Review: ‘La Forêt/The Forest’ – a Netflix Original

Image via TVQC

I recently finished watching La Forêt (The Forest), a six-part Netflix Original series by Delinda Jacbos that was released on June 29.

It is about a teenage girl named Jennifer who disappears from her small village near the Ardennes Forest. Captain Gaspard Decker (Samuel Labarthe) and cop Virginie Musso (Suzanne Clément), who knows Jennifer well, lead the investigation. With help from Eve (Alexia Barlier), a concerned teacher with a mysterious past, the group begins to discover unsettling clues and secrets.

Captain Gaspard Decker (left) and cop Virginie Musso. Image via IMDb

La Forêt is French with English subtitles, which to me adds more urgency and suspense. Subtitles can be annoying and I find I have to be in the mood to watch films and shows that have them. But in my opinion, La Forêt is so well done, both in directing and storytelling, that you become immersed to the point that you begin to forget that you’re watching a show with subtitles.

There have been a lot of mixed reviews about La Forêt, such as that “it moved too quickly”, “there were plot holes”, “the characters were underdeveloped”, and that the story was just like any other missing persons drama, especially ones where people disappear into the woods and never return.

But personally, I really enjoyed the story and thought it was well-written and directed. I also found the characters to all be very interesting, and that the actors that played them to be very convincing. The only thing I have a bit of a problem with is the lack of development of a relationship between two of the show’s primary characters… you’ll see what I mean when you watch!

Eve Mendel. Photo via JustWatch

In addition, I loved the instrumental music that was used throughout the show, especially during scenes that were more suspenseful or mysterious. The main soundtrack for La Forêt was composed by Etienne Forget and it is so beautiful because it’s largely acoustic and orchestral with guitar, piano and some strings, and at the same time almost eery and “alien” with its subtle use of electronic sounds. Make sure to keep an ear out for it!

If you haven’t watched it yet, La Forêt is the fictional crime-drama you’ve been missing out on, and it’s totally binge-worthy. It is intriguing from beginning to end, and it’s full of revelations and cliffhangers that keep you guessing. It reminds me a lot of CTV’s Cardinal – I highly recommend it, plus Season 2 came out back in January so there are plenty of episodes to watch.

What can I say, I love crime-dramas and thrillers, fictional or not. I just really, really enjoy a good mystery!

Image via Netflix

Check out La Forêt (The Forest) on Netflix and let me know what you think!

Review: ‘Golden Hour’ by Kacey Musgraves

Golden Hour cover photo courtesy of MCA NASHVILLE

Kacey Musgraves released her latest, and fourth, album Golden Hour on March 30.

This album is a bit more serious than her previous albums and features more love songs than witty narratives. It is a significant shift from her previous albums in terms of sound as well – blending country-pop with disco and electronic influences.

No matter which way you slice it, there’s nothing not country about Kacey and her music, and what separates her from other country artists, both past and present, is her writing and storytelling.

Still from the official audio video for the title track Golden Hour

For example, Kacy made a big impact with her major label debut album Same Trailer Different Park, which is comprised of songs with lyrics questioning religion and small town life; extolling the pleasures of marijuana; of how you can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl; and embracing the LGTBQ community (where she was the first LGTB-friendly CMA winner for Song of the Year for her song “Follow Your Arrow“).

Her song writing is so witty, and so true. You can’t help but smile and fall in love with her songs. She sings about life as she sees it, which happens to be on a relatable level for many, whether you’re from the trailer park, country, small town, or big city.

On Golden Hour:
“I have a lot more love songs this time around, and I’ve never been one to write a love song and really feel it. That probably sounds like the most depressing thing ever. [But] I’m coming off getting married and being in this golden hour of my personal life, where all these things are finally coming to fruition. I found myself inspired to write about this person and all these things he brought out in me that weren’t there before.”
DMW2QQCVAAAyG97-853x1200 (1)
Kacey Musgraves and Ruston Kelly wedding, October 2017. Photo by Natalie Barrett/NBarrett Photography.

Golden Hour is a gorgeous album that, to me, expresses Kacey’s true and limitless talent. My favourite songs on the album are:
Slow Burn
Lonely Weekend
Oh, What A World
Love Is A Wild Thing
Velvet Elvis
High Horse
Golden Hour

It is definitely an excellent album for listening and singing along to in the car – I can see it being a staple for me and a big part of my Summer 2018 playlist!

If you haven’t already, I highly recommend you check out Golden Hour – even if you don’t particularly enjoy country, I know you will find something in Kacey’s music because, as it’s been rumoured, her music is “country for those who don’t like country.” If that’s you… let me know what you think!

Review: ‘Castles’ by Lissie

Castles cover photo courtesy of Lissie’s website

Singer-songwriter Lissie released her fourth studio album Castles on March 23 and it is EPIC. The album was written largely from her farm in Iowa and follows 2016’s My Wild West (which was written during and after her move to Iowa from California).

Lissie is so brilliant and I loved her music for a long time, since first discovering an alternative version of her song ‘When I’m Alone‘ (Catching A Tiger, 2010) on YouTube many moons ago.

Photo by Gretchen Robinette

With each new album, we see Lissie experiment not only lyrically but musically as well. Castles is almost symphonic – more dream-pop than the folk-rock sound that she is known for, but while there is change, much remains the same: Lissie’s lyrical genius and her powerful voice.

Lissie is a versatile artist, and Castles isn’t the first time she’s experimented with sounds and genres. In her 2011 EP Covered Up With Flowers, Lissie covers, in her own style, six diverse songs including Kid Cudi’s ‘Pursuit of Happiness’, Lady Gaga’s ‘Bad Romance’, and Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Go Your Own Way’.

According to Lissie’s website:

Castles represents a spiritual, as well as musical development: it’s a portrait of an artist who has always been on the move, and is finally creating a sense of permanency; a chance to catch her breath and reflect.

Castles is about transformation and the balance between self-reliance, the longing for love and the need of feeling whole – the trials and tribulations of life, love, and loss. It’s about walking blindly into the darkness, the unknown, only to arrive on the other side stronger than ever.

I really get the feeling that Castles is for Lissie, as much as it is for her fans.

Photo by William Aubrey Reynolds

I really love the entire album and have been listening to it on repeat since its release. The tracks that I am really digging are:
World Away
Crazy Girl
Blood & Muscle
Best Days
Love Blows

‘World Away’ and ‘Meet Me in the Mystery’ sound like they could be tracks off of a Fleetwood Mac album.

‘Somewhere’ is absolutely gorgeous, especially the part after the bridge, before the chorus.

‘Love Blows’ is a power ballad and so fun to sing and rock-out to!

‘Peace’ is so beautifully driving and ethereal – I love the guitar, I could just jam out to an instrumental of this song but Lissie’s voice and lyrics truly make the song.

Photo by Jørund Førland Pedersen

All-in-all Castles is a stellar album, easily her best release. Lissie consistently delivers, and despite experimentation, stays so, so true to herself… awesome album. I highly recommend you check it out!



Fabergé and the Russian Craft Tradition at the Walters Art Museum

After seeing Anastasia the Musical in New York City, the following Saturday we took in The Fabergé and Russian Crafts Tradition: An Empire’s Legacy exhibition at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.

This was quite the coincidence considering we booked our tickets for Anastasia before learning of the exhibit. I guess you could say was destiny on our “Journey to the Past”.The Fabergé exhibition “invites visitors to consider the broader historical context from which the House of Fabergé emerged” and features 70 works that illustrate the artistry of Russian tradition crafts by Fabergé and other artists of the Romanov time. The exhibition includes two Fabergé Easter eggs that are a part of the Walters’ collection:  the Gatchina Palace Egg and the Rose Trellis Egg.

Here are some of my favourite items from the exhibit:

The Daughters of Tsar Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra, ca. 1915.
Left to right: Maria, Anastasia, Olga, and Tatiana (seated)Oval Box with Monogram of Tsar Nicholas II, early 20th century.
Peter Carl Fabergé and Henrik Emanuel Wigström (workmaster)“OTMA” Portrait Diamond Necklace, ca. 1914
Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia nicknamed themselves “OTMA”. Rare, flat-cut diamonds, known as portrait diamonds, cover and protect the delicate watercolour miniatures that were painted from formal court photographs taken in 1914.Rose Trellis Egg, 1907
Peter Carl Fabergé and Henrik Emanuel Wigström (workmaster)
The Rose Trellis Egg was given by Nicholas II to his wife Alexandra to commemorate the birth of their only son, and heir, Alexei Nicholaevich in 1904. It originally contained a diamond necklace with a medallion and miniature, now lost, of His Imperial Highness the Grand Duke Tsarevich Alexei Nicholaevich.
Roses, a symbol of love, had been associated with the nobility since Catherine the Great. Those depicted are one of Alexandra’s favourites: the Baronne Adolphe de Rothchild rose. Keeping with Russian tradition, there are 49 blossoms on the egg, an uneven number that would have been seen as lucky.Box with a Miniature of Viktor Vasnetsov’s Warrior at the Crossroads (1882), 1907-1917
Fedor Ivanovich Rückert for the House of Fabergé
Teapot, 1899-1908
Nikolai Vasilevich Alexseev
This teapot is set in the Chinoiserie style, which appropriated Chinese or Pseudo-Chinese motifs as interpreted through Western eyes. Chinoiserie was in vogue from the mid-17th century through to the end of the 19th century.Gatchina Palace Egg, 1901
Peter Carl Fabergé
The Gatchina Palace Egg was commissioned as an Easter gift to his mother, Maria Feodorovna, by the last Romanov tsar, Nicholas II. Along with the other 49 Imperial Easter Eggs, it showcases the exceptional skills of Peter Carl Fabergé’s team of gem cutters, enamelers, metalsmiths, and designers. The tiny model of the Gatchina Palace inside the egg is rendered in gold, alloyed with different metals to create a range of colours. Even lamp posts are depicted in miniature, while windows are glazed in rock crystal.

Today,  100 years after the Russian Revolutions of 1917 and the violent end of more than 300 years of Romanov rule, the House of Fabergé still exists today, and remains legendary and synonymous with Russia’s extraordinary artistic talent.

If you’re in Baltimore, I highly suggest you visit the Walters Art Museum – and if you like Russian art and/or have an interest in Russian history, specifically the Romanov dynasty, you should definitely take the time to see the Fabergé exhibit.

The Fabergé and the Russian Crafts Tradition: An Empire’s Legacy exhibition runs until Sunday, June 24, 2018.

Anastasia on Broadway

Have you heard there’s a rumour in St. Petersburg?

My boyfriend and I recently travelled to New York City from Baltimore for the weekend to check out Times Square and to see Anastasia The Musical on Broadway!Before this trip, my boyfriend and I had never been to NYC and therefore had never before seen a show on Broadway. We were really looking forward to seeing Anastasia The Musical because the animated film had been a favourite for both of us growing up.

Some people I have talked to, and comments I have read from others on the Internet, say they have mixed feelings about the show. But personally, I thought it was fabulous!The acting was well-done and the actors made the characters really come alive. The chemistry between Anya (Christy Altomare) and Dmitry (Derek Klena) left me hopeful! The chemistry between Countess Lily (Caroline O’Connor) and and Vlad (John Bolton) left me swooning.

See a glimpse of Christy and Derek’s chemistry in this music video for the song “In a Crowd of Thousands” – it’s so perfect and my absolute favourite from the musical. Breaks my heart and makes it swell, all at the same time… sigh.

The set design was also unique (for me) and well-executed: screens were used for the various backdrops which allowed for more changes and variety. The screens also lent to the drama and intensity of some of the scenes – you really have to see it in person to truly understand and feel what I mean!

My favourite scene was the performance of Swan Lake – when Anya, Dmitry, and Vlad are at the ballet to meet with the Dowager Empress.Christy Altomare as Anya, Derek Klena as Dmitry, John Bolton as Vlad, and the cast of Anastasia ©2018 Anastasia Musical LLC.I also liked the performance of “Land of Yesterday” because the song was great, and also because the scene had some traditional Russian folk dancing. I appreciated that they added new songs (“Land of Yesterday”) and kept the familiar ones, including “Once Upon a December”.

John Bolton as Vlad, Caroline O'Connor as Countess Lily and the cast of Anastasia
John Bolton as “Vlad”, Caroline O’Connor as “Countess Lily” and the cast of Anastasia. – ©2018 Anastasia Musical LLC

This particular scene gave me goosebumps and still does when I listen to the Original Broadway Cast Recording

Mary Beth Peil as “Dowager Empress” and Nicole Scimeca as “Little Anastasia” – ©2018 Anastasia Musical LLC

I think my most favourite part about stage shows are the costumes! I loved all of the costumes in Anastasia and even from a distance I could tell they were intricate and complex.

The Romanov Family – Photo by Matthew Murphy.
Romanov costume on actor Kyle Brown – Photo by Marc J. Franklin.

My favourite costume, by far, was Tsarina Alexandra’s court dress. I love how it glittered in the light – it was breathtaking!

Lauren Blackman as “Tsarina Alexandra” – Photo by Marc J. Franklin.

To date, I would say Anastasia The Musical is one of my favourite shows. It’s really between it and Guys and Dolls – but if I had to go to sentimentality and nostalgia, I’m sure you could figure out where Anastasia The Musical would rank.

If you are in New York City and looking for something to do, I highly suggest you make plans to see Anastasia The Musical!

Christy Altomare as “Anya” and the cast of Anastasia – Photo by Joan Marcus.

Kicking Down the Door with Whitehorse

I recently took in a concert at the London Music Hall with a good friend of mine. The band playing that night was Whitehorse – a Canadian folk-rock, husband-and-wife duo from Hamilton, Ont.

(Photo courtesy of London Music Hall)

My boyfriend introduced me to Luke and Melissa’s music when we first started dating and I became an instant fan.

I first saw Whitehorse (and my friend was there too!) in July 2013 at Hillside Festival in Guelph where they closed out the main stage. It was my first time attending Hillside Festival and seeing Whitehorse live made it even more exciting and special.9425402706_1647bf19a1_z

9425364550_25d90271ea_z (1)
Whitehorse at Hillside Festival 2013. (Photos by Steph Smith/@vagabond__photography)

I saw them again a couple months later in Waterloo at Starlight Social Club’s 10th Anniversary event.10526528374_bd5eaa77ff_z

Whitehorse at Starlight Social Club 10th Anniversary. (Photos by Steph Smith/@vagabond__photography)

The night at London Music Club was particularly special because I had won a pair of tickets, plus a VIP meet & greet with Luke and Melissa, and I got to share it all with my friend Duncan. Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 1.28.13 PMApart from my boyfriend, I don’t think there’s anyone else who would have enjoyed it more than Duncan – I am so happy he could go with me!23658361_10155743953597464_5787873978799978188_nThe VIP meet & greet was hosted by Big Rock Brewery and included meeting Luke and Melissa a taking a photo with them, an intimate acoustic performance, a Big Rock Brewery x Whitehorse t-shirt and pint glass, as well as a signed copy of their new album Panther in the Dollhouse.24825866_10155790155477464_1645388485_oThe show opener was Begonia, who I really enjoy. I saw her at Hillside Festival this past July so I was excited to see her perform again.

Begonia at Hillside Festival 2017. (Photo by Steph Smith/@vagabond__photography)

Here are some of my favourite Begonia songs:
Out of My Head – Begonia
Lady in Mind – Begonia
Juniper – Begonia

When it was time for Whitehorse to take the stage, Luke and Melissa made a point of “kicking down the door” of London Music Hall, and they did not disappoint.24879477_10155790129707464_1483591000_o24726236_10155790129467464_506099338_o24740184_10155790129822464_1136196990_o24825959_10155790131582464_2074414780_o24726067_10155790134852464_1568516218_oWhitehorse performed a lot of songs off their new album, with a handful of older favourites, such as ‘Achilles’ Desire’ (The Fate of the World Depends on This Kiss), ‘Tame as the Wild Ones’ and ‘Evangelina’ (both off of Leave No Bridge Unburned). It was awesome to hear Panther in the Dollhouse live because it is such unreal album that really tells a story:

“The pair makes a shift on this album from writing autobiographical songs to writing songs they refer to as “anti-fairytales,” written from the point of view of a cast of mostly female characters who grapple with issues of life, death, sex and love, all floating in an atmosphere of cinematic desert-noir.”

According to Whitehorse: “The title came from a dream. The dollhouse is a place of wholesome, conventional life. It is a perfect depiction of grown-up life based on childhood ideals and social conditioning. Enter the panther and suddenly the animal instincts we are all born with are knocking over these perfectly placed people and furniture. For better or worse, there is no ignoring this creature.”

CBC First Play: Whitehorse Panther in the Dollhouse

I LOVE every. single. song. on Panther in the Dollhouse.


My favourite songs of the night were obviously the two older ones I mentioned above, but also Panther in the Dollhouse‘s ‘Nighthawks’, ‘Boys Like You’, ‘Manitoba Death Star’, and ‘Epitaph in Tongues’.

At the end of the set they left the stage only to come back moments later to play a rendition of Neil Young’s ‘Ohio’ – SO GOOD. I loved hearing those bouncy riffs come out of Luke’s signature White Falcon.

It was an amazing night, to say the least. I am still thinking about it!

An Evening with Buffy Sainte-Marie

On the evening of August 7, my boyfriend and I travelled to Stratford for a very special concert, one that I had been looking forward to since the tickets first went on sale last December.

The tickets were a birthday gift from my boyfriend and they were to see a rare, solo performance by Buffy Sainte-Marie at the Avondale United Church. Buffy was performing as part of Stratford Summer Music, and to a sold-out crowd.

(Photo by Matt Barnes Photography)

This show was the second time that I would see Buffy. I saw her for the first time at Hillside Festival 2016 in Guelph, Ont. where she closed out Sunday night on the main stage.

I’ve been a fan of Buffy for a very long time.

Buffy Sainte-Marie at Hillside Festival 2016. (Photo by Steph Smith/@vagabond__photography)

The Stratford show was also a part of Buffy’s tour for the promotion of her new album Medicine Songs, which was slated for release on Nov. 10.

(Photo courtesy of Buffy Sainte-Marie’s website)

Medicine Songs comes on the heels of her 2015 release Power in the Blood and revisits her material from the last 50-plus years of her career with new arrangements and lyrics. The album includes activist songs such as ‘My Country ‘Tis of Thy People You’re Dying’, ‘Universal Soldier’, ‘Little Wheel, Spin and Spin’, ‘Fallen Angels’, ‘Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee’, ‘Carry It On’, and ‘Star Walker’, to name a few.

It also features two new songs: ‘The War Racket’ (as well as an unplugged version), and ‘You Got to Run (Spirit of the Wind)‘ featuring Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq. Buffy also wrote two new sections to the Katherine Lee Bates and Samuel Ward classic ‘America the Beautiful’.

“This is a collection of front line songs about unity and resistance – some brand new and some classics – and I want to put them to work. These are songs I’ve been writing for over fifty years, and what troubles people today are still the same damn issues from 30-40-50 years ago: war, oppression, inequity, violence, rankism of all kinds, the pecking order, bullying, racketeering and systemic greed. Some of these songs come from the other side of that: positivity, common sense, romance, equity and enthusiasm for life.”

“I’ve found that a song can be more effective than a 400-page textbook. It’s immediate and replicable, portable and efficient, easy to understand – and sometimes you can dance to it. Effective songs are shared, person-to-person, by artists and friends, as opposed to news stories that are marketed by the fellas who may own the town, the media, the company store and the mine. I hope you use these songs, share them, and that they inspire change and your own voice.”

“It might seem strange that along with the new ones, I re-recorded and updated some of these songs from the past using current technologies and new instrumentations – giving a new life to them from today’s perspective. The thing is, some of these songs were too controversial for radio play when they first came out, so nobody ever heard them, and now is my chance to offer them to new generations of like-minded people dealing with these same concerns. It’s like the play is the same but the actors are new.”

“I really want this collection of songs to be like medicine, to be of some help or encouragement, to maybe do some good. Songs can motivate you and advance your own ideas, encourage and support collaborations and be part of making change globally and at home. They do that for me and I hope this album can be positive and provide thoughts and remedies that rock your world and inspire new ideas of your own.”

Buffy Sainte-Marie on her album Medicine Songs

At her Stratford show, she played so many of my favourites: ‘Cripple Creek’ (with her mouth bow!), ‘It’s My Way’, ‘Little Wheel Spin and Spin’, ‘Cod’ine’, ‘I’m Gonna Be a Country Girl Again’, ‘Sunday Blue’, ‘We Are Circling’, ‘Not the Lovin’ Kind’, ‘Cho Cho Fire’, ‘Farm in the Middle of Nowhere’, and ‘Generation’, to name a few.

She also played ‘Until It’s Time For You To Go’, ‘Darling Don’t Cry’, ‘Universal Soldier’, and ‘My Country ‘Tis of Thy People You’re Dying’ – songs that give me goosebumps and nearly bring me to tears every time I hear them.

In addition, she performed ‘The War Racket’ (she played it at Hillside as well!). She also performed a spoken word rendition of her song ‘Carry It On’ – similar to her 2016 JUNO Awards performance.

Buffy sounded amazing and sang with so much emotion. She really gave it her all and commanded the stage.

IMG_8770 BW
Buffy Sainte-Marie at Hillside Festival 2016. (Photo by Steph Smith/@vagabond__photography)

At the end of the show, she was gracious enough to do a meet & greet, photos and autographs.

I got the chance to meet her and tell her how much I loved the show and her work. A dream come true!20638039_10155466299257464_4409231807838583900_n20727841_10155470119492464_1390729207449900192_nA very magical, wonderful and special evening – to say the least! One that I will remember forever.

Reminiscing About The Long Weekend

Last weekend was a big one for Canadians. Every year on July 1 we celebrate our country’s confederation, but this year was even more important because it marked our 150th year as Canada.And because the holiday fell on a Saturday, this year we also had a nice long weekend! My boyfriend and I decided to head up to our friend’s cottage for some fun where we spent time at the beach, had campfires and explored.We also spent time playing some games. The guys especially enjoyed playing a couple games of ‘Warhammer’ – a table-top fantasy game that involves strategy. Two or more players compete against each other with armies built with miniatures that come in a variety of races, and they take turns moving around the board to simulate combat. It is a very involved game and can take hours to complete.One thing that I especially love about the cottage is the mornings where everything is so quiet and peaceful. It’s nice to wake up and sit on the patio with a cuppa and just relax…… And hanging out with the kitties – Karma and Dharma.On the evening of Canada Day, everyone gathers down at the beach to watch the fireworks shows, which are put on by several families. We got down to the beach just in time to watch a particularly fascinating show up close!∆ ∆ ∆

To round out the long weekend and the Canada Day festivities, I celebrated my birthday (as I do every year because it’s on the fourth of July! 😋 )

My boyfriend and I went to Waterloo and spent a few hours there. On the way, we stopped in Stratford so we could pick up iced Americanos at Balzac’s for the road.

When we got to Waterloo, we went to J&J Superstore to look at boardgames. I was given some money as a birthday gift and wanted to put it towards one of the boardgames I’ve had my eye on.

If you’re ever in Waterloo, or you are just looking for an awesome board and card game store, I highly suggest you check out J&J. You won’t be disappointed by their selection!

Though I’ve wanted a couple of boardgames for a while, I really had my heart set on picking up Carcassonne.It is one of my absolute favourite games because it is both fun and easy to quickly teach others. It’s also great for two players, so my boyfriend and I can play it together a lot (something we already do on his tablet with the Android version of the game).

The game starts with a single tile face up, with the other tiles shuffled face down. Players then take turns picking up tiles and laying them out in order to build the medieval French countryside of Carcassonne (a real place in France!). Each new tile has to be placed in such a way that it connect to a tile that has been placed previously, it also must extend upon the feature of the tile it touches: roads must connect to roads, fields to field, and cities to cities.When we got back to our apartment, my boyfriend treated me to gifts of apple pie flavoured moonshine from Murphy’s Law Distillery, chocolates and tickets to see one of my favourite musicians Buffy Sainte-Marie! He also made us a beautiful steak dinner that consisted of roasted baby potatoes, Brussels sprouts and fiddleheads, with mushrooms sautéed in butter with onions and garlic.To go with dinner, we open a bottle of wine that I picked up exclusively for my birthday. It was one I had never tried before, but I really liked the design of the label (which is how I usually choose my wine, beer and cider haha) and to be fair, I really don’t think you can go wrong with Cab-Sauv!

All-in-all it was a pretty fantastic long-Canada Day-birthday-weekend! I couldn’t have asked for better weather either.

… And of course I got my birthday drink from Starbucks to top it all off!

∆ ∆ ∆

What did you get up to on the Canada Day long weekend? Did you do anything extra special or out of the ordinary? I would love to hear all about it!

Jam-Packed Weekend

Now that it is officially summer, a lot of events are happening around the City of London. This past weekend in particular was super fun, but also super busy!

First, we celebrated my birthday a couple of weeks early on Friday with a group of some very dear friends. The morning was a bit worrisome because it had rained… and rained, and rained!  Luckily it ended up holding off just in time so we could go mini golfing at the Tin Cup!After we went for dinner at Beertown Public House where I had the Crispy Chicken Sandwich with a side of french fries and gravy. It was probably the best crispy chicken I’ve ever had, if I’m being honest – it was so flavourful and was crisped to perfection. The sandwich came on a sesame seed bun with lettuce, tomato, Gruyère, roasted garlic aïoli and pickled jalapeños (YUM!)

Where we were sitting was unfortunately too dark for photos, but I can tell you the food was delicious and I would highly recommend it if you’re having a hard time deciding on what to get!

After, most of us headed back to my apartment for drinks and boardgames. It was a great way to end the night! Everyone was too full for cake, so I sent everyone home with their slice. It was a very beautiful cake given to me by my boyfriend, and it was delicious too!

∆ ∆ ∆

On Saturday evening we headed out with our friends Lenny, Heather and Eric to check out the Appleseed Cider Festival – an event that celebrates Ontario Craft Cider producers and their cider products!I tried four different ciders, three were from KW Craft Cider in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont. and the other was from the County Cider Company in Waupoos, Ont. The ones from KW Craft Cider were Cherrymint, Thai Ginger, and Canadian Shield Berries. The one I tried from County Cider Co. was called Feral.The Cherrymint cider was good, you could really taste the mint on the end notes. This cider was very tart – I would consider it to be a dry cider, but I’m not sure. All-in-all it was good, but I don’t know if I would buy it.

The Thai Ginger cider was very unique, but tasted great! You could really taste the hot green Thai chili peppers, but the taste was well-balanced out by the ginger spice. I sampled a chili pepper beer in Santa Fe, and the flavour and heat of the pepper were very overwhelming. This cider would be great on a hot day, especially if you’re looking for something to sip on.

The Canadian Shield Berries cider was delicious! It tasted like… sparkly juice! (If sparkly juice were a thing and had a flavour haha). You could taste the tartness of the currants and cranberries, but also the sweetness of the raspberries, blueberries and strawberries. I normally am cautious of ‘strawberry’ flavours, as I find they can come out too strongly for my liking. There’s nothing wrong with strawberry, it’s just not my preference!

The Feral cider was by far my most favourite. It’s a combination of County Cider Co.’s Waupoos Premium cider – an off-dry cider with tangy apple flavour – and wild raspberries and cranberries. I’m a big fan of cranberry juice, and so I was pleased when I could really taste the cranberry at the beginning and then the raspberry at the end. I think I will be calling in an order, since Feral is not sold in LCBO stores!

∆ ∆ ∆

On Sunday afternoon we checked out the International Food Festival in Victoria Park.We got there at a really great time, and there was tons of food to choose from. I went with a beef and lamb gyro from Sammy’s Souvlaki.I forgot to take a photo before digging in… so worth it though! Mmm.

∆ ∆ ∆

You can tell that summer is finally here in Ontario – there is so much to do and see during this time of year. I look forward to sharing my summer adventures with you!

If you’re from Canada – what are you doing this Canada Day long weekend, and do you have any special plans for Canada 150?

☀︎ ☀︎ ☀︎

Mercer Hall and Balzac’s, Stratford

After seeing Guys and Dolls, we decided to go out for dinner at Mercer Hall.We had been here once before with a group of friends, the same ones that we went to Keystone Alley with, actually! This time it was really nice to go out as just the two of us and discovering more of what Mercer Hall had to offer.

When we walked in to the restaurant, we were immediately greeted by the host as well as the big sign behind the bar that had the featured beer… Flying Monkeys’ ’12 Minutes to Destiny’ – a hibiscus pale lager that has a delicious deep purple, ruby-like colour. I’m sure you can guess what we had to drink!It was delicious, fruity and crisp. It wasn’t too hoppy, bitter or sweet, it really is a perfect summer beer – I love drinking something that tastes great and refreshing.

∆ ∆ ∆

In terms of the menu, there is SO much to choose from; it can be overwhelming to the eyes, and the palate… I had such a hard time choosing because everything sounded so delicious, I could just imagine the flavours!

Mercer Hall’s menu I would describe as being ‘North American with some Asian influence’ – seaweed, rice balls, steam buns, tempura, kimchi sauerkraut, and wasabi mustard are just some of the Asian inspired items and ingredients found on the menu. In addition, the menu also offers quite a few vegetarian dishes, and they’re all pretty unique, too! You really can’t go wrong.

We split a Tempura Plate as an appetizer, which was delicious! The plate consists of seasonal veggies with Ponzu for dipping. I love tempura on veggies, especially yam. Tempura asparagus was interesting, I really liked it! (The plate looks a bit sparse because we couldn’t resist eating some of the tempura as soon as it came to the table – it tastes best hot!)For our mains, my boyfriend got the Tonkatsu Schnitzel on a bun, which came with chili potato slaw, wasabi mustard, pickles and a side of fries. He really said he really liked the breading on the pork, and that it was very flavourful.I got the Stick Beef Bowl, which was sort of like a stir fry. It came with glazed flatiron steak (which was perfect and SO tender), grilled asparagus, and curry peanuts. I really loved the peanuts and parsley with the curry sauce and rice, I had never thought of adding them to my stir fry but I might have to start! Mmm.I just really love the atmosphere at Mercer Hall. The decor is kind of Old World industrial meets country-vintage, with incandescent “Edison bulb” string lights and fixtures, copper tiles on the walls, barrels and soft greys throughout.We were too stuffed for dessert, but we did take a walk over to Balzac’s Coffee Roasters for iced Americanos before heading home. I love Balzac’s so much, we always stop in any time we’re in Stratford.Once we left the café, we could tell it was going to rain… and soon! The wind picked up, the dirt in the streets started flying and the leaves were whipping off of the trees in sheets – we were in for a doozy! At least we were fairly close to the car at this point and made it just as the rain was starting to come down in big, fat droplets.

Have you ever been to the Mercer Hall, or to a Balzac’s location? If so, what is your favourite thing to order, and what should I try next?

∆ ∆ ∆