The Healthy Butcher’s Road Trip 2014

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On Sunday, October 19, 2014, my wife and I along with our friend Jennifer took part in The Healthy Butcher’s Road Trip. This was the third time The Healthy Butcher had organised this tour. Our tour included transportation via a luxury coach along with visits to three farms, and we enjoyed coffee, muffins, snacks, wine, beer and a fantastic lunch.

Our day began very early on Sunday morning at our meeting place, the Galleria Shopping Centre at Dupont and Dufferin. (Click on any photo to see a larger version.)Oct_19_HealthyButcherRoadTrip_3_2014-10-19_07-15-55_1PV_1846

We got underway shortly after 8 a.m. and were all served fresh coffee along with muffins and croissants. Our hosts from The Healthy Butcher included Mario Fiorucci, Dave Meli and Jonathan Abrahams. Mario and Dave provided us with lots of information regarding the farms we were about to visit.Oct_19_HealthyButcherRoadTrip_5_2014-10-19_08-50-10_1PV_1848

Our first stop was Bambrook Beef Farm, owned by Ken and Cathy Heintz.

the drop pin shows the farm location northwest of St. Agatha

the drop pin shows the farm location northwest of St. Agatha

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Cathy and Ken Heintz

Cathy and Ken Heintz

Dave Meli and Mario Fiorucci, The Healthy Butcher

Dave Meli and Mario Fiorucci, The Healthy Butcher

Bambrook farm is unique for several reasons. First, they are 100% Organic. Their calves and cows are fed organic feed, which is grown on the farm by Ken and Cathy. There is no use of hormones or antibiotics and the herd is raised outdoors. The livestock are free to leave their barn whenever they want to graze. Bambrook Farm is a member of the Field Gate Organics family.Oct_19_HealthyButcherRoadTrip_34_2014-10-19_09-38-59_1PV_1877Oct_19_HealthyButcherRoadTrip_37_2014-10-19_09-40-11_1PV_1880Oct_19_HealthyButcherRoadTrip_41_2014-10-19_09-40-24_1PV_1884

Ken Heintz

Ken Heintz

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Cathy Heintz

Cathy Heintz

Saying goodbye to one of the other residents at Bambrook

Saying goodbye to one of the other residents at Bambrook

Our next stop was Perth Pork Products owned by Fred and Ingrid de Martines.

the drop pins indicate the location of the farm northwest of Stratford

the drop pins indicate the location of the farm northwest of Stratford

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Ingrid and Fred de Martines

Ingrid and Fred de Martines

Fred de Martines and Mario Fiorucci

Fred de Martines and Mario Fiorucci

Fred and Ingrid told us that last winter was very hard on their livestock. Many of the pigs had not been able to put on enough weight before our brutal winter struck. As a result he lost many, many pigs. Fred and Ingrid raise the traditional white or Duroc breed along with heritage breeds like Berkshire, Tamworth and Wild Boar.Oct_19_HealthyButcherRoadTrip_118_2014-10-19_11-19-54_1PV_1961 Oct_19_HealthyButcherRoadTrip_120_2014-10-19_11-22-05_1PV_1963 Oct_19_HealthyButcherRoadTrip_130_2014-10-19_11-23-46_1PV_1973 Oct_19_HealthyButcherRoadTrip_138_2014-10-19_11-26-51_1PV_1981

black walnuts that are fed to the Wild Boars

black walnuts that are fed to the Wild Boar

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the Wild Boar cracking the black walnut shells with their back molars

Here is a brief video of the Wild Boar in action:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e-3QzHoFuJg

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we were all advised to bring boots since the farms would be muddy – they were correct!

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the Berkshire and Tamworth pigs can be kept together, the Wild Boar cannot be kept together with the other breeds

the Berkshire and Tamworth pigs can be kept together, but the Wild Boar must be kept separately due to their aggressive nature

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the classic markings of the Berkshire breed of pig include six points of white: hooves, snout and tail

our friend Jennifer didn't think too much about the "fresh" air!

our friend Jennifer didn’t think too much about the “fresh” air!

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After our tour of the farm, it was time for lunch. The Healthy Butcher team put out a fantastic spread for us including Perth Pork Products’ Berkshire pork sausages and we also had some amazing beef brisket, salads, condiments, beer and wine. It was a fantastic lunch!

Jonathan grilling up some Bershire pork sausages for lunch

Jonathan grilling up some Berkshire pork sausages for lunch

Our final stop for this trip was Everspring Farms, which produces duck and goose products. Everspring is owned and operated by Dale and Marianne Donaldson.

located northwest of London near Ilderton, Ontario

located northwest of London near Ilderton, Ontario

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Everspring owner, Dale Donaldson along with Mario Fiorucci

Everspring owner Dale Donaldson along with Mario Fiorucci

Everspring is unique in that it has its own in-house processing plant for its ducks and geese. The entire process, from killing the birds to storage refrigeration, takes only 15 minutes. The birds are humanely stunned by electric shock and then bled out. They are immersed in a hot water bath which helps loosen their feathers. (The feathers are removed and sold for down.) Their insides are removed and they receive a cold water bath and then are refrigerated.Oct_19_HealthyButcherRoadTrip_347_2014-10-19_15-08-51_1PV_2192 Oct_19_HealthyButcherRoadTrip_352_2014-10-19_15-12-33_1PV_2197

birds received a wax bath if there are remaining feathers

after the hot water bath, the birds receive a wax bath to remove any remaining feathers

We saw the one-week-old and 3-week-old Muscovy duck chicks. The ducks are processed once they reach 12 weeks of age.

one-week-old Muscovy ducks

one-week-old Muscovy ducks

three-week-old Muscovy ducks

three-week-old Muscovy ducks

The geese were honking up a storm! Check out this brief video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pEUz4OBQo50

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We were able to purchase products from the on-site store at Everspring Farms. After we sampled some smoked Muscovy duck, we just had to buy some!

Following some refreshments we all boarded the bus for the return to Toronto. We reached the Galleria Shopping Centre at 6:30 p.m., right on schedule.

Many thanks to all the fine people at The Healthy Butcher and to all of the farm owners, who were the most gracious of hosts. It was a very long day, but such a treat for city folk like ourselves who are interested in knowing where our food comes from and what our animals are being fed. Great job, Mario and Dave!

Niagara Escarpment wine and cheese tour

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On Thursday, July 31, my wife, Nancy, and I, along with a friend of ours, Jennifer, decided to take a trip to the Niagara Escarpment wine region. This region is about 100 kilometers from our home and took just over an hour to get there.

There are 50 wineries located in this region through the communities of Jordan, Jordan Station, Vineland, Beamsville and Lincoln. The escarpment seems to receive less attention that the more popular Niagara-on-the Lake region, but the escarpment is a great place to explore, plus it is a little bit closer to home.

This map shows the locations where we stopped and took a great deal of photographs. (Click on any photo to see a larger version.)Screen Shot 2014-07-31 at 31-07-14, 6.17.02 PM

We exited the Queen Elizabeth Way at exit number 55 which is Jordan Road, just west of St. Catharines. We travelled south to our first stop: the Upper Canada Cheese Company.July_31_NiagaraEscarpment_8_2014-07-31_10-46-13_1PV_7662

In addition to their cheeses, they also sold a variety of other gourmet foods. Including ourselves, there were nine customers in their store and we were just in time to do a cheese tasting. We were all given samples of Niagara Gold, Comfort Cream, Maple Smoked Comfort Cream, Nosey Goat Nanny Noir and cheese curds. We loved every single one of them! More information about the cheeses can be found at Upper Canada Cheese’s website.July_31_NiagaraEscarpment_1_2014-07-31_10-33-05_1PV_7655July_31_NiagaraEscarpment_4_2014-07-31_10-34-12_1PV_7658

Comfort Cream

Comfort Cream

There was one cheese that is only available for sampling on weekends, which is their Guernsey Girl. This is a cheese that is meant to be grilled, similar to haloumi, but is less salty. We purchased the Nosey Goat and the Guernsey Girl. It is worth noting that the Guernsey Girl freezes well but the other cheeses do not.

Jordan Village is located only five minutes away from Upper Canada Cheese. Main Street is so quaint and beautiful and we found a place called Zooma Zooma Cafe where we enjoyed a coffee on the patio.July_31_NiagaraEscarpment_15_2014-07-31_10-56-28_1PV_7669

We then explored Main Street.

Cave Springs

Cave Spring

Inn on the Twenty

Inn on the Twenty

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there is no display for this device!

there is no display for this device!

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the SHIFT FREEDOM key – read more about it here

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Main Street, Jordan, Ontario

Main Street, Jordan, Ontario

We drove north on Main Street until we reached King Street (Niagara Regional Road 81) and proceeded six kilometers to Tawse Winery. The landscaping and view from their upper parking lot was amazing.

the view from Tawse looking across the lake towards Toronto

the view from Tawse looking across the lake towards Toronto

We could not identify the large light-coloured structure in the magnified version of the above photo seen below.

a greatly enlarged version of the previous photo – CN Tower is visible

a greatly enlarged version of the previous photo – CN Tower is visible

the beautiful vineyards at Tawse

the beautiful vineyards at Tawse

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Tawse vineyards

Next up was the wine shop and their tasting room.

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We were each offered a complimentary glass of the Tawse Growers Blend Rosé. It was very good and we purchased a bottle. It’s interesting to note that their tasting room had the wine menus displayed on iPads. They also used the iPads with a Square reader for their point-of-sale. Very fast and efficient and you simply sign the screen by writing your name with your finger.

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I was interested in tasting some reds, so they poured samples of the 2011 Tawse Cabernet-Merlot, 2009 Tawse Cabernet France and the 2009 Tawse “Meritage” Estate. All were outstanding on their own, but certainly the Meritage was the most complex and full-bodied wine of the bunch. I purchased the Cabernet-Merlot.

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Our next stop was three kilometers down the road at the Malivoire Wine Company. One of their products, Lady Bug, was Nancy’s favourite rosé. Approximately a year ago, the wine was out of stock at our local LCBO so Nancy had to find another rosé that she liked.

Lady Bug at Malivoire

Lady Bug at Malivoire

the vineyards at Malivoire

the vineyards at Malivoire

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rose bushes are planted at the end of each vineyard row – they act as an early warning of mildew or fungal disease

rose bushes are planted at the end of each vineyard row – they act as an early warning of mildew or fungal disease

Tastings here at Malivoire were five dollars.July_31_NiagaraEscarpment_92_2014-07-31_12-13-28_1PV_7746 July_31_NiagaraEscarpment_96_2014-07-31_12-13-59_1PV_7750

 

Our final winery for the day was Rosewood Estates Winery. The meticulously landscaped grounds and vineyards were breathtaking as was the view from their large parking lot. We had hoped to meet Krystina Roman, a third-generation member of the family of beekeepers and wine makers that owns and operates Rosewood. Krystina was away, but Mary took great care of us.

at Rosewood Estates Winery

at Rosewood Estates Winery

a slightly distorted panorama at Rosewood Estates

a slightly distorted panorama at Rosewood Estates

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Rosewood is a unique winery in that they are also a meadery. They are beekeepers and produce mead, one of the oldest-known alcoholic beverages. Their Harvest Gold has just come back into stock at the LCBO. It is a very unique wine and is on the sweeter side but nowhere near as sweet as an icewine. It would pair well with cheese. We also tasted their Mead Noir, which is a blend of Pinot noir and mead — fantastic! Read more about Mead Noir (pdf)

Numerous honey products as well as beeswax candles are available for purchase.

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It was shortly after 1:00 p.m., and we were ready for lunch. The nice people at Rosewood suggested we go to The Good Earth Food and Wine Co. It was located just six minutes down the road.July_31_NiagaraEscarpment_151_2014-07-31_13-14-32_1PV_7805

yes, a fork in the road!

yes, a fork in the road!

Jennifer and I both opted for the fish feature of the day, which was a pan-seared trout served on a bed of vegetables and fruit. It was truly outstanding. Nancy chose the Cobb salad, which was delicious as well.

pan-seared trout

pan-seared trout

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this was the view from our patio table — stunning!

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After our fabulous lunch, it was time to head back to Toronto before the rush-hour traffic began. We crossed over the Burlington Skyway just after 3:00 p.m. and we later learned that shortly after we went over the bridge a dump truck crashed into the construction scaffolding on the bridge. Traffic was completely halted and the bridge now needs a structural inspection. We were so lucky to have missed that mess!

If you are looking for a nice outing that is only an hour away, check out the Niagara Escarpment and explore the countryside, the wineries and the restaurants.

 

Old East York Tree Tour – July 27, 2014

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On Sunday, July 27, approximately 100 people gathered at the corner of Torrens and Broadview avenues for the Old East York Tree Tour. This tour was conducted by Robyn Stewart from LEAF and Leigh Davidson from MoreTrees29. The tour was supported by Ward 29 Councillor, Mary Fragedakis. (Click on any photo to see a larger version.)

Robyn Stewart, LEAF

Robyn Stewart, LEAF

Leigh Davidson, MoreTrees29

Leigh Davidson, MoreTrees29

Mary Fragedakis, Councillor Ward 29

Mary Fragedakis, Councillor, Ward 29

We got underway right at 2:00 p.m. on a beautiful sunny day. The tour would take us along this two-kilometer route as we travelled east on Torrens Avenue.Screen Shot 2014-07-27 at 27-07-14, 4.46.28 PM

 

Tour starting point at Broadview and Torrens Avenues

Tour starting point at Broadview and Torrens avenues

A homeowner on Torrens encouraged our group to help themselves to the apricots on his tree.

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A bit further east along Torrens we stopped at a very old and healthy elm tree.

Healthy elm tree on Torrens Avenue

Healthy elm tree at 34 Torrens Avenue

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Robyn Stewart telling us about the elm tree

Robyn Stewart telling us about the elm tree and Dutch elm disease

Leigh Davidson, MoreTrees29

Leigh Davidson, MoreTrees29

The elm measured approximately 13 feet in diameter

The elm measured approximately 13 feet in circumference

Leigh and Robyn taking the measurement

Leigh and Robyn taking the measurement

The elm has been tagged by the City of Toronto

The elm has been tagged by the City of Toronto

Our next stop was at a home located at 54 Torrens Avenue. The home located here had a very large mature silver maple on its property.

Silver maple, 54 Torrens Avenue

Silver maple, 54 Torrens Avenue

On the boulevard, the City has planted a Norway maple tree, which will grow and mature to eventually replace the silver maple as its life comes to an end.

Norway maple at 54 Torrens Avenue

Norway maple at 54 Torrens Avenue

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We then turned left onto a laneway that runs north to Woodville Avenue. The laneway is just west of Pape Avenue and Robyn showed us a Manitoba maple growing beside a garage. The Manitoba maple is a hardy and fast-growing tree that produces heavy seeds that offer food for urban wildlife.

Manitoba maple

Manitoba maple

Also in the laneway was an example of an invasive species of tree called “tree of heaven” which was the basis for the book “A Tree Grows In Brooklyn.” Examples of ragweed, garlic mustard and other invasive weeds were also present in this laneway.

Tree of Heaven

Tree of Heaven

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Dog strangling vine / swallow-wort

We proceeded east along Woodville, crossed Pape Avenue and entered the schoolyard of William Burgess Public School, which was originally known as the Todmorden New School in 1914. July_27_OldEastYorkTreeTour_128_2014-07-27_14-49-46_1PV_6992

 

Leigh and Robyn told us about the emerald ash tree located in the schoolyard. This particular tree was tagged and has been sprayed for the ash borer, which has affected a considerable number of ash trees in Toronto.

Healthy ash tree in the William Burgess schoolyard

Healthy ash tree in the William Burgess schoolyard

Ash tree leaves

Ash tree leaves

Effects of the emerald ash borer

Effects of the emerald ash borer

Emeral ash borer larvae

Emerald ash borer larva

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Large healthy silver maple tree

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Many dead red maple trees amongst the linden trees

There are many other trees in the schoolyard of William Burgess. Some trees are doing well and others are not.July_27_OldEastYorkTreeTour_165_2014-07-27_15-08-59_1PV_7029

Wasp nest

Wasp nest

Next door to the Legion on Woodville is a honey locust tree.

Honey locust tree

Honey locust tree

Leaves of the honey locust tree

Leaves of the honey locust tree

Just north of the Legion on Pape Avenue is an enormous heritage oak tree.

Heritage oak

Heritage red oak

We continued north on Pape Avenue to O’Connor and headed west on O’Connor to Don Mills United Church. The graveyard at Don Mills United contains the graves of many of the early settlers of this area, including members of the Taylor, Smith, Skinner and Helliwell families.July_27_OldEastYorkTreeTour_188_2014-07-27_15-25-40_1PV_7052July_27_OldEastYorkTreeTour_191_2014-07-27_15-25-56_1PV_7055July_27_OldEastYorkTreeTour_195_2014-07-27_15-26-24_1PV_7059

Located in the cemetery is a black locust tree bordering Stanhope Avenue.

Black locust tree

Black locust tree

Black locust leaves

Black locust leaves

White oak tree

White oak tree

Mulberry tree

Mulberry tree

This tree is planted on the boulevard outside the cemetery. Due to the lack of mulch at its base, the tree is sustaining damage from either lawnmowers or weed wackers.

Tree damage due to lack of mulch

Tree damage due to lack of mulch

Just a bit north at 7 Stanhope Avenue is this massive red oak tree. It provides shade for not only the homeowner’s property, but also for his neighbours on each side. This tree probably dates back to early European settlement in the area.

Red oak on Stanhope Avenue

Red oak at 7 Stanhope Avenue

Decorative nose and eye on the red oak

Decorative nose and eye on the red oak

We headed south on Stanhope to O’Connor and then west to Hassard Avenue. Hassard contains several workers’ cottages that remain in good condition today. The homes at #9, 11 and 13 were built by George Taylor for some of the Taylor mills’ important workers and their families.

Worker cottage, Hassard Avenue

Worker cottage, Hassard Avenue

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We continued south on Hassard Avenue and then turned west onto Woodville Avenue. In Livingston Park there is a Siberian elm tree that suffered damage from the ice storm last winter. Its leaf growth now appears as pom poms!

Siberian elm in Livingston Park

Siberian elm in Livingston Park

Siberian elm pom poms

Siberian elm pom poms

Continuing along Woodville, we turned south on Broadview Avenue to number 1253, which is the home of Margaret McRae. Margaret’s front garden has been planted to support butterflies.

Home of Margaret McRae, 1253 Broadview Avenue

Home of Margaret McRae, 1253 Broadview Avenue

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Leigh is talking about the native garden kits available from LEAF: http://www.yourleaf.org/native-garden-kits

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Our tour ended where it began at Torrens Avenue. It was a great day and I learned so much about the importance of tree planting and the need for us all to develop the street tree canopy in Toronto.

Many thanks to Robyn, Leigh and Mary for a spectacular afternoon in East York.

Taste of Toronto

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We attended the first-ever Taste of Toronto which ran from July 24–27 on the grounds of Fort York. You needed to make a selection of the particular session that you wished to attend. We chose the Friday 12:00–4:00 session in the hopes that it wouldn’t be too crowded. Sometimes these events are so popular that the lineups for food are often outrageous — this was not the case on Friday afternoon. We never stood in line for more than a few minutes to receive our food selection. (Click on any photo to see a larger version.)

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We were given complimentary tickets to this event, but we still needed to purchase “crowns.” Crowns could be purchased at the rate of one crown for a dollar. Sample dishes ranged anywhere from six to 10 crowns for a tapas-sized tasting. We loaded up the crown card and it was lucky that we had cash with us since their credit card system was down. For people arriving at this event without cash this situation would certainly have presented a problem. There were ATM machines on the property at some crown bank locations.

Our first stop was at Barque Smokehouse. Each restaurant was offering a choice of three dishes and some had vegetarian and gluten-free options. For six crowns we ordered a smoked duck taco from Barque. The serving was on the small side, but it was delicious, with a hoisin barbecue sauce and served on a flour tortilla. In hindsight we should have ordered the smoked baby back ribs for 10 crowns. The serving size was much more generous.

Barque Smokehouse smoked duck taco

Barque Smokehouse smoked duck taco

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Next up was a crispy rice salad from Khao San Road. It contained rice, ginger, cilantro, sour pork sausage, lime leaf and fresh roasted peanuts. The sample size was perfect and it cost eight crowns.

Khao San Road crispy rice salad

Khao San Road crispy rice salad

Three dish options from Khao San Road

Three dish options from Khao San Road

Metro grocery stores were a major sponsor of this event. They were offering a Master Class of hands-on cooking demonstrations. Leading one of the classes was Chef Scott from The Culinary Adventure Company.

Chef Scott Savoie

Chef Scott Savoie

In addition to the restaurants that were serving tasting dishes, there were numerous other vendors at this event that were giving away many free samples. The folks at Sanpellegrino were giving away samples of their newest beverage called Clementina. It was a refreshing and not-too-sweet combination of mandarin juice, orange juice and clementine juice.

Sanpellegrino Clementina

Sanpellegrino Clementina

We visited the booth of our friend Michael Malleau of Louise Prete. Michael, Sauha and Jordan were offering samples of Louise Prete’s wonderful sauces, which were available for purchase as well.

Jordan, Sauha and Michael from Louise Prete

Jordan, Sauha and Michael from Louise Prete

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Jordan from Louise Prete

Jordan from Louise Prete

Sauha from Louise Prete

Sauha from Louise Prete

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It was getting fairly warm as we wandered the grounds, so it was time for a beer. Mill Street Brewery was offering both their Original Organic and their new 100th Meridian Organic Amber Lager. I had the Amber Lager and it was perfect!July_25_TasteOfToronto_70_2014-07-25_13-29-01_1PV_6759

 

Also refreshing were the free Life Smart sorbet and yoghurt bars from Metro. Along with the free bar they were handing out $2-off coupons.July_25_TasteOfToronto_74_2014-07-25_13-30-19_1PV_6763

There is some bold marketing going on with this company and their brand name, Holy Crap.July_25_TasteOfToronto_79_2014-07-25_13-36-49_1PV_6768

 

Next up was a stop to see our friends at Richmond Station. Chef Ryan Donovan came out to say hello and Stephanie took our order for their signature station burger, which was well worth ten crowns. Unfortunately my wife ate it before I could grab a photo!

Right next door to Richmond Station was The McEwan Group. Mark McEwan was offering a dish from three of his restaurants: Fabbrica had a lamb Bolognese crostini, One had fried chicken with a buttermilk biscuit, and Bymark was serving lobster poutine. I opted for the lobster poutine, which was truly outstanding!

Lobster poutine from Bymark

Lobster poutine from Bymark

Mark McEwan

Mark McEwan

Patria was serving up seafood paella, which looked amazing but we didn’t sample it.

Seafood paella from Patria

Seafood paella from Patria

The folks at Nespresso had a massive booth and were offering any kind of coffee you desired, individually freshly brewed from their amazing machines.

Nespresso cappuccino

Nespresso cappuccino

We stopped by the Uber booth to say hello. Uber is a private car/taxi service. I downloaded the Uber app a couple of months ago but had never used their service. They had a special promo code for $25 off your first Uber use, which they input directly to my iPhone. We actually used the service that night and the app worked flawlessly. As soon as you launch the app, a map shows the nearest drivers to your location. You order a driver and in seconds the driver acknowledges you and a timer shows how long until he arrives. In our case it was three minutes and he arrived right on time. Tax and tip are all calculated and your trip is automatically charged to your credit card. Flawless, secure and so simple. A big thumbs up to Uber!July_25_TasteOfToronto_133_2014-07-25_14-08-14_1PV_6822

Our last dish of the day was from Hudson Kitchen. For six crowns we chose their zucchini salad with buffalo ricotta, mint and almond. Very crisp and refreshing.

Zucchini salad from Hudson Kitchen

Zucchini salad from Hudson Kitchen

Taste of Toronto certainly has a successful hit on their hands. This will be a must-attend event next year, and the ability to avoid the crowds by going on Friday afternoon was a bonus.

What is this thing called a lens hood?

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On a recent trip to Europe I found myself paying attention to photographers and their gear. I discovered a strange phenomenon — the lack of lens hoods on very decent DSLR cameras. I would say that perhaps 50% of the DSLR owners I saw did not have their lens hoods mounted on their camera. Another 25% had the lens hood, but it was mounted backwards — the way we do for storing our lens hoods. And another 25% had them mounted properly.

I’m sure that many people have no idea what these pieces of plastic are intended for and so simply left them in the box that contained their lens. (Click on any photo to see a larger version.)June_28_LenshoodBlog_7_2014-06-28_15-51-11_1PV_5955

Lens hoods come in many shapes and sizes and are engineered to fit a specific focal length lens. Petal-shaped lens hoods are generally for zoom lenses, and the standard round-shaped ones are for single focal length lenses, although this is not a set rule.

A lens hood serves two purposes: first, to prevent lens flare, and second, to protect the front element of the lens. Lens flare occurs when light (usually bright sunlight) falls directly onto the front element of the lens. Photographs that exhibit flare have ghosted or washed out images along with various artifacts in the photo such as oddly shaped coloured circles and other strange shapes.

In the crowded streets of Europe it is quite easy for your camera gear to get bumped and jostled and this happened to me in a park in Berlin. If my lens hood had not been in place, the front element of my lens would certainly have taken some abuse and/or been damaged.

I will touch briefly on one controversial lens protection device: a neutral clear filter. I have an NC (Nikon’s term for Neutral Clear) filter mounted on every single lens I own. Purists will say that adding a filter degrades the image quality. I think the average person would be hard-pressed to see any difference in the image quality of a photo taken with a filter versus one without. Obviously you should only purchase good-quality NC multicoated filters. And don’t let a camera store salesman sell you a UV filter as protection for the lens on your digital camera. All digital cameras have a UV filter right on the image sensor so you do not need to add a second UV filter! UV filters were standard in the old days of film but are no longer needed in today’s digital age of photography. A lens hood will take the brunt of any side impact. But if something hits your lens straight on, then there is every chance your NC filter will crack or shatter but not the front element of your lens. I think that it’s good insurance to use both the lens hood and NC filter.

Here are some photos I took in Europe that illustrate the lens hood phenomenon:

A lovely Canon DSLR with a gorgeous 24-105 f/4 L series lens. Yes, there is a lenshood, but it's backwards.

A lovely Canon DSLR with a gorgeous 24-105 f/4 L series lens. Yes, there is a lens hood, but it’s backwards.

A Nikon DSLR with the lenshood mounted backwards

A Nikon DSLR with the lens hood mounted backwards

Canon DSLR with no lenshood

Canon DSLR with no lens hood

Canon DSLR without a lenshood, but lenscap in place

Canon DSLR without a lens hood, but lens cap in place

Canon DSLR without a lenshood

Canon DSLR without a lens hood

Canon DSLR with lenshood mounted backwards

Canon DSLR with lens hood mounted backwards

Canon DSLR with no lenshood but lenscap in place

Canon DSLR with no lens hood but lens cap in place

Canon DSLR with no lenshood

Canon DSLR with no lens hood

Canon DSLR with no lenshood

Canon DSLR with no lens hood

This is my favourite:

Looks like a Canon 70-200 f/2.8. Great lens, no lens hood.

Looks like a Canon 70-200 f/2.8. Great lens, no lens hood.

Canon DSLR without a lens hood

Canon DSLR without a lens hood

Canon DSLR with no lens hood

Canon DSLR with no lens hood

Nikon DSLR with no lens hood

Nikon DSLR with no lens hood

Canon DSLR with no lens hood

Canon DSLR with no lens hood

There are two things about the above photos that I find interesting. Canon users far outweighed Nikon users for their misuse of lens hoods. Is that because there are more Canon cameras in use versus Nikon? I can’t say, and believe me when I say I was not searching for Canon users; I was simply looking for lenses without lens hoods.

The second thing is lens cap usage. The lens cap is another piece of plastic that comes with every lens you buy.June_28_LenshoodBlog_11_2014-06-28_15-52-58_1PV_5959

I can’t tell you the number of people I saw who went through a religious lens-cap-on, lens-cap-off ritual. For the sake of photographers everywhere, when you get out in the field, take off the damn lens cap and put it in your pocket or camera bag and leave it there. These people were fanatical about covering their precious lens in between shooting, but they didn’t have the sense to have or use their lens hood. For storage back in your camera bag, then yes, please put the lens cap back on.

That’s my rant on two pieces of plastic that have a valuable purpose for your camera lenses. If you haven’t already, please go and dig out your lens hood and remember to mount it properly when you are shooting.

Walkabout – The Beaches Boardwalk

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On Friday, March 8, we were lucky to have a bright sunny day with above 0°C temperatures. My wife and I decided to drive down to The Beaches which is only ten minutes from our home. Parking can be a challenge on weekends, but during the week it’s easy to find lots of free parking. The first street east of Woodbine Avenue is a one-way street running south called Kippendavie Avenue. If you go to the end of the street and turn left, there is lots of parking on Kew Beach Avenue. (Click on any photo to see a larger version.)Screen Shot 2014-03-08 at 08-03-14, 10.50.04 AM

Typically the boardwalk is home to joggers, walkers, mothers with strollers, and dogs — lots and lots of dogs. There is an enormous off-leash section south of the boardwalk and it extends right to the edge of Lake Ontario. Technically dogs are to be on a leash everywhere else in this area, but many owners were allowing their dogs to run freely all over the beach.Mar_7_WalkaboutTheBeaches_1_2014-03-07_14-52-02_DSC_1442

Ice had formed on the shoreline as well as on the rocks and the groynes (breakwaters).Mar_7_WalkaboutTheBeaches_5_2014-03-07_14-53-43_DSC_1446 Mar_7_WalkaboutTheBeaches_7_2014-03-07_14-56-48_DSC_1459 Mar_7_WalkaboutTheBeaches_14_2014-03-07_14-59-00_DSC_1466

what looks like snow/ice is actually a thin layer of slush on the lake near the shoreline

what looks like snow/ice is actually a thin layer of slush on the lake near the shoreline

the often-photographed Leuty Lifeguard Station silhouetted against the Toronto skyline

the often-photographed Leuty Lifeguard Station silhouetted against the Toronto skyline

Needless to say, no lifeguard was on duty!Mar_7_WalkaboutTheBeaches_32_2014-03-07_15-14-18_DSC_1484

We came upon this large frozen mass and sitting on the slush were two swans and a single white goose.Mar_7_WalkaboutTheBeaches_35_2014-03-07_15-18-36_DSC_1487Mar_7_WalkaboutTheBeaches_53_2014-03-07_15-21-38_DSC_1505Mar_7_WalkaboutTheBeaches_39_2014-03-07_15-19-03_DSC_1491

As curious as we were to get up close to the swans and the goose, the off-leash dogs wanted to see them as well. A few smaller dogs slipped off the edge of the ice and more than one stupid owner had to go in after their pet. There were two enormous Great Danes that decided they wanted to get a closer look at the birds, but their owner screamed at them to get out of the water. This Great Dane is actually standing in the water:Mar_7_WalkaboutTheBeaches_55_2014-03-07_15-22-23_DSC_1507Mar_7_WalkaboutTheBeaches_72_2014-03-07_15-25-37_DSC_1524Mar_7_WalkaboutTheBeaches_73_2014-03-07_15-25-39_DSC_1525Mar_7_WalkaboutTheBeaches_79_2014-03-07_15-27-57_DSC_1531 Mar_7_WalkaboutTheBeaches_85_2014-03-07_15-29-39_DSC_1537

We continued along the shoreline taking more photographs.Mar_7_WalkaboutTheBeaches_59_2014-03-07_15-23-03_DSC_1511 Mar_7_WalkaboutTheBeaches_64_2014-03-07_15-24-02_DSC_1516 Mar_7_WalkaboutTheBeaches_65_2014-03-07_15-24-38_DSC_1517 Mar_7_WalkaboutTheBeaches_68_2014-03-07_15-24-50_DSC_1520 Mar_7_WalkaboutTheBeaches_69_2014-03-07_15-24-57_DSC_1521Mar_7_WalkaboutTheBeaches_102_2014-03-07_14-53-57_DSC_1447 Mar_7_WalkaboutTheBeaches_106_2014-03-07_14-54-38_DSC_1451 Mar_7_WalkaboutTheBeaches_111_2014-03-07_14-55-05_DSC_1456Mar_7_WalkaboutTheBeaches_81_2014-03-07_15-29-16_DSC_1533

We left the boardwalk just west of the Balmy Beach Club and went north on Fernwood Park Avenue. This home is right on the edge of the Martin Goodman Trail:

the last house on Fernwood Park Avenue

the last house on Fernwood Park Avenue

A home was undergoing renovations and the City insists that existing trees must be protected on any construction site. It makes me chuckle when I see more lumber used for the protective fence than in the tree being protected:Mar_7_WalkaboutTheBeaches_94_2014-03-07_15-39-32_DSC_1546

My wife thinks I am crazy, but I am searching for a manhole cover from the year of my birth – 1952, which I have yet to find. The Beaches is a very old neighbourhood and here are some very old manhole covers:Mar_7_WalkaboutTheBeaches_91_2014-03-07_15-38-39_DSC_1543 Mar_7_WalkaboutTheBeaches_95_2014-03-07_15-41-22_DSC_1547

it's hard to read, but this one is 1910!

it’s hard to read, but this one is 1910!

We walked up to Queen Street East and stopped at Cobs Bread for our favourite Cape Seed baguette, and then back to the car and home. It was a fabulous couple of hours in the sunshine.Screen Shot 2014-03-08 at 08-03-14, 10.10.55 AM

Hansen’s Danish Pastry Shop

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Hansen’s Danish Pastry Shop is a family-owned and -operated bakery that has been serving the people of East York for over 50 years. They have an amazing selection of sweet treats for such a small store. (Click on any photo to see a larger version.)

1017 Pape Avenue, East York

1017 Pape Avenue, East York

The store is always decorated to suit the season. Here is a fabulous gingerbread house from the Christmas season:November_28_DanishPastryShop_4_2012-11-28_12-02-10_DSC_8171

In advance of St. Patrick’s Day, the store and products have an Irish theme:Mar_6_HansensDanishPastry_17_2014-03-06_11-55-54_DSC_1428

Cookies of all shapes and sizes:Mar_6_HansensDanishPastry_12_2014-03-06_11-54-47_DSC_1423Mar_6_HansensDanishPastry_5_2014-03-06_11-50-33_DSC_1416Mar_6_HansensDanishPastry_11_2014-03-06_11-54-44_DSC_1422

The front window is always a treat for the eyes. Multiple kinds of strudel, cupcakes, classic Danish pastry and Chelsea buns are just a few of the offerings.Mar_6_HansensDanishPastry_7_2014-03-06_11-53-04_DSC_1418Mar_6_HansensDanishPastry_16_2014-03-06_11-55-37_DSC_1427Mar_6_HansensDanishPastry_8_2014-03-06_11-53-07_DSC_1419

Sweet treats are not all that Hansen’s has to offer. They have a selection of imported items from Denmark and Scandinavia including herring, Läkerol from Sweden (my favourite candy), plus deli sandwiches and quiche.

Everything here is so amazing and picture perfect!Mar_6_HansensDanishPastry_10_2014-03-06_11-54-15_DSC_1421

Walkabout – Crothers Woods

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Today, my wife and I decided to get bundled up and go for a walk. The temperature was -6°C and with the wind chill it felt like -13°C. One of our favourite places to walk is the Lower Don River Trail which leads to a trail that loops around Crothers Woods. There are numerous access points to the trail, but we decided to travel to Beechwood Drive which runs north from O’Connor Drive. Beechwood ends at the bottom of the hill and we were surprised at the number of vehicles that were there today. Most of the people who drove brought their dogs, many of which were off-leash but very well-behaved. (Click on any photo to see a larger version.) Screen Shot 2014-03-05 at 05-03-14, 1.30.38 PM

There had been a light dusting of snow overnight, but with the number of people and dogs that had already been out on the trails, the depth of snow did not pose a problem for a nice leisurely walk. Part of the reason for choosing this section of the valley was that it tends to be less windy in the valley and we certainly didn’t need the discomfort of a wind chill in our faces.

It has been a while since we visited this area and we were surprised with the work that was being done to preserve and protect the Cottonwood Flats.Mar_5_WalkaboutCrothers_2_2014-03-05_11-02-27_DSC_1363

Cottonwood Flats with a new protective fence

Cottonwood Flats with a new protective fence

It’s a shame to see graffiti on this beautiful bridge:Mar_5_WalkaboutCrothers_7_2014-03-05_11-03-35_DSC_1368

During our walk it was sunny for a moment, then it became cloudy, then it began to snow lightly and then the sun came out again!Mar_5_WalkaboutCrothers_12_2014-03-05_11-09-49_DSC_1373Mar_5_WalkaboutCrothers_15_2014-03-05_11-20-30_DSC_1376

We came upon two women who were out walking five large dogs, all of which were very friendly. A couple of the dogs were staked out at the bottom of a tree. They were just staring up at a lone squirrel in the tree.Mar_5_WalkaboutCrothers_19_2014-03-05_11-21-25_DSC_1380Mar_5_WalkaboutCrothers_23_2014-03-05_11-22-29_DSC_1384

The ever changing sky and weather

The ever-changing sky and weather

It was surprising to us that the Don River was not frozen over. I guess the speed of the water at this point prevents it from freezing:Mar_5_WalkaboutCrothers_28_2014-03-05_11-25-45_DSC_1389Mar_5_WalkaboutCrothers_33_2014-03-05_11-28-56_DSC_1394Mar_5_WalkaboutCrothers_44_2014-03-05_11-37-52_DSC_1405

I never miss a chance to photograph my favourite railway trestle. This is an active line which has commuter GO trains traveling on it:Mar_5_WalkaboutCrothers_32_2014-03-05_11-28-22_DSC_1393

This part of the path continues on towards Pottery Road and Todmorden Mills, and continues further south to way below the Bloor Street Viaduct and all the way to Lake Shore Boulevard:Mar_5_WalkaboutCrothers_38_2014-03-05_11-30-46_DSC_1399Mar_5_WalkaboutCrothers_47_2014-03-05_11-42-01_DSC_1408Mar_5_WalkaboutCrothers_50_2014-03-05_11-42-13_DSC_1411

We walked for just under an hour and covered 3.5 kilometres, which was enough for today.

Christine Manning – portrait of an entrepreneur

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I first met Christine in November 2012 when she was doing a demo of her products at a local butcher shop. I had been buying her products from that shop and wanted to meet her. Camera in hand, I photographed Christine while she handed out samples and spoke with passion about her products. (Click on any photo to see a larger version.)

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Christine’s company is called Manning Canning, with a product line of jams, jellies, marmalades, pickled items, relish and mustard. My personal favourites are her spicy pickled carrots and spicy tomato jam. Her latest product is a sun-dried tomato mustard which is getting rave reviews, and I am anxious to try it.Feb_28_ManningCanningProducts_22_2014-02-28_11-05-47_1PV_1298

Until last year, Christine held down a full-time job and Manning Canning was a part-time endeavour. She worked on weekends developing and scaling recipes and doing in-store demonstrations and was also available for private preserving classes done right in your own home.February_2_ChristineManning_6_2013-02-02_14-51-10_DSC_7958February_2_ChristineManning_62_2013-02-02_16-30-39_DSC_8008

Manning Canning was taking up more and more of her time, so in 2013 Christine quit her full-time job to devote all of her attention to her business. In addition to packaging and delivering her products to customers, Christine also attends a few farmers’ markets in the city. One of them is the Fairmount Park Farm Marketan outdoor market that runs from May to October on Wednesdays from 3 p.m. until 7 p.m. Sept_4_FairmountMarket_60_2013-09-04_15-18-01_DSC_6704Sept_4_FairmountMarket_36_2013-09-04_15-15-08_DSC_6680July_24_FairmountFamersMarket_49_2013-07-24_15-40-12_DSC_4261

Christine’s fame has continued to rise and she has had articles written about her in Elle Canada and Toronto Life, and her products were recently featured in the LCBO magazine Food & Drink.

Christine’s raspberry jelly won a first place award at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair and her orange onion marmalade just won an award at Mad for Marmalade.Feb_28_ManningCanningProducts_35_2014-02-28_11-10-57_1PV_1311

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All of Christine’s recipes are her own and many have been passed down from her grandmother and her mother. This farm girl from Drayton Valley, Alberta, is certainly gaining attention and success in the big city of Toronto.May_29_FairmountFarmersMarket_90_2013-05-29_15-06-58_DSC_1979

Grilltime Gourmet Meats – Andy Elder’s gem in Leaside

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Grilltime Gourmet Meat Shop is the creation of its owner, Andy Elder. Andy certainly knows his way around the hospitality and food industry. Prior to establishing Grilltime in 2008, Andy was senior vice-president of Mr. Greek Restaurants. (Click on any photo to see a larger version.)

62 Laird Drive

62 Laird Drive

Described as a “Gourmet Meat Shop,” the store provides steakhouse quality meats and seafood, prepared foods, sauces, rubs and marinades. Andy also offers classes in grilling and can provide catering services as well.

Grilltime’s steaks rival those of any butcher shop in the city. We are big fans of their pre-marinated Korean ribs, chicken supreme, pulled pork and flank steak.

Korean ribs on our grill

Korean ribs on our grill

Grilltime is located on a busy stretch of Laird Drive in Leaside. Andy is a long-time resident of Leaside and participates in and contributes to local events along with other local businesses such as Amsterdam Brewery and Leaside Hockey Arena.

Andy has an amazing number of sauces and marinades which complement anything that you are going to grill. Sauces and marinades from Summer-Kitchen, pickled items, mustard and relishes from Manning Canning, salsa and tortilla chips from Neal Brothers Foods, and his most recent addition, Mexican hot sauces from No. 7 Hot Sauce.

Photo courtesty of No. 7 Hot Sauce

Photo courtesy of No. 7 Hot Sauce

Photo courtesy of No.7 Hot Sauce

Photo courtesy of No. 7 Hot Sauce

Andy and Christine Manning (Manning Canning) at the Winter Wonders show

Andy and Christine Manning (Manning Canning) at the Winter Wonders show

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Andy likes to tweak the layout of his store, so displays change from time to time.November_3_Grilltime_27_2012-11-03_14-25-53_DSC_6208May_7_Grilltime_15_2013-05-07_14-12-33_DSC_0803November_3_Grilltime_18_2012-11-03_14-18-11_DSC_6199November_3_Grilltime_21_2012-11-03_14-18-39_DSC_6202

Andy is the nicest fellow you will ever meet, and his staff are super friendly and eager to serve. Don’t hesitate to ask Andy or his staff for grilling tips on any type of meat—they are all expert chefs!

We are so lucky to have this gem in our community.

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