Afternoon Tea at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier

 

 

I hope everyone is having a great 2020 so far. I’m so excited to tell you all about what I’ve been up to lately. My better half and I recently had the pleasure of checking out the new Winter Afternoon Tea menu at Zoe’s Lounge located inside the historic Fairmont Chateau Laurier hotel. The Fairmont Laurier is a notable landmark in Canada’s capital city. If you go downtown you cannot miss this castle in the city, named after Sir Wilfrid Laurier Canada’s 7th Prime Minister.  Subsequently the tea lounge and bar at the hotel is named after his wife Lady Zoe who was fond of afternoon tea.

Those of you that know me personally are aware that I too am a huge fan of afternoon tea and have visited the Chateau Laurier on countless occasions to try their new tea menus.  Zoe’s never ceases to impress and their Winter Afternoon Tea menu is no exception.

Cocktails anyone?
Afternoon tea doesn’t just have to be about tea. Zoe’s Tea Menu has a selection of sparkling wines, Champagnes, dessert wines and afternoon cocktails to choose from. We decided to kick off the afternoon with a glass of sparkling wine after all isn’t everything better with bubbles?

Choosing your tea
One of the great features of the tea at Zoe’s is of course their tea menu offering you the choice of 21 teas. Besides the teas on the menu you can also order traditional English Breakfast tea at Zoe’s. All the teas on the menu are blended specifically for Fairmont Hotels so you really get a special treat in choosing one of their teas. I decided to go with Something Sweet, a black tea that featured rich caramel and chocolate highlights. I really enjoyed this tea as it also had a coffee aroma to it. You could also smell the notes of chocolate in it. Sash opted for Mojo Mate, a green tea with fresh lemon highlights and a spearmint finish.

The Pastries
The Winter menu at Zoe’s features a carefully curated selection of savoury and sweet pastries prepared by Pastry Chef Anne Marie Milk and her team.  We started off with the savoury sandwiches and then progressed to the desserts. Some of our favourites were the Smoked Salmon Crepe and Chicken Liver Mousse sandwiches along with the Milk Chocolate and Caramel Chocolate Choux and the Rum and Brown Sugar Cake for dessert. Last but certainly not least we enjoyed some scones with mascarpone cream and strawberry jam because what afternoon tea is complete without scones?!   I’m very traditional when it comes to scones so I enjoyed the butter cream scone with jam and cream. Full details of the Winter menu can be found here.

The Experience
Afternoon tea is lovely at any time of the year however it’s a great way to stay warm and cozy in the Winter. We really enjoyed sitting in the warmth of this historic castle while watching the world go by outside. The Fairmont Chateau Laurier’s afternoon tea menu changes on a quarterly basis so the Winter menu will be around for a couple of months.  If you live in Ottawa or are going to be visiting soon I cannot recommend this experience enough!  In addition to the traditional tea menu Zoe’s also offers the Little  Prince and Princess Tea menus for children under 12.

What makes afternoon tea at Zoe’s a truly memorable experience is the staff and the ambiance, aside from the food of course 😉 We had a pleasant and relaxing time during our tea thanks to Deneen and her team and our server Garrick, who made this a wonderful experience for us. All staff at the hotel really live up to the Fairmont standard of service and this is quite evident in how popular the Fairmont Laurier is among Ottawa natives and tourists alike.

The afternoon tea service at Zoe’s is available Wednesday to Sunday. There is a 1pm and 3pm seating Wednesday-Friday and an additional 11am seating on Saturdays and Sundays. Reservations are highly recommended as the Zoe’s afternoon tea is quite popular.

Christmas in a Cup: Mulled Wine

Hello! I’m back after a long hiatus. This Fall was a particularly tough one for me and my family as I lost both my grandparents within a span of two weeks. But I’m back at it and what better way to get back to blogging that sharing one of my favourite Christmas cocktail recipes.

Mulled wine is a drink that’s synonymous with Christmas. I like to think of it as Christmas in a cup. It’s a great warmer on a cold winter day. The thing I like the most about this drink is the way it makes your house smell when you’re making it. The blend of spices along with the wine gives off the best aroma and makes your home smell inviting and festive 🙂

Here’s my recipe for Christmas in a Cup -Mulled Wine

  1. 1 (750 ml) bottle of dry red wine – I usually use a Cabernet Sauvignon
  2. 1 orange, sliced into rounds.
  3. 1/4 cup brandy – this is optional but it does add a bit more flavour to the drink
  4. 1/4 cup honey or brown sugar – I used brown sugar
  5. 8 whole cloves.
  6. 2 cinnamon sticks.
  7. 2 star anise

To make Mulled Wine combine the wine, orange slices, brandy, sugar and spices in a large sauce pan and simmer on a low heat for at least 15 minutes. Makes sure the heat is set on low as you don’t want the mixture to boil and the alcohol to evaporate. I like to let it simmer for about half an hour but you can allow it to set for up to 3 hours, if you’re that patient.

Once you get the aroma of the wine and the spices use a ladel and strainer to pour the wine in to glasses (you can also use mason jars for a more rustic look) and enjoy with a piece piece of Christmas Cake. I picked up these mini mason jars mugs at the Dollar store but I’ve linked some similar ones below.

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California Trip Highlights

If you’re following me on Instagram or Facebook you probably know that I was in sunny California two weeks ago. I’ve been so busy since I got back that I’m just getting to this highlights post now.

We had a great time in California and enjoyed a much needed break from the cold weather. It was my first time there although my better half had been there many times before.

We were there for 5 days so we decided to plan out each day and make an itinerary to maximize our time there. We were able to fit in so much in to our short time in California so I’ll only be sharing some of my highlights.

Our first day was set aside for travel and actually getting to Los Angeles. We stayed at a hotel on Sunset Boulevard which was a great location for us with many food spots and easy access to other areas of the city.

Day Trip to San Francisco

We decided to take a semi-private flight via a company called Jetsuitex and I really loved this experience. Jetsuite has its own hangar at Burbank airport so you skip the long lines and intimidating security checks that you deal with when flying commercial. You basically arrive about 15 minutes before the flight, sit in a lounge and board when the plane arrives. The on-board amenities are great too with a full bar services along with healthy snacks. After this relaxing flight we spent the day exploring San Francisco and headed back to LA in the evening.

Dinner at Nobu Malibu

We spent our third day exploring downtown Los Angeles and headed to Malibu for dinner. We’d heard really good things about Nobu Malibu so we decided to check it out. We loved this Japanese restaurant. The view from the patio was great even at night. The service was amazing as well, probably the best I’ve had at a restaurant.

Rodeo Drive

How could I go to L.A. and not visit Rodeo Drive right? I was totally having a Pretty Woman moment here. I absolutely loved this part of the trip. We had a great time walking down Rodeo and checking out all the posh shops. Throughout this trip we also treated ourselves to some stylish rides. For Beverly Hills we rented a Porsche using an app called Turo. It’s an affordable and convenient way to rent a car of your choice.

Another highlight of this trip was the food. We literally ate so much all the time. My favourites were fish tacos, happy hour treats and of-course a hamburger from In-n-Out! We also checked out the rooftop restaurant at the Waldorf Astoria. I really enjoyed this rooftop as it had awesome views of the city and the hills.

I hope you enjoyed our trip highlights. Have you been to California before, if so what was the best part of your trip? Leave a comment and let me know.

Afternoon in Almonte

Can you believe it’s September already?! If you live in Canada or the USA I hope you’re having a great Labour Day long weekend. I can’t get over how fast this year has flown by.  I spent the Labour Day weekend in Ottawa this time as I wanted to have a low key and restful weekend. I did however venture out to Almonte for a relaxing Summer afternoon.

Almonte is located about 30 mins west of Ottawa and is a picturesque little town full of neighbourhood stores and antique shops. Most of the shopping and activity can be found on Mill Street which is home to many antique shops and restaurants. There’s even a walkway that goes down by the Mississippi River. It’s  a great spot to sit out on a restaurant patio and enjoy the view.

Almonte has gained quite a reputation for it’s small town charm and has been the backdrop for many Hallmark channel movies. In fact there’s even a Christmas movie that’s scheduled to be shot on Mill Street next week.

I absolutely loved this little town. The streets were so pretty and it was nice to take a walk down by the water. I stopped in at the Barley Mow for a cocktail and some appetizers on the patio, with the river as my background. I’d also recommend making a quick trip to the local ice cream stall where you can enjoy a delicious delight. If you haven’t made the trip to Almonte yet I highly recommend it.

Outfit details

I wanted to wear something comfortable for my relaxing Saturday afternoon outing so I opted for a geometric print skirt paired with a tank top and jean jacket. Geo prints are so popular right now and are part of the retro trend that’s all the rage for Fall and back to school. I picked up this midi length skirt at Forever 21. It’s a great Summer to Fall transition piece that can be dressed up or down. I wore the skirt with a basic black tank. To finish off the look I added my favourite jean jacket from Dynamite.

You can easily take this look from Summer to Fall by throwing on some opaque tights and booties and swapping out the tank top for a black turtle neck or long sleeved blouse.

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South Asian Fest 2018

It’s Summer and with Summer comes . . . Festivals! Ottawa may be a smaller Canadian city compared to Toronto and Montreal but it sure has its fair share of festivals and events to keep you entertained all Summer long. Those of you that know me personally are aware that I’ve been involved with one festival in particular for the past three years. South Asian Fest is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year and is officially Canada’s largest South Asian festival, offering 10 days of events!

My Experience

I first heard about the festival at a business event where Mirch Masala Radio was present. After a bit of coaxing and a few texts and emails I decided to check out a committee meeting and the rest is history. I’ve always believed in giving back to community and have volunteered in many different capacities; as professional on non-profit boards and as an individual engaged in community events. I have to say that being part of the South Asian Fest committee is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding experiences. I’ve gained and improved upon so many different skills and made close friendships that I truly treasure. It’s also been a great outlet for me to get back in touch with my South Asian Roots.

Growing up in Ottawa I didn’t have a lot of friends from the same ethnic background and  being part of South Asian Fest has put me back in touch with the South Asian community.

You’re probably wondering what I do on the committee right? Well I’ve been fortunate to handle a myriad of different tasks from community outreach, artist management and filling in as a M.C. on stage. I’ve also learned a lot about event management in the process.

The Festival

This year is special for South Asian Fest as we celebrate a decade of family friendly fun and entertainment. The 2018 Festival will consist of 10 days of events starting August 10th. There’s a broad range of events this year ranging from a Boat Cruise, Desi Nite with the Ottawa Redblacks, Cricket and Cooking Demos, an Art Exhibition and culminating in a Mega Mela from August 17th-19th.

We’ve got a great lineup of artists this year comprised of headliners like Mickey Singh and Tasha Tah along with homegrown talent from Ottawa. The festival offers a great platform for performers from the South Asian community to showcase their talent.

A full schedule of events, dates and locations can be found on the festival website.

Get Involved

If you never heard about the festival before there’s no time like the present to get involved. There’s something for everyone at this year’s event whether you’re a foodie, dancer, singer or just want to sit back and watch the show, everyone is welcome at South Asian Fest.

If you’re looking to showcase your art or photography there’s an opportunity for local artists to participate in the Art Exhibition – taking place on August 16th. Love to sing, dance or play music? Check out the performance page.

Not sure about taking centre stage but still want to participate? Volunteering at the festival is a great way to gain new skills and experiences, make new friends and get involved with the festival.

Spectators and audience members are also welcome! If you’re going to be in or around the Ottawa area between August 10th and 19th come out to one of the events. Don’t forget to come by and say Hi if you see me at any of the events 🙂

See you at the Festival!

Praveeni

Noticing something different with my photos on this post? Photo credit goes to Amar Studios – official photographers for South Asian Fest.

 

Polo in the Park 2018

Have you heard about the city’s most fashionable fundraiser? If not you’re missing out. I finally made it out to Polo in the Park this year and the event did not disappoint. The 2018 edition of this fundraiser which benefits Wounded Warriors Canada and the Rotary Club of Ottawa South was held on Saturday July 7th.

The Venue
I spent a lovely day outside at Wesley Clover parks. The event was so well organized and provided attendees with a relaxing and fun filled day in the park. There was visible signage as you approached the park entrance and a triage desk to direct drivers to the appropriate parking spots. The organizers even had golf carts to drive people from the parking area to the main event area.

The Experience
Tickets went on sale earlier this Spring and I just had to take advantage of the early bird pricing. The event offers many different ticket packages and options. I chose the VIP experience as I was taking advantage of the early bird discount. I must say it was well worth the extra cash. VIP guests had their own parking area closer to the event and golf carts to drive you up to the VIP tent. Inside the tent there were tables and chairs with goodie bags ready and waiting for us. Guests were presented with lunch and a tea service catered by the Brookstreet Hotel. The VIP tent also had the best views of the fashion show, hat contest and the polo match.

In addition to the polo there were also some vendors and stalls, a silent auction and a photo booth. This was a family and pet friendly event.

The Clothes
All guests were encouraged to put on their best hat and come out for a day in the park. There were so many people sporting stylish outfits and fascinators, it was a treat to see them all. The hat contest was a truly inclusive event which had many different categories including; DIY hat, Colts and Fillies (for kids), Dapper Dan, Too Hot to Trot and Hattitude. As I had opted for a more conservative look that day I did not enter the hat contest, although admission was included with my VIP ticket.

The Match
The main event was a battle of the sexes polo match between the ladies from Three Wild Women and the gents from the Ottawa Business Journal. This was a riveting experience for me as I’d never seen a live polo match before. The gents prevailed over the ladies in the end but the match was full of drama and excitement with some gents falling off their horses and some close calls where the score was concerned.

My Outfit
I opted for a more mainstream look for the event as this was my first year attending. I decided to wear my favourite polka dot dress from Suzy Shier which I paired with white wedges and a white fascinator. I brought along my picnic basket bag which I picked up on my latest trip to Sri Lanka as I thought it went well with the event and the venue 🙂

The Verdict
I loved attending Polo in the Park this year and I’m looking forward to the event in 2019. The event chair Monique and her team did a fantastic job putting this event together. Polo in the Park is something that’s definitely worth checking out if you live in Ottawa or are planning on visiting next Summer. What’s more fun than dressing up, enjoying some time outside, watching a polo match and supporting some great charities?!

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Sunday Brunch at Cinnamon Grand Colombo

I haven’t done a brunch post in a while so I’m happy to be able to share an amazing brunch experience I had recently. As you probably know I was visiting Sri Lanka earlier this month.

I’ve been going back to Colombo quite consistently since about 2008. I’ve stayed at different places during my trips back home but the Cinnamon Grand Hotel is probably my favourite hotel in Colombo. I’ve frequented this hotel on many occasions as an in-house guest and restaurant goer but I’d never tried out their Sunday Brunch.

Clearly I had no idea what I was missing! I decided to try out the Sunday Brunch on June 17th which just happened to be Father’s Day. I was truly impressed by the whole event. I can honestly say I’ve never seen such a large spread for brunch in my life! This Sunday Brunch definitely beat every other brunch I’d been to.

The Food

From the appetizers – which included lobster tails, shrimp, oysters and a selection of sushi, to the carving stations, main dishes and deserts this brunch was a hands down winner for me. I was a little overwhelmed by the selection of dishes and options. This is definitely one event you need to prepare for ahead of time, i.e. don’t eat breakfast and bring your eating pants!

If you know me personally, you’d know that I eat a lot! This brunch was no exception. I happily helped myself to 2 rounds of appetizers, the main course and 2 rounds of dessert.

There was so much to choose from I wish I had prepared better to try every single dish. I did a quick  count of the main dishes and I counted over 35 which is quite impressive for any buffet let alone a brunch.

The dessert selection was to die for and included a chocolate fountain which was the highlight for me. There was also an ice cream and flambé station.

The Place

Cinnamon Grand’s Sunday Brunch is held at the Taprobane restaurant. This space is one of the main restaurants at the hotel and is also home to their daily breakfast and lunch buffets. The restaurant is spacious and offers table top and sofa style seating.

The brunch takes place between 11am and 3pm every Sunday. I was informed that there are 2 sittings for brunch; one from 11:30 am-1 pm and another from 1:30-3 pm. I recommend going early so you can spend the afternoon walking off the meal 😉 Reservations are a must as this brunch is quite popular among locals and tourists alike.

The Price

There are 3 different pricing options for brunch depending on what type of an experience you’re looking for. The basic brunch buffet sans alcohol is Rs 3517 nett which is around $35 Canadian (I’m using a conservative conversion rate of Rs 100 to $1 CAD however the daily rates may be higher).

If you’d like to add some alcohol to your experience Taprobane offers 2 other pricing options:

The Beer Brunch for Rs 4172 ~ $42CAD

The Bubbly Brunch for Rs 5400 ~ $54 CAD

I chose the bubbly brunch and it did not disappoint! I was able to enjoy unlimited glasses of champagne with my meal 😉 Where else can you get that for $54?! All these packages are great depending on what you’d like and I think the pricing is quite reasonable for the amount of food and beverages you get.

The Verdict

I highly recommend this brunch experience to anyone who visits Colombo. This was definitely the best brunch I’ve been to and I really enjoyed it. It’s a must-do in Colombo.

I’m hoping to be home again for Christmas and I’m already making plans to check out the Holiday edition of Cinnamon Grand’s Sunday Brunch 🙂

Inniskillin Winery Tour

Wow it’s been a while since my last post! This past weekend was a long weekend and boy was it a busy one. I decided to get away for the weekend so I spent the Victoria Day Long Weekend in beautiful Niagara-on-the-Lake. I’ve been to Niagara Falls many times but I wanted to get away from the crowds and the hustle of this touristy location. NOTL is the perfect escape from the city and the crowds but it’s best known for its wineries and is one of Canada’s most famous wine regions.

I wanted to tour some wineries while I was there and I’d heard good things about Inniskillin, a Canadian winery which is famous for its Ice Wine. I got there just in time to miss the general winery tour so I opted for the Ice Wine tour. This particular tour focused on the winery’s famous ice wines and gave tasters a chance to sample 4 ice wine varieties. My favoruite was probably the sparkling vidal ice wine.

My tour guide Lynn had been in the business for 24 years and working as a guide for 17 years. She was very knowledgeable and ready to answer any questions about the wines, the wine making process and Inniskillin as a brand. She led our group through a tasting of Riesling, Cabernet Franc and Vidal Ice Wines. My favourite part of the tasting component is when she gave us some chocolate to try with the Cabernet Franc – together they taste like a chocolate covered strawberry!

The weather was just warming up last weekend so we enjoyed a beautiful day outside. For my day at the wineries I chose this striped midi length belted dress from Suzy Shier. This dress is part of their Sweet Americana collection and is so comfortable to wear. It’s cotton and breathes well on a warm day outside. I like the vintage inspired (pardon the pun) look of this dress with a sinched in waist and flared skirt. To accent the tan colour of the belt I added a pair of Lucky Brand wedge heels and a classic rattan bag, that’s all the rage for Spring and Summer.

Have you visited the wineries in Niagara-on-the-Lake? If so which one is your favourite?

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Hummingbird Cake

So I guess it’s back to Winter again in Ottawa, even though it is technically Spring. Easter is one of my favourite times of the year. I love cooking a big Easter dinner for everyone. This year I was invited out to dinner so I decided to bring dessert. I wanted to try a new recipe so I opted for some southern comfort food and chose a Hummingbird Cake. This cake is full of flavour and excellent for  a Spring picnic or Summer BBQ. I was really pleased with how it turned out and everyone at the dinner loved it!

Here’s how to make it

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • A few pinches of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking power
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (if you want more of a cinnamon flavour add a full teaspoon)
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs lightly beaten
  • 1 cup of chopped pecans (divided)
  • 1 cup of ripe banana (mashed)
  • 1/2 can crushed pineapple (undrained)
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3 cups powered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 package  of Philadelphia Cream cheese

Instructions

Heat it up and prep the pans

  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour 2 9-inche round cake pans

Mix the dry ingredients

  • In a large bowl combine the flour, 1 cup of sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon

Add the wet ingredients

  • Add in vegetable oil, vanila extract and eggs. Stir until the dry ingredients are moist

Bring in the tropics

  • Stir in the banana, pineapple and 1/2 cup of pecans until evenly mixed

Bake it!

  • Divide the batter between the 2 cake pans and place in the oven for 25 minutes or until wooden toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 mins and them move them to wire racks to cool.

Ice ice baby

  • To make the cream cheese frosting: beat the butter with an electric mixer until softened and add powdered sugar gradually.
  • Add vanilla extract and salt and mix until smooth
  • Turn your mixer setting to Medium and add the cream cheese in 1 piece at a time. Mix until all the cream cheese has been incorporated.
  • Once the cakes have cooled spread the frosting between the layers of cake and cover the top and sides of the cake. Sprinkle the other half of the chopped pecans over the top of the cake

ENJOY!

 

 

Dubai Diaries Part 5: High Tea at Burj Al Arab

Tallest atrium in the world

Selfie before heading up to the Skyview Lounge

Welcome bubbles and dates

Shrimp salad

Quiche

Savoury sandwiches

Lemon sorbet

Sweet treats

Burj Royale – signature cocktail

View from the top

My trip Dubai was probably one of the most memorable adventures I’ve been on. The last post in my Dubai Diairies series is all about my High Tea experience at the most world’s most luxurious hotel the Burj Al Arab.

High tea at the Burj Al Arab was quite an experience. This hotel is probably the most opulent and luxurious place I’ve ever seen. In order to get inside the hotel you either need to stay there for a cool price of $1900 CAD a night (based on booking.com) or have a reservation at one of their restaurants. There’s security at the gate to verify your reservation, so sneaking in is not an option 😉 Once inside you can take some time to admire the lobby and the gold detailing on practically everything. If you wait long enough you can see the fountain show – the hotel has a large fountain on the second floor of the lobby which keeps a beat and periodically shoots a huge stream of water up the at ceiling. This ceiling is probably the highest I’ve seen in my life and the hotel is said to have the world’s tallest atrium.

I made my reservation for tea at the Skyview Bar but there’s also a high tea serving at a restaurant called Sahn Eddar which is located in the atrium of the hotel. The Skyview Bar is located on the 27th floor of the hotel. I’d highly recommend the Skyview Bar over the atrium restaurant as the view is spectacular. However there is a minimum age requirement and you have to be 21 to enter the bar.

The high tea consisted of 7 courses (pictured above) and came with glass of sparkling wine. I was happy to get a window table which needs to be reserved in advance. Aside from the food and tea offerings the Skyview Bar also has a list of signature cocktails. I opted for the Burj Royale as it was reminiscent of my favourite cocktail the Kir Royale. I really enjoyed my high tea at Skyview Bar and it was truly a unique experience. It’s definitely a once (or twice) in a lifetime thing and I would strongly recommend it 🙂