Sunday, June 23, 2013

Chia Chai Breakfast Popsicles!

Hello Summer! Even though we are getting our fair share of rain these days, this hot weather demands a refreshing breakfast. If you're like me, breakfast on a weekday morning is usually a grab-and-go meal: a banana, a muffin, granola with yogurt and berries, or sometimes just a coffee. (I know, not such a nutritious breakfast but sometimes there are days where you just need one!)

On those sticky, humid mornings, why not reach for a popsicle to start your day? A popsicle? Yes — you can dare to be a kid again and enjoy a healthy treat as you hop in your car, board the bus or take the heel-toe express to your place of business.

Last summer I came up with a few different popsicle flavours for a family gathering, so I decided to add a few more healthy ingredients to one of my recipes to create this breakfast popsicle.

Chia Chai Breakfast Popsicles

You will need: 
  • Chai tea (or any spiced black tea) -- 2 bags' worth
  • Chia seeds
  • Almond Milk (or any milk to your liking)
  • 1/2 a banana
  • A splash of vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • Blender
  • French Press or Teapot
Brew the tea and let it steep until it is a rich brown colour. Stir in the honey while the tea is steeping. In a blender, pour the milk so the blender is just under half full. Add the banana, a splash of vanilla extract, and a small handful of chia seeds. Let the tea cool down, then add the tea to the blender. Blend well. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze. Make ahead and enjoy! 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Book Launch!

I had a book party! It was pretty surreal :) 

THANK YOU to everyone who came to my book launch! I was so honoured and humbled to share my book with all of you and to provide you with a little eating, drinking and connecting! We were also treated to the soulful sounds of Keturah Johnson. You can hear her gorgeous voice by clicking here!

 I wish I could have invited more people but when you self-publish you have to work with a budget and keep it small! I am so glad that the book is now available for sale online so anyone who wishes to pick up a copy can do so. I will be sharing some excerpts and photos soon on the blog so you can get a taste!

Special thanks to the following people for helping to make this event possible: 

My family
Maija & Emanuel 
Harvest Loaf Bakery

And so much gratitude to everyone who bought a book, and to those who have ordered online since the launch! It is so amazing to share this passion project with all of you :) 

Please enjoy some photos from the event taken by the lovely and talented Jennifer Baguss, and a few Instagram shots from my pal Jenn M. 

If you're interested, you can pick up a copy of the book by visiting my online store here: 

Please share and tell your food and travel-loving friends! 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Coffee Table Book!

Hello friends! Today is a big day for me! I am very pleased to announce the official online launch of my coffee table book, After the Harvest: Eat. Drink. Connect.!

Photo: Jennifer Baguss

This coffee table book is a mixture of original photos, fiction, travel writing, recipes, wine pairings and entertaining tips. I was inspired by my travels, the people I've had the good fortune to eat and drink with, and my family dining experiences.

I hope you find something in this book that you can relate to —something that brings back fond food memories or inspires new culinary adventures. A great gift, especially for anyone who loves food and/or travel, After the Harvest: Eat. Drink. Connect. is a passion project for me, and I am so happy to finally be sharing it with all of you!

My hope is that you enjoy the book and consider sharing this link with someone you know who might also enjoy eating, drinking and connecting along with us!

You can purchase a copy online by clicking this link below (or the image on the left) — both links will lead you to my shop: 

After the Harvest Shop

If you're in Ottawa, I'm sure we could always find an excuse to meet up in person to eat, drink and connect if you'd prefer to purchase a book in person.

Thank you for taking this journey with me, and I look forward to raising a glass with you sometime soon!

Stay tuned as I will be sharing excerpts and photos from the book on the blog soon to give you a sneak peek!



The beautiful cover artwork for the book was hand-painted by Wendy Heagney-Bakewell of Tiny Brushstrokes.

Thanks, Wendy!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Life, Death, and Ice Cream in San Francisco

I like old-timey things. So, I decided to combine two of them into one of my San Francisco discovery days last August. The first outing was walking across the Golden Gate Bridge -- not "old-timey" per se, but it is a historical landmark. I thought I may have missed the boat by picking a foggy day to do this touristy activity, but as I started to walk, I realized I had hit the jackpot. 

The bridge looked so beautiful with its painted red steel slowly emerging through the fog and shining where the sunlight hit it. I suppose I should have expected this, but the bridge was packed. Of course cars were zooming by, but there were also so many cyclists, walkers and joggers that day. That morning I had the romantic idea that I would have a peaceful walk across the bridge, but it just wasn't happening for me. 

I was quickly humbled about my petty problems when I noticed the pedestrian traffic backing up. We stood there for at least 30 minutes while the authorities attended to a jumper. It was a sobering moment when I saw a group of teary Christian teenagers huddled together in their college hoodies and jeans, praying out loud for the jumper's soul -- he hadn't made it. In that moment I felt pretty guilty about being on vacation, frolicking across this famous bridge. Even after the traffic cleared, I stood there for a moment, just thinking. Then, I kept walking, breathed deeply and felt grateful to be alive. After making it to the other side, I walked around the bend to Sausalito and sat down on some warm rocks facing the water. What a view. I counted my blessings. 

So, what do you do after you glimpse life and death through the fog and sunlight on the Golden Gate Bridge? You go get ice cream! 

I took the ferry back to the city and hopped on the BART back to my neck of the woods for the week, Cole Valley. I had heard about a great ice cream place down the street from where I was staying -- an old-timey ice cream place. I had to go there! Heavily themed as an old fashioned ice cream parlour, The Ice Cream Bar and Soda Fountain instantly brought me back in time to a more innocent, cheerful place. I felt like a kid again. 

I sidled up to the bar and asked the cute ice cream boys what flavour to get. After tasting a few samples, I settled on Bourbon Malt Peanut Butter Cookie. What a combination of flavours! It was the perfect antidote for a dramatic, foggy walk.  

But oh no, I didn't stop there! I spied the old fashioned soda foundation bar, so I decided that I just had to taste an ice cream soda for the first time in my life. Turns out it was not just any soda fountain bar, it was manned by Anne, the ladylike maker of tinctures and soda-based beverages who takes care of all your food science needs and does it with passion. Anne is a contributor to Mad Art Lab -- a group blog where art meets science. Here's a cool post she did about making your own fresh fruit shrubs for cocktails!

I decided to try The Valentina -- a mixture of fresh strawberries, rosewood and rosemary extracts, pineapple syrup, cream, and of course, soda. It was delicious and it made me feel a little bit like a 1950s teenager wearing a poodle skirt and saddle shoes. 

After slurping up my refreshing soda, I walked back to my place slowly and thought about the day I walked across the Golden Gate Bridge and had an ice cream soda. My thoughts turned to the person who crossed over into another life that day and to his family and friends. A peaceful smile crossed my face, hoping that wherever he was, his pain was gone and he was somewhere, having his version of an ice cream sundae in the sky.

*Note: Suicide is not a topic to be taken lightly, and I hope this post does not reflect any insensitivity, as that is not my intention. My thoughts are with this person and their family and friends, and I wish them peace. If you or someone you know are in pain and contemplating suicide, please call your local Distress Centre for help, call a friend or family member or simply call 9-1-1.*

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Sausalito, CA: Kenny Belov of Fish Restaurant and TwoXSea [VIDEO]

Come with me, my friends, as we journey back in time to August, 2012. Picture this: you're in Sausalito, California. The sun is shining, the birds are singing and you're eating delicious sustainable seafood, whilst washing it down with tasty local beer. 

I have no idea what day of the week it was because I was on vacation (YES!), and I was at Fish Restaurant in Sausalito enjoying a tasty lunch by the seaside. After I finished eating, a friendly employee asked me how my meal was. When I responded with "delicious!" I also took that chance to ask this kind soul if there might be a fisherman around who I could talk to about the fresh, local fish in the area. Lo and behold, I asked, and they brought me Kenny. Not only one of the most passionate sustainable fishermen I've had the chance to meet in person, but also the g** d**** owner of the restaurant, and the wholesale supplier of the restaurant! Fancy that.

So, that sunny Sausalito day, I had the fortuitous occasion of meeting one Kenny Belov, a charming fisherman, successful restaurateur and sustainability advocate. Take note, my friends: when you ask, you shall receive.

As I sat and interviewed Kenny about his passion for fishing and sourcing local products, and his enjoyment of Russian food and local beer, I soaked up the sun's rays and breathed in the salty sea, grateful for my surroundings and for the fact that I had asked.

Enjoy our little chat and learn a little about Mr. Kenny Belov of Fish Restaurant and TwoXSea:

After the Harvest Travel Series: Kenny Belov ~ Sausalito, California from After the Harvest on Vimeo.

Special thanks to that kind employee, and to Kenny himself, of course. I hope to visit again sometime. Also a big thank you to Mr. Jamie Muntean for helping me graduate from iMovie larvae to tadpole.
*Sorry for the excessive zooming, Kenny! I 'm a beginner ;) 

Monday, June 3, 2013

San Francisco, CA: Hot Mission, Cool Castro

Although it has almost been a year since my trip to California, I figure it is never too late to share my experiences. Please enjoy my little slice of San Francisco in this post, and stay tuned to the blog in the coming weeks as we travel together to Sausalito, Napa, Sonoma, Healdsburg, Calistoga, Big Sur, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles! I will also have a big announcement coming soon so don't be a stranger! For now, join me back in San Francisco as we take a trip to the Mission and the Castro. 

On a hot, sunny evening, I made my way to the famous Castro and Mission Districts of San Francisco. First of all, can I say, I love San Francisco!?! What an amazing city with a beautiful mix of green space, water, city life, food, and amazing people! I feel as though it would take me many years to truly discover every hidden gem in that city. I would move there in an instant. 

But I digress. This post is not just about my crush on San Francisco, it's about that hot, sunny day that I made my way to the Mission and the Castro. I began with the Castro, and immediately sought out the former headquarters of Harvey Milk.  If you're not familiar with Harvey Milk, a good way to get a quick education is by watching the Gus Van Sant film, Milk — a film I definitely recommend. (Spoilers ahead!) Harvey Milk was an unbelievably heroic activist who fought for gay rights and became California's first openly gay elected official. Tragically, Milk died when he was shot by an ideologically opposed colleague. He continues to be respected by many and was known affectionately as "The Mayor of Castro Street" as he was a driving force in the neighbourhood's revitalization.

When I made my way to 575 Castro Street, which was Castro Camera before it became Milk's campaign headquarters,  it was definitely a very cool feeling to be there, to stand where he stood, where he rallied others to band together to fight the injustices of his time. Unfortunately this fight still goes on today, but as more and more people begin to realize that it is a civil rights issue, I have hope that things will get better. The store that stands at 575 Castro Street today is not just a store. It is called The Human Rights Campaign Action Center and Store. HRC is a national organization that does advocacy work and political lobbying for LGBT equality rights. Although I fully support the work they are doing, I was a bit disappointed that my visit did not feel entirely 'historical' — instead, it felt very commercial and touristy. It was good to know that 100% of the proceeds of product sales go to support HRC's important work, but I couldn't help but feel like I was simply visiting a store rather than a historical landmark. 

After enjoying a little stroll around the Castro, soaking up the vibrant atmosphere, I made my way to the Mission District, to Gravel and Gold, a store co-owned and operated by a friend's sister. I perused this eclectic store and ended up buying a few special gifts for friends I would be visiting in my travels further down the golden state. Gravel and Gold sells gifts, home decor, fashion, books and other magnificent and often handmade items to enhance your life. The vibe reminded me a bit of my friends' store right here in Ottawa, A Curious Shop. Both stores feature artists and artisans local to the area, and both boast wonderful treats and handmade items!

As the sun started to set on Dolores Park, I decided it was time for me to get some dinner. Prior to my trip I had heard great things about Tartine Bakery, so I decided to visit their sister restaurant, Bar Tartine. Although it was quite warm on my bar stool directly adjacent to the kitchen (which is a combination of the result of solo dining and wearing jeans on a hot evening), Bar Tartine staff Ross and Courtney made me feel at home. I started with a refreshing cocktail and some unbelievably tasty fresh baked bread and artisan butter.

As my meal continued I dined on rich potatoes and herbs, and then a hearty fish stew paired with a glass of 2007 Demuth Pinot Noir from the Anderson Valley. I made a concerted effort to drink local wines during this trip, particularly those that we do not seem to see here in Ontario, let alone Canada. Experiencing local culture when you travel really is where it's at, am I right? So, why not literally drink it in? 

Maybe it was the jeans, maybe it was the kitchen, but after savouring all of this delicious food, I felt it best to take my dessert to go and head back to my pad for the week in Cole Valley where it was cooler and more relaxing. I chose the candied beet and sunflower tart with bay leaf frozen yogurt and meringue. It was more of a savoury dessert but lighter than expected and definitely something to be remembered. 

Since I was in San Francisco for only 6 days, I split my time between different neighbourhoods and unique experiences, so by no means is this post a true representation of all that the Mission and the Castro have to offer, but it was one afternoon and evening in my trip that I thought I would share. I'll simply say that these are two very cool neighbourhoods that I recommend checking out if you're in SF! Thanks for joining me on my journey back in time to California, circa August 2012...stay tuned for more adventures and culinary treats!