Archive for the ‘Life List’ Category

Life list: the Royal Winter Fair

I have a confession to make. In the thirteen years I have lived in Toronto, I have never been to either the CNE  or the Royal Winter Fair. Gasp! I know.

Well, that’s not quite true. Years ago when I was in college, I spent the day volunteering with the media relations team at the Royal Winter Fair and I got to run around with Rick Mercer’s TV crew while they filmed him milking goats and calling square dances. Which was totally fun, but it didn’t really allow me to experience the fair on my own terms.

So, we went.

In the food court, there was a booth where they sold food and drink in bags.  Like a livestock feed bag, I suppose.  Only, German?

No one really got close to the booth, except to try and understand what they were selling. It was staffed by a couple of really bored teenagers. I felt bad for them.

Then, we saw some students making butter sculptures in a chilly room.

Then, cows!


Four-day-old piglets! Squee!

The piglets were heartbreakingly cute. And yet, when we passed by this booth, I couldn’t turn away.

I think Penny had fun, but she slept through most of it.

We only took in a fraction of what was there. We completely missed the section full of enormous vegetables, much to my chagrin. And I hardly took in many of the food offerings to be had. But we’ll go next year for sure.

On the way home we walked through the CNE grounds, which seemed kind of woebegone in the grey November afternoon.



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Oh, hello!

I had meant to post this a few weeks ago, but a certain someone intervened and postponed some of the things I’d meant to do before I had a baby. Like stocking the freezer. But that’s another story.

 A few weeks ago, in the glow of my first few days of maternity leave, my friend Hungry Dumpling invited me to celebrate by striking off one of the items on my Culinary Life List. What better way to kick-start a few weeks of pamering and nesting, than fancy tea with cakes and scones on tiered plates? I’m in!

We went to the Windsor Arms Hotel, which, it turns out, does not offer High Tea. They serve Afternoon Tea, which to connoisseurs is a distinct animal. Apparently High Tea, also called a “meat tea,”  is just a fancy name for an early dinner. Afternoon Tea, also called Low Tea, is the ritual that we associate with pinky-extended, millinery-accessorized Englishness, a grown-up girl’s tea party.

And this tea party did not disappoint.

The Windsor Arms has a beautiful tea room, one that caters perfectly to its audience. The only men I saw in the room were the servers, not that I was surprised. The place exudes character that is old and frilly and starchy, in all the right ways. This is not how they would describe themselves on their website, but that’s the appeal.

 I had Darjeeling tea, a light black tea without too much tannin. HD had Lapsang Souchong, which smelled like campfire.


Behold, the thing that makes my inner twelve-year-old go Squee! The tiered plate.

Warm things first: the goat cheese tart. Simple, tasty, goat cheesy.

 And then, the tea sandwiches made of squishy white bread rolled around some fillings.

These things remind me of church socials, though here there was no peanut butter or salmon salad made with Miracle Whip. In this case, asparagus and cream cheese, chicken salad, and smoked salmon with some roe on top.  All relatively bland, I have to say, but I’d venture a guess and say they were ethnically correct. Besides, it’s the whole afternoon tea experience you’re after, no? 

And what I was really after, aside from the pretty tiered plates in the pretty room with my friend HD, was this: the scones with Devon cream and jam.

 I forgot to capture the little dish of Devon cream, but oh, it was there. Sigh. Also, there were a whole bunch of tiny perfect pastries on the top plate, but HD and I were both too full to go there. Instead, we tucked into the final treat, just a simple strawberries with whipped cream. Delightful.

Oh, and did you know that the Windsor Arms keeps a rack full of hats, of various degrees of dignity and ridiculousness, for its Tea Room patrons to try on? Apparently if you try one on they make a donation to the Aids Committee of Toronto. How could I resist trying on a hat that was impossible to fully fit into the frame of a photo?

Well done, Windsor Arms.  And thanks, HD!

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