Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Chicago: An afternoon with the bean

No trip to Chicago is complete without a visit to the selfie-machine. I mean, The Bean. I mean, Cloudgate.

Cloudgate is a giant, chrome, bean-shaped public art piece in Millennium Park that reflects the beautiful Chicago skyline along with a bunch of tourists taking photos of themselves.

You can walk under it:

Interact with it:

And even flop around on the ground beside it!

There was even a jumping picture attempt in which Mander's scarf attacked her face:

And a photo where we're not acting like doofuses:



Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Cheers to 2013

If there’s one thing I can say for 2013, I can say it’s the year I started a blog and actually stuck to it! For me this project has been connector, a creative outlet, and, well, a whole lot of fun. Here are a few highlights:


·         Craft beer in Durham arrived and took off this year! 5 Paddles Brewery entered the scene in a big way and a few other new breweries are in the works here in the ‘burbs. I made great new friends at Buster Rhino’s monthly tap takeovers, a fantastic series that has helped to connect our community and being unique craft beer to Durham Region.

·         I travelled to Highlander Brew Co. in South River, Ont. with the Killer Kings to help brew Liongrass Ale for Session Toronto.

·         Beau's All-Natural Brewery thought of everything at the two stupid-fun events of theirs I attended this year, It’s A Beer World After All and Oktoberfest in Vankleek Hill.

·         This blog brought me the opportunity to curate and host a craft beer bar at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery in Oshawa. I had so much fun educating folks about Ontario craft beer!


·         James and I participated in our first Community-Supported Agriculture program this year. We were overrun with produce and didn’t account for how often we’re out of town in the summer. My big plans: forced creativity in the kitchen and posting weekly recipes in this space. What actually happened: I ate a lot of salad for lunch (not complaining!) and we are purple cauliflower alongide nearly every BBQed meal. Would we do it again? We’ll see.


·         I travelled by plane for the first time in my life to magical St. John’s, Newfoundland.

·         I spent weekends in Muskoka and Ottawa, along with many lovely summer weekends at family and friends’ cottages. Oh and before this blog was born, I travelled to Wheeling and Charleston, West Virginia and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to see the Avett Brothers.

·         I also spent a long weekend in Chicago in November, posted about the coolest burger place ever, then promptly abandoned this blog (sorry! I have a good excuse—see next heading—and I am planning a few more posts about Chi-town, ‘cause I know my Grandparents will want to see them!).

View from Willis Tower in Chicago

·         I just wrote, a couple of gushy (and a little bit whiny) paragraphs about the many ways my life changed in 2013... then deleted them Because looking back, I think the reason I have kept this blog up and running successfully so far is because, for the most part, I’ve been able to leave that stuff out and focus on the good (beer, food and fun!). This way, when I look back at old posts, I can reminisce and smile—not cringe and delete. But I will say: am I ever ready for 2014. Here’s one giant reason:

·         We bought a house! Yes, the suburbs are making an honest woman out of me; I’m here to stay. Will this blog take a downward spiral into home d├ęcor and DIYs? Maybe. But along with it will be a glorious backyard garden and a forage into homebrewing. We get the keys on Jan. 9 (needless to say my life and apartment is in shambles right now as I purge, pack and prepare for the next chapter).

Cheers to 2013! Thanks for reading and supporting this little project.


Saturday, 7 December 2013

Chicago: Kuma's Corner

A couple of weekends ago, I travelled to Chicago with my best friend Amanda for a long weekend of fun and food. More to come about the trip, but first I thought I'd share my favourite Chi-town meal (and we had a LOT of good ones), which was consumed at Kuma's Corner.

Kuma's Corner is a heavy-metal bar with a focus on craft beer and burgers, located about about a half-hour subway plus a 10-minute walk from the downtown core of Chicago ("The Loop") at 2900 W. Belmont Ave.

When I say this place is a theme bar, I'm not talking Hard Rock Cafe style. Kuma's Corner is a tiny, authentic bar (not a tourist attraction) that has awesome burgers, craft beer, tattooed and pierced staff, and blasts heavy metal all hours of the day (we were there around 2 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon) with no remorse. Some signs around the place read: "No we will not turn the music down," "Hipsters use back door, no exceptions," and, "Die emo die." The menu has the caveat "Kuma's Corner does not have anything vegan."

Note the whiskey on tap.

I ordered the Plague burger: roasted garlic mayo, crushed garlic, homemade hot sauce, jalapenos, lettuce, tomato, onion, bacon, cheddar and tortilla strips (that tasted like homemade Fritos!).

And the beers! Of course Kuma's Corner had the Iron Maiden Beer ("Trooper") on tap. I also sipped a Dogfish Head Festina Peche and a milk stout by Left Hand Brewing Company.

That's not a window, that's a glow of excitement because I had just consumed such a delicious burger.
Kuma's Corner, you won my heart.


Wednesday, 20 November 2013

RMG Exposed craft beer bar

Last Saturday night I hosted a craft beer bar at RMG Exposed, a photography-auction fundraiser at The Robert McLaughlin Gallery in Oshawa (read how this came about here). It was so much fun!

The theme for the night was Canadian Comfort, so that's where the craft beer bar came into play (along with moose silhouettes, lobster rolls, poutine and live music from a folkin' awesome local band, The Doozies).

Several hours of research with the LCBO's product locator app led to a selection of four beers. My criteria included: beers I like, beers I felt I could talk intelligently about, breweries I'm familiar with/have been to, a varied selection of styles, and what was in stock seasonally and locally in a large quantity. Here's what that led to:

Beau's Night Marzen

5.5 % ABV

Marzen, a lager, is the traditional Oktoberfest style of beer named for the month it was brewed in (Marzen is German for March). The brew would then be lagered in cellars through the summer to be released for Oktoberfest celebrations. Oktoberfest beers are traditionally very sessionable (that's beer-geek lingo for "easy to drink a couple of without falling on your face") and this offering from Beau's is no different. At Exposed, there were many attendees who came to the bar asking for "whatever is light" and giving me a weird look when I pointed to Night Marzen, which pours a coppery colour. 'Twas even more fun to see their faces after a sip or two, realizing that beer can have flavour without being strong.

Highlander Twisted Spruce

6% ABV

Twisted Spruce fit perfectly with the Canadian Comfort theme of the event, and it had high rotation in our beer fridge this summer (since discovering it when visiting the brewery in the spring) as I found it to be a great weeknight BBQ companion. This beer is made with spruce tips hand-harvested 60 feet from Highlander Brewery in South River, Ont. At Exposed, I heard a couple of "is it going to taste like Pine-Sol?"s, which to be honest, was my initial thought before I tried this beer, as well! (It doesn't! It's not very sprucy at all, but the tips give this crisp beer its oiliness.)

Muskoka Winter Beard: Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout

8% ABV

This beer is brewed with roasted dark chocolate malts, cocoa, 70% dark chocolate and fresh Muskoka cranberries. White girls of the world: this is my version of warm socks and a peppermint mocha in a red cup beside a crackling fire on a snowy day. Exposed attendees were drawn to the pretty corked bottle and the promise of chocolate and cranberry. While most people told me they couldn't taste the cranberry (I can't either, but thinking it helps balance the sweetness of all that chocolate?), people loved this beer.

And the crowd favourite...

5.3% ABV

This style was the most fun to talk about at Exposed because it is so unique, and most people had no idea what the difference between wet-hopped and dry-hopped beer is.. You see, "wet hop" means hops (which are flowers from a plant) are added to the brew fresh after being picked--rather than dried, which most are. Ontario hops are harvested in the fall, and like most plants, have a short shelf life after they are picked. This is what makes this beer a true "seasonal." The crowd seriously loved this beer, many coming back for seconds or bringing their friends over to try it and hear about what makes it different. Many people commented that they wish it was available in the summer because it would be a great patio beer (I concur!), and when they learned about its limited seasonal availability many wrote down the name or took a picture of the bottle so they could pick up some of their own at the LCBO!

View more awesome pictures from the event over at Laura Makes Pictures. Thanks again to the RMG for having me.


Top two photos by Grant Cole for The RMG.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Support mens' health with Uncle Kev's Movember stout

Here's some fun news about a charity brew here in the 'burbs!

My friends at Durham's coolest company, 360 incentives, have teamed up with 5 Paddles Brewery to brew a special one-off beer to raise money for Movember in support of mens' health.

"Affectionately labelled Uncle Kev’s Movember Stout, this milk stout is ridiculously bold and strong with just a hint of sweetness, just like a man who keeps a well-groomed moustache on his face."

Here's (a facial hairless!!) Ian from 5 Paddles talking about the beer:

Pre-order the beer online here; $1 from each bottle will be donated to Movember Canada. You can pick it up at the 5 Paddles Brewery in Whitby on Nov. 10.


Wednesday, 6 November 2013

RMG Exposed will include a craft beer bar curated by yours truly

I think I’ve mentioned it somewhere before in these pages: The Robert McLaughlin Gallery in Oshawa is one of my favourite places in our ‘burbs. The RMG is a public art gallery home to a fabulous permanent collection, rotating exhibitions and the popular monthly RMG Fridays event.

One of the gallery’s major annual fundraisers is RMG Exposed, a photography contest and auction. I had the pleasure of attending the event last year with James. It was a lovely evening with live jazz, a waffle bar (delicious) and stunning photography. I’d never been to a live auction before—they really do talk that fast.

This year, the gallery is putting a unique red-and-white twist on their annual fundraiser  by introducing a Canadiana theme. Think: folk rock, Canadian-themed appetizers (I’ve heard rumours of lobster rolls!), and a craft beer tasting bar.

I was honoured when the good folks at The RMG approached me to select beers for the bar and be on hand to talk to attendees about them. While our selection was limited to what was in stock in large quantities at our local LCBO, I’m super excited about the line-up we have, and can’t wait to talk Ontario craft beer on Saturday night!

Stocking up at the LCBO yesterday!
So, see you Saturday night? Tickets are $60 and include live entertainment by local band The Doozies, Canadian comfort food (say it with me now: poutine bar!) and the craft beer tasting bar (and wine too). Buy tickets online here; they will be available at the door as well. Come say hello!


P.S. Buster Rhino’s in downtown Oshawa is also hosting one of their famous tap takeovers on Saturday night! It’s a jokers wild edition, so expect some exciting beers that aren’t available in the LCBO from various Ontario craft breweries. I hear the brand-new Lake Effect IPA from Great Lakes Brewery will be available, among others. See you there (after Exposed!).

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Beau's Oktoberfest 2013

Alternate post title: "How to have the most fun possible in less than 36 hours."

This was our second year attending Beau's All-Natural Brewery Oktoberfest in Vankleek Hill, Ont. We decided a couple hours into last year's that we'd never not attend this event.

It's a two-day festival of beer, food, music and fun. I like all of those things.

Here we are with this year's mural. Eddy creates a new one annually and they all line the entrance.

With Eddy's mural.
(Here we are last year!):


Tickets included one drink token, then additional tokens were sold at $5 each. The three beer tents, set up across the fairground, sold a variety of Beau's beers, including: Night Marzen, the Tom Green Beer, Smokin' Banana Peels, Kissmeyer Nordic Pale Ale, Two Weeks Notce, Mr. Hyde, Dampf Punk, Oktobock, plus Beau's flagship beer, Lug Tread. There was also Waupoos Cider available for non-beer drinkers.

James in front of the Munchen beer tent.
There was also a cask beer tent hosted by Cask Days. It was host to more than 50 cask-conditioned beers from breweries across Ontario, plus a few from Quebec.

What is cask beer, you ask?

Here's a good definitionCask conditioned ale is beer that is brewed from traditional ingredients and matured in the cask from which it is served. This means that it is fresh and unfiltered and therefore has a unique flavour. Cask ale is naturally conditioned as a by-product of the secondary fermentation that takes place inside the cask, It is then served directly, without the use of extraneous carbon dioxide or chemical treatments of any sort. What you are tasting is a live product, full of flavour and character: beer in its natural state.

Inside the Cask Days tent.
The cask tent is very popular at Oktoberfest. We went first thing on Saturday morning when there was a little bit of elbow room, and it's a good thing, because most casks were sold out

With so many to choose from, the cask tent can be a little overwhelming. The list is available online so we made a long list, then pared it down to a short list, over breakfast on Saturday. Here's what we sampled:

I loved the ESB with Earl Grey. James really dug Church Key's pumpkin beer. We were both surprised when we tasted the Mommy Kissing Santa Claus--a peppermint stout. James thought it was too toothpastey, but I kind of dug it. I could see myself sipping that in a festive setting, for sure.


Jalapeno and cheese-curd sausage, beer battered with Beau's Lug Tread, in pogo form:

Also: free pretzels, deep-fried pulled pork sandwiches, fish tacos, beer hot chocolate, beef brisket and much more.

ALSO!: Pierogi poutine and oysters.

Marry me.


Friday night: The Balconies, Young Rival, The Sadies and Kathleen Edwards (swoon).

Saturday afternoon and evening: Canada's Polka King Walter Ostanek (he has three Grammy awards!), plus The Mahones, Rich Aucoin and Sloan!


There's no way to do it all at Oktoberfest. It's my personality to want to see and do everything, but I've accepted that at this event there's just no way.

There was a midway of carnival games like beer-bottle ring toss:

There was a Bavarian dance group performing traditional dances:

There was a stein-holding competition (I didn't participate this time, but click here to read about the time that I did!):

There was great company:

Chrissy, Jacquie and me

And of course, there was the keg-toss competition, good for hours of entertainment:

(I participated and lost again this year, click here to watch a video of my lackluster toss.)

Once again, Beau's, you guys thought of everything. Already looking forward to next year.


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