There’s Thanksgiving, Hallowe’en, my birthday (and two of my family members’ birthdays!), as well as being in the swing of French classes.
There is so much fun and exciting energy that, coupled with the absolute beauty of autumn, there is no surprise that October is my favourite month.
Let’s start with my favourite picture –the pie I made for Thanksgiving! It is Jane Austen themed, with Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett cut out of the crust. I am quite proud of my ‘skills’ in making this!
If you would like these Austen themed cookie cutters, I got mine from the Jane Austen Centre’s gift shop hereand here. I could browse the lovelies there all day!
I always love dressing up for my birthday weekend even if nothing grand is planned, and when it is to work, a less frilly outfit must be worn of course! I still have fun through the details –combining my love for a sleek fit-and-flare silhouette with sheer tights, polka-dots and bows. I hereby present to you my ‘practical’ birthday outfit:
Top: Kate Spade ‘abree’ cashmere sweater in black (2014)
Skirt: Club Monaco ‘Minkie’ skirt (2013)
Tights:Gap polka-dot tights (2015)
Shoes:Vaneli ‘Lenita’ pump in black Soffio patent (2013)
Jewellery: Pandora charm bracelet –birthday gift from husband (2014); wedding + engagement ring from my husband. White gold swirl ring with diamonds. (2014)
We went for sushi for my birthday lunch at 168 Sushi Buffet. It isn’t our top favourite place to go for sushi in Ottawa, but it is a convenient location, and when the staff is not too busy, the food is fresh and very tasty. If you catch them on a busy afternoon though, prepare to have missing items from your order and/or the food to not be up to its usual standards. Following-up usually leads to them bringing the order in, so if you are not in a hurry, it isn’t ideal but not truly awful either –especially if you pay the all-you-can-eat price. We sometimes simply re-order what was missing.
October was a beautiful month; I hope you enjoyed yours! I will write in soon with my November happenings…
A few months ago, my best-est friend came down for a glorious 11 days, and we explored the nation’s capital like tourists fresh from another part of the world.
Our gastronomical adventures (not all in one day!) included nibbling on cupcakes, sampling divine Stubbe chocolates, feasting on the most amazing pizza at The Grand,and paying a visit to Smoke’s Poutinerie for some of Ottawa’s finest cheese curds and gravy on fries.
Smoke’s, by the way, is a very tiny establishment and is almost always full. It was a beautiful day outside though, and em and I were more than happy to take our poutines to the street and people-watch while we indulged.
We also wandered around the ByWard Market –which extends extensively around the main building itself. I’m not sure that I’m describing it as accurately as I would like, but it is a sprawling conglomeration of boutiques, salons, restaurants, bakeries, produce, meat, and cheese stands, etc. that spans across several streets. This is my impression based on the numerous ByWard Market signs that we encountered far from where we thought the market would have already ended! You cannot compare this to the Granville Island Market. There are similarities and differences, and each has its own distinctive flavour, but neither is ‘better’ than the other as I have heard some people hotly contest. They are both interesting experiences to be appreciated in their own right. We had supper at The Aulde Dubliner, which was opened in 1992 by two Irish immigrants with a big dream. I forget what em had, but I had the most comforting French onion soup imaginable. It was a cloudy, slightly damp day with a brisk breeze. I insisted on sitting outside on the balcony for the view but we finally went indoors. In a sterling case of poetic justice, em who wanted to sit indoors in the warmth, remained hail and hearty. I took sick after a few days. In my defense, there was that one evening where the skies absolutely poured and we were caught in it for hours –I with nary an umbrella.
We also stopped by Thimblecakes, and I tried one of their Ugly Ducklings, which is to say, less than perfect cupcakes that they would not sell at full price, but are still too delicious to toss. The one I had was incredibly dry and lacking in taste… and I’m not certain whether it was because it had been an Ugly Duckling for quite a while, but I was not very impressed. The decor of the place was elegantly decorated however, and I could be easily persuaded to give them another chance and try a perfect cupcake if I were to pass that way again. Now before you begin to wonder at our endless appetites, we did have other sights and interests that we pursued in our fair nation’s capital! There were paper shops… …which begged you to reconsider the notion that paper could ever be ‘plain’ or ‘boring’. In fact, I’m quite positive they made me feel as if one could gather together a tasteful collection of paper, wrap it in yet more, and present it as a very suitable and exclusive gift. And there were statues! There was one of Galahad, erected in front of Parliament to commemorate the heroic but unsuccessful attempt at saving a Miss Bessie Blount. Then there was this scandalous sculpture of young love, sitting on a bench and engaging in a subtle –yet public!–display of affection! I own I did not know where to avert mine eyes to…We stumbled upon exquisite beauty in Nature… …and revelled in it. We took a tour of the Supreme Court, and sat in on discussions in the House of Commons and the Senate, which I arbitrarily insisted on calling the House of Lords, simply to rile em‘santi-monarchist sensibilities. I suspect I only managed to irk her merely due to my inaccuracy. I am, without a doubt, the best friend a girl could have. 😛 Afterwards, we went to Parliament, which is a beautiful, stunning building. If this edifice is capable of inspiring awe in me, I can only imagine what the ancient castles and buildings in Europe will do. My favourite part of Parliament was the library, of course! It was built in the Victorian era, and survived a heavy fire in 1916. This disaster was caused by a cigarette that hadn’t been put out properly, and the library was only saved due to the quick thinking and actions of the librarians, who closed the heavy iron door leading to it. This is why you will notice a difference in architectural styles between the library and the part of the building outside of it. I can’t remember anymore whether the entirety of Parliament burned down, so I’m not sure whether the rest of Parliament is also part of the newer rebuilding completed in 1920. It is a very warm, bright atmosphere, and reminds one immediately of the library in Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’. I could have stayed in there for a very long time, except we were unceremoniously shooed out of the place after not even five minutes! This of course, went into a comment card with the polite suggestion that if the library only had one actual patron in it, surely a group of very quiet and well-behaved tourists could tiptoe ’round for a little while longer! 🙂 We then visited the Memorial Chamber, which is at the heart of the Peace Tower…It was originally built to honour the fallen from the Great War (WWI), but has since evolved into a memorial for all Canadians who have died serving their country in war and peace, since Confederation. There are several Books of Remembrance, with the list of all known Canadians who have died in service. The pages are turned every morning at 11:00, and there is a special calendar that ensures that each page of every book is displayed at least once during the year. The Peace Tower itself is a bell and clock tower, and you reach it via a golden elevator. I believe our guide mentioned that the golden ‘leaves’ on the ceiling was the number of Canadians who had died in service. I can’t seem to find this information on the internet to verify, so please take this ‘fact’ with a grain of salt. 🙂There is a picturesque view of the Ottawa River and the surrounding area from the Tower; it is not to be missed!
We also saw the procession for an opening session of Parliament… mace, tricorn hats, and all! One must retire for refreshments, and we went to the incredibly elegant Moscow Tea Room. They serve “award winning teas, small plates, pastries, charcuterie & cheeses, vodka, craft cocktails, champagne & caviar all within a sumptuous décor filled with art. Whether you are looking for a tea, coffee, a business lunch, martinis with the girls, make a great impression during a date or just have a great evening in a lounge, Moscow Tea Room has it all.” We tried the Vladimir Poutine, which is a dish comprised of potato and three cheese perogies, pan seared with caramelized onions and topped with beets, goat cheese crumble and spicy vodka sauce. The combination of textures and flavours was comforting, yet new and delightful. For anyone who doesn’t like perogies, do not let your experience with those frozen ones you buy at the store deter you!
Of course, no expedition of ours is ever complete if it is not rounded off by a handful of gem-coloured macarons. We paid a visit to Macarons Et Madeleines, and while I wasn’t particularly taken with most of their odd/avant-garde flavour combinations, one of them –an herbaland spice combination– was particularly soothing for my sore throat. Despite the name, it seems that macarons make up only a very small part of their offerings, sadly. It was a pleasant time, and I cherished my friend’s visit very much. If I haven’t scared her away with my predilection for scenic routes, spontaneous capers, and bus stop mishaps, I hope we shall meet for more expeditions very soon!
As the little red bar in the thermometer continues to plummet down towards the bottom, I find myself constantly raiding my beloved tea stash. Sometimes in the evenings though, just to make myself feel a bit more sophisticated, I reach for my man’s bottle of Baileys Irish Cream, and make a tea toddy. It makes sipping tea more interesting. 😉
I’ve put my own spin on this recipe, but if you look for Baileys Tea Toddy recipes, you’ll likely find the original. While I use DAVIDsTEA’s ‘the earl’s garden’ Earl Grey blend because it has extra subtle essences in it, you can easily substitute with a Twinings’ Earl Grey tea bag, or whichever brand you prefer. Don’t be afraid to experiment and come up with your own recipe! That’s what makes this so much fun!
Without further ado, I present my Irish Tea Toddy!
1 cup Earl Grey tea
¼ teaspoon sugar/honey (optional)
1 tsp milk (optional)
1 shot Baileys (That’s 44.36 milliliters, if you want to be fussy/pretentious like me)
1 shot Scotch whiskey (In my opinion, completely optional; I rarely add this!)
1 pinch cinnamon
Your favourite cup
Brew the tea as usual, stir in the milk, then add the sugar. Pour the Baileys, and add the dash of Scotch, which should be used sparingly, as too much ruins the flavour. Sprinkle the cinnamon on top. Settle yourself on the sofa or in bed, and enjoy with a book or while daydreaming! And why not wear an Irish jumper while at it?
It’s almost March, but it is still so très, très cold….
Let us just say that today, the sky sent down rain mixed with wet snow, in-between slush, and then big fat, fluffy flakes. But em and I had an Afternoon Tea date, and we don’t cancel our GDO’s (girls’ day out) lightly, if ever! So I reluctantly got out of my warm hole in the middle of my covers and started rooting through my closet. I just wanted my outfit to be warm for the weather yet simple because I didn’t feel like fussing, but still pretty.
I dashed out the door, and was already in Richmond by the time I realised that I had left my umbrella and gloves on the hallway stairs… I guess they need to keep warm somehow, too. 😛
We headed to Steveston, and got there an hour early; with an hour to kill, we peeped into bakeries, smelt fish-n’-chips every ten steps that we took –causing me to not-really die of hunger and a watering mouth– and my fingers got frozen, and my hair got wet. So I used my scarf the Grace Kelly way, but looked more like a disheveled babushka! Finally, it was 2:00!! We marched back into Adorabelle Tea Room –it is a historical building and was once a courthouse, so I joked that we were rabble-rousers who were going to hear the judge pronounce our sentences over cups of tea. 😛 While we were waiting to be seated, we took many photos –the place may be butter yellow on the outside, but it is pure pink and white goodness on the inside!
I found the decor to be refreshing, girly, but not overdone. Cute touches such as business cards in teacups were simply enchanting, and who could resist a mini pink Eiffel tower? I also adored the signs in French… although ‘toilette’ is a feminine word, so it should be ‘la toilette’, not ‘le toilette’… ah dear. It’s a good thing that I am not 100% fluent in French yet, because otherwise both English and French grammatical errors would drive me crazy!! At any rate, the sign certainly doesn’t detract from the charm, so do not mind me! 😉 We were seated quite quickly, and our server brought us their teas in cute little tins, and let us sniff which ones we wanted to have for our afternoon tea. em picked Paris, and I picked Sakura.
Paris: Paris is home to many renowned tea salons. Their charm is recreated in our careful blend of currant, bergamot and caramel.
Sakura:Cherry blossom green. New harvest Japanese green tea lightly scented with the fresh taste of sakura (cherries) and rose petals.
She poured our teas, and to our surprise asked if we were right or left-handed, and then arranged our teapots accordingly… such a thoughtful touch!
The place differed in that we were not given any menus that listed out what we would be having; all the other places that we have tried so far have provided menus as well as walked us through each item. However, that’s alright, because we still did get a little talk about what was on each tier… although it was hard to remember things midway through our meal. I couldn’t remember what a certain sandwich was, and started to think that perhaps it was tuna with watercress, until the waitress came back and said that it was actually a Chicken Waldorf!! Oops, what does that say about my tastebuds?? 😀 Everything was absolutely delicious though –you can trust me on that! I dislike naming favourites in an afternoon tea service, because everything is so complementary and goes well as a whole.
I am awful at trying to look glamorous in public places, so you get this picture of me with a skewed-up smile instead. I’m wearing the Banana Republic x Issa dress that is the high-street version of the then-Kate Middleton’s famous Issa engagement dress. But no Prada heels for me… just sensible opaque black tights with my ‘Beaumont’ black leather boots from DUO.
At $25 per person, I think it is an affordable way to enjoy afternoon tea –especially for the atmosphere, quality of service, and attention to details that you will experience! I am definitely planning to bring my mum there for Mothering Sunday; especially since Steveston holds so many memories for us, I know she will enjoy it there.
Hope you have a steaming cup of goodness to keep you warm today!!
“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.” ― Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady
On the very last day of August, the very warm weather that had graced Vancouver seemed to be coming to a close. The slightest chill hung in the shadows where the sun could not peer into, although in general, it was what would be described as ‘a very fine day’.
My dear friend ‘em’ and I wanted to usher out the last few days of ‘true summer’, as I call it, and warm weather in high form. Now what could be posh-er than Afternoon Tea?
Patisserie Für Elise is a pastry shop and tea salon that runs out of a quaint little heritage building on the edge of Yaletown –Hamilton Street. I had been wanting to explore it for a while, so when M agreed to the expedition, we took the Canada Line down to Stadium-Chinatown station that very weekend (really, there’s nothing nicer than having such a direct and simple route to take to one’s destination!) and walked the few blocks to the row of converted heritage homes.
Five unintended but fashionable minutes late, M hovered anxiously close to the entrance, urging me to hurry as I decided to change my footwear from the ballet flats that were worn for the transit ride into the heels that I had brought along. Never having learned the art of being a proper woman to the full, and not wanting to verge into rudely late territory, I gave up on the idea and resigned myself to my disheveled state, and we (with some variation of grace) flung the door open. Two sixteenths of a second later, a girl in a frilly floral apron greeted us, ushered us upstairs, and sat us down in a table of our choosing.
The place is pure eye candy, and I went giddy over all the grand opulence and little details which resulted in a few shots that could have only been taken by someone in a state of tipsiness.
I don’t think my camera’s shutter ever worked harder in such a short time than it did here. But honestly, who could resist the charms of this place? Certainly not this girly-girl, at any rate!
I even shamelessly smuggled my camera with me into the lavatory under the pretense of business that should actually be done in such a room, because it was too darling not to document. I wonder if the girls behind the counter actually knew my true purpose! I can’t have been the first!
Finally returning to the business of actually ordering tea, I settled on ‘Sweetheart‘, a strawberry flavoured black tea, and M decided on ‘Lychee Garden‘, which had the mentioned fruit and peony flowers in it. While we waited, I slipped into my ruby pumps, feeling ridiculous as two girls at the other table raised their eyebrows at my doings. All I can say is that it is better to be absolutely ridiculous, than absolutely boring. *ahem*
The tea came soon enough. Along with the steaming pots, we were given an hourglass that counted five minutes and told that as soon as all the pink grains had settled to the bottom, our tea would be ready to enjoy!
Now I’m always very careful not to read what is on the menu when I look at afternoon tea reviews, as I prefer being surprised and having the dining experience feel new and ‘fresh’ to me. So in case you are like me, I will skip the elaborate descriptions of every single morsel that was served, and simply let the collage below suffice.
I feel like I need to give the food another chance, as I was honestly not head-over-heels in love as I had been with the offerings at the Fairmont Empress. But my first impressions were that the blueberry panna cotta was divine (alright, I might be going into a few details here…) the macarons were quite good though not on par with Soirette’s, the croissants over-toasted, and the gelatinous little petits fours were like an unsuccessful melding of a European’s and Asian’s idea of a sweet. I could be completely far off the mark here, but at first taste, that is what it seemed like to me. If I do go back, I will pepper the girls who work there with questions regarding some of the desserts and their origins/inspiration, but this visit was purely for catching up with a dear friend, and so any curiosity regarding that topic was put off for another time. The tea itself was very satisfying, although I did prefer the lychee concoction a bit more as the strawberry one seemed to have a slight herbal after-taste to it.
After a couple of hours merrily giggling and chatting away, we took our leave and went downstairs to look at the sweets ready to be sold in case one didn’t have time to partake in tea, or perhaps if one didn’t have enough of it.
More picture-taking was indulged in out-of-doors…
… and either poetically or dramatically, we took our fond leave after I snapped this picture of the trees, who with arched branches, stand in graceful watch by either side of the gate.
Later that night, I wrote to a friend the following one-and-only sentence:
I am obsessed with Afternoon Tea.
— Miss Cathie
Note:At $30 per lady/gent, I feel the decor and ambiance definitely figure in the cost, however, they are very generous with refilling your teapots. I’m hoping a second visit will confirm whether the so-so croissants and desserts were simply the result of an off-day. While it seemed to be quiet when we arrived at around 2 p.m., the place filled up quite quickly soon after, so reservations are a good idea! I can see this being a very popular place during the wedding season, and any special holidays like Christmas and Easter.
P.S. Ever since a certain someone said ‘xoxo, Miss Cathie’ in the manner of Gossip Girl, I’ve had the hankering to change my sign-off. Grr. You know who you are, you infidel! *resumes ladylike composure*