Pimm Pimm Hooray!

I’ve been on a mini (unintended) hiatus. Between day-to-day work, cottages, planning trips and birthdays, and nice, warm evenings where we’re just aching to get on a patio, Toronto summers are pretty amazing (flooding aside), but can get shockingly busy. To make up for my absence, I’m going to share one of the best drink recipes for summer. It’s the best because it tastes great and, more importantly, it’s super quick to make (so…minimal time to wait before you get to enjoy).

pimms cup

 

Pimm’s Cup Recipe:

What You’ll Need…

Pimm’s No. 1

– Lemonade

– Ginger ale or ginger beer (optional)

– Cucumber

– Mint

– Strawberries

– Orange slices

– ice

What You Need To Do…

In a jug, mix one part Pimm’s with one part lemonade and one part ginger ale/beer. Add sliced cucumber, strawberries and orange slices. Add mint. And add as much ice as you’d like. Stir and serve.

See? Simple.

It’s a great British drink with refreshing summer flavours. Bonus? The fruit soaks up the Pimm’s and tastes delicious!

(p.s. Happy Belated Canada Day to my fellow Canadians!)

 

Night Out: Spring Fling

Last night, my friend Allison and I had a night out (we have those with quite fervent regularity) and decided to try out an old classic, The Drake Hotel. Now that spring is officially in the air, we were ok venturing outside of our little respective nooks to Queen West. I’ve mentioned the Drake before (back in the early days of this blog when I talked about good gifts for the holidays from their General Store), and it’s definitely one of my favourite spots in the city. The Art Deco vibe, mixed with good music and great drinks makes for a fun night out, every time.

the drake hotel

Right now through April 30th, they have a prix fixe special going on that just sounded too good to pass up. For $32, you get an appetizer + a main + a dessert. Bonus: they have a neat selection of spring cocktails to accompany your meal (like one of my favourites, the basil smash).

Allison's Basil Smash and my (uber-strong!) bourbon-based "A Clockwork Orange"

Allison’s Basil Smash and my (uber-strong!) bourbon-based “A Clockwork Orange” 

Dinner was, in a word, yummy. Between the two of us, we tried 4 dishes (we tend to think quite similarly when it comes to food). A really refreshing cucumber + mache + sorrel salad (with mint and feta) started the meal for both of us. I then moved on to a really crispy-on-the-outside-juicy-on-the-inside eggplant parmigiana, and she had a seared lamb loin with shallots, carrots, peas and chickpea puree (which was described as “melt in your mouth good!”). Dessert was my favourite, though. There’s absolutely nothing I love more in a dessert than blueberries, unless it’s wild blueberries smothering a vanilla cheesecake with walnuts. Mmmmmm….

Drake Spring Fixe DishesI’d never actually had a sit-down meal at the Drake before (usually just appetizers/nibblies and drinks) but I’m so glad we did because it was all sorts of good. Plus, the service was undeniably good – our waitress was so attentive, without being overbearing, and it felt like our table was more than taken care of. The best part of the whole meal, though, was being up in the Sky Yard – the Drake’s rooftop, semi-covered (for now – in the summer it’s totally open and has one of the best rooftop drinking spots in the city) patio which was such a nice respite from the cold, cold winter over the past few months.

 

Happy Hour

Yes, it is Monday and yes, it is only 8am. So while this post may seem a little premature (and maybe even a little concerning), it’s simply in anticipation of this Friday when I will be in Ottawa and likely taking a load off after another long week.

My wine (and, to a degree, cocktail) palate has evolved over the last few years. When I first started drinking wine, I was strictly sweet whites (I basically liked grape juice) but over time, I’ve certainly grown to appreciate the full-body (read: tartness) of a good red. In that time, I’ve also begun to maintain an ongoing stock of wines at home. That’s the mark of a true adult, right?

This Umbra Grape Vine wine rack is a perfect way to inconspicuously keep a few bottles on hand

This Umbra Grape Vine wine rack is a perfect way to inconspicuously keep a few bottles on hand

In thinking about my dream house, I can’t help but imagine a nice little wine fridge. Both mine and my boyfriend’s parents like and collect wine, so it’s only natural we carry on that tradition. While the rack I have today is nice, a sweet fridge would be amazing one day. Houzz has a list of 8 really intricate ways to get your basement transformed into a wine cellar, but, while a nice idea, that just may not be practical. So, here are a few everyday wine storage options I love:

Top L - A great option from Houzz that allows you to highlight your collection without taking up spaceBottom L - A gravity-defying idea for letting your wines shine in plain sightTop R - A Whirlpool wine fridge from Future Shop...stores up to 35 bottles!Bottom R - For that rustic chic look, this reclaimed wood wine rack from DelHutsonDesigns adds a quirky way to not just store wine, but their wine glasses, too!

Top L – A great option from Houzz that allows you to highlight your collection without taking up space
Bottom L – A gravity-defying idea for letting your wines shine in plain sight
Top R – A Whirlpool wine fridge from Future Shop…stores up to 35 bottles!
Bottom R – For that rustic chic look, this reclaimed wood wine rack from DelHutsonDesigns adds a quirky way to not just store wine, but wine glasses, too!

For a few more tips on how to store wine, this article from Wine Spectator gives the key pointers. And when dinner time hits, if you’re looking for something new, here are a few of my favourites:

Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc

Mollydooker’s “The Boxer” Shiraz

Campo Viejo Rioja

Kim Crawford Unoaked Chardonnay

Tilia Cabernet Sauvignon

Featherstone Gewurztraminer

Malivoire Pinot Noir

And with that, I hope everyone has a great start to the week!

A Night Out: Bacon! (and wine)

There’s nothing that makes a girls’ night out better than greasy food and/or beer. So last night, my friends and I decided to blend the two in a new part of town. There’s a lot to be said for the simplicity of restaurants that feature one ingredient and we went to a place that happens to focus on my preferred ingredient: bacon! Rashers in Leslieville is a new spot that takes bacon to a whole other level.

Rashers! Bacon!

Rashers! Bacon!

Their whole premise is centered around bacon sandwiches. They have delicious (and pretty local) bacon products, everything from Canadian back bacon to plain ol’ strip bacon. We tried two grilled ones while we were there: one was a delicious grilled cheese with bacon and a slightly tangy mustard, while the other was a grilled maple-apple-bacon combo that tasted almost like dessert rather than dinner (in that it was sweetly delicious).

Simple grilled cheese? Not these sandwiches!

Simple grilled cheese? Not these sandwiches!

They have a small menu with feature sandwiches, including a signature Hogtown Sandwich with peameal bacon and an optional egg on top, which makes this a great place to go for a quick bite after a night out (i.e. greasy breakfast the morning after).

Since Leslieville is an area we have been looking at, I wanted to see what a night out would look like if we were to ever live here. So, after bacon, we headed to Skin and Bones, a new(ish) wine bar on the Queen East strip.

skin and bones

While this didn’t knock my favourite wine bar in the city off its podium (Caren’s Wine Bar – the back patio alone is worth it, especially in the summer), we had a really fun time. The selection of wine and mixed drinks was good and the cheese plate we shared definitely hit the spot. While the wine and cheese was great, it was really the company that made the night. More specifically, the people watching.

There is certainly a unique vibe to the Leslieville area, something you don’t find anywhere else in the city. I’m looking forward to exploring the east end more as the weather gets better – we passed a ton of great restaurants and bars on the way to our final destinations tonight. In the meantime, though, I will just dream of bacon sandwiches…mmm…

Beer

That got your attention, didn’t it? Since Groundhog Willie didn’t see his shadow this year, and we can expect an early spring (even if the weather today indicates otherwise), I figured it would be a good time to call out some of the best places in the city to get beer – especially when patio season rolls around.

Toronto (and the surrounding area) is actually great for microbrews – Steamwhistle, Flying Monkeys, Spearhead, Creemore, Amsterdam, Great Lakes…there’s a ton to choose from at local restaurants and the LCBO. If you haven’t, I recommend giving any of these a try. Not only are you getting a refreshing beverage, but you’re supporting local businesses that are truly creating great products.

Some local goodies: Steamwhistle, Flying Monkeys, and Spearhead

Some local goodies: Steamwhistle, Flying Monkeys, and Spearhead

With that, I have my top 5 spots to get tasty and unique microbrews:

1) C’est What

Definitely love this bar. It’s in a great area (St. Lawrence Market), with lots to see and do. This place has a ton of great beers on tap and they create their own in-house brews to boot. They have ales (like the hilariously-coined “Big Butt Smoked Dark Ale”), wheat beers (“Mother Pucker’s Ginger Wheat”), and other unique concoctions like a Caraway beer and a Cask ale. A good place to go on rainy days (they don’t have a patio), or if you’re looking for pre/post-dinner drinks when you’re in that area.

2) Bar Volo

Table 7 at Bar Volo has a drawer. People can leave things/notes in it. It's fun.

Table 7 at Bar Volo has a drawer. People can leave things/notes in it. It’s fun.

Bar Volo is hands down my go-to for a no-frills pint of beer. They have an ever-changing and amazing selection of beers you’ve likely never heard of, their servers really know their beer (i.e. they can give me beers that match my description of “something a little hoppy, but not too hoppy and that tastes good but isn’t fruity, and I don’t like Hoegaarden”) and they have awesome charcuterie and cheese platters to go along with your brews. Their patio is open during the spring and summer, and offers a nice little oasis in the heart of the city.

3) Bellwoods Brewery

I already sung its praises here, but it warrants repeating – great location, good beer and a fun front-facing patio!

4) Granite Brewery

Patio: check. In-house brew selection: check. Good location: check (for now). The Granite Brewery is one of my favourite places in midtown to grab a drink (along with the Rose and Crown, which has shockingly good pad thai!). The patio is awesome in the summer, and their beer selection has something for everyone. As a bonus, you’re getting beer you can’t get anywhere else so it really has that “Cheers” feel to it.

5) Millstreet Brewpub

Mmmmill street...

Mmmmill street…

Mill Street is a guaranteed crowd pleaser. Goes down smooth, it’s kind of like the quintessential Toronto drink. The Mill Street Brewpub is located in the Distillery District – a fantastic place with exposed brick walls, quirky little stores, and some great restaurants. It’s a wonderful spot to spend a Saturday during the summer, topping it off with a drink on the Mill Street patio at dusk.