their desserts.

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Old School Lunch Pie

With limited seating and tranquil Bickford park right across the street the menu caters to quick drop ins and the to-go crowd.  It’s an ideal location for a first date where two straws are a popular as the shakes they go in but a quick exit can be accomplished if things get awkward.

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Quality is incredibly important to these first time shop owners.  Using the highest quality equipment they produce incredible sodas and shakes.  Brennan, a former barista and coffee expert has a keen sense of flavors and uses it to create outstanding homemade syrups for their soda (lemon Rickey, hibiscus, gramp’s ginger, root n’ cola, real orange, vanilla cream and cherry cola). Skillfully using spiral bar spoons the syrup is poured into a glass of the purest soda water they can create, preventing agitation of the ice. The result is a concentrated, refreshingly flavorful drink .


And if you want to go a little crazy that same soda can be garnished with a scoop of ice cream, whipped cream and proverbial cherry to be presented as the prettiest soda float around. And once the ice cream is slid carefully into the beverage, the need for the bottom plate becomes essential.

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Milkshakes or Malt shakes are by the far a popular choice at Bean and Baker.  After trying various ways to create the perfect malt flavor the final product is a thick, creamy froth of ice cream and milk.  Being considerate of their neighborhood and customers, a vegan and lactose free option is available allowing for whole families to enjoy these treats together. The stainless steel shake cup accompanies your glass so it can be topped up with every last drop of milk or malt shake made.

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If sweets are not your thing savory pies and sausage rolls are also available while Brennan, with his keen coffee sense has created a house blend of beans that produces a superb tasty coffee or latte.

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Nowhere else in Toronto can you get an experience of stepping back in time, to an easier life of soda fountains and milk shakes, Chuck Berry and shiny linoleum like that at Bean and Baker Malt Shop. With attentive staff and owners wanting to bring you the most authentic experience you will be begging for a shop like this in your neighborhood.  Until then Liezel and Brennan look forward to seeing you.

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Bean and Baker Malt Shop

326 Harbord Street, Toronto

416-536-SODA (7632)



Through the Garden Gate 2015: Lawrence Park Garden

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An incredibly lush garden leading to and surrounding a calm, relaxing outdoor pool this garden relies heavily on plants with colorful and textural foliage.

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Hosta’s are abundant with the popular ‘Marilyn Monroe’ being a showpiece through the front garden.

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Stunning stonework accentuate the deep zen like feeling of this garden with notable plants including Japanese maples, weeping false cypress, coral bells, ferns, fetterbrush, smoke tree and an Japanese dogwoods.

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Through the Garden Gate 2015: Lawrence Park Garden

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Starting right in the front yard all the way to the back this bright and colorful property uses textures, heights and hues to create an elegant garden.  Two sturdy ginkgos flank the end of each curved bed and uniformed compact yews draw the eye up to the lines of the house.TTGG 1 (2 of 13)

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Even lines and symmetry continue up the stone walkway to the back yard where a serene patio is bordered by more compact yews.  Deep purples and pinks are favoured among bright yellow grasses.

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Notable plantings include Japanese maples, astilbes, hydrangeas, birch, weeping pine and many colourful foliage plants like japanese forest grass and hostas.

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The Craft Brasserie and Grille

When owners Chris Pagonis and Dean Tzembelicos decided to open a brew pub modeled after the popular concept appreciated throughout major cities Stateside they may have bitten off more than they could chew.  With 120 different craft beer taps and a staggeringly massive restaurant space The Craft Brasserie and Grille could have been a daunting endeavor.  Yet by bringing in an incredibly educated and ambitious bar manager with Matt Sieradzki and a fresh, talented chef in Adrian Andaya the magnitude of this endeavor seemed mote. With the bustling and trendy neighborhood of Liberty Village trying to further set themselves apart from the rest, The Craft’s location in the sunken lower level of an 110 year old building and proximity to the exhibition GO station is golden.

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As a Prud’homme Beer Sommelier Sieradzki brings a strong passion for community, relationships and of course great taste to every one of his choice pours.  By developing a frank and open discussion with all his vendors, by getting to know the people behind the beer he has brought a cacophony of brands and flavours for the masses to enjoy.  And while the idea of deciding which of the 120 beers to try can be tiresome, he has gradually passed on his education to his serving staff, making sure your drinking experience is first class. The beer menu is intelligently laid out; the whole spectrum of flavor is represented and easily discovered. And with flights of 4 five ounce glasses of beer being college-aged affordable (currently priced at $10.50) The Crafts’ goal of introducing people to new and incredible beers is a guaranteed.

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Of course great beer always tastes better with fantastic food.  With a menu full of small plates and shareable bites Chef Andaya wants guests to be able to try a multitude of beers along with a huge variety of delectable dishes for everyone at your table to taste. Gourmet burgers and sandwiches come solo however several creative and unbelievably delicious “fries” can be ordered and easily become a four person dish.  The Madras is a bowl overflowing with pakora battered fries, fontina cheese, a rich madras gravy and topped with a fried egg while the Asada fries are almost a meal in itself with strip of beef, chimichurri, jalapeno cheese, creme fraiche and caramelized onions.

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Other shareables run the gamut from flatbreads, tacos, wings, ribs, and sliders to battered fish,popcorn chicken and lettuce wraps. Chef Andaya’s Filipino background comes out in the popular Lumpia Spring rolls; ground pork nicely seasoned, deep fried and served with a banana pepper ketchup. And for those guests who just want to have a pint or two after work without the crowd full entrees are also equally impressive and high on taste.

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With a 50 seat patio weeks away and ideas of brunches and tasting events already turning the wheels of the future,The Craft Brasserie is a beer lovers mecca and a foodies dream.

The Craft Brasserie
101 Atlantic Avenue, Toronto

Spanish Mac and Cheese

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I have been wanting for a very long time to create a stellar macaroni and cheese recipe, one of my all time favorite comfort dishes. I have tried variations including meat, vegetables, herbs and spices and had yet to develop that one flavor that made my taste buds sing.

So I had to take a step back and think about what I loved about mac and cheese dishes I had eaten in the past. Why did their flavors make me remember them long after I had consumed them.  My biggest realization is that sometimes you don’t necessarily need to reinvent the wheel.  This simple casserole is basically pasta and cheese sauce.  None of the restaurant style varieties had anything different thrown in, just a sharp cheesy tang and tender starchy pasta.  And quite honestly it really is about the cheese.

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At a recent event at the St. Lawrence Market hosted by the Trade Commission of Spain and ICEX Spain Export my senses were pleasantly assaulted by an unreal number of Spanish cheeses available for taste.  This is a life changing event for any bonafide cheese lover.  Many of the cheeses I was already familiar with; Manchego and Iberico, were massively represented in varying degrees of age yet it also was easy to find some new favorites like the creamy Drunken Goat Cheese, or a nutty Sant Gil d’Albio.

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Spain’s vast diverse landscape has a huge impact on the production of cheese.  Dairy producing livestock; cows, sheep, and goats are found all over the country yet the terrain in which they live can make a difference in even the most subtle way to the flavor of its milk.  Mountainous , rocky terrain can be favorable to the more hardy stock of goat while rolling hills provide the perfect grazing conditions for sheep.  Mixed milk cheese can be produced throughout the country adding to the over 100 varieties currently available in production.  Local wines and other edible products can also make a difference in the flavors available with some traditions including rinds made of fresh herbs or soaked in local wines.  As a country vast in landscape and climate variety each cheese produced is steep in quality and tradition.

After eating my weight worth of cheeses it was obvious that this is the direction I needed to go in my quest for the best macaroni and cheese.  And with so many of these great Spanish varieties available at my local cheesemonger. Don’t be afraid to change the kinds I used in my recipe with any others your prefer.  I chose 12 year old Manchego and Iberico for the pungent strong flavours and my new dream cheese the creamy Drunken Goat. Go to your cheese counter and ask to try what they have.  People who love cheese have a vast palate for what they prefer much like wine connoisseurs.  Experiment until you find your new favorite.  That’s how this recipe came to be.

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I would thank to thank the Trade Commission of Spain and ICEX Spain Export , Spanish cheese expert Julie Rogers and Mary Luz Mejia for inviting to this event thus allowing my brain to create this decadent dish.

Spanish Mac and Cheese

I used 4 oz. Drunken Goat cheese, and 3 oz. each of 12 year old Manchego and 12 year old Iberico to make up my 10 oz of cheese for this recipe. Feel free to use any combination you prefer.

Save RecipeSave Recipe


  • 500 g pasta, any shape your prefer
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablspoons flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 2 cups milk, warm
  • 10 oz shredded cheese
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup bread crumbs


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a pinch of sea salt and your pasta. Cook until just fork tender and drain
  2. While the pasta is cooking preheat your oven to 350 degree F. Coat an 9" oval casserole dish with butter or cooking spray.
  3. In a heavy bottom pan melt 2 tablespoons of butter.
  4. Add the flour and cook stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the roux start to smell nutty, about 2 minutes.
  5. Add the milk and stir constantly till thick. Once the milk mixture begins to coat the back of your spoon evenly you know it will be thick enough.
  6. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheese until melted.
  7. Add the pasta to the sauce, stirring to combine then pour into prepared pan.
  8. In a small bowl or fry pan melt the butter.
  9. Add the bread crumbs and mix well.
  10. Sprinkle the butter bread crumbs evenly on top of your casserole.
  11. Place in preheat oven and cook until top begins to brown and become crunchy, about 20 minutes.


Triple B at Lisa Marie’s

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Tuesday evening doesn’t have to mean cheap night at the the movie theater anymore.

For those who enjoy a little daubing without the stress of multi-card repetitive strain injuries and lofty ideas that the next big pot is only one number away should head over to Queen Street West for some triple B; burgers, beer and bingo at Lisa Marie Restaurant.  This Parkdale gem, owned and operated by Matt Basile; the epically creative mastermind behind Toronto’s beloved food truck Fidel Gastro’s (and their dream inducing Pad Thai Fries) offers you every Tuesday a night of ungodly innovative burgers, cheap brews and 6 rip roaring rounds of low stakes bingo.

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For that night only Lisa Marie keeps it menu simple where a nightly special is unveiled, on top of an already stellar choice of burgers to devour.  Past burgers have included a triple stack with peameal bacon and a St. Patrick’s Day chimichurri sauced handful. The massive slab of meat I enjoyed recently was a bison burger with marrow butter aioli and crisp onions so juicy I could hardly get enough napkins to contain it. A couple of side dishes, like the aforementioned Pad Thai Fries and a couple desserts are all that’s needed to feed the regulars and frequent walk by’s that fill the restaurant each time Bingo night comes around.

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The Bingo itself is incredibly low brow, with single card rounds and tongue-in-cheek dollar store prizes.  Big Rock Brewery, the current in house sponsor offers up $5 pints and the occasional beer swag for the prize pool, while some nights the restaurant will collaborate with outside sponsors, like the people behind the new Beach Boys movie Love & Mercy or Big Gay Ice Cream who will sweeten the pot with some delicious treats, movie tickets or DVDs.  Despite the meager winnings, the atmosphere is still loud and ruthless helped along by a sassy resident DJ aka Bingo caller.


If you want to spend your Tuesday night fighting the crowds to see the latest super hero movie go ahead. However if you want to do something just a bit different swing by Lisa Marie’s for an evening spend with like-minded and equally hip adults indulging in the Triple B.

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Lisa Marie’s

638  Queen  St.  West, Toronto


Papaya Cheesecake Bars

Papaya Cheesecake Bars

I love working with less familiar ingredients. It provides a challenge in thinking up ways to use them, of how to showcase a flavor that isn’t natural on my palate. Sweet dishes always come in handy for your first try.  Butter, sugar and vanilla can do wonders to any creation.

Papaya Cheesecake Bars

Fresh papaya is new to me.  I’ve had it dried in trail mixes and on it’s own may times but dried is never a good gauge on flavor.  It’s just a concentration of sweet. Discovering it works really well with lime and being a rather delicate fruit I created these gorgeous bars for Produce Made Simple an amazing online resource to all things fruits and vegetables.  I’ve talked about this site before, easy to use, simple language and wonderful recipes to help add variety to your cooking.

Make sure to pop over to the site to see my Papaya Cheesecake Bars in all their glory. A delicate but sturdy shortbread crust, a soft, fluffy cheese cake center and delicate papaya jam topping.  And what is great about this recipe.  Each layer can be used in a million other bar variations.  The choices are endless. Check out my bars here.

Papaya Cheesecake Bars

Mushrooms and More.

Mushroom Coconut Curry with Leeks and Paneer (2 of 5)

Where have I been lately you ask? Did I drop off the face of the earth? Did I win a trip around the world?

Actually nothing that dramatic happened.  I just got busy.  With life, with work.  I actually have been cooking lots as my Instagram can show but I have also been spending time paying some attention to my much neglected In the Garden side of my blog.  Watch for some planting guides in the near future. And I’ve been taking time to enjoy life.  Not every drink or every meal needed to be documented.  And sometimes when I went to events I left my camera at home (gasp!).  And when I have picked it up lately it’s been to shoot some really awesome new bands I’ve fallen in love with and enjoy watching live. You see my life is gloriously full. Lot’s of friends and family who love me and my company, not just the food I bring 🙂 I’m doing stuff for myself and when I have something of real quality to say here I will.

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Like I said though I haven’t stopped cooking.  I’ve just been fortunate enough to have some great companies I create for.  Like Mushrooms Canada where I created this killer Wonton Soup and this Mushroom Coconut Curry I have dreams about at night.  You can click the links to get the recipes. Trust me you want to make these dishes.

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My visits here may be sporatic, there may even be changes but just remember I love what I do here.  That will never stop.

Toronto’s Festival of Beer Spring Session 2015


If you read my post about last years inaugural event you know it was one of the highlights of my drinking season. The smaller of the two Festival of Beer events it had great food, lively music and of course fantastic beer.


I couldn’t wait for this years.  So much so that at one point I was regularly harassing them on social media if they were repeating the Spring event.  The summer event was already announced and tickets selling fast.  Of course since I’m writing this post you already can figure out that Spring Session was a go.  However there was a difference this year around. First a new venue.  A large, barren outdoor space at Sherbourne Common’s near the lake.  No overhead cover like last years making the weather a huge factor on success.  And the intimacy of a smaller crowd would be lacking.


The Edge 102.1 was going to be a major sponsor bringing in some great bands to entertain us.  The brewery list stayed gratefully craft and while the food vendors attending were a bit sparse the ones in attendance were of stellar caliber.


My week building up to the event was one of hourly weather updates and group texts with weird un-April like snow showing up mid way through and when the day finally came with cool but sunny skies my anxiety over event disappointment was waning.  But I still had to get over the other changes.  Venue, atmosphere, crowds.


Fortunately photos can be deceiving and Sherbourne Common’s was not as large as it seemed.  While still bigger that the Brickworks from last year the organizers had it arranged in such a brilliant way that there was tons of space without it feeling vast.  The breweries knocked it out of the park as always.  Mill Street is guaranteed to bring their favorites as well as a new seasonal and Flying Monkeys always get creative for events like these.  My favorite of the day was from a new brewery I had never tried before, Whitewater Brewing Company from Ottawa.  They have a creamy, thick oatmeal stout that I can’t wait to try in my chocolate desserts.


Finding a seat right in front of the stage, my group and I rarely moved except to take turns beer running not wanting to leave the outstanding line up of bands performing throughout the day.  A personal favorite, and one of the reasons I chose to attend the Saturday event were JJ & The Pillars a local band whose music and attitude epitomizes was outdoor festivals are all about. Casual, relaxed, and fun. They put together a tight, energetic performance.  These guys are super talented, make sure you check them out.

JJ & The Pillars

I’m glad I was wrong to worry about Spring sessions changing for the worst.  And I feel even better that the changes only made this day even better.  As my regular event attending pal so intelligently put it ” this was the best f$%king event yet!”

Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda Bread

Is it weird that I wish I had an Irish man around just to talk to me all day with that amazing accent?  Other’s feel the same? It’s just one of those accents where reciting Justin Bieber’s deposition transcripts can sound awfully sexy. Even with all the absurdity.

I’ve never been to Ireland but can tell you it’s my number 2.  I have a local Irish pub that I enjoy frequenting, though the five minute walk does play a factor.  My DH plays bass in a U2 tribute band. I love the color green.  Oh and because of my deathly fear of snakes I can imagine frolicking through the Irish countryside with out a care in the world.


Since I’m celebrating March as bread month and St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner I decided to make a traditional Irish Soda bread.  It is by far the quickest and simplest breads to make, perfect to teach your kids and wonderfully hearty to serve with a steaming bowl of stew.

Irish Soda Bread

What sets it apart from most others types of bread is the “soda”.  Made with baking soda instead of yeast it requires little kneading and no rising time.  Some variations call for caraway seeds or raisins but a tradition recipe is simply flour, salt, baking soda and buttermilk.  Fresh out of the oven it yields as crispy crust and heavy, dense, doughy center. Treat the dough gently to prevent it from getting tough, and be prepared to make this bread often. Cold winter days don’t stand a chance.

Yields 1 large or 2 small loaves

Irish Soda Bread
Save RecipeSave Recipe


  • 4 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups buttermilk


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, salt and baking soda.
  3. [img src="" alt="Irish Soda Bread" width="300" height="199" class="aligncenter size-medium wp-image-20082"]
  4. Make a well in the center and pour in the buttermilk.
  5. [img src="" alt="Irish Soda Bread" width="300" height="199" class="aligncenter size-medium wp-image-20083"]
  6. Carefully fold the flour into the milk until just starting to come together.
  7. Pour dough out onto lightly floured surface and carefully knead until everything is combined and a ball of dough is formed. If making two loaves cut the dough in half and form each into a circle.
  8. [img src="" alt="Irish Soda Bread" width="300" height="199" class="aligncenter size-medium wp-image-20084"]
  9. Place dough on prepared pans and using a large knife score a deep cross into each.
  10. [img src="" alt="Irish Soda Bread" width="300" height="199" class="aligncenter size-medium wp-image-20085"]
  11. Bake until browned and hollow sounding when tapped 25-35 minutes depending on the size of your loaves.
  12. [img src="" alt="Irish Soda Bread" width="300" height="199" class="aligncenter size-medium wp-image-20086"]
Recipe Type: Appetiser



Macradenia Orchids

Macradenia Orchids


Macradenia multiflora

  • Flowers: White, red, pink, yellow, purple
  • Soil/Potting Preference: Well draining, standard orchid mix
  • Watering: Allow to dry out between waterings
  • Fertilizing: 1/4 strength every two weeks
  • Light Requirement: Low, Bright shade
  • Temperature Requirements:
  • Night Time Minimum:10-18°C
  • Day Time Maximum:20-26°C
  • Humidity Requirements: 70%

Calanthe Orchids

Calanthe Orchids


Calanthe Orchid

  • Flowers: White, Pink, Purple
  • Soil/Potting Preference: Standard orchid mix
  • Watering: Frequently in active growing cycle, sparingly in dormant stage
  • Fertilizing: Once every two weeks during growing season
  • Light Requirement: Bright, filtered
  • Temperature Requirements:
  • Night Time Minimum:10-15°C Dormant-Active
  • Day Time Maximum:21-27°C Dormant-Active
  • Humidity Requirements: 60-80%

Phaius Orchids




  • Flowers: Yellow, Purple, Brown, Maroon, White, Tan
  • Soil/Potting Preference: Potting mix/Manure/bark mixture
  • Watering: Keep moist.
  • Fertilizing: Every other watering, March-September
  • Light Requirement: Bright, indirect light
  • Temperature Requirements:
  • Night Time Minimum:16°C
  • Day Time Maximum:24°C
  • Humidity Requirements: 50-70%

Garden Seeds

Some of you may have already started sowing seeds indoors or are just beginning to decide on what you want to grow this season. Catalogues are starting to get dog-eared and list are being created. Seed exchanges may be popping up in your neighborhood and garden displays are getting larger and more prominent in your local hardware stores.

For any beginners interested in getting a jump on their spring planting by sowing seeds inside and transplanting the sprouts when the weather has warmed up here is a great guide to everything you need to know about seeds.

Types of Seeds

Seeds can be divided into two categories; angiosperms, which are seeds produced in flowers

and gymnosperms, seeds produced in cones. Just as in everything else in the world there are exceptions to the rule but for simplicities sake we will stick with those two.

Seeds can be further separated into heirlooms or hybrids.  Heirloom seeds are reproduced through pollination tracing back several decades to their identical parent.  These are normally what you would find at seed exchanges. In the case of heirloom vegetables they are typical grown because of their flavor and not their size or yield.

Hybrid seeds are created by breeding together two varieties of plants to create one with the best characteristics of the parents.  These usually create plants with high yield,disease and pest resistance and in some cases even specific colors.

Pretreatment of Seeds

Some seed varieties need to be pretreated before they can be sown.


Beets, carrots and spinach are a few examples of seeds that benefit from being soaked in warm water for 24 hours. This softens the coating encasing the seed making them easier to grow and more reliable in germination.


This can be done by placing the seeds in a wet paper  towel in a plastic baggie and placing it in a bright warm area.  Once the radical tip begins to emerge from the seed it can then be planted in the soil. This is great for seeds that have long and unreliable germination rates or if your growing season is particularly short.


Some seeds have a thick or hard outer shell and therefore need a small piece of the coat snipped away. Do not cut completely through the shell or the seed will no longer be viable.

Planting Seeds

Seeds can be sowed directly into the soil or can be started earlier indoors in special pots and containers. Seed starting kits are available in most major stores and garden centres.  Some plants don’t transplant well from the indoors so it is very important that you read the information on the back of your seed packets or to research the seeds online.

Starting seeds indoors gives a plant a healthy start in life by providing the ideal growing condition needed like temperature, light, humidity and controlled moisture as well as providing areas in the country with shorter growing seasons the chance to  plant more varieties.

Harvesting Seeds

You may decide after  your plants have grown, flowered or produced edibles that you want to harvest its seeds to exchange with neighbors or to keep for the next year.  With the right tools and a little bit of time invested you can successfully collect your own.  One of the biggest mistakes gardeners make when harvesting is not writing down on the storage bags what plant those seeds come from.  You would be surprised how short our memories can be. I also recommend jotting down why you want to harvest that particular seed.  Did it have huge flavor, a beautiful colour, or seemed to be relatively pest and disease free?

Start harvesting by snipping off the ripened seed heads and placing them in a LABELLED paper bag.  Make sure you are doing this on a dry day.  Any moisture can cause fungus to grow in the bag destroying all your collected seeds. If you are not completely sure they are dry spread them out on a LABELLED sheet of newspaper to finish drying for a couple of days.

Unfortunately when you are harvesting you also tend to pick up lots of extraneous detritus like bugs, dirt, and other plant material.  Here is where it can take a little extra time.  If the seed is large enough you can pick them out using tweezers and transferring them to your final storage container.  If the seeds are smaller you can get different size tea strainers with small and large holes.  Realistically your final seed pile will be less than 100% pure.  Seeds can be stored in small tins, paper envelops or plastic vials.

While growing plants from seeds and harvesting their seeds can seem like a lot of work it is best to remember that all plants started this way.  As you walk through the garden centers or if you get an opportunity to check out a seed exchange take the time to appreciate the work those growers put in to provide you with  the starting points to your next garden.



The Cookbook Collection: Toronto Cooks

Toronto Cooks by Amy Rosen

The most amazing thing about eating out in Toronto is that not only do you get an extensive choice on some very popular cuisines the city also offers experiences in unique cuisines you won’t normally find.  Where else can you go for an authentic Filipino Kamayan feast or creative tapas South American style.  What makes Toronto an even better city to dine in is that good food is not all centralized to one downtown “restaurant row”.  Known around the world for our all-inclusive multiculturalism the city is divided into neighborhoods of all ethnicity each with an abundant variety of restaurants of all price points.  Travel to Little Italy where you are guaranteed a meal straight out of Nonna’s kitchen or head to Parkdale where you can find Italian just as good but along side great Mexican and Southern BBQ.  Any where you go the possibilities are endless.

Toronto Cooks by Amy Rosen

Whipped Ricotta from Chef Robert Bartley at E11even

I picked Toronto Cooks by Amy Rosen (Raincoast Books) as my first new monthy Cookbook Collection review because of my love for the food of Toronto’s restaurants. Forty eight different restaurants and their chefs have shared some of their magical creations.  I wish I could say I’ve eaten at all of these places.  And while I have devoured my way across the city the sheer number of restaurants from this book I haven’t eaten at just goes to show what a collection we as a great city have to offer. What I absolutely love about this book besides the profiles on each place featured is that chefs didn’t hold back.

For the past couple year Parts & Labour have had their burger voted the best in the city. That recipe is in this book. Christina Tosi’s of Momofuku’s Milk Bar shares her famous crack pie.  And while some recipes are wonderfully simple like this amazing Pudding Chomeur I made from Chef Alejandro Bustamante at Coquine Restaurant others showcase how truly imaginative and extensive the talent in this city’s kitchens.

Toronto Cooks by Amy Rosen

Pudding Chomeur from Chef Alejandro Bustamante at Coquine Restaurant

With each Cookbook Collection review I have a DH’s choice.  I’ve talked before how hard it is to cook for my picky better half so by letting him find something in each cookbook have extended our options. When it comes to Italian food and red sauce we couldn’t be anymore different which is why he instantly gravitated towards Chef Rocco Agostino of Pizza Libretto‘s meatball recipe. The previous year at a popular beer event we had tried them for the first time and surprisingly we both came to the agreement they were best we had tasted.  Now with the recipe at hand I have made them three times already and have decided the sauce is my new staple.

Toronto Cooks by Amy Rosen

Spicy Meatballs from Chef Rocco Agostino of Pizza Libretto

That’s what makes this book so enjoyable. Doing what I do I have had the opportunity to eat at many of Toronto’s great restaurants. I have discovered some hidden gems and found some new favorites. Now with this incredible book I can try some of this dishes at home.

Check out the contest below for your chance to win a copy of Toronto Cooks for yourself.  Even if you don’t win and love to eat out, go get a copy to try.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Contest Rules:

Open to legal Canadian (excluding Quebec) and US residents.
No purchase necessary to enter.
Canadian Winner is required to answer a skill testing question. Winner will be notified by email on January 28, 2014 and will have 48 hours to respond before another winner will be selected.
Contest runs from January 12, 2015 to January 27, 2015.


*I have generously received  Toronto Cooks free of charge however all opinions are entirely my own.

Prenup Pub

Prenup Pub (2 of 12)

At first glance on their web page the impression you get of the Prenup Pub is one of post secondary schtick. A witty, yet profoundly long “agreement” explains the importance of drinking responsibly while also putting a bug in the ear of the reader about the other establishments under the same ownership. Located along the slightly frayed edge of the University of Toronto proper, this cozy two story European pub boast an exorbitant list of beers on and off tap.

Prenup Pub (3 of 12)

And while the students probably don’t need another popular watering hole, the Prenup Pub is a perfect place for the tired, over studied, slightly hungover to get away from sushi and ramen and fast food take out and enjoy hearty, creatively developed pub style meals. With a cozy interior gluttonous of space for large crowds, locals can nurse their too many late nights with a cold one pulled from the bar and a plate of homesick curing grub.

Prenup Pub (1 of 12)

European twists on Canadian Favorites are abundant across the menu from the German or Belgian Poutine to “sausage roll” like Braised Lamb in Phyllo.  Standard dishes like Pork Schnitzel and a Wurst salad of sausage, pickles, garlic, hers and mustard that is so full of unique flavor are so well delivered that it would not be hard to return multiple times in one week just to eat your way through the menu.

Waterzooi (Chicken Stew)

Waterzooi (Chicken Stew)

Wurst Salad

Wurst Salad

Pork Schnitzel

Pork Schnitzel

Braised Lamb in Phyllo

Braised Lamb in Phyllo

And if diners feel like sticking to the Saturday regulars ordering pizza will still impressed with it’s puff pastry crust.

Prenup Pizza

Prenup Pizza




Probably the best dish sampled was an instant brunch hangover cure of the Madame Monsieur Waffles.  Chimay ham, cheese, and an over hard fried egg top traditional Belgian waffles that is the perfect combination of sweet, savour and greasy. Served with frites it is sure to be the weekenders special.

Madame Monsieur Croque

Madame Monsieur Croque

If the norm is for restaurants to be a reflection of their neighbourhoods, Prenup Pub tosses that out the window and offers an experience of great food and boozy atmosphere.

Prenup Pub

191 College St
Toronto, ON M5T 1P9
Phone: 416.506 4040
*I was invited to taste the menu of this restaurant free of charge.  All opinions are completely my own.



With it’s brilliant colours and tall towering spiky flower heads with buttons of petals slowly opening as the plant reaches the sky, Lupines are a showcasing winner in your flower garden. However they have many other uses aside from decorative.  It’s seeds are used in the culinary world and can be used as a soybean alternative.  Since it draws Nitrogen from the air and into the soil it makes a great green manure and because of this trait Lupines should be planted with other nitrogen loving plants.

Lupines don’t like to be moved therefore dividing is discouraged.  Deadhead spent blooms to encourage further flowering.

  • Light Exposure: Sun-Partial Shade
  • Soil Type: Acidic, Well Draining
  • Height: 3-4′
  • Width: 1-2′
  • Bloom Time: Late spring to Early Summer
  • Bloom Colour: Blue, pink, red, yellow, orange
  • Foliage Colour: Green
  • Pests and Disease: Aphids, slugs, powdery mildew, crown rot
  • Landscape Uses: Beds, borders
  • Special Features: Attractive Foliage, Cut flowers
  • Zone: 4-8

Maxillaria Orchids



 Maxillaria variabilis

  • Flowers: White, Yellow, Brown, Red, Purple
  • Soil/Potting Preference: Spaghnum Moss/Bark mix
  • Watering: 1-2 times per week
  • Fertilizing: Twice a month with diluted 20-20-20
  • Light Requirement: Bright indirect light
  • Temperature Requirements:
  • Night Time Minimum:12-15°C
  • Day Time Maximum:21-30°C
  • Humidity Requirements: 40-70%

Miniature Orchids

Miniature Orchids

Haraella Retrocalla

  • Flowers: All colours
  • Soil/Potting Preference: Standard orchid mix
  • Watering: Allow to dry out between waterings
  • Fertilizing: Once per month 1/2 strength
  • Light Requirement: Bright, indirect light
  • Temperature Requirements:
  • Night Time Minimum:8°C
  • Day Time Maximum:28°C
  • Humidity Requirements: 70-90%