oh toronto

Growing up in Toronto I have my personal likes and dislikes about the city, however when I am away and I come back to visit Toronto it’s an entirely different feeling. I can describe it as a nostalgic panicked feeling that somehow, somewhere in me, lives a great realization that we are all working against time. Why does this feeling only arise in Toronto? Not sure, but here are some highlights from my last visit.

People will always draw me in and keep me locked into Toronto forever, I think. My good friends, this little cat below and my mother are some examples.

arleen the cat

This trip was all about personal bonding for me. I missed my people and mostly I missed people speaking English. So it was vital for me to get my fill of both! “Coincidentally,” it so happened to be Thanksgiving weekend where people get stuffed with a huge turkey and sides that make one go immediately into a food coma for a about two hours!

Back to the bonding topic: why is it that we as humans need to bond? Maybe it’s because our ancestors have developed over many centuries in communities and not as lonely individuals. I think a sense of community, and I can easily braid in the term friendship here because it works hand in hand, are important and sacred in many ways. For me personally, it is in my community/friendships that I truly find myself sharing and talking about delicate subjects that otherwise I wouldn’t feel comfortable expressing. I guess for me personally the notion of community stems from a deep-rooted personal belonging to a group that provides brief moments of isolation where expressing your vulnerability isn’t bad or scary, it’s just part of living. Although, with expressing my vulnerability comes a sense of, time is passing so get your shit together! Which is scary and gives me a weird sense of a never-ending struggle and sadness that one day this community, my community will no longer be there…

But there is hope, I call it metamorphosis. I am using this term quite lightly now, because I just realized how heavy-handed this post is becoming. I am choosing to associate my personal blog with the term metamorphosis, because from my last visit in Toronto and speaking truthfully within my community I realized that my blog needs a fresh cover and a focus. The focus will be travelling and food using of course a great visual tool, called photography.

Side note: my older posts will not be deleted. You will be able to find them under the ‘about’ section, because after all, they are part of me!

If there is one thing for me to be thankful for this year is my community/friendships!

Stay tuned for my metamorphosis blog! xo

yyz

then there was 200 and pink

pinkphoto 5

What a great feeling it is to accomplish a huge task, get compliments and be hugely inspired to do more and more and a lot more!…

That’s the best I could come up with to describe my recent involvement with a party I was hired to cater for – three beautiful ladies’ 40th birthdays!

The theme of the party was new, fresh, exciting and pink. I said yes and that’s exactly what we did. Firstly, a huge thank you goes to Anja for helping. She can turn a dark washed abandoned bar into a marvellously exciting pink palace with her decorating skills. Honestly, she has a wonderful party decorating business that is all about how to make decorating as perfect as possible in a timely manner. So she makes decoration boxes specific to people’s parties, super cool! Check out what she has going on: (http://www.kerzenmaedchen.de/index.php?cat=c24_Dekoration-Stil—Design.html)

And there was me, the chef. Catering for 200 people is not an easy task and coming up with pink food is also quite the challenge, but we whipped up something super cool – menu:

tuna sashimi

watermelon/prosecutto asiago skewers

beets with balsamic feta cheese skewers

deconstructed shrimp ceviche green onion skewers

pink humus with vegetables

duck burgers

A really great crowd, great evening and I felt that people were truly enjoying themselves and the food! I stood by watching people’s expressions as they brought the food to their mouth to chew and it was delightful to see them enjoy the different flavours and play around with the idea in their heads of food being served right on the table as a fresh idea that they could get used to.

Thank you Anja, Ute and Silke! You girls rock! Xo

p.s. I know some of my readers are quite the cooks, so if you would like any recipes email me or comment below!

london, part II

In a previous post on London I specified that I love London, well to prove it I went back! I wanted to visit a very close friend of mine that has recently moved to London which provided for a perfect opportunity to take in London again. And this time it was more of a culinary experience than last time. Of course, still inspiring but in a different sense…Well well well… so:

photo 6a

 

This time I flew into a different airport called Gatwick and decided instead of taking the fast train I would take the comfort bus. My findings were that if you are pressed for time the bus is not an option for you and although the bus conveniently drops you off at Victoria station which is smack in the middle of everything, you still have lost about 1hour and 20 mins on the bus. Side note, Gatwick airport is a rather smallish airport that often has super decent prices if you’re coming from within the EU (this airport due to size lacks international carriers).

As soon as I smelled the London air I thought fish ‘n chips – a must and this dish can be found in any pub.

The first night we went to a dinner place called Cafe Murano which was incredible! Hats off to the chef! I had a dish that my accompanied date did not approve but I enjoyed every second of it – rabbit tortelli and a huge glass of a rare, flown in that night from Antarctica beer, which name I can’t recall and probably it wasn’t Antarctica, but it was an impressive place nevertheless. My lovely date, had carnaroli risotto with summer truffles another huge success with a beautiful robust red. We topped off our dinner with an incredible shared dessert; Amalfi lemon tart. Feeling content and full we caught a double decker bus and we were on our way home to continue talking over a young but very stealthy honorable scotch.

rabbit tortelli

Day two: we were off to explore Seven Dials my favourite spot in London. First of all, it should be noted that Seven Dials is located literary next door to Covent Garden. And, the whole idea is quite basic, there are seven streets that all meet in the centre point, which has a column where a sundial faces each street – hence the name seven dials. But here comes the beauty, all seven avenues are filed with fabulous little stores, unique coffee shops, and exquisite restaurant that are all fairly priced. You can literally walk down one street go into an enticing shoe store to pick up some cheerful flats, then go down the street indulge yourself with a chai latte and carry on going in and out of clothing shops that make you want to buy all the merchandise in the stores. After a couple of hours of walking around, naturally, you need some relaxing from all the fun with a cocktail in hand. Great, excellent, and this is when we stumbled upon Covent Garden Hotel where they make a mean cocktail. Really, you ask them to make you something special and they will do it! Plus their cocktail menu is nothing to laugh about.

And then we were left being hungry again… oh where, oh where can one go close to seven dials and have a decent steak with sides and dessert? The hunger was getting the best of us, so we walked into Steak and Co. shared a huge steak with fries and a molten chocolate lava cake. Great night!

Day 3 we wandered around (a great way to discover little nooks) and then off I was back to Koln. The overall feeling was fantastic and I still really love London! Can’t wait to see what London part III has in store for me.

london

30th birthday

What do Montjuic Castle, Las Ramblas, a huge outdoor market, W Hotel, and Gaudi have in common? Fairly easy to answer: Barcelona, is where I spent my 30th birthday. What is it about people and turning a number greater than 2 that ends with a big 0 and needing to justify something to themselves by booking a random weekend trip to go and explore a new city to take their minds off of the fact that everyone gets older? Mini rant, which I shall stop now and move on to describe the beautiful distraction city – Barcelona.

Catalonians have a great sense of pride and that’s reflected in their fashion, architecture and restaurants. As we walked along in a neighbourhood called Las Ramblas, which by the way, is a must, we quickly started to see people care about what they wear and how they carry themselves. And no, I am not talking about tourists, although there were heaps of them all around. Catalonians were all wearing delightful summer clothing and shoes or sandals all carrying the stamp made in Spain. As I started to look up I noticed most were also wearing the perfect summer hats. I thought to myself, I wouldn’t mind getting lost among these people for a while. The Las Ramblas is a huge major street with hotels, side street tapas restaurants, shops, and a huge outdoor market. The market is filled with all the fresh organic produce your little heart desires, anything from 34€/100g prosciutto to fresh caught tuna to 7000 types of olives, cheeses and of course all kinds of amazing Riojas. I was in perfect bliss! What could be better than this?

After scouting and eating lunch in this wonderful market we were on our way in search for architecture and of course, Gaudi. First stop was taking a pretty sweet teleferic (enclosed chairlift) offering a great view of the city down below up to Montjuic Castle. The Castle itself gives you a great understanding of the foundational roots of Barcelona and it also accounts for a piece of history of the wars fought back in the days, but you are only scratching the surface by visiting this castle.

One question comes to mind: where is Gaudi? After a 45 mins walk we were about to find out. Gaudi’s Park Güell is filled with the true essence of Catalonian flavour. It’s what defines these people and brings thousands from across the world to witness Gaudi’s everlasting architectural brilliance. I mean, to sit on a clay structure resting while listening to the Spanish guitar, what’s more romantic?… To see many mosaic tiled lizards strikes me to question Gaudi’s vacationing spots, but not too seriously, because whatever inspired him to create these murals inspired me. In Park Güell lives a little house where you can find treasures that once belonged to Gaudi. For instance, you can see his bed which I was amazed to see is quite small, yes, he was short and extremely religious, but did I mention, brilliant! I am attaching a couple of pictures below which will better explain what I mean. If that’s not enough, we reserved Casa Batlló for our next visit to Barcelona. I can’t seem to get enough of this guy! After culturing oneself comes relaxing, so…

We went to explore Barcelona beach. Nothing says ‘you’ve arrived’ more than sinking your toes into white sand and smelling the fresh salt water from the sea. We found a nice tucked spot next to a dozens palm trees with tunes in the background playing. Swimming in the sea’s water in July can still be described as chilly but once you are in there your body gets adjusted and you quickly forget about the immediate discomfort. This is the perfect place to plan where you should go for your birthday dinner – where or where could you go?

Well, why not Bravo24 in the W hotel? This restaurant (run by Carles Abellan) seemed to me like a Spanish version of Jacobs in Toronto. We started with prosciutto which melted in our mouth. We found our favourite steak cut (Japanese wagyu) grilled to perfection at our table and we decided to go all out with by far the best New Zealand Pinot Noir I’ve ever had the pleasure of enjoying. The atmosphere was imitate, the service, well it’s Spain, but it was all worth it and I would do it all again in a heartbeat! Barcelona, I adore you!! Gaudi you are a sources of inspiration for me! We’ll be back…

p.s. There is a Catalonian version of the Arc de Triomphe!

catalonian triumph

our video

colours meet maple syrup2

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words, slight difference though in this case because it’s a video. This video signifies a major part of what artcookery.ca is all about. I am really amazed to see people’s responses and I really hope we can influence people to eat better, understand food and push personal boundaries within a comfortable realm.

It’s short, fun and a clear representation of our concept.  Feel free to comment and of course, share the video!

Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uRCw4UyKOK8

Lastly, I am very excited about Restaurant Day (May 17)!

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gondolas

Oh what joy it is to walk around a beautiful historic island, surrounded by narrow streets all intertwined around a massive lagoon. Where do you think I am? Venezia, of course!

Last Easter weekend was spent enjoying the wonderfulness of this city tucked away in the beautiful Italia.

We arrived at the Venezia airport at 8AM, a short flight (1.5 hours) from Koln, and headed to the Vaporettos to take us into the magical city. The ride took about 45 minutes and it was great to see all the adjacent islands and how the Venetians live. The cost is about 50euros for two people for a two way ticket, the speed of the boat goes up to about 35km and due to the wind woman will need a hair clip or at least a sailor’s hat. (Waving to other boats while travelling at such high speeds is frowned upon, as they say it distracts the skipper – kidding, I made that up – lol!)

waterfront

And then we arrived at our destination for what was a wonderful two days. Walking along in an immense crowd makes one quickly self-aware of the fact that there is no such thing as personal space in such a place. But, I quickly became ok with this fact because for one I was too tired to fight against the crowd and two I heard some pretty interesting stories. Walking and walking is what we did – I mean that is the only way one can actually see all the intricacies of this ascent city.

San Marco is wonderful and reminds me a lot of Basilica of Santa Maria Novella in Florence. Murano and Burano, well, you have to be a glass blowing fan to enjoy the ins and outs of the craftsmanship involved into making Murano glass – I found it fascinating and of course I fell into the surprisingly easy trap of buying souvenirs.

glasssculpture

Food is yet another topic that needs to be talked about. We tried to avoid tourist traps as much as possible by simply following the locals when are stomachs began to rumble. A place I highly recommend is, pomodororosso. Only locals dined here and the food was beyond amazing. The wines were incredible and decently priced. Our two course meal with a bottle of wine and acqua frizzante was under 60€, not bad at all considering the quality of the food!

We also retreated to the back terrace of a famous hotel, Metropol, for cocktails and we enjoyed every second of it. Sitting within a white canopy outdoor tent and Buddha like structures and greenery older than us as a human kind, the whole place made you feel so comfortable and with the sun warming you, you never wanted to leave. Needless to say, we spent hours there!

Then on our last day we decided to have a touristy meal by sitting down at a restaurant with pretty much everyone around us speaking English, and what did we have? Pizza, of courso! The pizza was ok, the tourists’ conversations were quite boring and weak, and it was cloudy that day. Aka, we were super sad to leave…

Side note, did you know that the word Ghettos comes from the Venetians and it represents the Jewish Italians being in a designated, segregated area in Venezia apart from the rest of people. This area was called the Ghetto. Since the area was quite small and a lot of people had to fit in it they started to build what was at the time, the tallest buildings in Venezia. Now, this area is no longer sheltered but surrounded by modern shops and a huge soccer field that is quite the modern saloon.

Sadly, the trip had to come to an end and we packed our bags and heading back to the airport via Vaporetto. Once at the airport we decided to indulge in an Italian craft beer with a unique name that escapes me now, but also a unique taste that I will remember for a long time. Side note: this beer was worth every euro!

Oh Italy – you will always rate so high on my list of favourite places in the world!

artcookery.ca

amuse bouche-small

The spring/summer season was opened with an off-the-chart five course picnic menu, which I am quite proud of. A lot of planning and work went into the hashing out of the details, but the end result made those 2 AM nights all worth it. I am also quite lucky to have found such a wonderful, beautiful free-spirited partner – huge thank you to Sabrina Dion!

Honestly, when you are into a project so much, late nights don’t really seem to affect you. If I were to guess, this is what having a child would fell like; you run on adrenalin and when you can’t go any further you fall asleep with clothes on. Well then, I guess, artcookery.ca is my newborn :)!

Here is the full menu from the picnic alongside some amazing pictures taken by a special someone who rocks at photography (here is to you Johanna):

 Nectarines with Canadian whiskey cheese on a homemade crouton
topped with buckwheat honey and basil

canadian whisky cheese-small

Chicken tacos topped with ginger BBQ sauce, yogurt and fresh cilantro

chicken taco up close-small

Gravlax on a fresh baguette garnished with dijon maple syrup sauce and dill

gravlax up close-small

Strawberry with peppered feta salad in a balsamic cream dressing topped with fresh mint

balsamic maple bacon-small

Food canvas

Amuse bouche – raspberry sorbet in freshly squeezed lemonade topped with a cranberry

mint raspberry sorbet-small

Feels so good to have completed the first step and now onto the next – finding events… Truly amazed at people’s responses towards artcookery.ca and learning lots! Thank you world!

london

Oh boy, I want to move to London, if I can be guaranteed it will be sunny at least 60% of the time. No, seriously, our last trip to London was amazing and a huge thank you goes out to Susan!

drip coffee

It was a nice warm sunny weekend where exploring was all that we did – in London that is.

We checked into our hotel, grabbed our Oyster cards* and were quickly on our way toward the great big red bus (line 7) to take it to Soho and explore the marvelous shopping streets. We found the street overwhelming and many stores could be found three or four times up and down Oxford Street. Tourists were scrambling up and down to find a perfect present indicative of London, aka great people watching.

Seven Dials is more of my style of shopping and taste. It is quite the unique shopping district nestled among great restaurant and cafes – think Distillery district in Toronto. And of course there is Harrods, which I can safely say is an upscale Holts found in London. We also found another beautiful shopping area with tons of organic coffee shops and unique merchandise fairly priced in the Covent Garden neighbourhood. We did lots of walking…

The London Eye is a must when in London! I mean you get a 360 degree safe panoramic view of the city, which lets you mark special buildings on your mental map to see later. Great photos can also be taken and if you are with the right crowd a couple of jokes could also be exchanged – our crowd was quite boring though.

The Buckingham Palace. You know when someone of the Royal family gets married or has a baby and you see footage on TV of the Palace and think “wow, quite spectacular” – well you get an even more intense feeling when you stand right next to it. I would have thought there would be more guards guarding the grounds… it seems super open to the public. I felt amazed to see such a huge Palace in the middle of the city opening its back doors to so many tourists. Really quite amazing, but I guess the Royal Family is quite used to this.

High Tea at the Savoy. Well hello London! The tea service was amazing and the company even better – It was amazing how seriously the Londoners take their afternoon tea time. It’s a beautiful custom and so relaxing! I feel as though any heavy topics can be discussed when you are holding a well made fine China cup of tea and munching on perfectly cut sandwiches and mouth watering desserts.

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Really, I mean really, who wouldn’t be back for more. Well done London!!

come one, come all!

streetcar

Come one, come all is the name of this game, or should I say Karneval!

I wrote an earlier post documenting the start of the very famous Karneval here in Köln, which happened on November 11 @ 11:11, and I feel as though I should report on the closing ceremonies of this festival.

Oh boy where do I start – my first Karneval was quite the adventure.  After Deutschkurs on Thursday (Feb. 27) it basically meant the shutdown of the city of Köln and a huge welcoming crowd of drunk people in costumes for 5 days straight.  It wasn’t all that bad though. It all started with a party at our house on Friday Feb 28 with all our guests dressed in costumes, of course. Yes, we even listened to more than 100 Colonian Karneval specific songs, which as the saying goes – you start to learn the lyrics the more Kölschs you have! I was Minnie Mouse this year, but after seeing how much effort and attention people put into their costumes I felt as though next year I should have a more elaborate one. So I gave away the fact that there will be a next year…

Saturday was spent around the house…(no Kölschs)

Sunday was spent going over a friend’s house for dinner and on the way home, man was there a lot to see… The streetcars were jam-packed with super, super drunk locals and tons of tourists trying to make sense of the whole affair. Or was that only me, not sure, but in any event it was quite funny to watch.

Although, once home it was good to put my feet up with – ta-daa! – a Kölsch and sing a couple of my Colonia favourites: Viva Colonia; Et Trömmelche; Marmor, Stein und Eisen bricht – catchy tunes they are.

Monday marked yet another unique experience. So you know how you wake up super early to try to get front row seats to a show you want to see and then you find out that it was cancelled? Well, imagine that, except different. I woke up around 9 AM to try to get a front row view to a parade that is the epitome of Karneval in Köln – the “Rosenmontagszug”. More than 60 groups with elaborate floats all celebrating the climax of the Karneval season by throwing tons of candies (Kamelle!), toys and flowers (Strüssjer!) into the crowds. Quite fun! One thing to note is this show takes about 5 hours from start to finish and washrooms are hard to come by, just saying.

On the positive side, you can, if you have a good seat, get many bags full of candies and lots of beautiful flowers that you can later turn into arrangements. That’s exactly what I did! I made flowers arrangements and sorted all the candies into “priority eating” piles vs. “to be sent away” piles – yes, I did get that much candy! Honestly, I felt like a kid again, because it reminded me so much of Halloween, expect no knocking on people’s door, so less work, but more crowded.

Although, the whole point of the Karneval is being among crowds!

 

sweets

What is it about Europe and sweets?

Today, one day before the end of my cleanse, I had the biggest sweets craving in a long time. I guess I will have to extend my cleanse for a couple more days to make up for the sweets intake.

How did the affair unfold?

Super easy, I got off the no. 15 Straßenbahn one stop before home and marched straight into Rewe’s sweets section and said to myself go crazy. So I did. I bought one bag of 25% real Saft stuffed Haribo, one bag of mini color-rado Haribo, and Ritter Sport Macadamia. Then caught another 15 and off to nach Haus gehen.

I have never had such a craving living in North America, ever… (must be more disciplined).

Now Gute Nacht from the Friday corner. Bis nächsten Freitag, besondere Leute!

Gummibären