Into the Blue…Mountains

…Mountains, that is. Take a bite out of Ontario big apple country

Time was, Collingwood built lake freighters, navy trawlers and ice breakers. It then developed as a winter destination for skiing and eventually became an all season destination for hiking, caving, golfing, paddling and zip lining. Then, from Georgian Bay’s fruit basket, apples became the core of tourism.

What we’ve discovered is, an escape to The Blue Mountains, with its endless outdoor activities and festivals, offers many ways to appreciate and enjoy Ontario’s quintessential fruit: the apple. Continue reading “Into the Blue…Mountains”

Chasing Happiness in Antigua

I arrive on a Sunday and head over to Shirley Heights Lookout on English Harbour to watch the sunset. The sounds of a steel-drum band are mesmerizing and suddenly I’m swaying to the music. The crowd on this plateau is in the hundreds, and there’s a sense of camaraderie and fun. Everyone knows that this is the best barbecue on the island. The aroma is intoxicating. I pass my plate to the grill man, and he piles on ribs, chicken and fish until I say stop, then with Rum Punch in hand, I squeeze onto a bench at one of the picnic tables and gaze out at sea and sky. “You’re a long way from home, Sara Waxman,” I say to myself, and I know that my vacation has begun. Continue reading “Chasing Happiness in Antigua”

The Bordeaux Wine Route

The world of wine swirls around Bordeaux. Bordeaux is a style, a quality, and a symbol of status. The soul of Bordeaux is vested in the newly minted La Cité du Vin. Is it shaped like a decanter? What is it? We ask. In fact, it’s a “non-shape.” It is an abstract representation of the flow of wine pouring into a glass. Sheer brilliance. A magnet for oenophiles and for those simply curious about the alluring and iridescent mica and glass structure, changing colours as it reflects the sun like a glimmering temple nestled on the riverbank. Continue reading “The Bordeaux Wine Route”

Living Well in La Belle Province

Lounging under the stars in the percolating effervescence of a huge, heated thermal pool, we are protected from the elements by walls of natural rocks and boulders at Spa Eastman. There is wind and frost in the air, and a few hardy snowflakes blow about in the rising steam. At the crest of the embankment, a massive bonfire warms us and sends woodsy fragrance our way. Magnificent. If only for this, it was worth the drive on the long and winding road that brought us here from Montreal.
Continue reading “Living Well in La Belle Province”

A Natural High at Rancho la Puerta

I may have made a terrible mistake. Walking briskly along the lantern lit path, I feel apprehension at the prospect of a four-mile mountain hike. It’s still dark and cold at 6:00 a.m. and a rooster crows in the distance. In the lounge, the scene looks like a TV commercial for The North Face, and I am intimidated. They’re drinking herbal tea, wearing water bottles, gloves and fanny packs and raring to go. But I am not what anyone would call the “outdoorsy type.” Can I keep up? Continue reading “A Natural High at Rancho la Puerta”

Don Alfonso 1890: Best Opening of the Year!

Michelin Star Chefs Alfonso and Ernesto Iaccarino of the esteemed Don Alfonso 1890 in Italy, in partnership with Liberty Entertainment Group, have established their first North American location in Toronto, which has now been recognized by Gambero Rosso as the best restaurant opening of the year.

For the past thirty years Gambero Rosso has been Europe’s authority on quality, food and wine, bestowing the coveted “Tre Forchette” (Three Forks) award of excellence for restaurants. This year, the honour has been bestowed upon Toronto’sDon Alfonso 1890.

Toronto chefs working alongside Michelin Star Chef Ernesto Iaccarino are learning from one of the best. It raises their level to the world stage. In celebration, our luncheon with Chef Iaccarino highlights his creative menu. Colourful luscious morsels on crisp chips range from Japanese uni with lemon balm on a squid ink chip, to Tuna tartar on a parsley chip, Bison tartar with basil on a chili chip, and Rockfish ceviche with Buffalo yogurt and cilantro on a turmeric chip. Falling Leaves of silky applewood smoked-yellow fin tuna rest on fava bean and fennel puree with pop-in-your-mouth crisp ginger, fresh mint, pink peppercorns, and a citric expression of grapefruit aioli and orange dust. Each dish is a decoration of ingredients, so delicately and artfully presented. Most unique and impressive, however, is the Rigatoni Vesuvius. This volcanic construction of rigatoni di gragnano, organic peas, ricotta di bufala and polpettine di melanzane e parmigiano is draped in a ragu alla napoletana that is as savoury to the palate as it is appealing to the eye. This is modern Italian cuisine. New to Toronto. And attracting the attention of the world.

Here is what Sara Waxman wrote about Don Alfonso 1890 in the 2018/19 issue of DINE and Destinations magazine.

By a stroke of luck, I met Don Alfonso Iaccarino and his son Ernesto as a guest at their 2 Michelin Star boutique hotel, Don Alfonso 1890, in Sorrento, never dreaming that we would meet again in Toronto. Their restaurant is a vision of white marble and pale grey walls with white leather chairs and napery. It has taken the city’s collective breath away. Ernesto’s Tasting Menu is fashioned after what he cooks in Italy, and is the same in style and substance. Both the Classic and Vegetarian menus are served in plates designed to enhance the beauty of each dish. Dinner begins with fanciful hors d’oeuvres, a teaser of the seduction to come. First, ice creamed eel is crowned with caviar and accompanied by wild rose-scented tagliatelle. Manitoba bison comes wrapped in a rustic bread crust. Muscovy duck breast is sauced with anise demi-glace. If you’re not up for a multi-course tasting menu, pass the waterfall to the luxe mezzanine lounge where a snack menu and scintillating cocktails are presented. This neo- Renaissance building seems to love the glamour and opulence it now houses.

19 Toronto St; 416-214-5888; donalfonsotoronto.com

Jamon Siesta

On the northern slopes of la Sierra de Francia, in the southern part of the province of Salamanca, Spain, lies the remote village of La Alberca where men with donkeys carry their work loads; an elderly woman tolls a bell at dusk for the departed souls in purgatory; and the prized Iberian pig is the village pet. Continue reading “Jamon Siesta”

Take Me to the River

Americans had the Conestoga wagon; Canadians had the canoe.

When there were no roads to follow, the voyageur’s highway flowed through the wilderness of the Canadian Shield. In search of a short cut, those who forged our heritage routes: the First Nations, the explorers, the missionaries, the hunters and the traders charted thousands of kilometers of rugged waterways that connected a nation of many rivers and a river of many nations. Continue reading “Take Me to the River”

Nobody Knows The Truffles I’ve Seen

January marks the end of one of my favorite seasons of the year. The Truffle season begins in mid September and lingers aromatically until the end of December. During this time, upscale restaurants throughout the world add truffles to their menu, knowing that a certain clientele will be waiting to indulge in the annual truffle fest. Continue reading “Nobody Knows The Truffles I’ve Seen”