Thursday, July 31, 2014

Toronto Festival of Beer

If you, like me, was once a painfully shy girl who cringed at the thought of making new friends in a crowd of thousands of people, you will have no trouble finding plenty of new buddies at the Toronto Festival of Beer. I had a blast on Saturday with my friend Lisa (creator behind Confessions of a Dietitian) meandering through dozens of tents in search of the best tasting beers, talking to beer reps, not to mention finding some food to soak up all the booze. 

It was early afternoon when we made it to the festival grounds and had to make sure it wasn’t Frosh week. There was dance music blaring, adults wearing custom-made hats designed from Steam Whistle beer cartons in various shapes like a pirate’s ship, a palm tree, and antlers. There were men with sparkly mardis gras beads around their necks and beer stickers all over their shirts and the ones who didn’t have stickers all over their shirts, donned clothing that had paid some sort of tribute to beer. It was wild and we loved it. Tickets to the festival were sold out on Saturday, so you can imagine how busy it was.

After walking around, we found our way to Rock Lobster’s booth also known as the “Lobster Shack” and right next to them was a team representing one my of my favourite beers, Sam Adams. I’m no stranger to either; I've been to Rock Lobster a few times and could sit all day stuffing my face with fresh seafood. Sam Adams Boston Lager was one of the first beers I fell in love with since I began to appreciate the golden liquor, we go way back.

We ordered the Sam Adams Summer Ale and Latitude 48 IPA to try. I’ve had the summer ale before and love how easy it goes down, its crisp citrus flavor complements the lobster roll we ordered. The lobster meat was tender yet juicy, we couldn’t help making a mess on the table. The Latitude 48 IPA had a beautiful amber color and a hint of sweetness with a strong bitter finish, it contrasted the sweet lobster tacos nicely. I could have had 10 more tacos but I wanted to leave room to sample more beer. It’s a tough life. 

We spent a good 4 hours at the festival, eating Porchetta and Co sandwiches stuffed with cracklings and homemade mustard plus roasted potatoes doused in lemon crème fraiche (amazing!!). We watched a food demo by Ted Reader who grilled a mean, thick steak that was age dried for 42 days. We also tried so many beers I lost count. Some memorable ones included the Raspberry Ale from Granville Island (another of my favourite breweries), the Fruli (on tap!!), and Melville’s ginger beer.

The best part of the festival aside from drinking was meeting fellow beer enthusiasts. I’m sure the constant consumption of liquid courage had something to do with it, but everyone was very friendly. We even met Matt Pettit of Rock Lobster! There was a group of guys dressed in their own cultural attire, including one dude who's been going to the festival for 10 years. One guy came all the way from Burlington too. There were a ton of beers to try, sadly, I didn’t get a chance to sample the watermelon cider I spotted. Guess I’ll have to go back again next year.

Big thanks to Toronto's Festival of Beer for the kind invite to attend and cover the event!

Recipe here!

Monday, June 9, 2014


California. How to describe one of the best trips in my life? When my friends ask me how my vacation was, I frequently respond, "Amazing! Awesome!", when really, I want to scream, "OMFG it was beauuuutiful! I want to move there." There were so many unforgetable moments shared with my travel companion (who is also my bestie), we were sad to leave. We were there for 11 days, hung out in San Francisco for a few days, Napa for a night, down to LA for for three days before driving back to San Francisco for our last night. Here are some of my favourite things of the trip:

Driving down Highway 1 in a Mustang convertible. I had seen pictures of Big Sur and the Pacific coast, but I had never expected it to be even more beautiful in 'real life'. The mountains, the azure sky, the clouds hovering over the mountains, the blue ocean and the waves crashing onto the rugged shore, it was like a painting come to life. These photos don't do it justice. Hayley and I were giddy with excitement once we passed Carmel and finally saw the glistening water. While we were doing research for our trip, we knew we wanted a convertible, because what better way to drive through California than showing off in a car with the wind blowing through (making a mess) in our hair? (By the way, we stopped by Big Sur Redhouse for lunch, I had amazzzing kale salad)

Exploring San Francisco. I've been to California before when I was younger with my parents and though there's nothing bad about travelling with my family, it's nice to have more flexibility when traveling with a friend. We woke up whenever we wanted, ate whatever we wanted. With my parents, my dad usually decides on our schedule. 

Hayley and I rolled out of bed when our circadian rhythm said so, and walked everywhere: Fisherman's Wharf, Union Square, Lombard Street, the Mission, Ghirardelli Square, Golden Gate Park, the Marina, Ferry Building, Crissy Field. On our first Friday night, we had dinner at The House, picked up cheap wine at a convenience store, went dancing in SoMa, and drank some more at Terrior. The following night we went to a drag show at Aunt Charlie's, both nights were equally memorable for years to come.

The beaches. We went to three beaches in LA: Venice beach is a nice to chill and people-watch, Santa Monica is in a beautiful area, we walked along the pier and did some shopping. Huntington was our favourite though. We stayed with a friend and after a long night of partying, we were tired and quite frankly, hungover. Sunbathing at the beach makes for a good cure. I felt refreshed after a brief nap and jumped into the cold ocean for a swim. We were blessed with good weather, it was chilly in the morning and at night, but it was otherwise, gorgeous everyday. 

Save for a few meals, we ate very well too. We treated ourselves to a fancy schmancy meal at Angele in Napa. We also had a lovely brunch at Sweet Maple in SF and shared the the popular Millionare's Bacon. We had decent fish tacos at Calle Taco in Hollywood and some of the most delicious sushi at Long Beach. I brought back dark chocolate from Trader Joe's, white pineapple balasmic vinegar and traditional balasmic vinegar from Lucero in Napa (both were thick and syrupy, I can't wait to try them drizzled on vanilla ice cream).

Now all I can think about is my next big trip. What do you think of Spain, Portugal, and France next year? I'd love to watch the French Open at Roland Garros, that's always been a dream of mine. Besides, Paris is always a good idea. More pictures here.
Recipe here!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Mussels Steamed in Beer with Fennel

I have an agreement with my boyfriend that for every beer we open together, I get the first sip. On our first date, we shared a beer at the Beaches Jazz Fest and he said, “the first sip of beer is always the best.” Since then I’ve taken the first sips of all the beers we’ve had, and that’s a lot of beer. One of my favourites is Sam Adams, in fact, I wouldn’t even share it, I’d make sure that we each have our own beer to drink. Good thing it's at the LCBO we can easily split a six-pack.

Mussels in beer have always been a special dish to me. Maybe it reminds me of a summer when I visited Montreal, a city that awoke my taste buds and bolstered my deep-seated interest to cook and bake. There was a restaurant that served mussels in beer with fresh cut fries, a classic Belgian dish. It was delicious, I wanted to slurp up the briny juices from my bowl. 

This dish can be made in less than 20 minutes. All you need to do is chop up fennel and onions, toss them into a pot with butter until softened, add the cleaned mussels, pour over the Sam Adams, and let it steam for about 5-8 minutes and viola! Dinner! 

My home smelled like hot butter, seafood and malt. Mom and I had these for dinner the other day, there was plenty of bread to mop up the salty juices. The mussels were plump and juicy, the fennel and onions had absorbed the hoppy flavours of the beer, the acidity from the lemon brings it all together. It was a beautiful meal, especially with a cold bottle of Sam Adams.

“This post is sponsored by Branding & Buzzing"

Recipe here!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Mini Pistachio Pound Cakes

Finally, it what has seemed like dinosaur ages, spring has arrived! I forgot what it felt like to have the sun on my face. I forgot what it felt like not to wear boots, a heavy down jacket, mittens and bitter cold gusts of wind hurting my face. Hey, I can drive with the windows down and not risk getting pneumonia. It’s a miracle!

Another thing to be excited about, my countdown to my vacation: T-7 days! I’m heading to California with one of my best friends for 11 days. We’re going to San Jose, San Francisco, Napa, and then LA. Also part of our itinerary: tons of eating, drinking, dancing, picture-taking, tanning, and repeat it all over again. We’ve been planning this for more than half a year and we’re absolutely stoked! We made reservations for Angele and Tartine. Omg!Can’tfreakingwait.

I’ve been good at keeping up my workout routine, swimming a few days a week along with high-intensity interval training. I’ve been eating fairly healthy, lots of fruit and vegetables and my protein shakes in the morning (except on weekends when I just can’t refuse beer and pizza). My motivation is California, I keep daydreaming about frolicking on the beach, running like a madwoman and diving into the ocean. But that hasn't kept me from baking.

Orangette shared this recipe and it caught my attention right away (she has a new book coming out, I've already pre-ordered it, can't wait!). I looked up other pistachio-worthy desserts, like a chocolate pistachio tart or pistachio sables, but I kept coming back to this pound cake. 

These cakes are dense and dotted with pistachios inside and out. The nuts give a beautiful floral flavor and with plenty of citrus, they make for an excellent snack. The top of the cakes have a lovely shell, similar to the crusty muffin tops that I love so much. I ate these for breakfast with a smear of apricot jam. I gave them away to my coworker who texted me the next day raving about them. I love compliments.

Recipe here!