Craft beer and my evening in the city…

Craft beer and my evening in the city…

As I have mentioned before, one of the hardest things about moving to Milton was leaving behind my Toronto girls and our adventures in the city.  I have found the way to deal with this challenge is to make a point of having a full night out in the city every once in a while, and to do it up right! That means good food, good drinks, and trying something new, all in the company of good friends.

Last Friday I did just that, attending The Art of Craft Beer at the Super Wonder Gallery in Toronto, in support of the not-for-profit organization, SKETCH. It was a wonderful evening of delicious food, beautiful artwork and amazing craft beer. Check out a full rendition of The Art of Craft Beer Event – My evening in the city on Storify.

Sawdust Brewing Co. Stand at The Art of Craft Beer and their artwork
The Sawdust City Brewing Co. station at The Art of Craft Beer
Often my adventures in the city involve Ontario Craft Beer in some fashion, but the craft beer movement is not limited to Toronto. Far from it! Check out this video on the big impact of Ontario craft breweries…

“What about Milton?” you ask. Oh, we’re on it! Check out Milton’s very own Orange Snail Brewers for your taste of local Milton craft beer and follow them on Twitter and/or Facebook.

Who’s your favourite craft brewer? 

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Listening Recommendation: Week 4 …Are you hungry yet?

Listening Recommendation: Week 4 …Are you hungry yet?

Since my last post was all about delicious food, I thought I would share a listening recommendation that literally made my mouth water.  That’s right, an audio-book that makes your mouth water! The Lost Recipe for  Happiness, by Barbara O’Neal, narrated by Bernadette Dunne, is a delectable story about a female chef, Elena, who finds herself with The Lost Recipe for Happiness on Libraries on the Gothe opportunity of a lifetime –the chance to run her own kitchen.

Of course, opportunities like these are often attended by a great deal of self-reflection and Elena is forced to face her past, while working hard to build herself a happy future. This story offers a bit of everything, with some romance, drama and action, accompanied by several traditional Mexican recipes, that when read aloud, will make you want to either cook or eat, or most likely both.

Barbara O’Neal does a fantastic job of character building, giving you the sense that you are meeting the new characters and getting to know them as Elena does. Likewise, Bernadette Dunne does a beautiful job narrating, giving the characters life as she uses tone and accents to give each one a unique voice. If you love food and love to cook, this is a book for you. Happy listening!

What are you listening to?

Food in the ‘burbs

Food in the ‘burbs

Okay, so I don’t know if I meet the full criteria of being labeled a “foodie,” but I would consider myself a great lover of all things food and drink.  I am passionate about what I choose to eat and I don’t like eating mediocre food. Living in Toronto, what I would consider a food Mecca, put me at the center of endless, amazing food possibilities. As for Milton, well it just kind of fell flat in comparison. That was until I gave it a chance.

As it turns out, Milton is full of fabulous local joints, serving up very tasty bites AND at a suburban discount. Don’t get me wrong, we are still a bit limited (especially after 10 P.M.), but for the most part there is enough to keep me talking about my last great meal.

Here are 6 of my favourite places to eat in Milton: 

Mama Mila’sMama Mila’s is a café in the plaza at Thompson and Derry. It is a simple, yet adorable, family-run café, offering up a variety of homemade sandwiches, soups and pierogies, on top of regular café fare. While the pierogies are delicious, it is their sandwiches that keep me coming back – the South Western to be exact. It is a true South Western, loaded with black beans, corn, red peppers, green onion, lettuce and cheddar cheese, all wrapped in a crepe thin egg, with shaved ham and served on a perfectly soft, yet crusty bun.  Try this with a side of their dill seasoned Borscht (beet soup) for a great lunch.

Mama Mila's Cafe

Fresh AddictsLocated in the James Snow Pkwy and Main St. plaza, Fresh Addicts is a juice and salad bar with a flair for making healthy food choices taste great. While this is a Cold Pressed Juicepricier option for take-out in Milton, it is definitely a good choice and worth every penny to treat your body right.  With a variety of options for any meal of the day, Fresh Addicts makes salads, smoothies, wraps and bowls to order; all of which are made with wholesome, fresh and organic produce. You can also get your “juice on” here, as they offer a wide selection of cold pressed juices to get that necessary boost of vitamins into your diet. My go-to meal is the Sante Fe salad, which is made with romaine lettuce (I swap it Fresh Cold Pressed Juicefor the spring mix), avocado, tomato, core black beans, cheddar cheese, and tortilla chips. I get it with a side of pesto salad dressing and add an egg for protein. All salads and bowls are priced by weight, so you can add as much or as little as you like and they have a variety of seed options like hemp and flax to further boost the nutritional factor. Shout out to Cousin Chelsea for introducing me to this healthy place and the Sante Fe salad!

For more information on Fresh Addicts and a virtual tour of their restaurant, check out The Joyce of Cooking blog and the post Freshly Addicted to Milton’s Healthy Restaurant: Fresh Addicts.

The Ivy Arms Their chicken wings to be exact! To be honest, I haven’t tried much else at The Ivy Arms, because their wings are just so darn tasty. They are huge jumbo wings, breaded (or not), fried up and tossed in your choice of sauce or dry dusted in Cajun, lemon or salt and pepper.  With the Sargent Farms retail store just across the street, you know they have to be fresh, and they are cheap Sunday through Thursday at 65 cents a wing (with the purchase of a beverage).  The Ivy Arms, or “The Ivy” as it’s called by locals, is a true Irish style pub, located on Main St. in downtown Milton.  Pub food dominates the menu, and they have a wide variety of beers on tap as well as daily specials. I love the laidback, cozy vibe there, and they have a large patio overlooking Main St. for those warm summer days.

Oshima Sushi All-You-Can-Eat  Like many sushi lovers, I was very skeptical of the whole all-you-can-eat sushi movement, so when I moved to Milton and all you could eat was “all-you-can-eat sushi,” I was rather unimpressed.* Toronto has some fantastic sushi joints and I had developed some rather high standards, so you will be surprised to know that I’ve been converted. Our go to spot is Oshima Sushi on Main Street. I say we because you should really do all-you-can-eat sushi with a group of people. Our friends Ryan and Adina usually help us out with that, and after a great deal of practice, we have finally mastered a routine to get the most out of our visits. If you Google search Oshima, you may notice they don’t have the best rating. That is likely due to the service being on the slow side, but I guarantee you it is worth the wait. Oshima is a fairly busy spot, so I am certain the fish is fresh, and they have some pretty awesome choices that rock my food world. I recommend the Fantastic Roll, which is topped with grilled red snapper, the grilled salmon sushi (you’re noticing a trend here) and the white tuna sashimi.

*To clarify, Milton does in fact have a regular Sushi restaurant called Sushi-Ya which is known to be quite good; however, the price comparison for the quantity of food is significant, causing most of our friends to want to go with All-You-Can-Eat instead.

Cheesecake with a candle.
The complimentary pistachio, vanilla and bourbon cheesecake from Pasqualino.

Pasqualino If it’s something a little fancier you are after, Pasqualino is your best bet. Located on Main St. in downtown Milton, Pasqualino is a beautifully designed, family owned Italian restaurant. Recently renovated, this restaurant has a truly elegant ambiance. Add in delicious, high quality food and amazing service, and you’ll find yourself making plans to come back before you even leave. Check out my Google Review of the restaurant after a fabulous dining experience there last January.

La Rose Specialty Foods & Fine Italian Bakery  Another family owned business, La Rose is an amazing place for all things food. Located in the plaza at Bronte and Anne Blvd., they

Mixed Olives
La Rose Mixed Olives

carry groceries, specialty goods, a to-die-for hot table, baked goods, bread and so much more, including a well-stocked and cared for garden center during the summer months.
n top of this, I find La Rose to be incredibly well priced and I visit for many reasons. If I am having a party, I’ll stop in to grab some specialty cheeses, meats and olives from their fabulous olive bar. Try the Sicilian Butter Olives (aka Castelvetrano olives); they are not
your typical olive and they literally melt in your mouth. If I want to make homemade pizza, I will pick up a bag of pre-made dough at La Rose, along with their quality mozzarella and any other toppings we want to add.  Another reason to go to La Rose is their hot table – think fine dining Italian food, to go. If they happen to have their chicken bacon lasagna, I highly recommend it.

There are several other great food places in and around Milton, and I am sure there many more I have yet to try.  When I have a particularly good meal somewhere, I will be sure to report back. Stay tuned food lovers!

Do you have a favourite food spot in the GTA? I’d love some recommendations!

The charms of the farm…

The charms of the farm…

Okay, so aside from the commute, moving to Milton really wasn’t that bad. I know what you are thinking; I mentioned several challenges in my Hello Milton… post.  One of those challenges was the farm. When I moved to Milton, not only did I move from downtown Toronto to the suburbs, but I also moved from an apartment into a farmhouse.  What I shared with you in that earlier post did not shed the most positive light on farmhouse living; and let’s be serious, I don’t want you going around thinking that it was all ceramic chickens and ‘Home is where your boots dry’ signs. So, here are some of the charms of the farm.

A space of our own.  One of the best things about the farmhouse was not the house itself, but the land around it. Our home was situated on 75 acres of beautiful and wonderful open space. Now that is something you won’t find in Toronto! With Taylor being a landscaper, our house was surrounded by plush gardens and a big open deck that wrapped around two sides of the house. From there our yard stretched out, what felt like forever. I have fond memories of bonfires, golf (Taylor had installed a mini golf course he called Par 3 out front), every lawn game you can think of, and the best part … endless parking (our own, much cheaper version, of the Green P).

Peace and quiet. One of the first things I noticed about the farmhouse was the absolute silence that came with nighttime. There were no city noises like traffic, honking, sirens, drunk people yelling at each other, street fights…I could go on.  Instead, it felt like any noise was sucked up by the expanse of space and any sounds that did reach our ears were the comforting sounds of nature.  On the other hand, if we were the noisy ones, that was okay – we had no neighbors to disturb.

The wildlife.  After a peaceful night’s sleep at the farm, waking up to birds chirping was not uncommon. If the sun was shining they were singing. There were several types of birds from doves to blue jays, chickadees, cardinals, one majestic blue heron that had claimed the pond as his home, and many more. One spring we had a dove build its nest outside of our bedroom window. Back in the city this probably would have been considered a nuisance, but at the farm it offered a A mother dove with her two babiesfirsthand viewing of the Discovery Channel. We watched as the mama bird produced two perfect eggs, nestled on top of them to warm and protect them, and got to see the babies after they hatched. I was mesmerized the first time I got to witness their dinner time and excited to see the babies develop into little teenage birds, ready to fly the coup.

Rustic charm. The farmhouse itself was really quite beautiful. It had original natural hardwood throughout the house, exposed wooden beams, a wood burning Wood burning stove at farmhouse.stove and a hidden back entrance up to the master bedroom, which used to be the servants’ quarters. Despite being cold in the winter the house actually gave off a
very comfortable, homey feel that I genuinely miss.

You can grow your own veggies! My favourite thing about farmhouse living was the option to grow my own vegetables. Taylor, being the green thumb he is, was all for it and we have kept a garden on the property since my first summer in Milton.

There is nothing like the satisfaction of making a meal filled with organic veggies that you have grown yourself and picked fresh. In the fall I love to have my Toronto girlfriends out to Milton for “the harvest,” when they get to pick some of their own favourite veggies from the garden and we make a big feast out of what we’ve picked.
Vegges from our first gardenWe have had some failures and some successes with the garden, and every year we learn something new. I will never forget the first time I went out to the garden to find green onion shoots poking their heads out of the ground. We have had great success with tomatoes, carrots, parsnips, kale, Swiss chard, onions, zucchini, spaghetti squash, raspberries, hot peppers and lots of fresh herbs. We are still working on our wish list of garlic, potatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers and corn.  Got any tips? We’re all ears…..or not.

More on becoming a Milton-foodie in my next post.

…Hello Milton

…Hello Milton

I’ll say that my decision to move to Milton to be with Taylor was an easy one, and that is true for the most part. However, if I am honest, it was a big adjustment. Someone that knows me quite well may question this; after all I have moved MANY times and moving from London to Toronto was a gigantic leap into the unknown. But, the truth is I had become very accustomed to my comfort zone of close friends, easy access to work and my small life in the big city.

Living together the past few years, my roommate Kendall and I had blossomed into great friends. I also happened to have many other very good friends living nearby in Toronto. All of my close girlfriends from university days ended up living in various neighborhoods throughout the city. While my network in Milton was expanding and I actually had family here, it wasn’t going to be the same. But there is a bit more to it than that – Milton and Toronto could not be more different!

Some of the reasons my move to Milton was a big deal…

new-car
My new ride! (Nov 2012)

The commute… I kept my job in the city at Yonge and Bloor, so getting to work would now take two hours, rather than ten minutes and cost about $500 a month, instead of zero.  I started off my commuting life by taking the GO train; I hadn’t driven for two years and was nervous to get back on the road. But I was living in Milton! I had to have a car.  My time and money would become precious commodities and I would have to learn to be patient, finding ways to just enjoy the ride.

My new home “at the farm”… At the time of my move Taylor was living in his childhood home, a large 75 acre farm property just five minutes from downtown Milton.  Taylor lived in the farmhouse and worked out of the adjoining property next door. On paper this sounds like striking ‘suburban- living gold’ and in many ways it was, but there are aspects of farmhouse living that challenged the city in me.  Here are a few examples…

The farm ran on well water for plumbing, which could stop running (with very little warning) at any moment. Most often when my hands were good and lathered up with soap.

While relatively cool in the summer, the farmhouse ran on oil for heat, which turns out to be very expensive.  Being economical resulted in some cold mornings during the winter months, and water that felt like liquid ice coming from the taps.

And then there are the bugs. At any given time of year there is inevitably a species of critter that takes over the farmhouse – spiders, ladybugs, ants, bees, but the most annoying of them all were the flies! If you don’t know what a cluster fly is, be grateful. You can check them out here. For the record, in my experience they do not restrict themselves to unused rooms and they will make themselves quite at home in your bedroom.

farm
The Farmhouse

Access to food… Okay, this one might sound a bit dramatic, but I’m serious! If you learn one thing about me from my blog, it should be that I LOVE food. I enjoy cooking and trying out different recipes, but I also really enjoy eating out. Toronto has endless food options and I was coming from a neighborhood with literally hundreds of options to choose from, at any time of the day. You craved it, you got it!  While Milton has some hidden gems that serve up both delicious fast take-away options and quality sit down meals (we’ll get into those later), I discovered quickly that few places in Milton are open past 9 p.m. When you commute, getting home as late as 8 p.m. sometimes, this can be a huge disappointment.

New to town… By the time I moved to Milton I was still getting to know Taylor’s friends and their partners. I definitely had some networking to do.  While I am a people person, this can still be tricky even for the most extreme extrovert. It’s kind of like dating, except that you are dating lots of people and you want to have relationships with them all! It’s difficult to meet people in a new town and I am still working at it. This American Life podcast, Episode 587:The Perils of Intimacy Act Two “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” sums it up well.

Living with a boy… While Taylor and I have some key things in common, we differ as much as we relate. Plus, I had never lived with a boyfriend before and he had never lived with a girlfriend. To add to the mix Taylor is the baby of his family with two older sisters, while I am an only child. This was going to be interesting.

Goodbye Toronto…

Goodbye Toronto…

Before I get into all of the wonderful ways my life has changed after moving to the suburbs, I want to give credit to the move itself, because…well, it was hard. I had to say goodbye to a city and a neighbourhood that I really loved living in.

Just over a year before meeting my partner Taylor, I was living (post university/ post world-travel) in London, Ontario. London is a city of approximately 350,000 people and home to the University of Western Ontario (my undergrad University).  I had just made the rather large decision to move to Toronto to live with my girlfriends from Western. It was a decision that would truly change my life, but in a way I could never have imagined.

My first year in Toronto, I lived with two girls in a large rental house on Ossington Ave. The house and location were great, but within a year one of the girls decided to move on. That left my friend Kendall and I, so we decided to find our own place. We ended up in a gorgeous two bedroom apartment, right

kendallme
Kendall & I in our Toronto, Yonge St. apartment

on Yonge St. We got VERY lucky with this apartment. The owner of the building was an older gentleman, named Joseph. When I say Joseph was a gentleman I really mean that. Our new landlord gave us an amazing rate and promised it would never go up. On the cold February day we moved in, he stood outside the building and made sure we didn’t leave the door open too long, so as not to freeze out the other tenants. That’s the kind of landlord he was.

Not only did we have a great landlord, but our new place was in the prime location of Yonge and Bloor – just five minutes from both of the subway lines in Toronto and a short ten minute walk to work.  We were surrounded by great restaurants, bars, entertainment, yoga studios and shopping. We had struck Toronto renters’ gold!

However, by the time we moved in I had met Taylor. Just three weeks prior in fact. On our second date Taylor helped Kendall and I pick up our new furniture for the apartment and came over to build a set of table and chairs that needed assembling. He was a keeper from the very beginning, and over the course of the next several months I came to realize that he was ‘the one.’ Despite the distance between us, we spent a lot of time together and I was going out to see him in Milton almost every other weekend. The next step was definitely moving in together, and because Taylor worked for his family business in Milton, my moving to Milton was the only choice. I had to say goodbye to Toronto.

7 things I miss about my old ‘hood in Toronto:

  1. IAM Yoga – A beautiful, privately owned Yoga Studio on Yonge at Isabella. The studio was small when Kendall and I lived here, but it has since moved to a larger space (across the street) and now has several rooms and many types of classes. They’ve really made the most of their new space and it’s arguably one of the best studios in Toronto.
  2. Bar VoloBar Volo was a bar on Yonge and Dundonald that served up a large selection of craft beers, alongside delicious food. The bar has since closed, caught up in the mass development along Yonge. But don’t worry, they’ve opened a spin-off called Birreria Volo  on College and are expected to set up a replacement for Bar Volo on Church St. in the future.
  3. Fire on the East Side – This is another Yonge St. gem that has since closed. Unfortunately they don’t seem to have established a new location. This restaurant was directly across from our apartment and served up amazing Southern Comfort food. I remember them best for their sweet potato quesadilla (think puree sweet potato, walnuts, nutmeg and smoked bacon) and their breakfast poutine (this one speaks for itself). Yum!
  4. Bloor/Yorkville Shopping There are shops upon shops on Bloor, just East and West of Yonge St. You can get anything from the GAP to Louis Vuitton and everything in between. Yorkville is another shopping mecca that isn’t too far away. My favourite spots to browse in Yorkville are Anthropologie and Teatro Verde.
  5. Burrito Bandidos – I am very happy to report that Burrito Bandidos on Grosvenor is still open for business and sell (in my opinion) the best burritos in the city. Their fillings are fresh and always delicious and they grill them to perfection. They now have several locations across Toronto, so there may be one close to you. I highly recommend the mix Chicken and Beef.
  6. Queens Park – Queens Park was just around the corner from our old apartment and this is where I found my running legs. Queens Park is a great spot to train yourself to run. If you want to learn to run 5 km, this is the place to do it. The loop works out to be approximately one kilometer, so it’s easy to track your distance without constantly checking your devices. It also makes it easy to get started with the run/walk technique. You can start running by jogging ¼ of the circle and walking ¾, working your way up to to ½ and ½ and reducing your walking distance from there, until you are eventually running the whole loop.
  7. Manulife CentreThere’s nothing like having a gigantic book store (Indigo), a movie theatre, grocery store (Bloorstreet Market), an LCBO and drug store right in your back yard. This plaza really has it all and is very convenient to boot. I miss being able to walk everywhere!