Lake Life in Whistler

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy. Fish are jumpin’ and the….

I find myself humming this song every time I visit this picturesque little town surrounded by unbelievable natural beauty.

A day trip to Lost Lake instantly turns me into a carefree soul, happy to laze the day away beside the water while my little dog swims and fetches until he curls up, exhausted, on the beach blanket beside me.

A day spent here also takes me back to the best memories of my teenage years, growing up in lake country in Ontario. A sunny summer day meant putting your bikini on, getting on a rickety old bike, throwing the beach towel and PB and J sandwich in the basket and pedaling down a gravel road to the lake to meet up with friends. Our beach back in the day was a grassy patch beside a dirt road but it was sublime. Days were spent swimming, sun bathing, sometimes canoeing through the thick, beautiful lily pads and always relaxing. No smart phone or internet required.

It was simple and easy and fun and Lost Lake takes me right to that place.

After an afternoon of lazing in the grass and dips in the lake, it’s cocktail hour.

This one is courtesy of Milestones Restaurant:

Ruby Red Mimosa

  • Half glass sparkling wine
  • Ruby red grapefruit juice
  • splash elderberry liqueur

A sweet ending to a summer day.

*To make this drink sugar-free, just skip the elderberry liqueur.

Beware the barrenness of a busy life. – Socrates

Sooke Harbour House

With all of the political unrest south of the border dominating the news this week, I can’t think of a more soothing place to write about than Sooke Harbour House on Vancouver Island.

I was lucky enough to spend three nights there a few weeks ago and the whole experience was a blissful, back to nature retreat.

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Let me start with the view. Our room faced the ocean and we saw breathtaking vistas like this every day from our balcony.

sooke, british columbia

vancouver island

The hotel is quaint and luxurious at the same time, making a visit there feel like entering a warm haven from yesteryear. If I had to describe the visit in a metaphor, staying at Sooke Harbour House is like wrapping yourself in a fuzzy blanket with a good book beside you and a cup of delicious hot chocolate cupped in your hands. And, speaking of good books, the hallways of Harbour House are lined with shelves and shelves of books. There are also super comfy love seats nestled in the hallway, waiting for someone to sink into them and dive into one of those good books.

sooke harbour house

sooke harbour house

Leave your room for an afternoon and you’ll see that the grounds around the Inn are filled with an edible garden. Herbs, lettuces, root vegetables, fruit trees and lots of beautiful edible flowers make the garden a delight to walk through. And later at dinner, the unbelievable freshness of your meal is a foodie’s dream. This is due to so many food items being picked from their very own garden but also because they source almost all of the menu items from the Island. Sooke Harbour House is an example of the 100 Mile Diet at its best.

Then there’s room service. Here we have garden pomme frites, a chanterelle soup and garden salad topped with pretty edible flowers.

organic food

Everything tasted amazingly delicious, as did every other meal eaten in the two restaurants, The Copper Room and The Restaurant. If you’d like to make this rich and creamy soup at home, so you can cuddle up in a fuzzy blanket and forget about all of the worries of the world for a while, let me help you out…

Sooke Harbour House’s Chanterelle Walnut Soup

1/2 cup unsalted butter

2 cups wild chanterelle mushrooms, brushed and chopped
1/2 cup walnuts, shelled
1 cup onion, diced
1/2 cup carrot, diced
1/4 cup celery, diced
20 fennel seeds
10 coriander seeds
10 cumin seeds
2 Tbsp garlic, chopped
2 Tbsp ginger, peeled and minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
5 cups vegetable stock
1 cup whipping cream (or whole milk for a lighter version)
2 fresh or dried bay leaves

Place butter in large, stainless steel pot over medium heat. Once butter has melted, add mushrooms, walnuts, onion, carrot, celery, fennel, coriander, and cumin seeds, and saute until onions are translucent and carrots begin to soften (about 10 to 13 minutes). Add garlic and ginger, and saute for 5 minutes. Stir constantly to avoid burning. Add white wine and increase heat to high. Reduce wine until approximately 1/4 cup remains. Add stock, cream, and bay leaves, and bring to boil. Then, reduce heat to medium and simmer for 25 minutes. Remove from heat; remove and discard bay leaves. While soup cools, prepare garnish. Place whipping cream in medium-sized bowl and whip until stiff peaks form. Once soup has cooled for 30 minutes, puree in blender at high speed in small batches for 2 minutes each, or until very smooth. Return puree’d soup to pot. Bring to boil and serve. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish each with a dollop of whipped nasturtium cream. Serves Six.

 

Raw Vegan Macarons

Nourish

Verb: To provide with the food or other substances necessary for growth, health, and good condition.

Whenever I spend a weekend in Edmonton, I beeline to a sweet little vegan restaurant called Noorish. They make the most delicious berry smoothies, vegan pad thai, vegan poutine (yes, vegan poutine!), black kale Caesar salad…yummmmm….but the dish I fell in love with the most is their raw, vegan mud pie. It’s smooth and silky, rich with dark chocolate and just the right amount of sweetness. Here, let me show you…

vegan mud pie

After taking a few bites of this rich, creamy dessert, I found myself chasing after the pastry chef, determined to get the recipe. And, I did.

So now I’m going to share this dark, delicious recipe with you! It’s full of anti aging coconut oil and raw cashews, so it’s very rich but rich with good fat. I’ve also changed the recipe from a pie to macarons. I made the pie once and ate the whole thing in one sitting. Oops.  I find I eat less if the dessert is in small pieces. The macarons have been described by one of my taste testers as the bottom of a Nanaimo bar. It’s a good thing.

Raw Vegan Macaroons

  • one cup coconut oil
  • one cup raw cashews, soaked overnight
  • one third cup Canadian maple syrup
  • one half cup raw organic cacao

Place all ingredients in a blender or Vitamix, blend well.

Form into balls and refrigerate for a few hours. Serve.

A Day on the Seawall

Vancouverites have a reputation of being very fit. So much so that the last time I visited LA, an Angeleno loudly announced at a cocktail party that Vancouver was home to the fittest people in North America. That’s quite an honour coming from a resident of the land of the beautiful. I was surprised at her statement but also smiled a little proudly. It’s a good rep to have.

So why are we Vancouverites so fit? Well, the Grouse Grind is definitely a factor. Spending a morning climbing a mountain with an 800 metre elevation will get you fit fast. But we also have our gorgeous Stanley Park Seawall. It’s an 8.8k stretch of scenic, natural beauty and we love to bike, jog, rollerblade and power walk along it.

seawall

Last Sunday was one of those perfect, hot, late summer days, so I leashed up the pup and hit the iconic seawall for a long, long power walk.

lions gate bridge

After passing the Lions Gate Bridge, Siwash Rock, on the North side of the park is the next landmark and is one of Vancouver’s special, mystical places.

seawall and sylvia 042

The plaque in front of Siwash reads: “Native Legend tells us that this 50 foot high pinnacle of rock stands as an imperishable monument to “Skalsh the Unselfish” who was turned into stone by “Quas the Transformer” as a reward for his unselfishness.” I’m not sure that being turned to stone is the best reward for good behaviour, but, nonetheless, Siwash is a stunning and powerful place.

siwash rock, vancouver

Next stop is English Bay and the iconic Sylvia Hotel.

the sylvia 060 Eating alone isn’t usually my favourite thing to do but Sylvia was calling my name. I could see an empty patio table with a lavender tree beside it and a view of the ocean in front of it.

If you’re lonely when you’re alone, you’re in bad company.  – Jean Paul Sartre

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I made sure The Nickster was happy, leashed up with a chew stick and then sat at the cute little lavender table overlooking the ocean. The Sylvia was originally built in the early 1900’s as a luxury apartment building and is now one of our oldest and most character filled hotels.

Another bonus is that the servers are uber-friendly. After saying hello to Nicky, my waiter and I got into and in-depth discussion about our mutual love of Yorkies and a few minutes later he was sitting down with me, pulling out his smart phone and proudly showing me his Yorkie niece, Mia and nephew, Niko. All I can say is that if you’re dining alone in the city and want to feel completely comfortable, The Sylvia is the place to be.

nick

I settled in with a chilled glass of Burrowing Owl Pinot Gris.

burrowing owl

And delectable crab and prawn cakes.

crab cakes

Dinner finished, it was time to walk the last stretch home. The golden hour was basking the bay in a lovely glow, the sun hanging low in the sky.

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seawall and sylvia 092

People were everywhere, lounging on the grass, sitting on blankets; older couples were holding hands on park benches, all staring at the sea. I plopped down on a park bench, Nick curled up to an elderly woman beside him and fell asleep.

And, in silence, we all watched together as the glowing sun sank into the cool, silvery Pacific. A beautiful way to end the day.

sunset

Yoga & Martinis

Shade Boutique Hotel in Manhattan Beach was my home away from home in California and I feel like I could have happily stayed there forever. I truly mean that. When I was a teenager the most glamorous life I could imagine, and would constantly daydream about, was the life of a writer, in a big city, living in a luxury hotel room. I still think I would be incredibly happy living that life, especially since it includes daily maid service.

My dog and I both enjoyed Shade’s perfectly glam roof deck. I loved the morning yoga classes…

And the Nickster enjoyed lounging by the pool, drinking cucumber water and deciding if he should bark at the other guests.

pool dog

The daily, complimentary breakfasts were amazing…

smoked salmon bagel

But the real jewel of this hotel is it’s lobby bar-restaurant, Zinc. This is a cool little spot where you can end the day sipping a craft cocktail, chatting with the bartender and getting to know the other guests. My favourite fellow guests were two sisters from Atlanta. They were drinking wine and laughing every time I saw them and were in town to get a little botox and fillers in Beverly Hills. Just a touch so they could go back home looking “refreshed”.

There were a lot of delicious cocktails at Zinc but my absolute fave was the sweet and cool Cucumber- Pear Martini.

The Drink at Zinc

  • 2 oz. Grey Goose pear vodkamartini
  • 1 oz St. Germain elderflower liqueur
  • one peeled slice of cucumber, muddled in the glass
  • lemon lime juice (organic citrus fruit, agave syrup and water to taste)

Instructions:

  • Muddle cucumber in the bottom of a martini glass
  • Shake (or stir) remaining ingredients with ice
  • Pour over cucumber

Voila! A perfect cocktail.

Oh, and then there was the food…

Shade Hotel

Fishing with Dynamite

cali 2014 078

Urban Dictionary – fishing with dynamite: Phrase used to describe anything that can be accomplished easily.

My LA friends were buzzing about a restaurant called Fishing with Dynamite and told me that it was a “must visit” while I was in town. Sue of Birgerbird happened to be one of these friends so we decided that lunch at FWD would be the perfect way to meet up in the offline world.

The morning of our lunch I was flipping through Angeleno magazine and saw that an FWD platter called The Mothershucker had made their top 10 list of dishes to try in LA. A good sign. A little later someone I was chatting with on the beach also told me how amazing the restaurant is and that I had to try their raw scallops. I had never had a raw scallop in my life so I smiled and nodded but thought….maybe.

That afternoon I strolled into the restaurant full of anticipation and I found a cozy, comfy room, full of light and filled with the scent of delicious seafood. The restaurant also had a cute sit down bar area where one of the patrons had brought his parrots in to have a drink with him. I bee-lined to the parrot.

After hanging out with my new parrot friend for awhile, it was time to find my table and Sue and get down to the serious business of eating.

The menu was divided into an old school section of traditional seafood dishes and  a new school section of either unusual items from the ocean or fusion dishes for the adventurous palate. I was craving raw oysters (which are full of anti-aging zinc btw) and feeling adventurous, so it was new school for me. To start, I had sweet, succulent Kusshi oysters from my very own province, BC. Then came the adventure. Apparently sea urchins or “uni” are all the rage in California and our server raved about the dish. So I ordered uni along with the raw scallops my beach friend had recommended. And this is what appeared…

uni and scallops

When I posted this photo on Facebook, my friend Tammy commented. “I saved one of these the other day by helping it back into the ocean. Never did I imagine, at that time, that it could be lunch.” Fair enough. It’s appearance does not make you immediately think “Food!”

So, the scallops were sublime with a ceviche-like flavour and the urchin was very interesting with both a buttery texture and seafood flavour. Definitely worth a try if you’re looking for a new taste sensation.

Lunch at FWD was everything I had hoped it would be. A lovely atmosphere, delicious, exotic seafood and a chance to get to know a very lovely and talented online friend in real life. What more could I ask for?

Fishing with Dynamite

1148 Manhattan Avenue Manhattan Beach CA 90266 – 310.893.6299

 

Krokodile Pear

There’s a new juice bar in town and the sleek, all white space has become one of my favourite places to hang out and sip a delicious, organic smoothie or cold pressed juice.

It’s name is a play on words taken from a Mexican slang for avocado. In parts of Mexico avocados are referred to as alligator pears, so the owners changed the nickname slightly and Krokodile Pear was born.

Whenever I’m on my way to the beach and find myself in need of a raw, organic thirst-quencher, I stop by 1st and Cypress and get a juice or smoothie to go.

When you order a drink to go, for an extra dollar, it comes in a mason jar embossed with the beautiful Krokodile Pear logo that you get to keep and use over and over again. One of the reasons I love this establishment is their zero plastic policy. Unnecessary plastic is my number one environmental pet peeve (we all know about the Texas size plastic garbage patch floating in the Pacific, right?) and I love supporting businesses that care both about our health and the health of our planet.

But what I love them for maybe even more is their Capilano Smoothie. I can only describe it as bliss in a mason jar. It’s a combo of cucumber, celery, beets, apple, pineapple and lime juice blended with avocado and banana. Yum.

Capilano Krokodile Pear Smoothie

So good and so good for you. If you live in Vancity, check out Krokodile Pear at the corner of 1st and Cypress for some natural, cold pressed, juicy goodness.

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True health is more than the absence of disease. Natural, organic food makes your skin sing, your sleep deeper, your waistline slimmer and  your mind clearer. – Krokodile Pear window art quote