Keystone Alley, Stratford

The other night, my boyfriend and I met up with some friends for dinner at the Keystone Alley in Stratford.Malba Pudding, Keystone Alley in StratfordWe were going out because it has been so long since we’ve all been able to get together, and it was also a chance to celebrate my boyfriend’s acceptance at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland for his PhD, and our friend Drew’s acceptance for his medical residency at a hospital in Calgary.

For all of us, this was our first time checking out Keystone Alley. The menu had so many delicious-looking options, I was unsure if I would be able to decide!Menu at Keystone Alley, StratfordFunnily, most of us actually ended up choosing something off the of the three-course Bistro Menu, which made deciding a lot easier because it listed a couple of options and you just had to make the difficult decision of choosing one of them for each course.Bistro Menu, Keystone AlleyMy boyfriend chose the Smoked Trout for his appetizer, which came with pickled vegetables, horseradish and a caper cream. I chose the Greens – a salad of mixed spring greens, with grapes, almonds, pistachio goat cheese and poppy seed vinaigrette. One word: Perfection.The Greens, Keystone Alley in StratfordFor our main course, we both chose the Ale Braised Beef Brisket, which came in a Forked River beer reduction, with roasted heirloom carrots, Brussels sprouts, crispy polenta. It was Heaven on a plate, seriously!The Beef Brisket, Keystone Alley in StratfordUnsurprisingly, we both chose the same dessert – A South African pudding called ‘Malva’ that is made with apricot jam, cream and butter. It was deliciously spongy and sweet. It was served warm with vanilla ice cream.Malba Pudding, Keystone Alley in StratfordIf you are ever in Stratford and looking for somewhere to go for lunch or dinner, I highly recommend Keystone Alley. In addition to inventive and flavourful food, the restaurant also has a great atmosphere.

Take a walk along the Avon River, see a show at one of of the theatres and then stop for a bite to eat at Keystone Alley. You won’t regret it!

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Downtown and the Harbor, Baltimore

After lunch, we made our way Downtown to walk around and check out the area. It was a beautiful day to go out exploring and walking, especially after the previous day had been so grey and windy. I was surprised to learn that “downtown” and the Harbor were one and the same; I didn’t realize how close Baltimore was to the coast.
While walking around, we found a HUGE Barnes & Noble to get some coffee – a must for many of our adventures!There were also a lot of other people who had the same idea of going to the Harbor to enjoy the gorgeous day.We walked all along the Inner Harbor waterfront and checked out the shops around The National Katyń Memorial, including some of my favourites– Free People and Anthropologie ♡After exploring for a few hours, we decided to get dinner. Since it was our last day in Baltimore, we thought we would treat ourselves to somewhere nice, and decided on Gordon Biersch.I decided to have the CBLT sandwich, which was the BEST choice. I also got a side of Gordon Biersch’s signature garlic fries. Yum!I love a good craft beer, especially when they are brewed on-site, so I was excited when I saw the beer menu. I decided on the “Dragon of the East” Saison which was delightfully fruity and spicy. It features Jasmine White Tea made by the Baltimore Coffee & Tea Co.After dinner it was time to head back to our Air BnB for the night to get a good sleep for the long drive home.

When we got out of the restaurant, the crowd at the Inner Harbor was even bigger that earlier in the day because of a special event called Light City – a free festival that features more than 50 attractions, like large-scale light installations, including illuminated sculptures and projections, as well as music and concerts, food vendors and interactive areas. According to locals, people come from all over the U.S. and world to participate in the Light City festivities.All-in-all, our trip to Baltimore was pretty great – which is good because I will be spending a lot of time here once my boyfriend starts school at Johns Hopkins University in September!

Thanks for following me along on my adventure to the Charm City!

R. House, Baltimore

Once we finished our visit to the Baltimore Museum of Art (you can see some of my favourite pieces here), we headed out in search of lunch.

While at his Johns Hopkins University visit day, my boyfriend met some of the people who would be in his program and some of the faculty who suggested some restaurants that were a ‘must’ including R. HouseR. House is a food hall in the former Anderson Body Shop warehouse that has 10 counters featuring a variety of local cuisine. From arepas and sushi, to tacos and poké, there were so many tasty and flavourful options to choose from!Food counters at R. House‘Good Times Ahead’ were promised upon entering the eating hall. Given that it was lunchtime, the place was packed! But it didn’t take us long to find a seat, which is good because it took us (or at least me) a while to decide what to eat.

We decided on getting something from ARBA, a food stall specializing in Mediterranean cuisine. ‘Arba’ means ‘four’ in Arabic and Hebrew, and according to owner Farid Salloum the word also “represents food, family, friends, and community,” as well as the four main dishes on ARBA’s menu.I got the Chicken Kabobs served over rice, and my boyfriend got the Beef Shawarma served over rice.

We both got a pint at the R. Bar – ‘Anthem’ golden ale by Union Craft Brewing for me (because of it’s decidedly American name and because it was created in honour of the 200th anniversary of Francis Scott Key’s penning of The Star Spangled Banner just outside of Fort McHenry, Baltimore!); ‘Calvert Cream Ale’ by Calvert Brewing Company for my boyfriend.Chicken Kabob served over rice from ARBA Mediterranean @ R. House, Baltimore, with an 'Anthem' golden ale by Union Craft BrewingBeef Shawarma served over rice from ARBA Mediterranean @ R. House, Baltimore, with a 'Calvert Cream Ale' by Calvert Brewing CompanyMmm – Everything was so delicious! It’s a good thing my boyfriend will be going to Johns Hopkins University for the next four years because there’s a lot of food at R. House that I NEED to try! After we finished our food and drinks, we headed back to our Air BnB for a much needed rest before hitting the Downtown and Harbour Front for the rest of the day.

Have you been to R. House? If so, which stall is your favourite? Let me know what I should be trying next!

Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore

The next stop on our adventure was the Johns Hopkins Homewood campus, where we walked around taking in the architecture and green spaces before heading over the Baltimore Museum of Art.Merrick Barn at Johns Hopkins UniversityJohns Hopkins University Homewood CampusJohns Hopkins University was founded in 1876, with its main campus originally located on Howard Street. Over the next few decades, the school began to outgrow its buildings and its trustees began the search for a new place for the school to call home.

A group of prominent locals came up with a solution by acquiring Homewood, the north Baltimore estate of Charles Carroll, the son of the oldest surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence. On February 22, 1902, this land was formally transferred to the university.Johns Hopkins Homewood CampusAfter some time, we found our way to the museum. I was surprised by how big it was, considering it is located on campus.Baltimore Museum of ArtSome surprising facts about the museum is that is internationally renowned for its collection of 19th-century modern and contemporary art, and that it has more than 1,000 works by Henri Matisse – the largest public holding of his works in the world! I also didn’t realize how many artists and art collectors were from Baltimore.

I love museums and art galleries, and I think the Baltimore Museum of Art is now one of my favourites. Here are some of my favourite pieces from its collection:

Green Grapes, 1877 (left) and Red Grapes, 1876
Andrew John Henry Way Luxembourg Gardens, c. 1885
Abbott Fuller GravesLady with a Fan, 1911
Thomas Wilmer DewingPaysage (A Winter Day in Brittany), 1881
William Lamb PicknellStill Life with Pitcher and Plate, 1887
Félix VallottonFrenchwoman: Portrait of a Lady from Honfleur, 1923
Leon Kroll   The Three Graces, n.d.
Dirk de Quade van RavesteynStill Life with Oranges, 1880s
Victor VignonLittle Gypsy, c. 1850
Edme-Alexis-Alfred DehodencqMy most favourite piece was La Vachère, 1888 (left) and its preceding study titled In the Grove, both by Theodore Robinson. Here I am looking at the two pieces side-by-side.

Have you been to the Baltimore Museum of Art? If so, what are some of your favourite pieces of art in its collection?

32nd Street Farmers Market, Baltimore

On the second day of our trip to Baltimore, and our first full day together, we got up at a reasonable time and headed out to the farmers market in search of coffee and treats.

The 32nd Street Farmers Market is located in the neighbourhood of Waverly, which is just a short hop, skip, and a jump away from Charles Village.The entrance to the 32nd Street Farmers MarketUpon entering the market, our coffee senses began tingling and it did not take us long to locate the black gold being served up at Zeke’s Coffee, a local, small batch, family-owned roastery that is “seriously committed to freshness.” And after my first sip of their medium roast coffee… I believe it!Zeke's Coffee is a local, small batch, family-owned roastery located in Baltimore, MarylandFounded in 1980, the market is a non-profit organization that offers all kinds of products from pastries and baked goods, to produce and flowers, to name a few. Walking around the market was nice and there was so much to look at.Patrons enjoy the farmers marketA vendor sells a variety of produce at the farmers marketAll you need is love!
And a lovely farmers market.All you need is love... and a farmers market!My favourite part was seeing all the brightly coloured flowers some of the vendors were selling. If we were staying in Baltimore long enough, I would have bought some for our room!After a bit of a walkabout with coffees in hand, we sought out some tasty pastries from Chez G – there were so many options to choose from, but we decided on these Morning Buns. They’re made with a combination of croissant and Danish dough – which makes them both flakey and buttery – raisins and a dusting of confectioners’ sugar.
And an excellent choice it was; they were beyond delicious. We sat down at the edge of the parking lot with some other people and enjoyed the warm sunshine while we ate our treats and sipped on our coffees. I am so happy it’s Spring!Once we finished eating, we decided to head off on the next part of our adventure.Until next time!If you’re ever in Baltimore, the 32nd Street Farmers Market is open every Saturday from 7 a.m. to noon, all year ’round – you don’t want to miss it!

 

Exploring Charles Village, Baltimore

My boyfriend and I recently took a short trip to Baltimore for his visit day at Johns Hopkins University. I, unfortunately, was not allowed to attend, so I took the opportunity to explore the area near the JHU Homewood Campus and our Air BnB while he was out.It was an extraordinarily grey day, but that didn’t stop me from venturing out.
It was also 16°C (60°F) and the trees were beginning to bloom which made the walk a lot nicer. Although, it was pretty windy!The trees were beginning to bloom which made the walk a lot nicer.The first stop on my adventure was Starbucks for a morning coffee and a muffin. I got a grande Blonde Coconut Mocha Macchiato and a chocolate chunk muffin and settled in for a couple of hours to work and people watch. This shop is in a really nice location!
Blonde Coconut Mocha Macchiato and people watchingAfter I finished up at Starbucks, I walked a bit further up the street to visit Barnes & Noble Johns Hopkins. Because it is basically on the JHU Homewood Campus, this location had a lot of textbooks and JHU merchandise like hoodies, t-shirts, and even ties with the Johns Hopkins Blue Jays logo! I didn’t spend too much time here, for fear I would be tempted to buy more books… So many books, so little time.Barnes & Noble has so many books!(I DID curl up with the book I brought along though, once I got back to our apartment! In case you’re curious, I’m almost finished reading All Other Nights by Dara Horn)

The walk back was equally, if not more, lovely. I saw this beautiful vintage postbox, and the house it belonged to had the most wonderful turquoise flower boxes!These daffodils and grape hyacinths were pretty great too. I love how the purple and yellow look together; the colours are so bright and striking.

Once I got back, it was time to wait for my boyfriend and then head off to dinner. We went to PekoPeko Ramen where we shared the TanTan ramen and a plate of Gyoza… SO good! We were so hungry that I forgot to take a picture, but I highly suggest you stop by if you’re ever in Charles Village – you won’t regret it!

April Showers Bring May Flowers

Spring has sprung, and with it comes the rains of April and of course, the flowers of May.

Snowbells have began to appear in the garden and out in the yard. Crocuses have began to bloom and I can’t wait for them to open up. Both flowers are some of the first to make an appearance, along with snowdrops, tulips, irises and daffodils.

I actually quite enjoy rainy days, especially when I can get out to explore. I grew up in the country and have always relished the opportunity to wander around the farm in the rain.

While I currently live in the city, there are some places that remind me of home, like this trail I enjoyed recently. I just love the feeling of relaxation that walking in the rain gives me, and of course the sights and sounds.

What is your favourite time of year? Do you enjoy walking in the rain, too?
If so, what do you enjoy about it the most?

“Sweet April showers
Do spring May flowers.”
– Thomas Tusser, A Hundred Good Points of Husbandry, April Husbandry, 1557