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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La Plazuela, Santa Fe

While on our day trip to Santa Fe my boyfriend and I wanted to go out for lunch somewhere that had a nice atmosphere, and we found just that at La Plazuela at La Fonda on the Plaza.

‘La Plazuela’ is Spanish for ‘the square’ – which makes sense given the restaurant’s location. ‘La Fonda’ is Spanish for a space that is used as an inn, tavern or restaurant. It all makes sense!La Plazuela menu displayed outside of the restaurantThe hotel is located at the historic Santa Fe Plaza, and it’s here where Old World charm and modern life converge. When you walk through the doors into the hotel lobby, you feel transported back in time. Everywhere you look there is authentic New Mexican architecture and history – from the wooden beams, to the furniture and decor, La Fonda’s got the look.La Fonda hotel lobby, outside of La Plazuela restaurantWhen you step into the restaurant, it’s like you are transported into a dream – if you thought the atmosphere of the hotel compelling, that of the restaurant is a whole other story.

Built in the 1920s, the restaurant is a lofty space with high beams, lush foliage and an expansive skylight that bathes the entire dining room in natural light. At its centre is a fountain and a wrought iron chandelier with yellow glass shades. I can only imagine how romantic La Plazuela looks at night.La Plazuela, Santa Fe 2La Plazuela, Santa Fe 3The dining room itself is surrounded by large wooden pillars with sconces that match the chandelier, and a series of hand-painted windows.La Plazuela, Santa Fe 1Sconces and windows at La Plazuela, Santa FeIn addition to its looks, we chose La Plazuela as our destination for a special lunch in celebration of our anniversary that was at the end of April. Since our trip to Santa Fe was so close, we thought it would be best to go out for lunch, or dinner, there instead.La Plazuela MenuLooking at the La Plazuela MenuIn true Santa Fe fashion, our waiter brought us complimentary tortilla chips and house-made salsa while we read through the menu – delicious!Tortilla Chips and Salta, La PlazeulaAt this time we also ordered drinks. We both chose the Nut Brown Ale from Santa Fe Brewing Company – also delicious!Chips and salsa, and beers - La PlazuelaWhen it was time to order, we chose to share the ‘Local Heirloom Tomato Salad’, which consisted of brightly coloured tomatoes, sliced and served with extra virgin olive oil, a drizzle of balsamic glaze, roasted garlic cloves, local feta cheese and fresh basil, with a side of crunchy croustades. It was so fresh and flavourful! I just love a good balsamic reduction, especially on tomatoes.Local Heirloom Tomato Salad, La PlazuelaClose up of tomato in Local Heirloom Tomato Salad, La PlazuelaFor our main, we chose to split the ‘Torta de Borrego’ sandwich, which had the most tender braised lamb shoulder I’ve ever had, served on toasted telera bread and topped with sliced seasonal tomatoes, sliced avocado, caramelized onion, arugula, local feta cheese, and lemon-cilantro aioli. We also got a side of seasoned French fries.Torta de Borrego sandwich, La PlazuelaThe service was perfect; our meal was filling, flavourful and delicious. We couldn’t have asked for a better dining experience.

The only thing I would have done differently was saving some room for dessert! (And maybe going for dinner, just to take in the romantic atmosphere at night *wistful sigh*)

More information about La Fonda and La Plazuela, as well as historic photos, can be viewed in the La Fonda history book From Every Window a Glimpse of the Past. If you’re in Santa Fe, I highly recommend La Plazuela if you’re looking for a relaxing and romantic dining destination.  Reservations for dinner are highly recommended, as La Plazuela is very popular at this time.

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