Category Archives: Travel and tourism

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A Thai feast fit for a King….and I!

So apart from the bad grammar (s.b. “and me”) the headline here really does tell the story of Toronto’s small but mighty ISAAN DER Thai restaurant and its equally small but mighty queen of the kitchen, Chef Ko (pictured below).Chef Ko 2I was recently turned on to this snug and beautifully decorated dining establishment located in the heart of Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood by fellow foodies and owners of No. 7 Hot Sauce, Carlos and Sandra, who told me about the incredible food and lovely people who run Isaan Der. Chef Ko, along with her Canadian husband Donald, run the place like clockwork, juggling take-out and home delivery orders with quiet aplomb as they and their servers offer personal but discreet table-side service to their guests, many of whom are neighbours and regular/repeat diners.20171018_183950Attention to detail is key at Isaan Der – just look at these cute elephant hooks for coats or purses located behind every table for diners’ convenience.20170829_184227I recently spoke with Donald and Chef Ko about their journey from Thailand to Toronto and the fabulous food they serve to hungry fans Tuesdays thru Sundays.

Chef Ko, what first inspired you to become a professional chef?  Having had the opportunity to travel around Thailand as a journalist for Channel 7 news, I have discovered that it’s not all Pad Thai and Tom Yum Goong. There are lots of delicious dishes from every part of Thailand. 20170525_121454Did you study under any well-known chef or in a professional kitchen?  I studied at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, which is also a 5-star hotel in Bangkok, in their Professional Thai Chef program as well as at Kasesart University to learn about the origins of some of our well known dishes.

You specialize in traditional fine Thai cuisine at Isaan Der– how important is it that you use fresh, locally sourced ingredients for your menu?  We only use the freshest of ingredients for our food and every dish is made à la carte, meaning every dish you order is made specifically for you. We do NOT have anything pre-made so dishes might take a few minutes longer getting to your table….but the wait is worth it!sataysDonald, since opening Isaan Der in Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood in March , how have you seen your customer base grow?  Since opening, we’ve seen tremendous growth; from 3 people in the kitchen to now more than 8 dealing with the volume which we handle with great care and efficiency. It’s our loyal customers with whom we have had table-side conversations, educating them on the many differences in Thai food. We are certainly no better than any other Thai restaurant, but we do know that we are ‘different’.IMG_20170321_030403_608received_159738710362409620170320_20050620170320_200409Donald, any exciting news about menu or service you’d like to share?  Here we grow!  We recently changed our menus adding several new items to replace those we have “retired” for now. We cater to everyone with dietary restrictions such as celiac, vegan, food allergies as well as likes/dislikes. We can do it all as our dishes are made for you…any way you like it!

We’ve seen a tremendous increase in our Doordash delivery as well as personal take-out with our online ordering. Thanks to our brand new ordering app (for both iPhone & android) we’re able to streamline the dining experience for those dining at home. Easy-peasy with a simple click, click and done! We no longer take phone orders so we’re able to focus on personal table-side service in the restaurant.  But if people have questions about our menu we are certainly available via phone queries. See below the special promotion for 1st time app orders:July 2017454

Isaan Der is definitely one of my favourite Toronto restaurants and I’m especially fond of their Shrimp Roll appetizer – I frequently construct a meal by combining 2 orders of those with a salad. I love the little noodle ribbons and bows tying them up (see below). The handcrafted chili dipping sauce is super deelish, too.20170829_180825You MUST try the Golden Bags and Spring Rolls (below)….
17155630_1495954417121699_3390928405222378590_n 20170525_110821And each Wednesday is “Wine Wednesday” with $3 off your glass of featured wine…..20171018_184058…followed by “Beer Thursdays” when your favourite brew is only $5!20171018_184024Located at 2961 Dundas West (a few blocks W of Keele) there’s lots of parking (on street and in the green P lot behind) and prompt bus transit (take the #40 from Dundas W subway stn). Check out their menu, hours of operation and directions here: www.isaander.comlogo

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MY LATEST VISIT TO PORT HOPE ENDS WITH A TRANSFORMER AND T-REX! HUH?

I took my friend, artist Nancy Bennett, to Port Hope (my “spiritual home”) today where I introduced her to my fave cafe & bakery, bling store, boutiques and flower shop, ending with a quick visit to Primitive Designs on the outskirts of town where giant metal dinosaurs roam and a huge Transformer greets visitors. So come along for a virtual visit with us…… 20170713_112639Driving into Port Hope, we made straight for the Ganaraska River (above) that rushed through the genteel little town where fat lazy Canada Geese waddled and wobbled leaving a rather unsightly trail of poo…oops, watch where you’re walking Nancy.20170713_11241320170713_112406Our first port of call, as always, was Queenie’s Bake Shop where today we enjoyed coffee, tea and sticky buns, courtesy of chef/owner Adam and his charming server (below)20170713_115627 20170713_112915…then once we’d polished off all that, we popped next door to visit the super fabulous Kenneth Bell in his jewellery & accessories store. Kenneth supplies hundreds of boutiques across the country with their bling and baubles. He was already busy entertaining two other lovely ladies, Helene (below L) and Nancee (below R).20170713_113746What a warm welcome….and it just so happened that he was starting a 50-80% off sale so talk about perfect timing! Nancy and I dove right in and found some lovely sparklies…  www.kennethbell.com20170713_120538 20170713_120952Nancy found a great pair of sunglasses for her daughter on the rack of shades (below)…20170713_120958 20170713_121014And I loved these stylish silk embroidered clutch purses (below) from the Far East with tiny tassels and charms.20170713_120947Bidding adieu to Ken, we then headed up Walton St to a relatively new boutique called Turquoise where we found multiple pretty pieces that would look good in our closets!  www.Facebook.com/TurquoiseBoutiques20170713_123030 20170713_122943 20170713_122845Then into Flourish, another new shop…. www.flourishfashions.com20170713_124414….and Nancy’s eye was caught by a beautiful green lightweight top, perfect for wearing over a camisole or tank top. What do you think…should she buy it?20170713_123400Well, she did! A perfect top for an upcoming art expo where she knows she’ll get a tad chilly in her booth. Big thanks for her warm hospitality to owner Julie Pandoff (below) and congrats on such a lovely boutique. I then spied the sock rack…wow, these are too cool!20170713_124126 20170713_124215…and I loved these two tunics (below) that could hide a multitude of my caloric sins…LOL!20170713_124357Past the flower shop, we trekked further up Walton St where I discovered yet another fab new store…20170713_124436 20170713_124446….Dwellissimo, a beautifully presented vintage furniture store that was a treasure trove of mid-century modern. Oh my, I was in heaven!   www.dwellissimo.com20170713_124903_001 20170713_124827 20170713_124922 20170713_125139I really really really want this red horse lamp. Hey, Santa, make note of this one, okay? You never brought me that pony I asked for when I was 6 so now’s the time to make up for that glaring omission.

As we wound down our Port Hope walkabout, Nancy and I popped into the Art Gallery of Northumberland shop on Queen St, and found these beautifully crafted works of art….20170713_131201 20170713_131207 20170713_131215 20170713_131336We enjoyed a quick late lunch at Jim’s Pizza but we were both too hungry to even think about a photo so we just gobbled it all up. But we both recommend Jim’s for a great Italian nosh! www.jimsporthope.ca

In between rain showers, we made it down to the lakefront beach…er, where’s the beach? Due to high water levels, the beach, the kid’s playground and picnic area were all complete submerged. Yikes!

One last drive thru town….20170713_131704….then off to visit Primitive Designs, a very strange, wonderful and fantastic series of barns, tents and outbuildings devoted to exotic imports. Located a little N.E. of town, you cannot miss this place – you’re greeted by a Transformer and a herd of huge metallic dinosaurs – yep, talk about eye-catching.20170713_151850 20170713_151655 20170713_151725Thank goodness this happy little Buddha watched over us as we left the car park…I was gettin’ scared!20170713_151810You gotta go visit in person to truly appreciate the weird, wild, wackiness of this place.  www.primitivedesignscanada.com

So there we are, another trip to Port Hope done and dusted! If you would like to learn more about this friendly small town that offers big entertainment, sports, shopping and dining, you can visit their tourism office for more information and directions:  www.visitporthope.ca  and tell them Glenda sent you!

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SPRINGTIME IN YORKVILLE – come for a stroll with me thru the parks & gardens

Today is the one sunny day forecast for this week so I took a stroll thru my neighbourhood parkettes and gardens, snapping away at all the pretty flowers that have finally poked their heads above ground.20170503_112819Across the street from my building is the old Manufacturers Life Bldg, surrounded by beautifully manicured gardens that I frequently photograph. Thanks to the heavy rains yesterday, most of the tulips looked a bit beaten down but I found a few nice beds still in tact – below20170503_111733 20170503_111952 20170503_112034Then down the little side street you’ll find a charming parkette (pictured below) that’s usually populated (sadly) with homeless folk but today I had the place to myself…and the flowers.20170503_112236 20170503_112752 20170503_112805 20170503_112901 20170503_112913This poor little tulip looked so lonely – his mates obviously failed to sprout!20170503_113023_002Lots more flowers to enjoy in this tiny nature strip alongside Church Street north of Bloor, including these stunning Magnolia blossoms in the back garden of one of the neighbouring row houses.20170503_113115 20170503_113125 20170503_113052Lots more lovely flowers to capture along the side streets near Yonge & Bloor…20170503_113258 20170503_113411 20170503_113857I strolled down Hazelton Avenue in the heart of chi-chi Yorkville and found some lovely surprises in the cottage gardens….20170503_114651 20170503_114742…then back home via Yorkville Ave, dropping in to say hi to the firemen of Station 312.20170503_11570920170503_115728 20170503_115808Hope you enjoyed my little virtual tour of the lovely flowers and gardens near my home…now go get out there in the sunshine yourself!

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MEET LYNDON WIEBE, EXECUTIVE CHEF OF URBANSOURCE CATERING IN TORONTO

For the past few years, I’ve been blogging about and promoting the talented foodie folks who work at URBANSOURCE CATERING here in Toronto, and have come to admire their executive chef LYNDON WIEBE for not only his super deelish food but also for his outstanding photography snapped during his many adventures abroad. In fact, Lyndon had a solo photographic art show at the adjoining Urban Gallery a couple of years ago (see below).Invitation Image Masai Tribesman Tanzania DSC_1155 20150115_165421(0) 20150115_165433Lyndon’s pictures captured real life in-situ in some of the remotest outposts of humanity, and his engagement and relationships with the local people can clearly be seen in his images. Below, Lyndon poses modestly in front of one of my favourite pictures.20150115_172636I recently asked him about the transition from globe-trotting chef/photographer to executive chef at UrbanSource Catering and he kindly shared his thoughts here:

How long have you been executive chef at UrbanSource Catering?  In March of 2017, I will have been the Executive Chef at Urban Source for five years. With Urban Gallery next door, there are always receptions and corporate soirees to cater on a weekly basis.CAs a celebrity chef from the successful travel/food tv series (Chefs Run Wild, how did you adjust to being a little more “chained to the stove” working in a commercial/catering kitchen with staff to manage?  I think celebrity chef is a bit of a strong word, maybe minor television celebrity chef is more accurate…LOL I am by no means a Chuck Hughes or Anthony Bourdain, but it is flattering nonetheless. We were referred to as “Baby Bourdains” in an article on us in the National Post newspaper, which I thought was funny.CRW.71130027

Lyndon behind the camera, shooting a segment for Chefs Run Wild in S.E. Asia

Lyndon behind the camera, shooting a segment for Chefs Run Wild in S.E. Asia

I lived, traveled and worked overseas for over 7 years and have been working in kitchens since I was sixteen, so coming back to work in Urban’s kitchen was nothing new to me, as I have always been a hands-on chef. Don’t get me wrong, the whole television experience was exciting and exhilarating, but was also exhausting and, at times, filled with anxiety. Would I trade that experience for anything? Absolutely not!  It was incredible and showed me a different side of television which was cool, however, it was fleeting – for me cooking is not fleeting and will always be a big part of my life. So, after my nice seven month break when I moved to Toronto, I was more than happy to take over the reigns in a new kitchen with a new crew at Urban.

You’re also an accomplished photographer and artist – do you continue to undertake camera safaris or have you adapted your photography to include food and presentations?  Yes, I’m still an avid photographer and still go on photo safaris when the time and weather allows. I just got an iPhone and have started using it a lot more as portable camera to take shots on my ride to and from work or when I’m out and about in the city. It comes in handy and the quality of the images has definitely improved with the technology.  As for food photography, it’s not really my thing. I think I just got sick of everybody taking photos and showing the world what they were eating on Instagram every single day. There are tons of beautiful food photographs out there and it makes me want to eat every dish I see, but as a subject matter I prefer streetscapes, nature and people. My girlfriend only recently convinced me to set up an Instagram account (@LyndonWiebe), so I have been using that as a means to show my work. Call me old fashioned, I just fight new technology sometimes even though it is helpful, just for the sake of fighting it. Can’t teach an old dog new tricks etc, although it’s more like this old dog just doesn’t want to learn new tricks. On top of that, I have an online gallery to sell my works and have just recently been asked to join Vida at their request. Vida is a company that lets artists transform their artwork into their own fashion line. I upload my artwork and from there I can choose to put that design onto shirts, pillows, blankets, scarves and many other accessories and create my own fashion line – it’s quite a neat concept. I’m just in the beginning stages of that venture so it will take a while to get it off the ground.  My online portfolio is located here: https://www.direct2artist.com/artists/lyndonwiebe

20150115_165637 20150115_171715As Urban’s chef, you’re responsible for creative exciting menus each season for clients – what has been your most challenging catering project to date?  One of our biggest clients has a standing order for catered meals for their staff four to five days a week. The biggest challenge lies in keeping the menus fresh, creative and in budget without repeating menus if we can help it, or unless they ask for a specific menu again. Doing that for fifty weeks a year can be a challenge as you always have to be thinking about availability of ingredients depending on what season you are in. It is even more of a challenge when they ask for stuff that is not in season, but with imports these days we can get fruits and veggies of all varieties year round. But a strawberry in January in Toronto is not going to taste as good as an Ontario strawberry in the summertime. It’s being able to source an ingredient and make sure you can still deliver the flavours they expect.Peppercorn Beef Tenderloin Crostini with caramelized onionCF233520160531_18421720160531_184035As we move closer to Spring, what food items or dishes are on your radar as trend-setting and that will be added to the seasonal Urban Catering menus?  With Spring comes the shift away from tuber and root vegetable heavy dishes, which I am always excited about. We will start to see rhubarb, fiddle heads, peas, asparagus, radish, spring beets, and in June the strawberry and cherry season begins. We also see fresh cauliflower come June, so hopefully that will bring the price of it down as it is pretty expensive right now.  When it comes to fresh vegetables, I tend to let the foods speak for themselves. Peas and asparagus are given a quick blanch and tossed in a little butter and salt and pepper. Beets can be shaved with fresh radish and thrown in a kale and grain salad. Ramps and fiddle heads I love to put in a light and delicate quiche. Rhubarb can finely sliced and thrown in salads to give them an unexpected crunch and tartness or make a strawberry & rhubarb crumble which is always a favourite. Cauliflower is one of my favourite vegetables as it has so many applications. Tacos are still huge in the food scene so for vegetarians – we offer spicy cauliflower tacos in place of beef or chicken tacos. Also good for Korean fried cauliflower (which people can’t seem to get enough of) or Buffalo cauliflower “wings”. My favourite dish that I came up with is cauliflower laap, or larb depending where you come from. It’s an adaptation of the traditional pork or chicken dish found in Thailand and Laos. It’s a cooked crumbled meat dish that is served room temperature with fresh shallot, mint, cilantro, fish sauce, lime juice, bird’s eye chilies and toasted ground rice. The flavours are incredible.

During production of Chefs Run Wild, you cooked weird and wonderful ingredients from around the world – what’s your favourite international cuisine to cook and what’s the strangest ingredient you had to use on the show?   It’s hard to say what cuisine is my favourite to cook because in that region of South East Asia, their flavours and ideas are very similar and they all borrow off of each other and add their own twists. Anything from Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore are my favourite foods to cook and eat, even Laos has amazing food. It’s the balance of flavours that I learned from there when cooking that style of food that is the most important thing. Sweet, sour, spicy, salty and bitter are the five flavours you always have to consider when creating a perfectly balanced dish. If you have all of these flavours in your dish, you have created something special.IMG_3587In terms of weird ingredients, there are many. There is an area in Thailand known as the Issan Province on the border with Laos. It is very agriculturally poor. The land is not suitable for farming and they cannot grow a lot there so the people have lived off whatever the land provides them with. So they eat a lot of bugs and insects for protein wand they employ odd flavor combinations at times. Ant egg salad was a classic recipe we learned. The ant eggs themselves look like yogurt covered raisins, until you put one in your mouth and it pops like a giant pimple in your mouth – let me tell you, the pop is very unsettling…it was like eating a small eyeball! The experience makes me cringe, but for the people of Issan, it’s a normal everyday meal.  IMG_3466Another thing they used over there was pork blood. Now, congealed or cooked pork blood in cubes is quite common over there and you see it everywhere. It is actually quite delicious. But in Issan we made a dish called “pork waterfall”(that was the literal translation) and to top off this dish they had a squeeze bottle of raw pork blood diluted with vinegar which they just poured over top of the dish. Not going to lie, it was not very appetizing at all. We couldn’t even finish it, but we had had to try it, because you don’t know till you try.IMG_3524Any advice for people considering engaging a caterer for their special event, wedding or corporate soiree?  What do they need to consider – budget, type of food, venue, service, etc?  Wwhen you call a caterer, it’s important to have a vision of what you want and it’s also important to have a realistic and flexible budget in mind. I say realistic, because some clients call and want five courses of food with full waiter service, but only have $5 per person in their budget and are unprepared by the real costs of hosting a catering. I also recommend getting a few different quotes so you can compare what’s on offer. It’s no different than buying a car or a house.  Check the UrbanSource Catering website to see a selection of menus that appeal to every taste, every occasion and every budget. www.urbancatering.com

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AHOY, MATEY….AND HAPPY THANKSGIVING FROM TORONTO HARBOUR!

What a lovely way to spend Thanksgiving….cruising around Toronto’s stunning Lake Ontario harbour and islands, watching the planes come in and snapping away like a crazed tourist! I love taking quickee “stay-cations” or playing hookey mid-week and taking off for a calming boat cruise through the islands. Today is Thanksgiving Monday in Canada and everyone is busy roasting turkeys and shuffling between family homes with pumpkin pies and bottles of wine. Me? Well, I’m thankful to have access to simple pleasures like harbour boat cruises and the nice folks at Toronto Harbour Tours didn’t disappoint  www.harbourtourstoronto.ca20161010_132506Captain Dylan (pictured above) and Cruise Director Mike welcomed me aboard then cast off for a 1 hour tour – unlike Gilligan and his 3hr tour, there was little chance of getting shipwrecked. We cast off our boat, the Shipsands, and headed out into Lake Ontario, past all the condos and restaurants…..

What a beautiful city and waterfront we have. I sometimes forget the beauty that’s just minutes from my front door.20161010_12391920161010_123542 20161010_125024My sailing buddies were a fun bunch showing their out of town friends around the city.20161010_124201

20161010_13075920161010_131345As our boat was returning, we caught this scary plane landing…must have been Sully at the controls!

Whew, that was a close call. More picturesque photo opps….20161010_13211020161010_132012…then aloha and farewell to Capt. Dylan and Mike (who’s being dive-bombed here by a rogue seagull)20161010_132513The fun didn’t end there…I remembered there was an artisans’ market further along the harbourfront so I set forth to forage for food and oh boy…peameal bacon on a kaiser roll – my favourite!!20161010_135605And dessert courtesy of Carla’s Cookie Box! Yummmmm20161010_140814

So Happy Canadian Thanksgiving to all my blog readers…wishing you lots of turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pies…burp!

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Playing hooky mid-week in Port Hope!

Earlier this week, as Toronto sizzled and steamed, my friend Teresa and I played hooky and journeyed the 50 minutes east to the wonderful lakeside town of Port Hope (my fave small town in Ontario).  Over the past couple of years, Port Hope and I have become good friends – the welcoming shopkeepers and cosy cafes, the historic restored Capitol Theatre, the stunning Municipal Building, the charming little beach and the tumbling Ganaraska River have all worked their magic on my soul.

As per usual, our first port of call was a visit to Kenneth Bell – the king of bling, the sultan of sparkle, my go-to guy for all things fabulous! I managed to get Teresa into a tiara, too, so we now have matching crowns!! Below, Teresa meets Kenneth for the first time…a match made in bling heaven! Follow Kenneth-Bell-Fashion-Accessories on Facebook.20160726_120435 20160726_123212 20160726_120517 20160726_122852 20160726_123339Next door to Kenneth’s shop is the always-awesome Queenie’s Bake Shop where we indulged in some deelish lunch sandwiches. Both Teresa and I were so brave – we resisted the incredible giant strudel and cookies on the front counter (sssh, don’t tell Teresa but I snuck home with a couple of their famous butter tarts). Follow Queenies Bake Shop on Facebook.20160726_113232 20160726_113235A littler further up Walton Street we found Bubbles and Gems, another fab fashion house where Teresa found a cute skirt and I found these amazing cushions…something for everyone at 20% off!  www.bubblesandgems.com20160726_130124 20160726_130130 20160726_130148 20160726_130327 20160726_130314 20160726_130501We walked past Holton Flowers who always have fabulous arrangements in the windows…we went inside to find floral heaven!20160726_13244620160726_132434We dropped in quickly to G. Facey’s, another fave fashion store of mine, where Teresa found a few more additions to her wardrobe, then down to the new Joie de Vivre store (below) where Teresa found some sweetly fragranced body creams. The new store is twice as big as the previous location further up the street, and offers a lovely range of goodies for your face, body and mind.  www.joiedevivrearomatherapy.com20160726_134850 20160726_134855One of the new Walton Street shops we found (new to me, anyway) was the Marche 59 cafe and artisan bakery (below) offering organic breads, vegan and gluten-free tasty treats and all sorts of goodies from local producers. Must give ’em a try next time I’m in town. www.marche59.ca20160726_132750 20160726_132754Time to head over to the beach so we made our way down Walton Street, past these beautiful hibiscus pots, along the riverbank to Teresa’s car parked near the Municipal offices….20160726_135057 20160726_144822…then over to the lake (Lake Ontario). Wow, what a lovely glimpse of the beach (below)20160726_14575520160726_145915We even saw a dad teaching his son how to fish…so cute!20160726_150323Thanks again, Port Hope, for your warm welcome – it always feels like coming home for me. See y’all again real soon.20150613_111719

 

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URBAN GALLERY HOSTS IN MAGAZINE’S PRIDE TORONTO LAUNCH PARTY

IN Magazine is Toronto’s premier LGBT glossy magazine and last night, Publisher Patricia Salib and her colleagues hosted a party to help launch this year’s PRIDE Month (and introduce the office PRIDE Guide) at URBAN GALLERY, catered by sister-company URBAN SOURCE CATERING. And what a fun party it was, too.20160601_18212920160601_18084120160601_182608(0)Sponsored by TD Bank, guests posed at the photowall, including Gallery director Calvin Hambrook shown here (below L) with Patricia and TD’s Regional Mgr of LGBT Business Development, Al Ramsey20160601_183633The delicious hors d’oeuvres circulated constantly…..20160601_180054 20160601_180131…and they disappeared just as quickly!20160601_181141Here’s Maria Khan (below L), Mgr of Talent Acquisition Strategies at Scotiabank who brought her colleagues to support IN Magazine. They’re posed in front of the beautiful paintings by Kirk Sutherland who’s exhibiting at the gallery during PRIDE month – his opening night party is tonight so I’ll share more of Kirk’s work with you later.20160601_180800Also in attendance, M.A.C. Cosmetics representative Drew Bowden who cut such a dashing figure in the crowd, esp. alongside friend Sharon Deebrah of Toronto City Planning (lower pic)20160601_18182120160601_181846More fabulous guests and IN Magazine folks and speeches….20160601_18314720160601_18272620160601_185622Thanks to the hard-working gallery and catering staff, and to Kelly who worked the door, checking the guest list and greeting everyone with her charming smile!20160601_181601 20160601_185832

www.urbangallery.ca

www.urbancatering.com

www.inmagazine.ca

 

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ONTARIO…YOURS TO DISCOVER – so I did, and I learnt it’s a real fun place to live!

Thanks to my friends at Tourism Toronto, I was invited to attend the Celebrate Ontario Tourism promotional event held at Union Station this morning (#DiscoverON) and I’m so glad I put the alarm on for the early call.IMG_2085I arrived shortly after the Hon. Michael Coteau, Minister for Tourism, Culture & Sport opened the event with a brief address promoting “stay-cations” in our home province of Ontario, something I always love doing (ain’t that right, Port Hope?).  So I “hopped on the bus” and toured around the exhibits featuring the province’s top attractions.

First off, I indulged in a deelish butter tart offered by these charming pioneers from Sainte-Marie-Among-the-Hurons which is located only a couple of hours north of Toronto. www.hhp.on.ca20160527_093418 20160527_100514Next door, it was shark attack time! The fun and fabulous folks from Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada let me play with their friendly mascot Sharkee although I think they threw me in as tasty shark bait/breakfast ..LOL!  www.ripleysaquariumofcanada.com20160527_092149 20160527_092201I’m looking fwd to taking a tour of the giant aquarium, conveniently located at the base of the CN Tower, so I can post a blog editorial complete with photos of the real thing…ooooo scary!

While I was “chumming” for sharks, I ran into Lorrie Pella, VP of Visitor Engagement & Northern Mkt’g for Ontario Tourism www.ontariotravel.net  What a fun lady she is…here she is (below) with the equally fun and groovy Chef Scott Savoie, Founder & Chief Eating Officer (!) of Toronto Food Tours.  www.tofoodtours.com20160527_093508I ran into a couple of knights from Medieval Times, along with this gorgeous bird of prey who posed so elegantly for me. www.medievaltimes.com/plan-your-trip/toronto20160527_093903I swear I then saw Yogi and Boo-Boo take off with a picnic basket so I ran up to Ranger Sheila Wiebe at the Ontario Parks booth to see how I could help. She told me everything was fine and that perhaps I needed to learn all about fishing & camping – frankly, I consider Holiday Inns as camping ….but she introduced me to several of Ontario’s premiere camping locations, including one at Bronte Creek, not far from Toronto, where I could actually “camp” in a yurt (yes, there are flush toilets on-site so this city slicker could cope). www.ontarioparks.com20160527_09394920160527_094000 20160527_094009Ranger Sheila’s colleagues (above) were promoting this beautiful waterfall located up north in the region made famous by the legendary Grey Owl in the 1930’s.

Bringing me back to civilization, these guardsmen introduced me to the City of Toronto Historic Sites & Museums  www.toronto.ca/museums  This weekend is the annual “Toronto Open Doors” festival where the city’s finest old (and new) buildings open their doors to the public for free tours. What fun!20160527_094322(0) 20160527_100915Back to this century, I then hung out for a while with the folks from KX96 New Country radio, where DJ Tim Lawrence broadcast live from the show (centre pic). Here he is with tech coordinator Lucas, and further down, there’s the lovely Tanya (Mkt’g Consultant).  www.kx96.fm20160527_094643 20160527_094750 20160527_094854The ladies representing the Ontario Science Centre obviously love their jobs…and who wouldn’t with all that cool nerdy sciencey stuff?! I haven’t visited there since 1980 so I think it’s about time I get my geek on and pay them a visit. Another fun blog to plan, eh?  www.OntarioScienceCentre.ca20160527_095519Next up was…UP, the Union Pearson Express that takes passengers to and from the airport and downtown Toronto, by-passing all that horrible traffic.  www.upexpress.com   They were running a pick-n-win contest and although I didn’t win a free trip, I did win a lovely prize pack that included a yummy cookie, thanks ladies.20160527_100025 20160527_095718 20160527_100045One of the more popular stops was the City Sightseeing Toronto / Mariposa Cruises booth where they gave out tons o’ goodies and showcased many of the downtown Toronto attractions. Jeez, nothing like getting photo-bombed by SCTV’s own Edith Prickly, eh?  20160527_100253 20160527_100259 20160527_100506www.citysightseeingtoronto.com     www.mariposacruises.com

Time for a quick refreshment break and I found 2 awesome booths, first the Kawartha Ice Cream folks…love the chair, love the ice creams! www.kawarthadairy.com20160527_100936 20160527_101724…then on to the Hawthorne Food & Drink booth for a refreshingly cool glass of  rhubarb lemonade. www.hawthorneto.ca20160527_101051 And finally….the biggest/tallest attraction in Ontario (sorry, Niagara Falls) –  the CN Tower!  If you’ve ever taken the elevators all the way to the top, you KNOW how awesome the tower is. Betcha haven’t done the EdgeWalk?! Yes, you get put into an orange jumpsuit then hooked up to safety rails as you take a walk around the outside edge of the CN Tower waaaaaay up top. Definitely an OMG moment in anyone’s life.  www.cntower.ca  20160527_101137 20160527_101615Above, the tower’s Sales, Mkt’g & Communications Manager Krista Kalbfleisch chats with out of town visitors…the woman is definitely considering the Edge Walk – go for it, girl!

So I had a blast and am certainly glad I got up 2hrs earlier than usual to join all the other visitors to this special show-and-tell of Ontario’s leading tourist attractions. Congrats to all at Ontario Tourism and thanks to all the booth reps for extending such warm hospitality.
Check out ALL the Province’s many attractions at  www.ontariotravel.net 20160527_091823 20160527_092126Y’all come back now real soon….Sharkee’s hungry!!!

 

20160522_133232

ARTFEST BRINGS EXCITING ARTISTS AND CRAFTSPEOPLE TO TORONTO’S HISTORIC DISTILLERY DISTRICT

Over the long weekend, my bestie, Erena, and I made a quick visit to the annual ArtFest crafts and fine arts market in the Distillery District of downtown Toronto. We also visited some of the established art galleries located in the enclave of 19th & early 20th century warehouses and cellars. It was so crowded that it was hard just to get in to some of the tents so Erena and I focused on just a few.

Our very first stop was at Joseph Calleja‘s handcrafted silk & cotton scarf display The Toronto-based photographer & artist incorporates many of his own photos into the unique and beautiful prints in multiple colours, shapes and sizes. Some are pure silk, others a cotton/silk blend as well as long wraps in the softest of cotton. Erena purchased 2, one a vibrant pink and the other…the blue one she’s modelling below. www.callejascarves.com20160522_133428 20160522_133236I then noticed a very talented sculptor, Chaka Chikodzi, who hails from Kingston, ON, which has become quite the artists’ colony thanks to the great light quality in that area (about 3hrs east of Toronto, on Lake Ontario). This one charming piece of carved Springstone is a a guinea fowl and it really called to me. Perhaps next time he comes to Toronto, I will have the $s to make it mine!   www.chakachikodzi.com20160522_141408Erena and I wandered around some more trying not to trip over the cobblestones (hint: NEVER wear your Manolo Blahniks to the Distillery District!!) and saw lots of returning exhibitors from last year which I previously covered in my blog, so we sought refuge from the hot sun inside the Thompson Landry Gallery and discovered all sorts of amazing artists we’d never previously seen, for example Tommy Zen from Montreal. He is descended from several generations of Venetian cabinet makers and artisans, eventually discovering his own love for clay and ceramics. The gallery (there are actually 2 amazing Thompson Landry Galleries on-site, opposite each other) proudly displays his giant ceramics, each gilded with sparkling gold and vibrant colours. Below are 2 of my favourite pieces, each well over 6ft tall!!  www.thompsonlandry.com20160522_160806 20160522_161353Many more artists are showcased there including this massive 10′ x 6′ canvas of a raging bull (titled Turbo) by Dominic Besner (below). This was Erena’s fave.20160522_161251I also liked these pieces…what do you think?20160522_16131520160522_160924We then walked over to artagallery where I found some more gorgeous works of art that really resonated with me. I really liked these two: below left is P. Colbert’s “Dream Creek” oil on canvas (36″x48″) and below right is I. Stoyanov’s “Yellow #18″ mixed media on canvas (68″x48″)  You can find out more at www.artagallery.ca20160522_164359I also found these florals engaging…and happy!20160522_164730 20160522_164742….and Erena made a bee-line for the playful pieces featuring wildlife!20160522_164839artagallery offers some unique display settings, too – I really liked this rusted old boiler plating (below)20160522_164702The next Artfest takes place over the labour day long weekend (Sept. 2-5) in the same venue; if you’d like to check out the shopping, dining and sight-seeing opportunities at Toronto’s Distillery District, visit their website for hours & directions: www.thedistillerydistrict.com20160522_164631

 

 

 

20160415_145001

A WALK BACK THRU TIME IN TORONTO’S HISTORIC CABBAGETOWN NEIGHBOURHOOD

Yesterday was such a lovely sunny day that I decided to down tools and step away from the ‘puter to enjoy a leisurely stroll thru one of Toronto’s historic old neighbourhoods – Cabbagetown. This was where I lived in the late 70’s when, as a starving actor/waitress, I shared a 3 storey semi at the end of Wellesley Street with 3 other actors & musicians, and next door to the fabulous Carole Pope & Kevin Staples of Rough Trade fame (Canada’s edgiest new wave/punk bands of the era).20160415_133443Above left is #445, my old house – I had the large master bedroom on the 2nd floor front – the dormer that jutted out over the front porch was the cosy alcove where I had my bed. Next door at #443 (above at right), I would watch an amazing procession of fabulous celebrity house guests knock on my neighbour’s front door …all manner of music stars would hang out with Carole when they came to town. I remember watching legendary Dusty Springfield wander up the garden path one afternoon – how exciting!  Cabbagetown was a haven for artists, actors, musicians and hippies back then…it was affordable to share the houses, most of which were run-down shadows of their former grand selves. But at the royal sum of $500 a month all inclusive, we still never quite made rent on time…LOL! But walking east on Wellesley yesterday, heading into this charming little enclave (below) brought back so many memories of innocent (but fun) times….come take a walk with me now.20160415_132759The residents association has been busy over the years, creating walking tours of the streets and gardens and they’ve posted all sorts of plaques designating certain homes as historical landmarks. I never knew a member of this famous Hollywood family once lived on Wellesley Street…did you?20160415_132834A couple of blocks south is a street full of picturesque workers’ cottages, now sympathetically renovated to suit their 21st century owners – this is Amelia Street. I always loved walking along here back in the 70’s as although most of these homes were rundown and scruffy, you could see the great “bones” and 19th or early 20th century design elements. Look at these gorgeous little chocolate box homes….20160415_14432420160415_14440420160415_14441420160415_14473320160415_145018I remember wanting to move into this charming 1920’s/30’s apartment building (above) as it looked so cool, even 40yrs ago when it was rather shabby and unpainted. Rent was about $275 to $350 a month back then…now, probably closer to $1500/mo.
This was once a cute handcrafted furniture store (below) when I lived in the ‘hood but it’s now been made into a private residence. Wouldn’t it make a lovely little antique shop or even a cosy tea room?20160415_144847This (below) has got to be one of the cutest cottages on the street, now the home offices for a design firm…20160415_145413…and opposite that is this modern make-over. I love the back-split balconies and the paint colour.20160415_145127Of course, being a vibrant community there are always notices posted about upcoming events as well as pleas for help finding lost loved ones. On one lamp-post I saw this rather sad flyer…I hope Lefty comes home soon!20160415_145154On a happier note, I took a quick side trip to the Riverdale Farm (below) – back when I lived there it was still called a “zoo” as they had all manner of exotic beasties living there including highland cattle and some bighorn sheep…50 or 60 yrs ago they kept a sad assortment of wild animals including bears and big cats in tiny cruel metal cages -I think the old deserted bear house may still be there down the back near the ravine. But yesterday it was all about the cute baby farmyard critters…20160415_141258 20160415_141351 20160415_142218 20160415_142256 20160415_142059 20160415_141708 20160415_141645 20160415_142415Opposite the park and farm used to stand Jeremiah’s Ice Cream Store which served up frozen treats to generations of families. Now the shop has been made into a private home (below) but at least they still operate an ice cream and snack food bar out of the side window. 20160415_141107In the park stands a noticeboard pointing out all the houses that once were home to various leading lights in Toronto and Canadian history (below). These correspond with the plaques posted on each property (like the Walter Huston one). Sadly, I couldn’t find a plaque for one of Canada’s greatest Olympic ice skaters and fine artists, Toller Cranston, who had a home and studio on Winchester near Parliament Street. I remember walking past, looking up into his studio window and seeing Toller busy painting – he would often wave back at me. I think it’s time to make amends and get the 70’s groundbreaking ice skater and avant garde painter properly acknowledged.20160415_143423As I walked out of this timeless village and back into reality on Parliament Street, I walked past Nettleship’s Hardware – this store has been there for decades and I remember when I worked part-time at Tom Foolery (one of the first vintage clothing stores in the city back in the 70’s), the owners and I used to hang out with Donny, the son who ran the shop. I betcha he’s still there. Must make an effort to go in and say hi next time I’m in the neighbourhood.20160415_145927(0)So I hope you enjoyed this little pictorial stroll thru my Cabbagetown. I definitely recommend visiting, esp the first weekend of May when they host a neighbourhood-wide Forsythia Festival. The trees are just now starting to bud and there are a few early spring flowers popping up…so much to see but make sure you look up as well, then you’ll notice antique weather veins such as this one (below) or you may even spot a couple of pink flamingos still dressed in their winter scarves & toques (bottom).20160415_14403520160415_145048