It’s always sunny at Colette Grand Cafe

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Colette Grand Cafe is in the exclusive Thompson Hotel at Bathurst and Wellington St. W. By day this area of Wellington St. is relaxed with limited traffic and only the voices of children playing in the parkette across the street. Colette’s sophisticated and elegant blue and white decor make it like a French holiday complete with over-smiley waiters hurrying about.

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Arriving for a late lunch I am shown to my table at windows that border the dining area.  The oversized wing chairs in the lounge are taken up with casual business types. It’s busy, but it doesn’t have the noisy din as some of the other French restos and bistros in the city but I’m a little puzzled by the folk /rock soundtrack that’s playing. Maybe expecting to hear Edith Piaf songs would’ve been cliché.

As expected there’s a solid collection of wines and a tempting list of drinks. While I don’t entirely recall what the contents of this beverage is, it’s called Pirate Radio and is one of those drinks that about halfway through you experience invading your senses.

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My starters are delicate cheese straws, carrot salad fresh and simply dressed and accompanied by a delicate salmon pate. Shaved radish and celery complement the lightness of the salmon rillettes.

The main course of duck confit arrives and is just as perfect as described. Hearty and garnished with pistachios, the duck confit is one the finest I’ve had a French restaurant in some time.DuckThe traditional dessert tray is offered to diners with full bellies but gluttonous eyes. Colette’s is a glittering collection of French pastries.

Desserts

Cake of any kind, especially complex fruity beauties are my kryptonite. But you can’t miss all the other awaiting sweet treasures.

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Colette is a break you can enjoy in an afternoon. The kind where you treat yourself to a refreshing meal and talk. It’s a hotel restaurant, so expect to pay accordingly. The service and attention to detail is impeccable. Finding another time to dine here again, is high on my plan. Bon appetit!

 

 

 

 

Where to get the best frozen treats on a stick in Toronto

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Frozen treats have been trending over the past two summers. Artisanal and small batch ice cream and frozen pops on a stick stores are popping up with surprising and exciting flavours.

The hot and humid days last week had me working my list of ice cream shops and paleterias that needed to be sampled.

Strawberry, guava and coconut ice pop

My first stop was Kekou Gelato House at 394 Queen St W. It’s late Wednesday afternoon with no lineup, so I take my time, review the menu and scan the display before deciding on the vegan Strawberry, Guava and Coconut pop.

The freshness of the strawberry and guava blend beautifully together.  The coconut top layer brings this tropical treat together with a creamy finish.  Kekou has many choices including traditional dairy gelato but the vegan options are delicious and are made in-house with real fruit.

Next stop, Wrestlers paleteria in Kensington Market.  Opened just this May, this basement store below La Tortilleria is a long, sparsely decorated space with enough seats to stay awhile enjoy your dessert. But as you walk to the back where the cases of paletas are, suddenly the room lights up with happy colours and bright flavours.

Paletas menu

The menu lists twenty different flavour combinations split between dairy and water/ fruit juice based.

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I have the Pina Colada paleta, just plain this time.  You can pimp your paleta by having it dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with a variety of optional topping for a few extra pesos.

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Last but certainly not least on this frozen pop recognizance mission, I hit up Seven Lives Paleteria which also opened last month in Kensington Market.
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A bright and cheery bubblegum pink store with all forms of traditional Mexican soft-serve, non-dairy delights and toppings to make any sugar rush better.  What you will find here is cold, hot, sweet and spicy treats you won’t find anywhere else.

IMG_7476 The daiquiri paleta has an unusual base of Tajin – a seasoning combination which includes chili peppers, sea salt and dehydrated lime.  Traditionally used in Mexico as a seasoning on fresh fruit such as pears, apples, oranges, etc., it boosts the flavours and is mild enough for anyone to enjoy.

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I found the Tajin a bit overwhelming at first, but it reminded me of a poolside drink from a beach holiday. It’s a taste that you have to acquire, and I’d try it again with a different flavour ice pop.

IMG_7479If you’re looking for something more than what Popsicle Pete offers, there are so many new combinations of creamy and fruity, sweet and savoury to amp up and cool your hot summer days.  Toronto is bursting with frozen goodness vendors this year, so go and discover what’s new.  Bon appétit, friends!

Les Filles du Roy

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La Maison Pierre Calvet was built in 1725.  It is a heritage site and one of the oldest buildings in Old Montreal. It was the  home of Pierre Calvet, a Montreal trader in the eighteenth century. The building is home to Les Filles du Roy restaurant.

The restaurant and the inn opened to the public in the sixties.  The small nine room hotel has 18th Century decor complete with authentic period furnishings. It has been one of my favourite restaurants for over twenty years for its consistent quality of traditional, but updated French cuisine.

Front Entrance 3The house has great significance to establishment New France and Quebec. Official visitors to the home have included Louis XIV and Benjamin Franklin. Franklin visited the home during the American Revolution of 1775 to collaborate with Pierre du Calvet.

Calvet was declared a traitor by the British for this and sentenced to several years in prison. Learn more about the home by clicking here: Maison du Pierre Calvet.

The interior reflects the French architecture and furnishings in Montreal during the American Revolution.

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Les Filles du Roy is classical French and French Canadian cuisine.  Traditional dishes like the torchon de fois gras is updated with apples and ice cider.  Locally grown Quebec ingredients have always been part of the menu. (Scroll over images for descriptions)

Mains are quite hearty.  The Veal Osso Bucco is fork tender and vegetables are steamed and fresh and crisp.

Osso Bucco

The Walleye is a large flakey fillet accompanied with a mushroom purée.

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The traditional Duck Confit is enhanced with a Maple sauce.

Duck Confit

The service remains as it has always been, excellent.  The outdoor terrace is walled and serene with only the sound of the fountain.

Les Filles du Roy has a long history in Old Montreal and for good reason.  It’s an interesting restaurant to visit and explore a bit of French history through its food and decor.

If Old Montreal is part of your travel plans, Les Filles du Roy is a destination that you won’t want to miss.  Bon Appetit, friends.

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http://www.pierreducalvet.ca/english/restaurants.html

Caffe Artigiano now fuelling Toronto’s Financial District

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paper cupIt was about one month ago when I first spotted it. It was like running into someone you never expected to see in your town.

Walking in, it looked familiar but, I thought I would check. Indeed, as the barista informed me, scores have come in asking the same question, is this the same Caffe Artigiano from Vancouver? And happily for many of us, it is.

I first visited Caffe Artigiano on West Hastings in Vancouver 11 years ago on the recommendation of a fellow coffee connoisseur.  Back then latte art was new and Caffe Artigiano was named of the best in the country.  For many of us, it still is, both for coffee and the mastery of talented barista like Patrick at the new Toronto store.

This is Caffe Artigiano’s first Toronto store and its first location in Canada’s east.  A well established coffee shop on the west cost with eleven stores in Vancouver and four in Calgary, is in Toronto 101 Yonge St. at King.

Opened about two and a half months ago, General Manager, Meaghan Spencer, has planned this location for over a year selecting local vendors for the pastries and baked goods and making sure this store has the same vibe and groove like their west coast stores.

Salads and sandwiches are made fresh in-house and offer some new and different choices. The Fraser Valley Salad with candied pecans, cranberries and goat cheese is now a favourite of mine, it combines a sweet hit with the acid of the honey balsamic dressing for a refreshing boost in the afternoon.

Caffe Artigiano started roasting their coffee beans four years ago and have a coffee director and a coffee roaster. A good choice of blends are available. I am told that these are moving quickly, so if you want to make this great coffee at home, buy early in the week.  Here are some tips from their website on brewing the perfect cup – http://www.caffeartigiano.com

A welcome addition to the burgeoning craft and independent coffee scene, Caffe Artigiano is worth the walk to King St. The baristas are helpful, Meaghan is always smiling and above all the coffee is smooth and flavorful.

 

 

 

The Great Canadian Wine Match: BBQ Edition

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In May 2013, we launched the first People’s Choice Wine Awards with The Great Canadian Wine Match. Thousands of wine lovers from coast to coast (and around the planet) voted for their favourite Canadian wines online and via social the-great-canadian-wine-match-2013-lomedia.

This friendly (and increasingly social 😉 competition brought wine drinkers and wine makers together to celebrate the best of what we produce in this country, and garnered considerable media recognition for both nominees and winners.

We’re building on that success this year with The Great Canadian Wine Match: The BBQ Edition, pairing Canadian wines with your favourite grilled or barbecued foods, including grilled chicken, pork, seafood, beef, vegetables and dessert. Get ready now for your Canada Day barbecue!

National Television Finals

This year nominations and voting for nominees will be done like last year, and open to anyone. The regional finalists in each food category will be judged blindly by wine lovers. The winners will then be announced on CTV’s Canada AM.

We’ve Got Prizes!

We’re also turning up the heat this year with prizes, including a Grand Prize of a Summit Series Weber Grill valued at $3,200, awarded by random draw of the 36 finalists. There will also be 25 runner-up prizes of Weber Grill cookbooks and BBQ utensils open to everyone who participates, and chosen by random draw.

What else is different this year?

There are six regional categories this year rather than just four: Western Canada, Niagara, Southwestern Ontario, Prince Edward County, Quebec and Atlantic Canada.

How do I nominate a wine?

Go to the nomination wall for one of the six Canadian food categories: grilled chicken, pork, seafood, beef, vegetables and dessert. Simply enter the name or product code of the wine. You can find product codes here. Once your nominated wine has been approved, you’ll receive an e-mail and can start voting right away.

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Who can nominate wines?

This is the people’s choice awards for wine, so you don’t have to be a wine expert to participate. As the people’s choice awards for Canadian wines, the competition takes a grassroots, “bottoms up” approach to get us rallying behind our favourite bottles from coast to coast.

You can nominate a wine from any province or region, and not just the one in which you live. Although the focus is on Canadian wines, you don’t have to be a Canadian resident to take part, as there are people around the world who love Canadian wines.

Which wines can be nominated?

The Great Canadian Wine Match is open to all wines made from 100% Canadian fruit that are vinified and bottled in Canada by a commercial winery. The wines must be available for sale to the public via at least one of the following outlets: retail stores, online, consignment, direct mail order and/or the winery in at least one Canadian province or territory between May 1, 2014 and May 1, 2015.

There are no restrictions on price, vintage, bottle size or style: red, white, rosé, sparkling, late harvest, dessert/icewine and fortified wines may be nominated.

Fruit wines and ciders are also eligible. These are wines made from fruit other than grapes such as apples, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, cassis, etc.

Why should I nominate a wine?

Share your passion for Canadian wines with others by becoming a champion for one or more wines. Have fun tracking the votes for your wine daily, discover new food pairings for your wine and others, and enjoy some friendly regional rivalry with those who have nominated wines from other parts of the country.

If you’re a wine, food or lifestyle blogger, this is also a great way to get recognition for your site since your nomination will link to your profile, site and social media accounts.

As a winery or wine agency representative, why would I want my wine nominated?

Just getting your wine nominated will give you exposure on Canada’s largest wine web site, and provide a strong call to action for wine lovers to try your wine and become champions for it.

Bottle award decals will be available for all nominees and winners, indicating the food category in which the wine was featured i.e. Great Wine for Grilled Chicken.chicken 2

 

How are the winning wines selected?

Six Canadian wines in each of the six Canadian food pairing categories will be selected at the end of the nomination voting round on May TBD, 2014: one wine from Western Canada, one from Niagara, one from Southwestern Ontario, one from Prince Edward County, one from Quebec and one from Atlantic Canada, based on the most votes in each region.

So there will be a total of 36 wines in the finals, as no one wine can be a finalist in more than one category, nor can one person be a finalist in more than one category, though both can be nominees n multiple categories.

What’s the cost of entry?

It’s free to both to nominate and to vote for wines.

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How many times can a particular wine be nominated?

A wine can be nominated only once in each of the six categories: grilled chicken, pork, seafood, beef, vegetables and dessert. The first person to nominate the wine in a category becomes the champion for that wine in that category.

The same wine can be nominated in all six categories.

When can I nominate a wine?

You may nominate a wine anytime until May TBD, 2014. It’s good to nominate your wine as early as you can to garner as many votes as possible during the voting period. However, it’s also still worth recognizing terrific wines with a nomination at any time.

How many wines may I nominate?

You can nominate one wine in each of the six Canadian food categories:grilled chicken, pork, seafood, beef, vegetables and dessert. If you would like to see a second wine nominated in a particular category, encourage a friend to nominate it.

What if the wine I want to nominate isn’t listed on your web site?

You can submit new wines to be posted on the site. Once they are approved and posted on the site, you can then nominate them for the competition. Be sure you include a picture of the bottle when you submit it.

Other than picking the wine, is there anything else I should do?

Be sure you have your picture posted on your profile. This can be a traditional head shot, a graphic or avatar.

You may also want to say why you like the wine you’ve chosen on its review page. Find the wine, then click on its name. Beside the bottle shot, click on “Add My Review.”

This doesn’t have to be a formal tasting note and score. You can simply say why you like this wine with Canadian grilled chicken, pork, seafood, beef, vegetables and dessert. However, this isn’t necessary to nominate a wine.

Wine, food and lifestyle bloggers may also want to blog about their choices to provide more background on their selections.

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How do I vote for a wine?

Click on the voting button in the top right corner of the box for the wine. You can vote for wines without nominating any wines.

How many times may I vote for a wine?

You can vote for a particular wine once a day in each category. So if one wine has been nominated in all six categories, you can vote for it each day in each of those six categories.

How many wines may I vote for each day?

Until May TBD, 2014, you can vote for as many wines as you like each day in each category, the only restriction being one vote for any particular wine in a category. The reason is that most of us like more than one wine with chicken or beef, so we should be able to reflect those choices and variety in our voting until we get to the finalist stage to pick the best wine in each category.

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How often are the voting results updated?

Votes are calculated in real-time: as soon as you vote for a wine, the total number of votes gets updated. If your vote tips the scales and enables the wine to move up in ranking on the wall, then it will also change position after you vote.

How do I get more votes for the wine(s) I nominate?

Encourage your friends to vote for your wine by sending them the link to the voting wall and share your votes on Twitter, Facebook and Google + daily. After you vote, you’ll see a box with the social media buttons: click on them to share your support for that wine. Use the hashtag #GCWM

Why those six Canadian food categories?

To launch this competition we wanted to focus on six of the most popular Canadian food categories for July 1 barbecues. Future competitions may expand the number of categories.

How do I choose the particular Canadian food pairing in a category?

As there are many ways to prepare each of the six Canadian food categories, we’ve provided tasty, wine-friendly recipes for Canadian grilled chicken, pork, seafood, beef, vegetables and dessert. Experiment and have fun. When you make your selection, you can say what type of dish you paired with it.

May I submit a recipe?

Yes, you can submit a recipe as long as the ingredients for the six food categories are Canadian.

What about food from outside Canada?

This competition is focused exclusively on Canadian food. Future competitions may involve both international foods and wines.

How can I have more fun with this?

Organize an informal taste-off party with your friends, where each of you brings the bottle of your choice and you all try them. You can make it a potluck by making some of the suggested recipe pairings or your own.

When will the nomination results be announced?

The results of the nomination round will be announced on May TBD.

When do we vote for the finalists in each category?

Voting for the top six wines in each Canadian food category is from May TBD to June TBD. The vote tallies for each wine in the finalist round start at zero again.

How many times and wines may I vote for in the finalist round?

You may vote once a day for one wine in each of the six Canadian food categories.

How can I learn more about the finalist wines?

The champions for each of the finalist wines in each of the six categories will participate in a Google + video hangout dedicated to that particular category where they will debate the merits of their respective wines. I will act as the neutral moderator, as I will throughout this competition. (I won’t be nominating or voting for wines.)

How often are the voting results updated in the finalist round?

Votes are calculated in real-time: as soon as you vote for a wine, the total number of votes gets updated. If your vote tips the scales and enables the wine to move up in ranking on the wall, then it will also change position after you vote.

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When will the winners be announced?

Winners in each of the six categories will be announced June TBD on a national television show.

What makes this wine competition different from others?

Many traditional wine competitions are judged by experts, such as wine writers and sommeliers, who meet in one physical location on a specific date to taste the wines in isolation apart from food and then report their results when they finish. These play an important role in recognizing our best wines based on their technical merits.

This competition will be judged by wine drinkers themselves, online and over a 5-week period, within the context of the food pairings that these wines are usually consumed. Results will be tabulated in real-time and ongoing, with the full engagement of social media. This competition also recognizes and celebrates our best wines based on their appeal to wine drinkers themselves.

When will the next competition be held?

This competition will be held at the same time next year.

Questions or suggestions?

Please e-mail natdecants@nataliemaclean.com

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Sexy coffee, Nespresso Toronto Boutique Bar

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signageThe 14,000 square foot Nespresso Toronto Boutique Bar opened in November on Yorkville Avenue, one of only two in Canada.  I ventured in today to take a look inside this great coffee tasting salon and machine showroom.

It’s Monday, December 30 in the middle of the afternoon and lots tables available.

The showroom is busy with after Christmas shoppers, using gift cards, I suspect.

I pick a seat in the centre of the store to get the best view of this massively bright, coffee emporium in Yorkville.

Clad in the usual black attire, the staff is well versed in explaining the concept.  The Nespresso Bar  offers a coffee and light sandwich and sweet menu.  Each light offering intended to be “paired” with, if you will, the various Nespresso coffee blend. The cappuccino and two small pastries is $9.00.  For downtown, and for Yorkville, it’s reasonable.

The cappuccino foam is extreme cream and looks lovely as everyone knows, in a  glass mug. It’s delicious too.  I had requested a bolder blend but it wasn’t as strong as I would’ve liked, but overall pretty good.

Let’s be clear, this boutique isn’t about the food, it’s a showroom for Nespresso capsules and high-end machines.   The museum walls showcase the various levels of machines as well as only the best accessories.

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Nespresso introduced the Pixie in the summer at less than $200.00.  You get a sampler of 16 of the 19 flavours to try. On another day when I have time, I will go back again and try another.

When it comes to owning one,  I’m not sure whether buying yet another coffee machine, one which requires individual pods is  something I want to commit to.  I will keep my twenty-year old French press and continue enjoying the work of baristas who love crafting a perfect drink.