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"A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch." - James Beard


Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Beer Baron’s Day Out

Thanks to the grand opening of London Brewing Co-op’s new space on Saturday, February 25th and a special Winter Pop Up Bar presented by Forest City Beer Fest over the weekend, it was a special weekend for craft beer fans in London.

To celebrate, we decided to make a day of it and the unofficial Forest City Craft Beer Day was born. We started the day in the newly trendy Old East Village and enjoyed a flight from London Brewing Co-op (including their robust Tolpuddle Porter, which I’ve always enjoyed) while marvelling at their expansive new space and equipment. They’ve come a long way since their pop-up shops!  

Our next stop was literally right around the corner at Anderson Craft Ales. I’d tried their beers at various craft beer festivals but am embarrassed to say I hadn’t visited their brewery before. Both the space itself and the beer were better than I was expecting, so I’m glad to have taken that visit off my to-do list.

As luck would have it, Anderson had been releasing one Belgian-style beer each weekend in February, saving the strongest - a 10.6% ABV Dark Strong that was similar to a Belgian quadrupel - for last. It was an unexpected and special treat, boozy but balanced and enticing. Sadly, I couldn’t bring any of the limited-quantities Dark Strong home but happily brought home some IPA in a fancy new growler approved by the Clockwatching Tart.   

After hitting up both London Brewing Co-op and Anderson, it felt right to pop over to Forked River Brewing to complete the trifecta. We were rewarded with the availability of two of my favourite Forked River brews: Reforest Kelly, a sour, barrel-aged imperial stout brewed with black cherries, and Hansel and Brett’el, a farmhouse blonde aged in chardonnay barrels. They are both tart and complex and will ensure that my unofficial Forest City Craft Beer Day is still appreciated in a few weeks when I crack them open.

We stopped in to Museum London to check out their amazing Brian Jones exhibit and lo and behold, the beer-related fun with “Canadian Eh? A History of the Nation’s Signs and Symbols”.

Even though it was unofficially Forest City Craft Beer Day, we are still just human, and besides, a friend from the best craft beer bar in the city, Milos’ Craft Beer Emporium, recommended Ritual Cafe, so who were we to argue? Both the dark roast coffee and Mexican mocha were excellent, so we repaid the favour by heading to have dinner and drinks at the aforementioned Milos’.

Presented by the Forest City Beer Fest, the Winter Pop Up Bar was held in a nice spot around the corner from Milos’ at the Hassan Law Gallery and featured a selection of carefully selected bottles and cans to sample from and a larger selection of 20 draft taps. As soon as we walked in, we were faced with bottles of Bellwoods Brewery’s 3 Minutes to Midnight, an imperial stout brewed with cherries, and Bounty Hunter, an imperial coconut porter, which is a wonderful way to start an evening.

On the draft side, we started off with a selection of Paradise Lost sour ales from Blood Brothers Brewing, sampled a new imperial stout from Cowbell Brewing, worked out way through a barrel-aged cherry sour and a sour brett porter from Indie Ale House, then finished the night with a sticky sweet, intense and unique “chewy imperial stout” brewed by Sweden’s Omnipollo while visiting Toronto’s Brunswick Bierworks. Any beer that is described as “deep-fried graham cracker chocolate chunk caramel bar” seems like a fitting end to a day of craft beer adventures. Cheers!

This post is my Matt, the Beer Baron. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @geekcanuck

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Happy Hour - Cosmopolitan

cosmopolitan recipe

The Cosmopolitan is a classic cocktail that happened to become very popular in the 90s.  I think it's time for a comeback!

Don't worry, it's not too sweet.  It's actually a vodka sour, quite boozy, with an awesome pink hue from the small amount of cranberry juice. 

cosmo ingredients

It's super refreshing and easy to make so I highly recommend mixing some up for your next party or night in.  

cosmo recipe

Here's what you need:

1 1/2 oz vodka (or citrus vodka if you have it)
1/2 oz triple sec (or Cointreau or Grand Marnier)
1/2 oz cranberry juice
1/4 oz fresh lime juice
lime twist for garnish

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, mix all ingredients and shake until cold. 
Pour into a martini glass and garnish with a twist of lime peel.


If you double the recipe you can make two at once, or make a whole bunch in advance for a party!  Cheers!  

cosmopolitan cocktail

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Road Trip - Alberta, Canada

This past year Matt and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary!  The year we got engaged, and exactly a year before our wedding, we traveled to Alberta and drove the Icefields Parkway to Jasper, and then drove through British Columbia to Whistler, Vancouver, and back to Calgary via Kelowna.  It was a beautiful trip and we decided to recreate part of it for our 10th anniversary.  We traveled in September and it's taken me all this time to blog about it! 

If you've never seen the Rocky Mountains, put it on your bucket list.  We've lived our lives in Ontario which has plenty of natural beauty, but the Rockies are at a whole other level.  Whether you are an avid hiker or less physically inclined, there's so much to see and do in the mountains.  

On this trip, we arrived in Calgary on a beautiful early fall day. We explored Prince's Island Park, a wonderful urban oasis.  

We had coffee and played some board games at Hexagon Boardgame Cafe in Kensington Village.  

We had a very special dinner at Model Milk in Calgary with family.  We started with with wonderful cocktails, fricassee of calamari, scallops and grits and a baked oyster. 

For entrees we had lamb, rabbit and duck.  Dessert was an outstanding apple pie with cheddar crust.  I'd say this was one of the best meals we've ever had in a restaurant, and the service was great too!  

We also explored the town of Cochrane, Alberta, just outside Calgary.  They have a new brewery called Half Hitch Brewing that was just opening when we were there so we had to try it!

Then it was time to head for the mountains!  We left early in the morning to drive to Lake Louise. Seeing the foothills change to mountains on the highway is an amazing experience!

We arrived in Lake Louise and took the gondola to the top of the mountain. The views are spectacular. Lake Louise itself is always packed with tourists, but it's lovely.  You can rent a canoe here for an exorbitant price, but we moved along to somewhere even prettier. 

Moraine Lake is one of my favourite places in the Rockies. It used to be on the Canadian twenty dollar bill. It is less crowded than Lake Louise, and the glacial water is even more blue. There's a short, easy trail for different views of the lake. 

We stayed the night in Banff and had some food and drinks, but nothing memorable. The streets and restaurants were crowded with tourists.  I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would. 

The next morning we were headed to Jasper. We made a stop to hike in Johnston Canyon, then headed to the Icefields Parkway. 

In Jasper we stayed at the Mount Robson Inn, which was a great choice. We were so happy that Jasper was just as wonderful as we remembered. The townsite is inside Jasper National Park and is surrounded by mountains. Its not as busy as Banff and Lake Louise, but even more beautiful, in my opinion.  

It's also full of wildlife!  This elk greeted us on the road into town.  When we were walking home at night we encountered a female elk in someone's front yard.  It was rutting season when we were there, and we would hear the elk screeching in the night. It was very unnerving at first, but pretty neat once we realized what it was. 

Jasper is beautiful and there's tons to do. But even just driving around is enough to find some gorgeous sights. 

One of the best views was on the Path of the Angel Glacier. The road to the glacier itself was closed, but we had a fantastic view just off the road. 

There was a sign warning of bears, particularly one that does not yield the trail to hikers! But we didn't see any bears during our trip.

Back near Jasper we drove to Lake Annette (above) and Lake Edith for more gorgeous views. The weather was beautiful. We rented a boat on Pyramid Lake and walked to Pyramid Island for more beautiful views. 

Then we drove to Miette Hot Springs, and saw a herd of bighorn sheep on the way.  We made it to the hot springs right before a large school group, so we were lucky!  The drive was beautiful and swimming in the hot springs in the cool mountain air was a great experience. 

The next day we drove all the way to British Columbia to see Mount Robson, the highest point in the Canadian Rockies.  The mountain is beautiful and so was the drive. 

We also visited Reargaurd Falls at the base of the mountain, an easy and pretty hike. 

That afternoon we headed back to Jasper and on to Maligne Lake.  It's an hour drive from Jasper but the drive is scenic, of course.  

We took a boat cruise to Spirit Island, a tiny island in Maligne lake that is one of the most photographed places in the Rockies.  

The boat ride was definitely worth it. On the way back we heard there are a lot of moose in the area and I was very excited hoping to see one. 

Well we saw three! First we saw a female laying in the grass.

Then we saw a male and female moose crashing through the woods at the side of the road!  We didn't get a good shot of the male.  You can just make out his antlers in the picture above.

But the female was very close to the car. 

It was amazing to see them so close.  The experience of a lifetime. 

On the way back down the Icefields Parkway we made one last stop at Peyto Lake.  It's a bit of an uphill hike, and it was snowing in the mountains, but it is stunning. 

We arrived back in Calgary and checked in to Hotel Le Germain for our last night in Alberta, which was also our 10th anniversary!  This is a much fancier hotel than we usually stay at, and it was a very special treat.  We loved the room furnishings and breakfast the next morning was fabulous!

For our anniversary we stopped by Catch Oyster Bar for oysters and sparkling wine, which was a decadent way to start the evening.  Then we walked to Proof cocktail bar for fantastic craft cocktails. 

Finally, we had our anniversary dinner at Charcut, a famous Calgary restaurant that was right inside our hotel.  I had butcher steak with chimichurri and wild arugula.  Matt had bison brisket with mushrooms and boar bacon.  And we shared poutine.  It was way too much food but so delicious!  

At the end of the meal they gave us a lovely dessert, even though we were too full to eat it. We had an amazing anniversary and flew home the next day.

The Rocky Mountains are amazing and I wish everyone in Canada could experience them at least once.  We were so happy that Jasper was still such a wonderful place.  Banff has more shopping and restaurants, but Jasper is friendlier and more beautiful.  I hope it won't be another 10 or 11 years before we return!