A new book highlights Canadian craft spirits - and the cozy distilleries that make them, just in time for the pandemic.
What’s your lockdown libation of choice?
In my pre-pandemic life, I often kept things simple -- and alcohol free. My tipple of choice was a mix of cranberry juice and ginger ale. A pretty, refreshing blend, it never failed to remind me of travel. After all, ginger ale is this queasy girl’s best friend! But these days, there’s just something about, well, EVERYTHING that has me reaching for a stronger beverage to imbibe. Drowning sorrows and remembering simpler times? I can get behind that.
I’m craving something tangy, herbaceous, and travel-y. The mix of gin, lemon, and elderflower I had at Sydney’s New South Wales Art Gallery the night I heard Rolling Stone writer Toby Creswell speak about the origins of American rock and roll comes to mind. Or perhaps I’m really hankering after a generic frothy blender concoction like the one I sipped in a Bangkok infinity pool, where the overpriced slush diluted my fears of ice and waterborne diseases. Heck, maybe a classic Sex And The City-style cosmopolitan would do the trick, so long as I call it a quaran-tini. Ginger ale just doesn’t cut it anymore. And I’m not the only one who feels this way!
Does every good travel story start with a quest?
"Are you open?" It was nearly three in the afternoon, far too late for lunch and way too early for dinner. But I was starving. Starving! And the small, unassuming Italian restaurant which I had passed earlier in the day suddenly felt like just the ticket.
The older waitress shook her head emphatically from side to side. I pushed aside a micro-flash of confusion then nimbly skipped over the threshold. This was Bulgaria, where shaking your head "no" is actually a gesture for "yes", and catching on was easier said than done. Once inside, I was greeted by the mouthwatering smell of cinnamon, so bright and vibrant that I could only conclude that the restaurant was using its pizza ovens to make baked goods during their downtime.
The staff of Sofia's Restaurant Balito (ul. "Pozitano" 50, 1303 Pette Kyosheta) laughed when I inquired about what they were baking. I was smelling an air freshener! Perhaps I was more hungry than I realized or Bulgaria must make the best commercial scents in the world. Either way, I couldn't shake my craving, even after several courses of savory Italian delicacies. I knew I had to find the best apple pie in Sofia.
Legendary art, freshly baked pizza pockets, luscious gelato, and... Starbucks? How to experience Milan in one day when you're on a layover. Plus: The Milan airport hotel we loved!
On my first visit to Milan, I changed trains and spent my last precious lira (yep, it was a long time ago) on a soggy train station sandwich that was decidedly not good. I was unimpressed - and hungry.
One my second visit to Milan, I once again changed trains and spent way too many Euros on Burger King. Yes, BURGER KING. My least favourite fast food - and the last thing you want to eat in Italy.
But on my third visit to Milan, oh let me tell you about the third visit. It was filled with gelato so luscious it was downright profane. And dough. Soft, fluffy dough, fresh from the oven, with the cheese and tomato sauce so hot they were bubbling together in a happy stew. Then there was art, the kind of art that puts all the other art to shame. And - of course! - there was coffee.
After two false starts, I finally had my day in Milan. I arrived via an overnight flight from New York and I left the same day, on an overnight flight to Addis Ababa. It was all part of our epic round-the-world trip that required us to cash in all our frequent flyer points and embrace a world of short but sassy layovers. Though my time was short, I was ready to do Milan in one day - or, at the very least, do my version of it in one day.
Here's where we ate, what we did, and even where we stayed in Milan, plus practical advice on getting from Malpensa airport to Milan's central station.
These made in Montana cocktails showcase exactly why the Montana distillery scene is thriving. Plus: Glacier National Park's best hotels and restaurants where I tried them all!
What does it take to convince me to try the best spirits from the best distilleries in Montana? Admittedly, very little! During my recent trip to Western Montana however, I had a particular motivation behind my quest. I began my trip in the city of Billings, which is famous for its craft beer and walkable beer trail. That's great for Billings, but not so great for me as I'm not particularly keen on beer. But when I found out that Montana was a leading producer of spirits I knew I had found my niche. I'm not sure why it never dawned on me that vodka, gin, rye, and rum would all thrive here. After all, growing grain is one of the things that Montana does best! As I was to discover, they're pretty darn good at processing grain too - and turning it into delicious cocktails.
I soon learned that conducting "research" on the best spirits and cocktails in Western Montana isn't an easy task. There are A LOT of amazing made in Montana distillers, creators, and cocktail shakers! My current list is but a small sampling of the spirits and distilleries Montana has to offer, with my personal thoughts on the tasting rooms, the cocktails I sampled, the restaurants where I ate, and - when those restaurants were in National Park lodges - my notes on some of the best hotels near Glacier National Park.
It's my hope that this rundown of Western Montana's best local flavors will encourage you to visit and have your own "spirited" visit. Like me, I suspect you'll encounter more flavor, fun, and fanciness than you ever imagined.
This Greenwich Village food tour made me feel at home in New York City - and it's filled with celebrity homes, haunts, and musical legends too!
I've been playing catch up on my relationship with New York City for a while now. Unbelievably, my first visit was only a few years ago in the form of a short layover at the beginning of our round the world trip (short, mind you, but impressive - we combined a library visit, a meal at a singing diner, and a movie-themed sightseeing bus tour all in a few hours!) My second visit - which coincided with our second round-the-world trip - brought another short layover, another lovely but brief bus tour, and (of course!) another meal at my favourite singing diner. With two layovers and two bus tours under my belt, I felt like I had seen a lot of classic New York but I hadn't actually experienced the city. I hadn't walked through a single neighbourhood. I didn't have a good sense of where things were in relationship to each other.
Bottom line, I hadn't really hit the streets for the proverbial pounding of the pavement to get my bearings. But was a Greenwich Village food tour what I needed in order to feel more settled in the city?
In search of the ultimate travel coziness in Italy, we fell in love with Orvieto - oh, and Orvieto wine too!
Is there anything cozier than stumbling into a delightfully snug wine bar with a full roaring fire at the end of a long travel day? Perhaps the only thing better is when said wine bar also doubles as a spectacular restaurant - and is owned by one of the kindest families you've ever met. This very scenario was our introduction to Orvieto wine, food, and family - and it set a new bar for hospitality, not just for all other Italian towns but indeed everywhere we travel.
Here's what made Orvieto such a wonderfully cozy destination for us, including our beloved wine bar and our new favourite hotel, lovingly decorated by local artists.
Just outside Perth (Western Australia), we discovered a Fremantle coffee spot that is nearly impossible to find - unless you're in the know.
Want to know my formula for the perfect travel day? It's not first class tickets + champagne = luxury. It's more like tiny spot + jaunty bright colors = coffee heaven. While visiting the Perth (Western Australia) suburb of Fremantle, coffee heaven was in full force. We had the good fortune to visit the tiniest of all tiny cafes, featuring the jauntiest of all jaunty colors (bright orange!) and it was heavenly indeed.
My heart swooped the minute I walked through the door of the Leake St. Cafeteria - and so will yours! But first you have to find it. This is a blink-and-you'll-miss-it stop but read on and you'll see why I think a visit here is one of the best things to do in Fremantle.
In Perth, Ontario, restaurants don't just take the cake. They also make the pie!
The community of Perth, Ontario is just a short, one hour drive from my home in Ottawa but it's in a class all of its own when it comes to food. The handsome, historic town of 6,000 boasts a long list of restaurants, bakeries, pubs, and cafes tucked into the fetching limestone buildings of its downtown core. Always one to eagerly form neighborly bonds, I set out to Perth with two friends, a pair of stretchy pants, and a cooler in the trunk of the car to keep any perishable purchases preserved. While many foodie quests begin with savory appetizers and conclude with dessert, this trip would be happening in reverse. At the very top of my list was a visit to the Perth Pie Co's new headquarters, a delicious pilgrimage I'll be making again and again. If you're in search of Perth, Ontario, restaurants, I hope you'll follow in my footsteps for at least part of your quest, as my experience was absolutely delicious!
Join us as we eat our way through the Eternal City on the best food tour Rome has to offer - and learn some important lessons about Italian cuisine along the way.
We were granted media passes to LivItaly's Rome food tour at no cost and we thank them for their support. All research, writing, and opinions are our own. Note that some links in this post may be affiliate links, which means we are paid a small commission should you make a purchase.
Are you ready for a culinary lesson, straight from the best food tour Rome has to offer? Here goes! There are three important things you should know when it comes to buying olive oil. First, always knock a year off the suggested 'best before' date. Freshness really matters when it comes to olive oil. Next, you should store it far away from your stove. While it might be convenient to have it nearby while cooking, proximity to heat can affect the quality of the oil over time. Finally, know that you usually get what you pay for. It's impossible to get a high quality olive oil for $7 a liter. Single source, cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil, a foundation of Italian cooking, is well worth paying a premium for.
If you're suddenly craving a loaf of crusty bread and a saucer of pungent oil for dipping, you aren't alone. It's delicious! So would it surprise you to learn that I didn't once try olive oil during our LivItaly small group Rome food tour? Everything I learned about olive oil came from a conversation with our tour guide, Dario, over glasses of wine and a platter of local cured meat, cheese, bread, and honey.
I'm not exactly sure how we got on the topic of olive oil but once we started asking questions, we couldn't stop. And we soon learned that the mark of a great food tour is that you're so busy chatting you scarcely notice the food at all, no matter how delicious it is. Within minutes, we weren't studious culinary scholars. We were noshing with a new friend and it felt like old times.
Read on to learn more about the wine, food, and conversations that flowed!
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