Le Sirenuse Miami

I’m excited to write about one of my favourite places we visited on our trip to Florida. For those of you who may not be aware Sash and I visited Florida at the beginning of February. We spent 3 days in Miami and 3 days in Fort Lauderdale. Prior to leaving we did a lot of research on the places we wanted to visit and created an itinerary for our trip, yes we like to plan everything! One of the places I came across during our research was Le Sirenuse Miami, a restaurant at the Four Seasons Surfside.

The Venue

Le Sirenuse Miami is a restaurant and champagne bar inspired by the Italian hotel Le Sirenuse in Positano on the Amalfi Coast. The Miami location is famous for its tropical decor with palm trees adorning every inch of the restaurant. The venue features a Champagne Bar and restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating.

The Cocktails

 

We decided to stop in at Le Sirenuse for a cocktail in the late afternoon. Aside from its Champagne Bar, Le Sirenuse Miami is famous for its hand crafted cocktails. The restaurant has its own signature cocktails which can be found on their Amore Eterno menu.

We were fortunate to get seated on the terrace overlooking the hotel pool and the ocean. It was so nice to sit outside and enjoy a cocktail while we looked out at the sea.  I was really excited to try the cocktails at Le Sirenuse.

Seeing as how there was a Champagne Bar I opted for one of their Champagne based cocktails. The Champagne cocktails are named after famous guests who have stayed at Le Sirenuse such as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor and Winston Church Hill. I chose the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and was told that it was one of their most popular cocktails, especially for ladies. This was a light and sweet cocktail topped off with elderflower foam and garnished with a flower.

Sash generally prefers something on the stronger side so he decided to go with Mandolini Di Sorrento a bourbon based cocktail. This drink is named in honour of Andrea and Franco, a mandolin and guitar duo who have been fixtures at Le Sirenuse Positano’s  La Sponda restaurant since 1993.

We really enjoyed our experience at Le Sirenuse Miami. If you are ever in the vicinity I highly recommend stopping by and checking it out. Although items on the menus are quite pricey, the ambiance and decor are well worth the splurge.

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Fontana at the Biltmore Hotel

Hello again! I’m back from my mini vacation in Florida and I’m excited to share a few posts about my experience there. The first post I’ll be sharing is all about the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Florida; a city located about 20 mins away from Miami. We visited Miami and Fort Lauderdale on this trip.

I came across the Biltmore Hotel by accident when I was looking for some nice restaurants for us to visit for lunch and dinner. I noticed Fontana, the hotel’s Italian restaurant while I was searching for restaurants on OpenTable. What first got my attention was the location and ambiance.

Fontana

Fontana specializes in Italian cuisine and offers a service for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They also offer a Sunday Brunch. The restaurant has an indoor and outdoor dining area, with a large fountain in the middle of the outdoor courtyard surrounded by palm trees. I put in a special request for a table outside and they accommodated us with a table right next to the fountain. It was so nice to enjoy a meal outside with the fountain in the background. The courtyard has a covered high ceiling and open arches that allow a cool breeze to waft in and out of the outdoor dining area.

The restaurant offers a large choice of items on their lunch menu but of course we opted for pasta, because who goes to an Italian restaurant and doesn’t try the pasta. The staff were really helpful and accommodating, allowing us to customize the dishes to our liking. For example if there is a certain type of pasta or sauce you enjoy you can mix and match off the menu.

As it was quite warm that day we decided to avoid alcoholic beverages and opted for some freshly squeezed orange juice, a Florida special. It sure lived up to the hype.

The Hotel

The Biltmore Hotel was constructed in 1926 and the building has a vintage tropical flare to it. I thought it was a spectacular property with sprawling gardens, numerous fountains and a golf course on site. The hotel premises span over 150 acres and is home to a 271 room resort. One striking feature of the Biltmore is the architecture which has Italian, Moorish and Spanish touches.

We took a walk around the hotel and got to see the pool and some of the gardens. The hotels boasts the largest hotel pool on the East Coast of the United States. This place truly is a tropical paradise. The interior of the hotel has a vintage luxury feel to it and is decorated in a classic style. I would definitely visit this place again and possibly stay there.

Although the hotel has numerous restaurants and dining options, one thing I’d love to try is the Afternoon Tea service in the hotel’s lobby.

If you’re ever in Miami then the Biltmore is definitely worth the short drive to Coral Gables.

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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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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!

 

 

Ladurée Yorkdale

This past weekend I was in Toronto and I got to check out one of my favourite places, Ladurée. Famous the world over for its Parisian flair Ladurée is a macaroon shop and tea room. Although it’s especially popular in Europe the company has made the trip across the pond and I’m thrilled that there’s one in somewhat close proximity to me. I simply love their macaroons and decor. To me this place is like every little girl’s dream – soft colours line the walls which are topped off by an elegantly carved out ceiling and of course there is the iconic green on the facade of the shop. Whether you’re stepping in for a peek or staying for tea Ladurée is a must do if you’re ever in Toronto! The Yorkdale shopping centre itself is quite glamorous in my opinion so it’s a perfect setting for this cute little macaroon shop.

As far as flavours go my personal favourites are the pistachio, coffee and vanilla. I also tried the rose flavour which I was quite surprised by. Ladurée offers a wide range of flavours to choose from and there’s really something for everyone 🙂 The shop also has a cute selection of gifts and souvenirs so if sweets aren’t your thing you can always grab a key chain, candle or gift box 😉

 

 

Christmas Cocktails: Mulled Wine

 

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.

 

Christmas Cocktails: Peppermint Chill

One of the things I love most about Christmas are the parties and entertaining. I enjoy hosting friends and family. In the coming days I’ll be sharing a few of my favourite Christmas cocktails.

If you love chocolate, coffee and mint together then Peppermint Chill is the drink for you. It’s very easy to make and a nice treat to indulge in during the holidays 😉

To make the Peppermint Chill you’ll need: Peppermint Mocha Kahlua (it’s a limited edition flavour that’s usually available around Christmas time), Bailey’s, Chocolate Ice Cream, Martini Glasses and Candy Canes.

Prep the glasses:

  1. Place the candy canes in a plastic bag and crush them to form small chunks
  2. Mix equal parts sugar and water in a pan and bring it to a simmer
  3. Dip the rim of the Martini glass in the sugar and water mixture and then in the crushed candy canes. Ideally the candy cane dust should coat the rim of the glass.

Before making the drink take the ice cream of out the freezer and let it sit for 5 mins so it softens.

Mix the drink:

  1. In a shaker place one and a half scoops of ice cream
  2. Add 1 shot  glass of Kahlua (approx. 1.5oz)
  3. Add 1 shot glass of Bailey’s (approx. 1.5oz)
  4. Shake well for about 2 mins
  5. Pour mixture in the the Martini glasses
  6. Top with whipped cream and cocoa power
  7. ENJOY!