Saturday, 7 January 2017

Out-dressed by Chavo Crepes

Hair un-brushed, no make-up on, not even any socks despite sub zero weather. I was heading to the bus terminal this morning with Margaret, just dropping her off and then popping back home, or so I thought. Dammit, we missed the bus! With another bus coming in an hour, we could either go home again or kill 60 minutes in Downtown Barrie. We decided on option #2 and went to look for a coffee shop. As we strolled past Memorial Square, I spied a warm and friendly Open sign on Chavo Crepes across the road at 74 Dunlop Street. "Hey, let's go there!"

Margaret wasn't sure. She figured that nearly every menu item would most certainly contain Nutella. Meanwhile, I was looking for something breakfasty, and I was picturing some sort of cheese crepes rolled up and sauced, served fast-food style in a venue much like the short-lived Beaver Tails farther down Dunlop St. You know - somewhere that no one would notice that I had just jumped off the couch to give someone a ride, skipping most of my beauty routine, and looking more unkempt than I would have liked.

Um yeah. Chavo Crepes is very nice inside. Very, very nice. We were greeted by a tall man who reminded me of waiters I have seen in Paris, and he waved us to a seat near the back of the long narrow restaurant. Slim and chic, very elegant, some of the prettiest lighting I have ever seen, I was not expecting such a stylish interior.

We ordered tea. What we were not brought was a stainless steel teapot and a white ceramic mug, but instead a tray of tiny, colourful tins, all of them decorated with unique names and designs, and each with the words Smell Me printed on the lid. So we smelled them. Every tin was a small treasure chest of fruity, spicy goodness, floral scents, nutty aromas - not your grandma's tea collection! Very hot water served in a tall glass mug arrived on a saucer, accompanied by a long spoon and a small ramekin to sit the tea bag. My apple chai tea ingredients were encased in a drawstring bag which floated in the water and slowly turned it from clear to amber brown. Margaret's tea turned rosy pink.

The menu was diverse and appealing with lots of non-dessert crepes on offer. Our crepes, both smoked salmon with a homemade dill-cheese spread on buckwheat, were simply amazing! They were artfully presented,topped with capers, red onion and lemon, and served with a spring mix-apple salad drizzled with a house Bulgarian style pesto dressing.

We savoured every last bite, then lingered over our delightful tea, almost missing a another bus! What unexpected little jewel we stumbled across today. Thank you so much for a lovely brunch from the frumpy girls at the second last table. We promise to be back and be more presentable next time!

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Nibbling and Sipping in Toronto

I am a little jealous. Yes, I am. Last winter, my daughter moved into the cutest little room in a century home in Toronto, in Baldwin Village, a stone's throw from Chinatown and Kensington Market. To step out the front door is to step into the shadow of the iconic CN Tower, and into a sea of multicultural passersby all heading to funky little coffee shops, ethnic markets and indie mercantiles. The world is here. Chinese traders, hippies of all ages, art students, musicians, pot heads, baristas, and cyclists, Rich, poor, gay, straight, vegan, carnivore, young and old. These neighbourhoods are alive!

So I took the bus to Toronto last weekend - city driver I am not! My girl met me at Union Station and she set me up with a TTC rider pass, which I certainly needed as she whisked me all over the downtown area, both above ground and below, by bus, streetcar, subway and on foot, until my usually excellent sense of direction was mush.

After dropping my bags off at her place, she asked me what I would like to do next. Well, eat of course! We had encountered so many tantalizing smells of cooking on our way to her home, scents of garlic and ginger, the multilayered spices of Chinese and Indian cuisine, hints of citrus from open air markets and freshly ground fair trade coffees. I wanted in on that, but where do we start?

Don't ask me how we got there, but our first stop was actually a chain restaurant that  did not seem like a chain restaurant. Before looking it up later, we assumed it was a one-off eatery, as it appeared very natural in its surroundings, sort of rustic in decor and so fitting to the style of the neighbourhood that it must have evolved here. We had stumbled upon Bare Burger at 111 Dundas St. W, and we were glad we did!

Likely you have tried a couple of the local burger places in Barrie where you choose your patty, bread, toppings, sauces and sides from the menu and the kitchen creates a unique burger for you. Or you can pick a pre-curated hamburger already designed to please. It took us a while to decide. Part of my dilemma, as a nearly full time vegetarian, was the surprising amount of choices I had. Normally, there is a veggie burger on the menu. Bare Burger has three! In the end, both of us opted for the Farmstead Burger, which is a sweet potato and kale patty served with the most dreamy (and messy) green hummus, tomatoes, baby kale and a avocado basil dressing. Yum-eee! Four thumbs up.

Next, she zoomed me over to Roncesvalles Avenue where we perused some kitschy little shops before stopping in at Extra Butter for the best chai latte she had found in town yet. Small, unassuming and sparely decorated, my daughter and I sat sipping our fragrant lattes while wondering at the seemingly hand printed faux wallpaper. Is this silver paint and a Sharpie? Someone with a steady hand and a lot of patience must work here, and she was right - this is the best chai ever!

Many stores later, we rested our shop-weary bones in a comfy booth at the Black Bull Tavern at 298 Queen St. W. at Soho St. We enjoyed a couple of tall, cool ciders in this friendly 180 year old pub before strolling on home for the night.

On Sunday morning, more magical mystery touring on the TTC, and this time we found ourselves sitting in a window-side booth in Golden Griddle looking across at the famed Maple Leaf Gardens. We fortified ourselves with the breakfast buffet before heading out to explore more of Toronto's heart, starting with a look inside the beautifully laid-out Loblaws store in the old hockey venue. Be sure to check out their amazing cake and pastry display, if you get a chance to drop in.

She has been dying to show me a certain little bohemian tea room, so we headed to a street car stop to catch a ride. We could hear some faint techno music in the distance. Was it coming from a shop or an approaching car? As it got closer, and louder, we finally saw a customized bicycle jacked up twice the normal height with what looked like a home stereo, amp and a generator strapped to the sides, pumping out a steady dance beat while Groucho Marx's double peddled steadily along. I have to say - I love Toronto!

The last stop on Margaret's must-show-mom tour was Bampot on Harbord St. Warm, cozy and cavernous, steps go up only to go down again, couch enclosures, pillow-strewn window booths, curtains, eclectic art and a massive wall of board games and tea. Lots of tea. I wanted to sit on a pile of cushions at a low table but my back and legs asked me not to, so I had to comply. Instead, we picked a nice (normal) table near the front door and picked out a game to play.

The tea menu is like nothing I have ever seen before - so many types and sub-types, detailed flavour descriptions and healing properties on a menu that seems more like a tea reference book. Margaret chose a milky honey spice tea, while I was immediately hooked by the name Crabby Rab's Hot Toddy, described as "Inspired by a Scottish granda as crotchety as he was kind, this is the closest you will get to an alcoholic beverage in an unlicensed tea room.'' The menu called it smoky and peaty, words more often used to characterize a whisky, and they were very accurate. Even the aroma, with my eyes closed, brought me back to the small Highland villages of my early childhood and the smell of the cottage fireplaces. Amazing that a tea can do that.

So yes, I am fairly envious of my daughter's adopted city and all the fun little shops, one-of-a-kind eateries, human oddities and the kaleidoscopic mix of architecture, ethnicity and lifestyle. Toronto, you and I have been neighbours for years now and I feel like I hardly know you. Let's work on that, okay?

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Bourbon at The Simcoe Hotel: If These Walls Could Talk ...

When this farm girl arrived in the big city to attend college, the population of Barrie was around 45,000 people. I was excited to be living in an urban area for the first time in my life, eager to spread my wings, make new friends and have a bit of fun. I was given bits of advice from those who had lived in Barrie longer than I but, of all the many pearls of wisdom given by locals of my age group, I only really remember one. Never be seen coming out of the Simcoe Hotel. 

I am not exactly sure why I was supposed to avoid this particular establishment as there were plenty of other taverns of a similar vintage in Downtown Barrie - the Wellington, American, Clarkson and the Clifton over on Bradford Street. They were all perhaps a little rough around the edges but very popular nonetheless. So why the Simcoe? That advice was given to me by a long forgotten person in late 1982, and in all the years since then, I have never been in. Until today, that is!

If the Y.M.C.A. once proclaimed that Barrie is the wickedest town in the Dominion, how bad must the Simcoe Hotel have been earn the honour/dishonour of being the most unsavoury in Barrie? These are stories that I would really like to hear and I hope that some readers might share a few as I am very curious now. Why was this fabulously unique and historic flat iron building held, at least for a time, in such low regard? Oh please, do tell!

The current iconic building that anchors Five Points today was built in 1877 by Michael Shanacy, to replace an 1850s era hotel that was destroyed by fire the previous year. I understand that the former structure, also known as the Simcoe Hotel, had a reputation for wild west style barroom brawls in the 1860s and 1870s. So in through the door that so many farmers, lumbermen and traders walked in and staggered out, I stepped into the front dining room to have some breakfast.

Today, the sign above the south facing entrance says Bourbon, which is the latest (since 2013) eatery to be located within the walls of the Simcoe Hotel building. The rooms upstairs are still rental units, but the restaurant and bar area got a major face lift in 2007 when it became the (now gone) Flat Iron Grill. The Bourbon offers popular fare such as caesar salad, wings, poutine, nachos and burgers today, and on Saturday and Sunday mornings, breakfast.

My husband, Ron, and I took a little tour through Downtown Barrie this Saturday morning and stopped in to old Governor Simcoe's namesake for a bite. I almost wish I had seen the before to appreciate the after, because what we found was a lovely little place, neat, clean, modern with a million dollar view of Kempenfelt Bay. On this sunny day, in this quiet eatery, I found it hard to imagine one hundred plus years of inebriated ruffians being tossed bodily out this very front door onto a dirt street. Darn.

Our server was a delightful lady with a soft voice and gentle manner. She brought us some robust coffees and we awaited our breakfasts in a comfortable 10 year old booth while looking out 140 year old windows.  The easterly view would have changed in 1994 when the Sam The Record Man store burned. The western view met the same fate with the loss of the Wellington Hotel in 2007. Somehow, the ol' Simcoe still stands strong.

Mmmm breakfast! Ron got the classic bacon and egg breakfast and I got a fluffy cheese and mushroom omelette. The only thing wicked or sinful that I encountered at the Simcoe Hotel today were the Bourbon's fried mashed potatoes! Yum!

This blog post was originally written by me for and published there on August 8, 2016. Please check out this wonderful free, searchable online museum of Barrie's photo, audio and video treasurers from the 1880s until today!

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Rock & Roll & Ribs: Switching to Glide With the Ninth Line

It was hotter than Hades outside, as it has been most of this summer. A barbecued rib festival was set up on the yellow, sun-fried grass next to a grocery store parking lot in a town a half hour drive away from my home. I still had a mountain of packing and organizing to do before our family was due to depart the next morning for a trip to the state of New York. Yet, I had to get there, just had to. Couldn't miss it. Did I mention that I don't even like ribs?

So what brings a time-strapped, shade loving vegetarian to a meat centered food festival 50 km from home? Nostalgia, that's what. My husband and sons were along for the chow down, but I was there to steal back just a little bit of my youth. The Bradford Ribfest has been held there for the past 4 years, just down the road from where I went to high school. The event was set up in front of a Zehrs store that didn't exist back then. I had fluffy hair and Road Runner jeans, and this was a farmer's field. But on this day, a concert stage set up next to Holland Street held the promise of a short trip back in time.

First things first. Nobody goes to a food festival and doesn't eat, so off we went in search of something munchable. Two of the guys are big rib fans, so they lined up under 2 separate giant barbecue banners. Patrick chose Richmond Hill based Pig Kahuna and Ron went to Billy Bones, out of Michigan, U.S.A., for his dinner. Mitchell grabbed some pulled pork and I wandered over to Billy Bob's Bloomin Onion to grab one of their signature deep fried offerings to share, and a poutine for myself. We met up under the welcome shade of a dining tent.

Since this event was a competition, and the vendors welcome being judged, I feel that I can put aside my usual rule against negative reviews this one time. Pig Kahuna was very disappointing. Perhaps the non-existent queue should have been a hint. Perhaps Canadian barbecue still has some catching up to do with our American counterparts? In any case, my #1 rib fan son, who dines  at every rib fest or barbecue joint he can get to, got a box of the driest, most sauce-less and flavour-free ribs he has ever eaten. He eventually went back and asked for more sauce but it helped little. They were a poor cousin to the juicy, tangy ribs my husband was happily attacking next to him. Patrick did not finish his ribs, which is unheard of.

Bloomin Onion, were you in competition too? You certainly lived up to your name, as your crispy onion delights were huge and superb. I loved the dipping sauce too, although I should have been smarter and asked for more of it. However, poutine masters you are not. The fries were good but sprinkling on a bare ration of some sort of grated white cheese, with a less than generous ladle of warm gravy, was not cool. Not cool.

Okay, we ate. The reviews were mixed but this nibbler was not really there for the food, odd as that may sound. My eyes wandered to the stage area as show time approached. I began to look for some familiar faces because I was expecting to see quite a few of my former classmates as we gathered to watch a 30 minute show 36 years in the making. For a half an hour, the 1980s would be given back to us in the form of the Ninth Line, as they sang the same songs they had often performed on the stage in Bradford District High School's cafetorium.

I positioned myself by the stage in hopes of getting some good photographs of the band. My vantage point turned out to be ideal for classmate spotting too. So many of my former school mates turned up - it was absolutely fantastic!  Nancy Jean, Marcia, Lori, Dawn, Jo-Anne, Rob, Jim, Joe, Jeremy, Mike, Matt, Rhonda, Darryl ... all appeared, some out of the recent past and others not seen for nearly 4 decades. Big hugs. Shouts of "Oh my God!" High waves across the crowded field. Short conversations yelled over loud music.

I know of no other event, other than our actual high school reunion 7 years ago, that attracted so many BDHS alumni. The big draw, that seemed to surprise even the Ribfest organizers, was very obviously the Ninth Line. Possibly, the Ninth Line band members themselves were equally surprised. The boys, including a sound engineer, a lawyer and a professional musician, stepped onstage to a welcome worthy of the Rolling Stones. Forget side entertainment at a food festival, this was the main event, a sold-out show in a huge arena. This was our band from our time.

For a short while, we were transported, brought back to our teen years. Country kids and small town kids, grooving the music of the Beatles, Eagles and Kings, remembering a time when our biggest stressors were math homework and finding a prom date. Matt, Joe, Mike, Jim and Peter may be part-time musicians today, but to me they are more like the pilots of a time machine with the dial set to 1980. Thanks for the awesome trip, guys. I look forward to the next voyage of the Ninth Line.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

A Delicious Revolution Rocks Barrie

I buy a lot of frozen pizzas and chicken fingers. There! I said it. My secret is out. Ironically, those  purchases are mostly the result of my busy life as a full time cook who produces endless healthy, from scratch meals for low income people, and my part time endeavor writing about said healthy food! Well, how do you like that? Hopefully, that little confession of mine makes you feel just a little bit better about your own less-than-perfect shopping/dining habits, but you and I can do better. Yes, we can.

Real food is the best food. We all know that. The days of Beaver Cleaver's mother baking (non-bagged) cookies in her high heels and pearls are long gone, but we can try, little by little, to reclaim some of the lost skills of our grandmothers and re-introduce some wholesome foods back into our kitchens. Plant a little veggie garden - even a tomato plant in a balcony pot. Make a one dish casserole - Heaven knows there are enough online instructional videos for those! Shop more often at a local organics/health food store, farmers market, farmer, or simply spend more time in the meat, dairy and produce areas of your grocery store, leaving those highly processed foods in the centre aisles alone for a bit. Easier said than done, but I'm working on it!

It's not that we don't want to eat healthy food - we really do! Life often gets in the way of eating the good foods that we need for that healthy life. Lucky for us in Barrie, there is a growing movement by some smart-minded local businesses towards creating healthy convenience foods. Many of these small producers are also offering delivery services. I met a few of them at the recent Food Revolution Day event at Barrie's Southshore Centre.

Whoa, back up a minute, what on Earth is Food Revolution Day? The movement, started by chef Jamie Oliver, aims to tackle some very important issues facing our food supply - good food education, access to nutritious food, food waste, sustainability of our supply, cooking as a life skill and supporting ethically produced foods. Food Revolution Day is held worldwide every year in May and as Jamie Oliver puts it, "Food Revolution Day is an opportunity to shout about good foods, get inspired to cook great food from scratch and be empowered to help change the global obesity crisis ... "

Cool. So what do we do now? I recommend baby steps - educate yourself, make small gradual changes for the better and most of all, be good to yourself. You and your family deserve to eat good things and be healthy. We know that time is always in short supply, so here is a welcome and radical concept - healthy fast food. It really does exist and you can get it in three (soon to be four) locations of AvocoBar in Barrie.

Start your day off right, or snack time, or anytime  really, with the non-GMO, preservative free, hand made in small batches goodness of Not Yer Granny's Granola, created right here in Barrie. I have met the ever effervescent Fran Kruse before and watched her and her husband, Mark, work their magic as they create their tasty wares with the funky names - maple me happy, hello orange, pumpkin pizzazz and javanola mojo.

I was very inspired by 2 young entrepreneurial sisters, Grace and Madeleine Dufault, of Y.U.M. (Your Ultimate Meals), who produce fresh baking, salads in jars and many other delights for sale online or at the Barrie Farmers Market.  Equally impressive was another young one, the teen son of Earth's Emporia's owner, who spent his entire day happily helping other vendors with their heavy loads, then bravely stepped up to the microphone to speak about healthy eating.

I also re-met two new faves of mine, from the recent Savour The Flavours Show, Chris of Momma Mari's Dressings and Sauces and Ally of Rabbit Food Bakery & Deli. I bought a bottle of Sneaky Momma barbecue sauce from Chris and we are really enjoying it with our barbecued foods at home. The sun dried tomato almond cheeze that I purchased from Ally called to me incessantly from the fridge and was eaten by me in one sitting. Sorry but it was damned good!

From my seat at the welcome table, I had a great view of Barrie's Garden Centre's lovely green display. My own small veggie garden at home is sitting empty right now waiting for me to get planting my pickling cucumbers, tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, lettuce and eggplants. I can hardly wait to get my hands dirty! There is a great feeling of satisfaction that comes from growing your own food from seed/seedling to something that can be eaten. Maybe challenge yourself to grow one small thing this summer, be it a pot of chives or planter of cherry tomatoes, that you can use in a meal later on.

Bring a little of the Food Revolution into your own kitchen and treat yourself the way should be treated. Be kind to your body, your family and this little blue planet. Viva la revoluci√≥n!

Sunday, 15 May 2016

7 Reasons Why I Love Lakeview Gardens

My deepest apologies to preteen boys. When I look back at my grade eight school year, I recall a lot of rather loud and rude guys. Sure, we girls were no models of elegance ourselves, but when I remember all the burping, cat calls and off-colour remarks from my male classmates, one oasis of civilized behavior stands out. Solid as a rock, always friendly and polite, never dragged into popularity contests or other muck. That was Rob. Carrying forth these positive traits, Rob Radcliffe is a successful business man today as part of Lakeview Gardens, the beautiful garden centre located in Innisfil, Ontario.

Recently, I made my second visit to Lakeview Gardens. I needed a Mothers Day gift for my mum and I was eager to take a behind the scenes peek at the greenhouse operations on their annual spring preview tour. Rob led the tour himself and when I left, I was thoroughly educated, energized for my own gardening and supplied with a collection of gorgeous and colourful garden flowers. Let me tell you some of the reasons why I am the newest big fan of Lakeview Gardens.

1. Bugs. Yes, bugs. I love to buy a few big baskets of flowers for my garden planters but I do not love chemicals. Without pesticides, I take a risk that the plants that I purchase with my hard earned money might be gobbled up by nasty creepy-crawlies. The Radcliffes employ swirskii mites, predatory good bugs that protect the plants in a natural way.

2. LG is a family biz. Since 1979, not too long after those eighth grade glory days, the Radcliffe family has called the nearly 3 acre property at 1712 Killarney Beach Road home. Rob's father, a Yorkshire born and trained horticulture specialist, is Stephen Radcliffe. In 1986, when previous business partnerships ended, Stephen partnered with his wife, the bubbly Gaynor Radcliffe that you will surely meet at the garden centre entrance. He also partnered with Rob at that time. Thirty years later, Rob's wife, Rosemarie, grown children, including  son Andrew, and other extended family members are vital parts of the team.

3. Everything is done by hand. Three generations of tireless workers, basically half a dozen people, hand seed 10,000 flats of annuals and vegetables. Every one of those flats contains 48 plants. Impressed yet? They also do 4,300 hanging baskets and an astounding 45,000 assorted pots from 4 inches up to 2 gallon sizes. These plants are also hand watered. Suddenly, my own gardening chores seem minuscule.

4. Bees. I love bees. We all should because without them, there is no food for any of us. If I wasn't such a chicken (bee stings - ouch), I think I would enjoy keeping bees of my own. However, I will leave that to the experts, the Radcliffes, who keep a few hives and produce some local honey for sale. Did you know that you must leave at least one third of the honey behind for the bees to eat over winter? These hungry little guys eat a lot too - between 40 and 60 lbs. of honey!

5. Parking is terrible. Actually, that is a good thing! There is a small lot and plenty of concession road to stop along, so who needs a vast car lot when precious ground can be used for so many other purposes? Believe me, the ground is well used. Lakeview Gardens has more than 26,500 square feet of greenhouse space and even the narrow patches of soil between the greenhouses gets tilled up for more planting space. No fertile corner is wasted!

6. Much more than a garden centre. Yes, you can drop by the garden centre from 9 -5 from Monday to Saturday, and pick up your flowers and veggie plants, but so much more than is going on than meets the eye. Lakeview Gardens has contracts to supply large customers such as cemeteries and military bases with flowers. You will also find Radcliffes, and their fresh produce, at 3 different farmers markets including the one in Bradford. How do they do it? Cloning or some sort of magic can be the only reasonable answer.

7. The Royal treatment. I have saved the best for last. Once Gaynor Radcliffe has learned your name, she will remember it and always call you by it. Any family member will carry your purchases up to the front cash for you and keep them off to the side until you are ready to leave. After that, you will be pleasantly surprised when your newly bought plants are carried out to your car. I challenge you to find that kind of treatment at any of the big garden centres.

Mrs. R, you did something right and you still are!

Saturday, 14 May 2016

The Curious Nibbler Returns to the Food Show

That Sunday was cool and rainy with a Scottish mist rolling over the green hills of Tangle Creek Golf & Country Club. Never mind the dismal weather because all the action was indoors, where the Savour The Flavours Food and Drink Show was in full swing. Obviously, nobody told the golfers this because they teed off, one after the other, oblivious to the wet conditions. They can have their game. I will have mine!

Warm and cozy inside the club house, live acoustic guitar music, good smells, a bustling crowd of eager munchers and friendly greeters were waiting at the reception desk. Now this is my kind of day at the golf course!

I was accompanied by my husband and two of my sons, all of whom were immediately drawn to the first beer display that met their eyes. Side Launch Brewing Company, out of Collingwood, was offering up samples of their wares and the boys all tasted their Pale Ale, which promises to be balanced in the malt and hops department. This is a brew made in the traditional way, so their rep suggested it be consumed within a few months since it was unfiltered and free from preservatives. With a hot Canadian summer coming up, I can't think that many of their beers will languish too long in any fridges,

Okay, beer is nice but where are the munchables? Ah there we go - Cross Wind Farm had some nice samples of aged cheddar to try. I took a small square on a toothpick and immediately realized that this was not the cheddar I was expecting. Cross Wind is a goat milk operation. Sometimes goat cheese is rather strong, at least to my palate, but this was not. Different yes, but not overbearing. What I really enjoyed was their artisan chevre, which is a fluffy cream-cheese-like product available in many flavours. I tried the creamy dill - the fresh dill flavour sang out and once again, no strong goat taste.

There were a number of barbecue vendors at Savour The Flavours and I managed to visit Momma Mari, or at least her friendly and enthusiastic son, Christopher Marinakos. This Orillia based family has been dabbling in dressings and sauces since 1974 and have products in all kinds of local shops and markets. I asked Christopher for a sample suited to my self described infantile (too many heat receptors!) palate and he suggested the Sweet Momma. Mmmm a lot like Diana Sauce. To which Christopher added "But better."

I spent a fair bit of time chatting with the lovely young lady behind the Rabbit Food Bakery & Deli table. I was very intrigued to find the term vegan (as all of her products are) combined with the word deli, which makes me picture a glass case full of sliced meats and various sausages. She had a colourful display of wonderful little nut cheezes with lots of flavours to sample. I tried sundried tomato and cranberry - so good! When I tracked down the boys again, I steered them over to Rabbit Food. I introduced them as my cavemen, (sorry, guys!) and encouraged them to give the vegan fare a go. They were particularly impressed with her potato salad with vegan mayonnaise and her cheeze sauce that goes great on nachos or burgers.

Zing Zang is a well made and well named product. This company produces very flavourful drink mixes including caesar, margarita and pina colada and I can certainly see where the zing comes in. I was happy to try all three and I would say that all are fantastic. I could see my sister and I, and a bottle of that margarita mix, having a very nice little time beside her pool this summer.

Birch syrup is going to be the next big thing. We all know about maple syrup but why should the maple get all the glory with so many other potentially tappable trees growing in our forests? Napoleon's chef, Don Cruickshank, had a small bottle of it beside his barbecue last year and that was the first time I had ever heard mention of it. One year later, I found an entire booth dedicated to the educating, sampling and selling of birch syrup and its by-products. The Canadian Birch Company is leading the way with its Manitoba based business. I am not much of a sweet tooth, but the syrup was good and I can imagine myself using it for some nice barbecued blackened salmon √† la Chef Cruikshank. 

Such a crowd around Superior Meats! This company is not new and their products are available practically everywhere, but folks sure were keen to line up and try their samples. I considered passing by but a small card with the words English Smoked Wildwood Cheddar Cheese kept me firmly rooted in place until I got my reward - a small but flavour packed taste of cheese gold. 

Ripe Juicery has been in my favourite neighbourhood, Downtown Barrie, for a while now but I have not yet been in to visit. Lucky for me, Ripe had a tasting booth at the Savour The Flavours Show this year. Tiny cups of vibrantly coloured liquids were laid out on a wooden board. I just had to try them all. You will not believe this number, but 3 - 6 pounds of fresh produce go into every 500 ml bottle of Ripe juice! I sampled green (cucumber, kale, lemon, parsley, pineapple and romaine), then orange (mainly carrots and oranges) and lastly the brilliantly purple sweet beet. I have never liked beets, (too earthy for me), so this last drink was not my thing, which proves how authentically beety this fresh concoction really was. 

It was still drizzling away when we left. We decided to finish off our nibbling with a visit to Smoke's Poutinerie, one of several food trucks stationed outside the Tangle Creek clubhouse. Mmmmm fresh hot fries, cheese curds covered in steaming gravy on a cool day - why not?!

And so all of the flavours of 2016 were well savoured. Definitely looking forward to what 2017 might bring!