j a c o b s

According to my viewers, my Toronto category has been lacking a bit. So this post is for my fellow Torontonians.

Think steak with fries, red wine and dessert. Not bad, right?

Now how does this sound:

Starter: Caesar Salad prepared at your tableside
Main: Wagyu, California Cut Striploin
Sides: Duck Fat French Fried Potatoes with foie gras, and beefsteak tomato slow roasted, with feta and oregano
Dessert: Belavitano Balsamic cheese
Wine:  Copain 2010 Les Voisins Pinot Noir

To me, this sounds like Jacobs & Co Steakhouse, located in the heart of Toronto at 12 Brant Street.

The menu above is what I crave pretty much once a month. These guys know their steaks and wines never mind the Caesar salad, which can easily turn into anyone’s favourite.  Their wine menu is quite intimidating; however I will forever remain loyal to Copain.  The steaks range from different regions depending on your budget.  The sides are seasonal but I can always count on my foie gras duck fat fries.  Cheeses are yet another layer to be discovered in this restaurant, but, of course, they have others, like vanilla crème brule with pistachio biscotti and cardamom shortbread, or warm apple crumble – the sky is the limit in this establishment.

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The first time I dined at the restaurant I was taken aback by the excellent service and our waiter. What is always a topic of discussion every time I have gone back since are the conversations and people around me at adjacent tables.

Fine-dining people watching has never really appealed to me until Jacobs. But here you hear things like, “I think Woody Allen is great! I had dinner with him the other day…” or “I closed a huge deal. I mean, of course, I did – do they know who I am?” and then there was the odd table where no one spoke a word for an entire dinner.

As an added bonus, the restaurant makes sure breakfast is taken care of the next morning by sending each guest off with in-house made chocolate chip muffins – yummy…

Jacobs is one of those places for special occasions… oh how I miss my steak!

images © Jacob’s & Co Steakhouse

blasé

Just one of those days…There is nothing worse than feeling mildly depressed and hearing the rain pound heavily on my window.

I think the combination of the two is powerful enough to put me into a deep coma, which I might awake from by having sunlight rays covering my body or seeing kittens walking all over my Kafka books.

Nothing that I do is quite right for my mind frame on days like this and everything seems like a huge burden.

The only thing that makes sense in this case is to retreat back to comfort food – something that I think we have all been conditioned to fall back on.

So here I go re-inventing the wheel, which starts off with my favourite chicken soup recipe.

a la tarte

A woman started making quiches and pies. With that vision she opened a charmingly bohemian café serving just that. For her, this café is a place she has always wanted to run.

A la Tarte is more than just a coffee shop, it serves organically made pies, quiches, cakes and cookies made in-house every day and (I am personally excited) to see a variety of other savoury treats. You can find this cafe on Darmstädter Straße 19 in Köln’s popular Südstadt area.

The cafe’s additional charm comes from being located in what used to be a milk shop. With high ceilings and decorative tiles you can right away feel the transcendence of the predecessors.

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I simply love the feel of this place. It makes me feel at home and appeals to all my taste buds. The baristas are incredibly sweet (and well versed in English, should one need it). There is nothing better on a Sunday morning than settling down right by the window at A la Tarte with one of the papers they supply, sipping on a cappuccino while nibbling on their freshly made organic strawberry white chocolate pie or – for the more discerning foodie – fresh basil white chocolate pie, another personal favourite.

On the savoury side, a special fall treat is the orange fennel quiche.

I would rate this cafe right up there with another favourite and equally satisfying cafe, based in Vancouver, called Aphrodite’s Cafe & Pie Shop.

I found my place on this side of the globe!

gallery images © Bernward Malaka – Café A La Tarte

haida gwaii

-inspirational self journey-

is the simplest, truest statement I could come up with to describe my sailing experience in Haida Gwaii (formerly the Queen Charlottes) back in 2010.

I will do my best to describe a paradise that should be experienced firsthand in order to understand its true beauty.

The West Coast has been and will always be the mecca of natural wonders; however, Haida Gwaii takes it to another level. For me, Haida Gwaii is the most astounding place one can sail to – and nothing tops making that journey on the Ocean Light II, a 71’ ketch-rigged sailboat, and of course, with the enormous knowledge of the BC coast wilderness provided by Tom, Jen and Sarah.

Sailing gives you the advantage of a close campground to a varied assortment of the rarest marine wildlife. I say you can also do this trip in a kayak but it will be less comfortable and extremely challenging at times. Sailing also gives you the advantage of self reflection which I think is extremely important when you are surrounded by the magnitude of such beauty. When I entered this perfect world all my worries were lifted and they seemed far behind and I transformed into something I would like to call, “agent of nature.” There is no shortage of wildlife here. I was amazed to see lots of seals, humpback whales, porpoises, crabs, all sorts of fish, coloured starfish, and that’s just to name a few.

There is not a feeling in the world that describes the serenity of being out in a zodiac in the morning embracing the calm water in search of wildlife.

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Day 1 captured:

  • Kayaking in a sea of algae watching the pink, purple, orange starfish looking all proper in their nooks.
  • A half day hike that took me to a place where I felt like an eagle on top of the world, and on the way down I dove into the cold sea water, aching to be that much close to nature and wanting to become entrenched with more of my poetic surroundings.
  • After that full day I retreat back to the sail boat for a freshly caught crab dinner.

Imagine 7 full days of captivatingly serene adventures. I would retreat at the end of each day to the sail boat trying to not let go of anything I just experienced. I was bursting from it all…

Most of all, this paragon of nature offered me a peaceful cover to reflect, ponder, and explore myself and the very nature of humanity.

For me this is a special place that I can forever tap into.

images © Mike Bernard