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  • Jul28

    Joe Fortes Brunch-4

    With a wide grin from Maitre d’ Frenchy at the Joe Fortes door, we knew we’d be well taken care of on our recent outing to one of Vancouver’s best-loved steak and seafood restaurants.

    Joe Fortes Seafood and Chop House turns 30 next year, its name taken from Seraphin “Joe” Fortes, a Barbados-born sailor who arrived here in 1885 and became a popular figure in our city’s early culture. A competitive swimmer, Joe was appointed the city’s first official lifeguard at the turn of the 20th century, after teaching so many kids at the beach to swim. Before becoming a lifeguard, Joe was a bartender.

    The historical theme continues throughout the restaurant, with photos of celebrities who’ve dined here gracing the second floor walls, including a special section devoted to Joe.

    Joe Fortes Brunch-3

    Once seated, we’re given a tall menu filled with seafood, steak, pasta, and salad offerings, together with an equally-impressive, award-winning wine list, boasting over 300 wines.

    Choose your wine by reds, whites, rosés, interesting whites, interesting reds, Rieslings, champagnes & sparklings, Gewürtztraminers, Pinot & Gamay noirs, Merlot and blends, Italian reds, Zinfandels, Shiraz, Syrah & Rhône varietals, and Cabernet: Sauvignon, Franc & Blends. The whopping, double-sided wine menu will leave you spoiled for choice!

    As well as wines, there are about two dozen malt whiskey sorts and classic cocktails to choose from.

    From the oyster bar

    A meal here wouldn’t be complete without a selection of oysters on the half shell—during Joe’s daily Appy Hour (4-6 pm), between 100 and 150 dozen oysters are shucked. We particularly enjoyed our selection of Shigoku (Washington State), Kusshi, and Beach (both Read Island) oysters, served with a trio of sauces. A special version of Joe’s ponzu sauce is slightly-spicy on the palate, containing a mix of lemon juice, soy sauce, fresh ginger, and a little Tabasco.

    Lagunitas IPA, Petaluma, California

    Our waiter brought over Joe’s famous lobster-infused oil and basalmic vinegar, drizzled onto a plate for dipping into warm bread; this marries well with a glass of Petaluma, CA-brewed Lagunitas IPA, its very hoppy taste cutting right into the lobster oil, for a rich-to-bitter palate toss.

    Joe Fortes also uses the Vivreau water system, something I discovered three years ago at the company’s opening event in town. Vivreau is a sustainable water bottle solution that’s made the rounds globally, eliminating the need for bottled water consumption in both restaurants and businesses.

    We ordered a half bottle ($43.50) of Matanzas Creek Sauvignon Blanc for the table to go with both our seafood entrées.

    Joe’s features a Sunday-to-Thursday three-course dinner for $38, a Creation of the Day (market price), and Trio of Fresh Fish ($41.95), alongside steak and chops, classics such as halibut and chips, and a seafood tower on ice (priced per tier), piled high with Atlantic lobster, crab, local oysters, poached jumbo prawns, scallop ceviche, smoked local Albacore tuna, clams, and mussels.

    Coho salmon topped with chopped lobster and smoked heirloom tomatoes, greens, lemon beurre blanc

    I chose Chef Wayne Sych’s creation of the day: Coho salmon topped with chopped lobster, smoked heirloom tomatoes, carrots, fresh greens, and lemon beurre blanc. The salmon was perfectly cooked and seasoned, made extra decadent with the chopped lobster and smoked tomatoes. Finely chopped zucchini and a few micro greens added nice texture to the flaky fish, while a squeeze of lemon elevated the sauce’s flavours.

    Trio of fresh fish: prawns, Sockeye salmon, halibut, served with pico de gallo, beurre blanc

    My husband ordered the trio of fresh fish (on our visit: 3 oz. each of halibut and Sockeye salmon, with two jumbo prawns), great for seafood lovers who’d like to try a little of everything. While two of the three were paired with fresh greens, he particularly liked the mashed potato texture/seasoning choice, combined with those two large and succulent prawns.

    The Sauvignon blanc was a great partner for both seafood dishes.

    I’d like to particularly mention the service: The waitstaff anticipate needs; water was poured, extra glassware brought to our table before we asked—it was as if Johnny could read our minds!

    Tahitian vanilla crème brûlée, tiramisu, molten center chocolate cake, brandied cherries, biscotti, vanilla gelato

    As we’ve only had tiramisu here in the past, we decided to indulge our sweet tooth and order the Dessert Trio ($16.95) showcasing some of pastry chef Candace Mui’s delightful concoctions: Tahitian vanilla crème brûlée, tiramisu, molten center chocolate cake, brandied cherries, biscotti, and vanilla gelato, beautifully presented for us on a large, flat white dish.

    Joe Fortes Tahitian vanilla crème brûlée, biscotti
    [Tahitian vanilla crème brûlée with homemade biscotti]

    The light, creamy brûlée with its hard-caramel top was divine, offering a fantastic contrast to its rich chocolate neighbour. The tiramisu portion was also a treat, enough to satisfy two people. A couple of gelato balls on the side are perfect for dipping the biscotti or tiramisu finger into—or that gorgeous molten chocolate cake. Between the tastes and the presentation, we were very happy to have saved just a wee bit of room to savour this!

    In between bites, I enjoyed a cup of decaf Americano while my husband sipped a 2 oz. glass of Penfolds’ Grandfather Tawny Port ($14), with its lovely caramel aroma. This is one of 10 ports served at Joe Fortes; there are also vintage, late-bottle vintage, and a BC fortified port from Unsworth Vineyards on the menu.

    Dessert wines, dessert drinks, and hot speciality coffees round out the post-entrée offerings.

    We’d arrived at 5:30 for early dinner, with the bar packed for Appy Hour; an hour later, the entire dining room on both levels was filled with a wide range of clientele, from locals to cruise-ship tourists. I finally noticed (and heard) the piano player, tucked into the landing of a large curved staircase between the two levels.

    The restaurant is a well-oiled machine and takes a dedicated staff to run successfully night after night (and in the daytime too, as they’re open for lunch and weekend brunch).

    Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House is located at 777 Thurlow Street in Vancouver. Our meal was compliments of Joe Fortes, for the purpose of experiencing their current menu.

  • Jul25

    Vancouver 2014 Golden Dumpling Cook Off poster detail

    Back by popular demand, Vancouver’s Second Annual Dumpling Cook Off joins forces with the TD Vancouver Chinatown Festival on August 10 for the second annual celebration of one of the world’s greatest comfort foods. Serving the savoury morsels street-side, traditional Chinese restaurants will cook up the classics while the city’s hippest hotspots will plate fresh takes on the filling-and-wrapper format.

    An expert panel of judges will taste their way through entries from 20 restaurants battling to fill, wrap, steam, and fry their way to the top. The victorious challenger will win full bragging rights and claim the Golden Dumpling trophy.

    Second Annual Golden Dumpling Cook Off

    Over 2,700 dumplings were served at last year’s Chinatown-based Cook Off, in an intense competition between some of Vancouver’s top restaurants: Cibo, Chambar, Harvest Community Foods, La Mezcaleria, Pidgin, Wild Rice, Wildebeest, Sea Monstr Sushi, and The Parker. Chefs took inspiration from global cuisines, resulting in uncommon twists on the familiar dumpling, such as Mexican morsels with carnitas and topped with arbol chile salsa; a local take with turnip and chanterelles; and an Italian scallop and prosciutto agnoli.

    Serving a plump duck confit and truffle dumpling, Pidgin walked away with the Golden Dumpling trophy; the restaurant returns next month to defend its title.

    Your Golden Dumpling Passport ticket will give you entry, plus a taste of each entry in the cook off.

    Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie will open its night market patio for drinks to compliment the fabulous eats. Festival-goers won’t want to miss the Dumpling Derby, with prizes awarded to hungry competitors who duke it out for dumpling domination in an eating contest. During separate men’s and women’s heats of two suspenseful minutes each, eight men and eight women will gulp down dozens of dumplings.

    The winner of each category will be declared Chinatown Dumpling Eating Champion and will each take home a coveted prize.

    Second Golden Dumpling Cook Off
    Date: August 10, noon to 5 pm
    Venue: Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie, 100 Keefer Street, Vancouver
    Tickets: $30 (plus fee); available in advance online via Eventbrite

    Note that the TD Vancouver Chinatown Festival runs both Saturday and Sunday, August 10 and 11, however the Golden Dumpling Cook Off will be held on August 10 only.

    The Golden Dumpling Cook Off proudly supports The Chinese Elders Community Kitchen, a program of the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre.

  • Jul24

    Globe at YVR Airport-6

    One of the first things on people’s minds when checking into an airport is getting through airport security in order to board their plane on time. And while most airports feature the usual selection of chain restaurants (and if you’re lucky, a genuine local favourite), most meals are quickly consumed or taken to-go for the flight.

    Globe at YVR Airport-17

    What if you arrived at the airport ahead of time and indulged in a gorgeous meal, or sandwich for your flight? And what if that restaurant seemed miles away from the bustling gates and their frenzied passengers, yet still in the airport?

    Globe at YVR Airport-5

    Enter Globe@YVR, Fairmont Vancouver’s answer to proper airport dining. Located just off the US Departures level, the Fairmont Vancouver Airport has recently been ranked North America’s #1 airport hotel. Just inside the hotel’s entrance, Globe@YVR seats 130 hungry passengers (and diners) with a prime view of the plane-spotting action.

    Globe at YVR Airport-2
    [Globe@YVR's Executive Chef Karan Suri]

    Earlier this week, I had the chance to meet new Executive Chef Karan Suri and sit down for a seven-course lunch (small plates, I assure you!) while learning about Suri’s background and impressive resume. Chef Suri has worked in kitchens all over the world. He began his career in 2005 in his native country, at New Delhi’s Oberoi Group, and has worked in Singapore, Dubai, Africa, and now—Vancouver.

    Some of the Michelen-starred chefs he’s had the pleasure of working with include Alain Passard, Phil Howard, and Nicolas LeBec. In Dubai, he oversaw the culinary team at both Fire and Ice, Cellar & Grill, as well as at Azur, during a two-year stint.

    Before leaving Asia, he oversaw the launch of prestigious Leela Palace (as sous chef), working at the resort’s signature restaurants Le Cirque and Megu.

    Globe at YVR Airport-9

    Now in Vancouver, his motto is “locally-sourced, globally-inspired” cuisine. Globe@YVR works with Fraser Valley farmers and only uses Oceanwise-sanctioned seafood in dishes included on a widely-varied menu. After all, according to Suri, “You’re catering to a huge clientele of people in different time zones”. Flexibility is key to keeping travellers happy, whether they’re about to fly or have just landed and are in need of anything from nourishing to comfort-style foods.

    Globe at YVR Airport-10

    We started by preparing our own fish tacos in the kitchen, using Chef Suri’s potato-flecked fish bites and an array of condiments. I decided to sample a trio of craft beers from the restaurant’s draught selection, including smooth, mildly-sweet Fairmont Honey Lager, prepared with the hotel’s own bee hives. Joining the trio is Whistler Black Tusk Ale and Driftwood’s Fat Tug IPA. All provided excellent flavour profiles to both the fish tacos and our starter of lamb croquette, scallops with duck confit, and a Fraser Valley lamb burger.

    Globe at YVR Airport-11
    [Fairmont's own Honey Lager, Whistler Black Tusk Ale, Driftwood Brewery's Fat Tug IPA]

    The lamb croquette is seasoned with sumac and lamb jus, while the scallops have a rhubarb glaze. The Fraser Valley lamb burger is enhanced with baba ganoush, feta cheese, and an in-house made sourdough ciabatta. By this time, two BC wines were poured for our meal: Blasted Church’s 2010 Cabernet/Merlot, and Church & State’s Chardonnay. Unexpected but providing an excellent compliment to both lamb burger and lamb croquette was the chardonnay, with its crisp bite and vanilla oak finish. Let’s just say that both the Cab/Merlot and the Chardonnay went down smoothly with all three bites.

    Globe at YVR Airport-12

    Another unexpected surprise: the kitchen team brought out braised short rib with creamy mashed potatoes topped with a baby balsamic onion—in a sealed tin! When we each opened our tin, the rich, delightful aroma of the short rib came came up to greet my nose. This dish paired nicely with both the Fat Tug IPA and the Black Tusk Ale.

    Globe at YVR Airport-7

    Nothing says BC like Skeena salmon. Chef Suri heightens a simple dish of salmon and leeks by cooking them in vegetable ash; this imparts a lovely smoky flavour to the dish. Adding to the plate is a tiny scoop of dehydrated Roma tomatoes, roasted baby spinach, and a drizzle of herbed oil. The leeks (together with celery) are burnt-on-grill on high heat until charred. Ash cooking is a hot trend in London at the moment.

    This is truly a dish for fish lovers!

    Globe at YVR Airport-13

    A goat cheese and beet root salad followed as a nice palate-cleanser. Toasted walnuts accompany colourful beets prepared four ways: pickled, fresh, chip, and roasted, along with puréed beet root for added flavour and colour on the plate. Mature Valencay goat cheese from Agassiz’s Farm House Cheeses is also ash-laden, to keep in theme with the Skeena salmon. It’s delightful, and we’re lucky to have so many beautifully-coloured beets available in this neck of the woods, AND intelligent chefs who know how to make them sing.

    Globe at YVR Airport-14

    One of Globe@YVR’s best-sellers arrives at our table next: Fresh sablefish in a dehydrated garlic/butter sauce with bacon-roasted fingerling potatoes, avocado, and fennel soil. This is also one of the few dishes in the restaurant that’s specially served on rustic basalt plates. This was a flavourful, moist, and delicate piece of fish, enhanced by some amazingly simple, yet tasty accompaniments. I enjoyed this dish tremendously, especially with sips of Church & State chard.

    Globe at YVR Airport-3 Globe at YVR Airport-4

    Chef Suri decided to spoil us with several sweet finishes to our meal: on-the-spot-prepared honey ice cream, and homemade apple pie and tiramisu.

    Globe at YVR Airport-15

    I enjoyed the fresh tiramisu presentation in-glass; the chef believes this imparts more flavour to the mascarpone cheese.

    Globe at YVR Airport-16

    In addition to hands-down one of the most inventive menus I’ve sampled all year, Globe@YVR’s interior is light, simple, and elegant. Those large floor-to-ceiling windows take in the tarmac action with sweeping views of the local mountains.

    Globe at YVR Airport-8

    Light fixtures enhance the walls and curved, white ceiling. I noticed unique, eye-catching light fixtures in other areas of the hotel (as well as the entrance).

    Globe at YVR Airport-18

    If you’re not heading in or out of town, consider this: Globe@YVR is an easy half-hour trip on the Canada Line from downtown Vancouver, you won’t have to worry about parking, or enjoying a few of the many craft beers, cocktails, and wines on offer here.

    Globe@YVR at night
    [Globe@YVR at night; photo courtesy of Fairmont Vancouver]

    A Food for Flight menu is a great way to get a clubhouse sandwich, salad, breakfast burrito or muffins to take away on your flight. In-house pastry chef Lorna sees to a daily selection of fresh pastries and breads. With only one month at the kitchen helm, I’m anxious to see how Chef Suri’s menu will develop over time. He’s truly a blessing to have in our food-forward city.

    Globe@YVR is located inside the Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel at Vancouver International Airport.

  • Jul23

    Chambar Restaurant Preview-2

    Last Friday, media were invited to check out the nearly-completed and expanded Chambar Restaurant, located next to the current Beatty Street location in Crosstown Vancouver.

    Chambar Restaurant Preview-5

    A city favourite for years, Chambar is three-star-Michelin-trained chef Nico and wife Karri Schuermans’ vision of Belgian and North African cuisine melded into a diverse menu of appetizers, moules frites, plus lamb, duck, venison, and sustainably-caught seafood dishes.

    Chambar Restaurant Preview-3

    Karri will oversee the new space’s design, with blood red booths, Italian-designed chairs, and a rotating art collection on the walls. The 1912 heritage elements have been preserved and complement the brick and wood walls. Resin-covered table tops with walnut inlays, plus a custom-designed communal table that can seat up to 10 diners will move to the new space.

    Chambar Restaurant Preview-12

    The restaurant’s bar will feature prominently towards the front of the establishment. Although covered at present, we’ve been told that it’s inlaid with walnut and tined resin, perfect for enjoying some of Chambar’s award-winning cocktails, wide range of wines, and beers, one brewed just for the restaurant. We found it immensely refreshing on the warm, late afternoon day of our visit.

    Chambar Restaurant Preview-10

    A side patio will seat 50 diners away from the street. There’ll be enough space to accommodate 270 diners between the restaurant’s two levels. I personally can’t wait to see what the lighting will look like together with all the thoughtful touches when opening day arrives.

    Chambar Restaurant Preview-4
    [A much larger kitchen downstairs]

    Chambar is also proud of their extensive wine collection, including eight wines by the glass, 50 international whites, 75 international reds, 25 BC wines, and 15 sparkling wines.

    Chambar Restaurant Preview-6
    [Summer sippers between the construction]

    The restaurant’s name is derived from a loosely translated French saying, “When the teacher leaves the room, all the kids go crazy”. In other words, enjoy a fun night on the town here with friends, good food, and drink. In addition to dinner, Chambar will also start offering breakfast, lunch, brunch, and a late-night tapas menu.

    Chambar Restaurant Preview-8

    As we walked through the main floor, downstairs kitchen, and side rooms, we kept imagining the finished product through the dust and machinery. An outside rooftop deck with gorgeous city views in the adjacent building is also available for booking special dinners and events.

    Chambar Restaurant Preview-7 Chambar Restaurant Preview-9

    Chambar as we know it will close in two weeks, with the larger space opening shortly thereafter at 568 Beatty Street in Vancouver.

  • Jul3

    Pizza Fabrika-9

    Take three friends (and former restaurant owners) and a straightforward menu and you’ll arrive at Pizza Fabrika, a West End pizza joint on Robson near Cardero Street, open for just two weeks. This fully-licensed pizzeria aims to please with yeast-leavened sourdough thin-crust pizzas, side dishes, and dessert jars.

    Pizza Fabrika-6

    Owners Michael and Steven formerly co-owned La Brasserie on Davie Street. Recognizing a need for a cozy, family-style pizzeria in town, they united to form Fabrika, a term used in several European countries that translates to factory in English.

    Pizza Fabrika-8

    The menu contains Canadian, Australian, and German-inspired dishes, including the Flammkuchen pizza (double-smoked bacon, crispy pork crackling, house-made crème fraîche, and caramelized onion), Dukkah, a tasty Middle Eastern dish (currently popular in Australia): bowls of crushed toasted hazelnuts mixed with aromatic spices and extra virgin olive oil (both great dipping companions!) with warm bread sticks, plus favourites Margherita Fabrika pizza and beer bison meatballs.

    Pizza Fabrika Dukkah appetizer
    [Pizza Fabrika's Dukkah]

    White, red, and rose wines are poured by the glass, carafe, or bottle. Beers are mostly served in cans and bottles, ranging from Red Racer ISA to Pilsner Urquell. The 25-seater keeps Steamworks on tap; there isn’t much room to expand their draught offerings just yet.

    Pizza Fabrika interior
    [Photo courtesy Pizza Fabrika]

    A couple of high tables in the center of the room and at the window form the main seating; a row of booths against the wall seats smaller groups. Industrial-strength Metro shelving holds wine bottles, beer, and supplies above, making productive use of their limited space.

    Pizza Fabrika-10

    Large sacks of pizza flour sit inside the front window. The interior’s sleek design features dark wood and concrete table tops, and it doesn’t take long for us to settle in and feel right at home here. The owners and staff are friendly and efficient. Even though we dined on Canada Day and a large birthday party took up the majority of the space, we were looked after and our food arrived hot.

    The owners believe that using sourdough in their pizza recipe is better suited to take-out orders — Neopolitan pizza tends to go soggy after about 10 minutes.

    Their sauce recipe uses raw San Marzano DOP-certified tomatoes, with extra-virgin olive oil and Kosher salt, while the cheese is a combination of full-fat Canadian mozzarella and Danish Fontina.

    Pizza Fabrika Bison meatball/roasted red pepper pizza
    [Pizza Fabrika Bison meatball/roasted red pepper pizza]

    The rustic-style pizzas have an airy and crispy crust, and their 12” size will serve one to two people, especially if you order a couple of sides. Prices range from $16 to $18 (there’s a kids pizza for $13 called the Bambino, with Fabrika cheese blend and tomato sauce).

    Pizza Fabrika Caprese salad appetizer
    [Pizza Fabrika Caprese salad]

    The Caprese salad has delightfully fluffy fior di latte, fresh basil, thinly-sliced onions and yellow tomatoes, an excellent way to start dinner.

    Pizza Fabrika Duck proscuitto/fresh pea shoots pizza
    [Pizza Fabrika Duck proscuitto/fresh pea shoots pizza]

    Both our pizzas were divine. My husband ordered the bison meatball with roasted red peppers in a spicy tomato sauce, and I went for the lighter duck proscuitto with a fine sprinkling of fresh pea shoots brushed in extra virgin olive oil. Super tasty with a subtle bite to the shoots!

    Pizza Fabrika Lemon tart dessert jar

    We wound down with a Lemon tart dessert jar ($5 each; $6 and you keep the jar to take home). The chilled lemon mixed in with what tasted like bits of crushed graham pie crust offered a refreshing end to a warm, sunny day. There’s always two sorts available with a rotating offering (made in-house). The other choice at the moment is mascarpone chocolate mousse.

    Pizza Fabrika-5

    Reggae music (and later funk and soul) played over the loudspeakers on the night of our visit. Take-out service is also available. Find Pizza Fabrika at 1680 Robson Street. They’re open seven nights a week from 5 pm to midnight.

  • Jun20

    Earl's Summer Kick-off-2

    Last night saw the launch of Earl’s Restaurants’ summer kick-off, to celebrate longer days, patio weather, and a summer menu.

    Earl's Summer Kick-off-1 Earl's Summer Kick-off-8

    A fun new campaign with a ‘It’s on a school night’ theme includes a menu with salads, cedar-planked salmon, crispy Thai prawns, and a Sunday through Thursday special with $5 tacos, nachos, tequilas, margaritas, and Coronas. These deals will last through September 9.

    Earl's Los Cabos chicken tacos
    [Earl's Los Cabos chicken tacos]

    In addition, each day has its own food and drink specials (an excellent Tuesday deal: 12 oz. Driftwood IPA sleeves for $3!).

    Alongside tried-and-true favourites BBQ back ribs, burgers, and a wealth of salads, soups, and sharing plates, comes a very tasty, light prawn and quinoa salad, made festive with avocado, feta cheese, strawberries, candied pecans, in a citrus honey vinaigrette (perfectly paired with a crisp glass of white wine or a sangria).

    Earl's Prawn + Quinoa salad
    [Earl's Prawn + quinoa salad]

    The salad was a great combination of tastes, with the quinoa and crumbled feta so well paired in the citrus honey vinaigrette that I’m hoping to replicate it at home. Los Cabos chicken tacos (served three to an order) are served on soft corn tortillas with Valentina hot sauce.

    Earl's BBQ pork buns
    [Earl's BBQ pork buns]

    Another discovery was the BBQ pork buns, created to look like mini tacos, dressed in a flavourful, not-too-spicy hoisin sauce, garnished with cilantro and roasted peanuts. So tasty!
    Read the rest of the post »

  • Jun20

    Peggy's Cove lighthouse

    Peggy’s Cove is a sweet little fishing village located just under an hour outside of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Known for its lighthouse, the most photographed in North America, the tiny village was founded in 1811. Peggy’s Cove’s settlers relied on fishing, but also planted gardens and raised cattle on the surrounding land.

    Peggy's Cove village

    It’s also been declared a preservation area; The Peggy’s Cove Commission Act, passed in 1962, prohibits development in and around the surrounding village and restricts development within Peggy’s Cove.

    A view from Peggy's Cove lighthouse Nova Scotia June 2014-73

    Artists and photographers embraced Peggy’s Cove, and with road improvements, visitor numbers began to grow. Although the village is laced with numerous souvenir shops, this charming spot remains a working fishing village.

    Nova Scotia June 2014-75

    Nearby Oceanstone Resort is located in Indian Harbour along a calm stretch of the Atlantic Ocean. It was voted as one of the Top Five Wedding Destinations in Canada by Elle Magazine in 2012, and it’s easy to see why couples would want to tie the knot here.

    Nova Scotia June 2014-84

    The quaint cottages are filled with books, seashells, old china cups and antique furnishings. There’s also rooms and suites at the Inn, ideal for both large and small groups and meetings.

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    Many of the cottages are situated with decks that face onto the water for relaxing with a cup of tea or coffee and a good read. I stayed in the Dovekey (named after the world’s smallest duck), a one-bedroom cottage with living and dining areas, a full bathroom, queen bedroom that opens from the living area via French doors, and a fully-stocked kitchen (with fridge, stove, oven, microwave, toaster, etc.).

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    Each cottage is lovingly designed and furnished with romance and relaxation in mind. Across the water sits Paddy’s Head Lighthouse (a pepper-pot style lighthouse), built in 1901 and manned until 1945 after which time power arrived in the community. I spent some time on the deck in the late afternoon admiring it through the trees, with a green glowing lamp burning inside, making for a stunning photo op.

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    The Oceanstone Resort’s current owners (the Moore and Dodds families) purchased the property in December 2011, and spent that winter renovating the entire resort.

    Nova Scotia June 2014-83

    The evening following our arrival, our group was invited to dine on the deck at the Captain’s House, where chef Bryan Corkery prepared lobsters, a mean chowder, some fresh corn on the cob and salads, topping the evening feast with strawberry shortcake. Every ingredient is locally sourced, right down to the mint on the shortcake that had been picked mere moments before our arrival.

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    We gathered around the kitchen where chef Bryan demonstrated the fine art of prepping a lobster. The evening was filled with great conversation and Nova Scotia wine.

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    Although there’s a restaurant on the property, Chef Bryan cooks for resort guests. We enjoyed a self-serve continental breakfast in the same spot the next morning before our reluctant departure.

    Nova Scotia June 2014-81

    After just one night here, my relaxation level was high and stress level low. This well-loved gem is worth seeking out if you’re planning a visit to the area. Oceanstone Resort is located at 8650 Peggy’s Cove Road, Indian Harbour, Nova Scotia.

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    One of the most rewarding aspects of this trip was a visit to Peggy of the Cove. At first, this brightly-coloured home with a lighthouse and lobster traps appears to come out of nowhere on the road, resembling another tourist stop, but if you take the time to walk up and knock on the front door, you’ll be greeted by Ivan Fraser, wearing his Sou’wester.

    With author Ivan Fraser

    This is Ivan’s childhood home, and he’s lovingly preserved artifacts of his youth in a house that’s been in his family for six generations.

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    There’s a few stories out there describing how the area came to be known as Peggy’s Cove. While the village is likely named after Saint Margaret’s Bay (Peggy being the nickname for Margaret), a popular legend exists, claiming that the name came from the sole survivor of a shipwreck at Halibut Rock near the cove.

    Peggy (of Peggy’s Cove) was the sole survivor of the shipwreck. Her real name was Margaret, but everyone called her Peggy. The story’s hard to prove, and the locals don’t buy it. No one did anything with this legend, until 1996, when Ivan took a photo looking out at sea. An American man pointed out Peggy’s form in the photo; Ivan, an artist, painted the picture, later penning a song (the CD’s for sale in his house, featuring vocalist Melanie Ross), then setting out to write the books.

    Nova Scotia June 2014-89

    In his first book, he begins Peggy at the age of eight, following the shipwreck at Halibut Rock. Peggy is rescued at daybreak, then rushed off to the closest home to recover. Ivan’s story, Peggy of the Cove, tells the tale of the little girl who survives and is taken in by a local family. She has no recollection of her whereabouts or her given name, so the family decides to call her Peggy.

    Ivan is full of energy as he recounts the tale in his books, showing us his favourite memories on both floors of the home.

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    A movie is in the works after the series of novels. His house is part art gallery, part homage to his family. The books, although works of fiction, show Ivan’s imagination in painting a somewhat realistic story of Peggy and her life here after the shipwreck.

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    Ivan’s a 2009 bronze medal winner of the Independent Publisher Book Awards for Peggy of the Cove: Secrets, his second novel (Best Regional Fiction). A third novel has just been completed.

    Nova Scotia June 2014-93

    Visit Ivan’s Peggy of the Cove Museum at 10235 Peggy’s Cove Road in Glen Margaret.

    Acadian Maple Products, Upper Tantallon, Nova Scotia

    Passing Ivan’s childhood home, a bit further along Route 333 (headed back to Halifax), you’ll enter Upper Tantallon, home of Acadian Maple Products.

    Acadian Maple Products, Upper Tantallon, Nova Scotia

    This gourmet family-owned business produces maple syrup and maple syrup products ranging from maple butter to maple chive mix and BBQ sauce. There’s even a maple wine and a Cumberland County maple coffee. All coffees are small-batch 100% Fair Trade certified and organic, and roasted on the premises. Find Acadian Maple Products at 13578 Peggy’s Cove Road in Upper Tantallon, Nova Scotia.

    Acadian Maple Products, Upper Tantallon, Nova Scotia

    I stayed as a guest of Oceanstone Resort via Tourism Nova Scotia.

  • Jun19

    Nova Scotia June 2014-59

    From my ground-floor queen bedroom, I can hear the early evening final calls of the birds outside in the trees. Such a blissful moment, particularly after a late afternoon spring shower.

    Nova Scotia June 2014-55

    We’re checked in at The Halliburton House Inn for a night, and I’m happy with everything in this room, from the cozy bed to the period furniture and fireplace.

    Nova Scotia June 2014-54

    A coffee maker sits on the desk in a corner. A wing-back chair will serve as the perfect spot to relax before dinner at Stories Restaurant next door. As I step outside the room, my eyes are immediately led upward to the curvy wooden staircase.

    Nova Scotia June 2014-58 Nova Scotia June 2014-57 Nova Scotia June 2014-56

    Back in the room, I begin reading about the history of this place, dating back to 1809, when Sir Brenton Halliburton, a soldier, lawyer, and ‘brilliant politician’ purchased the lot, with the house’s construction beginning seven years later.

    Nova Scotia June 2014-53

    Halliburton presided over the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, retiring from his role as Chief Justice when he passed away in 1860. The siltstone home contained a library, wine cellar, drawing room, dining room, plus seven well-appointed bedrooms. In 1885, the house went up for auction.

    In that same year, the Dalhousie Law School was also looking for a home, purchasing the building to use as its Law School. And through the years, the building was sold, rented, converted, and eventually became an inn.

    In the mid-1980’s, the building again changed ownership and underwent a complete renovation into the Halliburton House Inn. December 1985 saw the building’s registration as a Heritage Property. In 1992, the Inn went on the market, and was purchased by Dr. Bruce Petty and his son Robert (currently the General Manager).

    Nova Scotia June 2014-64

    The hotel is well-situated near the waterfront, Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, Pier 21 National Historic Site, Halifax Citadel, and the Old Burying Ground, where I snapped photos one sunny morning of a few of the city’s first citizens, including men of the British Army and of the Royal Navy.

    Nova Scotia June 2014-68
    [Gravestone of Major General Robert Ross, 1766 - 1814]

    High-speed internet access and a printer can be found in the charming library next to main lobby. A garden courtyard serves as a relaxing green space for guests. A self-service continental breakfast is included with your stay, enjoyed in Stories Restaurant.

    Nova Scotia June 2014-62

    I can’t say enough great things about Stories. Our group dined there on the evening of our stay. Executive Chef Scott Vail always uses local, fresh ingredients in his dishes that range from breast of guinea hen to Yellowfin tuna grilled rare. Starters range in price from $11 to $16; mains from $28 to $33. The menu changes daily.

    Nova Scotia June 2014-61

    Freshly-caught Yellowfin tuna was brought in only a few hours ahead of our meal. Pan-seared, rice paper-wrapped sea scallops are gorgeous, served in a ginger sesame vinaigrette.

    Nova Scotia June 2014-107

    Stories has a a few Nova Scotian aromatic white wines on their menu: Jost Vineyards (Muscat Prost), Blomiden Estate Winery (Tidal Bay), and Nova 7 (Benjamin Bridge). Read more about Nova Scotian wines here.

    Nova Scotia June 2014-106

    International reds, whites, sparkling wines are also available. I enjoyed a Propellor Brewing IPA with my meal.

    Nova Scotia June 2014-108

    Desserts are equally beautifully presented and delectable. Our table ordered a flourless chocolate cake and panna cotta to share. Specialty coffees, port, dessert wine, and Fair Trade coffee complete the dessert menu.

    Nova Scotia June 2014-109

    The Halliburton and Stories at Halliburton Restaurant are located at 5184 Morris Street in Halifax. We were guests of the Halliburton Hotel through Destination Halifax.

  • Jun6

    Saladworks Yaletown-1

    A salad might be the easiest thing to prepare at home, but when you’re on the go, what options do you have for fast, healthy dining? US-based Saladworks has arrived in Canada, having recently opened their first store in Yaletown just over a month ago.

    Saladworks Yaletown-6

    Earlier this week, I sat down for lunch with Saladworks’ Canadian Founder/Owner/CEO Paul Lalli, a former Squamish city councillor and family man. Paul is excited to bring this 27-year-old chain north of the border, and owns the Canadian rights to open more shops across the country (Langley will be the next location, with Alberta to follow).
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  • May28

    ARC Dining at Fairmont Waterfront-2

    With the Fairmont Waterfront’s recent $20 million renovation project came time to renew the hotel’s long-standing Heron’s, now minted ARC Dining. Gone is the bar towards the back, replaced with a very accessible chef’s table.

    ARC Dining at Fairmont Waterfront-6 ARC Dining at Fairmont Waterfront-7

    Airy, wooden ceiling fixtures now grace ARC, along with a vamped-up, modern menu with branded motto “Life is complicated. Good food shouldn’t be.”
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  • May8

    Hotel Grand Pacific

    When I stayed at the Hotel Grand Pacific in Victoria, BC last year, I featured the amenities, dining, service, and attention to detail in the rooms and throughout the hotel. The trees were still waiting for their spring leaves, the evenings were somewhat chilly, and I was in town to tour the harbour city and provincial capital.

    Hotel Grand Pacific-3
    [The view at dusk from my harbour view room]

    On this occasion, I decided to make the Grand Pacific my base for the Fifth Annual Social Media Camp, held at nearby Victoria Conference Centre and focus this article on the convenience of this hotel’s location.

    Hotel Grand Pacific-4

    I enjoyed a similar harbour-view suite with imposing views of the waterfront, close to both Black Ball Ferry (service to Port Angeles, WA) and Victoria Clipper (passenger service to Seattle). The hotel offers Seattleites ferry/hotel packages to make this an attractive car-free holiday or business trip.

    Hotel Grand Pacific-5

    The three-hour ferry will take you right from Seattle’s downtown harbour to Victoria, directly opposite the hotel. You can also indulge in a romantic getaway complete with champagne, chocolates, a Lush bath bomb, and breakfast for two.
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  • Apr30

    Black Forest Restaurant-8

    Wandering off in our Volvo XC60 (this sporty, very comfortable car handles the country roads so nicely!) on a late afternoon drive to Harrison Hot Springs, we parked right at the Esplanade and headed into the The Black Forest Restaurant for an early dinner.

    Black Forest Restaurant-1

    The place was packed with families, tour groups, and locals as Wednesday is Schnitzel Night at The Black Forest (soon to end though as the restaurant revs up for the busy summer season). Dozens of schnitzel varieties were being served up along with healthy portions of red cabbage, bread, and other German specialties.
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  • Apr29

    Rowena's Inn-28

    While at Rowena’s Inn on the River, my husband and I dined one evening at River’s Edge Restaurant and spent a cozy early afternoon enjoying tea service inside the Inn.

    River's Edge Restaurant's Executive Chef Jonathon Gee
    [River's Edge Executive Chef Jonathon Gee]

    River’s Edge uses local ingredients and Oceanwise-sanctioned seafood in its dishes, with Executive Chef Jonathon Gee heading the kitchen for the last two years. Gee previously worked at Harrison Hot Springs Resort’s Copper Room.
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  • Apr28

    Rowena's Inn-12

    From the moment you drive down the lane with a commanding view of the Harrison River, a sense of relaxation sets in. Rowena’s Inn on the River is a gorgeous country estate located on lush greens adjacent to one of the most picturesque golf courses in the province.

    Rowena's Inn-11

    On our recent stay, my husband and me checked in to one of the several cabins dotted along the property, near ponds and nestled in between trees. You can also stay in one of the Inn’s rooms on the second floor.

    Rowena's Inn-7

    Cabins are fully equipped with oversize beds and comfortable mattresses, stone fireplaces, kitchenettes, and high-speed wifi.
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  • Mar19

    Secrets Silversands Resort-34

    Looking at numerous websites, Trip Advisor reviews, and tips from friends, we’re spoiled for choice when it comes to picking a travel destination and resort. My husband and I wanted to visit the Riviera Maya this month, in a location away from the thumping of Cancun or Playa del Carmen. What we found was Puerto Morelos, a smaller town smack in between the two, yet close enough to get to the Mayan ruins while enjoying the warm, tropical breezes of the Caribbean.

    Secrets Silversands Resort-29

    After much research, we booked a week at Secrets Silversands Resort, one of the newest in the Secrets resort chain. Owned by AMResorts, Secrets (together with Breathless) is the adults all-inclusive collection of luxury destinations, with Sunscape, Now, Dreams, and Zoëtry all falling under its umbrella organization.

    Secrets Silversands Resort-22

    We were ready to unwind at the beach, and this stunning resort was just what we needed. Upon arrival at Silversands, we were immediately checked into their Preferred Club, giving us extra perks such as use of the lounge (where appetizers and desserts were served throughout the day), upgraded mini-bar and bath amenities, concierge services, and larger oceanfront rooms.

    Secrets Silversands Resort-18

    The AAA Four Diamond resort aims to keep things green by asking you to reuse towels and to place a sign on the bed only if sheets need to be changed during your stay. We would have also liked a recycle bin in our room for newspaper and empty bottles, but we can only assume that both were tossed properly by housekeeping.
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