Last of the Summer

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5:30 am.

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Watching the fog roll off the water is one of the most breathtaking feelings I’ve ever had.

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One last canoe ride before heading home.

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How cute is my mom?

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My younger sister, Angela, enjoying the view.

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We met Menchies! (Yes, Menchies is a real thing.)

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“Memory…all alone in the moonlight…”

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Cynthia and Andy with their giant mug of Butterbeer at the Taste of Danforth, which apparently wasn’t as good as the real deal at Universal.

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Besties :)

Little Green Spaces

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St. James Park

St. James Park is one of the most beautiful gardens in the city. It sits adjacent to the magnificent Cathedral Church of St. James, a welcomed oasis in the heart of busy downtown. The garden is always blooming with fresh flowers, and immaculately kept by the Garden Club of Toronto. I love coming here to read on the benches, or enjoy some solitary peace and quiet . In addition to the plants and flowers, the lively water fountain in the center doubles as a bird bath, and the large gazebo hosts free outdoor concerts and movies screenings during the summer.

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Toronto Music Garden

To say that I love the Toronto Music Garden would be an understatement. Located right on the waterfront, this magical and ingenious creation fuses two of the things I am most passionate about: flowers and music. It was inspired by Bach’s Suite No. 1 in G Major for unaccompanied cello, and designed by world famous cellist Yo Yo Ma and landscape designer Julie Moir Messervy, along with the City of Toronto’s Parks and Recreation. Each portion of the garden was designed to reflect a particular movement in the song.

In the summertime, the garden invites you to come, sit on the steps, and enjoy free live classical music concerts every Thursday and Sunday evening. It amazes me that more people don’t know about this gem, but considering that most tourists and residents alike don’t wander very far off from Harbourfront, it’s understandable why the Music Garden is one of Toronto’s best-kept secrets.

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Cynthia enjoying a quiet, contemplative moment.

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Distillery District

I had never been to the Distillery District until this past summer, and looking back, I don’t know why I waited so long. Perhaps I had always assumed (and we all know what happens when you assume) that it was a beer-lover’s destination, given its name. Boy, was I wrong. The moment I turned the corner onto Mill St. and caught my first glimpse of Toronto’s only pedestrian village, I was enchanted.

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The cobblestone streets were lined with sophisticated red-brick, green-shuttered buildings, which housed numerous cafés, restaurants and shops. Formerly known as the Gooderham and Worts Distillery, this site was once the largest whiskey distillery in the British Empire. Over a decade ago, it underwent a transformation and was reopened to the public as the Distillery District we see today. Interestingly, the new owners would not lease the retail and restaurant spaces to any chain stores or franchises, so as a result you will find a plethora of unique artisan shops, upscale boutiques, coffeehouses, and local restaurants here instead.

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This delightful little shop is home to leather ottomans produced in the shape of animals.

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Soma Chocolatemaker is notoriously famous for their homemade chocolate and gelato. This is basically Toronto’s answer to Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory.

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You can actually view the entire chocolate-making process through the windows.

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#foodporn – Birthday

My birthday happens to fall on the hottest month of the year (yup, that’s how behind I am with this blog), and every year, like a child who wishes for snow on Christmas morning, I pray for a cool relief from the insufferable summer heat wave. This year, my wish came true, and I was treated to a glorious high of 19 degrees! Below is a photo of me celebrating with a jacket:

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For dinner, a few close friends and I got together for dinner at Il Postino, an Italian restaurant in Unionville.

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My fusili with sundried tomatoes, Unionville mushrooms and peppercorn cream sauce.

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Anna’s chicken with English peas and prosciutto risotto, parsnip puree, pea tendrils and natural jus.

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Nicolas’ lobster linguine with fresh east coast lobster, heirloom tomatoes, and tarragon.

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Adrienne’s spaghettini with grilled chicken, sundried tomatoes, tedeschi olives, garden scallions, and spicy aglio olio.

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In lieu of birthday cake, we enjoyed some of Unionville’s finest ice-cream, as well as…

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…this giant raspberry macaron delight! It tasted as good as it looks!

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Anna and Adrienne being adorable and PDA-y.

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Back in Adrienne’s home, Nicolas discovered he has a soft spot for Wiz the chinchilla.

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Afternoon Tea

The Windsor Arms is a small but charming hotel situated in the heart of posh Yorkville. Blink and you’ll miss it (I know I have passed right by many a times while searching for it). Although the hotel itself is rich with pop culture history (the Toronto International Film Festival was founded here), and is frequented by many Hollywood celebrities, the thing I adore most about it is their top-notch afternoon tea.

I had tea there once before with a friend and thoroughly enjoyed it, but found the steep price to be a bit extravagant. Therefore, when a discounted opportunity (God bless Groupon) presented itself, I immediately jumped on it. I couldn’t wait to go back, and share this traditional English afternoon tea experience with Nicolas.

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This scrumptious triple-deckered serving tray consisted of scones, finger sandwiches, mini quiches and petit fours.

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Dressing up is optional but highly recommended for this regal, classy setting.

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I’m not much for scones, but their fresh scones with clotted cream and homemade jam were light and delicious. The goat cheese and caramelized shallot tarts were definitely my favourite item (I would have gladly traded in my scones for more)!

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The little finger sandwiches were dainty yet full of flavour – cucumber with sundried tomato paste and dill cream cheese for myself, smoked salmon and wasabi sour cream with salmon caviar for Nicolas.

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They have an excellent tea selection – I went with a heavenly lavender Earl Grey.

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The petit fours can only be described as extremely decadent (they even had tiny pieces of gold flakes sprinkled on top)! However, we were quite stuffed from all the scones and sandwiches by the time we got to them.

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The raspberry sorbet was a great way to end – very light and not too sweet – the perfect palate cleanser.

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Centre Island (Part 2)

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Earlier in the summer after Nicolas and I visited Centre Island, we decided we had to come back again – this time, we would bring our bikes. Although the bicycles proved to be a bit of a hassle to carry on the TTC, and navigate through the incredibly busy streets of downtown Toronto, it made the journey around the islands infinitely easier and faster than would ever have been possible on foot. Plus, it saved us the cost of rental bikes, as well as the constant checking to see if our hour was up yet. As a result, we were able to explore the more remote islands, as well as catch the beautiful sunset at Hanlan’s Point.

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It’s snowing! Just kidding – this white, cotton ball-like fluff actually fell from…

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…these trees! It was coming down at a rapid pace and getting into our hair and clothing, so essentially it was snowing in July.

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Just visiting some friends at the Centreville farm!

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I bet you couldn’t even tell which one was me!

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Beware the angry mobster swan!

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A while back, I read that Hanlan’s Point (also known as the clothing-optional beach) is the best place in Toronto to watch the sunset. Since the sun sets over the city skyline, I would actually say this is the only place to watch it. It is a great view indeed (although you may want to avert your eyes from the brazen nude bathers around you!), and I would highly recommend it to any Torontonians who have not yet paid a visit.

#foodporn – Summerlicious

For those of you who are curious (and maybe a little scandalized) by the title of this post, Urban Dictionary wants to reassure you that “foodporn” is simply taking mouthwatering pictures of delicious foods and proliferating them throughout various social media websites. It is also a new segment I am starting. The title gives you a sort of heads-up that this post is going to be a little heavier on the mouthwatering food pictures, and a little lighter on the text, so that you (and I) can drool over the delicious food on your screen.

My friends Adrienne, Anna and I went to Luma (an Oliver & Bonacini restaurant) for our annual Summerlicious dinner this year, and IT. WAS. UNBELIEVABLE.

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Love you too.

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How gorgeous are my friends?

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Anna’s albacore tuna sashimi, with wasabi oil, melon, cucumber and shiso. (And yes, of course I’m copying this straight off the Summerlicious website, how could I possibly remember such details?)

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Adrienne and I both ordered the mushroom and ricotta lasagna with peas and pecorino cream. OMG. OMG. OMG. You guys. It was like heaven itself had descended into my mouth. On a cloud.

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Anna’s roasted chicken breast with summer squash, herbed mash potatoes and roasted chicken jus. Best mashed potatoes I’ve ever tasted, just sayin’.

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And just when you think food cannot possibly taste better – dessert was this amazing crème fraîche parfait with strawberry and lemon crumble.

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There is no doubt in my mind that Luma is my favourite O&B restaurant by far. In the immortal words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, “I’ll be back.”