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Café Crêperie, Elora

If you enjoy crêpes, this place is a winner. Menu items include a variety of sweet and savoury French Crêpes, Chocolate Mousse, Gâteau Basque and more. We were on our way to a different restaurant when we saw the sign for crêpes. That required an immediate change of plans. We headed directly to 40    Mill St. West and found a table, covered with a bright yellow and blue Provençal print tablecloth. Gene chose a savoury crêpe while I ordered the chef’s sweet special (as opposed to the chef’s savoury special.) Mine was loaded with fresh fruit dotted with chocolate mousse.

While waiting for our order, we noticed photographs hanging along the full extent of the wall. We had just finished eating when the photographer came in to take down a picture he had sold, which was hanging beside our table. He was a chatty, retired Scotsman who had taken up photography at 60. Full of information, he told us that local artists display their artwork for a month at a time. The Crêperie had been open for a year and a half and when other restaurants were quiet, he said, the Café was always busy. It’s closed Mondays with the exception of long weekends. Then, every other Monday evening at 8:00, musicians gather to share their talent at ‘Open Mic,’ (including our artist friend.)  The café serves food and drinks.

When we went to pay, our waitress asked if the service had been good. Gene honestly replied that it had been slow, but the crépes made up for it. As their website is currently being rebuilt, the waitress suggested we pick up a copy of the Gorge Film and Arts newspaper, available at the cinema across the street. We would find information in it about the Crêperie. In looking through the September/October issue, I found an exciting entry. It advertised the Elora Culinary Walking Tour every Saturday from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. The tour highlights food, history and architecture. To reserve a spot, call: 226-384-7000.

There was a certain appeal to packing the lawn chairs into the trunk and having no more to do than sit for the afternoon in a shaded park while enjoying some really good, free, live entertainment. All you could eat hot dogs, corn on the cob and pop was available for $6.00. Off we went for our grand adventure.

After juggling a bit to accommodate a vertically challenged senior who chose to sit in the middle of the crowd, we found a suitable spot. Our afternoon began with the Toronto All-Star Big Band who has been coming to Kincardine for the past 18 years. Performing with them were “The Andrew Sisters“, “Louis Armstrong”, and a drummer who in addition to playing his drum set, banged out beats on a garbage lid, wooden posts and whatever else he could find to drum on, on stage or off. Pretty good.

My all time favourite Saturday afternoon entertainment was a local group known as The Pleats (not to be confused with The Pleats from Chicago.) Led by Laurie Dalton, they played and sang celtic music and Canadian folk tunes, using close harmonies. Laurie made the bass guitar sing. She also plays the acoustic guitar and has a rich alto voice. Nicole Reid, who’s voice has a down east quality to it, sings melody, and plays the guitar as well as violin, her husband Nick plays the kitchen pipes, the bag pipes and a variety of drums. On the keyboard was Brenda Manderson who sings harmony. I could have listened to them for the entire afternoon and was disappointed to find out they have no cd’s available for purchase.

It never occurred to Gene nor I that all those gathered in the park would, like us, need a place to eat. Instead of making reservations at one of the local eateries, we went for a walk along the Kincardine Harbour where scores of sailboats and yachts were anchored. When it came time to eat, the only inn where we found room was the Bruce Inn. The server mentioned it would be a bit of a wait for our food but as we had an hour and fifteen minutes before the Gathering of the Bands, we thought we’d have lots of time. One hour and ten minutes later, our entree arrived amidst heartfelt apologies from the poor server.

At 8:00 p.m., 180 pipes and drummers started marching from Victoria Park and onto main street Kincardine playing all the way to Quinn’s square then back again. Following them were thousands of people, the largest crowd they’ve ever had in Kincardine. While the Mass Band started 20 years ago, the Kincardine Pipe Band parade has been marching down Kincardine’s main street every summer Saturday night, rain or shine, at 8:00 since 1948. To see more photos and videos of this years parade, go to http://www.kincardinetimes.com, click on A & E on the left and again onto A&E and Heritage with video Kincardine’s 20th annual Mass Band Celebration. The Mass Band gathers on the last weekend in August (before Labour Day.)

Next summer on the first weekend in July, we hope to go to the annual Kincardine Festival where bands from Toronto, Chicago, Halifax and all places in between, compete. In addition are Highland Games competitions, many of them held on the shores of Lake Huron. And, if that’s not enough to pique your interest, you could always stroll along Kincardine’s boardwalk while watching the magnificent sunsets light up the heavens over Lake Huron. They’re among the best in the world.

Violet Hill

We discovered Mrs. Mitchell’s restaurant in Violet Hill when, driving home from Meaford one year, we saw a road sign advertising pie at Mrs. Mitchell’s. My husband’s very fussy when it comes to pie. He insists there are only three kinds he likes: hot pie, cold pie and more pie. With pie on the sign board, we adjusted our travel plans and

Dining Room

headed to Mrs. Mitchell’s. We’ve been going back ever since. The tiny hamlet is located on the north side of Hwy 89 between Alliston and Shelburne.

Two years ago, Gene and Bob climbed off their bikes to have lunch at Mrs. Mitchell’s. In full leathers with helmets under

Mrs. Mitchell's

their arms, they walked inside to be greeted by the maybe 4’8″ proprietor, Maureen Baufeldt. “Have you come to rape and pillage?” she asked.

“No. Not today,” said Bob, a little startled.

“Damn,” she replied, just loud enough for them to hear. Mrs. Baufeldt passed away in June of this year. We miss her.

The restaurant is a transformed one room Schoolhouse. At first we thought Mrs. Baufeldt was Mrs. Mitchell until we learned from a brochure that Mrs. Mitchell was a teacher of the longest standing at that school. The name was chosen in honour of her dedication to the community.

I love the warm, rich, country decor of the restaurant. (If country decor can be considered elegant, than Mrs. Mitchell’s has a refined, country elegance.) Outside, the grounds are exquisite, inviting exploration which yields surprise after surprise. GRANNY Taught Us How, a dangerous place to shop, is located across from the restaurant. It used to be the Orange Lodge.

The food is listed as “Cozy Country Dining with a Creative Flare.” You can have lunch, afternoon tea, or dinner. We’ve enjoyed all three. While Mrs. Baufeldt is no longer there to meet you, her daughter Heidi is every bit as solicitous. Menu choices are varied and they always offer amazing daily specials. If you’re in the area or are looking for a destination, you’ve got to try Mrs. Mitchell’s.

GRANNY Taught Us How

America's Cup Yacht

Auckland is known as the “City of Sails.” Boats belonging to all levels of society anchor in every bay and harbor. Seeing masts lined up like telephone poles is part of the landscape.

Sailing was Gene’s passion when I first met him. Being a non swimmer at the time, I enjoyed our excursions on Lake Ontario but it remained far from a passion for me. It was natural then that on this visit to New Zealand, our son Matthew, daughter-in-law Sharilyn and Gene booked a two hour sail on a 24 m America’s Cup yacht while I remained on terra firma taking the grandchildren to Chipmunks (an indoor fun place for children.)

The eleven guests and 5 crew members of the yacht, departed from the Viaduct Harbour and sailed into Waitemata Harbour where any willing guests got to take the helm or work the grinders (winches.) Rising to the challenge, Matthew, Sharilyn and Gene each took a turn at the helm. Sharilyn said, “You learn so much more by actually getting involved.”

While at the helm, Gene had the yacht heeled over to eighteen inches of freeboard (above waterline.) “An absolute thrill,” he said, “worth every penny.”

Whenever the boat tacked, they worked like mad on the winches to adjust the sails while being strongly encouraged by the crew. “We paid good money to have them to yell at us to work faster,” said Gene with a chuckle.

All was well until the slider that runs the inside sails of the mast got stuck at the very top. A crew member had to be winched up the 34.5 m sail in a trapeze to unstick it. As this work was done by the crew members, the guests had to resign themselves to relax for an additional half hour in lovely Waitemata Harbour, Auckland. Not hard to take I understand.

Last week at this time we were enjoying a Robert Harris coffee in a shop by the same name in Auckland New Zealand. For me, Starbucks packs too much punch for enjoyment. But Robert Harris decaffeinated cappuccino made with soy milk with a touch of chocolate was oh, so good.

It’s hard to imagine having to battle with instant coffee for market share but back in the 1960’s, that’s what Bob Harris had to do. He was a barber with a long, fond memory of the freshly ground coffee he drank in Italy during the war. Retiring from barbering, he built his own roaster (Kiwi ingenuity) and started experimenting, launching his coffee brand in his new deli in 1972. The coffee was a success from the start. Harris lived another seven years, never realizing the potential his coffee would one day achieve.

Murray and Val Connelly bought the Robert Harris deli in 1979. As the Connelly’s were in the hospitality industry, they surrounded themselves with the right people at the right time and the business grew rapidly. Having retired from the coffee industry, Murray Connelly, in his early ’70’s, is now restoring a hotel in Tonga where our son met him and heard the Robert Harris success story. It was our water drinking son who introduced us to our latest coffee thrill. I’m glad he did otherwise we would not have had the opportunity to enjoy ‘morning tea’ in an Auckland coffee shop.

Aniź

Aniz Italian Bistro, Haliburton, OntarioIt’s not a hardship to work in Haliburton. As Gene is in the sign industry and needed to look at a site there, we started out on the bike early one Saturday morning. While it was chilly by Lake Ontario, within half an hour, the weather was warm and the blue sky sparkled with the promise of good weather.

It took just under three hours to get to Haliburton and we did it without stopping. Even in a car I’m ready to get out after three hours. Highway 45 is twisty-turny and the northern part of highway 35 has long slow curves – a biker’s dream. On hwy. 45, we were caught behind two other bikes who had a mad habit of slowing to 80 on every turn then speeding up to 100 on the straight-a-ways. When we got the road to ourselves, it was sheer joy. I love the immediacy of wind whipping around us, the sea of sky overhead, 180∘of nature, and the heady, earthy scents –  some of the rewards of riding.

When we got to Haliburton a parking spot opened up on the main drag close to Aniź́́́́́́́́́́, a favourite Italian bistro we chanced upon a few years ago. It’s worth the three hour drive just to eat their food. Gene started with onion soup. The waitress only brought one spoon but I got around that by pinching Gene’s coffee spoon. The three mouthfuls I tried were well worth the scorn received for taking them. It was rich, subtle, smooth, oh so good. I stopped making onion soup from scratch when I received praise one evening for serving ‘the best French onion soup ever.’ It was Campbell’s right out of the can.

I chose a turkey sandwich. I’ve had turkey sandwiches before made with deli sliced ‘turkey’ served with a wilted piece of lettuce. This sandwich had been built. It started with a thick slice of grilled white bread slathered with creamy dressing, slices of crisp yet juicy pear overlayed with melted brie cheese covered with chunks of barbecued turkey, and topped  with avocado wedges and ripe tomato cubes. It gets better: it came with a mango, red pepper and red onion salsa and a quinoa salad with a slight cumin overtone. Unlike the quinoa dishes I’ve made, this one was delicious.

After the site check, we stopped by Fenelon Falls for ice cream on the way home. It was hot, hot, hot. Gene dropped his blackberry where he shouldn’t have dropped it. To dry it, he tried to use the hand blower but it didn’t respond. I had read that desiccant silica gel packs are the best way to get moisture out of high tech equipment. Once home we wrapped it up with a gel pack. The next morning Gene flashed a fully functioning blackberry in front of me. Sweet relief!

If you’re ever up that way, don’t miss Aniz.  The mouthwatering food is full of flavour, pleasing to the eye, pocket book, and palate, and has a long, slow finish. You may want to leave your cell phone at home though.

Just One Thing

We went on a weekend retreat recently with one hundred people from our church. We went to the one last year too. What stands out in my memory from last year, are the four mushrooms growing under the bathroom sink. The teaching was outstanding. Fellowship, worship, free time activities were all meaningful and/or fun. What do I remember? Mushrooms. This year, I’m happy to say, the retreat was held at a different location.

We’ve driven by the exit to Crieff Hills Conference Center (www.crieffhills.com) a gazillion times, but never had any reason to take the cutoff before. It’s south of the 401, south of Guelph, Ontario. Originally it was owned by Col. John Bayne Maclean, founder of Maclean’s magazine. In 1950, he deeded the 250 acre farm and buildings to the Presbyterian Church in Canada for the purpose of being a “model and example to other communities.” Groups such as businesses, non-profit organizations, or churches can rent the facilities. Individuals looking to do a personal retreat can also find lodging there. The grounds are groomed for long walks through mixed forest, white pine forest, plus lots of other shorter walks like the one that goes passed the House of the Dove to the Lily Garden.

Our speakers for the weekend were Dr. Grant and Kathy Mullen of Grimsby, Ontario. Dr. Mullen talked about hindrances to living a transformed life. He addressed personal baggage, fear, and self-acceptance. Kathy Mullen spoke about forgiveness. You can find out more about Dr. Mullen at http://www.drgrantmullen.com. The crazy thing is that he and my husband went to the same high school. What a small world we live in.

I like doing retreats. Not just because I don’t have to cook, but as an opportunity to receive teaching, encouragement, and to reflect. It is sad to drive away when it’s all over and have to come back to reality. The challenge to me is to apply what I learned – to make it part of my life. Always, I hope that just one thing will stick and make a difference.

I love coffee. Coffee does not like me. Lately I’m able to enjoy one decaf cappuccino per week. I do not mess around with shortcuts, substitutes or cheap imitations. Because it’s rare, it’d better be good. On the way home from visiting family on ‘the farm’ this weekend, Gene and I, comfortable on his 1200 RT,  took the long way so we could go to Stratford, a favourite destination. While in Stratford, we have to go to Balzac‘s coffee shop. I’m guaranteed a perfect cup, every time – except that today, I forgot to add the word ‘decaf’ to the order.

There are now five Balzac’s in Southern Ontario of which we’ve stopped by two. The one in the Distillery District of downtown Toronto is two story. Because the Distillery District supports artists and artisans, Balzac’s upstairs walls display works available for purchase.

The shop in Stratford, the first of the Balzac chain, opened in 1995. The ambiance is rustic. It seems to hearken back to the original purpose of coffee shops: a place to discuss new and important ideas and encourage thought and discussion. While you can sit inside, sidewalk seating is also available. My preference is the deck out back where trees provide natural shade. It’s more private and away from the hustle of the street.

Did I mention that Rodin did a sculpture of Balzac, the nineteenth century French writer, after whom Balzac’s Coffee is named? When it was unveiled, critics panned his creation. Rodin moved the sculpture onto the grounds of his home in Paris. One Monday in Paris, we visited the Rodin Musée only to find it irritatingly closed but free to visitors from 2:30 to 6:00 Wednesdays. Wednesday morning, we toured Musée D’Orsay. From there we walked towards the Musée Rodin but got side tracked along the way by an ice cream shop. Actually, it wasn’t the ice cream at all but the tables and chairs that were the biggest attraction. Just to sit down for half an hour – ten minutes – just to sit…. By the time we got to Musée Rodin, it was 4:00. Rodin’s home was on the grand side with a huge courtyard in the front, and gardens lining the side and back. The French are such pro’s at developing the formal garden, just don’t dare step on the grass! Gene got to see the Burgher’s of Calais and The Thinker, plus many other pieces. Rodin was a prolific sculptor. Instead of the posted 6:00 p.m., the doors inside closed at 5:00 and they started ushering people out of the grounds at 5:30. We unfortunately were booted out before we got to see his interpretation of Balzac.

The other Balzac Coffee shops are located in the Liberty Village in Toronto, The Tannery District in Kitchener and the newest shop is directly across from the Prince of Wales Hotel on King Street in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Enjoy a cup of java in erudite surroundings. But if it’s decaf you want, you have to ask for it.

Meta4’s and Images

My husband and I bought a new motorbike. Well, new to us. Even though our unisex job-jar glares at us for attention, we hop on the bike as often as possible. Our goal? to enjoy the day. One of the highlights is finding quaint towns and villages, amazing cafes, and knock your socks off specialty shops. (This list is in process.)

Enter Port Perry. We found it all here. For those who wished their mom cooked like this, we discovered the Pantry Shelf Cafe and Bakery at 172 Water St. I love the food in this place. I think it’s because of the unique chutneys and relishes that are used as garnish. I’d never heard of rhubarb relish or cranberry/raisin chutney. It’s even available for purchase.

My only beef is that fruit pies are not sold by the slice. The strawberry/rhubarb pie with its scarlet coloured juices seeping over the crust mocked us from the counter top, safe in its entirety. My revenge is to make one of our own – one of these days.

Another favourite shop is Meta4 on Queen St. It’s a gallery of contemporary art and crafts displaying the work of over 100 talented Ontario artists and artisans. It’s an outstanding place to shop for unique gifts. Wrapped up in bubble wrap, even pottery makes it home on the bike intact.

There are a variety of stores to wander through in Port Perry and lots of cafes and restaurants to check out. A great destination location.

Pantry Shelf Cafe and Bakery

Zooma Zooma

Our first visit was a fluke. Driving to Niagara-on-the-Lake on a holiday long weekend, we turned onto the service road off the snails paced QEW. Somehow we ended up on a cool, leafy, tree-canopied road that paralleled a river. There was a rather short but steep, angled hill that jettisoned us into the bright sunshine of Jordan Village. We had no idea it was Jordan. It took ages to find a sign. But we liked what we saw. That was a couple of years ago.

This past weekend our destination was Jordan. Boutique stores offering unique merchandise, line the main street. We saw art galleries, a pub, The Inn on the Twenty, and the Zooma, Zooma Café and Wine Bar.

We liked the Zooma, Zooma Café’s creative menu and reasonable prices. We tried their delicately seasoned pork and beef tourtiere with salad and peach chutney, and the smoked salmon and cucumber on light rye with salad for $8.95 each. Serving portions were perfect for us.

Jordan is in the heart of Niagara wine country. A tour of wineries like Peninsula Ridge, Cave Springs, and Twenty Bees Winery can keep you busy for a day, weekend or week. When you go, make sure you check out Zooma, Zooma. You won’t be disappointed.