I was recently invited to spend a weekend at the farm where my best friend grew up in Elmira, Ontario. Visiting a town with a whopping population of 9,931, you’d expect a relaxing and quiet weekend in the country, no? Well, it certainly started off that way: I spent Friday evening playing with the family’s seven household pets and watching Come Dine With Me reruns. The next morning, I dragged myself out of bed at 7am and then walked around outside in the cold for the next 10 hours. And I had the best time.
The Elmira Maple Syrup Festival has been an annual event for the past 50 years. The main attraction is, of course, the maple syrup and related food vendors. The event attracts 60,000 people every year, and most can be seen walking around, munching a lamb’s leg, a stack of pancakes or something deep-fried.
Oh, the maple syrup! It was heavenly. There was maple syrup on everything: maple lattes, maple taffy, maple kettle corn, maple syrup baked beans, maple syrup candies, and Beaver Tails with maple butter. I didn’t want to slip into a sugar coma, so I decided to limit my syrup intake. Well, I tried.
First, I decided to sink my teeth into some maple taffy. Maple taffy is made by boiling maple sap over a fire until it turns into maple syrup and then continuing to boil it until it becomes thicker. It is then poured onto snow and picked up with a stick, once partially cooled, and then served. I had to wait a solid 45 minutes for one small piece, but it was worth it to get such a decadent start to the morning.
Next, I tried maple sugar. By “tried” I mean I sampled a small piece for free and then proceeded to buy 12 more. Maple sugar is prepared much like maple taffy, but is boiled for much longer until it solidifies. These soft and sweet candies were sold by countless vendors all over the festival, but I bought mine from a small table run by local Mennonites on the outskirts of town in front of a McDonald’s for 25 cents a piece. I also bought a few small tubs of pure maple syrup to take home for loved ones.
By midday, my friends were getting hungry so we decided to venture away from the festival for a bit in an attempt to get a healthier lunch. Luckily for us, there were tractor-pulled wagon rides available: the town’s adorable version of a free shuttle bus. This was the first — and probably last — time I rode to a fast-food restaurant sitting on a bail of hay, sandwiched in between two teenage girls in bonnets.
The festival really is an event for both the locals and the tourists.
Overall, it was an incredibly fun, family-friendly day. Sometimes I forget how Canadian I am — and then I go to something like this and have a blast. To keep updated on next year’s festival, “Like” their official page on Facebook here.
I’ll just go ahead and tempt your tastebuds with a few more photos that show off some of the many treats that were enjoyed at the Maple Syrup Festival:
Select photos by Aine Davis
Palm Sunday (384 Harbord Street, Toronto) seems more like the Internet come to life and I mean that in the best way possible. Unlike any other salon and gift shop I have ever walked into, you are greeted with beautiful white washed walls with vibrant pops of neon everywhere. It seems to whisper out, “Spring Break” in that James Franco way but less obnoxious and more fabulous. This salon and gift shop works in all type of design with kitschy cool.
Welcome to Palm Sunday, the brainchild of Kat Marcus, Ronnie Dag and Shane Lyon.
Just having had their re-launch party over the weekend (being re-branded and re-renovated from their former space, The Saloon Salon), the dream team decided to “turn a new leaf” for the new year and bring their guests a more fun and interactive sensory space while introducing two new members (Shane Lyon and Mark Boots). In the re-brand, they decided to team up (in the gift shop) with more artists, designers and originators who dedicate themselves to craft.
I decided to chat with them prior to their relaunch to get the scoop on Palm Sunday and find out what exactly Palm Sunday means to them!
(1) Who and what is Palm Sunday?
Palm Sunday is a contemporary space fusing hair, fashion, art, and culture. We provide an individualized salon experience that reflects your habits and your hairstyle. Our environment is inspired by radiant beaches to reflect our sunny disposition. We are your all inclusive hair retreat!
(2) What is life like at Palm Sunday?
Life is always busy at Palm Sunday. During the day, we are a full-on hair salon! Cuts, colours, beard trims, wigs and secrets! Our gift shop brings in curious neighbours to browse and get to know us better. Sometimes people stop by to just hang out for a while in our sunny waiting area, and chat with Shane.
During the off hours, we are always collaborating with artists, musicians, designers, makeup artists and videographers on producing interesting content. Some of it serves a purpose, some is to test the waters on other fashion concepts. So far, we have started dipping into photography, wardrobe styling, set design, concept design and creative direction. It is incredible how excited it makes us to then take that energy and apply it to our lives behind the chair.
It is a really exciting time for all of us, it all feels very limitless.
(3) What made you decide to re-brand from The Saloon Salon to Palm Sunday?
Our re-branding came naturally, as we are continually evolving as people, artists and a united team. The Saloon was such a success, and we were excited to create a new endeavour, combining our love for our craft with our admiration for one another. Throughout the process, our dream concept came to life – we wanted to inspire our friends, neighbors, and clients. Our new light airy persona leads to a more relaxing, invigorating experience. We feel rejuvenated and want to share that with everyone who passes by!
(4) Who are Kat, Shane, Ronnie and Mark? Who makes up the Palm Sunday team?!
Shane Lyon is our new salon director and co-owner. He is a math prodigy, and thrives in customer service. Your Palm Sunday visit begins and ends with Shane. As our salon director, he is in charge of keeping everything flowing. He has built strong relationships with our suppliers – on the hair side and in the gift shop. We lean pretty hard on him, we call him Papa.
Kat Marcus is a vibrant master stylist and co-owner with over ten years experience transforming the way her clients feel about the way they look. She is co-owner of Palm Sunday, and her previous salon (located here) won several awards, including the NOW Magazine readers poll for Best Salon, for two years running. Always open to evolution, she formed her dream team and has finally made the exciting salon she had always envisioned.
Ronnie Dag is a gifted master stylist and co-owner at Palm Sunday. Entrepreneurship comes naturally to Ronnie – she also has a very successful bridal business, and is incredibly innovative. She is a tastemaker, a rebel, and can only be described as a true original. She brings with her a strong styling background in music, film, fashion, and television. Her ability to deliver a vision has kept her busy for over a decade, and her infectious personality keeps her in high demand.
Mark Boots is a talented stylist with a refreshing personality. A designer by nature, Mark’s roots are in fine arts and theater. He has combined his love of hair, design and theater through his work for Mirvish, Canadian Stage, Canadian Opera Company and other theatre productions. He divides his time between the chair and the stage, and is a regular fixture at Palm Sunday.
(5) What can people expect when they sit in the chair at Palm Sunday?
People can expect their experience to be all be about them. They will always be heard, and never judged. We all work together to collaborate on the perfect look for every client, and go out of our way to make sure everyone feels included. We are upbeat, friendly, and reflect a positive, sunny disposition – you are always guaranteed a laugh with the light antics taking place throughout our day. We always listen to our clients carefully to ensure everyone has the perfect look to suit any lifestyle. We want to break free from the antiquated notion that you can’t ‘cheat on your stylist’. We don’t own you, but we will love you like we do.
(6) Who are some of your inspirations
We are inspired by everyone and everything around us. We are constantly evolving as a team and using our life experiences to help one another progress. Our clients always have amazing experiences to share that keep us intrigued and wanting to grow. We collaborate with numerous, artists, musicians, and neighbors, and outside stylists who keep our creative force forever progressing.
(7) If you could style anyone who would it be
Kat: I would love to give Leo (Dicaprio obvs) a therapeutic scalp treatment and a line up.
Ronnie: I would love to flat iron Donatella Versace’s hair
Mark: I would travel back to 1972 to style Burt Reynolds for his infamous Cosmopolitan shoot
(8) What is your #1 tip for feeling fly?
The simple truth: “always do you.” There is nothing more fly than confidence in your individuality.
Words by Gillian Kreft, photos by Zach Gutierrez
Cooking vegan is possibly one of the easiest (and best) ways to cook. Vegetables, beans, and sometimes a meat alternative thrown in, there aren’t many ways to make something that isn’t delicious. But occasionally, you need a little inspiration to make something that isn’t just veggies, or that can feed a large group. Enter cookbooks, they provide that little extra inspiration to make something out of your comfort zone and expand on your daily diet a little bit. Maxine Chuck & Beth Gurney’s 125 Best Vegan Recipes does just that. There are options for everything from dips, pasta dishes, sandwiches, and desert. With plenty of side notes that offer substitutions or helpful hints; you can’t go wrong when following this book.
We decided to sample five dishes, all from different parts of the book so we could really see what it had to offer; Roasted Garlic and White Bean Dip, a Pasta Bake, Udon Noodles with Spicy Tofu and Asian Vegetables, Crispy Cinnamon Roll-ups, and Sticky Pecan Squares. There are a few recipes that read more like assembly instructions rather than recipes, but every cookbook has a few of those. We tried to focus on more labor-intensive recipes (which were still really easy!) The recipes are great because they don’t take much time, and don’t call for things that most grocery stores wouldn’t have. Meaning, you could probably go into any local supermarket and find most of the ingredients needed.
I don’t have a lot of cookbooks but the ones that I do have, I bought because of the great reviews of them or the fact that heaven forbid, the internet goes out, I can still cook for a dinner party. Honestly, this cookbook is decent, the recipes we made were delicious and helped us stay in and cook rather than get takeout on a Friday night. But this cookbook isn’t one that offers out of the box recipes, it’s a perfect cookbook for a new vegan, a college student, or one that is looking for a cookbook to offer good, substantial cruelty free versions of what your mom used to make for dinner.
This comes to us from our newest recruit, Amanda Spinosa, who will be holding it down in NYC for us.
Every Friday we bring you our favourite foodie sights and sounds. Everything from food packaging and food inspired art, to recipes and reviews.
Come to me.
4. Sweets – Quinn Candy
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of getting an insider look at the innovative things PayPal is doing with mobile wallets. A “happy hour,” of sorts, was held at Boehmer in Toronto and this intimate event really opened my eyes to the future of mobile payments.
Paypal has partnered with TouchBistro (which is the neat system that many of my favourite local spots have started using in lieu of traditional Point of Sale systems) to enable diners to check in and PayPal-it.
What does that mean?
It means you can simply walk into your local bar/coffee shop, order, and not have to fumble for cash or a card. It’s an almost seamless way to pay, and be on your way. This also means that if you are like me and have a limited amount of time for lunch, you don’t have to wait for your bill when dining in. It even allows you to split checks and be on your merry way in no time. It was an absolute treat to be able to combine two of my interests: really good food and really cool technology. The Paypal app is accepted at more than 50 locations in Toronto and will be rolling out everywhere soon. Thanks to the team at Paypal and Edelman for having me.
Check out more shots from the night. All courtesy of Teddy Chau
Extra attentive servers and opportunities to talk to the team at Paypal
Gorgeous Charcuterie board.
Heaven on a spoon.
Probably the best fried chicken I’ve ever eaten.
Words by Carly
I had the chance to check out the 2nd Annual Feminist Porn Conference presented by The Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies held at the University of Toronto. The conference was the triumphant ending to week long festivities which included workshops, film viewings, networking parties, and of course, the Feminist Porn Awards. I had the privilege and the honour of being in the presence of such a glorious group of people — from performers to academics, who came together to celebrate the Feminist Porn Industry’s achievements and to tease out the tensions in this diverse movement.
What is Feminist Porn, one might ask? Put quite simply, “it’s a genre, an industry, and a movement”. It is a certain kind of porn, one that is shot ethically (fair wages and performer treatment) and with a particular framing in mind. The conference explored the relationship that porn has had with certain sides of feminism, as well as the way in which feminist porn has sought to change the way that “mainstream porn” frames sex, race, gender, and even abilities. Feminist porn is multifaceted and diverse, and it utilized the conference as a physical meeting space for pornographers, sex workers and performers, academics and community members to listen to and to discuss with one another what it means to be part of the Feminist Porn Movement.
“Feminist porn has done incredible work in expanding sexual representation across race, gender, ability and more.” - Lisa Duggan
I attended sessions that literally changed my worldview. It allowed me to see the stakes that I have in body positivity, sex positivity, academia, and community and how to bridge the gap between all of them. I began to see where I fit in the larger conversations about sex workers privacy, the duty to archive Feminist Porn as part of “cultural stewardship”, and the importance of inclusion of POC voices in sex work. I gained a voice at this conference that has been tucked inside me. I felt liberated and inspired, motivated to use my knowledge to effect change.
I am grateful for the opportunity to have been in the presence of sex workers and performers who are on the front lines of producing beautiful work, right next to academics that I followed throughout university. Lisa Duggan, the opening keynote speaker who is the Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University, put it quite nicely when she said: “The Feminist Porn Movement is open to criticism and self-criticism,” as she traced through Feminist Porn Advocacy and commending the movement for “democratically expanding the possibilities” and exploring its limitations.
“We are free to let porn affect feminist and free to let our feminist inform our porn.” - Courtney Trouble
The highlight of the entire conference was the closing keynote by Courtney Trouble, who is a filmmaker, performer, and artist. Courtney Trouble’s angsty/angry, hopeful, but humble speech brought the entire audience to their feet, and quite literally moved me to tears.
“I want you to remember that Fat is a Feminist issue.” - Courtney Trouble
Courtney touched every raw nerve in me and challenged the audience to make fierce, radical change in everything they do – from hiring more fat, queer, trans, and racialized bodies to filming a porn with asexuals. It was a fantastic way to close out the evening leaving everyone feeling charged and inspired to make meaningful choices while pushing the boundaries. You can watch Courtney Troubles’ keynote here, filmed by Tobi Hill-Meyer. Thank you Tobi!
Trigger warnings: addiction, drugs, alcohol, abuse, depression, anxiety
Before I begin this Real Talk entry, I just want to go on the record by saying that I am not a registered physician or addiction specialist. I am writing this from my own personal experiences and struggles. I am not suggesting that you follow what I have done. I am simply sharing my story and hope that I can provide some prospective and helpful information for those looking for further help.
It should be known that I have always grown up around the bottle. One of my very first memories is tugging at my father’s pant leg around the age of three begging him to make me Kool-Aid. Instead he poured beer into my Kool-Aid man cup and I took a huge gulp. I don’t think he did this intentionally but there it was – my first sip of the sweet nectar at the tender age of three.
My father is an alcoholic. I have seen him at his best and I have seen him at his worst. I have seen him at his highest and his lowest. Because of this when I was growing up, I vowed that I didn’t want to be like him. But what I didn’t know then was that addiction was a slippery slope that I may or may not have a choice of falling down. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependencies, research has shown conclusively that family history of alcoholism or drug addiction is in part genetic and not just the result of the family environment.
When I re-kindled the flame with alcohol at age 15, I knew I had fallen in love. Alcohol gave me something — feelings, an escape, uninhibited tendencies and well, fun Yes, I had a fake ID and was going to bars and nightclubs at that age. Nobody was going to stop me from getting that ‘fix’, if you will. As I grew older, I could drink more than most of my male friends. Have you ever seen a 5″2′ girl chug an entire bottle of vodka or Jameson in one evening without throwing up? This was me and I thought like this was something I should be proud of.
People loved inviting me out. They knew with me they would get a show (dancing or otherwise) and I’d always be the last one standing or know where to hunt down (more) free drinks. But all it really was me self-medicating through the bouts of anxiety and depression I was feeling.
Throughout my formative years, I came to realize that downers were my drug of choice. I didn’t like feeling happy and up. According to the George Mason University Wellness, Alcohol and Violence Education website, downers affect most of the basic processes that happen in your body to keep it alive by slowing or inhibiting processes causing users to experience sedation, dis-inhibition of emotions and impulses, muscle relaxation and drowsiness. Basically, I just wanted to numb the pain of the world that I was experiencing. If that meant being a functioning alcoholic then so be it.
Over the years, friends would recommend that perhaps I should slow down on the drinking or people would even stop hanging out with me because I was “out of control” but I never thought I had a problem. All I remembered was having good times and I couldn’t understand why friends couldn’t get on board with that. Sadly, in between all those good times there are a lot of dark, dangerous and humiliating times. I want recount the stories but they happened and sadly as I hurtled myself towards my 30th birthday it seemed things got more real. What was I doing with myself and why?
Life started to get complicated when I got close to thirty. I think my mind opened up and realized that I was (by the definition) a high-functioning alcoholic. I had a full-time job and was a published freelance writer. All really truly amazing things, but I began to realize that perhaps other people were not the problem anymore and I was the problem. Perhaps my life choices while drinking were a problem. All of the dates in the first 3 months of my relationship with my current partner, I was hungover for. Suddenly, the drinking and my alcoholism started to make me feel ugly.
But from this there was regrowth and revitalization and strength. All of which I didn’t know I had within me. I should first go on record as saying, I’m not a sober person. I still drink. However for those that know me know that I barely drink a fraction of the amount that I drank in the past and now I know my limits. I started to re-evaluate my life and those in it. Were they party friends or real friends? Would they love me with or without alcohol? Some friends left me by the wayside as the less I partied the less we hung out. I realized I was just another fixture in the background of their party. For some of those realizations, it hurt immensely as you thought you were “real” friends. But for the people who stuck around to be real friends, they gave me the strength and confidence I needed to re-build myself.
Coming out of this alcoholic fog was when Yuli and I sat down and really discussed making Fat Girl Food Squad a reality. It was when I was introduced to my current partner whom I love so dearly and he’s been such a supportive person. But also when one of my other best friends promised to take me to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, if I ever wanted more support. It was from having all of these emotional stongholds in my life that happiness emerged, clarity came and I decided to put the drink down.
So why did I feel compelled to write this? I want others to know they are not alone. I came across this study that states that more women are binge drinking and self-medicating with alcohol. Other fearless and powerful women (Jen McNeeely of Toronto’s She Does the City recently spoke to how to support a recovering alcoholic) are going through this each and everyday and you don’t have self-medicate with alcohol. There is a way out and things do get better.
Sang Kim is no stranger to the Toronto restaurant and culinary scene. Currently the owner and operator of Baldwin Village’s Yakitori Bar and Seoul Food Co., everything he touches turns to gold. For his next spot though, he has taken his love of food, the arts and community involvement to the next level and shared with Toronto, Wind-Up Bird Cafe. This cafe and restaurant space will act as a spot to eat, learn and play.
I had the chance to speak with Chef Yumiko Kobayashi (prior to the media opening) who told me, “I wanted a place where my vegetarian and meat-eating friends could comfortably dine together and I also wanted a place where I could feed my nine year-old daughter. Much like the way my mother fed me when I was a child, tons of love in every dish.” and each dish served that evening was presented with such love and passion.
In the kitchen at Wind-Up Bird Cafe, Yumiko surrounds herself with all women telling me: “This was a very deliberate choice on my part. I was too used to a male-dominated kitchen- top-down, command and control, and wanted to reflect the opposite of my bad experiences in that situation. I find that women work with consensus in mind. They are more fluid in their conversation, less driven to impress, more open to others’ ideas.”
Together this female driven kitchen has sourced and produced the best in international comfort foods. First up, we tasted a juicy lamb chop with a grainy mustard served atop a bed of greens and sliced apple. Simple yet comforting. The next dish up was probably my favourite (and featured on Breakfast Television): the signature tofu with avocado gratin. With a simple pop of head and some fried shallots of a bit of crunch, this had everything my mouth was looking for. Yumiko tells me, “I like to keep things bubbling under the surface for a long time and let my food ideas express itself as naturally as possible.” Through these dishes, they certainly did speak for themselves.
That evening Sang Kim discussed how much him and Yumiko were committed to bringing nutritional awareness to the community. As such, we were presented with an absolutely wonderful presentation as part of the Kid-Chen Confidential, which will be running out of Wind-Up Bird Cafe. Kid-Chen Confidential will have children interested in cooking (under the age of 18) teaching other kids how to make healthy food on their own. That evening the Proteen Queen (16-year old Leah Honiball) and Kim’s daughter Kiki prepared fried tofu burgers for all. I would have to say that they stole the show.
Another program that will be introduced at Wind-Up Bird Cafe is of the literacy variety entitled, Cook/Book. Each month, a local author will share their book with the audience and we were treated to Joyce Wayne that evening who cooked up a light mango cheesecake from her novel, “The Cook’s Temptation”.
Wind Up Bird Cafe, seats 50, plus another 50 on the side patio for the summer. They will be serving breakfast, lunch and dinner and plan to have several more programs up and running in the coming months.