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Wine Buying Tips from Natalie MacLean for Every Personality + A Phone Application!

November 18, 2010

In lieu of the upcoming final edition of Oprah’s Favourite Things on November 19th, I’d thought I share a few of the things that make my eyes twinkle with you before I begin this post….

My Favourite TV Personality

My Favourite Past Time

My Favourite Night in Positano

My Favourite People

My Favourite Spot in Paris

My New Favourite Twitter Friend

And by a few things, I clearly meant one thing. Wine. I love wine. (But seriously, who even drinks vodka anymore?) Whenever I go out to dinner with my girlfriends, they always hand me over the wine list, leaving me in charge of selection, and carry on with their on conversations. I don’t know why they do this. I actually break out into hives, silently, as I fret over what to choose. In reality, I am confident in saying that if one were ever to be ranked in their knowledge of wine, I would be placed directly under the Lesser-Than-Amateur Level column. Last Friday evening, actually, I was in charge of buying the wine to bring over to my cousin’s house for a night in of drinking. As my curiosity knows no end, I wanted to “try something new”. However, my lack of experience in wine choosing, drinking or anything in general, coupled with my decision-making in-abilities (due mainly to the fact that I am obsessed with pleasing others and am always afraid I will fail) resulted in my spending 45 minutes wandering the aisles of the LCBO, only to come out with a Jacob’s Creek Shiraz Cab that I must have tried at least 3-5 times already.

Slightly too late for last week, but just in time for the onslaught of festive gatherings I’ll be attending in the next 2 months, I stumbled upon an article in the Inspired Sobey’s magazine where wine expert Natalie MacLean talked about some great festive wines for under $20. After sending her a quick tweet shout-out thanking her for the great tips, she was gracious enough to send me even more info to help me from pulling out random pieces of hair the next time I hit the LCBO.

“This holiday season, anyone can tap into MacLean’s expertise via her free web site and mobile apps for iPhone, BlackBerry, Droid and other smartphones. They help consumers with a whole new type of pairing: wine with the people on your Christmas shopping list. The app and site also pair wines to thousands of dishes, including holiday favourites, such as turkey, goose, duck, and even partridge in a pear tree.”

I heaved a sigh of relief when I read this–be gone the days of strictly picking wines from the gondola end-caps (the only ones that feature descriptions and pairing suggestions) and hello to a world of curiosity-satisfying-possibility!

The Blackberry App

Natalie MacLean's App

In addition, she sent me this handy go-to list for wine giving. I personally believe that wine is the best gift at this time of year. For two reasons–one, who doesn’t like wine, honestly? Two–do you know a better way to help ease the holiday stress? Here Natalie caters to every potential recipient you might be fretting over this year. And, on a selfish note, you can even get a few tips for  a wine that best suits your own personality (because we all deserve a little treat for ourselves on the holidays, too, right?)

Natalie’s Top Ten Gift Wines for Your …

1. Hairdresser: For the person who combines humour and optimism every time she styles your mop. Go for a light, gulpable wine like a dry rosé. It’s versatile and fuss-free—a great quaff for your coif.

2. Psychiatrist: Of course, he’ll analyze whatever you give him so choose a wine that’s all about balance. Easy-drinking pinot noir is medium-bodied yet packed with flavour. Surprise him with a large-format bottle, like a magnum. Big thinking means big progress for you. This wine also works for psychologists, marriage counsellors and bartenders.

3. The Boss: Pick too pricey a wine and your boss will think your last raise was too much; go cheap, and she’ll think you lack judgement. Focus on a label with a lot of white space since that makes the bottle look more expensive. A castle in the distance also works, but avoid fluffy animals.

4. Personal Trainer: Think a muscular, robust red would work? Hold that position. Instead, try riesling: this light white wine pairs well with a health-nut diet of salad and seafood, plus it’s low in alcohol. You can also give it to Pilates instructors, yoga masters and Tai Chi coaches.

5. Financial Planner: You and he both know it’s going to take decades before your portfolio recovers after the crash of 2008. With that long-term view, vintage port makes the perfect gift. This fortified wine from northern Portugal, with its long aging potential, will be around for both of you into your retirements.

6. Travel Agent: She’s been everywhere and seen everything, so go local with your choice of wine. Even better, if you live close to the winery, get the bottle signed by the winemaker.

7. Teacher: If you can’t find a suitably obscure wine with a Latin name, there’s always cream sherry. It’s the tipple of Oxford dons, not to mention the centerpiece of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic short story The Case of the Amontillado.

8. Mail Deliverer: Go for a winery that’s consistent year after year in producing a wine that can be enjoyed in snow, rain, sleet or hail. Try an Australian shiraz or Argentine malbec.

9. Mechanic: Yes, there’s a wine called Red Truck, but try to be more imaginative. Why not give a wine made by Mario Andretti in California or Ferrari in Italy?

10. Online Date: So you’re on your second or third rendezvous with the person you met on eHarmony or Dating.com. If you’re not sure yet whether marriage is a possibility, try something middle-of-the-road, like merlot. Yes, it’s the soft jazz of wine, but until you know, play it safe.

And after all that shopping, don’t forget yourself: even Santa’s little helpers need more than milk and cookies. Try something with high-alcohol like Italian Amarone or Rhone syrah: these big reds easily drown out tone-deaf carolling and pair beautifully with tired feet.

For Natalie’s favourite wineries, tasting notes and recipe matches for all the wine types mentioned above, please visit:

http://bit.ly/GiftWines

Nat Decants is Canada’s only wine and food mobile app. It was selected among the top five food and wine apps by both the New York Times and Computerworld Magazine. This free app is featured on Apple iTunes under Essentials Apps for “Holiday Cooking,” “Food & Wine” and “Date Night.” It’s also part of the featured best apps on BlackBerry’s Carousel. For information on the new features, please visit:

www.nataliemaclean.com/mobileapp

For iPod Touch or iPhone, visit iTunes:

http://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/nat-decants/id353052386?mt=8

For BlackBerry, visit App World:

http://appworld.blackberry.com/webstore/content/10584

For Droid, Nexus One, Nokia, Palm Pre and other smartphones:

www.nataliemaclean.com/mobile

Natalie MacLean is an independent journalist and author of the bestseller Red, White and Drunk All Over. More than 115,000 wine and food lovers subscribe to her free monthly e-newsletter. For Google searches on popular terms like “food and wine matching” and “wine newsletter,” Natalie’s site is often on the first page of the results as it has become a go-to resource for food and wine lovers. Nat was named the World’s Best Drink Writer at the World Food Media Awards in Australia. She is the only person to have won both the M.F.K. Fisher Distinguished Writing Award from the James Beard Foundation and the M.F.K. Fisher Award for Excellence in Culinary Writing from Les Dames d’Escoffier International: www.nataliemaclean.com/bio.

Twitter:  http://twitter.com/nataliemaclean
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/natdecants
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/pub/natalie-maclean/a/364/70b
YouTube: www.youtube.com/user/natdecants
Newsletter: www.nataliemaclean.com/subscribe
Contact: natdecants@nataliemaclean.com

So, like I said, I love wine. (Hint). Your welcome for introducing you to the gold-mine-of-wine that is Natalie MacLean. (Hint). Gifts as expressions of gratitude are always a good thing. (Hint) Oh, and mega hint for my girlfriends…this will definitely come in handy for our Christmas potluck dinner, and any other time your dining/entertaining and I might not be there to take on the wine-selection pressure.

M-Sac and L-Sac Take on L-Town

November 18, 2010

London is cold. And wet.

Okay, so we all know that. Fine. But how about in the dead of summer, you ask?

My answer: London is cold. And wet.

Apparently, I had the luck of visiting it immediately after it experienced a heat spell. Now that might have been a cup of tea I would’ve enjoyed to drink. Instead, I experienced the bottoms-of-your-pants-wet, broken-umbrella, cold-to-the-bone, wet side of England. Good thing, if you’re one who likes to get the full immersion experience of a culture. Bad thing,if you’re someone (cough, me) who is plagued with goosebumps, even as you lay on the scorching South Beach Miami sand in August. (true story)

It’s okay though, I’m far from complaining. (Okay maybe I’m complaining just a bit). But the bad weather was more than made up for. For one, I was ecstatic to be greeted by my best friend and sister Mel Sac who had spent the past few (8) months living on the other side of the world from me. I still remember quite clearly when she left. It didn’t hit me that she would be gone for so long until she was, well, gone. Let’s just say I was on a slight (understatement) emotional roller coaster that day (week). Oh, and have I ever mentioned I’m a crier? At least my dry winter skin got treated to a healthy dose of moisture.

After being yelled at by the first English woman I encountered (for taking a photo in the duty-free store), I hastily stepped into the crowded Heathrow arrivals terminal, already excited for a long-awaited reunion, only to be pleasantly surprised by this!!!:

Coolest sister ever? I agree!

So now you can see why I didn’t so mind the weather.

And let me tell you, London is more than prepared to assist freezing tourists in need of a good warming up. There was no shortage of comforting dishes to warm our bellies and get us ready to face a few more hours of city-touring, subway stair climbing, and umbrella battling. I came ready to gorge on all the stuffed pies, pasties, breaded fish, mushy pies, and warming tea that I could handle. And trust me, when your counting solely on your feet and your Oyster card to take you around the sprawling city in only 5 short days, you would have more than enough room to take it all in.

To be honest, as a new enthusiast in the foodie world, I embarked on this European adventure with the intention of hunting down the best food stories/spots/treats that I could manage. I was surprised (and slightly disappointed with myself) that my mood changed immediately upon arrival. So, I apologize for not being the great reporter I intended to be. But I’m sure you could understand that Mel Sac and I had a lot of catching up to do, that my fingers were too cold to take out of my pockets that often and that we anticipated being bikini-clad for the next 11 days.

Without further delay, here are my tips on staying warm in London (in Mid August…cue the Alanis Morissette)

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Well that’s it for Euro 2010 folks. I hope you enjoyed my post as much as I enjoyed sharing it with you. (Though with the extreme speed and ease I navigate WordPress, I now have a crick in my neck) I promised my bank account I wouldn’t return this summer, but for once I am proud to say that I am definitely a person to go back on my word!

Cheers!

i’m so fraîche, i even got a tanning bed in my house

November 17, 2010

No, actually, I don’t have a tanning bed in my house. I’m simply paying homage to Jersey Shore. So what if I’m addicted? Don’t judge me, you know you have your own weird addictions too…

I woke up this morning, after a solid 7 hour sleep, a rarity in my cursed insomniac life, and decided that today would be a Feel Good Day.

Yup, I am an extreme cheese ball. Especially when it comes to things such as health and fitness and body image. I’ve struggled a lot in my life when it comes to my weight. From being overweight and depressed, sneaking obscene amounts of treats to make myself feel better when no one was around, to being active and happy but always struggling to reach a goal, to being too thin, to being scared to gain it all back…it is a never-ending battle, no matter what side of the spectrum you are on.

I think that no matter how happy someone might be in their skin, we all have our bad days, and in those times of need, we could all use a little reminder on how to rid ourselves of such nastiness. So I’d like to share with you the little things that made today that extra bit more special, despite the fact that my itinerary involved nothing outside the ordinary, my version of the good old G.T.L…..

Hurdle One: My a.m. date with Real Club Training

I begin almost everyday with a session at the gym. It is where I find my solace, it is where I regain my strength–emotional, physically, mentally, it is where I am most honest and vulnerable and comfortable in my skin.

I owe a lot of my progress to what I’ve been able to build myself up to do at the gym…I’ve recently undergone a workout makeover, cutting my cardio from 60+minutes (eek) to a mere 30 (or more, including cool down stuff)…and increasing my weight training sessions. Here’s a sample of what I do that gets me skipping to my car, to work, and even right to bed…I’m always eager to get workout tips from others (DJ and MM  are probably sick and tired of me constantly  interrupting their training sessions to ask for new work out tips) so I figure it’s about time I share a little bit of my wealth.

Cardio

3 minutes warm up-walking-4.2mph

10 minutes running at 7.9mph, 0.5% incline

10 minutes of intervals, 45 seconds each, 7.9mph (low), 8.1mph(high)

2 minutes running at 7.6mph

10 minutes on elliptical, always on the Random program, at varying levels…13 or 14

Tuesday’s Weight Training Program: Back and Triceps

Do these four back exercises four times each, sets of about 12-15

Cybex Chin Assist Machine

Low Row with Barbell

Cable Standing Straight Bar Press Down

Lower Back Extension

Do these three bicep exercises four times each, sets of about 12-15

What I’m listening to…

If it weren’t for music, and my iPod, I’m convinced I’d be about 15 pounds behind in my weight loss progress…

Bruno Mars-Grenade

Katy Perry-Firework

Robyn-Dancing on my Own

Shakira feat. Dizziee Rascal-Loca

The Ting Tings- Hands

Kesha- We R Who We R

Travie McCoy feat. Kesha- Want You Bad

Fefe Dobson- Rock Star

Trey Songs ft. Nicki Minaj-Bottoms Up

Black Eyed Peas- The Time (The Dirty Bit)

Pink- Raise Your Glass

Anything by DJ MKutz- a DJ friend of mine whose worked at clubs like Hyde, Vogue, 1812 Thompson Hotel, won several competitions…he did all our music for the fashion shows I organized and he has some amazing mix tapes up on his site: http://djmkutz.com/

My daily diet

Growing up in an Italian neighbourhood, with Italian relatives, it’s no surprise that my heart belongs properly to pasta and pizza before it belongs to any other human…I was dubbed Pasta Queen by my family before I could put together a grammatical sentence. Unfortunately, my metabolism does not allow for these types of indulgences daily (especially not the two-bowl-serving I enjoyed as my previous chubbier self), as much as I love to dream, talk, read and tweet about them. I usually focus on eating healthy 5-6 days a week and cheat my way through the rest of the meals. Thank GOD I am a natural herbivore…seriously…I drool at the thought of a hearty salad, especially after a few days of being off the wagon. And fruit. But those cravings come to me thanks to my seriously out of control sweet tooth. No problem, protein powder can easily satisfy that one…

My meals on regular days can be organized into two categories: my protein yogurt concoction (which serves as my breaky, along with a Bartlett Pear, and as a mid-day snack), my salads (always loaded with veggies, high protein fish or meat (tuna, salmon, chicken, lean turkey sausages, boiled eggs, edamame beans, chickpeas, cheese), plates and plates of veggies and dip (hummus, dijon, light mayo), and of course, my post-meal ritual, a rip of whole wheat toast bread smeared with a large dollop of PB, and often some Nutella (or if that’s out of my pantry stock, a square of dark chocolate, white chocolate, or honey)…I know, it sounds boring, but I actually miss it when it’s not around. Whenever I go on vacation, I always request that a large chicken salad be my welcome home meal.

The Cheat Day

Honestly, the most essential part of my life. No seriously…when people ask me that stupid stranded on a desert island question, my answer is I’d bring my cheat day, and a box of cereal. Cheat days are necessary to maintain sanity. It makes it more tolerable for me to not stray from the golden path all week when I know I have a certain night out, restaurant reso, craving, to indulge in on the weekend. And when I say I indulge, oh, I indulge. This is a no-holds-bar situation. On one of my cheat days at Ciao, I cleaned all my plates, basically licked them, and then assisted my mom and my over 6 foot tall brother sweep up their last crumbs.

On the shelf

I am actually a huge nerd. When I’m not at work, you can often find me bundled up in my favourite blanket, toe to toe with my mom, with our most recent library finds stuck directly under our noses. Mel Sac, the token non-reader of the house (booooo), often tries to sabotage our mental escapades by barging in and chatting our mind right out of whatever land we may have placed ourselves in. (she didn’t learn to speak till she was 3, I guess she’s making up for lost time). After going on a mystery binge, i felt the need for a lighter read, so right now I’m into a book by Elizabeth Adler-Summer in Tuscany


Other recent reads and past favourties:

Sue Monk Kidd-The Mermaid Chair

Tess Gerritsen-Ice Cold

Mary Lawson-Crow Lake

Jodie Picoult-Nineteen Minutes

Kathleen Finn- The Sharper The Knife The Less You Cry

Frank Bruni-Born Round

Wendy Webb-The Tale of Halcyon Crane

Chatelaine, Martha Stewart Living, Shape, Food & Drink, Sauveur, ELLE–the December 2010 editions

That’s about it. That’s what I fill my days with. It’s simple but it keeps me happy. It keeps my mind clear, my stress levels at bay, and it allows me to be the best person I can…most days at least…

I’ve posted about my recent thoughts on body image here, originally posted on my other journal-style blog, LiLi’s Diary.

Rut a tut tut…

November 17, 2010

This post is taken from another blog I write…a more personal journal…you can take a look at it here: http://lilis-diary15.blogspot.com/

My diary posts are almost always inspired by conversation topics that I find to be recurring at any given point in time. Don’t you sometimes feel like certain issues just keep on crossing your path? I don’t know how or why it happens, but it always gets me thinking…

These past few days I’ve been thinking a lot about our insecurities and our personal thoughts on our own self-worth. Well, I can’t say it’s a new topic on this blog, I’m quite sure I’ve mentioned it several times in the past, but for some reason the issues seems a little more pressing…not only in my mind, but in the minds of others. Recent conversations with friends (from various circles might I add), and the December 2010 issue of Shape Magazine has me convinced that I’m not the only one that ponders or struggles with this issue.

Somewhere, deep in the back of my restless, vast (though not necessarily crowded) mind, I know that I have come a long way. I am sure that I have accomplished a lot…whether it be in terms of education or in terms of health and fitness. I know it. But how often do I believe it? That’s a different story…

One of the several articles in Shape that focus on this issue brought up an interesting point: “Most people pay attention to the huge achievements int heir lives: running a marathon, hitting a five-year mark on their marriage, losing 25 pounds. But by also celebrating your smaller triumphs, you’ll be happier and up your odds of reaching those bigger feats.” (p. 32) As obvious as this statement might sound, when I read it I kind of experienced a eureka moment. A marathon of interviews recently, for both small part-time retail positions and larger full-time career jobs, forced me to speak openly about my past accomplishments. I had no trouble rambling on and on about the charity fashion shows I organized, or my graduation from a top Canadian university, but never once did I come out and say “well, yesterday I was especially tired, hungover and lazy, but I got my ass to the gym and did the best that I could anyways, even if it was half of what I usually do.” Why not? In retrospect I realize what an accomplishment that was for me, at that moment in time, and how much of a struggle it turned out to be, but at the time I would never see it that way. Why not, again? Because at the time, all my negative mind could focus on was how upset I was at the fact that I wasn’t doing my best and that my workout wasn’t as intense or as long as it should have been. Maybe if I focused on how much it was I would have felt much more confident (which is exactly how I should feel) slapping on a skirt and nylons that same evening for a night out on the town…

Isn’t it so funny how our mind works? …But is it our mind, or how our mind is trained to think? Sometimes I feel like we programmed to expect the worst and dismiss the best. A friend of mine said to me recently that whenever she’s blessed with a bit of success, the thought of it being ripped away from her scares her away from pursuing the said opportunity she’s presented with. I’ve felt that many times myself.

Isn’t it funny how I am now exactly who I wanted to be 5, 10, 15 years ago, yet I’m still not satisfied? The chubby, teased little girl of my past is screaming and yelling at me from inside, reminding me how many tears were cried in yearning of the body I’ve worked so hard to achieve….why do I keep silencing her?

Isn’t it funny…how the things we are most hard on ourselves are the things that people seem to compliment us the most on?

Isn’t it funny…how after one hurtful experience, we are so quick to build a wall around our emotions and ourselves, that seems so impenetrable? That one hurtful relationship outcome fills us up with so much self doubt and drains us of our self love to the point where moving forward seems so daunting, so impossible?

Isn’t it funny that when we initially receive a compliment, of any kind, we are elated, but in the end, how long do we actually carry it with us? I’m speaking for myself only, but I find as soon as I step back into the ever-critical workings of my mind, the kind words and happy thoughts are instantly replaced with harsh reminders of all the goals I have yet to achieve.

I wish I could conclude this post with a suggestion, with encouraging words. And I don’t want to be depressing or negative. There are days when I could run to the top of the mountain and shout to the world how proud I am of myself. But then there are the dark days, when I can feel the failure in every over-worked muscle in my body…including my heart, my mind. I think that we all need to realize that these painful feelings are unavoidable. That no one can be positive all the time. That the gym won’t always make you feel better after you binged one too many times. I think the second we can see past these feelings, when we are plagued with them, we will realize that the brighter side as never really left us, that it will creep into our horizon again slowly, if only we have a itty bitty bit of patience, if we just keep on keepin’ on…

Memorable Mondays: This Year I am Thankful For…

November 15, 2010

Thanksgiving in the United States is soon approaching, and although I live in the nation’s neighbour to the north, I can’t help but catch a vibe of the Thanksgiving spirit as I browse blog posts, indulge in Fall issues of my favourite magazines and relax in front of HGTV and the Food Network. So, for my Memorable Monday post this week (a theme I had going a while ago but kind of fell to the back burner when I took my blogging hiatus) I’d like to stick to the holiday theme. As we just recently celebrated our two-year anniversary (yay! if you knew me 2 and a half years ago you would be just as shocked at this as I am), I am thankful for my BF GF. As I struggled through the difficulties of a life-transition-period (graduating university, contemplating my new place in the world), GF proved to be a sturdy wall of support for me. And, he was extremely tolerable of my wavering emotions, my wrong decisions, and my fleeting life choices/passions. On top of that all, GF is the one responsible for introducing me to the world of Giada di Laurentiis, the Food Network, and thus the reason why this blog, and my love for it, actually exists today.

The memory I’d like to share with you is one from not too long ago. GF and I love to experiment together in the kitchen. We celebrate all our major life landmarks with food–birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, new jobs, holidays, Sundays….you get the hint. When we have something extra special to celebrate, when one meal just won’t cut it, we pack our bags and head up north to either Blue Mountain or Carriage Ridge Resort at Horseshoe Valley for a 3-night-4-day cooking and drinking extravaganza.

These weekends are never taken lightly. Menus are made and revised for weeks in advanced. New drink recipes are researched. Specialty ingredients are bought ahead of time, extra cooking equipment is almost always lugged along, and we often arrive with a fully packed trunk…despite there only being two of us.

This past September, we decided to head up to Horseshoe for the weekend to celebrate 1) me being back from vacation 2) a well-needed break from a demanding job that GF had started about 7 months earlier. Once again, preparations were made well in advance, Costco and Fortino’s were hit hard, theme days were in place, and on Thursday afternoon, we were off.

Everything was a great success–I must admit I went home feeling extremely guilty for my indulgences. But it was all worth it in the end:)  I’ve posted pictures of our favourite experimentations of the weekend, along with the recipe for my favourite dish, the Gorgonzola pasta, for you to enjoy as well!

One of my first ever foodie purchases was the William’s Sonoma Cookbook: The Essential Recipe Collection for today’s Home Cook. It’s a ginormous book, and despite the fact that it stocked full with tempting creations, I hadn’t really put it to much use. Thankfully, this weekend, I put a change to that as we ended up choosing a few of our meals from it (well, we were inspired by it at least)! I’m normally a traditional tomato sauce kind of girl, but from time to time I get my creamy cravings. This dish definitely hit the spot. We cut the shallots up into bigger pieces just so we would get some crunch from them. It was mighty decadent…:)

Green Farfalle with Gorgonzola Sauce

3 tbsp unsalted butter

3 shallots, minced

1lb green or regular dried farfalle, fusilli, or penne

1/2 cup Chicken Stock

1/2 lb Gorgonzola dolcelatte cheese, cut into pieces

3/4 cup heavy (double) cream

6 fresh sage leaves, coarsely chopped

handful of fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley

Grated zest of 1 lemon

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, in a large frying pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the shallots and saute until soft, about 4 minutes. Generously salt the boiling water, add the pasta and cook until al dente, 9-11 minutes.

Reduce the heat under the frying pan to low and add the chicken stock, cheese, cream, and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper to taste and stir until all the ingredients are smooth and melted, about 4 minutes.

Drain the pasta and add it to the frying pan. Remove from the heat, add the sage and parsley and toss briefly until the pasta is well coated with the sauce. If the sauce seems too thick, add a bit more chicken stock or a splash of hot water. Pour into a warmed, large, shallow bowl. Serve immediately.

 

Strike a nerve? No no, a pose….Vogue Supperclub

November 14, 2010

As I’ve worked in a restaurant for the past several years myself, I am always one to advocate on the side of the server when a dining experience doesn’t run as seamlessly as it should. I truly believe that when you’re out with close friends, re-connecting, celebrating, relaxing, food and service should almost take a back seat in order to keep your company in the limelight. However, I do know that there is a limit, and once that limit is reached, and tolerance is hanging on to everyone’s mood for dear life, the experience can turn from enjoyable to annoyable.

I shouldn’t start off this post on a negative note. In fact, the night was a great success in my eyes. All of our friends came together for the first time in god knows how long, in a great atmosphere, with extremely tasty food. When it came. The only issue was the pace of the meal was so slow that the mood turned from relaxed to anxious as we rounded on to hour three of dining and were expected to be at 1812 Thompson Hotel to claim our table 45 minutes ago. It is important for me to note, however, that the supper club just opened under a month ago, so to be fair, I understand that they are still working out the kinks. Clearly proper staffing is something they haven’t tackled just yet.

On the bright side….

Upon arriving at Vogue Supperclub on 42 Mowat Avenue in Liberty Village, we were greeted warmly and escorted to our table immediately. The atmosphere is everything I crave in a night out in the city. Chic and romantic while still feeling comfortable and intimate. With a mix of long rectangular, short square tables and booths, the venue caters to any type of mood you may want to create with your party (whatever size it may be). It definitely gives off a feeling of warmth and rusticity with its dim lighting and mainly wooden furnishings and finishes. Music was playing, but at a level that allowed for your neighbour two doors down to still be audible.

My cheesy low-quality attempts at capturing the mood

 

Our party of 17 trickled in slowly, and I was a bit put off by the fact that we were never offered beverages, even water, before everyone was seated. When the drink order was taken, it took a while for it to arrive, but given this may have been because our server wanted to get through our dinner order so he could put it through for us as soon as possible. My drink was last to arrive, and as I watched the ice in my glass melt as it stood forgotten on the bar, I was unnerved by the fact that, since our server seemed particularly busy, none of the other staff members idling by the service bar offered to drop it off on his behalf. Moxie’s may not be a fine dining restaurant, but we definitely thrive on team work and when one of our fellow floor members is in the weeds, their unforgotten drinks would never get too comfortable on our bar.

They enhanced the feeling of warmth by playing the fire-place channel.............

Bar area

On a positive note, our set menu offered us a huge selection of choice in both appetizers and mains. Chef Anthony Ramundi is an extremely talented young chef. The menu had a great variety of choice, featuring dishes that give off your typical supper club fare, with a few innovative twists. After much debate and appreciated suggestions, I decided on the sliders with St. Angus blue cheese, truffle mushrooms and red wine demi. They were great, (although a little extra truffle mushroom would’ve made them fantastic;)). We had a large party, so we got to see a lot of what the restaurant has to offer. Some of the girls had the Mushroom Toasts, which after sampling, I wish I had chosen for myself, with roasted mushroom, tomato, warm ricotta and wilted spinach. Others had the Poutine made with manchego cheese, the Lobster Fritters with saffron aioli, the Vegas Frites seasoned with parsley, Parmigiano and truffle oil (mmm mm mmmm), and the Grilled Cheese served on brioche with burrata mozzarella (buttered/creamed mozzarella). The portion sizes were quite large, which is great for sampling and sharing with others, but might make for an expensive night in alcohol if you plan on getting intoxicated later on.

St. Angus blue cheese and truffle mushroom sliders

Vegas Frites with parsley, Parmigiano and truffle oil

For my main, I wanted to veer away from my usual chicken or salmon choice, so I opted for the Aubergine. It consisted of crispy eggplant strips served on a bed of perfectly cooked creamy polenta. The tomato sauce rivaled those of my Italian-born relatives (and my mom, and let me tell you she cooks like a true Italian despite her Lithuanian heritage, in great thanks to my Nonna), and clearly were a showcase of Chef Ramundi’s Italian roots. Once again, the portions were generous, 8oz angus steaks, half roasted chickens, at least 6-8oz salmon fillets and racks of Ontario lamb. I would be curious to go back and try the creamy lobster Mac and Cheese, but no one in our party opted for it, so I can’t  comment. Clearly quality was an important factor in their ingredient selections.

 

Aubergine with creamy polenta, mozzarella and tomato sauce...(the flash does not do it justice, but the lighting was too dark to avoid it:()

For dessert, the table was brought 4 sharing platters. There was a pumpkin pudding, apple turnovers draped in a glorious caramel sauce, and a rich and dense flourless dark chocolate cake. It took all of my willpower, and consistent self-reminders of proper table manners, to not devour every morsel off those plates. My favourite was definitely the apple turnovers…and the caramel sauce….droolllll…..

Dessert Sharing Plate

Like I said, despite the service draw backs, it was a successful night. I think it would take a natural disaster to ruin a night out with my girlfriends and I, to be quite honest. We ended moving upstairs to the club afterward, as we ran a bit too late for our reservation at Thompson. But in no means did this turn out to be a bad thing–we were given excellent service in the club at Vogue, our glassware was promptly refreshed after every shot, and our cocktailer was always around to refill our mixers before they were even half-finished. Given a bit more time, some extra kitchen and service staff, and some louder promotion, Vogue Supperclub has the potential to be a great new spot for the maturer and classier crowd in the city.

Another great night out with my beautiful friends ❤ Happy Birthday Ursula!

Vogue Supperclub

42 Mowat Avenue, Toronto, Ontario (416) 516-7777

Tales of the Tourist Trap

November 11, 2010

As I mentioned earlier, my trip to Taormina this summer was a slightly different experience of Italy than I am normally used to for two reasons that I feel had a major impact on my foodie judgments. For one, I have no family in Taormina, in all of Southern Italy, to be exact. I had never gone any further than Positano before this summer. And secondly, my time there was only limited to 11 nights…in my opinion, definitely not enough time to fully appreciate any land’s culture or cuisine to its fullest.

Without my family to chauffeur me around town, nor the budget to rent my own car (or the guts to attempt the windy roads of the Sicilian coast), my transportation options were limited solely to my own two sturdy piedi. Side-note: with daily 45 minute hikes to and from the beach, up and down hills and in sweltering heat, plus an odd and obscene desire to torture myself further with morning up-hill jogs, let’s just say my sturdy piedi were not so sturdy come Day 3. For this reason, our choices for dining spots were restricted to places along the tourist strip, or, in the case of lunch, the three lidos by the beach we frequented daily.

Needless to say, I learned a different side of both Italy and travel this summer. Some of my discoveries?…

….I discovered that major tourist towns boast expensive food that don’t rival the cheaper version found in the little pizzerias of the smaller towns

…that eggplants in Sicily truly are a form of divinity

….that when you get take away pizza that you wait 35 minutes for (when you’re the sole customer) does not necessarily mean it’s baked fresh, it might just mean it takes that long for the creepy old man to defrost the store-box bought version

….that Sicily is not actually known for its pizza…(this tip comes from the guys we met from Catania…half way through our trip…could of used this advice earlier)…but Villa Zuccaro might have you believing that they are…

….a busy restaurant on the main strip is no indication of how good the food actually is

….that sometimes, Italian cuisine isn’t as perfect as I so advocate it to be…BUT

….that no one can perfect the simple panini the way the Italians can…from the dingy airport food stands to the beach lidos…no matter where you are they are heavenly

….that there’s a thing called ricotta salata…who knew? A hard and salty version of ricotta that does wonders to any dish it touches

….that after sweating your body weight out during  a day-time photo shoot through the town, nothing can cool you down quite like a refreshing salad from Cafe Solaris

….that Italians truly believe North Americans love french fries enough to actually put them on their pizza?

….that when the nonni who run the food carts say they’re throwing in some extra cherry tomatoes for you…it means you’re paying for them

….that lunch is my new favourite meal of the day…and for the most part was usually our most successful

….that there’s no other breakfast of champions quite like brioche con gelato

….pistachios are the nuts of the gods

….daily fruit carts should be mandatory everywhere

….granita really is the best in Sicily…they’re not just bragging.

….that whoever coined the catch phrase K.I.S.S. is actually a genius…my most memorable meals were indeed the most simple ones…

….that despite the overall tone this post might indicate, the meals I enjoyed in Taormina could never be replicated here, that I still am and always be incredulously bias towards both Italian food and culture in general (thanks for this one Daddio;))

So enough of my travel tips that are probably all old news to those much more experienced Euro-travelers….kudos to those who have taken the plunge with no familiar friend to hold your hand and guide you through the cobble stone streets. Enjoy my pics of the delicious, the delectable and the disagreeable…they will do much more justice than my words. Next time I plan a trip to a foreign land, I promise to fight my lazy mind and do much more appropriate research….