Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries

Over the weekend, I was seriously channeling my domesticated side. Not only did I complete some “Pinterest Projects” that I have had flagged for a while, but I also spent some time in the kitchen trying out a few new recipes. By far, the best creation from the weekend were Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries.

New York Style Cheesecake has been a baked good that I’ve always wanted to perfect, but have been nervous to attempt. One of my all-time favourite desserts, I know that it can be a finicky recipe and it will definitely take some practice. For now, these miniature versions are a more than suitable substitute!

What you’ll need:

-Large strawberries (I used 2 pints)
-1 container of cream cheese (I used the low fat variety)
-3-4 tbsp. of Icing Sugar
-1 tsp. of Vanilla

Directions:

1. Cut the tops of strawberries and core the middles. Set aside.
2. Mix together softened Cream Cheese, Icing Sugar and Vanilla. Beat until smooth.

3. Put stuffing mixture into a ziplock bag and cut the tip off to create a piping tool.
4. Squeeze a dollop of the stuffing into each strawberry.
5. Dip the top of each strawberry in Graham Cracker Crumble.

In a nutshell, these stuffed strawberries were definitely a hit when I brought them to my bookclub on Sunday evening. A cute and simple dessert that tastes like a little bite of heaven!

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The Gender of Wine

Like many other fields of interest, the world of wine has, for centuries, been dominated by men. How did this connection between men and wine come to fruition, consequently segregating women from the irresistible grape? It stems back to that age old story of woman as the homemaker, as the domestic being. Men were the creatures  dominating pubs,  embracing drunkenness, crushing pints and, subsequently, tainting their palates with an insatiable thirst for wine. Somehow, maleness and wine became intertwined. Men have since been the front runners in wine tastings, in wine writing and even, as wine makers. Not until the last 10 years have women truly started to stand up and speak out for a beverage that speaks equally loud to our female palates. So what is all the fuss about then?  Well, as a woman of wine and recently certified sommelier, I have noticed one more thing that, perhaps, sets women apart from men in the world of wine: the gift of the gab. It is men who hold this gift when it comes to wine. Men want to talk, passionately, about wine. They seem to find indiscernible pleasure in talking about something concrete and decoding it’s abstract components. There are women who can hold their own and talk wine up, down and sideways among themselves and with men alike, but the prominence of men’s passion to discuss wine is truly remarkable. Wine writer, Matt Kramer, describes this phenomenom with lucidity,

“Rarely have I seen a woman swoon over wine. I have seen them enjoy wine immensely. Taste wine acutely. Talk wine articulately. But when it comes to the wine passion, women are no match for men.”

As a woman who truly appreciates wine, I would like to be the one to smack down that sort of nonsense and proclaim my love, my undying passion for wine. But I’ve heard men talk about it, and it’s true. Or maybe I have yet to find multitudes of women who can talk the talk with me. Who’s to say. Does this necessarily mean that wine is masculine? Not at all.   As women are becoming more dominant figures in the world of wine, despite lacking this “male passion”, it continues to perplex me that the gender of wine has not yet had a sex change.  After all, it has been scientifically proven and discussed at length, that women are better at wine than men. I mean that women are prolifically better, more acute, astute tasters than men. So one would imagine that this upper hand would automatically render the gender of wine female; however, that simply isn’t the case. We have had to pry our way in to the world of wine, through the barricade of (yes, I’ll admit, talented) men. It hasn’t been easy and I take my hat off to those women who have made their mark in the world of wine (and to those who succeeded in doing so many years ago). Although there are too many to name, these five women are role models for a budding, female wine enthusiast like myself. Among these women, there are wine writers, wine academics and enologists, all of whom have played a role in shaping wine with the embrace of a woman’s touch:

1. Jancis Robinson: A self-admitted work-a-holic, Robinson has written multitudes of wine books and has been an active wine columnist in what is considered to be the summit of wine journalism. She is reasonable, respected and she is a Master of Wine. In the world there are only 297 Masters of Wine. Of those 297, only 87 are females and Jancis Robinson is one of them.
2. Natalie MacLean: Rendering 2nd most influential on my list of women involved with wine may come as a surprise to some readers. MacLean’s wine writing is fluffy, light and approachable. She has written two books and has, on numerous occasions, been nominated or voted as the world’s best wine writer. Although impressive, in my opinion, MacLean’s true merit is her devotion to social media. She has a brand, a goal and she has stretched that across a variety of online platforms, thus projecting a comprehensive online voice for her product (herself). She is a woman who loves wine, knows wine and also knows how to work the digital age to her advantage.

3. Heidi Peterson Barrett: Another surprise as she comes in 3rd on my list, Barrett’s claim to fame is her undeniable knack for creating some of California’s greatest cult wines. Cult wines, such as Screaming Eagle, garner dedicated groups of wine enthusiasts who will pay premium prices to get their hands on a bottle of “cult wine”. Whether I’m a cult wine enthusiast or I just appreciate her influence in wine marketing, Barrett is a woman who has her entire hand on the pulse of wine making.
4. Zelma Long: Long has worked for years as a winemaker’s consultant. Throughout the 70’s Long was Robert Mondavi’s head enologist and then re-branded Simi winery, later becoming its CEO. She’s consulted for wineries in Washington, Oregon, Israel, France, Argentina and Italy. Aside from consulting for multiple wineries, she’s also the winemaking partner of Vilafonte in South Africa and owner/winemaker of her own company, Long Vineyards, in Napa, California.

5. Karen MacNeil: In fifth place is another female wine writer, and someone who took the bull by the horns in a time that female + wine writer = confusion. MacNeil is the author of The Wine Bible, Emmy winning host of PBS series Food, Wine and Friends and founder of Rudd Center for Professional Wine Studies at The Culinary Institute of America. When asked about her begginings as a wine writer, MacNeil replied,

“This is an exciting time for wine. When I started writing about wine, I was the only woman doing it. Every tasting was for the 10 men in America who controlled wine writing… The landscape has changed tremendously in the last thirty-five years. In 1972, I was assigned by a magazine to write a story on Cava. I flew to Barcelona after being in touch by mail with the winery I was to visit. When I arrived at the airport, it seemed that no one was there to pick me up. I spoke no Spanish at the time. I waited for four hours. Eventually, I went up to two men and asked something about getting to the winery. With a look of shock they hollered, “You’re the wine writer from America!” It was inconceivable to them that the wine writer from America would be a woman.”

It’s 35 years later, and as a woman I still grapple with the gender of wine. With such amazing women making their mark in the world of wine, it is hard to ignore the rise of female wine enthusiasts. On the other hand, the male passion may be something slightly more difficult to harness. Or could it just be that wine, in its many forms, has been and will always be gender neutral?

Images via: 1 2 3 4 5

A blessed UNION

Describing themselves as a Canadian take on Southern hospitality, Union truly is a blessing to the Ottawa dining scene.

After the onslaught that Ottawa experienced this year in Southern dining*, (*read Fat Boys and SmoQue Shack), I was underwhelmed to have yet another “Southern style” restaurant opening in, what some would call, a saturated market. But one month after their inaugural trial run, I was still hearing an array of positive feedback from experienced and trusted diners. Naturally, I had to check it out for myself.

I should have trusted that with Chef Chris Lord behind the scenes, this Southern secret would be nothing like the aforementioned smoke houses. Although the cuisine is Southern inspired,(as is the communal seating, ambiance and soundtrack), the food is unique to Lord’s iconoclastic hand. Although I was only able to sneak in for the late night menu, I was pleasantly surprised to see a few dishes that evaded the ever so obvious jerkpulledporkbrisketribs. Inspired and refreshing, the late night menu was tasty and exciting: biscuits with rabbit gravy, deviled eggs, pickled pig ears to name a few. Perhaps not trailblazing, but definitely a teaser for what the full menu holds and certainly a different avenue of Southern cuisine explored, something that Fat Boys and SmoQue Shack ignored.

Aside from merely delivering approachable late night grub, there is a vibe that resonates throughout Union. Whether it be the dimly lit room, Julian Garner’s impressive mural or the crooning of Mississippi soul pumping through the airwaves, (or maybe I had one too many bourbon cocktails that night.  Those libations are delicious and deadly. Thank you Jeff), Union personifies “hip”. It actually might be Centretown’s key to getting its groove back. The place is constantly packed, with barely a vacant barstool in sight.

The men behind the scenes of Union have all, in very different ways, contributed significantly to the dining scene in Ottawa. It is for that reason that people want to see them succeed and will support their latest venture. The guys have put forth their mission statement as a, “…brotherhood of growers, cookers and eaters”. Though this statement unifies Centretown’s latest joint, I think the influential “union” at hand is the coming together of talent such as Lord, Gedz and Fantin. These guys know what it takes to shake our little city up a bit, while still being able to land on their feet.

So if you’re in the neighbourhood and don’t feel like jetting off to Hintonburg for a seriously groovy time, pop in to Union for a meal, a quick bite, some fantastic bourbon or a cold beer served up in a mason jar.

Did I mention I love my beer served in mason jars?

Unionlocal613

@Unionlocal613

315 Somerset Street West

(613) 231-1010

Images via

Chef’s Night: great expections, poor execution

The corner of Richmond and Churchill Avenue. Somerset and O’connor. Bronson and Gladstone. These are the intersections of the up and coming dining scene in Ottawa. And when I say up and coming, I should truly rephrase and say: these are the intersections that will see Ottawa’s foodies through to the next wave of exceptional dining. The nation’s capital has been knocked down, teased, bullied for its lack luster dining culture. But when you really think about what the city has to offer, it doesn’t fall short of amazing, at least in the gustatory field. Exceptional dining is available at our fingertips and with places like Union and gezellig prepared to uphold the precedent, I don’t see that changing anytime soon. For that reason, whenever I attend chef’s night at Oz Kafe, I expect to be treated to the truly exceptional, exemplary displays of cuisine that Ottawa has to offer. I’ve written about Chef’s night many times before, simply because the experience is such a unique one. It’s not often that you are treated to the city’s creme de la creme, course apres course, for $25. It’s a steal and usually, something that each diner leaves raving about.

Except this time.

The last chef’s  featured Twitch (Michael Portigal) from Whalesbone Oyster House who has upheld an incredible reputation in the Ottawa dining scene. A few month’s ago, Chef’s night was graced with Twitch’s presence  and included a full blown decadence of the odds and ends of an animal (Spare Parts); it was a night that took every foodie for mouthwatering ride. This time, however, the meal fell short for most of the foodies that attended. The first course set each diner up for disaster. Because to start a four course meal with the best dish and progressively allow deteriorated dishes to hit the tables made each palette cringe.

I’m really sad to tear down a meal that had so much potential, but when push comes to shove, sometimes a tough critic provides perspective. It was evident that the meal was thoughtful and aimed to take a stab at creativity, but 3 of the 4 dishes sadly missed the mark.

         {Mushu Pork tongue with buckwheat pancakes, seaweed and watermelon}

Course #1: This was the stand out of the night, setting up the experience with a reasonably high standard. Although the buckwheat pancake was slightly dry, the hoisin allowed this minor fault to be pushed to the sidelines and the course was well received.

{Cured Mackerel, kimchi, taro gnocchi, oyster sauce}

Course #2: Mackerel dish was tasty, colourful and well executed although the stodgy gnocchi did not lend a helping hand to the dish. The kimchi kept the dish zippy, especially with an extremely oily poisson like mackerel.

 

{Chamomile, lamb, mint, strawberries and pistachio}

Course #3: Unfortunately this is where we hit rock bottom, with a dish that required far better integration of sweetness and acid. The lamb, despite this cut usually being well cooked, was cooked beyond repair. Scattered strawberries for that punch of sweetness was uninspiring.

{Sesame crostini, semi-fredo, beets, honey}

Course#4: I appreciate the innovation of this dish and understand what was meant to be accomplished. The charred flavour of the  sesame crostini paired with a savoury puree of beets had the intention of creating the perception of sweetness while integrating a smokiness to the dish. Without cloying on the palette by integrating this smokey element, the dish still was poorly executed due to the severe flavour of the not-quite-ripe-enough beets.

In a nutshell, a let down for most, but many will turn a blind eye to this disappointment and continue, rightfully, to praise one of Ottawa’s most revered chefs.

 

Food Pairings: the weird and the wonderful

“White wine with fish. Red wine with meat.”

Invoke the modern gastronome and you will find this philosophy is archaic, dated and limiting. No longer are we bound by the confines of what 1980’s etiquette dictated to our parents. Instead, we are free to explore food and the astounding matches found in wine (and beer and spirits).  From general observation, it appears that white wine has the upper hand in the world of food and wine pairings; however, and surprisingly to some, beer and spirits play their role equally as well.

In the goal of pairing food and (let’s use the sweeping term of) beverage, there are 3 C’s that will uphold usually very well: Cut, Complement, Contrast.

If your pairing achieves one of these, you’ve likely found a match made in gustatory heaven.

As many of our readers will know by now, I have been tediously pursuing the Sommelier certification and although this reads to many as “wine connoisseur”, it also requires some leg work in the field of beer and spirits. So below I have included a few of the obscure pairings that I’ve learned about and that are, in my opinion, definitely weird, wonderful and worth a whirl.

CUT

Right off the bat, lets dispel the belief of red wine with meat. Instead, ho hum, a white wine on the sweeter side of things (also known as: off dry). This particular dish requires a wine, high in acid but also balanced by residual sugar, that will cut through the fatty film and texture of pork belly.

COMPLEMENT

I know you are probably cringing as you look upon a glass of smokey scotch side by side a slab of salmon sushi. I was cringing too as I tasted this pairing with a group of (also cringing) well trained individuals. I was utterly surprised by the ability of each item to echo but not overwhelm the flavour of its partner. Many brands of scotch will uphold a smokey quality which delicately emphasizes the smoke of a salmon roll.

CONTRAST

This pairing may come as less of a surprise, as stouts and porters have long been paired with oysters. But, to be honest, I had never tried or even heard of this pairing. The idea is that the saline and slimy texture of the oyster will by contrasted by a dry and creamy Irish Stout. It works, although this weird and wonderful pairing may not be for everyone.

In a nutshell, the world of food and drink knows no bounds as to what can ultimately please your palate. So on this Friday eve, stretch your appetite and try something unexpected. A little exploration (and some guts at that) will undoubtedly lead you to a full tummy and dancing taste buds.

Summer Loving These

Happy Hump Day! In order to get us over the mound and into weekend bliss – two days that may or may not be filled with shopping, reading, listening and more – I thought I would highlight a few of the items I’ve been loving lately. Similar to Kaylee’s midday musings or Meghan’s must-have cosmetics, here is a glimpse into six things that I’ve pondered greatly, and happily indulged in, throughout the blazing heat wave:

JOE FRESH’s NEW LINE: Shockingly, most of the line isn’t for sale online yet – but if you head to the freshest Joe Fresh near you, you’re bound to get a glimpse of the delicious work/play clothing combinations stacked on the affordable yet trendy racks. Unfortunately (but not really), good ol’ Mr. Fresh is my corner store (sigh) along with an LCBO parked next to it (sigh) and one of the city’s largest Loblaws below – making it incredibly difficult to pick up a bag of grapefruits…without grabbing a bottle of Cab-Sauvignon…without pitching for a flirty new work skirt. It’s a problem, but I’ve come to terms with it. Right now at Joe Fresh, this August’s silky blouses, skinny and vibrant Audrey Hepburn slacks and imitation leather bits spattered throughout the collection have made it increasingly impossible to walk out empty-handed.

Joe Fresh Fall 2012 runway show

GLUTEN-FREE VEGAN ALMOND THUMBPRINT COOKIES: I’ve been a gluten-free and soy-free (as well as many other uncategorized “frees”) vegan for the past three months in light of some testing, and although I likely won’t be that combination for much longer, I’ve learned to love cooking more than I already did. The common (and exhausting) question is, of course, what can I eat? My answer – just about anything I want. For instance, this past week I had “mac” (brown rice pasta) and “cheese” (cashew cream sauce), lasagna (using zucchini, squash, homemade marinara sauce and almond milk/nutritional yeast “cheese”), countless savoury stir fries and tasty desserts – all mimicking the real deal and leaving me oh-so-satisfied. As for these comfort cookies, Kaylee can attest to the very best part of the recipe being the finger-licking homemade jam. You can find the jist of the recipe here (I played around a bit with my own ingredients).

THE LUMINEERS: If you’ve yet to hop on this friendly folk-rock collective‘s ramblin’ train, do so immediately. This summer has been an eclectic one, since both the indie, hip-hop and electro genres have been heating up with tastes of new releases – however, their romantic front-porch Americana takes the (gluten-free) cake as one of the most played albums of the month. Nights parked on breezy balconies with these stomping folk stories are just about as lovely as it gets. Two other fun facts: the threesome is currently touring with another favourite band of mine, The Civil Wars, overseas – and someone I know will be playing the below (favourite) tune of mine during their wedding first dance with her new husband. Precious.

The Lumineers get a lot of play out here.

2012 POLARIS MUSIC PRIZE SHORT LIST:  I’m pretty pleased with the ten artists who made the coveted Polaris Prize short list this year, and like every other year, even more excited to hear which act takes the cake for best full-length Canadian album of the year. Featuring Canuck music veterans like Drake, Feist and Kathleen Edwards, the list also includes a few stand-up rookies, including Cold Specks, Grimes and Japanroids. I can’t wait to be there on September 24th when the notable jurors decide this year’s lucky winner. Who do you want to see take it?

Arcade Fire accepting last year’s 2011 Polaris Prize

NIKE SPORTBAND When I purchased the new Nike Sportband, the salesperson fulfilled his duty in thoroughly explaining the limitless funky features of the running gadget. But what I remember most in the blur of information overload was what he called out to me as I exited the store. “You’re going to have so much fun,” he exclaimed. I figured I might, of course, or else I wouldn’t have bought it. But, wow – I had no idea what I was in for. This multifaceted little bracelet connects to a chip I slide into my Nike shoe, tracking my distance, pace, calories, time and more throughout the jog. When I come home, I unhinge the face of the watch, plug it in the USB port in my computer and read all about my mileage, splits, and progress from other dashes – before gathering suggestions for routes in my area, competitions with other runners and goals I might want to set. I’m addicted to both the online and offline experience already, and highly recommend it for anyone looking to measure themselves accurately or have a more social running experience. It knows me better than I know myself at this point.

My favourite toys.

THIS NEW YORK TIMES ARTICLE (Elissa Gootman’s “Maternity Leave? It’s more like a pause“): I thought this was an incredibly interesting piece inspired by Marissa Mayer, a lady who’s the talk of the town these days for a number of reasons. Firstly, the blonde 37 year-old powerhouse was named CEO of Yahoo last week, which came before her promptly announcing she would be giving birth in October and only taking a few weeks of “working” maternity leave. “I like to stay in the rhythm of things,” she told Fortune. This NYT article is in response to dueling internet reactions of scorn and praise for the young executive – referencing the recently written Atlantic article “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” and arguing whether short or “working” maternity leaves are empowering or frowned-upon in our hyper-connected, overworked society. Although this is no reflection of what my own approach would be, I, personally, think Mayer is fabulous – and who are we to judge how good of a Mother she’ll be? Strong women are worked to the bone everyday to juggle overwhelming commitments – whether you’re a single mother working in retail with no option of maternity “leave” or the CEO of a multinational internet company who is prepared to stick her nose to the grind. What do you think?

Yahoo’s Newest Queen of the Crop

What would be on your summer favourites list? Leave us a comment below or tweet it at @inanutshellca!

Toronto Brunch: Aunties & Uncles

Toronto is brimming with quaint bistros and diners that serve up creative versions of breakfast classics. I’ve explored the likes of the Drake Cafe, School in Liberty Village (yet to be beat) and my most recent excursion found me brunching at Aunties and Uncles on College, just East of Bathurst.

At first glance, Aunties and Uncles possesses the typical hipster vibe, adorned with worn out signage, multi-coloured picnic tables, tattooed servers and most notably, a line out the door.  Seeing as though the resto is #1 on BlogTO’s 2011 list of Best Brunches…I was under the impression that it’s all worth the wait.

Once we were seated at our diner-inspired table inside, we were presented with the specials which included a Breakfast Burger, special omelet and more, all in addition to the regular menu, which boasts many breakfast sandwiches, said to be the chef’s specialty.

After ordering one Breakfast Burger, the Breakfast Pocket, French Toast, and plenty of beverages (it was a Sunday morning, after all), we awaited our meals patiently….and then not so patiently…and then irritably. Once our meals did arrive, we all agreed that the main features of our plates (burger, pocket, toast) were quite pleasant, while the sides (home fries and greens) lacked flavor and certainly weren’t note-worthy. I’ve always been a firm believer in sides not taking the backseat to a dish, and I don’t believe Aunties and Uncles follows that mantra.

Breakfast Burger / Breakfast Pocket / French Toast

The worst moment of our Sunday brunch experience came at the very end though, when the restaurant’s cash only policy was enforced on us with the utmost attitude. Add to that, a receipt with mere numbers (with no indication as to their corresponding meal) was presented to us, a group of 3, who each ordered food at different price points. I’m always told by friends who have history in serving that dividing bills is actually NOT an impossible task like so many make it out to be. But alas, the following steps needed to take place before we could go on our merry ways: A) Run to the bank for cash B) Retrieve the menus to figure out who’s was who’s and C) Take out our calculators to divvy it all up. Of course, no help was offered by our server who was too busy chatting nearby while we put on our thinking caps.

All in all, I can’t say whether this was all an unfortunate turn of events, but I can surely say it was enough to convince me to never return. There are far too many restaurants in this glorious city, that welcome guests with open arms, pay attention to your needs, and help wherever they can. It’s true what they say, service really is everything. And in a nutshell, a few mouth-watering potatoes go a long way too.

What’s your favourite BRUNCH spot in Toronto?

Summerlicious at Starfish Oyster Bed & Grill

As summer reaches its climax, Torontonians take to the streets for the best of music, wine, beer, art and food. Summerlicious is the epitome of summer festivals for foodies and winos alike, allowing just about anyone to enjoy the finest restaurants Toronto has to offer, 181 of them, to be precise. With such a volume of participating restaurants, Torontonians can easily fall prey to high-end restos serving small portions that are big on flavour, but low on benefits – leaving patrons with grumbling stomachs, and disappointed reviews. Luckily for us, many restaurants look to this time for the ultimate in experimentation and culinary delight – offering prix fixe menus with enough scrumptious food to fill you up and bring you joy.

One of the best Oyster joints in Toronto, Starfish Oyster Bed & Grill located on Adelaide, just East of Church, offers the sort of Summerlicious menu that leaves you wanting to make a second reservation during the event’s two week spurt.

On the first night of Summerlicious, I had the pleasure of dining at Starfish, the fish lovers paradise, and I must say that the $35 meal is certainly worth it. If you’re a seafood lover, you should definitely visit this quaint spot, Summerlicious or not.

Seafood Tower

The seafood tower proved to be a popular choice, as I saw the inspired stack of oyster, clam, mussel, prawn, sashimi and crab fill each table surrounding us – and consequently, ours too. This little tower of the sea’s creatures was tasty and fun to devour, but most importantly, fresh as can be! Other appetizer options include a Spanish style tomato, cod and chorizo chowder, or house smoked haddock fish cakes.

Unlike many Summerlicious locations, our mains were filling and well proportioned. The PEI mussels and house cut fries are the classic choice – and made just as one would expect, with white wine, garlic, lemon and herbs. Why mess with a good thing, right? I chose the Irish organic salmon with risotto, which was delightful. Important to note that the risotto is not what one would typically envision (rich, creamy), this has a tomato base with barley, peas and basil, much better suited to a fish ensemble.

Organic salmon with risotto / PEI mussels and house cut frites

Desserts were definitely edible but nothing to rave about. I would suggest the sticky toffee pudding (or STP as they call it) over the poached apricot with raspberry reduction and vanilla ice cream, which wasn’t too exciting (although the ice cream and reduction alone were lovely together).

Sticky toffee pudding / Apricot with vanilla ice cream

Other menu options are marked at “Special Summerlicious Prices” so if you’re looking to order a dozen Oysters, you may as well take advantage while the price is right.
For more information on participating Summerlicious restaurants, click here.

Summerlicious ends July 22!
Starfish Oyster Bed & Grill
100 Adelaide Street East
416-366-7827

Starfish Summerlicious Menu

Summer Salad: Tabouleh

When my mom asked me what I wanted her to bring me once I returned from my 50 day canoe trip, my answer wasn’t Skittles or Starbucks coffee or my blackberry, it was her Tabouleh salad. I craved the fresh taste of this salad so much that I wanted it to be my first meal upon return to reality. Hence why I’ve decided to share my mom’s sacred recipe with you today, because it’s my absolute favorite and it’s ideal as a summer sidekick or an easy, scrumptious lunch…not to mention, a no brainer for potlucks.

Ingredients:
– 1 cup bulgar wheat
– 1 cup water
– 1/3 cup oil
– 1/2 cup lemon juice
– 4 plum tomatoes
– 1/2 english cucumber
– 4 green onions
– 1/2 cup chopped parsley
– Rind of 1 lemon
– 1 avocado
– 3/4 crumbled feta

1. Combine bulgar wheat, oil, water and lemon juice in a glass bowl, cover with saran wrap and let sit on counter for 45 minutes. The bulgar will absorb all the liquid.

2. Chop plum tomatoes and squeeze out liquid using paper towel.

3. Cut cucumbers length-wise and remove seeds, then finely chop.

4. Chop green onions and parsley.

5. Fluff the bulgar wheat with a fork and add produce.

6. Crumble feta, add the rind of one lemon and an avocado or two (feta and avocado are optional, but in my eyes, necessary).

7. Mix and enjoy! Note: This salad is at its best after an overnight stay in the fridge.

Images by inanutshell.ca

Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto: Summer Festivals

Well my little nuts, it’s safe to say that despite being three weeks away from the official inauguration of summer, it’s actually HERE. The weather is warm, neighbors have come out of hibernation, parks are filled with wanderers, lovers, Frisbee-throwers, patios are where it’s at, and ice cream parlors have finally begun to make a profit. If each of these indicators aren’t enough, there’s also that wild sense of scheduling that begins to come to fruition at this time; when every weekend seems like an opportune moment for a big event. Calendars begin to clog up with cottage weekends, camping trips, holidays, celebrations, and all those glorious things that make us ga-ga for summer. Among these activities are the countless festivals we are so fond of. The summer offers a festival for pretty much anything…you name it; beer, Italians, pride, jazz, blues, food galore, cars, weddings, and so much more. Between Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto, there’s something to see, hear and do, every weekend from now until Labour Day. Here you’ll find a one-stop resource for all the summer festivities, where to buy tickets, what the festivals entail and when/where they all take place. Get out your day timer, and start planning your summer!

MONTREAL

Mondiale de la Bière (translation: Beerfest)
When: June 8th to June 12th
Where: 
Place Bonaventure, 800 Rue de la Gauchetière Ouest
Why: 
Last year, I had loads of fun tasting beer from around the world, pairing them with fine cheeses and meats, not to mention watching festival-goers who were a few drinks in play volleyball on the fake indoor beach. The only downside is that it takes place indoors. 
How: 
Admission to Beerfest is free, but tokens to purchase beer and food are 1$ each and can be purchased at Place Bonaventure upon your arrival. Tastings will cost you anywhere between 1 to 5 tokens each, click here for more info.

Grand Prix
When: June 8th to June 10th
 
Where: 
If you’re partying, Crescent Street and St-Laurent. If you’re racing, the Gilles Villeneuve Circuit.
Why:
  Crescent Street and St-Laurent Street close down for the weekend, featuring race cars, concerts, food, drinks, extended club/bar patios and other kiosks. The city is jam-packed, and everybody wants to party.
How: 
If you’re visiting Montreal because you’ve heard of the insanity this weekend brings, then all you need to do is step outside. If you actually want to attend the race (who are you?), you can buy tickets here.

Montreal Jazz Fest
When: June 28th to July 7th 
Where: 
Various locations in Downtown Montreal
Why: From the legendary B.B. King to the sweet jams of Ben Harper, Montreal Jazz Fest has something for everyone. Other appearances include Janelle Monae, Liza Minelli, Rufus Wainwright, Piers Faccini and many more. 
How: 
Many outdoor performances are free admission, otherwise, tickets can be purchased here.

Just for Laughs
When:
 July 10th to July 29th 
Where: 
Various locations in Downtown Montreal and Ville-Marie
Why: 
Just for Laughs is pulling out all the stops for their 30th Anniversary, featuring the Muppets, Chelsea Handler, Bill Hader, Bob Saget and Wayne Brady, among so many others. The Nasty Show draws in the crowds (of mostly men) each and every year.
How: 
Tickets are on sale now, call 1-888-244-3155 or click here.

OTTAWA

Jazz Fest
When: June 21st to July 1st
Where:
 Confederation Park and other various locations
Why: 
If you follow Steve Martin on twitter, you know he plays the banjo in a Bluegrass band. Well, see him live at the Ottawa Jazz Fest! Other appearances by Janelle Monae, Esperanza Spalding and many more. 
How: 
Purchase a gold or bronze pass for multiple shows or a single-day ticket here.

Canada Day
When: July 1st
Where: 
Parliament Hill, the Market, any backyard
Why: 
Because it’s the nation’s capital and NO ONE celebrates better.
How: 
By plane, train or automobile.

Bluesfest
When: July 4th to July 15th
Where: 
Lebreton Flats
Why: 
This year’s lineup includes: Atrak, Alice Cooper, Blue Rodeo, City and Colour, Dragonette, Hey Rosetta!, Iron Maiden, John Mellencamp, K’Naan, LMFAO, Metric, Norah Jones, Our Lady Peace…need I say more?
How: 
Tickets are available in the form of day passes, full festival passports and multi-day wristbands, purchase tickets here.

Hope Volleyball SummerFest
When: July 14th
Where: 
Mooney’s Bay Beach
Why: 
Charity, sports, sunshine…the key to feeling like a great human being. Ill Scarlett, Treble Charger and Mother Mother are headlining the live entertainment.
How:
Admission is free, or you can register a team and participate in the action (click here) – You only have until May 31 to do so!

TORONTO

Taste of Little Italy
When: June 15th to June 17th
Where:
You guessed it – Little Italy! (College St. between Bathurst & Shaw)
Why:
Stroll through College St, which is closed for the occasion, while tasting the food of Italy that we all adore, and listening to the tunes of local bands.
How:
Admission is free.

Jazz Fest
When: June 22nd to July 1st 
Where:
Various locations in Toronto
Why:
Ziggy Marley, Janelle Monae, Natalie Cole, Esperanza Spalding and many other Jazz legends (who I don’t know) will perform.
How:
Many concerts are free admission, tickets for feature performances can be purchased here.

Pride Week
When: June 22nd to July 1st
Where:
Various locations in Toronto
Why:
While a concrete schedule of events has yet to be released, there’s no question that live performances, street fairs, the parade on July 1st and so much more, will be great fun this summer.
How:
Admission is free.

Summerlicious
When: July 6th to July 22nd
 
Where:
Various restaurants in Toronto
Why:
Try that restaurant you’ve always wanted to experience – for a limited-time, Summerlicious price. Throughout the festival, find exclusive three-course prix fixe menus offered at many of Toronto’s top restaurants.
How:
Sign up for the e-newsletter to get a first look at the list of participating restaurants (click here).

Beerfest
When: July 27th to July 29th 
 
Where:
Bandshell Park, Exhibition Place
Why:
Live entertainment, a grilling tent…not to mention, access to beers from around the world, all under the summer sun.
How:
General admission tickets can be purchased here, included are 5 sample tokens, a sampling cup and a pocket guide. Hoptimize your ticket for added features ($10 extra)!

Caribana Parade
When:  August 4th
Where: Exhibition Place & Lakeshore Boulevard
Why: It’s North America’s Largest Carribean Parade and I’m told it’s a lot of fun.
How: Just show up!

Taste of the Danforth
When: August 10th to August 12th
Where:
Greektown on the Danforth
Why: A street fair lined with Greek delicacies, free samples, a beer garden, concerts and games – it’s sure to be a blast!
How: Admission is free – More info here.

**Click calendars to enlarge**

Stay tuned for our coverage of many of these events throughout the summer!