Yearly Archives: 2017

  • Road Trip Worthy: The Finger Lakes, New York

    Seneca Lake

    A version of this story appeared in Niagara Life Magazine. 

    I’ve been in love with The Road Trip since being rapt by a documentary about Route 66.

    Peter Fonda was fittingly the narrator. I was in my early 20s and filled with torturous amounts of wanderlust. I wanted to put rubber to asphalt that night and take in Americana at its finest.

    We never did the family road trip as a kid. The farthest we ever drove together was the three hours to our cottage near Oliphant. There was a lot of “How long until we’re there?” especially on rainy days with our Newfie, Bismarck, in the back of my dad’s station wagon, drooling on my sister and I, and fogging up the windows.

    But I started to realize the joy that a getaway by car could offer when I was 19 and drove to Newfoundland with my mom. Arguments about music aside (she cringed at my choice of the Beastie Boys; I rolled my eyes at her selection of 10,000 Maniacs), road tripping was pure bliss.

    The sense of freedom that came from the open road unfurling before us was intoxicating. The change of scenery at every stop was eyeopening. The agony of a full bladder with no rest stop in sight is also something a person never forgets.

    I’ve since learned you don’t have to venture far to feel like you’re escaping the day-to-day. Bonus: short roadies mean less worry about mapping those rest stops. It’s even better when a weekend away, compliments of a full tank of gas, doesn’t require negotiating Toronto traffic.

    Give me the American border over the 401 at rush hour any day. Give me the Finger Lakes. It’s New York’s Niagara, only three hours away depending on your final stop. Here are a few ideas of where you might want to put the car in park.

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    Category Beyond Niagara

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  • Peach Tree
  • 5 Steps for Growing the Ultimate Vegetable Garden

    Thanks Shutterstock.

    This story about how to grow a vegetable garden was originally written for Niagara Life magazine. 

    Seed companies have mailed their catalogues. Green thumbs have gathered at local seed exchanges in search of their next prize-winning squash to plant. And now grow lights are being turned on in homes to get the 2017 edition of backyard tomato crops started.

    They all mean one thing: gardening season is approaching. But if you’ve never grown anything more than a hosta — heck, if you’ve never grown anything at all — those pre-season gardening rituals can seem downright daunting.

    It’s true, gardening isn’t for the faint of heart, what with having to rely on Mother Nature and her temperamental ways.

    It can be incredibly rewarding, however. Few things are sweeter than that first homegrown cherry tomato we pluck off the vine. Garden rules dictate it must be eaten immediately.

    Gardening gets us outside and active, offering physical and emotional benefits. That connection to other living things can boost moods. It can help us relax and be in the moment. Even better, plants never judge. So don’t sweat it if your Wellies are a little skuffed or you mutter to yourself while plucking your mustard greens.

    Here are five steps for growing the ultimate vegetable garden and reaping many cherry tomato feasts to come. Continue reading

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    Category In the Garden

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  • Peach Tree
  • Sweet potato cinnamon rolls for Angela Merkel

    I have a friend who shared with me an idea she had for a series involving the Proust questionnaire.

    I think it’s brilliant, given the people she’d like to reveal more about themselves. The personality test is one she’d like to put to chefs, so often asked to talk about their influences in the kitchen and favourite ingredients. I’d love to know who Jamie Oliver would be if not himself. That’s way more telling than his thoughts on kale.

    When I get really self-indulgent, I pretend in my head that someone is asking me such questions. It usually happens when brushing my teeth and looking in the mirror. Something about reflecting, I guess.

    If someone were to ask me the Proust-esque question, who are your heroes in real life or what famous person would you most like to have tea with, I’d say without hesitation Angela Merkel.

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    Category Recipes

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  • Peach Tree
  • From Niagara winery to Shawn & Ed Brewing Co.

    Ed Madronich of Shawn & Ed Brewing Co. in Dundas.

    My column, Eating Niagara, runs every second Wednesday in the St. Catharines Standard, Niagara Falls Review and Welland Tribune.

    The saying goes that it takes a lot of beer to make great wine.

    But one Niagara vintner is proving the opposite true.

    Ed Madronich, proprietor of Flat Rock Cellars in Jordan, is showing that it also takes top-notch tipple to turn out noteworthy suds.

    He’s doing it with The Shawn & Ed Brewing Co., the 10-month-old brewery that he opened in an old Dundas curling and skating rink with university buddy Shawn Till.

    The venture fulfils a nearly lifelong dream the two discovered they shared while shooting hoops for McMaster University’s basketball team some 25 years ago. And even though the beverage lineup at the brewery, known to locals as “the Shed,” is more hoppy than tannic, Niagara’s influence on this heady pursuit in a Hamilton suburb is undeniable.

    “I believe there’s lots of synergies between the wine business and the beer business,” Madronich said. “I’m leveraging both for this to be successful.”

    Madronich flouts all those old wives’ tales about never mixing beer and wine with a lager-heavy roster that shows the two to be a perfect pairing.

    Take the flagship Shawn & Ed brew, BarrelShed No. 1. This ruby-red beauty has sweet caramel notes and gets its body from aging in Flat Rock Cellars Pinot Noir barrels. Since batch No. 1, some of each BarrelShed brew has been set aside to use in the following ferment. The result is glorious — rich and layered.

    “I believe over time, it adds complexity,” Madronich said about the BarrelShed’s secret ingredient. “It has the complexity of wine. BarrelShed is our globally unique beer. There’s nothing like it in the world.”

    Read the rest of the story

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    Category Beyond Niagara, Food Finds

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