New Business Brings Magic Back To Toronto

imageIt’s just a bunch of Hocus pocus.” We’ve all heard that line a million times over the years; being made famous by legend Bette Midler; in the role of Winifred Sanderson in hit classic Hocus Pocus.

This along with many other productions, may have brought the beauty, history & mystery of witchcraft magic to the big screen, but it was always out of our grasp…unable to touch it and experience it for oneself.

Until now…

Thanks to the hard work, creativity and dedication of The Coven Wolf, including magical duo and power couple Otto Wolf and Star Wolf, the brand new Hocus Pocus Witchery & Lounge has opened its doors in the bustling city of Toronto.

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As a witchcraft/wiccan enthusiast my whole life, I couldn’t wait until this enchanting establishment opened its doors to the public…and on October 31st (what better day) I finally got my wish.

Entering the store, I was greeted kindly by the welcoming staff, who were more than happy to help me with all my questions and feed my curiosity. From the moment I entered, the one thing I was immediately blown away by was the authenticity of the store.

As my academic background was in nursing and healthcare, I have always been fascinated by the use of herbs for holistic purposes, but what intrigues me even more is their roots in the Wiccan Tradition. And without a doubt, Hocus Pocus Witchery does not disappoint with their collection of wonderful herbs for sale.

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With loose dried herbs, essential oils and many other herbal products, I was spoiled for choice, as my magical mind went into overdrive. Another wonderful thing I noticed about this area of the store was how traditional it felt, and how it symbolized the importance of magic within nature. For my readers and future customers of Hocus Pocus, who are eco-conscious, I was happy to be informed by owner Star Wolf, that they only harvest a small percentage from the original plant, to allow it to continue producing the required herb.

As you move through the store, you are able to appreciate the layout of the Witchery, as it almost felt like it a magical timeline; experiencing the origins of Traditional Wicca at the front, to more modern elements of Witchcraft in other areas.

imageThe amazing products to choose from are endless. And the best thing is, you don’t necessarily have to have prior knowledge to find something that catches your eye. Fashionable clothing, stone, crystal & gem pendants, candles, incense sticks, sage smudges, magically infused mist sprays for all your needs, colorful mugs for all them coffee and tea addicts and a vast collection of books on the history of witchcraft and beginners spell casting…are only a small glimpse into everything that the store offers its visitors.

But the owners and staff of Hocus Pocus Witchery have not stopped there. When one lives in the hectic city that is Toronto, you aim to find a haven where you feel relaxed and hidden from the outside world; one where you can sit down, relax and take the opportunity to appreciate the interesting and peaceful surroundings.

imageWhat more could you ask for, I ask? Coffee, Tea or possibly a cocktail? Check…check and check!!! They have it all. With a fully furnished cafe lounge, and recently opened bar… this place is a MUST SEE for Torontonians and visitors alike.

Admit it, we’ve all want to experience having a Butter Beer in the world of Harry Potter, maybe even tasted some of  Sally’s (Sandra Bullock) witchcraft remedies from her apothecary in movie Practical Magic, or what about tasting the magical cocktails made by barmaid/witch Freya Beauchamp (played by Jenna Dewan Tatum) in hit TV Show, Witches of East End? With eye catching decor and fun atmosphere of this new bar and lounge, you don’t need to dream anymore.

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Before leaving my new magical hideaway, I treated myself to a new read (Cunningham’s Book of Shadows), as well as a Citrine pendant and delicious Latte. What more could I want on a winter’s day? A eye-catching stone necklace, a hot beverage and a new page-turner for my collection.

Apart from being the largest spiritual store in the GTA and having wonderful array of products and services, the one thing I must highlight is how fantastic the staff are. They were super helpful with any questions I needed answering and so comfortable to chat to as I sat sipping my caffeine fix.

For anyone who has not heard or visited this fantastic new business yet, I would encourage you all to get down to 592 Queen Street West (Bathurst/Queen intersection) to see how amazing this gem of Toronto actually is.

Regardless of what background or spiritual path you are on, we all seek out a little magic in our lives. It’s what makes life that more beautiful. An inviting note written by the staff reads:

Hocus Pocus is a place where it does not matter what religion or spiritual path you follow.

We have created a space where there is no judgement. We understand that we are all on a path. We understand that all paths have mistakes, hurt, anger, fear, anxiety, every color of emotion. Our objective is to provide you the tools necessary to live a life filled with more of the higher emotions such as love, peace, understanding and patience.

We also believe that we are meant to be constantly learning and teaching. We have created an environment where we welcome questions and encourage that there are no rules only guidelines.

Spirituality is an individual journey, so different things will work for different people. We encourage everyone to visit and take in the clean, healing energy of our sacred space.

Contact details and business hours are as follows:

Hocus Pocus Witchery

592 Queen St. W.

Toronto, ON, Canada M6J 1E3

Tel: 416.703.0152

Email: hocuspocuswitchery@gmail.com

Opening Hours:

Sunday – Monday: 11am-8:00pm

Tuesday: 11am-8:00pm

Wednesday: 11am-8:00pm

Thursday: 11am-8:00pm

Friday: 11am-11:00pm

Saturday: 11am-11:00pm

I would like to take this moment in wishing The Coven Wolf, and the staff of Hocus Pocus the best of luck in the success of their new business. May it bring both you and the Toronto public much joy and happiness for the future to come.

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Bored? Don’t Be! Here are the Top 5 Things you should be doing right now.

As the summer break approaches the halfway mark, you can be one of two types of people; those who live to seek out more things while there is still time, and those who lie and wait for something to pull them out of their approaching autumn blues. Regardless of how proactive you are, it can be still very easy to miss the hidden treasures that surround you, and of course the great events that are ready to be experienced and the landmarks to be explored.

imageSpeaking solely for myself, I find pleasure in 5 simple things…Theatre, Literature, Fashion, Culture and Food. And when you thing about it…maybe these little moments of gratification could become yours too.

Everyone wants that feeling of happiness that comes from doing something you have always wished to do, finally getting that article of clothing you’ve had your eye on all this time, visiting a place of beauty, catching up with friends and family at your favorite cafe, or even reading a book that speaks to you personally.

For all the peeps back home, here are my TOP 5 THINGS happening right now:

1) THEATRE: It’s Wine O’ Clock at The Iontas Arts and Community Resource Centre, Castleblayney, County Monaghan

imageIt goes without saying that the Nuala and Noleen hype has got us all full of excitement and anticipation at what their next stunt, skit or on-stage show will be. One thing is for sure, they are sure to please us each time with their hilarious characters, and wild antics. Their latest show has went down a storm so far; with sell-out performances North and South of the Border, and now its coming to the Iontas in Castleblayney, to dish out tonnes of belly-aching laughs and moments of outright hilarity.

The show welcomes you to the craziest wedding of the year! Vera, the farmers wife who is so excited that her only son Seamus is getting married, has invited you all to the special day. Attending also are the farmers Pat and Eamon, the Bridesmaids, the Yummy Mummies, the Grannies, and of course Nuala and Noleen who are always looking for love. The shenanigans that go down and the situations each character find themselves in, will have you raising the roof with laughter and applause.

It all goes down FRIDAY 10th November @ 8PM. Get your tickets by clicking HERE.

 

 

2) FASHION: Couture Grandeur Newry Road, Crossmaglen (SUPER SUMMER SALE)

Ladies and Gents…correct me if I’m wrong, but we all aim for a little sprinkle of magic when it comes to our wardrobe selection, and love to know how smart, cute, sexy, handsome or sophisticated we look in a new number we have just added to the collection.

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In the words of fashion supermodel Miranda Kerr“…fashion doesn’t need to be expensive or complicated – just worn with grace and confidence.”

And what better place to embrace your inner style goddess than at Couture Grandeur. Even better, word has traveled my way that their SUMMER SALE has now started. Yes, you heard right people, prices have been slashed to Up To 70% OFF summer stock, as well as well as dresses and formal wear by up to 50% OFF.

 

We all love a great deal…even better when you’ve had your eye on something for so long, and now its right at your finger tips for a fabulous, affordable price. As you may all know, Couture Grandeur fashion has been racking up wonderful recognition for Best Dressed Ladies at the official races in Ireland, and now these award winning pieces could be yours, at a fraction of the original price.

 

And fret not people…there are shoes also. This is my ultimate weakness…my Kryptonite in many ways. Who can have ‘enough’ shoes? Not me, that’s for sure. And with this footwear being reduced to 10,15 and 20 pound, I am just jealous that you are able to avail of this opportunity, when I am thousands of miles across the ocean.

With Couture Grandeur going from strength to strength, I cannot wait to see what awaits the public for the Autumn/Fall Line. Until then… get down there and GET SHOPPING, whilst this incredible stock lasts.

 

3) CULTURE: Castlewellan Forest Park & Peace Maze in Castlewellan, County Down

Each time I see photographs of this historical and natural wonder, I am in awe of the beauty of how much it has to offer. For many people, we take these tourist attractions for granted, or even dismiss them, as we know little about their history or origins.

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However, as home to one of Northern Ireland’s most famous lakes, a stunning Victorian Castle, incredible panoramic views, scenic walking trails, 27km of Mountain Bike Trails, Nature Park perfect for the kids, an onsite multi-activity centre, a breath-taking hedge maze and equestrian centre, Castlewellan Forest Park boasts all of this and more; making it a must-see for all ages.

imageThe castle itself is an architectural treasure and to me, the perfect set for Hollywood movies. With the beauty of the surroundings, anyones creative ideas would spring to life on their first visit to the 19th Century stronghold. However, the main attraction that has everybody talking, has to be The Peace Maze. The Peace Maze is located on the grounds of the castle, and is in fact one of the largest permanent hedge mazes in the entire world. The maze represents the path to the peaceful future of Northern Ireland. Planted in 2000, it is now the intended height for public enjoyment. Visitors are encouraged to enter the maze and try to make their way to the centre, where a bell awaits to be rang. The hedge maze is a wonderful representation of how agreement and harmony can be achieved, if you put your mind to it, be open of the challenges that lie ahead, accept your mistakes and move on to achieve a common goal.

This is a definite must see for not only natives but visitors too. More information can be found by clicking HERE.

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4) LITERATURE: The Waiting Tree by Lindsay Moynihan

Huh? The Waiting Tree, I hear you ask? I know, I thought the same too. Not once did I ever see this book advertised on the shelves back home, or even in the book stores of Toronto. But thanks to the generosity of a close friend, she kindly gave me this novel to read…and since starting it, I cannot put it down.

This incredible book is the story of 18 year old Simon Peters, who falls in love with Stephen Levesque. When Stephen’s parents discover that they have been having a romantic relationship, they ship him of to Christian Center to “see the error of his ways” and be “normalized.”

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But Simon can’t let him disappear from his life.  He needs him and ‘the heart wants what the heart wants.” With his parents recently deceased and his brothers picking up the responsibility to raise the rest of the family, Simon’s mute twin, Jude, shows him that the secret to setting him free, lies within a tree at the bottom of their garden…The Waiting Tree.

imageThe Waiting Tree is a wonderful book for anyone to read, but especially for those struggling to come to terms with their feelings of who they are. Whether you are from a small community who doesn’t accept you, or from a family who fails to make peace with your happiness, there is always comfort in the written word. Stories have a way of helping us find hope, whether it is fictionalized or not. And this is no exception.

 

5) FOOD: Jackie’s Cafe at The Market Square, Dundalk, County Louth

Still to this day, I am so glad I came across this gorgeous, chic-style cafe on a day out with my mum. In an area we always frequented, we never seemed to venture beyond its doors, as it was always so busy during the mid-day coffee rush and lunch breaks.

But to my delight, we finally got to try it out and since then, I would not go to any other cafe in Dundalk for a bite to eat.

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Not only is the selection of food wonderful; appealing to everyone, but it tastes unbelievable as well. With warm daily specials, as well as a huge selection of salads, sandwiches, deserts, coffees and teas, baked goods and gluten free/vegetarian options, this culinary gem is a must stop on every visit to the town.

For the extremely reasonable prices, the portions are so generous, that you are genuinely satisfied for the whole day. But most of all, its the staff that brings the customers back again and again. They cheerful attitude and friendly manner is so obvious when you enter the establishment, that you are already subconsciously planning your next visit before you even order. My favorite part of all my visits is the one thing  that clientele love, and that is how staff remember you personally. With each visit, your time there is individually personalized and you are made feel welcome and appreciated.

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When I moved to Toronto, the one thing I wished to take with me was Jackie’s Cafe, as nothing has beaten it yet in the 16 months I have been away…so that just shows how good it is.

Next time you are in Dundalk, make sure to drop by and see for yourselves why this place is as good as it sounds.

SO THERE WE GO MY IRISH FAIRY FOLLOWERS, MY TOP 5 THINGS TO DO RIGHT NOW. GET GOING AND SEE WHICH ONE OF YOU GETS TO EXPERIENCE ALL 5 OF MY FAVORITES.

xoxoxoxo

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Lavish & Squalor: The Perfect Mix of Past and Present

imageEarlier this week, I went once again in search of Toronto’s most unique, appealing and desirable stores. Now as we all know, Queen St. is one of those places where you can find anything and everything. Whether its fashionable clothing, eye-catching homemade jewelry, professionally brewed beer or the high market cosmetic ranges…this stretch of Downtown has it all.

But as Toronto becomes more modernized by the day, I find that the city is at risk of loosing its character and its much-loved architectural links to the past. I remember as a young child back home in Ireland, there were several retail stores that when you entered their doors, you were greeted by a whole new world inside. The proprietors still used the old-fashioned lead scales and sometimes school desks with inkwells from bygone days, were used for product display purposes. Despite necessity being the reason for this, rather than fashion…it always made me feel like this is what a store should aim to be.

And finally I have found the ultimate example of this style, hidden right here, in the big city. At 253 Queen St W, you will find a building, whose dark painted exterior, Greek pillared entrance and wide-span windows will catch your eye immediately. As I walked through its period-style wooden doors, I was warmly welcomed into the treasure trove that is Lavish & Squalor.

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And this is where your adventure begins. With stunning exposed brick walls, and rustic wooden beams and support pillars, I felt like I had been transported back in time to a Wild West saloon. From the low, warm lighting to the fantastic antique furniture and service counters, I quickly forgot about the bustling city that lay beyond its doors.

imageBut what about what’s on sale? From the beautiful, handmade necklaces that would make anyone’s eyes twinkle to the woolen shawls and stylish jackets that would make you the envy of all your friends. From the natural cosmetic products for both men and women (homemade in Canada) to the stunning glassware, cutlery and ornaments that would give your home that much-needed lift. It has it all.

As a person who plans to build their own house at some point, this store gave me wonderful ideas for not only decorating it, but the character I aim to achieve. I went in looking to purchase a gift and came out with a newfound creative outlook. But not only does this gem sell apparel gifts for all, but it has on display a wide range of food products and treats that are enjoyed by all. Teas, sweets, honeys, jams, ginger beer and tonic, as well as highly sought-after spices and flavorings, are only a small glimpse into what is on offer in the food-beverage department.

imageBut, in all honesty, what topped the whole experience off for me was something that lay at the rear of the shop. As I sailed through the different spaces filled with unique gifts and clothing, and ran my fingers along the neat collection of shelved literature, I started to get the caffeine urge.

But how was I going to get a coffee fix in here? Well, I quickly took that statement back. For as I traveled to the back of the store; following the familiar smell of coffee beans and brewing whistles, I soon realized Lavish & Squalor has its own in-store espresso bar. And believe me…its damn good coffee. With an extensive range of coffee and hot tea choices, as well as a selection of baked goods, this store is the reason why I still believe in creativity and retail progression.

I have many friends; both who enjoy retail therapy and the instant pleasure of coffee…so this is the perfect combination of both. And even if you have that partner, spouse, family member or friend who doesn’t like shopping, all you need to do is park them up at the coffee bar with a nice brew in their hand, as you explore the treasures that surround you. With friendly staff, helpful baristas, affordable prices and an unforgettable array of locally sourced products (which you will never find in the big-name chains), this is a place I will come back to, time and time again.

With my family coming to visit me from the Emerald Isle in May, what better place to show them than the delights of Lavish & Squalor.

The premises describes itself as “A Shop where Nostalgia meets Today’s Lifestyle,” and in truth, I couldn’t put it better myself. So get down now and see what all the buzz is about!!! I’m sure you will love it, just as much as I do.

For more information on the store and its range of products, please click  HERE.

Opening Hours are as follows:

Mon to Wed: 11am-7:30pm

Thurs: 11am-8pm

Fri: 11am-8:30pm

Sat: 11am-7pm

Sun: 11am-6pm

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Rowan: The Hidden Gem of the East End

imageYesterday, on my day off from work, I decided to do a bit of sight-seeing, jump on a streetcar and travel to the outskirts of the city of Toronto, to embrace my inner globetrotter.

My travels took me to the quiet, peaceful and stylish neighborhood of Queen Street East. With its astonishing number of quirky, unusual, and individualistic stores, I felt like I was in a whole new land. Being in downtown Toronto all the time, it can be hard to see past all the same popular franchises that are in every country. But as I walked down Queen Street towards the Beach District, I was blown away by the wide selection of independent stores to chose from. From handmade jewellery to independent and affordable clothing lines…it has it all.

But I was in search of something specific; something that no other business could offer. And what this was…was the perfect skin treatment for home use.

In the past, I’ve tried them all. I’ve bought the leading French brands, which ended up too strong for my skin, the drugstore brands which were inexpensive but useless, and of course…I even made my own, with an array of ingredients. Did any of them work, not all all.

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But yesterday I came across a beautiful little shop called ROWAN: Homespun Market & Apothecary, located at 2196 Queen Street East, and all my wishes came true. Not only did they make homemade skin masks, created entirely from natural ingredients, but they had their own entire skin, hair and body-care range called Wildwood.

The store also had on display a wide range of essential oils, sage products, literature, beverages, teas, and jewellery & ornaments created by local designers.

With its clean, rustic decor and white, wood displays, I could not help but feel relaxed and at home as I browsed the items on sale. With its hanging herbs and and quartz crystals, I felt like I was in a place of comfort; full of magic and mystery.

As I looked at the Wildwood range, which were laid out cleverly on a shelf; carved into the letter W, I found what I was looking for. Looking at the list of natural ingredients, I finally decided that the Wildflower and Pink Clay Mask was for me.

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As the very helpful and kind lady at the register cashed my product, she informed me of several workshops that happen on the premises. Not only does the store create wonderful lines, but you can now learn it all from the very best as well.

Bidding farewell to my new favorite beauty haven, I raced to get home and try it out. As the product consists of a clay, powdered substance, only 1 teaspoon of product is required with 1 teaspoon of water. Mixing the 2 together in a small bowl, this created a watery/creamy paste, which I then applied to my face and neck.

As per recommendations, I left the mask on for 10 minutes, and during this time, you can feel the pinkish, brown clay harden quickly on your skin. Not only do you feel that its working, but with the wildflower components…it smells lovely and refreshing.

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When the timer was up, I removed all traces of the clay mask, with cold-lukewarm water, making sure my skin was properly cleansed and patted dry. And what of the results? They were everything I was hoping for. My skin felt so smooth, firm and nourished that I immediately got my housemate to try it as well; with equally pleasing results.

imageROWAN is a fantastic store that everybody needs to visit. Not only is the skincare luxurious, but it is healthy, non allergenic and completely natural. There is definitely something in the Wildwood range for all, as they now offer soaps, creams and even dry shampoo. With all the media surrounding commercial dry shampoos, made from artificial ingredients and their role in increased hair-loss, experts are actually now encouraging customers to buy dry shampoo made with natural ingredients; in order to combat this issue. And now you know where to find one.

If you, like myself, are looking for all the natural alternatives; for an affordable price, then a trip out on the 501 east streetcar to ROWAN is what’s needed.

All information on the Wildwood range can be found by clicking HERE

Information on upcoming workshops can be found HERE.

For great products and great customer service, get down to 2196 Queen Street East today, and see it all for yourself.

Have a magical day my fairy followers.

 

Central Coffee: The next stop for your caffeine fix

imageLast Thursday afternoon, as the icy cold air ripped through Toronto and the sun no-where to be seen in the sky, I scurried down Bloor Street West, if an effort to get all my errands completed. With my scarf wrapped around my face and a woolly bobble hat perched high upon my head, I looked like an over-dressed tea-cozy…but who cares about how we look, when Jack Frost is nipping on your skin.

After scratching the last item off my grueling list, I rushed along Bloor with the hope of arriving home in time before visitors arrived later that day. But something caught my eye. There; braving the cold in short sleeves and an apron, stood a girl holding a tray of coffee samples, offering them to the public as they walked by.

I initially pushed away my caffeine craving; telling myself to plow on, but as I stepped further away from the female barista, I told myself… go on, reward yourself with a treat. As I approached the girl, she kindly offered me a sample of the hot beverages upon the tray. With one sip of the SALTED CARAMEL LATTE, I was sold. I had to buy a larger cup.

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Following the friendly employee into the Central Coffee, located at 986 Bloor St West, TorontoI was positively surprised by how much of a hidden gem this cafe actually is. From the outside of the store, you would believe it to be quite small inside, but as Rebekah guided me inside…the open, relaxing and beautifully decorated cafe opened up before my eyes.

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With comfy couches and tables dotted around the warmly lit customer area, single tables and chairs for the lone coffee-enthusiast and relaxing music playing through the sound-waves, the entire ambiance was everything a coffee shop should be.

Looking around, I could see friends chatting, office workers scribbling notes and girls on Facebook using the complimentary Wi-Fi, making me understand why this cafe is the perfect place to relax and unwind. Because when you are sitting there, it feels like you’re not in the city at all. With little noise coming from outside, Central Coffee is not only a place to escape to, but a place where you can have a genuine conversation with people over snacks, and not have to strain your voice over the passing traffic.

imageSo what about my coffee experience? Needless to say, I went for the Salted Caramel Latte as without a doubt is the nicest I have ever tasted. I’ve been to several well-known coffee chains around the world, from England to Scotland, from the USA to Canada and right back to my home country of Ireland, and no Latte has tasted as nice as this one.

Plus, in Central Coffee, I quickly found out that the coffee is not the only reason it is popular. The reception that you receive from the staff as you enter, is second to none. Everyone wants to feel welcomed, and my server did just this. Learning that she too was on a working holiday visa like myself, allowed for a strike-up of conversation, which was was both comfortable and informative.

imageShe spoke of her home country and even took an interest in mine, which was nice to see; as many coffee shops environments sometimes allow for limited communication between staff and customer.

As I paid my server, I thanked her and waved goodbye, taking in one last glimpse of the cafe as I left. I stared hungrily at the delicious selection of sweet and savory treats on sale, but promised myself…next time Sean…next time. As I bundled up my winter wear one final time; taking a gulp of my steaming hot caramel latte, I knew this was not my last time in Central Coffee. Since coming over here in April 2016, I have looked high and low for a cafe to call my favorite. And I think I have finally found it.

If you too are a coffee lover like myself, or are just looking for the perfect place to have a bite to eat and relax, then this is the spot to visit.

CENTRAL COFFEE is located at 986 Bloor Street West, Toronto and more information on opening times can be found by clicking HERE.

Whistle While You Work: The Steam Whistle Brewery Review

imageAs an Irish person living in the metropolis that is Toronto, it is impossible to escape the typical stereotype that comes with our nation’s territory. Known for being big party people, up for a laugh, and of course our fondness for a few sociable drinks, this image is something we pride; as this positive and harmless nature is adored by others.

So what better way to embrace the “Paddy” in me than to visit Toronto’s famous Steam Whistle Brewery, for a guided tour of its history and operations.

In Ireland, we have come to call Guinness “The Black Stuff,” but today I am moving further afield and introducing my taste buds to “The Golden Stuff.”

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Situated within The Roundhouse at 255 Bremner Blvd; beneath the shadow of the CN Tower, lies the Steam Whistle Brewing company itself. Originally built as a repair facility for steam trains in Downtown Toronto, this building played a huge role in helping to pioneer this great nation in times of development and discovery. And despite changing both product and purpose in later years, the Building stills provides many jobs to the city and continues to encourage Canadian innovation and promote creativity.

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The dream to create a memorable, premium Pilsner beer that Toronto could claim as it’s own and be proud of, first started when its founders Greg Taylor, Cam Heaps & Greg Cromwell set out on a canoe trip in the springtime of 1998. Here, they discussed at lengths their hopes and aspirations to one day own their own brewery, and create a Pilsner that would compete with already established beers and lagers across the world. And in the year 2000, this dream became a reality, when they opened for business and the “Steam Whistle was Born.”

 

imageAs I walked up to the Brewery, I remarked on how well maintained the building and it’s surrounding grounds were. The large red brick brewery, had fantastic period-style windows, typical of most factory buildings from 1930’s-1950’s. As I stepped through the doors, you could appreciate how the architecture ensures a perfect tourist experience. The layout has allowed the light from outside to illuminate the visitor reception and gift shop, making it feel refreshing, and both open & cosy at the same time.

Booking in for my 3pm slot, I met up with the rest of my group, who all happily chatted to each other, prior to the commencement of the tour. With a TOOT TOOT of the classic steam whistle horn behind the bar, the tour was set in motion and we were introduced to our fantastic tour guide Max.

imageAfter a complimentary bottle of Steam Whistle, our guide firstly told us how the beverage was created; by explaining to the group the brewing process, as well as the vital ingredients needed to make it happen. The smells, sounds and tastes awaken your senses within the brewing chamber, which only help to enhance the tour experience. Later we moved into several other rooms, where brew master decisions were made, as well as the bottling, canning, packing and distribution rooms. With 88,000 bottles produced per day, you can only imagine the amazing scenes that this number of green bottles look like… It was like walking into the Emerald City of Oz.

imageAs the guided tour concluded, Max encouraged us to ask any questions we had, which was really helpful and informative. If the tour wasn’t good enough already, we then got given another sample of Pilsner on Tap. With it’s smooth, refreshing taste, it was the perfect beverage on this hot day in Toronto.

In conclusion, the Steam Whistle tour was so enjoyable and a great way to spend my day off. As a person who loves a bit of history and sociable outings with friends, the brewery is a great way to put these two together.

You could only imagine my devastation, however, when I found out that this Pilsner is not sold back home in Ireland. But I do believe that someday it will. With the success of it already here in Canada, the only way is up. And when you think of it, with its beautiful, eye-catching green bottle and can, where else would it look better, than in the Emerald Isle? I’ll just have to make sure to raise a bottle of it on the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations next year, here in Toronto.

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But I must say, the tour and brewery itself would not be the success that it is, if not for the fabulous people that work inside. Our tour guide Max, was a wealth of information and with her fun personality, witty humour and welcoming manner, she was a delight to all the visitors. She had an infectious energy, which you couldn’t help but admire.

Also, I must give credit where credit is due for a second employee. As a writer, it is imperative as to how any story begins, develops and ends. The same goes for all interactions we have with others, especially in the tourism industry. I met a girl called Sarah working at the ticket desk as I first entered. She graciously greeted me and explained the offers that were available. Her warm, cheerful and bubbly personality make her an asset to the company.

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Whilst browsing the gift shop, Max and Sarah kindly agreed to have a photograph taken. As I thanked them, and waved goodbye, I realised that the Steam Whistle Brewery is definitely a gem within Toronto’s Tourism industry. For tourists, natives and everyone in between, make this attraction a MUST SEE on your to-do list.

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For more information on how to visit this attraction and where this beverage is sold, the official website can be found by clicking Here.

Green Garden Beef & Mushroom Salad: A Restaurant Worthy Dish in your Own Kitchen

imageAs many of you may know, one of my many passions is discussing food/drink with my followers. An element of this blog, at times, has been used to review restaurants and places of fine dining. But don’t you think it’s time we developed some culinary skills of our own.

Regardless of cooking experience, we have all tried, at one point to recreate that one dish we always order in our favourite restaurant, or even try to awaken the dormant mixologist within ourselves, by thinking we can produce that signature cocktail.

Well, what if I told you that this can be possible? Take your favourite meal…break the elements down…identify the necessary ingredients…balance the flavours…but most of all, do it within a reasonable budget. Sound difficult? It’s not.

So without further ado, I will guide you through making a dish that I have come to adore preparing since moving to Toronto. It’s not only exceptional in taste, but also cheap to purchase, easy to put together and ready in no time at all.

imageI give you the Green Garden Beef & Mushroom Salad. Aspects of this meal have been inspired partly by numerous restaurant menus, as well as my own imagination and tastes.

All you will need are the following ingredients (Serves 2 People):

 

1) 6-7 Leafs of Green Curly Leaf Lettuce

2) 150-170g of Lean Beef Strips Cut Thin or Cubed (NOPAC MEAT, ON, Canada)

3) 1 Tablespoon of Sliced Green Olives (SARDO FOODS, ON, Canada)

4) 9-10 Cherry/Grape Tomatoes

5) 1 Clove of Garlic

6) Half of a White Onion

7) 4 White Mushrooms Uncooked (BELLE GROVE MUSHROOMS, ON, Canada)

8) 2 Tablespoons of Sweet Chilli Sauce

9) 2 Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil with Natural Basil

10) Montreal Steak Seasoning

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So as mentioned before, the preparation process is quite simple:

STEP 1) After washing all of your produce, thinly slice the curly green lettuce. After this cut the cherry tomatoes in half, and then move onto cutting the 4 white mushrooms into medium-thick slices. Place all prepared produce into a large bowl, and add in 1 heaped tablespoon of sliced green olives to the salad mix.

STEP 2) Now that this is done, you need to carefully cut the beef strips into smaller pieces or cubes, if this is not already done for you. Lightly season raw meat with 1 teaspoon of Montreal Steak Seasoning. Refridgerate until later.

STEP 3) Now dice half an onion and slice 1 clove of garlic. Add both of these to a non-stick frying pan, with a tablespoon of olive oil and lightly sauté. After this is completed, removed the previously seasoned meat from the refrigerator and add it to the pan. On a medium heat, occasionally turn to ensure the meat is cooked through. This should only take 2-3 minutes, due to the small amount of meat required.

STEP 4) TIME TO PLATE UP! Place the prepared salad onto a plate; followed by the beef, onion and garlic mix, which will be placed on top. However, no salad is complete without a dressing. With just 2 tablespoons of olive oil (Basil infused) and 2 tablespoons of sweet chilli sauce, evenly mix the two together. By lightly drizzling on top of the dish, you have created the most complimentary condiment for your beef and mushroom salad.

STEP 5) GRAB A FORK, TUCK IN & ENJOY!!!

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So what did I say? Easy to do? Of course it is!

Now, I enjoy dining out as much as the next person. However, the majority of us; myself included, are on a budget and this luxury is not always affordable. But with this simple recipe, you can bring fine dining to your very own kitchen. Whether you use it as an afternoon snack or as a starter when guests are around…it will not fail to impress.

But most importantly, it is delicious and something you can be proud of. The colours, tastes and smells seem impossible with such simple ingredients, but it works wonderfully. To make the savouring process even more enjoyable, this healthy, appetising alternative is only 288 Calories per serving. So maybe this dish is a true exception to the statement that “Everything that tatstes good is bad for us.”

An important part of this salad is the ingredients; specifically the mushrooms and olives. I myself am a huge fan of mushrooms, ever since I was a child. Therefore I always look for the best quality, but still at an affordable price. This is why I continue to choose BELLE GROVE MUSHROOMS time and time again. They are packed full of B vitamins and antioxidants, as well as being low in carbs. Mushrooms surprisingly make you feel fuller for longer, which quickly disperses the opinion that hunger cannot be simply satisfied with salad. Belle Grove Mushrooms are grown entirely pesticide free, which relieves many of our health conscious society in Canada. These particular Mushrooms can be purchased in all Metro Stores.

The olives on the other hand are great for hair growth, skin quality and, most importantly, contain oleic acid, which has been associated with improved heart health.

As a person whose cholesterol likes to creep up and scare them from time to time, these 2 ingredients are the most beneficial additions to any dishes I create. So there you have it folks… A cooking lesson and a health analysis rolled into one blog. How lucky are you? 

Let me know how you get on with this recipe, and I hope you enjoy your culinary experience. Happy cooking my little fairy followers. xxx.

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