Wednesday, December 28, 2016 / Toronto, ON, Canada

Entertaining Made Easy: Charcuterie Edition

Easy Entertaining Ideas

Food always brings people together, I find. And for me, my family get-togethers always involve a lot of food (and alcohol). Every year, we gather at someone's house where each family is responsible for a couple of dishes. This year for Christmas, my family was in-charge of an appetizer and two mains. My mom decided to make the mains, so I had to go figure out what to get as an appetizer.

Easy Entertaining Ideas

I wanted to bring something that did not require me to cook (mainly 'cause I am lazy and cannot cook lol) and something that I know everyone would enjoy. And then, it clicked. Why don't I just bring what I eat on a daily basis? Charcuterie and cheese! Haha, I know how unoriginal of me. But seriously - charcuterie boards have become an upward trend in the past year. According to Restaurants Canada's annual chef survey, the charcuterie trend has moved up from #5 in 2015 to #2 in 2016, and I can totally attest to that. It's super simple, and you can purchase everything at your nearest grocery store.

Easy Entertaining Ideas

All you need:
• A board
• Charcuterie
• Cheese
• Crackers

(Lol, I felt super silly typing that up but it just goes to show how easy this really could be.)

Easy Entertaining Ideas San Daniele Proscuitto
Easy Idea for Entertaining

In terms of charcuterie, I would recommend getting a selection of hard and soft textures to mix things up. An example of something hard would be Mastro Genoa salami, and an example of something with a softer texture would be San Daniele prosciutto. If you want to go even softer, you could opt for pâté!

Easy Entertaining Ideas
Easy Entertaining Ideas

The same rules apply for the cheeses: a selection of sharp and creamy cheese would be best to suit everyone's palettes. I personally absolutely love brie and smoked gouda! As for garnishes on the side, feel free to put whatever you fancy! I'm not a huge fan of the typical garnishes that you find on boards, like mustard and pickles, cause I am more of a simple gal. So a couple crackers to make a mini salami+cheese sandwich, and I am good to go.

Easy Entertaining Ideas

So there you have it! It is seriously the easiest thing ever. To make it even easier, you can actually purchase a pre-packaged board at Loblaws that comes with a package of two Riserva Salami chubs and San Daniele prosciutto! And now, I'm giving you a chance to also win a starter package for easy entertaining.

Enter below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Easy Entertaining Ideas for the Holidays

Happy holidays, everyone!

*Please note that the packages of San Daniele prosciutto, Mastro salami, & wooden board shown were provided by Sofina Foods & this is a sponsored post. However, as always, all my opinions made are my own.*

Monday, December 26, 2016 / Prince Edward, ON, Canada

Drake Devonshire Inn • Prince Edward County

When I told people I was heading to Prince Edward County for a couple days, the one thing almost every single person recommended for me to do was to dine at Drake Devonshire. So I did, and I am pleased to say that I will also become one of those people who recommend visiting Drake Devonshire when in PEC.


Thursday, December 22, 2016 / Iceland

Where To See the Northern Lights in Iceland

Aurora Borealis taken at Þingvellir National Park in Iceland

Northern Lights season is officially underway! If you are visiting Iceland in the next couple months to see the Northern Lights, this post is for you. This past February, I had the chance of seeing the Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis, when I visited Iceland. It was honestly an amazing phenomenon that I hope everyone gets to see at least once in their lifetime.

Before visiting Iceland, I did a large amount of research to figure out where to go to see the lights and how I would be able to capture them with my camera. You can find my post about how to take photos of the Northern Lights here. If you're a DSLR rookie, like I was, be sure to bookmark this site. (Haha, I wrote that post almost 1 year ago and it cringes me to read it now that I know my camera better.)

Anyways, another very important site to have on hand is this forecast site that gives you an indication of how strong the lights will be that day. but in this post, I will share with you the top spots in Iceland you should go to see the Northern Lights.

1. Grótta Island Lighthouse in Seltjarnarnes

If you've Googled pictures of the Northern Lights and seen it with a lighthouse in the background, this is where the photo was taken. The Grótta Lighthouse is situated about a 20 minute drive west of Reykjavik. What is beautiful about this location is that you are right next to the water. In some cases, you will be able to see the Northern Lights not only in the sky, but also in the water as a reflection! Here is a photo by Giulia Cimarosti for you to see what I mean.

2. Þingvellir National Park

This is where I went to see the Northern Lights. I actually joined a Gray Line tour, and this was where they brought us. From Reykjavik, this is about a 35 minute drive east of the city. What's good about this tour is that if you go on this tour with them and you don't end up seeing the Northern Lights, they will let you go on the next tour and try again until you are able to see them! I was fortunate to be able to see the lights the first night we went. Apparently the lights were also very strong that night, which is why my camera captured so many colours! Another thing that is great about this location is that there was a little hut that stayed open for us to help keep us warm. It was coldddddd, guys!

Northern Lights Aurora Borealis Iceland

3. Jökulsárlón

If you aren't based/staying in Reykjavik, and if you happen to be on the southeast side of Iceland visiting Jökulsárlón, that is also a great place to see the lights. With a large glacial lake to view during the day (just beautiful in in the winter months), you will also be able to see the lights at night because you are away from the city lights. Be aware that it takes about 4.5 hours to drive to this part of Iceland from Reykjavik. I had tried to go there during my time in Iceland, but was unable to because it was an overnight trek due to the distance. It is definitely something I want to go back and see though! Here is a photo I found on Guide to Iceland so you know what I mean.

4. Reynisvatn

A little closer to town is this little area called Reynisvatn. It is just a 8 minute drive away from the city centre. There is a lake where you could potentially take reflection photos of the lights (as mentioned above). But all in all, it's a close little place for you to go if you wanted to minimize light pollution and stay really close to the city centre. - Side note: I actually saw the northern lights from my hotel room in Reykjavik because the lights were just abnormally strong that day! We did stay somewhere with 'less' light than the city centre, but STILL! I am pretty sure we were 'ouuu'-ing for a solid 10 minutes haha.

5. Anywhere DARK

As per what I just said above, literally, if you go anywhere that is away from any form of light. the chances of being able to see the northern lights will be that much higher. A common misconception is that you can only see the Northern Lights after midnight. As long as the skies are clear and you've minimized light pollution, if the Northern Lights are active, you should be able to see them. Time of day is not important, as is the darkness & clearness of the sky. Another thing you need to understand is that the Northern Lights have a mind of it's own. They don't care if you're waiting for them haha they will show themselves whenever they want to. With that said, be ready to wait a couple hours or more for them to show up. I believe I waited over an hour to see them (with some others having waited even longer). It's all about your luck and patience!

- -

Good luck & happy sighting!

Monday, December 19, 2016 / North York, Toronto, ON, Canada

Aoyama Sushi

Aoyama Sushi Omakase Set Japanese Sushi Scarborough

When sushi looks this good, you're going to want to keep eating even when you're full! I'm all about the popular spots in town, but I also love when I visit a small little spot through word of mouth only. Aoyama Sushi is one of those places that I only heard of through my friends. I've actually heard about them for a while but just made it out there to try it for myself.

As this was our first time here, we ordered the omakase set as that is what everyone said to get. We also got the sashimi set and the unatama don. The omakase set is for two people, and it came with 3 little appetizers, a seafood soup, 20 pieces of sushi (2 pieces each), and 6 pieces of salmon maki. This set came with some of the freshest pieces of uni, otoro, amaebi, and scallop. These pieces alone make it worth the price tag of $89! Keep in mind this price is for two people. The sashimi set was another wow factor for me. Same thoughts as the omakase set - these pieces of sashimi were so fresh that even the salmon was delicious! The unatama don was something that surprised me. I love unagi but I am used to having packaged unagi on rice when I order it at restaurants. Aoyama used fresh unagi and you can really tell the difference. The rice is also pre-mixed with the sauce and ingredients, which was amazing as each little rice is coated with flavour. It's the worst when you have like a couple bites left of just plain rice!

I'm so happy I had a chance to come to Aoyama for a dinner. We actually came for my dad's birthday, and he said it was the perfect birthday meal! Be sure to call ahead of time and make reservations, because from what I remember, almost all the tables had 'reserved' signs on them and they even turned away walk-in customers. Although I probably will not come here every time I am craving sushi, you definitely should give them a try. It is well worth the drive!

Aoyama Sushi Omakase Set Japanese Sushi Scarborough
Aoyama Sushi Omakase Set Japanese Sushi Scarborough
Aoyama Sushi Omakase Set Japanese Sushi Scarborough
Aoyama Sushi Omakase Set Japanese Sushi Scarborough
Aoyama Sushi Omakase Set Japanese Sushi Scarborough
Aoyama Sushi Omakase Set Japanese Sushi Scarborough
Aoyama Sushi Omakase Set Japanese Sushi Scarborough


Friday, December 16, 2016

Celebrating 12 Days of Cocktails at InterContinental®

With the holiday season here, it only makes sense to be celebrating with a cocktail or two!
InterContinental Toronto Centre, InterContinental Toronto Yorkville and InterContinental Montreal are going to be spreading joy during the month of December! They have collectively put together 12 festive cocktails for you to enjoy during the holidays.

With that said, I obviously needed to sample their cocktails so I could tell you guys about them. I have a tough job sometimes ;) so I went to InterContinental Toronto Centre & InterContinental Toronto Yorkville and here they are:

InterContinental Toronto Centre

Festive Tidings - amaro liqueur, Grey Goose orange vodka, lemon juice, simple syrup
North Pole Haze - Hendricks gin, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, cucumber, mint, lime juice
Dasher & Dancer Punch - Bacardi 8 rum, banana liqueur, Cassis, lemon juice, orange juice, Sprite
Yule Log Coffee - Kahlua Frangelico Chocolate liqueur, Smirnoff vanilla vodka, whipped cream with an americano or freshly brewed coffee (obvs americano, guys)

My Thoughts: First of all, who can hate on the classic combo of gin, elderflower liqueur, cucumber, mint, and lime juice?! The North Pole Haze was my choice of the evening, hands down - what a refreshing drink! As it is so very chilly outside, the Yule Log Coffee was perfect as the hot coffee (and kahlua) warmed you up real quick. Once you've warmed up, be sure to try the Dasher & Dancer Punch. It's a sweet spritzer and a very good choice if you like drinking cocktails without tasting the alcohol, because trust me, you couldn't taste a thing. That's what I call a very dangerous cocktail to have haha. P.S. If you are hungry, please do yourself a favour and order the duck breast dish to eat. It was one of my favourite dishes of duck to date - so tender with a crispy skin, and with that beet puree, it was just divine.

InterContinental Toronto Yorkville

Elf Juice - dark rum, apple juice, lime juice, dash of Angostura bitters
Santa Claus - vanilla vodka, cranberry juice, sparkling wine
Red Moon - red wine, bourbon, simple syrup
Naughty or Spice - Malibu rum, bitters, lime juice, cream, triple sec

My Thoughts: Ok, can I just say that the mix between red wine and bourbon is probably one of my recent favourite blends? It is perfect for the winter. I can't explain it, but although it is a cold drink, it makes me feel warm and fuzzy on the inside. Is it just me? (Well, safe to say the Red Moon was my favourite drink - also because of the cool red ball of ice!) The Elf Juice was my second favourite. It tasted like a delicious juice! Okay actually, maybe the Santa Claus was my second favourite because I am a sucker for any cocktail that has a hint of mint in it (and this one is garnished with cranberries and mint).


InterContinental Montreal

I will also list the four available cocktails for you at the Montreal location, just in case you are a reader in that region / if you are visiting Montreal over the holidays / if you are just interested to see what they offer!

Sour Spirits - Limoncello, Boulard Valvados, lemon bar mix, lemonade
Holiday Elixir - Ungava gin, absinthe, lemon bar mix, cranberry juice, tonic syrup
Blue Scrooge - vodka, Blue Curacao, lime juice, lemonade
The Berry Nutcracker - vodka, cherry brandy, Frangelico cranberry juice, lime juice

I am sad I wasn't able to visit Montreal to try their cocktails (maybe next time ;) haha), but I'd say you have a pretty solid selection to choose from between the Toronto Centre & Yorkville location. So CHEERS! Xx


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Maha's Brunch

So, I woke up at 8am on a Sunday to go to brunch at Maha's. I am the type of person to sleep in until 1pm on weekends, so even I am surprised that I did this. Was it worth it? YES.
But you have to understand - Maha's is a brunch spot in Leslieville that is always packed full of people and will have people lining up outside their door at any time of day. It's for a very valid reason though. I mean, look at that brunch spread pictured above!

I've been meaning to come to Maha's for the longest time. Specifically, it was because I kept seeing pictures of this overflowing chicken burger on my Instagram feed. It looked delicious and I was not wrong to think that. Maha's Mind Blowing Chicken Sandwich was an overflowing plate of Maha's sacred marinated chicken, tossed with parsley, onions, and tomatoes that is served on a toasted egg bun with tomeya, homemade mayo and tehina. SO good! This was my favourite out of the three things we ordered. The sauced up chicken was basically like chicken shawarma (and I love shawarma)!

We also had to get the Cairo Classic. "On every street corner in the bustling streets of Cairo, you can find vendors serving foole out of large copper vats. This traditional breakfast dish consists of fava beans and is prepared in multiple variations. In the Cairo Classic, we [Maha's] mix tomatoes and onions into the perfectly seasoned fava beans. Enjoy them with a sliced boiled egg, a falafel, and a dollop of our creamy home-made tomato feta on a charred balady breada." - From this lengthy description, all you really needed to know is that it was SO good. You have to eat all of the ingredients together in one bite, despite it probably being a super big bite.

But the best thing to order if you want to try a little bit of everything is the Chef's Appetizer Platter. It comes with the chef's selection of fresh, homemade dips, pickles, falafel, beets, fried cauliflower, and olives. It is served with traditional balady bread and pita triangles. This appetizer platter was the best because you got to sample a little bit of everything. We did a bunch of combinations in order to find our favourite stuffing of the pita bread. I personally loved the fried cauliflower with hummus, but I could also have had the hummus by itself. The beets were also a surprise favourite for me, as well as the falafel with lettuce combo!

We also ordered their customer favourite honey cardamom latte and also a Nutella latte. I am not a huge fan of cardamom, but I tried it and I could see how it was a favourite! I, myself, had the Nutella latte though because I had seen photos on Instagram of the latte with a Nutella rim (omg). Unfortunately when I went, they were out of Nutella. This just means I have to go again though, because I need to try that Nutella rim! Lol okay, that may be an excuse for me to go back, but I do want that chicken sandwich again!

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