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!

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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!

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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?

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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!