Ontario

Design: Caribou Cabin in My Home

A couple of weeks ago, I shared news of Canadian newcomer Caribou Cabin. This shop designs, customizes, and manufactures chalkboards, magnetic whiteboards, and pinboards. The company generously sent me a beautiful square (34″ x34″) linen pinboard – white a white frame, of course.

Soon after the order was placed, my massive shipment arrived at my doorstep. The board was wrapped carefully and arrived safely to my home in Waterloo. When I saw the grey linen for the first time, I was impressed by the quality of the item. And the grey matched my home perfectly.

I leaned it up against the wall behind a cabinet in my living room which houses my radio, record player, and typewriter. I pinned up some memorable items from my office that I knew would look pretty and would also remind me of happy celebrations.

As I took my photos, I thought that the pinboard in my living room would be the perfect spot to showcase Christmas cards. And the great thing about the pinboard is that I can move it to other areas of my home such as a hallway landing area or office. The office is certainly an obvious spot for a pinboard, but I don’t think it’s the only place for it.

Thanks to Caribou Cabin for sponsoring this post. All photos and opinions are my own.

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Cars: Review of the Audi Q5

Have I caught your attention with the title? Audi. Q5. Who’s excited for a little car review? Honestly, I am most definitely thrilled to be writing this post about my recent experience with the Audi Q5 – aka #WhiteCabanaDreamCar.

I’ve been keen on the Q5 for a while now, but it hasn’t always been that way.

A long(er) while ago, you may remember that I became pretty obsessed with the Fiat 500. I loved the look of this little Italian go-getter, but eventually my want/need for this little one faded. I rented it for a weekend, and while I enjoyed driving it around Toronto, it barely fit my luggage, and it was quite a noisy highway ride.

In recent years, it was the Audi Q7 that caught my attention, and I wrote about it here. What a beautiful car. It’s sleek, stylish, and roomy. In fact, once I saw it up-close, I realized it might be a touch too roomy for my liking. With no children in tow, I don’t have a need for its third row of seats.

Enter the Q5. I kept seeing this car on the road, and I kept liking it. And liking it some more. When I drove home from Montebello, Quebec, I spotted many on the highway, and each time I saw one, I thought, “now that’s a nice looking car,” sometimes I said it to myself before I was close enough to confirm that the car I was eyeing was in fact an Audi Q5.

Given that I grew up with an Audi 5000, I have fond memories of the Audi brand. My parents bought our grey Audi 5000 at the Audi factory Ingolstadt, Germany, then shipped it over to Toronto way back in 1985! We traveled everywhere in that car as a family. When my Dad finally retired it in 2006 after 21 years and 344,996kms, it was a pretty sad day for all of us. We all knew it was at the end of its life (21 years!), but it was emotional to see it go. Is that weird? To be so emotionally attached to a car? Hope I’m not the only one!

Dad and our Audi 5000 in Ingolstadt, Germany
(my sister and I are in the backseat – camera shy, I guess)

Okay, so we weren’t too camera shy. My sister and I at a basket shop in Germany. I’m flexing my muscles by carrying the biggest basket I could find, I guess!

So this brings me to my recent, super up-close encounter with the Audi Q5. The AudiKW team generously loaned me a white Q5 for a couple of days of adventuring around the Waterloo region (see #WhiteCabanaxAudi on Instagram for a few more photos). What a treat! I was happy to explore the white, sleek AudiKW showroom while I waited for my car. While dealerships can be easily intimidating for someone like me (who knows very little about cars), I was pleasantly surprised by everyone’s welcoming attitudes. I felt comfortable.

I met with Deon and Robert who set me up with the Q5. Robert – a brand specialist – walked me through all the features of the Audi Q5 Komfort. This model is the lowest end of the Audi Q5 spectrum, so some elements I really liked, and others would come in a higher end model (like the Progressive or the Technik).

When I got in the car, the first things I noticed were the driver’s seat and the size of the front window. The driver’s seat was made for me (or so I like to think). It was comfortable from the beginning right up until I dropped off the car. The front window panel was large and free of obstructions. I know this should always be the case, but it isn’t. Sometimes the frame is too thick or the rear view mirror is bulky. I also loved that the windshield wipers tucked away beautifully – they weren’t visible when not in use. Great design detail!

I love the design of these mirrors.

I currently drive a 2004 Toyota Rav4 – which I really do love – but it doesn’t have the modern features of new cars, so it took me a little while to get used to all the tech in the Audi Q5. Okay – not that long, but you know what I mean. In the Audi Q5, I could actually plug in my phone and connect it to bluetooth. I know many new cars have this feature, but my Rav4 doesn’t, so it took a moment to get used to it. Once I did – let me tell you – I made as many hands-free phone calls as I could while I was driving! I get amused so darn easily!

I think I only managed to use about one or two of these buttons! I’m pretty tech-savvy, but not when it comes to cars!

The cargo space is decent in the Komfort (26.8 cubic feet), but I definitely noticed that it’s smaller than the space in my Rav4 (about 38 cubic feet). The seats fold down, of course, which helps for large loads, but it would be something I’d have to consider and test out before I’d purchase it as I do end up carrying large loads on random trips in and out of town. The cargo space in the Q5 is tidy with a hidden spare tire and a privacy cover, too.

 

Great design – everything has its place!

Because I live in Uptown Waterloo and normally walk or bike to the places I need to go, I forced myself to venture out a bit for a longer drive to get the full experience of this car. I took the highway-route to Cambridge so I could go fast! FUN! The pick-up in the Q5 was amazing, and my comfort level remained high! The car drove smoothly and quietly, and I definitely liked driving fast (within speed limits, of course)!

When I was going over the features with Robert at the dealership, he told me that the car can adjust to various driving modes – dynamic, comfort, auto, etc. I opted for dynamic for the majority of the time because the ride felt fast and smooth. Dynamic mode has tight steering and more aggressive gear shifting. Comfort, on the other hand, has softer, easier steering and less aggressive gear shifting.

Look at the little lights underneath the handles – love them!

Having the Audi Q5 in my possession made my birthday celebrations extra fun! In fact, since my parents came for a visit, they, too, experienced the luxurious drive! This was especially fun for my dad who recreated his Audi pose from 1985. 

Notice my approach to parking? The farther and emptier, the better!

Over the course of my Audi Q5 ownership, I drove as much as I possibly could. In addition to driving to and around Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo, and St. Jacobs, I drove over to the sweet town of Elora for a birthday dinner celebration. On the way, I stopped by the Montrose kissing bridge – the last covered bridge in Ontario, and the oldest of its kind in Canada.

And I also stopped by the castle-house on Middlebrook Road (between Montrose and Elora).  While in Elora, I checked out the progress of the Elora Mill. Construction is well underway, and I’m very much looking forward to a return trip here to eat, stay, and relax! It’s going to add so much more prettiness to the already-pretty town of Elora. As you can see in these photos, parking the Q5 was a breeze. Backing into grassy areas and stone-covered roads was a-okay!

For an SUV, the Audi Q5 is extremely fuel efficient. I love this aspect of the car! Apparently, it’s good to go 1000km on a tank of gas. Isn’t that amazing for an SUV?

I took on several passengers over the course of my mini-ownership. Every passenger loved the experience. All agreed that the car was definitely sleek and luxurious and beautifully designed. Back-seat passengers felt that the ride was spacious and comfortable and enjoyed the adjustable back seats as well as the back-seat air conditioning controls.

As a driver, I got easily used to having the control buttons at my fingertips on the console. While some passengers assumed that the navigation screen was touch-screen, it wasn’t. This didn’t bother me at all. I really liked having the circle button on the console to control music, phone calls, settings, etc. It was very easy to operate and comfortable because I didn’t need to extend my arm for touch screen.

While I did absolutely enjoy the Audi Q5 Komfort, and my interest in purchasing one has been confirmed because of this recent driving experience, there are some features that did not come with this model that I would want. My top priority would be a sunroof. I love having a sunroof in my Rav4, and I would definitely want a Q5 that had one. The model that I drove didn’t have all the snazzy sensors and cameras that I would want in a new car. I’d definitely upgrade to include these as I think they’re especially handy for parking and highway driving.

If you can’t already tell, overall, I have become more attached to the Audi Q5 after this driving experience. It’s a beautiful vehicle from every angle, and it made me feel safe, happy, and secure. I also loved walking up to it knowing that I got to get in the driver’s seat. This car definitely suits my style and personality!

Do I still think that this is the car for me? You bet!

Unless, maybe, I should try out the Audi TT first? 🙂

Many thanks to MC and the AudiKW team for sponsoring this post. All opinions and photos are my own.

p.s. Outfit details: jeans – Joe Fresh (last year), top – Kate Spade, eyeglasses – Polette, sunglasses – Rayban, purse – Longchamp.

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Event: Relais & Chateaux Congress at Langdon Hall

Please tell me you’re still enjoying all of my #WhiteCabanaGoestoLangdonHall news. I thoroughly enjoy my visits there. It’s a unique gem, and I’m happy to share stories about my experiences. The staff is so kind and welcoming, and I’m thrilled that I get to keep visiting. Some friends have asked me about my recent dinner there, so I thought I’d write a little something about it in case others were interested in learning, too.

Last week, Langdon Hall hosted the Congress of the North American Relais & Chateaux partners. Owners, general managers, and others from Relais & Chateaux properties came to Langdon Hall for a few days of learning and mingling. On the Sunday before the learning began, Langdon Hall hosted a reception for its guests – congress attendees and a few other friends, too. I was thrilled to have been invited to join in on the fun.

I arrived at Langdon Hall on a rainy evening, but the weather didn’t dampen anyone’s mood. As soon as I stepped inside the main house, I was handed a glass of champagne (rain? what rain?). While sipping on the bubbly, I chatted with a few of the guests. Everyone was in a happy mood, and everyone seemed to be amazed by the beauty of Langdon Hall. I know! I get it!

Wine tasting was happening in several of the rooms, and in addition to the Bergström and the Guado al Tasso wines, I was fascinated by the Coravin wine opener. A needle punctures through the cork, and the wine is poured. Through the power of magic (and engineering), after you take the opener off the bottle, the cork remains in place. The wine is protected, and it won’t spoil, since the cork remains as the seal.

While we were sipping on champagne and wine, plenty of hors d’oeuvres were passed around. Presentation was beautiful and we were treated with plenty of delicious treats!

A little while later, all guests were invited to make their way to the Firshade Room which is Langdon Hall’s newest event space (I wrote about it when it was set up for a wedding open house.). Here, Langdon Hall’s owner, Mr. Bill Bennett, welcomed all of his guests and introduced three performers from the Stratford Festival – Sean Arbuckle, Blyth Wilson, and Laura Burton on piano. They performed a few songs, and the songs from Guys and Dolls were especially entertaining. It seems like it’s a really fun show!

costumes from A Little Night Music

And then…we feasted.

Chef Jason Bangerter and his team worked wonders once again. Charcuterie, truffle risotto, beef and pork with turnip purée, oysters, and apple slices topped with cheese and marcona almonds? Oh, jeez, I was in food heaven! The meal was served buffet-style, and everything was plated in style. As is the Langdon Hall way!

And to end our meal? Pastry Chef Rachel Nicholson and her team created so many artistic treats. There was something for everyone. I opted for a creme brulĂ©e and a peanut butter and strawberry mousse. It was hard to resist at just two – let me tell you!

The evening was memorable, fun, interesting, and delicious. I had great conversations throughout the evening, and I learned more about several Relais & Chateaux properties.

Thanks again, Langdon Hall, for welcoming me in so warmly!

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Travel: Things to Do in Collingwood, Ontario

As I mentioned on Monday, I recently enjoyed a relaxing time at the Scandinave Spa Blue Mountains in Collingwood, Ontario. The day was a full one, and I’d like to fill you in on a few other things I experienced during this mini-vacation.

As I mentioned, the drive from Waterloo to the Collingwood area is very easy and enjoyable. Driving the country roads is relaxing and beautiful. The route took us through the charming town of Erin, Ontario, and just as we entered the main part of town, we spotted a house painted black with cafĂ© on the sign – the Tin Roof CafĂ©. We grabbed homemade cookies and coffee (healthy way to start a spa day, right?) for our journey. I appreciated the design, and the coffee was well-made, too. I recommend it.

As we made it to Collingwood, we stopped to walk the main street. When we spotted a white bike in a shop window, I knew I had to explore. Turns out that the store – Leuk – was made for people like me. White, white, and more white! In fact, Leuk has three stores – a flower store, a cafĂ© and clothing store, and a furniture store – all on the main street (Hurontario St.) in Collingwood. I wanted to buy everything.

photo via Leuk

On the recommendation of a Leuk saleswoman, we stopped in at The Tremont for a delicious lunch in a design-y, French atmosphere. Marble tables get me. Every. Single. Time. I had a freshly made quiche and side salad, which I thought was an improvement from my morning cookie. The closer you get to a spa, the healthier you get? 🙂 I would definitely go back to The Tremont on a future visit.

photo via The Tremont Cafe

Not wanting to return home after five hours at the spa, we took the quick drive over to the Blue Mountain Village. This is the ski zone. There are shops, restaurants, and accommodations for all those people who love to ski. In the spring, though, the Village is a great place for a little walk. We were also hungry for dinner at this point in the day (worked up an appetite after all that relaxing!), and we walked around the sweet boardwalk to the Oliver & Bonacini CafĂ© Grill restaurant at the Westin Trillium House hotel. I had already known that the Westin was in the Village, but I didn’t know that Oliver & Bonacini was the in-hotel restaurant. The restaurant has a beautiful, modern, and welcoming interior, and the sun was shining brightly in the restaurant even though it must have been close to 7pm at this point in the day. Such a wonderful atmosphere! Here, I opted for a classic pizza margherita. Yum. I’d order it again. And one of these days, I’m going to stay at the Westin because it looks like my kind of place – regardless of season!

photo via Oliver & Bonacini

So, not only did I have an amazing time at the Scandinave Spa, but I also really enjoyed exploring a bit of Collingwood. I know the area has so much to offer, and while we generally hear about the winter activity options, I think now is also an ideal time to take explore the area.

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Architecture: Old Ontario Houses

When I was in the Niagara region recently, I took several photos of gorgeous houses, including this lovely yellow home. I always seem to notice new ones when I’m there. And each on in Niagara-on-the-Lake is especially interesting and unique. We have gorgeous properties in the Waterloo region, which I ogle, and I always paid attention to the details of these homes when I lived in London and Kingston. They ooze charm, and they catch my eye!

And that’s why I’m a sucker for the Instagram account called Old Ontario Houses. Do you know it? Caution – you may not notice the time fly by once you start scrolling and reading about the locations of each house!

Here are a few white ones that caught my attention as I was scrolling through the feed recently:

Yates Street Heritage District, St. Catharines

Niagara-on-the-Lake

Niagara-on-the-Lake

St. David’s

Jordan Village

St. Mary’s

St. Thomas

Since it’s #Canada150 this year, maybe it’s about time I – or we – should start paying extra attention to white architecture in our beautiful country!

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Travel: Niagara Icewine Festival, Niagara, Ontario

Are you looking for something to do this weekend? If yes, I’d like to suggest you take a trip to Niagara to tour the wineries, sip on icewine, and eat delicious food – all part of the Niagara Icewine Festival. I know it shouldn’t take much more than that to convince you, but if you need some more info before you plan your weekend, this is the post for you.

When I reached out to the Niagara Icewine Festival organization, the kind folks there kindly sent over a pair of Discovery Passes. I was eager to go to the festival because I had never been, and I thought it would be a nice day away from my weekend routine of chores, errands, and work. It turned out to be much more than that!

The Discovery Pass ($40) allows you to visit 8 wineries of your choosing over the period of the festival (January weekends). Planning can be done before you arrive in Niagara via the Discovery Pass Listings and Wine Route Planner. I didn’t actually plan too much before we set off, so I did some of the route planning during the car ride over. Although the plan did change a bit as the trip progressed because of chats with other guests and winery staff, it was nice to have some sense of wineries that I might enjoy. Because the participating wineries extended from Grimsby to Niagara-on-the-Lake, it was nice to visit wineries along the full route. Thank goodness for reliable GPS systems!

We began our tour at Kacaba (pronounced Ka-sa-ba) where we met David, a friendly and informative Kacaba employee. Here, we learned about Kacaba’s history and soon-to-be-completed expansion, sipped on Jennifer’s Pinot Gris, and enjoyed jumbo prawns with our icewine cocktail. It was a great start to the day!

From Kacaba, we headed to Stoney Ridge winery. Here, we sipped on some chardonnay and  munched on some apple smoked bacon mac n cheese. The winery has a specialty cheese counter, too. I wanted to try everything! And for dessert – icewine-infused marshmellows roasted on the outdoor fire pit.

After Stoney Ridge, we drove to Megalomaniac. We drove up a windy road through the vineyards, and were greeted by an impressive, modern  building that had been hidden by the fog. It was pretty remarkable. Megalomaniac’s branding is awesome with wine names like The Narcissist and Big Kahuna paired with labels designed to match perfectly. The staff were friendly and generous. Here, we tasted four icewine cocktails and marveled at the grandness of the building’s design and decor. And the fog – oh the fog was pretty dreamy!

We made another stop at Tawse with good intentions to enjoy the Discovery Pass, but we needed a break from wine sipping (imagine that). Instead, we took a tour of the facilities and had a very informative conversation with Julie, one of the friendly Tawse staff. I’d like to go back to Tawse in the spring/summer to explore a bit more. The cave-like setting was charming, and it certainly reminded me of French wineries. Tawse is also interesting because it’s an organic and biodynamic winery – apparently it’s a place where chickens roam. I must learn more!

So after these stops in the area of Vineland, we headed to Niagara-on-the-Lake for a hearty lunch before our next tour.

Our first stop in Niagara-on-the-Lake – and last of the day – was at Strewn Winery. The event was organized so that while guests stood at large tables in the cooking school area, they were served icewine paired with a chocolate ganache tart.

I honestly thought that visiting 8 wineries in one day would be doable. In fact, it isn’t. We spent almost an hour at each winery – sipping, eating, chatting, touring – and if you add in travel time, the day just flies! Plus, who can actually keep track of time when you’re in wine country surrounded by beautiful vineyards? If you’re planning a trip and would like to maximize your Discovery Pass, I highly recommend you stay overnight in the region.

On Day 2, we began in Niagara-on-the-lake at Reif Estate Winery (Reif is pronounced Rye-f). This easily became one of my favourite spots on the tour. The Discovery Pass had us enjoying icewine paired with porchetta. The pig wasn’t happy, but I sure was! The setting was old-world, and I learned that Reif is one of the oldest winery in Niagara. After visiting some of the younger (less than 10 years old) wineries, it was nice to see a place with a longer history.

From Reif, we drove down the road to Konzelmann. This is another winery with a longer history and German heritage. The staff was, once again, informative and welcoming. We learned about the family traditions, the building’s construction, and some of the plans for the future. The retail shop has bottles at various price points.

Stop number 7 (were you counting?) was Sue-Ann Staff Winery in Jordan. This smaller winery is run by a passionate owner and team. Here, our icewine was paired with a sweet potato crème brulée. Yes, I said sweet potato!

To wrap up the Niagara Icewine Festival adventure, we visited Redstone Winery (by mistake, actually) to enjoy a chocolate-infused chili with our icewine. Redstone is owned by the Tawse family, but the feel of the winery is quite different. While Tawse is old-world and cave-like, Redstone is industrial and bright. The building is absolutely stunning, and we learned that it has won awards in the architectural world (I didn’t take any photos of it, unfortunately!). While we couldn’t see the views from the restaurant on account of the fog, I imagine that this would be a spectacular place in the spring/summer.  I’d love to make a return trip here, too. (Are you sensing a pattern?)

As someone who had never been to the icewine festival, or Niagara wineries in general, the Discovery Pass was an ideal option for casual exploration. The winery listings is large, so there’s something for everyone. The pass is also a nice way to spread out your visits during the month of January if you live in – or close to – the region, since the 8 visits are not confined to one weekend of the festival. What I enjoyed about the tour is the variety of wineries that I got to visit as well as the stories and buildings to go with the incredible scenery. The people I met are certainly passionate about what they do!

The Niagara region is approximately a 1.5-hour drive from Waterloo. The drive is easy and pleasant, and it doesn’t include a 401 traffic jam in Milton (great news, right?). There’s one more weekend to go for this year’s Niagara Icewine Festival. Let me know if you have any questions if you’re planning a trip.

Thanks to K.H. at the Niagara Icewine Festival for arranging my Discovery Passes. All opinions, thoughts, and photos are my own.

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Travel: Review of the Delta Waterloo

When I wrote my Waterloo region city guide for Design*Sponge, the Delta Waterloo hotel had only recently opened. Last weekend, I was fortunate enough to stay the night and experience the hotel first hand. It might seem a little odd to some readers that I opted to have a little vacation within my own city, but every once in a while, I feel that it’s quite the luxurious adventure to leave behind weekend chores in search of rest and relaxation in a new environment.

So, I crossed King St. in Uptown Waterloo and checked into the Delta Waterloo for a little #WhiteCabanaStaycation.

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Although I had watched the Delta be built, I had never been in since I moved here three years ago. It’s the only 4-star hotel in Waterloo, so I assumed it would have quite a lot to offer.

I confirmed my reservation over the phone and requested an earlier check-in and later check-out if possible. While neither could be guaranteed, in the end, the Delta staff were able to accommodate both requests. I really appreciated that the Delta staff worked to accommodate these requests.

Parking was straightforward as was check-in. I was welcomed by Matt at the front desk, and he answered my initial questions about the hotel in a professional manner. The lobby of the Delta Waterloo is chic and sleek, and the lighting caught my attention.

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The Delta Waterloo generously offered me a corner suite. From my room, I had views of two of my favourite Waterloo buildings – the Perimeter Institute and CIGI Campus.

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My suite was bright, and with the sun shining in through the soft drapes, the room just felt warm and light. The suite had a king size bed – definitely a comfy hotel bed! – and a pull-out couch. It also had two TVs – yes, two! – and a desk area with a charging station (so convenient), great bedside lighting, and a bathroom outfitted with modern fixtures. The coffee station included a selection of teas and coffees, and the mini fridge was a useful addition.

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The bathroom was right up my design alley. The wood vanity, the white tiling, and the glass shower doors made the space really modern. Toiletries were by Apothia.

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The bed sheets were crisp, the bath towels were plush, and the hotel robe was cozy (I do love a good hotel robe!). Honestly, I can’t say anything negative about the room – or my stay, in fact. I had everything I needed for my #WhiteCabanaStaycation, and my room was a stylish and comfortable place to relax (I finally got through reading a few magazines that have been waiting for me at home!). Oh – and I loved that there were windows that I could actually open! (Am I the only one who gets annoyed when they don’t?) Good design feature, Delta Waterloo!

As far as hotel amenities go, the Delta Waterloo has a fitness centre, pool, hot tub, and sauna on the lower level. Even though the hot tub was off-duty due to a maintenance issue, I put the pool and sauna to use. As you can imagine, a trip to both added pleasure to my stay!

Dining out – and in – was easy at the Delta Waterloo. While there are many restaurant options in Uptown Waterloo, I decided to have dinner at Proof Kitchen & Lounge, which I have heard quite a bit about, but I had never been. Proof isn’t just for hotel guests; many local residents regularly go here for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

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Proof was definitely more stylish and design friendly than I had originally thought, so my first impression was a good one. When I was inside, it did not feel like I was in “small town” Waterloo. The hexagon graphic theme works well, and there are many clever names on the menu items that made me smile (e.g., the OMG chocolate cake, the Big Pimmpin’ Pimm’s Cup). I opted for the Big Pimmpin’ Pimm’s Cup and the Proof smoked Berkshire pork chop with fingerling potatoes for dinner. Yum. Yum. It’s not cheap, but it is delicious! (See all the menu items.)

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For breakfast, I ordered room service – which I rarely do, actually – and my meal arrived right on time. It was a basic breakfast of eggs and bacon, but I think it tasted better than usual because I didn’t have to make it myself (insert huge smile), and I could stay in my pyjamas (insert second huge smile). My #WhiteCabanaStaycation could have easily been called #WeekendofLuxury2.0.

For those of you who are new visitors to the region, you’ll be happy to know that the location of the Delta Waterloo could not be more perfect. Uptown restaurants are within walking distance as is Waterloo park, the Clay and Glass Museum, and the Waterloo Recreation Centre.

Guest rooms start at $169 per night, and deluxe rooms start at $189 per night. Read more about rooms and rates if you’re planning a trip to the Waterloo region.

Honestly, dear readers, there’s something just fabulous about traveling within your own city! I feel very fortunate that I got the opportunity to do so, and I’d encourage you to consider doing the same thing! (p.s. I’ve added a few more photos on Instagram and Twitter using #WhiteCabanaStaycation.)

Many thanks to Elaine S. and Delta Waterloo for sponsoring my accommodations. All opinions and photos are my own.

Food: Langdon Hall’s Terroir Noir

Yes, yes, I’m back with more news from Langdon Hall. I could easily start a regular Langdon Hall series on White Cabana. The place is amazing, and I’ve recently been calling it My Langdon Hall. Yes, I am totally biased and also completely smitten by the place.

Anyhoo – a few months ago, the team at Langdon Hall invited me to interview Executive Chef Jason Bangerter and Pastry Chef Rachel Nicholson. An interview, I asked? About what? Chocolate! Tough gig, I know.

You see, Langdon Hall decided that they should have their own signature chocolate (as if the place wasn’t special enough), and they wanted some help to get their story out.

You may have seen this post on Instagram recently if you follow me or @LangdonHall or @LangdonHallChef:

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via @LangdonHallChef

You see those words right there? Yeah, I wrote them (with some edits from LH)! So cool! Since that paragraph only provides a glimpse into LH’s chocolate, I was given permission to share the full story here on my blog. Read on if you’d like to learn more about how this chocolate came to be.

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Making of Langdon Hall’s Signature Chocolate: The Beginning
Jordana Garbati

Being whisked away to France on a highly unique chocolate mission seems like an incredible experience to add to one’s bucket list. For Langdon Hall’s Executive Chef Jason Bangerter and pasty chef Rachel Nicholson, this experience turned from dream to reality in February.

Jason and Rachel were invited to Cacao Barry’s prestigious Or Noir in Paris to develop a signature chocolate recipe for Langdon Hall. Only a few Canadian chefs, and only about 200 chefs around the world, have developed a signature chocolate recipe! Armed with a few goals in mind and a clear idea of the flavours the chefs wanted to include in Langdon Hall’s future house chocolate, the duo zipped off to Paris for a three-day chocolate adventure.

At Or Noir, Jason and Rachel were confronted with cacao beans from around the world and wasted no time working with Or Noir’s highly-qualified team to begin the process of developing Langdon Hall’s distinct chocolate.

Chef Jason wanted to ensure that Langdon Hall’s philosophy was well represented in its chocolate. He wanted the chocolate to instill ideas of the land, smokiness (we all know about Langdon Hall’s divine fireplaces), warmth, and tradition. Chef Rachel was on the same page and wanted to ensure that the final chocolate recipe would not only work beautifully on its own, but also become that more memorable when transformed into a chocolate ganache or pain au chocolat.

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 Chefs Jason and Rachel and the French team at Or Noir

The chefs went through Or Noir’s chocolate recipe development process whereby they explained their desired taste profile, explored cacao pastes from around the world, blended flavours, and tasted multiple production samples.

After a few gruelling days in the Parisian chocolate laboratory (as much as crafting a chocolate recipe can be gruelling), the chefs settled on the perfect recipes for dark and milk chocolate that are set to impress.

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Langdon Hall chocolate samples – some of the first pieces Langdon Hall’s dark and milk chocolates – ready for a taste test

The dark chocolate has an ideal amount of bitterness. It’s great paired simply with an after-dinner espresso, and it is sure to increase the quality of Langdon’s popular chocolate-filled pastries and desserts. The flavour lingers on the tongue and is of beautiful texture and consistency. The milk chocolate is as creamy and shiny as you would want it to be, and it is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. Both chocolate recipes are as distinguished as Langdon Hall, they embody luxurious hospitality as much as a chocolate could, and they are yet one more piece that will raise guests’ experiences to another notable level. Jason-Rachel-Langdon-Hall-TerroirNoir

Executive Chef Jason Bangerter and Pastry Chef Rachel Nicholson with the first chocolate production at Langdon Hall

For chefs Jason and Rachel, the signature chocolate brings prestige and innovation. The creation of the Langdon Hall chocolate brings outside-the-box thinking and creativity. This addition to the existing repertoire of phenomenal recipes will entice new and returning guests to visit Langdon Hall to experience its inimitable chocolate.

After the recipe was created in February, the chocolate went into production in France. Since the arrival of the first shipment of chocolate, the chefs have been busy in their kitchen creating new decadent recipes.

On April 25th, Executive Chef Jason Bangerter will travel to the Art Gallery of Ontario to launch Langdon Hall’s chocolate and its top-secret name at the Terroir Symposium, which is an event that brings together top chefs, sommeliers, and artists with the goal to promote innovation, collaboration, and creativity in the field of hospitality. Industry leaders will no doubt be enthralled by the story of how Langdon Hall’s chocolate came to be and I challenge them to stop at just one bite.

***

I should say that Chef Jason did make sure I had my fair share of chocolate during the interview (Thanks, Jason.) I preferred the dark, but the milk was so darn smooth. I know, such a tough gig. Hanging out at Langdon Hall eating chocolate – life. is. good.

p.s. In recent news, did you see that Drake went to Langdon, too? Cool.

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via @ChampagnePapi, photo by @CaitCronenberg

 

Travel: Langdon Hall in Cambridge, Ontario – Part I

I learned about Langdon Hall last summer when I Googled something like “fancy hotel Waterloo,” and it came up in the search results. I thought I had just discovered an unknown treasure, but when I began asking others about this “fancy hotel” so close to where I live, everyone already knew about it. Where had I been living that it was unknown to me? (Kingston, London, Toronto, Europe…that’s where).

DSC_0028DSC_0034Fast forward a year, and I finally took the 20 minute or so drive to Langdon Hall, and I’m so glad I did! What a beautiful place to spend a morning (or longer). Rox-Anne (from Celebrating this Life) and I drove over early Saturday morning a couple of weeks ago to meet our host, Kate, for breakfast and a tour.

DSC_0041DSC_0045 DSC_0044 DSC_0047Everything at the country breakfast buffet was beautifully presented, and looked to be absolutely fresh and delicious. Rox-Anne opted for the lobster omelette, and, because I have such a sweet tooth, I couldn’t resist the pain perdu (French toast). The smaller slices of bread were not soggy or too sweet. The topping included slivered almonds. Yum! Chef Jason Bangerter – you’ve got my thumbs up for this meal!

DSC_0048DSC_0058 DSC_0061I followed the pain perdu with a croissant (why not!?). I honestly wasn’t sure I wanted to try the croissant because I’ve been spoiled by Golden Hearth’s croissants, but I did. And it was delicious. It was more buttery than Golden Hearth’s, but it had a beautiful texture, lots of layers, and was the perfect mix of soft and crusty.

After breakfast, Kate led us on a tour (had to walk off those calories, of course), and I was absolutely blown away by the architecture, decor, and details in each and every room. The main floor rooms include beautiful millwork, coffered and paneled ceilings, rich deep colours, and warm textiles in a mix of cohesive patterns. Brass, gold, and blue & white also make their appearances in almost every room.

DSC_0067 DSC_0065 DSC_0064above: one of the dining rooms (with walk-out to the conservatory) set up for a wedding celebration

White-Cabana-Langdon Hall-9White-Cabana-Langdon Hall-10above: a bright lounge with walls of windowsWhite-Cabana-Langdon Hall-8White-Cabana-Langdon Hall-7above: Wilks’ Bar

The fireplaces in the rooms in the main house really caught my attention. They would be so pretty (and warm) in the winter. They’re giving me inspiration for my own fireplace re-do that I’m planning on tackling this summer. The smaller tile set in a brick pattern are classic.

White-Cabana-Langdon Hall-1fireplace in the pool room

White-Cabana-Langdon Hall-2fireplace in one of the guest suites

Let us take a closer look at a a couple of guest rooms, shall we?  White-Cabana-Langdon Hall-5White-Cabana-Langdon Hall-6creams, blues, and rich woods make this suite very inviting

DSC_0091such a charming space

Look at the well-planned closets (and the fluffy robes!). A fridge and coffee station are not pictured.

White-Cabana-Langdon Hall-3The bathrooms have a spa-like feel; they’re white, bright, and have lush towels.

White-Cabana-Langdon Hall-4DSC_0089Before I leave you for the day, here are few more photos from around the mansion:

A row of paneled doors in the basement bathroom:

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A gorgeous stairwell in the main house:DSC_0149 DSC_0151

Commemorative plates neatly lined on the paneled walls:DSC_0152

A pretty place to perch:DSC_0154

Langdon Hall thinks of everything, so guests can really relax:DSC_0155I have a bit more to share, so come back tomorrow for Langdon Hall – Part 2.

Many thanks to Kate at Langdon Hall for arranging our visit. All photos by Jordana.

The Friday Five: 5 Points about Scandinave Spa

Last weekend, Rox-Anne and I headed to Scandinave Spa at Blue Mountain (Ontario) for a day of rest and relaxation. I’ve never been a spa girl, but several friends convinced me that I should give Scandinave a chance.

White-Cabana-ScandinaveWhite-Cabana-Scandinave-1photos by Rox-Anne

Here are five things to share about my first Scandinave experience:

1. It’s not as cold as you might think even when the outdoor weather thermometer says it’s 2 degrees Celcius. I thought we’d have a relatively warm day at the end of April, but we didn’t. It was cold! Even though the heat was on in the car during our drive up, and I wore a coat and scarf, I was not actually cold during the spa bath rotation. It was magical, really! Things that kept me warm during the day experience at the baths: the heated stone patios inside and out, the gorgeous solariums with incredible views, the hot baths (obviously), the fireplace lounge area outside, and the sunshine!

forest baths winterphoto via Scandinave Spa

2. Go early to avoid a lengthy line-up. The baths hold a maximum number of people, and so when when they’re full, they’re full. I have heard wait times can be as long as 4 hours (!!!), so it’s best to arrive during a non-peak time (e.g., the morning) or day of the week (e.g., mid-week). That said, the spa has thought of everything and has several suggestions of things to do while you wait for entry into the baths (e.g., the Caves at Blue Mountain, a cheese shop).

steam room 2photo via Scandinave Spa

3. What to bring: Bring your bathing suit (or two if you do not want to wear a wet bathing suit while you lounge inside or eat a meal), a robe, flip flops, and a water bottle. You might also want to bring your sunglasses on a sunny day and sunscreen to protect yourself against the rays (I forgot both of these things). You can bring your camera for photos of the indoor spaces and the property, but you are advised to leave your camera and iPhone in your locker rather than take these gadgets to the baths. When you check in, you’ll be given two towels (save one in your locker, bring one with you) and a locker key. The showers are equipped with soap, shampoo, and conditioner, so you don’t need to bring these items with you.

spring 3photo via Scandinave Spa

4. Shhh…relax… Scandinave strongly encourages silence or a spa voice. A spa voice. I love it. Although this was a bit hard for me to get used to at the beginning of my visit, I respected the recommendation, and it really worked out. Honestly. The silence (or near-silence) helped clear my mind of distractions and noise. It was so peaceful. Rox-Anne and I did talk (we weren’t in a completely silent zone), but we kept our voices down so as to not disturb the other guests.

spring 1photo via Scandinave Spa

5. Hammocks are awesome. I discovered this last year after I won my very own hammock. I rediscovered this at Scandinave. The rotation at the baths goes something like this: 15 min in a hot bath, quick plunge in the cold bath, steam room or sauna, and then rest. There are several options for the rest portion including relaxing on an adirondack chair on the patio, sitting around a fire pit, lounging in a solarium, or lying on a hammock. Rox-Anne and I tried all of the above, but lounging around in the outdoor hammock looking up at the trees and sky might have been my favourite rest option. It was too cold to stay out there for too long, but on a slightly warmer day, it would have been just perfect.

White-Cabana-Scandinave-Spa-Blue MountainRox-Anne and I enjoying lunch in the indoor space, colour version right here

Many thanks to Mallory at Scandinave Spa Blue Mountain for arranging our visit.

Design: Real Estate Toronto

After years of watching the Toronto housing market, I shouldn’t be surprised by what I see. But, I am.

This place in Toronto has some gorgeous bright white rooms. How much do you think it is listed for?

52-Shaver-Ave-Toronto-5 52-Shaver-Ave-Toronto-3 52-Shaver-Ave-Toronto-2 52-Shaver-Ave-Toronto-1 52-Shaver-Ave-Toronto-4 52-Shaver-Ave-Toronto-652 Shaver Ave. S., Toronto

This modern rebuild in Etobicoke (near Kipling subway station) is listed for just about $1.8 million. Yes, that’s right, almost $2 million dollars. How close was your guess?

Thanks to Daniela for sending this my way.

Marketplace: Elora Antique Show

It’s not very often that I hop in my car and drive somewhere other than Toronto. This past Saturday, however, I took a 25 minute drive over to Elora. I have only been to Elora once last summer, so I was happy to make a return visit. The drive through the countryside from Waterloo is easy and enjoyable, especially when the springtime sun is shining. The reason for my trip this weekend was the Elora Antique Show. I wasn’t on the hunt for anything (besides a gorgeous French bed, which are impossible to find!), but I was interested to see what the dealers had in store.

There must have been about 50 or 60 dealers carrying things like: sparkly jewels, vintage dolls, woolen blankets, wood dressers, Pyrex, silver serving pieces, blue and white, cloisonné, quilts, books, and paper goods. There were a couple of mid-century dealers that caught my attention, and there was a gorgeous booth full of glassware. If I had an endless supply of money and space, I would have scooped up a few cake stands, pieces of milk glass, and silver bowls. There were a lot of pretty pieces!

Here are a few photos from the show:

Elora-Antiques-2 Elora-Antiques-1 Elora-Antiques-3 Elora-Antiques-4I also spotted some gorgeous cloisonnĂ© (I’m seeing more of it recently), classic teacups, and this pretty green dinnerware collection (someone help me out – what is this style called?).

The next Antique Shows Canada event will be in Orillia on Sunday, July 26th. Are you planning on going?

Real Estate: Multi-Million Dollar Canadian Homes

The latest issue of Toronto Life published another article about Toronto’s crazy real estate game. This time, the article was focused on a section of Forest Hill where home owners/developers/architects are basically one-upping neighbours/competitors and building monstrosities that may or may not fit in with the Forest Hill aesthetic (I guess it depends on who’s judging). The article honestly made me laugh out loud. Toronto real estate is ridiculous, and it blows my mind that a $3.25 million house comes with only 1 garage (for example). It also seems unbelievable that $1.5 million houses are torn down for new builds. Or, even when they’re not torn down, they require unbelievable amounts of money to bring them up-to-date.

The article – and my ongoing fascination with real estate – pushed me to browse the Toronto real estate listings. Here are some of the pricey properties that caught my attention.

500 Wellingston-Toronto 500 Wellingston-Toronto-2

500 Wellington St. PH1001, Toronto, $7.9 million

88 Davenport-Toronto-1 88 Davenport-Toronto-4 88 Davenport-Toronto-3 88 Davenport-Toronto-2 88 Davenport-Toronto-5

88 Davenport Rd. #2401, Toronto, $8.988 million

Glen Rd Toronto -4 Glen Rd Toronto -2 Glen Rd Toronto -5 Glen Rd Toronto -3 Glen Rd Toronto -1

100 Glen Rd., Toronto, $9.5 million

50 Yorkville-Toronto-3 50 Yorkville-Toronto-5 50 Yorkville-Toronto-1 50 Yorkville-Toronto-2 50 Yorkville-Toronto-4 50 Yorkville-Toronto-6

50 Yorkville Ave., Toronto SP 1, $11.9 million

50 Yorkville-2402-4 50 Yorkville-2402-3 50 Yorkville-2402-1 50 Yorkville-2402-2

50 Yorkville Ave., Toronto #2402, $12.995 million

118 Yorkville-901-5 118 Yorkville-901-3 118 Yorkville-901-2 118 Yorkville-901-1

118 Yorkville Ave., Toronto, PH901, $18.9 million

I also expanded my search to all of Canada to see what $10+ million dollar properties looked like elsewhere. Here’s a sample:

650 lowry Lane-N Vancouver-1 650 lowry Lane-N Vancouver-2

650 Lowry Ln., North Vancouver, $10,988,800

2156 marine Drive - Vancouver-1 2156 marine Drive - Vancouver-2 2156 marine Drive - Vancouver-3 2156 marine Drive - Vancouver-4

2156 SW Marine Dr., Vancouver, $11.9 million

13283 56th ave-surrey-5 13283 56th ave-surrey-6 13283 56th ave-surrey-7 13283 56th ave-surrey-3 13283 56th ave-surrey-1 13283 56th ave-surrey-2 13283 56th ave-surrey-4

13283 56th Ave., Surrey, $12.888 million

1116 Highland place West Vancouver 3 1116 Highland place West Vancouver 2 1116 Highland place West Vancouver 1

1116 Highland Place, West Vancouver, $19.7 million

Image2

Magog, Quebec, $25 million (click the link – it’s basically a castle)

And, now, for something a little closer to home…this gem in Kitchener, Ontario is full of white, and it seems like a major deal at only $2.5 million!

12 Westgate-Kitchener-1 12 Westgate-Kitchener-2 12 Westgate-Kitchener-4 12 Westgate-Kitchener-7 12 Westgate-Kitchener-5 12 Westgate-Kitchener-8 12 Westgate-Kitchener-6

12 Westgate Walk, Kitchener, $2.5 million

What was that about “if I had a million dollars”? Seems like it can’t buy a whole heck of a lot in Toronto (besides Kraft Dinner, naturally).

Architecture: CIGI Campus

I was recently given a tour of the CIGI Campus, one of my favourite buildings in Waterloo. The CIGI Campus was built on the former site of the Seagram’s Distillery and is now home to innovative academic and research programs.

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The CIGI Campus is home to the Balsillie School of International Affairs (BSIA) as well as the Centre for International Governance and Innovation (CIGI). I have been fortunate to work with some of the scholars and students at the CIGI Campus and I am impressed by their professionalism, intelligence, and the pride they have for the work that they do.

The CIGI campus is impressive for several reasons. First, the exterior’s modern design is a striking focal point in the Uptown Waterloo landscape. Second, the interior architecture is innovative, bright, and sleek. Finally, the clean lines, repetitive forms, and interior courtyard are attractive and inviting. Let’s take a tour, shall we?

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front lobby

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front lobby walls and ceiling

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stairway to patio and auditorium

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auditorium

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sleek auditorium walls

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chairs made from recycled materials

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overlooking the courtyard

P1010438work bar

Stylish, right?

For additional information about the CIGI campus click here.

All photos by Jordana. Many thanks to Lauren A. at CIGI for the tour!