Friday, December 16, 2011

'Tis the Season: Thinking Outside of the Gift Box!

Surprise the Foodie/Literary Detective/Ghost Buster in your life!
Tuck a Gift Certificate in a Gift Box!
2011 has been pure Shangri-La because throughout this year, I've had the honour and pleasure of conducting customized foodie walks as personal gifts for bridal showers, wedding anniversary and milestone birthdays.  Year 2011 ends on a high note when I wrap-up with the two final tours of Kensington Festive Foodie Roots Walks on Saturday December 17th and Friday December 30th... These final tours celebrate, embrace and share ALL the Festivals of Lights within multicultural Kensington marketplace and residential quarters. Both occasions will be extra special foodie tours, in part, thanks to the holiday food and drinks we don't get year round, but in part due to another reason.

On both occasions, I will have  a guest who will be the recipient of an amazing gift of Foodie "Flow" experience from their partner for their birthday gift and as a Christmas present. Discovering new foodie experience together on a guided food walk, while spending quality and quantity time sans cell phone distractions have often lead to an experience called "Flow".  Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process according to author Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his amazing book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience!

Hiyam from Akram's Shoppe
 Baklavas made with love & served with heady Spiced Tea
after we taste an awesome platter of savoury treats 

Breaking bread always brings people together. In our case, tasting a variety of artisan Canadian cheeses and olive before yours truly recites, Ode to the Olive by late Canadian poet, Irving Layton. Flow experience might happen while we sample Jamaican Dark Rum Christmas Cake after yours truly recites An Ode to the Fruitcake (this is recited by local innkeeper Jon Tschannen at the annual Christmas cake toss event in Manitou Springs, Colorado)  seem to literally bond each guests along the walks. 

Feliz Navidad!
Lime Charlotte a.k.a Mexican Tiramisu at Agave & Aguacate
One of Culinary Historian/Guide, Shirley Lum's favourite desserts! 

There's still time to book spots or order a Gift Certificate and surprise that foodie in your life! It's simple. Give the office a quick call at (416) 923-6813 to give us a heads-up. Drop into our website A Taste of the World Walks Print and complete the Gift Certificate Order Form and mail it with your cheque. We will e-mail you right away the A Taste of the World Walks Gift Certificate to be printed and placed in an envelope. It's up to you to then decide whether to place it in a gift box, wrap it up and place it under a Christmas tree or give it with the Chanukkah goodies. 

If that foodie in your life  is too busy to partake in one of the food tours in 2011, they can always look forward to the popular annual behind-the-scenes Chinese New Year tours (January 14th, 15th, 21st, 22nd, 28th, 29th and February 4th, 2012 10:00AM - 1:30 PM)) and/or the annual 11-course Chinese New Year banquet on Saturday, January 21st, 2012 (6:00 - 7:30 PM) as we bid farewell to the Year of the Metal Rabbit and usher in the Year of the Water Dragon!  

Chinese New Year Tours & Banquet
We kick-off with Lucky Candies
Good luck for all in Year 2012!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Tis the Season: Share ALL the Festivals of Lights!

I love this time of the year as the spectacular sunsets take place earlier each day and the crisp morning air gets nippy due to dropping temperatures approaching the freezing point, and we're shrouded with coldness and darkness...

Some of my annual Festivals of Lights party decorations:
Hanukkah Menorah, Diwali oil lamp or Diyas,
Kwanzaa Mishumaa Saba & Santa Claus' hat with tea candle

Let there be light, I say!  Lets light up the night!  All of a sudden, there's a plethora of glowing candle lights and cavalcade of lights at homes and in public spaces. There's something magical about basking in the soft, warm glow of any form of illumination in the dead of winter, especially over the holidays in Toronto... the city of neighbourhoods.

Is it a coincidence that Toronto has so many Festivals of Lights to celebrate? At this time of the year, this city lives up to its ancient First Nation namesake, Toronto, The Meeting Place.  Lets say it's a wave of festival of lights... Diwali, a.k.a the Indian Festival of Lights (started on October 26th 2011 and ended 5 days later), kicked off the festival within Gerrard Street's Little India neighbourhood, in addition to other locations, running for five bright nights... Then the lights get passed on and we have Eid Mubarak (November 6th, 2011), Chanukkah (starts at sunset onTuesday December 20th, 2011 and ends at sunset on Wednesday December 28th), Winter Solstice (December 21st), Christmas (December 25th) and Kwanzaa (December 26th to New Year's Day). Want to celebrate, embrace and share them all?  Check out the popular annual Kensington Market Festival of Lights which is celebrated on the streets of Kensington Market during the Winter Solstice.  This awesome Street festival features a lantern parade, drums, costumes and more. Free. It starts from Oxford/Augusta Streets at 6:30PM. You might see me there with my with hubby celebrating and embracing it all! Have other plans that evening or you can't stand being in the cold for too long in the evening?

Holiday treats from Moon Bean Cafe:
Baked Samosa, Spinach Boreka & Chocolate Rugullachs
Year round, I conduct seasonal bounties foodie walks along the Kensington Foodie Roots Walks within the residential and marketplace of Kensington. Peeling back 200 years of immigrant food roots for 10 months begs for a change of scenery once we're into the month of December. Since there are several festivals involving lights, I figured that's a good enough reason to celebrate and embrace ALL of them: Diwali Festival, Eid, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Christmas, and Kwanzaa.  Did I mention that the most important part of all this celebration and embracing the different holidays is the food and drinks served during this special time of the year?

Decadent holiday sweets at Akram's Shoppe await us...
Over the last couple of years, I've consider myself honoured and lucky to be able to share the diverse holidays celebrated along the Kensington Festive Foodie Roots walks on December 10th, 17th and 30th (Note: special addition).  Part of the excitement is to inspire my walking tour guests to do the same by opening the doors to their minds and allowing them to embrace all the holidays and the diversity the experience brings. I'm excited about reciting an ode to the Fruitcake after tasting delicious Jamaican Black Rum Christmas Cake from Patty King (yes, I've had guests who swear that they are passionate Christmas Cake tossers only to become Christmas cake lovers and beg for more!). We might do a toast to the holidays with Ting! (the national drink of Jamaica) or with the refreshing Mexican apple cider or the specially brewed Syrian spiced tea at Akram's Shoppe. I'm always flattered when a guest e-mails after one of these special walks with a hearty thanks for planting the seeds of such a simple idea. I love it when folks share how they take it to the next level by putting their own personal stamp on the idea of sharing the diverse holidays, by picking the highlights from our fun foodie tours! Chocolate rugullachs or Cranberry/Walnut Vegan Loaf from Moon Bean Café anyone? Dark Chocolate Baklava from Akram's Shoppe anyone? Some Niagara Gold Cheese or Maple Cheddar with the Montreal-style St. Urbain bagel respectively from Cheese Magic and My Market Bakery anyone? Mexican Christmas treats like churros or buenuelos or tamales or Oaxaca cheese anyone? Chilean Christmas treats like pastel de choclo or alfajores anyone?  Endless holiday foodies possibilities...

BCE Place, Toronto, ON
By the way, here's food for thought. When it's December 21st - Winter Solstice is not just Winter Solstice! For the Chinese community, Winter Solstice is called Dong Zhi and it is traditionally celebrated with the decadent Eight-Treasure Rice Pudding equivalent to the English Christmas Pudding that could surpass what would have been served by the Denison, the founding family of the area given the name, Kensington. Meanwhile the Persian community celebrates Shab-e Yalda with outdoor bonfires and then head indoors to gather around the korsi (usually a low, square table covered with a cloth and laden with numerous symbolic and delicious dishes).

What's your favourite Festival of Light? What part of Toronto do you try to visit just for its lights?

Happy Diwali as you celebrated five-night of lights and sweets! 
Happy Winter Solstice as you celebrate the first day of winter! 
Happy Hanukkah while lighting up all eight candles! 
Happy Kwanzaa while lighting up all seven symbolic candles be they green, red & black!

Merry Christmas to one and all!  

 Have a happy but safe and relaxing holiday season and all the best for 2012!
Stay tuned on how I celebrate the New Year three times and three different ways!

Oh, if you still need a gift for a foodie in your life...
Treat them to  Kensington Festive Foodie Roots walks 
You still have time to book them on one of the tours scheduled on 
December 10th, 17th and 30th (Note: special addition not listed on website). 
Then give them special instructions to show up at the base of the red art pole with the Black Cat on the Yellow Chair (Spadina Avenue/St Andrew Street). 

Friday, December 2, 2011

What the Dickens! Food Blogging At the Best of Time: Clotilde Dusoulier in Toronto

Believe it or not, there are six degrees of separation between British author Charles Dickens,  Parisienne food blogger Clotilde Dusoulier, who's the 2011-2012 Joseph Hoare Gastronomic Writer-in-Residence, Culinary Historian Shirley Lum (yours truly) of A Taste of the World Walks,  Paris, the City of Light and Toronto, the Meeting Place. What the Dickens! 

Charles Dickens was quite a foodie in his time. Whether you read one of his numerous novels, personal letters or diaries you'll find many detailed mentions of food or fabulous meals. You may ask "what was his grist for literary mill?" Well try this: Dickens published the famous novel, A Tale of Two Cities after visiting Paris, the City of Light with his wife in 1855. In 1882, Macmillan & Co. posthumously published his unconventional handbook called Dickens' Dictionary of Paris, after he revisited Paris in 1865 with actress/mistress Ellen Ternan! 

Wondering about where Toronto, the Meeting Place fits in? It got a nod in his 1843 travel handbook, American Notes (which by the way, I had autographed by his great-great grandson, Gerald Charles Dickens and I'll read excerpts on the tours).  Yes, Saturday December 3rd marks the final In The Footsteps of Charles Dickens: Toronto 1842 walk in year 2011. If you've not had a chance to attend this incredible  Da Vinci Code-type Literary Detective walking tour yet, you're truly missing out on this  "librarians' dream come true" walking tour experience lead by your guide armed with old maps, diary excerpts from Dickens and even his wife's long-lost diary circa 1842 ! Can't make it this weekend? Mark it in your calendars: Saturday February 4th, 2012, we will be celebrating his 200th birthday, even though it actually takes place on Tuesday February 7th, 2012. More details to come of the celebrations to take place throughout 2012...

Still wondering about the connections between the Charles Dickens and Clotilde Dusoulier? Hold onto your hats... here it come...  Guess who also dropped into town? Clotilde Dusoulier! In case you haven't heard, she's the Writer-in-Residence from Paris, France. She pens the award-winning blog Chocolate and Zucchini and has published several books, one of them, Edible Adventures in Paris (which I'm sure would tickle Dickens' fancy).  Clotilde Dusoulier spoke at George Brown College in Toronto, Ontario on Thursday November 10th, 2011. What a fabulous turn-out! I've never seen so many faces I recognized who are  Women Culinary Network (WCN) members - Elizabeth Baird, Nettie Cronish, Mary Luz MejiaMarion Kane, Joanne Yolles, Preena Chauhan and new faces! All eager to hear what award-winning blogger, Clotilde Dusoulier has to say during her informative talk on the Art of Food Blogging. What would Charles Dickens' reaction been if he was there that night too?  Whenever I conduct one of my walks, you'll always hear one of my favourite wistful musings, "Imagine...  if we could use Dr. Who's Time Machine and bring Charles Dickens back to Toronto along the  In The Footsteps of Charles Dickens: Toronto 1842 walking tour!"   The prolific British writer who was dubbed by one walk attendee as the "Danielle Steeles  of the Victorian era" would have loved being a "fly-on-the-wall" during the fabulous Art of Food Blogging seminar. 

Thank you Eleanor Kane and James Morris, the Co-founders of Stratford Chefs School for developing the Joseph Hoare Gastronomic Writer-in-Residence  Program at Stratford, Ontario. Those of you who read Toronto Life magazine might recall its former food editor, the late Joseph Hoare, who was immensely supportive of young writers interested in food and gastronomy. To honour his lifelong passion for food and food writing, his family generously established the innovative position of writer-in-residence at Stratford Chefs School.  The individual who is graced with the title Writer-in-Residence is given these key roles - s/he leads workshops about food writing, conducts one-on-one consultations with students who are interested in food writing and presents readings of his/her work to both students and the public.  This dynamic program included national and international writers over the past years: 2007-2008 James Chatto; 2008-2009 Corby Kummer; 2009-2010 Michael Symons; 2010-2011 Ian Brown. 

The program's mission: To help people experience, enjoy and understand the gastronomy of our time so that a distinctive Canadian food culture may continue to develop. 

Here's a little highlight from that seminar that can be savoured... 

 10 Golden Rules in the Art of Food Blogging from Clotilde Dusoulier
1. Choose Focus 
2. Look at what others are doing
3. Set yourself apart
4. Be genuine
5. Focus on great content
6.  Keep learning
7. Give credit where credit is due
8. Connect
9. Keep at it 
10. Have fun! 

You can read the wonderful detailed recap of these rules by Mardi at the fabulous Food Bloggers of Canada.   If Dickens lived in this era, how many of these rules would apply to him?  I can just picture Dickens sitting there nodding his head while listening to Clotilde and making mental check marks as he goes through that list...  
By the way, did I mention that there was the reception afterwards, where food and drinks were served and attendees had a chance to mix and mingle?  Me think, Dickens would have been in seventh heaven watching as a fly on the wall and observing how we network, use our smart phones to tweet the event. He would fall off the wall laughing so hard as he watch how we wander to the two tables laden with six types of delicious hors d'oeuvres (half prepared by the Stratford Chef School students and half by George Brown College The Chefs' House) and start to take photographs with the very same cell phones before we start noshing ad sipping! He would probably leap over to the book signing table to chat with Clotilde about copyright and maybe pick her brain about modern day Paris! Which dishes do you think tickled the fancy of Clotilde Dusoulier and Charles Dickens?

Menu: 6 different types of hors d'oeuvres served 

3 types by students of the Stratford Chef School
- Smoked Albacore Tuna crispy wontons
- seared lamb loin, pickled eggplant
- Stratford Chef's School madeleine, sauce grenache

3 types made by GBC The Chefs' House 
- crispy fried mini scotch egg, mango chutney (right)
- foie gras custard in egg shell, creme fraiche, chervil (below)
- beef pot stickers, chili lime dipping sauce 

I look forward to reading Clotilde Dusoulier's blog about her foodies adventures while in Toronto, the Meeting Place! What distinctive Canadian food culture do you think will tickle her fancy? 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A little bit of Paris in Toronto

I'm looking forward to tonight's public lecture, Eating Words: The Art of Food Blogging by Parisienne food blogger, Clotilde Dusoulier. She pens  the award-winning blog, and she has a current book, Clotilde's Edible Adventures in Paris! Here's the best part: she's been invited by Stratford Chef  School to speak at George Brown College in Toronto on Thursday November 10th, 2011.

And what great timing!

Hubby just suggested that our 5th wedding anniversary in 2014 should be celebrated in romantic Paris! He has never been there, whereas I've been there long, long time ago....

Ahhh, Paris of 1988...  A solo 2-wheeled foodies adventure in Paris in the summer of 1988. Yes, I pedalled and ate my way through France and parts of Europe as well. A trip to France begs a stop in Paris, whether on foot or bike.  I celebrated my birthday with a treat from a crepe food cart on a street lined with quirky antiques shops filled with relics too big to fit into my MEC panniers...  Paris, the city with a decadent patisserie every street corner (yes, the avid cyclist in me was able to justify having dessert twice a day to make up for the long rides. I long to go back to revisit old haunts and discover new ones...

Did I also mention that along the way in 1988, I collected cookbooks and postcards printed with delicious local recipes.... I think I'm long overdue to go back and add a few more cookbooks to my collection...

I can't wait to meet Clotilde Dusouslier and discover what new foodies adventure awaits us... stay tuned or À Bientôt! 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Let Us Not Forget... 11/11/11

Halloween flashed by... As we enter into a new month, it keeps getting darker earlier, and nights are dark longer... we slow down, reflect and remember deceased loved ones on All Saints' Day (November 1st) and All Souls' Day (November 2nd).

Noticed lately as you watch the news on TV, that the anchors are wearing their red poppies? Stroll along the streets of Toronto and you'll start to  see them pinned on coats or blazers or hats (yes, yours truly has done that in the past and will do it again this year).  Yes, Remembrance Day is coming. Let us not forget...

If you are within the vicinity of the University of Toronto, drop by on Friday for the Remembrance Day service by Solders' Memorial Tower as this year is 11/11/11.

Growing up in Toronto, it was a tradition into high school years to recite on Remembrance Day In Flanders Fields poem written by John McCrae, an Alumni of Victoria College at University of Toronto. Those of you, who attended my Haunted Yorkville, U of T & Queen's Parks Walks, would have seen his haunting poem carved on a special wall close by Solders' Memorial Tower. If you've had wedding photographs taken nearby Soldiers' Memorial Tower you might have stood right by it and didn't see it as it's fading with the weathering of time and the elements...

In Flanders Fields 

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row.
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below. 

We are the Dead.  Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie, 
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields. 
                        - John McCrae (November 30, 1872- January 28, 1918

While you're there, get into the long line-up and go through this beautiful wooden doorway. Climb up the stairs to the Soldiers' Memorial Tower Room. You'll find it will be time well spent chatting with the remaining veterans.  Take the time to examine the treasured items housed up there... Take the time to contemplate how much has been sacrificed for our freedom...

Thank you for remembering to
wear your red poppy 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Toronto, the Multicultural Feast, Harvest & Meeting Place

Toronto, the Meeting Place ... the meeting place for so many diverse cultures since 1792 ... the Meeting Place for four seasonal bounties.... the Meeting Place for sharing diverse ways to cook the local and seasonal harvest ...

As we enter into the month of November, we're right in the thick of Fall Harvest. A season for all the senses! Witness the burst of colours in any of the Toronto markets thanks to the pumpkins, squashes, peppers and dried corn on the cobs ...  Throughout Halloween ghost walks madness, my husband  and I survived on my hearty Fall Harvest soups made ahead of time. We had my Persian Spinach Soup (minty meatballs floating in a thick broth of spinach, eggs and loads of sweet Ontario onions).  We supped on Ontario Leek and organic Sweet Potato Soup. We savoured my Salmon Bouillabaisse with multi-coloured Ontario carrots. Yes, this year, I decided to support cook and eat as much local and organic ingredients as possible while sticking to a tight tour guide's budget.

I look forward to the remaining weekends for this month as I shop and try out new produces.

I can't wait for the next Saturdays (November 12th, 19th) when I drop into Kensington Market along my Kensington Foodies Roots Walks with my camera and shopping bags in tow. This coming Saturday November 12th, I'm thinking of I asking fellow shoppers along the streets plus guests on the walking tour, how they'll use Brussels sprouts ... Of course, I'll share what I plan to cook in the next while ...  the lovely Brussels Sprouts  - I'll try again Chef David Lee's fiery recipe for Thai-style Brussels Sprouts in the Saturday October 22, 2011 edition of The Globe & Mail  ... and then make another favourite Brussels Sprouts dish, where I'll steam and then marinade them in Treadwell's fragrant Baco Noir & Blueberry Balsamic Vinegar.  Now, what about those lovely pie pumpkins?  I think Cinderella just found out what happened to her pumpkin stage coach at the stroke of midnight! It became Pumpkin baklavas or cheesecakes or cupcakes or muffins or pancakes or risotto or soup or waffles! Did I miss anything? What do YOU plan to do with any of the above mentioned?

Stay tuned for Toronto's multicultural holiday celebrations as I revisit Kensington Market with new eyes, palate and other senses along the Kensington Festive Foodies Roots Walks on Saturday December 3rd, 10th & 17th, 2011.  Yes, I love all the holidays, so we celebrate not one, but all the Festivals of Light: Diwali, Winter Solstice, Christmas, Channukah and Kawanzaa. Of course, the best part of the celebrations -  the spirit of sharing the foods, the drinks, the changing customs and traditions of your own culture with others!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Toronto: November 1st, 2011 All Saints' Day

Victorian Lady aka Shirley Lum,
guide during Halloween Week Ghost Walks

How more appropriate could it have been that on Monday October 31st, 2011 we celebrated All Hallows Eve or Halloween along the Haunted Kensington, Chinatown & The Grange Walk. It's suppose to be the vigil of the Feast (the eve). And feast we did.  I kicked-off at Moon Bean Cafe with a ghost story complete with eerie multicultural twists, while guests noshed on Chocolate Rugullahs and sipped Hot Chocolates.  We reflected over how many consider Halloween pagan (and in many instances the celebrations are for many), as far as the Church is concerned the date is simply the eve of the feast of All Saints. Many customs of Halloween reflect the Christian belief that on the feast's vigils we mock evil, because as Christians, it has no real power over us. However, for some Halloween is used for evil purposes, in which many Christians dabble unknowingly. 

Dia de los Muertes window display
Courage My Love 2011
    In the Middle Ages, poor people in the community begged for "soul cakes," and upon receiving th
ese doughnuts, they would agree to pray for departed souls. This is the root of our modern day "Trick-or-Treat." The custom of masks and costumes developed to mock evil and perhaps confuse the evil spirits by dressing as one of their own. Some Christians visit cemeteries on Halloween, not to practice evil, but to commemorate departed relatives and friends, with picnics and the last flowers of the year.  Over the last few years, I've noticed more Mexican venues within Kensington Market and celebration of Dia de los Muertes (Day of the Dead) is becoming more mainstream. 

Look up!
At ROM's steps between the two
Marble Lions
How even more appropriate that tonight, Tuesday November 1st, 2011, All Saints' Day, I'll be conducting the Haunted Yorkville, U of T & Queen's Park Walk.  Guests will be haunted by a ghost story told  over delicious Hungarian Coffee Cakes and hot coffee at the oldest remaining cafe in Yorkville Village. I'll be leading my guests through one of Toronto's most oldest and revered university, and we will celebrate all the saints as we stroll through Victoria College (Methodist), St Michael College (Catholic), UC (non-denominational), and Trinity College (Anglican). All the while, I'll be sharing eerie ghost stories and slipping in Toronto's fascinating history in these three adjoining neighbourhoods.  

The day after All Saints day is called All Soul's Day,  a day to remember and offer prayers up on behalf of all of the faithful departed. I'm sure tonight's guests will be reflecting over some of the haunting tales on this day.  In many cultures it seems the two days share many customs. What customs do you still practise at this time of the year? Feel free to share

Art Deco Period costume perfect for
Millionaire's Row aka Queen's Park Circle

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Haunted Yorkville, U of T & Queen's Park


Advance E-Tickets Availability 
October 25th - November 1st, 2011

Once we've rested and stuffed ourselves during the Canadian Thanksgiving long weekend, we then have another annual tradition at A Taste of the World's office. 

Phantoms, Players & Pundits 
The phone starts to ring off the hook (or out of the cell phone holster). The e-mail enquiries start coming in... All the phone calls and e-mails have the same quest: the hunt for the limited Advance E-Tickets for Halloween Week ghost walks. At first, folks will be relaxed but as Halloween night approaches, the sense of urgency picks up...

To ensure the quality of each ghost walk during this extremely popular time of the year, we sell Advance E-Tickets with advance payment. 

Nightly, starting from Tuesday October 25th until Tuesday November 1st, 13 lucky guests get the opportunity to explore the eerier side of Toronto with A Taste of the World. Space availability will be updated on a regular basis, so check-in as frequently as you like...

Book NOW to avoid being disappointed at or (416) 923-6813

Haunted Yorkville, U of T
Queen's Park 

HYUT = Haunted Yorkville, U of T & Queen's Park Walk
PPP = Phantoms, Players & Pundits Walk
HKCG = Haunted Kensington, Chinatown & The Grange Walk
GGG = Ghosts, Greasepaint & Gallows Walk

Ghost Walk Availability during Halloween Week 2011: 

TUES OCT 25th:      HYUT  -  05 spots available
WED OCT 26th:       PPP       - 09 spots available
THURS OCT 27th:   HKCG  - 04 spots available
FRI OCT 28th:          GGG     - 09 spots available
SAT OCT 29th:         PPP       - SOLD OUT -
SUN OCT 30th:        HKCG  - 11 spots available
MON OCT 31st:       HKCG  - 09 spots available
TUES NOV 1st:        HYUT  - 04 spots available

Ghosts, Greasepaint & Gallows 

Is Toronto, the Meeting Place for the Living... or the Dead? 

Find out on a ghost walk with us during Halloween Week 2011!

Haunted Kensington, Chinatown & The Grange 

Slide Show: Growing Nuit Blanche Draws 130 Art Installations, Long Lines | BizBash

Slide Show: Growing Nuit Blanche Draws 130 Art Installations, Long Lines | BizBash

There is something magical about exploring a big city once dusk gives way to the darkness of night...

Nuit Blanche enriches any city hosting such an all-night art event as participants, be they long-time residents, newcomers or visitors, they savour an evening of full sensory experience ....

Whether you call Toronto your home town, or you're visiting Toronto a gazillion times, mark your calendar now for the 7th Scotiabank Nuit Blanche: Saturday September 29th, 2012!

See you on the streets of Toronto for another awesome cultural experience!

Monday, October 10, 2011

iThank Steve Jobs

This quote is dedicated to late Steve Jobs...

"The real voyage of discovery 
consists not in seeking new lands, 
but in seeing with new eyes." 
- Marcel Proust

February 24, 1955 - October 5, 2011

Steve Jobs was more than your average American entrepreneur. He was a computer
entrepreneur. He was an innovator.  He was the Thomas Edison of our time. Just as
the light bulb changed the way we looked at things and we go about our daily lives, so did the innovations that Steve imagined and produced. He was one of the world's greatest marketers. He will be missed by many around the globe. 

Sunday or Monday Thanksgiving night marks the time when many Canadians will be gathering together and savouring the abundant Fall bounty at the Thanksgiving dinner table.  I would love to be a fly on the wall of many homes in Toronto, just to hear dinner conversation topic: how much Steve Jobs has touched every aspect of our lives.

In his own words he expresses his philosophy of death elegantly: 

“No one wants to die. 
Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. 
And yet death is the destination we all share. 
No one has ever escaped it. 
And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. 
It is Life's change agent. 
It clears out the old to make way for the new. 
Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. 
Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. 
Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. 
And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. 
They somehow already know what you truly want to become. 
Everything else is secondary.” 
~ Steve Jobs

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Guernsey Connections: My Vintage Guernsey Apron, Victor Hugo & bestseller, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Ever been to Guernsey Island? It is one of  four beautiful islands that make up the Channel Islands between England and France. I've been there.  Solo.  I pedalled Guernsey and Jersey Islands as part of my  2-1/2 months 2-wheeled adventure of Europe of my own design in 1988.  I vowed I'd return to the Channel Islands some day, with or without my bicycle ...

Over the years, I've been transported back to Guernsey Island...three times!

The first time would be thanks to my Guernsey Traditional Recipe apron....  An apron with local recipes printed on it, makes a compact, light-weight and practical souvenir for a biking foodies. Yes, this vintage 100% cotton apron (made in UK) is in mint condition because I thought it was too "pretty" to be used! Oddly enough, I never had any of these delicious traditional Guernsey dishes while I was there:  Guernsey Queen Cakes that calls for equal shots of rose water and Brandy;  Guernsey Bean Jar that calls for pigs trotter (or beef shin bone!); and mouthwatering Guernsey Crab Cutlets. My favourite of them all, decadent Guernsey Gâche. This recipe caught my eyes thanks to two ingredients that are truly local ingredients: Guernsey Butter and Guernsey Milk! What's the big deal? Try Afternoon Tea while you're on Guernsey Island and like me, you'll notice right away how more golden both the butter and the cream look, and how much richer is the taste. A taste of heaven on paradise island! Now, imagine cheese made from Guernsey cow milk. If you're in Toronto, try to fit into your itinerary my Kensington Foodies Roots Walks. On this tour, you'll get a chance to try an artisanal Ontario cheese called Niagara Gold Cheese, made by Upper Canada Cheese Company. By the way, they own a few Guernsey cows. Need I say more?

The second time I'm transported back to Guernsey is thanks to Victor Hugo who was exiled there from 1855 to 1870....  Those of you who have been guests on my Ghosts, Greasepaint & Gallows walks, might  hear the eerie tales of my "accidental" visit to the French writer's home, the famous Hauteville House, located on Saint Peter Port heights... and my coincidental stay at the same guest house he stayed at while waiting for his home to be built... the eerie details are better told in person while on the ghost walk....

The third time I'm transported back to Guernsey is thanks to a brilliant bestseller....  I'm currently savouring a new novel -  Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer, who passed away in 2008, and her niece, Annie Barrows. It's a little literary gem set in Guernsey about love, war, and the utter delights found in good books and good company.  I love the connections between a roast pig dinner and a potato peel pie and the beginning of a book club with an unique foodie name. How did the book club come to have such an interesting name? Read and find out!  Meanwhile, if you are dying to make your own modern Guernsey Potato Peel Pie check out this YouTube video demonstration courtesy of VisitGuernsey ... Bon Appetite!

By the way, did I mention that Guernsey Island also have some beautiful beaches?  Perfect setting for a sunset stroll after a tasty dinner of modern Guernsey Potato Peel Pie ...

You just might find me re-visiting Guernsey Island ... exploring its many nooks and crannies in the near future...  enroute to Paris for my wedding anniversary with my hubby...